Playing for Change

Are you kidding me? What a great idea, and what great film making this is!

What do you think about it?

Here's My Mission - What's Yours?

I have a love/hate relationship with some of my friends, don't you? One of my friends asked me today, "Tal, if you had to boil your mission in ministry down to one thing, what would it be?" Usually, I would do one of three things -

  1. Dance around the question like Paula Abdul on meth.
  2. Flip the question back on the questioner.
  3. Answer with some ridiculously complex sentence that made no sense, yet left every conceivable option wide open.
This day was different. There was no thought - no paralysis - no hesitation. I said, "My mission in ministry is to do all I can to help those in or out of the church get off of porn instead of getting off on porn. That pretty well sums it up - there's a lot that goes with it, but that's what I love to do.

What about you? If you had to boil it down to one simple sentence, what is your mission? What is God calling you to do?

We All Have A Context

This is from a Chuck Swindoll sermon and it impacted me greatly and served as a crucial reminder that I felt compelled to pass it along to you.

Read this biographical sketch and see if you can guess who this person is.

He began his life with all the classic handicaps and disadvantages. His mother was a powerfully built dominating woman who found it difficult to love anyone. She had been married three times, and her second husband divorced her because she beat him up regularly. The father of the child I’m describing was her third husband and died two months before the child’s birth.

As a consequence she had to work long hours during the early years of his childhood. She gave him no love, no affection, no discipline, and no training during those early years. She even forbade him from calling her at work. Other children had little to do with him, so he was alone most of the time.

He was absolutely rejected from his earliest childhood. He was ugly, and poor, and untrained and unlovable. When he was thirteen years old a child psychologist commented that he probably didn’t even know the meaning of the word love.

During adolescence the girls would have nothing to do with him, and he fought with the boys. Despite a high IQ, he failed academically, and finally dropped out his third year of high school.

He thought he might find a new acceptance in the Marine Corp, they reportedly built men and he wanted to be one, but his problems went with him. The other marines laughed at him, and ridiculed him. He fought back, resisted authority and was court martialed and thrown out of the Marines with a discharge marked undesirable.

So there he was – a young man in his early twenties absolutely friendless and shipwrecked.

He was a small and scrawny man. He had an adolescent squeak in his voice, he was balding, he had no talent, he had no skill – he didn’t even have a driver’s license.

Once again, he thought he could run from his problems, so he went to a foreign country to live. When he applied for citizenship, he was rejected there too. Nothing had changed.

While there, he married a girl who herself had been an illegitimate child, and brought her back to America to live.

Soon, she began to develop the same contempt for him that everyone else displayed. She bore him two children, but he never enjoyed the status and respect a father should have. His marriage began to crumble. His wife began to demand more and more things that he could not provide. In stead of being his ally against a bitter world, as he had hoped, she became his most vicious opponent. She could outfight him, and she learned to bully him. On one occasion, she locked him in the bathroom as punishment. Finally, she forced him to leave.

He tried to make it on his own and was terribly lonely. After days of solitude he went home and literally begged her on his knees to take him back. He surrendered all pride. He crawled. He accepted humiliation. He came on her terms.

Despite his meager salary, he brought her $78 as a gift, asking her to take it and spend it anyway she wished. She laughed at it. She belittled his feeble attempts to supply the family’s needs. She ridiculed his failure. She made fun of his sexual impotency in front of a friend.

At one point he fell on his knees and wept bitterly as the great darkness of his private nightmare enveloped him. Finally, in silence, he pleaded no more.

No one wanted him. No one had ever wanted him. He was perhaps the most rejected man of our time. His ego lay shattered in a fragmented dust.

The next day, he was a strangely different man. He arose, went to the garage, took down a rifle that he had hidden there and carried it with him to his newly acquired job at a book storage building. From a window on the third floor of that building, shortly after noon on November 22, 1963, he sent two shells crashing into the head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Lee Harvey Oswald, the rejected, unlovable failure, killed the man who more than any other on earth embodied all the success, beauty, wealth and family affection that he lacked. In firing that rifle, he utilized the one skill he had learned in his entire miserable lifetime.

Those people you don't like? They have a context. Those people that irritate you? They have a context. Those people that make you feel sad? They have a context.

It is so easy to demonize people in our world, but they have a story that we rarely hear until it is too late. How do you think Lee Harvey Oswald's world - and ours - would be different if he felt loved? What if the followers of Jesus showed him the love of the Gospel?

Wanna change the world? Who irritates you? What's their story? What's their context? Do you know? Why not?

Baby, It's Codependent Outside

Ok, so it's Christmas time, and out comes all of the Christmas music. I really enjoy the music of the season; well except for the cheese assault of Christmas Shoes. That song should be banished from the annals of recording history.

Anyway - here's the question. Have you ever really liked a song only to have it ruined when you discover the lyrical content? I hate it when that happens... Kinda like "You Are My Sunshine" which is nothing short of the National Anthem for codependents everywhere. Don't believe me? Go check out the lyrics and get back with me.

So, yesterday on a drive back from Charlotte, we were listening to Sirius channel 81, which is their Christmas music channel. I love to hear Dean Martin sing, so it was a thrill to hear one of his songs come on. Have you heard him sing, "Baby It's Cold Outside"? It's just so good. Usually, you hear this song only in the background while shopping, or at parties, right? Sure, I caught the playful banter between the man and woman, but yesterday I really paid attention to it.

It is an incredible look at the narcissistic sex addict and a codependent - all wrapped up neatly into a charming Christmas package. Take a look at these lyrics and watch as the codpendent tries again and again to establish a boundary. Notice how she is highly image conscious and the boundaries center around what others will think. Then take note how the narcissistic addict continues to be concerned, only with satisfying his own wants and needs. The only concern for her is really only manipulation to get what he wants. Take a look.

"I really can't stay - Baby it's cold outside
I've got to go away - Baby it's cold outside
This evening has been - Been hoping that you'd drop in
So very nice - I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice
My mother will start to worry - Beautiful, what's your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor - Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I'd better scurry - Beautiful, please don't hurry
well Maybe just a half a drink more - Put some music on while I pour

The neighbors might think - Baby, it's bad out there
Say, what's in this drink - No cabs to be had out there
I wish I knew how - Your eyes are like starlight now
To break this spell - I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no, sir - Mind if I move a little closer
At least I'm gonna say that I tried - What's the sense in hurting my pride
I really can't stay - Baby don't hold out
Ahh, but it's cold outside

C'mon baby

I simply must go - Baby, it's cold outside
The answer is no - Ooh baby, it's cold outside
This welcome has been - I'm lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm -- Look out the window at that storm
My sister will be suspicious - Man, your lips look so delicious
My brother will be there at the door - Waves upon a tropical shore
My maiden aunt's mind is vicious - Gosh your lips look delicious
Well maybe just a half a drink more - Never such a blizzard before

I've got to go home - Oh, baby, you'll freeze out there
Say, lend me your comb - It's up to your knees out there
You've really been grand - Your eyes are like starlight now
But don't you see - How can you do this thing to me
There's bound to be talk tomorrow - Making my life long sorrow
At least there will be plenty implied - If you caught pneumonia and died
I really can't stay - Get over that old out
Ahh, but it's cold outside

Baby it's cold outside

Brr its cold….
It's cold out there
Cant you stay awhile longer baby
Well…..I really shouldn't...alright

Make it worth your while baby
Ahh, do that again…."

