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"No More Christian Nice Guy"

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Has anyone read this yet? I can't find anything about it in the archives but surely someone has at least heard of it. This is the best thing I've read all year. Many sections were painfull for to me to read as a recovering "Nice Guy", but Caughlin made strong arguments that have made me completely re-evaluate the Church's and my ideas about true Christlike masculinity.

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Got a link? I'll bite too.

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I came across this book several times back when I was working at Barnes and Noble. Admittedly, I still don't know anything more about it than what the cover says. But my impression was that it's another Eldredge-type book exhorting men to throw off the shackles of an oppressive, ultra-feminized society and embrace good, old-fashioned American-style masculinty in the name of Jesus.

Maybe it's a girl thing, but just reading the cover made me angry.

Hopefully I've misjudged this book-- I'll ditto everyone else: can you tell us more about it?

Edited by ThePersistanceOfWaffles

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I checked this out on Amazon.com. There are a lot of comparisons to Eldridge in the reviews. One reviewer even said "The book is an entry into the 'Wild At Heart' and 'Tender Warrior' segment of the Christian men's genre." I also noticed that the forward was by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. So...

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The nice thing about the word "nice" is the multiple definitions. This is crap. It is based on the dovetailing of dff's of "nice" and "kind" and not well thought out. That men have become somewhat feminized by the wider culture is not implausible, however if you engage some of these guys on their dff's of "nice" and "kind", they blow a gasket, which is why I don't think much of this trend. What they miss in all of the fuss is that there are usually an infinite number of ways to express a concept badly, even offensively, but a minimum of ways to express a concept in a way that doesn't insult the other guy, or step on his toes. NMCMG's don't really seem to care about toes. That's not masculine, that's boorish.

FWIW, I am a "nice" guy. I base my concept of nice on the chivalry codes of old, only I don't wear a chip on my shoulder for myself. I wear it for others. I can go from nice to jerk and back in 10 seconds if I have to. These silly semantic games are half-baked.

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The etymology of "nice", courtesy of Merriam-Webster: "Middle English, foolish, wanton, from Old French, from Latin nescius ignorant, from nescire not to know -- more at NESCIENCE".

And it obviously does not mean that today. One can play the etymology game with scores of words, English being the largest of languages and borrowing from everywhere. I've had this argument before about "nice". American Heritage Dictionary gives about six or seven meanings, four of which are rather good meanings that anyone should strive for. I'll quote in the morning. :sleeping:

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NMCNG obviously reminded me of "Wild at Heart" in alot of ways but I thought NMCNG was much more convincing. I appreciated the spirit of WAH but Eldridge's arguments did not always hold up. (EX: Brad Pitt as Tristan in "Legends of the Fall" is supposedly held up as the ultimate example of masculinity compared to his brothers, yet Eldridge completely ignores scenes such as Tristan cursing God over his brother's death. And there is already a forum on Eldridge misquoting scripture so I won't get into that.) As mentioned above and on the cover of the book, the problem is being "nice" and not good (or more accurately, genuine and righteous). I am happily married now, but when I was single I always cringed when someone, especially a woman, told me I was "nice". "Nice" is not really a complement. It's a dismissal. While I was reading it I began seeing the problem of "niceness" more and more in myself and other men. A "nice guy" is enslaved by the desire to please everyone and avoid confrontations of any kind. Caughlin does get into how men have been feminized by the larger culture, but the more compelling sections deal with the physical and emotional abuse that lead him to believe he always had to always be "nice". As for "boorishness", Rich is correct that that's not real masculinity either. But bullying and "niceness" and just different manifestations of cowardice. Caughlin argues that men should "speak the truth in love" and show grace. The early chapters talk about how Christ has been feminized and/ or neutered in popular culture over the years. He rightly points out that scripture tells us differently and asks what would happen if the real Christ walked into churches today. As C.S. Lewis says of Christ/Aslan "Safe? The last thing he is is safe. But he is good.".

