God and Sin

The empire of evangelicalism is built on the idea of a holy God who cannot allow sin in his presence. It then uses fear and control as mechanisms to convince people that only they have the solution to this dilemma.

But… as we read about Jesus in the pages of Scripture, we see Jesus, who was God, do exactly that: allow sin in his presence. Furthermore, he not only allowed sin in his presence, he went out of his way to welcome sin into his presence.

Therefore, one of two things must be true: either Jesus is not God, or God can and does indeed allow sin in his presence.

We are so focused on the the holiness of God that we forget the very essence of God: that he is sacrificial love. God’s holiness does not demand that sin be cast out of his presence because his love demands a relationship with the sinner.

Sin is not the main problem or the ultimate enemy; death is. We are not fighting to overturn and end sin, we fight to overturn and end death. Even if there were miraculously no sin in the world tomorrow, death would still exist. And so we aim not to convince with fear and control, but to set free with life and love.

Because that is what we see Jesus doing on page after page of our story, and what we, as his disciples, are to imitate.

Heaven and Nature Sing

We like to think of heaven, at least subconsciously, as being “up.”

After all, that’s the direction Jesus went when he ascended into heaven, right? He was “taken up” and his students were left with their mouths hanging open, “gazing up into heaven.”

But that’s not all of the story. In fact, that misses a central plotline in the story.

When Jesus came to earth (down to earth?) it was a miraculous moment because heaven — the vast, unreachable heaven, was colliding with earth. It was a collision which had occurred only a few times ever before, and never lasted long. This time would be different, though: this time, heaven would remain on earth.

Jesus came to institute the kingdom of heaven on earth. That’s the narrative of the good news stories written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. He didn’t come to whisk people away to some far off land, or to make us pine for a place we couldn’t yet be.

He taught us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He taught us that heaven was like yeast, slowly working its way through a batch of dough. He taught us heaven grows on earth like a plant grows from a seed.

In other words, heaven on earth started small, with the birth of a baby boy, and now it continues to grow, to work its way through a weary world. It grows and spreads with every decision we make to bring life instead of death, love instead of hate, peace instead of war.

And it grows and spreads by the power of heaven’s King even while we sleep or do nothing or screw up.

This advent season, look around you. You’ll see lots of pain, brokenness, injustice, and hurt. These are opportunities to grow and spread heaven on earth. And look around you some more. You’ll also see lots of joy, love, peace, and hope. These are evidences of the truth: when Jesus ascended, he left heaven here on earth for us.

If you’re looking for heaven this holiday season, don’t look up — look around you.

There’s No Iron in an Echo Chamber

It’s easy to surround yourself with an echo chamber — deliberately or on accident. You make friends with people whose ideas and stances and lifestyles are just like yours. It’s an easy fit and most of the time just kind of happens, as a kind of social path-of-least resistance. Online, it’s even easier to do that. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks make it as simple as a mouse click to weed out anyone you disagree with or causes you too much angst.

And although it’s tempting, we’ve got to work hard not to let that happen.

It’s something that, in the past year or so, has been reinforced as being incredibly valuable in my life. One of the downfalls of the tribalization of the western Church is that we unwittingly create homogeneous groups of people who all look, think, and act alike. Here, I have to brag a bit on the people in the local body Shelly and I now call our church home: we’ve got political liberals and conservatives, theological liberals and conservatives, and everyone in between. We have some folks who open carry, and even more who conceal carry, on Sunday mornings… and we also have staunch gun control advocates in the same room. We have free market capitalists and socialists worshiping together. We have egalitarians and complementarians sharing communion. On the teaching team I lead at that church we have guys and gals who fall on nearly all sides of that center line — and who aren’t afraid to pull us back into that middle if they see us veering too far one way or the other.

For that, I am extremely grateful.

The same goes for social media as well. I follow folks on Twitter who are more liberal than I am (Eugene Cho, Zach Hoag) and some who are more conservative than I am (Marc Driscoll, John Piper). And I get worked up about some of their posts. Really worked up sometimes, and I want to hit “unfollow” but then I stop and think, “This is the point – to be challenged by other perspectives.” Not so you can argue with them and feel like you’re “right”… but so you are made better by considering another viewpoint you normally wouldn’t have. The temptation will be strong to dismiss them, ignore them, but instead make sure you engage them.

We all have blind spots, or ideas that have been largely untested or unprocessed. Surrounding ourselves with folks who challenge our assumptions and beliefs is a necessary and beautiful part of growth. It helps us (sometimes forces us) to understand what we truly do believe and why we believe it. It helps present a bigger picture of the totality of God.

