Gift 57 – The World (As We Knew It)

So…where exactly are we?

I love exploring how human beings have answered this question for the last few thousand years or so.

Ancient people groups had all kinds of ideas about the world and just precisely how it all worked. Some folks imagined the sky was some kind of celestial canvas separating humans from the gods, and the stars were merely holes poked into the tarp-like divider that revealed the glory of the heavens beyond. Others (including the ancient Hebrews and their neighbors) pictured the world like a massive snow globe supported by view of worldgreat pillars below and covered by a vault that kept out the waters above (except when the floodgates of heaven were opened and the waters came down…we say, “hey it’s raining!” today).

The oldest discovered maps show how our human ancestors imagined the world to be flat.  That is until those clever Greeks figured out that we’ve been living on a ball all this time (Mind. Blown.). Even so, their very best maps looked something like this:

posidonius map

Eventually, this dude named Pomponius divided the earth into five separate sectors (only 2 were habitable, he thought) and discovered an invisible belt that separated northern and southern hemispheres. Now we’re getting somewhere…

Pomponius map

Jump forward about 1500 years (and a whole bunch of crazy looking maps) later and we have southern Germany’s own Martin Waldseemüller (it took me forever to figure out how to make the u do that) who compiled Waldseemuller map 2information for years and years in order to develop a clearer vision of the earth.  First ever shout out to “America” on a map. Looking familiar yet?

 

The progression went something like this: “There’s way more land than we thought” and then, “There’s way more water than we thought” and then, “So apparently this thing is round?!?” and then, “Believe it or not, there’s more land on the other side of all that water!” and on and on, all the way to the pictures of the earth we have today.

And then, of course, our perception of earth’s place in the universe has radically (like radically radically radically) transformed as we started dabbling with high-powered telescopes (uh oh, here we go again…). Come to find out, there’s a whole lot of universe out there.

Watch this video if you want your head to explode:

 

When I think about our ever developing understanding of the world—how we’ve gone from thinking the earth is a snow globe in the very center of the universe (which isn’t very big anyway), to the realization that our puny planet is smaller than a single punctuation in the vast realm of the Internet—I can’t help but think about our ever growing understanding of God.

In one way, God has made himself known through what we call “revelation”: The Scriptures, and the natural world, and most importantly, Jesus. But in another way, I believe with all my heart that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of just who God is.

In the Bible, after talking about how incredible and overwhelming God is, Job concludes with this: “And these are but the outer fringes of his works; how faint a whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”

And earlier in the Bible, when Manoah asked an angel for its name, the angel replied, “Why do you ask my name? For it is too wonderful for you to endure.” AHH!  And that’s just an angel! Imagine what God’s Name sounds like! Actually no, don’t even try.

And through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let them proclaim it!” Yep, God is being sarcastic there at the end.

My point is this…just like how our concept of the world is ever unfolding like an always-budding flower, so too our understanding of God blooms and blossoms as we make new scientific discoveries, explore new places, uncover new species, and even tell new stories. This is why learning can be a thrilling form of worship!

Maybe heaven will be a sort of exploration into the never-ending glory and goodness of God, and we’ll have to constantly make new maps as He shows himself to be even more and even better than we thought the day before.

The Eastern Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware said, “It is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a Mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.”

My prayer for you, Rea, is that you begin this God-discovering process at a young age and continue to your last day when the journey will begin in earnest. I love you.

– Dad

 

Advertisements

Gift 56 – Committing to Disciplined Spiritual Growth is Not the Same Thing as Working to Earn Your Salvation

Quite the title, huh?

A while back I heard a friend comment that his daughter needs less of the gospel in her life. I asked what he meant. He said that the constant reiteration of the grace of the cross at school and at church had made her lazy in her “spiritual life” and even with homework. Grace, grace, grace resulted in lethargy.

