The Most Reluctant Convert

I did something that I rarely do these days — I went to an actual movie in an actual movie theater. It’s been a while.

Normally, I like to wait for it to hit streaming services because few films are worth paying the current price of movie tickets. But in this case, I made an exception. I wanted to support a faith-based film from a group that I’ve grown to respect as I’ve gotten to know about them, the Fellowship for Performing Arts, led by one Max McLean.

The film is centered around the story of C. S. Lewis’ 10-year journey from atheism to Christianity. Without giving away too much, the narrative device they use to tell the story is unique and compelling. I feel like Mr. McLean masterfully portrayed the title character and the filming locations gave the production a note of authenticity.

But what captivated me most was the way the movie used Lewis’ own words. I believe a lot of the narrative came directly from his autobiography Surprised by Joy. For once, it’s a faith-based film that actually succeeds at being a good film first, and without being preachy or didactic.

It will make you want to dive deep into the writings of C. S. Lewis, both apologetic and fiction, as well as possibly leading you to check out some of writers who inspired him such as George MacDonald and G. K. Chesterton. I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants a quality movie about the nuances of faith and intellect.

Do Thou for Me

“Do Thou for me, O God the Lord,
Do Thou for me.
I need not toil to find the word
That carefully
Unfolds my prayer and offers it,
My God, to Thee.

It is enough that Thou wilt do,
And wilt not tire,
Wilt lead by cloud, all the night through
By light of fire,
Till Thou has perfected in me
Thy heart’s desire.

For my beloved I will not fear,
Love knows to do
For him, for her, from year to year,
As hitherto.
Whom my heart cherishes are dear
To Thy heart too.

O blessèd be the love that bears
The burden now,
The love that frames our very prayers,
Well knowing how
To coin our gold.  O God the Lord,
Do Thou, Do Thou” (Amy Carmichael).

There are times when we simply don’t know how to pray for a circumstance or a loved one. Try as we may, the words will not come.

I think even then God hears the groans and sighs of our petitions and knows what they mean. He hears the deepest desires of our hearts and knows best how to grant them.

Even when we have words, they aren’t always the best ones. Sometimes, we ask without such a limited point of view. Sometimes we ask selfishly. Sometimes we have too small a view of God and ask too little.

In Jan Karon’s Mitford series, Father Tim Kavanaugh always has his go-to prayer, or “the prayer that never fails,” as he calls it. The prayer goes “Thy will be done.”

You can never go wrong with leaving the matter in God’s hands.

Welcome, October

How did I miss that yesterday, September 30, was October Eve? Had I known, I would have made a big deal. All of you reading this can be my witnesses that starting in 2023 I will make gratuitous use of the phrase October Eve on every following September 30.

But here it is October. While I am a big fan of all the months ending in ‘ber, my heart truly lies with October, November, and December. Those are my big three favorite months. All my most beloved holidays fall within these months. See what I did there? They “fall” within these months. I pun even when I don’t mean to.

But I digress.

I hope October brings the chilly temperatures with the crisp autumn breezes. I hope there will be a riot of colored leaves in the trees this year. I’m looking forward to all the bonfires and hayrides and s’mores and flannel and everything else fall-esque.

And yes, my favorite color is October.

No Bad News

“It’s not always your business to pay attention to every controversy or news story. We’re not called to always be in this state of anxiety and to be all worked up. If I’m constantly reading my phone or watching YouTube or whatever I’m missing the real world, I’m missing what is actually out there, and I am being that distracted, I’m not focusing on what the actual call of my life is. If you’re all in a frenzy, you can’t shoot straight. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled,” and I take that seriously. If the news is troubling you in this unproductive way, turn it off!” (Bryce Lungren).

Back in the day, you had the news at certain set hours of the day. You got your local and national news in 30 minute doses. People got the information they needed, no more and no less.

These days, there are a gazillion dedicated news channels that blast news information literally non-stop for 24 hours. There are a gazillion more social media news outlets where the headlines practically scream at you, demanding your attention all the time.

