I’m excited to announce that my first book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most, has been released by Zondervan Publishing!
It’s had a strong launch so far: it debuted at #4 on Amazon’s New Devotional Releases! And in just two months, it’s already more than tripled the total average sales of any currently-published book.
If you liked reading the articles on this website, I truly believe you’ll love the book. I’d be honored if you would consider picking it up and letting me know what you think.
It’s being sold in a number of book stores and everywhere online, but here’s a link to the Amazon page.
Thanks so much again for your support!
(I’m going to interrupt the typical articles I write on relationship to speak about something more practical, but at the same time, still having everything to do with relationship.)
Today my wife, Zolla, and I launched a new website called, PRAYERS FOR A CHILD. It details our journey towards finding the child we’ve always been praying for through the gift of adoption.
Here’s our story and how you might use the website to help us complete our journey: Read the rest of this entry »
I’m usually reminded of this early on Sunday mornings. I bought one of those clock alarms with a CD player so you can wake up to the music of your choice rather than some annoying radio station or a loud buzzer.
Previously, I wrote about our pursuit of the American Dream, its pros and cons, and how most view it as improving yourself economically, owning your own home, building a retirement nest-egg, etc. But, perhaps the most compelling symbol for those who’ve achieved the American Dream is embodied in just two letters: RV. Read the rest of this entry »
The precious possession of a man is diligence. — Proverbs 12:27
Do you like what you do? According to recent surveys, most Americans don’t. Most of us are unhappy and wishing we were somewhere else. Some of us are lazy. Others are unchallenged. Some can’t get along with our co-workers. Others have a mean boss or feel under-appreciated for all they do.
In truth, understanding our relationship to work is a fundamental life-question, and if we’re not happy with what we do, this might be a red-flag for some self-examination. Why? Because work, or what we do, encapsulates much more than what we do for a paycheck and therefore speaks more about who we are as human beings than just who we are as employees.
Sure, most of us go to work to earn a living. But, It’s also work to get out of bed, it’s work to exercise, to eat right and keep ourselves fit. It’s work to keep a house clean, to care for infants and teenagers, to love our husband or wife, it’s work to come up with fresh ideas, to keep up with our studies, to go to church, to pray, to volunteer in our community, and so on.
Understanding our relationship to work runs as deep as understanding our relationship to God, to our spouse, our children, or others who matter to us. Because, just like marriage, childbirth, etc., work is seated deep within our psyche and our history. The concept of work is sewn within the fabric of life’s purpose and meaning.
In the Bible, the first thing we read about God doing is work. When he speaks, he does so with a view towards productivity. Through his creative energy, he produces for us light, the earth, the sea, plants, animals, humans–all with a similar reproductive or utilitarian end. They’re meant to work for something. The first commission he gives to man is to work, to cultivate and maintain Eden, his home. Everything has its purpose, and our purpose is typically exercised through work.
The Bible has a lot to say about our relationship to work:
Are you one of those who feels unappreciated at your job (outside or inside the home), like no one understands your value or properly rewards you for what you do? There are lots of passages where God defends equal work for equal pay. And, God does care about justice in the workplace. But, he also cares about your attitude and your sense of duty. God says that it’s better to be a nobody with a job than to be unemployed with no one around to challenge your superiority (1). And, he says that, ultimately, he’s the one you should be working for; he’s the one you should seek your rewards and recognition from (2).
Work produces. Idleness, believe it or not, destroys (3). Idleness is rampant in our culture of electronic self-worship and passivity. When we have nothing to do for an extended period, our love turns inward and our judgment turns outward (4). When we aren’t producing anything, we’re more apt to tear down and, worse-case scenario, to even lose the life and gifts God meant for us to put to good use in the first place (5).
You’ve heard all the stories of people who win the lottery only to end up in bankruptcy, broken relationships, and even death? God says that “the precious possession of a man is his diligence” (6). There needs to be an appreciation between what we have and how much work was done to produce it. Otherwise, we disintegrate into selfishness, and what we do have has no meaning; we incessantly crave and desire and are left with nothing (7).
