Content Creator

content-creator

So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27 (AMP)

In my life so far, I’ve always enjoyed creating. Whether it was a song, or a blog post here, or a book of those posts, or even a meal. All the way back to some of my earliest memories of making little books at my Grandma & Grandpa’s house with my craft-loving grandma—I’ve always been a creator.

Lots of times that reminds me of God, the Creator. I know, as the quote from Genesis reminds us above, that we are made in God’s image; we are like him. That probably includes the ability (and desire) to create. We are mini creators.

This can take all sorts of forms. Some create buildings, some create art, some create works of literature, some create new technologies. We are likely all wired, on some level, to create.

I’m guessing there is a hole in this very sweeping premise somewhere, but it does seem like a piece of the core of our being: we are made to create.

Which might be why I feel so restless recently.

For a long while, much of what I’ve been doing with my time is managing the creations of others. Sometimes I do this in my work, managing software and technology created by others, as well as maintaining business accounts and data. Other times it is the current stage of being the father of six incredible mini-creators, which requires much time and energy to sustain them as well as cheering on their creations. And, truthfully, often I find myself managing the dissemination of products that I created at some time in the past. In all of this, I am often neglecting time for my own creating.

(I do still find time for some pretty tasty culinary creations, though.) 🙂

Knowing this is good, and knowing that it’s likely only a season is also helpful, but I do think that there is a serious deficiency for me as a “content creator”. A deficiency that I am hoping to find ways to fill.

One is this blog. I love to write out thoughts. It may be that it inspires thinking in others, or hope, or faith, or action, but even if no one reads it, it does help me to write (create) it.

Another is music. I know that music is a part of my being. Intentionally sitting down at the piano or grabbing my guitar and spending time “creating” music is life-giving to my soul.

I’m also trying to be very intentional in writing a book I am working on (actually, a couple books, but I am focusing on one primarily).

However the opportunities present themselves, I really do believe that I need to be creating. I am made to create.

Are you? What is it you’re made to do? Are you doing it?

If you’re not, I’d recommend—from my current personal experience—to pursue it. Intentionally. Fervently.

I believe it’s important to be in the place you were made to be. May your week be full of chances to be who you were made to be and what you were made to do!

Thoughts on Church Attendance

church-serviceI’m not sure why, but it’s curious to me that the topic of church attendance has popped up a time or two in recent conversations. It’s sort of different every time, but all of the occasions have been cordial, courteous, and even understanding and affirming of the thoughts we have on how we are part of the church, the body of Christ. I can’t think of any time that I have brought it up, but it’s been part of enough conversations that it merited a post here this mid-February day.

Right in the middle of these instances of “church talk” was an article I happened to spot by author, Donald Miller, on his website StoryLineBlog.com. I am subscribed to his blog and usually scan his posts once a week or so, reading those that catch my eye. Last week I spotted one titled, “Why I Don’t Go To Church Very Often, A Follow Up Blog“. Follow up? I wondered, I don’t remember seeing the first one…

Curious, I clicked and read, then clicked his link to the original and read—and much more surprising than anything Miller shared were the readers’ comments to both of these blog posts.

Miller’s first article was merely an informal, from-the-heart, spur-of-the-moment, observational post about a recent weekend worship service experience. He basically was “confessing” (his word) that he doesn’t connect with God through music, or any element of the traditional worship service. And so he has chosen to not often be part of that gathering, but finds community with other believers (the Church) elsewhere in life.

Seems fairly harmless to me. How about you?

The readers who felt the need to reply were (it seemed to me) mostly distraught at his proclamation. “How could you say it’s OK to not be part of the church!” And, “Church is not about you, or what you get out of it, Don!” And the lambasting continued with comment after comment—at the writing of this post, there are just about 500 comments on the original post—most of them sharply chastising Miller’s flippant attitude towards the sacred.

Hoo-boy… I’ve been there.

The issue is not whether or not we are called to be together, or to live and serve each other and together in community as the body of Christ. That’s a fairly obvious reality of the church from scripture. The issue is what we are calling “church”.

