The Infinite Gift

The Proposition

Gifts are a wonderful thing. We’re shopping through a store and happen upon a particular item that we know a particular someone would really enjoy. We buy the gift, wrap it up all nice and neat, then wait for the right time and give it to that person. You anxiously wait while they peel off the paper or open the bag, and then you beam with joy as you see their face light up. You have brought them joy and in so doing have also brought joy upon yourself.

But what else has happened? Well the gift you bought is no longer yours. It is now in the firm possession of the one you gave it to. Yes, you received some type of gratification or relief, but the fact is that you had something tangible and now you don’t.

The point of this is to show that tangible (as well as some other types) gifts are finite. It’s a zero sum game. I know this is painfully obvious, but track with me.

We know that physical gifts are finite. But what if there was a gift that wasn’t? What if there was something that we could give and still not have to give up? What if there was a gift that was infinitely divisible and yet never lost its original value? A gift that even multiplied, sometimes exponentially, when given?

Too good to be true? Well I know it might sound cheesy, but that gift is the gift of love. We humans have the capacity and means to love each other like we never have before. What’s fascinating is that it truly is contagious.

The Problem

The problem sometimes is that we treat love as if it is a finite resource. When you have a finite good, lets say money, we tend to save it and only use it for things that we believe will give us the best return on our investment. Basically we use it for mostly self-centric purposes.

We don’t help someone on the side of the road because our schedule is too tight to make an hour long detour. We don’t take the time to spend with our family because we are too involved in our work. We don’t invest in people because it’s too hard. These are all examples of us treating love like it’s a finite resource.

Love, however, was never meant to be “spent” as a finite resource. But think about it. How do you spend your love? If we are all honest, the majority of our love is spent on people who we are sure will spend their love on us.

And yet Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount challenge us to go far beyond loving those who love us. “For even sinners do the same.” (Luke 6:33)

The Solution

Seem hard to love those who hate you, are different from you, or need more than they can give? For sure. But the comfort is that God will always enable us to do what he commands. You see, the first step in spending love as if it’s not a finite resource is realizing that it is in fact an infinite resource.

It’s an infinite resource because a Christian’s love does not depend on what they can generate themselves but on the love with which we are loved by an infinite God. We are a vessel which is meant to be poured out for the sake of others while being filled up by a reserve of water which never runs dry.

So what does it look like, though, to treat love as an infinite resource? It means loving those who don’t love you back. It means loving those you think are undeserving. It means going above and beyond expectations in serving other people. It means bringing people into your life which may drain your energy, seemingly waste your time, or generally make life difficult.

Loving in this way is not safe. It is not easy. It is not convenient. Loving this way is uncertain, it will hurt, and it will require vulnerability. But where we are assured of the reward, we are free to love dangerously.

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgement; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” – 1 John 4:16-21

In this season of gift giving, let us remember to give the greatest gift we have ever been given unreservedly.
This is a quick follow up thought after reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Throughout the book, there were a lot of challenging thoughts on race but something stood out to me when Coates began to reflect on history. I should probably state that all these opinions are just impressions from reading his book.
One of the themes of the book, though, was Coates’ fascination with this idea of “body”. When he was growing up he learned in his neighborhood that power meant the ability to assert your will over someone else’s body whereas powerlessness was only truly recognized when someone could attack your body with impunity.
These ideas were only cemented in his mind as he grew up, went to college, and became a man. The world around him told him that his body and those like him were dispensable and therefore those who cared about him and lived with him protected their bodies with a type of fervor that a man who has grown up never absorbing the affects of slavery could know. Since the body was what was being attacked, the body became ultimate. It became his god.
Coates, in his learning, then proceeded to apply this perspective back through history and in his eyes it held. However, yet another belief emerged due to his observation. To Coates, life became a zero-sum game. One body only ascended to power when another was beat into submission.
This was a striking and impactful thought to my slightly insulated mind. “Empires and kingdoms only rise by the destruction of bodies,” I thought. Well, through my limited knowledge of history, I resonated with this concept briefly. Taking only the United States as an example, it was only created by the destruction of both British and American bodies and then for a long time only prospered due to the structure of slavery.
Soon, though, I halted in my line of thought. Out of all the empires and kingdoms of this earth I came to one exception to this supposed rule. Coates posits that kingdoms rise by the destruction of other people. But the anomaly comes when the ruler of a kingdom gave himself over to murderers in order to give life to others. The Christian kingdom rose, not by the destruction of others, but in the face of the destruction of its own members. It is a kingdom of sacrifice for the elevation of those who are outside of it.
When I read from someone’s perspective such as Coates, I learn a lot. And in that learning I also come away with an idea of what it feels like to have no hope. What hope is there in a world that seems set against you from the outset and seems determined to take away everything that you hold dear? Well if you view the world as Coates does, there seems to be very little if any at all.
But the truth is that we were not made to idolize our bodies or anything else in this world for that matter. We were not created for a zero-sum game. When Jesus Christ died on that cross He altered the equation so that everyone who believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life. Everyone who laid down their life as he did would be picked back up again just as he was.
We were not made to live in fear. We were made to live with sacrificial courage and through Christ we have no need to fear. Let us therefore live a life free of fear and full of faith.

