Longetivity

Dan Haseltine, lead vocalist for Jars of Clay, has written a great article for this month’s issue of Relevant Magazine about the harmful ideas our culture has about relationships and marriage. He looks to the marriage of his grandparents as an example of selfless love and love and lifelong commitment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the article online, but it’s got so much good stuff to say, that I’m going to type up most of it. After celebrating his grandparents’ sixtieth anniversary, Haseltine wonders why so many people from older generations stayed the course while younger couples give up, why people have discounted the idea that marriage can last.

“Iti is a cloudy morning in Baltimore. I just hopped on a plane headed for a family reunion of sorts. The point to acknowledge is that my grandparents have lived for 80 years, and even more significant, they have labored in marriage for 60 of those years.I am headed to a celebration. I find that as years pass and as we continue to celebrate the great accomplishment of years and the profound mercy and grace surrounding the life of my grandparents, the celebrations become a bit more sobering. They become less of a cheer and more of a sigh of relief. I am so thankful that they have lived this long, and I cannot believe that they still find ways of loving each other well. It is affirmation of something that seems to be constantly eroded and discredited —the idea that marriage can last, and that there truly is enough grace to cover the wounds, even the deep ones.”

“There are many reasons why people do not stay together anymore. I have watched relationships crumble, and I have been in orbit around couples that never realized they didn’t know each other and didn’t even have the desire to dig in. They slowly constructed parallel lives with huge embankments and heavily decorated medians. And then the roads split off with no apparent convergence in sight. And it all happened without much drama. If you asked them, they would say that they just had different goals and that they were fine with the separation.”

“I think some of our cultural ideas can be poison for relationships. We seem to operate on two basic ideas: what we deserve, and who we can blame for not getting it.”

“There seem to be more “Christian” marriages that dissolve slowly or end quickly, and I am amazed that even counselors, who are provoked in their vocation by the Gospel, tell couples that the situation they are in is just too corrupt to be reconciled. I have often wondered what this truly means in light of the Gospel. I look at those who have stood the test of time, and after wading through so many back-handed comments and justifications that dismiss the accomplishment—statements like, “Well, they are just from another generation, a generation of people who stayed together”—I am aware that we just don’t see the Gospel account of marriage as valid anymore.”

“Look at the marriage of Jesus, the one He has been in for eternity, the one with the bride who sleeps around, never listens, disowns, scorns, dishonors, runs away, intentionally proves to be more interested in anything but her husband, is selfish and bears the children of every affair and the scent of every escapade. It was a marriage that killed Jesus. And it was the Gospel that brought Him back to life to love once more. Jesus endures the worst marriage of all. His bride nails Him to a cross, and there are no metaphors to compare His suffering to what we think we endure.”

“We will continue to search for ways to be appreciated in our marriages, for ways to be cherished, and if we do not find them, then we leave. Because we are not getting what we want, or feel like we need, our spouse is to blame. We are people who like to move from relationship to relationship, church to church, in search of what fills us, rather than what allows us to fill others. But what we think we deserve by way of our cultural cues is quite different from what we do deserve.What we deserve is to be lonely, what we deserve is to be isolated from the one who loves us better than anyone else. What we deserve is to never be pushed forward, to never deepen in our wisdom and experience of love and community. What we deserve is to die a dark and disconnected fate. And if we are going to apply the rules of culture today, the only one to blame for not getting what we deserve is Jesus.”

“I watched my grandparents hold hands and walk together. They are most definitely from a different generation. They have seen the invention of computers, cell phones, MTV, chemical warfare, strip malls, Nazi Germany, cable TV, rock ’n’ roll, the civil rights movement, the rise of heroes and the fall of heroes. And they held hands through it all. They fought to keep a family, bent on falling apart and dissolving, together. They were honored by those of us who stood around them smiling, while in our minds taking stock of our own marriages. We wondered if we would have the tools to last that long. And for a brief moment, we were able to escape the cultural winds of blame and entitlement, we had cake and we ate it too. Now on another plane heading away from the experience, I know it to still be true. And it is good to have these times of clarity.”

