The Peculiar Relationship of C.S. Lewis and Ms. Moore

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One of the most peculiar backstories of writer and theologian C.S. Lewis is the unusual 30 year motherly relationship he had with Mrs. Janie Moore. When C.S. Lewis served in World War I, he fought alongside Paddy Moore. Lewis returned wounded and Paddy was killed in action. While in the hospital recovering, C.S. Lewis notified his father who promptly replied that he was too busy to see him. However Paddy’s mother, some 30 years older than Lewis did visit. Later Lewis stayed in her home and, according to C.S. Lewis’ brother, it reached the point of almost slavery, where C.S. Lewis attended to her and Moore became increasingly demanding in her old age.

As I read this story, I wondered how Lewis’ life would have been different if his dad had left the office and attended to the needs of his wounded son. I’m sure the story would have been much different. The rejection of a father caused an unhealthy attachment to a woman who found him to be easy prey for her own selfishness. As fathers, this story reminds us that if we don’t step up to the bat in our kids’ lives, they will seek a replacement for the love and presence we are withholding. Often those replacements are cheap substitutes for the blessing and attentiveness of a father. Our lack of concern could set our kids back for years.

What does it means to exasperate your children? Perhaps it begins by simply ignoring them. To seem invisible is often the worst feeling a child could ever experience.

See it and Weep

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Nehemiah heard the news of Jerusalem. Wars, disaster, fires made the city a disaster. The people in the city were in real and daily danger. The news struck him to the core of his soul and he mourned.  When is the last time you’ve been wrecked by the state of your world? Have you felt the sting of a friend walking away from the faith? Have you sent the poverty of the third world country where young women walk for miles to bring dirty water to their waterless town? What wrecks you today? Whatever it is that has your attention, there’s a very good chance that, like Nehemiah, God is calling you to take action. Not everyone weeps about the same thing. Nobody can possibly weep over every injustice in the world, but we all can do, and are called to do at least one thing. For Nehemiah it was a wall and a culture to reform. For you, it might be something as huge as a foster child, or as small as leaky faucet in a community center. Whatever it is, God is waiting for men to weep and then act. For Nehemiah, it was a long journey, a number of years, a lots of struggle before the dream of a righted Jerusalem was realized, but if he could speak to us today, I’m sure he’d say that he lived without regrets. And he’d say to us that we can do this.

Atheism, disillusionment, detachment, terror, and fear saturate our world in darkness. This is where e come in. Martin Luther King Jr. was right: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We are God’s first option to change the world. And in case you were wondering there is no second option.

5 Ways to Avoid Becoming Overwhelmed

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It had been an especially difficult year for our church. A number of key long-standing members abruptly left our church in protest to the changes we had incorporated in our schedule in the hopes of reaching new people. At our monthly leadership meeting, we were discussing the issue when Carl stood up, grabbed his coat and surrendered with a shocking declaration.  “I’m out. I’ve had enough of all this!”

As his pastor, no one was more surprised that I was. What had led him to this sudden outburst? After the meeting I called and asked him to meet me at a coffee shop nearby. Well into the night, I listened to him share his story. Carl had bottomed out and had nothing more to give. The demands of a new baby, a wife with postpartum depression, teaching a small group, coaching his son’s soccer team and the constant care of his father in the late stages of Alzheimer’s had so wearied him that his despair was unmanageable. I wept with him and realized that I had completely failed to put the pieces of his story together. It was a stern reminder to me that we are all strugglers. The storms of circumstance and over-commitment can send the best of us to the brink.

None of us are immune to the ravages of adversity. We all have stories of troubles that come in bunches mixed with the trap of over-commitment. This includes pastors, wives and all leaders. The choices we make will ultimately determine our success in surviving and thriving in the midst of a perfect storm.

By the way, if you are in one of those seasons where everything is manageable, you might want to bookmark this.  Chances are, you’re going to need it in the future.

These following five choices are lifesavers that you’ll need to have on board when you feel overwhelmed and overextended.

  • Connect

As believers, we often want to be that lone silent warrior holding everything together singlehandedly. Read this slowly: This is not biblical. There was a reason God created the church. The Bible implores us to connect and collaborate in a shared journey of discipleship. If you are struggling or feeling overwhelmed, tell someone. Phone a friend. Yes, pray. But pray with other men who will have your back and walk you through the fire. David, find your Jonathan. Moses, find your Aaron. Shadrach, find your Meshach and Abednego. Connect biblically, or you may be Samson looking for his Delilah and we know how that turned out!