Ah, the charm of the holidays - all with a reference to a date rape drug. "Say, what's in this drink?" My favorite line of the male? What's the use in hurting my pride? Because, really, there's no love in this at all, and his fear of rejection comes to the surface. The pressure then amps up when he moves in for the tried and true motivation of guilt! "how can you do this thing to me? Make my lifelong sorrow?"

According to the song, it all worked out for the male as she needs to borrow a comb before trying to hit the door once again. Doesn't it just make you want to focus on a manger in Bethlehem and the power of God coming in the flesh?

Anyway, wasn't really looking to ruin a Christmas favorite here, but Teresa and I were really blown away as we listened to it. Initially, we were fascinated at his persistent disrespect of her boundaries. Then I read the lyrics, and so many other issues jumped up. I just had to share...

What songs have you loved only to have them destroyed when you really looked at the lyrics?

Along The Way

Ummm, Remember me? My name is Tal and I occasionally used to write here.

So sorry, friends. Life has been crazy and I had started my blog as a way to relax since writing is one of the things that relaxes me. The drag is that I started to feel pressure to write, and honestly I felt pressure to "be impressive." It switched from being a place for me to just let loose, to a performance based exercise in which I was trying to be impressive. Sorry about that - but that is all on me. I just needed to take a break from writing - what was meant to be relaxing and interactive became another job.

Now - I am working on a new blog, and all of this will migrate (hopefully!) Hopefully in the next week or so, we'll be up and running there. I'll let you know.

On Friday, November 14 I'll be hosting Along The Way in the midwest from noon to 2:00 PM Central. Click on the link if you would like to listen over the internet. If you can't listen, please pray for me during the show. That would be very helpful!

Thanks for hanging in with me, and praying with and for me.

I'll keep you posted on the new blog that is on the way!

Local Birmingham Affiliate Runs Piece on Tapestry of Hope

Brenda Ladun from our local Birmingham ABC affiliate recently interviewed Marc Philips and myself about Tapestry of Hope, our church community.

I'm posting a link for you here, should you care to go check it out. IF you do, why not leave a nice comment for the folks at ABC 33/40?

Before you watch it, let me just say that I'm not sure why the TV folks always like to get me sweating and squinting while looking at the sun, but they do - a lot. My eyes actually do open from time to time, and I am capable of telling my story without sweating profusely.

Here's the link

I'm in Dallas this week, so please pray for me while I'm at this conference. Thanks!

Not The Stimulus They Were Going For

Ok, so who saw this one coming? The President, in an effort to stimulate our flagging economy sent out economic stimulus checks of between $600 and $1200 to Americans. These checks started making their way through the US mail in mid May.

Gas prices are going up. Consumer debt is high. Milk and produce prices are up. Unemployment is up. So what are Americans doing with the stimulus checks in light of that? Purchasing stimulus - the wrong kind of stimulus.

This is the press release from the Adult Internet Research Market Company:

An unforeseen and surprising beneficiary of the Economic Stimulus Plan, a plan that George Bush contends will “boost our economy and encourage job creation,” has surfaced this week. An independent
market-research firm, AIMRCo (The Adult Internet Market Research Company), has discovered that many websites focused on adult or erotic material have experienced an upswing in sales in the recent weeks since checks have appeared in millions of Americans’ mailboxes across the country.

According to Kirk Mishkin, Head Research Consultant for AIMRCo, “Many of the sites we surveyed have reported 20 – 30 % growth in membership rates since mid-May when the checks were first sent out, and typically the summer is a slow period for this market.”

Jillian Fox, spokeswoman for, one of the sites reporting figures to AIMRCo, added, “In a June 15, 2008 survey to our members, thirty two percent of respondents referenced the recent stimulus package as part of their decision to either become a new member, or renew an existing membership.”

The economic stimulus plan, which includes a check for up to $600 for individuals and $1200 for married couples (among other benefits) is the product of an agreement between House leaders and the Bush Administration, focused on reviving a struggling
economy in the wake of a flagging economy.

Fox also added, “Getting more people to buy porn was probably the last thing Bush had on his mind when he came up with his ‘stimulus package,’ but we’ll take it.”

See, here's the deal - stress drives the cycle of addiction. Stress leads to anxiety and pain and when humans hurt they medicate - very often with inappropriate choices. These are the effects of the fall, and they'll be here until the return of Christ.

During all of this stress people are seeking to escape reality, and that's what porn is. It doesn't show reality. The reality of porn is far too disturbing - women sold into slavery, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, rampant spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the routine rape and abuse of performers, and a high suicide rate. These are just some of the problems we contribute to when we make these choices with our dollars and our time.

For more information on the reality of the porn industry, go to and read some of the stories.

What would be a better kingdom choice for this money? What about helping some of these performers leave the industry? They have enormous financial barriers keeping them trapped inside this cruel industry, and your donation could help enormously. In most cases, these performers who do bear the image of God, need rehab, recovery, counseling, education job training, a place to live, a new wardrobe, and medical care. It makes leaving the industry a formidable task, and they need help to do so.

It's a mission field, friends. Let's support it, and our friends Shelley Lubben and Daphne Khoury at the Pink Cross Foundation. Your donation from your stimulus check could be the stimulus for changing lives.

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David Bruce of Hollywood Jesus on Tal Prince Live!

Hey friends!

Tonight I am so excited to have David Bruce, the webmaster and creator of Hollywood Jesus on the show!

This is a wonderful website about engaging culture where it is and finding the threads of the Gospel in the stories that Hollywood is selling and telling. Go Check it Out!

This should be an entertaining and informative hour of the show! Can't wait for this one.

Remember, if you don't have Sirius - you should. If you want to get a free trial - go to SIRIUS and get a 3 day free trial on the internet. Then you can listen to the show tonight at 9:00 EST, 8 CST, 6 PST.

