On Tools

Tools are what we make of them. Anything that can be used for a good, productive purpose can also likely be twisted and used for evil.

I was thinking about this yesterday when listening to a podcast about wealth distribution and economic inequality. The keynote speaker of this podcast was Nick Hanauer, a tech billionaire with unusual views on those topics (for someone in his position of wealth). To paraphrase, he believes that a rising tide raises all ships, and that a more equal wealth distribution (i.e. higher wages) will increase demand, thereby increasing the wealth of every part of a supply chain. He calls this the ultimate realization of any “capitalistic democracy.” The other extreme, the one towards which we’re currently headed as a country, he deems a “neo-feudalist frontier society,” akin to 18th century France (we all know how that ended: the French Revolution). His views are closely aligned with my own, but this writing space is not really a platform for political views, at least not in this case right now.

The point is: he got me thinking a bit when he punctuated his point with the catchphrase “the pitchforks will come for us.” Even though I’m of an age where I’ve never seen a mob-lynching first-hand, that image rings clear. It’s an image that crops up in films and stories about darker times. Some of those darker times are well in the past, and others–such as those during the civil rights movement–are still fresh in the mind of this country. This is a great example of a tool turned into a weapon, and is especially apropos when considering the original purpose of the tool: spreading hay to feed livestock. Said another way, a tool intended to give is turned into a weapon to take.

As someone whose feelings for tools goes beyond simple affection, one of my greatest frustrations is when someone misuses a tool because they don’t understand how it’s supposed to work. Even greater yet is when they do understand how it’s supposed to work, but deliberately misuse the tool. Some of these may be obvious to a layman. A wrench is not a hammer, and a screwdriver is not a pry-bar. If a wrench was a hammer, we wouldn’t need hammers. Some of them may not be so obvious to someone that isn’t in-the-know. A razor-sharp paring chisel is not for scraping paint off an old door. A finely-tuned smoothing plane is not the right tool for rough-sizing a panel. That’s what scrapers and scrub-planes are for.

One of the greatest frustrations in my life–and one that persists today–arises when people misuse two of the greatest tools we’ve ever been given: the Bible, and the Word. They are meant to guide us, and to help us find God and each other. They are meant to instruct and inform us, and to help us build a foundation upon which a glorious, joyful life can be erected in His name.

But beyond that–and I cannot possibly overstate or overemphasize this–they are not weapons. In fact, I think that is part of why it took me so long to find God in my heart. For many years, I felt as though people were using the Word to tell me what I was doing wrong. Too often, preaching is done from a high horse, and congregations are scolded like children.

When I was nineteen years old, I fell in love with a beautiful girl. In all other aspects of her life, she was gentle and sweet. She had the most tender, giving heart I’ve ever known, even to this day. I adored her, and in many ways I love her still. But when it came to the Bible, she was rigid and unyielding, and she used the Word not to build herself and those around her, but as a shackle. The tool became twisted, and instead of making her heart more buoyant, it held her down. Perhaps worse, though, is what it did to me. When she broke my heart, she weaponized verses against our relationship. Forget for a minute how that might have made a nineteen-year old boy feel, and consider the long-term scars it left. I was embittered, and I became callous and angry against the Bible and those who used it to guide their lives. It took me almost a decade and a half to overcome the prejudice that caused.

That’s not an excuse, or a condemnation. It’s just a fact. That’s what happened to me, and that’s what it made me feel. That weaponization of the Word made me forget that it was supposed to be a tool, and in the end, whatever her intentions, what happened did far more harm than it did good. That is the danger of using a tool as a weapon.

On Loneliness

I could, with a quick search, find a dozen bible verses about how the Lord is always with me. About how He will never abandon me. About how I am never truly alone.

But, that doesn’t really help me feel less lonely.

I can go to church on Sunday morning and sit with friends. Hug friends, shake hands with strangers, put on a smile.

I can call up my close friends, and meet up for dinner and a drink. We can talk and laugh and enjoy the company.

I can volunteer to help people, and put myself in a position to make new friends. I can join groups geared towards making new acquaintances. Singles groups, sports, shared-interest groups. I can be around people any time I want.

I can trust that I am on God’s path, and that He will of course give me everything I need, exactly when I need it.

