Created with Sketch.
@ Sea with Justin McRoberts
55 minutes | Jul 22, 2021
I was setting up to interview an upcoming guest when she told me “I’m sorry I’ll have to be pretty strict with the hour and leave right away. I’m seeing my therapist right after this.” “Absolutely,” I told her. “We’ll probably talk for 45 min.”“Great. I’m really looking forward to this session with her.” Now, it’s not just of note that this guest was looking forward to her therapy session; but also of note that this guest is a Spiritual Director. Therapy is not for “weak” people. Therapy is for people Who wants to live into their strengths. Therapy is not for “broken” people Therapy is for people who want to want to live healed and whole. Therapy is not for “sick” people Therapy is for people who value their health. Part of what I think you’ll hear in my conversation with KJ Ramsey is that posture towards therapy and what is now often called “self-care.” The practice and belief that confessing and facing my shortcomings is an expression of health and strength. Check it out.
6 minutes | Jul 15, 2021
You Are The Gift
Toward the end of the introduction of my most recent book, It Is What You Make Of It, is a kind of admonition; a clarion call, as it were.“There is a virtual army of contentious voices around you screaming that life “ is what it is,“ and particularly in places, you feel stuck.Your work-life quote is what it is.“Your social life “is what it is.“Your physical health “is what it is“I’m saying all that is garbage. Your life is not just a set of steel circumstances that “or what they are“ without any hope of change or improvement or transformation. I don’t know exactly where that voice is coming from in your particular life, but I want to help you locate it and shut it up forever.”It’s actually a somewhat poorly kept secret that I’m not always very interested in the specific accomplishments or achievements of those I get to work with as a coach. In other words, while I certainly do find a lot of the projects my clients introduce me to interesting, it’s pretty much never the book or the album or the business startup or jewelry line I’m emotionally invested in. Instead, I am regularly and often deeply moved by the person doing the work; who they are, and who they are be becoming. You are the gift you are offering the world. The service or the artifact you’re working at or dreaming up is how you’re passing yourself on. Which is why one of the most important chapters for me to have written in that book (the one I read from a few moments ago) highlights a rather unsavory event from my vocational history. I won’t recount the entire story here; I think it’s worth reading in the book. But for the purposes of this episode, here it goes, in short: I was working with a designer/art director on what would be my first book project. It was a massive project because we’d thrown in visual art, a second edition of the book, documentary video, and music… So… having bitten off WAY more than I could chew in the time I gave us as a two-person team, I was stressed. We’d passed our first self-imposed deadline and then another and then I realized how badly I needed to get the thing turned in to be available for the tour dates I’d booked. in my stress, I blew up at one of the customer service agents who was employed by the printing service we’d hired to make the book. We’d had a few errors come back when we submitted the files and I … kinda .. lost it. I don’t remember exactly what I said at the moment, but it was pretty insulting and the young man on the phone took it personally. And then… he quietly and very effectively retaliated by digitally corrupting the upload process so that, over the next several weeks, it became impossible for my project to be approved and completed. Eventually, my partner took over the conversation with the printer and we got the thing done. And.. honestly, I’ve always been decently happy with that project; it’s not great. ButThe most important aspect of that entire process was that I realized I didn’t like who I became while making it. And that being someone I liked; someone respected by partners and workmates and readers and listeners (… someone who respects and honors partners and workmates and readers and listeners) was not only more valuable and more desirable, it’s more enjoyable. I am the gift I am giving in and through my work. It’s not the service or the artifact I’m working at or dreaming up; it’s me, through what I’m making. Which is why, along with 4:30 am wake-ups to ensure I put my most focused work hours in when my head is clearest, I do the work of ensuring I can be clear at all. I see a therapist and have for many, many years. I work with a spiritual director. I get exercise and get sleepI’ll find myself a session or two with a new coaching client, hearing the hesitation and confusion on their end while I ask them about how often they’re getting outside and what time they’re getting to sleep. I stopped asking about the project and started tying the value of even doing the project to their health and wholeness because that’s what I think it’s all about to begin with. You are the gift you are giving the world. Which leads me to this: in the same way that books don’t write themselves and melodies don’t just fall into place; in the same way that Justice doesn’t just roll down and Peace doesn’t just get a chance… you and I do not simply become. You and I don’t just get healthy. Just like your idea needs time and curation and attention from you, you and I need the help of those outside us in order to be shaped and grow; sometimes even just to heal and get right. I don’t recommend therapy because I think you’re broken. I don’t recommend spiritual direction because I think you’re lost. I don’t coach because I think you’re incapable. I think you might be just fine without any of that. I really do. But I don’t do what I do, whether it’s this podcast or the book “It Is What You Make Of It” because I want you and I to be fine. I want you and I to be way better than that; and that takes deep, hard, inner-work… often work you and I don’t have the training or expertise to executer much less the altitude on our own lives to do effectively. So, while you’re working on your passion project and your legacy, who’s working on you?
