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.

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.

Rich Mullins: 25 Years Later

“I see the morning moving over the hills 
I can see the shadows on the western side 
And all those illusions that I had 
They just vanish in Your light 
Though the chill in the night still hangs in the air 
I can feel the warmth of morning on my face 
Though the storm had tossed me 
‘Til I thought I’d nearly lost my way 

And now the night is fading and the storm is past 
And everything that could be shaken was shaken 
And all that remains is all I ever really had 

What I’d have settled for 
You’ve blown so far away 
What You brought me to 
I thought I could not reach 
And I came so close to giving up 
But You never did give up on me 
I see the morning moving over the hills 
I feel the rush of life here where the darkness broke 
And I am in You and You’re in me 
Here where the winds of Heaven blow 

And now the night is fading 
And the storm is through 
And everything You sent to shake me 
From my dreams they come to wake me 
In the love I find in You 
And now the morning comes 
And everything that really matters 
Become the wings You send to gather me 
To my home 
To my home 
I’m going home” (Craig Michael Wiseman / Tony Carl Mullins).

It absolutely blows my mind that it’s been 25 years since Rich Mullins passed so tragically. It also makes me feel incredibly old, but that’s another post for another night.

I can think of few other musical artists who have moved me and spoken to the core of my being the way Rich did. There was something confessional about his songwriting that put my own thoughts and feelings into words better than I ever could.

I was privileged to see him in concert the one time. I’ll never forget how the last song in the set was all about how God is leading us and guiding us and as he walked away, we were singing the refrain “And everywhere I go, I see you.” It was definitely a kairos event, a unique moment in time.

I get a bit sad when I think of all he could have said and done and written if he had lived longer, but the legacy he left is still touching and transforming people’s lives a quarter of a century later.

It’s amazing to me how he wrote almost prophetically about his own passing in one of his songs called Elijah:

“But when I leave I want to go out like Elijah 
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire 
And when I look back on the stars 
It’ll be like a candlelight in Central Park 
And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye” (Richard Mullins).

Growing Up and Being Transformed

I’ve been praying for a friend who’s going through some relational conflict. As a recovering people pleaser, I can attest that one of the worst feelings in the world is when I have felt that someone is upset with me and I don’t know what to do to put it right.

I can also testify that there have been times in my life when I’ve prayed for God to change my circumstances and my surroundings to make my life easier and more bearable. Lately, I think what God’s been prompting me to pray for isn’t so much for God to change my environment but to change me in the midst of my environment.

I remember Dan Allendar said something like that if your cry for relief is greater than your cry for a changed and transformed heart, you’re never gonna grow up. You’ll never find transformation as long as you cling to comfort and familiarity instead of venturing out into change and healing.

It’s the question Jesus asked to the man who had waited at the Pool of Bethesda: “Do you want to be made well?”

In other words, do you want healing and wholeness, no matter how painful and protracted the process may be, no matter how much it costs?

Relationally speaking, if I am at odds with someone else, I may be seeking God to change the other person while God might be seeking to transform me. As humbling as it may seem, the place to start for reconciliation is to look in the mirror first through the lens of God’s grace to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.

God, change me in the midst of my circumstances so that I can look more like you, regardless of whether or not my circumstances change. I submit myself to you completely. Have your way in me. Amen.

Wounded Hands

As I’ve said before, anxiety is the belief that everything is up to me to figure out and solve. Worry is basically me seeing my world minus God in it. Both say that I need to figure everything out RIGHT NOW.

But those nail-scarred hands tell a different story. They say that God is concerned even about the lowliest sparrow, so He knows about you. God has numbered the very hairs on your head, so He is very much aware of what keeps you up at night.

You can trust that God will indeed work all things — including yours — together for good. He will work your circumstances toward the best possible outcome — both for your good and His glory. You can leave it all in the more than capable hands that were wounded for you.

Don’t Worry

I love what Craig Groeshel said about anxiety not being a sin but a signal to pray. It’s the spiritual equivalent of the check engine light coming on in your car, letting you know that everything is not alright with your vehicle and that something needs attention.

I do think that the culture we live in thrives on anxiety. I mean that the end goal of news media outlets and social media and advertising is to keep you in a perpetual state of fear and worry about what you’re missing out on or how the world’s about to come to an end or how you will never be fulfilled unless you drink this cola or wear these shoes or buy this luxury SUV.

But you do have a choices as to what you do with the anxiety. You can start by turning off the source. That means fasting from media, turning off the television, choosing to immerse yourself in God’s Word rather than Netflix or Amazon Prime.

You can pray. God doesn’t need reminding of how much anxiety you have, but you need reminding that God already knows. You need reminding that nothing you’re facing will catch God off guard or take Him by surprise. There’s nothing in your world that He can’t handle, that He hasn’t already overcome through the cross.

Don’t worry. Just pray.

A Billboard of God’s Grace

“O my Father, give me eyes to see, a heart to respond, and hands and feet to serve you wherever you encounter me! Make me a billboard of your grace, a living advertisement for the riches of your compassion. I long to hear you say to me one day, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ And I pray that today I would be that faithful servant who does well at doing good. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen” (Max Lucado).

I think that if the lost world truly saw the grace of God living and active in us, they’d be a lot more willing to listen to what we have to say about our faith. Gospel conversations flow more easily out of grace encounters. When we show grace, we often will open doors for others to hear our own faith story.

I love the idea that while people can argue semantics or doctrine or theology with you all day long, but no one can ever dispute your story. No one can argue with a life transformed. When people see the grace of God, it’s hard to deny the goodness of God.

May you and I be living billboards of God’s grace everywhere we go to everyone we meet.

Living Large Peanut Style

As you can tell from this photo, Peanut is living her best life every single day. I confess that I am quite envious of her lifestyle. There are days when I wish I could trade places and she could go off to work while I stay home and nap all day.

But she’s the smart one. She knows how to utilize her cuteness for maximum effect. She gets all the pets and belly rubs and snacks. I think she’s doing it right. Plus she’s a cat, so there are absolutely no expectations of doing tricks or responding to commands. She does what she wants and the rest of us adjust accordingly.

The beautiful part of the feline life is that the fatter you are the more people like you. The lazier you are the cuter you are. Sleeping all day only is only cute when you’re a dog or a cat. Not so much with being a grown adult.

Seizing the Corner of His Garment

“If you try to seize the day, the day will eventually break you. Seize the corner of his garment and don’t let go until he blesses you. He will reshape the day” (Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life).

I’m 98% sure I posted about the woman with the issue of blood who was healed when she grabbed hold of the corner of Jesus’ garment. I talked about how the Hebrew word for the corner of a garment can also be translated as wing, referencing the Messianic prophecy in Malachi about the Son of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings. Of course, that was about Jesus. The woman knew He was the Messiah, so she found healing.

I think we could do way worse than to cling to Jesus with everything we have. Instead of seizing the day (which sounds great in a quote but is hard to live out in real life), maybe we should seize the promises and the person of Jesus.

The part about not letting go refers to Jacob, who spent a night wrestling with God and refused to let go until God blessed him, even though it left him with a limp. That means we hold on, regardless of how much it hurts, remembering that getting Jesus is worth more than anything we might ever give up in the process.

The common thread is desperation. I think when we look to Jesus as one option among many, we don’t tend to see Him as clearly as when He’s our very last hope and very last option (because the fallen humanity in us will often cause us to look to every other avenue for help before we turn to Jesus).

May we seek every opportunity to cling to Jesus with all our might and not let go until He grants us favor and blessing.