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Jesus Doesn’t Solve Everything

The other day, I shared My Jesus Story. While coming to Christ certainly solved my need for a Savior, it didn’t solve everything. Maybe it was expectations, maybe it was something else, but being saved hasn’t necessarily made this life better. I’m still who suffers from crushing self-doubt, nursing wounds that I thought were long since healed. And I have a terrible need to be noticed, to be reckoned with–and not ignored–that colors all my relationships. The latent Freudian in me thinks this stems from childhood neglect.

Believe me, I want to be passed all of that. I just didn’t know how.

And there are other things, darker things, burdens loved ones bear. I wonder why Jesus let these things happen? The Scriptures say he is sovereign, but that not everything is now under his feet. This is a terrible freedom with which the world is burdened. All manner of things happen… People are killed, die of overdoses, get raped, are abused, see things which cannot be unseen…

And the Scripture declare that although Christ died, all is not yet as it should be. All is not yet under his feet. Yet I’m somehow supposed to trust in his sovereignty? It’s a hard road to hoe. We have the freedom to not only mock God, but also abuse the very freedoms his son died to procure.

Evil with a capital “E” not only exists, it also walks among us. Is in us.

The world is a mess.

But then again so are you and I.

I wonder if the reason Jesus doesn’t step in and set things to rights is because he wants us to partner with him in doing something about the world’s ills? Perhaps instead of just decrying the evil we see, maybe we’re supposed to get in there, get our hands dirty, do something?

For the scripture which says that not everything is under his feet also says that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”

Maybe Jesus doesn’t solve everything because he wants us to be a part of the solution?

It could be.

In any case, m
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My Jesus Story

My Jesus story began, like many others, I’m sure, with a girl. A beautiful girl. She got my attention. Up until that time, church–and by extension, Jesus–did not occupy my thoughts. Church was something we did to make grandma happy when we traveled back east to visit her. But other than that, there was no ecclesial experience during my formative years. (I’m told I was baptized as an infant in the Methodist church).

Having Catholic friends, Jewish classmates, etc., I once asked my mom what religion we were. Her answer? “Protestant.” If by this she meant we protested the attending of church altogether (not even Easter, or Christmas), then yes, we were Protestant.

I share this to make it clear that God was not a paradigm with which I was familiar. If you asked me as a teen what I believed I would have replied that I was an atheist. I simply did not believe there was a God, or a Jesus, with which I needed to contend. And if there were, and he was anything like my dad, I wanted nothing to with him. Why would I want to be ignored by a cosmic father, too?

I want to make it clear that from the outside it may have appeared that I lived a comfortable life: I had a home, food–the basics. But I was largely ignored, left–as most latchkey children are (my parents divorced)–to my own devices.

Because if my upbringing was marked by the absence of faith on the the one hand, it was also bathed through-and-through on the other with permissiveness. There were little or no boundaries. And without boundaries, there was no sense of security.

And thus no real feeling of being loved.

Then I met this girl, and she cared. She wanted to know how I was doing. She read my (bad) poetry. She cared. I felt real love for the first time.

She invited me to church; I went. We went to prom together. She hailed from a large, warm, loud family. This was so different from my cold, quiet one. There was food, and laughter, and talk of Jesus. The singing of hymns around a piano.

Her family felt so very alive.

God knows what He’s doing, friends. He used a beautiful girl to get my attention, and showed me a different life. I saw her family, I went to church (just to sit beside her), I heard the Gospel.

On a warm May evening in 1988, I prayed in my car: “God, if you’re there, I want you in my life. I can’t do this alone anymore. It’s too heavy, too lonely.”

For my family of origin, faith was the road never traveled, but it has made all the difference.

And the girl? The one who loved me enough to tell me of different life? The one who led me to Christ? Two-and-a-half years later we married, and for the last twenty-three years I’ve been proud to call her my wife.

That’s my Jesus story. What’s yours?