If you mainly see the hour (or two) on a weekend day—some people attend a Saturday service, you know—as “church” then you might be prone to astonishment at someone’s admission that it’s not their favorite thing—AND that they are “OK” with not attending it. That is actually understandable.

But did Jesus really come into this world to share the Good News of the Sunday morning worship service? Is that what we are called to?

I truly do not want to stir the pot here, creating my own flurry of vengeful, protective, defending-the-Kingdom comments. Please don’t respond here, if that’s all you’re feeling. (Because, I think if that’s what you’re feeling, you’re not hearing me correctly.)

I’d be very interested in calm, collected, thoughtful responses to anything I’ve said, or even more, what Donald Miller shared in either post linked above (and I’ll add them below here, too).

It was all so fascinating how vigorously and intensely the weekend worship service was defended by so many voices. The guilt-laden obligation that dripped from many of those same comments was also telling, I think.

Wherever you are with Jesus, I hope you are at peace. If you are not, I hope that it’s his spirit nudging you toward the freedom we are able to have in him—If the son has set you free, you are free indeed.—not toward a life without him, but into a life of rest in his grace and mercy and goodness. Freedom of a life with him.

Here are the links again

I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere.
Why I Don’t Go to Church Very Often, a Follow Up Blog

AND, if you want to read more on thoughts about what the church is, and what it can be, I did publish a book about that: There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church! Available at Amazon, and there is also a free (PDF) download. (But it’s nicer to pay for books… if you can.) 🙂 See below.

htc-small
There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, is available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

Give Us This Day

frenchbread

I know Jesus always meant what he said. In my own life, I really try to “mean what I say, and say what I mean”, and for the most part, I’d say that is generally what is accomplished.

So when Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (or however your translation happens to phrase it) I think he wasn’t really just talking about bread—or even just our food.

Too often we are caught up in any moment besides now. Worries about the future, or even just plans and strategies for our future; hurt, pain, doubt, guilt from our past, whether of our own doing, or somehow inflicted upon us—these things can consume us.

We really have no idea what is coming next, nor how our past has prepared us for the now.

All we have is “this day”.

That reality has been so present for me again lately. I have friends who have been thrust into a daily place that I’m sure they don’t want to be (and yet, I know they are seeing and even feeling God’s blessings in the midst of such a hard place) and we are even waging our own daily battles here, too, which seem to have been going on for far too long now.

Maybe someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Maybe you have. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe you lost someone that you love. Maybe you’re living a life that you never thought would be “like this”, and you don’t know how to change it.

Maybe you doubt your Father’s love, or his goodness… or even his existence.

Give us this day…

I think today, I will drink deeply of the place that God has me. I know the bad. Somehow it is often better at being noticed. (Or maybe I am better at noticing it.) But I also know the good. There is good, now. It’s not some future reality that will be present once I’m through this, or change that, or realize some yet-unattained desire.

I have breath in me. I am here, in this place, now. There are people (whom God loves) around me whom I can share that breath and life with … now.

This day.

None of this is new, I’m sure. It’s not to me. But it sure seems that I need reminders to slow, to breathe, to just… be.

Daily.

May your day be filled with all that he gives. Even if it’s not what you were hoping or looking for.

He is there. This day.

[ThisDay] Sex Sells (Apparently)

One of the posts that has received the most interaction was admittedly expected to attract some attention. I wasn’t just searching for website hits… rather, I was making a point. A fun night out with Emma at the mall turned into conversations about large images of ladies in their underwear—everywhere! That night I posted some thoughts on our much we use sexual imagery in marketing and advertising, and the possible consequences of that. That was certainly a memorable post from January 31st in GregsHead.net history. A close runner up was the story called “My Computer Had a Heart Attack” (a good, lengthy read!). For today though, and the last day in this series: Sex Sells (Apparently). (Thoughts/comments welcomed!)

Sex Sells (Apparently)

January 31st, 2013

Aerie Ad - Girl in lingerieI wouldn’t usually post such photos here. But I guess I’m trying to make a point.

