Posts Tagged ‘churchboy’

by Rocky Glenn

Although it’s been several months since I’ve last written, I’ve been sharing with you for four years now my life of being raised a churchboy. My efforts to reveal the questions, thoughts, and struggles I’d lived with for most of my life was also an admission of the beliefs and practices I had not only misbelieved myself but also taught and forced on others. I can’t really recall any expectations I had when this all began, but what started as a simple detailing of the struggles to free myself of the guilt, unworthiness, and shame grew into a journey I never expected. All I remember is I had such a joy and excitement over the love, peace, and acceptance I had finally found after searching for so many years I simply did not want to see others lived trapped by the life I was escaping. It was an unraveling and deconstructing of the person I was as I tasted true hope and freedom in a way I had never experienced before.

At times I’ve written out of hope, at times out of anger, and at times out of frustration. I’ve shared memories from childhood, stories of adolescence, and struggles from marriage and being a parent. Support and encouragement have come from friends and family I’ve known many years as well as new friends and acquaintances I’ve met along the way. Others I’ve shared life with have been less supportive sometimes making their feelings known, most just simply walking away. My admission of being wrong for so many years was simply too much for them to accept so in return they could no longer accept me.

The process of dismantling so much of what you’ve built your life on is treacherous and not a pain-free, easy experience. In efforts to distance yourself from your former self, you can actually become an anti-version of your former self. All the zeal, fervor, and passion I used to have for my religious ways took over in my efforts of being anti-religious. Memes and social media posts were often shared with an attitude of shock and awe to push the envelope and poke the bear of those stuck in my former churchboy ways. I once again became caught up in a mindset of us versus them – only this time it wasn’t Christians versus The World . . . it was legalistic, rule-abiding, traditional Christians versus grace loving, liberal, free Christians. So, once again I’m here to admit I was wrong.

This struggle and discovery are what has kept me from writing for the past four months. This time the undoing of myself wasn’t to be done publicly but was something to be done by myself and simply for myself. I distanced myself from all the things I had surrounded myself with throughout the journey: no podcasts were listened to, no blogs were read or written, and badges of being done with religion were removed from social media. During this time, I received the greatest support from my loving wife and the two men I have come know as brothers through Done with Religion, Jim Gordon and Mike Edwards. Other than those three, few have had any insight to the thoughts bouncing around inside my head.

So, is this a farewell from the blogging world from this former churchboy? I can’t say and choose not to speculate. With that being said, I want to take the time with what I feel have revealed themselves as the three undisputable beliefs which now govern my life:

God Loves You (and Me)

There is nothing that will ever change this. Nothing I can do will make him love me more, nothing I have done has made him love me more. Nothing I don’t do will make him love me less, nothing I haven’t done has made him live me less. He loves me as I am right now in this moment, not for the person I may or not become.

Love is the Only Thing That Matters

Love is the greatest force in the universe. Love is more important than being right, and love can overcome any wrong. Love is displayed in actions not words.

There is No Supposed To Be

We spend most of our life chasing the idea of how we think things should be. If we let our lives be governed by the first two beliefs above, we can learn to let go and enjoy life in the moments as they happen.

I have enjoyed sharing my life with all who have read over the last four years. This may or may not be the final post I ever write. If you would like to keep in touch, I am on most social media sites but for the sake of privacy I am more selective than I have been previously as to who I connect with. If you reach out, please introduce yourself.

Finally, if you are interested, listed below is a list of some of my favorite posts (or series) I’ve shared over the years.

Rocky, aka ChurchBoyNoMore

Favorite Posts from the Last Four Years

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by Rocky Glenn

Distractions keep us from being present and enjoying the moments we live. For the churchboy, the greatest distraction is attempting to live up to a set of expectations. An expectation is a belief or anticipation of how someone should or will respond. Churchboys have many expectations they chase after: their own expectations, expectations of God, expectations of the church, and expectations of others. Quite often these get intertwined and create a web of confusion which is difficult to break free of and leaves one unable to ever enjoy the moment. Disapproval from friends, family, and fellow church members is felt when expectations are not met and long held beliefs and practices are questioned. This disapproval gives way to separation and alienation from those once held close as peace is found more and more in uncertainty rather than simply accepting clear-cut, placating answers to the tough issues of life and conforming to perceived expectations. It is in this journey toward uncertainty the recovering churchboy wakes up to Truth as the scales of expectations begin to fall slowly from his eyes. In my previous post, I discussed how both the prodigal son and his older brother fell victim to the distraction of regret. If you are perhaps unfamiliar with the story, allow me to share below:

The tale opens with the younger of the father’s two sons going to his father asking for his share of his father’s estate. Immediately after the request we are told the father divided his estate between the two brothers. Within a short time, the younger son packed all his belongings and left home and, before long, wasted his entire fortune. To further compound the situation, a famine hit the land and the only employment he could find was feeding pigs. As hunger drove him to the point of desiring the slop he was feeding the animals, he woke up to the idea of his father’s servants being better cared for and receiving three meals a day while he was starving to death. At this point, he decides to return home and beg to be accepted as a servant.

Imagine the confusion of the younger son as he is returning home and, just as he can barely distinguish the silhouette of his father’s home in the distance, he notices a cloud of dust gaining momentum moving towards him on the dirt road only to realize the catalyst for the dust storm is his Father running to him with open arms. Pushing his father away, he begins his rehearsed speech of what a failure and let down he truly is and has become. The father interrupts as he wraps him in his arms all the tighter and shouts to all around, “Bring him some fresh clothes, shoes, and jewelry! Get him cleaned up! It’s time to celebrate and party! My boy has come home! Once thought lost and dead, he is now found and alive!”

During the younger son’s celebrated return home, his older brother was working in the fields and unaware of his brother’s return and the party being thrown in his honor. As he approached home after the day’s work and learned of the celebration and its cause, the story records him as refusing to enter the party and storming off sulking in anger. Being approached by his father for an explanation, he states his case rather emphatically, “I’ve worked for all these years. I’ve never brought you any shame and always done everything you ask. You’ve never held a party in my honor, yet this fool returns home after wasting away all his money and you throw a feast for him as a reward!”