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Dean Koontz–Evangelist of Hope

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I’m a fan of well-crafted stories. If you know anything about his writing process, nobody spends more time crafting books than Dean Koontz. Seriously. His process–continually revising a page until it’s just right, then moving onto the next–would drive me crazy. But it works for him. Some accuse him of being formulaic, of being inferior to King. That may be.

There’s no discounting his success. The numbers don’t lie. And when he’s hot, he’s hot. Witness: Watchers, Strangers, Intensity, Lightning, and Odd Thomas. (My friend, Ricky Anderson stayed up into the wee hours last night reading Odd).

In my estimation, there’s more to Koontz’s success than just adrenaline-laced plots that keep the reader turning pages (as welcome as that is). No, it’s his characters. They feel like real people–people facing insane situations overwhelming odds, and yet somehow holding onto hope. These people could be you, me, or the neighbor down the block. And his villains are more, or less, than human. Their motivations are real, and they never see themselves as villains. Like Satan, Koontz’s villains usually see themselves as the aggrieved, misunderstood, party. Thus they are justified in their own eyes.

Like most Catholic writers I’ve read, Koontz isn’t afraid to let his villains be villains. Thus he portrays evil as it is. And thus the light of hope, of the protagonists, shines out all the more brightly in contrast. That is what I love about Koontz: he is an eternal optimist: no matter how dark, how bad things get, there’s always hope. Good will triumph on the end. (Now this is not say that his good guys aren’t flawed people–they are. They overcome these shortcomings, confront themselves, and the darkness in their own hearts).

The genius of Koontz is that, while not writing sermons, his work is infused with his faith stamped upon every page. His is the voice of one calling us out of the darkness into the light. It will, like life itself, be a bumpy ride. If you know any of his personal story–raised in poverty with an abusive, alcoholic father–you know that Dean is an overcome. He doesn’t see himself (or his characters for that matter) as a victim of circumstance.

By extension, he is calling us into the same life. We are not victims of circumstance unless we choose to be. We, like the people of which he writes, can overcome whatever life throws at us.

In this way, Mr. Koontz is an evangelist.
An evangelist of hope.

Have you read any Dean Koontz? What are your favorites?

I’ve Lived A Thousand Lifetimes

Because this is the Monday of the week of the American Thanksgiving holiday, I would like to share something I’m very thankful for. Apart from the gift of salvation found in Jesus Christ, having a loving, drop-dead gorgeous wife, two wonderful kids, a great job, a nice house, etc., one of the things I’m most thankful for is that I’m a reader. Stephen King has said that books are a special kind of portable magic.

This is true.

For by them, I have lived a thousand lifetimes, visited strange and wonderful places, met people whom I may never have otherwise encountered. And all by the cracking the covers of a book. I’ve been Middle Earth, Narnia, Perelandra, Christmasland, etc. I’ve visited the darkest corners of Africa, been beneath the catacombs of Europe, seen the splendor of a thousand sunrises…

I’ve been with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect when the Vogons destroyed the Earth to make way for an interstellar bypass. I was there when the Earth was newly remade.

As I said, I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes. And all without every leaving the confines of my own skin. There are unaccountable wonders, thrills, chills, splendors to be encountered between the pages of a book (or in your favorite e-reader).

Why not pick one up today, and see where it takes you?

You’ll be glad you did.

What’s your favorite book?

