Posts Tagged ‘c. s. lewis

31
Jul
12

Coming home?

In the history of this blog these past six months have been the longest hiatus without any new blog entries. In some way it surprises me. A Ukrainian friend of mine wrote me shortly after our son Marcus was born and expressed that he was looking forward to hearing me blog about my experiences as a father. For some reason that hasn’t happened. Some friends said to me that it was – of course – just because I am not sleeping quite enough these days that I don’t have many philosophical thoughts about life. It would be easy to agree with them, but I know that’s not the truth. The truth is that it’s been bugging me that I can’t seem to organize my thoughts and figure out what’s going on inside of me. I can’t seem to focus on what I want to be all about. I can’t seem to move in courage and faith into the things of God that I know he’s inviting me into. I’m afraid. Afraid of more loneliness.

A few thoughts on fatherhood now that I might have your attention. I love being a dad to beautiful little Marcus. He is a great joy to behold, even as I write where he’s laying on the floor playing in his Tennessee Volunteers pj’s that our dear friend, Tim Huddleston brought to Marcus from the Smoky Mountains state. He’s great. He’s fun. He’s lots of smiles and craziness. And yet, I’ve been almost perpetually disappointed in myself this past half year. Disappointed in my reactions when things are not easy. Disappointed in my lack of patience. Disappointed that I don’t seem to do what I need to be doing most of the time. Disappointed that my flesh is as ugly as it is when it comes to anybody invading my space and making sure that my schedule and my ideas can’t happen. Having a baby surely, at least in my case, has forced me to stare the beast of my flesh even deeper into its ugly eyes. It ain’t pretty. My wife, Jeannette, has been great at encouraging me and reminding me that I’m doing a great job as a dad. I don’t know if I believe her most of the time, but I also know that it’s been good for me with all the reminders of how Jesus deals with me when I scream, whine and won’t surrender to what’s really best for me. Marcus is a baby in my arms. And often I’m a baby in Jesus’ arms. I want to surrender, but I end up working against what I really want, just like Marcus does when he is sleepy and can’t seem to surrender to the sweet release of sleep. It’s humbling for sure. I’m glad Marcus is as forgiving and forgetting as he is. I’m glad that he always receives me with a smile and a giggle. I wish I received Jesus’ invitations with the same cheerfulness and trust. Maybe it’s trust that Jesus wants to teach me. Despite having known Jesus intimately for many years, that issue remains a problem. It’s hard to trust him. It’s hard to let go.

Coming home to Denmark has been a challenge. Is this really home? I haven’t lived in this country the past nine years, and I feel so different than I did as a young twenty-something year old sans wife and baby back in the day. Some people have said that it must be nice to be home, but I never know how to reply to that question. Sure, there is something familiar about being here in the country of my roots and with my mother tongue being spoken everywhere. But I don’t know if I feel more at home here than I do everywhere else in this world I’ve been. There are huge blessings connected to the life I’ve been living these past nine years. I love my global perspective. I love the familiarity I feel with people and cultures from around the globe. I love that I have friends where I know their hearts from Kyrgyzstan, Germany, Ukraine, the Philippines, and countless other countries. There is such a richness to that. But there is also the other side of that same coin: I belong everywhere, and in a sense, I belong nowhere. It’s been lonely since coming home. I’m struggling to find my feet under me. What am I to be all about this next year in Denmark. How do I connect with people I run into? I’ve had fun trying to talk more to people that I meet out and about. Danes normally don’t initiate conversations with people we don’t know. In fact we’ll go to great lengths to avoid conversations with strangers. But my theory has been that if someone initiates a chat, Danes are like everybody else and enjoy a little conversation. So far my theory has proven valid.

It’s been four years since I wrote this blog entry about a line that Jesus challenged me with from the film version of C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian. (I’m back again after a short break. Marcus just needed some kisses and hugs from his Daddy that helped assure him that’s he’s okay. Don’t we all need those times? Often?!). I’m still there. Four years later. I’m still afraid to jump fully. Some people say to me that I’ve jumped much further into the crazy waters of faith than they ever have. I know the truth is that I’m still, in many ways, standing at the edge, afraid of losing my footing completely if I fall deeper into the ravine that is Jesus’ love and Jesus’ invitation to truly let go and learn to live with him as the only center in my life. I hear his invitation, I know he won’t force me, and yet I continue to hesitate. I wonder how I would react if someone continued to hesitate to accept an invitation I extended four years ago? I’m glad Jesus doesn’t have my temper and my impatience. I’m glad he understands. I’m glad that he, despite what my flesh and unfortunately much of Christian tradition say, is never disappointed in me.