Call in tonight to discuss movies and the Gospel! As always, you can e-mail questions to us in advance at
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Sorry Folks, Blog's Been Closed. Moose Out Front Should've Toldya

Wow. Sorry folks. Forgive me readers, it's been far too long since my last entry. Things are going very fast in my world of working several jobs and working on a book (finally!) has just added another thing on top of an already too hectic schedule. Can you say, Boundaries? Good for you! I apparently can not...

My wife, Teresa, and I did recently create a video for a great song by David Crowder that we used in our worship gathering at Tapestry last week. And at your request, Garrett, I'm posting it for you right here. We'll also post it up over at Youtube on a recently created Tapestry of Hope channel. Keep checking and it will be there soon!

Daphne Khoury Coming Back to the Show!

This week, we are so thrilled and fortunate to have Daphne Khoury coming back to the show. She is an amazing lady, with an incredible story of God's astounding grace.

Daphne worked as an exotic dancer and that turned into prostitution for a number of years before experiencing the change that only the Gospel can bring. She got out of the business and now works with The Pink Cross Foundation and other ministries that are focused on helping get performers out the industry.

She is a highly intelligent and delightful woman, and we are happy to have back with us!

We'll be talking about her brief experience at Erotica LA last weekend, and porn in general. There's a new show starting on Showtime called, "The Secret Diary of a Call Girl." The show would have us believe that prostitutes do what they do because they love sex and money. The trouble with the show is that it's not a real prostitute in the role. It's an actress with a script that provides a highly sanitized and fictitious view of prostitution.

Daphne will be able to tell us the truth about what it's like to be a working prostitute. She may even have some of her friends join in the show too! Please call in to 1 800 528 HOPE, or e-mail questions in advance to We'll keep you anonymous - you're safe with us at Tal Prince Live!

Now THAT Was a Fun Show

Wow. It was a great thrill for me to talk to Dan Kimball, as I have great respect for him and the work God is doing in and through him and his community at Vintage Faith Church. He manages to maintain a gracious and humble tone in what can sometimes be very contentious conversations.

Which brings me to this point - the phones lit up last night over the homosexual question. It was really good discussion, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Can we talk about this here? What are YOUR thoughts about homosexuality and the Gospel? I'm not asking for your thoughts on homosexuality here, I'm asking what is a true Gospel response to homosexuals?

Here's one of my big questions - Do you think that God will cut those that sexually immoral in a heterosexual way some type of break in comparison to homosexuals? My fear is that we send that message that somehow that point scale for sin applies here.

Sexual immorality is sexual immorality be it man, woman, dog, cat, corpse. That's my take. How's that for bluntness? We act as if God's going to really punish them and he'll let us off because at least it was with a member of the opposite sex. But sex outside of God's design is immorality, and that's a dilemma isn't it?

One caller indicated that we really ought to "Shame these homosexuals that are coming into our churches flaunting there gay lifestyle." Wow. Do we need to find Jesus in this conversation? Can we love sinners? Can we love them regardless of what category they may, or may not, fall into? Can we make some effort to understand a person's context and their story? What do we do with the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount? Don't we have some rather large planks in our eyes? Do we really want to be known for what we are against? Can we really punish someone to the cross?

Let me know your thoughts, and let's dialog here. I think we'll put this on the show in a couple of weeks! Let's talk about it!

Dan Kimball On Tal Prince Live!

Hey, sorry for the shortage of posts recently. Way too much going on in my world, and I just haven't had time to write. I need to learn, though, that it's probably better if I write more frequent, shorter posts instead of my longer ones that appear too infrequently. Let me know your thoughts on that...

ANYWAY! Tonight on the show I'm having another of my favorite people. His name is Dan Kimball, and he's a pastor in Santa Cruz, California. He has written several books including The Emerging Church, Emerging Worship, and his latest, They Like Jesus, But Not The Church. I love his latest work, and resonate with it in a powerful way.

This guy really gets it, and I'm so excited to have him on the show! He's played drums in rockabilly bands, and is all about good music. How can we not love that, right?

Here's the thing - he understands the mission of the church, and particularly in a post modern context. Evangelism for Dan is about building relationships and listening. He does all of this while holding on to, what he calls, vintage faith. He doesn't compromise, but doesn't bludgeon either.

PLEASE tune in to hear this one! Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 161 at 9:00 PM Eastern/ 6:00 Pacific. If you don't have Sirius, you can get a trial membership. Go to and sign up for a trial, and you can listen to the show tonight! And hey, don't be afraid to join in the conversation! Call in at 1 800 528 HOPE or e-mail questions/comments to

Come join this conversation tonight!
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Shane Claiborne on Tal Prince Live!

Hey friends!

I'm REALLY excited this week to have Shane Claiborne on the show. Remember, we are live Sunday nights from 9-10 EST/6-7 PST on Sirius Channel 161.

This is one of those guys that really gets the Gospel, and has taken it radically serious. Go check out his website at He is an author, and an activist. Actually, he even went to Baghdad and lived there during the shock and awe phase of the gulf war.

You want to live a counter cultural lifestyle? Cool. Then you will love Shane. He lives among the homeless in inner city Philadelphia and aids those in recovery from various addictions. They all live together in community and we're going to hear all about it!

His most recent books are, The Irresistible Revolution, and Jesus for President. You are going to love this guy, and you are definitely going to be challenged by him. Tune in and tell your friends!

Remembering Maria Sue Chapman

It was years ago that Teresa and I made the decision that it was finally time to adopt. It was shortly thereafter that we met Steven Curtis Chapman for the first time and talked to him about it, as we knew they had adopted from China.

We told him that we didn't want to wait for Teresa to turn 30, as China requires, but he urged us to reconsider. We did, and after much prayer, we decided to wait. This is how we got Bethany, and shortly thereafter, JoHannah.

Over the years of crusade work, I crossed paths with Steven and we exchanged stories and photos of our daughters.

It was with great sadness that we got the news of Maria Sue's death this past Wednesday. It is just so sad, but we do not grieve without hope.

I have been truly struck this week by a couple of songs that Steven wrote. He had no idea what he was really writing about in these songs, but God surely did.

Watch the videos, and think about and pray for the Chapman family in their loss. Particularly their teenage son who accidentally ran over Maria as he was leaving the house. It's just all so awful, but God has a plan and a reason - though we may not see it on this side of the Kingdom.

Jeremiah 29:11 is as true today as it ever was.

We do not grieve without hope.

Dance on, Cinderella. You are with the only one who loves you more than your parents.

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It's Just Too Accurate

Every once in awhile, a music video captures life with astonishing accuracy.

