Daily Archives: February 5, 2013

Hughes: The ‘ark’ of the Christian life

Published by:

By Paul Hughes
Special to Inside The Pew

Editor’s note: This essay is excerpted from the short ebook The Boat: A Parable.

Not God is the phrase they use in AA for realizing we are, well … not God.

Not God is also the answer to the question, What is wrong with people, this place, my parents, our upbringing, education, choices and decisions, and probably our shoes, while we’re at it?

Not God.

We had come at the beginning of our lives to see and say there is something wrong with God, or the world entire, or with Christians. Then we decided two out of three are bad, and maybe we’d better do something about it.

God wins.

So we begin to obey.

We study, memorize, go there and get the shirt. We join core groups, X groups, cell groups. We get our very own gen-you-whine accountability partner. We make promises, make plans, make it a little way in that way … then we make problems, make new promises, we make pacts with God, we make progress.

We begin to doubt.

Hath God said …

Ye shall surely die?

*

Oh Lord, what fools we mortals be.

Or Man, how numbingly average art our sins.

Obedience becomes a snare. You take care of the Church, and the Church will take care of you.

*

Obedience is the rat race and, as Lily Tomlin observed, even if you win you’re still a rat. And rats desert a sinking ship, as you may know. Perhaps dissent is the answer.

Except dissent can get you thrown off the ship entirely.

*

So for a long time (it has seemed to me) I have thought principled and consistent dissent the highest lyric of our Christian life. It is not. The highest form of that life is trust.

Did we not trust at the first? Yes, a smidge. That’s what makes it kind of round and paradoxical and fun: it ends there, and in a small way it started there.

Like Frederick Buechner’s locution on love —

The beginning stage of love is to believe there is only one kind of love.
The middle stage of love is to believe there are many kinds of love, and the Greeks had a word for each.
The ending stage of love is to believe there is only kind of love.

But at that first we lived by sight, not by faith. Functionally, I mean — consistently and most often — we depended on what we could see, not on Whom we believed. We could see rules and law. We could know (visibly) when we did X there was (also visible) penalty Y and solution (again visible) Z.

These were manmade mostly, but I don’t mean that as dig. We did our best.

But at that time — during, as I’m calling it here, Obedience — we didn’t do His best.

For that we needed to begin to question, to doubt again — to, as I’m calling it here, Dissent.

And Dissent is crucial and it did a lot in the life of Jonah.

But it isn’t the highest form of the Christian life.

And so we come to Trust.

*

In obedience we lived by sight not by faith. We began to suspect there was something wrong with God, or the world entire, or at least with other Christians. Two out of three ain’t bad we said. We begin to dissent.

But it’s in trust we realize that while the “two” are still Christians and the world entire … the third isn’t God.

It’s us.

We stand humbly with Pogo on that one. As we move from dissent to trust, we realize it’s not God who’s all jacked, but we ourselves. Ourselves alone, as my Irish forebears might put it.

*

Each of the three — obedience, dissent, trust — aren’t just linear but advancing. The move from first to second is, I believe, easier than from second to third.

And I like the image of the wave, with its occasional crashing. Because you can surf waves, and sail them, and even, it has been reported, walk upon them.

*

We start in faith über-obediently — which, yes, is like saying “very unique” … but truthily we know people, Christians, who took sin rather more seriously at the start until we realized (just as Adam and Eve had done?) that it doesn’t always result in our immediate death.

This is obedience, and it’s good and necessary and can even save our lives.

Later we say a Christian “makes his faith his own,” or she comes into a maturity unknown and previously unowned. Of course we’re not always comfortable with the conclusions someone comes to when thinking different; their thoughts are not our thoughts.

That’s dissent, and it can be a difficult time; it can even end up killing us.

Then there is Peter. We can be reliably uncertain about what he’s going to do, because trust means we do not always know ahead of time, or agree when we find out — but in the moment we do it. How can such behavior be charted out except to say we get out of the boat?

So there we have trust. It includes elements of both obedience and dissent.

And it is life itself.

*

Noah, Jonah, and Peter.

Three sailors who can show something of the arc (no pun intended) of our Christian life: a parable — but not a parabola. It’s a gradually ascending, oft curling, occasionally crashing, line. It’s like a wave, really.

*

You’re in this boat …

 

Paul Hughes is a writer in Southern California. He’s made more than a dozen books and ebooks, available here and here. His website is here.

Fantasia among gospel celebration performers; Lewis honored

Published by:

By Grelan Muse Sr.
Pew Talk Radio

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis won a Super Bowl with his team on Feb. 3, but the win is not the only accolade the now retired three-time defensive player of the year earned in New Orleans.

On Feb. 1, Lewis was honored with the Lifetime of Inspirations award during the 14th Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. The event was held at Lakefront Arena at University of New Orleans.

An extremely emotional Lewis accepted the award from his eldest son, Ray Lewis III. The all-pro was joined on stage by his two daughters, younger sons, and his mother, Sunseria Jenkins.

Lewis shared with the audience the importance God plays in his life and the relationship he has built with his family. He discussed a conversation he had with his biological father that changed his life.

“One day I went on a six-hour ride with my biological father. I wanted my dad to tell me all the things he had to say to me that he didn’t tell me as a child and all the pain he had within him. I wanted to hear it. After that, we put it in the past. Now, we have a better relationship.”

Lewis said the move also helped him become a better father to his children.

“I encourage you all to be responsible for rearing their children and teaching them respect. Be a parent and not just their friend.”

The bond Lewis has with Jenkins has always been his strength. He said he started lifting weights at an early age to become strong enough protect her from an abusive relationship.

Lewis is only the second person the celebration has honored. He joins former NFL coach and current Sunday Night Football analysis Tony Dungy as the other award winner.

The NFL-sanctioned gospel celebration featured a star-studded show with Grammy winner Fantasia as the headlining act. The singer said it was a blessing to be able to appear in the show.

“My life has been up and down. I had to make God the center of my life. Doing so, I had to go back to my foundation, the church and singing gospel music and re-establish the relationship I had with God,” Fantasia told Pew Talk Radio during a brief interview on the red carpet. She attended the event with her mother, Diana Barrino.

Additional performers included Donnie McClurkin, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Lecrea, Myron Butler, and Pastor Marvin Winans. Kirk Franklin will serve as host of the music portion, with “The View” co-host Sherri Shepherd as MC for the event.

The NFL Players Choir also performed selections for the audience. The choir, in its sixth year of existence, includes former and current NFL players and coaches.