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Refuse to Drown: Not a Book Review

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Shawn Smucker co-wrote a great book, Refuse to Drown. It’s the story of a dad coming to grips with an awful choice, faith, and family in the midst of a terrible tragedy. The title, Refuse to Drown, is a metaphor about how that man, Tim Kreider, faced the circumstances which threatened to sink him: he refused to drown. He would not washed overboard, or swamped by the tides of life. His is a story of hope in the midst of terrible times. And this book is well worth yours. Because if Mr. Kreider–like Noah, Joseph, Jeremiah before him–can trust God through the hard times so can we all.

As it says in the Scriptures, “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” And God is our morning–our perpetual morning. Especially when it’s dark, and we don’t understand. He will be the eye of our hurricane if we let Him. It’s a paradox I don’t understand, but surrender seems to be the only antidote to a life spiraling out of control. The more we try to control, the more things slip out of our hands. Kreider learned, in the most heart-wrenching way possible–that there were indeed things he couldn’t control. He couldn’t bargain his way out.

His only recourse was surrender.

He could well have surrendered to:

Drink

Sex

Drugs

But he chose to, despite his lack of understanding, and his inability to control (and protect), surrender to Christ. Let that be a lesson to us: surrender is the answer, but it’s all about Who we surrender to. We may cede our rights to all manner of things (some of which are listed above), but while those things medicate they don’t give us the one thing we’re all looking for:

LIFE.

Only God can do that–give us life.

———————

As I mentioned above, Shawn Smucker co-wrote this book with Mr. Kreider. I’ve read a number of his books, and I felt his deft touch on every page bringing the words of Kreider’s journal to life. There’s a vibrancy, a potency, and immediacy to the narrative as it unfolds. I as a reader felt as if I was there–down in the valleys, and back out again. This book will break, and re-make, your heart in the best way possible.

And all while pointing you to the Giver of Life. Which is why, in the post title above, I said this is not a book review. Because, ultimately, refusing to drown isn’t so much a book, as it is a way of life.

Get your copy: Refuse to Drown on Amazon You won’t be sorry.

My Lunatic Friend

I want to tell you about my friend.

My lunatic friend.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at him. No, from the outside looking in he appears to be as normal as anyone else. He’s calm, cool, collected. Has his stuff together.

Or at least appears to.

But in his chest beats the heart of a beast.

Yes, despite all appearances to the contrary, he doesn’t have it all together. He knows it, and it drives him up a wall!

He is a mass of conflicting desires, thoughts, emotions, pent up frustrations. He wants life to get easier.

But it never does.

It never does.

You see, my lunatic friend can fake it with the best of them. He can pose.

But in his heart he knows:

He’s not strong

He hasn’t got it all together

And prays everyday, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

You might know my lunatic friend. He’s me, you see. He’s me–and you, and everyone who’s ever lived.

“For the flesh lusts against the spirit,and the spirit against the flesh. The two are contrary to one another.” And no matter how long we walk with Christ the flesh never gets better. We can get better at resisting its allure.

But it is never sanctified. Our souls are. But not our bodies. “Who shall deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We, as long as we are here on this earth, shall never be sinless. But let us pray fervently to sin less and less. And let us remember to be as forgiving towards the lunatic friends of others as we are of our own. That to my mind is what it means to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Are you brave enough to admit you have a luntic friend? Are you ready to do something about that? Put it down in words below.

God bless you!

The Two Lives of Mr. Thomas Anderson

'Film Matrix: a choice in your life' photo (c) 2006, surfstyle - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The Matrix is a 1999 film directed by the (then) Wachowski brothers, and starring Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson/Neo. At a point early in the story, Mr. Anderson has been arrested, and is being questioned by an agent. The agent, Mr. Smith, says to him, “You’ve been living two lives, Mr. Anderson. By day, as a developer for a respectful software company. By night, you operate under the hacker alias, Neo. Only one of these lives has a future, Mr. Anderson.”

Now within the context of the movie that agent–Smith–is trying to scare Anderson into conformity, keep him a slave to the Matrix. In our world, the paradigm is parallels that of the story: the world, the flesh, and the devil comprise the wool the which has been cleverly pulled over our eyes. As in the world of the Matrix, we have to escape the seemingly gravitational pull of a world that wants nothing more than conformance with the status quo. Like Neo in the movie, Jesus has come into our world and upset that Apple cart.

He came blasting into a culture which prided itself on conformity with the rules, and turned everything upon its head. He said the we needed to be “born again,” to die to ourselves. That indeed it was only on death that we would find life. That it was for freedom that He came to set us free.