Have we really gotten so used to seeing women in their underwear (or less) that it doesn’t even slightly surprise us?

(My hope is that when you saw the photo for this post on my website, you were surprised, or shocked. It hopefully seemed quite out of place. And it should.)

Last night my four-year-old daughter, Emma, and I walked through nearly the entirety of our local mall, and the volume of near-nudity prominently displayed in store fronts truly overwhelmed me. It was not hidden in the lingerie section near the back of a department store. Rather, right out in front, for every passer by.

I did some research when we got home and found out that there are an inordinate amount of lingerie stores in our mall. It could be that this is the reason that there are so many super-over-sized revealing photos, but still, you can’t walk down nearly any corridor of the mall without being bombarded by boobs.

Aerie storefront display - Girls in lingerie

I know I sound old saying this, but… I don’t remember this when I was a kid!

(Yep. Old.)

Now you can be shopping at the Apple Store for an iPad mini and get an eyeful of what amounts to “soft porn” at the same time. (There’s another “intimate apparel” store across the hall from our Apple Store.)

Am I overreacting here? I’m not sure. I am a guy, of course, and scantily clad, beautiful women do have a certain appeal, but what is that appeal? Certainly it is to my flesh—the part of me that is supposed to be dead. We are all well aware, however, that it still fights for life.

Jesus said that adultery is wrong, but that a man looking at a woman lustfully is just the same (since sin is a heart issue, before it’s a behavior issue) … but, I’m not sure that’s why I feel uncomfortable strolling the halls of the mall. (There wasn’t any lustful looking going on.)

I am more uncomfortable when my boys are with me. Aged 14 and 11 1/2, the internal chemicals are beginning to and have already worked their magic and the appeal of women dressed in little, even posed suggestively many times, well… that’s not something I want to test my boys’ will power on. And all to just find a new favorite well-used video game?

Last night it was Emma, who was certainly taking it all in. Once she said, “More bras! Ha!” (Yes, she’s awesome.) So I’m not really sure what she thinks about it, but she at least finds it somewhat humorous.

spencers

But I think in the end, I just find it sad. Near the end of our mall tour we passed Spencer’s. This particular window display was the most overt of all the stores in their attempt (in my opinion) to use sex to sell. (They might even more be selling sex, not simply lingerie, but…) I actually shook my head at their forwardness, and quickly moved along. Later when I was looking for store displays online to share with you here, I discovered that when you click the above banner—taken from their website, but this was also the current store front display—you have to consent to viewing adult material before going further into their site. So, perhaps they aren’t even trying to hide the soft porn part?

(Note: I actually do remember that my mom would direct us past and cast doubt upon the goodness of Spencer’s stores in our various malls. Though I do think we darkened their door a time or two along the way. I think my sister liked some of the stuff in there? I do not remember such displays in their front windows… but I do have this inner, red warning light regarding their establishment. Perhaps this is not a new development.)

What I think all of this reveals about us (yes, pun intended) is a culture that is certainly progressing more and more towards debauchery. Again, I know that I sound old suggesting that “my generation” wasn’t as perverse as “this generation”, and to an extent, I’m sure I’m wrong. People are people. We’re all dead in sin, none of us can escape that; one generation’s societal moral superiority notwithstanding.

But I really do think this is a symptom of a deeper sickness.

Families are now horribly rent asunder: rampant divorce, children outside marriage, multiple parents (but really no parents), gay marriage, abortion… they are all signs of our inner moral corruption and decay.

So it makes sense that we’d continue to feed our flesh—the part of us that drives this decay—and even progressively think less and less of it, allowing it to have more of a hold on us.

We’re naked under our clothes. (Did you know that?) Nakedness is not the sin. The way it’s used to appeal to our selfish, fleshly, worldly desires can be, and those desires can be. Paul said, “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” Perhaps that applies here.

I don’t think I’m talking about the over-sized posters, though.