Here's one that does it very well. Pause the music at the bottom of the page, and enjoy this. You'll never know how many people come to me stunned that someone they met online was not who they claimed to be...

Don't come to the internet for intimacy - it's not here.

I will, however take issue with the video on one key point. The Mac references are way out of line. You know this type of thing is far more PC based.

Dan Allender on Tal Prince Live!

Ok, so how do you interview someone that you have an enormous amount or respect and admiration for? Dan Allender's writings, and his story, have had a tremendous impact on me over the years. So, on a whim, I tell Jack Landham to try and book him on the show.

I never thought he would actually do it, but guess what - he agreed and will be on the show tomorrow night! I am excited/terrified and have no clue what to really say to the man. SO, if you have any questions for Dan Allender, e-mail me, or leave a comment here on the blog! We will use them, I promise. Well, unless it's a pointless question like boxers or briefs...

Help me out with this one, alright? It's a clear case of being careful what you wish for... I'm thrilled to have him on, but freaked out at the same time. Don't forget to tune in! Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 161 Sunday night at 9:00 EST/6:00 PST
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George, Jesus, James, and Juno

(Scroll down and pause the uber cool soundtrack and enjoy the multi media experience of this entry)

Ok, who doesn't love that clip? Better yet, who isn't convicted by that clip? Have you ever felt that the opposite of your instincts must be right? Me too. Do you know why? Because it's true. Our flesh will always compete with the Gospel. Our flesh will always compete with Christ.

Need an example? Ok. One word - confession. Still with me? Let's be honest - most of us would rather have our fingernails pulled out one at a time by a pair of rusty pliers than to confess our sins to people.

Why are we so scared of confession? You know, I'm all about the Reformation. BIG fan. Luther and I are tight, ok? I sometimes think, though, that in a hyper reaction against all things Catholic, we tossed out a whole lot of stuff that was really good.

Confession may be one of those things - not in the sense that we need a mediator between us and God - we don't. Jesus is that for us. But there is something to confessing to another person - it's empowering to confess and be accepted. Wait a minute - could it be that the Bible is right? Really?

Fact is, that it is going to happen whether we want it to or not. Why? Because Jesus says so. Now, many of us believe that all we need to do is to confess to God, right? I mean, if he knows, what's the point of telling another person? Why should I? How can that possibly help me? What's the point? How many more questions can I come up with to filibuster and hopefully avoid this?

Not confessing our sins to another person is hypocrisy in it's rawest form. The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek word for play acting - to wear a mask. Most of us have done that right? We feel so inherently unlovable that we cover up our failures and shortcomings so that people will love the role we play. They aren't loving us, they are loving the mask we wear.

Those of us who have been in 12 step meetings can tell you that they are incredibly freeing. Why? Because anyone can confess anything in there and no one will freak out, and they will maintain confidence. It's true intimacy, and it should really grind your gears that 12 step groups do a better job of dispensing grace than most churches.

In honestly confessing to others, our hypocrisy is slowly replaced by true humility. Our masks begin to loosen and eventually fall off and we learn that not only is forgiveness real, but that we can be truly loved in spite of our imperfection. This is a big moment in life. I lived trapped in a world that I was sure would not love me if they knew I made a mistake - any kind of mistake. It's incredibly freeing to know that it is not true. You have to confess to find that out.

Jesus says in Luke 12 "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops." It's pretty clear isn't it?

When we keep the secrets, they gnaw at our souls, don't they? It takes a great deal of work to keep secrets. They keep you trapped in the paralyzing fear of being found out. They keep you from moving forward. They keep you playing a part. They keep you wearing a mask. They keep you a hypocrite.

There's a canyon of difference between coming clean and getting caught. Coming clean is much easier, and I think we all get that - it's just that it's easier for someone else to do it.

James writes, "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed."

You see, we need the Body of Christ. We need community. Going it alone in spiritual matters is rarely a good idea, right? We're not meant to go it alone. We are not meant to isolate. We are meant to the opposite of what we feel is right. Our instinct is to cover our sin up. To hide our imperfection, but that instinct is wrong!

When George confesses his true state, the result is much better! And he has the opportunity to start a truly intimate relationship instead of his typical hypocritical relationships as a marine biologist or an architect.

Confession reminds us we are loved. We are not alone, and we may actually get some help and guidance. Watch Juno confess to her parents that she is pregnant.

Clearly, it's not perfect, but still a supportive family. We need to have safe people in our lives that we can confess our sins to. You can do it because you serve a Savior who beat death and his Holy Spirit lives inside you which is why you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Does it feel like the opposite of what you want to do? Good. Go find a safe person and do it.

Shelley Lubben Coming Back

Ok, so I have a question -

What in this world is wrong with us in the American Church? Now I know there are countless answers, and countless counter arguments to those answers and the dialog can go on and on. So - let me narrow it down at least a bit.

Has the Holy Spirit rewritten Scripture and I missed it, or does it still say that Jesus hung out with prostitutes? I know he hung out with many types of people, but aren't the prostitutes still there?

To take it just a tad further, doesn't the geneology of Jesus Christ still include prostitutes? Or has that been washed over too? I'm afraid that someone has worked up a TSIV translation - Todays Suburbia International Version - with all the other specialty Bibles out there that may not be too far fetched. Personally I'm still waiting to see The Fetus Study Bible, but I digress...

Here in Birmingham, Alabama there was a ministry called Starlight that focused on ministering to the girls working in the strip clubs in town. The great news is that they began to have a very positive impact, and many of the girls began to come to church after being assured of acceptance.

It was not long before the girls quit coming, and slipped quietly back into the shadows of the night. This was puzzling to the sponsoring church, because they believed that the ladies had been welcomed and accepted without any fuss. The church had been prepared for this, and nobody freaked out when these women walked in for worship.

What was the problem? When the women were asked why they quit coming they said that it was nice to come in and not feel judged, but there was a different problem. The problem was that the acceptance was not genuine. These precious women, ready to experience the grace and freedom of the Gospel saw many of their regular customers in worship, and when they went to say hello, all of them acted like they didn't know them. So, in their acceptance, they dealt them the ultimate rejection of putting their reputation above the possible salvation of these ladies.

They just could not handle the lies, and went back to work, and were no longer interested in hearing about the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus. After working up the courage to come to church, they were lied to and rejected which is how many of them have been treated their entire lives. The church was no different.

How did we get here? How are we comfortable with placing our image above the truth of the Gospel? How are we comfortable treating anyone as disposable?

When my friend Shelley Lubben began her work as a missionary to the American Sex Industry, she contacted the largest churches in the San Fernando Valley. For those of you who do not know; this is the porn production capital of the world. Tens of thousands work in the sex industry right there in this valley. Shelley contacted these churches asking for support on this important mission field. How many churches rallied? One.




