The Wisdom of Gnarls Barkley

There’s a song I like called Crazy by Gnarls Barkley. I don’t what the genre is and I don’t know how old it is. I never do know things like that. All that matters to me is that it has a catchy beat, with vocals more comical than lyrical, and Sam and I love to dance to it. And I’m not one to know lyrics, but I’ve listened to it so many times that they’ve begun to sink in. My favorite stanza is:
Come on now
who do you, who do you, who do you,
who do you think you are?
ha ha ha bless your soul
you really think you’re in control?
I think you’re crazy.
I think you’re crazy.
Ha ha ha bless my soul. It is indeed crazy how I sometimes live like I am in control, even though I know the Bible speaks to this lunacy over and over again. Remember the rich farmer who decided one day to take life easy — to eat, to drink, to be merry? Remember that day was his last? (Luke 12). Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” And in Luke, Jesus asks the rather pointed question, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Needless to say, no hands went up. We cannot even ensure we will breathe another breath and yet we idiotically presume we are in control–planning and plotting out our lives. Then, when things go awry, we moan and pout.
Take today for example. I took my minivan to the gas station to get a state inspection sticker. They take your wheels off, look at your brakes, verify your lights work, open the hood, inspect who knows what, and for a fee slap a sticker on your windshield. When I took the vehicle in, the a/c was working. In fact, it was blowing ice cold air. When I reclaimed possession and darted off to recess duty with my trusty sticker, I turned the air on and nothing happened. No air blew, neither hot nor cold. Frustrated and certain they must have knocked something loose, I took the car back an hour later. They assured me that it was impossible that they botched my air. They didn’t touch my air. They were unconvinced by my assertion that it was a mathematical impossibility that the air just happened to go out during the thirty minutes they were tinkering with my car. I firmly insisted they take a look at it, which they did. After about ten minutes, the gentleman returned and said, “the front blower is out.” This was news? I left without remedy, picked up Sam from Mother’s Morning Out and loaded him into the mobile sauna.
I decided we’d just proceed to the grocery as planned. Boys drink a lot of milk, and we were almost out. We were stopped at a light, and I thought to myself. “It’s hard not to sweat the small stuff when you’re this sweaty.” And then it was like an epiphany. This is small stuff. It’s aggravating. But it is small stuff. At that precise moment, my air conditioning started to sputter and spit. There was a whining sound within the hood and I didn’t know if that meant we were about to combust or what. But lo and behold, in the minutes that followed the air conditioning began to work, feebly at first, then as good as it ever has. I just smiled and smiled, enjoying the cold air like never before.
I have no explanation for what occurred other than God was graciously reminding me that I am not in control of my circumstances. I can control my attitude and how much I trust Him, but beyond that, well, that’s just crazy.

Knowing & Doing

I have an article in the current issue of the C.S. Lewis Institute’s publication, Knowing & Doing. The C.S. Lewis Institute “endeavors to challenge, educate, and disciple those who will, like Lewis, articulate, defend, and live faith in Christ through personal and public life.” As I have mentioned in the blog before I am currently doing year two of the Institute’s fellows program. Learn more about the fellows program here. It would be impossible for me to overstate the influence this program has had on my life, and I recommend it to everyone who has a desire to grow deeper in their faith. Applications are due April 30th.


Click here to read Knowing & Doing. My article begins on page three, and summarizes the string of tragedies my family endured between 1999 and 2004. Although these were difficult years, I learned to trust God more deeply and to more fully embrace the blessings for today. My prayer is that, even though the article is somewhat difficult to read, that it will be an encouragement to others.


What God Wants

One of my favorite things in the world is to sit and listen to my boys, Will and Nate, entertain themselves. Each finds the other to be an unparalleled comedian. Sometimes Sam is included in the revelry, and I’m sure hoping that one day he’ll be a full member. But for now, most of their jokes are intended only for each other, and boy oh boy, do they get worked up into a laughing frenzy. Nate, in particular, sounds almost intoxicated by the hilarity of it all.