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Wow. Have I so internalised a dictionary dff that I argue its points before checking it as promised? As I was reading your post I thought of how Caughlin so mischaracterizes our use of the word.

"She has a nice figure.", is not the gender correspondent to "He is a nice guy."

A nice steak is something folks usually decide to search for when thinking of a restaurant.

When my wife says, "You look nice." as I'm saying goodbye before going to church is SURELY a compliment.

One should NEVER go in a different direction than looking for a nice bouquet of flowers. I shudder to think of a bouquet that would not be nice.

I'll take a "nice" putt over a "kind" putt any day. (see below)

The Third edition to The American Heritage Dictionary:

1.Pleasing and agreeable in nature: a nice time. 2. Having a pleasant and attractive appearance: a nice dress; a nice face. 3. Exhibiting courtesy and politeness: a nice gesture. 4. Of good character and reputation; respectable. 5. Overly delicate or fastidious; fussy. 6. Showing or requiring great precision or sensitive discernment; subtle: a nice distinction; a nice sense of style. 7. Done with delicacy and skill: a nice bit of craft. 8. Used as an intensive with and: nice and warm. 9. Obsolete. a. Wanton; profligate; "For when mine hours/Were nice and lucky, men did ransom lives/Of me for jests" (Shakespeare). b. Affectedly modest; coy: "Ere ... /the nice Morn on th' Indian steep,/From her cabin'd loop-hole peep" (John Milton)


With respect to "nice" and "kind" putts. I had a kind putt once. On my first attempt at 18 holes, in the dead of summer, I was fine through eight holes. At the turn I couldn't hit the hole at all. As the afternoon wore on, the heat and humidity got to me. I don't do well in bright sun in humid 80's and 90's. No matter how much water I took, I was losing it and my game lagged ridiculously behind my fellows. Then on the 18th hole, it took forever to reach the green, which I did 35 feet away from the hole. I sank it on the first try.

Now, you may say that it was a "nice" putt. I rarely sink them from beyond 15 feet. Under the circumstances it was "kind". A gracious nod from the gods at the end of a miserable afternoon when I should not have even been outside unless I was swimming.





Edited by Rich Kennedy

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Rich: So, BB addresses your concerns by saying that an author he has read and you have not is focussing on one of several concepts covered by the term "nice" in our society...and you rant for five minutes about what the word really means, dammit. *Who*'s blowing a gasket about the concept of niceness again? :P

(full disclosure: I'm female, I've not read the book, and I have alot of qualms about the "manly-man backlash" stuff in general, but I've also run across quite a few weaselly little backstabbing beta-males who acted like having charm and a nonthreatening/macho manner were virtue enough and if you had those, you were fully justified in lying, cheating, or doublecrossing and anybody who called you down on the rug about it was Not Being a Christian Gentleman. To the extent that "nice" is a cover for them and their female counterparts..."niceness delenda est.")

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Rich: So, BB addresses your concerns by saying that an author he has read and you have not is focussing on one of several concepts covered by the term "nice" in our society...and you rant for five minutes about what the word really means, dammit. *Who*'s blowing a gasket about the concept of niceness again? :P

You might have a point about the way I obsess over word usage. OTOH, sometimes I wonder if these guys are really bent out of shape over having been labelled a nice guy at one time. I'm skeptical of books and philosophies that use misconceptions as a hook for the key ideas. Yeah, I haven't read the books, but at least with Caughlin, I read the interview to get enough of an impression as to where he is going.

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Yeah, I can see where you're coming from...and I don't think that the self-help gurus really have the answer to the problem, but I do agree with them that there is a problem, namely: that certain social pressures today make it easy to guilt people into letting themselves be taken advantage of, and I for one don't think being Christian obliges one to put up with that or let yourself be taken advantage of. There may be situations where you have to, for the greater good. *But* you have to recognize those situations for what they are, and it's dangerous to not know what they are, or to automatically equate giving in on that kind of thing with humility or charity.

