Archive for June, 2016

“Many of your hopes will have to die…”

June 30, 2016

this_american_lifeLast week’s This American Life episode, “Choosing Wrong,” should remind everyone why Ira Glass’s show remains the best thing in spoken word media. I especially enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on Wilt Chamberlain: It explores why the basketball legend, a legendarily bad free throw shooter, refused to shoot underhanded free throws—except for one mid-career season during which his free throw percentage improved from 40 to 60 percent.

But the topic of this blog post relates to Ira Glass’s conversation with British author Alain de Botton about marriage. De Botton gives advice to couples who are getting married during this wedding season:

Be incredibly forgiving for the weird behavior that’s going to start coming out. You will be very unhappy in lots of ways. Your partner will fail to understand you. If you’re understood in maybe—I don’t know—60 percent of your soul by your partner, that’s fantastic. Don’t expect it’s going to be 100 percent. Of course you will be lonely. You will often be in despair. You will sometimes think it’s the worst decision in your life. That’s fine. That is not a sign your marriage has gone wrong. It’s a sign that it’s normal, it’s on track.

And many of the hopes that took you into the marriage will have to die in order for the marriage to continue—that some of the heaviness and expectations will have to die.

When Glass interjects that this sounds “so dark,” de Botton says,

It’s very dark. But in love darkness is a real friend of relationships. Because so many problems of love come from unwarranted optimism.

I think that there are aspects of a good marriage that should encompass a kind of melancholy, as we realize that we’re trying to do such a complex thing with someone: We are trying to find our best friend, our ideal sexual partner, our co-household manager, perhaps our co-parent. And we’re expecting that all this will miraculously go well together. Of course it can’t. We’re not going to be able to get it all right. There will be many areas of misunderstanding and failure. And a certain amount of sober melancholy is a real asset when heading forth into the land of love.

I agree. I’ve explored many of these ideas in sermons, book studies, and blog posts over the years. What resonates with me today are these words: “Many of the hopes that took you into the marriage will have to die in order for the marriage to continue… A certain amount of sober melancholy is a real asset when heading forth into the land of love.”

This is true, but it’s true of life in general: The hopes that we take with us into any worthwhile endeavor need to die. A certain amount of sober melancholy is a real asset when heading forth into any land.

Have you noticed that the dreams you had for your life haven’t come true? Have you spent any time grieving that fact? Why not? They were good dreams. It’s sad that they’re dead.

Nevertheless, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24 KJV). The death of our own dreams can always mean new life for us, when we summon the courage to choose it. God’s dreams for our lives are always better than our own.

At least that’s been true in my experience. What about yours?

Joshua Ryan Butler on God’s wrath

June 24, 2016

One of the hallmarks of my evangelical re-conversion several years ago was embracing unfashionable doctrines of the faith because they reflect what scripture teaches, whether recent theologians have any use for them or not. One of these doctrines is God’s wrath.

In his new book, The Pursuing God, author Joshua Ryan Butler helps us make sense of some of these doctrines. In a recent interview on the Mere Fidelity podcast, he describes an analogy for God’s wrath that he heard from a friend:

Here’s how [my friend thinks] of wrath. Let’s say you have this fish on a dock. You’re made to live in the water, swim in the water. But one day you get tired of the water, so you jump out of the water onto the dock. And you’re not made to live on the dock and dry land so start to wiggle around uncomfortably. And the longer you’re there, the more uncomfortable you get.

The question was: Is flopping around on the dock, is that punishment—or is that a natural consequence of one’s behavior?

And the point he was making, he was going, “That’s a natural consequence.” A punishment would be someone walking down the dock with a stick and beating the fish, going, “Get back in the water!”

And so his take was, “That’s the way I see sin.” You know? We experience these natural consequences when we reject God and live that way, and that’s bad. But we need to kind of get rid of wrath and punishment and anger language because it makes God look mean.

And my take back is, “I get what you’re saying… But, in the Hebrew worldview, it’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and—that in the Hebrew worldview, I think the fish flopping on the dock is a punishment.”

