Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Harry Potter and Advent

So, I think there is a character more important symbolically than Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore or Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. So, you may be wracking your brain with thoughts of Cedric, Lupin, Sirius Black, Dobby, Hagrid or many other characters. To which I would say, “Good job…your HP knowledge is pretty awesome.” I think those of you who know me best would probably assume it has to be Neville Longbottom. But, though Neville is my favorite character in all of the series, I am actually referring to Fawkes. Fawkes is central to the relationship of Dumbledore and Voldemort, Dumbledore and Harry and ultimately Voldemort and Harry. How so? Most of you know, but Dumbledore owned Fawkes, who gave two feathers for wands, one being owned by Voldemort, the other by Harry. Ollivander says this in the very first book when Harry buys his wand. As a side note Ollivander is probably the creepiest character in the entire series. Others may be more slimy or inconsistent or evil, but none as creepy; well maybe Barty Crouch, Jr. could give him a run for his money.

Neville? Is that you buddy?
But here’s the deal with Fawkes being the symbol of the series (in my eyes) – Harry Potter is ultimately not about magic…it’s about life and death. I think The Deathly Hallows makes that clear. So the opposite of Fawkes would be not just Nagini, but all the horcruxes. When you juxtapose Fawkes and horcruxes here is what I think Harry Potter is all about – death, true life and hope in true resurrection versus fighting to maintain every bit of life you can in this life. That sounds like more of an Easter message, but here is how I see it in terms of Advent.

Fawkes is a phoenix. Phoenixes are known for several things, chief among them, they burst into flames and are reborn amongst the ashes. Again, great Easter message James, but we’re talking Advent and you said don’t crucify baby Jesus the other day on Facebook. True, but like Fawkes, Jesus’ entry into the world was the end of something and the beginning of something new. Depending on your understanding of two things—God in the Garden and Melchizedek—Jesus’ birth was the first time God took on flesh. It was the first time that Christians would say God incarnated in the world. Before this God came in Spirit or in voice or sent heavenly beings to speak in His stead.

For Jesus then, this was a rebirth. Gone were the days of being entirely God. Woah, James. Watch your heresy there bud. I know, it toes a thin line, but what I mean and am trying to communicate is that Jesus experienced being human for the first time…not that He become less than God. Jesus experienced the limitations of flesh (think His temptations in the desert or even His death on the cross), Jesus felt all sorts of crazy irrational emotions (think the Scripture that said Jesus experienced all things common to man). In other words, Jesus’ experience was completely new, because he had this thing we call flesh added to what He was in spirit. Gone up in flames were the days of divinity alone. Again…not trying to be heretical or limit the power of Jesus. Just communicating that Jesus now could fully empathize with humanity because He experienced life from their vantage, okay? Good. Now please don’t report me to the council that decides I could be burned at the stake for heresy after you finish this. Still maintain as the Church has for a long time – fully God, fully man.

Many people may not realize this, chief amongst them Protestants and Evangelicals, but Advent starts the calendar year. So, this year, the Church calendar started December 1. That is opposed to January 1 or approximately August 15, or July 1 or April 16 or many of the other calendar years that we mark as the start of some kind of calendar. What we celebrate in the Advent is the start of new things. To carry on the symbol, the phoenix burst into flames on November 30, and was reborn in the wee hours of the morning December 1. Advent is celebration of new life, not from the perspective of resurrection, which is of ultimate importance to our faith, but from incarnation.

As I watched the first 5 HP movies the last few days (and would have finished 6-8 had I not leant them to a friend) I started noting the importance of Fawkes. I think Fawkes subconsciously leads the way for Harry to give up his life at the end of the book. I find it akin to one of those moments that we observe someone who doesn’t know we are watching them. For instance one time when I saw my neighbor Chandler playing in the back yard with his kids. He was just doing his thing, not thinking anything about who was watching. He was just loving on his kids, and it taught me a little bit about how God cares for us…His kids. Or like the time in high school where Mr. Futrell caught me telling a lie. He didn’t get up in my face at the time. He let it slide. Then at a teachable moment he confronted me, not with accusation, but with the truth of, “When I hear you lie, how I can trust you are telling me the truth later.” That was more powerful than yelling, “You liar” in the moment. And those observations were a bit more subconscious than they were lessons taught in a classroom. They weren’t important in the moment, but after something else triggered the lesson later in life.

Somehow my little Thanksgiving marathon of Harry Potter stirred my heart for the upcoming Advent season. It helped me see that opposed to fighting to make every moment matter in this life, and worrying that it won’t, I can instead fully live into the moment I am in now. That doesn’t mean every moment has to be a crazy adventure like climbing Mt. Everest, it just means that having coffee with a friend is the moment it should be. I’m not wasting my life with that cuppa joe…that is my life. It helps me to remember that every moment is new birth. At the end of my days I want to be in loving reminiscence or even still seeking new adventures as opposed to regretting what I missed. Fawkes shows me a bit about incarnation, and sure, a lot more about resurrection. But as we celebrate the incarnation, remember that December 1 your life began anew. You are already emerging out of the flames into new experience and new life. And as Bob Goff writes over and over…live that new life whimsically.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thoughts on Interior Dialogue

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. - Mark Twain

I am in the process of introducing a young fellow to meditating. I am also learning more about meditation myself and in a book I am reading, Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird, this quote opens a chapter. I was showing this guy the book and that was the first thing he read. He immediately looks at me and says, “I have no idea what’s going on.” I, without the context of this being a Mark Twain quote, try to explain about what Laird calls inner videos. Laird describes a process most of us live through on the daily where we play a scenario back through our head of what happened. Then we add our commentary on things…then we add the motivation of the other person…then we add our response…then we add and we add and we add until there is this entire imaginary commentary on an event that maybe occurred over the course of three minutes, but we just mulled over for about 73 hours.

Fast forward to lunch with a buddy this week. We are talking about some things I am currently dealing with, and no…I’m not going to share them. These are some inner-James issues that reflect the videos I just talked about. So, no…no one REALLY hurt me, no one intentionally was jerky, but because I allowed some of these inner videos to play in my head, I allowed this space of pain…so, no need to drag someone’s name through the mud here. But…as I was saying, we were talking about some of my struggles and he related back to a similar situation and said something I found quite profound: “Sometimes I lose track of which conversations I really had with (said person) and which ones I had in my head.” That is a pretty great discovery. We sometimes get so caught up in our mind that we forget and confuse reality from the fiction we have written.

