An Unsettling Realization: Ideas, Identity, Inclusion

I discovered something unsettling about myself recently.

I enjoy thinking about why I think things. How’s that for an odd second sentence?

As I grow older, I’m trying to hold more of my ideas about the world more loosely and not attach them to my identity too much. It’s difficult though. It seems like I constantly catch myself closing to information or ways of approaching something because I’ve attached my identity to an idea.

Some ideas I’ve come to clutch more tightly. They’re dear to me. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to hold all of my ideas loosely so I don’t dig in my heels the instant l feel something pulling in another direction .

All that to say, unfortunately, when I change my thinking on one particular thing, it’s far too easy to begin forming my identity with those who may have introduced me to that way of thinking. It’s easy to be sharp in one area of thinking and sloppy in several others, because I’m excited about a new thought or theory (because it’s new, it has interesting implications, and it’s shiny.)

This might sound stupid, but I get embarrassed when I find out that I was wrong about something. Even saying it sounds silly–as if reality cares about what I think about it, as if me thinking the right or wrong thing about something makes me any better or worse than anyone else. I realize that thinking correctly is preferable to incorrectly because it sometimes affects how we react to situations, but that’s not always what it’s about for me. Sometimes it’s just a bunch of silly pride.

So when I change my mind, the next step is to distance myself from the person I was when I thought incorrectly about it. Sometimes that includes saying things that clearly separate me from those silly people I left back there, which is stupid, but I do it anyway. Too often, those with the ideas I just left become the new target. I’ve found the truth now so if everyone will follow me, thank you, I’ll show them where I found it, or suffer my scorn. (I try not to let it go that far too often, but that’s what’s behind it.)


Moving on in the vein of ideas, I recently heard one that made a lot of sense of what I’m describing in myself, and what I’ve seen in a hundred internet brawls discussions. Brain science allows us to make some sense of this. There’s a small part of your brain called the thalamus that’s located above your spinal column. For the sake of brevity, and the point of this post, I’ll oversimplify: it’s responsible for your sense of self: who you understand yourself to be. It’s how we make sense of who we are in relation to everything else.

That’s pretty cool, but there’s one problem.

All the data you take in passes through the thalamus, this part of the brain that tells you who you are. In other words, all ideas are filtered through your identity. If ideas conflict with your identity, chances are, you’ll shed the idea (even if it’s correct); you’ll resist it, until you find a way to fit it into your identity, or until you find a new identity that includes that idea.

Have you ever recoiled at an idea when you first heard it, and later wondered how in the world you could have questioned it at all? Me too. That’s your handy thalamus at work, telling you “Safe idea. Unsafe idea!”


“The more you see the less you know

The less you find out as you go

I knew much more then

Than I do now.”

-U2

Here’s what I’m saying with all this.

The older I get, the more I realize I don’t know. It’s kind of surprising, but that’s how it’s turned out. When I was younger, I heard older people say things like that and now I know what they’re talking about.

There’s just a lot of stuff we don’t know–way more than we have any idea. Right now there are things we don’t know we don’t know. All of us are wrong about a lot of things, and there’s a very good chance that’s just fine. The world went on just like before when I was wrong about other things, and it will continue to do so even though I’m wrong about things now.

I could go on about this stuff for a really long time, but I’d like to be able to crawl back out of this rabbit hole before it’s too late for all of us.

As much as possible, I want us to remember in all our interactions, how our identities and ideas are linked–how close around the corner our biases toward certainty are lurking.

I want to continue to slowly kill this natural-born habit of fusing unbreakable bonds between my identity and the ideas I currently hold.

I want to be as gracious with people as I want them to be with me.

I want to work on being willing to accept truth even from unsavory sources; even when my identity tells me I should be prejudiced toward it.

I want to remember that if things were as clear-cut on an issue as I’d sometimes like to make them, chances are we’d probably have cracked the code by now and wouldn’t be having the conversation.