So today, I challenge you (in your real life and your online life) to engage with someone who is not like you. Allow them to challenge you — and for you to challenge them. Process their viewpoints, because as you will discover, they have good reasons and good stories as to why they believe what they do as well. And as you do that, you might just rediscover the truth of an ancient proverb: as iron sharpens iron, so we sharpen one another.

The Wedding at Cana

I have a blog up today over at a new project with some great guys called Seder Kegger. Here’s a snippet:

American culture does not understand alcohol, and that tragedy rests largely at the feet of the American church.

In America, it seems we by and large have two ways to react to alcohol: act like it was bottled in the depths of hell and destroys everyone who touches it, or get shitfaced with it and hurt ourselves and the people around us. It’s pretty easy to see that one extreme begets the other: the more the teetotalers rail against the evils of alcohol, the more society wants to engage in it. The more they engage in it and do stupid or hurtful things, the more the teetotalers rail against it.

It’s a vicious cycle that keeps people from enjoying the best things about what alcohol represents: freedom and life. And I say it is the job of the church to lead the way into this holy enjoyment of alcohol that culture can’t quite understand.

Check the whole thing out over at sederkegger.com!

You Are True, Even in My Wandering

Lately, the music which has brought me to the point of worship has consisted of a lot of Les Miserables and Leonard Cohen’s famous Hallelujah… some songs by Fun. have elicited worship from my spirit, as has the music of Coldplay. Mumford & Sons is pretty much pure worship for me. But it’s been a little while since a song on a Sunday morning has engaged me in worship.

To be sure, this says infinitely more about the state of my spirit and where I’m at in my journey with Christ than it does of any of the musicians who lead worship music in our church. They do a tremendous job and have passionate hearts for worship. I’m just in a different place at the moment. A place where I have a need to explore emotions and ideas that “worship music” can’t go. Or doesn’t, most of the time. Worship music used to go there, thousands of years ago. Like Psalm 80, which is a worship song of despair. Asking God where he is, begging God not to forget people who are suffering. Angrily questioning why he is allowing pain. Why he is ignoring the prayers of his people, why he has “fed them with the bread of tears” and “made them drink tears by the bowlful.”

I am trying to imagine singing those words in a church service, and I just cannot fathom it.

Maybe if we had music like that to sing together — “Please return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see!” — we would have a deeper way to interact with and acknowledge pain. Maybe we would be more whole, as we understand a bit more of the totality of God — and the totality of our experience following him.

But I say all of that to say this: last Sunday there was a song that did resonate in my soul. Strangely enough, it was a very traditional tune by Hillsong called “Forever Reign.” Even the title sounds churchy, doesn’t it? But the second verse resonated at deep levels in my soul:

You are peace, you are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, you are true
Even in my wandering

After singing that, I pretty much ignored the rest of the song. I couldn’t tell you how it goes. But I can sing this verse over and over again.

Why is it so great? Because it reminds me of the bigness of God. It reminds me that as I wander and explore and ask questions and experience doubt and cannot force myself to settle for easy answers, that God is true. It reminds me that my wandering does not alter who God is.

There is a small but incredibly vocal group of people who loudly warn folks like me — those of us who explore the rough and rocky ground rather than being content to sit in the middle of the meadow — they warn us that our questions will lead to a slippery slope. That we will find ourselves abandoning truth and God and faith and everything good. They warn us to stay within the comfortable confines of conservative evangelical orthodoxy, to not press the boundaries of that orthodoxy. They warn us not to start questioning things like heaven and hell, salvation, gender roles, God’s sovereignty, inspiration of Scripture and the like, lest our faith begin unraveling in unsustainable strands, blown about in the wind until nothing remains but tiny remnants of what once was.

To them, I offer the lyrics of this song: God is true. God is true, even in my wandering. God is what I am tethered to, not any particular or specific belief system. God is what remains true, even in the midst of the most relentless barrage of questioning and doubts anyone, myself included, can hurl at him. God is who remains God. By wandering, I am not losing sight of him. That is impossible; he is everywhere. By wandering, I am discovering that he is hidden and alive and active in unexpected places.

In wandering, I am learning that he is true. He is true, even in the questioning. He is true, even in the attempts to shackle him with systematic theology. He is true, and I can never escape him because he is God.

