19 April 2015

a childlike faith

Across the room, Alex saw him. Her daddy was up on the stage, holding his bass guitar, getting ready to lead us in worship. Her always bright eyes brightening a little more, she ran across the room and up onto the stage, winding her way between monitors and music stands. Finally, she made it to her daddy. He bent down, scooping her into his arms, hugging her tightly.

What an amazing picture of the gospel! Unburdened by shame, she simply ran to her daddy. She had no sense of decorum, questioning whether her behavior was appropriate. She was not afraid of being on the stage in front of everyone with all eyes on her, she was just excited to be with her dad.

And like our heavenly Father, he did not send her away. He was not looking around the room to see if her behavior was socially appropriate. His eyes were for his little girl, gladness spreading across his face as he bent down to embrace her.

Jesus had a special affection for children. He told his disciples to let them come. I wonder if I got a glimpse of why he felt that way today. Jesus longs for us to run to him, to seek his presence, while he trains his eyes on us and scoops us up into his arms.

Pursuing goofiness

If you've spent much time at our house, you may have found your funny bone tickled. You may have even been shocked at the goofiness that happens in our home. Although it has now been a while, there have been periods of time where people launching milk out of their noses has been a fairly routine occurrence at our dinner table. Several times a week, Ian falls on the floor in fits of laughter. Just this morning, I came into the living room dancing a jig, sending Brittney into laughter. I just felt like dancing, and that's okay.

Christians have developed the unfortunate reputation for being a rather mirthless, somber bunch. Too many of us get uncomfortable if we laugh too hard. We think it implies that we are not serious believers. When we laugh at something, we worry about what other believers will think about us and our commitment.

Sadly, our humorlessness can be inauthentic and unattractive. When I went through counseling a couple of years ago, one of the things that I discovered about myself was that I tried to present myself as having it all together, which to me, equated to typically being serious. There were certain places where my humor would come out regularly, but I typically tried to keep it at bay. Unfortunately, it would usually come out sideways.

Part of my growing in authenticity is to be serious when I am feeling serious, to be sad when I am feeling sad, and to be goofy when I am feeling goofy. We need to create space for one another to be real with the full range of emotions. So, if you come to my house and I am dancing to "Shake It Off" or one of my children accidentally spews milk across the table from something I have said, laugh with us. I bet Jesus does.

15 April 2015

Kingdom Living is Not Safe

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.-Matthew 6:34

We Christians can be such a fearful bunch. We fear the future. We fear what could happen so we do nothing. We avoid new people because they may not like us. We avoid speaking from our heart for fear of offending. We live in holy huddles because, if we are honest, we are afraid of the outside world. We're afraid of terrorists, diseases, democrats, foreign countries, gang members, homeless people--really anything different. We are afraid of anything that might threaten our sense of the managed life. We think, "if I can control enough variables in my life, I will be reasonably happy. If I keep my head down and avoid threat, maybe I'll be safe."

Too often, though, what we think of as wise living is really nothing more than a managed life driven by sin. We do not trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God to take care of us as we head out on the mission to which He has called us. We live as though we know better so rather than obeying the call to love, or following the great commission, we shrink back afraid and call it wise living.

Did Jesus call us to safety? Did Christ tell his disciples if you follow me, I will keep you safe from conflict, disease, and death?  No. He was pretty clear that following him would be risky, but so worth it! A life lived in love and service to others is never something to shrink back from.  Never.

The apostle Paul said, "to live is Christ, to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).  We live lives of love toward others regardless of risk and if death comes, rejoice!

14 April 2015

Sticks and Stones

Words kill, words give life; 
     they're either poison or fruit--you choose.-Proverbs 18:21 (MSG) 

As kids, we used to say, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." It was a lie we told to mask what was going on inside. But Proverbs tells the truth. Contrary to our childhood rhyme, words have the power to kill. We do not need guns or knives or sticks or stones to harm a person, our words will do just fine. Talk to any adolescent girl trying to navigate her way through the painful waters of junior high school as she experiences a slow death by ten thousand words from her peers. 




"Why do even come here? No one likes you. Why don't you just kill yourself." 

Each word a paper cut upon her soul. Each word draining her life, bit by bit. Many survive, though a close look will reveal battle scars, long calloused over to prevent any future pains. Some don't make it. 

I wish I could say these death words were isolated, but they are not. Every day in every town in America in many homes, schools, jobs, and churches, people criticize, shame, and isolate others with their words. Some scream. Some use sarcasm. Some damn with faint praise. Some scoff. Some gossip. Some slander. The weapons are different, but the effects are similar. Words have the power to kill the spirit.