The Rise of Empires

The Social Rift

This is a note that I wrote back in April reflecting on exchanges on social media. In today’s climate it has definitely taken on a new meaning, but I hope meaning outside of the immediate political context can also be derived.

The purpose of social media was to bring people together as nations, states, organizations, families, and friends. And I will not say that this purpose has not been attained. However, I would put forth that the unfortunate consequence of doing so has not only brought people together but it has also created divides among the very people it sought to bring together. By allowing people to display their thoughts for the world to see there emerges people whose sole purpose it seems is at odds with your own. Social media did not create such a situation. All it did was bring these two people with very opposing viewpoints together onto one, single platform.

This is not such a terrible thing, though. When people with opposing views come together there is a lot that can be accomplished in the form of creating a discussion that will sharpen and challenge each participant to the extent that neither one of them has to change their views. Of course, the ultimate purpose of such a conversation would be to let each side learn more about where the other is coming from. This debate or discussion or conversation, however you want to put it, will only be beneficial if each party approaches it, not as a chance to air their grievances against the other party, but as a chance to learn where the other party is coming from.

When we take the chance to initiate conversations for the purpose of understanding each side of an argument and use this understanding to spur on further conversation, then real good can be attained. I will put forth that such conversations have happened and are happening all over social media. However, sadly I cannot say that this is the majority of what I see.

What I see when I log onto social media and “surf” is that people are using these social platforms to proverbially and sometimes literally yell at anyone who they deem worthy of it. Now, I will be the first to say that people are not yelling over trivial matters (though sometimes this may be the case). A lot of the time, people are upset because the topic at hand is truly important to the very fabric of their society and humanity at large. But putting the actual matter aside, the way that some (maybe even the majority of) people use social media is in no way beneficial.

Social media’s promise was to bring people together. It has no claim on what you do when you are actually together. Social media is a tool to build relationships, but too many users view it as a tool to belittle people who they view as regressive. In these cases, social media does not cultivate relationships. In fact, in many cases social media simply fuels the fire of polarity and creates a rift between opposing sides.

Today’s culture is so unwilling and unyielding to their point of view that nothing beneficial is accomplished except by brute force, which stirs up troubles that would never have come about had the situation been handled with grace and compromise. If we continue to polarize in this society, I predict no good will come of it. However, if we seek to understand both sides of an issue and come to the table willing to work on compromises then who knows what that society will be capable of. 

The reason this passage came back to me today is that a verse that has really been driving my thoughts about social media recently is James 1:19, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” When you think about social media, is this a status quo? Unfortunately, far from. The status quo truly seems to be the exact opposite.

So the challenge to myself and other believers, when you see the world being slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger how can you use your influence wisely to display Christ on social media? If you have any thoughts on how Christians should use social media, I would love to hear about it.

On Being “Woke”


What does it mean to be awake? Does it mean that we are simply conscious of reality around us? Within the last year I heard for the first time the phrase of being “woke”. Maybe you know what this means maybe you don’t. What I’d like to explore is what I have found this to mean in my life after living in this “age of brutality.”

The spur of this thought came from just finishing a book by Ta-Nahesi Coates called Between the World and Me. This book was written as a letter from a father to his son and explores the father’s perspective of the world in which his son is now entering into as a young black male.

One of the themes of this book, is the idea that our world is currently, and has for a long time been, separated into two main groups of people: the Dreamers and the Conscious.