I can do all of those things, and still feel lonely. I am almost certain that the loneliness I feel is nothing but a product of expectations I feel, and an echo of how I am used to feeling. In that way,  I sometimes feel like I am in a prison of my own making, and a simple change in attitude could change how alone I feel. But that is much easier said than done.

I’ve been thinking about Paul’s imprisonment. How must it have felt for him to have come all the way around? For much of his life, he was a sinner and blasphemer. Then, once he came to salvation and began to spread that word, forming churches and spreading gospel, he was persecuted by people no different than he had once been himself. Worse, as he tells us in his second letter to Timothy, he felt all but abandoned by his friends in the church. He must have felt tremendous loneliness.

He writes in his second letter to Timothy: “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth” (2 Timothy 4:16-17).

Paul’s circumstances, of course, were much more dire than my own. I am in no real, physical danger. No one is trying to actively strip away my freedoms, or keep me from expressing myself. But still, I can’t help but feel an affinity for Paul’s situation. During my worst times, I feel isolated, rejected, and abandoned. Emotionally, whether those feelings are justified becomes irrelevant. The reality is that even though I feel as though God is always with me, I feel as though part of my life is empty. And being certain that He will deliver me from this loneliness gives me heart, as it says in the Gospel of John: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). But I am human, and that shield is not impenetrable.

I think I understand on some level that when I am ready, part of his plan for me is to deliver me to my other half. The tough part is understanding that even though I want that to be now, part of the reason that I don’t have it is because it’s not what I need. I make this a part of every single prayer I say: Lord, please give me this day my daily bread, and help me to understand the difference between what I need, and what I want.


We live in a time where the word “mindfulness” is popping up more and more frequently. It’s bandied about and passed around carelessly, and I think people use it without understanding what it really means. I think mindfulness has implications for understanding our relationship with God, so I want to get into it a little. I know this could make any potential reader uncomfortable, but I’m going to do a little dive into mindfulness in the context of math–specifically, calculus. I’ll try to explain it in layman’s terms, and keep it as simple as possible.

Calculus is a math discovered and developed in order to calculate and understand the cumulative value of functions that were previously difficult to calculate. That’s a lot of baloney to say this: before calculus, it was difficult to calculate the area under a curve. Straight lines are easy! We can just use geometry and trigonometry–after all, any basic function is just rectangles and triangles. Any time a power of two or greater is added, however, and a non-geometric curve is introduced, the math becomes decidedly harder.

The main principle of calculus is this: hard math is hard, and let’s make hard math easier by breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces until it’s not hard anymore. Think of a positive-value-only graph–everything to the right of the Y-axis, and everything above the X-axis. Now imagine a simple curve on that graph, like below. (As a side-note, please excuse my very crude illustrations–I don’t have access to a decent graphics editor right this minute.)


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Using simple geometry, it would be very difficult to calculate the area under the curve. But if we break it down into vertical chunks, we can get an approximation.untitled

This is not a good approximation–in fact, it’s quite bad. But if we take smaller vertical slices, it starts to look a little better.

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Let’s take it one step further for the purpose of this illustration:

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Now we’re getting somewhere. Our rough estimate becomes more and more meaningful, the thinner the slice we take. Said another way, as the vertical slice we’re using to measure the curve becomes more defined, the directionality of the curve itself becomes less and less meaningful. That is the entire point of calculus! All the fancy math and formulas obscure the point to a degree that most people have no idea how calculus works, but when you boil it down to it’s simplest concept, anyone can get it: Calculate the area under a curve using slices so thin that their widths approach zero, and you will have a great approximation of the meaning of the curve.

Here’s where I’m going with this: that is also the exact purpose of mindfulness. Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future make the slice of what we are observing too wide, and we are unable to find the meaning of the curve of our own path. The directionality of that curve matters too much, and it can affect how we feel and think. By making that slice of our life thinner and thinner, we start to appreciate the moment, and we can more accurately understand what that moment means to us.

I think a lot of people consider mindfulness to be an Eastern philosophy, and therefore mutually exclusive from the idea of Christianity. I disagree. God wants us to be happy, and bask in the sunshine (literal and metaphorical) in every possible moment. Solomon the wise writes in Ecclesiastes: “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).