Because God as creator has ordered Creation such that the fish thrives in the water and flops around on the dock—that the fish, in leaving its intended environment and rejecting the way it was created to live, it is rebelling against the ordering of Creation by God. And in so doing, it’s receiving the due punishment ordered within Creation by God.

And not only ordered from the beginning of time, but executed by God as the Creator who sustains Creation, who is actively involved in the affairs of this world.

I think you can see throughout scripture language and imagery and passages where Israel is very comfortable saying, on the one hand, “We messed up, and this consequence happened,” and then flipping it around and saying, “God was punishing us. God was executing his judgment and wrath.”

I think we can get rid of the dude with the stick and see God’s wrath at work.

Butler concedes that this analogy falls short in many ways. For one thing—I would add—natural consequences often fail to adequately punish the world’s evil. “You reap what you sow” is built into Creation to some extent, but not completely by any stretch. So whether there’s a “dude with a stick” or not, in the interest of justice, God most impose consequences that don’t naturally follow.

Nevertheless, Butler believes that one virtue of the analogy is that it moves us beyond a deistic God who sets the world in motion and moves out of the way—that God is active through everything that happens in the world.

So this sense, even natural consequences aren’t “natural.”

I like this. For the last five years, one of my objectives in preaching has been to communicate this truth. Even to say that God “suffers alongside us,” a cliché among us Methodist preachers, risks turning the God of the Bible—a robustly sovereign God—into the God of deism.

Blog rewind: “John Lennon was, however briefly, a ‘born-again Christian’ in 1977”

June 23, 2016

For some reason, the following post from three years ago generated over 400 hits yesterday. The people have spoken, I guess? Enjoy!

imagine

Billboards such as this one graced the busy Atlanta streets a couple of years ago.

After rejecting the Christianity of his staid Anglican upbringing in the late-’50s and flirting with a form of Hinduism embraced wholeheartedly by George Harrison in the late-’60s, wasn’t John Lennon finally done with religion and spirituality during the last decade of his life? Didn’t he become a hard-nosed philosophical materialist?

No—although we might be forgiven for thinking otherwise: After all, according to his 1970 song “God,” Jesus and Buddha were two of many persons or things he no longer believed in. And in the song that has become an anthem to atheism, “Imagine,” Lennon challenges us to imagine no religion or heaven—that the world would be a better place without faith in God.

But his expressed atheism of 1970 and ’71 told only part of the story. Throughout the ’70s, Lennon regularly consulted psychics and dabbled in Tarot cards, séances, astrology, numerology, and other occult practices. Upon reading (and recently re-reading) Steve Turner’s Gospel According to the Beatles, however, what surprises me most was Lennon’s renewed interest in, and tantalizingly brief embrace of, that thing to which he seemed most adamantly opposed: Christianity.

This change of heart didn’t come from reading, say, Chesterton or Lewis, as we might have liked. It came by way of televangelists such as Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson. Turner describes it as follows:

Next came one of the most extraordinary turnabouts in John’s life. A television addict for many years…, he enjoyed watching some of America’s best-known evangelists—Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, Jim Bakker, and Oral Roberts. In 1972 he had written a desperate letter to Roberts confessing his dependence on drugs and his fear of facing up to “the problems of life.” He expressed regret that he had said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus and enclosed a gift for the Oral Roberts University… “Explain to me what Christianity can do for me. Is it phony? Can He love me? I want out of hell.”[1]

Lennon and Roberts exchanged a series of friendly, heartfelt letters, which can be found at the library of Oral Roberts University.

The correspondence and his exposure to TV evangelism didn’t appear to have any effect until he suddenly announced to close friends in the spring of 1977 that he’d become a born-again Christian… Over the following months he baffled those close to him by constantly praising “the Lord,” writing Christian songs with titles like “Talking with Jesus” and “Amen” (the Lord’s Prayer set to music), and trying to convert nonbelievers. He also called the prayer line of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson’s program.[2]

Yoko Ono, who always discouraged Lennon from following “gurus,” opposed his newfound faith, although he took Ono and his son Sean to church at least once.