From reading Coates’ words, one gets the definition that Dreamers are 1) oblivious to the reality around them, 2) are taught that the world is their oyster and that they have mastery over their lives and futures.

The Conscious on the other hand realize that their life is governed by outside rules that exert force and rule over their bodies. They are limited by externalities and intrinsic qualities that they have no control over. They are taught to be twice as good because they will receive half the justice [1].

The question that I had to ask myself is, “which one am I?” Do I believe that I could do anything that I want to do given the right effort? Do I feel like I could go anywhere I want to and not get stopped by local law enforcement? Do I worry about how my culture will view and treat my future children?

Asking these questions and others to myself it was pretty obvious that I fell into the Dreamers category. After this realization, and struggling to accept it, there were two breakthroughs that I came to.

The first is a point that Coates made which hit me pretty hard. The fundamental difference (between Dreamers and the Conscious) that has been significant for me to understand is that everyone here in the world and, yes, even in America lives by different rules. The rules that I live by as a white male (you can be anything you want, just follow the rules and you’ll be fine, etc.) are entirely not true literally or especially for other ethnic groups.

The second breakthrough for me, was the idea of what separates the Dreamers and the Conscious. In physical sleep, rarely do we we make the conscious choice to wake up (hence the term unconscious). However, in this situation, the barrier between the Dreamers and the Conscious can be crossed by simple choices.

These choices have to be a declaration to oneself that we will not jump to our preconceived biases when we hear a story of violence and sadness, that we will listen more than we speak in an attempt to listen to people who have stories we may have no comprehension of, and that we will attempt to become aware of the real issues at hand, issues which we may never have had an understanding of before stepping out in faith.

You see, everything can be rationalized if you try hard enough. What creates this rift between the Dreamers and the Conscious is that for centuries the Dreamers have been the ones in power, which has only deepened their sleep. They have passed through life with little knowledge of how other people experience the world that they have had a hand in creating. This is the root problem. People going through life without having a clue as to how their actions affect others.

And for me, right now, this is what it means to be “woke.” I do not consider myself being awake right now, but rather taking small steps towards this awakening. I am taking small steps in trying to understand the pain that truly exists. My motivation is not guilt (which is probably a whole other conversation) but what I do start to feel is compassion for people who are hurting due to a broken system.

I know that I do not have the whole picture. I am still learning and the thing that helps me the most is having honest conversations with people, something of which I could have more. If you have a thought on this post or think I am wrong or right or have a story to tell, I would really enjoy listening. There is so much that I have left unsaid in this post, but hopefully I have been clear enough and what I have not said others have spoken much more eloquently on than myself.


Entangled at the Cross

The following post is from my good friend Andrew Wilson. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

I never thought that I would think about particle physics and theology in the same conversation. I was thinking too small. Or maybe I was thinking too big because I haven’t thought about particle physics too much. As one who has always been fascinated with space, stars, and the secrets of the universe, my focus was fated to eventually shift from the very large to the very small.

I have not made it as deep into these scientific subjects as I would like, but at some point during my inquisitions, I made the following observation and wanted to share my thoughts online. I am grateful to Collin Selman for allowing me to post this assemblage of personal experience, scientific theory, and theology on his personal blog.

A riveting line of thought within quantum theory is the idea of entanglement. Entanglement suggests that particles are connected despite nonlocality, physical distance of hundreds of miles or more. Their properties seem to be intertwined against all odds, and measuring properties on one particle appears to have an effect on the other particle. For example, if Particle A has a clockwise spin, the observer can know with certainty that Particle B has an anti-clockwise spin.

A comparison that I found helpful in picturing how entanglement might work came from the illustration of a pair of gloves. Imagine that someone splits a pair of gloves and mails one to New York and one to London. The person who opens the package in New York instantly knows the state of the other glove, despite physical distance. If the receiver in New York has the left-hand glove, he knows that the glove in London is for the right hand or vice versa. Clearly particles are different from gloves, but this clarified my understanding.

Albert Einstein described this phenomenon as “spooky action at a distance.” The term entanglement was not around yet, and it was referred to as the EPR Paradox at this point in time. Einstein criticised Bohr’s work saying that quantum theory was not yet complete.

