The temperature finally finds a nice place to rest comfortably somewhere between 65 and 75 degrees. The steam room that is our humidity closes for maintenance, and shorts come out of the bottom of the box and go onto bodies. It’s like a dragon takes a deep breath—letting us take evening walks without breaking a sweat—before it plans to blow flames the second the calendar turns to June.
Traffic still sucks, mind you, and the zoning laws still make their way into small talk with visitors and people claiming Dallas has more to offer. But the sunshine lighting the day takes some time off from its favorite pastime—making noon as much like an oven as it can. The daylight has been saved, and alarm clocks spring forward. Dinner tables have natural light for the first time in months, and the weatherman doesn’t influence whether you want to wear a tank top or a hoodie.
Valentine’s Day takes its pressures and leaves the room. April Fools’ is still whipping up its jokes. And here we are, breathing in the fresh air of Houston’s March.
A house full of people acting like they’re perfect is not a house full of close friends. It’s a group of quiet competitors striving for a spot on the top of the social ladder. I’m a part of this crowd a lot of the time, walking into a room after feeling like the world is crumbling beneath my feet, only to paint an artificial grin on my face. I imagine my name being written on some pathetic pity party cake waiting in the pantry for the first person that answers, “How are you?” with, “Actually, not that great.”
The fundamental error, however, is I’m quick to believe that the point of life is to become a better person. I tell myself that if I clean up my mess, I’ll be worth more to God and the world will ask me for an autograph. What a joke.
The point of life isn’t to become some better version of myself. The point of life is to give God glory. When I operate under the notion that self-improvement is the point, authenticity scares the living daylights out of me because I believe my weaknesses will make me look like I’m coming in dead last in the race for godliness.
But when I remember that it’s all about God’s glory, honesty becomes magnetic. I’m not chasing some shining version of who I could become, I’m simply worshipping God. Instead of thinking, “I need to get better, so I need to stop looking in the mirror with so much admiration,” I’m thinking, “God is the king, and making my appearance the most important thing doesn’t give him the admiration He deserves. He died so I could be free from the weight of my sin. Thank you, Jesus!”
Making God’s glory the main thing makes Christianity the communal experience it was intended to be. We weren’t supposed to be individuals competing with one another for some Perfect Trophy we can put on our mantle for guests to admire when they come over. We’re made to be involved in the lives of our friends, glorifying God with our mutual honesty and our worshipful confession.
A man who confesses he robbed a bank and is feeling strangled by guilt is no different than the little kid who apologizes for taking a cookie from the jar without permission. It is not about some silly scale we’ve made up to rank the severity of actions. It is about holiness. We’re no better or worse off than one another. We’re all desperately in need of God.
Let’s be authentic, sharing our struggles and celebrating repentance of all kinds.
Lord, do in us what we couldn’t dream of doing for ourselves. We give you all the glory. Amen.
She’s my favorite person to talk to on the planet. She has hair that makes me smile and a smile that makes me weak at the knees. Her laugh has a contagious twinge to it, the type of laugh that makes me feel like a million bucks when it responds to my jokes. Joy resounds from her life. She is hopeful and kind. She takes a genuine and passionate interest in others. She isn’t prideful, and she’s excited when good things happen to other people.
She doesn’t withhold her affections from me, even when I’m being a jerk. She forgives over and over and over again. She thinks the world of her family and would give her life for them if she needed to do it. She has eyes that seem to be keeping the most important and wonderful secret in the world—mysterious and enticing. She’d empty her bank account if God told her she should. She prays constantly for people in her life.
If Meagan knows you, you can bet she’s talking to God about you—asking Him to bless you. Meagan doesn’t just act kind, she is kind. She listens with everything she has. She is teachable and curious. She is both incredibly strong and incredibly gentle. She is the woman I would want my daughters to become. She is pure. She writes as a poet and speaks as an orator. She isn’t afraid to say, “I don’t think you should…” and is quick to say, “I love you even though you did…”
She’s graceful and sweet as sugar. She leads fearlessly and follows graciously. She resembles Mary in the Bible—sitting at Jesus’ feet in awe. Meagan knows how to tell a joke, and she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s open to new ideas and will make time to hear you out.