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I will give in to temptation and say that getting better at seeing the difference between being a wet noodle and real humility and charity is part of growing up, of experience and maturity. OTOH, giving young men license to reject "being nice" is a social equivalent to giving them bourbon and Ferraris at the same time.

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I just read the Q&A at Crosswalk, so much thanks to Chrismo. I can't see how anyone who's actually read the book can think that Coughlin (just realized I've been mis-spelling it as "Caughlin) is advocating a cartoonish, He-Man, version of masculinity. As in the Q&A, he's very critical of the whole pro-wrestling thing and points out it's destructive influences on males. I'm not going to claim that he has all the answers either. I don't remember any specific solutions he offered for making churches more male friendly, other than just accepting men as men or something like that. However, he did an excellent job of explaining the problems with being a "Nice Guy" and why God's word calls us to be different. EX: As a nice guy I sometimes felt the need to ramble on and over explain myself if I was put on the spot. But in Matthew 5 (if I'm not mistaken) Christ tells us "Let your no be no and your yes be yes. Anything else comes from the evil one.".

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I'll have to check this out. FWIW, I think I'm one of the only outspoken folks on this board who culled a great deal of really excellent stuff from Eldredge--and continue to do so without puffing out the chest or thinking I have to p*ss people off in order to be a "radical Christian."

On the other hand, after reading Wild at Heart, for instance, I examined my own life and found that a chunk of my own persona was incredibly dishonest, my actions based upon preconceptions of 'How Christians Should Behave' rather than being myself and attempting to simply 'act justly, have mercy, and walk humbly with my God.' I believe Eldredge et al are addressing not simply a feminization of the masculine heart, but a shackling of it due to the 'To be a good man I must not rock the boat' principle. Emasculation is not necessarily feminization.

We all know that in the vast assembly of churches, there are many men who behave 'nicely' by putting on their Sunday best and shaking hands with the pastor, hugging the wife and patting the kids on the head in full view of everyone--and then doffing the illusion once within the confines of the home. This is the Christian veneer--add to it the belief that if something makes you angry, you must turn the other cheek and let it slide. Due to this generalization, I have found a great deal of men afraid to hold anyone accountable for untoward actions for fear of seeming prideful or arrogant or boorish. Oftentimes the 'iron sharpening iron' principle is tossed in favor of 'grace'--which isn't grace at all, but fear of conflict, fear of stepping 'over the line'.

Once I began simply speaking my mind on things--not shouting them, or strutting them--that action alone was nearly scandalous. I asked the questions that came to mind, I directly confronted people--in a very reasonable tone, even setting the pace with 'Hey, I need to talk to you about something, and I'm totally open to being wrong and hope you can give me a better understanding of this--'but still met with amazing resistance. "This is how it's done." "We've always done it this way." "Well, no one else seems to have a problem with it." "Oh, that's just _______. He'll never change." All of these disclaimers ready to suss conflict, to keep everything even keeled, without even really trying to understand my intent, as a brother in Christ, to obey the leading within me to speak. Conflict is often viewed as a negative rather than an opportunity to grow--but the man who believes avoiding conflict is Christlike, who uses Christ's 'slipping away from the authorities' and 'he was silent when judged by Pilate' principles has a shallow understanding of how to interact maturely with his peers. This isn't an advocation to judge another's walk and take a self-assured 'high road'--this is advocating the throwing off of the fear to call a spade a spade, albeit humbly, and be willing and ready to give answer for one's assessment of the scenario.

A huge number of guys I've talked to are even afraid to question authority, to question it. And if the pastor does something that seems odd, it's overlooked immediately because he's the pastor. That doesn't serve him, and it doesn't respect him. "But, in the spirit of grace, we'll let it go." Forget that. If I screw up I want someone to tell me about it--and time and time again I've been angered because when I needed to hear those words, no one spoke up out of the fear of conflict. We as Christians should be the last people to shrink away from confrontation--but we do, oftentimes to 'prove we're Christlike'--and the decay of the church presence is a direct testament to the willingness to let things slide in favor of 'grace.' This is self-destructive, not edifying. I'm pretty sure that when Paul said he became all things to all people he didn't mean being a liar among liars, or an abortionist among abortionists. And I'm positive the Holy Spirit isn't the one saying 'Ok, just be nice and everything will be okay.'

