Archive for January, 2014

I cried after I saw the movie.

But it wasn’t just because the film was touching. It was because it was empty; that’s the movie theatre.

Opening night and maybe a dozen people.

I should have been weeping before the movie. Most of the few people that were in the theatre were adolescent girls and they were subjected to abuse in the form of movie previews. OMG, they sat through the most lust-filled, graphic and vulgar teenage vampire clips imaginable. If that wasn’t enough, there was another flick featuring a love-triangle with a murder of the spouse by the adulterous “best friend.” Quite a plot, heh?

I’ll stop at that. The previews were nothing short of pornographic. Ironically, the impressionable girls in the theatre had come to see a PG-13 movie called “Gimme Shelter” about the real-live heartbreaking results of illicit sex: single-mom teenage pregnancy.

Based on a true story, viewers get a “reality-show” of sorts that most of us would rather skip. Sixteen year-old “Apple” grows up on the streets with a mom who is an addict and who knows what else. Against unimaginable odds, Apple breaks free of the stranglehold of New York’s hood and through a series of serendipitous sequences finds herself in a shelter for unwed mothers in New Jersey. Essentially, she’s fighting as much for her baby, perhaps even more, than she’s fighting for herself, and in doing so, gets a new birth herself.

It brought up an interesting question: As a writer, am I as indomitable in my fight for the young lives who are being abused by movie-makers?

Without going too much further into the plot, I’d like to leave you with a few inquiries:

1) How did things get so upside down in the greater media business of Hollywood, television and the internet that this incredibly inspiring story was hardly publicized and yet the vampire coffers are probably filled by the sweat and blood of the parents of teenagers?

2) How hard-hearted are the movie reviewers who probably won’t help add to the crowds viewing “Gimme Shelter?”

3) What are you and me doing about it?

There’s a lot to cry about.



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(This also appears on our new site http://www.belovedblogger.com)

Laying in bed at 3 a.m., I wonder why someone was incessantly poking at my leg in my first dream and why I couldn’t get through to another person in a separate dream. I remember thinking that the dreams were irritating and that it felt like someone was trying to get to me. It truly felt like torture. Unfortunately, my severe back pain was not a dream.

Then, out of the blue, after wrestling with some intensely negative thoughts, I hear myself simply say: “I have tracked down the enemy and it is not God!” This doesn’t declare that I’ve killed the enemy. I simply know who he is and who he isn’t.

Just the other day while NOT sleeping, I had a glimpse into the scariest of nightmares. I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. In my dreams, however, the irritants were coming from others. I then envisioned a skirmish in my backyard. It would be between people, Satan and myself. Sounds pretty simple, except when you throw the system of the world that Satan has created and you begin to crunch the numbers on just how many people are attached by gravity to this spinning globe. Einstein would have trouble calculating those possibilities. Perhaps he would conclude, like me, that “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7)

It always seems to get back to the question, “Why, O God, would you allow everything from irritants to bad backs to death itself?”

Recently, a friend presented me with a list of exceptionally insightful lessons and objectives for suffering and I felt like I had lived through most of those scenarios. But the spooky thing is, I know there are layers or “seasons” of suffering that I have not yet experienced that are either waiting in the wings or that God will spare me from.

Sitting on the couch next to my wife who was also nursing horrid back pain, I came to a few quick conclusions without even attempting to tread very deeply into the turf of the theologian and psychiatrist. We can point to the fall of Adam and Eve and quote Job all we want.

But there is something exceptionally clever about the results of human suffering. Although we can’t keep score, there are skillions of examples of  horrible circumstances being relieved, or at the very least, accepted in peace. I believe it has to do with God alright; His brilliant writing of the story in which the plot centers around using fellow suffering humans to alleviate, curb or comfort the suffering of other humans. In this divine twist, we get a penetrating and convincing glance at His eternal and unmistakable goodness through the redemption of selfishness and pain.

I take my stabs at writing. But I never could have “dreamed” this one up.



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*No, this title is not a country song.