It’s Not Just Divorce

It’s Not Just Divorce

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Joe Sewell

Folks, I have the great privilege of hosting Joe Sewell today. In his own words, Joe: is a 51-year-old software geek living in West Melbourne, FL, after he and his parents bailed on the Eastern Shore of Maryland when he was 18. His lovely wife, Joy, has put up with him on more than major holidays for 20 years so far. Joe writes about Biblical stuff on his blog, Consider This, whenever he gets something to write on. Joe also participated in NaNoWriMo in 2010 and produced a weird self-published book, The Quantum Suicide of Schrödinger’s Cat, available on Amazon and CreateSpace. Joe also contributed a piece for Anne Jackson’s Permission To Speak Freely and for the Not Alone! anthology. He claims to have some other book ideas locked in his head, but cannot seem to find the key at the moment. Joe is scared of kids, but can handle his 5.3-pound Rat-Cha, Cocoa. Joe first guest posted here last year with Choosing to Forgive My Pop. You can follow Joe on Twitter @joe_sewell

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I am constantly amazed by the similarities Chad and I have. I almost wonder if we were twins separated from birth. I wouldn’t wish that on Chad, though.

Recently he talked about his parents’ divorce, and it spurred me to think again about my own story.

The executive summary is this: it’s not just divorce that can affect your child for life.

My mother left my father after 25 years of marriage. I was 24 at that time, but still living at home for no reason other than convenience. No, I wasn’t the geeky kid living in the parents’ basement, mainly because Florida homes cannot have basements (the water table’s too high).

Here’s the main point, though: I saw the divorce coming since I was 8! That makes 16 years of emotional torment as I watched my mother take … well, I wasn’t privy to exactly what she was taking at the time.

The first issue was that there was a 25-year age difference between the two of them. The generation gap was in effect even in the small town in which we lived, in an environment that was rural enough to be “inbred” in terms of emotional maturity. People did what they did because they were “supposed to.” No other reason was ever offered, so there was no point to discuss.

Pop, as I mentioned in my guest post relating to finally being able to forgive him, was stubbornly old-fashioned. Men had their place, and women had theirs. Don’t bother talking to him about it, because that was the way things were “supposed to be.” I saw no affection between them since I was probably 5 or 6, maybe 7. By the time I was 8, I got all the under-the-breath complaints Mom had against Pop. She didn’t dare talk to him about it, she says. It wouldn’t matter much anyhow, because in his eyes he was the only one who could be correct in such a discussion.

Much of my hatred for him grew during those years. Much of the emotional stress I still deal with started then. My desire to escape the torment by pulling the trigger of a probably-loaded gun came when I was 10.

They weren’t divorced, but the torture was still real for me.

The event that pushed [sic] her over the edge was the day when she told Pop that the door knob wasn’t working properly. He tried his best to fix it. She tried it again and said it still wasn’t right. He pushed her aside, into a wall. I didn’t know about that event until a few months ago, even though it happened in 1986. I did know then, though, that she “coincidentally” got a good promotion with the hardware company she worked for, but in a city that was roughly 80 miles away.

Pop knew what he had done, but was in deep denial. He kept saying it was the “change of life” that caused her to do this. The very few times she showed up back near home (also near where her own father, the only grandfather I knew, lived at the time) Pop would be in tears. He was a “man.” He wasn’t “supposed to” cry. He did.

So what did that do to me? I have been married almost 20 years now. Since I didn’t know until recently what pushed Mom over the edge, I have lived with the fear of pushing my own wife, Joy, too far without warning, with me being too stupid to know until it was too late. I have lived with the dread of having children and passing the damage on to them. That even led to a serious crisis of faith that God is still healing.

Divorce is necessary sometimes. Even Jesus allowed it under certain conditions. In our society today, though, with a lack of caring about marriage, divorce is all over the place. The only reason the numbers are so low, I suspect, is because more and more couples are living together as if they were married, but they haven’t bothered to make the real commitment that must be the foundation of every marriage. If Chad and I were so damaged by our parents’ divorces, what’s going on with today’s younger generation? For that matter, we have a generation of baby-producing semi-adults already afflicted in ways Chad and I probably cannot even imagine.

There is still hope. The damage may be done, but Christ still will clean us up, still heal us. That healing and cleaning may not be complete this side of Heaven, but His commitment to us is far more trustworthy than that of any married couple. Check out Romans 8 for a start.

We’re damaged property. Welcome to Earth.

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