Today, if you hear his voice

Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

Month: December 2015

“Keeping it on Chop” or NOT committing…ever

I may be on the cusp of a linguistic breakthrough because I was hanging out with teenagers yesterday and one said that she and this guy were “keeping it on chop.” She sad her friend had used that phrase to describe a relationship status akin to “just talking.”  I looked up the phrase on urban dictionary and there wasn’t an entry. Am I one of the cool kids?

It amazes me the creative energy we are putting into describing various statuses of romantic or potentially romantic relationships. Keeping things on chop means you could cut it off no problem at any moment. But of course there will be problems. Their relationship continues without definition or intention and “chop” might be the most appropriate word because it’s going to hurt when one of them gets chopped off. I don’t think this is the case in this relationship (thankfully I’m pretty sure) but this arrangement whether it is referred to as “on chop” or not gets a lot more complicated when the parties are having sex. The “chop” is then loaded with all the spiritual and physical attachment of sexual intimacy.

I got real with the teenagers for a minute and told them that the best way to have unprotected sex is to not have any definition or intention in their relationships. My parting words to them were “have sex on purpose.” The best way to have purpose in sex is marriage, but I was prepared for lesser goods in their lives. Am I being too realistic?

They assured me that sex was not a possibility at the moment and I assured them that it was. I’ve been a teenage boy trying not to have sex because of my commitment to obedience to Jesus and I know how hard that was. Take out the commitment to obedience and it becomes very easy. Christians dating is hard whether you are a teenager or an adult, but this slippery trend toward non commitment is making it even harder.

Christian young people could do themselves a big favor by defining and intending from the beginning of their relationships. Being honorable is a dying aspiration but I think we should keep it alive in Circle of Hope. It just so happens that we are swimming in a stream in which sexual honor has been completely deconstructed. Yes, it has a negative legacy attached to the patriarchy, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Each partner has dignity to bring to the relationship and communication about our intent is essential to achieving the honorable relating I desire for my dating couples.

My teenage friends’ Christian parents stop the conversation at “Don’t!” I’m continuing the conversation because I think it requires a lot of communication. Dialogue protects the gravity of a couples’ intentions. That conversation needs to start from the get-go. But it’s so hard to speak your heart or even have a conviction these days. This is why I love the show “Jane the Virgin” because the title character is figuring out how to be chaste (notably for nothing-to-do-with-Jesus-reasons). She wrestles with it in her relationship and demonstrates that it is a constant struggle.

Much love to my friends in the struggle. I pray you get married soon. My teenagers, wait until you finish college if you can. 🙂

Don’t Let Your Eyes Adjust to the Dark: How to keep caring when bad stuff keeps happening

The attack that killed 14 people, injured 17 and resulted in the death of 2 suspects, began yesterday morning, at an office holiday party in the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. The center is called “Inland Regional” because it is located in the “Inland Empire” of Southern California where I was born and spent my early childhood. My home town, Riverside is 15 miles south of San Bernardino. This attack literally hit close to home, and I feel it that way too.

The big statistic rolling around the internet today is that there have been more mass shootings in the US than days so far in 2015. 355! NPR.org reports that  “Gun sales are going up. There were more gun background checks on this year’s Black Friday than any other single day on record: 185,345, according to the FBI. That’s up five percent from Black Friday last year, when there were 175,754 background checks.” Are we going insane? Do we really think that fire will fight this fire? It’s very easy to despair. It’s very easy to close your eyes. It’s very easy to accept this scary reality and try to cope.

The Circle of Hope Pastors were talking yesterday on their videocast, Someone Asked, about climate change and whether we can actually make a difference when corporations, the main polluters, have effectively bought the US political system. Obama was in Paris encouraging us to believe we can change the world. I was admitting my cynicism and Joshua was encouraging me to apply my faith in Jesus to the hope for the world. If I am certain that God cares for the earth, I must act as if what I do and say to preserve it matters.

And how much important are we than the birds! Jesus reminds us that God cares for the birds and the lilies but cares for humans even more, even by becoming one of us in Jesus. So when 14 people die in San Bernardino and 355 die across the country to gun violence God grieves. It comforts me that God is with us in our sorrow. It even encourages me to engage my own grief. The alternative would be to let my eyes adjust to the dark. To accept the wickedness of the world–to drink and be merry for tomorrow we die (Isaiah 22:13).

We were talking about this in my cell meeting last night. There is such big, scary stuff happening in the world. Our default is to distract ourselves. To avoid the small feeling that comes with paying attention to the glut of bad news we can so easily access. Isn’t their enough bad news in my own life? It’s a good question. I’m with you in it if you are asking it.

But the results of being as small as the fear makes us is slavery. We cannot control our future no matter how much money we save, how many guns we have, or how much we read up on what to do in an active shooter situation. Being human in an uncertain universe is a fact. We must be saved. We cannot save ourselves. If we live into the promise of Jesus’ future coming, when he will come and fully bring about a new heaven and a new earth, and a new humanity with it, we will have the hope we need to confront the fear of this dark world. Because Jesus saved us by coming as a tiny baby and living a fully human life and died the death of an oppressed person, and was raised form the dead because he was the Son of God–because of all this–we can believe that our tiny lives make a difference in the darkness. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light (Isaiah 9) and one day “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light” (Isaiah 60). We are those people. This has begun.

So we can pray. We can trust that God is bringing about his promises even though the world is against him, and the forces of evil with it. So we can offer the comfort we have–a church that is an environment where people can connect with God and act for redemption. So we can have an active relationship with Jesus that transforms us and the people around us.

I’m not sure that the world will get much better, but I think that God will preserve us as a people until Jesus comes again- the Second Advent. And in the mean time we will be a sign pointing to the realest Reality that is breaking through the darkness–God is with us.