I want to engage in patient discussions of discovery, rather than trying to punch people with knockout arguments.

I want to do better at having conversations where there’s room for everyone to say their piece, not just people who tow the Ryan Party line.

That’s what I hope is reality for me when I’m older and wiser than I am now. Hopefully, if I aim for it long enough, and live long enough, I’ll get near it someday. If enough of us want that, maybe we can help each other.

Paintings, Sunsets, and Starry Nights: some thoughts on logic, moments, and reality

“Imagination does not breed insanity… reason [does…]

Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea;

reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. 

To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain.

The poet desires only exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. 

The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens.

It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”

GK Chesterton, “Orthodoxy”

 

I love taking ideas apart. I love analyzing. 

Sometimes though, when I spend too much time in that part of my brain I begin feeling messed up and anxious inside. 

Because I find it so intriguing, I’ve occasionally spent days taking apart my own perspectives, and wow… As healthy as it is to reevaluate the way you see the world, getting stuck there for days on end without a break is bad for your soul. I know because I’ve been there.

It makes me a irritable and a bit crazy.

You can really get lost in your own head when you heavily critique your own ways of understanding everything.

There’s nothing wrong with science and logic; they help us make sense of the observable.

But logic doesn’t equal reality,

nor can it sum up or contain the scope of my or anyone’s experience of reality. 

A sunset, or a the night sky bursting with stars for example:

We could break the components of both down until we arrive at subatomic particles, and be awed by their intricacies.

But even if we got to the point where we understood everything about both of them and published them in a scientific journal, we still would not have encompassed the whole of either of them.

It’s still just a bunch of words and paper. It still doesn’t have the same effect on us. 

After reading all that, what we really want to do is go outside and look at the real thing– to absorb the light and the colors with our senses and feel the cooling evening air against the surface of our skin. 

Words by nature are binary (they cause us to choose one shade at expense of a slightly different one). They’re so helpful for the specifics of daily life, but they’re great strength also limits them tremendously.

Think of one of your most beautiful or sacred moments. In all the time you’ve spent on earth, there are probably a few moments when time stood still, or when the normal lines between reality and imagination blurred, or when the curtain was pulled tight in front of you and you could dimly see what felt like another dimension.

Now try to put words to it. Frustrating, right?

Of course it is.

Do you know why our transcendent moments are hard to recount? Our brains actually have to reconstruct, limit, and condense these experiences, as they move from the place in our brain they reside, to the language part so we’re able to try talking about these experiences and even then we manage to find some words for them we speak in abstract terms or use metaphor/simile. 

“It hurt like fire, but also felt like a father’s warm embrace…” The specifics are lost on us because words don’t do it justice.

Logic is only one limited lens through which we can look at reality, but if I spend all my time looking at it through that one, I cease to be able to fully experience the fulleness, theessence of life: both the beautiful and the ugly.

Here’s my concern:

I often analyze at the expense of experiencing the moment. While others have lost themselves in it,  I’m sitting there tearing it apart deciding what I like and don’t like about it, and how I would present my opinion about it to someone who might disagree with me. And worse, sometimes I even say these things out loud and spoil it for others. 

It’s a ridiculous approach to something as amazing as life. There are people who live, suspending their own two cent analysis, just unabashedly enjoying the realness of existence… then I come along.

And I have the audacity to scornfully observe to myself, that they’re not thinking about their existence properly–that they’d be so much more enlightened if they’d think about it like I do. But in that moment, I’ve turned into a mere spectator. 

How, in any meaningful sense of the word do I have a better grasp on living well, simply because (rather than actually living and loving life, or whatever else it is we approach this way) I’ve torn it apart and have carefully worded opinions on it?

It’s like buying a gorgeous painting and hanging it on the wall, but right in the middle of it I’ve fastened a piece of paper telling everyone what I like about it and what I think it’s worth.

Who cares?

It’s distracting first of all, cheapening, second, and third, it’s hindering  others from seeing and feeling it for themselves.

