Uber and the Kingdom of God

Vegas, baby. Sin City. That’s where the story starts. Which is appropriate considering the subject. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.

Last month, I had to be in Las Vegas for a trade show. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan — of trade shows OR Vegas. But when I stay in Las Vegas, I always stay Downtown….old Vegas. Maybe it’s the low key vibe, away from the glitz and glamour of The Strip. Maybe it’s the local Arts District. Or maybe it’s the $5 craps tables. Either way, Downtown is my jam.

The only problem with staying Downtown is the commute south to The Strip, where most conventions are hosted. Traffic can be bad, and it’s just a hassle shuttling back and forth. I’d get a ride to The Strip in the morning, back Downtown after meetings, again to The Strip for dinner with mucky-mucks and then back Downtown to hit the sack. Taxis are great and all, but you can’t beat the convenience and “new-schoolness” of Uber, right?

After four days in Las Vegas, it was time to head home. I’d had somewhere between 8–10 Uber drives at that point. Most were fairly talkative. I think it stems from a place of being hospitable and wanting to avoid awkward silence. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind silence. I’ve got two small children, so my whole life is filled with noise. A 15 minute drive in silence sounds just dandy to me, but it makes most people uncomfortable, so I’m happy to carry on a conversation.

So there I was. Standing outside my hotel, bags in hand, ready to see my family again. I requested an Uber and five minutes later, Donald arrives. He was in his early twenties. He wore his Yankees hat low, just above his eyes and spoke with a New York accent, although he looked like he could be Puerto Rican or something.

I threw my bags in the trunk and sat down in the passenger seat, preparing myself for the typical, “What are you here for” types of questions, which came immediately. I answered Donald’s questions and then, trying to even out the conversation, I asked him how his day was going.

His eyes lit up.

“Oh man…this is second best day of my life. I mean, my kid being born was the best, but today is a great day.”

“Oh yeah,” I replied. “Why?”

He spoke fast, like he couldn’t get the story out quickly enough. “I’m from New York,” he said. “I moved out here because I have a respiratory condition and the winters there were too hard on me. But my family is still there. I was born in New York, but my parents are from Puerto Rico. They came into the United States illegally, so I’ve been trying to get my citizenship for two years. It’s a long process,” he explained.

Donald looked directly at me for a second and said, “I want to do it for my girlfriend and our kid, you know? So they can have a good life.”

He explained to me that his girlfriend’s mom doesn’t think much of him. That she thinks her daughter could do better. Donald is respectful about it, but you can tell that he’s got a chip on his shoulder about it and wants to prove her wrong. “My girlfriend is Italian, and smoking hot,” he tells me. I get the feeling he may think his girlfriend’s mom is right after all.

He continued the story. “So after two years of going back and forth trying to get this shit taken care of, I got a call this morning that my citizenship was accepted. I literally just got off the phone 20 minutes ago with the guy. I’m so f**king excited! Now I have to book a flight out to New York next week to take the oath and make it official.”

His phrase, “so f**king excited” didn’t even do it justice. You could see it all over his face. Pure joy.

And in that moment, driving to the airport in Las Vegas with my Uber driver, Donald, I was given the best representation of the gospel I had ever heard in my life.

Here was a guy, who was literally born into a country he didn’t belong to. He was an orphan looking for an identity — living within the walls, but needing to be adopted as a citizen…as a son. And now, after all those years, he had been accepted into the country he’d fought and sacrificed and traveled so long for.

Isn’t that the way the Kingdom of God works? We feel the call to travel, to pack light and walk towards the whisper a Kingdom away. And even though we fight and carry on, we still need help. We come to the end of our strength and wait for the voice on the other end of the phone to say, “you’ve been accepted.”

The thing about Donald was that his being accepted brought joy — and joy brought a declaration of allegiance. I was his first ride of the day, but I imagine everyone after me heard the same story. When you’re accepted and understand the work it took, and that in the end, you don’t have much to do with it at all — when THAT happens, you’re filled with joy and tell people about it. Perspective matters. It’s what dictates our response. Let’s make sure we tell our stories. They’re the best gospel we have.

