Resting Killface and the Hard Glory of Yet Another Task

desertResting killface is a condition in which the mouth’s corners do not naturally turn upward, even when you’re eight tics happier than you look. The result is a face like mine, perpetually frozen somewhere between “quietly petrified”, “incurably grave”, and “Deep South serial killer”.

Your parents during your childhood: “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” you’d reply over your book.

“You sure?”

“Yep.”

“You look annoyed.”

“I’m not. Now I’m annoyed because you keep asking.”

Years ago, I arrived at a party to announce I’d nabbed a new teaching position, only for a friend to go, “so why do you look like someone just shot your dog?”

If any of this is familiar, you might have resting killface. We’re good, we swear! We only look like we’ll strangle the next person who approaches us.

But eventually I had to face how my killface was impacting my social life. When I stood around in neutral, my downer look would repel folks. When I made a joke, my lack of smile would conflict with my tone, leaving others unsure of my intentions. It was subtle, but influential.

Following on this revelation’s heels was the fact that the onus was on me to change.

oasis-67549_1280.jpgThat was frustrating. I’ve never been socially gifted; friendmaking has been slow. To hear that I had a hand in getting where I was, and had more work to do, felt honestly like insult added to injury.

But the world wouldn’t change for me. Social dynamics were social dynamics. No matter how many Disney movies sang “be yourself”, no matter how many memes of people snapping their fingers in a “Z” motion and celebrating rejection of all advice, the score was the same. I needed to accept either this new “growth opportunity”…or the status quo.

Have you waged a years-long campaign only to be confronted with yet another battle?

Your student with special needs uncovers another learning disability.

Your illness breaks remission.

The new boss appears and turns out worse than your last three.

God exposes another soul weakness that needs work before he ends your singleness (I do believe he does this with some, my last post notwithstanding).

Another retreat fails to fix your marriage.

Your church keeps on bickering and back-biting, and now its foremost tither announces he’s moving.

Ugh.

I think of Shasta in The Horse and His Boy. He has just raced thousands of miles across country, first in a desperate flight from slavery, then carrying word of a coming invasion of the free and noble Archenland. He’s evaded city police, endured days of desert heat, and been chased by lions. Gasping, ready to collapse, he finally reaches Archenland’s citizens with news of the impending attack – only to learn that he’s the only one who can reach the king in time. He must keep going.

…”he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed, your reward usually is to do another and harder and better one.”

I don’t know where C.S. Lewis got this sage stuff (well, yes I do), but it’s the kind that alters a young man’s trajectory.

Perhaps it is not cruelty but honor and reward, wearying though our journey be. Perhaps we should throw ourselves in without hesitation, as Shasta did the first river he found after his desert crossing. Or into the next leg of his journey.

For Shasta’s mission succeeded. In fact, not only did Archenland receive his warning in time to fortify its defenses until Narnian reinforcements could arrive, but Shasta discovered who he really was: the long-lost son of the very king he’d warned, heir to the very kingdom he helped save.

Be refreshed by God today. It is only through these travails that we will discover Whose sons and daughters we’ve been all along.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

mountain-background-hd-14

 

Who Failed Who?

Though tragedy brings us the haunting worry that God has let us down, it is healthy to ask ourselves questions first.

alighttomyway

Psalms 75, 76, 77, 80

Have you ever felt like God isn’t keeping His promises? The psalmists did. They, like many of us, find ourselves in situations where God is noticeably silent or worse, absent. Didn’t God promise to never leave or forsake us, to be our strength and shield, to give us everything we need? So why does it seem there are times He reneges on His promises?

When the psalmists felt disappointed in God, they often started to remember the many ways God had been faithful in the past. God had proved His faithfulness over and over, fulfilled one promise after another. Then inevitably, they realized it was they, not God who had reneged on their promises to Him.

As I read the Bible I am reminded that God loves to bless His people. God longs to shower His children with love and joy and peace, and to…

View original post 174 more words

Love the Inconveniencers

Lord, help us get over ourselves.

Brandon J. Adams

lineI’m notorious at my church for car troubles.

In two separate cases over the years, I’ve experienced car troubles that forced me to drive markedly slower than the speed limit. First it was a trouble where the engine would stay reasonably cool as long as I stayed under about 55 MPH. The other instance was a weird transmission problem – if I slowed down from fourth gear, there would be a noticeable bump and my car would refuse to get back up into fourth gear. Meaning I could not travel over about 55 MPH for fear of over-rpm’ing. (I’m not a car person.)

No doubt this caused consternation for drivers behind me, especially on Montana’s many one-lane highways. Keep in mind that this is the state of “Reasonable and Prudent” fame. I can guess what was going through their minds as they stared endlessly at my tailpipe.

