What I Love

10773508456_c850c59e2e_bGrowing up is not for wimps. At the ripe old age of thirty, I continue to grow up. I hope to reach adulthood soon.

One of the more illuminating journey’s I have been on has been to better understand what it means to love. When Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor like you love yourself,” what does he mean? Sure, I understand that I am supposed to love my neighbor, but what I don’t understand is what it is to love.

In my late teens, I came up with the best definition of love I could. Love is to delight in someone’s good. It is not just sentimental (delighting) nor is it just pragmatic (their good), it is to delight in their good.

Using that working definition, the verse offers a strange insight. I am to love others like I love me. Jesus assumes that I love me. Far from the modern notion of coming to “love yourself.” I must already love myself. In fact, that innate love of myself is why I am so motivated to fix my own unhappiness. I love me so much, I would do whatever it takes to care for me. Jesus’ argument is that I should love other people that way.

So if I make sure to eat dinner every night, am I as motivated to make sure my wife gets dinner too. Honestly, one of the great purposes of marriage in my life is to show me how desperately ingrown my focus is. Before I loved Sam, I never had anyone to compete with me in my own heart. I could be selfish and it never caused too much trouble for me. But in marriage, there are so many compromises where I am forced to ask if what I want is best for us. I am no longer alone.

What a messy place my heart has turned out to be? Every time I am given a chance to serve and I do it, I see how resistant I am to doing anything for someone else. My heart does not want to love her like I love myself.

Love is also connected to all other feelings. What is fear? It is what I feel when what I love is endangered. Hope is what I feel when I believe something good will happen to someone I love. Dread is what I feel when I believe something bad will happen to someone I love. Peace is what I feel when what I love is secure. Anxiety is what I feel when it is not.

All of my feelings flow from what I love. So when I get angry when someone belittles me, I should pause. Anger is what I feel when something I love is harmed. What is it that I love? Maybe it is my reputation. Far from loving people, even my enemies, I am more like a petulant child who gets his feeling hurt.

The cure for all of these weaknesses is to love God, to be profoundly delighted by him. We should possess a childlike delight in him. Recently I was pondering what it meant in Hebrews to go “boldly before the throne of grace” in prayer. I used to think of it as a sense of entitlement that a believer should feel. Now I think of it like I am God’s little boy who walks into Heaven’s throne room and walks up to God, climbs in his lap, and asks for a bike.

All of this is very irregular for a stodgy religious person, but the reason I can go to him is because he loves me with such a sweet and tender love that I don’t need to posture somehow to get him to give me something. Far from it, I know he loves me so I will ask for what I really want.

You know what I want, I want to spend a billion billion years talking about everything I can imagine. He’s my daddy, so I know he’ll find the time for me.

And that is love.

-Chip

The delightful photo is courtesy of Vinoth Chandar and is used with permission.

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Day Awareness Day

1311438015_3cacfb3c7b_bFor many years there has been a troubling trend threatening to rip our calendars to pieces and burn them with theoretical fire. As various causes, diseases, organizations, and just plain sweet nothings have sought a greater share of the world’s attention, they have resorted to the tactic of declaring a single calendar “Day” as a special time to pay special attention to their cause.

This method of drawing attention to one’s cause has been very effective throughout history. The Jewish holidays of Passover and Purim have cemented into their culture the remembrance of those events. Christians have celebrated Christmas and Easter for millenia to commemorate the birth and death of Jesus. Islam was the first religion to realize the power of harnessing a whole month with their use of Ramadan.

Previously, a powerful religious or political leader was necessary to have a Day added to the calendar. This is true to this day with Congress passing a bill starting Black History Month in 1976. Into the late 20th century that changed with influential disease advocacy groups like the American Cancer Society getting the whole month of October known for being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Unfortunately, those of us who watch the calendar carefully began to see a problem. With only 365 days in a year, that means that you can reasonably fit only 365 causes into a single year (366 in a leap year). Even more alarming is the rush for whole months of which there are only 12.

To stand against this flood of “Days” I have founded the Day Awareness Day Foundation. Founded in my living room just this past Sunday afternoon, our burgeoning ranks of supporters include….well….me.

