The Lion in my House

Month: May 2017

The Land of Wandering

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost….

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

I am attracted to the idea of adventure, even if I’m turned off by the idea of bug bites and exhaustion.

The truth is that there are days I’d like to see my life as an adventure, and there are many nights where I’m happy that it is not much of one.

The hook sinks for me that “not all those who wander are lost.” I’ve done a fair bit of wandering, and I wanted to believe that I was not lost because I was following something — my heart, a few authors, some friends.

I was lost.

I wouldn’t have ever known it if I’d not been found. But there I was: lost. And, unlike Cain, I was glad for it.

Cain’s expulsion from the garden for the murder of his brother meant hiding himself from the Lord’s presence. Isn’t that all of wandering from Him? Isn’t that where I was?

Somehow, through a few side paths later redeemed, he brought me home. Those deep roots sown so long ago sprouted something new.

But, if I’m being honest, many days still feel the same. I still ingest the ‘news’ and wonder what in the world to do about it. Clear answers don’t come so easily.

All that is gold does not glitter;
all that is long does not last;
All that is old does not wither;
not all that is over is past.

“Oh wanderer, come home.”

It is better than the land of Nod; the land of wandering.

It is inestimably better.

(Quotes in italics are from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring,” and Christopher Tolkien’s “The Treason of Isengard.”)

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No Man’s Land

  I feel like a man without a country; like the “no-man” of “no-man’s land.” While all the people around me are moving forward, my heart is retreating backward. I…

 

I feel like a man without a country; like the “no-man” of “no-man’s land.” While all the people around me are moving forward, my heart is retreating backward. I am not running away, I’m running in reverse; compelled toward the light on a different horizon. My sails have caught a prevailing wind, while all other ships seem to lurch forward with the tide.

Jesus spoke of the sower and seed, a path and birds, rocky ground and scorching sun, and choking thorns.

In my belly, I can feel the tiller. I can feel the sharp metal grinding; the hands of the gardener pulling; digging, changing.

In the silence of my heart, he speaks. What can I tell him? How do I respond?

This is not gentle sculpting; not caressing. This is cutting. Pruning. Heat. Drowning.

What is coming?

“For this people’s heart has grown callous;
their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
otherwise they might see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
understand with their hears and turn back —“

Tilling the soil. It’s more than I want. It’s maybe more than I know how to handle. It’s like a burning ember in my stomach; a star pain, a constant throb. Burning flesh. It smells.

What is next?

“And I would cure them.”

 

 

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Work for the Lord

Some days, working “as if for the Lord” (Col 3:23, Eph 6:7) at my day job seems impossible. The difficult truth about that is that it says only a little…

Some days, working “as if for the Lord” (Col 3:23, Eph 6:7) at my day job seems impossible. The difficult truth about that is that it says only a little about my job, but it says much about me. Worst of all, it says almost nothing about the Lord. That’s the part that stings; it is the biggest missed opportunity, both for me and for those watching me.

I used to think that I’d want to work for a church, because it would be most like working for God. I imagined that the spiritual and emotional rewards would be overwhelming. In the secular market, my job itself provides little in the way of emotional reward – though it isn’t without them, when I solve complex problems or when I talk to customers who have become friends because I’ve helped them through difficult situations, or when I lean in to coworkers who have become dear friends.

I used to think that Spiritual rewards are even more scarce. But, perhaps I’ve been looking at them the wrong way. Dallas Willard famously said of church growth metrics, “Instead of counting Christians, we need to weigh them.” These last few years, I’ve tried to stop counting the spiritual blessings at work and I’ve started to try to weigh them instead. That is, to measure the blessings by their value rather than their number.

I’ve been discovering that my pride was keeping a poor record of these Spiritual rewards; a tally sheet with too few strokes and too many erasure marks. A good boss and better friend showed me generosity and grace, and allowed me to stop fighting to protect my pride and instead, listen for these differently.

I don’t want to work for a church anymore. Not because I don’t want to “work for God,” but instead, I don’t think it would change anything. Or, perhaps, it would only make things worse.