I was surprised by how positive being your own hero is on the web.
And the problems grow from there. For instance, how many times have we sat by a phone waiting for someone to call and apologize for an offense that person never knew they committed? Think about it. How many times have you avoided a person and they simply asked where you have been, because they were so preoccupied with, you know, living their life that they never noticed you were intentionally avoiding them. The problem is explained well by my pastor Jon who frequently reminds people, “Everyone is the hero of their own story,” or as your mom or dad probably told you more than once: “You are not the center of the universe.”

But truth be told, as much as we acknowledge that with our mindgrapes, we don’t let the truth submerge to the heart. And so our emotions are screaming, “Why haven’t they noticed?” whenever someone has wronged us. It is much easier for someone to admit their wrongdoing when they know they have done something wrong. That may be the most obvious statement in the world, yet we live in such a way that we expect people to read our minds. We expect people to figure out what is wrong.

It reminds me of a typical fight we see played out on movie or tv screens:

Husband: Is something wrong?
Wife: No.
Husband: Are you sure? You seem upset.
Wife: You’re quite observant…NOW!
Husband: What did I do wrong?
Wife: Well if I have to tell you then you really don’t deserve to know.
Husband: Was it the trash? Did I forget a kid at a school? Really I don’t know.
Wife: Well I’m not telling you. Figure it out.

This isn’t a diatribe against women…really there are plenty of irrational people no matter their gender (and since this is 2013…their non-gender?). But it is quite telling of how many of us live our lives. In this scenario the wife has built up this entire story of how her husband has wronged her. It may have started as something as simple as the husband saying he would pick up something from the store and he forgot. It may be that he forgot an anniversary. But whatever the starting point, what has happened to this woman is the downward spiral of inner dialogues that the husband was never privy to. He doesn’t know what he did, he doesn’t know the conversations that have taken place for hours upon hours inside his wife’s mind…but she expects him to. (And just to reiterate…plenty of crazies across all genders!)

And so that brings us to the turn. What is to be learned from this? There is no reality in the inner dialogues that we have. Nothing is solved. They actually make things worse…but we continue to have them. These conversations are pure fiction in a biographical world. I have recently made this critique of myself: I have just enough understanding of psychology and counseling to be helpful in a pinch, but not enough to really help myself in the day-to-day. I know when I am being irrational. But at times I can’t stop myself going down that road. I want to, but I just get overwhelmed. I feel like my irrational thoughts are a Mac Truck running down the highway of my soul. It seems like to stop them would wreck me. And what that means is…I’m scared to stop them. The truth is…they don’t hold that kind of power. I just allow them to.

We have within us, Christians or not, the power to prevent and stop inner dialogues or videos. Some of it is actually quite simple. For example, “I am really quite miffed at so and so. Instead of lingering on it I could work out, hang out with a friend, cook dinner, go out to dinner, watch a movie, read a book, mow the lawn, rake the leaves, shovel the snow, paint my toe nails, paint my dog’s toe nails, stalk the cat, stare at my gold fish. I really have a lot of options here.” As a Christian we have a lot more options too. We just have to learn that the fictions we write about our actual life are not an open reality for others to access. We cannot expect and demand for other people to understand all the chaos going on inside us.

So…let’s try to stop that Mac truck. Let’s never let it build up momentum. Let’s actually live our lives in such a way that the videos don’t taint reality. There is not a single one of us who can answer for conversations they never knew they had…so why should we demand it of them.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thoughts on "I'm just not myself"

Look at that handsome devil Joe Purdy.
One of my favorite singers is Joe Purdy. I think I wrote about him when I was trying to explain “melancholy joy.” Listening to Joe is akin to an emotional journey. There is this dissonance between the music and the lyric. The music for the most part is hopeful; it is happy. The highs of the mandolin and even the piano create a place where your heart is contented and even joyful. But the lyrics…well, I’ll let me Aunt G explain the lyrics: “James this is depressing.”

So, that is kind of my genre of music. I like songs where the music and the lyrics are perfectly contradictory…which actually describes one of Joe’s shows that I went to in L.A. Joe had recently had a car company pick up his song, “Can’t Get it Right Today” for one of their commercials. This couple I know heard I was going to see him and asked to tag along. So, I of course agreed, excited to have someone go to the show with me, and we were all excited to hang together.

The show started late. This couple got tired, I was a little tired, but I was excited. The show was at The Roxy. Those of you familiar know that means there are no seats…it’s all standing. So, you factor in getting there an hour early, standing through an opening act, standing through intermission. It just made for a long night. Joe finally played the song this couple came to hear…but he completely changed it. Instead of the melancholy joy I describe the band turns it into a full on dirge. The couple looks at me, a bit disheartened and asks, “Can we leave? If you think he’ll play a happier version of the song we can stay. But we’re tired. We have church in the morning and really want to leave.”

This did not make me a happy camper. I paid good money for the tickets. I drove into Hollywood (not my favorite thing) and I was excited to see Joe, but these two were obviously miserable…so I left. But that song is resonating with me this morning.

I was having a conversation this morning where I caught myself about to say “I’m just not myself today,” but I stopped. For some reason I had one of those “apothecaries” (epiphanies actually, but that is a private joke with someone, I just can’t remember who, so whoever that is…I love you!). The epiphany was this: even when I’m not feeling well, even when I feel like ripping someone’s head off…that is still me. No matter what the mood, it comes from a place within me, and as such I need to own it.

What it made me realize was what we mean by “I’m just not myself today,” is actually, “I’m going to be a jerk to you right now, but you have to deal with it, because I don’t feel like making the effort, heck, I don’t even think I CAN make the effort to be congenial in this situation.” Harsh. I realize this, but the person I am slapping around most right now is me. The truth is “I’m just not myself” is an excuse to behave the way we want to behave. It allows us to do and say things that would be unacceptable in any other situation.
It reminds me of an episode of The New Girl when Nick keeps screaming, “Dead dad pass.” He was using the grief of his recently deceased father (which is a totally legitimate process, and are totally legitimate emotions) to get away with behavior he knew was unbecoming. It is actually a great picture to explain the phenomenon of, “I’m just not myself,” and I think that is what the writers were going for when they wrote that story line.