But I am undeterred. I think that we need to be thoughtful with our calendars lest we reach a day when there are so many things to celebrate we just ignore them entirely. In the spirit of the cause, I have founded a Day to consider this cause, Day Awareness Day. Starting this year, the Thursday following the fifth Tuesday of April every year will be Day Awareness Day. We will stand together and let our neighbors, our communities, and our nation know that we want a calendar that is not just en enormous list of things we won’t look into.

But, you might say that it is important to celebrate these causes. I agree. So we here at the Day Awareness Day Foundation have several possible solutions to this vexing dilemma.

First, we could stop having annual Days and move them into events that occur once a decade. For example, Male Watcher’s Day, which happens every January 8th (the same as Bubble Dath Day). Wouldn’t it make better sense to have a decades worth of days to fit each of these meaningless reminders into. That is 3,652 or 3,653 (depending on the decade) days where you could easily fit Make a Hat Day (September 15th) along with all of the other days we need to remember. In addition, this is 120 months as appose to the very confining 12 months in a single year.

A second solution is to instead use hours of the year instead of days. You could then have Star Wars Hour instead of Star Wars Day (May 4th which is also Bird Day, National Candied Orange Peel Day, and Renewal Day). Leading the way on this account is Pi Day (March 14th) which celebrated the number Pi. In the year 2015 there will be a Pi Second on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 (corresponding to the digits of Pi, 3.141592653). This is a step in the right direction as there are about 31,536,000 seconds in a year (depending on how you calculate a year). I think we could then safely fit every conceivable cause into that many seconds.

The third solution, which is the one we have chosen for our own day, it to start using days on the calendar that look like they can occur, but never actually happen. Day Awareness Day is an excellent example of this being that it would almost happen on the calendar this year, being that it is the Thursday following the fifth Tuesday of April, but cannot ever actually happen.

We urge other organizations to follow our example. Stop filling up the calendars of well-meaning people. We need to come up with a better system for people who really need to  celebrate Pigs in a Blanket Day (April 24th) but only have 365 days in the year to celebrate in. We at the Day Awareness Day Foundation feel that we can do better. We must do better. Our calender depend on it.

-Chip

Photo used with permission from Sharon Mollerus

When You See a Tornado

4099585916_053b450ffa_bWith Easter just ahead of us, I have been asking myself why I don’t think much about storm shelters. A very natural question you must agree. These valuable, lifesaving devices spend whole years of my existence without serious thought. Part of the reason is that storm shelters are mostly underground and don’t draw the eye very much. They usually aren’t specifically made for aesthetic appeal.

It is the nature of purely function items to draw our attention much less often than flashier ones. Compare your favorite TV show (with no practical value) to the plumbing in your house (with immense practical value). Which one draws more of your attention? Which are you more thankful for?

The answer to that question will likely depend mostly on whether you have been without indoor plumbing before.

So this raises the difficult question of why I am not particularly thankful for storm shelters. Surely I should give a fleeting thought of gratitude for the men and women who thought of ways to protect me from dangerous storms. Why am I so prone to forget that they even exist?

Part of the problem is certainly that I am not often reminded of the need for them. If a tornado came tearing through my neighborhood once a week I would hold them in high regard. Not only that, I would invest heavily in one to make it secure and comfortable for my family when a twister comes barreling through. I would feel strongly about others having one as well and would consider anyone who doesn’t have one a fool.

Sitting in that shelter with the wind blowing in the ground above me, I would thank God that he had this kind of protection for us. I would hug my kids close and be so grateful this protection existed for all of us. I would send out Facebook messages talking of the wonders of my storm shelter. One of my greatest possessions would be my storm shelter.

But the fact is tornadoes do not weekly pummel my home. I don’t even own a storm shelter.

I think this is the fallacy I believe when I see Jesus on a cross and I don’t feel anything. I see the shelter but not the storm. I see the rescue but not the danger. If there really is a Hell and a Heaven, then Jesus’ rescue of my soul becomes sweeter than anything else. I go from apathetic about Jesus to a wonder-filled love of him.