Just as the father’s heart was overflowing with joy upon the return of his younger son, I can imagine sorrow pricked his heart to hear the words of the older brother. How heart-breaking it must have been to look at his oldest son and say, “Don’t you get it. You’ve worked for me all these years and never once realized all I have is already yours.”

The story of the prodigal son is one of the most well-loved and well-known stories Jesus ever used to illustrate the Father’s love. Taking a closer look at the story of the prodigal we can also see examples of how distractions of expectations rob each of them of enjoying the moment just as it does the churchboy.

Expectations of the Younger Son: The Internal Churchboy

As the story opens, the younger son’s request reveals his unhappiness and dissatisfaction with his current life as he is distracted by it not meeting his expectations of what life truly should be. He sets about spending all his time, energy, and resources in attempts of achieving and acquiring all he ever wanted. However, as his bankroll runs thin and his energy is spent, he is forced to face the reality we all must come to realize. Life has no “supposed to be.” Once distracted by his own personal expectations, the distraction of regret has become his close personal companion as he finds himself weary, lost, and alone with no other choice but to return home ashamed and groveling expecting rejection.

Though they would never admit it or exhibit it externally, churchboys often view themselves as the eternal prodigal. Convinced and conditioned to believe the problems of their lives are simply a result of their own selfishness and pride leading them astray, they live their life feeling unworthy to be called a son and seek solace in simply being known as a servant. They anticipate being turned away in displeasure as they return to the Father week after week, Sunday after Sunday confessing their failures of living up to the Father’s perceived expectations: “I didn’t pray enough this week. I didn’t spend any time reading my Bible. I spent more time watching TV and on social media than I did with you. I lost my temper, said things I should have never said, and hurt those I love. I’m sorry. Although I don’t deserve it, please forgive me. I’m so unworthy.” Churchboys beg and plead for the Father’s forgiveness to simply feel accepted once again. Their expectations of the Father are tainted with the fear of rejection and anticipation of being turned away as a result of their image of themselves and how they perceive the Father views them.

The prodigal’s return home is a beautiful illustration of waking up to the true unconditional acceptance of grace for the first time. The cocoon of shame and unworthiness from missing the father’s perceived expectations slowly begins to crack as unconditional love breaks through and the son slowly begins to realize there is nothing he could ever do to not be considered a son. When I was first presented the gospel of grace and acceptance after many years of living the weekly cycle of the prodigal, I was just as perplexed as I’m sure the younger son was being wrapped in his father’s arms and celebrated for returning home. To realize the Father has no expectations in being considered a son is the path to recovery for the internal churchboy.

Expectations of the Older Brother: The External Churchboy

The older brother’s response is reflective of the churchboy’s outward life. Much like the older brother, churchboys make public displays of all they do to please God. They expect to be rewarded for their service and are serving for the reward of acceptance. Their security and trust lie in their years of service rather than in who they are. Because of their track record and accomplishments, they view themselves in higher regard than others. Blinded from the true definition of sonship, their expectations are to be accepted based on the good they’ve done, as well as the evil they’ve not done.

Such is the way of the churchboy, constantly working to obtain what he already has access to. He believes the only way he will ever hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” is by working more, doing more, saying Jesus more, and outshining those around him. As long as he feels someone is closer to the Father than himself or there is something greater he must do, the churchboy will continue working to reside in a place he doesn’t realize he already exists in and can never escape, the Father’s love.

The perceived expectations the older brother has of the father are really no different than his younger sibling’s, but they go about meeting those expectations in different manners: the former through working to achieve and avoid, the latter begging and pleading. Until they release their expectations neither brother, nor the churchboy, can enjoy the moment they are in. For the brothers, that moment is a moment of love, acceptance, and celebration of being with their father. For the churchboy, it’s the same.

Expectations distract from us enjoying the moment and being present where we are. Our minds become so entangled with what’s supposed to be, what’s required, and anticipated outcomes we become blinded to the expectations we’ve placed on ourselves, on others, and on our God. Let us rejoice in the unconditional love and acceptance of the Father and pay the Father’s love forward in unconditional love and acceptance of others.


More posts in the Enjoying the Moment series:

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by Rocky Glenn

As I shared in You Are Not Alone, since my recovery from being a churchboy began, I have encountered countless others that are walking a similar path.  I’ve since learned this path has been given the term “deconstructing.”  I heard it said just a couple of days ago that deconstructing your faith has now become the fashionable or “in” thing to do.  Although I can look back over the past four to six years and say I have definitely been deconstructing my faith, in my four decades of life I have never been one to do something just because it’s considered fashionable, popular, cool, or the latest trend.  (That’s not because I refuse to follow the crowd, part of being a churchboy is being so opposite and opposed to popular culture that you aren’t accepted as part of that crowd!!)

On several occasions in the gospels, Jesus tells us that if one seeks to save or keep his life he will lose it but if he loses his life he shall save it.  Although I did not realize it at the time this journey began, losing my life is exactly what has been going on with me.  It’s been a journey of questioning what I’ve known since a child and seeking answers for why as Christians we act certain ways and do (or more specifically don’t do) certain things, at least in public where others will see!  The ironic and upside down part of all this is I thought that by living the churchboy life, I had chosen to lose my life.  After all, I played by all the rules, said all the right things, and played the part as well as any human could.  In fact, in losing my life being a churchboy, I had lost so much life if it weren’t for the fact that I was conscious and breathing, I don’t even know if you could say I was living!  Life was a constant pressure cooker of looking the right way, saying the right thing, not giving the appearance of evil, not judging that person, not saying what you think, and definitely not letting anyone know you were human!  After all, we must be perfect because our Father in heaven is perfect (Perfect Imperfection). The sad part about this is I thought that was the best life anyone could ever live.