“For people like my grandparents, who have lived long enough to feel the effect of carrying the accumulative weight of scars, life was about the fight. But what they remember most is the way burdens were lifted by laughter and how the fight was always interrupted by the joy of victory, and those moments, however fleeting, carried a sweet fragrance. They have lived in the trenches and on the mountaintops, and their story of life and marriage is worth describing. It is worth recounting. Theirs is a legacy that illuminates grace, mercy, pain and redemption. I hope more people from our generation will find this view of marriage to be worth the fight.”

Blurring the Lines

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that several Christian bookstores prominently display and sell this picture?

My problem with this has nothing to do with Bush’s politics or personal convictions. I’m sure he’s a nice man. The problem I have is that this particular painting is that it is blatant propaganda for the GOP. Both parties have propaganda, but the Democrats’ propaganda doesn’t carry Christian bookstores’ seal of approval. This painting is being sold in a store whose sole concern should be the kingdom of God. These bookstores also carry books written by Republican politicians George Bush Sr. and Newt Gingrich. You can also buy biographies of Dubya, his dad, and Condoleezza Rice. Since when did being Christian automatically mean being Republican?

I’m not trying to argue against or in favor of the Republicans at the moment. What I’m bothered by is the way that Christianity has become synonymous with a political party. It’s no accident either. In order to gain votes from Christians, the Religious Right has sought to Christianize political parties and policies which they support (i.e. the Republicans) and to demonize political entities which they oppose (i.e., anybody else).When people are told that they are voting “Christian” by voting for Republican Party candidates, it is being insinuated that they are voting anti-Christian by voting for any other candidate.

There are a lot of good Christian politicians who love Jesus and seek to follow his guidance when making political decisions… and they’re Democrats. You shouldn’t be shocked. Former President Jimmy Carter immediately comes to mind. He was outspokenly Christian, even teaching Sunday School in a Southern Baptist Church while President. Believe it or not, many Democrats are not the left-wing liberals that the Republicans have painted them to be. I personally know Tennessee State House Representative Charles Curtiss and can vouch for him when it comes to standing up for his Christian convictions. Many Democrats vote against the party’s official position on values issues while voting with them on more fundamental issues like the economy. (When I say “fundamental” I’m not implying that the economy is more important than values. However, in reality, the basic differences between the parties are their economic views, not values.)

Not all Republicans care about Christian values. Some do, some don’t. The Republican positions are not necessarily Christian positions. Some are, some aren’t. When you’re looking for a candidate who stands for your values, look at the specific person, not just the party. If Christians can’t recognize the difference, then the rest of the world won’t either, leaving the door open for statements made by Pat Robertson and other Republican politicians to be taken as the “Christian” view. Christian bookstores, when it comes to politics, don’t put on blinders and just stock items that make you part of the GOP propaganda machine. The Republicans often make statements that God is on their side, but, as I’ve said before, Jesus was not a politician… and he certainly wasn’t a Republican. And neither am I.

Real Love

Christian faith has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Believing that there is a God who created this world we live in feels as natural as breathing. I could no more stop believing in God than I could stop loving my wife. I know that because of Adam’s sin, I’m fundamentally flawed, and that I need to be rescued from myself. I also know that Jesus is God and that he left heaven to come down to earth to rescue me by giving his own life in my place. I know that in trusting him to forgive my sin and turning away from those sins, I have become clean in the eyes of God. I know and believe a lot of things. It’s just been a long time since I’ve really felt anything. I’m in seminary and that does a great job of increasing my understanding on an intellectual level, but there’s just something about a faith based almost entirely on intellect that is wrong. I know I’m supposed to love God with all my mind, but what about the part of loving him with all my heart and soul? Heart love seems deeper and truer than just head love.

