loving life.

Category: characters

Who do you love?

Can I risk the embarrassment of confessing some childhood TV crushes?

The first crush I can remember was on Albert, the adopted son on Little House on the Prairie. Why did I like him? Easy. He was cuter than Willy and not as rotten.

From there I moved on pretty quickly to characters on Happy Days, Growing Pains, Magnum P.I., Wiseguy, Moonlighting, Cheers, and Wings. My reasons for crushing on these guys matured. They were cute, yes. But also smart, brave, funny, and had darling dimples. Yes it’s true. As I’ve looked back over the heartthrobs of my youth, they all seem to share that trait. 

And of course when I eventually met the love of my life he had all that and more: Godly character, patience, thoughtfulness, loyalty, and yes, great dimples.

When I was growing up, I had been learning to love the admirable traits of a bunch of different fictional characters, waiting and hoping to meet someone who embodied them in real life.

Who do you love? Or, actually, what traits do you love in a person?  

Seriously, think about it, maybe make a list.  

You have all these imperfect people in your life who still exemplify beautiful virtues galore. And they don’t all share the same ones. 

  • My dad was a hard worker, a great storyteller and he loved to laugh.
  • My mom is generous. She is delighted by her children. She cares for those who are suffering.
  • I have a child who is fiercely loyal and remarkably thoughtful. I have another whose heart breaks for the lost and broken. And another who is resilient and contented.

If we were to list all of the best traits in the best of people it would be a long list indeed.

And if we were to finally find one friend who embodied every single awe-inspiring, respectable, admirable, enjoyable, attractive quality on that list, we’d have

Jesus.

When the Bible says he lived a perfect life, it doesn’t just mean that he never fibbed or sassed his parents or lifted a fig from the market without paying. He obviously didn’t sin. But he is so much more than that. He is the perfect person. Everything you love about everyone you love–embodied in this one dear friend, Lord, and King, without failure, weakness or exception.

Here’s an excerpt from my Wednesday morning’s devotion:

“In all other beings we see some lack, in him there is all perfection. The best even of his favoured saints have had blots upon their garments and wrinkles upon their brows; he is nothing but loveliness. All earthly suns have their spots: the fair world itself hath its wilderness; we cannot love the whole of the most lovely thing; but Christ Jesus is gold without alloy–light without darkness–glory without cloud–“Yea, he is altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:16). –Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, March 9th.

My friend Andrew, who also happens to be the Family Life Director here at New Covenant Bible Church has a saying that I love:

“Follow the sunbeam up to the sun.”

It means, when you enjoy something, trace it to its source and give thanks there. When you love someone, and all the lovely somethings about that someone, follow those virtues up to the Son, the embodiment of everything lovely. And give Him the thanks and love and worship He deserves.

In everything He has supremacy…”For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him” (Colossians 1:19).

With love,

My fair share

A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired in 1965. I watch it at least once every year. I don’t know why I love that thing so much, but maybe because I remember my seven-year-old son Jake laughing his head off every time Snoopy loses control on his ice-skates and goes sailing into the snowbank.

Maybe it’s the classic, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” I love that scene too. And there’s other moments that are genius and instructive and even convicting.

Take the time Sally tells Charlie Brown all she wants for Christmas is money. When her brother is exasperated Sally whines, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” 

It’s comical because the idea of a little girl like Sally thinking the world owes her anything is comical. It’s absurd.

Or is it? Or does it hit a little too close to home?

You see, if I’m not super careful, I can have that mindset myself. And when I don’t get what I think is my fair share–well then I feel entitled to be indignant, angry and bitter.

This faulty thinking can be as simple as when someone in my house dares to take the last ______ without asking me. It can be when the person in the car in front of me is too distracted to go when the light turns green and now I’m stuck sitting through another cycle of red lights. It can be when I get overlooked for an invitation or recognition of some sort.

All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.

Those daily examples can be funny but they can also get ugly. But go a little deeper, and this philosophy can get downright dangerous.

It gets dangerous when I think I deserve:

A dream home. A fulfilling job. A long and happy marriage. As many children as I want. Lifelong, loyal friends. A prosperous life. A healthy life. A long life. A perfect life. And an easy death. 