At this juncture, I think there is enough information on the table to transition to a parallel series of thoughts. As I was driving one day, I thought about how entanglement and the doctrine of substitutionary atonement match nicely together. The latter concerns itself greatly with how the sacrifice of Christ made payment for sin. The wrath of God must be satisfied, and Jesus offered himself on the cross as propitiation for those who would accept it.

This is reinforced in scripture in several places. Here are two verses that came to mind. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Here is where I had my epiphany. As a believer, I am entangled with Christ. One of us had sin, the other did not. One of us could pay the price, the other could not. One of us was on the right path, the other was spinning out of control. Just like those particles, though, our conditions were linked. If you measure Christ, He qualifies as holy. If you measure me, I do not. However, He chose to become “entangled” with me. Only one of us was worthy, and He switched conditions with me.

He took all of my anti-clockwise ways and gave me His clockwise ways. He became sin so that I might become the righteousness of God. I have never been to Jerusalem or the first century, but through some “spooky action at a distance,” He took my place. Now when God measures me, He sees Christ in my place, and for that, I am grateful.

I called one of my friends to bounce this idea around, and she responded with a clever observation. She said that one of her favourite parts about science was equilibrium. She purported that in order for there to be spiritual homeostasis, the redemptive narrative of the life of Christ was absolutely necessary following the fall of man. The same God who created the universe to work together in balance was also there to oversee its spiritual wellbeing.

As I continue to be a curious citizen of planet Earth, I’m sure that I will encounter more topics that cross over from theoretical inquiries to devotional thoughts, and perhaps Collin will be gracious enough to let me borrow some space on his blog again. Thank you for reading along.

– Andrew Wilson

P.S. In a similar vein, I also reflected on the movie, Interstellar during my preparation for this blog post. There is a scene where Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey’s characters are arguing on what to do next. Dr. Brand (Hathaway) implores Cooper (McConaughey) to listen to her. She says, “Maybe it means something more – something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. I’m drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen in a decade, who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it.”

One line in particular stands out for me: “Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.” Again I will say, my life has been changed by a man who lived in a part of the world where I’ve never been in a time in which it is impossible to return. However, the love displayed in His sacrifice impacts me daily. Love does transcend time and space, and that is the Gospel.

A Lesson from FedEx on Salvation, Sanctification, and Stewardship

A while ago I saw this commercial from FedEx. ( Of course it brought some pretty good chuckles, but it also struck me as pretty poignant. The delivery man, spent x amount of time on a deserted island trying to survive all by himself. Little known to him, though, the very package he was avoiding opening had everything that he needed in order to thrive on the island and get in touch with people who could help him. Imagine being that man when he finally arrives at his destination and finds out everything that he needed was sitting right beside him the entire time.


This short video struck me in multiple ways as I thought about the plight of the castaway. The first concerns salvation. Considering the feelings of the delivery man after he finally made the delivery, in a way, I wonder if that is what some people will feel like after we leave this life (to more dramatic implications, though).
Some will arrive before the Throne on judgment day and find out that God does indeed exist and required of us faith in His Son in order to have life eternal. They try to make some excuse that they did not have the right information they needed in order to make the right decisions, but then God reveals to them that He had given them all the evidence they had needed to make a decision about him.


The second thing that struck me, and probably hit the hardest, was how this relates to fellow believers. How many times do we feel the Spirit’s pull towards holiness and we drift away or push back out of fear, feelings of inadequacy, pride, or outright selfishness? The truth is that many times we will read about or notice someone who seems especially close to God or especially holy and our tendency is to immediately start making excuses as to why we cannot be that person or why that person was an exception to the rule.
“I’m not _____ enough. I don’t have the time, talent, or resources. I want to do ______ but ______.” These are phrases that are probably all too familiar to us and yet should have no bearing on our pursuit of God, our sanctification, or our journey to holiness.
Like the man in the commercial, we have been given everything that we need in order to flourish in this life God has granted to us. We have all we need in this life to pursue God and a life of holiness (for more read 2 Peter 1:1-11). We have the responsibility and the resources to pursue holiness. The question now becomes, do we have the resolve?