For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel again. For some reason, I’m on the verge of tears now when I start really thinking about God. What I’m starting to feel again is love. I think my eyes are being opened. After several very difficult years with trials and difficulties dragging me deeper and deeper into self pity, I’m starting to feel God’s love again. Not because those situations have changed. The trials are just as bad as ever. I’ve been so wrapped up in myself that it’s been hard to see that Jesus loves me.

When you’re a kid it’s easy to believe that Jesus loves you in a real way. As you get older and go through more of life it can start to seem like he loves you out of principle because it’s the right thing to do. People in the church make you feel like love is a conditional thing. You have to act, dress, speak, and vote a certain way to earn the approval of other Christians. I know this is a blanket statement that is wrong in a lot of ways, but it’s how I’ve felt. I’ve based my feelings about Jesus love on the love (or lack of love) I’ve received from the church. When my paycheck from the church hasn’t been enough to stretch across my bills, it’s made me feel like I wasn’t valuable. I’ve felt like a lot of people in the church have seen me as a means to an end. Like as a person I wasn’t that valuable outside of what I could do for the church. These people may love me in a way, but I definitely haven’t felt like those same people really like me. And somewhere in my head, I got the church’s version of love mixed up with Jesus’ love. Like he loves me as much as I deserve to be loved. That’s a pretty depressing thought considering how undeserving I felt.

There’s some kind of profound change taking place now though. I’m starting to feel like Jesus is not someone who just loves me in some kind of cosmic God way. If I met him face to face, I feel like Jesus would really be interested in me. He’d want to know my story. He’d ask me about my hopes and dreams and he’d really listen while I rambled about my frustrations. He’d let me get angry and once I calmed down, he would look me in the eye and tell me the truth. He would smile and I would see on face and in his voice that he really liked me. He would rebuke me, too, and he would tell me that I have prejudices against some church people that I need to deal with. He would tell me there are other people out there who need love and that he wants me to love them the same way that he does. I think he would tell me what my gifts are and why I have them, and help me know how to use them. He would point out very clearly how God has taken care of me through all these years, all the things he’s protected me from and all plans he has for me.

I want to know Jesus the way that Bill Bright did. When an interviewer asked him about Jesus, Bill Bright just broke down and cried right there at his desk. I want to love Jesus like that. I want my heart to break when I think about how unconditionally he accepts me as I am and at the same time wants me to become more like him so I can love other people the same way. I repent of letting other people define my self worth. God is getting into my heart and showing me how to love by showing me how loved I really am. Real love is something beautiful and magical, but it’s hard to put into words. I think I’ve been trying to hard to understand, without letting myself feel. There are parts of the Christian life that I don’t think you’re supposed to understand. You just have to know and believe.

Confession: Moving Toward Authenticity

I’m feeling very convicted about what a fake I am a lot of the time. I want to be an authentic person. I believe the church needs more authentic people. By that, I don’t mean people who genuinely change who they are to match their talk, but people who are simply honest about who they are. I believe God made me exactly the way he wants me to be, and to be dishonest about who I am is just another way of saying that I know how to do things better than God. So from here on, I’m shooting to be real and I think the first step of that process is to get a lot of the fake crap out in the open.

Most of the time, I act like I am absolutely the most important person who ever lived. I think I’m cooler than everyone else and that my ideas are better than anyone elses. Deep down I’m pretty insecure and I don’t believe any of this, but you wouldn’t know it from the amount of time and energy I spend making myself happy.

I’m not a Republican, and I don’t believe they are any more on God’s side than the Democrats. I’m not a Democrat either, but a lot of times I lean more to the left than the right. Jesus wasn’t a political figure, and I doubt he approve of everything either party does. I think a lot of things that politicians do “in the name of God” are really motivated by other agendas and add to the reasons why the world hates Christians.