But this is a misunderstanding of the gospel—or at least a disfigurement of the intended fruit of the gospel in a person’s life. Our post Reformation Christian culture is often prepared to call out legalism in its many forms, but sometimes not so well equipped to encourage a growing spiritual devotion, especially in young people, for fear they will believe that doing good deeds or becoming a good person is how to earn God’s favor. But maybe this neglect of discipleship is one of the factors in the spiritual laziness my friend was noticing.

But the gospel, believe it or not, is more than just forgiveness. It’s the promise of a new heart.

If God is a gardener, then the gospel is the soil in which we’re meant to increase, not in order to earn God’s affection, but fueled and fed by it. This means growth, and fruit, and flourishing.plant

If a person’s reception of the gospel results in their loving God and others less, then it probably wasn’t the gospel, rather what Dietrich Bonheoffer called “cheap grace.”

Personally, I have found that spiritual intentionality actually increases my capacity to receive God’s love and grace—not that he loves me any more as I put forth effort, but that my life is in a better posture to receive. Just as a hollowed out cup can hold more water, an eager, obedient, disciplined life is able to understand and embrace God’s mercies more readily.

God’s grace is a new soil in which to grow more than it is a declaration that the plant doesn’t matter. My prayer for you, Rea, is that your roots go down deep into the love and grace of our God. And, firmly rooted, you will grow to the fullness of all that God is calling you to be as His beloved child.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”  – Titus 2:11-12

Gift 55 – Kingdom Come

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them.

Dear Rea,

Right now there is an extremist Islamic militant group called ISIS that has been wreaking havoc on innocent civilians around the world. Just last week they attacked Paris, killing 129 people and wounding even more.

This particular terrorist group is motivated by establishing a kingdom on ISISearth. In simple terms, the aim of these people is to bring the world under the authority of Islam, and to eliminate those who won’t submit. This means fighting, taking, killing.

In the middle of all this death and destruction, I’m reminded that Jesus came to bring a kingdom, too, and as his followers we’re called to be agents of this kingdom. But what is his kingdom like?

In the story above, the mother of James and John approaches Jesus with a request: “Can my boys rule with you in your coming kingdom? Can they be your number 2 and number 3 guys? Can they be at your right and at your left?”

Underneath this mother’s request is an assumption about Jesus’ kingdom—that it will be like other kingdoms of the day, established through power and might, secured by “making your enemies a footstool under your feet.” Jesus’ kingdom is about influence and control and strength and dominance. It’s about winning. It’s about thrones.

…right?

I don’t think it’s by accident, then, that a few chapters later Matthew mentions Mary, the mother of James and John, being present at the crucifixion (Matt. 27:56). She sees the King, but instead of thrones on his right and on his left, she sees crosses.

This is the way Jesus is leading? This is how his Kingdom comes?

While we are assured that thrones will someday be the reality, that Jesus will rule as King and his brothers and sisters will rule with him, we can’t forget that losing comes before winning, that death precedes resurrection, that the cross is the way to the throne.

Many Christians today seem preoccupied with winning. Winning debates, arguments, elections, culture wars. I understand this, and who am I to say whether these things are good or bad? What I do know is the path that Jesus set for his disciples:

Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the least, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

In many ways, Jesus’ Kingdom was surprising because it was an upside down kingdom. This wasn’t what the people were expecting. We use this picture in class to contrast Kingdom expectations with the way Jesus’ shocking behavior…

Upside Down Pic

This is still how Jesus’ Kingdom comes today. To be citizens of this Kingdom means service, sacrifice, humility, death to self in response to the love of God—in sharp contrast to ISIS’ kingdom of violence. Peter learned this after drawing his sword to attack those coming to arrest his master.

And though this might appear like weakness to the world, in truth it is a supernatural strength that conquers even death in the end. I am convinced that what makes Christianity so powerful and unique, is also what makes it so challenging—that those who would accept the call must deny themselves, take up a cross and follow a crucified King.

This is an Upside Down Kingdom. May it come in your life today in the things you think, the things you say, the way you treat other people; your attitude, your work, your play, your everything.

