Our Most Human Power Is Our Biggest Obstacle

Humans have tremendous power. Take the simple act of making a choice. Essential to the human experience is to act on our own, independent of external pressures.

Today, as an adult human, I chose to go to sleep at a certain time. No one made me have a bed time; it was my choice. Take away our freedom to choose and you take away our ability to be human.

It is not a stretch to say that this power to choose enables us to be rulers of our own kingdoms. This is exciting and thrilling but also frightening because we see in others, and maybe in ourselves, how poor we humans are at ruling over our own kingdoms.

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The crux of the Christian story is humans coming to recognize their inability to properly rule themselves and instead place Christ on the throne of their lives and uniting their kingdom with his. Through repentance and declaration we invite Christ onto our kingdom throne but it may take much grace, fear, and trembling for us to not continuously try to kick him off the throne and put us back in his place. That is the Growing Up process.

Your choices will reflect who is on the throne of your life. Don’t worry, as a follower of Christ we not only have the power to choose, which sometimes steers us wrong, but we also have the inner working of Christ in us to accomplish far more than we hoped or imagined.

And once you live with enough experiences that demonstrate the kind of rich, thriving, love filled, precious, and dynamic life possible through making Christ king, one only desires that life and nothing else.

So be human, make choices, just know who is on the throne of your life.

Smiling At Walmart

Inspired by some of Rob Walker’s ideas about The Art of Noticing, I have started a new practice that has helped me function in a very difficult place – Walmart.

As an introvert, I am often drained by crowds and as a burgeoning grumpy old man, I don’t like hassles and encountering difficult people and avoidable social irritations. So, I often avoid Walmart and its crowds and sensory overload and seek quicker and less intense locations.

But lately, I have begun visiting Walmart with a smile on my face. Not because I am naturally cheery or experiencing tremendous highs in my life but because smiling is a tactic against our fears and a salve against what can often be a rather sorrowful existence.

Has it made a difference? Has there been any noticeable effects to this practice?

Humorously, God has orchestrated strange encounters at the check out line that are hard to believe unless he had something to do with them. One time, I had someone, on a Saturday when the lines are the longest, notice that I had a few items compared to their basket and let me go ahead. Another time, someone apologized to me when they were holding up the line with all of their items. I said, “It is not a problem, you don’t come to Walmart on the Weekends expecting things to go quickly. I am fine.” Huh? Who is this guy and what are the words coming out of my mouth?

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Another time, a lady with a patch over her eye and who has clearly experienced healthier days noticed that I was getting some ice cream. She started to chat with me about the ice cream and I told her how much our daughters like ice cream. She was so pleased that I was getting this for them and said,”Well, I am sure they appreciate what a good dad you are.” What? You don’t know me lady or my parenting skills but that sure was encouraging.

Last week, it was my turn to hold up the line. Why? Because the check out lady and I couldn’t stop telling each other to have a good day. First, she praised me for getting to Walmart early and I stated that it helps to plan out these things but Walmart isn’t that bad. She said, “No, it is really not. There are a lot of good people here.” Then I said my goodbyes and wished her a nice day. She followed up with “have a nice day” even though she had already said it when she loaded my last item in the bag and when she gave me the receipt.

That is just the check out line. Smiling changes my mindset enough in the hustle and bustle of the aisles that instead of expecting the worst experience coming around the corner to the next aisle I find myself expecting a chance to smile at someone, to offer courtesy, and to assist someone trying to get something off the top shelf. I don’t have a scowl on my face trying to figure out how to maneuver to the piece of real estate that is most advantageous to me but am willing to offer someone else the lead and the opening needed to get that one item in that one place.

Who knew that simply smiling would make such a difference?

This whole experience has reminded me of what is taught by James Bryan Smith,”I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights and I live in the strong and unshakable Kingdom of God.” And the gates of hell, or Walmart, shall not prevail against it.

