Life Posts

How to Be Grateful When You Don’t Feel Like It

I have a feeling that Thanksgiving might feel a bit strange to many people this year. This is normally the time we think of what we’re grateful for and often share it with our closest family and friends. But when it’s been a 2020 kind of year… gratitude may not be the first thing on our minds.

I’m not sure how much you are aware of your dreams when you sleep at night but I often dream vividly. It is not uncommon for me to have some amazing dream and then wake up with a sense of disappointment. In my dreams, I often get into fascinating conversations with people I’ve never met. We start new projects together or talk through ideas. Then I wake up bummed and realize I don’t actually know them.

Recently I woke up with a different feeling.

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What Do Your Scars Show?

I attended the Men’s Challenge at Central Christian Church last weekend. They had an opening contest to see who in the room had the craziest scar. I saw things that night that I’ll never be able to unsee, like how one guy moved something inside part of his leg with his finger. Thankfully, I’ll likely never learn the story of that thing.

The winner—unanimously cheered to victory—stood with one artificial leg and scars covering his other leg. By his quick recounting of a horrendous motorcycle accident, he likely shouldn’t be alive. It was a scar to celebrate.

It’s interesting how a bit of context can change the way you view a scar. I doubt the winner of the scar competition is hesitant to talk about how his body is now permanently marked. It’s a story of life that he carries with him. Yet we don’t always view our scars that way.

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Living Within the Confines

This week I finished a fantastic book called Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall (see: Amazon link). The premise of the book is that we can better understand global politics as well as history when we factor in the role that geography itself plays. To fully grasp the ideas of this book, I took my dad’s recommendation and listened to the audiobook while literally staring at the map for that chapter. It provided a context for understanding that every person would benefit from seeing.

At first glance, this premise may seem trivial. How much could geography really affect the choices that people make? Yet there are many examples that prove this. Here is one:

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How to Consider New Ideas

How to Consider New Ideas

Recently I had an epiphany while reading the latest book from David Bentley Hart called That All Shall be Saved (see: Amazon link). Before I explain my epiphany, a bit of context on the book itself would be helpful. In this book, Hart methodically dismantles the traditional view of hell. In case you are unaware, there are at least three (although with numerous other variations) traditional Christian ways of understanding the concept of hell.

Not only does Hart go after the most common view today, but he doesn’t even blush a little while he does it. One of the funniest sections in the entire book comes in his final remarks. That’s when Hart drops this little beauty:

Custom dictates and prudence advises that here, in closing, I wax gracefully disingenuous and declare that I am uncertain in my conclusions, that I offer them only hesitantly, that I entirely understand the views of those that take the opposite side of the argument, and that I fully respect contrary opinions on these matters. I find, however, whether on account of principle or of pride, that I am simply unable to do this.

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The Problem with Being Polite

The Problem with Being Polite

As I reflect on many of the tensions we are all experiencing right now, it strikes me that the value of politeness is the thread that runs through it all. Especially for those of us who are Christians, politeness can often seem like the goal of it all.

I value being polite when possible and beneficial. There’s a moment when the great theologian Albus Dumbledore shows how to harness strength and resistance wisely, even in the face of enemies. In J.K. Rowling’s Half-Blood Prince, we find the following exchange:

“Good evening, Amycus,” said Dumbledore calmly, as though welcoming the man to a tea party. “And you’ve brought Alecto too. . . . Charming . . .” The woman gave an angry little titter. “Think your little jokes’ll help you on your deathbed then?” she jeered. “Jokes? No, no, these are manners,” replied Dumbledore.

Dumbledore can profoundly incorporate manners even in the midst of conflict. Yet one of JKR’s most fascinating characters—Dolores Umbridge—is known for being polite in all things… annoyingly polite. Yet she’s also one of the evilest and despised characters in the Harry Potter series. A look at how these two characters use manners captures the confusion we may have on this topic. Some politeness is good, yet it can also mask the presence of evil.

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What Could Have Been

What Could Have Been

As you may have heard, I resigned from my role as Lead Pastor of Abundant Life Church. I requested the chance to share with the church as to my reasons why but was declined the opportunity.

2020 has emphatically highlighted how the church in the United States is at a crossroads. There are systems in place to reinforce a particular narrative and way of living which enable the current structures of power. If that is to be changed in the future (as many hope), it will cost something to create. As my friend Mike recently wrote: “The church is not called to protect and preserve, but rather to call forth a people to a new humanity. May we be the brave and courageous church that we have preached towards, sang about, and prayed for.”

A few weeks ago, I invited some of my friends who experience racism differently than me to share their perspective on my blog (see: Dear Church). I also preached about racial injustice specifically in my last two messages (see: An Opportunity to Learn and Following Jesus When It’s Hard). As many other churches and pastors have experienced lately, this led to some pushback in our church.

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