Who Keeps Your Family Safe?

“The war (WWII) will fail to absorb our whole attention because it is a finite object and, therefore, intrinsically unfitted to support the whole attention of a human soul.”
– C. S. Lewis

Late one night I was contemplating the safety of my wife and kids.  I was on a ship somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea.  If you are a thinker, underway on a ship at night can be a lonely place.  I worried about who would check the front door and make sure it was locked.  What if they had a flat tire, who would help them?  What if the baby got sick?  What if someone broke into the house?  What if my wife gets in a wreck?  On and on it went.  My own bad news network broadcasting in my head.  My favorite channels to tune into: doubt, fear, and worry.  There seemed to be no end to the channel surfing.  But I got a break through signal from God.  He walked me through some simple thoughts: what if you weren’t 4000 miles from home right now, you’re on the ship sitting at the pier in homeport…I was liking this channel…now imagine you have to spend the night on the ship because you have duty…ok I may not like this channel so much…but you’re there and your family is at your house about 20 miles away, who is keeping your family safe from the imagesthings you’re worrying about?  I had to say all of my fears could come true even if the ship was in homeport.  Then He asked me if all of them could come true if I was in the house or car with my family.  All of them could.  God revealed to me His constant watchfulness and care was what kept my family safe (and always had been).  What a blow to my ego!  It’s not me who’s been ensuring our well being it is God.  In that moment I didn’t relinquish control of my family, I acknowledged I never had control of my family.  What a relief!

Who is keeping you safe?  If I was depending upon our government to keep us safe I would still be up in the middle of the night, not because it is incompetent, but because the absolute safety of a soul is beyond the reach of any government.  If any government of ours ever sets out to make us each “safe” we should all head for the hills as fast as we can go.  The only way humans know to keep other humans safe is to take away their freedom.  It is only in a sovereign creator God that we find both freedom and safety.  As C.S. Lewis said of World War II, war will fail to absorb our whole attention because it is finite.  We should add fear, worry, doubt…everything else will fail to hold our attention because we have infinite souls.  We have God sized souls.  Rest, peace and hope only come from having God in our souls, and once you’ve recognized and invited infinity into your soul, the finite will have to flee.  When  all the bad news starts again, instead of letting it force you to ask “where is God?” let it remind you that you are not in control, and you need God.  The distance between you and safety is the exact distance between you and God.  How far apart are you?  At Calvary God erased the distance between Himself and us through Christ.  Now, through faith in Him, we can say there is no distance between our souls and God.  That is safety.  No wonder Jesus said “Let not your heart be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in me.”

My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. Ps 131

It is Good to Go to Work with Our Father

Anthony sprays the Windex on each table and wipes it down carefully. He is so thorough you might think he’s a little too careful. We’ve all seen how a busboy or waitress wipes off a table in a restaurant. It isn’t rocket science. Usually it’s done so fast it would make your head spin. Zip, swish, swash, swirl, your table is ready sir.  But Anthony is taking his time. Each table matters to him. He’s seven. The tables in this restaurant belong to his father.

Many years ago I was mowing the grass with a push mower (not my favorite thing in the world) when my boy asked if he could help me. There are moments in parenting when you realize what you are about to say is really important. The haze clears momentarily and you understand what is happening here and now isn’t about here and now; it isn’t about getting the grass mowed. His request presented an immediate challenge. He was too short K_man_0057and not strong enough to push the mower so I couldn’t just show him how and get out of the way. And letting him watch or walk beside me was not going to satisfy him (he really wanted to help and was old enough to see through the fake things you can pawn off on little kids). What could I do? I told him to come on and help, and I put him in front of me. He grabbed the handle with his little hands and I got behind him and put my hands just outside his. We fired up the mower and mowed the grass. I wonder what that must have looked like. It was a bit awkward. We had to learn how to move together and not step on each other. I had to find the pace his shorter legs could handle. The whole mowing experience was uniquely affected by this arrangement. The results where the same. The grass was mowed. I completed the task I set out to complete and could have completed without my son. But something more than grass cutting was happening there. My son was learning something about me. He found out he could participate in my activity. He found out it was fun to be with me. He found out he was at least as important as what I was doing.