Those close to the couple sensed that the real reason [Ono] was concerned was that it threatened her control over John’s life. If he became a follower of Jesus he would no longer depend on her an the occultists. During long, passionate arguments she attacked the key points of his fledgling faith. They met with a couple of Norwegian missionaries whom Yoko questioned fiercely about the divinity of Christ, knowing that this was the teaching that John had always found the most difficult to accept. Their answers didn’t satisfy her, and John began to waver in his commitment.[3]

Such is often the case with freelance conversions, I suppose, separated as they are from the wisdom and guidance of mature Christians. It’s hard enough to maintain one’s Christian faith within a healthy community of believers!

When Dylan’s Christian conversion became public in 1979 with the release of Slow Train Coming, Lennon—Dylan’s nearest rival in the pantheon of rock idols—reacted strongly. In response to Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody,” Lennon wrote a bitter “answer song” called “Serve Yourself,” posthumously released on the John Lennon Anthology.

When asked in 1980 about his response to Dylan’s conversion, John was less than honest. He said he was surprised that “old Bobby boy did go that way,” but “if he needs it, let him do it.” His only objection, he said, was that Dylan was presenting Christ as the only way. He disliked this because “There isn’t one answer to anything.”… In what can now be seen as an allusion to his own born-again period, which hadn’t yet been made public, he said, “But I understand it. I understand him completely, how he got in there, because I’ve been frightened enough myself to want to latch onto something.[4]

Steve Turner wrote an article about Lennon’s short-lived conversion in Christianity Today back in 2000, which you can read here.

1. Steve Turner, The Gospel According to the Beatles (Louisville: WJK, 2006), 187-8.

2. Ibid., 188.

3. Ibid., 189.

4. Ibid., 191.

Sermon 06-19-16: “Taking the Form of a Slave”

June 22, 2016

Opening the Scriptures graphic

This sermon is all about God’s grace, although that may not seem obvious from today’s scripture. We often think of grace, after all, as God’s being “nice” to us. In this sermon, by contrast, I challenge us to imagine that sometimes grace brings pain and suffering. As I say in this sermon, God knows that “clobbering us” into a transformed life is more effective than “comforting us” into one.

Sermon Text: Genesis 37:2-13; 23-34

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

On this Father’s Day, let’s recognize a man who, over the past couple of weeks, has been hailed by many across social media and around the world as “father of the year”: a man named Allan Geiger Jr., who lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

A couple of weeks ago, he posted an ad on Craigslist, selling a 1998 Ford Explorer. For cheap. Not unusual. What caught the attention of everyone who read the ad was what Mr. Geiger wrote in the description:

I have my son’s truck up for sale that I bought for him as his first car. He thinks it’s cool to drive around with his friends smokin’ dope and acting all thug, and especially not showing me and my wife the respect that we deserve… This was a vehicle to finish school in, get a decent job and get a head start on life. But he chose to throw it all away because his friends would rather have an influence on him more than me! Now he can put those Jordans to use [and] walk his [butt] off on these hot summer days!

father_of_the_year

He went on to say he’d take $250 off the price if the buyer is from the westside of Jacksonville, where he and his family live. Why? “So [that my son] sees it every now and then [and will be reminded] of how good he had it!”

Tough love, huh? The good news, according to an article in Esquire magazine, is that this action has actually brought father and son closer together. So maybe Geiger does deserve father of the year!

In today’s scripture, there’s a father who, unfortunately, doesn’t deserve “father of the year” honors. And that father is… Jacob, also called Israel. Which just goes to show—like all of us Christians—you can have a new name and new identity in God’s eyes but still be the same old sinner. Because we see Jacob making the same mistakes that his own father, Isaac, made with him and his brother: he’s playing favorites with his kids. Jacob clearly favors Joseph, one of only two of his twelve sons who was born to his favorite wife, Rachel. Read the rest of this entry »

A reflection on Orlando

June 21, 2016

Click on a photo below to enlarge.

Last Sunday, in between services, we held a brief prayer and remembrance service for the victims of the Orlando massacre and their families and loved ones.

I began by reading Psalm 121 (“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?”) and Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-5. Then I spoke extemporaneously about our reaction to Orlando, and events like them, and how we can understand them in light of the gospel.

