How Christians Are Like Celebrities

'Paparazzi game' photo (c) 2009, amuchmoreexotic - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ We live in a world obsessed with fame, with acclaim, with being known. A good many people spend inordinate amounts of time trying to make their lives go viral.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s a recipe for disaster. For becoming an Internet byword, a cautionary tale. People are becoming (in)famous for the wrong reasons.

The fact of the matter is that, more than ever before, our lives are on display. (In more ways than one, right NSA?). So very simply, we should give a care about how we live. I’m not talking about people pleasing–because that’s joke with no punchline. No, what I mean is that we should be striving to live vital lives–lives with meaning, substance, purpose.

Here’s the deal: just as the paparazzi surround (and hound) celebrities all the time, we are likewise encompassed by what the Bible calls “a great cloud of witnesses.” Those witnesses could be:

Our honored dead, who’ve preceeded us into glory.

God’s holy angels, who “long to look into these things.”

Satan’s demons, who watch, waiting to exploit our every fall.

Our employers, employees, friends, family…

Our lives, words, deeds are always on display. Oh, our pictures may never grace the covers of tabloid magazines, or videos be seen on TMZ, but they are for sure being replayed in the skull cinemas–in wide-screen, with Dolby Surround Sound–of those closest to us:

Husbands

Wives

Sons

Daughters

It’s up to us what those memories will be.

Because those little eyes see everything.

“So therefore, live as wise, and not unwise, making the most of every opportunity for the days are evil.”

Are you living a viral, or a vital, life?

Shiny, Happy (Plastic) People

Admit it. You’ve heard it. You’ve said (or at least thought it). It’s cliché: Jesus came to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

But somewhere along the way, we often get lost, get comfortable. Too comfortable.

In fact, we maintain a tacit dislike of things which make us uncomfortable. If something doesn’t fit into our neat religious categories, we’re apt to do one of about four things:

1) Ignore it, hoping it will go away.

2) Actively shun it, shut it down, drown it out (this is but a manifestation of denial).

3) Label it, trying to make it fit into our “recipe box” of life (like forcing a square peg into a round hole). As of life is supposed to fit into our categories.

4) Crucify, and vilify, it. Actively speak out against whatever it is.

We give lip service to that cliché (“comfort the afflicted… “), but don’t like to made to feel uncomfortable ourselves? Why is that? What did we think? That coming to Jesus would solve all of our problems? That being in the world, but not of it means that somehow we’ve now arrived in Happy Land?

Jesus didn’t view the world that way; in fact, he’s on record saying that those upon whom the Tower of Siloam fell were not worse sinners. Things happen in a fallen world.

And coming to Christ doesn’t make us “in right, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.” Coming to Christ doesn’t mean we get magically delivered from the consequences of living in a fallen world. There is pain, suffering, evil… in short things we can’t understand, or explain.

For instance, a lot of you won’t go see a movie like The Conjuring, because you don’t do “horror.” It makes you too uncomfortable. Yet you’ll watch the evening news every night without batting an eye. And talk about horror! This despite the fact that both deliver the bad news in showing that yes, there is inexplicable evil in the world. Yet only one shows there is indeed a power greater than evil.

And it ain’t the evening news, folks.

The ironic fact of the matter is that sometimes it’s only through fiction that we can get to the heart of reality. We have to be willing to embrace discomfort if we want to grow. Growth doesn’t happen without pain.

But I’m not just talking about our media choices, rather about stepping outside our comfort zones. About reaching out in love, about doing that sometimes most difficult of all things:

Listening. Before we offer a snap judgment, or jump to an unfounded conclusion. For instance, and this is crazy! Sometimes (most time) people are just sick, and aren’t “harboring uncontested sin” in their lives. Or are not demon possessed (remember, “greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world”).

If we are going to say it (“comfort the afflicted…”), let’s act on it, okay?

The simple fact is that things (and people) don’t fit into our neat little boxes. God’s a person, too (the Person), and can we fit Him into one of our boxes? I don’t knew about you, but I’ve been trying all of my life, and he keeps shattering all of my paradigms…

My point in this rather long, rambling, post is this:

Do you want to be a shiny, plastic person with all the answers, or someone who embraces the uncertainty? It’s not all happy, but it can be holy.

My challenge to you today: do something outside of your zone.

Thanks for reading!

The (a)Lone Ranger: a Post About Accountability

Christianity is a faith predicated upon community. We are members of one another, a part of the same body. We are our brother’s keepers.

At the same time, we are an individualistic culture. What we do is no one’s business, but our own. But what we do certainly impacts those around us.

But we can’t have it both ways; our liberty in Christ is not a license to live as we please, out on our own, lone rangering it. I see the tendency in my own life–to want to isolate myself, live my own life.

But that’s just the thing: it’s not my own life–for I am not my own, but bought with a price. I belong to Christ. I also belong to my wife, my kids, my friends, church family…

Nothing I (or we) do exists in a vacuum. One of the biggest lies the enemy lobs our way–like a live grenade–is that we are alone. That no one knows our shame, no one has ever faced similar struggles. Like a wolf casing a flock, he’ll wait until we are weak, isolate, and pounce…

Sinking in those teeth of temptation, feeding on the toxic tendencies of our flesh. Make no mistake: he knows our stories, knows our proclivities, our weaknesses.