I’m more comfortable hanging around a group of artists and pot smoking hippies than I am around some of the people in the church. Even though I grew up in the church and love it on one level, I feel out of place a lot of times. People in the church have hurt me very deeply. A lot of times when I’m in church, I become really fake, putting on a cheesy smile saying things like “God bless you” and other Christian slogans while I shake hands. I don’t even know what I mean when I say those things. Honestly, I don’t hold a grudge against the church, I just realize I’m different than a lot the other people there and don’t feel like I fit in very well.

I struggle with lust. A lot.

I dress the way I do because I think that makes me look cool. I wear a cross around my neck as more of a fashion statement and a way to make people think I’m spiritual. Overall, I’m very concerned with my image, how I look, how I talk, how I walk. I’m very afraid people will stop thinking I’m cool.

I don’t share my faith outside of the church very often. The way I’ve been taught to share my faith makes me feel like I’m pushing Jesus like a vacuum cleaner salesman. Also, I’m afraid that if I tell people what I believe about Jesus they’ll think I’m stupid.

When I get angry, I tend to say cusswords.

I have doubts at times, not about whether or not I believe what the Bible says, but more about whether or not I can really do anything about it. I feel totally unqualified to be a leader. I think a lot of Christian leaders should quit pretending to be Moses and just admit that they helped build the cow statue.

As a Christian, I’m supposed to be known by my love for others, but there are a lot of times when I don’t feel very loving and don’t act that way. I want to be loved, but loving others is hard.

I’m always afraid that the people are going to figure out how phony I am. I’m afraid to be real with most Christians because experience tells me I will either be lectured or rejected. I feel like I have to be godly in order to be accepted.

This is by no means everything I want to say. I feel like this could be a good first step though. By being true, I hope that I will allow people to get to know the real me and that they will still love me for who I really am. I don’t feel like God wants to use fakes. I may not have everything together, but I do know I want to be the kind of man that God can really use.

Eden

Here’s the only other drawing that I’ve scanned so far. It’s another one I did for Alanna called Eden. I hope you all are liking these. Let me know what you think. (See, I like to consider myself an artist, and artists are needy people. Affirmation! I need it!)

More Drawings

I’ve had a few requests to post more drawings. I drew this one a few years back (while I supposed to be paying attention to a history class.) It’s from a photo I had of my sister in her ballet costume. I’ll post others as I get around to scanning them.

A Good Day for Youth Ministry

I had a particularly good Sunday morning with the youth today, so I thought I’d show my appreciation by posting a pic of the group that went to Centrifuge this year. It’s days like this that make me glad I’m a youth minister. (Don’t think I don’t occasionally have those days that make me consider running away and joining the circus.)

First Things First

I guess it would a good idea for me to go ahead and try to ward off controversy by explaining a little about myself right at the beginning. I’ve noticed while browsing through other blogs that if your blog has a Christian content, you can be sure that as you post, other Christians with blogs will quickly jump in to disagree and point out any supposed doctrinal errors lurking on your page. My subheading states that this blog is one of “a wandering mind stumbling toward the profound.” I’m sure that (assuming anyone will take the time to read this) some people will have a problem with that concept.

First off, should you take that to mean that I intend to proclaim this little slice of cyberspace as profound? I’m not sure that I possess the mental capacity for consistent profundity. My hope is that as I mull over my own thoughts, occasionally I will at least be able to make others think along with me.

Second, some will argue that one does not stumble across the profound by simply wandering, that instead it takes consistent, concentrated effort for one to attain these things. I would agree. However, again, I do not think that with my flawed human mind I can ever claim to make that effort with the fullness it warrants. I’m sure that there are those out there who will claim to have this kind of focus. For myself, though, that kind of focus is a goal that I strive for, but do not believe I can achieve on this side of Heaven.

All this to say, just like anyone else, I will occasionally trip and fall. I do not claim to be a guide. Rather, I am simply a fellow traveler. Forgive me for my inadequacy in this task. Despite all this, if you like, come walk with me.