(I found this while looking for a poem I plan to turn into a song for a talent show.)
today is tomorrow (song to self)
get off your seat, get off your laurels
get off your cross and get off your morals
answer your doubts and answer your sorrows
yesterday is gone
but today is tomorrow
open your mouth, open your windows
take care of the poor and take care of the widows
confess your sins and suck life from the marrow
yesterday is gone
but today is tomorrow
open your eyes, and open your ears
confess your guilt and dry up your tears
pay back the debts of all that you’ve borrowed
yesterday is gone
but today is tomorrow
Why do we love TV’s most deeply flawed characters?
Fast Company and the study it referenced summarized it this way:
When we sympathize with a character’s motivations for committing a heinous act, we’re likely to excuse that character’s actions.
I would add this.
We like these characters because like these characters we too are deeply flawed.
These characters are like us.
We may not kill or cheat or be a drunk or sell meth, but most of us know of what we are truly capable.
We know our own dark thoughts. And our thoughts are dark.
Like these characters none of us are always good or always bad or only good or only bad.
To be honest, these characters are a lot like the real characters of the bible.
Abraham. Noah. David. All flawed.
And, if we are honest, all flawed in ways that look like TV’s most deeply flawed characters.
And, if we are honest, all flawed in ways that look a lot like us.
So, Trent Reznor – Nine Inch Nails – released a new single, Came Back Haunted. Yes, it is a “return to form” of sorts and, as with a lot of NIN singles, the song it actually really, really, really good. If you like this sort of thing you will like it. If you don’t you probably won’t.
Here’s the thing, I totally get it from the title – which is also the main part of the chorus – alone.
I can say I’ve come back haunted.
Coming home after leaving my dead son at the hospital, I came back haunted. Haunted by regret, anger, sadness, questions, doubts.
Coming home after spending months in India, I came back haunted. Haunted by my beliefs and what it means to almost everyone I met there. After all, if I am right – if Christianity is true (and I think it is) – then most of the people I met are destined to spend an eternity separated from God.
Coming home from a short teaching trip to Cube, I came back haunted. Haunted at how shallow my faith can be. This trip took place shortly after my son died and I was even more angry then than I am now. While we were there the power went out and a month’s worth of government provided food was going bad. What did this small band of Christians do? They threw a party. Why? To remind them that someday God would make it all ok. Their lives, compared to mine, were truly painful, rough, hard. They faced trials I have never, and likely will never, face. Instead of throwing a hissy fit with God they celebrated Him. They understood what my Grandmother use to say; Life is like needlepoint. The top is beautiful and is this amazing picture. The underneath is an ugly mess of connected thread.
I tend to only look at the ugly underside and these Cubans had the faith to look at the beautiful picture the ugly parts make up.
It shook me.
It moved me.
It changed me.
Everywhere now reminding me I am not who I used to be
Now my faith, this is just begun consequences for what I’ve done.
So when Trent sings “everywhere now reminding me I am not who I use to be,” I get it.
This songs reminds me of that.
It convicts me and drives me to worship.
It encourages me and reminds me to look beyond just the now.
And fitting, concerning the title, it haunts me.
Because I came back haunted.
pro·fane (pr-fn, pr-) adj.
1. Marked by contempt or irreverence for what is sacred.
2. Nonreligious in subject matter, form, or use; secular: sacred and profane music.
I envy people who worship easily. I don’t.
There are songs I won’t sing (“It Is Well With my Soul”, because it’s not) and there are lines I won’t sing (“Jesus you are all I want”, because He’s not).
I envy people who can sing these songs because they are true for them.
I also envy people who can sing these lines because they want them to be true for them.
I envy people who can worship now for the way it will be like then.
But I do worship.
I even love some traditional hymns, especially “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
I can worship with Robert Robinson when he says,
Prone to wonder Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.
I feel that way sometimes. I, too, am prone to wonder. I, too, am prone to leave the God I love.
I get that.
I also love Amazing Grace. I can worship with John Newton when he says,
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
As I’ve said before, I’ve got my own sh!t.
I get these hymns.
I feel these words.
I even like some modern worship/praise songs, especially “Blessed be Your name.”
I can worship with Matt Redman when he says,
Blessed be Your name. When the sun’s shining down on me. When the world’s all as it should be. Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name. On the road marked with suffering. Though there’s pain in the offering. Blessed be Your name
Most modern praise songs tend to be about the bright and shiny parts of life.
I like that this one is also about the darker and dirty parts.
Because that’s my life.
My life does indeed have the bright and shining moments! Much of my life is amazingly beautiful!