Maybe that’s why I was sent to Vegas? Not for a trade show, but to hear the good news of the Kingdom of God from Donald. To take that story and tell it in other towns — or here at least.

“But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’” — Luke 4:43

The Mysterious, Knowable, God

There’s a difference between the mysterious and the unknown. For something to be mysterious you‘ve got to have a sense of its presence. Something without that sense is just unknown.

When I was in college, I started reading the stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They are the best examples of mysteries that I can come up with. The common theme with these stories, and any other mystery, is that the stories are driven by clues. There are clues hidden along the plot line that spark movement — whether to another thought or another clue. These clues are connected to something else. They are connected to the answer, and they have value because of that connection.

Let me give you an example. You wouldn’t pick up a cigarette butt you found on the ground, right? But you would if you were searching for answers and you thought it was a clue — that there might be DNA evidence on it. You wouldn’t give a second thought to a thing that wasn’t intrinsically valuable or connected to something else that was. Mystery drives us to discover truth — to solve the mystery.

God is at times mysterious, but His desire is to be known. He uses mystery to encourage the hunt.

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” Proverbs 25:2.

I believe that God is always speaking to those who are listening. It’s in His nature to “feed the hungry.” I once heard Bill Johnson say that God conceals matters for us, not from us. I think Bill is right. There is a depth to the knowledge that comes through revelation. What kind of parent, when hiding Easter eggs, makes them impossible for their children to find? No one! What parents do is to determine the difficulty of the search based on the maturity of the child. I wonder if that’s how God uses mystery in our lives? He knows us and He wants us to know Him. So as we mature and seek out His mysteries, He reveals them to us relative to our ability to understand. It’s like what Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.”

In Ephesians 3, Paul writes:

“2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

When we come upon revelation, we share it with one another. We do this, like Paul says, in order for others to “understand insight into they mystery of Christ.”

There’s a word that has captivated me for over a decade. The word is “alluvium.” I can’t shake the picture it creates in my mind. Here’s the definition:

alluvium: “a deposit of clay, silt, sand, and gravel left by flowing streams in a river valley or delta, typically producing fertile soil.”

As these deposits are left behind, they build on one another, cementing themselves into what’s called an “alluvial deposit.” These structures (sometimes massive) are built by small deposits attaching themselves to other small deposits over time. This is how I think of revelation. Throughout our lifetime, as we search out the mysteries of God, He reveals more of Himself — acting as alluvial deposits along the stream of our life. Each deposit creating a more complete picture of who He is.

The truth is that all mysteries will be made known — and all by revelation through the Spirit, either in our lifetime or the life to come.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

My hope for us Christians is that our lives would be marked by revelation. That as we search out the mysteries of God, He strengthens the reflection in the mirror.

We’ve got humility all wrong

As the world’s foremost leader on humility, I feel obligated to drop some knowledge on you.

Kidding, but I actually have been thinking of humility a lot lately. It’s a tricky thing, this concept of humility. You know it when you see it, but it’s also clear when it’s lacking or misplaced. I’m not a fan of our current way of thinking about humility because it can sabotage power and confidence (which isn’t Biblical in the right context), and becomes more about the person than their position. I’ll explain, but here’s what I’d like to do first. I’d like to propose a new definition of humility, as well as a construct for helping us think about it. Ok? Here we go.

Humility = A proper understanding of the source and purpose of power — of where power comes from and what power is for.

In this definition, I’m using “power” to mean any measure of skill, gifting, talent, ability, passion, faith and influence an individual has been given. We know that God distributes a measure of faith (Rom 12:3) and giftings (1 Cor 12)to each person as He sees fit. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” So to summarize, everyone has a measure of faith and gifts, and they are to be used for the common good (i.e., within community).

It’s important to recongize that humility is NOT a denying of our power, authority, passions or giftings. This is a relatively easy one. We call it “false humility” and it’s super annoying.