Then the final idea that struck me was concerning stewardship. Jesus tells a story in the Gospels (Matthew 25:14-30) of how a master gave three servants various degrees of money. Two of them used their money wisely and produced a return for their master. The third servant, however, dug a hole in the ground and hid his money he had been given. When the master returned, he rewarded the first two servants but punished the last severely.
Why did the master call his servant worthless and have him thrown into the outer darkness? Because, as a call to myself and all believers, the servant was unfaithful with the resources he had been given. He was entrusted as a steward of his master’s money and did not use it for the benefit of his master. The question I pose myself then, is am I using my time, talent, and treasures in a faithful, God-honoring manner?
My hope, unlike how the delivery man handled the package (though I am sure he was quite valiant in his efforts), is that we would not neglect the truth of God around us, the Word he has given us, or the resources He has blessed us with. When we do this, I believe that we will become powerful agents for His kingdom and find more joy in Him than we ever have before.

How Do We Handle Conflict?


      There are a few things in life that occur over and over again, but somehow we never truly become better at them for whatever reasons. For me this includes writing my signature, hitting the perfect pitch for “Hello”, and cooking the perfect fried eggs. No matter how many times I may attempt these things they never quite come out right.

     Likewise there are activities that every human partakes in for which we never quite seem to get it right, or at least never seem to learn and improve. One of these things that I have been thinking about recently is conflict. No matter if you have a contentious nature or are super easy going, everyone at some point in their lives experiences conflict. All through our lives we come into conflict in some way, form, or fashion and yet for some reason conflict, however undesirable, is not viewed as something upon which we can dramatically improve or something we even generally think about.

     Why not? Why can we not work to improve how we handle conflict in our daily lives while we drive, hang out with friends, or live with our spouse? Unfortunately conflict is one of those things that naturally creates a type of myopia. Only when we back up and examine ourselves and our circumstances can we really see the path to improving how we interact with others.

       So even though conflict is something that we cannot really avoid, we should strive to use it to our advantage in improving our lives and those lives around us. The main question becomes, what is the key to healthy conflict? While there are many things that could be said, I have outlined three points below that seem to resonate with my daily interactions and challenge me to improve the conflicts that I run into.

  1. Communication

   Without this, nothing is solved because both parties are in their own separate worlds. Communication is one of those things where everything is gotten out on the table. Even though it may be painful (for most guys especially), it is necessary. It is uncomfortable, but all it takes is that first sentence being said and the next steps are that much easier.

      In this world you have doers and thinkers. If you are a thinker (taking time to process and acting afterwards) then in serious conflicts it will take you some time to process what you are feeling and figure out from where the feelings are coming. It is okay to take your time to think about what is going on, but never leave yourself an out for not bringing it up (see point 3). On the other hand, if you are a doer (quick to act and process along the way), then you will simply want to realize that not everyone is the same way and it requires patience to develop constructive conversations.

       2. Perspective

      Both parties have to know that it is not the end of the world when a conflict arises. This is where the myopia comes in that I spoke of earlier. Conflict tends to skew how we view the world and circumstances. When we are having an argument with someone, everything that person does is producing a statement on the argument for which you simply use to fuel the flames of your indignation.

     When I was younger, I heard someone say that when you walk into a room full of strangers you never have to worry about what you are doing because everyone else is so absorbed in what they are doing that they are paying little to no heed to anything else. For me, this was a truth that pointed to the fact that nine times out of ten, no one is thinking/feeling the exact same thing that you are.

      This applies to relationships and conflict because conflict is often one sided where one party feels wronged and the other is completely oblivious. In this case, the oblivious ones (yes, I am talking mostly to men at this point) should of course try to be more aware of how their actions are affecting those around them. But on the other hand, the one who is wronged has to realize that there are always two sides to a conflict and neither one is automatically in the right. The utmost thing to keep in mind in these times is the relationship. Is the conflict worth breaking off ties with someone, or can you use it to grow by walking in someone else’s shoes as the old saying goes?

  1. Resolution

      Even with communication and perspective, though, conflict can be detrimental without resolution. At the end of a conflict (because it must end, otherwise bitterness sneaks in, which can be deadly) there has to be a recognition of guilt (by both parties most likely) and a coming together on a compromise or solution.

      In no way is this easy and in fact this is probably the most difficult step to execute sometimes. But the cost of not doing so is never worth it. Unresolved conflict only festers, crops up at another time, and acts as a poison in the individual and relationship.