On Routine

Military-grade routine and discipline are two of my great comforts. Lately, I’ve been meaning to evaluate why those things soothe me, because I wonder if they’re really helping me be the best version of myself.

Every morning, weekday or weekend, I wake up at the same time. I don’t even need an alarm; I almost always awaken ten minutes before it rings. I make the bed even before the sleeping indentation I left there has smoothed out. I brush my teeth, apply deodorant, and fix my hair, and always in that order. I showered the night before, and I don’t need to waste water to wake up. I put on the clothes I laid out before bed: pants, socks, shoes, undershirt, overshirt, and always in that order. Then I feed the two cats, freshen their water, and give them their morning treat. I grab my lunch, which I pre-made the previous day, throw my laptop messenger bag over my shoulder, and I’m out the door. If everything goes smoothly, and I move swiftly, I can comfortably get from out-of-bed to out-the-door in ten minutes flat.

Years ago, I heard a phrase that has stuck with me. I think part of me aspires to it, even though on the surface it has a pejorative ring: “Ruthlessly efficient.” I don’t consciously make choices ruthlessly, or deliberately eschew joy for that efficiency. However, I still know that I’ve turned down opportunities for joy, or turned away from a chance to make someone happy, because something about the opportunity didn’t fit into my routine. I don’t really know why such a concept would appeal to me, but in retrospect, it’s easy to see why something like that would get in the way of interpersonal relationships. I know it has done so.

So the question remains: why? Why did I seek comfort in routine, in efficiency, and in muscle-memory? I think it’s because I had no peace in my heart. My mind was loud, and my heart was taxed and troubled. Routine helped quiet the churning thoughts, and I thought it would help ease my roiling soul. I think I believed that I simply had too much on my mind, and too many things to get done, and the only way to quiet myself was to tackle the mundane and monotonous tasks of everyday living with that ruthless efficiency.

Now, however, I wonder if all I really needed was faith in my life. My discipline and routine could only calm my inner turmoil so much. When I was thinking about this yesterday, I was reminded of Jesus calming the sea in the book of Matthew. “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” (Matthew 8:23-26).

Part of the purpose of this story is to illustrate that all things are possible through God. In the story, Christ calms a literal sea. I think that what I’ve missed about it in the past, though, is how that metaphorically applies to my own soul. Faith has had a calming effect on me; I don’t feel as anxious or uneasy as I used to, and I have God to thank for that. I am still somewhat dedicated to my routines, of course–there’s a reason that they’re called habits. But now, I think that I adhere to them because they are simply an efficient way to live my life. That discipline is less of a crutch, and I think I’ve lost the “ruthless” part.

Right the First Time

Recently, I bought a waffle iron. I delight in a well-made Belgian waffle, thick and fluffy and full of carbohydrates. I love waffles even without the myriad accoutrement–butter, syrup, berries, powdered sugar. Whipped cream? Fried chicken? Ice Cream? Nutella? Good heavens. There’s a quote–paraphrased and misattributed–from Ben Franklin where he allegedly said something along the lines of, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” I think waffles are on that same list.

On day one, a reality set in that I’d like to share here. For those who have tried it, you may know this truth. For those who have not, heed this warning: owning a waffle-iron does not make one a waffle chef. Waffles are not pancakes; any literate doofus with ten minutes can whip up a little fried Bisquick and call it breakfast. I mistakenly thought that a waffle would be the same principle, and that just changing the proportion of the ingredients would yield brilliant results. I could not possibly have been more wrong.

The first batch was thick as a brick. It was literally a biscuit made in a waffle iron.

The second batch tasted . . . like I had smashed four or five pancakes together. Still too dense.

The third one I tried something different: I used egg whites only, and cut down on the dry ingredients. The result tasted more like a waffle, but looked like Swiss cheese. It was a skeletal latticework of waffle batter. Interesting! But not really a waffle.

The thing is, before I had started trying to make these waffles, I already knew how to get good results. The genesis of my waffle project was a Youtube video by Andrew Rea where he mixed up a batch of Homer Simpson’s “Moon Waffles.” Having already watched the video, I knew ahead of time how he made his waffles light and fluffy and crisp.

