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Archive for December, 2009

I spent the entire day yesterday listening to Catholic radio. I took in EWTN and Ave Maria in about equal portions, along with a couple of archived hours of Catholic Answers. I thought it would be interesting to the IM audience today to hear some of my thoughts on the “Catholic radio” experience.

Let me say a couple of things. First, some good Catholic friends have told me not to do this. Not because it is counter-productive as much as simply a bit distorted in its picture of the Church. EWTN is one kind of American Catholic experience, but it’s very much its own culture and flavor. There is lots more going on, some not as conservative, some far deeper and richer in flavor. I hope I counted all of this as I reflected on what I was hearing.

Secondly, I’m very open to what Catholicism has to say. I’m about as soft a sell as you could find right now. My own evangelicalism has made its case to me and while I remain part of the evangelical community, I am not manning the ramparts with weapons. I’m opening windows and doors, actively inviting in the voices of non-evangelical Christians and their experience of Christ.

Third, it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception yesterday, so I heard a lot of discussion of Mary.

So here are some of my reflections. No particular order or significance to placement…

Click here to read the rest.  It’s an excellent piece.

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Someone I know wrote this and he’s allowed me to share it with you.  It meshes very well with my own feelings.

The Problem With Christian Music (or Skipping to the Last Page)

The song that brought this to mind is “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles.

Something always brings me back to you.
It never takes too long
No matter what I say or do I’ll still feel you here ’til the moment I’m gone

You hold me without touch
You keep me without chains
I never wanted anything so much than to drown in your love and not feel your reign

CHORUS
Set me free, leave me be. I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity
Here I am and I stand so tall, just the way I’m supposed to be
But you’re on to me and all over me

You loved me ’cause I’m fragile,
When I thought that I was strong
But you touch me for a little while and all my fragile strength is gone

[CHORUS]

I live here on my knees as I try to make you see that you’re everything I think I need here on the ground
But you’re neither friend nor foe though I can’t seem to let you go,
The one thing that I still know is that you’re keeping me down

[CHORUS]

The artist seems to have a bad relationship in mind. A choreographer on “So You Think You Can Dance” this past season reinterpreted it with one dancer playing the role of a malevolent addiction pulling the strings of control and holding down a person desperate to be freed from its clutches. Filtered through my Christian worldview I can also see this another kind of struggle. The allure and desire for something that is killing us can at certain moments seem overwhelming if we’re being honest. Whether it’s a daily struggle with alcoholism, the enticement of lust and pornography, the creeping discontent brought on by materialism, jealousy and envy or a smoldering, volcanic temper waiting to explode on those we love most, the fight is very real. And what gets us about it is that we often run to whatever it is for comfort and release, believing the damnable lie that the rush we feel from indulging ourselves will be lasting and fulfilling or solve our problems.

Now, I’m very aware of the problems with so-called “secular” music and entertainment. I’ve heard them nearly all my life. But sometimes, and not as infrequent as some may think, one of those secular songs or artists just gets it right in a way that Christian music rarely does when it comes to honestly assessing the human condition. Among the unwashed masses, there just doesn’t seem to be this need to pretty everything up and tie the neat little bow on the end of it. Everything’s not happy. Sometimes things don’t end well. Sometimes we don’t understand and relief isn’t in sight. But to listen to about 99% of the music on Christian radio, you would be convinced that God steps into virtually all of life’s situations and fixes them within the span of a 3 1/2 minute song. We know deep down that life doesn’t work like that but the songs make us feel good so we play along and perpetuate the lie.

I call this syndrome “skipping to the last page.” It’s that urge when you’re reading a novel and tragedy strikes the characters you care most about that makes you want to flip toward the end to make sure that they’re going to be ok, that the girl and boy end up together and so on. It also happens with the Bible. We tend to remember best the verses that talk about triumph, victory, God stepping in to fix things, how great Heaven is going to be and how Jesus wins in the end. But meanwhile there are these nagging reminders throughout Scripture that relief isn’t always measured in days, weeks or months. Sometimes it’s measured in decades or centuries where even some people’s lifetimes did not afford them the answers and relief they sought. Whole books are devoted to a near avalanche of regret and mourning such as Lamentations. Chapter after chapter goes by with very little reminder that God will bring healing and restoration. Ecclesiates raises question after difficult question, mostly without resolution. And given how long some of these chapters and books are (such that most people don’t read the whole thing in one sitting), I can’t help but feel that God did this by design. He actually wants us to marinate, to sit and ponder the heartache and lament because contrary to our typical way of wanting life to proceed, He doesn’t see the destination as the only thing that really matters. The path and the time it takes to walk it is just as important as where we’re going.

The truth is for many, this struggle is not solved by simply going to the altar, having some spiritual superstar pray it away or repeating enough “victory” verses from the Bible. That’s not to say that God never does the miraculous and completely rid us of a problem or struggle. But most of the time, His response is the one He gave Paul regarding his famous thorn in the flesh: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” We’ll have times where we don’t really think about it and other times where we can feel its hot breath right on our neck, but it’s always lurking around…right alongside our fervent desire to follow hard after Christ. And this is normal. There’s no need to skip to the last page or fast forward to the happy ending of the movie. God has purpose in the struggle itself and those purposes are good. But they cannot be accomplished without allowing for the struggle and suffering. Just be honest about it, both to yourself and to those around you. Call it what it is, how it really feels and then cast yourself on God, even if He doesn’t fix it in your preferred timeframe.

Now if we could just get that same kind of honesty from our favorite Christian music.

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Well, I’m still alive folks. Sorry about the lack of posting, but it’s just been hard to get on here and do anything in depth.

A quick update though. The Methodist church we’ve been attending has been going through some turmoil of sorts. Nothing catastrophic, but some of the teaching pastors are moving on to new endeavors, there’s been a issue with the children’s ministry that we’re just not satisfied with, even after approaching the leadership and talking things through with them. So we’re likely moving on to another church soon.

At first, I thought my wife was ready to go back to the Anglican church again because of some encouraging conversations with a member I know there regarding their children’s and youth programs. She hinted that the next Sunday could be our last where we are and then we could talk to my friend about meeting up with them at the Anglican church the following Sunday. But alas, I think she got cold feet and she wants to wait until they’re in their new building (the original plan). I was hoping we’d get to celebrate the advent season there but it’s not to be. Keep us in your prayers. This is a difficult transition time for us.

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