Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Art of Having a Guest Post


Hey!  Remember Mikey?  The guy who rocks the rocker look and rocks out on a Jim Adkins Telecaster? The guy who’s kicking Cancer’s ass?  You know him?  I thought I did.  I asked him to put together a guest post for me as I bang my head against a writer’s block and he comes back to me with this…  This piece of… gold.  Somewhere along the line, Mikey became wise.  This post blessed my heart.  I hope it does the same for you.  Here it is. mikey So, as many of you may have concluded [from Aaron’s introduction], I am not Aaron.  My name is Mikey Fisher and I am a friend of Aaron’s and have been for over 10 years now.  Aaron and I met in Bible College back in 2000, I was a groomsman at his wedding and if it weren’t for the current distance between our families we would certainly be hanging out on a far more regular basis.  Aaron asked me a few days ago if I would be interested in submitting a guest blog on TAOBB and to give my thoughts on the theme verse (Psalm 51:17).  Naturally, I was excited and more than willing to share my thoughts with the masses that frequent Aaron’s blog.  I set about to work, and approached this writing in the same way I always do.  I first looked up the verse in my bible, it reads,

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise”

I immediately began to conjure ideas of how to communicate what I wanted to say about sacrificing a broken spirit to God, but when I decided to read the passage in a few parallel translations of the bible I have found that a more accurate translation of the passage reads,

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A heart broken and bruised, O God, Thou dost not despise.”

 In reading and rereading this passage in numerous translations and reading what different commentaries had to offer on the subject I have actually learned something.  That’s not to imply that I typically don’t learn anything from scripture reading, not at all.  It is meant to say that when one dives into a topic with reckless abandon and without preconceptions of what they want a passage to say, that person can find something far greater than their own notions.  In this case there is not a huge difference between the first translation and the more accurate one.  Excluding the ‘Thou dost’ issue, there is, I think, a key difference between the sacrifice that I offer, and the sacrifice that God is asking for.  And that is the difference that I would like to focus on.

King David wrote this passage after being convicted of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba by the prophet Nathan.  David was deeply moved in his own guilt and anguish when his sins of adultery and murder were laid out before him.  This passage is the very moment when it finally clicks with David.  He cannot simply light up an offering and put it on the altar and let that be good enough to appease God.  What God desires from him is a broken spirit, a humble attitude that admits wrong and at the same time is repentant of that sin.

How often do we commit a sin and think to ourselves, “It’s okay, I’ll pray and ask for forgiveness on this one and then I’m good.” How often do we continue in this sinful behavior pretending to be repentant but actually being unremorseful of our own actions?

David did some pretty serious and horrible stuff in the story leading up to the writing of Psalm 51.  He hurt many people, had a man killed and committed adultery.  David understands when writing Psalm 51 that it’s not about the lip-service prayers we love to offer, God wants a broken heart, and broken spirit.  Being remorseful and repenting of his sins is what grants him forgiveness.  It’s not about admitting what he did was wrong, it’s obvious to everyone and especially to God that what he did was wrong. Its taking the next step, being truly sorrowful about the bad that he had done and taking that emotion to God and repenting, reaching deep into his soul and really meaning it.  That is what it means to offer a broken spirit.  To be humble enough to admit when you are wrong.

There are so many things that we do from day to day to try to score favor with God.  We read our bible, we go to church, we play worship songs, but what we fail to see is that God is far more interested in what’s going on in our hearts, and far less interested about what we are doing externally.  We can’t fool God.  God knows us more intimately than we can ever imagine, so there is no use in pretending to be a changed person when we know in our heart that the sin we are committing is a sin we don’t plan on giving up.

What we need to do is follow the example of people like David.  We need to reach deep inside and understand what we have done is wrong.  We need to understand the sin we are committing, no matter how private it is, is not hidden from God’s eyes, and it is, despite what we sometimes want to believe, affecting our relationship with Him.  We need to ask for God’s mercy and His conviction.  We need to want to stop doing what we are doing and accept Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the forgiveness for that sin.  We need to let Jesus mend the relationship between God and us.  Most importantly, we need to be humble enough to admit we do wrong, that we aren’t strong enough to stop sinning on our own and that we need God’s help.  We need to be repentant, not just in our words, but also in our hearts.  This is where the forgiveness of sins becomes not just possible but real.

Jesus will free us of sin’s hold on us, and its power over us.  God will send the conviction of the Holy Spirit reminding us that we don’t want to slip when we get into a dangerous place, and because of God’s love for us and our broken spirit, we can be free from the sin that has been holding us back.

God wants our broken spirit.

……..

If you haven’t checked out Mikey’s blog, chronicling his journey with cancer, check it out at thisisawareness.wordpress.com.  If you have, keep checking it!  He told me that the third installment is coming up in a very short time! The third installment of his story is up now! Thanks, Mikey.