It all changed when I learned God loved me.  Oh yeah, the churchboy knew that Jesus had died for me and I was going to heaven when I died because I had my “fire insurance” and had asked Him to forgive my sins, and He lived in my heart, but there was no way he actually loved me.  I mean, sure, He would love me if I became what He wanted me to be, but there was no way He loved me as I was.  I had more scriptures to memorize.  I had a ministry to build.  I had souls to save.  There was work for the kingdom that must be done and I was the one who must do it!  What a load of garbage!  I have lost that life, if that’s what you can really call it.

Losing that life means life now looks a lot different for me than before.  Life is now about losing those rules and lists of do’s and don’ts that religion forces upon you and tells you must stay within in order to be accepted.  Losing my life means I’ve lost the need to try to become acceptable because I know I’m already accepted.  Losing my life means I’ve lost the need to try and change to be loved because I’m already loved.  (For more on this, see He Still Loves Me.)

Matthew 16:25 says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  By living the churchboy life and trying to do it on my own, I was trying to hang on to my life and didn’t even realize it.  So, when I realized how much He truly loved me, there was nothing I could do to ever change that, and He loved me as I am and not for who He wanted me to be, I gave up my life.

How has this saved my life?  Life is now about living in His love and sharing that love with others.  At home, at work, in traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store, dealing with the server at the restaurant who has clearly had a rough day, every situation is an opportunity to share that love.  It doesn’t require a sermon.  No scripture verses or references have to be mentioned.  In fact, you don’t even have to mention God or Jesus at all.  It can be as simple as a smile, as kind as looking someone in the eye and asking how they are doing, as pleasant as a gentle answer.  Love looks a lot like generosity and kindness.  Love gives without seeking anything in return.  Love is for the benefit of others.  Saving your life in this manner produces peace, joy, and freedom that can only be described when you experience it yourself.

To tell you that I have truly mastered this and express love in every interaction and live constantly in that peace, joy, and freedom would be just another futile attempt of the churchboy in saving my life and making myself appear as something I am not, but I will strive daily to continue losing my life and finding it in His love.


(This post originally written January 28, 2018.)


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by Rocky Glenn

“You do what you do and I do what I do… you do what you do and I do what I do, I’m Alvin, and you’re Bill.”  These are the words of Dana Carvey as Alvin Firpo in the 1994 comedy Trapped in Paradise about a trio of brothers who rob a bank in Paradise, Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve.  The oldest of the three brothers, Bill, played by Nicholas Cage, is experiencing a great deal of anxiety and concern over every detail of the heist and questions his youngest brother to ensure he is prepared for his role.  In response to Bill expressing his concern, Alvin looks at him and replies, “You do what you do, and I do what I do.”  Alvin Firpo, despite being a recently paroled burglar with a bent towards kleptomania, displays a wisdom foreign to churchboys.  Alvin is confident of who he is, what he has to do, and how he plays a role in the overall plan.

Churchboys are not confident in who they are because they feel who they are will never be good enough.  It’s a life lived in fear believing one misstep or mistake, intended or unintended, will bring judgment and punishment from God.  Churchboys don’t know God as a loving father, but rather as a ruler and king who demands complete obedience and perfection in order to earn the reward of eternal security.  A churchboy’s relationship with God, although he would never use the word, is very much a relationship based in karma.  Do good and God will bless you.  Step out of line and God will get you for that!  Churchboys are unaware of who they really are, sons fully loved and accepted as they are and simply for who they are.

Once you realize who you are and stop believing the lie there is something you must do, you are free to truly live and to truly live freely.  Tullian Tchividjian says it like this:

The fear of not knowing whether I’ll get a return is replaced by the freedom of knowing we already have everything: because everything I need, in Christ I already possess, I’m now free to do everything for you without needing you to do anything for me.

I can now actively spend my life giving instead of taking, going to the back instead of getting to the front, sacrificing myself for others instead of sacrificing others for myself.

The gospel alone liberates you to live a life of scandalous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor, and unbounded courage.

When you don’t have anything to lose, you discover something wonderful: you’re free to take great risks without fear or reservation.

This is the difference between approaching all of life from salvation and approaching all of life for salvation; it’s the difference between approaching life from our acceptance, and not for our acceptance; from love not for love.

How does these words of Tullian apply to everyday life?  God created you to be you and me to be me.  I cannot be you and you cannot be me.  Those last two statements may be fairly simple to understand but we often lose sight of them in our daily lives.  You must be you and I must be me.  We each have a role to play unique to us and that role is simply the life we live.  I did not get hired at my job based on someone else’s resume and skills or because someone else interviewed for the position.  I was hired based on my resume, my career, and the interview I participated in.  Around six months ago, Jim Gordon extended invitations to myself and Mike Edwards to be co-authors with him at Done With Religion.  Jim didn’t invite us to participate in hopes our writing styles would become clones of his own.  Based on Mike’s work on What God May Really Be Like and my writings at Confessions of a Recovering Churchboy, Jim reached out to each of us because, while similar, we each have a unique voice and perspective based on the lives we’ve lived and experienced.  No matter the lure, appeal, or tendency to imitate a coworker, manager, or predecessor within my company or to attempt writing in the style of Jim or Mike, I must lean and rest secure in the knowledge God created Rocky to be Rocky and I alone can be me.  The uniqueness of who we are is important as we never know the exact moment something we alone may say or do in normal everyday living will create a forever and lasting memory or impression on a family member, friend, or coworker.

Because it’s such a rarity in the churchboy world, realizing who you are, what you have to do, and accepting how it all plays out will likely not win you much applause or be a cause for celebration.  In fact, it can be a very lonely place and may cause you to stick out more than fit in as few seek to come to such understanding and are often riled up as though of us who do. In his book Messy Spirituality, Mike Yaconelli states, “The essence of messy spirituality is the refusal to pretend, to lie, or to allow others to believe we are something we are not . . . When you and I stop pretending, we expose the pretending of everyone else. The bubble of the perfect Christian life is burst, and we all must face the reality of our brokenness.”

Two weeks ago I had the honor of accompanying my wife to attend a concert by one of her favorite singer/songwriters, James Taylor.  His musical set began with a short video package chronicling his nearly 50 years in music.  I pray the words below, which were the closing statement of his opening video package, be true of both you and me as we learn to live minute by minute knowing who we are, what have to do, and how we play a part by simply being ourselves.