(This post can also be read on our new site: http://www.belovedblogger.com)

You would never have guessed that our internal plumbing could help alert us to our home’s plumbing. But nature called at 2 a.m. and if it had not been for that potty break, we would have never discovered that the bathroom pipes were frozen.

My groggy mind questions, “Why did the pipes freeze?” Preliminary answer: It’s below zero outside. Duh. Follow up question: “Why don’t all pipes freeze in every house?” Answer: My home has this one spot that makes it susceptible to extreme temperatures.

Bring out the blow dryers and the portable heaters. I get a couple of faucets going after directing my friendly Vidal Sassoon at the vulnerable flex pipes. The third floor doesn’t relent as easily. Did our house guests really leave the window wide open on the coldest day of the year?

I grab my flashlight, begin crawling behind the knee walls while searching my memory as to where these pipes are running so I can get some heat to them. No luck. They are buried in some wall or between floors. They can scope the human body with all sorts of devices. Does anyone know of a patent on micro-cameras for frozen-pipes?

Almost stuck in the crawl space, I begin to think about my frigid heart of late. I start wondering how it got so cold. It’s just like these pipes. I have to start tracing everything back to the design of my spiritual house. Where am I vulnerable to the chill of this world? Answer: Relationships. I love people. When people hurt me, it feels like ice is running through my heart. I can’t think. I can’t feel. I can’t figure them out. I can’t flow with love.

I know the dangers of frozen pipes. If they break, water can start running behind walls and that can do a house in. But the risk of a cold heart is far more sublime: “Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.” Hebrews 12:14-17

Yawning, I guess I should consider this a gracious wake-up call.


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Like a physician who sees illness or tragedy every day, you develop a way of dealing with the pain. And some of that’s healthy. But if I don’t monitor things carefully, I can move into full seasons where I don’t feel much of anything at all. My heart can grow hard.

What are some early warning signs of a hard heart?

1. You don’t really celebrate and you don’t really cry. Well, you might on the outside, but in reality you don’t feel it.

2. You stop genuinely caring. Enough said.

3. So much of what’s supposed to be meaningful feels mechanical. From your personal friendships to your family to work, the feeling’s gone.

4. Passion is hard to come by. For anything.

5. You no longer believe the best about people. Even when you meet someone, you’re thinking about what’s going to go wrong, not what’s going to go right.

How does it happen? Here are a few ways:

You focus on patterns, not people. In my first few years in ministry, all I saw were people. Then I realized people behaved certain ways. Actually, people behave in certain predictable ways. Unchecked, that can lead to cynicism when you realize the people who say they want to change (and at first you believe them), don’t change. When I become fixated on the patterns, not the people beneath them, my heart grows hard. Patterns are discouraging. People aren’t.

You over-protect a broken heart. People promise and don’t deliver. Your hopes were bigger than what happened. You trusted someone and your trust was misplaced. Really, that’s just life. It happens to everyone. But how you respond is so critical. It’s easy to shield yourself from people. It’s easy to stop trusting, stop loving, stop believing. But that would be a mistake. It kills your heart.

You stop looking for what’s good in people and situations. Because life has its disappointments, and people are still people even after they become Christians (it’s amazing how that happens), it’s easy to focus on personal and organization shortcomings. If you keep that up, it can be all you focus on. Keep looking for flickers of light. Your job as a leader is to spot the hope in any situation anyway, to find a way when it looks like there’s no way. So keep looking.

You accept a harder heart as a new normal. A hardened heart isn’t inevitable, but it does take intentional effort to guard against one. When you feel your heart becoming hard, you need to take action and fight against it.

All that said, I’ve also discovered this: if you work at it, your heart can stay supple. When you pick away at the callous, something wonderful God created still beats underneath. And you enter a new season of life wiser, but very much fully alive.

How’s your heart? Is this something you have to struggle with too?

If you had to pick one thing that hardens your heart, what would it be?


– See more at: http://careynieuwhof.com/2012/11/the-early-warning-signs-of-a-hard-heart/#sthash.8P2GFa6M.dpuf


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