  • Condition

In other words, get moving. Make physical conditioning a part of your daily routine. Hit the gym. Take a walk. You might not feel like it when you are overwhelmed. If you get to the place where you are saying, “I just don’t have time to exercise,”then you probably need to more than ever. Keep the body working even when life isn’t working. Drink lots of water. Stay away from food that’s handed to you through your car window. Fast food will send you on the fast track to burnout.

  • Clear

Prioritize the important responsibilities you have on your plate and clear the rest of it off your plate. I grew up believing that God was most pleased with me if I had more things to do than anyone else. In my forties, I had to create new nuero-pathways in my brain to fully accept that busyness is not next to godliness.

The following is NOT in the Bible.

Thus Jesus hurriedly got up realizing what an important day this was going to be. He ran to Galilee and there He created 13 lesson parchments, visited 15 lepers in one night. Exhausted, the disciples verily tried to keep up with the Son of God but nay, they could not. They marveled at his time management skills and his strength in persuasive skills. People flocked to him and stayed with him for they knew that if He could accomplish such management tasks with great haste, effort and fluidity that he knew the habits for being an effective person.

Nope. It never happened.

For me, living a clear life means spending some time clearing off my desk so that I can think. It also means that I need to look critically at my calendar and begin to say the most difficult two letter word in the English language. “No”. I confess. I don’t like the way it sounds when it comes out of my mouth. Especially when I have to say it to someone I love and admire.

Clear your schedule, clear your desk, and clear your mind. It’s truly amazing how simpler life becomes when your clear it up.

  • Cool Down

Take time to recover from a difficult meeting, hospital visit or funeral. Don’t put tape over the dummy lights on your dashboard. If the pace of your life is overheating, take time to cool down. Start turning stuff off. Put your phone on silent mode and become mindful of what your body is saying to you. If you are overheating, you’ll get nowhere fast. 

  • Confess

I’m not referring to making a confession of your sins, although that’s a good thing we should constantly do. By confessing, I mean turning to God and confessing that you are weak. I used to believe the following statement was scripture:

“God will never give you more than you can handle.”

It’s not in there and it’s not true. God will often give us more than we can handle for the expressed purpose of showing us that we must confess our weakness. However, God will never give us more than He can handle. And that’s good news.

So what happened with my deacon friend, Carl? Our amazing group of deacons rallied around him, and stood in the gap as he navigated through the storms and recalibrated his life. He learned that he didn’t have to do everything. He’s still serving today but this time with more focus and support. His prefect storm served as a reminder of God’s grace in our times of weakness and over-commitment.

 


 

The Gift of Hiddenness

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One of the greatest, most unappreciated gifts God gives us is hiddenness. Few even recognize it as an actual word. But it’s desperately needed in the evangelical lexicon. Everything in our culture works feverishly against it. So many, (including myself) have felt unseen without truly enjoying the power of this great gift. But it is throughout the Bible.

The psalmist sings, “You are my hiding place.” John the Baptist declares it. “He must increase and I must decrease.” Moses is hidden between the rocks when God’s glory slowly passed by him in a mysterious place of meeting. The hiddenness of a Man named Mordecai almost cost him his life until God intervened.

The legends of our faith knew the value of hiddenness.  But everything in our flesh would hope that somehow we would be seen. This is especially true for writers, performers, artists and many preachers.  There is a gnawing sense of discontent when the art, the poetry, the messages are in the shadows rather than syndicated to the masses. We crave a bigger platform, a larger readership, a growing subscriber base, a mention on Facebook, a retweet, and to keep our name valuable in the currency of the collective conversations we share. Jesus valued none of this. 

Do we need more books, more roles, more opinions, more editorials, more decorative doves and theological theories? Do we need more blog posts like this one?

No.

We need more mystics, monks, servants and seers.

When we are hidden, when credit is not given, when the awards are not received, this, for the believer is the real nectar and bliss of Gospel living.

This truth frightens me:  Lucifer fell from the heights of heaven after rejecting the virtue of hiddenness in the Father. 

Can you make a habit out of rejoicing when you are not acknowledged or affirmed?

