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.

Another Snow Day

Back when I was a kid, I lived for snow days. I’d get so excited when there was even the remotest possibility of snow on a school day. We didn’t get a text the night before. We had to watch the news channel and read the list of school closings to see if our school was on the list. It was almost like watching the NFL draft, except for seeing who got to stay home the next day.

I still love a good snow day. I realize now that I’ll have to catch up later for missing work, but all that snow is still so pretty. Plus, there’s nothing I can really do about it at this point. I can’t very well ask God to take back all the snow, can I? So my response is to relax and enjoy it and not worry about tomorrow’s problems while it’s today. I seem to recall a Bible verse or two about that.

Also, actual snow is rare in this part of the country. I mean, we get flurries from time to time, but actual snow that sticks to the ground and accumulates? That’s rare. I should probably take pictures to document this historical event or something.

Trusting Along the Journey

In my case, I think I prefer to say that I trust the Guide more than the journey itself. I know enough of myself by now to know that if it were up to me to follow the road, I’d lose my way or get lose or wander off the road at some point. It’s not the journey in and of itself that compels me to keep traveling but the destination and the One who is waiting for me at the end as well as leading me along the way.

“All the way my Savior leads me–
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me–
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for ev’ry trial,
Feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me–
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way” (Fanny Crosby).

God Gets in the Dirt

I really would like to know what Jesus wrote in the dirt when He was defending the woman caught in the act of adultery. What could He have possibly written that would cause all those indignant religious leaders to drop their stones and walk away? Did He call out each one and name their individual sins? And where was the other party complicit in the adultery? Was He one of the accusers?

I know for certain that Jesus told the woman two things: 1) Neither do I condemn you and 2) go and sin no more. Jesus forgave the woman but didn’t give her a free pass to keep sinning. But I believe in that moment, He restored her dignity and gave her the power to choose a different way. She was no longer a prisoner of her past and her previous choices.

God is with us to free us from our shame. He is with us from birth through death (and not ending with death) to eternity. He knows what we are made of and He knows how frail and weak we are. He can handle our dirt, but He won’t let us stay dirty. He can handle our brokenness, but He is making us whole. Yes, He knows our sin but He calls us by our name and makes us new.

Psalm 46

God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge!
    You’re a proven help in time of trouble—
    more than enough and always available whenever I need you.
So we will never fear
    even if every structure of support were to crumble away.
    We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes,
    moving mountains and casting them into the sea.
For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves
    cannot erode our faith in you.
Pause in his presence
God has a constantly flowing river whose sparkling streams
    bring joy and delight to his people.
    His river flows right through the city of God Most High,
    into his holy dwelling places.
God is in the midst of his city, secure and never shaken.
    At daybreak his help will be seen with the appearing of the dawn.
When the nations are in uproar with their tottering kingdoms,
    God simply raises his voice,
    and the earth begins to disintegrate before him.
Here he comes!
    The Commander!
    The mighty Lord of Angel Armies is on our side!
    The God of Jacob fights for us!
Pause in his presence
Everyone look!
    Come and see the breathtaking wonders of our God.
    For he brings both ruin and revival.
    He’s the one who makes conflicts end
    throughout the earth,
    breaking and burning every weapon of war.
Surrender your anxiety.
    Be still and realize that I am God.
    I am God above all the nations,
    and I am exalted throughout the whole earth.
Here he stands!
    The Commander!
    The mighty Lord of Angel Armies is on our side!
    The God of Jacob fights for us!
Pause in his presence (from The Passion Translation).

There’s an App for That?

Recently, I discovered as I was en route to work in the wee hours of the morning that my speedometer had quit working. It was a bit disconcerting to not be able to gauge what speed you’re going, especially when you’re on the interstate. My modus operandi was to try and keep up with the cars around me and hope and pray that they were driving reasonably close to the speed limit.

Then a friend of mine told me about an app that works as a speedometer. That’s when I came to the realization that they really do have an app for everything.