She isn’t satisfied with staying put, yearning for growth and always admitting fault. She’s gorgeous, a ray of light in dark places. Her simplicity is evident, her intuition—sharpened. She’ll pick you up if you trip and won’t judge you if you forgot something important. She can cook so well you’d think Betty Crocker learned from her. She makes much of Jesus and puts her desires after others’. She’s fiercely loyal and will stand up for you when the going gets tough.
She is a woman of God. She is a perpetuator of good things. She will be my wife very soon.
Church is not a sermon. It isn’t a building. It isn’t a place or a steeple or a crowded pew on a Sunday. We—people that love & believe God—are the church. We are pieces of the same puzzle, fitting together to make a unified image. Pastors are a part of the church. The janitor praising God as he scrubs the bathroom floor is a part of the church. The homeless woman thanking God for another day is one of us. The banker begging God for a miracle is in on it, too.
Somewhere along the way, many of us equated the word “church” with “movie theater,” assuming both were intended for entertainment and consumption. Countless times, I’ve walked away from a sermon thinking, “He’s told that story before,” or, “She should have used a different scripture.” I’ve not only made the idea of church into a place I go once a week, I’ve convinced myself the main point of church is hearing a convicting or fun sermon. This allows me to justify missing a Sunday gathering because, I tell myself, I can just podcast it later on.
I’m so far off.
Many of us are, really. I’m missing out on the Biblical definition of church—an entity composed of people that pray for one another, share burdens, give away stuff, challenge each other, learn together, love the people around them together, and invite people in together. The teaching portion of a typical service is not the point of a gathering. It is an important part, to be sure, but we were not meant to be consumers. God invited us into His church to participate in His joy, actively engaging one another with service, teaching, prayer, and accountability. We were meant to know and be known.
Church happens at the breakfast table and the bar. It shows up when you bring your friend a meal. It’s there when we pray for each other. That building with the cross on the top? It is important, and we should show up regularly. But we’re wrong to think it is the church. We are the church, and that roof we share over our heads is meant to keep the rain off so we can pray, worship, learn, serve, invite, and live together.
I love the colder air blowing in. The colorful leaves strewn like a patchwork quilt across lawns.
Driving through my neighborhood, my heart warmed seeing men and women emerge for seemingly the first time from their air-conditioned fortresses of solitude to hang Christmas lights – some from ladders, some daring to traverse the roof.
There’s something about the synergy of the holiday season that caused me to slow down, to simplify. Almost instinctively I turned the TV off, turned the music down. Looking at less status updates. Less tweets.
The holidays reminded me that life is about relationship, about people. About the people we love. About the people He loves.
Most of us aren’t on planes flying to remote nations to preach the Gospel to unreached peoples. Or speaking to thousands in stadiums. Or writing life-changing devotional books.
And that is perfectly ok.
Instead we are living the Gospel with those we love, those we’ve been entrusted to. We are sorting socks, cleaning dishes, laughing, crying, hugging, forgiving. We’re sharing meals, watching movies, drinking coffee.
Have I taken the time to love those next to me or have I been too distracted by facebook updates from people I don’t even know? Have I played, laughed, tickled, and listened with the deepest chambers of my heart?
The way of Love is right here, right now. Full life is available. Your life is deeply meaningful, ancient, important. This moment, this place, these people. This is your call and it is full of wonder and joy and Eternity. Earth has been drowned in Heaven. We are living in a redeemed world – one of surprise and adventure. And the adventure is in your house, on your street, in the coffee shop.
“Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world.” Robert Capon
The moment my stomach ties up in knots and the adrenaline pulses through my temples is the moment I feel myself venturing away from safety. Some call this adventure, but I tend to call it fear. I tell my friends I take this emotion as a challenge waiting to be accepted, but really I feel it beating me back to solid ground. Plans can be my safety net, and when God tells me to take a sharp left turn when I want to go straight, I get a little freaked out. The leap of faith, plunging into the unknown.
