Tuesday, December 30

Somewhere Between Hearing and Doing

On work days, my wife and I study the Bible together, sort of. With our schedules, it's easier for us to study the same thing at different times- on our own, but together. She usually studies during her lunch break and I just do it whenever I am awake. Sometimes we talk about what stood out to us in the reading that day. Lately, we have been reading with a mind to obey in the book of Luke.

Usually, we read a chapter and I pick out a handful of verses for us to really focus on. We write out those verses verbatim, so that it sinks in deeply. Then we write them again, but in our own words. That way, we know for sure that we understand what's being said. Finally, we write "I will" statements- ways in which we will obey the imperative found in the words of God.

Today, we were in Luke 6. We chose to look in-depth at the last section, which talks about foundations, hearing, and acting. It's a direct hit on what I have been wanting to do lately (see O Man, 1-3). In a lot of ways, I have been the foolish man who hears, but does not act on what he hears. Jesus says that ultimately, that approach to spirituality leads to great ruin.

But how do you become that wise guy who hears and acts? Especially if you've been the fool for so long? Are there steps missing from the equation? Shouldn't there be something between Hearing and Doing?

Jesus' Steps to Obedience:
1. Hear
2. Do

My Steps to Obedience
1. Hear
2. Consider what will happen if I do
3. Weigh the consequences of doing versus not doing
4. Look around for anyone else who might be doing or not doing
5. Decide doing is worth a try
6. Do, but only half-heartedly
7. Fail several times
8. Decide it is undoable
9. Come back and give it another try
10. Do

My steps are obviously less tidy than the ones Jesus laid out. They take longer, too. But I don't think they would be so bad if I actually made it from step one to step ten. The problem is, I usually get lost and turned around somewhere in between Hearing and Doing.

Maybe I should lose the extra steps?

Monday, December 22

O Man, Part Three

... It may require something radical. Or maybe not.

I thought about calling this radical obedience because to us, 100% obedience seems radical, and because it just sounds cool. Radical obedience. Sounds cool. But then I decided that there is no such thing as radical obedience. There is no such thing as full obedience. There is only obedience and disobedience. If there is anything radical about it, it is the paradigm shift that needs to happen within me. A decision must be made in my noggin that compromise results not in "partial obedience," but flat out disregard for the commands of God- disobedience. And the result of regular disobedience? Stagnant spirituality.

Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments... One ho has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and reveal myself to him."

So I will be using this blog as a tool. Call it accountability if you like. It might even be appropriate to call this a spiritual experiment. My plan is to systematically begin reading God's word with a mind to obey it. Not to know it, memorize it, or even apply it, but to simply obey it. I'll share what I am reading on this blog and lay out my plan for immediate obedience. I'll also be sharing my results and struggles with obedience. All of this I'll do in hopes of growing more like a disciple of Christ and less like an observer of Christ. The time has long passed to get off the bleachers and step into the game. Here we go.

O Man, Part Two

... I believe the day I stopped reaching my spiritual potential was the day I accepted partial obedience as the norm.

Somewhere along the way in my spiritual walk, I got confused. I began to elevate knowledge over obedience. Spiritual maturity was displayed in facts recalled, not commands obeyed. Early in my Christian days, I knew very little and obeyed most of what I knew. Now, I know a lot, but obey only a fraction of what I know? Is this experience common? Can you see it happening in your life? What is better, to know one hundred things and only obey ten of them, or to know ten things and obey nine out of ten? I think I would rather be the latter fellow, but introspection tells me I am more like the first guy. Oh, but I want a change. How wonderful it would be to have knowledge with complete obedience.

I think knowledge with complete obedience is what we all shoot for to begin with. I am not sure what cases us to compromise and settle for partial obedience instead. Maybe it is because we look around and partial obedience is widely accepted. Maybe it is because we know that we cannot be perfect, so why not lean as heavily as we can upon grace? Maybe it is a slow numbing that we don't notice until we have moved far, far off the path we wanted to travel. Maybe it is a combination of all of these things and more? Like I said, I'm not sure.

So how do I (or we if you'll join me) get back to that place where full obedience is a natural way of life? It may require something radical. Or maybe not.

O Man, Part One

I realized the other day that at age 24, I have been a Christian over half of my life.

You would think I’d be a little further along by now.

