All I ever needed to know in life I learned on the treadmill with my earphones on.
But . . . I have learned some things in the afternoon cross-connection between Glenn Beck and Oprah Winfrey, switching between them when commercials come on, their wisdom delivered directly through my earphones in the midst of an adrenaline rush while I try to burn off about 400 calories before the programs end. I'm a captive audience, taking in the technology and the glitz . . . and the messages of the hosts and guests, all carefully edited and sharpened to a point.
What I've learned from Glenn is that no matter what happens in the elections, we're going to be going to hell in a more expensive hand basket . . . and we need to make some changes. Be better brothers to each other and restore the values of the forefathers and put lots of stuff in the garage. And pray . . . a lot. And buy books . . . a lot of books.
What I've learned from Oprah is that glitz and guts count more than truth and glory when it comes to deciding what it right and wrong for us. What's really important is that you know who you are and are true to yourself; not that you know who He -- that would be God -- says you are and are true to Him. Yesterday's Oprah show-and-tell was Ricky Martin, the suave, talented Puerto Rican singer who makes girls swoon, is happier and happier as each day passes because he has proclaimed his gayness and made it safe for all Hispanics to come out of the closet and be who they were meant to be. Let's sing a new song and make the world a better place. If he had ever known, he gushes -- right after watching an old clip of himself dancing along as a cheery 12-year-old in the group Menudo -- how wonderful it would be, he would have come out long ago. It's just so beautiful "out" here. Have a coke and a smile. A very bright and brilliant perfect smile.
And the Oprah audience? Ooohing and aahing over Ricky like he has suddenly pried open a door of wisdom, not released a new CD, called, appropriately enough, "Me." As if he is sharing a treasured belief reflecting the Creator's grand design, not his own book about "Me," from which he read a poignant passage picked by Oprah herself, applauding himself for coming out and making the path clear for his children to grow up in a world of acceptance and be good to all their lovers. From a practiced choir, the chorus of "Awwws" swept over him, his perfect smile beaming equally to the Oprah-proud studio audience hoping to win a surprise gift from the zillionaire host, and out to all the broken people sitting behind televisions in their afternoon easy chairs of solitude or pounding out calories on their treadmills of hope: "Just be like me. Free to be." No prizes, no live performances by the trainer-sculpted, fashion-designer draped, make-up-enhanced, fortune-propped up happy man. Just a box of Oreos or a sweat-towel, depending on your preference for what makes you feel better today.
And then Ricky sings his new song. Buy the CD. Get the book. There ain't nothing wrong with you that a little idol worship can't fix. The men in the culture-gilded mansions -- the Eltons, the Doogies, the Ellens and the Rickys -- say so; the God who builds your mansion says . . . "no."
If Oprah and Ricky think we're all good just as we are, with no need to change, then what else matters? Just . . . feel the love. Go with the flow. Love ya . . . peck, peck.
There's the love.
Come . . .
Now . . .
Scarlet sins . . . white snow
Crimson sins . . . like wool
Most important? "Let's settle the matter."
Why are we so unsettled about settling the matter?
Why do we dig deep for justification when truth lies in plain sight?
Why do we build mansions to hide in when true joy comes when the walls fall down?
Why do we follow pied pipers who peddle the doctrine of self-acceptance instead of following the words of the One who paid the price for our self?
Why do we look for others' words to lift us out of darkness when He said "I am the light?"
Why doe we look for others to lead us out of that darkness when He said "I am the Way?"
Why do we hasten to hidden places instead of hiding His word in our hearts?
Why do we cry out to be known when He tells us He has always known us?
Why do we seek other voices when He said "listen?"
Why do we rush from door-to-door when He said His would open if we would but knock?
Why do we run toward cliffs of uncertainty when He said "come" . . . "now" to the calmness of certainty, the satisfaction of settling?
We're filling the void with the wrong voices pushing the wrong choices. We can read . . . we can hear . . . we can speak . . . we can share. We could care . . . if we'd dare.