52 minutes | Jul 1, 2021
You know that friend who gets to the gym 7 days every week. I think we all have that friend (if we’re not that friend). I don’t think I’ve ever heard a friend like that called “weak” for working out regularly. Quite the opposite. Sometimes that friend gets called “obsessive” or something like that (often by people who aren’t taking their physical health as seriously)But.. even, in that case, they’re overdoing a good thing; nobody is suggesting that the desire to hit the gym is, in and of itself a sign and practice of weakness.So, why isn’t that the case with therapy? Why is it that, even now, after all, we know about brain chemistry, the control mechanisms in human psychology, and the well-funded attempts by markets, political systems, and corporations to manipulate human thought and emotion.. that the dominant pushback folks have about going to therapy.. is about being, or appearing “weak?” I don’t really know the answer to that in full What I know is that some of the language used to critique psychotherapy and the need for it emanates from Western Religion. Which is part of what makes Monica DiChristina’s work so interesting and important. I really enjoyed my conversation with her and I think you will, too.Check it out. Links for Monica DiChristina:https://monicadicristina.com Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcast Order the new book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble Episode Sponsored by BetterHelpCheck them out - http://betterhelp.com/atsea
5 minutes | Jun 24, 2021
The Work of Art
I remember sitting on the edge of a hotel bed, sorting through line after line of a ledger to figure out if the tour manager had missed paying me, two weeks prior, the $55 per night I was promised. At that point, Frank Tate, who owned the label I was on and whose band was headlining the tour AND who I’d struck the $55/night deal, pulled some cash out of his wallet at said “Okay. Here’s $55. Let’s get back to work now.”As we left the hotel room, I sidled up to Frank, thinking he’d taken my side against the faulty memory of our tour manager. “Thanks for your help in there.” But he hadn’t taken my side. At least not the way I wanted him to. “I gave you the money because I didn’t care. You shouldn’t, either. You should be thankful you get to do this.”It felt like a jab at the time. It wasn’t. It was the push I needed.I was the weakest part of that tour. Easily. But not even that was Frank’s point. Frank was wanting me to love the work more than I loved the results of the work. He knew I’d be around longer if I did. If you’ve read “It Is What You Make Of It,” you’ll know there are even more stories about Frank Tate’s influence on the way I see my life and work and the relationship between. Years later, my experience and reflection on the love of work resulted in an analogy I used in my 2nd book, which I called Title Pending.The book was a kind of precursor to "It Is What You Make Of It” In that book, I recall a memory about, my son in which we went hiking. We left the place we lived and drove about 15 miles across the way to Mount Diablo. On the drive over, my son was really excited to get to the mountain. But as we got closer to the mountain, the houses in front of the mountain blocked his view. Once we were there on the trail and hiking up the mountain, you couldn’t see the mountain at all. My son got confused and “Where did the mountain go?” I said “buddy, we’re on the mountain. This is the mountain” and he didn’t believe me. “This is the mountain. We’re on it.” But what Asa didn’t know (and was learning) is that, once you’re on the mountain, it doesn’t look like a mountain anymore; It looks like 400 feet of dirt. And if I don’t apply my energy and the best of my efforts in that 400 feet and then the next 400 feet and then the next 400 feet, I don’t get to the top of the mountain, which is what I intended to do. From a distance, the mountain is beautiful and majestic and I want to be there. But then once I’m there, I lose that majestic vision and I just have the 400 feet of dirt; I just have the work. So, with books, it doesn’t look like 175 - 200 pages of printed text, it looks like 4 AM wake-ups and long slogs on the keyboard with a blank page in front of me. In music, it looks like a bad song after a bad song with lyrics that don’t pair and a melody that just doesn’t seem to make sense (until finally, it does). In a relationship, it looks like arguments and therapy and other friends helping out. The work of life is the thing I need to fall in love with in order to love the life I’m living. And one of the great gifts artists can offer the world is to stick around long enough to become disillusioned with “success” the way they were chasing it, fall in love with the process. Talk about their process. Share their process so that, when we’re in the midst of our own slog or in the midst of our own work, we look around our own lives and are not just inspired by the success and by the beauty and by the accomplishment of that artist, we are challenged and informed by the way they got there. That’s one of the things that makes it art.
68 minutes | Jun 17, 2021
In his Legendary book “The War of Art” Steven Pressfield writes:“The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work. He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. . . [he] steels himself at the start of a project, reminding himself it is the Iditarod, not the sixty-yard dash. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul.” I’ve personally met very few artists who embody and practice that attitude quite as well or as consistently as Christopher Williams. Like the Professional in Pressfield’s book, Chris does the work of being an artist. Little to no flash (though there’s definitely some pizazz on display when he’s playing that hand drum) No complaining (though he can clearly articulate the difficulty of life as a full-time artist) Little to nothing extra: Just the songs, which, 14 projects later, are better than they’ve ever been. This is my conversation with singer, songwriter, and percussionist, Christopher Williams Links for Christopher Williamshttps://www.christopherw.com Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcastOrder the new book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble Episode Sponsored by BetterHelpCheck them out - http://betterhelp.com/atsea
7 minutes | Jun 10, 2021
Poetry, Love and Control
A number of years ago, I sat in on a reading by the poet Gregory Orr. Gregory Or was then (and is now) a favorite poet of mine. In fact, he’s a favorite writer of mine. He was maybe five or six pieces into this reading when a conversation struck up between two of the other gentleman in the room. Sitting behind me, I heard one of them saying, loudly enough for me to hear, “I don’t understand any of this” I’d definitely heard that about poetry or about poems before. I’ve probably even said that even as an English major and someone who writes poetry. “I don’t get it” So, that’s not the remarkable part of the story; to say or hear “I don’t understand this poem or poetry.” What was notable was that the person he was talking to gave that moment of pause and said…“Actually, not everything is meant to be understood.” This need or desire and me to understand is, in essence, an expression of control. When I talk about “getting” something, when I talk about “understanding” something, part of what I mean by that is that I have a kind of power over it. Part of what good (if not great) poetry does is it disorients me to my own language; the words I normally would use to identify, name, pin down and control the world around me. Great poetry gives me the opportunity to get an attitude over my own life; to re-orient myself and my perspective to be, in fact, charmed again by the life I’m actually living. And while you will not find in me an enemy of liberalism on the whole, what you will hear me say is that a strict literalist understanding of life, scripture, relationship, and humanity steals from me the sacred joy and gift of being named in my life. See. when I name myself or a name my world, I generally do so (unfortunately) in a posture of power and control and in usefulness. All the while, near the heart of my being, is the desire to be more than useful to be more than understood and more than powerful too, in fact, be loved And to be Beloved is a thing I can only be named from