I’m not talking about the I’m-about-to-fall-off-this-tightrope feeling. I’m talking about the pit in my stomach when Jesus is standing in the middle of the water and He’s asking me to take a step towards Him. It’s not the cry for help when I’m lost in the forest, it’s the “I just don’t think I can do it” when He’s telling me to widen my understanding of what it means to follow Him.
Do you know what I’m talking about? It shows up in big and little things. When you’re sure God told you to give more than feels comfortable and you’re about to hit “Submit” on the donation form—that type of feeling. When God puts someone in your life that annoys you and that person just asked you for a ride to the library—that’s the one. When you just know you’re supposed to wave goodbye to your family and move across the world as a missionary—the feeling’s there, too.
I’m starting to wonder, though, if God lets me feel this as an indication that I’m on the path towards taking up my cross and following him. Maybe I’ve misidentified this emotion as fear when, in reality, it’s simply a fork in the road. Will I take the narrow path of discipleship or the broad path of comfort?
Jesus tells us His yoke is easy and His burden is light. The work has already been done on the cross, and there is nothing we can do to earn favor with Him. What a relief. He also tells us to lose our lives for His sake, denying ourselves daily and following Him. Sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not.
It means we can joyfully accept the pit in our stomachs as a way we get to deny ourselves and follow Him, resting in the knowledge that we’re not saving ourselves or making God love us more—just living out our identities as sons and daughters of the King.
If God is calling you to move away, give it all away, take a step, or change directions—live into the love of our Heavenly Dad. Do not fear, for He is with you. Plug your nose, smile, and dive into the joy of following Jesus. You will lose yourself, and you will find a peace that surpasses all understanding.
“God made man because He loves stories.” -Elie Wiesel
If you really knew me, you’d know I go on a lot of adventures: small, big, week-long, ridiculous…anything. They break up the routine, and I love them. I like dreaming them up, going on them, and remembering them.
Every adventure I’ve ever been on reminds me of Jesus, and I believe Jesus is in the midst of every adventure from beginning, middle, to end. And it all starts with a simple command.
“Come, and follow me.”
He doesn’t just ask his disciples to follow him. He commands it. But He doesn’t command in a way an authoritarian would. I picture Him gently looking deep into my soul with a sly smile on His face, inviting me to join Him.
“Come, and follow me.”
The spirit inside me responds with curiosity as it probably did for the disciples. They didn’t know what they were getting into, and neither did I. I’m still not sure, but I just know I’m on a life-giving adventure and it is crazy.
One of my favorite things about Jesus is He always has somewhere He’s headed, but He always has time to be interrupted. I love the story where Jesus is on His way to heal Jairus’s dying daughter and is interrupted by a bleeding woman. She touches the fringe of His robe, and He stops. He invites her into His story by healing her and forgiving her of her sins. Meanwhile, Jairus’s daughter dies. But Jesus gets to her and brings her back to life. An adventure with Jesus means we fight to become interruptible because interruptions usually lead us to greater things than we could imagine. Jesus leads us through interruptions on the way to holiness, and our whole lives are a refining process.
Because adventures are inherently unpredictable, they aren’t always safe. But neither is the gospel. “Lose your life,” Jesus said, “and you will find it.” Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard says, “For me, the adventure begins when everything goes wrong.” But everything doesn’t have to go wrong; it just doesn’t go according to my plan.
My mind doesn’t inherently like unpredictability, but God draws me closer when I go outside what I’m comfortable with risking. I desire to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, able to put down my plans and drop anything at any time. I have a direction, but I’m willing to be interrupted with anything. When I trust Jesus, I find my identity in Him and am not afraid of getting hurt.
Adventure points us back to the gospel. All adventure—including spending a year abroad, taking two hours alone in the middle of a park, helping 6-year-olds down the street make a movie, traveling to Costa Rica with 12 wonderful people—wakes us up, reminds us of the gospel, and begs us to ask Jesus, “Where to, today?”
The answer is always beautiful.
Jordan is an adventurer based in Austin, TX. Follow his musings on Twitter, and reach out to him on Facebook.