But words also have the power to give life. Words have the power to heal, to restore, to build up. For every cut inflicted upon the soul, we have in our power the opportunity to bind up those wounds, to speak life to another person. 

Words are rarely neutral. They are poison, or they are fruit. They are death, or they are life. So the next time your son forgets to feed the dogs and you are about to respond, ask yourself, "am I speaking life to him?" The next time you want to add a snarky comment on something you see on Facebook, ask yourself "is my desire to build up and encourage or to make myself feel better by knocking that person down a peg?" The next time your spouse says something to you that makes your blood boil, ask yourself "in the midst of my hurt, how can my words bless the one whom I love?" 

A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
     but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.-Proverbs 15:4 (ESV)

13 April 2015

Crabb Conversation-April 2015

Every month, Mark Halvorsen and I talk about the work of Dr. Larry Crabb, a man who has profoundly affected each of our lives on our show Crabb Conversations. This month, we had the pleasure of having Larry join us.

Here are just a few tidbits from the conversation.
  • Where there is pretense, there is no spiritual growth.
  • The center of the gospel is to look bad in the presence of love. 
  • We long for someone to see us at our worst and still be wanted.
  • What does it mean to learn to dance with the Trinity?
  • My greatest calling is not for someone else to see me at my worst and love me, but for me to see them at their worst and love them.
  • Final reality is passionate, not propositional.
  • When you deny the Trinity, all God is reduced to is power, not love. 
  • I continue to be someone who is in desperate need of grace.
  • The happiness of Jesus is putting divine love on display in any circumstance.
  • I'm on a mission from God to put the character of Jesus on display in all circumstances.
You can listen to the podcast HERE

If you are interested in watching Larry's Soul Care course, you can find it HERE for free.

08 April 2015

Book Review: The Relational Soul

The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection (2014, IVP) by Richard Plass and James Cofield is gold. Previously, I have been honored to include each of their submissions in the newsletter I edit for the Society for Christian Psychology, but even knowing a modest amount about their work, this book far exceeded my expectations.

The Relational Soul, as I had hoped, deals with the importance of relationships in human well-being. Drawing upon work in the fields of attachment and interpersonal neurobiology, Plass and Cofield show their readers why relationships are essential to functioning.  In fact, on page 15 they wrote, "All reality is relational." I tend to agree with them, knowing that we are created in the image of the triune Godhead.

I appreciated a great deal about this book. Chapter 3, which deals with the importance of implicit memory with regard to early attachment and relational formation. Too often, it seems to me that much of American Christianity deals with the logical aspects of faith and life and downplays the emotional/relational aspects. The authors encourage their readers to think about both.

As they move on, they spend a lot of time exploring the notion of our false self versus our true self, which reminds me of Larry Crabb's discussions of mask wearing. Relational formation can only occur when we learn to recognize our false selves and grow into our true selves.

The final section I would mention is chapter 8, which deals with community. I do not think it is much of an exaggeration to claim that I underlined half of the chapter. Each paragraph in the chapter on community could stand alone as worth pondering deeply.

If you seek to understand yourself and your relationships on a deeper level, this is the book for you. Fans of authors like Larry Crabb, Curt Thompson, or Dan Siegel are sure to benefit from this book. But if you want to borrow my copy, you may have to wait awhile, there are things I want to read again.

02 April 2015

Book Review: Long Journey Home

Long Journey Home: A Guide to Your Search for the Meaning of Life (2001) by Os Guinness is a commendable book on understanding worldview. In this book, Guinness patiently crafts an argument for understanding worldview and following them to their logical conclusions in the tradition of his mentor, Francis Schaeffer.

Guinness is encouraged by seekers after truth. Too many in modern society have set aside the pursuit of truth in "an unexamined age," distracted by things of little consequence. But throughout the ages, there are seekers after truth.  He provides examples of how people have sought after meaning throughout the ages, but particularly during modernity and post-modernity. For example, he touches upon the stories of those like Foucault, Huxley, and Bertrand Russell. He carefully works to demonstrate how their worldviews essentially come to places of now satisfactory answers. He continues by showing that seekers cannot be satisfied just with seeking, but with eventually coming to the knowledge of the truth, based in evidence, which leads to commitment.

I would gladly put this book into the hands of any believer or nonbeliever. It is well-written, well-conceptualized, and non-coercively leads the reader to examine their own pursuit of meaning to its logical end (what Schaeffer called taking the roof off). If you suspect that ideas have consequences, this is the book for you.