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.
I saw Moana for a second time tonight with a bunch of family and friends and somehow found it even more satisfying the second time around. The first time moved me, but the second time somehow hit me harder, even bringing me to tears a few times. (Fortunately I was sitting behind everyone so I could cry freely.)
Here’s two that really hit me.
The Head and the Heart Short
The short before Moana is gold. Not only does it encourage those who live in constant anxiety, but it so perfectly shows the disconnect many of us have between our head and heart. I’ve preached about this a lot over the years. Recently we even had an altar call at church for those who felt they needed Jesus to move from head to heart and quite a few replied. The short showed clearer than anything else I’ve seen just how strong that disconnect can be.
Again, spoilers, but towards the end of the movie there’s a scene where Moana gives up on her calling, and it’s painful to watch. The ocean (a character itself in the movie) has called Moana off of her island to complete a task that’s bigger than herself and truly seems impossible to complete. In this scene she gives up and tells the ocean that it chose the wrong person. It must have all been an accident and it needs to find someone else to take on the mission.
I’ve found myself in this place many times in ministry. “God, I think this is all just coincidence. I originally thought you called me here, but maybe it just worked out that way. Maybe there’s someone better and you got the wrong person.”
That’s just a more open side of how I feel sometimes. It varies. Other times I know I’m doing what I need to be doing. This is one of those scenes that can bring you to your knees if you can feel all that Moana is feeling. Especially for that brief moment where she does give up and the ocean allows her to do so.
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
My wife and I like to mentally hook single people up at our church. Kevin and Janae were one of those couples. It was like watching a sitcom, every Sunday ending on a cliffhanger. I can’t wait for next week’s episode! I was excited when both Janae and Kevin mentioned to me separately that there was someone they were currently interested in.
Yes, this is gonna work out! I thought. Wait… unless… unless they both mean they’re interested in someone else!!! OR EVEN WORSE! Maybe Kevin likes Janae but Janae’s into some unknown dude back at college! SO MUCH TENSION!
And then, during one of the episodes, my friends from Chelsea Free Methodist called and asked me if I knew of any good worship leaders because they were looking for one. “Uh… well, I think Kevin’s got some good potential, but… you know… he’s at our church right now… playing in our band, so…”
But you all know what makes a good cliffhanger for season one, right? Inevitable betrayal. Kevin left to “follow after God” (I guess) and left not only our church, but Janae behind! Oh no! Would their paths cross again in season two!?
Fortunately, my wife and I were right all along. They were totally into each other and were getting to know each other better back on the campus of Spring Arbor University throughout the week. Look, I was surprised that they had lives outside of church too, trust me—but I was happy they did, because when the episode aired that they had finally hooked-up, we got the good mid-season 2 finale we were looking for.
I’ve gotten to know Kevin and Janae real well over the years. I knew Kevin when he was still a wee little lad (well okay, wee-little has never really been the right word for Kevin). Back then he was always trying to butter me up all the time because he thought I was cool for playing a guitar and being in a band. He ended up learning guitar himself and now I’m the one who’s like, “Hey man, how do you do solo like that again?” To date, he’s still one of the nicest people I know. He’s one of those like, so-nice-to-you-at-all-times kind of people that you’re never really sure if he’s human or a Ken doll, but that’s what makes him so special. God has made him kind beyond belief.
The man has class, and he has chosen well. (After all, he has chosen the one my wife and I picked out for him.) He has chosen one of the most talented people I have ever met—a person who can literally see the depths of music in her mind, call out any note just by hearing it, and still somehow stay quiet enough as to not call out my flat guitar tuning every two seconds. Kevin has found favor in a girl who, like himself, has a deep, deep drive for God. A girl who despite her indecisiveness and shyness, is willing to make a spectacle of herself for Jesus, which I can speak into her whether she sees it in herself or not.