God Wants You To See Him

“God has better things to do…”

“Does God really care about…”

Many of us suffer from the false narrative that if God does exist he is so beyond our little sphere of knowing and belonging that we are largely incapable of seeing or experiencing him. Worse, we think that God doesn’t really want to be known and doesn’t really want to be seen; that he has much grander and majestic things to be doing than messing with our insignificant and measly lives.

But what if the exact opposite was true? What if God wishes to be known and is knowable? If we asked longtime knowers of him, would they tell us that God is seen everywhere?

Julian of Norwich beautifully states, “for God wishes to be seen, and he wishes to be sought, and he wishes to be expected, and he wishes to be trusted.” If this is true, then why is it so hard to see God? To think that he is even available to be seen?

This is the whole crux of the human story isn’t? Do you remember those Stereograms that were popular 20 years ago? The image appears to be just a mishmash of squiggles, shades, and patterns but if you look just right or long enough you can see a giraffe or a building or a mountain. The true image is hidden and not visible until the viewer can “see through” the lines and swirls. I have never been able to see the hidden images, not once. Does that mean that the image isn’t there? I doubt that everyone else is just lying to me about what they are seeing.

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Our preoccupation, our selfishness, our greed, and our contempt for others and even God keep us from seeing him and knowing him. God doesn’t force us to see because he wants us to have the freedom of thought and attention so when we do see him it is because we are truly and fervently seeking after him.

In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard says, “No doubt God wants us to see him. That is part of his nature as outpouring love. Love always wants to be known. Thus he seeks for those who could safely and rightly worship him….The ability to see and the practice of seeing God and God’s world comes through a process of seeking and growing in intimacy with him.”

Yes, the more we Grow Up, the more we are able to see God and the more we are able to know God. But first, we have to believe that God wants to be seen and wants to be known.

Jesus once said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the father.” I would say the sheer fact of the incarnation of Jesus – his life, his miracles, his teachings and sacrifice – are evidence of God wanting to be seen. This is where we must start. Our God wants to be known and is knowable.

The Most Important Thing About You

The most important thing about you is who you are becoming.

The most important thing about you is not what you do for a living.

The most important thing about you is not what clothes you wear or your overall aesthetic.

The most important thing about you is not what people think of you.

The most important thing about you is not that everyone likes you.

The most important thing about you is who you are becoming.

The most important thing about you is not your strong ideals.

The most important thing about you is not your personal preferences.

The most important thing about you is not your stance on a social or political issue.

The most important thing about you is not who your favorite team is.

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The most important thing about you is who you are becoming.

The most important thing about you is not not drawing attention to yourself.

The most important thing about you is not having a dynamic group of friends.

The most important thing about you is not bucking trends.

The most important thing about you is not your personality type or Enneagram number.

The most important thing about you is who you are becoming.

The most important thing about you is not your “Previously Watched” list on Netflix.

The most important thing about you is not how many followers you have, who you influence, or how many likes you get.

The most important thing about you is not where you worship or which Bible Study you just finished.

The most important thing about you is not whether you can get alone time or find the next great event.

The most important thing about you is who you are becoming.

The most important thing about you is who you are becoming. Are you finding the good life that is marked by good things – faith, mercy, joy, justice? Do you reflect Jesus’ compassion, his willingness to be used by God no matter what that looked like to others, or his desire to help his friends. Is love, willing the good for others, a fruit of your daily existence? Do you seek what God wants done and go do it? Do you have tenderness when most would have judgement? Do you possess forgiveness where most would have resentment and hatred? What are you becoming?

I fail and I stumble and I screw up and I have deep regrets and I sometimes resemble the opposite of Christ but I pray and I read and I write and I exercise and I worship and I find someone to love because I follow Christ and want to be more like him. And by the grace of God I can become something more than this selfish, consumed by falsehoods, bitter, and full of sin person that exists now. That is what is most important.

What is the most important thing about you?