Why I love Church. But not as you know it.

So Don Miller says he doesn’t enjoy church services and Christians get defensive instead of asking why? Truth be told in the last three years I didn’t go to church for the teaching or worship etc. but for the community. Sundays were an extension of the rest of the week and the everyday life I had with my church family was more important. As a result I fell in love with the body of Christ again. Not by singing “Blessed Be Your Name” for a millionth time.

Let me explain why. Continue reading

What defines you? Celebrity and Identity.

Unless you have been off social media for the last few days you will know that the famous and talented actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died after what seems like a drug overdose. I call him famous and talented because he was both. Famous because he has appeared in some of the best movies of the last twenty years and talented because even in the movies that weren’t so great he made them worth watching.

Famous and talented yes…but so much more too.

Cory Monteith, Heath Ledger and now Philip Seymour Hoffman. Marilyn Monroe, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. All artists in their own right who have left behind a body of work bursting with genius and who we are only left to imagine the art they would have continued to make.

Often when we lay to rest a celebrity especially one who has made an impact for their talent most of the tweets or Facebook posts and blogs will mourn the loss of a talent that was cut off far too soon. We’ll talk about the movies they made or the albums they created; we’ll talk about the seminal performances that made people sit up and question how art is created.

Then we’ll talk about the reason they died. The drug overdose, the heart attack, the suicide. Experts will be brought in to explain why celebrities become addicted, how they weren’t able to handle their fame, how addiction is a disease that is rife in Holywood.

All true perhaps.

But what if Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t an actor? What if he had a regular job and wasn’t well known? What if he mopped floors for a living? We wouldn’t know about his death and he would be just another sad statistic. Except his family would have known. His partner and kids would have known. When celebrities die we tend to emphasize the loss they will be to their art, to the acting world or to the music business or wherever.

Is that how we place value on each other? How much talent we have in our particular section of the world we find ourselves in, but nothing more? How many oscars or grammys we’ve won? How highly critics think of us? Is there more to us than what we achieve? Is being a good parent or spouse any less important than accolades and plaudits?

What truly defines us?

Let’s celebrate the talent that Philip Seymour Hoffman undoubtedly had but let’s mourn the loss of human life to an ugly and spiteful disease more. Philip Seymour Hoffman was much more than a truly great actor; he was a human. In some ways we have robbed him that of that by only talking of him in terms of what he achieved as an artist. His life would have been equally as precious if none of us had ever heard of him.

I don’t know what led Philip Seymour Hoffman to overdose but I do know that addiction can often arise from a place where we aren’t content or we search because we struggle with who we are at the deepest levels. Which is not an actor, or a singer or a doctor, teacher, lawyer, athlete, cleaner, writer.

But a person.

We’re all so much more than anything we do or how well we do it. Our lives are important because we are alive. Our lives are precious because there are people who love us for simply being who we are. I know that the kids of friends wouldn’t care what their father or mother did as long as they are there to pick them up when they fall. I could do anything else than I do now and I know my wife would still love me.

You might call this grace. I call it being at peace.

And unless we start holding our celebrities up for being humans first and foremost we’ll all be tweeting about someone else sooner or later.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not at peace with that.

What you don’t know about Addiction

Addiction is a focused and malevolent disease.

It’s not impartial. Impartiality suggests some kind of outside mediator working for peace, but it doesn’t do that. It doesn’t even hate. Hate suggests some sort of emotion exists; some sort of reason to hate. But nothing has caused addiction to hate. It doesn’t hate you. It is emotionless and void of any respectable trait.

At least hate can arise from anger and anger can be righteous.

Not addiction.

But hate is actually the thing that can help us defeat addiction. Hate may be ugly but it’s real; it is human.

Addiction doesn’t make you feel bad; it uses yourself to make you feel bad. Since addiction has no human characteristics or feelings it isn’t put off when things are going well. Addiction can’t be human itself so it makes you less human. When you are about to act out, the thought of your wife or your kids or family and friends won’t stop addiction in it’s pursuit to destroy you. Forget logic because logic is not in addiction’s vocabulary. You can be addicted and rich, poor, young, old, male, female, angry, generally happy, a Pastor or a teacher. You can feel strong and ready in the morning and depressed and defeated in the afternoon.

But it can be defeated.

By reminding ourselves what being alive feels like. By hating all the ways our life is being ripped apart. By taking steps to connect with people who have won and are winning and to let them show us how. By being open even when it is painful, because at least pain means you are alive.

With every repeated day of sobriety, addiction loses its sting. With every single day that you understand what being alive really feels like, the less addiction can stop you. It won’t give up though, it’s steadfast in its goal, but more and more you will be able to put up the walls necessary to win.

You will forget and you will need people to remind you.
You will give up and you will need people to fight for you.
You will hate yourself and you will need people to love you.

Because hating addiction is only there to set the foundation for the real force that will make you stronger.

Love.

You hate addiction because you know that there is something deeper and elusive.

The love of yourself. The love of others and the love of others for you.

For today at least that’s all we’ve got.

But it’s enough.

Why it’s OK to swear. Or at least not the point.

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There is an idea among many Christians that once we die we will grow some wings, this old sinful broken world will be destroyed in a massive fire and we will all float up to the gates of Heaven, give St. Peter a high five and pick up the keys to our swanky new mansion. This is a nice idea except for the fact for the first Christians that it’s not the way they thought about the afterlife. It’s not how they talked about Heaven.

Actually what’s more likely is that this world, the one we are on now will be joined with Heaven and restored in a new and incredible way.

So if we think of the future in this way, what does this mean for the present? Continue reading