All is Quiet on New Years Day

As I type this, straddling the boundary between one year and the next, my entire family is asleep and the house is completely silent. I almost turned on Spotify, but then thought better of it. Sometimes, silence is the best music to write to.

Today is another New Years Day. Another chance for a fresh start. Another opportunity to dream big. We asked our boys tonight what they wanted to accomplish in 2013. Simeon, our preschooler, said he wanted to climb a mountain. Elijah, our kindergartner, said he wanted to plant a garden. (And there you have a case study in the differences of their little personalities.)

Meanwhile over in grown-up-land, I am trying to decide what my goals for this next year should be. Like many other folks, I like the idea of “goals” better than “resolutions” – perhaps because I’ve spent one too many years living in the midst of broken resolutions that it has jaded me. Last year I did not accomplish a single resolution I made on January 1. Maybe the semantic difference is what I need to succeed this time around. Ha!

I’ve heard and read in about a half dozen places now that our resolutions should be attainable. That seems like a good buzzword. It makes sense. Why would you set out to do something you know you can’t accomplish? That advice makes me think of our boys’ dreams to climb mountains and plant gardens.

And I find myself floating around somewhere between the two, between safe and impossible, trying to find a proper place to land my dreams.

Why set out to do something you know you can’t accomplish? Because when we do, we rely on a Power greater than ourselves to accomplish it. And isn’t that a better way to live, really? To do things that are bigger than yourself for something bigger than yourself?

The other thing everybody says is to make sure your goals are measurable. That you know when you’ve accomplished them, or how much farther you have to go. I used to believe in that a lot, and would tailor my resolutions accordingly. This year, that just feels too limiting and too guilt-inducing.

So without further ado, here are my goals for 2013 – some attainable and some not, and most completely and purposefully immeasurable:

1) Read. Now that my life is a lot less busy than it used to be, it opens up time to do other things I’ve let slide — including reading for pleasure. I’ve got a few dozen books on my “to read” list, and I’m looking forward to diving into them. I used to set a number of books I was going to read, but not this year. This year is all for pleasure, not to meet a quota.

2) Write. Closely related to that first goal is this second goal. My early mornings and late nights will not be filled with paper routes and research papers in 2013, so I can focus on one of my main passions: writing. I’ll be writing on this blog and finally get around to revising the manuscript of my book… and perhaps some other projects as well if there is ample time for them. Again, I used to set a number of blogs I was going to write, but not this year.

3) Publish. Speaking of my manuscript, it will be published in 2013 some way or another. I need to set this deadline for myself so I actually work on revising it. Hopefully, after it is edited and I send it out to a bunch of agents again someone will want to publish it. Absent that happening, I will self-publish it and make it available on Amazon for everyone!

4) Work at my dream job. Or at least get closer to it. Fill my 40+ hours a week with something I enjoy doing a lot more than working in the President’s Office at the University. This could look like a number of different things… maybe teaching at a community college. Maybe being a full-time author. Maybe being a full-time football blogger. Maybe getting hired on full-time at the church I’m on staff with. Maybe moving to another state to achieve any one of those things. In short, I want to do something that involves teaching and/or writing, and I want to get paid to do it. In 2013, I want to take more steps toward achieving that.

5) Be more patient. With my wife, with my kids, with my friends, with my coworkers, with humankind in general. Relearn how to roll with the punches.

So there you have it. I look forward to what 2013 has in store for us as our journey continues. What are your goals for this year?

The Power of “Just Okay”

Once upon a time, I had a crappy day. I know – difficult to believe, isn’t it? Oh, and that “once upon a time” was two days ago.

The day started off lousy and didn’t manage to improve itself as it rolled slowly toward bed time. The next day, I was so thankful for the fact that God’s mercies are new every morning. But something rather remarkable happened in the midst of my grumpiness and bad day-ness that I want to ponder for awhile.

When I walked into my office that morning, one of my coworkers asked how I was doing. I paused briefly, said, “I’m okay,” and continued on to my desk. He came out of his office a couple minutes later and said, “Just okay, huh?” The look on my face must have betrayed my surprise at this follow-up question, and he quickly said, “It’s all right – I’m just having an okay morning, too.”

A little later, I passed someone on the stairs of my building and they asked, “How’s it going?” I responded, perhaps a little more heavily than intended, “It’s all right. And you?” They looked back and replied, “Same here. I’m just all right.”

That was it. That was the extent of those two conversations. Perhaps a better person, a bigger man, would have pursued them more extensively – would have asked those two people what was going on and attempted to enter into their lives more deeply.

