Sacrificing Game of Thrones

movie theaterAbout a year ago my wife and I thought we would try out the show Game of Thrones. The first episode of the first season was interesting enough. The plot was engaging and I could see it building into an interesting story, but the main thing I noticed was multiple nude scenes.

We watched another episode and promptly concluded that Game of Thrones was not OK for me to watch with my history of struggling with porn. The sacrifice wasn’t great on my part. I was certainly disappointed, but Jesus is worth it.

Several months ago, Cap Stewart published an article on his blog called Hollywood’s Secret Rape Culture that turned my stomach. Young actresses have been manipulated into nude scenes through means that would be considered rape if it weren’t broadcast on movie screens across the country.

He followed that up with another article asking, What About Actors the Willingly Undress for the Camera? Surely there are actors and actresses who do this without being manipulated. He compellingly argues that we are participating in an abusive relationship by sending our money to the studios and directors who pressure young men and women strip in front of a camera crew (and an ogling world).

These were very powerful arguments to me. Nudity is not simply about the harm I do to myself by viewing it, but also by the support I lend an abusive relationship by watching it. I am encouraging men and women to be abused by sending my money.

With these new convictions, I didn’t have to test my conscience with the new Godzilla film (that would have been tough). Then X-Men: Days of Future Past came out and on reviewing the film, I found that Hugh Jackman has a scene where he was nude on set.

Now the test had come, would I support a film where a man was asked to be nude on set. I do not struggle with same-sex attraction, so my own temptation is not a problem. It is of concern that Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique who is a questionably nude character. Do I watch this film that very possibly pressured Hugh Jackman into nudity?

I decided that I could not, in good conscience, support this film.

Cue the parade, fireworks, and celebratory speeches. Everyone should now sing my praises as I have made this massive sacrifice for the Kingdom. God sure owes me now. I have sacrificed a whole movie to him. Yes, I took an entire motion picture and told God that he could decide whether I watched it or not. He is lucky to have a follower so dedicated.

I think this highlights one of the silliest parts of this debate about what films we should not watch for reasons of conscience. We as a people seem to think we are doing something extraordinary to give up an hour and a half of entertainment. If we can’t give up a movie for conscience sake, how will we ever take our cross and follow Jesus?!?

Part of the reason this is so difficult is our culture (and particularly our youth culture) places a premium on being relevant and  in touch with culture. We live in a day where failure to see a movie is perceived as being out of touch: irrelevant. No one wants to be irrelevant.

This argument is compelling only if we have idolized being relevant. Do you know what is relevant in all cultures at all times? Being delighted and delightful. How is this accomplished? Loving a delightful God. Certainly many who have not seen that God is sweet to be with will not understand why you would ever choose to give up a movie or money or comfort or you life. This will be mysterious to them. Why would you ever do that?

This is a very valuable question for them to ask.

The world does not need more cultured copies of itself wearing cross necklaces. No, the world needs a savior who loves it and died for it. Christian, we need to value holiness far more than relevance.

So my challenge to you is to say that you should not support any movie with any nudity. You are most likely supporting an abusive relationship. Yes, you will be odd and the conversation where you tell your friends that you can’t see that movie will be strained. It will have never occurred to them that this movie is harmful.

Not until you showed them.

We have a short life to live. If relevance and holiness are at odds, by all means leave relevance behind. Maybe, just maybe, God will be pleased to use your irrelevance to bring another sinner to Jesus.

As it turns out, a saved sinner is quite relevant in Heaven.

-Chip

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To the Teen Missions 2014 Dominican Republic Team

The following is a letter I sent to the Teen Mission International Dominican Republic Team, which my sister is on right now.

Dominica Team

You have no idea how much I am envying you all right now. I went on six teams from 1998-2003 and those are very fond memories for me. What most FTM’s won’t tell you is how they cried like a baby the first two nights at Boot Camp (which I did). Some of you are feeling very homesick and lonely right now. You are dreaming of the terrible things you will do to that person who convinced you to come to this evil place. They lied to you: telling you that this would be a great experience and that you would learn so much. 

