This weekend I released Of Lampposts and Lions—my 20 track, 80 minute concept album based on C.S. Lewis’ books, The Chronicles of Narnia. If you’re familiar with all 7 books, I think you’ll enjoy the story being told. If not, I hope you’ll enjoy the music anyways as it’s quite a blend of genres. You can download it for donation or for free on NoiseTrade.
Occasionally a book comes along that changes your life and you just can’t stop talking about it. It’s not super common. Often you’ll read through a ton of books and only a select few will impact your life in this way. That being said, here’s my list of those few.
1. Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne
When I learned in a college class one day that Jesus spent most of his time talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, I was confused. Why did he talk so much about the afterlife? Or did I not really understand what Heaven was? When Shane Claiborne’s book, Jesus for President came out, I immediately bought it due to the fact that (A) I loved Shane Claiborne and (B) every page was graphically designed the whole way through. I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, but as I made my way through it I began to realize that it was dripping with the understanding of what Heaven was. It was a place that existed here and now, had its own backwards ways of life, and even its own politics that ran very much contrary to our own. It caused me to think differently about how I needed to live my life and I actually became a different person in many ways after reading it, which is something just about no book ever does to its readers. If you want to live the Christian life out as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven here and now, there is no book I could recommend more for you to read.
2. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
I remember hearing about how popular this book was when I was a kid, but being a bit of a hipster, I guess I didn’t want to read it since everyone already knew about it or something. Many years later I saw the movie Ragamuffin, in which an actor portrayed Brennan Manning in a few short scenes. I didn’t know if the lines the actor said were pulled straight from Brennan’s books or just based on him, but I knew I wanted to read his books after hearing those lines delivered—some of them nearly brought me to tears. Some time later I busted out The Ragamuffin Gospel, and came in contact with God’s love more clearly than I ever had before. No book had ever been more convincing that God loved me even in my brokenness. No book had ever been more convincing that I had to love other people—all other people even in their brokenness. Some of the greatest quotes I’ve ever read are found in this book. Love is pretty much what ever Brennan Manning book is about and they’re all great, but I would start here.
3. C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces
We all rave about C.S. Lewis and rightfully so. The man is a genius. I don’t know where to begin to tell you to read as most of his work is eye-opening, so I’ll recommend one of my favorites from him. I thought when I bought his Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, that I may just be buying into a publisher’s attempt at milking Lewis for all he’s worth by throwing all of his extra material into a book, but I found that wasn’t the case. Lewis’ essays are wonderful to read and they get into all sorts of topics (even aliens!). They’re also often succinct, so you get a concentration of his wisdom in each essay quicker than you might find in some of his books. It’s a long read, but it’s worth it. Though if you’re looking for fiction, his Chronicles of Narnia series have become some of my favorite fiction. #AslanGivesMeShivers
There’s a beautiful scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in which a kid named Eustace Scrubb falls about as low as he can. Magic and greed have turned him into a dragon and he longs to become human again.
After some time of being a dragon, Aslan the lion appears to him and guides him to a well of sorts. Aslan then tells Eustace to undress before he gets in the water. Being a dragon, Eustace isn’t exactly sure how to undress, but then realizes he might be able to shed his skin like a snake. And so he removes his scales, only to find an entire extra layer of scales. Some more time passes as he removes this layer and he comes across a third layer of scales. He gives it one more shot, but you guessed it, there’s still another layer of scales.
Eustace recounts to his cousin what happened next:
“Then the lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—’You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off….
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.
He admitted he was powerless—that his life had become unmanageable and then came to believe that a Power greater than himself could restore him to sanity, making a decision to turn his will and life over to the care of Aslan as he understood Him. Some would say he’s a good 3 steps into inner-healing. Eustace could have ripped away at his skin all night long, but in the end it was only Aslan who could take care of it.
After a lot of reading, I decided to take a nap, telling God that I’d be quite happy to receive a dream from him. During that 2 and a half hours I dreamt that I was doing a radio interview with C.S. Lewis. I asked him what his favorite part of Narnia was and he answered, “The baptism scene.” “In the Voyage of the Dawn Treader you mean?” I asked. He paused for a moment and then responded, “Yes.”
