Guilt Factories, Part II

A particular guilt factory has set itself up in my head. It’s been there a long time.

We all seem to have it these days.

It’s the cult of more and better. Optimise your time. Get better results. Have better children. Procrastinate less. Make lists. Download an app to make better lists. Download an app that make the app to make better lists better.

Or, to put it another way, if you’re not running after the best, you’re wasting your life. That’s the implication. No one ever says it, but if you’re not working better, if you’re not fine-tuning the afterburners, if you’re not running faster… you’re losing.

Unless you’re hacking yourself, you’re losing. And not just losing at anything: Losing at life.

John Piper wrote a book for the Christ-hacker set called “Don’t Waste Your Life”. I wish I’d never read it.

There’s no way to walk away from that book without two heaping spoonfuls of guilt.

Sure, you’re washed in the blood of the lamb, but don’t dare spend your retirement on a yacht! You could be doing something better.

But then, you could always be doing something better.

Say you’re a missionary. From all appearances your mission isn’t doing that well. Well, if you weigh the spiritual pros and cons, and think about “impact”, you should probably take off. After all, you don’t want to waste your life, right?

Some people can live like this. I can’t. I get exhausted just thinking about it.

I don’t want to optimise my “time management” to “get stuff done”.

I don’t want to look at all the stuff I can’t get done and feel guilty about it.

I don’t want to have to gauge the supposed quality of my life.

Love Is The Evidence

The key apologetic for Christianity—far more important than knowing the right answers to hard questions—is love. Communities of faith that embody the kindness of God in cruciform ‘works of love’ are deeply attractive and are themselves evidence (not proof) of the truth of the gospel.

This quote, and other good stuff, can be found here.

I can’t get this out of head: Cruciform works of love are attractive.

We’ve spend a lot of time recently trying to figure this thing out. The whole church has, Catholics and Protestants alike. How do we make Christianity attractive? How do we stay relevant?

Maybe the real answer to that question isn’t about sound systems, bands, lighting, atmosphere, easy rock tunes, running MMA clubs out of the church basement, or having a Ferris wheel installed in the sanctuary.

Maybe the real answer is a lot harder than that. Maybe the real answer is that nobody likes a bunch of well-dressed jerks. No matter how cool their t-shirts are.

Love, Love, Love

Love is like porn. You know it when you see it.

We’ve spent too much time trying to dissect love. It resists the attempt. It’s complicated, like everything involving human brains.

It’s so complicated that we call the brain the heart. We abstract the organ.

I’ve seen love defined as an action. But it’s not that. I’ve seen love defined as a feeling. It’s not that either.

I’ve seen love defined as a deep-seated affection. That’s closer to the mark, maybe. Or maybe not.

I’ve heard it said, You wouldn’t have done that if you loved me. That might be true. Or it might just be one of those things we say when we’ve already left the room.

It’s hard to be holistic. It’s a stupid word. And there’s a lot of work have a well-rounded view of, well… anything.

Still, it’s worth it. At least I think so. It’s worth escaping the dark, confined spaces of a small opinion.

And it makes it easier to be alive in this world. I’m not judging the quality of your love. I’m not going inside your head with a scalpel and trying figure out if you’ve got just the right mix of action and emotion…

The smaller the view, the smaller the prison.

And you know who ends up there? You do. Not those other people.

That’s a good reason to resist turning love into a cartoon thing. At least, I think so.

Silence & Power

Something struck me the other night. I was reading this thing with the director of a film with mostly improvised dialogue. He was asked what the biggest challenge in directing that kind of dialogue, and he said, “Helping the actors understand that they don’t have to be talking all the time. Silence is powerful.”

Silence is powerful.

I was mixing sound at church this morning. I love mixing. I’m not particularly great at it, but I’m learning. And I’m learning to particularly hate when an acoustic guitar and a piano sit on the same frequencies. They’re both hitting the same chords at the same time, covering the same spectrum of notes… and it’s just a mess. It doesn’t work. Two beautiful instruments become one muddled hodgepodge.

There’s not a whole lot you can do, as a front of house engineer, to fix that. You can cut some frequencies here, boost some frequencies there, trying to make the guitar sit in this pocket and the piano sit in another. You have to fight the instruments. You have to wrestle the sound. Which might sound fun… but it’s not.

Most of the time this isn’t a big deal. I mean, it’s a simple service.

But if you’re trying to make good music (and you should want that, I think), you need to learn about silence. Not everyone has to play all the time. And when they are all playing, the parts have to work together. And for parts to work together, musicians have to think about silence. They have to think about when to be in the mix, where to be in the mix, and when to simply sit something out.

For a band leader, there’s no apology needed for this. Silence punctuated by power enhances the power. Music breaks down and builds up for a reason. You make your point, you create your emphasis with the calm before the storm, or the pause in an unexpected place.

Power depends on silence to give it form.

Silence is powerful.