It just seemed like hard work, and I didn’t want to do it.

If you watched the video, great. If not, I’ll summarize the key to fluffy, crisp waffles: quality ingredients, and air. The most difficult, time-consuming part of the ordeal is the process of whipping the egg-whites to stiff peaks. Doing so is boring, bland work. It takes a little practice to get right, and you can go too far if you don’t add the right amount of sugar to the whites to stabilize them. But it is the only way to get a proper waffle.

I wrote yesterday about how I had received most of my wisdom from my mother and paternal grandfather. It’s not that my father didn’t pass along any wisdom, it’s just that his teachings tend to be more background in my personality. He did teach me one thing that, while important, I sometimes eschew because of impatience: There is no shortcut–do it right the first time, or you will just have to do it again.

Do it right the first time. I know it sounds a little bent–it’s just breakfast, after all–but this waffle experience is a nice allegory for how I ought to approach life. My old friend Paul the Apostle hits on this in a couple of his letters. In Colossians, he says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). Sometimes what we’re doing is working to support a family, or building a home to live in, or giving of ourselves to the community. Sometimes what we’re doing is making breakfast. Whatever it is, though, Paul says that we should commit to putting all of ourselves into it. In his first letter to Corinth, he says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

God–and God’s glory–can be present in the kitchen, as long as He is present in our hearts. And as long as God is in our hearts, shouldn’t we give every effort to completing every task the right way the first time, and with joy in our hearts?

Spoiler alert: my first batch with stiffly-whipped egg whites was pretty darned good.

Honor Thy Mother

“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 5:16). This same verse (more or less) appears in both Deuteronomy and Exodus. It’s one of the ten commandments passed down to Moses, and it’s one of the most important lessons we can learn as children of God. Not only to honor our human parents, but also our divine parentage.

When I count the blessings in my life, one of the first things I always consider is the people who have helped shape me. By that measure, yesterday was an apt day to consider my good fortune, and to pontificate on how lucky I am to have a loving, supportive mother.

I love and respect my father, but it is also true that he and I don’t always see eye-to-eye. We have very different political leans, and his worldview is consummate with someone that was born in the 1950s and raised in the Midwest. We get along fine, as long as we leave some topics untouched. It doesn’t even matter who is right or wrong within those realms, only that we are very different.

My mother on the other hand, while born and raised in that same time and place, sees the world very differently. I would say that she sees the world like me, but of course that is ridiculous. I see the world like her. I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of our respective worldviews, but will only say that it is rare indeed when we disagree on a core value.

I will also say that I prefer this verse in Proverbs to the aforementioned verse in Exodus. “My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck” (Proverbs 6:20-21).

Two people of this planet had the greatest effect on my shaping as a person. One, who I’ve written about before, was my Papa. He taught me patience, kindness, gentleness, resourcefulness, and imagination.

My mother taught me nearly everything else, and almost exclusively by example. That includes dedication, love, thoughtfulness, endurance, cleverness, and wit. She encouraged me to be artistic, to be lively, and to be funny. She showed me how to never take things too seriously, unless they were serious things. She had tremendous influence on my decision-making process and skills.

Her lessons truly are bound to my heart, and I carry them with me always. In fact, they are inseparable from myself, because they comprise me. Those lessons are inextricable from my person.

That is the lesson I want to carry in my mind this week, as it pertains to my Almighty Father. What I need to do in order to truly be His child is not just layer the lessons of God on top of what I already know. Instead, I need to find a path to letting those lessons change me in such a way that He comprises me, just as the lessons of my mother make up who I am.

The Middle of the Road

We all have vocal ticks. Favorite words that pop up again and again and again, because they feel good in our mouths. They make us feel smart when they’re big, elegant sounding words.  They make us feel safe when they’re fill-words, like “um,” or “like,” that give us time to think. They can even make us feel connected and intimate with someone when we mimic their words.

Someone once pointed out to me that I use the word “mediocre” quite often. It’s one of my favorites. I love the way it tastes, like a perfectly-cooked hamburger. It even sounds a little meaty! 

But why would it come up so often? Good question.

I think it’s because that’s how I used to see the world. Worse yet, I think that’s how I used to see my own life.