Are you kidding me? With the porn battle what it is inside the church, this is the response? People, we have got to do better. I'm no military genius, but I do know you will lose every battle that you don't show up for.

We say we are followers of Jesus, but are we really? If we're not supporting a mission like this, how can we honestly say that? Yeah, it's important to go to other countries and paint and build new churches, but how can we neglect these areas right here at home? How can we decide not to carry the Gospel into this arena, particularly when this industry is crippling families, and ministries.

Not all of us are equipped for this type of ministry, but Shelley really is, and we can, and should support her - and others - in this important fight.

Please take a minute and go to her site and read about The Pink Cross Foundation. It takes a great deal to help people out of this industry. They need counseling, rehab, recovery, job training, and a place to live just to name a few of the major needs. But when I read my Bible, I see a Jesus who has sex workers in his bloodline, and a Jesus who loves them dearly.

If we say we are followers of Jesus, then we should follow him here, too. How can we, as the Body of Christ, justify ignoring this mission field?

Shelley will be back on the show this week, and it will be great to have her back. We'll be talking about the successes they have had with workers in the sex industry, and how God is moving in this ministry. Please join us Sunday night at 9:00 EST/6:00 PST and call in to encourage Shelley! Sirius Channel 161.

What do you think about carrying the Gospel to the sex industry?

The Shack is Back!

Hey Friends!

We are very fortunate to have William P. Young back on the show this week. Who is William P. Young you ask? He's the author of The Shack, which has now sold over 750,000 copies by riding the best marketing blitz that $300 can buy.

The book is not without it's detractors and controversy. Just check out Driscoll's rant on Youtube.

He's far from alone, but still, this book is having remarkable success. I read the book, and while I understand where some of the critics are coming from, it seems clear to me that most have not even read the book.

This book is great if you have shame issues, or if you have suffered greatly in your life.

If you have read the book, please call the show tomorrow night to talk with the author! Again, we're on at 9:00PM Eastern on Sirius channel 161. We'll most likely take calls tomorrow night. SO, whether you like it or hate it, give us a call. You can also e-mail questions to
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Don't Race Down Redemption Road

Over the years, I've been around countless marriages and relationships devastated by the discovery of porn of sex addiction. An unsuspecting spouse mistakenly stumbles across an internet history and sees the name of a site whose title leaves no doubt as to its' nature. Another spouse stumbles across an e-mail that was supposed to be deleted, but the words on the screen describe in detail that infidelity has entered and trust is now shattered.

After a few days and weeks of being stunned and in shock, the couple often decides to try to stay together. This is where I usually get involved, and it's an honor to be there. What they usually do not understand that the road to redemption is long and you can not race down it. It requires a slow pace.

Many of us that have been on the offending side of this equation figure that everything is cool now that we have been "forgiven." You know, Teresa and I made that mistake at the outset. I confessed to her, and she said, "I forgive you" and then we prayed and tried to act like everything was cool. It wasn't.

Those of us on the offending side really would prefer it to be that way, though. When a cold front moves back into the relationship, we love to quickly say, "Hey, did you forgive me or not? Forgive and forget, right? You can't keep bringing this up if you've forgiven me." I've often found that the words, "I forgive you" come long before the act of forgiveness. We want to claim it and move on.

But here's the problem - we've done great damage to the relationship. Think about Lightning McQueen in the Pixar classic, Cars. He destroyed the main road in Radiator Springs, and was sentenced to repair and repave the road. When he pulls, "Bessie" slowly, the damage is smoothed out, and then a nice even layer of tar is spread and applied to the road. It leaves no record of what had happened to the road. But when he begins to focus on himself, as any truly selfish person does, here's what happens:

When we race down redemption road, the road does not get healed. We just pour some tar over the wounds and scars and act like everything is alright. The problem is when we try and drive down that road, it's not a smooth experience. Mater's response was classic denial, wasn't it?

Lightning McQueen brings out the addictive response of invalidating everyone's concern, and responding with pride. He demeans the town, shows no concern for hurt feelings, and rephrases the deal in hopes of finding a loophole to make the town feel that it's their fault.

It's a very tough thing to be the one to pour cold water on things, but it has to be done. The offending spouse thinks everything is cool when the apology is accepted, or they are allowed to come back home. They'll agree to do some counseling, maybe go to some meetings, but only for a limited time. They are racing down redemption road.

The offended spouse figures that it wasn't their fault, so they don't think they have work to do. They don't see their contributions to the problem at all. It's all the offender's fault. "What did I do?" they often ask. Plenty. They need help too.

Many in this field will tell you that the couple is going to need to be in a counseling process for 3-5 years. You can't race down that road, but if you will commit to it, and to each other, this damaged, devastated road can be made new again. AND, it will be smoother than ever before.

You may say that you've been wounded too deeply, and there's just no way back. That would be true - except that we serve a Savior that has overcome death. DEATH. Because Jesus beat Death, there is nothing He can not do. NOTHING. Your relationship can be redeemed, you just have to commit to the process and ask God to guide and aid you along the way.

Shelley Lubben on the Show This Week!

I am so happy to have Shelley Lubben coming to be on the show this week! Shelley is a remarkable story of truth and transparency leading to transformation. The power of the Gospel in her life is astounding. Why do I say that? Glad you asked.

Shelley is a former stripper, prostitute and porn star. Now, pulled out of the industry by the grace of an incredible God, she now has a ministry to help other performers, just like her, out of the adult entertainment industry.

She'll be sharing her incredible story with us live on Sunday night on Sirius Satellite Channel 161 at 9:00 PM Eastern. You can call in at 1.800.528.HOPE or you can e-mail us at:

Go check out Shelley's site. Tune in on Sunday night!
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Why Am I Surprised?

I love surprises. Do you?

Have you ever had a friend call you, or race up to you so excited to tell you some great news? To share with you something that God has done in their lives? Have you ever had that awful phone call in the middle of the night? Every time the phone rings in the middle of the night, my blood runs cold because any phone call that comes in after midnight just can't be good news.

Over the past few weeks a great deal has happened in the life of Tapestry, the radio show, and in the lives of friends both new and old. Much of what has happened was been fantastic, and some of it has absolutely sucked. But they have all been surprises.

I was praying with a friend today about some of the great things that are going on in his life, and I remember thanking God for all of the wonderful things that are happening, and thanking God for how amazing He has been to my friend and their ministry. I also apologized for being surprised by Him. I feel a bit guilty saying things like, "Wow! I can't believe God did that!"

Have you ever wondered why we get surprised when God comes through? Isn't that what He does?