Are we any better for the information overload? Has it made us more civil toward one another? Have we grown to become more mature, more advanced human beings? Or is it that we have more division and anxiety and negativity because of the deluge of news?

John Prine wrote a song where he told us to blow up our TVs, throw away our papers, move to the country, build homes, and plant peaches. That sounds like a better alternative to news channels.

Jesus said to not let your hearts be troubled. In other words, don’t keep feeding your fears. Don’t keep going back to the source of your anxiety. Turn off the TV, put away your social media devices, silence the talk radio, and just be silent and still. Or maybe play some classical music. Or jazz. Or read poetry. Whatever takes you to a place of tranquility.

Perhaps you could pick up God’s Word and ask Him to speak to you in the margins you create by skipping the news. You could use the time to reach out to friends and family to have actual face to face conversations — not about any of the wars or famines or protests, but about life and kids and dreams and faith. Take back your life by turning off the noise.

I Give You Peace

“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught” (John 14:25-27, The Message).

That’s one of my favorite things about Jesus. He never leaves us in the middle of our mess. He never looks at us in all our turmoil and travail and says something like, “Well, I wish you the best. Good luck with that!”

He physically left us, but He sent the Holy Spirit that can remind us of everything He said and did. Plus, the Holy Spirit is as much God as Jesus was and is. That whole trinity doctrine really messes with my mind and while I believe it, I still can’t really say that I fully grasp it. But that’s for another post.

Jesus never leaves us how He found us. He may have loved us as we were when He found us at our worst, but He didn’t let us keep wallowing in our mire and mud. He made us better. No, He made us brand new and a little more like Him each day. And His presence is still with us now as when He was here in the flesh.

He gave us peace. Not peace that means the absence of problems or freedom from storms or trials, but a calm assurance even in the midst of the worst raging winds and the trials that are too much for us to handle on our own. It’s peace that calms the child in the midst of the storm rather than calming the storm at the moment.

It’s not the kind of peace that the world gives — more of a numbing of the pain and a denial of the problem — but it’s the peace that surpasses understanding and comes from the Prince of Peace.

All That Baggage

Ocassionally, I like to share posts written by other people. I hope this will speak to you as it did to me and bring you peace.

Psalm 55:22 (NLT®)
Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you.

Airport security is intense in Israel, far different than in the United States. “Who packed your bags?” they ask. “Have your bags been with you since you packed them? Has anyone else had access to your luggage? Has anyone given you something to take to someone at home?” If you begin to become anxious under the scrutiny, they’ll say, “I’m not asking these things to embarrass you. I just want to help you because sometimes a person will ask you to carry something that will not be for your good.” As a fellow traveler through life, I’d like to ask if you might be carrying something that is not for your good. Are you carrying anything that might be limiting, debilitating, or even explosive? Are you carrying a heavy load of anger or resentment? Envy or disappointment? Worry or fear? I urge you to check your luggage and remove everything that will weigh you down and limit your potential in the coming season. Give all of that unhelpful baggage to the Lord and allow Him to carry your burdens.

THINK ABOUT IT
Jesus gives us an amazing invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. … for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30, NIV®). How can we refuse?

PRAYER
Heavenly Father, help me identify anything I am carrying that is destructive and is limiting Your purposes in my life. Then, help me to permanently offload what You reveal and, in replacement, fill me with Your goodness. In Jesus’ name, amen.Blessings,
Pastor Allen Jackson

Rest

Tonight at Kairos, Pastor Mike spoke about rest from 1 Kings 19. He pointed to Elijah, one of the most well known prophets in the Bible, who got to a point where he was depleted and depressed. In that moment, God’s instructions to him were to rest and eat until he could recover.

You’re no good to anyone if you’re broken and burned-out and busted. You can’t serve God or anyone else out of an empty reserve. Sometimes, you need to take care of yourself as well as others.

It starts with being honest with yourself and others about how you really feel. When you tell others you’re fine, maybe you’re really F.I.N.E. (Freaked Out, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional).

