A discussion on mythology between two professors may not seem like a recipe for changing the literary world. Add a few more academics and you have The Inklings, which might have kept the world from experiencing J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings but for his friendship with C.S. Lewis.

The Inklings were Oxford dons, including the aforementioned pair and Hugo Dyson among others, meeting regularly to discuss their work and other topics. Dyson railed profanely about Tolkien’s elves and refused to hear readings about them. But Lewis encouraged him to continue, and Tolkien cited Lewis for giving him perseverance for the monumental work. Perhaps this was turnabout, for years earlier, Tolkien’s quiet logic had encouraged Lewis to abandon his atheism for the joy of Christian faith, without which we would never have met Aslan, the king who was not safe, but good (The Chronicles of Narnia). Actually Dyson also helped persuade Lewis about Christ, so this was a tale of sincere friends, shared lives.

It’s too bad that you may not realize the value of friends until you need them. Sometimes the need is just to be heard, and assured that you aren’t the unlikeable failure you quite imagine. You come to trust such friends, which is why disloyalty hurts (Ps. 41:9). But show me friends who have weathered storms of adversity between them, and I’ll show you a stronger, more honest relationship. We’re so quick to throw things away, including people. Don’t.

The story of Job, perhaps the oldest book in the Bible, was about God dealing with a man who had friends who were well-intentioned but sometimes unhelpful. Here’s to the friend who is wise enough to know when to shut up and listen! And consider carefully what comes out of his mouth next.

In today’s culture coffee houses compete with pubs as a place “where everybody knows your name” (que ‘Cheers’ theme song!). They call out your delectable selection by name, a friendly touch. We just want to be known. We yearn for friends because an anonymous life is starved of the sustenance of relationship, of knowing and being known. Ultimately that yearning is fulfilled in relationship with God. Surprisingly, He has made himself available as a “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Pr. 18:24). Jesus, God the Son, called his followers “friends” (Jn. 15:15). He lived life with them, served them, and lay down his life for them.

Friends Tolkien and Lewis might have changed the literary world by advancing mythology as a genre, but a far more profoundly world-changing event was God appearing in the flesh to reveal himself as a Friend, available to all comers. By faith Father Abraham became “God’s Friend” (Is. 41:8). Are you?

Sweet Lorraine

It was a rare thing that happened to Fred Stobaugh after his wife Lorraine died. Grief is hard work, and out of his grief came something amazing and inspiring.

But first you have to know the back story. He met her at a root beer stand in 1938. Two years later they married. Together they raised three daughters as he supported his family driving trucks. Think of the times they lived in: wars all over the world, the nuclear age, the 1960’s angst, the sexual revolution, Watergate, 911, so many things unimaginable back in 1938. Yet Fred and Lorraine had good times, and lived full lives.

Then she took ill, and died in 2013. He was 95 and they had been married just shy of 73 years. A few months later, the local music studio had a song writing contest, so he penned a few lines and mailed it in with a letter. The studio was so moved by the story that they visited him and agreed to produce the song with professional musicians. It was no longer about the contest; they just wanted to help him tell his love story about “Oh Sweet Lorraine.”

Oh, sweet Lorraine. Life only goes around once but never again. I wish we could do all the good times over again.

They posted the song on YouTube, and it September 2013, it went viral. Soon Mr. Stobaugh was accepting invitations to appear on live national TV, and speak at schools and other venues. In his plain-spoken way, he extolled the virtues of a long marriage in general and of his sweet Lorraine in particular. He became the oldest artist ever to have a song on Billboard’s Hot 100 list.

After a whirlwind year, his friends at the studio asked him how he felt to be famous. As he reached for a sheet of paper nearby, he said, “It’s not over yet.” At age 97, he had written another song he called “Took Her Home.”

He didn’t take her away, He just took her home. He’s keeping her safe and He’s keeping her warm ‘til I show up and call heaven my own.

