He burst onto the scene with a massive debut at age thirty, gaining an enormous public following (critical acclaim was, as it would always be in his career, sorely lacking).
People jumped on the bandwagon, amazed at every new thing he put out. Whether it was a live show or some words he released, people ate it up. Everyone told all their friends, even when Jesus tried to remain under the radar.
They didn’t see the eternity of time spent planning. They didn’t see the thirty years spent waiting for the right place at the right time. I’m sure that Jesus didn’t feel like an overnight success by the time he finally started his ministry. There had been a lot of work that went into that.
Lots of prayers. Lots of long, boring days. Lots of frustration at seeing others do big things while he made things out of wood and waited for the right time. You know, the stuff that overnight success is made of.
No, people eating miraculous fish did not see those years. They were firmly on the hype machine; they found the next big thing. And when it disappointed them, it was out before you could Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
As I have been told by a trained professional that I need to rest my left wrist until further examination can be completed, I will not be posting on Gospelized until at least Tuesday. I will write my posts freehand and type them in later, backdating them as necessary.
My heart was once owned by legalism. When I became a Christian, grace was born in my mind, replacing legalism. In the years since, grace has been drilling down from my brain to my heart.
At ten a.m. today, grace made it to my heart.
See, my legalism still makes it hard to breathe sometimes. When I want xx really bad, I try to act as good as I possibly can, in hopes that God will smile upon my efforts and give me xx. There are all sorts of mental gymnastics to convince myself that it’s not legalism, but it is. It’s all I know how to do.
And when I want something so bad, so horribly bad that it feels that I’m not even whole without what once was and hopefully will yet be, I try even harder.
And the subsequent failure is that much more disappointing. It feels as if I have pushed that which I desire so much farther away than it would have been if I had just not failed. come on. stop failing. just freakin’ stop.
I was distressing over my latest failure at convincing God to grant me any form of intimacy (friend/romantic/emotional/spiritual/physical/other) and obsessing over slights actual and perceived when “Graceland” by The Tallest Man on Earth came on my headphones.
It’s the title track from the legendary Paul Simon’s best album, but The Tallest Man on Earth tops the original with just a guitar and a voice. It haunts. It calls. It yearns. And the refrain: “I’m going to Graceland.”
There are raging debates over what Graceland is supposed to be. Some literalists say it has to do with a literal journey to Elvis’s home. Others say Graceland is South Africa, or a state of mind (either positive or negative, but never neutral), or heaven. And the last one caught my thoughts.
Is Heaven Graceland? Why would it be? What is grace, that Heaven would be the land of it?
My theological core ticked off “Unmerited favor” as the definition of grace. But the tugging wouldn’t quit. What grace? And so my emotional self said to my theological self (for they are as yet still divided), “you know, getting stuff you don’t deserve. You don’t deserve anything, you know.”
And my theological self, so cunning, said, “Yes, I know I deserve nothing, oh wretched wretch as I. You must work hard with me to atone for this.”
And, much to my wonder and amazement, my emotional self responded with a phrase that I can only attribute to the holy and inerrant work of the Holy Spirit:
“No. Grace means you are as likely to receive the blessings today as you are any other day. Your acts have nothing to do with when and how God dispenses blessings.”
I almost fell out of my chair. And at that moment, that’s when grace broke through.
“I’m going to Graceland.”
There are some who say that Graceland is merely a fill word, like “yellow” in Coldplay’s “Yellow.” And while they may or may not be right in their assessment of the song’s lyric, the word to me is exactly that. I felt a filling of soul that I haven’t felt in years except when I have purposely retreated into the safety of my camp. I felt as much euphoria as you can while still doing a desk job (I am of the opinion that true euphoria demands wild dancing).
My sinfulness or lack thereof does not impact the goodness of the Lord God. It could very well be a day where I feel I have sinned repetitively and miserably that I meet my wife. My book could sell on a day that I feel unsalvageable. We don’t affect how God thinks about us, how he loves us, how he blesses us or how he cherishes us. Nothing bad that we do diminishes any of his love, devotion, affection and blessings. Nothing. Period.
I’m going to Graceland.
It’s hard to explain the transforming emotion that came with my discovery of grace. None of my words can do it justice. I wanted to cry. Music sounded sweeter (I will definitely never listen to “Graceland” the same way again). “Amazing Grace” makes infinitely more sense. I question why every female in the world isn’t named Grace. Grace is beautiful.
It is the entirety of the Christian message, and I’d been missing it. I saw the depravity. I saw the need for a savior. But I hadn’t understood the concept that makes a peace that surpasses all understanding. For in grace is peace.
I encountered a situation today that made me furious. I fell victim to my own misunderstanding of a concept, and it cost me a tidy sum monetarily. I had the right intent the entire time; I just did the wrong thing accidentally.