We, like Mr. Thomas Anderson, could continue to confirm, toe the line, play it safe. Or we could launch our coracles out into the vast ocean of grace. The late, great C.S Lewis said that “our passions are not too strong, but too weak. We muck about with drink and sex when all the pleasures of Heaven lay before us.”

As the Bible says, “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end of the ways thereof is death.” Put another way, and in the words of Bob Dylan, we’ve “gotta serve somebody.”

The question, then is who? Who will we serve?

Self (the devil), or God? “Only one of these lives has a future.”

Choose you this day.

“Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

What say you? Speak on it?

The Polar Express–A Guest Post by Jason Clark

The Polar Express

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Jason Clark

I was sitting in the theatre beside a 3-year-old boy named Ethan Wilde.  Ethan’s my son.  We were about to watch “The Polar Express.”  I was a little distracted because we just moved to North Carolina.  We were pretty sure God had asked us to.  Pretty sure.  We had spent our savings and were now digging into our “good credit.”  We were beyond strapped and spending eight bucks for the afternoon matinee caused that voice in my head to say: Are you crazy?

A 30-year-old man with a wife and two kids isn’t usually 100% certain of much, but I was about 97% sure I was to spend all my time and resources birthing a ministry, which I would later find out was a lifestyle. God had told me to believe, to stay the course.  But as the money flew out of our bank account, I was more than worried.  I was scared.
Dave Ramsey’s evaluation would have been: Uh, financial suicide.  Now I know Dave Ramsey has saved many people from financial ruin. But this was between me and another Savior; it had nothing to do with financial responsibility.  This was about irresponsible, unsound, downright foolish obedience.  I’ll come back to this a little later…
               
Back to The Polar Express.  If you haven’t seen it, try to; it’s wonderful. It’s about a young boy who, while growing up, loses his ability to believe in God…I mean Santa Claus. Fortunately, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God…I mean three variations of Tom Hanks, band together to guide the boy back into believing. I realize that sounds confusing, but stick with me.

It’s Christmas Eve and instead of dreaming of the best day of the year, the boy is in his bedroom agonizing over the universal question: Does God… sorry, I mean Santa Claus…really exist?  He used to believe, but now in the mind of this blossoming adult, a fat bearded jolly man delivering presents to the entire world’s population in one night seems impossible.  Add in flying reindeer, elves, a North Pole toy factory—it all seems completely foolish. The boy was in danger of becoming a realist.

And then a deep rumbling. It grew louder until it filled his room and even jumped out into our theatre seats.  Like an earthquake, it shook and rattled his shelf of sports trophies. The boy crawls over to his window, peers out and what to his wondering eyes should appear?  An enormous train decked in his front yard.

Dressed in his pajamas and rubber rain boots, he cautiously walks out to the train and meets Jesus… I’m sorry, I mean a train conductor played by Tom Hanks.  The conductor says, “Well…are you coming?”  That’s a question worth remembering.

This amazes the boy.  He really wants to get on the train, but at the same time, the idea terrifies him. Finally, as the train begins to inch forward, his heart wins out and he takes the outstretched hand of the conductor.

And so the journey begins, a grand adventure filled with mountaintops and frozen lakes and howling wolves and dancing waiters balancing hot chocolate. It’s exciting and dangerous all at the same time. Along the way the boy meets the Holy Spirit… I’m sorry, I mean a ghost who oddly resembles Tom Hanks…I mean, no, that’s right – Tom Hanks.

After several breathtaking moments, the train reaches its destination – the North Pole. There are elves everywhere and music, dancing and singing. It is truly a magical place.  I’d like to go there some day.
Everyone is awaiting Santa’s arrival, which signals the official start of Christmas. The Elves are singing Christmas songs. Some are whispering “Is He here?” and some are yelling, “Do you see Him?”  The anticipation is almost unbearable.

The reindeer harnessed to Santa’s sleigh are going wild! Their master is coming! They can sense it! The sleigh bells are ringing and all who believe in Santa can hear them, their pristine crystal tones adding to the beautiful chaotic anticipation. The children that made the journey are there too. The air is electric.