View original post 301 more words

My Blog Has a Facebook Page!

Yeerk. I hate self-promotion. I really do. This post will probably get deleted after a little while.

But it’s part of the job when you’re hoping to write a book. A little-known secret of authorship is that you must first prove your ability to market yourself, because publishers simply don’t have the resources to do it for you. If you’re going to compete for their attention, you have to show a ready audience.

So…ahem…

Hey, loyal followers! This staccato, semi-coherent blog now has a Facebook page! I use it to pass on thoughts and lessons God’s giving me (they all come from him) that don’t qualify for a blog post. But also to link to blog posts.

If you have surrendered to Facebook and would like to toss out a Like for it and its posts, I’d be super grateful. Here’s the link…

https://www.facebook.com/brandonjadamsblog/

Now back to your regularly scheduled frantic Fourth of July preparations. I was never here.

You Shall Be My Witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea and…What, There?

browningThere’s a saying you often hear in my part of the world: “Don’t stop in Browning.”

Browning is the county seat of the closest Indian reservation, on which I taught for three years. There’s always the stories circulating around, stories of bad things that happen to white people when they stay too long. Thus the old canard, “don’t stop in Browning”.

It’s also a saying that my pastor likes to repudiate fiercely whenever the chance arises.

I love it. Thump that pulpit.

It’s a crap catchphrase, for two reasons. One, because it isn’t true. I’d know. I frequented that town for three years, stepped inside its gas stations, supermarkets, fast-food places. Nothing happened. Didn’t get ripped off, didn’t get pushed around. It’s just normal folk looking to live a normal life (without a lot of success). Maybe more people would know that if they stopped.

The second reason is, it’s not a very Great Commission saying.

Jesus didn’t place limits on our destinations for that “ends of the earth” thing. He told us to make disciples of all nations, which usually involves making friends first. And if there were safety concerns…

…well, you weren’t likely to argue with a guy who’d just had his hands and feet pierced bringing light to places that didn’t want it. Especially once he’d risen from the dead.

I’d run into my share of panhandlers and homeless in a town like that (even on the forty-second parallel). If you offered to buy them food, there was about a fifty-fifty chance. Some would accept, grinning happily through a sub sandwich and telling you their life story. The other half would quickly decline and shuffle off. They were obviously after something else.

The point is, by offering, you helped half. All it took was a little resourcefulness, a little brain-pushing, which we often don’t even do. We complain about systems and institutions and government. Is it just a cover for not wanting to lose five bucks? Who knows what eternal doors could be opened through those five bucks?

We’ve got so many poisonous attitudes clouding our evangelistic vision. The only way to vent them is often simply by walking right into them, and doing what we’re supposed to do.

How can you do so today?

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

 

 

3 Reasons I Dislike “God’s Waiting on You” Theology for Singles

prayer2As long as I’ve been of marriageable age, one of the most common responses I’ve seen to struggling singles is some version of God’s waiting on you.

God’s waiting for you to be fully satisfied in him.

God’s honing your character.

God has work for you first.

The upshot being, move! Get in the Word! Go through your character with a fine-toothed comb! Hit the mission field! Be the best you! And for the love of God, learn to love God already!

“I love that stuff and I hate it,” a single friend of mine said.

That’s where I land. I’ll never object to doing all those things. But I’ve come to hold serious misgivings about God’s Waiting On You theology where it pertains to singleness.

For one, G.W.O.Y. has too many exceptions. God allows the worst people to marry. He pairs off believers to mature together(!) from age 19. And fortysomething singles like my friend spend years on international missions but still find nobody with their last name waiting when they get off the plane home.

You can get your neck twisted trying to reverse-engineer God’s ways from all this. Outside of express Scriptural teachings, God actually doesn’t exhibit a lot of patterns to how he shapes lives. Jesus never healed people the same way twice; Joshua’s battle strategies kept getting divinely switched up. Many saints have believed that God stays somewhat unpredictable so that we must seek his guidance firsthand. If all his ways could be guessed so easily, what need would there be to talk to him?

God could be waiting on you to clean something up. But get that from him directly, in prayer.

Never try to make your experience a principle for others, but allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you. – Oswald Chambers

For another, G.W.O.Y. can offer a false sense of control. Some singles actually kinda light up when they find a problem in themselves: Hey, maybe I’ve uncovered That One Thing that I can fix to finally open God’s hands! This can look like holiness, but it’s mixed with an attempt to control God. That makes it an idolatry – the same one lodged in any worldly philosophy of If you don’t like your life, change it!