I think we should come to an appreciation of our Father’s work and our part in it. God is going to accomplish his work. He doesn’t need me to do it. He didn’t create me to do it. He invites me into it for one purpose – that I may learn of Him, that I may draw near to Him. DSCN1992Anybody knows one of the best ways to build a relationship with someone is to knock out a project together. To struggle through something together. Just ask Anthony. He isn’t cleaning tables so thoroughly to earn his bag of Skittles pay check. He is there to be near his dad. It is good to work in the Father’s house, but never start thinking you have to work to stay in the Father’s house.

Why Women Settle for Less (and what to do about it)

An article titled “A Gentleman’s Take On Why Women Should Never Settle For Less Than They Deserve” showed up in my Facebook feed today.  I don’t know what is more funny/sad; the article itself or the commentary it is accumulating.  Go read it for yourself ladies and see what it makes you feel.  Guys go and read it too and ask yourself if you downloadwant this man around your wife, sister, daughter, grandmother…any female you actually love and respect.  Does this sound like a gentleman?  The author obviously believes he is a gentleman, many of the commenters agree, both male and female, and over 40k people shared it so far.  Why is this getting so much traction?  This article’s take on women is so demeaning as to be a bad joke; a parody I’d expect out of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.  The author unknowingly illustrates his own point.  The reason so many women lower their standards is that the standard is so low that he can seriously pass off patronizing womanization as gentlemanly!  The question is, how did the standard get so low??

Earlier this week I wrote an article about the effect of more and more men using pornography.  Ultimately that effect is the objectification of women; reducing women to things rather than beings.  A Gentleman’s Take shows you the result of a porn saturated male mentality.  Not that the author himself is a porn user, I have no idea about that, but he writes from a culture where porn has dumbed down both men and women to the point where a man can assign himself not only the title of gentleman, but can purport to speak for all gentlemen on a web site that calls itself “The Voice of Generation Y,” in an article so silly, immature, and condescending as to be written by any horny 13 year old boy in a high school freshman english class.  The picture accompanying the article itself contains specifically pornographic elements intended to do what porn does; titillate and attract.  The content reveals that gentlemen read poetry, roll their r’s, and like to get a few vodkas into a woman before they gently and oh-so-politely invite her into their bedroom (which is probably in their parent’s basement).  Evidently gentlemen are not very humble because other men are just “losers” who are “not worth the squeeze.”  The author ends by suggesting that women go out there and find a hopeless romantic (like him) because they are men not boys.

To the porn saturated mind, women are primarily objects of desire.  Men and women alike adjust to this reality.  Men maneuver to obtain the object and women maneuver to become more desirable.  Men who lack one tool to obtain their desired objects will find others (like vodka and rolled r’s).  The same with women.  The interplay between the sexes has always operated like this to one extent or another, but porn amplifies it by making sexual satisfaction of desire so readily images (1)obtainable that men can get whatever they want out of a digital woman without opening a door, buying a dinner, or meeting her mother.  Women are competing with cheap digital hookers for the attention of men.  This is how an article written by an obvious womanizer gets widespread acceptance.

How can we all, men and women, escape the pornographic distortion and lowering of standards?  Go on a war against pornography?  Root it out of popular culture?  This is treating the symptom and leaving the disease.  Men need to become men and women need to become women, not within the confines of a romantic relationship, but before the eyes of God.  Kierkegaard said there was only one “sin unto death” – one sin that would kill us as dead as dead can be – and that it was trying to become a self outside the presence of God.  Ladies, if you try to become your self merely in the presence of a man, even the best man, a true gentleman, you will never be all you were meant to be.  Your standard is too low.  Gentlemen, if you try to shape your self in a way that makes you acceptable to a woman, even the most lovely and worthy lady, you will not become all you were meant to be.  Your standard is too low.  God’s opinion of us is so high that every other opinion is not only a low opinion, it is a life-stealing opinion; it is death unless it is taken in relation to his opinion.  Don’t think so?  Try consoling your daughter when the boy she is dating decides someone else is better than she is.  Watch her wither.  What will you do for her?  Tell her another boy will come along?  His opinion will restore her to life?  For how long?  The best boy may grow into a man and give his whole life to her, but there is a helping-handsday coming when sweet lips cease to speak and a gentleman’s touch is cooled by death.  And that opinion is forever lost.  She must have a higher opinion and truer opinion, a permanent opinion.  There is only one man who gives this and gave it and promises to keep giving it.  The gospel is God’s opinion of us.  It is the promise not to hold us to a higher standard, but to lift us to an impossible standard.  This is the answer to our pornographically broken world; to accept his elevation.