outside myself. Deeper than that: To receive that Title from someone else, from a culture, or from God, requires me to be in a position of powerlessness requires me to be in a position in which I don’t get to understand I simply get to receivePoetry primes the spirit, primes the mind, loosens to grips I have on the language by which I will control my life my definitions and postures me to actually become someone who can be loved. and is that not the thing in life that is simply wider, deeper, stronger, and better than any form of understanding: love One of the great tragedies of religious culture and religious practice is the propensity to lean towards literalism. Bot because literalism is an enemy in and of itself; it’s simply a limited way to understand the language by which we talk about humanity and the divine and history and relationship. Some things, yes, should be understood. But only in the service of posturing me to love my world better. The need I have (and desire I have) to understand the world around me should always be subservient to the deeper desire to love my world. To understand you should not be my goal; To love you well should. And yes, sometimes when I don’t understand you and I don’t understand “why you are the way you are,” it can be more difficult to love you. On the other hand, sometimes the desire to just “get you” is too small a goal; I don’t get the great joy of discovering and learning and having to expand in order to receive you as you are. And that is the call of great poetry; to pause long enough to listen to the pattern, to the rhythm, to the placement and the choice of the words on the page or uttered by the author's mouth. That I would open myself up slightly wider to a different understanding of the same word that I might receive that word might receive that reality on a deeper level in a different way.And if I can do that with languagethen maybe I can do that with the people around me.Culture is usually formed and shaped and solidified by the words we use to identify the lines between people; I’m here you’re there and this is our relationship. Poetry takes those words and sometimes unpacks them and sometimes unpacks us with them. That we might look around our lives and inside ourselves and say something more like this: “I don’t understand and that’s probably not just OK; that’s probably good. Because I’m not here to ‘get it… I’m here to love well.’”
52 minutes | Jun 3, 2021
In a bio of mine, I describe myself as someone who desires to “provide language for the process of life and faith” I am a “words” person. Not everyone has to be or is. But I certainly care quite a bit about the words I use and the words that I take into my life. A lot of that came from a book I read a number of years ago by Marilyn Chandler McIntyre. The book is called “Caring For Words In A Culture Of Lies.” Right smack dab in the middle of the book is this notion she writes out with beautiful words. It says “The business of telling the truth and caring for the words we need for that purpose is more challenging than ever before simply the scale on which lies can be and are propagated can be overwhelming“ Because of that urgency, I’ve moved from just admiring and enjoying poetry to understanding poetry as a gift to great good and powerful culture. For a number of years, Tanner Olson has been making poetry and putting it in the world. He’s also one of those artists who recognize that the work he does requires a bit of translation. He’s not just a poet who puts poems in the world and hopes that people might or might not get them. He actually invites people into his process as a writer because he is actually doing the work of caring for the language is using and its impact on those to take it in. I’ve enjoyed watching him from afar I’ve enjoyed our growing friendship and I really enjoy this conversation I think you will, too.
6 minutes | May 27, 2021
During studio sessions with younger or inexperienced musicians, my dear friend and music producer Masaki Liu would often be asked questions like “What do you think about our chances?” Or “Do you think we can make it?”And, more often than not, he’d consistently respond with an intentionally cryptic piece of encouragement that went pretty much like this, word-for-word: “If you keep at it and stick with it, stay together as a band and keep making music, you’re going to be around for a long time.” Often enough, the band would take that as a compliment, though it wasn’t entirely intended to be. See, in that moment, what the band or artist wanted to know and hear was that they were good enough right there, right then. And that, because they were good enough, right there and right then, they had a more secure and hopeful future. The thing is… like just about everyone, including me when I started recording with him, … that young or inexperienced artist or band wasn’t good enough to “make it” right there, right then. Most of those artists and bands aren’t “around” right now making music. They didn’t make it long-term the way they were dreaming too. And there’s no shame in that: very few do. And I’m pretty convinced part of that part of why so few are still at it, investing in their chosen discipline years down the line is because it’s so easy to become focused to the point of obsession with early success or shallow metrics like being good enough, right now. Yes, there is something to be said for having talent for the thing I want to do. But, more substantial than that, the strengths and capacities that are necessary in order to make a career or a relationship or an organization or movement or dream work long-term are only developed over time and in a commitment to my own process of becoming. Early in my religious training, a lot was made out of what was called “The armor of God.” In a letter written to new religious converts in Ephesus, The Apostle Paul encourages the Ephesians to put on this armor, as one might do in preparation for battle. He talks about the evil of the world and the dark forces they’ll be up against and prescribes the wearing of: truth… righteousness … peace… faith.. But not so that they would go out and win battle after battle and conquer the world around them with the fervor of young soldiers. Instead, Paul prescribes the wearing of this armor (and this is from the letter itself):“so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground”When it passes, will you still be here? Will you still be standing? At the time of this writing, I’m just a few days away from the release of what will be my 5th book, overall. Entitled “It Is What You Make Of It,” there are stories in the book from the past few years of my work as well as from as long ago as high school and my childhood. The thing that binds together the stories in this book is the perspective and the wisdom I have from where I am. Which is to say, 'who I am now looking back on who I was'.I did what Masaki said to do. I stayed. I’m still here. And there simply isn’t a singular victory or success in the entirety of my career that means as much to me as to say, “I’m still here. I’m still at it. And yes, because I’ve been at it for this long, I am better at what I do now than I’ve ever been at anything I’ve done previously. I am more equipped because I am more of the person I need to be in order to do the work I want to do.”The day I’m writing this is also the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. A moment in America’s racial history that opened the door for a great many people to enter into the work of justice and reconciliation, many of them for the first time. It is a good work. It is a necessary work. It is also a difficult work in which victories and accomplishments and benchmarks can seem small, at times insignificant, and far too infrequent. Which is to say that it is a work that can be deeply exhausting, particularly if I am deriving my energies from achieving the next success required of the work instead of becoming the kind of person who does the work, even in the face of disappointment See, there was and is a pearl of very practical and lifelong wisdom in Masaki Liu‘s decision to not answer directly the question being asked of him in the studio. If you want to know if you’re good enough right now, I’m not going to answer that question for you. The real question is,... Will you be here long enough to become the kind of person who does the kind of work you want to do today?