It turns out the moment needs my analysis and price tag about as much as the painting does.

It doesn’t need it.

What the Spirit is telling me through the moment is not audible if I’m pillaging the good people, the healthy dialogue, the stunning sunset, the uncomfortable situation, the hard work for something to prop up the things I’m already telling myself. 

There’s a time and a season for everything. Reflection and analysis are not bad; they’re just not everything. There’s time for that afterward, in the stillness and quiet.

It’s a bit late for a New Years resolution, but this year I’d like to do better at not analyzing the life out of everything–to be conscious of turning off the logical, analytical part of my mind before my soul starts suffering. 

If you’re breathing, if I’m breathing, it’s never to late to begin living life for all it’s worth.

 

“How you see anything is how you see everything.
How you do this moment is how you do every moment. 
If right now (I hope it’s not true)…
you’re trying to prove how I’m wrong, why I’m wrong,
and you’re marshaling your arguments to disprove [what] I’m saying,
…I just want to warn you of this:
that if you’re doing this right now with me,
I am willing to bet that you do this with your wife,
your husband,
with your children,
with your neighborhood,
with your church,
in your politics
–that’s the way you do the moment.
You tear it apart; you critique it.
That’s your way of defending yourself from truth,
from anything that might lead you outside your comfort zone.”
-Richard Rohr

 

God & Country: Love Letters from the Empire

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…

Unless the fear mongers and politicians tell you, ‘Be afraid; your enemies will kill you.’

Then, fearing for your life, pledge your allegiance to the beast over the Lamb,

collude with the empire,

support its military endeavors unquestioningly,

honor those whom the empire tells you to honor,

hate those the empire tells you to hate.

*                 *                 *                    *                  *                    *

Do what you must to preserve your temporal life,

no matter the body count,

no matter the innocent blood,

no matter if it costs your very soul.

Preserve the illusion of dual allegiance,

that ultimately,

you may be children,

not of your Heavenly Father,

But of the empire

Crucifying,

(Shooting, bombing…) your enemies

in the name of God…

just like 2000 years ago,

rather than taking up your cross,

Dying

for your enemies

like God in Christ did.

*               *               *               *               *

Ignore the contradictions if you can,

burry your head in the red white and blue sand

that our illusory promise of self preservation

may serve the best interests of a superpower nation.

“Under God” we’ll say,

whatever on earth means…

But apparently it’s good enough for you religious types to play on our team

Christian Nation?

Glorious empire on land seized from Native Americans, built on the broken, bleeding backs of African Americans…

(don’t trip over the bodies as we make another pass on our Star Spangled parade)

Certainly,

if it makes you feel better; give it that label if you wish.

Just replace King Jesus with Mr. President, settle for pointless culture wars, and trade real Kingdom politics,

Matthew 25

for bumper stickers in the shape of a fish.

*                 *                 *                   *                   *

We don’t care which side

Left or right,

of the aisle you sit on, but participation is the key to it all:

not representation,

indoctrination.

Just make sure your real treasure is found in

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Your Teacher said ‘your heart will be there too’ and we’ve taken him seriously.

Apparently even more so than you do.

Just be sure that your passing interest in the politics of this so-called heavenly kingdom

(You make it sound so far away. Is it real?)

Doesn’t interfere with the politics of Caesar

and we can work together;

You with US.

This addictive, thrilling cocktail:

Called Christendom

We’ll mix it.

You drink it.

Repeat.

*                *                *                   *

It’s worked so well for us so far.

Don’t go taking Jesus’ words too seriously.

You can totally serve God

And mammon.

Look at you!

In the system, like a champ.

A patriot.

A godly patriot.

You’ve come so far.

Don’t spoil it now.

Your comfort, and security depend on it.

Don’t

Stir

The pot.

*                *                 *                  *                *

Nations rise

And fall.

They always have.

But we’re asking you to bet with us that this one will break the cycle.