I love all the positive ways that God does come through. I love to hear stories about how He has come through for a friend at the last possible second - as long as those stories don't involve me. I love to watch cliff-hangers, but I don't want to be in one. Those stories are so much fun, and we never miss the fact that God was there. We don't even have to say it - we just know.

Why are we so slow to find God in surprises that are not so great? Why is it that when bad things happen, our immediate question is "Where did you go, God? Where are you?" If it's not those questions, we may quickly tell friends "You just won't believe what Satan did to me today..." We assume that somehow God took a break, and Satan pounced on us.

We easily forget that we serve a God who is sovereign. Go back to Job 1, and catch this terrifying discussion between Satan and God: 6-7 One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan, who was the Designated Accuser, came along with them. God singled out Satan and said, "What have you been up to?"

Satan answered God, "Going here and there, checking things out on earth."

8 God said to Satan, "Have you noticed my friend Job? There's no one quite like him—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil."

9-10 Satan retorted, "So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can't lose!

11 "But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He'd curse you right to your face, that's what."

12 God replied, "We'll see. Go ahead—do what you want with all that is his. Just don't hurt him." Then Satan left the presence of God.

Does it terrify you that a conversation like that could take place about you? The key to the conversation is that God holds Satan's leash. There is only so far he can go. God tells him, "Do what you want with all that is his, but don't hurt him." Later on in chapter 1, a frustrated Satan returns and asks for a bit more lead in his leash, and God grants it.

Job takes a beating, and even his formerly supportive wife says, "Why don't you curse God and die." As my friend Dr. Smith says, "he was caught between I can't go on, and I can't give up." Have you ever been there? Just wondering where God has gone? Have you been caught between I can't go on, and I can't give up? Are you there right now?

Seems that is where lots of my community is right now. We've had the suicide of a young son. We have a divorce in progress. We have couples coming that are dealing with multiple issues from infidelity to unemployment and communication problems. We have folks looking for work. We have people in custody battles. We have people in desperate financial straits. We don't have much money, so we can't help them. We have one and sometimes two friends that are HIV+. We have people struggling with anxiety and depression. I talk with them and they are all caught between I can't go on, and I can't give up.

It is very easy to think where is God in these situations? How could he let these things happen? Where are the good surprises, God?

When you are dangling from that rope, life gets very difficult, doesn't it? You really do feel the tension of feeling unable to go on, but knowing you can't give up. It's so difficult. But because God is sovereign, and we know that what is happening in our lives has been allowed by him. It has been filtered through his fingers of love, and He has purpose in it. There is always purpose in pain and in pleasure.

So - where are you today? Are things great for you? If so, I'm happy for you! Or are you caught between I can't go on, and I can't give up?

Remember the storm where Jesus was asleep in the boat? The disciples knew what it was like to live between I can't go on and I can't give up. What do you do with a sleeping Jesus? Be glad He's in the boat with you! He has promised to never leave or forsake you. Never. He's there, and available to you. He knows what is happening to you. He cares for you. He loves you, and when your situation feels hopeless remember that you are a follower of Jesus Christ and that He has conquered death. Conquered Death! That means He can overcome your challenges, too. I mean he conquered death for crying out loud!

I'm learning this - in this life we will have surprises, both good and bad. But you know what? A dead God will never surprise you.

Drew Marshall and Willie P. Young


I hope you are well, my friends! We are SO excited for this week's show. We are going to have Drew Marshall and Willie P. Young as our guests.

Willie Young is the author of, The Shack. This is a book that is gaining a great deal of tension out there, and has been selling out everywhere. It is not without controversy, and that's alright. The book deals with the Trinity through a fictional story about a man whose youngest daughter was abducted. I love the subtitle - Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity. That's nice.

Lots of people are upset about The Shack, and lots of people have been profoundly effected by it. Let's have a great discussion about it and remember as we talk that the Trinity doesn't become a quartet when any of us die. We are all highly capable of being wrong about stuff.

Drew is one of my new friends, and the only way I can describe him is - Stone Crazy. I got to appear on his show last week and we had a blast. Drew hosts the highest rated "spiritual talk-back" show in all of Canada. Go check out his show's site! The Drew Marshall Show.

We should have a great show! Do you have questions? e-mail them to me ahead of time to: Also, call the show and talk to us live! Our number is 1.800.528.HOPE We can't do the show without YOU!

Remember, we have our prayer team active for you! Let us know how we can pray for you!

What would you like for us to talk about on the show? Let me know!

The Easter Show

So, this week it will be our pleasure to have Cliff Barrows as our guest. This is a man that has truly given his life to the gospel. He has worked with Billy Graham for over 60 years and they have traveled the world many times over spreading the gospel.

How have these men stayed scandal free for over 60 years? How have they stayed accountable? How have they stayed together? What did it cost them? What did it cost their families?

They have held 419 crusades in over 150 countries. Come listen to the stories of how these men traveled the world telling THE story.

And YES we will take your calls during the show!

Sunday night at 9 PM Eastern on Sirius Satellite Channel 161!
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Thanks To Kim Ketola!

Hello Friends!

Well, we're three shows in and we're trying to work out the kinks and learn some important lessons. Personally, I'm having a blast!

Our second show from Nashville was what I would really like our show to be like. We had lots of interaction with you, and we got some folks some solid help. That is fantastic! We want to thank John from WAY FM in Nashville for engineering the program! He did a great job for us, and we were very thankful.

Last night, it was great to have my friend, Kim Ketola, with us.  Talking about abortion in a non-politicized way is a tad difficult, but she did a great job.  Having been there, she is very grace based and merciful.  We had a really insightful conversation about a topic that is far more common in the pews than we care to think.

This coming week, we're going to have Cliff Barrows on the program. He worked with legendary evangelist Billy Graham for over 60 years! Can you believe it? He's a fascinating man, and we will have a great deal to learn from him. We will be taking calls on this show, so please plan to call in!  If you have questions that you would like answered, you can e-mail them in advance to

Do you have ideas or topics you would like for us to cover? Please write in and let us know!  Just e-mail us, and we'll put it on our list.

If you want us to cover pornography more often, please let us know about that too! We'll deal with it pretty regularly, but it will help us to know how often you would like for us to cover it.

We are here to interact with you!

If you are in the Birmingham, Alabama area, I will be preaching at Cathedral Church of the Advent Tuesday and Wednesday at noon.  Details are available at 

Leave a comment or e-mail!
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Broadcasting from Nash-Vegas!

Hey Friends!
For our next trick - we will perform a live remote broadcast in only our second week!  It's added just a bit of stress into the week for our team of intrepid broadcast rookies, but onward and upward, right?