Let me always present myself.


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by Rocky Glenn

In several discussions over the last week, the idea of being a nicer person since leaving religion behind has resurfaced. Although I fully intended to continue the Churchboy Soundtrack series this week, I can’t ignore what I believe to be the prompting of the Holy Spirit to repost this post from last September. My life as a churchboy was truly a life filled with gritted teeth, clenched fists, red-faced anger fueled by feelings of never being good enough. I cannot thank Jesus enough for setting me free from those lies and revealing to me the real love of the Father.

I pray today you live a life knowing how loved you truly are.

A Secret No Longer  (originally published September 3, 2018)

Although I have never been much of a comic book reader, from an early age I have had an affinity for the Incredible Hulk.  I suppose the credit for this would belong to the TV series that aired during my younger years starring Bill Bixby as Dr. Banner and Lou Ferrigno as his rage-fueled alter ego green monster.   I can remember the incredibly durable stretch Hulk action figure I carried with me and destroyed for much of my childhood as well.  With the most recent incarnations of the Hulk coming from the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last ten years, my love for the big green guy has resurfaced and he is undoubtedly my favorite character of all created within the superhero realm.  In 2012, after six solo films introducing the world to several characters, we finally got to see all our heroes unite on one screen as Marvel released the first Avengers film.  It is in this film as the Avengers prepare for the final battle Dr. Banner utters not only one of his most famous lines of the entire filmography, but arguably one of the most famous lines of any character throughout the twenty film universe as his transformation to big, mean, green and ugly takes place, “That’s my secret, Cap.  I’m always angry.”

Something about the nature of a man who loses all sense of control and becomes a different creature when angered and provoked has proved rather appealing to me throughout my life and at times I have found myself to have more in common with the normally mild mannered Dr. Banner than I would care to admit.  Throughout the television series and film universe, Dr. Banner takes many precautions and makes effort to avoid anger and being provoked.  Bill Bixby’s oft quoted line from the late seventies/early eighties series is simply, “Don’t make me angry.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”  We sense in both depictions of the gnarly green giant as the Big Guy begins to calm and Dr. Banner reappears that he is filled with both shame and remorse for the actions that are seemingly beyond his control.

My life as a churchboy mirrored the life of Dr. Banner.  Just as he shared his secret of always being angry with Captain America as they set off into battle, I “shared” my secret with those closest to me.  Only my sharing was done behind closed doors with yelling while red-faced and normally with tight-clenched fists and cursing.  I was not an easy man to live with but I could never let anyone know that and destroy my churchboy facade.  I was always angry.  It didn’t have to be anything in particular that made me that way, but 99.9% of the time it was simply because things were happening that I either disapproved of, did not want to be involved, did not think should happen, or things weren’t happening in the way I wanted quick enough.  Churchboys are convinced there is a correct way to do everything and everything must be done in the correct way.  When things aren’t done in that manner, anger erupts (in private, of course!) and there is collateral damage all around.

The only flaw with Dr. Banner’s secret is the same flaw I had . . . it’s not really a secret, at least not as much as I thought.  His reputation for angry, raging transformation pales in comparison to the disapproving, unhappy, frustrated, and controlling person this churchboy was.  As much as it pains me to admit and remember, I was a miserable person because I was always unhappy, I was always angry, and it was more obvious than I realized.  My life at that time can be described from the opening words of Christ in Matthew 11:28 from The Message: I was tired, worn out, and burned out on religion.

I am so glad that Eugene Peterson did not stop there when he was writing The Message.  He went on to expound on the words of Christ as follows in the verses 28-30:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Churchboys know nothing about living life in an unforced manner freely and lightly.  They burden themselves with ill-fitting, heavy lists of do’s and don’ts to ensure they keep their image of holiness and godliness intact and making sure their secrets remain just that.  Life without those rules and lists has proven both free and light.  In fact, as I shared in What Is A Churchboy?, I’ve learned I’ve become I’m a nicer person and not near as angry without them.

Living life in this manner is a secret I refuse to keep.


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by Rocky Glenn

I’ve shared previously growing up a churchboy for me meant nearly my entire musical education and consumption came from bands labeled Christian.  These were bands whose albums were recorded on Christian record labels, marketed to Christians, and sold nearly exclusively in Christian bookstores.  I was not totally ignorant of what was considered hit songs or popular bands, but my knowledge mostly existed only of the radio hits I would hear in public places.  I say mostly because there was also another source of information where I gained knowledge of popular music.  It was common for youth groups I was part of to attend, either in person or through recorded audio or video, seminars on the evils of rock and roll.  During these seminars, bands were scrutinized for their band names, stage acts, lyrical content, and the hidden messages found in their songs if they were played backwards.  I learned during these seminars to not only to stay away from these bands and the evils they portrayed but also honed my judgmental skills for distinguishing good from bad and determining if something was holy or profane based on how it looked or presented itself.  These tendencies stayed with me throughout my life into adulthood and even parenthood.

Part of being a parent is wanting the best for your child and protecting them from harmful and damaging influences.  To accomplish this in our home, our kids were given the same musical education I forced upon myself growing up . . . nearly exclusively Christian music.  The only exceptions to this came through movie soundtracks, singing competitions on television, or music driven video games.  About three years ago, my teenage son began listening to a band I was not too happy about.  It was a band I was certain was evil although I was truly familiar with only one of their songs.  When I first learned what he was listening to, I did what any good father would do.  I expressed my displeasure and asked him to stop.  Of course, this simply caused him to do so in secret and his love for them grew.  As he grew more fond of their music, it was more difficult to keep it hidden and he started talking to me about it and even started playing an occasional track for me to see how I would react.  His love for the band reached the point that for his sixteenth birthday, we received notice the band would be playing live during the next year within a day’s drive from home.  Knowing this could likely be a once in a lifetime opportunity, we secured tickets for the show for him and I to attend.  The only problem with attending the concert is I was still unfamiliar with all but one of their songs and, being that song is their biggest hit and likely to be the encore, it was going to be a long night if I didn’t learn their music.  Making the decision to learn more about the band and their music, and to ensure it would not be a long evening for me at the show, I asked Geoffrey to send me a chronological listing of their discography and in July of last year I went to work.  I have since consumed all ten studio recordings they’ve released as well as several other recordings.  This band is none other than the heavy metal icons Metallica.

