Sep 11 2011
Some (Seriously) Mature Reading Material, and a Plea for Advice

I got this email, and, over time, many like it.  She'll remain anonymous:

A listener, in her early 20s, confronted her boyfriend with what she found in his online "history" record. She was very surprised. And very disappointed.

She talked to him about it, but he said it wasn't his, without offering explanation. Then he said he was sorry she was hurt, but -- curiously -- would still not acknowledge that he had accessed the websites in question. She's sadly, and completely, convinced he's not being honest.

She wanted to talk more about it, and even felt sorry for him (she realizes this is an issue for almost all men, at least at the temptation level), but he was angrily unwilling to deal with it.

She likes him, of course. But her question was this:  Given this situation, should she continue a marriage-track-type relationship with him?

Your thoughts...?  Humble advice, perhaps borne of experience, is welcome.

Sep 07 2011
On Dealing with Crazy Christians

This was written for a Christian radio industry site, and certainly isn't for everybody.  But it might mean something to you, too, in your realm.

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Dear Other Radio People,

First of all, thank you for your work as an Other Radio Person.  This is the hardest kind of radio to do, this “Christian radio” thing.  Most of us who’ve done other formats figure that out, the first time we say something that didn’t… come out… quite right.  We figure this out, subtly, because when we say something the wrong way in this format, someone calls and tells us we are masters of deceit, leading thousands of people to eternal punishment.

In another format, when we mess up, we’re just stupid.  And that’s it.

Anyway, I’ve had to deal with a lot of crazy people, and crazy people can take it to a new level of crazy when they dish out regular-brand crazy with a heapin’ helpin’ of Bible-talk.  Radio friends have even asked me, “How do you handle it?”  And I admit, I’ve gotten frustrated with people.  I wish they’d go away, but only after replacing their “‘Fireproof’ is the finest film ever made!” selves with chai-sipping N.T. Wright fans.

In other words, I wish they’d go away, and I’d be left with more people like… me.

That’s a problem.  If this is ministry, it’s not about me.  Nor is it about my elitism, my biases, or my desire to feel superior to the people who call to wrap up every discussion, every question, no matter what, with “Jesus”, “The Bible”, or “God”.

So here’s what I remind myself:

1)  These people are family.

Because they are.  Growing up, I said things many times that embarrassed my much-cooler brother.  But I was always his brother, and the church is — truly — family.  I’m glad he put up with me, and still puts up with me.  Family is like that.

2)  They’re family, but I will not let these people define Jesus for me.

Yes, there are horrible legalists in the world, and some of them listen to Christian radio.  But while they may embody a particular American church subcultural type, they are not the total picture of the word “Christian”.  The “median” Christian, statistically speaking, is not even American.  She’s a poor woman in Africa, and hasn’t heard of Casting Crowns, Night of Joy, or WWJD? bracelets.  Fine things, all, but I’m not going to confuse our products and subculture with Jesus.

3)  Some of these people are new to the faith.

And they’re excited about it.  They should be.  And they just turned on a Christian station, and they’re elated.  The songs are speaking to them, deeply.  They didn’t even know music could be like this!  They want to hear more about God!  And then I come on, and I talk about Jesus — or about what my dog ate last night.

There’s a reason for this.  The dog thing is life, too, and I’m going to represent life, highs, lows, and even the amusing mundane, on the show.  Christ fills everything with meaning! — but I’m not going to hold it against the listener, who may be a new believer, from not getting it just yet.

You and I have no idea how long that caller has been a believer, or if she even is one.  She may be merely playing church on the “church station”, and know no better.

4)  The church has always been full of freaks.

And thank you, Lord, for that.  Otherwise, I don't get in. 

I don’t know who said it first, but the Church has been described as H.C.E.:  ”Here Comes Everybody”.  The whole motley lot of us, sprinting and jumping and limping and being wheeled and carried in on a gurney.  Cool, uncool – doesn’t matter.  Just glad you’re here.  And it’s been that way since Jesus hand-picked his first disciples.