Dominica, I’ve been there. I’ve been there many times. But take a moment and look forward to two months from now. Most of you will be standing in an airport terminal looking as one by one your team members walk away. You will never see most of them again. These people who shared a terrible and memorable experience with you will be gone. You will remember that homesick feeling you had in your chest from Boot Camp except you will now feel it for these precious people who are walking out of your life. 

Yes, Dominica, that will be you. 

You see, this painful, lonely, hot, mosquito-ridden, swamp will be a hinge point in your life. I cannot imagine my own life without Teen Missions. To this day I have difficulty explaining to people who have never gone what Teen Missions did for me. On the France Team in 1998 I learned some very painful and terrible things about Chip Gruver. I learned that I am not a good person and God is not lucky to have me. The irony of the situation is that once I knew I was a lazy, immature, foolish, and desperate little boy, I was ready to accept what Jesus did for me as a precious gift. God loved me while I was that bratty child. 

Don’t be discouraged Dominica. You have some very painful challenges in front of you as a team and as individuals. Those dark moments will hurt, badly. Please hear it from someone who has been there, it will be worth it. This is a precious time. As much as you can, savor it. One day you will be sitting in an office in Minnesota, looking at images of Boot Camp on Facebook, and you will wish you could go back.

So, keep you hands up at the wall, keep an extra pair of dry socks in your backpack, drink plenty of water, and cherish this time. This is the adventure of a lifetime and you are getting to do this as a teenager. You are privileged to be where you are. One day it will feel like a privilege.

I’m rooting for you all.


-Chip Gruver

The Potter and The Prophet

potterElisha added some water to the clay in his bowl. On these dry days the clay thickens so fast sometimes. Even though he likes the sunny weather, it did make his work a little harder.

“Elohim, it would be good if you gave me some clouds this afternoon.”

No clouds came.

Well, no man could order Yahweh around anyway.

Elisha was a sixth generation potter and his family had a reputation of excellence throughout Judah. The mark of his family meant that the pot was a good one. Elisha knew that a reputation like that was hard to get and easy to lose, so he jealously guarded it. Rachael often told him he was too picky with his pottery and that they could make more money if he wasn’t so particular.

But being particular was his way. His father had been meticulous with his pots and had demanded that excellence from Elisha from a very early age. The tradition had stuck and now Elisha was every bit as hard on his own sons to do good work.

He lifted the lump of clay out and set it on the pottery wheel. Wait, too little. It is easy to take some away but adding more is harder. He took another fistful of clay and added it to the lump.

The men of Jerusalem don’t respect the difficulty of pottery. They respect a warrior or priest or even a farmer, but they don’t give much respect to a potter. They think it is easy unless they get a flawed pot and suddenly a potter’s job is important. Well, at least important enough to chide him for his failure.

Elisha wasn’t chided often. He was much harsher with himself than any other man could be of him. He took very personal responsibility for the clay in front of him. The clay was a representation of him. If communicated what sort of man he was. Sometimes he would see his own work in the marketplace or the temple and would smile. His work was reflecting him well.

Not everyone could spot a good piece of work, but Elisha could. The best work really was his.

As he worked the clay deftly with practiced fingers, it slipped smoothly into whatever shape he wanted. Maybe he should make a large bowl now. Yes, this lump of clay would make a fine bowl.

A sound in front of him awoke him from his reverie.

“Good morning Elisha.”

Elisha jumped slightly and nearly marred his work. Looking up he saw Jeremiah the Priest.

“Good morning Jeremiah,” he said, trying to look unsurprised, “Does the temple require some pottery today?”

“No, your work is good and all of your bowls and water vessels seem to last forever. Elohim truly blesses your work.” Jeremiah said, looking somewhat distracted.

“How can I help you Rabbi?”

“Well,” he said with some obvious discomfort, “I have a strange request for you. Would you permit me to watch you work today? I have a special assignment and I’m told you can help me.”

Special assignment? What is he talking about? Elisha wondered to himself if maybe Jeremiah was trying to spy for one of Elisha’s many competitors. They were always trying to learn his secrets. But Jeremiah had been a friend for years and as a priest, he had no reason to be a spy. Elohim knows that Jeremiah has enough enemies as it is. He doesn’t need more.