I believe these two will do great things for the Kingdom of God in their ministry and their marriage and I ask God in His unifying of their spirit’s with His own today, that he would bring fresh anointing on them. Today is a special day for many reasons.
I imagine Christians down the road are going to turn to God and say, “You promised you’d never flood the earth again!” His response? “I didn’t. You did.”
In his very first book, The Pilgrim’s Regress, C.S. Lewis allegorically refers to God as the “Landlord.” That’s a pretty good title actually. In the beginning, God created man and woman in His image, blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)
And so the Landlord left the planet in our possession, essentially saying something along the lines of, “Take good care of it,” yet here we are thousands of years later saying, “Oops.”
We’ve let our greed get in the way and these 70 degree fall days have gone to show it. Our CO2 levels this September (which is usually the lowest month of the year for CO2 levels) just passed the 400 PPM mark—a mark that some have suggested would be permanent.
“Jesus is going to have come back sooner than He expected,” I often joke with my friends.
“Or maybe the reason He said He didn’t know when He was coming back was because He was waiting to see when we destroyed it all,” they joke back.
To be honest, I don’t fully know how to be the solution, though I’m certain I’m part of the problem. Like losing our virginity, we may not be able to uncross the line, but we can make better decisions from here on out.
We can vote better. We can use clean energy wherever possible (here’s what we can do here in Jackson, MI). We can decide to make better choices now rather than later.
Out of the 66 books in the Bible, there are two books in particular I think are weird to find there: the Songs of Solomon and Ruth. It’s pretty obvious why Songs of Solomon is weird (it gets a little steamy), but don’t worry, it’s Ruth that I want to focus on today. Before the book of Ruth we have books devoted to our origin story, our laws, and our wars, but Ruth departs from all of that to teach us seemingly little about theology. Her book is more or less a short, random, overlooked love story.
This 4 chapter book begins with Ruth losing her husband and committing her life to her mother-in-law who also lost everyone dear to her. Ruth was from a different people and culture than her mother-in-law so it must have been a bit terrifying to follow her mother-in-law when she decided to return home to her own people in Bethlehem, but Ruth was committed to her, so she did it anyways.
While they were in Bethlehem, Ruth met a guy named Boaz. He let her freely take any food she wanted from his farm and made sure all the guys in his workforce left her alone. He protected her and took care of her and when mealtime came around he gave her more to eat than she needed, though she hardly knew who he was.
But he knew who she was, because he was a relative of Ruth’s mother-in-law. He had heard of how Ruth had committed herself to her mother-in-law instead of her own parents and how she had chosen the discomfort of being with her mother-in-law’s people rather than her own people.
And he was impressed.
Ruth and Boaz moved pretty quick. In chapter two they met and in chapter three Ruth gave a proposal of sorts through a bunch of interesting and confusing cultural practices, which you can all check out later if you want (don’t worry, it’s a short book). Whatever exactly it is that truly happened in chapter three, Boaz feels blessed by it and by chapter 4 they’re married.
So what’s the point of this book? Maybe to show us how God loved Ruth the Moabite, a woman from a people group outside of his own chosen Israel. Or maybe it was to tell us more about King David’s back story seeing as how Ruth ended up being David’s great, great grandmother. Or maybe it was so we’d know that not all mother-in-laws are evil—I don’t know!
But I do find it interesting that the Bible pauses for love. It pauses to tell us the stories not just of our heroes, but also of their love interests. Sure, many of these stories evolve into soap operas of sorts, but in this case, we find an incredibly short book breaking from stories of our origins, wars, and laws to tell us the seemingly unimportant story of how one little lady on the outside married a farmer on the inside—showing us that things like marriage and love matter.
Jesus himself (who was also a descendant of Ruth) talks about the importance of marriage. Even though he never married, he understood that it was a HUGE deal. He explained that in marriage we “are no longer two but one flesh” and that what “God has joined together, man shouldn’t separate.” He went on to explain that divorce was made by man, not by God—making it clear that not only does God care about our marriages, but that he takes them more seriously than humans do. He cares about your marriage whether your dating life was 3 chapters long or 6 years long.