Can you enjoy the pleasure of giving generously, but secretly?

Are you praying more in the closet than you do in the public arena?

The duality of this post is that I am writing about the very thing that I am NOT doing as I am writing! As I write I hope that people will read it. Perhaps I’m a hypocrite. I don’t really know.

I will actually post this somewhere out in the open air of the illustrious and vulgar marketplace of ideas. It will be no longer hidden. If I’m lucky more than three other people will read it.  But I am trying to adjust my posture about the words I write. Living more for Him. Trying, failing, stumbling, repenting as I decrease. Hopefully by the end of my life Jesus will be more visible than I make Him today and I will almost disappear completely. Maybe at the end of my journey those closest to me will stand around my bed and whisper, “God took him and he was no more.”

How does one speak out and enjoy the hiddenness of the inner sanctum?

(I’m still wrestling with that one.)

It’s a tension we all must manage because there is a very fine line between godly hiddenness and false humility. The artist, writer, minister has been commissioned but for Whose legacy? Who gets admired in the process? Do we say, “What a great song!” or do we say, “What a great God!”

This I do know. I know what hiddenness is. (Desiring it is quite another thing all together.)

It is stopping when I begin to promote myself. It is valuing Sabbath when I feel the urge to leap past rest and into a mad dash of activity and responsibility. Hiddenness is willing to stop and give secretly, generously because that is what love does. Hiddenness is enjoying being out of the spotlight and admiring the successes of others. Hiddenness is enjoying the slow decline of your notoriety and the advent of your anonymity. 

Hiddenness is when your head hits the pillow and  you thank God extravagantly for keeping you hidden for another day.

 

 

 

John the Speediest

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For some men, it’s all about the race. Just stay on the interstate for any length of time and you’ll see lots of guys who seem to be fanatical about getting to their destinations before you do. At gas stations, I see them hurrying their wives and kids along as they watch cars whizzing down the road as they’re returning the gas nozzle to the pump. All the while they’re thinking to themselves subconsciously, Look at that! They’re beating us!

Inside the story of the resurrection, we get a little glimpse of man’s deep desire to be first-man-there.

John is telling the story of Jesus’ glorious resurrection and in John 20:4. He records the triumph of the empty tomb and as a side note he also remarks about who got there first. It seems worthy of a sports announcer like Darrell Waltrip. “In the inside lane—Simon Peter in the sandals and beard. On the outside lane, John the Beloved, AKA the other disciple also in sandals and a beard.  Boogedy, Boogedy, Boogedy!”

John records the results for all eternity in verse 4: “The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first.”  But that’s not quite enough. John underscores who came in first and second time in verse 6: “Then, following him, Simon Peter also came.”

We get who got there first and it was not Simon Peter. But John continues to make sure you understood in verse 8: “The other disciple, who had reached the tomb first…”

So John the Beloved is also John the Speediest. I can just imagine Peter reading the Gospel delivered straight from Patmos where John had been exiled. As Peter thought of the incredible world-changing resurrection, he must have smiled at the tiny subplot of the Jerusalem 1200 meter dash and the much, self-heralded triumph of John the Speediest.  Somehow John managed to get the bragging rights in his permanent record.

Grace on a Family Tree

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One of my friends loves Jesus. That sounds commonplace doesn’t it? It becomes less pedestrian when I tell you that his Mom died a drug addict and his father was a devout atheist. My friend was gloriously saved at the age of 10 at a Vacation Bible School event and never looked back. This. Makes. No. Sense. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree but this apple fell off the tree rolled down the hill, was picked up by a pilot and flew across the ocean! (Figuratively speaking, of course.) And believe me, I don’t have the enough white space here to chronicle the entire sordid tale.  His story is a monument to the fact that God can save anybody He wants to save, no matter how messed up the family tree.

The New Testament begins with a family tree that had a number of ugly branches. Matthew 1 tells us that in Jesus’ lineage are a number shady characters including a prostitute, daughter of incest, an adulterer, a lying brother, lots of cautionary tales and ultimately an scandalous unwed pregnancy. It’s almost like God wanted to say from the start that this Gospel is all about grace and not about our upbringing. God isn’t as interested in your family history. He’s interested in what happens next. And when it comes to transformation, what happens next is glorious. He flips the script with grace. It’s His specialty. Never count yourself or your family out because of what happened yesterday. It’s an insult to the power of God when you do.