Elisha pondered whether he could even tell a priest ,”No.” The temple was an important customer of his and also he felt like his offering to Yahweh was his fine craftmanship that is used in worship. Besides, Jeremiah would never violate a trust like that. He is a Yahweh fearing man.

“Yes, Rabbi, you may stay and watch. Please don’t speak while I work. I need to concentrate.”

Jeremiah went to sit to Elisha’s right side and sat to watch him work. Elisha glanced over at how close he was sitting to a water jar that was almost ready to be placed in the oven. This was a little too close for Elisha’s comfort, but he didn’t say anything.

With everything still again, Elisha began to work. The soft smooth clay slipping gently over his fingers. The muddy smell that always permeated his shop filled Elisha’s nostrils. He worked the clay into a cylinder and willed it to become a bowl. His hands knew how to work as Elisha delighted in the work. When Yahweh made the world, this must have been how he felt. The firmament giving in before his magnificent fingers and forming the ground.

It was this feeling of being a creator that filled Elisha with the most delight. What a privilege to be able to take something as meaningless as dirt and to use the skill given by Yahweh to turn it into something useful, even something beautiful. It was not lost on Elisha that man was made from dirt too. What a privilege.

Wait, what’s that? Something hard had brushed by Elisha’s thumb. He waited a moment.

There it is again. There is a small rock in this clay!

Anger and frustration filled Elisha. He drove his pointer finger into the clay and snatched the offending stone out. Pinched between his two fingers, he hurled the stone out the open doorway. Looking down at the deformed bowl with a deep gouge, he grabbed the whole lump and lifted it and smashed it onto the spinning wheel.

It was then that he realized he had lost his temper right in front of a priest, a prophet no less.

Does Yahweh punish those who lose their temper in front of a prophet?

Elisha looked sheepishly at Jeremiah. The prophet was sitting quietly, as if expecting something else to happen. He looked almost impatient.

“It’s fine Elisha. Please, keep going.”

The old man began to work with the lump of clay again. How had he let this happen? He knew better than to have a stone in his clay. Maybe he was losing his touch. Maybe it was time for him to pass the business onto his sons.

While he thought his hand began to work. This time it was not a bowl, but a water jar he would make. He had a rule that if he had to start over, then he would make that clay into something truly special. As if redeeming the clay made it more valuable, more precious.

Yes, this will be a lovely water jar. I will inscribe flowers into it. It will be unique and a delight to the eyes.

“Elisha, tell me something. Why is it that you were angry?”

“Rabbi, I am ashamed to have done that in front of you.”

Jeremiah waved the apology aside and indicated for Elisha to answer the question.

“Well, Rabbi, I love the pottery. It is so beautiful. This lump of clay is not beautiful but my vision for it is exceedingly lovely. If it resists me, I become angry because it should do as I say. I know what it can be and what it should do, it should submit to me. I know it is silly. The clay is just dirt, but I feel like it is either working with me to become something wonderful or working against me to become something ugly.”

“Why didn’t you throw that clay away?” Jeremiah asked.

“I have a rule Rabbi, that if I have to rework clay, I make it into something very special. Somehow redeeming it makes it very special. My best works, the ones that truly delight my soul, are the ones that I have broken and remade. Most of the works in the temple are remade. They stand as a testament to my failure and also to my success.”

While he spoke, Elisha’s hands finished a truly remarkable water jar. It was difficult to say why it was special, but to anyone who saw it, it clearly was. Somehow the love and passion Elisha felt drifted into his fingers and into the clay.

Jeremiah suddenly sat more upright, almost as if he were at attention. His gaze was distant, as if he were listening to another far away voice.

“Rabbi, I…” but Jeremiah silenced Elisha with a waved of his hand.

“Thank you Elisha, I must go at once” the prophet said hastily.

With that, Jeremiah bolted out the door. The bewildered old man was left with his lovely water jar.

“Well, just leave then” Elisha muttered. He picked up the water jar and placed it gently on the shelf to dry. He preferred to be alone with the pottery anyway.

