The Bad Guys

What makes a bad guy a bad guy? Is he defined by the things he does or can his actions somehow be separated from who his is as a snidelyperson?

And I am I one myself?

Those are the questions I’ll be looking at here this week. I’ve heard the expression “Who you are is not what you do.” for years and years, but it’s always been very difficult for me to accept. I mean, if I do something, I did it. It was me. Ergo, if I do a bad thing, wouldn’t it stand to reason that I’m a bad guy?

Maybe not.

Perhaps behaviors can be externalized. Perhaps the person at the core is not the sum of his deeds. Perhaps the intercession of Christ does indeed make us new creations and frees us from the bondage of sin.

Or perhaps we don’t want to admit we’re as bad as we think we are.

So buckle up. Things might get ugly. Feelings may be hurt. Disagreements may occur. It’s time to separate the good from the bad.

 

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Tuneful Tuesdays … On A Wednesday

Here’s something all you bloggers out there might want to keep in mind: If you’re going to dedicate one day a week to a specific type of post, you might want to remember to actually write that post on the day you specified.

Oops.

Anyway, yesterday was supposed to be “Tuneful Tuesdays,” where I share a song that’s either helped me deal with my depression or does a good job of expressing how a depressed person might feel. Obviously, I got so caught up in what else was on my mind that I forgot to mention any song altogether. So please accept my apologies as I present “Tuneful Tuesdays” … on a Wednesday.

For my money, not many (if any) finer hard rock/heavy metal albums have produced in the last 20 years than Dogman by King’s X.dogman

Unfortunately, most Christians today only know of King’s X for how far its members have distanced themselves proclaiming any kind of faith. Bassist and lead singer Doug (or dUg or however it’s spelled now) Pinnick is now a professed homosexual and agnostic. Guitarist and sometimes lead singer Ty Tabor seems to still be a Christian, but called the Christian music industry “vile” a few years ago. And drummer Jerry Gaskill was quoted in 2012 as saying, “There was a time when Christianity was a part of my journey. There was also a time when drugs were part of it.”

As a result, it’s not exactly cool for Christians to say they like King’s X anymore. While I certainly haven’t been a fan of every album the group has produced, though, they have churned out some excellent music over the years. Their past two albums – Ogre Tones and XV – were excellent. It could be argued that the songs on Dogman are not the group’s best collection as a whole, but I think as an album it makes the most definitive statement of how explosive King’s X can be.

Mood-wise, the album might as well be called An Ode To Depression. From the title-cut opening track on down the line to the Jimi Hendrix cover “Manic Depression,” happy, go-lucky sentiments are scarcely to be found. These brooding emotions come to a head in the heavy, atmospheric “Cigarettes,” in which Pinnick sings, “Sometimes I think the pain blows my mind.” The bass is mixed super-deep, the guitars are a wall of sound, and the drums are crashing. This album actually sounds like depression.

As someone who is recovering from depression, then, why would I still want to listen to it? Well, sometimes you just want to know that someone understands. Has the pain ever blown my mind? You bet it has. And even though I think Pinnick is a fallen and bruised soul right now, he made a statement in the June 2013 issue of Bass Player magazine that I thought was particularly insightful:

“I come from a dark place, and there are people that come from that place that understand that loneliness, feeling like you’re worthless and nobody cares. But you’re not angry and you don’t want to beat everybody up and scream. That’s the kind of stuff I write.”

This is where I could say something cheesy, like “I pray for dUg Pinnick…”, but I can’t honestly say I remember him in my prayers every day. Whenever I hear a King’s X song (and the likelihood is high, considering how many I have on my iPod), though, I do think of that place he’s describing and where it’s taken him in life. And I pray for him, not because I pity him or look down on him, but because he’s on a journey just like the rest of us, a journey where (to quote an older King’s X classic) “we are finding who we are…”

Sins vs. Mistakes

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

I hear the word “mistake” used a lot these days. Thing is, I don’t think many people are using the word correctly.

Take Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, for example. By now, most people know that Rice knocked his wife out and dragged herray rice from an Atlantic City elevator (Thank you, TMZ.). He would later apologize and call the incident “the biggest mistake of my life,” but I don’t think his wording is quite adequate. I mean, to me a mistake would have been aiming for her stomach and hitting her in the head. Taking a swing, well, that doesn’t accidentally happen.

As far as wording goes, I don’t believe a “mistake” is something that can happen deliberately. For instance, if I decide to drink a bottle of tequila and get drunk, my inebriation is not an accident. It would be poor judgement, but the alcohol wouldn’t have accidentally spilled into my mouth. I would have put it there. In fact, the Bible refers to drunkenness as “debauchery,” which leads into a very uncomfortable three-letter word…

S-i-n.

I have only recently begun to understand what this word actually means. To put it more accurately, I’m gradually realizing what Jesus dying for our sins really entails. For years, this is how I thought forgiveness works: If I commit a sin by mistake (like cutting someone off in traffic accidentally or something), God is cool with that because I didn’t know what I was doing. If I knowingly did something wrong, though, I would suffer dire consequences because God does not take kindly to His rules being broken. Thus, any bad circumstance that occurred in my life must be my fault because I can’t … stop … sinning.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Okay, I like that verse. I always say that the apostle Paul wouldn’t have spent so much time telling all those churches to stop doing bad stuff unless, well, they were doing lots of bad stuff. And these were the Christians he was writing to, not the heathens on the street. It would appear, then, that God stands ready to forgive a Christian if they sin, whether it is on purpose or not.