We will be in Nashville for the National Religious Broadcasters Convention which means we won't be in our home studio in the friendly confines of Southeastern Bible College.  We will be coming to you all the way live from the studios of 88.7 WAY FM. They have been most gracious hosts so far, and we are very thankful for their hospitality.  

We'll be talking about pornography this week, and I'll share some of my own story wrestling with it for 24 years.  Do you have a question about porn? Well, not like where to find it or anything, but if you struggle with it, or have someone close to you that does, call in or e-mail us! (and really, who among us doesn't fit at least one of those categories, right?)

You can e-mail the show at:  And this Sunday night, you can call us at: 1.888.339.2936.  Please call or e-mail! We can't do the show without YOU!!! Remember, it's a Pharisee Free Zone!
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Ok, so I get lots of requests about this post from last year. So, I'm just going to repost it, as it is one of my favorites as well. I use this very often at men's conferences, and it gives us a great way to laugh at ourselves while getting the point that we need community. Isolation is deadly.

Ok, so this is you fighting porn/sex alone. Maybe you are an addict, and maybe you are not, but if you try and fight it alone, this is what you look like. Really, if you fight any sin issue alone in your life, this is what you look like. The Gospel, my friends, is meant to be lived in community. We are to be Proverbs 27:17 people - iron sharpening iron. We are to encourage each other on in the race to win the prize.

This clip is such a great metaphor. The Black Knight initially does not talk with his adversary - that was the right call. But then, he engages in conversation, and ultimately in combat, and he winds up a bloody stump in complete denial. How many times have you been there?

You're alone, and the urge hits. You try and shut it down, or walk away from the computer. That's the right call. Even better is to call your friends and accountability team. But you don't, and soon the rationalizing begins and you stay at the computer, and you are engaging. Well, I'll just look at a splash screen, and then I'll stop. An arm falls off, and you claim it is only a scratch. Hours later, there you are, a bloody stump in denial.

Think about it - when you isolate yourself from your community, isn't that when you get into the most trouble?

Watch this, get a laugh, and get a point. None of us are invincible...

Fight alone, and you wind up a bloody stump in complete denial. It's just that simple.

By the way, do you have any accountability software on your computer? This is a great help, because you know you're not really alone. Your accountability team will get reports of every site you visit. This is a big help for me. I use and recommend Covenant Eyes, and they have graciously agreed to extend a 30 day free trial to readers of this blog! Just click on the banner ad on this page, and then click "sign up now!" Then you won't be the Black Knight.

Taking to the Airwaves

Can you believe it?  Tonight at 9PM Eastern Standard Time, on Sirius Channel 161, we take the conspiracy of grace to North America.  We are very excited about what God has in store for us!

The new website is up and running if you would like to take a look - If you don't have Sirius, or you don't live in North America, we will post our broadcasts on the website after they air.  We would love to stream them live, but the terms of our contract are that the live broadcast be exclusive to Sirius.

Please pray for us as our team is inexperienced to say the least. Let me give you the lineup.
Jack Landham is my executive producer and pimp extraodinaire. He is our most seasoned player, and he is the genius that God used to score this tremendous opportunity.  Jack is a tireless worker for the show, and for the ministry to which God has called us. I can't say enough about my pimp, Jack Landham.  Oh, and he is single and available - Ladies?

Herbie Handal is a student at Southeastern Bible College and our engineer.  Time spent engineering radio shows?  Umm, what year is it...2008?  Ok, then let me do the math here....yeah, about 2 hours.  Herbie has a heart for what we are trying to do, and is a great guy.  As far as I know, he is single and available - Ladies?

Casey "Sea Bass" Hobbs is a student at Beeson Divinity School, one of my tireless associates at Tapestry of Hope, and will be performing as a call screener. He brings a grand total of zero hours of experience to the table.  Casey is a from California, so that's enough for me. He too is single and available - Ladies?

Garrett "Frodo" Irby will also be screening calls for the show.  He is a student at Beeson Divinity School and one of my tireless associates at Tapestry of Hope.  He has zero experience, but like Casey and Herbie, what he lacks in experience, he makes up in heart. Becki would like for me to say that Garrett is NOT available.

Steve Wingo a.k.a "Wingo Star" is a backup engineer and has slaved to create our bumpers for the show.  Bumpers are those little 30 second pieces of music going to and coming back from commercial.  He will be a calming presence for me in the studio.  His wife Chris Ann would love for  me to point out that he is NOT available.

Marc "The Widow Maker" Phillips wrote and produced our theme song. He calls this masterpiece, "The Prince of Porn."  I laughed hysterically at that.  That's also Marc doing the intro for the show.  Marc would kill me if I didn't let you know that he is single and available - Ladies?
Jesse Palmer is the creative genius behind the website, and our resident futurist. Bonnie would love for me to let you know that Jesse is NOT available. Important to note that Shawn Maddox was key in getting the copy into the website! 

So, there you have it.  That's the team that is working hard behind the scenes to bring Tal Prince Live! to life.  Without them, it would be Tal Prince Dead! And that would make for a fairly boring radio show.

Please pray for us!  And if you like it, contact the friendly folks at FamilyNet Radio and let them know! What's that? You need a phone number? Well, sure - that number is 770.225.1400.

Listen, and let us know what you think!
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Hey Friends,

I am so sorry that it has been forever since I've posted anything. Working all the jobs, keeping my family a priority and preparing to launch a radio show has been overwhelming to say the least.

Right now I have a little bit of breathing room, and wanted to take the time to give you all a quick update. The show starts Sunday night!!!!!!!!!!! We'll start at 9:00 PM EST on Sirius Channel 161, be there if you can. Call in and let's talk!

This blog will most likely move over to the show's website which is It should be live sometime today, but you know how that type of stuff goes. Just keep checking, and eventually it will be there.

I'm out in San Diego for the National Pastors Convention which starts a bit later tonight. This is my favorite city in the whole wide world. The only thing that makes it a drag right now is that my wife and girls are not here with me. NEWMAN.

I'm sitting in a coffee shop listening to some good music and thinking about the show. Please pray for us as this is an overwhelming and incredible opportunity for us. Honestly, I'm pretty terrified of this entire thing, but also beyond thrilled and hopeful.

We have the chance here to minister to so many different types of folks, and hopefully people that don't know Jesus will listen and get help, too.

If you have ideas for the show, please let me know! Mainly we desire to create a safe place for people to be transparent, and in exchange be transformed by the truth of the Gospel. Never forget, God didn't save you because he has good taste.