However, humility is also NOT a minimizing of power. This is a critical distinction. True humility acknowledges it’s power, but manifests that power within the context of community (verses the individual). Humor me for one second with a few simple questions:

Is Jesus our best example of humility? Yes

Did Jesus say He was God? Yes

So, clearly humility is not a denying, or minimizing of power. There are tons of verses that speak of Jesus’ power, but the one that comes to mind is where Jesus Himself says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). Again, humility is not a denying or minimizing of power. Paul is another example. In Corinthians, he comes right out and says, “I urge you to imitate me” and “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” At first glance, this doesn’t seem very humble. But even so, Paul acknowledges his authority.

So we have to take power out of the humility equation. Our problem is that we have, I think, simplified humility into a one dimentional model where everyone lands somewhere on the spectrum of humility to pride. But this is not how we should view humility. 

A better construct for humility might be more like this: 

Biblical humility is dependent upon the position you operate from and the purpose you operate for. Humility is where you operate FROM the Source and FOR community. This is also known as “the Kingdom of God”. In Matthew 12:25–28, Jesus explains, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Jesus manifested His power, which He recognized was from the Spirit, and demonstrated it within community. Humility is about recognizing:

  1. I have been given power
  2. It is given by the Spirit of God
  3. It is for people

So let me explain this diagram. On the right, you have power displayed in community, but without recognizing the source of that power. Power without the recognizing the source is fine, I suppose. This is good works, charity, etc. Believers and non-believers alike use their talents and resources for good. And many times, God uses and honors this, bringing change in the lives of those that receive the resources. But more often than not, power, devoid of the Source is transactional, not transformational.

In the left circle, you have power without community. This is like the parable of the talents. You acknowledge the source of the gift, but it’s not sowed into community. It’s the city in a valley, not on a hill. It’s about the individual, not community.

Pride can be found on both extremes. It’s not sowing your gifts into community, and it’s also not recognizing the true Source of your gifts. This model is definitly more complex than the Humility/Pride spectrum, but I believe there is Biblical evidence to support this construct.

Phillipians 2:3–8

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Jesus was the best example of true humility. All power and authority was given to Him. He recognized that His power was given by the Spirit and He used that power in the context of community; healing the sick, teaching in the synagogue, giving water to the thirst, food to the hungry, raising the dead, and ultimately, going to the cross.

We need to become a people who identify and develop our gifting’s from the Spirit for display within our communities.

The world does not need a castrated Church, who operates without power and authority, following the commission of Jesus to “go into all the world and be nice to people.” No! That’s not what He said. Now, I’m not trying to put too much stock into miracles and signs and wonders. After all, Jesus chastised those cities that required miracles in order to believe. There is just as much power in giving water to the thirsty as there is in raising the dead. I just can’t get around the fact that signs and wonders are meant to be manifested through us within community as well.

Mark 16:15–18

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

John 14:12

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing,and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

How can we do “even greater things” if we don’t identify, embrace and encourage the gifts that God has given us? The world does not need nice, safe Christians. The world needs humble Christians, who recognize that they‘ve been given authority to be used within their communities. It’s your risk taking, empowered by faith, displayed in your communities, that the world is longing to see.

Twinkle, Twinkle, little…Supernova? Thoughts on worship and perspective

I have a five year old daughter, which means I’m bound to look at all young men suspiciously for the rest of my life. It also means that I’m usually covered in glitter. My nemesis. I have no idea where the stuff comes from. But I’ve got this thought about glitter, which is this: Glitter is like sin. Easy to apply to your body, but VERY difficult to remove.

Having a five year old daughter also means there are a handful of songs that we sing together on repeat. Obviously, there’s the song “who shall not be named.” For those of you without young daughters, I’m referring to the main song from a movie that rhymes with “Frozen.” You’ll get yours, Disney. You’ll get yours.

But there are loads of great songs we sing as well. One such song is, “Twinkle, Twinkle, little star.” This, in addition to “Jesus loves me,” “Somewhere over the rainbow,” and “Somewhere out there” are on the list of our most frequently sung bedtime lullabies. One night as we were singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, little star” this thought occured to me.