And it’s frankly not enough that I get all those things. I want them for every single person I care about as well. And if not? Well, I could question God’s love or goodness. Why would He withhold a single thing I think I have coming to me? All I want is my fair share! I could become indignant, angry and bitter at God.

The proper perspective is not entitlement but gratitude. Always. I must remind myself that every single good thing that I have has been given to me by God, not earned by me. I didn’t choose my own birthplace, genetics, talents or intellect. My ability to walk and talk and think and work did not come from my great effort but from my great Creator. Caring people in my life are also gifts. By His grace I’ve been given these good things (James 1:17).

And it’s important to ponder: some future sad season will not negate all the previous happy times. If tomorrow brings terrible news and my life is changed forever in some heartbreaking way, I will have still been richly blessed with so many good years before for which to be grateful. I hope to anchor myself in that kind of perspective. To not presume that every day will be as good as the last. Rather to be thankful today for each and every simple blessing. 

Lord, don’t let me be a Sally Brown. Rather give me the heart of Job who, in spite of going through his own worst-case scenario, trusted You and said,

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him… The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 13:5, 1:21).

Grateful today,

A quirk

We all have quirks. Foibles. Idiosyncrasies. Whatever you call them, it’s the weird little things about us that make us unique. Some of mine are obvious to all who know me. But other peculiarities you’d never know unless I told you.

Most of the world prefers to watch their stories on a screen. I like that too. And most of the reading world prefers the latest from Gillian Flynn or Nicholas Sparks, or James Patterson, or Stephen King, but one quirky thing about me is I will always opt for the great, old books. Anything by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, or Charlotte Brontë. I just love how their great stories also use great language to communicate great truths and advance great virtues.

But here’s where you’re going to really think I’m weird: sometimes, after 500 pages (or lately 35 hours of an audio book), when I finally reach the end of one of these epic novels, I turn back to the first page and start it all over again. I just did it yesterday with Dickens’ Bleak House.

I understand for many of you that sounds like torture. But for me, once the whole grand, beloved plot is tied up with a satisfying bow, that’s when I want to unwrap it, re-examine its beauty and re-experience its charm.

It’s at the end of the book is when I really love (or despise) the characters. It’s at the end of the book that I fully know which conversations and decisions were critical to character development. How early was this or that symbolism of introduced?  When did things really turn from bad to good, or good to bad, or bad to worse?

If a book warrants an instant re-reading from me, it’s because it has seized my soul in some powerful way. It has said something true about me, about the ones I love, about my fears or failures or hopes or dreams. It has stirred great emotion, taught great perspective, or brought great insight.

And I think the reason I do this with books is to help me do it in real life. What have been the capstone moments that have moved my life story along? Who have been the major characters? What impact have they had? Are those people heroes or villains? If villains, how can I rise above and beyond the pain they caused? If heroes, have I truly appreciated their influence? What am I doing now to carry their legacy forward? What lessons have I learned? Am I still learning? And if the Divine Author been carefully writing my story, how might the next chapters go? And do I really trust him with a happy ending?

God made us all quirky. He made me quirky in this particular way. How has He made you eccentric and what has that peculiarity taught you about Him? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Rescue!

I have a secret.

When I was little I wanted to be Indiana Jones. Which is odd because I was also in love with Indiana Jones. I’m sure there’s some psychoanalysis work that needs to be done there. Anyway, I did not want to be the damsel in distress. I wanted to be the gun-toting, whip-snapping hero who saves the day.

I didn’t want to be rescued. I wanted to be the rescuer.

Needing rescue is weak. Providing rescue is strong.

And the seasons changed, and the years went by, the celebrity crushes came and went. But one thing remained the same. I don’t want to need a rescuer.

I think that’s a primary barrier for a lot of people when confronted with the gospel. The gospel is such good news for those who admit their helplessness. But for those who, with all their might, are pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, it means conceding weakness. It means needing rescue. And that is not an easy thing to admit.

