3.09.2015

Let us Pray.

Ok. I know I have this whole missionary thing going on, and I'm married to a pastor, and I sincerely love Jesus, but, despite all that, somehow I found myself living a life without prayer. I mean, I still pray occasionally, like before dinner when we have company, but lately it hasn't been often, and it hasn't been very sincere.

I used to pray earnestly, with a deep sense of longing and appreciation to a God I thought listened. I used to pray daily, habitually, one might even say religiously, as an act of obedient worship and supplication to a God I thought cared. I used to pray intentionally, with a heart full of gratitude and wonder for a God I thought loved me.

I used to pray.

I used to pray and listen, listen and pray. I used to hear God, and He used to hear me, because I used to think prayer mattered, and that maybe when I prayed it actually made a difference in the world. Like many of the things that used to define and direct my faith, I used to think prayer was important to my spiritual formation. And like many of the things that used to define and direct my faith, eventually I started to question its value.

As I questioned and wondered and prodded for understanding, my prayer life went from being a rich, meaningful experience to a tool I use to fight insomnia. Prayer became the kind of mindless activity that is so boring and un-engaging, it practically induces a coma. Like counting sheep, or taking slow breaths -- if I can't sleep, I pray.

Initially, I was turned off by seeing so many flippant promises of prayer from people I knew wouldn't actually follow though. And by “people” I mean me. I used to do this all the time. Requests would be uttered, needs would be shared, sad stories were told, and I promised I would pray for them, but I rarely made good on my commitment. I almost never actually prayed for people after I told them I would. For me, “I'll pray for you” became like the Christian equivalent of “Take care.” It was simply a means for me to end a conversation with another person and walk away from them without assuming any personal responsibility for their future. Or their needs. Or their pain.

It was like a spiritual easy out.

2.19.2015

A Missionary's Position on 50 Shades of Grey

For the record, yes, I read the book and, yes, I watched the movie. And before we get into my review of them both, I want to offer you this tidbit of advice from the bottom of my crooked little heart -- For the love of God, if you haven't already subjected yourself to either of these atrocities, spare yourself

If you haven't seen or read 50 Shades of Grey and you're not really sure what the fuss is about, perhaps because you were lucky enough to be stranded on a desert island for the past year or so, I wrote a brief summary, just for you -- Read it HERE, and come back -- We'll wait...

Ok? Ok. Let's do this.

First? The story in 50 Shades of Grey only “works” because Christian Grey is a hard-bodied Adonis with an insanely awesome penthouse, sleek cars, loads of cash, and, oh, a helicopterIf he was an ugly dude who worked at a gas station, rode a dirt bike, and invited a cute girl into a “play room” full of torture devices in the back of his doublewide trailer, we would all be disgusted.

It's true and you know it. 

Take away the male hotness and the buckets of money and suddenly 50 Shades of Grey is a book about an insecure, young woman who meets a controlling, manipulative stalker, and finds herself in a mess of her own conflicting emotions. She enjoys being the object of his desire, but she's also intimidated by his demeanor. She's not comfortable with the things he's asking her to do, but he's only asking because she's “special” and he wants to share special moments with her. He smothers her, but only because he wants to protect her. And he punishes her, but only for her own good. She knows he's not perfect, but surely, if she sticks with him long enough, he'll change. She's freaked out by the demands she must meet to be in a relationship with this guy, but how else can she show him how much she really loves him?

No one wants to read that book, no matter how hot the sex is, because THAT is not a love story. 

We all know someone who is living that story and we do not envy her

Most of us have watched painfully from the sidelines as a friend ignored serious red flags in favor of relationship - Any relationship! Even a super unhealthy one.

So why are we eating this stuff up? Do we really like the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey? Are our ideas of love and romance really this broken? Or are we just choosing to ignore the oogy parts because we enjoy a raunchy novel every now and again?

Honestly? I would rather believe this stupid book blew up the way it did because it gave everybody and their sister a lady-boner, than because we are so dumb we can't see 50 Shades of Bullshit when it's right in front of our faces. The real life story of 50 Shades goes like this: Christian Grey needs a therapist and Anastasia Steele needs to grow a pair. 

50 Shades of.. OMG ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?!

The story got everyone talking and the sex scenes got everyone tingling, and then, to the horror of English lit majors and book publishers everywhere, E.L. James lusty novel, 50 Shades of Grey, spread across the nation like a literary strain of herpes.

I read the whole book. I sat through the whole movie. I survived the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon and lived to tell about it... So that's what I'm doing.

I don't even want to talk about how truly, exceptionally, remarkably bad the writing is, so I'll only say this; The writing is the worst! At this point, it's pretty much universally accepted that 50 Shades of Grey does not owe its popularity to prose. If you need an example of why, google it. Or you can just trust me when I say that, as far as books go, this is a really shitty one.

For those who are completely unfamiliar with 50 Shades of Grey, perhaps because you're lucky enough to have been in a coma or lost in the woods for the past year or so, the story goes like this:

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Anastasia Steele is a socially awkward, clumsy, nerd-virgin who has no idea how super-duper hot she is under her frumpy cardigan sweater and messy ponytail. But when Christian Grey (the youngest, hottest billionaire in all the land) meets her, he instantly sees her naughty sex-kitten potential, and then she bites her lip and it's all over - he's smitten. He must have her! And by “have” I mean “own”. So he buys her. Sort of.

Anastasia is smart and educated, and she isn't really sure she wants to be bought, so whenever he spends tons of money on her she tells herself that she will give his extravagant gifts back eventually. That way it's more like a loan, or a rental agreement, and she feels much better about receiving costly gifts of books and clothes and computers and cars. SHE'S NOT GOING TO KEEP THEM, YOU GUYS. Anastasia Steel is a strong, independent woman and she will not be bought! So there.

Then there's this boring part where Christian starts to feel bad because he knows what he wants to do to Ana (which is tie her up and flog her) and so he pushes Anna away because he doesn't want to hurt her. I mean, he does, but he's a gentleman. He wants to take care of her. So for a minute he just, y'know, watches her and looks after her and protects her and stuff. Like a big stalker brother.

Some more things happen, I don't remember what, until finally Christian Grey is so deeply attracted to this unusual girl, so utterly enthralled by her natural beauty, so taken by her charm, SO TOTALLY TURNED ON BY THIS LIP BITING MINX HE CANNOT WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE TO BE WITH HER...so he has his lawyer draw up a non-disclosure for her to sign and return. Which she does.

So now they're like almost in a relationship. SQUEEEEE!!!

2.10.2015

Not exactly "Newsworthy", but here we are...

I keep hearing that podcasts are the new blog, so I guess it's a good thing Luke Norsworthy was kind enough to have me on his podcast, Newsworthy with Norsworthy.  

You should not listen to it. I promise. Instead, you should go over to Luke's site and pick out a different interview, like this one with Donald Miller, or maybe this one with NT Wright, or definitely this one with Barbara Brown Taylor, and then listen to that. You will thank me. 

But if you do insist on listening to my interview, please accept my sincere apology in advance for the following: 

~ the overuse of the word "like". 
~ that thing I said about Camaros
~ threatening to strangle an old lady
~ stretching "shit" into a 4 syllable word
~ the vagina story (Really, I am so, so, so, sorry about this. SO sorry.)

There. I have apologized and you have been warned. Do not write me an angry email.

Ok. Here you go...