I'm not talking about taking up a crusade mentality--and this is where most people who haven't really explored Eldredge's work think he's coming from--I'm talking opening the mouth to ask a question, and to be dogged enough to not back down when attacked for simply standing up for one's beliefs. We have the truth. It is a sword. And often, we leave it sheathed. This is the emasculation Eldredge and his ilk are talking about--the unwilllingness to draw that sword when it is called for out of the desire to keep people 'happy,' to maintain relationships that might go sour if an weakness is addressed, is robbing us of the manhood--the very Spirit of Truth that leads us--in favor of dumbed down passivity which accepts catchall words such as 'tolerance' and 'compromise' as being necessary 'to be more like Jesus'--and I don't want to get into the etymological debate of tolerance and compromise, please, any more than I do of the word 'nice.' We've seen the evolution of the church; I'll let that stand as support for my belief that Christians, in being so 'gracious,' have become largely lukewarm and impotent when it comes to the ability to deal with conflict--one extreme to the other, from the Crusades to Jell-O.

Anyway...yeah. I'm just glad God speaks to us individually, because as a body, in general, we've somehow come to the belief that unity must mean uniformity, and nothing could be further from the example of God's incredible integrity of character represented through the myriad diversity of Creation and mankind.

Anyway, I'll check this guy out. Thanks for the info. :)

Edited by Jason Bortz

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Jason, I always appreciate your POV on these matters. Here's why I have a bug up my butt about some of this. Being nice isn't really the contradiction of what you espouse. I remember the first time I ran afoul of someone not quite as well thought out as many of us here. I wrote a piece on various moments in films that changed my views on something, or produced an epiphany. A moment in Road House was the most prominent moment mentioned. It was the great "Be Nice" speech, just about the only good moment in the thing. I was impressed with the idea of being nice under any and all circumstances, even in confrontation. It was an excellent code for a bouncer and an excellent code I could follow to build bridges. Some poor souls only saw the word "nice". Whether or not any saw the film, I don't know, but I got pasted for my trouble. No problem. I've been there before. Heh, in my response, I tried to be nice about it while standing my ground. I still say that Patrick Swayze speech is sound advice and not far from the mark of what you have gleaned from Eldridge.

What that scene suggested to me was the way I could affect my surroundings. The racial situation in Detroit was rather tense at the time. Detroit's far and away most controversial and confrontational mayor was running as an incumbent when we got home from our honeymoon (where we saw the film). I decided right off the bat that any dealings I had with folks (even strangers) in delicate situations, particularly with African Americans with whom I was not acquainted, would be with me being nice. Look folks in the eye, smile, and answer the question, ask the question, whatever the need was including a smile and a greeting on the street. Detroit afterall is the world's largest small town. So many transplanted Southerners means that nobody thinks you are nuts for saying, "Hi!" Heh, after decades of sparking confrontation, sometimes innocently, I had learned the secret! If you turn the proposition over in your head a little, you can say and argue practically anything if you present it nicely (see dictionary dff's above).

Frankly, I'll bet that is what Eldridge and Coughlin are trying to say as well. Come to think of it, smoothing things over isn't being nice at all. It is a sort of lie-of-ommission or passive aggression. But picking your battles, waiting for a more opportune moment, or until my anger cools isn't the same as smoothing things over either. So is gathering more evidence in order to confirm one's perception, rather than speaking up right now. Heh, you might think me guilty of breaching this last point and I won't argue.

At bottom, many of us are saying the same thing while quibbling over the use of the word nice (or misuse :twisted: ). With all due respect, I insist on arguing the honor of the word "nice". If I have defamed the reputation and teaching of others in the process, I apologise.

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Leave it to Rich to turn Road House into a spiritual benchmark.