65 minutes | May 20, 2021
JJ and Dave Heller
Close to 20 years ago, I sat in a park near my place in The Bay Area, talking with Dave and JJ about their hopes and dreams. Having spent the first few years of their musical career between Arizona and California, they were right on the edge of a move to Nashville.They wanted to take a full, big league, swing at their work and believed that move would do it.Which is to say, they were doing what I regularly tell my clients to do, especially when young and less attached:They were betting on themselves and it has been a sincere joy to see them keep doing that.Because among the many rewards and awards available to professional artists, the joy of having stayed, over years and then decades is among the richest and most valuable.This is my conversation with JJ and Dave HellerCheck it out. Links for JJ and Dave Hellerhttps://www.jjheller.com/ Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcastPre-Order the new book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble Episode Sponsored by BetterHelpCheck them out - http://betterhelp.com/atsea
6 minutes | May 13, 2021
Listening Comes First
In the 8th chapter of the biblical book of acts is a fascinating story about a man named Philip.Philip, a member of the early Church, hears what the writer of the story names as the voice of God saying “Go south.” So, he does And as he does, he comes across an Ethiopian eunuch riding in a chariot You know... like ya do. Upon this encounter, Philip hears what the writer of the story identifies as the voice of God says “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Which Phillip then does. And standing there long enough, he hears the eunuch in the chariot reading from what we now call the Old Testament prophets; readings Phillip and his new religious community would be familiar with. From that moment, Phillip then engages in a deeply resonant conversion with his new friend in which he is asked to help guide and clarify the spiritual awakening Already taking place in the heart, mind, and spirit, and body in the chariot. Which is to say, the entirety of this story is predicated on Phillip’s ability, capacity, and choice to listen. Without that choice and without that discipline, there is no encounter, no relationship, and no story.In art, like in a relationship and, I would suggest, in good religion, listening comes first. A number of years ago now, perhaps 15 or so, a large group of teenagers from a different state descended upon San Francisco California, just next to where I live. Their mission was to call on the citizens of that city and its leadership to repent from sin and turn their eyes upon the Lord. Being from elsewhere, most of the rumors and stories they were familiar with about San Francisco were of the sordid type. It was, in their estimation and understanding, a broken place in need of rescue from the outside.Most of what they did with their time looked a bit like a protest, gatherings on the steps of City Hall holding signs about repentance while singing songs they learned in church services or at youth gatherings. And I’ll be honest right now and tell you that I don’t think the primary error here had to do with bringing their particular brand of the Christian religion to San Francisco. Instead, the thing missing here for me is that they did not talk to and listen to Christians whose religion was being lived out in San Francisco and included a deep love for that city. They did not go to the chariot and stand near long enough to hear or see or smell or sense what God might already be up to in the place they were going.I might go so far as to suggest that nothing on the other side of such an error was going to go well.When I started this podcast, my hope and intention was to bend my ear towards murky and turbulent waters in which important decisions are being made that change the lives and trajectories of beloved human beings. What I wasn’t interested in was attending to the problems in those waters as I understood them. Instead, what I have chosen and attempted to do is to hear what it sounds like for goodness, truth, and beauty shine and stir and grow in places I don’t fully understand and in people I don’t know yet.Which is to say, for the past six seasons, I have been learning to conclude more slowly and judge less harshly, and act more wisely,… primarily by learning to listen more carefully. Because, if I do not do that well, I cannot love well. Among the many short snippets of wisdom I have gathered on my Instagram feed, is this one I return to often. In order to wisely and lovingly deliver goodness to another soul, (and here I would add: “or another place or culture,“ I need to know that soul, that place or that culture. The lifeblood of any good work is listening. Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcast Pre-Order the new book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble
62 minutes | May 6, 2021
The @ Sea podcast started out to be (and I hope continues to be) a helpful and hopeful guide through sometimes murky or turbulent cultural waters. Some of what that looks like is talking to people I don't align with politically, ideologically, culturally,...Not because it's enough to simply "celebrate diversity" but because the discipline and practice of listening is the key to moving beyond division to understanding and then towards care. One of the reasons I gravitate towards podcasts is for this very reason.My guest on this episode is Nick Laparra, whose "Let's Give A Damn" podcast is among my favorites. Not only because of the variety of his guests but I like the way he approaches his work.Nick is always prepared. He's also legitimately thoughtful (without being "heady") and curious (without being invasive).I think that makes for great listening.This is my conversation with Nick Laparra Links for Nick Laparrahttps://www.nicklaparra.com Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcastPre-Order the new book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble
8 minutes | Apr 29, 2021
Hermeneutics, LGBTQ Youth, and the Pursuit of Love
I remember being in a conversation, I think it was my Junior year of college, in which I was fully introduced to the term “hermeneutics.” I’d been familiar with “interpretation” before but the idea that there was a field of study based on the interpretive potters of readers was fascinating to me. It actually gave me a bit of altitude in understanding and appreciating the differences I was running into among people, specifically around religious ideas. The conversation was set up around a presentation we’d just heard by a Grad Student, who had written a paper on what she called “A Feminist Hermeneutic.” During our talk, one of my fellow classmates communicated his discomfort with the presenter’s angle, at one point saying “if you read the Bible, or anything, through a ‘feminist lens’ all you’ll end up with is feminism and not the Bible or whatever else you’re reading.”For a while, that thought stuck around and controlled the conversation as we talked about how important it was to read “great works” clearly and well. Then, our professor, who had mostly been quiet, asked “where did you get your interpretation?” The room fell silent. Literally, nobody had thought about it; the lot of us was quietly