Why does He care? Because He knows every hair on your head! I love my wife and my children immensely, but I don’t have the slightest idea how many hairs are on their heads! A God who is that meticulous about something so minuscule and unimportant as hair, of course cares about your marriage! That’s a huge part of your life! From today on out you’re two lives are fused as one and you need to know that God cares about it. He cares more than you do, which will be important to remember on some days.
He is a God who is constantly creating life, and he’s still doing it today in our marriages. It’s like our physical birth from our parents and our spiritual birth from salvation in Christ being melded together into some new kind of physical, spiritual, marital rebirth. Cherish it, just as God Himself cherishes it for you. For love is God and God is love and you dwell with God when you love each other.
Allow me to leave you with a scene from the movie Stardust. If you’ve seen it, you may recall in this movie that there’s a star that falls to the earth and becomes a human. Her name is Yvaine. After going on some adventures with a boy named Tristan she begins to wax poetic about love. Speaking from her prior perspective as a star looking at the earth she says:
“I know a lot about love. I’ve seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate—It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves—You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and—what I’m trying to say, Tristan is—I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I’d know it for myself. My heart—It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it’s trying to escape because it doesn’t belong to me any more. It belongs to you…. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.”
I encourage you to make the same exchange. Your heart for theirs. Their heart for yours. If both of you are always about each other, consistently handing your hearts to one another rather than keeping it to yourself, your marriage will be filled with the love that God has for you, for He showed us that love for one another is found in humility and service to one another—freely handing us his heart if we wanted it even in times when we didn’t deserve it. We could just take the free gift of his heart in exchange for our own.
Bradley’s are known for being for being a little peculiar. It’s not our fault, it seems to be in our genes. I would like to make the case, however, that Joel may be the most peculiar of all of us. I can still remember the day mom and dad brought him home. I didn’t know there could be more sibling life outside of Jaron, but there my parents were in the driveway holding this curly headed baby in their hands.
It was weird. It cried all the time and wanted to be fed and held at night and stuff. I vaguely remember when he got all excited when he was trying to walk for the first time. I feel like he kept falling over because he was too busy applauding himself for walking, but I was young so maybe I’m just making that up.
His weirdest mannerism, however, continued well into his early teens (if not later). He only knew how to sleep one way. He’d sit down, cross his legs and put his face in his lap and pass out. To make it weirder, he especially liked to sleep like this inside of cardboard boxes. It sounds like I’m describing a character that only makes sense in a cartoon that only he could write up, but he is what he is.
To expand upon his weirdness, there of course was the infamous time Dad took Jaron and Joel to jump off the garage roof into the pool (I just didn’t feel like it, I was plenty coo already). They had plenty of fun, of course, until mom got home. “JEFF! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” Heh. Mom… pretending she’s better than jumping off roofs. I have video evidence of the time she paid Joel to go jump on the trampoline in the middle of a hail storm! Video evidence!!!
But then again, there’s all kinds of video evidence of Joel’s bad decisions online. Please browse the video section of his Facebook page following tonight’s celebration to see some of these situations. He liked to make movies… a lot of them. There’s one where he pretends to jump out our upstairs window and then, using the magic of video editing, plummets towards the ground while yelling loudly for what seems to take 5 minutes. In another one he learned how to make epic graphics using Microsoft Paint. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen someone shoot a fireball out of their hands that was made in Microsoft Paint but it is… an experience.
There’s a video with a banana, a penguin suit, an evil cartoon rabbit, a genie, and there’s even one where he beheads his friend Erik. Though one of my personal favorites is still extreme stunt man, where Joel constantly repeats every word he says. “Today we’re gonna jump out a window. Jump out a window. Out a window.” At one part he tried to film a high speed car chase, but the editing wasn’t done well and it was clear that the car was going about 2 miles per hour.