Stick with the Plan. Keep it Simple Somehow

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The high school football coach was being heckled mercilessly in the first quarter by all the player’s dads. He just kept calling the same running plays over and over again. The coach, who happened to be a member of my small group, told me his plan the night before. He was going to run the ball, over and over again because he knew the front four of the opponents team was strong but they didn’t have the conditioning that his offensive line had. He said, “It’s just a matter of time.”  The crowd harassed the coach relentlessly as the running backs eked out a ground game in the first quarter two or three yards at a time.  No passes. All rushes.  But by the 3rd quarter, the defensive line had their hands on their hips. They were gassed! And the two-yard gains became 20-yard gains in the fourth quarter as they rolled to victory easily.

Whether it is growing our retirement plan, growing a Small group, or devising a strategy to lose weight, we must plan. Often the plans are not exciting. They drone on respectively and require consistency, patience and a relentless nature of doing things (or not doing things) day after day after day. It’s not thrilling. It’s doesn’t make your heart beat faster like a reckless short-term plan often does, but it works. The writer of Proverbs reminds us that diligence always trumps recklessness. Let’s make sure that we’re consistent with our plan so that the 4thquarter and the victory celebration will be that much sweeter.

What’s your game plan?  Allow me to share mine.  It’s such an easy plan. I still have to look at it every day or I’ll forget it. (And yes, I often do.)

Stick with the plan:

    1. Give at least ten percent.
    2. Save at least ten percent.
    3. Always take one day a week to rest.
    4. Continue to date your wife.
    5. Don’t talk about people behind their backs.
    6. Work out 6 days a week.
    7. Journal at least one day a week– even if it’s just a few sentences.
    8. Meet with an accountability partner.
    9. As much as you can, eat unprocessed food.
    10. Meet God daily. Find a place, read the Word, work your prayer list.
    I know it is pretty basic, but I’m a basic guy. It’s not a complicated playbook, but the more I keep running it, the more I frustrate the opponent. If I’m faithful to it, I will need no Hail Marys.

Don’t Drive Like Jehu

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What is it about driving that turns a normal guy into a crazed lunatic? We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? But I think I have some clues:  Men love races and the road is subliminally set up like a race. There’s a destination.  There are green lights, red lights, stripes, places for pit-stops and every journey ends with an imaginary finish line. It is soin my blood and I’m not NASCAR guy.  I’m at the gas pump and I want the family to finish using the facilities because I look at all the cars on the road and somewhere deep in the synapses between the cerebral cortex and the hypothalamus gland, a voice is whispering as I watch them whiz by, “They’re all beating you!” Where did this voice come from? Did I watch too many Dukes of Hazzard reruns? Do I secretly adhere to the creeds of Ricky Bobby? Was I traumatized by my brother’s victory at the Super Speed Go-Cart Derby?

Most guys that I know talk to the other vehicles. I see them. Is this therapy? Does it really help? We know they can’t hear us but that doesn’t stop us from blurting out the snarkiest observation we can think of. I thought it was just an American deal until I went on a mission trip to Guatemala. They were just as annoyed and perhaps even more assertive than American drivers.

I think it all started with a guy in 2 Kings named Jehu.  If you want a picture of road rage, look no further. Whenever you find Jehu in the narrative, he’s either racing around the Northern Kingdom in his tricked out chariot with the spinning hubcaps or he’s shooting his arrows all over the suburbs. He actually ran over wicked queen Jezebel with his chariot. He was so notorious in his chariot that people around town thought reckless driving and Jehu were synonymous. Note the following passage:

Again the watchman reported… “The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi—he drives like a madman.”2 Kings 9:20

When you get behind the wheel think about Mary on her donkey, not Jehu in his chariot. We’ll all be a lot safer and sleep a little sounder. And if someone tells you that you drive like Jehu, that’s not a compliment.  That’s a warning! You might need extensive counseling.

 

 

My Mom

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My mother made it to Heaven this past year, but she left an indelible mark on my life. Growing up, I thought my mother was the strictest, most penny-pinching woman on the planet. As an adult, this theory has been confirmed. I used to think this was a flaw more than a virtue. I was wrong.