Now some of you Bible scholars are shouting at your screen, trying to remind me that God gives us our most precious possession, our eternal relationship with Him, through his grace and not our own work. This is indeed true. But, God’s grace, while given freely, is the result of the finished work of his son, and we’ll have no true job satisfaction in life without–in appreciation of the cost that was paid for this free gift–following the same work-ethic Jesus did while on earth.
Essentially, when we accept the rewards of Christ’s work, we do so by signing a new job application. God becomes our new boss. He has already paid us the highest of salaries, and promises to energize us to do so many things we could never do on our own (8). But, ultimately, he expects us, through his power and guidance, to be productive–to help him reproduce in others what he has produced in us.
If you’re feeling disgruntled with your job, with the effort you produce, with your place in life, ask yourself this question: What are you working for? Is it to produce a living, a regular paycheck, food on the table, shoes for the kids? This is right to do. But, you shouldn’t work just to produce a living, but to produce a life–not just for yourself or your own sense of purpose, but for the lives of those around you. That’s really what you were created for.
God says that by working hard, we should remember those in need, whether, physical, or spiritual (9). He says that a person should “labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (10).
Our relationship to work, then, has everything to do with how we work on our relationships. What if we applied the following as a work ethic, both on the job, and in life itself?
“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody” (11).
Tell me that the work described above wouldn’t produce a reward that is miles beyond your measly expectations of a fair paycheck and proper recognition in your career or vocation. It would both exhaust you and help you sleep more soundly at night. It would produce in you and others a life of purpose and meaning.
Whether you’ve noticed it or not, God’s sign has been placed in the window of your life all this time:
What are you ready to do for him?
(1). Proverbs 12:9
(2). Ephesians 6:5-8; Hebrews 6:10-12
(3). Proverbs 18:9
(4). I Timothy 5:13-18; Proverbs 26:16
(5). Luke 19:20-26
(6). Proverbs 12:27
(7). Proverbs 13:4; 21:25-26
(8). Philippians 2:12-13
(9). Acts 20:35
(10). Ephesians 4:28
(11). Romans 12:9-18
“There exists in most men a poet who died young, while the man survived.”
It is one of the gifts of life to me that, no matter how old we are, we’re never far from the glory and imagery of childhood.
We, of course, spend perhaps a quarter of our life as children. Then, sometime soon after becoming adults (and sometimes before) many of us have children of our own and raise them into our middle years (and sometimes beyond). Our children then have children, and if we’re granted years beyond the average span, our greatness is measured by how many of their children surround us.
For people like me and my wife, we have the gift of nieces and nephews, the children of friends and extended family. So, unless we’re monks or highly reclusive, children and childhood are always around us.
Many of the reasons for this gift are obvious. Some are beyond our comprehension. Children infuse our decaying psyches with the pulse of renewal, of innocence and purity. Children give us hope. They shock us out of the mundane drone of anxious reality into living in the rapturous present–the unrestrained belly laugh; the melodious giggle; the faraway gaze; the bursting enthusiasm; the playful absorption. They remind us of guileless friendship and interdimensional joy. Their life’s purpose is seated in love and connection. Imagination isn’t a word they use. It’s the lens through which they see everything.
Scripture speaks often of the lessons of childhood. It speaks of what it means to be a child and what it means to grow up. But, I think, when we become adults, we often misinterpret these lessons. We exempt ourselves from the lessons of childhood because, as adults, we think we don’t need them any more. But, as spiritual children, no matter our age, we’re really never beyond needing them.
Certainly, most reading this have reached adulthood—we have jobs, we pay our taxes, we take out the trash. In the context of the physical world, we have reached maturity. We have left our father and mother and have a sense of sovereignty and autonomy over the physical universe.
But, what about the spiritual world? Are we likewise spiritual “grown-ups,” not needing a transcendent Father to protect us and help us make sense of things? Spiritually, no matter the assessment of our own maturity, shouldn’t we always remain the little child who can look with an unknowing awe and unrestrained dependence toward their daddy?
Perhaps we have grown spiritually in some areas, but unknowingly, are still children in others. Or, having grown some, perhaps we learned an important lesson as spiritual children, but in our seasoned maturity, we have forgotten what it was. God often calls us backward in order to move us forward.
As adults of this world, we live lives of responsibility and restraint. But, spiritually, we could stand to remember the uninhibited passion of childhood. And not just the passion to enjoy what’s good in life, but a passionate transparency to cry out to anyone who would listen when things are not so good.
