A Sunday Thought from Dr. Keller

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7c4/38797130/files/2014/12/img_4747.jpgTim Keller is a Presbyterian minister in New York City, a fantastic author and one of my heroes, mostly because he says things like this:

A life of religious legalism is always distasteful to those outside the faith. The moralist will be smug (they are the good people); oversensitive (their goodness is their righteousness so must not be undermined); judgmental (they need to find others worse than them in order to be good); and anxious (have they done enough?)

Worse, irreligious people look at and dislike the God who moralists claim to represent. Paul is thus arguing to the Jews: You were called to be a light to the world, you think of yourselves as bringing light to those who are in darkness and yet the world finds your religion totally unattractive? Don’t you see that therefore you must have misunderstood it?

We need to pose ourselves the same challenge: Is our church community and are we as individuals attractive? Is our humility, love in hard situations, grace under pressure and so on obvious for others to see? Are we living as an advertisement for God or as a “Keep clear” sign? Only the gospel produces churches and people who commend God to the world. Moralism cannot.

Excerpted from –Romans 1-7 For You. By Tim Keller


How to Love Your Spouse Better.



Sam Kirk took the gold medal in the Perfect Man Olympics Saturday night.

This little known sporting event originated the summer Sam and I lived in France. One afternoon, he not only fixed our single neighbor lady’s lawn mower, but then he mowed her lawn.

“In my life, I never think I have a reeel Amereekan cowboy mowing my lawn,” she said as we stood by watching. “He reeely is ze perfect maan.”

Upon hearing that story, which I’ve repeated with the French accent at least 500 times, my family began calling Sam the Perfect Man. But a title that bold really begs for some objective measure, so you know, let the games begin.

Anyway, on Saturday night, the girls were over for our 11th Love Dinner. There were cupcakes, pink ribbons and benedictions because Shelby just got up from 12 weeks of bed rest, still pregnant, with a healthy baby girl in her belly. This is an absolute triumph that we were celebrating even before she produced a tube of KY and a mini ultrasound from her purse, so we could listen to Sophie Kay’s heart.

Somewhere in the midst of the estrogen fog, Sam slipped in the patio door with an armload of wood and lighter fluid. Within minutes, the fire I planned to build but hadn’t gotten around to, was blazing in the fireplace. Not only that, a second fire was blazing in the pit outside, under the full moon. To a giggling chorus of “Hi Sam!” he gave a quick wave and slipped back out to watch football in the man cave.

I’m telling you that to tell you this:

If you ever want to know how to love your spouse better there’s a book you should read.

The Five Love Languages published nearly 20 years ago, is a Christian classic and perennial New York Times Bestseller. If you’ve never read it, the premise is, there are generally five ways people express love for one another: Words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, quality time and gifts.

The trouble is, a lot of us love our spouses the way we want them to love us. Then we can’t understand why they feel unloved. Author Dr. Gary Chapman maintains, the more successful approach is to find out which expression means the most to your spouse and do that.

 Photo Credit: Stephanie Wallace

Photo Credit: Stephanie Wallace

Want to guess what mine is?

Yep, acts of service. That’s why when Sam built a fire for me and my girlfriends, I felt utterly loved by him in a much more powerful way than if he’d walked in with a $200 gift card from DSW.

Now don’t get me wrong, gift cards are awesome, so are words of affirmation. In fact, when people ask what my love language is I often say, “All of them!” But honestly, if you know me, fire trumps shoes every time.

Want to know what Sam’s is? (OMG He loves it when I blog about him. I’m probably going to get a talking to.)

For a long time, I thought it was physical touch, but it’s not. He’s just a man and is naturally inclined that direction. Sam’s love language is quality time, which explains why he goes a little bonkers when I travel to Africa for a month at a time. I cannot believe how long it took me to figure that out.

I still travel to Africa for a month at a time, so this is a tricky spot for us but at least I understand it better. Knowledge is power.

So, if you ever feel like your spouse just doesn’t get how much you love him, it may be he just needs you to love him differently. This book provides some easy framework for doing that.

Have you read the book? What’s your love language?

Just Fine and the Drowning Girl

Love DinnerYesterday, I had a three-minute conversation with a friend in which she wound up in tears. It was just an average conversation, on an average Tuesday, until I looked her in the face and said something that was probably a little heavy for the office.

It’s scary to step around a person who says they are  “just fine,” to reach for the other one struggling beneath the surface.

But it’s important because Jesus did all the time. He did it for blind men, prostitutes, lepers, deaf mutes, kids, outcasts and soldiers. He said to them, “I see you in there, I see where it hurts, be brave and bring it to me.”

People, we need less noise and more love. To look into, rather than just at, each other, which is sometimes a messy and expensive proposition. Jesus said, you will know my followers by their love for one another –  not their politics, their words, their church or their jewelry. Just their love. That’s it.

I’m telling you this, because I’ve been drowning for the past few weeks, while telling people it’s fine. It’s not fine. When my fall trip to the ship got postponed until spring, I sank. Traveling with Mercy Shippers, encouraging them to grab hands with Jesus and run wherever he leads, is something I was born to do.

However, a few wise folk have suggested that by this delay, God has cleared my decks, so I can refocus on the other thing I was born to do – to write. What a privilege to have two equally interesting but demanding passions. Certainly, getting here was a process and that’s the subject of the book.

So while I chastise myself for drowning, Jesus doesn’t see it that way. He looks right past my “Just Fine,” reaches for me and says, “I see you in there, I see where it hurts, be brave and bring it to me.”

He does it for us, then we do it for each other, and that’s how this job gets done.

Photo Credit: Sonny Lazzeri

Photo Credit: Sonny Lazzeri

Recently, one of my favorite writers Shauna Niequist announced she’d begun writing her next book. I love Shauna and her kitchen table because as her lively tribe gathers round, it’s apparent how sterile a life of independence can be; how tragedy, apology and pain are necessary to the whole plot. In time, everybody’s lives get tangled together like grapevines, heavy with fruit and flowers. Then Shauna writes about it.

Does this sound familiar? That’s Love Dinner and why it’s back – this Saturday. We need each other more than we care to admit, and sometimes we just need to collapse at each others’ tables and quit drowning for a minute, letting people who love us, pull us out of the water.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to figure out the pattern here, but I finally see it. For the last year, I’ve allowed writing books and going to Africa to be mutually exclusive activities, but they’re not. No matter where I am – on a ship, in a garden, at the table with friends – my life is in the people, and the object is always the same:

Point them to who they are in Jesus, watch what happens and write it down.

That, to me, is a story worth reading.