and unknowingly not only favoring our interpretive angle but not even seeing it as an angle. Now, for anyone who isn’t white or male, that encounter might not seem all that revelatory. But for us, mostly white men in that room, we’d not considered that our take on things was interpretive; we had assumed we were the baseline… Now, it’s both worth noting and it is unsurprising that the process of seeing my perspective and experience as one among many has been ongoing, at times uncomfortable and, more than anything, deeply enriching. Far from diminishing my understanding of Truth, recognizing my own hermeneutic(s) has come with far more mature and humbler respect for Divine truth, Scientific Fact, and Human the human experience of Reality. Holding my interpretations and perspectives more loosely has meant freedom. I don’t have to be right in order to feel and be rightly placed. I don’t have to understand in order to feel and be seen or known I don’t have to “get it” in order to feel and be respected. If the Truth or Meaning does not belong to me, then I am free to belong to the Truth and for my life to have Meaning well beyond myself and my understanding. It’s all just bigger and deeper and wider and just… more.. and far deeper and wider and more than my capacity to possess it. Which is part of why I’ve found the brick wall and friction that so often characterizes conversations about homosexuality or queerness and religion so… sad. At least some (if not a large part) of what is at hand in religious disagreement about human sexuality is a matter of hermeneutics; it is, in large part, an interpretive difference. And I’ll risk sounding naive here by saying that, while I certainly understand that some interpretive disagreements are more serious because some matters are more serious, I’m … flat out heartbroken by the ways this particular hermeneutic, theological and philosophical conversation ends relationships, personally and institutionally. And I’m not here to say “can’t we all just get along?” No, I want to say something else, entirely. During the second half of that conversation my Junior year, the half led by our professor, he reminded us that the name of the course we were in was “Philosophy.” Which literally means “the love of wisdom.” He challenged us to note that what we were doing wasn’t philosophy at all. And while I wouldn’t have named it at the time, I can now: we weren’t pushing wisdom out of love, we were pursuing control by way of knowledge. We wanted to decide who gets in and who stays out, not just according to the articulation of their knowledge base, but according to whether or not their existing knowledge matched our own. That's a power struggle and has nothing to do with either wisdom or love. If I am truly to pursue wisdom, I don’t get to decide who else joins the chase. How much more is that the case If I am truly to seek God. And again, I’ll risk sounding simple-minded here: I sincerely wonder if the chaos and division and impassability of this space isn’t predominately because of a lack of sincere love between those arguing or conversing. I wonder if, as the Scriptures themselves warn against, too many of us are too full and puffed up with the knowledge that we lack room in us for the Love that would make our knowledge worth having at all. Earlier this year, rapper Propaganda released a song in which is written: “We ain't gotta be enemies but I got non-negotiables All ideas ain't equal, bro“ And boy do I resonate with that. Not all interpretations are equal and not all ideas are equal. But the people who hold those ideas and hold to these interpretations… are. And that is a thing far more vital than my rightness and far more weighty than my knowledge. Suicide rates among LGBTQ teens in religious settings is statistically and significantly higher. And while there are many ways to interpret that data, here’s a thing I’m comfortable saying: it matters more that kids are made to feel less safe and valuable in religious settings than it matters that my religious interpretations are on point. So, forgive me for projecting a bit here. But if that’s not the place we’re starting from, then it’s no wonder we seem to be getting nowhere. So, I honestly don’t fully grasp why it is that, among the religious, we are so willing to delegitimize and dehumanize whole people (and whole people groups) in order to make room for our interpretive conclusions but I’m worn out by that sacrifice and wonder if God might be as well. Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcastPre-Order the new book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble
62 minutes | Apr 22, 2021
I ask just about all my guests about life online. I'm of the opinion that "real" life happens there and I'm increasingly interested in the way it does; particularly when that happening takes on labels like "religion" or "faith" or "spirituality." I think a fair amount of personal formation takes place online and I'm intrigued (art least) by the people who take that formation seriously as well as take some degree of responsibility for it.My guest in this episode is Kevin Garcia, who has called himself a "digital pastor." And while I know there are a number of folks who might balk at that term out of wonder or even concern, I'm pretty sure there's a lot to it.There's certainly a lot to Kevin, who works with (and pastors) people at the intersection of faith, sexuality, and touch of psychotherapy. In that work, Kevin converses with, teaches, and digitally pastors people who often lack access to invested leadership and spiritual care.This is my conversation with Kevin Garcia.Check it out. Links for Kevin Garciahttps://www.thekevingarcia.com Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcastPre-Order the new book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble
7 minutes | Apr 1, 2021
Ideology As Idolatry
I feel like I’ve always been aware of the sociopolitical battle lines between differing thoughts on “abortion” or preemptive war, but the comprehensive, nearly wholesale division and split between people with competing ideologies nowadays is … heartbreaking and scary. In other words, it’s no longer just that I think you’re wrong about this or that; it's that, if you entertain these specific thoughts, then you are aligned with that particular culture, which means you’re in this camp and part of this tribe and, as part of that camp/tribe/people, WHO YOU ARE offends and threatens me. I think the grief for me here is that, in conversations about competing ideologies these days, I am treated as if I am my ideas. Thing is: I’m not. I have ideas and some of them are weighty in my mind. But, as important as any of them might be, I’m not defined by my ideas. Heck a number of them are in conflict with other ideas in me, not to mention in conflict with some of my feelings and even the ways I choose to live despite some of those thoughts and feelings. I’m not trying to be a centrist. I’ve tried that and I just ended up lying to myself and others about things I really knew or believed or cared about. So, don’t hear me trying to communicate some kind of intrinsic value for “the middle.” I’m well aware that, in particular moments, there are toxic and destructive ideas and ideologies moving people to hurt other people and, in those