In the span of the whole universe, our sun is only an average sized star. It’s 93 million miles away, burns at 27 million degrees Farenheit and can fit 1.3 million Earth’s inside it.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star?

Perspective is everything. You wouldn’t sing “Twinkle” while standing in front of a supernova. It’s the same with our worship. Our distance to the object of our worship determines our perspective, which dictates our response.

I’ve often wondered how we can sing the songs we sing on Sunday mornings, without being wholly moved to our core in worship. Unfortunately, I’m guilty of this most days, not just Sundays. I stand there, sipping my coffee, critiquing “the experience,” wondering what I’m going to eat for lunch. I’m realizing that there’s a fundamental disconnect between my perspective and reality. There’s too much distance between me and the One I worship.

This is one of the great mysteries of our faith, that:

“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in” Isaiah 40:22

And yet, He still wants intimate relationship with us. This is the reality we live in that, if seen in the right perspective, should change everything:

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” — Ephesians 2:1

I’m learning….albeit very slowly, that the closer I become with the Lord through times of prayer, reading the Bible asking for revelation, and worship, that my perspective changes — the sun closes in. The songs I sing begin to come alive — stirring my heart to worship appropriately. Not “twinkle, twinkle, little star,” but rather,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Treehouses, Dreams and Solid Foundations

Last summer, I decided to build my kids a tree house. They don’t spend much time outside, even though we live on acreage. My wife and I grew up on or near property, so living this way feels normal to us. We’ve got a dog, chickens and tons of space for the kids to explore. But they’re totally content in their 10′ x 10′ bedrooms, incessantly asking us to get them “this” or to get them “that.” My hope was that a treehouse would give them their own space outside, and would give us some small, but glorious, quiet time.

Problem with the treehouse is, i’m not very handy. Let me give you an example. I’ve got this truck. It’s a ’92 Ford F-250. It’s a man’s truck.


One day, it just wouldn’t start. So I did what most men would do…I “popped the hood.” I found myself staring at a bunch of metal and wires that I had no business messing with. After much Googling, I decided that the problem was either the battery, the starter relay, or the starter itself. I figured that since the lights were working, it wasn’t the battery. I tried bypassing the starter relay, which didn’t work, so my next guess was the starter. I learned that if you hammer on the starter, it can loosen whatever is inside and it will work again. So I grabbed a hammer thinking that, if this works, it’s the simplest fix. There was only one thing wrong with this plan. I had no idea what the starter was or where to find it. I decided to do the obvious thing and just start hammering random crap around the engine. I did this for a few minutes and then tried to start the truck again. You won’t be surprised that it still wouldn’t start.

In the end, it was in fact the starter, which I eventually found and replaced myself. Truck works fine now, and I feel slightly better about my manhood, but the point of the story is just to say that building a treehouse myself is ill-advised and will undoubtedly result in someone getting seriously injured. But I decided to build it anyway.

I found a tree on our property, shaped like a cobra about to strike. It’s a great treehouse tree because you can literally walk up the trunk and into the treehouse. Check it out…


Cool, huh?

Because the tree is on a hillside, I needed to anchor the treehouse with 4″x4″s, two of which you can see in the picture above. That’s the back of the treehouse, where you enter.  The front two 4″x4″‘s were much longer because of the slope of the hill – about 25 feet long. There’s about a 15 foot drop from the front of the treehouse to the ground. Seriously dangerous. But they’ll be walls and stuff….what could go wrong, right?

After I installed the four 4″x4″s, I took a two month break. Those of you who have kids know how hard it is to get home improvement projects done. So there it sat, just four posts sticking out of the ground. But after my hiatus, I was onto the next task of bolting 2″x4″s around the posts, making a square which I would attach the floor joists to. I made quick work of that, and then took another break. This time only one month. I was getting quicker each time i picked up a hammer!

Next was attaching the floor joists, then I would install the floor, the walls, the roof, and then i’d slap a coat of paint on it, send the kids up and see them next for high school graduation.

