Loving Comfort

I was talking to a friend the other day about this idea of comfort. We both agreed that as a human race we most often seek out comfort above all other things.

I told him, I don’t care if I’m wealthy or I have a bunch of stuff or even if I’m successful, I just want to be comfortable in this life. Think about it, when talking world problems we almost always try to solve them by making the sufferers of such problems more confortable.

That plays itself out in our marriage too. Instead of confronting that extra $44 we shouldn’t have spent on the entertainment section of our budget for April, we let it slide. We plan vacations to cushy islands, not mission trips to war-strewn third world countries. We gravitate towards what’s easy, the path of least resistance.

Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with nice vacations or going to the movies at $22 a pop (actually there is something wrong with that, but it has nothing to do with me or you).

What I’m saying is that, when given the choice, Jesus sought out trial over free pass and pain over painless. Those things didn’t just come to him as if magically produced by life, He went after them. He saw the eternal gain in subjecting Himself to temporary physical and emotional decimation to become more like His father.

And we can barely fast for a day to catch a glimpse of this.

On Work

I was reading the first chapter of Acuff’s new book yesterday when I happened upon this statistic:

84 percent of employees plan to look for a new job this year.

What?!

I must have read that wrong. Am I incurring dyslexia at a young age? It must be 48 percent (and even that seems high). I re-read it, again, and again, eight times I re-read it.

Nope, eight out of every ten people you know want a new job, want a better job (one can’t decide I guess and the other is satisfied). That’s staggering to me.

But I think it correlates to one thing we talk about on this blog a lot: that we, as an American people, always want more. More money, more power, more cars, more square footage. The list goes on and on.

I’m not saying ambition is something to be sneered at, ambition is part of what drives people to accomplish great things and change the world, on some level, for the better.

Here’s my take on that 84 percent thing: I don’t think people are unsatisfied in their specific workplace, I think they’re unsatisfied by how much money they make and what they spend their time doing. For example, you could pay me $700,000 a year to stand on a street corner and be the dancing Little Ceasar’s guy and there’s no way I would to it.

You might be saying, “that’s crazy Kyle!” – and you might be right. But to me satisfaction in our work comes not from how bloated our pay stubs are or how prestigious our companies may be.

No, satisfaction in our work comes singularly from whether or not you love the work, whether you’re proud of it, whether or not you find yourself getting lost for hours at a time in it.

If you do that kind of work and have figured out how to get paid for it (even a minuscule amount), well, you’re one of the lucky ones. You shouldn’t be in the 84 percent.

Three Changes

Hot tea and almonds. The breakfast that signifies that we’re still completely out of food. Must go shopping today.

This morning, I have three thoughts.

1. Mornings are much more beautiful than the evenings. There’s something so wonderful about getting out before the rest of the world is awake, smelling the fresh dew, seeing all of creation come alive for the day. This leads me to conclude that I should go to bed earlier and spend more time in the mornings reading, writing, and walking. This, as we all know, is much easier said than done.

2. Being 28 years old does not make you too old to decide what you want to do with your life. Sometimes I forget that one does not have to make all life and career decisions by the age of 21. Crazy, isn’t it? If you’re forgetting this, read Jon Acuff’s article on why you’re the perfect age to chase your dream here.

3. Holidays don’t have to fit the holiday mold every year. I wish I could make a Jell-o mold joke, but I don’t have one. I can’t imagine them being especially funny anyway. Because of timing and schedules, we won’t be going to either hometown for Easter Sunday. We will, however, be celebrating an Easter lunch with several families in our small group who will also be staying here. And for some reason, it still feels a little like family. Must be the work of Christ or something.

Happy Monday, readers! What are your plans for Easter?

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Communal Living

Last night in small group there arose this discussion on community. How do we create a good one? How do we make ours better? Why is it important?

I’ll spare you the details because that’s not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is this idea put forth by one girl in our group in the midst of the discussion.

She said something along the lines of, “we should be grateful for the houses we live in and space we have for our families because millions of people in other countries aren’t afforded such things.”

I was instantaneously confounded, not by what she said (it’s true), but by this idea that all our lives we essentially work to buy bigger houses and more space for our families.

We get better jobs and purchase larger homes, even when we haven’t the slightest inkling with what to do with all our room.

I guess my question is, why do more American families not live communally? And do families in other countries (heck, other states) live communally because they have to, or because they want to?

I think it’s easy to assume they do it because they have to. That makes us feel better about our unnecessary square footage and mountainous mortgages we have piled up, but I’d like to know what the truth is.

Now we aren’t planning on buying a 12-bedroom home and inviting all the couples from our home group to move in (like these people). That would be madness. I just think the questions need to be asked.

I think it’s important to challenge the status quo even when nothing comes of it in the end. I think it’s important to question what we do and why we do it. I think Jesus thinks so too.

Working Things Out

Raise your hand if you’ve been to a wedding ceremony in the last year and heard this:

The relationship between a husband wife is like that between Christ and the Church

Just for the record my personal favorite wedding ceremony analogy is:

These rings signify that your love is forever because they are in the shape of a circle and a circle never ends, it goes on forever

Okay, really, what if I put an onion ring around my wrist and call that my wedding onion and vow that our love will go on forever? I’m not judging you if you’ve said it or had it said at your ceremony, I’m just imploring young pastors across the nation to rescind that bit from their wedding repertoire. I’m begging, really.

Anyway, back to the Christ + Church analogy. I’ve been thinking lately about how a marriage is, in many ways, this physical manifestation of one’s relationship with the Lord.

There’s this Biblical concept that a person is progressively sanctified in Christ as he or she walks with Him day after day after day. This idea that one must be refined by the prodding of His hands and the wisdom of His ways.