Place your faith

Life

Wellbeing

Security

In the “last beast best hope of the world.”

You can even say ‘Jesus is Lord’ while you’re at it

a flag in one hand, a gun in the other.

The Kingdom comes through the death of a Jewish peasant?

Ha!

Please!

We know,

you know you really don’t believe that.

The kingdom comes by death, not of you,

but of others’

sisters, brothers, fathers, uncles, mothers…

When you thank God for your liberty

We know our guns, tanks, ships, and fighter jets

are the table where you really place your bets.

Keep your spirituality just that:

spiritual.

Don’t let it affect reality.

That could screw things up.

Royally.

Start a revolution.

Get you killed.

And you wouldn’t want that.

You know that’s why this Jesus guy was a threat.

One thing had to go.

The revolutionary or the status quo.

‘Better one man die

For a nation.’

That’s how we empires operate time and again.

Built on the system set up by Cain.

But forget about that.

Nothing to see here.

Only stacks of bodies,

Victims of the empire

Covered by monuments, flying flags, myths, and war anthems.

But don’t weary yourself with such troubling talk…

Turn on the news.

Listen to the talking heads.

They’ll tell you what you need to hear to exist safely,

Cause minimal damage.

Open the paper and absorb the satisfying propaganda.

‘We’re right, they’re wrong.’

‘A threat to national security.’

‘Protect our foreign interests.’

Set aside the church calendar.

Adopt the empire’s calendar;

Observe the national liturgies of consumerism and militarism.

Black Friday.

July 4th.

Memorial Day.

We’ve even redone the Christmas season for you.

You’ll fit right in.

You God people-

You make such good, loyal patriots with a bit of…

Shall we say…

healthy reconditioning.

We’ll make you a model citizen in no time.

Say it with us.

“God and country,

God and country,

Country and God

Country and…?

Country.”

 

Yours forever,

The Empire

Books influential to this piece:

“A Farewell to Mars,” Brian Zahnd
“Disarming Scripture,” Derek Flood

Issues and Labels or Faces and Stories?

I’m more than you know

I’m more than you see here

I’m more than you let me be

I’m more than you know

A body and a soul

You don’t see me but you will

I am not invisible.

There is no them

There is no them

There’s only us.

-U2, “Invisible”

I drove quite a distance yesterday, six hours total, to be precise. And I had plenty of time to think, and also to listen to music and podcasts. One podcast in particular, a Jonathan Martin sermon, really grabbed me because it was exactly what I’d been thinking about off and on, for a month or so. He helped tie up some of the loose ends for me.

I don’t remember precisely how he said it, but he talked about how God was teaching him to pull his head out of the sand, so he could see people with God’s eyes, enter into their pain, listen to the stories of their lives.

And here’s where the problem is for a lot of us. It’s extremely hard to do that, and still use the labels we’re so fond of. It’s almost impossible to do both. We love to talk about things in terms of “issues facing the church, or America today.” And I don’t think there’s much wrong with discussing “issues.”

But these issues affect people, real people, real image bearers, real lives.

It’s funny how soundbites and labels go hand in hand. The insane amounts of media we’re bombarded with, willingly or otherwise, day and night, has really changed how we think and talk about things. Even though these concise statements using lots of labels and statistics to talk about various issues comprise nice, neatly packaged bits of information to digest, unfortunately it doesn’t give us a very Godly view of the world.

What do I mean by Godly?

I think a Godly view of the world must include a lot of seeing the image of God in other people.

It really does. We humans have the ability to do hellish things when we manage to cloud our vision enough to forget about the image of God in others. I know the wickedness I imagine, sometimes. And let me tell you, when I’m thinking those things, the farthest thought from my mind is that this person is a precious creation of God’s, made to bear His image.

Statistics, news, soundbites, may have truth in them, but truth can’t be reduced to any of those things.

Truth goes much, much deeper.