Knows the right time to strike.

If you think that he will let up when times are tough, when we’re feeling low, defeated, broken… When life gets hard. Think again: that’s when he turns up the heat the highest.

His goal is to get us to crack, to give in, to break, and destroy, us. “Your adversary, the devil, roams about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is not, as some would say, a toothless enemy. No, he has razor sharp canines, and strong claws.

And he doesn’t let go easy.

Think of the things in our lives that we give ourselves over to: money, sex, porn, drugs, booze, food, envy, bitterness… I could go on and on.

Were any of those easy to eliminate? I rest my case. The Bible says that “when we are weak, we are strong.” A seeming paradox. When are we weakest? When we get real, and confess our junk. We run the risk of being rejected, ostracized, vilified, misunderstood. But when we find that community where we are accepted (warts and all), we find that it’s indeed true:

“When we are weak, we are strong.” Because we’re not in this alone. And there is strength in numbers–hope in knowing that our brothers and sisters have been, or are at, where we ourselves are. They’ve got our backs.

I am not alone.

You are not alone.

Lest you think I’m preaching to the choir here, I’m going lead by example:

(Understanding that nothing trumps face-to-face accountability) If you are male, and consider yourself my friend, I give you permission to ask the hard questions of me. I’m tired of trying to do this on my own. I’m tired of lone rangering it.

My email is gandalf239@gmail.com.

(I encourage females to likewise find safe sisters to which they can be accountable).

Thanks for reading.

I Need To Tell You A Secret…

Shh! I need to tell you something. It’s a secret. No, not here. Come around the corner… Where it’s a bit darker.

I’m a fan of horror fiction. I grew up reading Stephen King. I still read his work. Now, I’m not a fan of horror for horror’s sake, or the buckets of gore served up ad infinitum in so-called torture porn. That said, even the Saw movies present a kind of twisted “what would you do” scenario: do you sacrifice, or save, yourself. (I’ve not seen them).

The best horror stories are always morality plays. The darker the darkness, the starker, the brighter, the light is in contrast. It’s good vs. evil on grand scale, where the forces of evil always seem on the cusp of winning, but then good overcomes. Characters–regular people, like you and me–are placed in these insane situations, and we get to see: will they rise to the occasion, or be overcome?

Fiction in general, and horror fiction in particular, helps us to make sense of a seemingly senseless world. It often does so by invoking the supernatural. This, I think, is really what explains our ongoing fascination–as a culture, as a species–with the things that go bump in the night. Whether we are atheists, agnostics, rationalists, scientists, and whether want to acknowledge it, or not, in our inmost selves we know that there is more to the world than what we experience with our senses.

Horror takes this intrinsic understanding, and makes it tacit reality: the monsters are real, the unseen exists. There really is more to this world than meets the eye.

We who are Christians of course know this: there is a God, a devil, and a war for the souls of every person who has ever lived. Horror, in a sense, shows the world as it really is: a battleground between the forces of light and dark. Because that’s the stark truth: we were, all of us, born into a world at war.

We who are Christians also know something else: in the end, we win. In the end, good will ultimately triumph over evil (although it’s bloody battle now). The devil is not, nor has he ever been, God’s equal. He will lose.

Which is why I get excited when a movie comes out that acknowledges the fundamental nature of reality: good, and evil, are real. The world is often a scary, confusing place, and there are sinister forces at work that we can’t comprehend.

What movie is this? That marries two things I love? A good scare, and the overcoming goodness of God?

The Conjuring.

What do you think? Are you going to see it?

This Face Is Older Than I Remember

I don’t remember being this old. I certainly don’t feel it in my bones (well, sometimes, I do). I’m 44. It seems a higher number than I recall. Where did my thirties go? I blinked, and they passed like a whisper on the wind–never to be heard again.

I look in the mirror, and the face looking back at me is older than the man seeing it feels. The eyelids droop with the inexorable pull of gravity, there’s an extra chin which seems to have sprouted fully-formed when I wasn’t looking. How did that happen? How did I get here? One cheek has a slight concavity from the nightly wearing of a CPAP head strap. Sleep apnea? Isn’t that something that old, overweight men suffer from? Oh, wait

I don’t remember growing older… It just happened one day when I wasn’t looking. I went to bed one night, and awoke middle aged. I went to bed with hopes, dreams, and aspirations, and awakened to a job I’ve been at for nearly a fourth of my life. Time, seemingly so slow to pass when I was young, feels more and more like the “Kessel Run” (of Star Wars fame): like the smuggler Han Solo, it wants to do its business undetected, and as quickly as possible (so as not to attract any attention), and in less than twelve parsecs.

It’s robbing me of my energy, sapping my creative will… The gap between what I hoped to have done, and what I’ve actually done, is ever-widening. (Publish a book? Hah! When do you have time, and energy to write? To really write?).

Will I bridge that gap? Will you?

Carpe diem, my friends. We each of us just have one day to pursue our dreams. We each are alotted one life, one that is lived, and has only ever been lived, on one day:

TODAY.

We–you, me, all of us–have it in us. Have the energy, the courage, the fortitude to face today. As C.S. Lewis once said, “The future comes at all of us at the same rate: sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes per hour.”

We don’t know how many minutes, or hours, we’ll be given.

So let’s make them count, shall we?

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