-Chip

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. Jeremiah 18:1-5

The image above is courtesy of Walt Stoneburner and is used with permission

A Dream for Kitty (on her High School Graduation)

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Kitty,

I know you don’t like to be called Kitty any more. You have grown into a young woman who has the world in front of her. A sea of expectations, hopes, fears, and dreams. A commander of your destiny who will choose to battle the storms and find a new country for herself. Bold, curious, and determined, you have a bright future.

Such a person really shouldn’t be call Kitty.

But I don’t see you that way. To me, you will always be, to some degree, that little girl sitting in that van with a ridiculous number of pets in it. With brown hair and tender eyes, that little girl’s sweet disposition shined through. A tender soul who looked at life with curiosity and a healthy dose of caution.

That little girl visited us often. I remember when she visited us in our apartment in Knoxville. I remember when she lived in our basement, when she drove a car for the first time, when she pursued her first job. Soon, I will remember when she graduated High School and moved into a strange and exciting world.

Please permit and old man like me to see you as a little girl and, because I love the name, to call you Kitty.

What should I say to you? How do I encapsulate all of the hopes, fears, and joys I feel for you in a single letter? Even for an old man like me, this is too grand a task. Your life cannot be wrapped up in a few fumbling words, even if I wish it could. The tender affections I feel for you and the deep hopes I hold for you could fill volumes and yet would not fully describe them.

When God sat down to create the world, he had many things on his mind. The molding of atoms and galaxies. He hand-carved the Earth and threw it gently into its orbit. He formed the first seeds and scattered them over the whole Earth. He then worked on men and women. Even as he gathered the dust up to make Adam he pondered the people who would come from what he was doing. God has a nostalgic side.

He thought of you. Deep in his enormous heart a fountain of joys poured out as he considered the way you would walk and the funny things you would say. He cried quietly about your hurts and laughed with you at the joys you would have. He chose to love you deeply and to hold you close to his heart.

He also took a bit of that affection and was kind enough to give it to me. What a sweet gift!

From that tender place in my heart, I see a future for you. That future has not happened, but I pray for it. Allow an old man like me to show you what I hope for you.

Love Jesus (Choose your God Well)

Kitty, give your heart wholly to Jesus. My affection for you is a tiny spark that was flung from the inferno of his affection. He walked through a dark and painful world out of his love for you. He died for you. One of the stunning revelations we will experience on crossing into Heaven will be the deep and tender care he has for us. Love him!

Love Your Husband (Choose your Husband Well)

God knows I am very pro-marriage. There are few more beautiful things in the world than a sweet marriage. But there also few uglier things than terrible marriage. Most awful marriages could have been prevented while only a few of them can be fixed.

The fact is, most people don’t change. I mean the core of them. Sure some surface things are refined in life, but most of the deepest parts of us are fixed and we cannot change them, even when we want to. Most people do mean to be faithful when they marry, but they are then are unwilling to deeply and truly love when the challenge is put to them.

Kitty, one day soon a young man will walk into your life and will see you and see a glimpse of how precious you are. He will honestly and deeply desire you. This is a good thing! He will pour his creativity and heart into winning you. This too is good! He will be sincere and it will feel really good that he wants you that passionately. This is wonderful as well!

But his sincerity and desire are not good enough. It takes more than good intentions to be a good husband. Please be careful. Take your time. Bring in trusted adults with stable marriages to look him over and to see what substance there is to him. It will be so wonderful to see you happily in love. I want that to last a lifetime. Be careful.

Love Your Life

Soon you will have the wonderful privilege of making big decisions. As you stand at the crossroad you will realize that when you choose one path, you are choosing not to go down another. If you want to become a doctor you can’t simultaneously become an interior designer. God gave you a limited life in this world and you will have to let things go to fully embrace what is good.

Don’t be afraid. We have all faced this.

When you choose, throw your heart into that choice. None of the choices are wrong, but give yourself to your choice and pursue it with passion. Pray about it. God gives wisdom to those who ask.

Holiness and Joy are the Same Thing

You will be presented choices that will look like God is holding a joy away from you: that if you do the right thing you will be choosing misery.

That is a lie.

Certainly you will suffer for doing the right thing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung from a gallows naked for his choices. The Apostle Peter was crucified upside down for his choices. Were they fools?