The experience of exposing myself to their music has been eye opening but not in a way I expected.  I was certain as I began devouring the music I would be vindicated and justified in my decision to keep not only him but myself from the tunes growing up.  However, while there are certainly tracks filled with rage, hate, and anger and the use of profanity is not uncommon at times, what I began to realize as I listened were many of these tracks were simply four guys being honest about who they are, where they were, and what emotions they were feeling.  My voluntary exposure to their music began to be a spiritual parallel for how I had lived my life as a churchboy judging by appearance without taking the time to listen.

On their fifth album, lead singer James Hetfield channeled his anger over the death of his mother to pen a track titled The God That Failed.  The theme of the song is faith and human reliance on it, and of belief in a God that fails to heal. Hetfield’s mom died of cancer after refusing medical attention, solely relying on her belief in God to heal her due to her Christian Science beliefs.  My first listen to this track upset me.  I took it as blasphemy and mockery of the God I know and serve.  However, after several subsequent listens, I have come to not only to respect the honesty of the emotion expressed in the song but also to identify with it.

In penning these lyrics, James vocalized a sentiment common to man throughout existence and even displayed by many whose lives are depicted in the Bible.  Cain, when his offering was rejected, surely felt God failed him.  As a father, I cannot fathom all the emotions Abraham must have felt after being promised a son and then being asked to sacrifice that very son.  The many cries of David are written in the Psalms, even to the point of him crying out in Psalm 22, “Why have you forsaken me?”  The entire book of Job is all about a man who feels God has failed him.  The rich young ruler sorrowly walked away from Jesus after his boasting of keeping the entire law had been rejected.

When we encounter unexpected hardships in life, we often identify with the anguish shared by the band in these lyrics.  We feel as if God failed.  As my life as a churchboy began unraveling several years ago, I undeniably felt God had failed me.  I identified with these words from James:

Pride you took
Pride you feel
Pride that you felt when you’d kneel

Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the god that failed

The life of churchboy is a life of outward pride combined with inner shame.  It’s a life of being proud of all you’re doing externally to make God happy and make yourself appear holy while hiding how miserable, hurt, and angry you are internally feeling as if whatever you do will never be enough.  When you begin to see how meaningless all the efforts to please God and appear holy are, you find yourself feeling betrayed and that the God you followed has failed.  However, the beautifully ironic truth is that God has not failed you, but you have actually lived on a hamster wheel attempting to accomplish something already accomplished for you and gifted to you through Jesus.

I never would have imagined finding God in a Metallica song, but I did.  To me, it’s not about the message James Hetfield conveys in The God That Failed but rather the emotions expressed and how honestly he expresses them.  The greatest fear a churchboy experiences is the fear of rejection from God and from others and, due to this, often feels being honest is the last thing he could ever be.

Am I claiming it a Christian song or Metallica a Christian band?  The answer to that really isn’t important and, for that matter, it’s not mine to decide.  All I can do is simply share what it means to me.  This recovering churchboy’s God didn’t fail me.  He simply opened my eyes to what He has already done.  The music of Metallica has provided a bond with my son I did not anticipate but am ever grateful for.  I could never consider that a failure.

As for Metallica, their musical catalog is now a part of my playlist and in a little over two months, this recovering churchboy will spend an awesome night together with his son.


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by Rocky Glenn

Lord is it possible to get this far
And just now understand who You are?

In 2014, after two years of repeatedly hearing preaching and teaching on the true nature of God’s love and how I did nothing to earn it, I could do nothing to deserve it, and I would never do anything to lose it, the message of grace was starting to crack through my thick skull and I found myself asking the question listed above. It was around this time contemporary Christian artist MercyMe released their 8th studio album, Welcome to the New. Not really an avid fan of the band, the release of their new album would not have normally been on my radar, but I had been hearing and reading interviews and promotional material from lead singer Bart Millard about something new in his life. Here’s a statement Bart shared on social media at that time . . . “Did you know the enemy most likely has a better grasp of who you are in Christ than you do? Roughly 2 years ago, a couple of dear friends helped me realize this. Daily they would remind me who I am in Christ. Constantly telling me I’m holy, righteous and redeemed. And you know what? Over time I started to believe it. Maybe that’s what it means to set your mind on things above.” Needless to say, having just been awakened to those same ideas myself, I awaited the album release day with great anticipation . . . and I wasn’t disappointed. It was if they had created my own personal soundtrack asking every question, expressing every doubt, and capturing every emotion I was experiencing as the churchboy chains and shackles were falling from me.

You broke your back kept all the rules
Jumped through the hoops
To make God approve of you
Oh tell me was it worth it
The whole time you were spinning plates
Did you stop to think that
Maybe He is okay with just you
There’s no need to join the circus

Just like that, with the lyrics of the second verse from the title track and opening tune, the band had captured my entire life of working, striving, and trying. From there, each subsequent track was one more reminder of the freedom, love, and joy available and I was just starting to experience.

Flawless not only described the churchboy life:

There’s got to be more
Than going back and forth
From doing right to doing wrong
‘Cause we were taught that’s who we are
Come on get in line right behind me
You along with everybody
Thinking there’s worth in what you do

It then went on to remind us:

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made you flawless

Take a breath smile and say
Right here right now I’m ok
Because the cross was enough

My favorite track from the album, Wishful Thinking, comes at number eight. The lyrics not only serve to open this post but are also featured as the permanent tagline on the banner of this blog:

Lord is it possible to get this far
And just now understand who You are?
Feeling foolish yet relieved as well
‘Cause what I bought before, I just can’t sell
But now my eyes are open wide
If this is wrong
I don’t wanna be right
Could it be that on my worst day
How you love me still will not change
What if it’s really not about
What I do but what you did, oh what if
This ain’t wishful thinking it’s just how it is

Although this album was not the motivating factor for beginning a soundtrack series, I can think of no better starting point due to its constant presence and importance during the early days of my recovery. For a period of six to eight weeks after the album’s release, it was rarely removed from the CD player unless it was being carried from vehicle to vehicle or vehicle to house or vehicle to office. Bart Millard continued in the social media post referenced above, “I believe if you stand around truth long enough, it just might change you. So by all means, stay a while. The truth has certainly changed me!” Hearing these ten tracks repeatedly for weeks allowed me to stand around truth and, just like Bart, it “certainly changed me!”