The reason I am sometimes apathetic is that I don’t really believe there is a storm coming. If Heaven and Hell aren’t real, then Jesus’ cross is useless. Does it feel useless to you?

You obviously don’t think the storm is coming.

-Chip

To the Mole in My Backyard

moleDear Mole,

I was cleaning my yard yesterday and I noted an unwelcome sight. On the northern side of my yard, beside the fence, there are two mounds of soft brown earth. Clearly you have been working your nefarious deeds in my yard.

Now I understand you selecting me as your target. You clearly have done your research and have been looking for a weak target for your subterranean exploits. You scouted for a homeowner who lacks the skill, wisdom, or desire to stop you. Well you found him. I do lack the strength or desire to drive you from the northeastern corner of my property. You may feel you have won even before you started.

A mole of your obvious skill and foresight should also be aware that while I lack the ability to kill you or starve you out of my yard, that does not mean I am helpless. You must respect what careful planning and a well selected attack can do. Of all creatures, you must respect that.

So consider this letter the first volley in a war that you cannot hope to win. I may not be able to drive you from my yard, but I can make you the most infamous mole in history. My strengths do not lie in a passion for my yard, but in the power of the written word.

Imagine this for a moment. You arrive at one of your mole parties where you eat grubs and discuss the yards you have conquered. As you look around the room, you see many moles turning their backs on you. After they heard that rumor that you had made friends with a cat and may have been using the cat to eliminate your enemies, you may be less popular. Soon mole fathers won’t want you dating their daughters. You will be isolated from every mole in the area.

Sure, you can pretend you are a loner who does not need the company of another mole, but I know you better. Your little rodent heart quakes at the thought of my great rhetorical powers being expended on you. You know that every mole in a yard with wifi will be following this blog, wondering if these creepy rumors about you are true.

Speaking of rumors, I heard that you once turned on a waterhose and flooded the hole of another mole who offended you.

You see how easy it is for me. You see how all I have to do is suggest you did it and you must then spend hours and days telling your version of event. It sounds messy. What if there were a more equitable solutions?

I would be willing to keep all of your indiscretions to myself if you would simply leave my yard alone. That’s it. Just move your furry rodent butt out of my yard and we can go on with our lives. Understandably, you thought my yard was easy pickings. Now that you see the cost, I’m sure you can find someone else’s yard to dig your filthy tunnels in.

Thank you in advance for accepting this offer. I think you are a wise mole to bring your little dirty mounds somewhere else.

Respectfully,

-Chip

Photo by J Marsh and used with permission

It’s a Virtue, We Just Don’t Like It

5546445177_3251db342c_b We like virtues. We really do. Well, maybe we like them in theory, but not always in practice. Who could rail against love, joy, peace, kindness and goodness? These attributes are nearly universally valued by people.

But when I say valued, I mean I value it when other people do these things. I am not always so interested in doing them myself. I do get rather outraged when people do not treat me the way I want to be treated.

There are virtues in the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23) that are not so widely lauded. Most people have a grudging acceptance of patience but more often have a punchline that implies that it is impossible. Faithfulness reminds us too much of how much divorce we engage in. That is really uncomfortable, better not mention it. Gentleness really sounds like weakness. We’ve all known gentle people: they cry a lot when they are bullied at school.

And no one will ever stitch self-control on a pillow. Self-control implies that I can be held responsible for the porn I look at or the video games I am playing or the laziness I so deeply want to indulge. It implies I can do things I don’t want to do. That is downright unAmerican.

But the virtue with the worst reputation is not one of the Fruits of the Spirit. It is maligned when it is discussed, misrepresented when it is described, and we complain viciously when other people don’t possess it.

That’s right, it is humility.

Humility is terribly misunderstood in our day. I think most people would describe it as the lack of pride. No one would tolerate love being described as the lack of hate or joy being the lack of sadness, but poor humility is always described by its opposite. We just know we don’t like arrogant people.

But then we run into semantic troubles. We talk about pride in our work and pride in our country. We take pride in our family and pride in our possessions. We talk about jobs as if they can allow a man some pride. With all of these uses of the word pride, it is difficult to define humility as the opposite of them. When we say pride, we mean many different things.