FWIW, that is one of the only movies that, if I accidentally flip past it on television, I invariably stop and watch it through to the end. It's not a guilty pleasure--it's an integral part of my psychological whimsy...

I hear you, Rich. I have no problem with your argument for terminology--the word itself means little to me, and I can see your point.

It's the disingenuous shellaq I find on a smiling man's face, one who says 'I love you because Christ compels me to' when you know he actually can't stand you and refuses to admit it. Give me a man who says 'I know you're my brother, but you done torqued me off, and here's why I'm angry with you'--and then is willling to actually work it out. Give me that man any day over the 'Since I'm a Christian, I just have to pretend it doesn't bother me because Christ says to be nice to my brother.'

"Right boot," says Dalton--and indeed, the telltale glitter of a shiny blade protrudes from the tip of the angry man's Lucchesi...

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It's the disingenuous shellaq I find on a smiling man's face, one who says 'I love you because Christ compels me to' when you know he actually can't stand you and refuses to admit it. Give me a man who says 'I know you're my brother, but you done torqued me off, and here's why I'm angry with you'--and then is willling to actually work it out. Give me that man any day over the 'Since I'm a Christian, I just have to pretend it doesn't bother me because Christ says to be nice to my brother.'

I agree. Honestly though, I've met few men who are willing to actually work things out, as you say. In my experience, if there is a working out, it often is a working out not by meeting of minds, or through mutual seeing of the Holy Spirit's work. Too often it is preconceived by the guy who torqued me off, or the the one I torqued. I haven't figured out a nice way of dealing with that. My present church is a vast improvement. I haven't found too many men in the past who really want to work things out.

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Honestly though, I've met few men who are willing to actually work things out, as you say. In my experience, if there is a working out, it often is a working out not by meeting of minds, or through mutual seeing of the Holy Spirit's work. Too often it is preconceived by the guy who torqued me off, or the the one I torqued. I haven't figured out a nice way of dealing with that. My present church is a vast improvement. I haven't found too many men in the past who really want to work things out.

I agree as well. I've been blessed to have been counseled by some great people who taught me how to get better at this myself - and not just in technique, but in getting things better straightened out in my own heart. "The Peacemaker" by Ken Sande is a good (and seemingly rare) book on reconciliation. His ministry has a website here: http://www.hispeace.org/

I was impressed with the idea of being nice under any and all circumstances, even in confrontation.

This proverb gets a lot of play around our house, usually as a reminder to the kiddos, but also a good reminder for me and missus:

A gentle anger turns away wrath. -- Prov 15:1

I will give in to temptation and say that getting better at seeing the difference between being a wet noodle and real humility and charity is part of growing up, of experience and maturity.

I like that contrast: wet noodle vs. real humility. Although, I'm not certain I would have ever picked up on it myself without some direct intervention on the part of some great counselors -- and I know some adults who seem to have skipped maturity class. I wish it were more inevitable, and I hope to ensure my boys learn it earlier in life than I did.

Once I began simply speaking my mind on things--not shouting them, or strutting them--that action alone was nearly scandalous.

I've only read the Q&A on Coughlin, and while much of what he says sounds along lines that agree with - I'm concerned that he may not have enough help for getting over the hump. It sounds like he has a good description of what the problem looks like, and what the end result looks like - but how about the change?

Which leads me to ask of you, Jason - what was it that changed for you? Why did you not simply speak your mind before, and why did those reasons go away?

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A moment in Road House was the most prominent moment mentioned. It was the great "Be Nice" speech, just about the only good moment in the thing. I was impressed with the idea of being nice under any and all circumstances, even in confrontation. It was an excellent code for a bouncer and an excellent code I could follow to build bridges. Some poor souls only saw the word "nice". Whether or not any saw the film, I don't know, but I got pasted for my trouble. No problem. I've been there before. Heh, in my response, I tried to be nice about it while standing my ground. I still say that Patrick Swayze speech is sound advice and not far from the mark of what you have gleaned from Eldridge.