As this post is published, it is now four days before the celebration of Christmas. I had considered taking a break for the holidays, but as I decided what the first post in the soundtrack series would be I realized how timely it was as Christ’s birth is God announcing to the world, “Welcome to the new.”


Below is the list of scriptures Bart shared of which his friends would remind him and brought him to the knowledge of his identity in Christ. Learning who we truly are is the first step of recovering from being a churchboy.

John 1:12 – I am a child of God (Romans 8:16).
John 15:1,5 – I am a part of the true vine, a channel (branch) of His Life.
John 15:15 – I am Christ’s friend.
John 15:16 – I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit.
Acts 1:8 – I am a personal witness of Christ for Christ.
Romans 3:24 – I have been justified and redeemed.
Romans 5:1 – I have been justified (completely forgiven and made righteous) and am at peace with God.
Romans 6:1-6 – I died with Christ and died to the power of sin’s rule in my life.
Romans 6:7 – I have been freed from sin’s power over me.
Romans 6:18 – I am a slave of righteousness.
Romans 6:22 – I am enslaved to God.
Romans 8:1 – I am forever free from condemnation.
Romans 8:14,15 – I am a son of God (God is literally my “Papa”) (Galatians 3:26; 4:6).
Romans 8:17 – I am an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ.
Romans 11:16 – I am holy.
Romans 15:7 – Christ has accepted me.
1 Corinthians 1:2 – I have been sanctified.
1 Corinthians 1:30 – I have been placed in Christ by God’s doing; Christ is now my wisdom from God, my righteousness, my sanctification, and my redemption.
1 Corinthians 2:12 – I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things freely given to me by God.
1 Corinthians 2:16 – I have been given the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19 – I am a temple (home) of God; His Spirit (His life) dwells in me.
1 Corinthians 6:17 – I am joined to the Lord and am one spirit with Him.
1 Corinthians 6:19,20 – I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 – I am a member of Christ’s body (Ephesians 5:30).
2 Corinthians 1:21 – I have been established in Christ and anointed by God.
2 Corinthians 2:14 – He always leads me in His triumph in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:14,15 – Since I have died, I no longer live for myself, but for Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – I am a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:18,19 – I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:21 – I am the righteousness of God in Christ.
Galatians 2:4 – I have liberty in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I am now living is Christ’s life.
Galatians 3:26,28 – I am a child of God and one in Christ.
Galatians 4:6,7 – I am a child of God and an heir through God.
Ephesians 1:1 – I am a saint (1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2).
Ephesians 1:3 – I am blessed with every spiritual blessing.
Ephesians 1:4 – I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before Him.
Ephesians 1:5 – I have been adopted as God’s Child.
Ephesians 1:7,8 – I have been redeemed and forgiven, and am a recipient of His lavish grace.
Ephesians 2:5 – I have been made alive together with Christ.
Ephesians 2:6 – I have been raised up and seated with Christ in heaven.
Ephesians 2:10 – I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do His work that He planned beforehand that I should do.
Ephesians 2:13 – I have been brought near to God.
Ephesians 2:18 – I have direct access to God through the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19 – I am a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of God’s household.
Ephesians 3:6 – I am a fellow heir, a fellow member of the body, and a fellow partaker of the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:12 – I may approach God with boldness and confidence.
Ephesians 4:24 – I am righteous and holy.
Philippians 3:20 – I am a citizen of heaven.
Philippians 4:7 – His peace guards my heart and my mind.
Philippians 4:19 – God will supply all my needs.
Colossians 1:13 – I have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Christ.
Colossians 1:14 – I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. The debt against me has been canceled (Colossians 2:13,14).
Colossians 1:27 – Christ Himself is in me.
Colossians 2:7 – I have been firmly rooted in Christ and am now being built up and established in Him.
Colossians 2:10 – I have been made complete in Christ.
Colossians 2:12,13 – I have been buried, raised, and made alive with Christ, and totally forgiven.
Colossians 3:1 – I have been raised with Christ.
Colossians 3:3 – I have died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:4 – Christ is now my life.
Colossians 3:12 – I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (1 Thessalonians 1:4).
1 Thessalonians 5:5 – I am a child of light and not of darkness.
2 Timothy 1:7 – I have been given a spirit of power, love, and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:9 – I have been saved and called (set apart) according to God’s purpose and grace (Titus 3:5).
Hebrews 2:11 – Because I am sanctified and am one with Christ, He is not ashamed to call me His.
Hebrews 3:1 – I am a holy partaker of a heavenly calling.
Hebrews 3:14 – I am a partaker of Christ.
Hebrews 4:16 – I may come boldly before the throne of God to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
1 Peter 2:5 – I am one of God’s living stones and am being built up as a spiritual house.
1 Peter 2:9,10 – I am a part of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession.
1 Peter 2:11 – I am an alien and stranger to this world that I temporarily live in.
1 Peter 5:8 – I am an enemy of the devil. He is my adversary.
2 Peter 1:4 – I have been given God’s precious and magnificent promises by which I am a partaker of the divine nature.
1 John 3:1 – God has bestowed a great love on me and called me His child.
1 John 4:15 – God is in me and I am in God

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by Rocky Glenn

Music has always played an important role in my life.  Growing up with a CD collection containing over 350 albums, each season of life contains its own soundtrack.  If certain songs are heard, memories — both good and bad — flood in like a tidal wave instantly taking me back to times and places past.  The journey of the last few years is no exception.  This path of recovery has had and continues to have its own soundtrack.  Although the style of music I enjoy ranges from hip-hop to country to gospel and to metal, admittedly, growing up as a churchboy, the majority of artists I allowed myself to hear almost exclusively had to be labeled Christian or I simply would not play them or purchase their material.  Part of being a churchboy was boasting in the fact that I could find a “godly” alternative for any genre chosen.  This narrow-mindedness severely limited not only what I heard, but also at times, and probably more often that I even realize or care to admit, alienated me from peers and schoolmates because I didn’t know their music and they didn’t know mine.