The truth of the matter is, when we feel out of sorts there are all sorts of legitimate things going on. Some people have chronic pain. Some people have seasonal depression. Some people have more on their plate than they should. Some people are working 70-80 hours a week to keep food on the table and being chastised for not being a better parent/friend/child. Every single one of these are legitimate problems that have the ability to steal our identity from us…because that is what we are saying. “I am working two jobs right now, so those jobs have stolen my identity” is what we communicate when we say, “I’m not myself because work is just too much right now.” And sure, what we are actually doing is just grabbing a common accessible phrase that communicates round about what is going on, but the problem is we believe it.

Why is it a problem to believe it? It causes us to be like the person in James 1 (the Bible, not my autobiography). We are people blown and tossed by the wind of our situations. When we believe that grief allows us to act irrationally and without accountability, we let it take over. Are you going to be irrational when you grieve? Absolutely. But…we, especially those of us who call ourselves Christians, should not allow ourselves to be overtaken by any situation.

And I will be the first to say this is a tricky balance. Many of us grew up in situations where we were taught, “Good Christians have to smile and be happy through every situation.” We were taught, “Someone died…let’s celebrate; you lost your job…let’s celebrate; you miscarried your baby…it was the Lord’s will, put on the big girl panties and move on.” And what has happened to a lot of us is this jaded response that rejects that form of Christianity and moves toward a place that says, “Surrender yourself to every ounce of that pain. Let yourself feel every emotion of it,” but we stop there. We don’t say, “Let yourself feel every ounce of that pain, and bring it to Jesus because He cares, and He will actively demonstrate His love for you in that place.” It’s like a marriage…it takes a long time to figure it all out, but you work toward that.

And so I end with this: I am reading Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird. He talks a lot about emotions and feeling things. The big message in this book on meditation is that we come to a place where we acknowledge what we feel, but are not overcome. Grief is a reality, pain is a reality, but they do not dictate the center of who we are…they are simply a part of who we are. We meditate, we reflect and we acknowledge what is going on, but we do not give ourselves over to the internal videos that we play and build and direct. We instead look past these things toward what I would call God. We don’t ignore pain…we look through pain to see God. This isn’t the Christianity that ignores the problems we face…it’s the faith that says we are greater than what we face, but what we face is indeed very real. And that is something I can get behind. Something that says there are things in this life that are great; there are things in this life that are small, and we don’t have to ignore either. Instead we learn to find the One who helps us put these things in their proper perspective so that we do and say the things that we know we should, because they are a reflection of the true self that emerges through our trials.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thoughts on Memory and Nostalgia

So, I recently had a little flashback of sorts. I don’t know how or where I came across it, but somewhere I heard this little piano riff of seven simple notes. All it took was those notes, not even a full chord, and I saw her: Alice Gonzalez—the most beautiful girl in the world. I stopped. I couldn’t believe that even now, 20 years later, I could recall her face just by hearing a song.

It’s strange the things that cause us to stop and remember things long past. It’s also strange the people and places that we remember. Alice Gonzalez is not an important person in my life. She never has been. She was a passing crush between my freshman and sophomore years of high school; she lived in a city over 3 hours away. I danced with her once or twice at FFA Leadership Camp and saw her elected as the State of Texas FFA First Vice President. Yet, even with so few interactions, Alice will always be that beautiful girl every time I hear…and this is embarrassing…Mariah Carey’s “Hero.”

A quick side note, where did I hear this song? Why is anyone still playing “Hero” in their rotation? Was it 90s day? Was the person listening to greatest hits of pop divas? I really have no idea, but it gave me pause. I remember the silliest details about certain things, but there are important, formative moments I can’t recall. There are moments that were pivotal in my understanding, faith, family and learning to love that are gone, but a fleeting crush can still come back after twenty years.

I know, I’m not a parent, but this makes me think of having kids. Saturday night I got into the Bama-LSU game for free. I sat between the parents of Terrence Magee and Vadal Alexander. Yes, Bama fans, my free tickets were in the LSU section, but they were free and I was on the row 16 for most of the game and row 13 for the rest. Before I invited Magee’s dad to sit next to me, because his row was crowded and there was literally three open seats next to me, I was sitting next to this young couple and their, I would guess, three year old. And the little guy did great in the hour before the game, but when it came time for kickoff two things happened. One, everyone in the stadium knows…it started raining. The second was little guy wanted daddy to hold him.
Maybe if Les had some grass to eat, the second half would have went better.
We smiled and instead of saying, “You should cherish this. The age is soon coming where he won’t want this,” I smiled and said a typical man thing: “That’s how it always happens, isn’t it?” I doubt dad nor son will ever remember that moment where they held onto one another for the opening quarter-and-a-half, but there may be some innocuous moment that one of them does like when the band played Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and that crazy LSU frat daddy pulled out his hidden Jack Daniels, faced the parents and drained it. It’s just one of those things we don’t dictate.

So, we’re about halfway through today's post and I find myself wondering, “Where does this turn; what direction is this going?” And I think this is where we’re headed today folks: memory and nostalgia are good places to visit, but terrible places to live.

Let’s start with the first part of that thought: memory and nostalgia are good places to visit. I actually believe that. If you come around the Love household on any given holiday there are going to be stories about Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles and even relatives we have never met. For instance, I never knew Aunt Molly, but I can tell you how she used to eat onion and mustard sandwiches, which made her belch really loudly. I myself tell stories like the time I took my friend Joel to meet my Uncle Dick in the hospital and warned him, “You can only believe about ten percent of what he says,” to which Joel responded, “How do I know what ten percent,” and I quipped back, “I’ll tell you after.” These stories are good. We need to be rooted in the past. We need to come from somewhere…it normalizes us, it stabilizes us, and in certain cases it keeps us together. Growing up in Florence, Texas, there were not a lot of people like me. I’m just quite different than most of my peers, but our common stories keep me rooted. Because of the things we went through there is this deep well that allows us simply to be with one another and feel okay.

Look how young Portman was in Beautiful Girls!
But the second part is this : Memory and nostalgia are terrible places to live. There are numerous film examples of this: Lauren Holly and Matt Dillon in Beautiful Girls, the mom from Requiem for a Dream; William H Macy in Magnolia. Living in memories, basing your emotional satisfaction on nostalgia leaves you a shell of a person. Memory and nostalgia are perfected thoughts on imperfect events. For instance when Alice was elected First Vice President she was running against Glen Rosenbusch, my FFA teacher’s nephew. It was really kind of awkward supporting Alice while my peers and teachers looked at me like I had betrayed them. Yet, what I remember is Alice giving the best speech in the world while looking impeccable. In other words my memory did not reflect reality…it reflected a projected perfect image that didn’t exist…and that is why memory can be good in the healing process, but a hindrance when reflecting on how perfect your life was then, yet how terrible it is now.

