- There's a garden in Kansas City that is a special place for my wife and me, a haven that became a sort of sacred ground for us. This story is a quick, bright sketch of our time there and the reason it brought us so much joy.
- Christianity, in a nutshell: God made me, but I screwed up the relationship that we had. God is so passionate about pursuing me, that he gave up his only son to restore our relationship. Because of his love for me, I am passionate about pursuing him, and I want others to discover his love, as well. If I am a Christian, then my strongest desire should be to grow closer to Christ. That desire should trump my desire for job security, healthiness, and family. My pursuit of God should come before my career, dreams, and my ministry. Re-read that. Really think about it for a minute. Do you agree or disagree? ... If, as a Christian, my strongest desire is to pursue Christ, then wouldn't I spend more time in communication with him than I do with my wife? Wouldn't I spend more time with him than I do working? Now I just sound like a hippie. Or some kind of radical. We can't all quit our jobs and devote our entire lives to meditating on the Bible – someone's gotta pay the bills! Besides, that's what we have pastors for, right? It's their job to study and share God's truth with us. Right? Right? ... Call me crazy, call me radical, or call me a hippie, but I think that if I am truly passionate about pursuing God, I should be focused on that task in every aspect of my life. That's not to say that I have to cease every "non-spiritual" activity (although it does seem to work well for the Benedictine monks), but I should engage in every area of my life with a focus on my pursuit of God. And when the times come that I have to choose between work and faith, my faith should always win. It's really easy to type this. It's even easy to say it out loud. It takes no real commitment to read it and nod my head in agreement. But it's a lot more difficult when Sunday morning comes around. I'm still sleepy, but the church has a class on Christian discipleship. Do I choose to sleep in (I can justify this, saying that I'm so sleepy that I probably wouldn't get much out of it anyways), or do I choose to do whatever it takes to relentlessly pursue God? Sunday afternoon rolls in. I've got my comfy sweatpants on, and I'm munching on popcorn and watching the game. It was a long week, so I'm glad for a little bit of relaxation time. A group of Christians are gathering across town to watch a Christian video and discuss it, but I figure that I already went to church once today, so I'm good. What do I choose to do? If I'm paying attention, the decisions that I make in these moments will show me where my heart truly is. And what if I discover that I'm not all that passionate about following Christ? If the passion of my life…
- I've got crap in my life. I'm a screw-up. I hold grudges. I bend the truth. I'm opinionated and rub it in people's faces. I break things and try to hide them so no one finds out. I take so much pride in my work that I unfairly criticize the honest work of others. I have a temper, and when I get angry, I become irrational, almost violent at times. I'm discontent with myself. I hunger for more, for better. God expects me to be a much different kind of person. Jesus Christ, the model of Christianity, demonstrated perfect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Maybe my expectations for myself are too high, but I strive for the perfection that Christ modeled. And I am far from it. One thing that I have learned along the way, though, is this: Change doesn't happen on accident. If I want to better represent Christ, I have to pursue it intentionally. To overcome my pride, I have to respect the work of others. So I try to step back from myself and honestly evaluate their work. I look at their level of experience, at the amount of time that they had to invest in the work, and at the degree of training that they've had. And usually I find that, for their situation, they did a pretty remarkable job. Probably better than I would have done in the same situation. To overcome my anger, I have to understand the perspective of others. So I try to step back from myself and see their history. I look at how they were raised, what their life experiences have taught them, and what issues they have in their lives currently. I also have to look at myself. Did my words, tone, actions, or body language convey a message that I didn't intend? Usually, the answer is yes. I know God forgives my misdeeds, but I desire to be as close to him as possible. And I know that I'm not going to wake up one morning and suddenly have it all together, so I take each step at a time. One deliberate step at a time.