Since waking up to the realization of God’s true grace and acceptance, I have stopped determining what I allow myself to hear by limiting it to those artists only found on a Christian radio station or in a Christian bookstore or labeled as Christian at all.  I’ve not only found myself enjoying many artists and songs who would never be considered holy and righteous by the religious elite, I am finding God in their lyrics as they cry in agony or scream in rage or celebrate the joys of everyday life.

My intent is to share many of these songs, the ideas they present, and what they have spoken to me in upcoming posts.  I plan to update this introduction piece with a link to each writing as it is shared and look forward to possibly providing each of you a new way of hearing a tune you’ve may have been humming for years or exposing you to something you’ve never heard before.

Stay tuned and keep reading for a recovering churchboy’s soundtrack.


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by Rocky Glenn

Fish out of water, bull in a china shop, square peg in a round hole . . . these idioms sum up my wife’s words in 2012 as we left our church home of ten years, “We just don’t fit.”  Although we fully believed those words applied to the church we were being called out of to find  a new place to spend our Sundays, neither of us knew the full meaning of those words would lead us down the path we’re at today best described by yet another idiom, sticking out like a sore thumb.  Refusing to buy into systems you once supported which tell you you’re required to dress a certain way, give a fixed percentage of your income, attend a certain amount of events per week, or insist you do or do not behave a certain way because “Christians don’t act that way,” is not readily accepted.  The moment you start questioning it and insisting it is all meaningless and not required, you have become the proverbial sore thumb.  How ironic a journey we chose to begin because we didn’t fit in has brought us to a place where fitting in is not as important as it once was.

Irony, by definition, is a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects.  As I’ve shared previously (A Secret No Longer), I’ve been a fan of the Incredible Hulk as long as I can remember.  The fact a well-mannered, normally reserved, and appearance-driven churchboy is enamored by a rage-filled, uncontrollable, growling, larger than life, angry green monster who leaves destruction in his wake, yep, I would call that irony.  It may be considered not only ironic by some but also hypocritical and, yet, it is one of many confessions this recovering churchboy is relieved to admit as I am admitting who I am.  In fact, I would like to share one of my favorite Hulk scenes below. (SPOILER ALERT: If you are a fan of the MCU and have not yet seen Thor: Ragnarok, you may want to skip the few paragraphs.)

In 2017, Marvel studios released the third installment in the Thor movies series, Thor: Ragnarok.  In this film, we learned the whereabouts of Hulk during the cinematic universe’s Civil War.  As Thor is imprisoned on the planet Sakaar and forced to compete in the gladiator arena, he finds his opponent is none other than the big green guy.  The fight itself is quite a spectacle as the god of thunder is convinced he does not need to participate in a battle against his former Avenger cohort:

Thor: Yes! Hey! Hey! [referring to Hulk] We know each other. He’s a friend from work.  [to Hulk] Where have you been? Everybody thought you were dead. But so much has happened since I last saw you . . . Oh, Banner, I never thought I would say this, but I…I’m happy to see you.

Hulk: No Banner. Only Hulk.

Thor: What are you doing? It’s me. It’s Thor! Banner, we’re friends. This is crazy. I don’t want to hurt you!

Thor: All right. Screw it. I know you’re in there, Banner. I’ll get you out! What’s the matter with you? You’re embarrassing me! I told them we were friends!

The contest ends with no real winner ever fully decided, and the dialogue continues in the scenes following the battle, as Thor and Hulk both recover in the same quarters:

Thor: So how long have you been like that?

Hulk: Like what?

Thor: Like this. Big, and green, and stupid.

Hulk: Hulk always Hulk.

Thor: How’d you get here?

Hulk: Quinjet.

Thor: Yes! Yes! I’m getting us out of here. This terrible, awful place. You’re gonna love Asgard. It’s big. It’s golden. Shiny.

Hulk: Hulk stay.

Thor: No, no, no. My people need me to get back to Asgard. We must prevent Ragnarok.

Hulk: Ragnarok?

Thor: The prophesied death of my home world. The end of days, it’s the end of… If you help me get back to Asgard, I can help you get back to Earth.

Hulk: Earth hate Hulk.

Thor: Earth loves Hulk. They love you. You’re one of the Avengers. One of the team, one of our friends. This is what friends do. They support each other.

Hulk: You’re Banner’s friend.

Thor: I’m not Banner’s friend. I prefer you.

Hulk: Banner’s friend.

The Ragnarok film presented viewers with not only a talking Hulk we had not yet seen to that point, but a Hulk who is confident, competent, and fully embracing being the Hulk.  He has learned to live as he really is.  Hulk has become so comfortable in his massive, green skin he dismisses any thought of returning to his human counterpart, Bruce Banner.  Earth hates Hulk for the destruction and chaos he causes and Thor is Banner’s friend for what Banner has to offer not for who he is. Banner in his human form is much like a churchboy.  He is not comfortable being himself.  He lives in near constant fear and anxiety of his nasty, ugly side slipping out and people catching a glimpse of who he really is.  Banner goes to great lengths to maintain control.  On the planet Sakaar, Hulk has found freedom to be himself and has learned, “Hulk always Hulk.”  It is on Sakaar irony once again takes center stage as Hulk is no longer just an angry, irrational monster but has learned to live peacfully as himself.