I end with this: Alice Gonzalez was, and probably still is, a beautiful woman. But the truth of the matter is, in my reality she is fiction. Sure, she really exists, she is out there now living life, probably a mom, maybe a lawyer or a teacher…she is very much real. But, in my reality, she is fiction. She is a story that my mind created based on events that didn’t happen the way I remember them. And that’s okay when kept in the proper perspective. We need those moments; we need to be able to walk down memory lane, but the truth is, after that stroll we need to heed Mason Jennings, and “Be here now…no other place to be.” These moments, some of which seem dreadful, will be those future memories if we allow ourselves to fully live into them and not grasp for our fictional pasts.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thoughts on Orthodoxy

So, as has been a frequent occurrence of late, I was thinking about John MacArthur. And two things pretty foreign to my normal disposition began to occur. First, I want to hug Mark Driscoll and buy him a beer, and second, I kind of, maybe, a little bit, possibly, in the slightest regard, but probably not actually, understand where MacArthur is coming from.* So, let’s first turn our attention to Mr. Driscoll.
No, Driscoll's not punching MacArthur...that's Piper.
So, apparently Marky Mark and his fresh bunch showed up at the Strangefire Conference. Rumor had it he was kicked out. That made me reconsider my thoughts on Driscoll for a brief moment. So, if there is a "-10 to +10" chart of friendship, I’m now a full point closer to bff-hood with Markus! But, as often happens, truth was exaggerated; Driscoll wasn’t really kicked out. He was asked and then physically forced by security not to hand out free copies of his book to attendees, because it wasn’t on the “approved book list.” Apparently John thinks 1984 and Animal Farm should be more strictly adhered to than is current practice.
I kept reading and found that Driscoll went so far as to invite MacArthur to his conference. He offered to pay for travel, cover his honorarium, the whole shebang. And on top of that he said (in the James Love translation), “I understand you think I’m an idiot, and probably feel like this is some sort of trap, so I invited Wayne Grudem to have the conversation with you instead of me, because you say you respect him.” All-in-all a generous proposal by Driscoll, so if I happen to run into him somehow in the month of November I shall high five him, offer a Vanillaphant to him and maybe part as partial bros, or to borrow a term from the Catholics, separated brethren.
Now that my little love fest for Driscoll is solidified in writing, let me talk about the one thing that I think I get about JM. To do that I need to introduce (maybe reintroduce, or just define what I mean to some of you) a couple of terms that inform this discussion: orthodoxy and heterodoxy.
To use a food metaphor – orthodoxy is like butter, gravy or jelly on a biscuit. It is how things are supposed to be. It is accepted as the standard or norm. It is, in theological terms, the approved version of how we believe things to be. Heterodoxy is kind of like the color gray on the wheel. It, in varying shades and luminosity, separates black from white. It has varying degrees of acceptability and accuracy, but as a general rule, it’s not out-and-out wrong. To go back to food, it’s like seeing someone but nutella, chocolate spread or vegemite on a biscuit. Well, maybe not vegemite. That might cross the line into heresy…unless you come from the land down under…then I’d cut you some grace.
So, thinking about heterodoxy today made me feel a little bit like I understood JM. Do I still think the dude is incorrect, harsh and kind of a jerk? Most certainly, but I can understand his hesitation. I can understand if this thought crossed his mind at some point: “When I look at them (Charismatics, Pentecostals and Catholics) I don’t see my faith. I’m searching through their beliefs and I just don’t see anything that looks like what I have been taught.”
I get that. The first day or so in the Abbey of Gethsemani I thought some similar thoughts. I thought, “I just don’t recognize this. Therefore I don’t understand how it fits into my understanding of God and the Church.” But here is what separates myself from JM…I recognize that heterodoxy is reality. I don’t jump and say “That’s Orthodox. That’s blasphemy.” In other words, I recognize gray. It reminds me of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. That chapter is great on love, but also reminds us that now we see through a glass rather dimly. It’s kind of like those of you, who like myself, wear glasses. Suppose you are at work and you take your glasses off and someone chooses that moment to come into your office. You have roughly a good idea of whose blurry outline that is. If they speak, your auditory memory confirms it, but you see no details. And here is the point where I get in trouble with a lot of people…so of course, I am going to set it apart as its own paragraph to emphasize it, and knock off Rob Bell a bit:
When we see and think about God…we see the blur, we don’t see the details.
Part of our life’s work is working toward that blur, becoming more in focus through relationship with Jesus and others. I caught myself typing “others in the Church,” but then deleted it as there is a modicum (yes…I am going to cash in on that word today folks) of understanding and revelation of God found in all people and all things. My relationships with atheists guide my understanding of God. My interactions with Hindus inform the way I see God. Now, those within the Church may provide more reliable information, but any religious tradition that becomes so internal that they exclude general revelation is already at risk of some serious craziness.
I have probably said this before, but will say it again. I am comfortable understanding that when I stand before God at the end of my days I may say something like, “God. I really didn’t understand that,” or “Wow, I can’t believe I missed that and got it totally wrong.” The reason I’m comfortable is I can say with complete sincerity, “But I tried. I devoted my life to seeking after the truth. And I think that pleases you more than being right.”
And that is my thought of the day folks. To steal a phrase, we need to be “lifelong learners.” We need to be humble enough to allow firmly entrenched beliefs to be challenged. Because sometimes those firmly entrenched beliefs are actually shaky pillars that are more about covering some fear or inadequacy than building a firm foundation.
I end with this illustration: My friend Allen Corben is a cool dude. We share a common faith, and I believe a common seminary degree. However, he and I do not line up a lot theologically. Allen is way more open and liberal than I will ever be. But the deal is, at the end of the day he and I can go sit down and break bread with one another because we allow room for the gray. He understands my conservative upbringing in Texas influenced me more than four years in SoCal. He also understands that the issues we are divided on are things fine under heterodoxy. They aren’t the essential matters…and there are essential matters. But if there ever came a time where Allen needed to be corrected because he wandered outside the line of even heterodoxy into heresy, or vice versa, the way we would handle the situation is more like Driscoll than MacArthur. We would invite conversation and not say, “You’re a bunch of idiots and going to hell.” The reason why? We’re actually about our brother and his salvation, and not being right.
* Probably, not actually, but I just kind of want, a modicum of understanding and an excuse to use the word modicum appropriately in my blog. Modicum. Also, Marky Mark, consider that your invitation for a free beer if you travel to Alabama to share it with me. Valid only through the month of November unless you do something else amazing soon.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thoughts on Jesus and the Church

So, my last post about Mr. MacArthur generated some great offline chats with friends about the situation. It was cool. One of the conversations that stuck out actually happened at the Pan this morning with a couple of bros from the Vineyard. After looking at Jeremiah this morning we were talking about what’s going on in life. One of the guys proposed a question that is getting a little more tread these days (and maybe has for a long time): Would Jesus be welcome in the Church, you know, His Church, today?