It seemed so blatantly obvious last night on our walk through the mall that these are symptoms of a culture-wide decline; gradually slipping more and more toward full worldliness, and farther away from godliness. It makes sense, of course, as culturally we have been removing God from everyday life for several generations now. It’s certainly bound to happen this way.

I know I sound old. (And, I kind of am!) This generation is worse off morally than mine, but maybe not than my parents’ generation? (The sixties, hippies, etc? Could be we improved from that?) And we will continue the downward trend until, as individuals, and families, and then as a society we allow God to resume his rightful position as Father and leader and provider and all that he is and wants to be to us.

Until then, it shouldn’t surprise me what is displayed in the large windows of our public marketplaces. If we continue this way, it wouldn’t be shocking to see actual nudity soon, as well as much more sexual images.

This really is the visible symptoms of a deeper issue.

I want to say, “And I hope for our society’s sake that we turn to Jesus and live full lives as he intended us to!” … but I wonder if that’s my wrong thinking about “life to the full”. Life to the full is messy. We are messy, broken, sinners. We are in a broken world, and though we can experience a taste of true, unbroken life, we are still here, in this mess. And that will never change, until we’re not. So, no matter how much we, as a society, might turn to Jesus … the deeper issue here (not the symptoms) is part of the bigger picture of “full life” that God intended. I think.

That doesn’t mean I have to traverse the mall corridors, though. 🙂

I’ll finish by saying that I hope wherever you are right now, you know the Father, the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent (John 17:3) and that you know his abundant grace and life and are living that fully and free from guilt and condemnation and judgement (John 3:17) … because that is how we’re meant to be.

(Clothed, or not.)


Note: The photos in this post are mostly taken from the retailers’ websites. My iPhone camera was not doing a good job capturing the images I wanted to use for this post. All of these images here were on display in three-times-real-life size in the store windows, as well as dozens more.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 30th

[ThisDay] First And Second Birthdays

Today’s post was a poignant piece, originally published one year after the death of a family friend. We all celebrate birthdays, but it’s harder to celebrate our second birthdays; at least it’s hard for those left behind here in this mortal existence. I wrote this about one year after our friend died, and one day after my mom’s “first” birthday (Jan 26th). If you’d like to read something lighter, January 27th is an active day for publishing in GregsHead.net history. See the list at the end of the post for the lighter fare. But today’s primary selection is just below. Enjoy.

First And Second Birthdays

January 27th, 2012

Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday. January 26th is a circled day on the calendar, celebrated by our family. Has been for as long as I have memories. All day long, we think of my Mom. We call, we video chat, we send cards… we celebrate the life she began on January 26th, 19xx. 🙂

(I don’t know that my Mom has any real problem with me sharing her age, but… just in case… since she reads this blog … Suffice it to say that this year her two-digit age ends with a zero! So in some ways it was an even more memorable/special year.)

I love my Mom and love celebrating her birthday! (Even if we’re not in the same location on the birthday day.)

At some point during that day I was reminded that the 26th of January is also the birth day of our good friend’s Mom. She, too was born on the twenty-sixth day of the first month of the year. If I recollect correctly, she was even born in the same state, not far from where my Mom was born. She too has children who love her, and many grandkids.

But she has another birthday.

A little over a decade ago, she was born into her eternal life. She is now with Jesus. So her birthday is celebrated at least a little differently than the way we celebrate January 26th here, where we can still show our love and see it received, and given back.

It’s better to be with the Lord. The Bible tells us so. But I’d imagine first birthdays are at least a little harder when the one birthed has had their second birthday already, and you’re left celebrating without them.

This week I’ve also been thinking of our friends who are coming up on the one-year anniversary of a second birthday. Tomorrow will be one year since our friends lost a Dad and a Husband and a Grandpa; and since we lost someone who was becoming a good friend.

Death leaves such an absence. It’s hard to celebrate the second birthdays. Again, it’s better to be with the Lord, but that truth seems distant when the life so suddenly changes, and the void is so clearly known and seen and felt.