Only so much dreaming can happen before I start realizing I’m still in the starting blocks. I calculate risk, map my steps, consider alternative possibilities, refine my goals, redefine my goals, and plan accordingly—all great things. But they’re only great things when they’re propelling me forward.
At some point, my dreams stop becoming inspiration. They turn into a defense against anxiety and failure. If I never get going, I won’t have to face the potential reality that everything won’t go like I want, and it may all crash and burn. The service project, marathon training, work goal, etc. remains crouched and stretched out, praying the starting gun doesn’t fire. Unfortunately, it’s already gone off. I’ve been so occupied with my plans for what will happen while I’m running, I don’t even recognize it’s time to start.
God puts big things in our minds. Creativity, passion, compassion, dreams, visions—they come as gifts given voluntarily by a loving father. He invites us to dream with Him, plan with Him, hope with Him, and expect great things. But He also asks us to take steps forward towards Him.
I wonder what it would be like if we took the vision God’s given us—stretching, imagining, warming up, believing—and settled into the starting blocks, listening for the shot that will get us up and running. When it fires, we’ll sprint with all we have. And when we stumble, trip, fall, or waiver, He’ll pick us up and remind us obedience is the point. Results are His to orchestrate. Whether we meet the goals or not, go according to plan or not, feel happy or not—it doesn’t matter. Results are not ours to manufacture or claim. What a relief.
God has placed things in each of our hearts. Let’s get going.
At some point along the way, I convinced myself it takes a packed schedule to signify a meaningful life. I told myself a billion times downtime is the enemy of success, a byproduct of laziness and indifference. This mindset is a blast sometimes because it allows me to treat life like a rushing river, using my full calendar as a small motor attached to my inner tube—pushing me faster and faster as I float downstream. As I pass others, I can’t help but think, “I bet they wish they were going this fast.” On worse days, I even think, “Their time on the river isn’t as good because they don’t have an engine as fast as mine.”
But the joy of the speed is starting to wear off. With the wind rushing through my hair, I pass through groups of people drinking lemonade and laughing about something I don’t have time to process. They’ve made large webs of inflatable rubber connected together by arms, legs, coolers, and life vests. As they playfully dunk each other and bask in the sun, I can’t help but wonder:
Is this motor even worth it?
The speed starts to lose its flavor as I realize it takes patience to travel down this thing with a group. I’m realizing the inherent need for deep relationships is on one team, and the consuming desire for busyness is on another. Cramming my calendar with events isn’t the means to a purposeful life, it’s one pathway to loneliness under the guise of productivity.
Let’s unhook our motors, gather some people together, and make an inner tube chain. We’ll have to free up some time, take a deep breath, look around, commit to honesty, and be willing to pour someone a glass of lemonade. But it’s worth it.
Grant me the patience to take a long, deep breath and observe what’s going on around me. The cool air on my skin, the food on my plate, the song on my lips, the people in my life—all results of Your kindness. Rid me of the idea that to be busy is to be important. Open my eyes to the stories in scripture where You take time to rest, reflect, pause, and pray.
Remind me that focused gratitude and contemplation, not laziness, are the goals. Whisper in the silence and open my ears to hear You. Empower me to turn down the noise—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Allow my eyes to stop frantically searching the room for affirmation, and fix my gaze on You as You tell me who I am. Close my mouth and shut me up. Pour the wine and fill my cup.
Wake me in the morning with thoughts of You, not what I have to do. Convict me of the things put on my calendar to box You out. Extend my meals with the people You love. Let me dig deeper without caring how much time has passed. Draw me to passionately love silence. Refine me to be a person dependent on prayer. Point out the gifts you give in every moment, and let me be in awe of Your generosity.
Take my striving heart and tune it to your song, leaving me unsettled until I settle in Your love. Extract my desire to be moving all day long, and implant an addiction to your purposes. Sing a lullaby to the anxiety flooding my thoughts, and raise up trust within my soul. Show me the wonders of a sunset, the flavors in a bite, the stranger in the crowd, and the source of all this light.