moments, that idea or ideology must be dealt with, shouted down, undone, and deleted. But what makes that kind of effort worth it isn’t that there are better ideas; it’s that better ideas make for healthier people. And it’s that same value of/for people that seems to get lost more frequently than I recall. And maybe it’s always been a matter of identity. Maybe that’s new. I honestly can’t tell. What I know is that I don’t see minds changed very often. Nowhere near as I see enemies made and friendships lost. During season 1 of this podcast, author Michael Wear warned against the desire or expectation to find a “home” in a political ideology out a political party; suggesting that the only places left where unchecked bias was not only allowed but championed was in the political and ideological; that these were the arenas in which it is still allowable to insult, judge and belittle; to dehumanize.So… as wishy-washy as this might sound, that’s become a metric for me in conversation and cultural engagement; if my ideas or political conclusions or religious convictions lead or allow me to think lesser of people, I’m in the wrong. Period. A few years ago, I talked in-depth with a dear friend of mine with whom I have some very fundamental disagreements, namely about religious matters. We were if I’m honest, really proud of our friendship that, in light of some vehement disagreements, we maintained a friendship. That, in fact, we didn’t avoid our differences so much as they actually enriched our connection. At one point, he said, “I think you’re wrong about God and I want to convince you of that because I think you’d be happier and better off without some of what you think.” We went on in that conversation to land on a metaphor of sorts we really liked; that if I’m aware of a fire in the building that threatens the well-being of others in the building, it is not my rightness about fire being hot or my knowledge of how quickly certain materials combust at specific temperatures that will get you moving to the door. It’s that, when I tell you that there is something in your environment that might hurt you, you’d trust and believe me because you know I want you safe and well.I can be right all day long about very important things; things you might be desperately wrong about. But if I do not love you, my ideas are powerless. The value of an idea is the benefit it affords human life. So, I’m not here to say “everyone should be nice.” What I am saying is that no idea is more important than the people who hold it… or the people who don’t agree. Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcast Pre-Order the new book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble
49 minutes | Mar 25, 2021
Karen Swallow Prior
I don’t know when the words “liberal” or “conservative” became insults. What I do know is that I can’t remember a time when they weren’t. So, maybe it’s always been this way to some degree. I’m not sure. My guest on this episode of the podcast is a voice who shows up on what many might call the “conservative side” of conversations, online and off. I’ve watched her navigate the nuances of those engagements without slipping into the snark and dismissiveness that has become a hallmark of political argument. I’ve also marveled at her capacity to both belong to and deeply critique her own culture.A Ph.D., she is a Research Professor of English and Christianity and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is an author and contributor to a library of books including a very interesting book entitled “Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course In Contemporary Issues.” This is my conversation with Karen Swallow Prior. Check it out. Links for Karen Swallow Priorhttps://karenswallowprior.comhttps://twitter.com/KSPrior Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcastPre-Order the new book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble
5 minutes | Mar 18, 2021
Fear and Booze & Beer and Taboos
When Donald Miller’s book “Blue Like Jazz” was initially making its rounds through religious circles, one of the hot topics of conversation had to do with cultural taboos. Namely, that there was a pastor in the book who cussed and that drinking alcohol was somewhat normalized. As someone who grew up around people who both cussed and drank, I wasn’t scandalized at all. But a lot of folks seemed to be and a lot of that scandalization seemed a tad fearful.But not all of it. There was also a measure of care; a desire to protect people from things that might, for one reason or another, hurt them or cost them. There’s no question that, in the case of alcohol, there are reasons for caution. Communicating that caution without being condemning or overly-judgmental can be a bit tricky. Which is why I really prefer hearing care-takers approach issues like booze or cussing or tattoos or sex say something more like “I’m not comfortable with this and, having thought a lot about it, here are my reasons.” That rather than simply saying “it’s gross and wrong. period.”First, because there are some things that are, flat out, just plain wrong and the toxicity and seriousness of those things are lessened when treated with a similar weight as something like foul language or horror films. But also because it’s better leadership. Saying “This is the way I am going because, based on the information I have, it is a good way for me and I wonder if it might be better for you” is a thing I can respect and follow, particularly as it’s handed to me as a way to care; it’s also what is really meant oftentimes. But saying “I’ve discovered or seen a cosmic and unmovable truth that you don’t see about this very particular (and even small) thing. You should get on board.” is harder to swallow and is dripping with fear; fear of the thing itself and (worse), fear that I’ll choose poorly and unwisely given the chance. Fear makes bad religion and unhealthy relationshipFear also corrupts and undoes good religion and healthy relationship Fear is also what makes a thing “taboo” Fear isn’t a bad thing at all; it just shouldn’t lead. Similarly, in the theme of this podcast, fear can be helpful in navigating turbulent waters but it’s a mistake to allow fear to fundamentally define the waters as “dangerous.” Sometimes, there really are things in the waters that should be avoided, culturally and relationally. But sometimes (perhaps most often), it’s not that the waters are intrinsically problematic, it’s that I’m not a strong enough captain to do that navigation. That can be harder to say But it’s more humanly true And it’s more caring. I would like fear to play its part in my life, keeping from things in the waters around me that can legitimately harm me. But only in the context of a more courageous and loving navigation of those waters. If you’re a regular listener, I’m assuming you want that same thing. Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcastPre-Order the new book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble
38 minutes | Mar 11, 2021
Harding House Brewery