I’ve written before about expectations, but I want to elaborate a little. I think the biggest danger of expectations is that they can handicap our ability to feel joy, pleasure, and comfort in things. They impede our ability to feel surprised or impressed by the quality of something, especially when our expectations are elevated to unrealistic levels. This can be true of a movie we were anticipating, or a meal, or a week at work, or even of a person we meet. When we expect a perfect experience, we are bound to experience naught but disappointment.

When I think of some of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had, I don’t remember having had elevated expectations leading into them. When I think about times when I’ve had high expectations, I can remember being disappointed. But when I really think about it, the only variable that was different between the sets of experiences was myself. The wonderful experiences probably weren’t really any appreciably different than the disappointing ones. I just didn’t have an attitude that was predisposed to being appreciative and joyful.

I have been practically living in the Epistles of Paul these past couple of weeks, and I want to share three verses and explain how I think they relate to mediocrity and expectations:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This verse is about being reborn as something new, and something free from our previous selves. Just because I lived under the shroud of heavy expectations doesn’t mean that I have to continue to be burdened by those things. I can be reborn as something great, and I can choose to see the world differently–as something that is designed to be appreciated.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). To me, this verse means that as a Christian, I am called to greatness, and not to mediocrity. Through God all things are possible–including greatness–and living with that in mind can give purpose, meaning, and joy to things I once would have seen as mediocre.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). This verse is about freedom from sin, but I also think it pertains to my own freedom from the burden of expectations. My own previous self was tethered to disappointment and sadness; I was shackled, and true joy was just out of reach. The freedom that Christ’s love has given me has set me free in the sense that through Him I know peace, hope and joy are within my reach, and that I can find those things with an attitude of thanksgiving and appreciation.

I don’t know what I don’t know

I had an argument with a colleague once, years ago. This colleague was upset with the performance of an employee who was under my supervision. Part of my underling’s duties was to restock the shelves with stock from a secondary location, and she was struggling to do so. My upset colleague had been taking care of that section of the business for several years at that point, and her knowledge of the inventory and backstock was firmly in the purview of her area of expertise.  My subordinate, on the other hand, was fairly new to the job; her areas of expertise were in other arenas.

The main thrust of my contention, therefore, was that my subordinate was being asked to do something very, very difficult, if not impossible. She was being asked to look at empty shelves, and to simply know what was missing. As humans, I think this is one of the most difficult skills we can possibly acquire: to see what isn’t there. Our brains are hardwired to see the patterns in front of our faces, but negative space is much harder to evaluate.

How does this pertain to my spiritual journey? I think the best I can do at this point is simply admit what I do not know.

I keep coming back to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. (Someday soon, I will take the time to write a very long essay about Paul’s story, and what it means to me.) In chapter 3 of that book, Paul writes, “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).

This is how I see myself at this point. I have come quite far, I think, towards understanding and believing the things I had spent so much time and energy denying and forsaking. I see the world differently, and I prefer this new view. But at the end of every day, I still feel like an infant along this journey. There is so much I don’t know, and even more frustratingly, I don’t know what I don’t know. I can’t see the negative space yet, because I am no expert. What’s more, each day brings with it a new question (or several questions). Will I ever be an expert?

For those on a journey towards understanding an infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent other–and one whose love and forgiveness are incalculable by human standards–is there such a thing as an expert? There are those whose knowledge and experience far outstrips my own, and whose journeys are farther along the path than my own. But I do not think I could possibly trust anyone who believes that they know everything there is to know about God. How could I trust anyone who claims to have it all figured out, when like me, they cannot know what they don’t know.

Imagine a man who lives on a plain, and spends time every day shoveling dirt on a mound. For an hour a day he spends devotional time building his mound. Eventually it will look more like a hill. If he lives long enough, It could even start to look like a small mountain. If his horizon is clear, he might think that his mountain is the tallest in the region, and if his worldview is narrow enough, he might even think that he has made the largest mountain on Earth. But he cannot see the Rockies, or the Tetons, or Everest. He doesn’t know how terribly small his mountain would look next to those scales. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. If he is wise, he might guess that his effort in building his mountain is what matters, but that there are other, greater mountains. If he is unwise, he might think that standing atop his small hill he is closer to God than anyone else.