The change I was looking for – and the one that is starting to make a difference – is that I no longer read “work as if working for the Lord” as a call to impute godliness onto my employer. We work for people, not God. We shouldn’t expect them to be God. It’s a call to take the same attitude as when I try to serve Him in other aspects of my life. It’s a call to assume I don’t know everything He (or my boss) does. To assume that He (and my boss) are good; or, at least, that my boss’s intentions are good. And that I should take that submissive position.

I don’t know why God calls me to the things He’s called me to. I don’t know everything He knows and the things I do know I can’t seem to understand the way that He does. The same pride that I fight to protect smears the lens through which I see my work. Giving all my effort to work as if working for the Lord means humility, patience, kindness. Those make way for love, joy, and peace.

No matter what I’ve said about myself or my job through the frustration, wins and losses, ups and downs, I’m beginning to accept that I don’t need to speak for God.

The Spirit of God speaks for himself. I’m learning better to listen and that is making the work easier.

 

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identity

I don’t know much about sports. I never have. I was a fat, brainy, nerdy kid. Even today when I pick up a football to throw it, my guts get…

I don’t know much about sports. I never have.

I was a fat, brainy, nerdy kid. Even today when I pick up a football to throw it, my guts get a twinge. What if it just wobbles through the air? Who is going to laugh? I’m so much older now, but the uneasiness of being a sports misfit still catches me. I laugh about it most of the time, but to be honest, there are “guy” things I wish I could fit into, but that’s not in my cards. That’s ok. Life is made up of many interests and sports just isn’t mine.

The insults the girls flung at me in middle school still sting. The memories themselves, even all these years later, still hurt. It must be what post-traumatic stress disorder is about; those feelings are relived again and again. The good news is that they don’t own me anymore, even if the wounds still ache when the weather is right.

The scars from those cuts never did heal right. It wasn’t only their words that cut me, though. Most of the time, their words only confirmed my own inner dialogue. Living in that fog of self-doubt and anxiety was exhausting, but it formed a funny kind of scar tissue. It built up pride.

I became hard-hearted, dismissive, and superior. I looked down on them, because I was so smart and so clever. Inside that hard shell, I was a sick little boy, practically begging for kindness. On the outside, I was just a prideful jerk.

Life has a funny way of teaching you things. I still struggle with self-doubt and it still causes me to be prideful. I still beg for tenderness, even when its easier to find in a family that loves me for who I am (sportsball knowledge notwithstanding).

Young man, your identity does not have to be in yourself. It doesn’t have to be built on their ugly words about you, or even your own ugly words about yourself. Your identity doesn’t have to be built on how smart you are or how strong or how tough. You’ll never be smart enough, strong enough, or tough enough. You’ll never be a good enough student or a good enough friend or player or man to build an identity on those things.

You don’t have what it takes. Your pride says otherwise, but you’re lying to yourself.

If you want an identity that doesn’t waver — one that doesn’t rely on how hard you try or how well you perform — you need to look to Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Find your identity in Christ, who is the only one who is worthy of it. He bought you with a price, and it was for your own good — and to His glory.

Young man, you and I will fail if we try to do this by ourselves. There’s already too much guilt and shame and pride and anger burning up inside of us.

Turning to Christ and giving ourselves over to him isn’t easy. It doesn’t come naturally. We’ll work our whole lives to serve him the way we would like to, and still fall short. But that’s OK. He gives of himself so that even our bumbling and mistakes somehow give him glory. He’s kind like that.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

You want to be the master of your own destiny. You want all that practice and hard work to matter; you want to build your own identity. The work does matter, but it will never make for a good enough identity. It will never satisfy you. It will never satisfy “them.”

Don’t settle for it. Give yourself over to God. He is the rock of redemption and the spring of living water. He is the merciful Father who offers salvation, and hope.

And, unlike you and I and our vain striving and prideful hearts, he cannot be shaken.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28

Take his grace. Give yourself some breathing room. Let him carry the load.

The rest will come in time. The wounds may never heal, but they’ll change. They’ll stop aching and they’ll start doing a different work. They’ll remind you of why you had to give up and they’ll remind you of the God who takes you in spite of your wounds and gives you something better.