It’s okay to admit that you’re broken. It’s okay to confess that you need help. It’s okay to allow others to serve you as well as you serving others. It’s okay to rest and refresh.

The Bible says that God rested from all His work on the seventh day, and that’s the pattern He set for us. Rest is good.

The New Serenity Prayer

The old Serenity prayer goes something like God give me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I think I might like the new version a bit better.

Both are needed and good, but the new one keeps reminding me that I’m not God, which is something I apparently need to be reminded of a lot.

I think a lot of my anxiety is just me trying to play God with my problems and solve them on my own. My fear comes from the notion that God can’t be trusted and that once again, it’s up to me. Pride says that I know better than God or anyone else.

So it’s good for me to remember that there is a God and that I’m not Him. Nor is He me.

A Doxology in the Dark

“To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness” (Brennan Manning).

Man, that’s tough.

It’s easy to give thanks when the sun is shining and everyone I love is doing well. It’s easy when all my traffic lights are green and my bank account is looking healthy.

It becomes more difficult to praise when I’m in between jobs and wondering how I will pay my bills. It’s not so easy to give thanks when the diagnosis comes back and you can’t hear or see anything past the word terminal.

It’s difficult to sing that doxology when every day seems the same and you are no closer to seeing your dreams fulfilled than you were when you first dreamed them. Your prayers seem to bounce off of a sky of bronze where nothing gets through.

But that’s where faith becomes real and hope goes from being a luxury to a necessity. That’s where you learn to hear God’s voice and feel His heartbeat. Even when God is silent, it’s knowing He’s still near and preparing you for what you are not quite ready to hear and to see. It’s not a “no” as much as it is a “not yet.”

An Iconic Night

If I’d known any better, this would have been on my bucket list. Tommy Emmanuel is widely regarded to be one of the best — if not the best — acoustic guitar players on the planet. After scraping the bottom half of my jaw off the ground at the end of his concert, I’d have to agree.

I read once that if you want to fall in love with something, watch someone who is 1) really good at it and 2) very passionate about it. I’m not a guitar player, but I recognize insane brilliance when I see it. I can pick out genius-level talent because it’s not something I see every day.

I almost wish there had been a recording of that night, so I could go back and relive it again and again. But I have my memories. Plus, I have some CDs and vinyl of his music. Still, nothing beats being there in person.

It was worth every penny and every mile. I hope I can do it all again next year.

Love that Lasts

The author of this quote, Brennan Manning, passed away over 9 years ago. His words, especially these, live on and will last long after we’re dead and buried.

Do you believe that God’s love is really eternal? Do you believe that there is nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make Him love you less? Do you believe that you can’t earn it or deserve it but only receive it?

I really deep in my heart know for a fact that if we truly comprehended God’s love for us, we’d be far more radical with our gospel conversations and evangelical love for those outside the faith. We’d never shut up about the love of God if we really got it deep in the core of our being. Also, our brains would probably explode since that kind of love is far beyond our comprehending.

The beauty of God’s love is that we don’t have to fully understand it to take hold of it. We don’t have to know everything about it to receive it. We don’t have to be able to fully explain it to share it.

The more we’re faithful to obey, the more we of this love we will know and understand. The more we share this love, the more room we have in our hearts to receive more of it. And it will never get old or go out of style or become irrelevant or end. Ever.

Happy Autumn

Yes! The day I’ve been waiting for since June has finally arrived. It’s the Autumnal Equinox, the first day of fall. In the South, that means next to nothing since we will still have at least two more weeks of warm to hot weather, but it’s the thought that counts.

But honestly, fall is my favorite. Just knowing that the air will soon be turning crisp and the leaves will turn into a blaze of colors before showing us the beauty of letting go and falling to the earth. Plus, there will be no more bugs for about 6 months.

Today was just about perfect. Coming on the heels of two unbearably hot days, it felt great. But for me, true fall weather needs to be cool enough that you need a jacket or a flannel shirt. There should be breezes that have the tiniest hint of frost, reminding me of all the upcoming holidays that I love — Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Still, I’ll never complain about a zero-humidity day in September.