And then there is the boy.  He had all but decided that Santa was not real and yet wants – with his whole heart – to be wrong. Surrounded by a sea of believers, the boy dares to hope; in fact, hope is everywhere, and it’s contagious.
A slow hush falls on the crowd, and all eyes became focused on a building at the end of the square. The doors burst open. There is a bright light and within the doorframe a silhouette. Suddenly the whole square erupts.  “There He is!” shouts an elf. “I see Him!” says one of the girls, but the boy, pressed by the crowd, can’t see and still can’t hear the sleigh bells.  Why can’t he hear? Desperate, he jumps and presses his way through the sea of elves to the front. And then, there He is, God… I’m sorry, I mean Santa Claus, who is also played by Tom Hanks…

Suddenly the boy hears everything: the bells, the worshipping elves, the celebrating kids, the dancing reindeer. And I’m sitting beside my son, and I’m trying desperately to hide my face from the little girl next to me.  Why?  Cause I’m balling my eyes out and whispering I believe, I believe, I believe… I love you Lord, and I believe…

I’ve been given a promise from God.  But sometimes holding on to it can be rather difficult. Life moves along, things happen; the world is a very busy and noisy place. It’s easy to wake up one day and find you’re just not sure anymore. Believing has become a lost art and the promise has become a mountain that seems un-scale-able. In fact, it has often seemed the harder I try to summit the farther the peak is from me. But I’m convinced that the “God lived life” is one of learning how to believe. It’s learning how to cling to God and keep His promises alive in your heart.

In the movie it took the conductor, the ghost, and Santa working together to woo the child. One man played all three characters, a trinity working in unison, until ultimately the boy made the decision to believe. The boy’s heart had wanted to believe from the very start. And that desire was enough to push him into the perilous journey…

The little boy in The Polar Express, the one who stopped believing? I identify with him. Yeah, that was me, my story.

I chased the promise for so long, I lost sight of the Promise Giver. Somewhere along the way I had stopped believing. I became exhausted, unmotivated and unsure where once I had been positive. Life became random and dull. In one sense I still did what I thought God had created me to do but it no longer held meaning. I started filtering every experience through an attitude of hopelessness until every bump in the road was expected, while every triumph was fleeting. The fact was, I had begun living a life where the glass was neither half full nor half empty. It was just… half.

But years ago I made a decision that I am going to be a believer, whether it looks good or not, whether it feels good or not. I have made a decision to say yes. Now I’m putting all my money on the promise giver and following Him where He leads me, like moving my family to North Carolina and financially disappointing Dave Ramsey. Believing that God is good, that He is faithful, that He can be trusted, it’s really the only way to continue moving forward in my own story. It’s also the only way to experience fullness of life, immense joy and fulfillment.

Is it possible that God is asking you the same question the conductor asked the boy: Well…are you coming?

About Jason
Jason Clark is a singer/songwriter, author, speaker, and pastor. Jason’s passion is to know the love of God more each day. He lives to see a generation step into their identity as sons and daughters of the King and establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Jason’s new book Prone To Love is available now: Jason Clark Is

Just Jesus

I didn’t see the Creation Debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham last night. It’s not that I wasn’t interested; rather, I was working. From what I’ve gathered about it, it doesn’t appear that any minds were changed.

Ham claims the authority of Scripture for his position, and Nye science. Thus questioning Ken Ham is akin to questioning God, and in questioning Bill Nye the Science Guy one risks the withering scorn of the scientific establishment.

Why are things always so rigidly dogmatic? So binary, so this–or that?

There’s no room for nuance. No room for debate, really.

Yet science and faith are not mutually exclusive. God gave us brains to use them. As Chesterton said, the “point of having an open mind is to close it again on something solid.” And chew!

If we believe that God is truth, then all truth is His truth. He doesn’t lie. If we observe that it takes light, well, light years to reach us it simply stands to reason that the universe is old. The further we look out into the universe the further back in time we’re looking.

I’m not threatened by this.

And neither is God.

God, in preparing a place for us, knew well in advance we would need fossil fuels…

But this is all really secondary. In fact, I don’t care what you believe about how we got here. I really don’t.

What’s important. What’s indeed number one with a bullet is what you make of Jesus, and what He did for all of us. Whether you want to be a theistic evolutionist, young earth creationist, old earth creationist, day-age creationist, proponent of the gap theory, intelligent designer, eater of bok choy, etc. it’s no skin off my back.

Because none of that is central.

What is is Jesus.

Just Jesus.

Your convictions about origins are not now, nor have they ever been, Gospel. Simply put, we have an enemy who loves nothing so much as to divide–to sow the seeds of discord–wherever and whenever he can.

He gets us majoring in the minors, while Jesus stands off to the side weeping because, somewhere along the way He and the Gospel, have been forgotten. It’s rampant throughout the world, but easily identifiable:

When, and where, ever we are more committed to an idealogy over and above the Gospel we’re missing it.

As for me, just give me Jesus.

How about you?

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