I began installing the hangers (metal thingys that hold the floor joists for those of you who aren’t badass builders like myself). The treehouse is 8 foot by 8 foot, so it was going to take about 6 joists (2″x4″s). I was able to get the joists attached on the outside, but then I couldn’t get to the middle ones because the structure was too tall and my tallest ladder was too short.

So i decided to put a half sheet of plywood across the edges of the outside floor joists. If you can’t picture this, just think….dangerous. Then, multiply the danger by 10. This is what it looked like after I got all of the floor joists attached.


As I laid on the plywood, 20ft in the air, trying to nail in the last of the floor joists, after months of working on this stupid treehouse, I found myself wanting to be done with the floor so I could move on to the walls and the paint and then celebrate the accomplishment. Laying there, hanging over the side, I had the all too common experience of trying to put the screws in the wood, only to have them fall to the ground before they caught the wood. I must have done this about 20 times. Grab my screwdriver, grab a screw. Hold the screw with one hand and the drill with the other. Press the screw to the wood, begin to drill….screw drops 15 feet to the ground. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The ground below the treehouse was starting to look like a minefield.

I also had a pencil in my ear to mark where the hangers were supposed to go. In between dropping screws, I dropped this. Every time something fell, I got up off my stomach, walked down the tree, down the hill, picked up the screw or pencil, walked back up the hill, into the tree, back onto my stomach and began dropping crap again. Finally, I accidentally knocked over my tape measure, which was resting on one of the joists. I had had it. The words I was saying were not blessings. As I was making my way down the tree for the 20th time, I felt God say something to me, which was

“Spend your years on the foundation, not the walls.”

Now, I’m not sure what your walls are specifically, but it occurred to me that our walls are the things that people see. They are the outward manifestation of our inward desires. Our walls can be things like influence, beauty, security or fame. They can be tangible as well. For me, they are writing a book, recording music or speaking to the church.

I should say that I don’t believe these “walls” are bad. Just the opposite actually. I think we fail when we deny the authority and mantle that the Lord has given each of us. We all have talents and abilities that are unique – that should be fostered well and shared within the sphere of influence God has given us. So let’s not get confused that pursuing the dreams that God puts in us is selfish, or means we have bad motives. It’s just that our walls are the by-products, the output, of what should be our primary pursuit. See, once you’ve got a solid foundation, the walls come up easy.

Proverbs 9 says that as we plan our course, the Lord establishes our steps. Do you know what “establish” means in that verse? It means, “to institute permanently by agreement.” We set our course, based upon our abilities and desires. Then, upon agreement with the Lord, they are instituted permanently. Permanently. It’s so important that we understand the implication of this promise. See, our problem isn’t that our dreams are too big – it’s that they’re too small! I don’t know about you, but i don’t want to look back on my life and see nothing that I couldn’t have done on my own. I want my life to be marked by this agreement – planning my course and then….step…..step…..step….each step instituted permanently. Each step leaving a deep mark in the soil of my life through partnership and agreement with God. I want to build permanent walls, as high as He’d have me build.

But here’s the thing – the quality of your foundation will determine the height of your structure.

Have you ever played Jenga? Good, so you understand that as you pull those wooden pieces from the bottom, you weaken the foundation and the tower begins to wobble. It’s only a matter of time before it crumbles because the foundation can’t support it. The quality of your foundation will determine the height of your structure.

In 1 Kings, chapter 6, Solomon begins building the Temple of the Lord, to house the Ark of the Covenant. The stones used to build the foundation of the temple couldn’t be cut at the temple site. They had to be prepared in the quarry by craftsmen and brought, finished, to the temple site. I won’t go into the history of this requirement from Solomon, but it’s a throwback to a command by God in Deuteronomy 27 not to use any iron tool on the stones of the altar on Mount Ebal. Can you imagine how much work this took?

Just to give you an idea of scale, the quarry (under Mount Moriah) is 330 ft wide and 650 ft deep. That’s one football field wide and two football fields deep. Solomon hired 80,000 stonecutters and 70,000 carriers for the stones. No heavy machinery. They had to go into this quarry, cut the stones and then haul them to the site of the temple.