That’s the advice of a fat kid who always felt left out and never did feel good enough about himself. It’s the advice of a grown man, now, that’s been forgiven and who has found out that all the pride in the world won’t build a house that lasts.

Only Jesus does that.

 

 

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The Spirit of Fatherhood

As a happenstance of circumstances, I had the fine opportunity to lead the discussion in our weekly Bible study this week. The study group is composed of the parents of…

As a happenstance of circumstances, I had the fine opportunity to lead the discussion in our weekly Bible study this week.

The study group is composed of the parents of high schoolers. We’re a team of stumblers, looking to build one another up around the scriptures, with eyes to better handle being the parents of teens; that is to say we are learning together to lean on Him in whose image our teens were created, so we can have any hope of succeeding as parents.

We are approaching the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. After talking through the countercultural implications of activating the wills of wives and children in previous weeks, we settled in to discuss Paul’s directive to fathers for the sake of their children in 6:4.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”

So much to parse in this little (seeming) aside from Paul. So much to be said for the cultural perspective of the will of children, the image of leadership this paints for fathers, and the singling out of the men themselves.

If I’m being honest, I need this direction. I need to be told. It isn’t to say that I am the only exasperater of my children. Not at all. But, the consequences of the kind of exasperation I can inflict are altogether different from those provoked by my wife; my kind are the kind that leads to grieving and separation.

And more, there is an alternative to exasperation: to raise them, led by the Spirit of God, to be the same kind of men who lead their future wives as Christ leads (through sacrificial love) the church and to be fathers who involve themselves in their children long before they are even conceived.

 

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Christian Superheroes

I am tired of Christian Superheroes. Not the heroes; the feeling they leave. Tired.  Exhausted. Worn out. I’m not sure when or where it all started. I suspect from the…

I am tired of Christian Superheroes.

Not the heroes; the feeling they leave.

Tired.  Exhausted. Worn out.

I’m not sure when or where it all started. I suspect from the beginning of the church. Paul seems to allude to this in his first letter to the Corinthians, where he says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you…so that no one can say you were baptized in my name.” We do love our Christian Superheroes, though. Th ones that make it look easy. The ones whose books and blogs and Facebook pages show the rest of us just how it’s done.

You know them: the radicals that pray fervently, sacrifice everything with joy, plant churches in inner city ghettos, lead prayer breakfasts for missionary heart surgeons, and raise their sons to love Jesus. They’re the ladies who are #blessed, with the sweetest ‘sisters’ instead of mere friends, who mentor new mothers and blog about their non-GMO, organic, low-fat superfood cookies.

They’re Christian Superheroes and they destroy the truth of your salvation (and often, their own). As Paul feared, it strikes me that the “Cross of Christ [is being] emptied of its effect” by this.

For all the beautiful work of sanctification that is worked in us, it is the work of Christ on the Cross that has primacy.

Don’t let Christian Superheroes steal that. Don’t be sold the idea that the work done on the cross wasn’t enough for you and that it can’t be enough for all the lost that are right there in your midst.

Don’t let Christian Superheroes tell you that the cross is out of reach for you.

“Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world  — what is viewed as nothing — to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence. But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus…”

 

 

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everything

Somebody told me once that, “Mothers want their children to be happy and Fathers want their children to be something.” With my own kids, this seems to be true, but…

Somebody told me once that, “Mothers want their children to be happy and Fathers want their children to be something.”

With my own kids, this seems to be true, but it’s a bit misleading. I can’t imagine being happy without being something.

I guess it is the primacy of that something that seems to govern the way we interact. It’s a driver for our communication. I’m not sure it should be; but it has been. When we talk, I’m listening for drive. I’m constantly listening for drive. I want to know that something is being considered; being sought; being attained. Candidly, when I don’t hear it, it irritates me. It makes me scared for the boys, and I wonder what will happen to them if they are not being intentional.

And I have no idea how this squares with the Gospel. And it worries me.

There is a shadow; an unconsidered venture in the futures of my children that I do not know how to square with my faith. There is a tension between wanting them to be successful and wanting them to give their all for the Gospel. Somehow I want both.

God help me to give them over to you and trust that you will handle them with care.

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