My subsequent firestorm of emotions (angry/hurt/depressed/annoyed/confused/injured/take advantage of/angry again, etc.) helped me see one thing very clearly: it takes work to remain faithful.
I was really mad at God over the entire situation; I felt like it could have been avoided if God would have tweaked a line of code here or there in the cosmic html. I felt like his decision to not cut me a break was a huge unfairness, especially when I was trying to do the right thing the whole time. It’s not like I caught trying to hide a sin, I thought. I’m really trying to do the right thing. God should honor that! Come on!!
The good news is that God does honor that. God sees it, and plans on rewarding it (Malachi 3:10; Psalm 20). The bad news is that we don’t know how, exactly, God plans to do that. And sometimes it’s hard to see past the latter and believe in the truth of the former.
If I hadn’t filled my mind with Scripture and poured out my emotions to God in prayer (the “work” of being faithful), it would have been easy to become bitter toward God in a small way.
I chose today to root out the bitterness; but it scared me to see how easy it would have been to not crush it. I could have kept that simmering in my heart, not letting it go, demanding that God give me what I felt like he should give me. I could have bent my theology around it and bent my heart in the process.
It’s really hard work to not get bitter; entitlement and victim mentality come easily to me. It takes actively rejoicing in all things. It takes trusting that God really does have a plan, and that this situation isn’t a total mess-up. It takes looking past the fact that yes, God could have fixed this and didn’t anyway and seeing yes, God could have not saved me but did anyway. It takes a decision to move on and continue enjoying the blessings that I do have instead of being resentful over the one I lost.
Yes, it’s hard work. But bitterness and hard-heartedness evoke powerful feelings in me. I hate them in other people, and I fear desperately that I should ever espouse those feelings. For I can see no endgame more frustrating and unsatisfying than believing that dreams are unable to work because God is thwarting them. That’s where my emotional path was leading me today. I will not go there. I cannot go there.
God is not against us. God is for us. That’s why he sent his son to die in our place on the cross. He is literally for us. That’s the gospel. Hallelujah!
It’s so hard to get past that when every emotion in my body cries foul. But to preserve the faith, joy and love in my soul, I had to look past it. If I want to be have love, grace and peace as my defining characteristics when I am old and wrinkly, I have to start now by killing my desires otherwise.
This isn’t going to be the last time the system screws someone over. We are broken people, and we take advantage of each other. But our reaction to the rain that falls on the righteous and the unrighteous is the essence of who we are. I have to press on. I have to stay game.
This will be a better year
Make a little money, take a lot of sh*t
Feel real bad, then get over it
The Lord our God owns everything
This includes heavy metal and guitars
And we may not worship him by screaming
But that doesn’t mean they can’t; they are.
Impending Doom is a Christian metal band; that symbol in the back is called a repentagram. The members are totally serious about their music, which they view as worship. It is incredibly encouraging to see men so involved in explaining worship: using the gifts and talents God has given for his glory. They love metal and are very good at metal; they use metal to worship. They come up against flack from religious establishment and non-religious establishment; yet they press on. They know whom they worship, and they don’t swerve. May I be so bold.
This video encompasses everything that I like about LeCrae as an artist and an individual. Even more than that, it encompasses the great hope that I have for Christian art. This video is a rap battle between a gangly white kid with little experience and an incredibly experienced professional rapper. There is not much question as to who’s going to win; it’s really a question of how bad is someone going to get messed up?
Lecrae is patient through the kid’s insults, which get more and more creative as he goes. Then, instead of firing back and wiping the floor with the kid, he drops the gospel on him. In a loving, creative, inspiring way, he turns the conversation from egos to Jesus. The crowd is rightfully awed by this turn of events. That is the great hope that Christian art has; to turn the conversation from the broken and unholy to the perfected and holy. We take what is and point to what will be. We redeem thoughts; we redeem art forms; we redeem mentalities through the work of the Holy Spirit through our art. And, if we are so blessed, we get to see people redeemed by God as a result of our faithfulness in perfecting our craft.
Is this rapping unskilled? No. Does it send a message? Certainly. And if the message is what is unfavored as opposed to the medium in which it is presented, then people not liking LeCrae because he’s a “Christian” rapper is the same as me not liking Hitchcock films because they terrify me. Doesn’t mean they’re less excellent, because anyone will tell you Hitchcock is a master. I don’t like his films because of their content, not their execution. If we got to a point where the major quibble that secular art had with Christian art was over the message and not the inferiority of the form, I would dance in the streets (and I mean that very literally; if we got Sufjan or a similarly-minded band to headline Norman Music Festival, I’d be dancing in Main Street). Oh, may it soon be so. May I live to see all the art forms redeemed for your name.
P.S. to Denny on the mic at the onset
rappin for your ego and the crowds that like it
Learn from the lesson on the different types of “ohhhs”
First are for “what happens?” and the second are “we know.”