“And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” – Soren Kierkegaard

(this is a repost of an earlier blog by a different title)

A Man’s Take on a “Gentleman’s” Take

An article titled “A Gentleman’s Take On Why Women Should Never Settle For Less Than They Deserve” showed up in my Facebook feed today.  I don’t know what is more funny/sad; the article itself or the commentary it is accumulating.  Go read it for yourself ladies and see what it makes you feel.  Guys go and read it too and ask yourself if you downloadwant this man around your wife, sister, daughter, grandmother…any female you actually love and respect.  Does this sound like a gentleman?  The author obviously believes he is a gentleman, many of the commenters agree, both male and female, and over 27k people shared it so far.  Why is this getting so much traction?  This article’s take on women is so demeaning as to be a bad joke; a parody I’d expect out of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.  The author unknowingly illustrates his own point.  The reason so many women lower their standards is that the standard is so low that he can seriously pass off patronizing womanization as gentlemanly!

Earlier this week I wrote an article about the effect of more and more men using pornography.  Ultimately that effect is the objectification of women; reducing women to things rather than beings.  A Gentleman’s Take shows you the result of a porn saturated male mentality.  Not that the author himself is a porn user, I have no idea about that, but he writes from a culture where porn has dumbed down both men and women to the point where a man can assign himself not only the title of gentleman, but can purport to speak for all gentlemen on a web site that calls itself “The Voice of Generation Y,” in an article so silly, immature, and condescending as to be written by a horny 13 year old boy in any high school freshman english class.  The picture accompanying the article itself contains specifically pornographic elements intended to do what porn does; titillate and attract.  And the content reveals that gentlemen read poetry, roll their r’s, and like to get a few vodkas into a woman before they gently and oh-so-politely invite her into their bedroom (which is probably in his parent’s basement).  Evidently gentlemen are not very humble because other men are just “losers” who are “not worth the squeeze.”  The author ends by suggesting that women go out there and find a hopeless romantic (like him) because they are men not boys.

To the porn saturated mind, women are primarily objects of desire.  Men and women alike adjust to this reality.  Men maneuver to obtain the object and women maneuver to become more desirable.  Men who lack one tool to obtain their desired objects will find others.  The same with women.  The interplay between the sexes has always operated like this to one extent or another, but porn amplifies it by making sexual satisfaction of desire so readily images (1)obtainable that men can get whatever they want out of a digital woman without opening a door, buying a dinner, or meeting her mother.  Women are competing with cheap digital hookers for the attention of men.  This is how an article written by an obvious womanizer gets widespread acceptance.

How can we all, men and women, escape the lowering standards?  Go on a war against pornography?  Root it out of popular culture?  Men need to become men and women need to become women, not within the confines of a romantic relationship, but before the eyes of God.  Kierkegaard said there was only one “sin unto death” – one sin that would kill us as dead as dead can be – and that it was trying to become a self outside the presence of God.  Ladies, if you try to become your self merely in the presence of a man, even the best man, a true gentleman, you will never be all you were meant to be.  Your standard is too low.  Gentlemen, if you try to shape your self in a way that makes you acceptable to a woman, even the most lovely and worthy lady, you will not become all you were meant to be.  Your standard is too low.  God’s opinion of us is so high that every other opinion is not only a low opinion, it is a life-stealing opinion; it is death unless it is taken in relation to his opinion.  Don’t think so?  Try consoling your daughter when the boy she is dating decides someone else is better than she is.  Watch her wither.  What will you do for her?  Tell her another boy will come along?  His opinion will restore her to life?  For how long?  The best boy may grow into a man and give his whole life to her, but there is a helping-handsday coming when sweet lips cease to speak and a gentleman’s touch is cooled by death.  And that opinion is forever lost.  She must have a higher opinion and truer opinion, a permanent opinion.  There is only one man who gives this and gave it and promises to keep giving it.  The gospel is God’s opinion of us.  It is the promise not to hold us to a higher standard, but to lift us to an impossible standard.  This is the answer to our pornographically broken world; to accept his elevation.

“And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Greatness Revealed in What it Did Not Do

If the Christian story of the world is true and Jesus is God, it is far more remarkable what he didn’t do than what he did.  You try living in a slum when you are in truth the wealthiest person on earth.  You try listening to hours upon hours of ignorance when you are the most wise person on earth.  You try watching people lie, cheat, steal and murder each other when your heart is more loving than any heart on earth.  The restraint and endurance of Jesus is more miraculous than the the miraculous, and that final restraint, the restraint to stay on the cross when he is the most powerful being on earth…that is the miracle that saves us.  Great God.