That comment was a little weird for me to hear. I was so hit by the inner-healing symbolism of Aslan peeling off Eustace’s dragon skin that I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that he was thrown into water. The term salvation came to my mind, and perhaps the symbolism of baptism did too to some extent, but it hit me harder in my dreams than it did as I read the story.
What is it in your life that you keep trying to get rid of simply by your own efforts? What aren’t you turning over to God? What in your life requires the help of another accountable Christian who can direct you towards God?
I recently released a new free book for download. You can download it for yourself on your iPad or on iBooks for those of you running Mavericks on your Mac. Click here to check it out.
While I was painting my new digs yesterday, I was listening to an audiobook called Love Does, narrated by the author himself, Bob Goff. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first. Whenever I see a new Christian book get a lot of attention and it’s written by an author I’ve never heard of, I fear that it might be off in some serious doctrinal sense or something. But I needed an audiobook to listen to and this one had caught my eye a few times.
By the end of the first chapter, I was in awe. By the end of the second I was cracking up. Three hours later I had experienced every emotion under the sun. This guy is clearly the most interesting man in the world and has so many crazy stories that I am just awestruck. It is by far the most interesting, hilarious, and enjoyable Christian book I have ever read.
It’s full of stories that all find a strange way of relating back to God. And for that reason, there are a few (and I mean very few) critics of this book. From what I can tell, nearly everyone love is. But I was checking it out on Amazon today when I saw that someone gave it a one star review. Feeling anger come over me (as I hate one star reviews on anything), I clicked on it to see what could possibly make someone give this book one star.
And as usual, the one star review was a bunch of crap. They took things too seriously and saw the enjoyable jokes and stories as sin and stupidity.
Let me just tell you that when you live a life of criticism like this, you become bitter and difficult to be around. No one likes it when someone’s there to rip everything a part. I know this because I’ve been that guy plenty of times.
- “Yeah, that album is their worst.”
- “Yeah, that movie was awful. I know you liked it but…”
- “Yeah, he’s okay at guitar but…”
- “Yeah, but etc…”
Look, we all have preferences and thoughts about things, but if you find yourself consistently leaving negative comments on every YouTube video, book and music album that comes out, there’s actually probably something wrong with you—not with the things you’re rating.
- That’s why people who talk too much trash on online video games now have to pay money at times to play online games.
- That’s why YouTube is trying to figure out how to stop people from leaving awful comments on videos and is thinking of displaying your actual name so you can’t hide behind the internet.
I had an ex who once told me that there was absolutely nothing words could do to hurt anyone. All they are, are in fact, words. It was as though we were back on the playground singing, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” But we all know that’s not true. I’ve never been in more pain from the things people have said to me than the physical pain I’ve experienced.
And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:6-12)
I know: the irony (and perhaps hypocrisy) is that I’m criticizing critics. But my goodness—grow up! You live in a world full of creativity and there is no need to be so overcritical about every little thing, ESPECIALLY in the church!
- You know why so many pastors burn out? Because for some reason, people think that their pastor needs to know everything they don’t like about what they do or say.
- You know why worship leaders go to another church? Because for some reason, we give the worship band one star because she’s flat, he hit a wrong note, that beat was lame, and the intro was just a bit too loud.
- You know why that new person left? Because for some reason, she saw more love at the bar with her drunk buddies than she saw in the pew next to her.
Despite our call from Jesus not to judge one another, we consistently whack people in the face with the 2×4’s sticking out of our eyes.
Over the past two months or so, I’ve been practicing holding my tongue more than I ever have in my life. Yes, things still slip out here and there, but I’ve found that when I just shut up about things that annoy me, I don’t care much about it. I don’t give it room to fester in conversation—I don’t give it the ability to overtake my thoughts.
I can feel an incredible change in my life because of it.
Alright, there’s my thoughts for the day. If you leave a nasty comment on this blog post or leave one star, you’ve obviously missed the point.
More thoughts on this post? Read my post All Christians are Called to Missions, listen to my message Forgiveness under the Luke series on the 1208 iPhone app, or read Greg Boyd’s book Repenting of Religion.
