A Manifesto of Habits

notepad-1192373-1279x1680I came across this Habits Manifesto in a book I was reading, and really thought not only was it simple but profound.

The truth is sometimes the most profound things are the simplest.

And here Gretchen Rubin outlines her habits and manifesto for how to live a life of impact, meaning, and with the right priorities.

Take a moment and really read through each of these points, and think to yourself,what would you add? What would you take away? And more importantly, how should you act in light of this?

What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.

Make it easy to do right and hard to do wrong.

Focus on actions, not outcomes.

By giving something up, we may gain.

Things often get harder before they get easier.

When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves.

We’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important.

It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves.

When we can’t make people change, but when we change, others may change.

We should make sure the things we do to feel better don’t make us feel worse.

We manage what we monitor.

Once we’re ready to begin, begin now.

Here is just one shift I’d make. The first says this, “What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while”. Or I’d just put it this way, “Being consistent is better than being occasionally exceptional”.
What do you think?

The Resurrection Doesn’t eliminate Suffering

barbwire-1315925I’ve been preparing for a series on Mental Health that’s coming up. And I came across this one line from a book called Darkness is My Only Companion, by Kathryn Greene-McCreight.

It just so resonated with me, and it’s something to sit and ponder because there is power in its simplicity.

Suffering is not eliminated by the resurrection but transformed by it.

Amen.

Envisioning Your Future Self

back-to-the-future-part-2-1409979-1279x852I read this recently by author, and podcaster Lewis Howes:

You become what you envision yourself being.

And in all honesty I think that’s really true. I’m not really big into the “positive self thinking” kind of movement. But there is a deep truth in that quote. That if you envision yourself as failing, as having nothing to contribute to the world, as lacking in value and worth to others it ends up being the “lens” you see yourself and the world through. It ends up conditioning and determining some of your actions and behavior, and you end up sometimes becoming what you envision.

This is nothing new or revolutionary, this is something social psychology and even psychiatry have known for a long time. That the “tapes” we play in our minds, contribute heavily to our actions and who we become. And we could discuss that, but I’d rather discuss something more revolutionary. Not who you envision yourself becoming, but who the Bible says you are.

Lewis Howes wants you to focus on “who you want to be”. The Bible wants you to focus in on who you already are. And I think that one little shift makes all the difference. Lewis, rightfully, wants you to focus on becoming a positive and healthy person. The Bible has a different perspective, to tell you who you are so that you can live into that reality. 

The Bible and the Spirit of God doesn’t want to tell you, “Envision becoming this way”. The Bible and the Spirit of God tell you that fundamentally at a core level, this is who you are – now live into that reality. The Bible doesn’t want you to dream of being holy, pure, loved, or new. The Bible states unequivocally as follower of Jesus, that you are holy, pure, loved, and a new creation.

The Bible is less concerned with trying to get you to envision who you can become, than for you to believe who you are. Because once you know who you are, you can live out of that reality. The Bible isn’t trying to get you believe that you can be holy, pure, and new – through positive thinking – but to believe that you are holy, pure, and new through Jesus Christ.

And this small difference can make all the difference.

Because I can tell you – if you follow Jesus – you are pure, holy, loved, and new. And while you might not always live out of that centre, it’s your true centre. And the beauty is this then – this reality isn’t beyond any one of us because it is true of all of us.

So then no matter how much you might struggle with it, to live it, to truly know it – it’s still true and today you can live it.

So all I’m wanting to say is that Lewis Howes is right, “You become what you envision yourself being” I just want to make sure what we envision ourselves being is what the Bible says – holy, pure, and loved (Colossians 3:10-15)

Leadership Like the Dawn

dawn-2-1504573-1280x960I stumbled across this verse and it just jumped out. Listen to it deeply especially if you are a leader of any kind. Because here is a beautiful description of what power, authority, and leadership should be. It’s poetry but that’s why it’s so inspiring:

When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light. (2 Sam 23:3-4)

I think that’s just a beautiful picture of leadership rightly exercised. That when leadership is done rightly it’s like “he dawns on them like morning light”. That when leaders are full of justice and fear of God, their leadership isn’t heavy and burdensome. It’s soft, it’s light, it’s full of future and promise like an early morning. And just as the dawn creeps up pushing away darkness, this is what it’s like when someone rules justly and in the fear of God.