That wasn’t me. At least not that day.

And I think – I hope – that’s okay. Because what did happen in those two brief moments was incredibly beautiful. For a moment, authenticity tore down the walls of false pleasantries. If someone asks me how I’m doing and I respond, “Good! You?” guess what their response is 99% of the time — the same thing. Nobody wants to be the first to admit they are less than good. But when one person feels the ability to be real – even to a tiny degree – it creates a place of safety for others to follow suit.

That’s the power of vulnerability. I pray you exercise it today.

Sin Isn’t the Problem

Today, we “celebrate” Good Friday – the day (traditionally) that Jesus was hung on a cross to die. Forty-eight hours from now we will celebrate Easter, the day he rose from the grave, alive. (Insert requisite “zombie Jesus” jokes here.) But why did it matter that he was resurrected? Why, as the apostle Paul wrote, is our faith “in vain” if Jesus didn’t in fact rise from the dead?

What difference does the resurrection make?

In church, I’ve heard some people try to explain the importance like this: Jesus proved he was who he said he was by rising from the dead. It displayed God’s power. And it points to the day when his followers will be resurrected.

Okay, that’s all well and good, but I’ve long wondered if there wasn’t something more to it than that. Those “answers” don’t seem to satisfy. And as I’ve been processing that I started wondering if we might be missing the power of the resurrection because we are focused on secondary things.

We talk all the time about sin. We were born into sin, we have a sin nature, we are sinners, we need forgiveness of sins, sin, sin, sin, sin, sin. In fact, most of the time, religion and church and living a “good Christian life” becomes almost completely about sin management. We try to sin less. We pray to sin less. We need Jesus because we sin. We judge others for their sin. The totality of our expression of the Christian faith becomes wrapped up in this notion of sin.

But here’s something I’ve been processing for the past several weeks: What if sin isn’t the problem? What if there’s more to it than that? More to Christianity… more to faith… more to the resurrection… more to the story than just sin?

What if we’re missing the point?

As I’ve been pondering those questions, I’ve been noticing that there is a different focus throughout the pages of Scripture. Instead of focusing like a laser beam on sin, like we are apt to do, the major theme throughout the ancient histories, poems, and letters of the Bible seems to revolve around the dichotomous relationship between life and death.

In the beginning, there was the Tree of Life that God encouraged humankind to eat of. But when we instead chose to eat from a different Tree, we died. “Sin” isn’t mentioned in the first three chapters of our story at all, but “die” is – three times. God created a beautiful world and offered us life. We chose death. The Jewish people referred to that death as “the curse” that all creation was brought under. And that story at the very beginning sets the thematic tone for the rest of the narrative.

When the Israelites are about to enter into the Promised Land, Moses stops and gives them several speeches – reminding them of their time in Egypt, their time in the wilderness, and the Law they had been given. He concluded his speeches by saying, “This day I have set before you life and death… now choose life, that you and your children might live.” Ancient Hebrew proverbs echo this dichotomy: wisdom is a fountain of life, turning a person from death – or, alternatively, the fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a person from death.

Our story is replete with references like this, references to the beginning. Back to when we had the chance to choose life. Urging us to choose it now.

So it would make sense to find that the writers of the New Testament view the apex of our story – Jesus being crucified and resurrected — through that lens. We find something entirely compelling in Paul’s letter to the Romans, for example. He notes that there was no Law from Adam until Moses, and that “sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no Law” — but that even in the absence of sin death still reigned. In fact, death still reigned “even over those who did not sin”.

Paul goes on to write that death came to the world through one man, Adam, and that life was now being brought to the world through another man, Jesus. It’s a thought he echoes in many of his writings, including most prominently in his letter to the Corinthians we mentioned at the beginning of this blog post.

In the beginning was life. Then, through Adam came death. Now, through Jesus comes that life restored. The curse has been broken. The world is being put back together. Jesus even said at one point in his ministry that the “thief” comes to kill and bring death, but that he came so we might have life – and have it abundantly.

That’s the crux of the Easter story and our entire narrative. Death is the ultimate enemy, not sin. Sin is a vehicle that brings death into the world (one might say then, for instance, that death is the wages of sin). But sin isn’t the root problem, it’s just a symptom. Focusing on sin as much as we do is like a doctor having a pneumonia patient and focusing on their runny nose. It’s a piece of the overall picture, but it’s not at the heart of what’s going on.

Even if we could all stop sinning – completely stop sinning – there would still be death. That was Paul’s point. The goal should not be to limit sin. The goal should be to defeat death and increase life.