We know better. At a wedding last weekend, as the maid of honor told the couple’s story, she reminded us, “We’re not in control of any of this.” Yes. That’s what we must remember. Mixed motives and a spirit of control? Avoid them.

But most of all, “God’s waiting on you” knows little of grace.

Singleness can already feel like a graceless state. You don’t get as much help with life; everything relies on you; you have not (yet) been chosen by another. To add insult to injury, countless singles are exhausted from running around like beheaded chickens, worrying subconsciously over any character flaw or unfinished work that might be The Thing over which God is holding your future hostage. I’m not sure worry meshes with the fruit of the Spirit.

Push towards holiness. Always. Relentlessly. But tying blessing to your works is how Islam and Hinduism operate. It’s how the pagan religions surrounding Israel operated (and how the Mosaic covenant operated until God replaced it). It’s not discouraging, and you’ll never arrive anyway.

Instead, we have grace – the grace of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, single or not. The very foundation of our faith is God giving when we’re not deserving. I would argue that this should be the foundation of our prayers for a mate as well. After all, marriage is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with his church (Eph 5:21, 32), and that’s all grace.

Consider the Canaanite woman with the possessed daughter (Matthew 15). She had nothing to plead before Jesus – no works, no cleanliness, no national identity. But she said, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!” She was appealing to Jesus’ character.

Marvel at his generosity, but also, don’t miss that we are not dogs! We are the children Jesus spoke of, the adopted heirs, the kingdom citizens. How much more shall we receive?

Switch things up. Next time you pray for a spouse, pray not out of your own merit, but out of God’s grace and fatherhood.

I make no promises about how God will respond. Remember, we’re not seeking formulas here. But we’ll be praying correctly, out of knowledge of God’s character and our true position before him.

Like any grace, this is actually a relief. It’s not all up to us. He gives freely without finding fault (James 1:6); he keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5). Dump your stingy views of him and pray out of that.

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Why We All Need Some “Jesus Freak” Again

dctalkWonders never cease – dc Talk is touring in the U.S. again!

Though there’s no whispers of a new album, Michael Tait announced last week that dc Talk will be touring on land together for the first time in sixteen(?) years, starting in 2020. The dates and locations have yet to be announced.

The sequence of events when I read this:

1. Yell.

2. Pinch myself.

3. Yell again.

4. Check if it’s April 1.

6. Gab on Facebook about how we’re totally road-tripping for this.

7. “Holy cow, those guys look OLD”

8. Re-download Jesus Freak and Supernatural (the latter was sorely underrated, come at me).

9. Head-bang.

10. Advil.

11. There’s no 5 in this list.

12. You went back to look and are now chuckling at yourself.

13. Consider just how much we Christians might need “Jesus Freak” again.

I’ve briefly opined on the angsty/alternative phase Christian music underwent in the 90s. I wouldn’t call it insincere, but I don’t feel it did enough to prepare young people for suffering. The unexpected nature of suffering – jagged, unfair, isolating, relentless – got under-attended by Christian music in favor of riling people up to stand out against the world. And it’s something that keeps showing up in the autopsies when people walk away (though it’s unfair to lay the entire blame at music’s feet).

But it occurred to me – twenty years later, maybe what Christians need most is a call to stand out.

I’m not just talking about our witness, though that’s a weekly burr in pastors’ shoes. We fall into selfishness, gossip, anger, and tribalism as quickly as the next religion. It was Brennan Manning’s quote along these lines that we remember from the Jesus Freak album (Track 4):

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

I also mean our lost boldness.

We’re so hesitant to share our faith these days. I’m so hesitant. We make so many excuses, design so many shortcuts, apply so many disguises to the issue of sin and repentance. We’re too busy apologizing to the world for a message they’ve deemed unacceptable. In what universe does that make any sense?

The Man with the Tat on his Big Fat Belly would stand on his box in the middle of any American city. But we wouldn’t.

Whether the church earned its fall isn’t the point. Christians have been screwing up since Paul’s days; it didn’t change what he wrote.

The deepest question is, might our security be in the wrong place? Are we drawing our sense of approval from unsaved humans rather than God? If we were utterly free of the world’s opinion, if we were fully convinced of Matthew 10:28’s distribution of our priorities, what would we be teaching?

Well, we probably wouldn’t really care if they labeled us Jesus Freaks, ‘cuz there ain’t no denying the truth.

dc Talk injected a welcome dose of this freedom into our spiritual bloodstream. We’ve lost something sinceI pray that God gives Kevin, Toby, and Michael a powerful message for their tour.

And I pray for extra gas money, because people, I’m going. Imagine how many dad-bods will be in that mosh pit now…

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media.