When I think about my leadership if someone were to describe it like that to me, I would be honored. That’s what I hope for, that my leadership would be like the breaking of the dawn. My guess is if you are a leader you hope that too.

So what can you do today to start to live into that vision of leadership? Because it’s worth chasing after, just like the dawn chases after the night.

The Slavery of “Freedom”

chain-1461883-1278x1010I think our culture is obsessed with Freedom. Freedom to do whatever we want, and whatever pleases us. It drives a lot of culture, a lot of the stuff on TV, and a lot of the relationships around us.

We think that standing up for our “freedom” to follow our desires and impulses is what it means to be human. That we all have a right to do what we want, when we want, as long as it doesn’t hurt others (or hurt them too much).

But this idea of freedom, isn’t actually “freedom”, it’s slavery. 

All we have done is become absolute slaves to our wants, desires, and impulses and call that “freedom”. That “freedom” is to do whatever – our desires, wants, or impulses are. The problem is that not only isn’t that freedom, it actually doesn’t lead to life. Slavishly following our desires leads to instant gratification, debt, divorce, and all sorts of hurt. When we think following our desires is freedom we become slaves to our basest and worst selves.

David Foster Wallace noticed this and criticized our culture for exposing our kids to it so early. He writes this – this is what we teach our kids:

“That you are the most important and what you want is the most important. And that your job in life is to gratify your own desires…This does not work as well when it comes to educating children or helping us help each other know how to live… and to be happy – if that word means anything. Clearly it means something different from ‘whatever I want to do’ – ‘I want to take this cup right now and throw it! I have every right to! I should!’ We see it with children: that’s not happiness. That feeling of having to obey every impulse and gratify every desire seems to me to be a strange kind of slavery.”

And I think he is right on. The feeling that we need to follow our impulses and gratify our desires is a kind of slavery. It doesn’t lead our kids to happiness to let them do whatever they want, so why should it lead us to it?

But we’ve fallen for that lie and that trap. We use language like, “I just need to follow my heart”, “Well it wasn’t true for me”, “I deserve this because I want this” all the while not realizing we are slaves to our desires rather than masters of them. True freedom doesn’t consist in doing whatever you want when you want, true freedom consists in having these desires transformed and aligned so we can live whole lives. This is why Paul says that he is a “slave to Christ” because he knows that he needs his heart, desires, and impulses changed. He needs to have self-centeredness, greed, violence, and hurt rooted out. Ironically then for Paul to be truly free is to be a slave to Christ, rather than a slave to our desires because Christ sets free in us who we were meant to be.

My point in all of this is fairly simple. Following our impulses and desires isn’t freedom. Those things need to be shaped and transformed or they become self-centered, greedy, and ugly. And having those desires changed doesn’t happen through embracing our “pretend freedom” but submitting to a master, submitting to a path, or as Paul says, “becoming a slave to Christ.” And there is nothing in this world that will set you free for true freedom like Jesus Christ.

Do you love Jesus, or your theology about Jesus?

It is the deconstructive work that is painful because we have learned to emotionally invest , not in Jesus, but in our theology. A good test to determine whether Jesus or our theology takes precedence is to discern the degree to which we are willing to unlearn something and learn something new about Him. Michael Hardin

Ooh that one hits home. The truth is our theology is never perfect, but are we actually open to having it be changed by God? Are we actually willing to unlearn something, to learn something new? Christ

As I look back on my life as a Christian, pastor, and theology-nerd the amount of stuff that’s changed is dramatic. The question though isn’t how have I changed, but am I willing to continue to be changed by the prompting of God’s Spirit and Truth? Because one thing is for sure, I don’t have it all perfectly together. And I need to invest in Jesus, not in my theological thoughts about Jesus. And the difference between those two things can sometimes be wider than we think.

But what about you? How have you changed and grown in depth with Jesus? How has your theology changed? How is it changing? 

Because one thing is sure, we all need to become more like Jesus and that process involves change and it never ends. May we be open to that process and to the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit to conform us more and more into the likeness of Christ.

