Jeff Lucas talks to Together about a portfolio lifestyle, new books and relaxing.
Jeff Lucas needs no introduction to many in the Christian community in the UK. He is a prolific writer, broadcaster, preacher, teacher and conference speaker who also spends a great deal of his time commuting across the Atlantic
Together magazine caught up with Jeff at Premier radio studios when he was recording his regular Sunday evening programme In Good Company and the first question was how do you fit it all in?
JL: Well I do what I do, really. I often dream about a day when things will be a little bit simpler and slower; I also have a nightmare about a day when things will be simpler and slower. I am so grateful to God that for the last 36 years I’ve not been on a full salary from anywhere; I’ve lived a portfolio lifestyle where my activities have been diverse and therefore my income has been diverse. It could have all dried up years ago; that it hasn’t is really evidence to me of the faithfulness of God.
Have you learnt over the years to say no to things?
JL: I’m still learning and I’m 58 this year so it’s about time I figured it out. I’ve got an inherent need to please people; I quite like to say yes if I possibly can. That means at times I’ve not asked the searching questions that I should have. I’ve gone into situations where I’ve probably been the wrong voice for that environment. More and more now I pray that I will be where God is setting me up rather than me setting things up and hoping that God will show up and help me out – there’s a very big difference there.
How have you changed in terms of your approach to the way you handle what you take on?
JL: When I first started out as a Christian, and in ministry, I had a neurotic approach to the will of God; I needed a revelation to determine which supermarket I should shop in, which was ridiculous! I then did a pendulum swing away from that into a state of ‘I’m just going to pray and generally hope for the best’. As a result I’ve made a few decisions that have not been great and I’m living with some regret about that. Now I tend to take more advice than I used to, to slow down and be more prayerful than I’ve ever been in my life.
I’ve got this theory that we all think we’re balanced but we’re not. We are like a pendulum in a grandfather clock; we’re all reacting against something and it will never stop. My objective is to get the swing as narrow as possible.
I've got an inherent need to please people; I quite like to say yes if I possibly can.
Over the years you’ve written many different books, Bible notes and various columns but what are you working on at the moment?
JL: My latest book, Faith in the Fog, published by Zondervan in February, is one I’m really excited about. It’s the book I always wanted to write, based around the breakfast encounter that Jesus had with his disciples (John 21).
The book talks about depression, anxiety, perfectionism, shame; issues that Christians ironically sometimes seem to do very badly with. I mean if anyone should have the shame issue resolved it’s Christians – because we’re carriers of the good news of forgiveness. Yet I meet so many Christians, I’ve been one of them myself, who are fuelled by shame and oppressed by it as well.
I still go to churches occasionally where the word depression is [regarded as] a bad word. I battled with depression for some while and it was not that my faith helped me, my faith was part of the reason for my depression. I am praying that Faith in the Fog is going to be a great help to a lot of Christians who struggle and just don’t know where to turn.
I’m writing another book with Adrian Plass; it’s not Seriously Funny 3 but it’s based around a lot of the questions that were given to us during the Seriously Funny tour. I’m also writing a book on the character of Barnabas, about friendship. Barnabas was the great friend to the Apostle Paul; I wonder whether we really know how to do friendship these days. We’ve got social media but we’re the most unsocial people because we’re so preoccupied with our technology. So what has Barnabas got to say to us about real Kingdom friendship rather than just veneer relationships?
You mentioned Seriously Funny. How did that all come about with you and Adrian?
JL: Seriously Funny came about because Adrian and I got bored at a Christian publishing event. Adrian was thinking he was about to get an award and was preparing his humble face - not actually needed because he didn’t win.
We started whispering to each other at the table and I said “Why don’t we just write a book where we talk backwards and forwards?” The great thing about conversation is that you don’t have to make declarations, you can just investigate together. So Seriously Funny was born, it did well and then we came up with the imaginatively titled Seriously Funny 2.
One of the lovely things to come out of the book was the tour. We’ve probably had around 10,000 people come to the events across the country. It’s just us, sitting on two stools having a conversation. Whilst we know our opening story, beyond that we don’t know what’s going to happen. People text in questions and it’s a fun, sad, challenging, thought-provoking, funny evening.
I recently wrote about Jeremiah and frankly it was the last book of the Bible that I wanted to do.
Do you ever find yourself being stumped by a question?
JL: Not really because I believe in Jesus and I believe in Adrian Plass. So I know that if I have that ‘deer caught in the headlights look’ that I can bat that back to Adrian and he’ll rescue me. I hope he thinks the same about me. There are moments of anxiety but generally speaking it’s a really fun experience. We’ve probably done 40-50 evenings around the country and we may be doing some more – but we don’t want to overdo it.
You mentioned you have three books on the go but when do you write?
JL: All the time. I’ll write on the train on the way home tonight; I write daily Bible reading notes for CWR which means I have a new deadline for 13-16,000 words every 60 days. That means I’m constantly living in the shadow of that deadline – and I love it; it’s been really good for me. I’ve been writing these notes for eight years now and the discipline of doing it has been great.
Writing Bible notes has created a community of people around the country, and overseas, that wherever I go Life Every Day readers come up to me and say ‘hello’ and generally encouraging things. I love that because I’m actually walking with those people, through print, every day. I’d obviously like to see a lot more of them sell because the reaction I get to them is very positive.
How do you decide what your next two months is going to be about?
JL: Well we have conversations about it with my friends at CWR - they are great people with a real heart to not just to sell books and Bible notes; they genuinely want to see a more biblical church. We talk and we toss ideas about; it’s a creative exercise that we share together. I recently wrote about Jeremiah and frankly it was the last book of the Bible – with the possible exception of Leviticus – that I wanted to do.
You have a busy life but what do you like to do to relax when you do take time out?
JL: I really like to be with my grandsons; they are a source of energy and delight to me. I like to exercise and I try and run most days. Kay and I both enjoy movies and eating out together and with friends, and I also enjoy a nice glass of wine. I like to think that although I do live an incredibly busy life that I know how to play, how to relax, as well. Although life can be manic most of the time it’s in pretty good rhythm. I’m healthy and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had and continue to have.
What are you reading at the moment?
JL: I’m re-reading The Wisdom of Pelicans by Donald McCullough which I think is my favourite book of the decade. I don’t even know if it’s still in print but it’s an amazing book and if it isn’t someone needs to publish it.
Jeff’s latest book Faith in the Fog (Hardback)
Published by: Zondervan
is available now from Eden.co.uk.
May 7th, 2014 - Posted & Written by Together Magazine