I think we need to make a huge effort to stop letting the news companies and the politicians control how we talk about stuff. It seems like we’ve just gotten so used to it, we barely think about how it’s affecting us. See, if we don’t actually make any effort to know any of the faces and stories behind these labels, if we only choose to look at them as a group of facts and statistics, we feel we can say pretty much anything we want about them, so long as it doesn’t sound too bad. We feel we can reduce them to a political statement. A theological statement. Some to like to call it “standing for truth.”

But what really is truth, if it’s not based in the Word made flesh? He’s the one who showed us what truth looks like, in person, walking around in skin and bones. He showed us what it was like to really see people.

The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus.

We’re not Christ, but we are called to be Christ’s bodily representation right now.

And really, we can’t see people with God’s eyes, when we’re conveniently reducing the gays, the illegal immigrants, the Arabs, the African Americans, the liberals, the conservatives, the fundamentalists, the liberal theologians, the Catholics, the evangelicals, the rich, the poor, the policemen, the felons, whoever we don’t like, into little chunks of news and statistic for us to slice up, discuss, and pretend they were never really people in the first place.

We might as well be honest; we all have our people we we’d rather not see as people.

Labels do make it easier to talk about people, but I have to wonder: what do these discussions really accomplish if it never goes beyond abstract, if we never see what they mean in the context of our local communities, or in our relationships with individuals? What I mean by that is, if our theories on these issues have no flesh on them or no faces to them, do we really think we can discuss them in an educated manner?

We feel safe keeping it in the theoretical, because it frees us to reach whatever conclusion feels safest and most comfortable to us, and our voices sound really wise bouncing back to us in the comfortable little vacuum we’ve made for ourselves to inhabit.

I’m not proposing existence without convictions. That would be absurd. But what does your conviction look like when it comes into contact with a living and breathing person, a priceless being whom Jesus died to save? Is it as black and white as you thought? Chances are, it’s not.

And this slaps me squarely in the face, because I love the sound of my own voice and the sound of my ideas. I like talking about things more than I like seeing what happens when I embody them outside of the comfortable home I’ve built for them. But ideas affect real people, and I can’t be naive enough to assume otherwise.

Like Becca says, when we enter into someone else’s story, we have to face our own brokenness. And we all hate that. It’s no fun to approach a person you see as being beneath you, and realizing they don’t fit inside the box you built–that ugliness in your own heart is no better than the ugliness in theirs.

It hurts. It’s humbling to realize we’re on par with those we despise. But only when we’re knocked to our knees by His grace and our unworthiness, only then and there, are we in the proper position to serve.

I think it’s pretty typical “fallen human” to not want to know the stories of the people we’d rather write off. Those people about whom we’d never say this, but in more subtle and “Christian” (Pharisaical) ways, act like grace isn’t for them.

We all like to feel superior to someone.

The reality is, if we try, it’s pretty hard to not see at least a little bit of God in those people, to see a little bit of ourselves in those people, to begin to see little sprouts of hope coming out of the ground in their lives, when we make friends with them.

One thing though: if you start making friends with the people you’re prone to dislike, it’s much harder to fit them into the neatly tied packages you’ve fashioned for them.

The generalizations stop working.

The labels and statistics start being replaced by faces and stories that don’t let you talk about issues the same way, because you think of the real people associated with them.

It’s certainly not the easiest way to approach life, but it is the Jesus way.

And here’s where it gets awkward, because those who know me well, know I really struggle hard to embody this. I think I’m getting better at it but the progress is so slow, that it’s really discouraging sometimes. I find it really hard to brush up against the types of people who don’t “fit” with me very naturally. More often than I care to admit, my actions push the people I’ve categorized as “them” away instead of inviting them to be a friend.

But that’s very much what Jesus was talking about when He said, that even “heathen” people usually treat those well who are easy to treat well. Is anything exceptional, or “earth as it is in heaven” going on, when I’m nice to people who are easy for me to get along with?

Hardly.