Following “God” Is Easy, Following Jesus is Difficult

jesus-1233747This quote is just so true:

Jesus is particular, God is generic. It is easy to follow a generic God because you can fill the term “God” with any presupposition you please; it is difficult to follow Jesus because then you have to take seriously his teachings on discipleship, on what exactly following him entails. Michael Hardin

Following “God” is easy, because it is generic. You can be a “spiritual” person, or a person connected to the “energy” of the world or anything like that easily. Because as Michael Hardin points out, you can choose the things that you will follow or connect with. You can create the path you want to follow. Following Jesus though means following his path. The difficulty path of self-denial and other-centred love. The path that values sacrifice for others, and loving at a level that seems ridiculous at times. But that’s the beauty of Christianity; it’s about Christ. It’s about following him, and not giving into the easy things but shooting for the difficult life transforming things. Things that Jesus teaches us to do like:

  • Love your enemies
  • Forgive everyone
  • Judge Not
  • Fear Not
  • Worry Not

Each of those things is simple to understand, and will take a life-time to learn to practice. Which is precisely the point. Following Jesus is a path and a journey that takes a lifetime to learn. Learning to love your enemies and that there is no them, only us is incredibly hard. Learning to not let fear and worry have holds in our hearts isn’t a weekend retreat thing. It’s a lifetime thing.

This is why G.K. Chesterton said something truthful in, Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried

But I believe it’s in the trying that life is found. It’s in the striving after following Jesus,  his path, and his way of life that life is found.

And my question in all of this is this: if you’re a follower of Jesus are you following his path? 

Because as Michael Hardin reminds us, it’s easy to follow “God” following but Jesus means following his path. And his path leads to life, it’s not easy, it’s hard but it’s absolutely worthwhile.

So out of those 5 things listed above (judge not, fear not, worry not, forgive everyone, love your enemies) which one do you need to work on today? Which one do you need to focus on and give some attention to? Which one do you need to try to follow today? Because following Jesus means walking his path, and this is the path he laid down. It’s not an easy one, but it is a life-changing one.

Why not be unfair today?

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People are uncomfortable with grace. It’s just true, and I get it because we raise people to react against grace. Because grace, simply put, is not fair.

As I seek to raise my three kids with Krista, one of the things I hear all the time is, “That’s not fair”. We somehow breed or develop in our kids (or at least my kids) this radar for unfairness. That leads to statements like this all the time:

  • Why did Asher get the bigger cookie?
  • Hudson’s played with the car too long.
  • Daddy!!! It’s just not fair!!

And in our household, in many ways, we try to be fair. We talk about being fair, and about sharing all the time. Saying, “Hudson, it’s not fair that you get all the Lego, share with your brother”. Or saying, “Asher, you can’t take all of the books and sit on them, you need to let Hudson have one too”.

But what I think is so interesting is that grace by its very definition doesn’t play according to the rules of fairness. Grace is unfair and it will always be unfair. We see grace and say, “That’s unfair” and it’s true. That’s why grace is so powerful because it gives to us things we don’t deserve, and things that, simply put, aren’t fair.

Francis Spurffod puts it this way:

Something kinder than fairness is, by definition, unfair; and once you take grace seriously it immediately threatens to produce scandalous unfairness in human terms.

It’s true. Grace produces scandalous unfairness in human terms. Which is why it’s so moving, transformative, and divine when truly given. Because in human terms there is nothing fair about grace, about second chances, about 77 chances, about forgiveness, about new starts, about welcoming people who don’t deserve it. There is nothing fair or human about it; grace is divine no doubt about it.

So today why not give a little bit of grace today. Why not be rebellious and rebel against fariness, and spread a little grace divine life today? Why not surprise someone with giving them something they don’t deserve, something that isn’t fair, something that is well…gracious.

Because the only reason that I get to follow Jesus is because God decided to be unfair and give me something I didn’t deserve. The least I can do is to try to follow his example and be a little unfair today, and give someone grace.

The Problem of Evil, Theodicy, and the Power of Story

dark-cloud-1539729-1599x1066The problem of “theodicy” (evil, and cruelty in the world) is a problem that theologians have wrestled with for decades. I read this one line a little while ago and it really resonated with me.

What do you think of it?

We don’t have an argument that solves the problem of the cruel world, but we have a story – Francis Spufford