Gift 50 – The First Three Words You Ever Heard

Before you were born, I thought long and hard about just what I wanted to say to you in your first minutes of air-breathing life. What should be the very first words your brand new ears ever hear? Your mom didn’t think it mattered too much; after all, you won’t be able to understand human speech for a long time yet. But to me this was important.

Part of me knows that words are just words. But deep down I still secretly think that words—all words—are incantations of a sort, doing things to those on whom they fall. And so I’m praying these words, three little words, do their work in you until you become like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaves never wither (Psalm 1).

photo (27)I wanted the first words you ever heard to be like good soil for you to grow in. I want these words to be a firm foundation under your feet, allowing you the freedom to try and fail, the liberty to trust, the strength to be yourself in an age of pretending. And though you won’t understand their meaning at first, I will take you back to these first three words often—on good days and on bad ones. When you’re navigating identity issues, or celebrating a birthday, or hurt by the words of a classmate, or getting ready for a date, we’ll revisit these words together. I’ll say to you, “Do you know what the very first thing ever said to you was?”

Whether you feel like it or not, these words are truth. Fact, even. No matter what you do you will not be able to shake the whole worlds of meaning they hold, brimming just beneath the surface. You are stuck in these three words, and I’m sorry but there’s nothing you can do about it. Whatever shape your identity takes in the years ahead, it will forever be building off of your base, your starting point, the irrevocable, unalterable, irreversible reality that

you

are

loved.

Gift 43 – Dangeruss Questions: What do you want?

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.                                                                                      – C.S. Lewis

My Dear Daughter,

I want to begin this series of notes with one of the most important question you will ever be asked: What do you want?

I remember a short story I once edited as an English teacher. The story, written by a young female student, was all about a freshman girl who wanted more than anything to be invited to a party by a cute senior boy. I was so sure a redeeming moral would shine through on the last page, when the character would realize that there is more to life than high school parties and cute boys.

But nope. That part never came. The story ended with the cute boy finally noticing the main character and asking her to the big party. She went and had a wonderful time. The end.

I wrote a little comment at the bottom of the page: As a reader, I don’t care about your character because she’s driven by such a superficial desire. She wants too little.

See, a character is what he or she wants. To a large degree a person’s motivation = their identity. What you desire deep down fundamentally drives the decisions you make, the ideas you value, and the things you pursue. What you desire is what you become.

You are what you want. So what’s underneath the things you do and say? What’s your motivation?

I so look forward to having this conversation with you someday when you’re old enough to wrestle with your own heart. I will give you a piece of paper and a pencil, and time to think. And when you’ve written down just what it is that you really want, I’ll ask you one more question:

Is it enough?

Gift 41 – Homeschool Watch (2)

piano

Hopefully I’ll be able to explain this one sufficiently.

On the surface it seemed common enough, a mother invited her 4 or 5-year-old daughter to sit with her on the piano bench as she played for the evening service at a local church. At one point the child’s little fingers arched over the keys to join her mom in playing the song, “Oh How I Love Jesus.”

Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because he first loved me!

The notes sang from the piano with a practiced pride. To everyone else this was a cute little performance, but the little girl’s expression made it clear that it was so much more for her—she got to play the piano with mommy in front of everyone.

Why is this “homeschool moment” such a big deal? Honestly, I’m not completely sure, but watching it happen I know that it was. Maybe it has something to do with the hours of practice that went into the twelve or so simple notes of the song. Or maybe it was the modest act of a mom allowing her daughter to join in making music. Or maybe it was the living picture of the song’s few words brought to life by a little set of hands next to a bigger set of hands playing, “Oh, how I love Jesus” over and over. Whatever the case, as the mom deliberately slowed her pace so her daughter could take the lead, “Oh how I love Jesus, because he first loved me,” I knew I was witnessing one of the most beautiful pictures of Christian education I’ve seen in a long time.

