The Lion in my House

Month: April 2017

The Wedge

I thought God had plans to prosper me, but things haven’t seemed to work out the way I thought they would. The fact that I see this, in retrospect, as…

I thought God had plans to prosper me, but things haven’t seemed to work out the way I thought they would. The fact that I see this, in retrospect, as more truly in the character of God than if my expectations were met is not evidence of God to a unbeliever, but if you do know God, then you know what I am talking about. This seems to be one of those inside clues telling me that He is at work; the still, small voice of God that defies expectations and carries the weight of Glory.

This is, perhaps, what the Taoist means when he says, “The Tao that can be written is not the real Tao.” The God that has allowed Himself to be captured in the written Word is, in fact, the real God, but if the Word alone were enough we wouldn’t have needed the Word made flesh.

I am an investor in a few small ventures. I work a full-time day job and I moonlight as some kind of entrepreneur, trying to make a stamp of my own. What attracted me to entrepreneurship was the opportunity to grow; to flex those underdeveloped muscles that make life interesting. I wanted to create, to influence, and to innovate.

The earliest days of business development had much of this. Every decision was new, and the novelty of otherwise mundane work was exciting. This excitement had a strange effect on my day job; the brightness of the new work made the old work seem that much more dull and tired. My perspective changed and I felt like my calling was now in the new work.

Looking back now, I can tell you that it wasn’t. The ventures continue with some failure and some success. But, I have an altogether new perspective on both the new and old enterprises: neither of them are my calling.

My calling, if it can be called “mine” at all, is in the people with whom I work in my sometimes tired and dull day job; I am called to the people in my sometimes novel and exciting ventures. The people, not the novelty or innovation or even the money, are all that go on past this nonsensical, unpredictable, unfair life. They are the only thing that is not a thing; the only consumer in a world of consumption.

That seems like an easy thing to say and a lesson I should have known, but it isn’t and it wasn’t. Sure, I could’ve told you that before this all started years ago and I would’ve been sincere about it, but I have learned that I don’t really often know what I mean when I say things and even when I do I only think I believe them.

The Gospel plants a wedge between the kingdom I seem to be made to pursue, and the kingdom God wants me to pursue. The brutality of the wedge gives way to the tenderness and gratitude of looking over my shoulder at the pain and discouragement and loss and knowing that God was right all along. That rarely seems to mean that He’s shaking His head and sighing, “Oh what a mistake that was, boy.” The work is good, in spite of my wrong-headedness.

So, now, on to today’s work.

No Comments on The Wedge

The Christian Machine

Recently, Christian and blogger Jen Hatmaker blogged for the first time since her controversial positions on the biblical positions on homosexuality. Her return to blogging was to share her heartbreaking…

Recently, Christian and blogger Jen Hatmaker blogged for the first time since her controversial positions on the biblical positions on homosexuality. Her return to blogging was to share her heartbreaking struggles with fellow Christians and what she termed “the Christian Machine,” the Christian sub-sub-culture’sauthoritative figures, corporations, and branding mechanisms. Christians and our marketplaces closed in on Jen Hatmaker and squeezed, and the results were damaging.

This isn’t unique to Ms. Hatmaker or even a person of Ms. Hatmaker’s influence and popularity, of course. Comments on her blog from women of all stripes indicate that the Christian church and its cultural artifacts can destroy the faithful and, more terribly, destroy faith.

I have a few stories of this of my own. They aren’t stories the size of Ms. Hatmaker’s. They don’t involve brand dynamics and a “Christian Machine,” but they do involve deeply damaged relationships and a loss of faith. Personal stories. A pastor who defrauded a Christian financial institution for his daughter’s tuition. A couple who sought to eject my family from church by character assassination because of a misunderstanding. A pastor who claimed theft, but was later to be found in possession of the allegedly stolen item. A pastor who was mentally ill that started the decline of a 100 year old congregation when he played emotional games with church leadership. A pastor who inappropriately gazed at and touched a teenage friend.

Those stories didn’t get international headlines or commentary from the Evangelical ruling class, like Ms. Hatmaker’s did. But, they are just as real, and just as (or even more) damaging.

The same “Christian machine” that builds up can (and does) tear down. It’s made up of people with mixed motives. The same motives that put the teeth in Jesus’ second-greatest command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We love ourselves (often in incomprehensible and bizarre ways) first, and the command is to extend that to our neighbors. And, too often, even when we do it, we do it in incomprehensible and bizarre ways.

We are bad humans, and we build up and tear down.

And that is why we need the Gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus does not ignore our fallenness; it is in direct response to it. Unlike the self-help stylings of the age, the Gospel of Jesus says that we can’t help ourselves and, instead, need Jesus.

But, my own confession is that I am attracted to the machine. I like being built up. I pretend I won’t be torn down. I want to become a brand, to get the attention, and to see my work shared.

So, I need to keep coming back to the Gospel. I need to be dragged back to it, sometimes, kicking and screaming.

But I’ll take it. I’ll take the Gospel and breathe it and meditate on it and build myself on this rock.

I hope you will too.

No Comments on The Christian Machine

Aionion

“If I were hungry, do you really think I would ask you to provide my meal? If I wanted music – if I were conducting research into the more recondite…

“If I were hungry, do you really think I would ask you to provide my meal? If I wanted music – if I were conducting research into the more recondite details of the history of the Western Rite – do you really think you are the source I would rely on?”

Yet, for some reason, He does.

We’re like little children mixing ketchup and honey and crackers and salt and beaming at our parents’ to eat.

And maybe that’s the point.