The very first beer I ever had was, I believe, a Bud Dry. That’s probably not true for a lot of folks, but it’s part of my story and I like it as someone who tests as a 4 on the enneagram. At the time, beer pretty much only showed up at parties or in TV commercials and was never any talk about “hops” or or “malt” between beer drinkers. Which is to say, the culture around beer was thin. That’s not the case anymore. The most recent beer I had was last night at a neighbor-friend’s birthday party where we tasted 8 different beers from local breweries and talked about the differences in composition and flavor and complexity; the way people talk about wine or paintings or songs. Beer culture is a vital social space that, as a culture, provides a doorway into relationship and conversation even broader than wine or fine art does; probably more like music. Which is the thing I like most about the team at Harding House brewery in Nashville, TN. And why it means so much that, among the many excellent beers they’ve brewed and released are two beers named after words I’ve written. It’s been a legitimate career highlight to be included in their work that way. I got to sit down with them in Nashville a few weeks ago. It was a delightful conversation. Check it out. http://www.hardinghousebrew.com/Links for Justin:JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this PodcastPre-order the NEW Book - It Is What You Make ItHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble
11 minutes | Mar 4, 2021
Deconstruction and Fundamentalism
I just got off the phone with a long-time friend who is now a coaching client. It's the call I needed in order to finish this script. This beloved friend began the conversation with the nearly universal phrase: "I feel like I'm always in the middle."And I get that. Even though I disagree a bit. I don't think he's in the "middle," per se; I think he's trapped in a relationship with people who hold somewhat opposing perspectives (political, social, theological) and hold those perspectives more tightly and more dearly than they do the people around them. In other words, he is in a relationship with fundamentalists who hold differing opinions; People who are so sure that what they think is correct and who are so sure that the things they think are important that they are willing to sacrifice relationship in order to hold onto their perspectives and ideas.That's the actual trauma and tragedy of Fundamentalism; it strips people of their humanity and rends us from those we would otherwise love. I'm not allowed to be on a journey or in a process. I MUST come to conclusions and have some form of certainty. Namely about things the machinery I've aligned myself with has deemed most important. --in 2008, I released a collection of songs entitled "Deconstruction." The title was actually a remnant from my collegiate studies in philosophy, where I spent a bit of time around the work and words of Jaques Derrida. At the time, "post-modernism" was the buzz phrase, particularly as some of its core tenants threatened the seemingly secure hold Modernity had on daily life. Most western, white-male-dominated cultures stood firmly on the assumption that some things were "True" and, in their being True and immovable. That assurance meant that the building of institutions and rules of life were safer and would be long-lasting. What Derrida offered, though, was the suggestion that the language used to communicate and understand those assurances was fraught with contradiction and complexity; that language did not reliably point in the direction of a controlling and anchoring "Truth."Instead, words are bound together by the tension and connection found between themselves. There was (and is) no central reference point from which each individual word derives its meaning. More simply, if a word has "meaning," it has that meaning in relationship to the words around it. And that's the constant; language and the connection between words. Some critics read Derrida as one more expression of "relative truth," but Derrida was up to something fundamentally different; he was suggesting that the "constant" was relationship itself. The relationship between words and between the people who used them. For example: In a religious context, that Truth might be expressed in a phrase like "God is love. "For Derrida, the wild differences between what I mean by "God "and what you meant suggests a lack of common experience; there is no "thing" to be called "God." what there is, though, is the connection between you and me. And, in that case, meaning wasn't to be discovered in a common experience of whatever the word "God" meant; it was forged and fostered in the connection and tension in the relationship between you and I.He called this "Deconstruction."DERRIDADIAN DECONSTRUCTION: The inherent desire to have a center around which meaning revolves or in which meaning is rooted. The reduction of meaning to a set of definitions committed to writing (nothing beyond the text)How that reduction of meaning to language captures opposition within the concept itselfAt the heart of his initial work was (and is) a frustration about the inherent desire in human hearts to place "meaning" at the center of existence. That just because we are alive, our lives must have meaning. He found this problematic and sought to undo it. Derrida saw it problematic that philosophy was driven by the need to find a centering, grounding meaning at all. He bristled at the certainty with which philosophers sought to find meaning somewhere; believing their certainty in any kind of absolute blinded them. My religious training counters that idea by suggesting that the desire in human hearts to live in and with meaning is a hunger similar to the hunger for food, a thing to actually schedule one's days around rather than learn to ignore, for really any reason. The details, of course, are negotiable, to say the least; but that nudge at the core of one's soul that says "there's more. not just out there, but in you" is real; it's part of what it means to be human. And this is why I find myself struggling with the use of the word "deconstruction" as a description for so much socio-religious conversation recently. The way I hear it, I think we're mostly talking about reorganization and maturity and growing and discernment, all of which is not just fine; it's good. It's true. It's beautiful. And I guess I wish we would let good things be good, sometimes. Most of the institutional conversations i'm around feature a critique of systems that poorly reflect a central truth or Reality that deserves a better treatment and culture. For many, churches are problematic, not because they're organized around a reality that is non-existent, but because their corporeal practices distract from the beauty and goodness of that Reality. Yes, please? I like that a lot. But that's not deconstruction. It's something ( i would suggest) richer and harder and more communal and more fluid and more human; it's the work part of belonging to people. It is the practice of Beloved Community. I have long believed that one of the most corrosive aspects of Fundamentalism is that it convinces us that ideas and definitions are more vital and important than the people who hold them. In that light, Fundamentalism convinces us that change is a necessarily deconstructive process; things are either true or false, black or white, real or not, in or out, Biblical or sinful, sacred or secular - alive to the Glory of and service of God or fit to be torn down and trampled... there