No, they suffered because they believe that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Jesus commended us to not “store up treasure on Earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but to store up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.”

The fact is, your God loves you and the rules he has placed are there because he loves you. The guard rails at the Grand Canyon are not limitations for you, they are guides to keep you safe. Remember, holiness and joy are the same thing.

In Closing

Well, I seem to be rambling a bit. Kitty, you have a bright future that is full of joys and sorrows that you cannot imagine. I don’t know what they will be but I promise you this: as long as I am able to, I will walk them with you. To the extent I am able to support you and care for you as you strike out in this world, I will do it.

In this way, I am acting like my Father. He too will walk with you. Unlike me, he knows what is coming and is already preparing you for it. Unlike me, he is never out of resources to help you. Unlike me, he will not die and cannot be stopped. He will never be sick and he will never sin against you. Trust me a little bit. Trust him a lot.

Kitty, I am so excited to see what this life has for you. Permit me to take part in your journey.

-Chip

The lovely image above is courtesy of Ephriam Ragasa and is used with permission

Gifts from My Father

dad

My Dad

As Father’s Day approaches, many of us are considering what to give our fathers. Amazon is convinced I should buy him a new Fire TV setup (I haven’t had the heart to tell them he wouldn’t want it). Personalization Mall really feels like he needs a personalized tie and Best Buy believes I don’t love him unless I get him a laptop.

As a father myself, I have come to the conviction that Father’s Day should be all the more about what we as fathers can do to serve our wives, our children, and our community. It is good to celebrate fatherhood and fathers. There are few more daunting tasks than to be a good father.

I did not buy my dad a Father’s Day present, as is my custom. It is not a sign of ingratitude, I’ve never been much on giving gifts (sorry Amazon). In many ways, this is not as much a celebration of what I can do for my father and more of a memorial for what he has done for me. This Father’s Day, let’s take a walk back and remember what I have been given by my father.

His Work Ethic

My dad did something truly amazing. Superman may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but my dad did something even better. He got up early every morning and trudged to a job he didn’t like because he loved us. Dad worked for years with difficult people and frustrating demands. He rarely complained to us, but I know the toll that took on him.

That sort of work ethic is commendable, even excellent. I strive to live up to that. Thank you dad for that gift.

His Love of Learning

One of dad’s better kept secrets is his deep intelligence. He reads more than anyone I know. One of the jokes from our childhood is how rich we would be if dad had just been willing to go on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (answer: we would have been millionaires). He introduced me to some of the greatest authors out there including C. S. Lewis, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur C. Clark, H. G. Wells, and many more. I am a little bitter that I had to find The Lord of the Rings on my own, but I have since forgiven him.

In addition, he was able to speak intelligently on most topics in science and in particular space. Dad always had a secret dream of being an astronaut. He even applied to be the teacher on the Challenger Mission in 1986. Being that it blew up on lift-off, I am glad he didn’t win.

To this day, I still call dad and we chat about science and history and whatever is on our minds. Thanks dad.

His Love of Family

The classic Easop’s Fable of The Tortoise and the Hare ends with the mantra, “Slow and steady wins the race.” In that case, dad won. You will never find my dad creating a viral video where he break-dances or sings some Sinatra to my mom. He is not a flashy guy. A little uncomfortable in crowds, I doubt many of you know him the way we do.

Dad’s unwavering, determined, firm, and emphatic dedication to my mom is legendary. He is truly in love with her. He extends that dedication to us kids. Daily I am challenged to love my family to be faithful to them like that.

Thank you dad.

His Love of God

Many mornings I would wake up and find my dad sitting and reading his Bible. He was always conversant about any biblical topic I could bring up. Far from being an intellectual snob, he never once treated a question of mine as stupid (though some of them were, in fact, stupid). Certainly I was overwhelming to him at times, but he was always respectful with me.

The patience and dedication of God showed through in his life. The challenge has been laid to me to give to my family in the same way.

Thank you dad.

