One of the Biggest Pitfalls of Our Generation

You are the best and the brightest. You have a great future ahead of you. You can do anything you want with your life. You are still young, what’s holding you back? Go for it. Seize the day.

Does that sound familiar? Wait, isn’t that what we just told our kids this morning?

Here’s some more:

Become an independent person who can do all things without turning to others for help (except, of course, when you absolutely have to), try to earn as much fame as you can now so that you might serve others later when life gives you the chance, never settle for anything less than you deserve, etc. — you get the idea.

We applaud self-sufficiency, high achievement, and ivory towers.

But, what if, somewhere along these roads, we are neglecting to teach ourselves (and our kids) of this generation something that’s intrinsically beautiful about the human life?

Love is a selfless thing. One of the biggest pitfalls of age is we’ve been fighting so long to prove we can be independent that we’ve not yet learned how to put others first. Love is a powerful thing. It’s not about an emotional high or how someone else makes us feel. Love is about being willing to serve, to put others ahead of ourselves and value them over ourselves. Love is not just speaking truth boldly; it’s caring enough to temper our words and actions. Love always does good for the one it loves.

H/T to Relevant Magazine.

Future of Journalism

We’ve all heard that the traditional journalism is in decline. Within just a few clicks of the Internet, we can always find enough to read–news,  articles, blogs, and forums, you name it. More often than not, we don’t pay a single dime to read them. And quite often, these are very good writings that engage the readers with one another.

In a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, the host John Oliver presented what I thought was a pretty convincing case against the public’s perception of the traditional journalism in decline. The core of his argument was that what is most popular isn’t necessary what is most important. I had to pause the video and ponder on that for a while — largely because I thought he had (probably inadvertently) touched on something that tells a lot about the condition of the human mind. The advocate of the free market argues that when left alone all will go well and eventually achieve the optimal state for all’s best. I argue, sometimes so, but definitely not always.

Two Ways to Do Church

In his post, Benjer McVeigh writes about two ways of doing church. The first is the approach that many of us are probably more familiar with (he calls it “the Short-Term Missions Approach”) — whereby we (the church planters) “every now and again find a way to connect with or serve our communities” only to “go back to business-as-usual.”

The second approach, which he calls is the “the Long-Term Missionary Approach,” is about taking the heart of the one who (1) discovers God’s calling on his life, (2) prepares to do the very thing, and (3) simply goes to carry it out. Plain and simple.

I resonate with Benjer in that I too think that, for some very strange reasons, many of us who are fired up to plant and multiply churches have stopped thinking along the lines of plain and simple. We are often reluctant to do the simple and plain things — and we are getting very good at complicating matters.

My hope is that we think and act plain and simple. And let us start expecting great things from God and attempting great things for God.

What if on Sunday mornings, we actually expected people from our communities who don’t yet know Jesus to show up? And not because they somehow heard about our church or drove by, but because they received a personal invitation from someone at our church?

Read in full here.

Why You Should Let Your Audience Ask About Your Sermon (or Church)

If you think about it, this is really a no-brainer. You’ve just spoken to a group for about 30 minutes — you’d naturally expect there to be at least some questions about what you just delivered. In fact, this seems to happen pretty much everywhere but at church.

Tim Keller writes that one of the key functions that his post-sermon Q&As serve is to invite skeptics and former Christians to ask questions that may help them examine the case for Christianity systematically. Keller writes:

[T]he Q&A was to some degree the beginning of a process of assimilation into the church. The non-Christians needed to get into a venue where they could more systematically explore the case for Christianity. The Christians needed to get to a place where they could be more systematically instructed and readied for church membership and other ways of participation in the body.

In other words, the Q&A serves not only as a forum for the Christians to ask questions that directly relate to the sermon just preached but as a open floor for evangelism for the pastor and the non-Christians to engage in. I think this is great. Now, let us (and our pastor friends) get busy with finding a good 40-minute-long block of time to follow their sermons.

Read in full here.

Why We Keep Failing to Rest

Lately in my world (well, more like the past 5 years), busyness has been the new gold standard. I go from one thing to another, thinking that the more I can do in any given day, the more productive I am. As difficult as it is to admit, I have been wanting to become a super human who can do everything, faster and better than anyone else.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t seem to understand what productivity really means:

I don’t have time to answer my friend’s phone call, because I’m too busy writing my next blog post. I don’t have time to go see that movie, because I need to finish preparing for my Bible study. I don’t have time to hang out with my best friends, because I need to get coffee with the student I’m discipling.

I worry if I don’t do these things, I’m being selfish and sinful. And so my productivity becomes legalistic busyness. I am aiming at perfection and condemning myself when I don’t reach it. It’s exhausting.

It’s time to find rest. Nothing wrong with taking breaks. Better yet, it’s okay not to do anything for a while.

Read in full here.