And here is where the importance of the resurrection comes: Jesus did not just die for our sins. He was resurrected in order to defeat death. If death is the ultimate enemy, the root of the problem, then Jesus’ ultimate act must have addressed it. Challenged it. Defeated it. This is how Paul writes, “The last enemy to be defeated is death.” Or later, “Death has been swallowed up in victory! Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting?” And to his friend Timothy, he writes that Jesus “has destroyed death and brought life…”

So this Sunday I encourage you to not just view the Easter story through the lens of sin, but to view it as the triumphal moment in the eternal struggle of death and life. Ultimately, sin isn’t the problem. Death is. And it seems to me that’s what gives the resurrection its meaning and power.

Where The Hunger Games Fails – And Why it Doesn’t Matter

Before making the Star Wars movies, it is said that George Lucas sat down and wrote out a character sketch of every single character that would appear in the movies – whether that character spoke or not; regardless of if they were on screen for one second or for six hours. Every character in the Star Wars universe has a name, a history, a backstory, and a personality. We, the viewers, will never know a vast majority of that information, but George Lucas didn’t care. He did it to make the world he created more real – to give it more depth.

Much space in the Lord of the Rings books is taken up by the history, culture, customs, language, and geography of Middle Earth. Intricate maps grace the first pages of each book. Chapters are devoted to things that happened centuries prior to the main storyline. What could be seen as superfluous J.R.R. Tolkien saw as adding rich texture to the world he created. The history and detail, again, gave the story depth.

In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins spared no ink for such details. Rarely are we told how things came to be, or even how they look. Action rather than description guides the narrative. Only the main characters are given names. Twenty-four tributes entered the arena for the 74th Annual Hunger Games in the first book of the series; only nine of them received names from their author/creator. The number of different maps attempting to sketch the very basic geography of Panem must be climbing into the hundreds if not thousands, because incredibly few details are given on this matter as well. We are left to our own imaginations to figure out how a complex and incredibly segmented post-apocalyptic economy such as the one in Panem would even begin to operate. (Or, for that matter, why the Capitol would set up their new economy in such a fashion in the first place.)

And we know next to nothing about the two most pivotal events in the history of the Hunger Games’ universe: the disaster(s) that destroyed North America and the rebellion of the Dark Days which led to the creation of the Hunger Games. Were the disasters that necessitated the creation of Panem natural? Man-made? War? Disease? Famine? All of the above? We are never told. And what was the rebellion of the Dark Days about? Why did District 13 rise up against the Capitol? Why did every other District follow them? Why couldn’t they defeat the Capitol? What was the Capitol doing to incur such wrath from the Districts?

There are so many things about the Hunger Games universe that we will never know. It will never have the depth of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings or other science fiction creations.

But perhaps surprisingly, that’s okay. Because despite those shortcomings, The Hunger Games succeeds wildly because of its greatest strength: its ability to tell a story people can relate to.

I once lamented to a group of friends that I wished J.R.R. Tolkien had written the Hunger Games. One of my friends responded, “Yes, but then I wouldn’t have read it!” There is something to be said for making the themes of dystopian literature accessible.

But the Hunger Games not only does that, it goes one step further and makes them relatable. The Hunger Games, at its heart, is a parable – and like any good parable, it allows us to see ourselves in its midst… to enter into the story. It invites us to not only cheer for the main characters, but to see a piece of ourselves as we watch them triumph; it invites us also to not only despise the antagonists, but to face the uncomfortable truth that there is a bit of them in us as well.

The Hunger Games speaks to different people in different ways. I’ve read several headlines and articles over the past week that purport to know what the real message of the series is. Are the books a riff on our modern obsession with reality television and how watching “reality” unfold on TV actually removes pieces of our humanness? Are they an exploration of teenagers’ modern lives and emotional issues? Are they a warning against right-wing oligarchical government? Or perhaps a warning against left-wing centralized federal power? Are they a warning about what our society could become if we don’t change our ways? Or an observation of what our society already is?

In a word, yes.

At least according to all those media stories they are. But that is the beauty of telling a good story — it connects with different people in different places in different ways. Parables are reflections, invitations to see ourselves and our world anew.

So we may never know what the geography of Panem looks like, or the histories of all the tributes who enter the arena. We will never know what instigated the original rebellion that led to the Dark Days, or how the Capitol was able to keep such a segmented economic system churning for 74 years.

