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)

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When You Dislike Being Needy for God

mistLong ago, I listened to a remarkably holy man, a cancer patient, sharing a conversation with God.

It was a naked, piercing, and heavy testimony of the “when you’ve finally just had it” variety. During a morning quiet time in his big easy chair, he is praying and listening for God and suddenly (for are not these things rather sudden?) just explodes into venting about the story God is writing for him. It’s not just the disease. It’s the ongoing changes and the endless appointments and the constant vigilance and the social misunderstandings and the lack of closure and the shame and fear that attend. All his anger and helplessness and isolation explodes before the throne in frustration. He lets God know.

And the man described hearing God reply, “I understand you don’t like the story. How do you feel about the Author?”

Ugh.

It cut me to the quick – one of two things he said that did so. Not a pleasant reveal, but an unmistakably holy one. A divine refocusing.

For though I dared not compare my life’s difficulties to cancer, the question was stil one that I had not wanted to face. For I could tell you exactly how my journey (e.g. my family history, my weird and glitchy personality) has made me feel about God.

The other thing he said was:

“I could just hear the clarity coming to myself, and I finally said it: ‘What I really don’t like is, I’m now living a life where I need you, God, on a day-to-day basis, just to get through it. And I don’t like being desperately needy for you, God.'”

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Daylight Savings Messed Up My Unbelief Clock

daylightWith daylight savings coming up on us again in a few weeks, I thought I’d update this story from last spring.

This weekend, I served as a counselor at a youth retreat, out of cell service.

I woke up Sunday morning at 8:30am feeling most refreshed. I’d initially worried that I wouldn’t get enough winky-winky because I’d gone to bed late (12:30am), but nope…8 hours of sleep. It felt good and I was happy. (You know you’re coming up on middle age when these are the things you think about.)

Until a little while later, when I overheard that Daylight Savings Time had started that night. I hadn’t heard about it during the prior week, and didn’t see the usual Facebook memes the previous day because we were out of cell service.

So I’d actually slept only 7 hours.

The moment I realized this, I kid you not, I started feeling tired. Over one hour.

And it got me thinking: Our reality determines our thoughts and feelings to a great degree.

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Comfort when Justice is Withheld

justiceMost of us are well familiar with Isaiah 40:28-31, the “those who trust in the Lord will renew your strength” passage.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?

Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth.

He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding.

He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.

Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall,

But those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength;

they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.

But I had never, until this last Saturday, seen the context of the verse before it, verse 27, which adds a new dimension: that powerful God arrayed against injustice.

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Sorry, Mike Pence, It Was Really the “Graham Rule”

110619316_96f3530a93_oBilly Graham is dominating my Facebook feed today, and well deserved. Millions are in heaven today because of him.

Like many other tributes, one of the first things that springs to my mind when I think of Billy Graham is his reputation with the world. I’m reminded particularly of one thing I learned from reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye in years past:

In the early days of his ministry, Billy Graham experienced deep concern over the public’s distrust of evangelists. How could he preach the gospel to people who assumed he was a fake? As he considered this question, he realized that most people who distrusted evangelists did so because those evangelists lacked integrity, particularly in the area of sexuality. To combat this, he and the close circle of men who ran the crusades avoided opportunities to be alone with women who weren’t their wives.

Think about this for a moment. What an inconvenience! Did these men really fear that they’d commit adultery the moment they found themselves alone with a woman? Weren’t they going a little too far?

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Two Dates

dateIn what seems to me like a cosmic joke, a person’s life is often boiled down to a sequence of numbers – two dates with a dash between them.

The first is the date of our birth. Its arrival every year is an occasion for joy, gifts, or perhaps just a little extra attention. We write it on official documents. It’s a friend to us, right down to the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing – the further we get, the worse we feel.

The other, the day of our death, is unknown to us until it arrives. We will, by definition, never write it down. By the time it’s known, we can do nothing about it. It evokes loss, shadow, evaluation, the arranging of one’s affairs and moving on.

At least it does for “the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

But this last week, a friend of mine passed (expected), and the words used to describe her passing were, “She met Jesus!”

Immediate jealousy.

My friend escaped. She got out. She finally leaped beyond the reach of this world’s grime and reached Jesus.

And it hit me:

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Making Holiness Thrilling: What the Angels Longed to Look Into

peekOur youth group is currently in the midst of our annual “purity series”.

Our youth group sees fit to devote several weeks every February to the subject of purity with its many angles, and I can’t disagree with their choice. Given the escalating danger that sexual promiscuity poses to our young people in today’s bankrupt society, an emphatic approach seems right.

Last night’s message featured possibly the best possible angle on purity, the best reason to pursue purity.

It came, rather unexpectedly (for me), out of 1 Peter 1 – a passage that gives holiness the backdrop of a cosmic secret, withheld even from the angels.

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