I look forward to growing every day, but I think my viewpoint right now is that any mountain I might be able to build will look infinitely small in the eyes of my Lord. My understanding of Him is limited by my mind and spirit. There is so much I do not know.

Cheerful giving

This past Sunday during a small group session, we were speaking about the potential that each of us has, in God’s grace and in our own lives. I said that one of my greatest struggles in realizing my potential is giving 100% of myself to anything.

I don’t think this is an uncommon problem. For myriad reasons, we as humans are tentative to give of ourselves unconditionally. Am I fearful of failure, and so I give only that which I think I can afford to lose? Perhaps. Am I anxious that I will find myself rejected by people if I show them my whole self, unguarded? Definitely. Do I feel as though I should only pay back in kind what people feel comfortable giving to me? Maybe. Ultimately, my reasons and motivations are probably irrelevant. I believe that every time I’ve ever truly failed in my life has been due to my reluctance to give of myself fully. Every lost friendship, every failed relationship, every task I’ve ever left incomplete, every door of opportunity by which I’ve passed. I own and carry these failures because I couldn’t dedicate myself fully to them. I’ve been vigilantly en garde, thinking that if I protected myself by holding back, my failures would be diminished, and my heart would be less vulnerable.

I could not have been more totally wrong if I’d tried. I know that now. It doesn’t help me make peace with those past mistakes. What’s done is done, and all I can do is look forward to being better.

I was reading Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians early this morning, and I came across a verse that spoke to me directly. In chapter nine, Paul is speaking directly to the idea of giving to the church, and to the importance of charity. But, I think, his advice applies to all aspects of my life. He writes:

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

We all know the aphorism: we reap what we sow. If I plant and properly tend corn, corn will grow.  If I plant weeds, those will grow too. What I had failed to understand, though, is that the effort and extent with which I sow those seeds will dictate the abundance of my harvest.

In terms of every interpersonal relationship I have–friendships, romantic entanglements, family, mentorships–giving of myself fully will mean more rewarding relationships. If what I seek is someone willing to give all of themselves to me, then I must first be willing to give all of myself. This means being honest, courageous, loving, accepting, and vulnerable. It means letting people see all of me, fatal flaws included. It means bringing down the shields, and allowing myself to be vulnerable.

Most importantly, though, it means that in order to fully find myself with God, I must give 100% of myself to Him. There can be no half-measures. I cannot have one single toe out of the water. I cannot go most of the way, and leave a guarded part of myself behind. I’ve written before that I desire borderless trust, and the only way that I will ever find it is if I seek it wholly. I must trust that if I cheerfully (and without reluctance) give myself to God, that He will give me everything I need in return.

Alive in me

For three days in a row now, I’ve woken up with the song “Alive In You,” by Jesus Culture and Kim Walker-Smith stuck in my head. The oddest part of this is that I haven’t listened to that song in weeks. It just “popped in there,” Stay-Puft Marshmallow-Man style. So, message received: I’m thinking about it, and talking about it.

You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You . . .
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me

It’s a beautiful song, and Kim Walker-Smith has a spectacular voice. Today, I want to hone in on two lines in particular: “Breath of life, I breathe you in,” and “It’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.”

One of the most difficult concepts of Christianity (at least to me) is that Christ remains alive within all of us. Reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis helped, and I’d like to revisit some thoughts.

Lewis reiterates that there are three things that help bring the Christ-life into our hearts: belief, baptism, and Communion. Two of those I have, and the third–baptism–I am still seeking.  He goes on to clarify what having that Christ-life means: “When they speak of being ‘in Christ’ or of Christ being ‘in them,’ this is not simply a way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him. They mean that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts.”

What the above song is reiterating to me is that I have a relationship with Christ wherein I get to live through Him, and He blesses me by living through me. He will guide my actions when I put Him at the forefront of my mind and heart, which will thereby allow me to be worthy of carrying out His will. One of the most powerful lines in the entirety of Lewis’ masterwork comes in that same chapter, when he says “[A Christian] does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”

Perhaps I needed a reminder of that, and that’s why the song kept rattling around in my mind. I need to renew my commitment to putting Him first and foremost in my thoughts, and allow the rest to come to me.