My life as a churchboy was a life of not being who I really was.  Much like Bruce Banner is on constant guard lest the Hulk reveal himself, I lived life striving to maintain an image of who I thought I should be, who I thought others expected me to be, and, more importantly and frightening, who I thought God expected me to be.  I allowed myself to be convinced pleasing God came only through following church customs and traditions I accepted without questioning.  Condemnation is overwhelming when you fall short of reading the prescribed amount of scripture per day, if you skip a church meeting, if church members discover the television shows or movies you like to watch or realize you listen to music which is not only not played on the local Christian radio stations, but does not mention God or Jesus at all and simply describes the ups and downs, joys and heartaches of life.  Life as a churchboy, described more fully here, is a life of shame hiding who you really are believing no one would truly accept who you really are just as Hulk is convinced Thor is only Banner’s friend.  The churchboy doesn’t realize, “Hulk always Hulk.”  He isn’t aware his true self is always there and the uncontrollable beast within can only be tamed so long before it erupts.

In Psalm 139:14, David makes a statement I could never admit as a churchboy:

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

He acknowledges he was created and made by God and based on that acknowledgement confidently admits God’s work is wonderful.  Known as a man after God’s own heart, David did not live life as a churchboy.  The Message shares David’s confession (along with verses 13 – 16) with poetic beauty:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

David was convinced of not only God’s love for him but also God’s intimate knowledge and involvement of every detail of his life.

To stick out like a sore thumb means to be obviously different from surrounding people or things.  When you have a sore thumb, it’s not something you have to announce or proclaim.  The thumb is obvious either by the bandage it wears or simply by protruding from its normal location.  In recent conversations, my voice broke and I was shocked to hear myself say aloud, “For the first time in my life, I know who I really am and I am at peace with that.”  I am finally comfortable in my own skin and I pray it displays with a joy and peace that is so obviously different from those around me their curiosity is piqued enough to ask.

Churchboys believe God is just Banner’s friend, but, much like my beloved big, green monster, the love and grace of God is wild, ravaging, and uncontrollable.  The wake of destruction left in Hulk’s path pales in comparison to what truly remains as the tidal wave of grace destroys false traditions, thoughts, and ideas we once believed.  There may be some who, like Earth, hate Hulk and are truly only Banner’s friend seeking only what Banner has to offer but true grace is comfortable sticking out like a sore thumb and isn’t just Banner’s friend.


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by Rocky Glenn

Being born with an evangelist for a father and a mother who not only taught more of my Sunday school and vacation Bible school classes than I can remember, but also traveled with dad as part of a southern gospel group, it’s no surprise most memories of early childhood involve some sort of church activity or function.  From carrying cardboard sheep clothed in a robe in the annual Christmas play to sitting front row during the Saturday night singings, from helping to print the church bulletins at home in our basement to laying out the stencils on the plywood as dad painted the revival sign, from singing in the kid’s choir to eating flower shortbread cookies with holes in the center while drinking from little plastic jugs filled with grape flavored drink, childhood for me was church.  Of all those memories, one of my favorite memories is the excitement of dad receiving a new set of gospel tracts in the mail and knowing I got to help sort and stamp them.

If you’re unfamiliar, a gospel tract is simply a pamphlet or brochure containing a scripture or religious message.  Most tracts are typically small, pocket-sized and can easily be distributed by hand, left on a gas pump, under a car’s windshield wiper, on the restaurant table, or behind the faucet in a public restroom.  Not only do I remember the joy of sorting and stamping them with dad, I was thrilled when dad would slide one out of his shirt pocket and let me be the one to leave it behind.  Dad had various rubber stamps we would use with his red ink pad to stamp either our home address and phone number or the church’s name, address, and phone number on the chance someone might find the printed invitation to Christ and need to contact someone to pray or ask questions.  In my early twenties, I carried the practice of distributing tracts with me on my second of three business trips to Las Vegas after learning on the previous trip of the advertising materials distributed on the street which, to put it mildly and nicely, were certainly not about spreading the gospel of Jesus.

As a boy, when dad’s new shipments of tracts would arrive, I would hound him night after night until he finally said it was time to sort out the bad and stamp the good.  It was dad’s job to sort them and my job to stamp them.  At times there were more good than bad and other times more bad than good.  As I got older, dad started explaining to me the determining factor on the good and bad tracts and I got to assist with the sorting prior to stamping . . . but only once or twice . . . and then we stopped sorting altogether and simply started stamping all of them.  When it came to sorting the tracts, it wasn’t about color, it wasn’t about size, it wasn’t about print, and there was no scientific method involved.  Sorting the tracts came to down three little letters . . . K – J – V.  The good tracts were those with scripture references from the authorized 1611 King James Version of the Bible.  The bad tracts were those which referenced any version other than KJV.  As dad started to teach me how to sort the tracts and was faced with my questions of why we couldn’t use the “bad” tracts, he found himself questioning if there was anything really bad about them at all.  If they pointed someone to Christ, could they really be considered bad?  As the revelation began to set in, we stopped sorting the tracts and simply stamped them all to prepare for distribution.

Jesus faced a similar situation with his disciples in the town of Capernaum.  John approached Jesus explaining they had encountered a man that did not belong to their group or follow them casting out devils in the name of Jesus.  What’s not certain in either narrative listed in the gospel of Mark or Luke is John’s intentions in making such a report. Was he complaining or was he boasting?  We cannot be certain, but I would suspect it was hint of both.  He was upset with the idea of others using Jesus’s name yet commending himself to the master for taking efforts to stop the man.  Whatever his intention, Christ’s response is certainly not what he expected, “Don’t stop him. He that is not against me is for me.”  The beauty of such a statement is reinforced just immediately before John had even approached Jesus.  In the moments prior, he took a child in his arms and said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this welcomes me.”  There is no mention of Jesus correcting the child for the manner in which he approached him.  It simply says he took him in his arms.  While Jesus was seeking to make all welcome, John was seeking to sort out the bad.

The life of a churchboy is a life of sorting out the bad.  It’s a life of living as if your way to Jesus is the only way.  It’s a life not realizing anything – whether it may be something we prefer, like, or even agree with –  which points to Christ and not away from him is a good thing.  It’s a life of choosing to be right over choosing to be welcoming.  It’s a life lived seeing things through a glass dimly.

Just as Christ extended his arms to welcome the child, it’s time we extend our arms to make all welcome.  It’s time we stop seeking to sort out the bad.


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