I guess I’m simply asking that all of us who name Jesus as King be extremely careful what we’re willing to say about issues concerning people we’ve never bothered to meet, let alone even tried to love.

Brian Zahnd aptly explains some of John’s best known words in the Bible like this:

“If we say, “I love God.” But we hate our brother, that is, the other, we are lying to [ourselves]…

…John says there’s a problem. You can’t see God. You only see God in the imago Dei; you only see God in the image bearer. You only see God in the other.

Because God whom you cannot see can become abstract, and what you end up doing is actually loving yourself, because you imagine God to be like youBut when you find out that the other, your neighbor, whether you call them friend or enemy, bears the image of God, and you can’t love them, now the cat’s out of the bag and the truth is on the table that you never did love God, you only did love yourself…

…the Biblical test case for love of God, in other words, is love of neighbor. And you think, ‘Okay. Alright.’

But the Biblical test case for love of neighbor is love of enemy.

We love God to the extent that we love [our enemy.]”

A few closing thoughts:

I don’t know exactly how to conclude this because some of this stuff isn’t particularly fun for me to think about– mostly because I know how much transformation needs to happen in me. I know the ugly thoughts and actions of which I’m capable.

Sometimes they stay inside and sometimes they come out–you know, those moments that make you wonder what God ever saw in you, that caused Him to pursue you, or any of us. He loves us. So mysteriously, lavishly, relentlessly.

I guess I have to conclude that it’s his nature. The fact that He is love.

I’m thankful for a patient and gracious King who doesn’t stoop to my ways of dealing with people–the One who continues to show me what love actually looks like in the flesh, the One who embodied perfect love and, asks us to the same, that we may be children, who are like our Father in Heaven.


Will you teach us how to love?
To see the things you see
Walk the road you walked
Feel the pain that you feel…

-Jars of Clay

“‘Til The Sun Does Shine”

I thought about it recently: it’s strange that I’ve done all kinda of promoting on various social media sites for our recently released album, but I’ve barely mentioned it on the blog. It’s getting close to a month now, that it’s been released and I thought I should mention it on here to those who would be interested and aren’t on Facebook or Twitter.

Writing and recording music sessions between working full time or going to school is not an easy thing. We had a lot of fun going through the process of writing, tweaking, tracking, revising, mixing, and mastering together, but in the end it really came down to a lot of hard work. It was fun work, but exhausting work. We’re really grateful that, after a year of battling four different schedules, and the album changing shape numerous times, it’s finally finished.

We’d also be grateful, if folk music is your thing, (and even if it’s not, maybe it can become your thing) that you’d head over to CDbaby, iTunes, or Amazon, listen to some samples, and consider buying it. In case it’s unclear what sort of content the album contains, the songs are all originals and a reflection of who we are and where we’ve been over the past year.

We’re really quite happy with how it turned out and we think you might enjoy it too. These songs mean a lot to us and we’ve been overwhelmed with people’s kindness so far in telling us how certain songs are significant to them and how they’ve connected with the music.

This album is our journey and we’d be truly grateful and honored if you’d join us in it.

Note: at the risk of telling you something you know, the text in blue contains links to the sites where our album is available.

Enough To Let Me Go

I’ve been thinking about some of this stuff a lot lately. It has a lot to do with
God and how He loves us and how we try to love Him and each other.

I think a lot of our unhealthy ways of relating to each other have a lot to do with our unhealthy ways of views of God and how those views inform how we relate to Him. We then relate to other people how we think God relates to us. At least it often works that way.

This was honestly going to be a post on Facebook but it got too long.

Fear and guilt really are poor motivators. I can sometimes use them to change behaviors, but crushing people’s spirits into the shape I want, makes both them and me less human. Even worse, I take on part of the enemy’s work: accusing.

As long as sin has been around most people have known there’s something wrong with them.

I know. I know it well.