Ah, the wisdom ofRoad House. :) Seriously, there are some great lines in that film. My friends and I used to love that movie. "Pain don't hurt." is another priceless one. I always loved the be nice speech but, Rich I have to differ with you on your interpretation. Swayze was not telling his bouncers to be nice "in any and all circumstances". If I'm not mistaken, the actual line is "Be nice ... until it's time to not be nice.". The problem is that many of us have been conditioned to use "being nice" as an excuse to avoid speaking up or taking action no matter what. The problem of the CNG is that they think they have no choice but to sit there and ignore or excuse injustice (and often sin), meanwhile they're really smoldering inside hoping it will all just go away. I think this is what leads to alot the passive agressive behavior I've seen in myself and alot of other CNGs.

Anyway, Jason your comments were very well put and much appreciated. You've touched on exactly what I'm talking about. Please let me know what you think of the book.

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Which leads me to ask of you, Jason - what was it that changed for you? Why did you not simply speak your mind before, and why did those reasons go away?

Well, if I am to rationalize the process other than saying ‘It was the leading of the Holy Spirit’ I could say it was ‘spiritual maturation,’ but that nebulous buzzword won’t really offer any sort of insight...

What changed it for me?

The catalyst, I think, began with obstacles and how I repeatedly saw them dealt with by people in the church.

I reached a point in my life where I had seen several blatant miracles—like, supernatural things defying explanation other than ‘Well, that’s a fluke’ or ‘Hey, that sure was strange, wasn’t it?’—but when it came time for seemingly simple things that needed to be done, like filling 600 chairs for an Easter program for instance, there existed a reticence to count on God to fill the bill.

Jesus said ‘I tell you the truth’ and proceeded to describe the power of faith granted those who believe and call on his name. But here, in the day-to-day somnambulism of routine, I believe faith has been so rationalized as to become notional, a concept or ideal rather than a working pipeline, a direct conduit to the God of the universe. Things like fiscal woes, the need for a car, etc—these are things people can accept. They’re universal. But when it comes to the moving of a mountain, such as filling a stadium, or curing a severe illness, or feeding a third-world country—people balk. Over and over I hear along the lines of ‘God isn’t your secretary’ and ‘You can’t tell God what to do’ sentiments when I make an effort to incite other members of the church to simply pray and have faith that God will provide. I’d say ‘No, I can’t tell God what to do—but Jesus said he would go to the father for whatever we ask in his name, and this event is for the glory of Christ, so he’ll make sure it happens. All we have to do for our part is to believe.’ The usual response to this sort of thing is either a rolling of the eyes, a shaking of the head, or followed with that tone reserved for speaking to small children.

But Jesus said ‘You must become like the children.’ I believe this sort of childlike faith is essential. And I believe we are all programmed into disbelief. We spend our lives learning more and more things that get in the way of that numinous awe for God, we have so many promises broken that we forget God keeps His, and we learn so much about science according to the dictates of the technology we create that we forget we’re discounting the Wielder for the tool.

It’s like people don’t WANT to call on Christ’s promise, that there’s this sudden accountability that would come into play, a reckoning of sorts, when faced with the fact that we have the power to change the very world through Christ who promised it. There are disclaimers, counter-arguments, eschatological cites and huge debates over what God will and will not do, what we can and cannot do, essays and theses and everything else under the sun, offered up by believers, on why God will not move that mountain.

And for some reason, I am not satisfied with that. That kind of thinking is mediocre, limited by the power of the intellectual capacity. I believe God is beyond our intellectual capability, and no human reason will sway my narrow-mindedness. No interpretation of the Bible will trump the Holy Spirit’s leading—and this will set off the danger alarms as I write it, but I submit that I merely believe God’s promises: He promised his word will be written upon my heart. He promised the Holy Spirit will guide me and lead me into all truth. He promised that His sheep would know His Voice. He promised that if I love Him, and obey His commands, I will be His disciple.