So humility really needs to be described on it own terms.

Often, when we think of a humble person, we think of a things like the old English term of being in a humble estate. That means poor. This is misleading. I have known many arrogant poor people and arrogant wealth people. Humility and pride are states of the heart, not dollar amounts in a bank.

So what is humility? One of the most helpful descriptions of a humble person came from C. S. Lewis.

To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert. Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

Humility is the self-forgetfulness we experience when we look at the stars on a clear night. Some describe it as the conviction that we are small, but I think it is more like the conviction that God is more interesting and delightful than I am. It’s not that I’m boring, it’s that he is fascinating.

Humility treats others well because it has compassion for their pain (treating it like I treat my own) and delights in their good (again, treating it like it was my good). Humility does not feel entitled to being served and, quite the opposite, delights in serving. Humility loves to see joy in others eyes and loves to serve them to see that joy.

Humility is not overly concerned with its reputation. This is one of the great lies of our society, that a humble person feels badly about themselves. A humble person is not thinking of themselves much at all. They have a delightful focus on the world around them which is not distracted by the constant posturing for appearances.

Humble people loves kids. They love the sincerity and delight that children possess. Far from being too wise and polished for children, humble people don’t mind getting on the ground and being silly with them. Because of that self-forgetfulness they experience, humble people don’t have to keep up appearances and neither do children.

Humble people love Jesus. They see him and are awestruck. They delight in the fact that he humbled himself more than anyone else ever could.

Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Phil 2:6-7

Do you see it? Do you see how amazing it is that he was not stuck on being thought of (counted) equal with God. He chose to serve us. Why would he do this?

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2

He did it for joy. He humbled himself for the joy he would experience later. He humbled himself because humility and joy are very nearly the same thing.

If you’re like me, you are no doubt feeling quite guilty right now. You are looking into your soul and seeing the stunning amount of naval-gazing you do and then realize the you are currently naval-gazing. Crap! What can we do?

I recently heard a wonderful lecture by James McDonald (see a wonderful excerpt here) where he made a fascinating insight into humility. He noted that the bible does not command you even once to be humble. Rather, it always tells us to “humble yourselves.” His argument is that humility is much more action oriented. It is the choice to clean up that mess you don’t have to, to serve someone for the joy of serving. Far from the ivory tower solution of considering my own humility, he says to over and over again that “humility is not a feel thing, it is a do thing.”

You want to be humble. Go change a kids diaper. Do you want to broadcast your stunning deed on Facebook? That is your pride trying to rob you of the much deeper joys of humility. God knows you did it. He encourages you to show off to him that you did it (Matthew 6:4-6). By implication, he wants you to love that your Dad is proud of you and delighted by your good deed. He wants you to be so pleased that he is pleased, so delighted in his delight.

He wants your joy. He wants your humility. What I never knew before is that these are nearly the same thing.

Humility is not only the foundation under joy, it is the foundation under love. You will notice that love has the strange components of loving actions and loving feelings. If you only describe love as an action or a feeling, it becomes either useless (just a feeling) or martyrdom (just an action). It must be both.

And that is where humility comes in. We must harness the joy of a delightful world full of image-bearers of God to pry the claws of stupid pride out of our souls. We are then free to joyfully look outside of ourselves and drink deeply of a joyful and sweet God and his lovely creation. The joy of humility is the fuel we use to love and sacrifice and serve. Under all that good is a humble heart that just doesn’t find itself all that interesting.

So do the humble thing. Go to God with your stupid pride and naval-gazing. Tell him about it. Then accept that he really does love you and really does forgive you because he really is that good. It takes humility to trust him, but isn’t that what this is all about.

Once you accept that he is trustworthy, then real joy is yours. Drink deeply of all the joys outside yourself. Drink from the deepest wells of joy which are scripture and prayer. Love the lesser joys too like nature, great books, people, great stories (movies too!). Stare deeply into things you love and forget yourself in them. Then make that joy complete by thanking God for them and then telling people about them.

Don’t buy into the lie that humility is miserable. Humility is joy, real joy.