But I have also walked the “road marked with suffering.”
And there has been “pain in the offering.”
My life is both of these.
And so this becomes my prayer.
But more often than not I worship with a profane worship.
I worship with songs written by people who don’t believe in – and are at times even hostile towards – the God love.
Regardless of what I do with Reel Parables, I don’t tend to see God everywhere or in everything.
I don’t usually see a beautiful sunrise (like the ones I’ve seen off the coast of Florida) or a beautiful sunset (like I’ve seen off the coast of California and Mexico) and immediately praise God or thank Him fr His amazing creation.
Worship does not always come easily for me.
But I do feel what others feel. And sometimes its the non-religious ones that capture my feelings the best.
The Sinner in Me – Depeche Mode
When Dave Gahan sings,
If I could just hide, the sinner inside, and keep him denied. How great life would be, if I could be free, from the sinner in me.”
I know what he means.
As I wrote here I am very aware of my sin.
This song becomes my song of confession and gives me the outlet to confess my sins to God. (I John 1:9-10)
I don’t wallow in them.
I’m reminded of them.
I confess them.
And it reminds me that God already took care of them. And that draws me closer to God.
Why? Because he loves me unconditionally.
Put another way, God loves me despite all of my past, current or future sh!t.
Unconditional – the Bravery
I’ve spent my whole life surrounded and I’ve spent my whole life alone.
I wonder why I never wonder why the easiest things are so hard.
I just want, I just want love. I just want, I just want love. I just want, I just want love.
I just want something, something for nothing. Something, something for nothing.
I get this song. I too want unconditional love (see above).
And when Sam Endicott wonders why the easiest things are so hard, I get it!
This song becomes my prayer as I wrestle with how God could love me so unconditionally.
For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate.
Indeed. Why are the easiest things so hard?
Regardless, I found what the Bravery longs for. I found my unconditional love.
But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God loved me before I every loved Him. His love for me is not conditional on my love for Him.
God loves me unconditional.
When I sing this song I praise God that He loves me that way.
I praise God that He loves me unconditionally.
Do you do the same? What songs allow you to easily worship?
We are made for community.
It’s true you know.
Not because Google says its true. But because it is just true.
We are made for community.
Here’s the rub, community is not always easy to find.
I saw Peter Murphy and She Wants Revenge in concert. It was my first time to see both. It was amazing.
I cannot say for sure, but I am pretty sure I was the only Christian there.
If you know anything about their music or their culture you know it is not very “Christian friendly.”
But as I stood in line with the Goths and the ghouls I felt strangely at home.
I fit in.
So there I was crammed into the Door.
Singing and dancing.
I met a couple who came to see Peter Murphy but fell in love with She Wants Revenge.
The three of us made mock fun of the poor band who had to open for them both. They were forgettable at best and no one was there to see them. Poor things.
The couple and I talked about Peter Murphy’s new-found love of crazy hats and wondered if he would wear one (he did not).
I met Adam Braven from SWR. We chatted. Took a few photos. He was kind enough to sign my concert shirt. Yea, I acted like a typical fan.
We sang and danced.
We watched some random guy totally ignore his VERY turned on date. (Seriously, this guy could have had the night of his life!)
We marveled at the energy of the youth and admitted that yes, youth is indeed wasted on the young.
It pains me to say it, but that was a nice change.
I had recently returned from a 3 month business trip to Costa Rica. During that trip our church made a few changes. One was to disband the only place where I connected.
So here I am attending a church where I don’t really belong. A church that we never did join.
The harder we tried to fit in at that church the more we didn’t fit and the more we didn’t belong.
At one point an atheist friend suggested that we find another church. Irony.
What we had in common – our faith! – was overshadowed by the minor things on which we didn’t agree. And although they were minor (when compared to our faith) they were plentiful.
(And don’t even get me started on churches that separate you at the door; children go here, youth go here, men go here, women go here, old people go here, young people go here, married people go here, etc. and then wonder why they don’t have “community?” Maybe you don’t have community because you do your best to break up the family – the most foundational community in most of your lives!)
Anyway, at the concert I felt at home, accepted, a part of something.
What we had in common – music – overshadowed the major thing on which we didn’t agree.
Which brings me back to the Church. There is a lot to disagree with.
Do you dunk or do you sprinkle?
is the Earth old or young?
Is Genesis 1 literal or simply a poets explanation?
Did God make all of this in 6 days or over millions of years?
Should women be pastors, teachers, elders, deacons?
Can you be gay and a Christian?
Was there really a world-wide flood?
Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Here’s the thing, the only question that matters is the Jesus one. Did Jesus rise from the dead?
If not then my faith – and all of Christianity - is false, fake, vanity.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.
I Corinthians 15:14-19
There you have it, God’s Achilles Heal.
Want to disprove Christianity once and for all, then disprove the resurrection of Jesus.
As far as I can tell that is the only way to do so.
Disprove creation? Great, we were wrong about how God created the world.
Disprove the flood? Fine, we were wrong about our understanding of that story.
Disprove the Tower of Babble? Awesome, we were mistaken again.
But disprove the resurrection of Jesus and you disprove all of Christianity.
So what did Peter Murphy and She Wants Revenge teach me about community?
They taught me this; to have community I need to NOT focus on the minors, and Christianity has a lot of minors. Instead, lets focus on the majors (we once called them the Fundamentals of the faith) and show a little grace, patience and love with the others.
What do you say? You in?
(I’ve heard a lot of people serve Communion. Most try to tie it back to a sermon they just heard and their unpreparedness shows. This isn’t my “I could do it better” thing; this is simply what I would say if I served Communion.)
I’d join the movement if there was one I could believe in.
Yea, I would break bread and wine if there was a church I could receive in.
Because I need it now…
U2 – Acrobat
I was going to start this with “I grew up in a tradition where communion was…”
The thing is that I don’t remember taking communion that often until college.
I don’t have this deep-rooted emotional attachment to it.
I don’t see youthful tradition (habit?) when I meander down memory lane.
God and me bonding over the bread and wine is not a picture that my memory paints.
Regardless, somewhere along the way in my ongoing understanding of communion I found 1 Corinthians 11:27-30.
For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead.
People have DIED because of the way they took communion?
Holy smokes this is serious. So, let me say this.
This is my story.
I don’t want to lead you to a wrong understanding of communion. I’m simply sharing my story (my testimony) as it relates to how I receive the bread and the cup.
Somewhere along the way – I truly don’t know where or why – I started to wonder if the “unworthy” part was talking about me. As in “am I worthy to take communion?”
Here’s the problem: When I examine myself to see if I am worthy I don’t like what I see.
As I wrote here, I have my own $h!t.
You may not see it, but I do.
And God does.
And He and I both know that if it is up to me then I am never worthy to receive communion.
So yea, every time I ask myself if I am worthy to eat the bread and drink the wine the answer is no, I am not worthy.
But I think that is the point.
If I am worthy then I don’t need what the bread and wine remember.
If I am worthy then I don’t need the broken bread; Jesus’ flesh which was for me broken.
If I am worthy then I don’t need the wine; Jesus’ blood which was for me spilled.
But I’m not.
So I do.
So when I eat the bread and drink the wine I bow my head, I beat my chest, and I say, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!”
If I am worthy then I don’t need the bread and I don’t need the wine.
But I’m not.
So I do.
I do not usually join online conversations when the topic is God, faith, religion, etc.
It is not because I am ashamed of my God, my faith, or my religion.
It is because God is bigger than my faith and my religion. And He is most certainly bigger than a tweet, a Facebook status update or a clever meme.
God is big. The God idea is big. The God conversation is big.
God is bigger than evolution.
God is bigger than abortion.
God is bigger than “the gay agenda” or even the “Hollywood agenda.”
God is bigger than my shit.
God is bigger than your shit.
I am sorry that so many Christians forget that we have our own shit or act like our shit does not stink.
When, in actuality, our shit probably stinks even more than your shit.
So here is what I will say.
Jesus did not die to prove me right and you wrong.
Jesus did not die to prove you right and me wrong.
Jesus did not die so that you would not @#$% around before you get married or after you get married.
Jesus did not die so that you would not get an abortion after you @#$% around.
Jesus did not die so that you would not @#$% around with another man.
Jesus did not die so that you would not @#$% around with another woman.
Jesus died because God loves you and wants you to be reconciled to Him.
Jesus did not die to disprove evolution.
Jesus did not die to prove creationism.
Jesus did not die to prove evolution.
Jesus did not dies to disprove creationism.
Jesus died because He loves you and wants you to be reconciled to Him.
Jesus did not die so that you would not dance, drink, smoke or chew (or even date the girls that do).
Jesus did not die so that you would not watch Rated R movies (except for the Passion of the Christ, of course).
Yes, these topics are important and yes, God has something to say about them.
But God is bigger than any one of these topics and He is bigger than all of these topics.
Here is what I know: God loves me and God loves you.
I do not know why He loves us so much, especially since you and I can be so unlovable.
But He does.