I know I’ve grown in a lot of ways… I guess I have honed some talents in leadership, teaching, public speaking, and the like, but those personal improvements don’t necessarily indicate spiritual growth, do they? I guess I have grown some in knowledge… I can quickly turn to any book in the Bible. I can quote some verses. I can answer most doctrinal questions pretty easily. But is that spiritual growth? Sometimes I wonder if I am any better than I was five years ago. Am I more like Jesus than I was five years ago? I have a beard now… maybe that counts for something. But have I grown in the things that really matter?

As long as I can remember, I have looked up to people who seem to have it going on spiritually. Maybe you can think of someone like this. They seem to be on a higher plane. They seem to always say and do the right thing at the right time. You know who I’m talking about. They are the ones you want to have vouch for you on judgment day. I have tried before to pinpoint what sets these people apart from the rest of us- we Christians who desperately want to grow, but feel like we are spinning our wheels in the mud. Well… I was thinking that maybe I’ve figured it out.

Sometimes I feel like a little sprig of grass in the middle of a forest. There was a time, early on, when my spiritual growth was on par with everyone else. In fact, there have been times when I seemed to zoom past others in this area. But now the forest has grown up around me and I'm still just a little shrimp. What happened? What exactly went wrong? What did I do? What didn't I do? These are frustrating questions I have asked myself over and over again. And now finally I think I have a decent answer. I believe the day I stopped reaching my spiritual potential was the day I accepted partial obedience as the norm.

Friday, November 21


This blog post is fueled by half a peanut-butter brownie and two hours of sleep. Why? Because our pantry is currently short on traditional breakfast eats and I recently started working nights at FedEx. Dessert for breakfast is typically more enjoyable than working all night, but this morning I want to write about the latter.

I work in the heavy weight sector with a team of about fifteen people- handlers, checker-sorters, forklift drivers and managers. There are probably fifty teams just like ours working in heavy weight alone, one of many, many sectors. When I get to the airport at ten-thirty, I usually have to park in the very back of the lot and walk past about a thousand cars to get to security. After security, I get on a bus that takes me to my work area. Every workday, I ride a bus with twenty other people. You would think I might see the same people on the bus every night, but that's not the case. In three weeks- about thirty bus rides, I've seen the same person maybe twice. That's understandable when you consider the volume of people working at the Memphis Hub. My manager's manager's manager told us in a new hire meeting that at midnight, the Hub is the 17th largest city in Tennessee. So I guess I'm trying to say there are a lot of people.

Call it an "anthill" or a "bee hive" or whatever. The point is, sometimes I look up from tying down nets and see the city around me- the noise of the machinery, the smell of jet fuel, the entire floor moving with people- and I realize I am one of many. I am one of many, many different people. It's an unfamiliar feeling for me.

I realized at some point that my whole life I've been around people just like me. In high school, college, my first job out of college, and now in graduate school... the people I've worked with, studied with, and befriended have been just like me. They dressed like me, thought like me, acted like me, spoke like me, disliked what I disliked, and valued what I valued. I think I realized this by looking the contacts on my cell phone. There are about 150 names in there. I counted 5 people who were different from me. Now I'm a little bee in a hive overflowing with people from a different world. Here, people don't dress like me. They don't think or act like me. They definitely don't talk like me and some of the things I hate, they love.

Chasti is not like me. She's a single mother of four. She clocks in with me at eleven and clocks out with me around three. Then she drives an hour home, wakes up her kids and goes to her second job, cleaning houses. I think Chasti averages about three hours of sleep a day.

Greg is not like me. I also work with a fifty year-old man with four sons. They all share the middle name Greg. The oldest is a state championship football player. The youngest has ADHD and loves sci-fi movies. Greg's wife got the jacuzzi in the divorce.

David is not like me. He's a single guy from out of state. He used to work at a pet store, but likes it better at FedEx. I would call him eccentric, but he's weirder than that. He's also the brunt of everybody's jokes. I don't know what he did to get on the unpopular list, but I see people ignore him every night.

I could go on. The point is, in spite of our differences, I am making friends with these people, and the more I learn about them, the more I see that we are really all the same. We all have a story. We all have reasons for taking a third shift job. We all have people we care about and provide for. The most sobering likeness is we all have parts of our stories that are broken and and need healing. What's it like to work all day and all night to put food in your four kids' mouths? How does divorce affect a sixteen year-old boy with ADHD? What emotions are felt when you come home alone after being cracked on all night at work?

And I guess the question for me is, how can I bless these people?

Surely I could find a less exhausting way to make $800 a month. Still, I think I'll be at FedEx for a while, if for nothing else but to diversify my contact list.