How to Have a Happy New Year (and leave the old one behind)

“Happy New Year.” (no, no exclamation mark, just period) Smile.  Words.  Move on.  I do it every year and it is done to me every year.  Mechanical, and polite and seasonally appropriate.  But it seems like many people did not have a happy 2013; at least from the comments I’ve heard and seen.  And this year I get a sense that there is not a great deal of Dans-le-Townhouse_Happy-New-Yearconfidence about 2014 being a better year. We can have a happy new year.  You can have a happy new year.  The worst can come to pass and not make it a bad year. What is the worst for you?  Financial ruin?  Relational failure?  Health destroyed?  If you have health and wealth and great relationships, there is a way to have them better than you’ve ever had them before.  Healthier.  Wealthier.  Lovelier.

There is a secret to having a happy new year.  It is an open secret, however and we are all able to learn it.  If 2013 wasn’t a good year for you, it is probably because you feel you were impoverished in some way.  You lost something.  Your money did fly away.  Or you did lose a relationship or your health did fail.  If 2013 was a good year it was probably good because you feel you were enriched in one or more of those areas: bank account, love life, health (although we don’t always take note of this at the time).  If you are nervous or hopeful about 2014 it has to do with the prospects of being enriched or impoverished in those areas next year.  But what if you were so rich in all those areas you could not become enriched or impoverished?  What if you had so much wealth, and health, and love that giving as much as you could give you never got poorer or sicker, or lonelier?  Brewster’s Millions was a movie in the mid 80’s with RIchard Pryor and John Candy (enough reason to want to see it).  Brewster inherits a ton of money, 30 million, but the catch is that he can inherit 300 million if he spends the 30 million in 30 days without telling anyone what he is doing.  He goes on a mad spending spree trying to lose all his money and have nothing to show for it.  The only problem is the more he spends the more money he makes.

That sounds like a great concept, you say, but I don’t have a rich uncle to leave me 300 million, and there is no fountain of youth to sustain my health or a way to keep from losing my loved ones.  I can be impoverished and I can be enriched, and I have to take care of myself.  Not if you learn the secret.  The Apostle Paul wrote about the secret in a letter to his friends at Phillipi.  He said:

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

When he wrote those words he was in prison facing execution.  He was in the most 220px-Brewsters_millionsimpoverished state imaginable; away from relationships, wealth and health.  Yet he says he is content.  To be precise he says he had “learned” to be content.  He said he had been wealthy and poor and come to a place where neither state changed his true condition.  He was full.  He was Brewster.  He found out that no matter what he spent he wasn’t poorer.  He found out that no matter what he gained he wasn’t any richer.  What happened to Paul?  Could it happen to us?  In reality he found out that he didn’t have a rich uncle who died and left him everything, but he did have a rich older brother who died and made him into the heir of infinite riches.  Riches that can not be exhausted.  This is the Christian story of the world.  Jesus Christ, the true older brother, the one in line to receive the inheritance of God the Father, chose to die on a cross so that we could become the heirs.  But it isn’t only wealth that comes to us through him (although God is the owner of all things and so we can lay claim to all wealth), but it is also health given in the defeat of death and love given in the defeat of hell.  The cross is Jesus the infinitely wealthy, healthy, and beloved becoming utterly impoverished so that anyone who asks according to his name can become heirs of God.  He loses all his possessions, even the clothes off his back are taken away at the cross.  He loses his health, writhing up and down as he is executed.  And worst of all he loses his Father, crying out in abandonment.  All is lost so that infinite love, health and wealth can pass to us.  This is the secret Paul learned.  This is the way to have a happy new year and forget the old.  Become the heir.  Take the offer.  And then go on a spending spree.  Give away as much love and money and energy as you can. You can’t lose.

Leave It the Way Jesus Would

Not to be too detailed about the circumstances, but I was in the bathroom at a church (which was also home to a Christian school), when I looked up to see this:

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“Stupid kids,” I said to myself. And just for a second I thought about getting out my own pen and adding an arrow and the words “or this either.” As I started to leave the truth really hit me. Walking away from the stain on the bathroom door wasn’t what Jesus would do. Nor would he just criticize the two misguided authors. I went to the paper towel dispenser, grabbed a handful of towels, wet them down and scrubbed the door clean. What would Jesus do? He’d fix something that wasn’t His fault. He’d do it quietly. He’d leave the door better than it was before He came.