Solomon didn’t care how many people, or how long it took. The stones used for the foundation of the temple had to be the best sourced and crafted that he could find. It took him seven years to finish the temple. The thing that amazes me is this. Chapter 6, Verse 18 says, “The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers. Everything was cedar; no stone was to be seen.”

Solomon used the finest materials and laborers he could find for a foundation that would NEVER be seen.

So my question for us is, are we willing to spend our years on the foundation? Are we willing to spend our time in the quarry, honing our craft, deepening our relationship with the Lord? My hope is that more of us experience this upwelling of dreams that can’t be done outside of agreement and partnership with God – that our steps towards those dreams are established permanently, and that the walls we build are worthy of the One we build for.

Spirit Animal

“Do you want more abundance and success in your life? Your personal vibration frequency could be the thing holding you back.”

What the heck!?

I saw that last night on a new age website while I was reading about my spirit animal. What? Like you don’t spend your Sunday afternoons studying Neoshamanism philosophy?

I all could think was, “I’ve been so wrong for so long.” Here I was thinking a lack of success was due to laziness, ignorance, or poor commitment. I had NO idea personal vibration frequency was to blame. How do you even find out what frequency your person vibrates at??

Anyway, Jenn and I were talking to a friend about Spirit Animals. I’m not into the spiritual significance of the relationship, but i’m SO interested in the personality correlations that come out of test like Myer-Briggs, Enneagram and, of course, Spirit Animals. So I had to know…what is my spirit animal? Based on my masculine physique, you’re probably thinking it would be a lion or a bear or maybe a lion/bear combo. I just didn’t want it to be something dumb, like a frog. I apologize if that is your spirit animal. Hopefully you’re at least poisonous.

Turns out, my spirit animal is totally legit. A Hawk.

I can’t say I’m surprised though. Hawks are intimidating and powerful. I get that a lot as well, so…

As I was reading the description, it had nothing to do with what I thought. Again, this is just silly, fun stuff to read about. Here’s what it said:

“Hawks are the messengers of the Spirits. Adept with language, you might be a writer or a teacher. Your ability to assess situations impartially means that people often seek your guidance before making decisions. A brilliant visionary, you sometimes forget the mundane details of life like eating, sleeping, or paying bills.”

I don’t know about a brilliant visionary, but I definitely forget the mundane details of life. My wife can attest to that. Anyway, interesting stuff, huh?

So if you want to improve on your personal vibration frequency, take the test and tell me what your spirit animal is.

Spirit Animal Quiz


Cursors & Creativity

Cursors are so annoying. As if you didn’t put enough pressure on yourself to create, there’s that stupid, blinking line, always one stroke ahead of you, just….waiting. Did you know that cursors blink at the same rate as the Jeopardy song? Seriously, I checked (120 bpms for anyone that cares). I mean, I’ve got a job and taxes to deal with. The last thing I need is the universe trying to be cute.

But I digress.

Hi. You’ve found me eleven days into the New Year, trying to make good on a resolution. I’m not usually a fan of online social platforms used almost solely to talk about trite, personal ambition. But then again….Facebook. So, I thought I’d use this space to fill you in on what I’m hoping for in the new year. It’s going to be a biggie. I’ve got two goals for creative work for this year:

  1. Start a business
  2. Write a book

I know, trust me. Getting one of those out of the gate would be huge. However, I tend to feel ambitious in January. Oddly enough, the cold weather is really inspiring. I tend to get depressed in the summer, which I know is backwards.

One of the deep realizations I had at the end of 2105 was that I have to create to feel healthy. If you’re reading this, maybe you feel the same way. If not, now is a good time to stop reading, as the rest of the post will be of no value to you.

Creativity is (in my mind) the output of ability, time and inspiration. You’re born with the first, manage the second and partner with the third. For the last few years, my creative output has been at an all-time low. I can’t overstate the negative impact this has had on me. Most regularly, I’ve blamed a lack of time. While a common justification, it’s also irritating to hear others complain about how “busy” they are, so I cringe every time the words leave my mouth. Also, many people have done more with less, so I decided that lack of time is a mental construct. For me, I have to wake up earlier, go to bed later, or better yet, manage my days more effectively. So if it’s not time, and if it’s true that I was born with the ability to create, it leaves only inspiration to blame.

