Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Eminem & Jesus...

I have to confess that Eminem intrigues me. Strictly as a musician/rapper he is about as talented as it gets, but beyond that, his story just keeps my attention. I am a psych/counseling nerd and listening to his songs is like listening to a case study. Through the course of his career he has expressed a history of relationship woes, personal traumas, family drama, abuse, addiction, and so much more (along with his effort to see just how far he can cross the line while expressing it all!) You can certainly tell that there is a high degree of exaggeration and boundary pushing in his music, but when you listen to his music as a whole, you can tell that there is also a high degree of honest confession and reflection with a disregard for the opinions of others. This man knows pain and struggle, and has no problem creatively expressing it.

He sends a very attractive message in his latest offering. Feel free to look up the video for his song “Not Afraid” on youtube. Just be warned, its not edited and full of language some of you may find offensive. Watch at your own discretion.

Whether he genuinely intends to or not, Eminem is gonna reach out and give comfort to a lot of people through this song. Music has this magical way of speaking to a person’s heart. On top of that everyone wants to find someone they can look up to who has been through the storm, come out alive, and is willing to lead them through their own struggles. That’s exactly what Em offers as he declares in the chorus…

I'm not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that, you're not alone
Holla if you feel that you've been down the same road

As the song continues, Em raps about some of his recent personal struggles. He acknowledges that he is always under the fire of critics. He confesses that his last album was a failure (it sold plenty of copies, but critics trashed it, and even many of his loyal fans considered it to be awful.) To top it off he even discusses his recent battle with addiction and his efforts to clean himself up. His declaration is that he is overcoming his struggles and that you can too! Just follow him…

Your kids are going to cling to this. Honestly, many “grown ups” who are into the current hip hop/pop music scene will too. MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter updates are going to be littered with quotes from this song (they already are really.) Why? Because Em offers people a sense of comfort (superficial as it may be) and allows them to receive it as they are, without having to feel bad about the struggles in their life.

Reminds me of someone else…

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. -Jesus

Jesus offers us comfort (Psalm 119:49-50), peace (John 14:27), and freedom (John 8:36) as we are. But beyond that, he desires to transform us in a way that overtakes our struggles and pushes us beyond them. Eminem offers superficial companionship and has no solutions. Jesus offers real companionship plus a solution. You can listen to Em’s song, feel a little bit of camaraderie, have your heart touched for a few minutes, but then you have to go back and deal with whatever you are trying to escape. I understand the comfort music can provide at times (no matter what artists or genres you are into) but none of it fulfills like Jesus.

Jesus wants to transform you. Let him. He’s the only one that will truly walk with you through it all.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Counseling Saints, Sufferers & Sinners...

Everyone encounters people who go through hard times, struggles, conflicts, and tragedies. All of us experience them at one time or another as well. It is just part of the human experience, and while some of it can be avoided, all of it never can be. Sometimes we can see it coming a mile away, other times not so much.

A couple weeks ago a woman came into our church building in the middle of the day in hysteria. Tears were pouring down her face, her breathing was out of control, and she could hardly get a sentence out. She was at the end of her rope and anyone that spent more than a minute with her knew it. She came in to see Keith. Keith was out making hospital visits, so I stepped in and tried to help this woman get back on balance. Once I got her calmed down she said that she had just gotten on her bike, had no idea where she wanted to go, and somehow she end up at our church and wanted to talk and get help.

Many of us (myself included often) would be intimidated to have such a situation thrown in our lap. We don’t know how to view someone in the midst of struggle. Sometimes it is innocent; we are just ignorant and don’t know how to be helpful. Other times it is less than innocent; we make judgments of their character and assume we can’t help them because all their problems are results of their sins and bad decisions. Either way, we don’t feel the desire or the competency to help.

In his book Cross Talk: Where Life & Scripture Meet Michael Emlet provides a practical perspective on how to view the hurting people in your life. He says we must view them holistically as Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners in order to get a full picture of what is going on. So when you encounter the hurting, consider the following…


*What evidence of God’s grace can you see working in their life?

*In what ways can you see the person living out their identity in Jesus?

*How does the person show the character of Jesus in their words and deeds?


*What situational stressors is this person facing? (physical ailments, relationship problems, circumstances, social/cultural problems, etc.)

*What are the events in the person’s life that have shaped them the most?

*How has this person been sinned against?

*How do this person’s problems playing out in their life? What are the problems affecting? (home life, school or work performance, etc.)


*What desires, thoughts, emotions, and actions is this person experiencing that are not in line with the gospel?

*What themes and interpretations of life does this person accept that are contrary to the gospel?

If you can look at a person holistically from all these angles, you can begin to make sense of what is going on. Its not always easy, but I think this is an excellent approach as you begin to put the puzzle together.

I finished Cross Talk: Where Life & Scripture Meet this morning. It is a fairly short, easy read that takes a dab of hermeneutics and mixes it with one's counseling approach. The thrust of the book is to show those who work with hurting people how you can practically use the scriptures as a tool to help bring hope and healing. It’s a pretty good book if you are looking for a basic introduction to the topic. Check it out.