is no movement or growth or progress or even redemption; I've either got it right, or I've got to go. The glaring feature in that fundamentalist mindset is fear, mostly fear that the center won't hold if it's moved or challenged or not protected. And.. here's where I'd like to land this plane: I don't think that's what we have on hand, collectively and culturally. I don't think despair at the absence of existential meaning is winning the day. I think that nudge.. got a lot stronger.. for a lot more people. And a lot more people want to move whatever it is in the way of getting more of that nudge.I think we're seeing a scandalously broad awakening ... that this nudge and the fact that I sense it matters MORE than the words some paid professional uses to describe it, control it and commodify it. What I'm seeing is the fervent and sometimes angry tearing away at whatever artifice is deemed in the way of a clear vision of what's most real. I'm hearing conviction and frustration that there is, in fact, a center (though it might not be static) and that there are fundamental truths (though they may be interpersonal in nature) but that all this gatekeeping garbage culture is keeping people we love and like and want and need from the goodness of it. I don't mind the word "deconstruction" but historically, deconstruction is a very specific and often highly individualized process by which one unearths the very core and center of their being and decides that if there is meaning in their world or in their life, it must be constructed and held together by the sheer force of the own, individual will. So, if that's you, I get it, and that's real and can be terrifying and also really good. But if it's not, then consider that you might not be deconstructing. You might be feeling an invitation to a legitimate "awakening" to be shared by all kinds of people, with whom you agree and disagree; an awakening angled towards (and maybe even prompted by) a goodness, Truth, and beauty worth tearing things down for... as well as worth building around. Links for Justin :JustinMcRoberts.comSupport this podcastPre-order the new book - It Is What You Make itHearts and MindsAmazonBarnes and Noble
52 minutes | Feb 25, 2021
Laura Joyce Davis
The ethos and heart of my next book is that just about nothing "is what it is." Instead, as the title of the book would have it, It Is What You Make Of It.I realize that shifting from "it is what it is" to "it is what you make of it" is a long process and can be a bit daunting. More so when the "is" we have to work with, our circumstances and opportunities is really sideways.When things go wrong or the unexpected takes over, it can feel like the most natural thing to do is to navigate to, grab hold of, and cling to something "solid" or "sure."What if, on the other hand, and on occasion, I read a lack of "solid ground" or the absence of a "sure thing" as an invitation into adventure?That's what I find inspiring and formative in Laura Joyce Davis. That, while I don't blame a soul for looking to "sure things" and more "solid ground" during the COVID era, she and her family took it as an opportunity to dive headlong into the unknown and see what they could make of the pieces they found there.She is a writer and the host of the "Shelter In Place" podcast. She is also my guest on this episode of the @ Sea Podcast.Check it out.
6 minutes | Feb 17, 2021
Pain & Strength
I think it was 6 or so years ago, I was in a session with a therapist who practiced cranial - sacral therapy.Which, in short, attends to the alignment of the body between the cranium (my noggin) and the sacrum (which is pretty much my tailbone). It’s a series of long tensions and pulls rather than muscle squeezing and all that.About 15 min into the session, she asked me, “It feels like you have some injuries on your left side.”“Yeah, probably.”She paused and then pulled me over onto my back and said, “tell me.”I’d never been asked before to recount my history of injuries. Regardless, I could recall all of them.broken anklemultiple sprained ankles (6-7)hairline fracture of my tibiaACL tearsome other mind of knee blowoutdislocated hip3 broken ribs (2 occasions)Broken collarbone (2x)Broken shoulderBroken wrist (2x)Hairline skull fracture (2x)All of it on the left side of my body.“That’s a lot of trauma.”My brain immediately reacted with something like, “What?! I don’t have ‘trauma.’ I just got hurt a few times.”She took my wrists and folded my arms across my chest. Then, pressing down hard into my shoulders, “Let’s see what we can do. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.”After 30 more min, I stood up and felt ... new?It was really, really strange.I had to readjust to what felt like...Strength.But it was quite literally unlike any strength I’d felt in myself previously.I’d been used to the kind of strength normally prescribed by calls and challenges to “stay strong” or “be strong.”The kind of strength that’s was, in and of itself, an effort to maintain.This strength was just … there, holding my body together at my center.Literally, the only thing that had changed (the only thing that had happened) was that someone had felt the trauma(s) in me, kindly helped me acknowledge them as real, and then actively engaged with the places in me where I was still carrying, by injury, those pieces of my history.I think this is what is often meant by “entering into” someone’s pain.And the fruit of that work, that entering in was strength.—Lent begins today. It is a season characterized by the practice of fasting; the choice to deny myself of some joy or pleasure (or even some need); in short, a season marked by the decision to suffer. And, along with the opportunity to practice that personal disciplines in order to clarify my own life and connection with The Divine, Lent is also an invitation to reach out to (or reach into) a world actually bound together by the shared experience of pain and say something along the lines of“that’s a lot of trauma.”And then, if we are welcomed, enter in.And not to simply “fix” what’s wrong in one another (though that is a shared dream, too) but enter in because there is a kind of magic in the meeting of tired and wounded human lives;A hope for healing and resurrection and actually new life.And I don’t know exactly how it works.I just know it doesThat friendships are deeper after adventure, and communities are richer after trial.That there is a power and a peace available to human hearts and human lives that is accessible only through the doorway of pain and suffering BUT/AND it is a doorway that cannot be passed through alone.Sometimes it takes therapy.Sometimes it takes a podcast guest like Jennifer Kosometimes it’s friends or familyor a child sponsorship programor AA meetingsAlmost always, it takes someone saying, “I see this in you, and I would like to help carry it. I would consider it an honor.”And someone else saying, “Yes, please do. I trust you. Come closer.”And almost always,in timewhat we find between us and in usis not the diminished effort and energyof persons carrying more than they should(because we are carrying someone else’s burdens)we find a strength we didn’t know beforeand would rather not live without.
Terms of Service
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
© Stitcher 2021