We teamed up a few times to make some stupid videos. The one that got the most attention was called “Shut Up Joel.” All I did was walk around the house and wherever Joel was sitting silently I said, “Shut up Joel.” 1,800 views is pretty good for our stats. But the comments got weird:
LEGIT HIPPY: Joel just can’t shut the heck up!
RICK SIEBEL: I, Richard James Seibel, promise to make this video an internet sensation. May all the Joel’s of the world suffer a silent and undignified existence, from this day, through all eternity.
The internet is a dark place. I guess partially because our countless videos exist there.
Joel and I have become quite tight over the last 8 years or so, but that wasn’t always the case. In college I felt God convict me about my relationship with him. I was quite a jerk to him growing up and often treated him like a nuisance. Rarely did I say a kind word or treat him right. So one day while driving him home from somewhere, I worked up the courage to apologize, which took a lot of effort. What if he didn’t know I was a jerk? That’d be awkward…
Nah. He knew.
So I said sorry and something broke in me. From that day on, my relationship with him grew and I found that not only did he look and sound like me (yes, like me because I’m the original), but he acted very much like me too. We both had memorized every episode of Spongebob, Fairly Odd Parents and Drake and Josh, loved to make movies, and thought that comedy that made absolutely no sense was the best kind. Plus, we were both inferior to Jaron’s athletic skills and coolness and that was a much more bonding quality than you might think.
Jaron.. Always being cool all the time. Rude.
Joel also has a big heart. The past two summers Joel has lived in our basement and anytime he was awake (usually between the hours of 1pm and 4am) he spent much of his time helping take care of the kids. Beckett grew to adore him so much that “Goel” became one of his earliest words. Beckett would often run to the stairs while Joel was still sleeping and yell “Gooooel!!!!” Every time Joel shows up at our house, Beckett pulls out a lightsaber and expects he’s going to have some play time for awhile. Beckett’s also convinced that there’s monster’s in our backyard seeing as how Joel filmed a monster video back there with him, and then edited in a goofy-looking monster for Beckett to then watch back and see things that he didn’t actually remember being there in real life.
But his big heart hasn’t just been displayed for me and my family to see, he’s shared it with many of us here, including, of course, Alyssa. I remember when Alyssa was still a tiny little girl. I didn’t know much about her other than the fact that it was obvious that Joel was totally into her. I never really said anything, but I always thought to myself, Yeah, this is gonna work out. Of course, they were like 2 or something at the time—okay, maybe more like 15 or something, I dunno. But it was young love at its finest.
And then the Potter’s moved away and I was like, “Well, so much for that!”
Imagine my surprise when I came home from college one day to find that Joel and Alyssa were dating! Yeah, this is gonna work out, I thought to myself again, and then realized Joel was a weirdo and a nerd. Then I thought, Oh no… how’s he gonna break that to her? Hey Alyssa… I often make weird videos that make no sense… and sleep indian style with my face in my lap… and will jump on trampolines in hailstorms if you pay me…
Well it all worked out because it ends up that Alyssa is a pretty weird nerd as well. Malachi helped me realize it one day. “I’m always wondering how your brother got a girl like Alyssa, and then I’m like—oh… it’s the nerd thing.”
I mean, I’ve witnessed Alyssa’s nerdery over time, but I wasn’t fully aware of it until she started writing comics with her friend Jess about how life would be much cooler if it was a video game. I was even more surprised when she came over to our house to play Dragon Age. I didn’t know girls could get so angry at video games. And I have a feeling that what I witness was a toned down version.
These two are perfect for each other. Their nerdy pursuit after God and each other is a wonder to watch and we’re blessed to have you two unite our families today. I have loved spending the last year and a half worth of Thursdays with you guys. I could go on for much longer about both of you, but this is page 3 and other people have to talk, so I’m gonna pull a Joel and shut up now.