      The key to resolution, lasting resolution, is forgiveness and humility. We must come to a place where we consider the relationship and peace greater goals than some end of our anger or pride. Pride, one of the main roots of all conflict, is deceptive and seeks to raise our desires above those of others while anger is usually our response to feelings of injustice. But we are commanded, as Christians, to always seek the good of others before our own (1 Corinthians 10:24, Philippians 2:3-4) and when wronged to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-41).

      Holding on to these three things can be one step along the way towards redeeming conflict with your coworkers, spouse, and the random person who cuts you off in traffic. Conflict, while it is possible to be handled with grace, is a weighty thing to carry around with you on a daily basis and much more for weeks or months. Just remember, if you are starting to lose your breath due to conflict simply use a little C.P.R. (Sorry, just couldn’t help it.)

Finding Our Happiness on the Horizon

In the last post I talked about the danger in this life of setting our happiness upon the horizon. There is always something to strive for in the future, good and godly things, but what is dangerous is when all our hopes and dreams become connected to something that is fleeting, offering only a brief reprieve from the desire. Of course, there are many facets of this thinking and I should state here that I mainly would address external goals that we set down for ourselves. Internally we should also be working towards holiness as the Spirit transforms us more and more into Christ’s likeness (Phil 2:12-13, 2 Corinthians 3:18), but that is another thought for another time maybe.

What I would guard against in my own life is to be wary of resting my hope in what is to come. What I would want to strive for is a mindset that is fully alive in the present, using the vision of the future to fuel motivation for change now. How do we fight against a state of mind that distracts us from the present and wraps us up in the promises of the future? Three things come to mind, though I am sure there are many more that could be added.

1. Plan Loosely

The first thing that I have to remind myself is to plan loosely. When I was younger, to which my family could probably attest, I would stake my whole day on a specific, laid-out plan. Many a time, something would come up and the entire day would be changed in an instant. Unfortunately, I am ashamed to say that those were not good days for me as my attitude would be seriously crest-fallen and sour due to the change in plans. The thing is that I would be getting upset over situations in which I had little to no control over.

Since those days, I praise God for teaching me flexibility and a trust in His providence through high school and college. I have grown to understand that as a man I will never be able to hold in my mind and consider every single outcome of an action or plan and therefore I try to not worry about the things that oft go astray, especially the things that I have no control over. And though I cannot know everything, I do know that I serve a good God who does indeed know the outcome of every scenario and who is also working towards my own good in everything that He does (Romans 8:28).

Now do not get me wrong, planning is a good thing and I honestly really enjoy planning. But when we plan we should also keep in mind Proverbs 16:9 which says that, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” So since God has given us the ability to plan and to use wisdom in making those plans, we should not shy away from looking into the future. But when we do, we need to hold that vision loosely and place it into God’s hands, trusting that He will allow what is best to come to pass even if in the short run we may be lost on where the path now leads.

2. Practice Gratefulness

The second thing that we can do to fight against placing our hope in getting that promotion and raise, moving to your dream house, having perfect children, or buying the next must-have gadget is to practice gratefulness with what we already have. It is far too easy to get caught up in this materialistic (wanting more stuff) and meritocratic (wanting more status) culture. The problem with stuff and status is that they are never truly satisfying and so people who chase them will run on a perpetual wheel always chasing that elusive carrot.
How do we stop ourselves, though, and cease the endless racing? The first step I feel like is to simply be aware of where you are. Taking stock of your current situation (your relationships, your stuff, your talents, etc.) is an eye opening exercise. Once this inventory is taken, the next step is to simply ask yourself, “What am I thankful for?”

My wife when she was younger had the practice of writing out her ‘thankfuls’ on a daily basis. Every evening or so, she would take out a pen and paper and jot down a couple of things for which she was thankful. Earlier on in our marriage we took up the practice again together as a way to remind ourselves how blessed we really are. Of course, not everyone has the time to itemize their blessings on a daily basis, but whatever it looks like, practicing gratefulness, reminding ourselves of what we have been given, giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) is a powerful way to keep us from foregoing our satisfaction and joy until we have hit that next milestone.

3. Prioritize Relationships

What was interesting when we continued writing down our thankfuls, was that after we had hit most of the obvious stuff such as the things we had or the times in life that we had come to, the most consistent item to show up were the times we had spent with friends or family. This may fall short of hard evidence, but what it indicates to me is simply that though ‘things’ are nice and there are worthwhile goals in life, what will truly make a life worth living is the relationships that are built and invested in along the way.