-Chip

Photo is is from Waiting for the Word and is used with permission

Gay Marriage Opponents are So Dangerous They Must be Silenced

In our Republic, there have always been extremely divisive cultural debates. When the US was founded, the Federalist and the Antifederalists battled in the arena of public opinion for generations and many of the issues they brought up are still being debated today. During the 1830s, a pressing issue was the regulation of banks due to their wild speculation. Slavery was a hard-fought issue that took a civil war to resolve. During reconstruction, the debate about what is appropriate restrictions on the South which was both a defeated enemy and a purported member of the Union. In the 1910s, the decision about whether to join the war in Europe was hotly debated and eventually Woodrow Wilson told some bold-faced lies and then had the united States Join World War 1.

Into the 1920s prohibition took center stage and with the growth of organized crime, we had to wrestle with the notion of the Federal Government prosecuting crimes that the local governments would not. The 1930s was a long debate over whose fault the Great Depression was (the consensus was that Herbert Hoover was at least partly to blame). The 1950s and 60s were dominated by a new discussion on civil rights for African Americans and later other minority groups as well. The 1970s brought the very divisive debate about abortion with the Roe vs. Wade decision by the U. S. Supreme Court.

Of course, many of these divisive issues remain divisive to this day. A temptation on both sides of these debates was to find ways to silence your opponents. The Sedition Act of 1918 was a law specifically designed to silence opponents of World War 1. The lynchings that occurred through the early 20th Century were specifically designed to silence and pacify African Americans. Many times it is much easier to silence you opponent than it is to compete with them in market of ideas.

It is tempting to think that we have moved beyond such immature ways of dealing with others ideas. The Freedom of Speech has become firmly established in our society and laws like The Sedition Act of 1918 would never be upheld by the Supreme Court today. Additionally, many times when free speech is limited, there is a reporter or blogger who takes up the cause and, as a rule, we respond by encouraging free speech.

It recently came to light that Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich donated $1,000 in support of Proposition 8 (a Constitutional Amendment in California which would effectively ban Gay Marriage). He was expressing his opinion in a difficult national debate with intelligent and thoughtful people on both sides. He supported his position with a modest donation and life went on.

Mr. Eich was recently appointed to the CEO of Mozilla only getting the position on March 24th. In response to that, a dating website named OkCupid sent this message to it’s users.

Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OKCupid.

This is a hot-button issue so it made some press.

So Mozilla fired Mr. Eich.

I am having a very hard time understanding how you can fire someone for what they think in the name of tolerance and diversity. Let’s turn the tables and imagine the firestorm that would occur is someone was fired for supporting gay marriage. I think they might be prosecuted for a hate-crime. This would be labeled as bigoted, homophobic, and intolerant.

Are the arguments for gay marriage so weak that its advocates need to punish and silence? For a tolerant and diverse bunch, are gay marriage advocates so brittle and fragile they cannot tolerate someone donating a modest sum of money to groups that oppose them? Maybe we should just fire everyone who disagrees with them. Would that be progress in this difficult debate?

I think much of the gay community will agree that we should not fire people who disagree with them. I don’t believe that most of them would have asked for Mr. Eich to be fired. But this was the result and it surely will cause leading business figures who are against gay marriage to think twice before they say so publicly. We all remember when Dan Cathy dared to say he opposed gay marriage. Chic-fil-A, which has been unashamed of being run with a Christian philosophy, was the center of a media firestorm.

Whatever the intentions, what will happen now is that prominent leaders will be more reluctant to discuss gay marriage. The advocates for gay marriage have become what they hated. They have fought for decades for equal employment opportunities for gay people yet have now allowed a situation where they advocate firing people they don’t like. they have gone from being the oppressed to being the oppressors.

To be honest, this makes them look weak. Apparently gay people are such a fragile bunch that even the hint that someone might not like them is justification for destroying that persons livelihood.

To be clear, I don’t think gay people are that mean or that weak as a whole. Which is why I am asking that gay people work hard to not allow this sort of thing to happen again. I am working hard to advocate for kind treatment of gay people by Christians. I am working and persuading my own community to love gay people despite disagreeing with them.

I hope gay people will do the same for us.

-Chip