But…

“No one who is born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he hasbrennan been born of God.” This scripture is not so reassuring. There are countless stories out there of alcoholics who poured all their liquor down the drain the night they got saved, but there are also those stories of people who continued to struggle with addiction for the rest of their lives (Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, would be an example of this.). Did the second group not really get saved? If they confessed every time they got drunk, were they still covered? I’ve never been drunk, but I’ve done plenty of other dumb things since becoming a Christian. What does that mean for me?

To be honest, I’m still struggling with the answer to that question. I look at the story of Peter in the Bible, and I see forgiveness written all over it. In fact, Jesus even told Peter how he was going to sin. Peter didn’t accidentally not recognize a photo of Jesus that night; he deliberately and purposefully said to the crowd, “I don’t know the man.” You can’t inadvertently lie and say you don’t know the son of God when, in fact, you do. If Jesus could have mercy on Peter after that, it would stand to reason that deliberate sins could be covered.

Regardless of the answer to this question, though, the key point I’m trying to make is that sins should be owned. They shouldn’t be reclassified as “mistakes” because they’re usually not committed accidentally. And if they aren’t owned and confessed as being deliberate acts – no matter how awful the judgement may be – then they can’t ever be dealt with properly.

john newtonThe mistake would be to think I’m not the kind of person who would do that kind of thing, because I obviously was. We all are, and that’s why we need Jesus so desperately. As John Newton once said:

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

And

andIs there any more demanding word in the English language than and?

Take this weekend, for example. My mother- and father-in-law graciously offered to watch my wife and I’s brood of five children (which includes our 1-year-old daughter) from Friday night until Sunday morning. We’ve had a recent stretch of dry weather where I live, so my usual Saturday ritual of mowing the yard didn’t need to be performed. That meant we essentially had no schedule or obligations except those we set for ourselves.

Knowing this, my mind nearly exploded with possibilities. I wanted to go out with my wife and put a new string on my guitar and get outside and ride my bicycle and maybe see a movie and sleep in Saturday morning and shop for a couple of things and write a new blog post and catch up on my emails and

Well, obviously, I didn’t get all that done, mainly because no human being can possibly cram that many activities into an approximately 36-hour period. Time is not my enemy, however, when it comes to achieving most goals. My problem is I don’t know what to focus on, so I haphazardly bounce from one objective to another. I want to be a good husband and a good father and a writer and a performing musician and hang out with the guys and be in good shape and

This may sound like the mark of a very ambitious and successful person, but my experience has been much the opposite. I have spent much of my life pecking away at things and never quite becoming proficient at any of them. This tendency even led me to consider I might have Attention Deficit Disorder before I was diagnosed with Chronic Depressive Disorder. With either disorder, though, thoughts can become jumbled and priorities can be difficult to set. It’s not that I’m trying to overload myself; it’s just that every single option seems just as important as the other, and I can’t focus because it seems as if I need to complete them all at the same time.

I believe this way of thinking can lead a person in one of two directions: They can either work themselves to death trying to stay on top of everything on their list, or they can view the mountain of expectations they’ve placed on themselves and lock down and not do anything. Personally, I have had more experiences with the latter than the former. There have been times when I have felt so behind that I just didn’t even want to start, which only made things worse for me when actual effort had to be put forth.

A friend of mine has recently told me several times, “You think too much about things. Stop over-analyzing. Just take the moment for what it is.” They’re right, of course. I do analyze the crap out of everything (which you’ve probably picked up on by now from reading this blog). I have a very difficult time shutting down the noise in my brain and just doing something. I did have a brief revelation of what that might be like this weekend, however.

guardians_poster_via_marvelOne of the goals I did achieve was going with my wife to see Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Saturday afternoon. While I enjoyed the heck out of the movie, I can tell you, Shakespeare, it is not. Once I got past trying to figure out character motivations and comic book history and what we might do after the movie and where the movie ranked on my list of all-time favorite comic book films (and, believe me, such a list does indeed exist), my brain sort of entered this zone where it was simply having fun watching a darn good popcorn flick. I was there to be entertained, and I was. Simple, right?

I remember years ago hearing someone on sports radio talk about former Major League Baseball player Manny Ramirez’s ability to hit in virtually any situation. Now, for anyone who doesn’t remember, Ramirez was not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. One of the first articles I ever read about him was in Sports Illustrated and featured a moment where he and his agent were driving around one day and Ramirez (who played for the Cleveland Indians at the time) asked the agent if he could afford a house they drove by. The man literally had no concept of the money he was making.

This particular person’s perspective on the radio that day was that because basically very little was going on in Ramirez’s head when Manny-Ramirezhe stepped to the plate in a game, all of his focus was on just hitting the baseball. He didn’t have any distractions or complex goals or stats he was trying to keep up with; he was just trying to put the bat on the ball. And, even though he paved his own way out of baseball eventually because he wouldn’t stop using banned substances, he was remarkably successful as a hitter. That was what he did; he just hit.

Sometimes I wish I could be more like that, but I don’t think it’s possible for me. What I can do is dedicate myself to one decision at a time. I tried making lists for a while, and I may have to go back to that eventually. It’s odd that in an age where people seem to be trying to utilize more of their brain power I’m actually trying to shut some of mine down, but it’s the truth. I’m tired of standing in front of my closet spending five minutes trying to decide what T-shirt to wear. Some things just have to matter more than others.

That checks the blog post off my list for this weekend. Now all I have to do is go to bed and go to sleep and get prepared in my head for tomorrow and … well, actually, maybe I’ll just focus on the first two.