Sometimes I wish the whole of life was like that, yet I know that Jesus told us in plain and simple terms that we’d have trouble in this life. (John 16:33). Amazingly, His words are often ignored. Thousands upon thousands of people have been led astray by the prosperity gospel–the claim that God always wants you healthy and wealthy, that God always wants you in a Nate-like hilarious state-of-mind. Certainly, if that were true, Christians would be the healthiest, wealthiest people in town, and the envy of all their neighbors. People would probably start turning to Christ by the droves.
But how would God be glorified in that? People would be using God as a means to an end. It would be all about them and what they could get from Him. But that’s not the way God works. The reality is that even though God often chooses to bless those who follow Him, even the most devout Christians experience extreme hardships and heartaches. It must grieve God greatly to see people embrace the prosperity gospel when it mars the whole purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice. And why exactly didn’t the prosperity gospel work for Jesus anyway?
My pastor, Lon Solomon, was speaking about this recently and he said, “sometimes God wants you sick.” Now, that’s a pretty hard-lined position, much different than what we often hear, that God allows pain in our lives, but does not will it. So I’ve been thinking about this, and talking with some friends about it. And in some respects I’m not sure, in our humanness, we can fully get our heads around it. God loves us, right? How could He want us sick?
However, in another respect it makes perfect sense to me. As C.S. Lewis puts it in Mere Christianity, “Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You…No half-measures are any good.'” But tidbits and half-measures are pretty much our nature, don’t you think? We have to work at it if we really aim to give ALL to Christ.
Now look back at your own spiritual journey and ask yourself this question: Where did I most learn to trust God with my life? Was it when you were in green pastures walking beside still waters? I doubt it. It was in the valley of the shadow of death, right?
So if God wants us to trust Him, to cling to Him, to rest in the assurance of His love, and we best learn to do that in the valley, then why can’t the valley be what God wants for us?
If sin had never entered the world, we wouldn’t have any valleys. But sin did enter this world, and Christ told us we’d have troubles. So why not pray that we will learn all that there is to learn in our valleys, and then take heart and praise Jesus that He has overcome the world!

This Ironic Paradoxical Life

Life is full of irony and paradoxes. My dictionary defines paradox as something that “seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth,” and suggests that an “essential feature of irony is the indirect presentation of a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which is occurs.”

Whatever, right? Processing that is like brainy boot camp. I’m almost too intellectually fat and lazy to work through it. Yet I find it ironically paradoxical that Sam, in the wisdom of his eighteen months of doing life, fights so hard against sleep. The child is never ready for bed. I’ve spent hours upon hours rocking him, giving much thought to why. Why does he fight it? And I think I’ve come up with the answer. It’s about control. We’re born with an “I’m calling the shots” attitude. We have an innate confidence that we know what we need. The paradox is that it is only in surrender that Sam gets the one thing he really does need: sleep.
This little nursery phenomenon represents the human story. We go through life thinking we know what we need and how to get it. Our perceived needs evolve over time so there is an ever-present striving. Many think life is about sex, status, and stuff, but the satisfaction these bring is fleeting. The hedonist knows that he will always need more pleasure, the billionaire CEO isn’t satisfied by status (see Oracle’s Larry Ellison), and things always fail to fulfill (See previous post, You, Happier.). Our real needs are to know where we came from, what our purpose is, how we are supposed to live, and what happens when we die. Written in our DNA is a need to explain the evil that is in this world, a desire for justice, a hunger for love, and a yearning for forgiveness. You can search the world over for answers to these questions. Different worldviews and religions offer different answers, and some can be very appealing. But Jesus Christ is unique in all of history because no other worldview or religion addresses all of these needs. (Ravi Zacharias often speaks to this. Learn more at www.rzim.org).
But just think about it. Jesus explains our origin, gives us transcendent meaning, provides a morality with which to live, and offers us eternal life. The Bible describes how evil entered our world and our hearts, it gives us guidance for how to mete out justice on earth and provides the hope of ultimate justice. The Bible also explains and satisfies our hunger of love. Finally, redemptive forgiveness is found in the person of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice not only pays for our sins, it obligates us to forgive one another as we have been forgiven.
So Jesus isn’t a set of rules. He’s an answer to the longings of our hearts. In fact, Jesus is THE ANSWER. And how do we take hold of Him and his gracious offer to satisfy our deepest needs? Just like Sam, only in surrender.
After thinking about this I’ve come up with my own definition of paradox. It is something that is true, but in our subjective analysis seems contradictory. It doesn’t seem like surrender could possibly be the answer, but it is. It doesn’t seem like God could be both three and one, but He is.
The fact that our “fallen little minds” (a favorite Joe Stowell line) can even recognize any paradox illustrates that there is something beyond our subjective comprehension. We operate in the dimensions of this world, but many things, including paradoxes, point to a dimension we don’t yet understand.
Someday Sam will recognize his need for sleep. He won’t fight anymore. And someday I’ll understand how it is that God is three and one. Until then I’ve got faith that I know what’s best for my son, and more importantly, I’ve got faith to believe that Jesus is God’s Son.