I first encountered that question through the writing of one FyodorDostoevsky. If you have read many of my posts, then you may know of my love for all things Dostoevsky. Greatest. Writer. Ever. I’m a total fan boy. If he was alive and the lead singer of a rock band, I would totally be a roadie. Fo rizzles.

Although a lot of people swear by Crimeand Punishment or The Idiot, my book of choice is The Brothers Karamazov. Coincidentally, that was also the book that introduced me to the above question. Without this becoming a book review, let me just say there is a section called, “The Grand Inquisitor.” In it, one of the brothers (Ivan) presents a parable of Jesus coming back during the time of the Grand Inquisition. An interview takes place between the Grand Inquisitor (a priest) and Jesus. It doesn’t go so well for Jesus…at all. The point of Ivan’s tell is that the Church has become so systematic that it no longer has room for that pesky Jesus fellow interrupting things. Fascinating premise.

The thing was, as a 20ish year old I absolutely hated the chapter. I thought it was a blight in an otherwise perfect book. Upon re-reading it some 10-15 years later, I’ve come to realize something—what I “hated” about the passage, wasn’t hate at all; it was actually fear. What I was doing was misappropriating my emotions and preventing myself from seeing that I was afraid that I too had no room for Jesus, that I had built such amazing structures I had no choice, but to quietly discard the experience of Jesus for me today. Now…that may be a bit too confessional for some of you, and I understand that. But I also realize we all have these thoughts. We all have these experiences. That isn’t a problem. The problem is when these thoughts remain trapped in the playground of our mind and are never expressed in the light of community. That is when we get in trouble. That is when we keep those masks firmly in place for fear that if our true doubts were unearthed those we love the most would leave us faster that a buzzard over road kill when it hears a Mac truck.

But…that isn’t really the direction this started. I just thought it gives background to this: Would Jesus be welcome in the American Church in October/November 2013? And the short answer is no…ish. So, though many people have written on this, here is my take on why Jesus wouldn’t be welcome today, for some quite blunt reasons, and some more subtle reasons.

Jesus would probably look more like these two than Brad Pitt.
First, Jesus would probably look like a member of Al Qaeda. Most Americans wouldn’t even want to get on a plane with Jesus, let alone see him in the pews. I know this is a bit forward, some may say archaic and others argue justified, but there are stigmas around “Arab” people. Why do I put that in quotation marks? Because most Americans can’t tell the difference between a Palestinian, an Iraqi, a Pakistani or a Libyan. And whether the man in question is Jewish, Sikh, Muslim or Christian there are certain predetermined thoughts that most Americans have toward him. If you get the chance watch the movie Amreeka. It deals with some Christian Palestinian refugees trying to make it in America. Beautifully done. Kind of informs this part of my argument. Jesus’ appearance is reason #1 we wouldn’t accept him.

Second argument, Jesus was homeless. Obviously those sayings of his are the sayings of mental illness because he has no roof over his head. We would be more apt to put Jesus in a hospital or homeless shelter than in the pulpit.

Third, Jesus is single…and single men are dangerous and a detriment to society.

Fourth, Jesus had extreme views, and we want placidity in the Church. And attached to this, the mental illness thing would probably come into play, or he would at the least be labeled pretty temperamental. If that was the view he would be allowed to come, but only tolerated as that guy who is a little too fervent.

Fifth, he would probably be judged as either gay or a hypocrite because of who he hung out with. I mean, what kind of guy goes traipsing cross country with 12 other dudes…and the only ladies he hangs out with are family or prostitutes? I mean, it’s one way or the other here. Did you know he even hung with a dude that committed treason? His company indicates a flaw in his character. And rather than getting to know him, we’d never approach him.

Maybe Jesus should borrow Brad's look?
I could go on and on here, but the truth of the matter here is that our pre-determined views inside the Church would most likely prevent us from seeing Jesus. If Jesus came, depending on your religious slant, you would expect it to be in the form of Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, N.T. Wright, Walter Bruggeman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Tony Evans, Joyce Mayer or Benny Hinn. In other words, we would want him to be successful and that is how he’d influence us. He would obviously either sell a lot of books or have a TV program.

So, I just don’t think we’re ready for a vagrant wanderer to come speak the truth to us in no uncertain terms, calling us on the ways we fake it. Where do I think people would recognize Jesus? Probably, the places like I mention yesterday, shanty villages, red light districts, those types of places. And why? Because they realize their need. Men, women and children there haven’t barricaded themselves from feeling their need. Some of them need literal bread or they will die. Some of them need penicillin or they will die. Some of them need a liberator, or they will die in bondage to sex trafficking. They know their need. So, if Jesus came up to them, I assume, knowing that is dangerous, that they would be able to receive whatever it is he gave. I think this is akin to true poverty…the kind that doesn’t care where it comes from, as long as the help does come.

And the truth is we as the Church have that kind of poverty. Sure, it may not be financial. It may be emotional. It may be intellectual. It may be health. It may be broken relationships, but poverty exists in our lives. And even if there isn’t poverty in your life, there is in the lives of those around you, your community and ultimately your church—the body of Christ.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Thoughts on, well, let's be honest, this is more an emotive rant

So, I haven’t been writing much lately. This was the culmination of several things. First, I got out of the habit of writing when I went to the monastery. Second, I have been editing DMin dissertations like crazy. And third, well, I can be quite lazy when I want to be. What amazing thing breaks the slumber of my inner author? Well…it’s more this dude John MacArthur and some statements that he made. (This comes as no surprise to some of you.) So, here’s the deal. This post is about why I am struggling with JM’s statements, not about the truth of his or my beliefs. So, that is what you are in store for if you choose to proceed. This isn’t a defense of Charismatic/Pentecostal belief (or Catholic belief, since he bashed them too). This isn’t an attack on JM’s beliefs. It is simply processing what elicited such a strong response inside my wee little soul.