He knows I’m afraid to lose more than I feel I have. I have friends all over the world, but few in my home country. I have lots of people who care about me and us, but very few that I could call on a gray Wednesday. I have lots of people who look up to me when it comes to faith and living radically, but few I can share all my fears and struggles with. I encounter many individuals who find my story of living on support and pursuing the Kingdom of God full strength on a global scale this past decade fascinating, but few people who know how to relate to me and pursue a friendship once they hear the same story. While living in the United States I often wished that I could answer: “my name is Tom Smith, I’m from Wisconsin, and I work as a teacher” when asked to introduce myself. Somehow “my name is Torben Riis Jensen, I’m from Denmark, and I work as a missionary and Christian counselor” seemed to make it harder for people to relate to me…These days, I’m running into that here in Copenhagen too. Copenhagen, as the capital city of Denmark, is a modern, cosmopolitan city, but still it’s difficult for people I meet at church to know what to do with this scruffy-bearded young(ish) man with his tales of living in England, Ukraine, and the United States, and his stories of encountering people in Greenland, South Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Moldova. Connection points are few. Sometimes I just wish I were a school teacher…(and no, I’m NOT attacking school teachers in any way, shape or form, it just happens to be a job that most people can relate to without too much explanation 🙂)

Why do I even write this? What do I want? Your pity? No. Not at all. I guess I don’t really want anything. It’s just how life is. Just how my life is. Nothing too unusual about it. Nothing that lots of people can’t relate to. But it is my reality nonetheless. Sometimes it’s nice to be seen as unique. It used to mean a heck of a lot to me. Now I don’t need it (as much) anymore. But that doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily change.

So Jesus invites me, again, into deeper life with him. Away from people. Away from friends and family. Into places I fear. Into places in the depths of my heart that will challenge, bless, and change me. I fear that change. I fear the increase in loneliness that (sometimes? often? always?)follows when you dig really deep into the beauty of Jesus. Most people will not understand. It’s how it is.

So where is home for me? Jeannette and I followed this past season of American Idol religiously. And in God’s great sense of humor he’s using the winner’s, Phillip Philipps, first single to encourage me. I thought the lyrics to Home would bless Jeannette as she’s struggling to settle into unfamiliar surroundings here in my home country. But the truth is this ain’t my home anymore than it is hers, and I can’t help her the way I wished I could. But somehow Jesus is speaking to me through this song. Maybe he’s the one who is gonna make this place our home. At least for a season. I hear the demons that fill me with fear. Fear for today. Fear for tomorrow. And I have no answer to their lies. Maybe Jesus will take care of us on this unfamiliar road as well?

Blessings, Torben

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02
Aug
11

Heaven, the New Earth – enough with all the Hell-talk!

I guess it’s about time for me to write a blog about the Good News about eternity. A couple of my blog entries have focused on a couple of books, Love Wins and Erasing Hell, that talk a lot about issues of eternity.

I also picked up Randy Alcorn’s 500+ page book, Heaven, to see what he would be writing about what I have to look forward to. It’s a long book. A very long book in fact. I wanted to just put in some of the important quotes that I enjoyed and was encouraged by through reading this mammoth of a book.

 

“Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea that eternity is an unending church service…We have settled on an image of the never-ending sing-along in the sky, one great hymn after the another, forever and ever, amen. And our heart sinks. Forever and ever? That’s it? That’s the good news? And then we sigh and feel guilty that we are not more ‘spiritual’. We lose heart, and we turn once more to the present to find what life we can” (John Eldredge in his book Desire, where he talks about eternal life with Christ being a lot more than what most Christians dare to believe)

“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were preoccupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven, and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither” (C. S. Lewis)

“God will make the new earth his dwelling place…Heaven and earth will then no longer be separated as they are now, but they will be one. But to leave the new earth out of consideration when we think of the final state of believers is greatly to impoverish biblical teaching about the life to come” (Anthony Hoekema)

“Understanding and anticipating the physical nature of the New Earth corrects a multitude of errors. It frees us to love the world that God has made, without guilt, while saying no to the world corrupted by our sin. It reminds us that God himself gave us the earth, gave us a love for the earth, and will delight to give us the New Earth” (Randy Alcorn)

“In the truest sense, Christian pilgrims have the best of both worlds. We have joy whenever this world reminds us of the next, and we take solace whenever it does not” (C. S. Lewis)

“Everything is gone that ever made Jerusalem, like all cities, torn apart, dangerous, heartbreaking, seamy. You walk the streets in peace now. Small children play unattended in the parks. No stranger goes by whom you can’t imagine a fast friend. The city has become what those who loved it always dreamed and what in their dreams she always was. The new Jerusalem. That seems to be the secret of Heaven. The new Chicago, Leningrad, Hiroshima, Beirut. The new bus driver, hot-dog man, seamstress, hairdresser. The new you, me, everybody” (Frederick Buechner)