I’ve found inspiration to be tricky. It’s like a building a fire. You have to tend to the flame or it will self-extinguish. Creativity without inspiration usually results in bad art. The problem is that inspiration won’t come to you unless you’re prepared for it. For me, that means making “space” in my head. Busyness of mind is a killer. I’m not sure how else to explain it, but I know that it’s active and takes discipline. Trying to force creativity without inspiration is like letting down the sails of a boat, only to realize that you’re stuck on the reef at low tide. Inspiration is the water that lifts the boat. But then the real work begins.

When all three elements are working in unison (ability, time and inspiration), you’ve still got do something with the spark. This (I think) is where many creatives stop; the purgatory between ability and output. It’s the hard, hard work of making good art. Learning to manage time and tend the flame. But like C.S. Lewis says, “let choirs sing well or not at all.” So this year, for me, is about creating. Creating to feel healthy and creating because it’s what I was designed for. Here’s to what I hope will be good art.

Where did all the sinners go?

“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)

There aren’t enough left-handed, one-eyed sinners in the Kingdom.

I’m fairly certain that Jesus doesn’t intend this to be taken literally. I think we would all agree that the root of sin is in our hearts and minds. Further, the thing that we call “sin” is often the manifestation of the thing itself that is killing us. It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg problem. Which comes first? Which is more destructive? Is it the lying or the selfishness that needs to be dealt with – the second look or the lust – the abuse or the pride? I would argue that while both are devastating, dealing with the root is far more helpful that talking about the rotten fruit. We Christians love to talk about the manifestations and not the sin itself. Probably because it’s just easier. Also, we can hide sins that don’t manifest themselves physically. Unfortunately, Christians have become experts at concealing sin. I’ve meet so many (myself included) that love to point the finger at folks dealing with big, “external” sins relating to sexuality and drunkenness while never dealing with the pride and selfishness inside our own hearts that can easily lead to the sins we convict others of.

Honestly, I’m just tired of hiding. I want to deal with this stuff and I believe the only way we will be successful is if we are honest with a small, trusted community around us that can hold us accountable.

So, because we need to deal with the root of sin, I think it’s interesting that Jesus is talking about plucking out our eyes and cutting off our hands. At first I thought that it was related to output. We kill with our hands and lust with our eyes. But I’m becoming convinced that Jesus is talking about input. How sin enters the body. There’s definitely a cancerous element to sin. What enters through the eye infects the whole body. Disease spreads through touch. In that sense, quarantining the infection site might prevent death to the whole body.

But who are we kidding? Sin is part of our nature. We’re born sinners, so what chance do we have? Even if I’m a deaf, blind, quadruple amputee, I’ve still got a heart that is prone to wander from God. It’s depressing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll continue to fight sin with all of my might. But maybe we’re missing the point. Maybe it’s not the act of gouging out an eye, but rather, the willingness to live with the scar? The truth is, we all have them anyway. We all bear the weight of our fight with sin. Just because you don’t see the scars doesn’t mean they’re not there. Maybe we need more outward expressions of our fight with sin? Christians aren’t different because we are more holy in and of ourselves, but our pursuit of holiness should show the difference. We should wear the road on our bodies and in our conversations and attitudes towards others. Maybe that’s what this passage is about. Putting our sin on display so that we can’t hide it anymore. Understanding the cancer and taking drastic measures to make sure it doesn’t spread. Mostly about humility towards our “Great Physician,” who will one day wash away our disease.

I think this plays out in honest dialogue with those that we would otherwise condemn. Maybe we start by being truthful with ourselves in our churches and home groups. Because the reality is, we’re not going to stop sinning. We can’t expect the message to those outside the church walls to be, “stop!” We can’t even do it ourselves. The message isn’t the sin – it’s the Savior.

The Pegasus and the Palomino

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become…..different?”