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Tilting at Windmills 1 (tilting at expletive similes)


So this is different.  This is going to be small.  This shall have no picture.  Tilting at Windmills posts are going to be open letters [primarily] to the teens in my life.  They are going to address things that I know will never change but I have to take a run at anyway.  Here goes number one:

Expletives do not have feelings.

Neither fuck nor shit are valid references of comparison for how tired, angry, happy, crazy, sick, scared, etc. you are.

I honestly don’t mind you swearing so much as I mind you swearing stupidly.  Save it for when it actually means something.

Summer Loving


I have a confession to make:  I was in my high-school production of Grease.

Whew. That feels better.

I might not feel so lame about it if I actually had a real role, but I played Johnny Casino: a bit player in the stage show who didn’t even make it into the movie.  Danny got Sandy.  Kinickie got Rizzo.  Johnny Casino sang a song at the high-school dance.  No love for Johnny.  The way I see it, in a show about teen love, any character who isn’t either in love, or helping the ones that are in love get together is an extra.  You might as well be a talking prop.

Such is life.

I got an email last week from a youth pastor that was concerned with a post that one of his Grade 9 girls had put up as her facebook status.  It was essentially a set of instructions for how a boy should treat his girl, with things like ” Tell her why you think shes so cool . . . Pick flowers from other peoples gardens and give them to her . . . Throw pebbles at her window at night. When she starts swearing at you, tell her you love her . . .  Lend her your cds . . . Write on her . . . Kiss her in the rain. When you fall in love with her, tell her.”

He was concerned with the passion that was in this; the yearning to fall in love and be loved in return.  He lamented her failure to grasp God’s love for her, and the ideology that seemed to say that she NEEDED to be in a relationship.  He was asking for help getting through to her.

Of course, she didn’t actually write this.  It’s a lesser known meme that’s been cycling around the net since about 2004.  It’s viral.  That means she saw it somewhere and grabbed it.  Something about it pulled at her.  Maybe the words settled into her mind like they were moving into a comfortably decorated room, all made up and waiting for them.  Maybe she just recognized a glimmer of truth in them that tickled her fancy.  Maybe she wanted to look wise.  Whatever the reason, she decided share it with her online family.

The fact that it’s stayed alive this long, moving from host to host, though, shows that the sentiment is more symptomatic of our culture rather than the heart’s cry of one girl.

So then.  Is he right to be concerned?

God’s love has never been a substitute for earthly physical love, but in collaboration with it.  We aren’t just meant to be in community with God, but with each other.  I am fully cognizant of the love God has for me.  I know personally his covenant love and how he pursued me to the grave because of his great desire for relationship with me.  I also need my wife.  I was made to love her and she was made for me.  God designed us so that in romantic relationship, his love would be reflected, and we would have a sense of completion; we would have someone on earth to represent his love to us.  Is it wrong for a girl to desire that?  Absolutely not.

The depth of that desire, though, and what she’s willing to trade for it is a very legitimate concern, because it stems from a warped perspective of love.  It’s often used to fill a gap larger than it’s meant to.  It fills the gap of absent or uncaring fathers, of abuse, of being left with feelings of inferiority and insignificance by the people that should love her most.  It fills the gaping wound in her soul surgically inflicted by a media that pries us open with messages of incompetence and incompleteness and leaves us with a desperate desire to fill the artificial emptiness they create.   She needs to hear early and often how wonderful she is, or she spends the rest of her life trying to get people to say it.  We all do.  This isn’t by any means just a “girl problem,” or even a teen problem.  This is us.  This is our life.  The things that should be good enough aren’t.  The things that should be sufficient aren’t.  We aren’t enough.  So we spend our lives looking for the things we’ve been told will make us better.

So many of the kids I work with have, by grade 7 or 8, reached a place where they’ve been taught that rather than having a committed and/or passionate relationship being a part of being loved, part of being a person, it’s the end all and be all.  Being told of God’s amazing love doesn’t negate all that we’ve been conditioned with.  More than that, a head knowledge of God’s love and all he’s done for us doesn’t necessarily translate into heart knowledge of it’s sufficiency.  That takes time.  It takes an act of God. We’ve got to keep telling them – we’ve got to keep telling each other;  Not saying that we’re wrong to feel the way we do, because our self-esteem is damaged enough already, but to be there as God is, to continually and gently present the truth of his love, to water the seed and pray for it to take root.

Honestly, it drives me nuts when I see a facebook status go from “in a relationship” to “single” then back to “in a relationship” in less than 24 hours.  It makes me want to take my head off and put it in the freezer when 2 hours after being asked out the kids are talking about how in love they are.  If they’d ever actually been in love, they wouldn’t throw the word around so easily.

It makes me want to cry when a week later their world ends because they broke up.