So why would we expect any different?  ”But some of my callers and emailers seem kind of simple and needy, and, even more so than typical people, and — ”

Well, Jesus’ message has always appealed first to the needy.  Always.  Don’t be shocked, and don’t be surprised, either, when you visit a doc’s office, and the people inside seem sicker than those outside.  Makes sense.  So we can quit reacting to it.

5)  Diminishing them is just a way for me to feel superior.

And I’m not.  And you’re not, either.

Thank God.  Here comes everybody, including you and me.

Aug 31 2011
On Yearning for the Undeniable God

A text to the show:

I'm trying to hear God's voice.  I'm trying to listen.  I've read that God is always speaking.  I want something that isn't a whimper. Something personal. Something I cannot deny or doubt.

Everything I believe says God wants the same thing. So what is the problem?

 

 

I wish I knew your name.

And I wish I knew your name because... my response would sound so much better. Bad news usually does. "I'm afraid you're asking for something you can't have" seems somehow harsher than, say, "Tara, I'm afraid you're asking for something you can't have."

But it's true. You can't have it. Not yet.

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Here, and now, I'm convinced there's not a thing God could communicate to you that you can't deny.  Nothing He could say would be incontrovertible.  And no matter what He did, what miracle He showed you...?  You could rebel against it.  This is the reality of where we are, now.  

Check out the stories in the Bible.  People got pillars of fire, and it took about a half-hour before they were bowing down to a golden calf.  More "denial"?  Peter, one of Jesus' best friends, got to see miracle after miracle, and his name is now synonymous with the word, "deny", itself. Doubt?  John the Baptist, himself, doubted who Jesus was, after personally baptizing Him.  

God fixed the stars in the sky, and holds every atom together.  He's so masterful, our doubt itself is a miracle:  Our very consciousness remains unexplained.  But doubt, and deny, we do.

You want something that makes it impossible for you to doubt. Problem is, you're human, and humans can doubt anything.  The clear voice of God, itself, can be doubted.  ("Was that really Him, really?"  "Couldn't that have been a neural misfire?"  "You know, maybe that 'miracle' years ago was a coincidence...")  

You want something you can't have... yet.

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But now... the good news:  

It seems like you really want more of God.  And, from what I read, that's a really good thing.  You're going to get what you're looking for.

If you're frustrated now, you're in great company.  Just look at the Psalms, for instance.  David, who wrote many of them, was a man "after God's own heart" and yet he was left wondering, often, "God, where did you go?  Why did you hide your face?"  He was left with yearning.

Or look at Paul, whom Jesus recruited with all the subtlety of a two-by-four to the head.  Paul had the miracle, the light from Heaven, the conversation with Jesus... and still said we can only see dimly, now, what we will one day see in full.  He was left with yearning.

If you want more of God, you're going to yearn. And yearning isn't bad. Yearning happens when you are in love.   Lovers yearn, when they want, but they cannot fully have.  Not yet.  

Lovers yearn, but religious people don't.  

Religious people have their rules, and they have them in full.  There's nothing to yearn for.  (In fact, when they're honest, the only thing they might yearn for is a way out.)

But God calls us to relationship, and that means yearning.

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Want to experience yearning in another context?  Try being engaged to be married, but living a chaste life.  I've done it.  It's hard.  You yearn, and you know what you want, and you know you're going to get what you want... but not yet.  You want more... but not yet.

It's really, really tough.  And, tough as it is, it's really, really good.  Yearning like that - that powerful - only happens because the object of the yearning is that powerful.

And let's face it. I said "yearning in another context", but you know what?  It's really not another context: We are promised, in the end, a wedding. Jesus will have His bride, and it's His people.  And He will know us, and we will know Him, fully. Paul wrote as much:  "Then I shall know just as I also am known."

So you're yearning, and so are we all, but it's building up to something. Something really, really good.  

You're engaged, and the wedding is going to one amazing party, and knowing God, finally, and truly, is going to be worth it.  

There's nothing wrong with yearning for it.