I know it’s been rough again lately for our friend who lost her Dad. (And I know for many years our friend who lost her Mom has missed her so dearly on many occasions, more than just first and second birthdays.)

It definitely makes me value the days that I have now with my Mom, who’s still only had her first birthday.

The hope that we have runs deep. I know and trust that once we have both passed the threshold into our eternal life, I won’t have to live or think about living life without my Mom in my life. That is a great hope.

But I’ll say it again: for now, on at least some levels, I’m very glad my Mom is still only one.

I rejoice for the lives of the two parents I know, mentioned above, who are missed yesterday and tomorrow. They loved well and are still well loved. I am praying peace now for the kids who miss their beloved parents on their first and second birthdays respectively. But I already know they have hope. And in that I also rejoice.

This talk of “second birthdays” has a bit of a morbid undertone, but if you know our Jesus, it’s a wonderful thing when you turn two.

It’s just harder for all the one-year-olds who are still waiting for their own second birthday.

It will come. And then others will both mourn and rejoice on our two birthdays. And we will celebrate with all of the ones we loved who went before us.

What a birthday party that will be.


Note: This photo of my Mom is slightly dated, but it’s a good one, with several of our kids loving their Grammy. There are not many photos of my Mom in existence, and I’m nearly certain this is the only one published online! So, I might get in a tiny bit of trouble, but… I know she still loves me. Right, Mom? 🙂

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 27th

[ThisDay] Relating

Only two posts were written on January 26th in all of the years of published words here at GregsHead.net. Two! That is interesting… but maybe even more interesting is that this day on the calendar is the very day that my Mum was born! Happy birthday, Mum! (We’re not British, so… well… I don’t know why I’m using their spelling? Maybe it’s just my favourite, or something?) 🙂 Today’s post comes from the year twenty-twelve, when I wrote about something that I often write about—the importance of relationship. Enjoy!

Relationship

January 26th, 2012

You might think I write because I have answers. Or maybe that I think I have answers. Sometimes I guess I do have a certain bit of information I learned that I’d like to share, or a thought on something that might be worth your consideration, it’s true. But often I will write more because of questions I have, rather than answers.

Tonight is one such night.

I have been thinking about the way we relate to each other as a culture for quite some time now. (Search for “Relationship” in the search box to the right and you’ll see what I mean.) It has been important to me for a number of reasons. How we Christians relate to each other as the church, and also how our family relates to and with the people around us. Life is relationship, so it makes sense to me that this would be a common thought thread through many of my days.

Lately I’ve just been wishing there was another family or two with whom we could “do life”. People that we’d spend several days a week with, for varying lengths of time, sharing the important and unimportant things of life.

There are some folks we see pretty often, and whom I feel know us well and vice versa. These are all valued friendships. I’ve just been wondering why there isn’t more? (And by “more” I simply mean more time; more shared life; more relating.)

And I completely understand that part of it is the way we have chosen to do life.

We are not actually removed from life with other people (there are people all around, and we are glad to be with other people) but we are “removed” from the standard relational structures of our society. We home school our kids, so we are not part of the public school community. (That of course is a huge chunk of life for many people with families similar to ours.) We are not part of a “church with a name”, so though we have many great relationships with Christians whom we share our life with God with… well, we aren’t “part” of that “community”.

It seems to me that we Americans can only relate when we are plugged into a larger social structure. We don’t know how to stop over for tea anymore. We don’t know how to hang out on someone’s porch. (Not in the winter time, of course…) We rely on our busy schedules to keep us near to and connected with the people we know. (And that is how we know anyone at all: by being part of the same activities.) When you are not involved in the “activities” of the busy American life, it’s easy to feel “forgotten”.

Now, the weirdest part—and where I have the most questions—is that I know some busy people who have definitely not forgotten about us, and yet we rarely see them. For one reason or another, there’s just not enough time in the week (or month!) to find ourselves in the same physical space to enjoy some time together. But again, if we were doing the same things, we’d either (1) feel like we had “seen” them, and so met the invisible relational quota, or, (2) be reminded/encouraged to make sure to plan other visiting times, or even just drop by?