Note: don’t let this be confused with positional sanctification, which is the acceptance of Jesus into one’s heart.

Never have I been more acutely aware that of the Biblical meaning of the words ‘progressive’ or ‘sanctification’ or ‘progressive sanctification’ than in the 300 days since I’ve been wed.

There is either a force pulling us to the end or a force pushing us from the beginning. Often I cannot tell. All I know is that we are headed somewhere and along the way it becomes imperative that we work things out to get there.

Now, “working things out” is a rather ambiguous term by which I simply mean: compromising disagreements, melding mutual ideas, and growing in Christ-like friendship.

It’s an opaque endeavor, and yet the most specific, clear thing in the world. You know what I mean if you’ve ever walked with God.

Knowing

These worlds that we have self-constructed seem to become more full by the day with budding new relationships (digital or otherwise), yeoman-like tasks, and stranger-to-stranger interaction.

We measure our self-worth not by the influence of our social sphere but rather by the girth of that sphere, or how girth-y we can make it.

There is an obsession that we be immersed in as much as possible.

It’s taxing, really. Tiring too, but mostly mentally and emotionally taxing on our beings. As bloggers (and writers, because there’s a stark difference between the two) we’ve been learning this. You give and connect and work and grow this platform you’ve been blessed with because, for whatever reason, you think everyone in the world needs to hear what you have to say.

There’s a tricky balance to it. Not unlike a chef creating the proper ebb and flow of a delectable five-course meal.

We (as Americans in the 21st century) feel the need to expand our personal brands to the point that they become so diluted we don’t even know what we’re delivering anymore. We’re so obsessed with more (not more stuff, just more) that we don’t stop along the way to engage in the treasure of conversation to be had between new friends and good, threadbare relationships.

And that’s really the travesty in it all — that we miss out on slowing down to enjoy the fulfilling moments because we’re too busy trying to see how many moments we can accumulate.

So to you my wife, I’m sorry for putting Google analytics ahead of asking you about your walk with God. I’m sorry that I fall, so often, into this camouflaged pit of destructive behavior that society calls “success.”

And I’m sorry that I’ve let knowing people be easily replaced with following and reading people. It’s one of the great flaws my generation faces, but I have no excuses (and few solutions for that matter) to offer up.

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I Don’t Hate Hillsong

Last night our home group started a study based on the work of Tim Keller on cities and how we as Christians (and really as humans) function within them.

Much of the discussion centered around a portion of the Bible in which the Israelites were exiled to Babylon and then instructed that they were to,

…seek the welfare of the city…and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7)

As we talked about what this means for us in our place in 2011 society of Dallas, Texas and what our group could do to “better” the neighborhoods and cultural pockets we reside in I was struck by a few things.

The first is this idea that the growth of our faith is fully played out within our small homogenous church groups. It’s not. I would argue that progressive sanctification is more likely to take place outside of these comfortable parameters we’ve laid for ourselves than it is within them. Progressive sanctification is more Derek Webb than it is Hillsong United.

The other thing that struck me is that Jen and I have this blog that’s read by hundreds of people each day who sometimes know more about our lives than we do ourselves and yet I can’t tell you any of the first names of the people who sleep in our eight-room apartment building.

That’s sad and needs to change.

So to my lovely wife I herein charge you with the burden of helping me reinforce our spiritual backbone and to pray for the courage to ask our God for help when we haven’t the strength to do so ourselves.

AT&T Jesus Juke

Okay just so you know beforehand, this is probably going to be a borderline Jesus Juke of a post so if you aren’t into that kind of thing just be forewarned.

We haven’t had internet for about 48 hours. I have no idea why or what the problem is. I’ve tried everything I know to fix it and come up empty-handed each time. Thankfully, our internet service provider provides online chat support which is wildly helpful so we should get the issue solved shortly.

In the meantime though it makes for some interesting blogging days. Uhhh, I’ll go to Barnes & Noble tonight at 10 and use their Wi-Fi but not buy anything. Okay, you put together a few posts, put them on a flash drive, and I’ll upload them at the coffee shop on our laptop in the morning. Sometimes we just resort to typing things out on our phones. I know, I know, privileged first world people problems.

But still problems, and frustrations. More of the latter than the former. Here’s the thing though, because we (and by “we” I mean Jen and I and most of the people reading this blog) have been blessed with so much material wealth we find ourselves leaning on that wealth to prop up our deepest desires for joy.

Is it imperative that we have the internet at our house? No, but it is convenient, and for some reason we think we’re entitled to the most convenient, easy lives imaginable. Jesus even called people like us, who get frustrated when their broadband 100000000 gigabyte (I don’t know if this is a thing?) internet doesn’t work in .0002 seconds, out in Luke when talking to a man who probably had sundial-up (thank you, I’ll be here til June),

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!

It’s not that we have things, it’s that we cling to them as if they can save us.

That might have been two Jesus Jukes, my bad.

What Wisdom Is

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. -James 3:13-18

Sometimes as a wife, a friend, a sister, I try to give the best advice I can. It’s always from the heart and I almost always have something to draw from: a past experience, a broken heart, a book I’ve read on the subject. But more often than not, my well-intentioned “wisdom” is tainted with a little bitterness, a little pride, a sprinkling of selfishness. And suddenly what the world would call wisdom is blown away like ashes.

Our small group at church is reading through James together and this is the verse that has found me most unprepared this week. Wisdom is wisdom, right? Isn’t it good to be full of wisdom, even of the earthly kind? I’m finding more and more that the things out of my mouth are more what I think to be true and what I feel at the moment than what the scriptures say. And God doesn’t call that good intentions- He plainly calls it demonic.

For this week I wish two things- to think before I speak and to pray before I think.

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