It’s no wonder the story and the songs are so touching. A deep longing of the human heart is to find its place in the Creator’s plan.   For those who marry, His plan is that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5). Two people created differently yet complementary with the hope that they can “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). God designed marriage, and it preceded not only nations, but history itself. It is good, holy, and celebrated as a picture of Christ and his church (Eph. 5:32).

Now the story of Fred and Lorraine is told in a six-part video available on YouTube. Search on their names. Seek and you shall find.


It is a stronger faith that not only knows what to believe, but how to know it is true. I polled a few Christians to learn what they find convincing about our faith. What follows are their responses with my editorial elaborations.

“For me it is fulfilled prophecy.” In fact by some counts, Jesus fulfilled over 350 prophecies penned hundreds of years before his birth. He was aware of that, and to the scholars of his day he said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about me” (John 5:30).

“It makes sense of the world as we observe it.” This refers to the glory of creation, awareness of self, yearnings of the human heart, and dignity of humans. The world seems caused and sustained by something outside of it while struggling against that which decays and destroys. Our hope is that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). G.K. Chesterton believed Christianity “because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing.”

“The miracle of changed lives.” The Christian message is that we can be released from that which drags us down. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2). We are empowered to live righteously. “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

“I am strengthened by believers from elsewhere.” The news of brothers and sisters in Christ remaining steadfast in harsh places like China, Iraq, Syria, and North Korea emboldens those who know their sacrifice. As a college student, the first time I heard my Ethiopian friend pray in Amharic left me quite aware that God is not American. “We hear them in our own languages speaking of the mighty deeds of God” (Acts 2:11). God transcends time, nation, race, and language.

“Answered prayer.” Such claims can seem quite subjective to skeptics. But a sincere believer with an active prayer life does not treat God like a cosmic genie. C.S. Lewis said, “I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me.” When I am changed by God’s answer to prayer, I can be God’s answer to my neighbor’s prayer.

The Bible is not a primary proof of the faith to the modern skeptic who can’t countenance the circular logic of proving the book by quoting from it. But it is still sweet to remember the children’s song from Sunday school: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That’s the epistemology that convinced me.

Not Judged

JudgeI put the jury summons in a prominent place on my desk. I wrote the date on my calendar. I actually looked forward to doing my part for law and order. One Monday morning casually starting the week, I suddenly realized it was today! I had one of those gasping, dash to the car, hope I don’t get a speeding ticket panics.

I slipped into the courtroom embarrassed and tardy by 45 minutes. Soon the judge allowed everyone to leave except the selected jurors, and me. Summoned to the bench I made no excuses and braced myself because I failed a legal obligation. I did not want to face judgment.

Who does? Judgment usually means someone else decides if your behavior is acceptable. Our post-modern mindset that everyone can have their own values is probably why the most oft-quoted Bible phrase is “Judge not lest you be judged,” especially by those who heed no other verse.

If it’s true that every yearning of the human heart can only be completely fulfilled by God, then the yearning to escape judgment is no different. But effecting such escape cannot come from believing that God cannot be both of love and judgment. Believing something doesn’t make it so! So how, then, does God fulfill our yearning to avoid the final gavel?

Jesus has the answer. “He who believes in (the Son) is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed” (John 3:18). Remarkable! Here it is again: “He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24). Faith in Christ means you are not judged the way an unbeliever is. Paul explained further, “He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us…having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:13-14). The indictment against the believer is canceled!

Grace really is good news! But beware that grace truly contemplated risks being misunderstood as license to sin. Paul took that risk, but checked it twice by declaring that grace does not allow believers to live an unrepentant life. He explains to the contrary that the believer’s identity is Christ, freed from sin and now a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6).

It is good news that God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. What remains is for you to believe and enjoy!

So, back to my story. Either the judge saw my sincere remorse, or he was just too busy to fool with me. Whichever the case, he let me go with a stern warning. I walked into the courthouse already guilty; I walked out not judged. My gratitude made me determined to be a model citizen. Thanks, Judge.