But we do understand, at a very deep, human level, themes of oppression and injustice. It is by tapping into that reservoir of human experience, and allowing us to come to our own conclusions about those themes, where the Hunger Games finds its immense power. It’s what makes the books, along with the first movie, so good.

Is Anything Genuine? (When All Seems Trite)

I started this post a few times before actually finishing it and hitting the “publish” button. I do that quite a bit on this blog… more than I used to. Maybe it’s a fear of being honest. Maybe it’s a fear of not being encouraging enough. Maybe it’s a fear that my thoughts aren’t valid. I don’t know what it is. But I’m going to make an effort for a while to not filter my thoughts so much. You get to see all of me (or at least most of me) here… the good, the bad, and the ugly. For those of you who stick around, thanks for coming along for the ride. :)

I don’t really connect with worship music on Sunday mornings. Not like I used to, anyways. I still sing the songs. I think I still mean the words. But it doesn’t connect with my soul like it used to.

I was trying to finally process why this was a couple days ago, and I realized it’s not just worship music I have this disconnect with. It’s a lot of things in my life. The problem, I discovered as I reflected on my journey, can be boiled down to one word: everything lately seems so trite.

Worship music seems trite. I love Jesus, God is so great, I give you everything, I live for you… every song is the same words with different music. (And it’s not really that different of music, actually.) Don’t get me wrong. I agree with the words of the songs (at least I think I do, most of the time… but that’s a post for a different time). I understand the purpose of corporate worship and singing praises to God, and all that business. But really, lately, when it comes down to it, it just feels trite.

There’s nothing new there. Nothing genuine. Nothing authentic. You could write most Christian songs by simply mixing and matching sentences with single-syllable words that rhyme at the end.

Now don’t leave me yet. Before you think this is just yet another “rag on Christian music” blog like the thousands of others out there, keep reading.

I tend to have violent mood swings when it comes to listening to the radio. Sometimes I’ll listen almost exclusively to “secular” stations. For the past week or so, I’ve been listening to almost exclusively “Christian” music (K-Love) on the radio. Why? Because pop radio falls under the same curse to my ears right now: it’s trite. Overdone. Boring. Not fresh. All the songs start to blur together, and before long you can’t tell which song that involved drinking or partying or loving somebody you were just listening to.

So if “secular” music and “Christian” music are both so trite, where does that leave me? There are some diamonds in the rough. I have been listening to Jennifer Knapp, Coldplay and Rich Mullins lately, because they all know (or knew) how to write honest, raw music that conveyed real life emotion. And when I get really tired of all the triteness (that I perceive) around me, I fire up the Les Miserables soundtrack — which touches the human soul and human condition at a depth I have yet to find anywhere else. Music like this sustains me. Gives me hope that there are still artists out there who can begin to honestly express the emotion of existence and of our stories.

But it’s not just music that I find trite lately, either. I find myself in the same boat when it comes to reading. I read blogs about people complaining about God, and I think, “How passe.” I read about people praising God and I back away with the same reaction. Why? Both things are fine. They are good. But there’s something inside me that says, “That’s not true.” Oh, it might be “true”, I guess, but it’s not true… if that makes any sense.

When I sit down to write, I face the same dilemma. Do I believe God is great? That he is good? That he loves me? Sure. Do I want to write that? Nope. Why not? Because it doesn’t express the deep and conflicted mess of emotions in my soul. But at the same time, I find myself recoiling at the thought of complaining about God, or questioning God. That, too, is so overdone and cheap. It’s too easy. Almost brainless.

So I struggle with a way of approaching God, of relating to him, and of conveying that relationship to others around me, in a way that is not trite. And that is what lies at the root of my trouble with things lately – with music, with writing, with reading, with relating.

I feel like there is very little out there that describes how I feel in my relationship with God at the moment. It’s not an easy relationship. It’s not a perfect relationship. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows, and it’s not all rain clouds and deserts, either. It’s not enough for me to sing about giving everything I am to God — I want to know what that means, what that looks like, what it requires. It’s not enough for me to say God is good; I want to know why he isn’t good to everyone or why he doesn’t seem to be good in certain circumstances. It’s not enough to question God; something deep inside me wants to trust that he is, after all, perfect… and my heavenly Daddy who knows and understands what is going on.

And so here I sit, recoiling at things that appear trite to me, searching for something genuine that connects with my soul. If I were a better artist, I suppose, I would join in the God-given work of creating something genuine. Maybe at some point in the future, I will. For now, I’m turning on the Les Mis soundtrack.