For Being My Dad

This Father’s Day I don’t want to celebrate what I can give my dad but rather to celebrate what I have been given from my dad. The debt I owe is beyond repayment, but being my dad, he has always told me to pay it by caring for my own children well. For the rest of my life, the work he did for me will, by the goodness of God, echo for a thousand generations to come.

One day, my dad will stand in Heaven. There will be a crowd there but dad will be off to the side. He never really liked crowds. He will see 10,000 men and women walking by who will each and every one will owe him deeply for the sacrifices he made. Generation after generation of those who will now know that pains, trials, and joys he experienced to bring them to Heaven as well. They will know because dad’s Father in Heaven will have told them. You see, He promised to exalt the humble.

These are the gifts from my father.

-Chip

A Family Lunch at God’s House

feastArriving at Father’s house is always a bit of a challenge. Many times it is difficult to get the kids ready and get out the door and there is always that nagging feeling that I should have a better attitude before going. Either way, we finally arrive and the kids go to play and my wife drifts off to talk with some friends.

As I wander around and look around at God’s family, my family, I am struck by their…well…their strangeness. Uncle Joe is sitting in the corner quietly watching the mulling mass of family. He clearly doesn’t like crowds, but Father was here so he was will to tolerate them to visit Father again.

Aunt Linda is a gossip and I never really liked her even before I knew that. She reminds me of the witch in Tangled. All of her words are filled with half-truths and double meanings. I carefully navigate the crowd to avoid drawing her attention.

Little Billy found a way to spill koolaid on Father’s couch AGAIN! Seriously, where are his parents? That couch now has more red and blue spots on it than its original color. Father is a really rich guy, why hasn’t he replaced that eye-sore of a couch? Looks like Billy’s mom just saw what he did. She is so mortified that it happened again. Now I feel sorry for her. It looks like I am not the only one who gave a dirty look.

Cousin Norman is cantankerous as ever. That man does not know when to shut up. He very much has a speak first and think later philosophy. I see a number of faces giving him a wide berth. No one wants to be caught in his cross-hairs. Personally, I’ve made some peace with it. He is a jerk, but I can tolerate that most of the time.

Ah, finally someone I want to talk to. Cousin Jeremy (he’s actually my second cousin) is by the fish tank. He is a bit of a dweeb and while gregarious, he gets overwhelmed in crowds (I wonder if he and Uncle Joe would get along). Jeremy and I shake hands and discuss the latest tech gadget or website or something.

Both of us have a history of porn addiction of which we are both on the better side of recovering. It kind of bonds us though we both feel a little uneasy knowing how poorly the family would respond if they knew our history. We may be a family, but we can sure be a judgemental group sometimes. Most of the family would simply not understand.

Hearing the bell in the kitchen (which is the signal that it is time to eat) we call file in and sit at the very long table. The rough-cut wood always felt good to lay my hands on and none of us minded the long wood benches on both sides of the table (except Grandpa Randal, but he was never quite happy with anything).

At the head of the table was Father. A tall and strong man who had a well-trimmed white beard and a flannel shirt, we all respected him. He is hard-working, determined, direct, and hard yet carried a very sweet demeanor all the same. He was the sort that if you woke him up in the middle of the night, he used all of the hardness for you. He never complained about helping. He actually only really got on your case when you didn’t ask for his help.

Far on the other end of the table was our oldest brother Joshua. He was so much like Father but yet seemed to present the sweetness of Father’s disposition first and is less intimidating. He had done some amazing work for the family and had worked with Father to rescue us all a family from great danger! He still was scarred from his work, but he never complained. We all felt a deep debt to him.

But he was the sort who never called in debts. One quality they both possessed was endless generosity. No one seems to know where they made all of their wealth from. The food and help and joy seemed truly boundless. Even though the people sitting at this table were sometimes very difficult to get along with, we all agreed that as long as Father and Joshua were going to serve lunch, then we were going to keep coming. It seemed the Air between them was so crackling with happiness, calm, and peace that we just wanted to breathe it all day long.

Being the very messed up family that we are, it was not unheard of for a fist-fight to break out at the table and for Father to walk over and pick the combatants up and bring them out of the room for one of his legendary “talks”. Most such fights happened only once.

Father spread out his great big hands out and blessed the food. That is not to say he prayed. He just made the food a little more wonderful because he could!