I was watching the third episode of season one of BBC’s Survivors yesterday it got me thinking. And yes, this brief post will be wrapped around this episode, so spoiler alert.
Now to catch you up to speed, a virus has infected the world and millions of people are dead. There’s only a handful of people left and people are forming clans across the globe.
In this particular episode we follow, Abby (perhaps the “mainest” of characters), as she goes to search for her son. Eventually she runs into a clan that is run by former government official, Samantha, who is trying to keep society in tact. Now Samantha has seemed to have things altogether until we see her go a bit crazy towards the end of this episode. Two people have stolen from her clan and so she calls a court hearing in order to keep modern society running. The clan gets together and all agree that these two people, are in fact, guilty of stealing, though at least one of them has returned what they stole.
Samantha then pulls out a gun and shoots one. She then prepares to shoot the other, but Abby runs up and protects him and tries to cool Samantha down. Samantha decides to spare this one and states, “Justice and mercy: this is our law.” She then walks off more or less distraught at what she had done.
My mind was immediately taken to the laws of the Old Testament as there are many laws in the Torah that required death if broken. That was the way Samantha was operating in attempts to maintain society. But when God came down to earth in flesh, He showed us a better way. I’ve shared this story on my blog here before, but I love the way that Orson Scott Card paints the significance of how Jesus reacted to the woman caught in adultery in his book Speaker for the Dead:
A Great Rabbi stands, teaching in the marketplace. It happens that a husband finds proof that morning of his wife’s adultery, and a mob carries her to the marketplace to stone her to death.
There is a familiar version of this story, but a friend of mine – a Speaker for the Dead – has told me of two other Rabbis that faced the same situation. Those are the ones I’m going to tell you.
The Rabbi walks forward and stands beside the woman. Out of respect for him the mob forbears and waits with the stones heavy in their hands. ‘Is there any man here,’ he says to them, ‘who has not desired another man’s wife, another woman’s husband?’
They murmur and say, ‘We all know the desire, but Rabbi none of us has acted on it.’
The Rabbi says, ‘Then kneel down and give thanks that God has made you strong.’ He takes the woman by the hand and leads her out of the market. Just before he lets her go, he whispers to her, ‘Tell the Lord Magistrate who saved his mistress, then he’ll know I am his loyal servant.’
So the woman lives because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder.
Another Rabbi. Another city. He goes to her and stops the mob as in the other story and says, ‘Which of you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone.’
The people are abashed, and they forget their unity of purpose in the memory of their own individual sins. ‘Someday,’ they think, ‘I may be like this woman. And I’ll hope for forgiveness and another chance. I should treat her as I wish to be treated.’
As they opened their hands and let their stones fall to the ground, the Rabbi picks up one of the fallen stones, lifts it high over the woman’s head and throws it straight down with all his might it crushes her skull and dashes her brain among the cobblestones. ‘Nor am I without sins,’ he says to the people, ‘but if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead – and our city with it.’
So the woman died because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance.
The famous version of this story is noteworthy because it is so startlingly rare in our experience. Most communities lurch between decay and rigor mortis and when they veer too far they die. Only one Rabbi dared to expect of us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation.
So of course, we killed him.
Card, Orson Scott. Speaker for the Dead. New York, NY: TOR, 1986. Print.
After about a year of writing, I have finished a book I call The Prophetic Jacket. This book is my attempt to express all of the love, grace, and mercy that is Jesus Christ. I start with a story about a jacket and follow a stream of thought into all kinds of areas of Christianity, expressing God’s love in everything along the way.
You can download it for free on iBooks by clicking here. If you don’t own an iPad, iPhone, or iTouch to read it on you can download a PDF or ePub file by clicking here. You can also download the book on Amazon’s Kindle Store, but it will cost 99 cents there as I am forced to give it some kind of a price. You can also read it and download it for free on my Goodreads page.
However it is that you decide to download it, I would greatly appreciate it if you would still give it a download on iBooks, even if you can’t read it there. Every download helps me promote the book by moving it up the charts on the iBooks store. Thanks and I hope you enjoy it!