So October 21, I am sitting at work and is wont to happen Clint Johnson texted me. I picked it up and saw a rather (I thought at the time) innocuous question: “What do you know about John MacArthur?” I responded, “From what I remember he is kind of a church leadership guru and I think an elder at Church of the Highlands” (***note, this is NOT true, I was thinking of some other Christian leader/writer, who I still think to be a cool guy whoever he may be). Clint responded, “He has a new book out slamming Charismatics and Pentecostals,” to which I responded, “Definitely has nothing to do with COTH then.”

After the texts I looked it up, and sure enough MacArthur was slinging out some very volatile language that hurt quite a few people. Now, I think this is the first point of why I got upset…I started off saying that this guy was pretty solid, and turns out, I was (in my own opinion) wrong. And being wrong, especially in matters of judging someone’s character has a bit of sting to it. That was probably why my mind got fixated on this whole situation instead of dismissing JM’s comments as just another guy opposed to the Charismatic/Pentecostal Church, which let’s be honest, there are plenty of people aboard that train.

But I think what frustrated me the most was the audacity of some of JM’s claims combined with his lifestyle. Because of JM’s standing his tax records are a matter of public record (which I don’t like, but since they are available for public scrutiny, I cite here). One of JM’s claims about the Charismatic/Pentecostal Church was that we all teach the prosperity Gospel. First, not true. Some do, of course, most of us don’t. That claim would not seem audacious if JM didn’t make $400,000 for a 20 hour a week job at his non-profit. That doesn’t include his church job, his job at Master's College (over $100,000 a year), speaking engagements or sales of his books or teaching materials. (***note, if you think I am just making this up, I will be glad to send you a link to the filed tax return which I refer to.)

It doesn’t upset me that JM makes $500k+ a year. Good for him. He found a way to do the church thing and make a lot of money. It does bother me that he slams Charismatics and Pentecostals, who, as a general rule are a lot poorer than most of their Mainline, Evangelical and Catholic brothers and sisters, yet rakes in over half-a-mill. The part that bothers me isn’t the hypocrisy, we’re all hypocrites; it is the perpetuation of Church leaders as scummy profiteers to those who already wave their fingers at us for being terrible people. If I didn’t whole-heartedly succumb to the teaching of Jesus to love His Church, I would run to their side and wave a finger right alongside them.

And I think that is what gets me folks. A buddy (who will at least for now remain nameless) emailed me to say it isn’t worth my while to get upset about JM. He had a run-in with him at one point and got to see firsthand the dirty underbelly. I have no reason not to trust my friend. Is his story colored by the interaction? Sure. But, that doesn’t discount the facts of his situation, which make a lot of sense. So, even with my friend’s advice, I still find myself upset. It’s partly because he came after my tribe, my people. It’s partly because we’re easy targets. But here is the final thing, and where all these little ramblings were headed from the beginning.

My biggest problem is that JM represents the bad side of Modern Christianity. I mean that in the sense of Modernity/Postmodernity as opposed to current. JM represents the introduction of the overpowering arm of reason over faith. To put it scripturally Christians are to, “Love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Modernity embraced loving the Lord with all of your mind and strength, and to an extent your soul. But a strange thing…modernity vilified the heart. There is some good reasoning there. We can misunderstand our emotions in situations as our true heart. We can be wishy-washy. But the heart, well, Glen Hansard says it well:

We were speaking earlier of the head and the heart. Actually, the heart got a bad rap in my last spill. Because, actually your heart is the thing that’s (whistles), Nature. Your heart is your nature the head is your culture. The head is responsible for all sorts of madness. The heart (blows his lips)
“There’s a cliff coming.”
“@#$% the cliff.”
“But we’ll be killed.”
“I don’t care.”
You know what I mean?

This elevation of the mind over the heart, the exaltation of the rational being over the emotional, responsive one, created a problem that isn’t new, but I would say was more pronounced: Man considered himself equal with God. Now, hold on there, JM would never say he is equal with God. Sure, but would you really admit some of your weirder thoughts? No…you say it in a different way to convince yourself that it isn’t so bad. No Christian worth their salt says they are equal to God, but when we determine that we alone, and those who believe like us, have figured “it” out, we say that we alone truly understand the heart of God. And that my friends, seems more akin to heresy than some little old lady speaking in tongues. Sure, we Charismatics believe some crazy stuff. I personally believe some stuff that defies my own reason and understanding…things that my mind is like, “You’re an idiot,” but my heart says, “This is real. And this is where reason isn’t enough any more…and you realize that God truly is higher that you, and his ways above yours. These are things you believe because you believe them, not because they can be proved by any rational sense of the being." It's probably one of the few times the Apostle Paul and I can be buddies.

And that’s it friends. That is what bothers me. Sure, the pursuit of our hearts should be sanctification of our souls and the likening of our lifestyles, beliefs and thoughts toward that of Jesus Christ. I agree. And I say, yes. But what I, 35 year old James Love, currently of Tuscaloosa Alabama, attending a Vineyard Church, having some oddly strong Catholic leanings, find so difficult about JM’s comments is that he can so firmly say, “The way of God is for those who listen to songs on the organ (which was invented way after the NT was written), who meet at 11am on Sundays and work in upper-middle class suburbia. That is the Gospel.” When the truth is the trash dump villages of Egypt and Brazil, the swamps of Louisiana and the prostitute-lined streets of Bangkok are more akin to the Gospel picture I see in Scripture.

And don’t think I’m making myself out to be above JM. I avoid these places like the plague. I need to do better. It’s just the true power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is mind-blowingly terrifying because we cannot contain it. It tells us our petty grabs for power are for naught, our righteous living potentially in vain (because it is pharisaical) and yet our attempts of grasping faith entirely worth it…when lived in the context of community, striving to love one another, those “lesser” than we, and in loving servitude to God. Faith is then an act of the heart (in concurrance with the mind, soul and strength).
And...rant over.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Thoughs on The Abbey of Gethsemani

I like writing. I think most of you probably know this by now. I thought while I was at the Abbey of Gethsemani I would do a lot of writing. I also thought, and looked forward to the fact that I would get several days in complete silence. And had that been the goal, I would this morning be quite upset that “those people” ruined my time of silence and reflection. By those people I mean the numerous men and women who would take from me the silence that I longed for. This trip, I only twice initiated conversation, but had no less than ten, maybe twelve people who went out of their way to speak with me.