Dare to love. For real. Not like Ricky on a sound stage, or Elton behind diamond-studded glasses, or Ellen dancing around in tennis shoes laughing, or Neal Patrick Harris in a sitcom, or Oprah in isolated self-celebration. No, like Christ, giving, longing, seeking, teaching, healing, helping, seeing, hearing, saying, changing. LOVING. All truth; zero glitz. All giving; no taking. Forgiving us for what we became; changing us to what we should be. Coming alongside so we don't have to wonder where we're headed. Guiding us in and forward; not erecting roadblocks on a route of rejection. Talent and riches aside, these actors and singers are just people like the rest of us, tempted in a fallen world. I would never wish them harm -- indeed I wish them wholeness -- but I do wish them truth, so they could use their voices to lead other strugglers to freedom instead of to ticket lines and concert halls. Blind guides.
In a world frightfully flinging itself along to no-where, Jesus proves the patience of love and says "Come." "Now." He is always ready, always waiting.
And the Help of the helpless says . . . help.
Did I hear that right? If I love you, I will feed your sheep? Are you talking to me? Hold on, let me turn down the . . .
As Christians we're out of tune on the sexual brokenness issue, gonging and clanging, offering headaches for heartaches . . . and the mute button is getting a workout. Cue Ricky and his feel-good, all-is-well, love-love-love smile. So happy.
Unfortunately, we often don't know religious from righteous, Christianity from churchianity; hope from a hole-in-the-ground, mercy from meanness, forgiveness from forget it, love from leave. We teach restoration, redemption and rescue. And then we run from the reaching. Cue Oprah.
"But do not have love?" There's the rub. All those polished words are but the cymbals from which the clanging erupts. We're not real in voice or deed. We memorize the verses and know the applications, but we don't really love . . . not enough of us. Yes, some do . . . but the church is a collective, a body. We believers are not requiring much of each other, even as we demand a great deal from the broken who would love . . . love? . . . to join us and share in what we say we have. Peace. Mercy. Grace. Wholeness.
I'm not lamenting the lack of love demonstrated towards me when I was hiding in the church like a broken boat towed into harbor, weighted with guilt from an out-of-control obsession with a love-me temptation that had twisted itself into a use-me fixation. I know now the need for them to see true confession and real repentance, to know for sure this was actually a sheep . . . and not in wolf's clothing. Actually, the lack of love I experienced makes the need to share it so clear now. A calling from the falling. In its own way, that vacuum was a blessing.
Know some sheep? Love Christ? Then why are they so hungry? Will they find what you are withholding somewhere out there in the welcoming wilderness among the wolves who . . . want them . . . in ways Jesus never intended for His sheep to be devoured in their weaknesses?
If someone comes to the pantry door, weak and thin, hand outstretched, not feigning faintness, but near to falling, we fill their cup. The sexually-broken are no different. They are weak, fading, fearing, losing feeling, so-often falling they might not know which way is up . . . fill the cup. Don't sound the gong. Don't send them to drink from the stagnant creek of a cackling culture instead of the living water of an endless river of grace.
Jesus bore the debt and bore the burden, yet too many Christians can barely bear the sight. If the sexual sin of others repulses you in a way that your sins don't, pray for forgiveness for your lack of forbearance and God will give you strength.
For the homosexual, the pornography-addicted, the adulterer, the lust-bound, keep your courage and keep coming. In the body of the church are the hands and feet of the faithful who will love you and walk with you and speak truth into your lives, catching you with compassion when you fall until you finally stand and live beyond the chains. They may be too few, but they are better than the "it gets better" bunch.
There really is a way out, but it takes a double-dare. One dares to seek. Another dares to care. Both dare to love. In the absence of cymbals they hear each other; truth wins a battle and sin slithers away in darkness.
Jesus said "Come." The world is watching to see if we agree with Him . . . and to see what happens if they do indeed come.