I said that when something like the mass shooting in Orlando happens, we often ask why God allows this kind of evil. In Jesus’ day, people asked the same question. In fact, in Luke 13, Jesus himself refers to two tragic events that were in the “news” of his day: a mass killing of Galilean Jews by Pontius Pilate and a freakish accident that killed 18 in one fell swoop. People asked Jesus, “Why did this happen?”—assuming, as people often did back then (see John 9:2-3), that these events were acts of God’s judgment.

Jesus rejects that interpretation in both cases. If God were judging them for their sins, why would God not also be judging the people in his audience? They, too, were sinners who deserve God’s judgment and wrath. Therefore, their response—and our response today—to these kinds of tragedies should be to remind ourselves that our own lives are no less fragile than the victims, and that we all need to repent while we have the opportunity.

Most importantly, we need to remind ourselves of God’s great love for us: out of this love, he made a way for sinners like us to find forgiveness, eternal life, and future resurrection.

Echoing words from last Sunday’s sermon, I said, “When Christ comes in final victory, all evil will be judged and avenged; the scales of justice will be balanced; swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. And he will wipe away every tear and death will be no more. We look forward to that day.”

We handed out and released 49 white balloons, each representing a victim of the massacre.

Keller: “God has to wrestle us into a transformed life rather than comfort us into one”

June 16, 2016

kellerAs I was preparing last Sunday’s sermon on Genesis 32:22-32, I listened to Timothy Keller’s sermon on the same text, “The Fight of Your Life,” from November 18, 2001. In it, he made a point that I found insightful.

Whereas we often think of Jacob as having a “conversion experience” by the banks of the Jabbok river—which is how I preached it—Keller points out that Jacob had already begun repenting and moving in God’s direction before then. First, Jacob was leading his family, his servants, and his livestock back to the Promised Land in response to God’s call in Genesis 31: “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”

God’s command to Jacob, and his obedience, is no small thing: Jacob still believes his brother intends to kill him—and will do so, apart from either divine intervention, Jacob’s own well-placed bribes, or both. So Jacob is literally risking his life to obey God.

Lest we’re tempted to feel morally superior to Jacob, how many of us have ever shown that much faith?

Moreover, near the beginning of chapter 32, Jacob seeks God in prayer for the first time (at least the first time in scripture). Jacob’s conversion may not be complete, but it’s getting there!

Keller says:

In all the teaching you’ve ever gotten, in all your expectations about how God operates, how do you expect God to respond to a man who has obeyed him at the risk of his life—has put his life on the line to obey his Word and follow his will—and is seeking him in prayer, and who’s filled with fear and at the end of his rope? How does God respond to a man who’s utterly obedient, seeking him in prayer, scared and at the end of his rope? What does God do to a man like that?

He clobbers him. He knocks him down, literally! He assaults him. He puts a hammer lock on him. And maims him for the rest of his life!

This is not, Keller says, a God of liberal religion who merely loves and accepts us for who we are.

But is this the God that your typical conservative church talks about? Oh, no. You know why? Because what you hear there is, “If you obey—and you obey to your own hurt—and you do everything right according to God’s will, and you pray and have your quiet time and go to church and study your Bible and do everything right, God will… clobber you? Knock you down? Cripple you for the rest of your life?

This is not a God of anybody’s religion. This is not a God of anybody’s imagination. Why is this text here? It must have happened. Who would have thought it up? What kind of idiot would think of a God like this? Who could have imagined a God like this? This must have happened. This must be a real God because nobody else could have invented him.

Keller compares this text to John 11, the raising of Lazarus. Just as God has a purpose for Jacob’s suffering, so God had a purpose for Lazarus’s suffering and death. At the same time, however, we see God in Christ melting into tears: he’s overcome with grief. God uses suffering for his purposes, but God isn’t remote from our suffering; he weeps with those who weep. Keller cautions us to keep these two ideas in mind: God uses suffering even as he suffers alongside us.

Having said that, this text, in a way that’s more vivid than any other place I know in the Bible, tells us that, in general, God has to wrestle us into a transformed life rather than comfort us into a transformed life.

Is that true in your experience? It is in mine!