Take college as an example (as it seems to be a great micro-type of life). Whether you are in that time of life right now or have left it far behind, what memories do you look back on and value most? Were they the adventures you embarked upon with friends or that time you nailed the 4.0? Were they the discussions around a home cooked meal which were too few and far between or the day you were able to buy that new laptop (perfect for taking notes of course)? Looking forward we seem to be really good at intentionally pursuing accomplishments and things, but if those are not the things that we value most when we look behind us, what kind of life will we have lived when we come to the end?

Again, do not get me wrong, accomplishments are great and things can be good. What we should realize, though, is that in the big scheme of things, accomplishments and material things are only beneficial to a life worth living when they facilitate and influence the relationships that we have with those around us. That is why prioritizing relationships is key when we are seeking to fight the urge to find our happiness on the horizon.

God is good and He gives us so much in this life. Let us not miss it by being caught up in pursuing the next big thing.

“Settling Down”

     What does it mean to be settled? Ultimately being settled means that one has a solid foundation that they can rely on, that the turbulence of life has a lessened impact due to your being anchored upon a rock.
     A friend and I were talking a while ago and as we were catching up with each other our conversation drifted towards our friends and the people with whom we had graduated. Running through the various scenarios it was interesting that we started speaking in terms of who was the most “settled” in their current situation.
     As my wife and I are currently just about as un-settled as we have ever been, (Neither of us have permanent jobs, have only just now found an apartment to sublease, and most of our belongings are tucked away in a storage unit.) this was an interesting thought to me. What does it mean to be settled?
     I guess the way my friend and I were using it the other day was that being settled meant having a full-time job and general career plan, being in a committed relationship through marriage, and owning a house to live in for the foreseeable future. This definition most likely stemmed from the fact that most of the people we knew were working towards one or more of these supposed milestones.
     I found that I was easily slipping into the frame of mind that these milestones, these events in life, somehow meant that we had ‘arrived.’ However, thinking like this is truly dangerous especially when “I’ll be settled when X” turns into “I’ll be happy when X.”
     There will always be something else on the horizon that is worth striving for, and generally those things can be genuinely good in and of themselves. The danger, however, is when we start to make our joy in life contingent upon achieving those things. There are things that are great to achieve and should be pursued but we will only be truly settled, we will only find true joy in this turbulent life, when we have rested and anchored our lives in the solid rock that is Christ.

A Fond Farewell

     Last night I finished my last exam for my MBA. That marks the end of six years that I have spent on my education at the University of Arkansas. After the exam, I had the opportunity to simply walk around campus enjoying the last vestiges of the crisp spring air. Even though, it was getting late and the sun was nowhere to be seen, there was still the dim light hanging in the sky giving the trees a dark luster as they swayed in the breeze.

     As it was late in finals week, campus was fairly empty and quiet which allowed for some great, nostalgic thinking. I thought of all the great times that I had with friends. I thought about the cafeteria food and the late night meals. I thought of all the studying and homework and reading. I thought of my victories and my vices, my strengths and my struggles.

     There was so much that happened in those six years. I spent countless evenings studying engineering, got involved in a few campus ministries, and was even able to work a sweet job on campus. I met some of the greatest people I know (including my wife!). I challenged myself academically, socially, spiritually, and yes, I even worked out a few times.

     Campus was a solid constant in my life for six years (which turns out to be a fourth of my life at this point). There is such an attachment that I can truly say it was my home away from home…which is a strange thought. It is a strange thought because even though I can call the U of A my “home,” my entire time spent here was only to prepare me for something on the other side. There are truly great things that happen in college and college has some great things to offer, but the truth is that it is simply a temporary and passing thing.

     The whole purpose of college is to prepare oneself for the future, a springboard for your career and a stepping stone on the path of life. It is but one instant in a life full of instants. In our short-sightedness, though, we are all too quick to be satisfied with where we are. Short-sightedness because we cannot forget that no matter what we may call home here, we will never be truly home until we see our heavenly Father’s face. We must remember that we are simply pilgrims in this life and our citizenship is a heavenly, not an earthly, one.

     In this life, we will face trouble, but we will also receive graces upon graces. And when it comes to finally saying goodbye to this life, just like it is when leaving college behind, it will be a fond farewell, a fond farewell followed by a glorious hello.