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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Stories…Lies?

Some of my fellow Christians keep telling me there is no eternal value in story – book, film, whatever. They ask, upon learning about Glass Road or SON, “But how is it a ministry to make stories?”

Let’s set aside the soul care offered to story creators through GR and SON for a second, and just focus on the creation of story itself.

Understanding lives in story, comprehension in character exploration. This is probably why Jesus almost always used story to teach Truth.

Our church bookstores don’t seem to follow that example consistently. Over the course of my career in stories, I have been advised numerous times by bookstore owners and publishers that there is no ministerial value in fiction. I can’t tell you how many church bookstores I’ve walked into whose shelves are lined with Maxwell, Moore, Stanley, Blackaby, and the like – and not one novel in sight.

I leave those stores feeling bereft. What of the people who need story?

What of those like Madeleine L’Engle…

“But I was frightened, and I tried to heal my fear with stories, stories which gave me courage, stories which affirmed that ultimately love is stronger than hate…And so story helped me learn to live. Story was in no way an evasion of life, but a way of living life creatively instead of fearfully.” (from WALKING ON WATER)

The wise and talented L’Engle continues… “It was a shock when one day in school one of the teachers accused me of ‘telling a story.’ She was not complimenting me on my fertile imagination. She was making the deadly accusation that I was telling a lie. If I learned anything from that teacher, it was that lie and story are incompatible. If it holds no truth, then it cannot truly be story. And so I knew that it was in story that I found flashes of that truth which makes us free.” Story holds Truth. It illustrates Truth. So, can we please stop comparing the ministerial value of callings, please? If we who are called do not build up the body of stories, what ideas will minister to those who do not respond to sermon? Ponder for just a moment whose stories will be told if we do not tell those given to us. Now to those of us who are called to the world of story creation and wondering if our work matters – please know:

When we abdicate our role as story creators in favor of a “higher” calling as defined by humans, we can only disappoint the Creator of Story who entrusted us with that element of His own being.

 

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Homosexuality and Hymns

This is not an easy post to write. I love people. (Well, most people. I should love all people, but a couple are just the other side of impossible, you know?) I have this awesome privilege of hearing people’s stories all day long – of bringing those stories to the attention of a large audience. I’m going to do that here.

And some people might feel hurt by this story.

That’s not easy to think about.

But this story matters. Not just because it’s true, but also because hearing it opens a door of freedom and relief for people.

People who are wrestling hard with the urge to love someone of the same sex.

SingOverMe_Wrap_Wyn/AmericDVDWrapYep, this is a hard post to write.

I love people, regardless of whom they’re drawn to love. I especially love artists. Humans who create are a mysterious community, full of emotion and passion and ability that I can get lost in exploring. When I’m with creators, I know the Creator more.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a friend. He is married to his best friend, who is also my friend. I love them both. I think they’re intelligent, cool, fun, clever people who love Jesus. We were discussing their involvement with a major project I lead.

He asked me, “So, we need to talk about the obvious elephant in the room. Before we get too far into this, is us being gay going to be a problem?

I really hate that the question needed to be asked, even while I appreciated him for bringing it up. “Look,” I answered, “if you’re asking me about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, I have to tell you that my read of the scripture doesn’t leave me believing it’s allowed. I just can’t find that anywhere. I find the opposite. But I also know I don’t know everything and we disagree on this and I respect you. I also read scripture to say gluttony is wrong, but that doesn’t preclude me from being in relationship and doing ministry alongside fat people.”

“I appreciate that,” he said. “But I don’t think you’re going to run into that attitude with some of the supporters of this project. Our involvement could cost you.”

I sighed. “Walking out our faith is hard. At least, it is for me. I appreciate a lot of grace from people who give me wisdom when I ask and then give me room to find the wisdom when necessary. I want to give that here and I want to get that here. With everyone involved. Okay?”

“Okay.”

We talked for a while longer. I hung up. My heart hurt.

Fast forward to the present. To an email from a colleague asking if I’d be interested in helping with a new film called Sing Over Me. “I would,” I said. “Send me a link to watch it.”

I watched the film.

(You can, too – DOWNLOAD HERE. Or get the DVD HERE.) 

I bawled.

Dennis Jernigan has written hundreds of songs that we sing often in church. “We Will Worship the Lamb of Glory”, “Thank You”, Great is the Lord Almighty”, and “You Are My All in All” are just a few. He is married. A father of 9.

But he also tried to end his life early on because of an inability to deal with same-sex attraction.

I cried watching Dennis’s story because it is real. It is raw. It highlights how we Christians have so mis-directed and polarized the conversation that we actually damage and demonize people who have same-sex desires. We hurt when we should offer hope.

It is the right way to talk about this kind of story.

Not from meanness. Not from ostracizing people. Not from identifying someone based on one behavior. Not from any place other than, “This is my story. This is my walk of faith.”

This is the story of a creator, loving his Creator.