I’m really not complaining. Even just today a friend dropped in for a brief visit that was much appreciated. And as I said, God has placed some great people around us and we love being part of their lives and having them in ours.

I’m just so baffled by the way we do this. Trying to work out these thoughts!

Now, I think there are regions of our country, in our culture, who live this out differently. I think maybe the South is a bit more relational by default. We experienced this a little when we spent a week of vacation down south this past fall. Random strangers will begin conversations with you at any place or time, and not always just small talk. That is seems to me a bit “healthier” relationally, but I admit, it could just be a personal preference/personality thing. (But then, how is it nearly universally true of one of our American cultures?)

The point is, we are definitely made for relationship. God wired us that way. We’re not meant to be alone. But are we only meant to be together in order to put on, partake in, or attend some function? Aren’t we on some level just supposed to enjoy the company of each other?

I really love it when people just drop by!

(Is it just a structured vs. unstructured lifestyle question I’m really asking?? No. I really think it’s deeper.)

We are missing something. With all our busyness, we are missing each other. We see each other. And in that way we feel a part of a community, but too often keeping our schedules overpowers the opportunities to give to and draw from the people God has surrounded us with.

And, I will also admit to perhaps over-thinking this. I am definitely wont to do that. But something in my gut says there’s more here. There’s more for us. We have a form of relating but deny it’s power. (To twist a Scripture verse…) 🙂

I’ll keep on this and see what Jesus shows me over the next few days, weeks. Maybe you have something to add? Please do below.

Or, just drop by for tea.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 26th

[ThisDay] Both Sides of the Story

I had an intriguing idea today.

“I wonder what I was thinking and writing on this day through the ten plus years I’ve been publishing stuff here? I wonder if it’s the same stuff I’m thinking in January of 2014?”

Seemed like an interesting enough activity to share it here with you. (Hello, you!)

For the remainder of this month, I plan to post here my favorite post from that date in GregsHead history, as well as links to the other posts from that day, should you wish to do more reading than just the one that I select.

It should prove to be an interesting study in the cyclical nature of life—or at least… of my own mind? 🙂

Today’s post is really very interesting, primarily because while it was its own post, its initial/primary purpose was to highlight another previous post! (Wow!) Please read as much as time (or interest) allows.

Without further ado, This Day In (GH) History

Both Sides of the Story

January 20th, 2012

I’ve mentioned here many times that I am learning how crucial it is to see life from multiple angles. Getting not only information from people with opposing viewpoints, but really trying to step into their shoes; see from their perspective. It’s just so crucial to communication, to cooperation, interaction… to society in general.

And so often, we—being human, flawed, self-absorbed—we aren’t even aware that there are other legitimate perspectives!

Our son Ian has been very interested in the World War II time period of history. He’s been learning every bit he can not just about the battles, but the people—the leaders in particular—involved in the story. Winston Churchill and FDR, as well as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. He’s previously read about Woodrow Wilson and WWI… definitely has a serious passion for history and biographies!

So much so that Mom (Jen) has even recently taken up a book about Roosevelt titled, “FDR’s Splendid Deception”, about the fact that President Roosevelt was never seen public in his wheelchair, so as to not appear weak. From all accounts, it’s a fascinating story.

Somehow all of this brought to mind a movie I had seen some time back. I posted a mini-review on that movie, Letters from Iwo Jima, and it’s counterpart, Flags of our Fathers, here on this site in 2007. Please go ahead and click the link and read that story. (That’s actually the main reason for this post: that you’d re-read that older post!)

The fascinating thing was, Flags was released first, and then Iwo Jima. They depicted the exact same story from history, but from opposite sides of the battle.

How much better off we’d be if we could do that with nearly every conflict or disagreement!

For a long time now, Jen and I and I have been reading through a modern translation of the Federalist Papers called The Original Argument. In Federalist #1, Alexander Hamilton addresses this subject (in an atmosphere where there were passionate arguments for and against the proposed Constitution):

Since the motives behind each of the opinions are so strong, it is certain that wise and good people will be found on both sides of the issues. This fact should remind us all to remain modest in our opinion—no matter how right we think we are.

