Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dora and Billy Must Know Something

My wife has worked in child care in one form or another since she was 15. For nearly 25 years she has helped to shape minds, care for young babies, teach right and wrong, be a surrogate parent, and otherwise wrangle groups of kids into a somewhat cohesive, comprehending mass of eager youth. Which, from both what I remember as a kid and what I've seen as an adult, is no small task.

Her last job was working as a nanny for twin boys whose mother died of cancer while she was working with them. Yeah, I know. But she fell in love with those two rambunctious, high-voiced little troublemakers, and she would often tell me stories of their escapades when she came home from a 12-hour workday. Dylan and Clayton weren't just highly motivated by an unending reservoir of energy, but they were so full of life and joy that Julie's thought of not working for their parents was foreign for a long time.

One of the things I'd heard about, but never watched myself, was Dora the Explorer (we only recently got digital cable). One day, I went over to the house the twins lived in so Julie and I could have lunch together. We took the twins to a restaurant to have some light Mexican food, then came back and put them to bed. Then we just kind of snuggled on the couch together, watching television for a few minutes. We were too lazy to change the channel, so I got my first shot at watching Dora the Explorer.

This is a great interactive show, asking the kids and their parents to shout at the TV screen on where certain items are located. Whoever developed this idea, I thought, was smart as could be, because it actually makes the viewer feel as though they have something to do with the way things end up on the show.

But there's one thing that annoyed me, grating on my nerves while I watched that show, and I didn't realize it until after I'd seen it a few more times. Dora always shouts. She never speaks in a regular voice. She's always shouting, as though the children watching are hundreds of feet away.

"CAN YOU HELP ME FIND MY COMPASS??!?"

"WHERE'S BOOTS??!?"

"GO, DIEGO, GO!!"

(I wonder if the writers realize what "diego" translates to in English.)

I often wonder if Dora and Billy Mays are related. You know Billy Mays, the OxyClean guy? You ever notice how he's always shouting?

"IT REMOVES JUICE, WINE, AND GRASS STAINS . . . "

Seriously, everything he ever hawks on television, he's shouting about it. Some would say he's excitable; I just think he's excited about the product he's selling.


Reflecting on this made me wonder about my faith. You see, Dora and Billy are both entralled by the worlds they live in. They are captured by the possibilities of the bottomless backpack or the inventions that will only make some things in your life easier. So excited that they shout. A lot. No matter how low the volume is on the program you're watching, when it goes to a Billy Mays commercial, you're guaranteed to be lulled out of your sleep by a giant voice extolling the amazing versatility of the Big City Slider grill, or introducing you to the concept of big blue balls that can make your laundry cleaner and brighter. And when your children wake up on Saturday morning to flip on Dora the Explorer, you'll be brought out of your sleep by a voice -- sounding nothing at all like a Latino, mind you -- telling Swiper to stop swiping. And it all sounds so urgent, because they're all shouting.

So why don't I shout? Why does my outward expression of my love for Jesus NOT make it appear as though I'm excited about my faith?


I'll shout at a concert. I'll cheer for the Cardinals and the Rams and the Blues. I'll root for my nephews in their team sports or BMX races, and I won't be one bit ashamed about out-yelling the guy next to me. But I don't find my faith as exciting as I used to . . . at least, not exciting enough to shout about it. Why is that?

Is it because I've been a Christian for 28 of my 33 years, and my faith comes second nature to me? Is the fact that I get up every morning knowing that God has my back something I've been taking for granted? Does it not enthrall me anymore to live day in and day out with the knowledge that the living God above has a spot in his heart for me, and that he holds my life in his hands? That he understands the desires of my heart and longs to see me have those fulfilled? The he knows my heart and all the potential that I have do sin, to do evil works, and still, somehow, welcomes me into his presence? So why am I not shouting?

If nothing else, I should already know how magnificent God is in his mercy, but even more so in his grace. For those things God has called me to do, I've often felt inadequate, yet he's given me the grace and ability to walk into what he's prepared for me, even if I feel insufficient at the moment of decision. I find that happens more and more as I continue to do what He asks of me. So why am I not shouting?


Part of my job at the church is to videotape interviews with people that have testimonies of what God has done in their lives since they've started attending our church. Many of these people are Christians that have lived for God, but maybe they haven't stepped out in faith in a particular area that they've been unafraid to let go of.

We recently had a baptism service, which we only do 3 times a year due to our size, and we had 17 people get baptized that day. We don't christen or baptize babies, because we follow the Bible's example and instruction about making the conscious decision to be baptized, so most of the people we baptize, by far, are adults. And for 2 weeks prior to baptism Sunday, I did a video interview with each person and asked them why they made this decision and why it was important to them. I heard statements of faith from each of these people that only reaffirmed my faith in God and reminded me of that newness of discovering God's power in one's life. I've been living with this knowledge for close to 3 decades, so it wasn't news to me, but I got to see such unmatched JOY in the faces of these people I interviewed that I was spurred to examine my own life and my own level of excitement in my faith.

Now if you know me, and you've seen me lead worship, you'll know that my disposition is nowhere near stoic as I lead. I'm very animated, often to the point where I become out of breath and compromise the integrity of my voice as I sing. I can't help it. When I sing "everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades," I freaking mean it, and that meaning comes out in my physical actions. Of course, being a musician, I often cast that off to being moved by the music and not so much by the lyrics. As with anything, there are exceptions, but that's another entry.

I'm talking about just walking around, breathing the air, and full-on KNOWING that God is my rock, my portion, my provider, my deliverer, my impetus for everything I do, and that knowledge catapulting my expectation in the small thigns. I know of at least 2 individuals in my church that are new Christians and are constantly being amazed as they put God to task by following what he commands us to do in his Word -- be it tithing, giving of our time and resources with no expectation of compensation, sharing the message of the Gospel with someone they know -- and then watching God take care of them in ways they never expected. God is asking them to be obedient, many times for reasons they don't know, and then when they follow through, God shows up and covers them in everything they have want or need for.

One couple's marrige is closer now because they sacrificed a huge chunk of his retirement pension so that his wife could volunteer at the church without pay. As a result of their heart condition, God healed him of a sexual dysfunction that he was previously told by doctors would never be resolved.

One woman just celebrated 9 months living clean and sober after she and her husband, who is incarcerated, lived a long life of drug addiction. She's also been tithing faithfully on the small income she gets, and God has been covering her and her family in miraculous ways as a result.

These are just two people I know of, and there are dozens more I could write about, and every single story makes me more and more of a believer in God and his promises. My faith's strength is built up each time a story like this come across my ears, and I can't believe that I haven't done more in my life to follow what God has had in store for me.

So why am I not shouting? I'm excited in my head, but I have this disconnect where I detach from my emotions and treat my faith as a walking-out exercise, instead of really pressing in and knowing God intimately. I admittedly don't read my Bible as much as I used to, and I remember when I was reading the Word daily, I couldn't get enough of it. It taught be about the nature of God, about his kindness to us and his love for his people, but also of his hatred of sin and his inability to allow it to go unpunished. While there are many aspects of God that we will never know about, the Bible is surprisingly telling about who God is and what He's all about.

I remember while I was reading the Bible regularly, I felt closer to God than I had in a long time, and I need to get back to that point. Maybe after a while, after getting myself to the point where God and I are closer than we are today, I'll be able to coincide the intellectualism of my faith with the knowledge that God is a very personal God, instead of the two aspects of my faith simply being juxtaposed by each other.

And then, maybe I'll start shouting again. And when I do, I believe walls will fall.

There Is No Box.
Zach

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