I would also add this: As C.S. Lewis points out in The Problem of Pain, the fact that God treats us this way is nothing less than a consequence of his love:

When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some ‘disinterested’, because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of the terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artists’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between sexes. How this should be, I do not know: it passes reason to explain why any creatures, not to say creatures such as we, should have a value so prodigious in their Creator’s eyes. It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring.[†]

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperOne, 1940; 1966), 39-40.

A prayer for Orlando, and an invitation

June 14, 2016

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I wrote the following email blast today.

Hello, Hampton.

Our hearts are heavy this week as we reflect on last Sunday’s massacre in Orlando, the worst act of terror in America since 9/11 and the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. I’m inviting you to join me this Sunday, June 19, for a brief service of remembrance and prayer for the victims and their loved ones. We will gather on the front steps at 9:55 and will conclude by 10:05. Sunday school will follow.

In the meantime, join me in praying this prayer:

Most merciful God, whose precious Son defeated Satan and the forces of evil on the cross: Deal graciously with those affected by the tragic events of Orlando. May your Holy Spirit comfort them in their grief and give them your peace, which surpasses all understanding. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come. Guide us as a nation as we combat evil in our world. Enable us, through your wisdom and power, to prevent further loss of innocent lives. Through your Son Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Love,

Pastor Brent

Sermon 06-12-16: “God Wins by Losing”

June 14, 2016

Opening the Scriptures graphic

The most remarkable verse in today’s scripture is verse 28: God gives Jacob a new name, Israel, saying that he had “striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Jacob “prevailed” over God? He defeated God? What does that mean? And how do we see the gospel of Jesus Christ in Jacob’s victory?

Sermon Text: Genesis 32:22-32

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

When we last saw Jacob—in last week’s scripture, in Genesis chapter 28—you may recall that he was running away. He was running away from his older brother, Esau, who vowed to murder him because Jacob had schemed, swindled, manipulated, lied, and cheated Esau in order to receive both the birthright and blessing to which Esau, as the older son, was entitled. So Esau vows revenge. He vows to murder Jacob, just as soon as their father Isaac dies and the period of mourning passes.

So with his mother’s help, Jacob runs away. He leaves the Promised Land. He goes back to his mother’s people in a faraway country, where he’ll be safe. And he stays there for 20 years. And while he’s away from home, working for his Uncle Laban, marrying his uncle’s two daughters, and tending his uncle’s livestock—and basically matching wits with his Uncle Laban, who is every bit his equal when it comes to scheming, swindling, manipulating, lying, and cheating—Jacob becomes fabulously wealthy. Read the rest of this entry »

About Bishop Carcano’s statement in the wake of Orlando

June 13, 2016

In response to yesterday’s public statement by United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano, of the rapidly shrinking California-Pacific Conference, I affirm every word of this Mark Tooley blog post:

United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano of the California-Pacific Conference responded to the Orlando gay nightclub mass murders by a reported pro-ISIS Islamist with the suggestion that her denomination’s traditional marriage teaching is to blame:

As I have prayed for the victims of this latest shooting, for the shooter and his family, for the people of Orlando, and for us, I have been struck by a concern that has penetrated my heart. Is it possible that we United Methodists with such a negative attitude and position against LGBTQI persons contribute to such a crime? When we say that those who are of a homosexual gender identity are living lives that are incompatible with Christian teaching, that they are not to be included in our ordained leadership, and that they are not important enough for us to invest resources of the Church in advocating for their well-being, in essence when we say that our LGBTQI brothers and sisters are not worthy of the fullness of life that Christ offers us all, are we not contributing to the kind of thinking that promotes doing harm to these our brothers and sisters, our children, the sacred children of God?

United Methodism’s definition of marriage as the union of man and woman is unexceptionably the official and historic stance of about 99% of organized Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and nearly every Protestant tradition except a handful of shrinking denominations in northwestern Europe and North America.