I think that is still my favorite quote from all the papers we’ve examined so far. And again, how different would our political climate be today if that were the way everyone approached every issue, whether controversial or relatively benign?

Forget politics. What if we all treated each other that way? What if we presumed that we were not smarter, better, right-er than everyone else around us.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

That’s where it starts. You can’t really even care about the perpective of your adversary or opponent—or anyone—if you know you are in some way (or all ways) superior.

I’d really encourage you to read that post about Letters from Iwo Jima, and as I recommended now almost five years ago, if you haven’t seen it… do.

The more we can see things from other view points, other perspectives, the more we can live at peace with others around us. (Which is what Paul says we need to do in the verse just before what I quoted above.)

So I encourage you to take a walk in someone else’s shoes today. You might be surprised what you see.


Scripture quote is Philippians 2:3-4, from the New Living Translation

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 20th

  1. I recommend this as a close second for best post on January 20th. Bonus: It’s shorter. 🙂

Darkness

You know, this world is ugly. Really ugly. I don’t know if my heightened awareness of this is due to my reading The Screwtape Letters again, or maybe just the mood I’m in, or the correlated ongoing state of frequently feeling so depleted…

Or maybe this is just how it is.

The hatred spewed from mouths of many, directed at their perceived enemies; the gorging of gluttony, the never-satisfied, ever-increasing pursuit of fulfilling lusts; rampant, uncontrolled greed, at the uncaring expense of a neighbor, no, all neighbors; and just the general devaluing of ourselves and everyone around us that can lead to all kinds of abuses, including sexual abuse of young girls.

I have young girls. Some stories I have read lately simultaneously turn my stomach, and anger me greatly. It’s really awful how disgustingly we can treat each other. My words here are not strong enough.

I deeply wish—often—that my kids did not have to grow up in and be part of this world. But they are. They do.

So it’s true then, what Paul said about us, while quoting some Old Testament scriptures:

“No one is righteous—
    not even one.
No one is truly wise;
    no one is seeking God.
All have turned away;
    all have become useless.
No one does good,
    not a single one.”
“Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
    Their tongues are filled with lies.”
“Snake venom drips from their lips.”
    “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“They rush to commit murder.
    Destruction and misery always follow them.
They don’t know where to find peace.”
    “They have no fear of God at all.”

There’s a whole bunch more from the first chapter of Romans. Listen to this paragraph:

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

But I love what Paul follows that with, saying directly after that:

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.

It’s awful dangerous when we notice the darkness of other people, but forget to acknowledge our own.

The world is ugly, because we are ugly.

I have not been personal witness to some of the ugliest things that one might encounter in this world. (Like murder, sexual abuse, and similar horrible, awful things we do to each other.) I think this helps me to maintain a false distance from the grotesque darkness of us. Of me. Thankfully, and so graciously, Jesus continues to build in me the desires that match his, and my inner light shines brighter with his resident spirit inside me—but I am far from perfect. I know darkness inside me, too.

But thanks be to God, our savior, through Jesus Christ our lord.

Yes. And we do have the victory, we’re “more than conquerors” … that just seems so far off sometimes.

Sounds like I need a good read through the book of Romans. What a great overview of the world as it is, through God’s eyes, and how it will be redeemed.

Boy do we need it.

Remember that Jesus is the light. Stick close to him, through whatever darkness you are in, or may find yourself in. He will walk through it with you.

Philippians 2:13
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

2 Peter 1:2-7
May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

Rhythms

The Screwtape Letters: With Screwtape Proposes a ToastThere is a definite cyclical rhythm to life. At least, there is in mine.

I am a creator. I enjoy creating things. I work with words, images, colors and designs, even code and systems. I also create with food, and a few other physical mediums. And I love to create with imagination. (Bedtimes with my kids are usually quite entertaining!)