In explaining what happens through salvation, C.S. Lewis uses the example of the horse and the Pegasus. He says that it’s not as if Christ made a new breed of horse. He made a winged horse. A Pegasus is a completely different creature – a new type of creature that does not exist in nature. Me? I live like a Palomino. I might be a different color, but I’m still a horse. Do you ever feel that way? Why is it that so many of us forget about our wings? Maybe part of the problem is our trying to make Christianity accessible – and with making Christians the access point. On our own, we are incapable of the kind of transformation that salvation manifests. At best, we can get ourselves and others to walk the walk and talk the talk. But make no mistake – we’re still horses. When we believe that Christ came into nature to create something new, we also understand that Christ alone accomplishes that work.

“In a sense, the change is not “Evolution” at all, because it is not something arising out of the natural process of events but something coming into nature from outside” – C.S. Lewis

The most fundamental truth of Christianity, and the most difficult to accept (and by accept, I mean that acceptance causes a behavioral change) is that Christ did the work to set us free from sin. There’s nothing that any of us could do to earn salvation. Basic, right? We all say it, but then live differently. Often, I forget that truth and attempt to go at it alone. I forget the complete transformation I’ve undergone through Christ’s work on the cross. When I become the access point, I try to convince people that we Christians aren’t much different than the rest of humanity. You don’t have to stop drinking, smoking, cussing or watching R-rated movies to become a Christian. I want to make it easy for people. I can’t change their hearts, so I try to change their actions. And let’s be honest with ourselves. Sometimes that’s all we want – a horse of a different color. We are more comfortable with those that act the part while far from Christ, than those who are rough around the edges but love Jesus with all their hearts. When we attempt to do the work of the Holy Spirit, this is as good as it gets. It’s a change, not a new creation.

In some ways, it’s true that we’re not that different, but then again, “different” isn’t what we’re going for, is it? Saying that a horse isn’t that different from a Pegasus is mostly true, except that you miss the most critical feature. Likewise, believers aren’t that different from non-believers, as long as you don’t account for the wings.

So maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe it’s not “how different are we,” but rather, “what do we do with the transformation…with the newness?”

It goes back to the access point. It’s Jesus that begins and ends the work. We have a choice in accepting salvation, but our decision is dependent upon the position of our hearts. Christianity is a choice like grabbing for a floatation device is a choice to a drowning man. What causes action isn’t seeing the floatation device, it’s realizing that you’re drowning. A humble heart sees the decision as an easy one. The difficulty comes later, when we ask ourselves what I believe is the right question. “Now what? What will I do with my wings?”

The fact that Christ has made you a new creation will only move you if you understand the discrepancy between who you were and who you are being made to be. This is the beauty of what Jesus did. He came into Nature. The light shone into the darkness. It shot through the cracks and gave hope that soon, the dawn will turn to day.

If we believe that the “difference” is darkness to light, blind to sight and old to new, it changes our belief in the work of the cross, and hopefully, the position of our hearts towards God. It changes how we live and how we interact with each other. If you’re like me – if you feel anything less than gratitude, awe and reverence towards God….you’d better check your wings.

The Body

I’ve been told a bunch of times that I look like Adam Levine, but with the body of Hugh Jackman. Like if the two of them had a love child, it would be me. I’m not gonna lie…I get it. My physique is to fitness what green is to grass. Through my veins flows 50% creatine and 30% wild oak. The other 20%, you ask? Don’t need it. I can do with 80% what you do with 100%.

My wife told me a while back that she didn’t want me to die, so I should start exercising. Really!? Those are my only two options?

I decided that dying is only slightly worse than exercising, so when the wife bought Jillian Michaels’ “Ripped in 30” DVD, I began the longest 30 days of my life. We were about 35 days from going to Hawaii at the time, so I didn’t have any time to dilly-dally. If you’ve seen me lately, you know the videos worked. I’ve got the body of a woman.

I started to get a little worried about the target audience for the videos when, during the Kegel exercise section, Jillian said, “You want to wear that strapless dress, ladies? I need three more!” I asked Jenn, “Are these videos for girls?” She told me that they weren’t, but I can’t help but think that she was wrong.