Mom was prepared for every crisis. The apocalypse, the great tribulation and the nuclear meltdown never happened but they did, the world would have turned to her and they would all receive stacks of canned hominy, frozen vegetables and enough toilet paper to go around. But not the two-ply toilet paper. Much too expensive…

I remember our weekly runs to the bread surplus store to get expired cinnamon bread at half price. If it weren’t for the commercials I wouldn’t have even known that McDonald’s served French fries until I was over the age of accountability.

I can still hear her say, “I’m so glad you were born but after all those labor pains, I should be the one to get the presents.” Yes, birthdays were celebrated and gifts were given. I knew she was joking but the there was an imputed virtue in the middle of this humorous proverb— no one should get rewarded for just showing up on earth. We had to find our own jam and figure out how to play it well.

Along with her skill of saving, she mastered the art of discipline. She didn’t have to lay a hand on me. Her laser-focused glare could singe my eyebrows from 600 yards away. I used to complain that Mom made me go to bed earlier than any other child in North America. The only acceptable places to be after 8 p.m. were church or bed. Screen time wasn’t an issue in our house. My big brother and I stayed out of the house for hours because we knew if we weren’t studying, she’d have a list of activities on hand that involved brooms, scouring pads and variety of household cleaning chemicals. Of course, I was way too busy for this, so we usually braved the elements and rode our bikes like we were training for the Tour De France.

One of the greatest things my mom did growing up was to force me to fail. She didn’t just want me to feel the thrill of victory. She knew that I had to learn the agony of defeat. I still remember the day she yanked the training wheels of the bike without telling me. If she saw a fear or weakness in my psyche, she would push me in that direction. This kept me from the sin of cockiness. She knew that I had no sense of direction- none whatsoever, so she’d send me on errands that would surely get me lost in the streets of our town. With no hand-eye coordination, she signed me up for piano lessons which I enjoyed about as much as I did cleaning the grout- both of which were daily activities. I can’t play anything today, but it gave me the chutzpa to run toward the things I really enjoyed doing with an even greater passion.

Mom isn’t with us this year but she programmed me for success in so many ways and whenever I get too big for my britches, I still feel her influence over me. I still tithe at church, watch my language, eat my vegetables, try to do more than what’s expected, and, yes, I still put the seat down on the toilet.

She also parented three of the greatest people on earth, my dear brother, Mark and my two awesome sisters, Melodye and Melinda.

I guess you could say I was sheltered as a child, and I am so thankful for it.

Silence: It’s Not Just Golden

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I was alone the night a violent thunderstorm hit our town and the electricity went out. At that moment I was watching a football game, scanning twitter and listening to music. When darkness arrived in a split second I realized that the battery on my iPhone was almost gone. A brief moment of panic ensued.

How could I possibly know whether the big men in golden helmets and tights would take the oblong ball across the field before being tackled by the big men in orange helmets! (These are important things in 2018.)

I realized that in a matter of minutes I would be thrust into the lifestyle millions of people enjoyed in the 1800s! The silence and lack of media connection was unnerving at first. It was then that I sensed the presence of God speaking to me about my addiction to noise. After 15 minutes I had rediscovered the beauty of silence. These days, silence is something we have to fight to achieve, but it is definitely worth the fight.  The National Center of Biotechnology stated in a study that two minutes of silence is more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

However, this is not new knowledge for people of the Book. The Bible urges us to experience silence as a spiritual discipline. Every day we are faced with the choice of constant communication, noise and blather or intentional, Jesus-focused silence. Don’t wait for a power outage in order to spend time in silence. God might be trying to tell you something but all the ambient noise and entertainment leaves you deaf to His voice. I believe we would be astounded by all God wants to say to us and yet He never gets a chance because of our preoccupation with news, messages, conversations and entertainment.

“The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” Blaise Pascal

Indeed, silence is something we must continually and actively seek. It’s not the default these days.The white noise of politics, entertainment, social media, viral videos, large crowds, streaming music, and binge-watched dramas clutter our minds and heighten our already over-stimulated minds. Meanwhile there is a whispering voice that speaks and yet is rarely heard,

The most powerful buttons in your home are the on/off ones.

The more we turn off the noise, the greater opportunity we have to hear from God. Most spend their lives watching fake people live fake lives on rectangular screens. It inhibits us living the real life God beckons us to live. Today, it takes discipline. Lots of discipline, but the pay-off is priceless.

Silence isn’t just golden, it is godly.