And I love to create here. Words flesh out thoughts, which often interact with each other creating further thoughts, which beget further words about thoughts. It’s a rewarding and interesting cycle all to itself.

Then there is the longer part of the cycle. This part occurs at a slower pace, gradually, over longer cycles; months, even years.

As a creative sort, I often find that one season will be full of creating, whilst another will seem devoid of new work—but that is because I am on the other side of that cycle: intake.

I’ve written about it here before. (Numerous times besides that post, I’m sure.)

And today’s post will highlight the same.

I actually finished up yesterday a bunch of books I’ve been reading over the past weeks and months. With a serious increase in daily output here since June of this current calendar year, I’ve been in output mode, churning out words more than taking in.

But the intake has not ceased. (See here.) And in fact, I am detecting that it’s now on the increase.

I’ve been feeling what could almost be described as a need for more reading time, again. My library account has been active. I’ve purchased a book or two. (Gotta love library book sales! Am I right??) And there are plenty of free options (public domain, etc.) via electronic book distributors.

Have a look at this list of books on my “currently reading” list (available here)

currently reading

Yes. I am currently, whenever I sit down to read, cracking open each of those books at whatever point I am into them. Really!

(Yes. You are also correct that… I’m a bit whacko.)

We’ve also been enjoying reading chunks of the Bible together as a family. We’re slowly working through Acts together, and last week we took an evening to read through the book of Philippians in one sitting. (Highly recommend you giving that a try, too. Such an encouraging text!)

It’s good to enjoy each cycle. To intake when that is needed, and churn out when in the output cycle.

Output may slow here a bit in this cycle, but the rhythm will flow back to output soon enough.

Last thing for today: the word rhythms was used so beautifully in Eugene Peterson’s translation of Matthew 11:28-30. Enjoy, and remember to keep in rhythm with your (our) father.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Forward

sun

Forward never stops. The next moment forces itself upon you whether or not you’re ready to leave the current one behind. And then again, without asking, there is another moment stepping in to replace its predecessor.

The sun rises, travels across our sky, and sets every day. The seasons advance relentlessly, reliably.

There is comfort in this unceasing cycle. Comfort, awe, helplessness, and a perspective-inducing, throw-up-your-hands sense of irrelevance.

Time marches relentlessly forward. We hold to the past… and we try to flee it. But it really doesn’t matter. We are compelled to move forward. I would posit that we might do better when we move with the natural rhythm of life, but then the realization that whether or not we comply, forward we go.

Thus, whenever we do hold on to our past, we are really ignoring reality.

If our past mistakes—be they small, numerous, or large, injurious—render us incapable of living now, free, able to experience life, and even joy…

If our past victories—again, large and well-known, or small, frequent, even unknown to others—are constant reminders of where we’d rather be, or even who we’d rather be…

If hurt—even deep, scarring, wounding, killing hurts—in our past fill our hearts, minds, bodies with life-drawing sadness, yearning for what was, and could have been…

We are trapped in an existence that time has simply altered, and continues, relentlessly, to further alter.

The good news here is that with this irrepressible forward motion, there is always new, always hope. I believe this is the “gospel” message. No matter what you’ve done, or who you’ve been (“good” or “bad”) we move forward. You are accepted, loved, even cherished, sought after. Time moves us forward. No grudges, no lists of wrongs… forward.

There are always consequences for actions (and inactions) in the Forward. That is part of its nature, too. Something done, or left undone, in this moment comes to fruition in the next—consequence.

But grace is in the next moment Forward.

“And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” —Jeremiah 31:34

We can not change anything that has already happened. We usually can’t repeat it, either.

Certainly there is value in cherishing the good from our past, and learning from the bad, but forward we must go. There is no other option, really.

Forward never stops.


As a point of curiosity from me, what did you first see in the photo above? Is it a beautiful sunset? Or a sunrise? I am regularly fascinated by how our mindset shapes the world we perceive. Not that a sunset is any less forward than a sunrise, but one is generally considered a “closing” and the other a “beginning” … hope, versus a lack of hope? Again… just curious. And maybe incorrect. 🙂