But simply being aware of my depravity did nothing to change my heart. That awareness only increased my burden, as I tried and mostly failed to do what I was supposed to do.

It took a force much bigger than laws and guilt to change me: it took Love incarnate.

Yes. It took relentless, terrifying, scandalous, humble, servant, sacrificial, love to break and began to remake me.

God loved me before I loved Him and that’s what actually started conforming me to Christ’s image, not me knowing I was a bad person. I want to give that to people. Free love.

No stipulations.

Because love with stipulations isn’t love. It’s manipulation.

Love is instead, much more like breathing, as Jon Foreman, frontman of Switchfoot, and my songwriting hero, wrote in this song.

You breathe it in and let it go.
Every breath you take is not yours to own.
It’s not yours to hold.

Do you love me enough to let me go?

-switchfoot

If you suck in two lungs full of air and hold your breath for long enough, you’ll soon discover that while you may have taken a breath, it doesn’t mean you’re breathing. It’s only when you engage in the whole process of taking and releasing breaths that you actually get to experience the good that breathing does for you.

It’s the same way with love. You might receive love from those around you, but trying to hold all of it inside you doesn’t work. You either release it to others or you start losing your ability to receive the life that comes from breathing.

And furthermore, trying to love someone while attaching stipulations to it is a bit like trying to survive only on shallow breaths. It’s like lacking the faith to believe that if you completely release a breath, there won’t be more air for you to inhale.

You can sort of survive on it, and it kind of looks and feels like the real thing, and it might feel safer, but eventually you’ll notice it wearing you down. It’s just not healthy. And the people around you notice it, and feel ill at ease, hoping you’ll learn to breathe properly and get the oxygen you need.

Clearly “loving” people this way, has similar effects. It goes through some of the same motions, but the longer this “strings attached” love goes on, the clearer it becomes to everyone involved, that the relationship isn’t thriving. It’s taking short shallow breaths and showing some signs of life, but it’s far from thriving.

I think God knew all of this stuff when He made us and that’s why He gives us the choice to love Him. He doesn’t manipulate us to scare us, or play mind games with us to try to get us to love Him. He just loves us. For free.

He sent Jesus to show us that and put into motion a Kingdom where that and other beautiful things are the reality, instead of things like fear and control that the devil’s been suggesting to us for a long time now.

When we use those old tactics to “love” people and “make them behave,” people around us are sometimes duped into it thinking it’s tough love. More likely though, they shake their heads and leave, thinking that God’s people too, are in the same business as everyone else, and using the same old methods. “What’s different about them anyway?”

Yes indeed. What is, if we resort to that?

But when we love people with the love God showed us, we show others a new reality and a little taste of the perfection that will one day be when our King returns to set up His kingdom and make all things new.

I’m relieved and grateful that God’s been patient with me because I find it really hard to love like He does. I like to make sure my love isn’t being wasted on ungrateful jerks. But He keeps showing me that I’m no better than anyone else, and I think my heart is slowly becoming softer and more
like His.

I hope that’s a reality for all of because apparently that’s a big way God plans to establish His kingdom in the here and now:

through us channeling His love to others who are thirsty for something different.

Something that doesn’t add to an already heavy yoke of sin and guilt, but instead gives the abundant life it promises.

Something that works a lot like breathing.

Something called love.

New Song: First Listen – “This Tree”

This is really special time for the four of us in Saints Alive, and in a lot of ways it’s hard to believe we’re at this point. It’s taken a lot of time, energy, and patience, but we’ve also had a tremendous amount of fun, and we’re satisfying to say we’re quite happy with the result.

The date is rapidly approaching when the first copies of ‘Til The Sun Does Shine will be available. With that in mind, I’m very happy to announce that we’ve uploaded the first song off the album to YouTube, and you can now listen to it here.

It’s a fun and folky song written by Arlyn and it’s one of our favorites on the album, and also to play live. We hope you’ll enjoy it too. If you do, we’d be grateful if you’d share it and tell your friends about it.