Little children express more of an appetite for their parents than a love of cooking. The psalmists seem to have an appetite for God. They have an appetite for Him and His presence that seems to only come only to the best Christians or to Christians in their best moments.

C.S. Lewis describes them this way:

“These poets knew far less reason than we for loving God. They did not know that He offered them eternal joy; still less that He would die to win it for them. Yet they express a longing for Him, for His mere presence, which comes only to the best Christians or to Christians in their best moments. They long to live all their days in the Temple so that they may constantly see ‘the fair beauty of the Lord’ (Ps. 27:4). Their longing to go up to Jerusalem and ‘appear before the presence of God’ is like a physical thirst (Ps. 42). From Jerusalem His presence flashes out ‘in perfect beauty’ (Ps. 50:2). Lacking that encounter with Him, their souls are parched like a waterless countryside (Ps. 63:2). They crave to be ‘satisfied with the pleasures’ of His house (Ps. 65:4). Only there can they be at ease, like a bird in the nest (Ps. 84:3). One day of those ‘pleasures’ is better than a lifetime spent elsewhere (Ps. 84:10).”

Excerpted from “Reflections on the Psalms,” by C.S. Lewis

They seem to have it all together. I don’t mean that the psalmists were without problems. Their own lyrics state emphatically otherwise. But they have the things that need to be together, together. That is, there is a real connection between what they believe and the natural operation of their bodies. It isn’t spoiled with our notion of ‘spirituality’ or even our notions of ‘love.’ It’s a hunger; an appetite.

(Something of an aside: I am not much of a fan of the psalms in that I do not look to them for comfort. I find them repetitive and I struggle to stay interested. I know I’m not supposed to confess that in my circles, but it is true and sometimes it bothers me when others speak of the psalms as a source for their joy. I suppose it should be for me. I am not ignorant of fancy verse and I’ve read [and metered and dissected] plenty of it. Yet, I struggle to connect to the psalms. Perhaps it is the prevalence of pastoral imagery. Maybe it’s just me. I am, though, a fan of the psalmists and they point us to God in ways beyond their words. As long as they aren’t boring me, of course.)

The hunger must stay. It is a new hunger, but a familiar one. We talk a lot of “God-shaped holes in our hearts,” and that is an interesting picture for the hunger of most men. We speak of God’s mercies as “new every day.” And surely they must be. My crimes are rather prolific, but so is the guileless hunger that wakes me up in the morning.

This week we celebrate His entering into mortality. The coming together of Word and Deed in a supernatural way that, for its strangeness and incomprehensible scope, is not less but incredibly more personal. We celebrate His pain, for us, that caused the full display of His mortality; but we celebrate that His mortality becomes a picture not of finality, but instead of the passing from one venue to another; the passing from time to eternity — “aionion.” Not forever; not and endless number of days. Not time at all.

At the threshold of timelessness and time He abides. Every day is present. Every pain and joy and intervention and friendship and love and creative breath is now.  And He did it — and does it — for us.  He does it for our food and our music.  And for our sins.  He does it for our selves.

And so we say He is Risen. He is risen indeed.

No Comments on Aionion

A Journey of Meyers

“Idealism can be talked, and even felt; it cannot be lived. It became patently absurd to go on thinking of ‘Spirit’ as either ignorant of, or passive to, my approaches….

“Idealism can be talked, and even felt; it cannot be lived. It became patently absurd to go on thinking of ‘Spirit’ as either ignorant of, or passive to, my approaches. Even if my own philosophy were true, how could the initiative lie on my side? My own analogy, as I now first perceived, suggested the opposite: if Shakespeare and Hamlet could ever meet, it must be Shakespeare’s doing. Hamlet could initiate nothing. Perhaps, even now, my Absolute Spirit still differed in some way from the God of religion. The real issue was not, or not yet, there. The real terror was that if you seriously believed in even such a ‘God’ or ‘Spirit’ as I admitted, a wholly new situation developed. As the dry bones shook and came together in that dreadful valley of Ezekiel’s, so now a philosophical theorem, cerebrally entertained, began to stir and heave and throw off its gravecloths, and stood upright and became a living presence. I was to be allowed to play at philosophy no longer. It might, as I say, still be true that my ‘Spirit’ differed in some way from ‘the God of popular religion’. My Adversary waived the point. It sank into utter unimportance. He would not argue about it. He only said, ‘I am the Lord’; ‘I am that I am’; ‘I am.”

Excerpted from, “Surprised by Joy,” by C.S. Lewis

It is the work of the Lion. It seems to be sinking in now, after all this time. I suppose it was always there; a little worm in my brain whispering that this would come, but now here it is, and I find myself wondering if this is the place of the rich young man of Matthew 19, Luke 18, and Mark 10.

Jesus loved him and said, “…*then* come and follow me.”

The “God of popular religion” has given me a lot. He’s given me a schedule and he’s given me a plan and he’s given me much to think about and talk about. He’s given me direction. A lot of that came with a cost. It came with the cost of some relationships, some time, some money. It came with the cost of self-denial. It came with some guilt. It came with some joy, too. And it came with hope.

But now he asks of me something different. Something bigger.

That shabby old cat that wandered through my house, sniffing through my things and pawing at my closet door looks different now. The vim of youth has wiped the grey from his mane and tightened the muscles in his now-broadened shoulders. His tail whips and curls. His belly rumbles a new and captivating and frightening song.

Something is changing and my playmate who gave me so much and asked so little of me has grown into a King who calls me to a different field. It is settling uneasy.

No Comments on A Journey of Meyers

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search