I have an app that turns my phone into a leveler tool. Not that I ever use it, but it’s there just in case. I also have an app that can identify types of plants and flowers. I love the apps that allow you to skip the long lines at places like Chick-fil-A and Chipotle and order from your phone.

This is where I play my age card. I can really say that back in my day, all cell phones did was make phone calls. True story. Oh, and you could play this weird kind of snake game, but otherwise, the mobile phone was for making phone calls. Period. And we liked it.

Honestly, I do like all the technology on my phone. But I miss when life didn’t revolve around iPhones and social media and the interwebs. I miss walking into a coffee shop or a restaurant and seeing people having actual face-to-face conversations instead of texting and Facebooking and Instagramming each other. And yes, there’s probably an app for that, too.

Transformed

To me, there’s nothing more powerful than the testimony of a soul set free. I heard once that you can argue semantics and theology and doctrines all day long, but you can never dispute a life that’s been transformed. You can’t argue with a miracle.

Tonight at my church’s Room in the Inn Monday night outreach, I got the privilege to hear from a man named Bobby Hayden, Jr., a successful music entertainer who went from the heights of success to the depths of drug addiction and homelessness to eventual recovery and salvation found in Jesus. His was a powerful testimony of God working the miraculous impossible in the life of someone who was destined for an overdose.

One thing Bobby said that stuck out was this: “You don’t do good to be good. You do good because you are good, and you are good because Jesus makes you good.”

Another way of saying that is change doesn’t start with behavior modification that works its way inward, but in spiritual transformation that begins within and works its way out. Romans 12:2 says this: “Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.”

Only the power of God can explain a 180 degree turnaround from death to life, from addiction to freedom, from sin to holiness. And when a life is transformed, it’s just as much of a miracle whether the person was a lifelong drug addict or a outwardly moral upstanding citizen. The Bible says that we are all equally sinners in the eyes of God and equally in need of a Savior. The good news of the gospel isn’t that you can get to God, but that God in Jesus comes to you and meets you where you are.

No Fear

“There is no fear in love, so we draw near;
Thy perfect love, O Lord, has cast out fear.

As wheat before the wind bends all one way,
So would we bow before Thy wind today….

Our several choices, Lord, we would forgo;
Breath of the living God, O great Wind, blow” (Amy Carmichael, “All One Way”, Toward Jerusalem).

That’s the key. God’s perfect love casts out all fear. It’s not that we will never be afraid again or that we will never be anxious, but that every time we are afraid, we take that anxious thought captive and bring it to the One whose perfect love continues to cast out fear. Then we trust not in or fearful feelings, but in the Prince of Peace.

66 Years Ago

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (Jim Elliott).

I’m sure that many of you are aware that today marks the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth. He would have been 87 years old today, if I did my math right. But I wonder how many know about another anniversary that falls on this day.

Today in 1956, Jim Elliott and four other missionaries were killed while attempting to reach the Huaorani people of Ecuador for Christ. I doubt you will hear about that in any of tonight’s news broadcasts or see it on any news website. In the eyes of the world, they didn’t amount to much. But the legacy they left is still ongoing.

His wife, Elisabeth Elliott, went on to become a famous Christian author and speaker. Because of her outreach, the lives of many are different. They’ve been changed for the better by the power of God.

She later went back to that same people that had killed her husband and those other missionaries two years earlier. This time, they listened. This time, these people gave their lives to Christ and trusted Him as Lord and Savior. It all happened because not because of infallible superheroes of the faith, but because of flawed human beings who put their finite trust in an infinite God who specializes in the impossible.

Bird Watching in the Snow

You can’t tell from this picture, but Peanut was bird watching. All the birds are off screen frolicking in the snow. This is Peanut’s idea of must-see TV. None of that major network stuff. She just wants to chill and watch birds.

Who knows why? Maybe she thinks they’d taste like chicken. Maybe she just likes watching all those little birds get all puffy in the cold, snowy weather. Whatever the reason, this little feline was captivated by the avian activity. That is until a bug flew by and she got distracted.