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating” (Simone Weil)

“I meet many faithful Christians who, in spite of their faith, are deeply disappointed in how their lives have turned out. Much of the distress of these good people comes from a failure to realize that their life lies before them. That they are coming to the end of their present life, life in the body is of little significance. What is of significance is the kind of person they have become. Circumstances and other people are not in control of an individual’s character or of the life that lies endlessly before us in the kingdom of God” (Dallas Willard)

These were lots of different quotes talking about eternal life on the New Earth with my friend Jesus and many, many other friends! I can’t wait! I know some Christians who don’t look forward to life on the New Earth. Maybe they think we’ll be in some weird, boring place? Maybe they are afraid they’ll miss out on something here on the Earth? I don’t understand them. Whether my life is great and I enjoy my everyday situation, or whether I’m walking through a difficult time in my life, one thing remains the same in me: my desire to experience the New Earth with Jesus! My desire to be completely free from my flesh. My desire to reconnect with loved ones and experience life to the fullest for all eternity! To quote the late, great Keith Green:

You know, I look around at the world and I see all the beauty that God made. I see the forest and the trees and all the things. And says in the Bible that He made them is six days and I don’t know if they’re a literal six days or not. Scientists would say no, some theologians would say yes. But I know that Jesus Christ has been preparing a home for me and for some of you, for two thousand years. And if the world took six days and that home two thousand years, hey man, this is like living in a garbage can compared to what’s going on up there.

And I conclude this blog entry with some of the last words of the Bible, written by John, the disciple Jesus loved, who ended the Revelation God gave him like this:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon”. Amen, come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22)

 

Blessings, Torben

10
May
10

better than a hallelujah (about real honesty)

My dear wife Jeannette keeps accusing me of stealing songs she tells me about and blogging about them. She may or may not have a point (…), but since I’ve been listening to this new song 20 times today, I still thought it would be okay to blog about it, and she’ll just have to get the credit as one of my primary sources of inspiration 🙂

What a majestic song Better Than A Hallelujah is. It’s written by the two ladies Sarah Hart and Chapin Hartford and performed by Amy Grant in her first Christian radio single in seven years. The lyrics of it resonated straight away in deep places of my inner being:

God loves a lullaby in a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes
God loves a drunkard’s cry, the soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries, of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

A woman holding on for life, a dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
Tears of shame for what’s been done
The silence when the words won’t come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Better than a church bell ringing
Better than a choir singing out, singing out


I love the expression of the deep truth that  a true, intimate relationship with Jesus has so much more to do with just being open, honest, raw and real with him than it’s about singing, dancing, or doing stuff for him.

I love the truth that’s being expressed that our mess is, somehow and for reasons we can hardly fathom, beautiful to God. What we may deem as unworthy whining and complaining, he hears as honest worship and relationship.

God loves for us to approach him as naked as we dare to be. He invites us to an open, honest relationship with him. One where we come to him without promises (I will do this and this) or excuses (I will never do this and this). Just come the way you are. Approach the throne of grace with the confidence (Hebrews 4:16) that comes from knowing that it’s okay to be you. It’s okay to be on your journey. It’s okay to be a mess. God loves messes. His love shines the brightest through our messes. Contrary to popular opinion in and outside of the church life is not about being well put together and be in control. God loves his messes, where he can freely shine through. He gathers your tears, he hears your cries, he longs for the intimacy of hearing you pour out whatever is inside of you – the good, the bad, and the ugly!

God has invited me deeper into this kind of relationship with him the past many years. At first I was hesitant. I feared that it would be irreverent to be brutally honest with him. He is God, after all. I also thought that I had to censor my words to him. Then a day came where God in a divine-stating-the-obvious-moment told me that he knows all my thoughts and feelings already, so I really don’t have to bother censoring anything.

I looked around me and saw few people who dared to go to the deep places with him. And I was afraid that I just fooling myself, that he wasn’t really calling me. But he is calling me to a deep, honest, real, messy, fun, crazy, exciting, insane, frustrating, but never boring relationship with him. The call is there. Do we dare respond in honest ways, or are you contend singing nice songs about God and his love (even though you don’t believe them), pray polite prayers (even though you’ve forgotten why you pray), accept lies you believe about him and yourself (even though they make your life and your relationships shallow and empty), and just try to make it through life acting, pretending and keeping up good, religious appearances?

Blessings, Torben – Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries of breaking hearts, are better than a hallelujah!




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