This image was taken from wikipedia.
And the truth is each time I was quite embarrassed, because I knew that silence was being broken not just for the two of us, but for anyone who was around us. I also wondered why it was that men and women went out of their way to speak with me. Why not the other retreatants? They could easily see that others were speaking, because they heard and saw them. And the truth is, maybe they did that as well. And what I came up with was a few things. And these are what I learned this year at the monastery.

If I really do have this relationship with Christ that I suppose I do, there is something in that that is attractive to others. A few people remarked to me: you seem to happy to be here, or about me always smiling. That is what drew them to me they would say. And the truth is, I just enjoy the solitude found at Gethsemani. It is almost impossible for me not to be happy when chanting the Psalms throughout the day, hiking the knobs, reading, resting, eating simple food and seeing beautiful strangers that I love find solace for their souls. This is a joy to me. And I think that joy is attractive…not the things I do or say.

This image is from the Gethsemani website.
I expected this year to be exactly like last year. I expected that I would do this at such and such a time, and go there at this time. I expected to entertain the same rhythm I did last year. But when I stopped, I realized that September 2013 is not September 2012. I am a regenerating creation. For instance, I have shed and grown 12 new skins since I was last there. How much more has my heart, soul and spirit changed? How much have those changes caused me to need something in fact quite different? What I learned was that holding on to expectations based on previous experience can lead to frustration, disappointment and hurt…that we don’t have to experience. So, I just went with it. Sure, I sought solace, peace and quiet. And I found those things, but I chose not to let the interferences ruin the beauty that surrounded me.

I am not sure if Coptics, Catholics and Orthodox believers say things like this, but in Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches I have heard expressions such as: We are the hands and feet of Jesus. Some of these men and women that came into my space either acted as the hands of Jesus or needed the hands of Jesus themselves. I was both recipient and giver of the grace of God. And there are very few things in life, if any, more important than partaking in the giving and receiving of life found in Christ.

This photo taken from here.
The last big category is something that some of my Catholic friends here might take offense to, and I want to say to you specifically…that is not my intent. My intent is just to express the reality of my heart and experience. So, here it goes: I am unabashedly a Protestant. There are some marked differences that separate me from my Catholic brothers and sisters. But…I love them. And I will not try to change them any more than I will try to change Protestants of other denominations. The goal is not to win other Christians to my version and understanding of the Gospel. The goal is to walking in the love and unity of Christ’s Church. I don’t know why, but I still hold to a belief I developed in high school that we will all have some things we have reckoned wrong. And the reason I am fine with these misbeliefs is that we, the Children of God, are called to be in pursuit of truth. As long as we continue to pursue the truth we will have teachable spirits that learn to see truth wherever it lies. I see truth in the lives of monastic men and women of the Catholic Church. I see truth in the clergy of the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches. I find truth in the history of the Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist churches. And I find truth in experiences I have in the Charismatic and Pentecostal congregations. There is beauty in all of us that we can partake in. When we fail to recognize true beauty, when we allow dogmatic approaches to our own understanding of the Gospel to prevent us from finding truth in the teachings and actions of those around us, we limit ourselves from growing toward the full expression of God found on earth today. That is Paul’s body in 1 Corinthians. I cannot help but find an expression of reverence in Gethsemani that does not exist in most Evangelical churches. I cannot help but experience a familiarity with God in the Vineyard that does not exist in many Mainline churches. But I need them both. I need them all. That is not to say that truth is relative, but more to say that truth is revealed and we are offered the opportunity to learn and partake in it.

I didn’t anticipate these four points taking up so much room. So, I think I will write more of the little things like I did last year in another post. But for now, you can kind of see how this year at Gethsemani was for me.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Adventures in Geograpy

I went home for Christmas last year, which I normally do. You know, being a small town boy, with small town virtues, and being part of two of the largest families in the world, that are both pretty awesome, going home for holidays is part and parcel to not being shunned and/or kidnapped by said families. Christmas fell on, I believe a Tuesday. I had taken a couple of fall vacations last year, so I didn’t have a lot of leave time. This meant that I planned to fly back on Christmas afternoon so that I could work the day after the holiday. However, geography had a different plan. (I think this is funny. We attribute big scheme activities to fate or God or Mother Nature or Father Time. This time…I’m going to blame plain old geography. Congrats geography…you’re big time now!)

You see three things geographical coalesced into what I call, “a typical James story.” First would be the state of Texas. I use the lower case state here as a play on words, in light of the earlier post about how vague English can be. I mean both Texas as a state in the union, and also the state that Texas found itself in due to a crazy weather pattern. So, the state of Texas contributed to this funny story. A weather front that had slowly been creeping in from the west descended on the Austin area. It brought with it snow and ice and caused major delays.

Second, the state of Alabama contributed to the scenario, same word usage as above. Instead of the icy deluge that attacked Mother Texas, Alabama had a small tornadic outbreak. I, and a lot of others sat waiting around the terminal for delayed flight after delayed flight. It finally became apparent there was no getting out of Austin. The gentleman in front of me at the ticket counter mentioned that if he could get to DFW their flight was delayed enough they could probably get out of Dallas. He went to talk to his wife as I had the same conversation with the ticket agent. He then hollered at me that I could ride with him, his wife and their baby to DFW. And, of course, because I am me, said yes.

Another gentleman heard and asked if he could join the merry band, and it was agreed that, yes, yes he could. So, the five of us set off to rent a car and watch for luggage. Since neither I or the other single gentleman had luggage we went to find cars, as did the father of the little child. I struck out at every rental place so went back to the luggage carousel. The mom of the baby said she needed to talk to her husband and left their infant with me, a total stranger. And we all know what that means…the baby woke up. Apparently this baby will be a free-spirited hippie like myself, because she looked up, decided, "Yeah, he’ll do. Since he’s here, I’ll go back to sleep."

The couple came back and told me that their family decided it was too dangerous and would disown them if their sweet little grandbaby was taken to Dallas amidst this catastrophic weather. So, now it was down to me and the other dude. He said he had found a car and was ready to go if I was still up for it. I decided to give it a shot since after all I was supposed to work in a few hours.