Scripture does say that we shouldn’t remain children. That we should grow spiritually. But again, most of us never really have the chance to grow up because we won’t first regress into spiritual infancy. We think our goal in life should be to seek greatness. Control. Accomplishment. But, Christ said we should instead humble ourselves and seek him with all the dependence and frailty of a little child.
Growing up can be hard and there are some memories of youth we wouldn’t want to repeat. But we serve a God who makes all things new, and the Kingdom of Heaven is found, not in the security of adulthood, but in the precarious wonder of starting over with a remembered innocence.
So, whatever our age, any hope we might have for our future lies not just in being born again, but in growing up again. And, as we grow up again in him, we are called the “children of promise.”
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God. And we are!…And, it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is…everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” — 1 John 3:1-3
(Warning: What you are about to read will likely either A) gross you out beyond measure, or B) give you a nice dose of transcendent inspiration. Perhaps it will do both. If after reading this, you do find it’s both, you might want to ask yourself whether that’s actually a coincidence.)
Read the rest of this entry »
No need to tell you where I was, but it was wonderful.
It was high summer and I was on vacation, visiting a location I had been many times before. The sun was setting, I was alone, standing on a quiet country road at the head of an expansive bean field. The crop was low and plush, and you could see all the way to the end. The fading sunlight had been replaced by Read the rest of this entry »
Today, I’m in mourning. There’s a weight on me that feels like the dense pressure in your chest they say is common with a heart attack. I’ve cried more in the last few days than I have in years. My emotions go from disorientation to shock, from guilt to a sense of peace. I’m in mourning because sometime last night, I lost one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Read the rest of this entry »
If you’re like me, you get in trouble for opening your mouth a lot. It’s part of being human. But, there are lessons we can learn on how to filter our speech, whether it’s with our family, our friends, co-workers, or with the stranger on the street. The following is one of the most effective lessons on this I’ve ever heard. Read the rest of this entry »
Have you ever heard of Viktor Frankl? He was an author and psychotherapist who died about 9 years ago at the age of 92. Among his other accomplishments, he wrote a great book called Man’s Search For Meaning. This book begins by showing the way Dr. Frankl would start out his therapy Read the rest of this entry »
I love movies. For good or ill, they have had a major impact on my life. I’m a fan of most genres—comedy, romance, drama, action.
As a fairly analytical human, I was thinking a while back on what makes a great movie…great. Certainly there are many ingredients—good writing, talented Read the rest of this entry »
(Originally written June 2007)
A beautiful woman died the other day. And, for my own life, I have no reason at all to complain.
Jacqui was to turn 28 in a month or so. She was a gorgeous, petite girl with striking eyes and auburn hair. She was filled with love and with an amazing energy for life. She was married just under 2 years to a wonderful man. But, she died. Of cancer. Read the rest of this entry »
I hate to admit this, but there’s a side of me that sometimes enjoys the idea of oncoming disaster.
Maybe I’m too detached and numbed by the virtual world of movies and television, where a 10.5 earthquake sends California into the ocean or an ice Read the rest of this entry »
(This is a feature I wrote for Good News Magazine back in 2000)
How Alzheimer’s other victims have loved, persevered and come to terms with one of life’s most dehumanizing diseases.
Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s another life lesson I had as a kid that has left a significant mark on who I am today. In my early teens and at various other periods growing up, I was the victim of a lot of “persecution” by my peers…teasing. The persecution came in a lot of forms, some physical with bullies, but I guess most of it was verbal–name-calling, etc. Read the rest of this entry »
There are certain works of art that have a lifetime impact on you. At least for me. They literally shape who you are. Reading Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Madeline L’Engle as a kid could qualify. Reading Plato in high school was significant for me (if that qualifies as art). One of the most epic encounters with a work of art Read the rest of this entry »
(Originally written just prior to the 4th of July)
Jean Valjean was “a very dangerous man.”
That was the description written about him on the yellow passport he carried. After nineteen years of horrible imprisonment for the small crime of stealing a loaf of bread, he was set free. But, although now outside the prison walls, he knew he was still a prisoner, and the paper he carried proved that to all he encountered. Read the rest of this entry »