In an instant He and Joshua were in action. Flashing in and out of the he kitchen door with plates of steaming food. It was more of a dance with fluid motions complementing the other’s actions. The serving of the food itself was a delight to behold.

And the steak. Yes, that’s right, steak. Steaming with a simply intoxicating smell. You barely needed your knife it was so tender. Each delightful mouthful seemed a tad better than the last. Combined with a wonderful grape juice and a lovely baked potato, Father had outdone himself.

Some of us fancied ourselves to be good with a grill, but Father put us all to shame. It remains wonderful to me how much he loves to serve us good things. Really good things. It is such a deep part of Him that I can’t imagine Him not being so giving. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Him not taking care of us one way or the other.

As our bellies become full and a hearts happy, I noticed how much easier it was to care for my family. Sure they are a mess, but Father loves them very much. He is just as irritated by their stupidity as I am, but the well of His love for them is immensely deeper than mine.

We are a family because of him. If he hadn’t adopted all of us, we would never have gotten to sit at that table together and enjoy His wonderful food, wonderful demeanor, wonderful Self! As we move along as a family and slowly become more like Father, I think I could grow to even like most of them. One day, even love them.

It’s hard to hear Father criticized because of His adoptive family. We don’t represent Him very well. He knew that He would be criticized for adopting us and He did it anyway. Yet another way He is a great Father.

So, we left. Full from a meal at our Father’s table, we left to face another week of life in a challenging world with a messed up family. Father handed each of us an invitation to be back next Sunday for lunch. I waved to Jeremy on my way out.

I guess I’ll see him next week at our Father’s house.

-Chip

The great family photo above is courtesy of Andrew Lance and is used with permission.

Being a Passive Husband

husband signI get it. An author sits down and writes a book about marriage. He takes a moment to pray and consider how he will assist couples through the difficult waters of marriage. He wants to encourage men to be leaders in their homes who are worth following, but he has to be careful. He doesn’t want to encourage an abusive husband to be even more abusive. It would break this author’s heart get a letter from a wife who was beaten by her husband after reading his marraige book.

So he writes his book and it is a best seller. It really breaths life into many a marriage and shows many pushy jerks of husbands how to be compassionate and thoughtful husband who hears his wife. Many marriages are helped by his timely and thoughtful words.

Except mine.

You see, in my marriage, I am the wimp. Many of you who know me are scratching your heads, “What, no way! Chip is pushy if he is anything.” You’re right to say that, but this is true in almost every relationship except with my wife. The way I have learned to work with her is under the very reliable code of “Don’t Do Evil.”

This plan looks really good on paper. The author mentioned above can rest assured that I will never beat my wife or abuse her. In fact, many societal ills would be helped if more guys were passive like me. Much of the crime and violence in the world would be much reduced. Sounds great, right?

It’s fine unless you are my wife. She was hoping to get a husband who was assertive enough to lead in our home. She didn’t ask for a passive husband who simply didn’t make waves. God will not judge me simply on the evils I failed to do, but on the good I did.

So, ever ready with the marriage book, I can hear the real answer, Leadership!

That is a fine answer, I just don’t really know what leadership is. If I were fundamentally more capable at most of life than my wife, it would be easier, but I married the lady who is really good at life and family and just about everything else. She is driven and capable and were she to enter the corporate world, I would soon be working for her.

I am very grateful she has taken all of that superior talent and drive and is an amazing mother and wife. Not every guy is so blessed, but it does leave me in a bit of a lurch. I am not confident in my own abilities and judgement compared to hers. Sure I am competent, but in most of life, she is excellent.

Is the competent guy really going to forcefully challenge the excellent lady?It is easy to just let it ride. Really, peace is much better than being right. Whatever it takes for peace. I may not know what it is to be a leader, but I know that this is not it. So I am back to where I started, trying not to fail. Wouldn’t it be great to be trying to succeed and not simply avoiding failure? Maybe I should read a marriage book.

But every author is so concerned with not setting off Mr. Abuse that many of them don’t have much for me. Where is the marriage book for the wimp? There aren’t any. In addition, many Christian Marriage books seem like manuals for suffocating my wifes wonderful talents and gifts. That can’t be the way marriage was meant to be: the place where my dear wife goes to be less than she can be.