This year our NCBC Kids summer camps are centered on the theme of “Rescue——dive into God’s Rescue Plan!” and our children will be taught about their need for a rescuer. They will examine the parallels between the story of the Exodus and the story of the Gospel. They will see how the sacrifice of a perfect, spotless, lamb brings rescue from our enemy Death.

It is a remarkable picture of Jesus. But sometimes we can miss the beauty of the gospel if we’re working so hard to show the world we’re in control. The master of my fate. The captain of my soul.

Such pretending to be invincible is a temporary illusion. At some point in our lives we all must face an unbeatable enemy. Death. It’s looming and like it or not, we are all 100 percent desperately in need of rescue from that situation. If we repent of self-sufficiency and believe the gospel, instead of despair we find joy and healing and hope.

“If death is not a problem, Jesus won’t be much of a solution. The more deeply we feel death’s sting, the more consciously we will feel the gospel’s healing power. The more carefully we number our days, the more joyfully we’ll hear that death’s days are numbered too (Remember Death. Matthew McCullough. 52).

Please join me in praying for everyone involved in summer camp. I pray that everyone will admit their need for Jesus. From the Leaders to the youngest campers: may hearts be softened to such an extent that the good news of God’s rescue plan will change lives and destinies for eternity.

“But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again” (Exodus 14:13).

P.S. Here’s a few blast from the past NCBC Camp Photos of our family in the early days! (Circa 2003-2015)

Our better hero

Who is your favorite hero?

You know…the one who saves the day in some distant or imaginary civilization?

It seems as if humanity universally loves stories where there’s a grand adventure culminating in a giant battle which feature an unlikely hero who rescues the people from destruction and launches them into a future of peace and prosperity.

Heroes like:

  • Aslan in Narnia
  • Jake Sully on Pandora
  • Maximus in the Colosseum
  • Captain Miller at Normandy
  • Batman in Gotham City
  • Dumbledore at Hogwarts
  • Thor on Asgard
  • Katniss Everdeen in Panem
  • Aragorn in Middle Earth
  • Yoda in a galaxy far, far, away

Scripture teaches in Hebrews chapters 4-5 that Jesus is a better high priest of a better covenant. Or to grossly oversimplify and modernize–He’s a better hero of a better adventure that brings about a better civilization of peace and prosperity.

Do you think about Jesus that way? When you watch yet another Avengers or Justice League movie with your kids–does it occur to you that you are merely watching a rerun of The Story? C.S. Lewis was famously convinced of Christianity as he began to recognize that the gospel was simply the True Myth in the vast anthology of lesser ones.

Why not bring that up at the end of your next movie night? What did tonight’s story show us about our need for rescue? In what ways did that hero look like Jesus? In what ways did that hero not look like Jesus?

In what ways do our heroes not look like Jesus? This is where Hebrews 4-5 comes into play. No hero can ever measure up to Jesus. Jesus is better. 

  • He doesn’t wield a magic hammer of lightning and thunder. He created and controls the entire weather system.
  • He doesn’t sacrifice his life to save one mother’s son because she’s lost three others. He sacrifices his life in order to save all sons and daughters for all mothers and fathers everywhere.
  • He doesn’t go willingly into a deadly arena in order to deprive all others of life so he can survive. He volunteers to go into the arena to conquer death through his own death so that all the others may live.

He is the better hero. Don’t let his poor and humble and dusty first century sandals and robe deceive you. Don’t let lyrics like, “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” cause you to forget His great might. Don’t be fooled into thinking he was weak because of his grace–and disgrace. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking he was weak because of his grace–and disgrace. 

The enemies He defeats are stronger. The victory He wins is more glorious. The rule and reign of his perfect Kingdom will never be interrupted by a new villain in a new sequel. “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7). 

Jesus’s wisdom, cunning, bravery, strength, endurance and sacrifice–and yes–gentleness, kindness and love far exceed anything proceeding from the mind of your favorite director. 

Our son Jake, as a preschooler, stopped me in my tracks one day and said, “He was pretty tough to take the nails.” Yes son, He was. The toughest. I encourage you to your kids about Jesus with this kind of heroic language. 

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-16).

Here’s to the return of our better hero,

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