Is it a problem?  Yes.  But it’s not THE problem.  It’s a symptom of a culture that says our identities are found in others.  That we’re only as good as other people think we are.  As the things we have.  As the money we make.  As our status in our communities.  It’s not going to stop because we say that’s wrong.  It’s only when we understand the sufficiency of ourselves in who God made us to be that we can put that behind us.  Then we can be the whole half of a healthy relationship here on Earth.  Then we can see all that he intended earthly love to be.

Being Anti-Semantic


I like being right.  Have I mentioned that?  I’m sure I have… crap.  Now I feel like I’ve got to go back and double check… okay, maybe I didn’t, but it was implied.  Yes, I did just go back and check my posts.  I am indeed THAT anal.  Because more than I like being right, I hate being wrong.  A big part of my arguing addiction stems from not just proving that I’m right, but proving that I’m not wrong.  If I’m wrong, I’m defective.  My wit has failed me.  I’ve been conned.  My house was built on the sand, and who builds their house on the sand?

Because of this, when I get into a debate, I research.  I try to make sure I’ve got some sources backing up my opinion.  Of course, it would probably be better if I had sources BEFORE I formed my opinion, but that’s another matter.  If I have to argue with someone, I aim to win.  I’m firm.  I am incisive.  I elaborate and present my case clearly.  I pay attention to the little wavy red lines underneath words.  By the time I reply, I know things that I didn’t know when I started and take on the guise of an expert.  Of course, if my internet connection is down or Google is having server issues, my apparent IQ drops by at least 40 points.

This is all a roundabout way to get to this:  The dictionary drives me nuts.

The dictionary is supposed to be definitive… you know… by definition.  The dictionary should be right.  It should be a bastion of solid correctness in a flimsy, wishy-washy world.  I should be able to refer to it and say: “See?  This is what that word means.”  Except I can’t.  There’s this thing called linguistic shift.  It’s why when kids read Shakespeare for the first time they say “aww, how beautiful… Why can’t we talk this way anymore,” or “huh?”.  The way we use words, the way we spell words, the way we pronounce words, changes based on our geography and our culture.  Their meanings change, sometimes antithetically (see: awful), not based on their roots, but on how people are using them wrong.

Seriously.  It’s a case of a million wrongs make a right.  If enough people use a word improperly for long enough, the great dictionary wizards shrug their shoulders, say “whatever,” and redefine the word.   The other day, I wanted to say something along the lines of gay meaning happy, not homosexual, except that it doesn’t anymore.  Sure, it sort of means happy, and the dictionary gives nod to that, but I’m wrong, because the “official” definition of gay now includes sexual overtones.  “Irony” has been abused, spat on, beaten, and prostituted so many times that it means pretty much whatever someone wants it to mean in any given sentence.  Ironic, isn’t it.

How does that work though?  I’m in a position where I teach kids on a weekly basis.  I don’t necessarily teach language, but they hear me use it, and they respect me (ha ha ha ha ha) as someone who knows what he’s talking about (snicker).  Sometimes I wonder if, week in and week out, I used the word Asparagus instead of Forgive, it would catch on in the youth group.  Maybe it would be an inside joke, maybe kids would just accept it.  If they accepted it, they’d use it.  Maybe someone would correct them.  Maybe they’d argue.  Maybe if THEY used it enough it would spread.  Someday Websters’s dictionary would say 1: a greenish vegetable that looks and tastes like a stick 2: forgiveness.  And that would be stupid.

The thing that’s driving me most nuts, though, is that I’m not sure whether I should be railing against the dictionary’s example or following it.  Isn’t communication more important than correctness?  What does it matter if I’m RIGHT if what I’m saying isn’t being received as I intend it to be?  Rather than expecting everyone to conform to my well researched, etymologically correct ideas about what words should mean, shouldn’t I put away my pride and slip into the common language of the time?  It’s symptomatic, really… semantics are my refuge; My fortress of superiority.  It also makes it easy when I’m losing an argument to redefine success and call it a win.

I don’t know.  I do know that I’m all too ready at any given point to draw a line in the sand and refuse to move when everyone else goes and plays on another beach.  I need to be able to let go of being right, less concerned with the minutia and move on to the bigger picture.  I strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, to use Biblical vernacular that has about as much place in contemporary North America as a thong on a mermaid.  We’re made for community.  We’re made to grow together, and language reflects that.  The bigger picture is that I’m more likely to bring someone around to my point of view by walking through an issue with them rather than picking a spot and screaming at them to come over.  The biggest picture is that I should care more about them than I do about being right, or, more to the point, than protecting myself from being wrong.

 

 

Bonus points for the people that were driven nuts by all the inappropriate (but culturally acceptable) uses of ellipses*.  Please asparagus me.

 

*Yes, I did have to look up the correct plural of ellipsis.