So, to all the wimps out there, I don’t have all the answers for you. I know you are out there because I know many of you. We have bought into the lie that avoiding failure is the most important thing. So here are the few answers I have found in my few years of marriage. I hope that they are helpful to you.

You are Loved by Your Daddy in Heaven

This may feel like a non-sequitor, but I think the most important thing we need to do is be willing to take a risk of failing. It is easy to say, “take a risk” and it is hard to do it. What has helped me? It is knowing that my God will honestly, tenderly, kindly, and sweetly love me if and when I fail. He will not be angry with me even if my wife is. If God is for me, who can be against me.

This has been a source of immense courage. Jesus went to God when he was afraid and asked for the pain to end or the courage to face it. This should be a common prayer for us wimps.

Leadership is the Same Thing as Initiative

Leadership is a painfully vague word that makes me imagine a general commanding an army with confidence and boldness. This is totally unattainable for me. I can’t be that guy, particularly at home.

Fortunately, I don’t think God is asking me to do that. What he is asking is for me to bring my thoughts and concerns forward? To be the first to say something. In fact, I think he is asking me to bring up things when I am not sure I am right and where my motives are clouded. One of the most paralyzing forces in my life is my introspection of my motives. Sometimes, I need to just say how I think and feel and take the risk of being completely wrong.

Leaders Apologize

One of the mantras of leadership is that it takes responsibility for the situation. I’m not sure what the means. I’m responsible enough. I mow my lawn and hug my kids and wash the dishes. I show up to work and come home.

Certainly part of taking responsiblity is to go press on through the requirements of life to care for my family, but taking responsibility is more than that. It is the feeling that the problem is my problem. It is the urge to correct the problem and maintain the solution. It is the drive in my heart to make Earth just a little more like Heaven.

In a real sense, taking responsibility is the same thing as the urge to apologize for the failure and weaknesses of my life, my home, and my community. It is the sense of ownership of the problem that does what is necessary to fix (or at least try). My natural bent is to avoid problems because I can then be blamed for the failure to solve them. If my fingerprints aren’t on it, then when it goes wrong, no one can blame me.

This is yet another variety of avoiding failure and not seeking success.

Recognize the Strengths of Being more Passive

There is a myth that I have believed that passivity is all weakness. Many Fruits of the Spirit give the appearance of weakness: gentleness, kindness, patience, and self-control. Many passive men and women excel in these virtues and far from being weak, they are a serious strength. My family is well-served if I am steady and reliable, gentle and affectionate.

Recognize the Weaknesses of Being more Passive

As with every character quality, passivity has a dark side. Much of maturity is to capitalize on your strengths while blunting your weaknesses. To effectively blunt the harms of my passivity I must know what they are!

I need to face the fact that many times my family needs me to resist my overly cautious nature and do what I think is right. Some men are too quick to act, I am too slow to act. Maturity for them is to slow down and think. Maturity for me is to consider and move forward even when I am uncertain.

Look for Contexts in Life Where You are More Confident

While I am more passive at home, I am much more confident and assertive in certain church contexts and at work. What’s the difference between them?

In exploring why I am more comfortable in some settings has been quite fruitful. It is good to see places where my natural leadership strengths show themselves. It is confidence building to just know that those places exist.

A Few Final Thoughts

I fear that someone will read this article and conclude that my wife is a battle-axe of a woman. She has her sins, but I feel immensely blessed to have her in my life. No, the main problems lay with me. She has been a thoughtful, gracious, forgiving, and wise friend for our marriage.

My hope is that you, the passive man or woman, will be given hope and encouragement. God loves you as you are and he made you to be a gentler soul. He also calls you to be more than just your natural self. He is refining you into something much more than you are today. Jesus didn’t come to make you mediocre. He came to make you a precious and fully redeemed bride for himself. He really loves you. He will continue to work with you and love you.

You may be passive, but he is actively pursuing you. We are so blessed to have him.

-Chip

The image above is courtesy of Keoni Cabral and is used with permission