I Am Not What I Do

Five years ago, I was sitting at the pool, trying to read. Some kids were laughing in the water, others were crying, and some were eating Goldfish crackers. My three boys were engaged in a full-on water gun war offensive. The kiddie pool can be a violent place; when you’re seven, you squirt kids in the eyes to gain ground. That’s how it works. Good dads happily take their kids to the pool in June, and I showed up, but I was not doing well.

It wasn’t the smell of musty chlorine, mildewed towels, or the sight of the whistle-happy lifeguard perched on his tower. I confronted him that summer about his petty rules, and for the record, nothing was found in The Book about “launching your own child into the deep end.” Apparently, lifeguards make their own laws these days.

In the bright sun, at the Westside YMCA, my heart was screaming with pain and fear. I was thirty-four, struggling as a dad, husband, pastor, provider, and friend. A previous decade of tense church-planting and full-time ministry had taken a toll on me. There was a lot of pressure to get everything right and grow the church, and it seemed like there was always more to do. Also, I felt the need to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. Like I had it all together. Like I wasn’t tired. I was in fifth gear for too long, broken-down on the side of the road, my engine smoking with no oil.

Read More

Empathy and the Devil

It’s apropos that I’ve been rereading C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters with a friend now. Weekly, we pore over a couple of chapters and broach free-range discussions launched by the demon Wormwood and his “affectionate uncle,” Screwtape. Our culture, like many biblically-tinged cultures before it, is saturated with talk of Satan in his various literature-based iterations. Merely over the course of American history, we’ve developed perhaps as twisted a view of the fallen archangel Lucifer as we often have of Jesus. Everyone from Washington Irving to The Grateful Dead has had a go, with widely varying degrees of accuracy. Yet, as with Jesus (who, let us not forget, made Lucifer and all his fellow angels), we can’t altogether divest Old Scratch of his scriptural identity by means of either broad-brush cartoonism or utter disregard. Thanks be to God.

[Editor’s note: As C. S. Lewis himself said in the preface to The Screwtape Letters, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” Therefore, if you have an unhealthy interest in things diabolical, this post may or may not be for you. Feel free to read or disregard as wisdom dictates.]

Read More

Illuminating Shadows

When I was young, my mother wrote poetry. As far as I am aware, she rarely wrote just for fun, but mostly as gifts for parents of new babies or as a comfort to friends who had lost a loved one. Her poems were simple yet profound and always received with heartfelt enthusiasm. It made an impact on me. She considered words to be valuable and important gifts worthy of sharing. She joyfully and freely gave them to those she loved. Though not expensive or store-bought, her gifts of poetry were rich in sentiment and the time spent to lovingly and carefully craft them for her intended recipients.

Read More

Midwives of Truth

My friend handed me a book that changed my life just a few months before I graduated from college. I had a plan for graduate study, for a career. I had an answer to the “what’s next” questions that barrage us at every life transition. The book was Michael Card’s Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity, and the words on the page and the conversations with my friend about them revolutionized my understanding of the creative life as worship and faithfully walking in the calling with which I’d been called. My plans went out the window, and I’ve spent my life since living out the imago dei through my creative pursuits, worshiping God in all things, but particularly as a subcreator.

Five years after we graduated from college, that friend turned his back on his faith and his family and walked away from it all. And I was left to wrestle with what I’d learned arm in arm with him during those years, the insights he’d brought out in our many conversations that shaped how I followed Christ.

Read More