Celebrating Five Years (and Counting)

About five years ago this day I graduated from my alma mater. In hindsight, the graduation really felt more like a new beginning (as the term “commencement” aptly suggests) because I was, well, pretty much confused as to what was up next. I was so scared by it that I even wrote a commencement speech on it (read: “I am graduating but I am afraid that I failed so much already and that I might fail again”). In another hindsight, though, I really didn’t need to stress over it that much because it turns out that that’s a question I am pretty much going to have to live with for the rest of my life. Fast forward five years – and I find myself back in Northfield, MN where it all happened. The only difference is that this time I am wearing a name tag that says “5th Year Reunion!”

When I first signed up to go to my first reunion ever, I had mixed feelings about it. Do I have to go? Is it worth my time and money? Who else is coming? Am I going to be pressured to give money to the college? But then again, I think my greatest fear came from my inability to formulate a quick and satisfactory answer to the question: “So, Wookie, what have you done accomplished in the past five years of your life?” As much as I liked about myself, I knew I would want others to walk away from our conversation, inspired by and impressed with what I seem to have done to positively impact the lives of many since my departure from college. Having fought against the fear long and hard, I never actually came to formulate a good answer but decided that I had no time and, more importantly, remembered that I had already paid my fees to go to the reunion. So I went.

The reunion was fun. More than I had expected. And far less scary (thank God). Here’s what I learned from attending my 5th year reunion:

Friends are still friends after college (for the most part).
Duh – say you? Hang in there, though, because I am careful  to use the term “friends” for a reason. There is something about friends that we don’t seem to find among, say, our colleagues or partners. I want to say that it’s because friends accept you for who you are without trying to change or control you in any way (again, for the most part). It’s just that good to be around friends.

Tears and laughter can co-exist indeed.
During the reunion was a memorial service for a classmate who passed away recently. As her friends stepped forward to share about the memories they shared with her, there were tears in the eyes and voices of those who spoke and also those who listened. The tears were then followed by smiles and laughter as the same friends turned to one another to share about how blessed they were to have gotten to spend time with her. At the intersection of such tears and laughter, I realized that this may actually be a pretty accurate depiction of life as a whole. That those sad and happy moments may always co-exist and that one would do well to learn to live in moments of such seemingly chronic state of emotional chaos.

We continue to grow, learn, and change.
Those who came out to the reunion came in all shapes and sizes. And I don’t mean this just in the most plain physical sense. Among the 200 or so of us from the Class of 2011 were Ph.D. holders, graduate students, CEOs, government employees, academics, and investment bankers, just to name a few. While the sizes of our paychecks and the stress levels of our work schedules probably varied by much, the one common ground we all shared was that growth, learning, and changes had been all part of our lives in the past five years and are now so as we look to the beginning of another year ahead. The four years we spent together in college did not conclude our learning but instead those years put us on a path towards appreciation and enjoyment of life-long learning.

So, there came and went my 5th year union. So much to do, so many people to catch up with, so many stories to hear and share, and yet not enough time for any. But then again, life barely leaves enough time for anything anyway (or at least we seem to think). Oh well, time to journey on.

This Is Why We Fail to Be Content

I first came across this message by Beau Hughes in 2011. I remember sitting in my room then, struck so hard by how closely it seemed to describe the source of the discontentment in my own heart. I look back on it today, and it still rings just as true as it did before.

Our struggle with finding contentment is really our failure to place trust in the goodness of the Giver of all things. We struggle to trust because we think we know better and that we think we deserve more and thus should be given more. We take note of the few things we think are missing in our lives but consistently fail to note the thousand things we have been freely given:

You and I are struggling with being content primarily because of our trust in God. You and I are not struggling with being content primarily because we’re single, because of our job, because of our spouse, because of our bank account or because of our living arrangements. You and I struggle with contentment primarily because we struggle and we fail to trust God. That’s why discontentment surfaces in our lives in all the ways that it does. Deep down, we struggle badly with trusting God and believing that God is what is best for us and always does what is best for us. We struggle to trust Him in that and to hope in Him in that. And because we do, we are discontent in a myriad of ways.

Read/watch in full here.

Life is Short

Another excellent reason to seize each day:

It is possible to slow time somewhat. I’ve gotten better at it. Kids help. When you have small children, there are a lot of moments so perfect that you can’t help noticing.

It does help too to feel that you’ve squeezed everything out of some experience. The reason I’m sad about my mother is not just that I miss her but that I think of all the things we could have done that we didn’t. My oldest son will be 7 soon. And while I miss the 3 year old version of him, I at least don’t have any regrets over what might have been. We had the best time a daddy and a 3 year old ever had.

Via Paul Graham’s blog.

A Plan or An Alibi

Peter Thiel, one of the founders of PayPal, delivered a commencement day speech at Hamilton College this past week. I don’t know too much about Thiel’s personal and/or career history, but I did find the following quite interesting. How many of us are living a plan for something that we are genuinely convinced is a cause(s) or value(s) worth pouring our lives, energy, time, and passion into?

Looking back at my ambition to become a lawyer, it looks less like a plan for the future and more like an alibi for the present. It was a way to explain to anyone who would ask — to my parents, to my peers, and most of all to myself — that there was no need to worry. I was perfectly on track. But it turned out in retrospect that my biggest problem was taking the track without thinking really hard about where it was going.

See full posting here.