Furthermore, he chose some folks to deliver a few letters intended for me with a smattering of phrases that recur throughout my time here on this planet: Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything—keep what is good, discard the rest. Do not be afraid. Keep speaking, do not be silent. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself! If we are out of our minds, it is for the Lord. If we are in our right minds, it is for you. We are fools for Christ, marching in endless procession—for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, and the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms--therefore, put on the full armor of God, that you may take your stand against the devil’s schemes…and after you have done everything, to stand.

I believe the Bible is the measuring rod with which to test the leading of the Holy Spirit. If I am “led” in a manner contradictory to God’s character, then that leading is not of the Lord. You may say ‘surely you need a teacher.’ Surely, I need many—but no one may claim to hold an authoritative view on the words inscribed into the living fibers of my soul. Men learn by privilege, not by right, aptitude or intellect. Not by degree, schooling, station or even zeal can a man claim leadership over another in matters pertaining to God. Those who lead often do so without knowing it. And oftentimes, those who lead churches have no business in the pulpit other than their credentials, or their desire to be a pastor—or they started out and have gone astray, and no one is willing to confront the issue because we are ‘submit to authority’ or ‘respect our elders.’ And when this happens and goes unchecked, things may not blow up—they may become simply become peaceful. Serene. Languid. Affluent.

Mediocre.

Let me say now that I still struggle with this. My answer to the condition within the church became to forego it entirely for a time, which arguably defeats the purpose; but I believe the Lord allowed me some distance for a reason—and for a season—in order to truly see the purpose behind the institution rather than the social klatchery of the “God Set™.” I don’t say this as though I’ve had some ‘personal revelation’ that makes me any wiser than anyone else who finds church regularly refreshing, edifying and strengthening; rather, I believe that due my own intimate struggles I tend to approach my faith as something violent, something demanding an all-or-nothing tenacity. If God is truly the Creator of the universe, and I have His ear, and He would have me love Him with all my heart, mind, will, strength and body—that’s huge. That’s beyond comprehension—and yet He says ‘Here’s the key. Come explore this room. And this one. And this one.’

So many people want to stay in one room. They’re fine with that and, sincerely, power to them. I do not believe God built me for that room. I believe God made me specifically—I do not believe anything, anything is by sheer chance—and if I am fearfully, wonderfully and specifically made, then there’s something out there that is my duty to seek out and discover. And that something , if commissioned by God Himself, is not mediocrity.

I had to take a break from reading my bible. [iNSERT GASP HERE.]

No, I had to. Because I hit a point where every time I read a phrase or passage out of the book, I would hear the voice of some pastor or another, someone’s sermon on it, someone’s indictment, someone’s missive, someone’s agenda…someone using this passage to bring in more money, someone using this one to condemn something, someone using this one to justify something else…and I’d get angry, or discouraged, or depressed.

I got sick, like, spiritually sick. I had to get out, and away—and remember and trust that His word is within. Trust that I would know His voice. Trust that during my time in the wilderness, He would not allow me to die.

But I felt like I was dying. Like every sermon was just another ‘nice little lesson’ (sorry Rich) easily culled from a few cross-references and linkages that anyone with a concordance could throw together and wham, instant life lesson, easily forgettable. And I wondered if it was me. If I was the one with the problem. If somehow I’d become so embittered as to lose touch with my God.

And then I went to Africa. Before I left a friend of mine who I'd related my malady to a few days befiore said 'Hey, I think you should check this out." and handed me a copy of Eldredge’s Wild at Heart to read on the way. I began reading it as we left the gate at SFX, and finished reading it when we arrived at the same gate 2

Edited by Jason Bortz

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Of course *any* word with positive connotations can become demeaning when used with a sneer, and I'm sure it's much more popular these days to sneer nice than it is to say it. And sure, when a woman describes you as "nice" rather than gasping for breath and begging to have sex with you, your ego takes a beating. But equating that as the be-all and end-all definitions of a word that is commonly used a complement in far more situations than the ones that Caughlin seems willing to recognize makes me wonder why I should bother taking him seriously at all.

Nice is mean, peace is war, love is hate, doubleplusungood...

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