Pray for us, and partner with us as we move out into unchartered waters. Oh, and by "partner" I don't mean cut us a check. You'll notice that we will never ask for money for the radio ministry. Yet another part of our little revolution!

Let's have fun!
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Back from Vacation and Racing!

Hello Friends!

It's great to be back from vacation. We had a great time at Disney World, and now we are racing to get a radio show up and running.

The network has asked us to be up and running on the first Sunday of March, so please pray for us as we try and figure this whole radio thing out. Honestly, I have no idea how to do this, but we're learning quickly, and God has graciously put a couple of folks in my life that do know what they are doing.

We did have to change the name of the show as there already is a Prodigal Radio. It's an AM station in Waterloo, Iowa. So after several attempts at names, I have reluctantly agreed to name the show, "Tal Prince Live!" Chances of there already being one of those is quite slim!

I'll write as I can, but be patient as we race to prepare a radio show! Please also begin thinking about calling the show! We would love to hear from you! A new website is being prepared as well, and the blog will be there, and there will also be lots of chances for interaction there!

Thanks for taking the journey with us!

Radio, No Really, I'm Sirius!

Hello Friends!

Please pray for me tomorrow, Tuesday January 8, as I will be on Kim Jeffries show, "Along the Way" at 1:00 Central Standard Time. Please listen in if you can! You can listen online by going to her site and clicking on the Listen Online on the right side of the page.

If you've been with me for awhile, you know that radio has been something that has recently cropped up out of nowhere. Well, a friend of minenamed Jack Landham, has recently become my "media pimp." He asked me a few weeks ago if I had ever given a thought to doing my own radio show, and I said, "I would love to do that."

Well, guess what? Since I've done a lousy job of veiled foreshadowing, you know that I now have my own radio show!

This has come out of nowhere. The short version of the story is that Jack had gone over to Atlanta to sell some children's television programming to a network over there. When he got there, they were not really interested in TV programming as they had just purchased a radio network on Sirius Satellite Radio, and a show had just cancelled before Jack arrived.

They asked him if he knew of anyone that wanted to do a show on Sunday nights. Before we knew it, we were having a conference call with the Director of Programming, and he asked us to a sample show so he could hear what it might sound like. So, we hooked up with Steve Wingo at Digitrends Studios here in town, and Jack brought in author and speaker, Jarrod Jones, and we did 20 minutes and e-mailed it over to the network.

Today, we talked, and they offered us a three month trial that will start in March! So, go hook yourself up with Sirius Satellite Radio and get ready for the show on Sunday nights on Sirius 161.

When I was in college, I started majoring in Communications, because I wanted to go into broadcasting. Finally, my dad told me that it was a dumb career choice and that I should change out of that. He asked me one night on a walk in Bloomington, Illinois, "What makes you think you are good enough to do that?"

Once again, the chains of shame crushed me, but I figured he must be right. He told me I should major in business, so within weeks, I changed my major to business. Now, at the age of 43, I'll be broadcasting. The name of the show? Unchained.

Hope you'll be there with me!

Happy New Year!

This is a repost from last year - it has been often requested - SO here ya' go!

So, have you broken them yet? You know - those pesky little annual failure reminders we like to call resolutions. We're a few hours in yet, and many resolutions are already forming the foundation of failures and frustration for 2008. I, however, just completed one of my resolutions, and that was to form one sentence using at least four words beginning with the letter f.

Resolution. Such a strong word, isn't it? It can be such an inspirational word. Resolve. Resolute. The word makes us seem so strong doesn't it? I am resolved to do this. I am resolute about that. So strong... A large difference between resolution and resignation, isn't there?

Could it be possible that resignation is the way to go? Could it be possible that New Year's resolutions are just another illustration of insanity? Addicts know the definition of insanity well, don't we? Doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. It has been a way of life for us, and when we come to the end of a year and everyone begins touting their resolutions for the next year, we quietly resolve to ourselves that this is the year that we quit.
This time, I mean it.

Then stress enters the picture as it always does, and we begin to seek medication for the pain and discomfort we feel. Then we look like this:

The deal is this - we think that the answer to our problems is trying harder. We just need more will power, right? It really comes down to this - the battle for control. We try to gain more control over ourselves. Why can't you just stop, right? Just
try harder. You can do it, c'mon, buck up little camper... When that doesn't work, we then figure the problem must be the people around us. Our spouse, our boss, our friends, our church, our pastor, our neighbors, our lawn service, somebody, anybody other than us.

This is when some of us decide to "try God." This usually amounts to a prayer that sounds something like this - "Dear God, please take this craving away. Please help me stop doing this or that. Thanks. Amen." Or even this, "Oh Heavenly Father, please take this extra weight off of me, Thanks. Amen."

Trying God, I have found, really means tailoring God to meet our desires. Anything about Him that gets in our way, we just try and cut that out. It's like we are tailoring God to fit us, but this is not the Gospel. If we are in control, and making God fit us, aren't we still in control? Haven't we proven ineffective enough? We are God in this picture, and then we will say, "I tried God, but that didn't work." What we mean is that we continued our cycle of insanity and named it God for a bit.

The Gospel is not about exerting control, it's about exiting control. It's not about resolutions, it's about resignation. It's about surrender. It's about realizing that we are incapable of controlling ourselves and others around us. Jesus says in John 15:5, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." Nothing. He is the vine, and we are the branches. Branches do not create fruit. The branch is utterly dependent on the power and life force of the vine. The vine works through the branch to produce fruit.

This is tough for many of us, particularly Americans, as we are very fond of the concept of independence. The Gospel is about dependence.

If we will surrender control to Christ, and seek Him and His glory in all that we do things get much better. The reason those traditional addict prayers don't work is that God will not take magically take our cravings away from us. He waits for us to crave Him over our flesh, and then He sweeps in with His empowering grace to guide us.

Instead of making God fit us, the Gospel is about God stretching us and tailoring us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. How could we not want that? Why do we act in opposition to that? If we surrender, and allow God to make us more like Christ, what happens to our addictions, imperfections, and concern for our own image?

It's an ongoing process that takes place over the rest of our lives, if we are followers of Christ. It's called sanctification, and it requires surrender. It's the first of the twelve steps - admitting that our lives are unmanageable and that we are powerless. It's also the first of the Beatitudes. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Dallas Willard translates that, "Blessed are the spiritual zeroes."

Paul understood it well. Read what he wrote to the Romans,

"I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. isn’t this YOUR experience?” Yes, I’m full of myself - after all I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So, if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, IT becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t DO it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it. I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question. The answer, Thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different."

Jesus Christ can and does. His name is I AM. My name, as Giglio points out, is I am NOT.

This year, resolve to surrender.

Happy New Year!