We hit the road and started talking. Talking was a great distraction because this guy was a frightening driver. Not in the sense of swerving in and out of traffic or ignoring most traffic laws. He just drove really fast on icy roads, and talking seemed to help me keep looking at his face and not the speedometer or the road.

So, I asked him where he was from, expecting the terminus of his flight, not inquiring of his native lands, and he surprised me by saying he was from Persia. Now, I pride myself on geography. So, I accessed my mental map of the Middle East, approximately in the Iraq area, and there was no Persia on my map. So, I texted a few of you and asked where Persia was before asking him. Turns out sports fans, Persia is in Iran. Now, some of you are thinking, “Not so fast there James. Persia and Iran are interchangeable terms.” To which I would respond, “Yes, you are correct, but incorrect in this instance. My new friend here wanted to communicate that he was from a specific part of Iran that is quite dissimilar from the rest of Iran. Kind of like Texans say Austin isn’t really Texas, or Americans say Los Angeles isn’t really the U.S.”

So, geography decided to rear its head again there and I learned a valuable lesson or two. But there was one more piece of geography that got in the way of our getting to DFW…well two. The first was a culinary detour known as, West, Texas. Now, for those of you not in the know, yes, I did mean to use that comma. And for those of you in the know, yes, I did make him stop at Czech Stop. The final piece of geography is Dallas and Austin just aren’t close to one another. So, we didn’t get to Dallas on time and had to share a room in a hotel close to the airport.

After about 3 hours of sleep the two of us awoke and went to the airport. He got out on the first flight, and I had to pitch a fit to get out of Dallas. I finally got my airline to send me to Charlotte, NC to get me to Birmingham, because apparently Alabama is not important in terms of air transit. And really, whoever decides on layovers these days has no sense of geography. I've been sent to cities far out of the way that make no sense. For instance, this flight to the East Coast to get back to a more centralized locale. Also, one final funny note. When I got to Charlotte I ordered some barbecue and what I thought to be a quite expensive Cream Soda. Turns out it was a cream ale…and somewhat delicious. So, beware when in that airport that cream soda does not equal cream ale.

Adventures in English

Markéta Irglová is a 25 year old singer-songwriter from the Czech Republic who rose to, well, fame in certain circles for her role in the film Once, opposite Glen Hansard. For those of you who watched the film, odd thing I never realized: she was only 17 when they filmed Once. Woah! Also, by way of warning, do not watch this movie with my friend Skye Sant. She will punch you in the arm for making her watch a movie that made her emotional.

I agree with her, there is something about the English language that is quite shifty. For those of you English majors, yes I did look that up. Yes, shifty is what I mean. English lends itself to cover ups. We have so many nuances, and words to get around saying something. For instance, this week I sat in a meeting where someone was asked a very specific question. To me, there seemed to be only one true answer, but through the turning of words the question was never really answered at all. We all realized what was meant, but we let it go, because culturally we accept that what was said communicated in a satisfactory way, “Well, I didn’t get that done, as it were.”
If you know me well, you know that I can be a stickler for language. That is not to say I do not misuse or abuse language. I do that quite often in fact. But growing my family had fun with language. Because of that my family communicates with a humor unmatched by most of my friends and colleagues. We know how to turn phrases in all the best ways.
But the primary reason I can be a stickler for words, is because I know how to use dodgy language. I know how to not communicate something quite well in a way that in fact looks like I communicated quite a bit of pertinent information. This skill has come in handy in quite a few accountability situations. I sound quite vulnerable, while not sharing the things that are really important or overwhelming to me.
But on the flipside of this is I can get quite annoyed when people use certain phrases. There was a period of time where no one at Antioch-Belton would approach me with the phrase, “Let me be honest with you.” If they did, they would receive my usual diatribe that went along the lines of, “Oh, so has everything to this point been dishonest?” or “Oh, you have been less than honest in your communication before this? Why don’t you tell me how you were dishonest with me so I know what I can trust to be true?” Those poor folks. I was an aimless grammar Nazi who was trying to help them understand the power of words. And for that…I’m sorry ACC-Belton and others who fell into that same trap. (This picture came from here, and was the first one under a search for "shifty eyes."
One of the ways that my adventures in the English language has recently started to mature however is in the area of accountability. Wait. James, didn’t you just say, you know, two paragraphs ago, that you used your skills to avoid vulnerability and sharing? Why, yes, yes I did. And because of that, I have become a sort of royalty in terms of all things shifty. For example, I give you this very fake conversation as an example of how I have used my understanding of the way words are used to get around certain topics:
Me: So, man, how are things going? Have you had any struggles this week?
Bro: Well, I had a couple of slip-ups this week.
Me, after waiting for my bro to expound: Well, anything specific man?
Bro: Oh, you know, the normal. I slipped up with sexual purity, and some anger things.
Me: You know what, that is pretty dodgy. Slipped up with purity could communicate anything from you thought about someone impurely to you flew to Vegas and purchased time with a prostitute. And anger things could mean you let a cuss word slip when you stubbed your toe, to the fact that you are a mass murderer. Say what you mean. I’m not asking you these questions because I like it. I’m asking these things because you said you want accountability. If you want to be dodgy, let’s not waste our time, let’s instead go eat pizza or take a hike or watch Waking Ned Devine. 
First, I wouldn’t have this conversation with just anybody. You have to earn the right to speak to people like this. (That is a freebie, no offering required for that preaching point.) Second, I don't just approach people about stuff in their lives. I don't hold anyone accountable that doesn't ask me to...unless something is about to get crazy, and I can prevent that person from making a huge mistake.
Third, this is where a little maturity and revelation have taken something from my past that is a bit shady, and changed it to something not only for my good, but someone else’s. We have this crazy language that allows us to escape honesty and truth. Whether language is a reflection of our culture, or whether language has shaped the culture is an interesting thought to ponder, but isn’t really the point of this particular post. The fact is English and dodginess go hand-in-hand together. (And yes, I can make up words. I went to seminary and they let us get away with all sorts of fantastical phrases that the rest of the world frowns at…and in fact gave us degrees for doing so!)
Do with this post what you will. There may not seem to be an overarching point or lesson so to speak. But I think in the subtext what you can find here is a plea to say what you mean. Honesty and truth will always play to your benefit in the long run, whether it be simply in being understood, or having to explain yourself when you are caught after a lie. Or at least...say what you mean to me, because I will be examining your words and (not so) secretly judging you.