The Orlando killer, Omar Mateen, was the son of a pro-Taliban Afghan immigrant.  It’s unlikely he ever heard of United Methodism.  To the extent that he had any views about Christianity they were almost certainly hostile.  Since he professed support for ISIS he likely supported ISIS persecution and murder of Christians.  ISIS practices traditional Islamic law, which requires death for homosexuals.  Several Islamic regimes stipulate death penalties for homosexuals, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.  Bishop Carcano in her blog about Orlando never mentions the killer or his ISIS or Islamist connection. She only faults the United Methodist Church.

There is a myopic vein of Western multiculturalism popular within liberal Protestantism that assumes the world is safe and beautiful but for the crimes of Western Civilization and Christianity.  There are indeed many crimes attributable to denizens of both, but neither invented nor has a monopoly on crime, which has always been endemic to the human experience. This vein of multiculturalism is typically incapable of admitting sins within other cultures and religions, preferring to see them only as victims.

In 2004 I submitted a series of resolutions to the United Methodist General critiqueing some of the world’s worst human rights abusers according to groups like Amnesty International, such as North Korea, China, Iran, Cuba, among others. They were all defeated in the Church and Society legislative committee.  One critic complained I was targeting anti-American regimes.  But I included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Pakistan, which are traditional U.S. strategic allies. My resolutions cited harsh penalties for homosexuals by both Islamic and communist regimes.  Yet there was no interest even by United Methodist activists who profess to support gay rights.

In this vein, a prominent pro-LGBTQ delegate from last month’s United Methodist General Conference named Dorothee Benz has been tweeting in support of Bishop Carcano’s blog blaming United Methodism and Christianity for Orlando, plus expressing  solidarity with Muslims, without citing radical Islam.  No criticism or mention of the killer or his professed Islamist motivation.

Written hours after the ugly news from Orlando, Bishop Carcano’s blog was maybe composed hastily. I hope she edits or deletes it.  I also hope that some day within official United Methodism, among other places in our culture, there is a more grounded and universal perspective about human evil, embodied by ISIS and the Orlando killer.

Meanwhile, here’s a heartfelt response to the Orlando horror by Upper New York United Methodist Bishop Mark Webb, who concludes:

Lord, in your mercy allow goodness to overcome evil and light to pierce the darkness, comfort those who mourn, touch those who need your healing and provide peace in the midst of fear. Lord, in your mercy allow goodness to overcome evil and light to pierce the darkness.

Prayer and Healing Service Homily 06-05-16

June 11, 2016

I preached this sermon last Sunday evening, June 5, 2016, at a Prayer and Healing Service. The first half of the homily came from the manuscript that follows. The second half was an extemporaneous reflection on prayer. 

Sermon Text: James 4:1-8a

My wife, Lisa, and I first met while we were in college, because Lisa’s mom was working as the children’s minister at the church I attended during college. When we first started dating, Lisa asked if I wanted to go to Six Flags on a particular Saturday afternoon. In addition to riding the rides, she said, there was a singer that was performing in the park that afternoon, so we could see him first and then enjoy the park. However… I actually didn’t like this singer—at all. But… I really liked Lisa. So of course I said, “Yes, I’d love to do that!” So, I showed up at Lisa’s house on that particular Saturday to pick her up. But Lisa wasn’t there. Her parents explained that she was running an errand, which was taking longer than she expected. But she’d be home soon. So I waited twenty minutes or so. And then when she got home, I had to wait a little while longer for her to get ready.

Lisa’s lateness was not a problem for me, of course, because the later we were to the concert, the better, as far as I was concerned. So as we were on our way to Six Flags, I was looking at the time, and I said, “Oh, I think we’re going to be late for the concert!” And Lisa said, “You know what? We don’t want to go in late. Why don’t we just skip the concert and ride the rides?”

And I’m like, “Oh, O.K., if you insist, I guess that would be best.”

But here’s what I found out later: My friend Keith was at the church a few days before our Six Flags date, chatting with Lisa’s mom. Keith said, “Well, Brent must really like Lisa.” And Lisa’s mom said, “Why is that?” “Because he would never tell Lisa this, but he can’t stand this particular singer, but look… he’s still willing to go to the concert.” And it turns out that Lisa’s mom told Lisa that, and so Lisa arranged things so that she would be late and we’d miss the show! Read the rest of this entry »