Gift 34 – Sinful and Hazardous (I)

Gas-pump-Indiana-USA

As I filled my car with gas, I noticed a small sign on the pump: “Smoking while fueling is illegal and dangerous.” For some reason the distinction between “illegal” and “dangerous” struck me as a bit…redundant. Isn’t it enough to say that smoking near flowing gasoline is dangerous? Like, you’re-gonna-blow-up dangerous? The legality of the matter seems trivial when you picture a person engulfed in flames after lighting up at the pump. The two things are actually one thing—smoking while fueling is illegal because it is so dangerous.

A similar separation has happened in our ideas about sin. Somehow we’ve come to believe that there are things (activities/behaviors/patterns) that are sinful, and there are also things that are harmful. I can hear religious authorities informing, “You don’t want to do that, it’s sinful and hazardous.”

But the truth is, the two are one. If something is sinful then it’s not good for you. No exceptions. Likewise, if something is harmful to you, it is sinful.

In my experience with working with high school kids I’ve become aware of an evident religious haze surrounding the concept of sin. “Mr. Russ, is ____________ a sin? Well how about ____________? What I mean to say is, will God be mad at me if I _____________?” Our confusion about sin has everything to do with a misunderstanding of God’s character. Believe it or not, God is not arbitrarily calling stuff sin. That’s not how God operates because that’s not who God is. There is no sin you can commit that will bring you more joy, more satisfaction, more life. In fact, the very reason God warns of certain behaviors is precisely because God is for us. God is totally, completely, passionately, sacrificially committed to our flourishing—even more than we are committed to our own flourishing! The very reason He hates sin is because He is for His people.

Sadly, this is a paradigm shift for many. We have imagined a God who makes the rules without consideration for His children, and we had better get on board or else! But He is so much better. It’s time to let Jesus be our guide, the one who lived with such a profound and overwhelming sense of his Father’s goodness. While many Pharisees were actually “sinning” in their study of God’s Word (imagine that!) because of their motivation to be seen as spiritually superior (Matt. 23), Jesus perfectly navigated the confusing waters of Sabbath observance (“Is it lawful to heal a person on Sabbath?”), food regulations (“Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?”), and Torah prioritization (“Which command is the greatest?”) with incessant focus on God’s character.

May we grow to be like him in our understanding of sin and righteousness as we too abide in the Father’s heart.

Gift 33 – Blessing

1

“Wow…I mean [deep breath]…wow.”

Those were my first and only words for about ten minutes after Amanda told me she is pregnant. Now that the idea of becoming parents has had time to sink in, I’ve decided to better organize my thoughts into a blessing for our future son or daughter.

Historically, and still today in many cultures around the world, a paternal blessing is an essential ingredient for a child’s growth and flourishing. Perhaps the importance of such a blessing is even more evident by its nonexistence in this culture in which 63% of youth suicides, 71% of pregnant teens, 90% of all homeless and runaway teens, and 85% of youths in prison come from fatherless homes*. In his interview with Christianity Today, Bill Glass (pro football player and founder of the prison ministry Champions for Life) speaks of the importance of a Father’s blessing. “It’s got to be said out loud. It’s got to be stated.”

So here’s my attempt at a blessing for you as you grow, Little One. The language of it feels almost out of place in a world in which so little is sacred, but these words represent my heartfelt prayer for you to walk a path that goes beyond the expectations of your culture, up into the high, green country of life to the fullest where Jesus leads those who surrender to his love.

May you be a rebellious citizen of light
in the dominion of darkness.
May you be a vision of Resurrection Life
in the Valley of Dry Bones.
May you be an Easter-hopeful traveler
on the long road to Emmaus.
May you be a joyful Sabbath child
in the chaos of ten thousand tabs.
May you be a bread-and-wine kind of worshiper
in the trend of fast-food feelings.
May you be a beacon of “foolish” integrity
in the Big Business of underhanded dealing and compromise.
May you be an instrument of grace
in a world of scorekeeping, sin counting, and wrong weighing.
May you be an agent of peace
in a world ravaged by war.

May you care deeply.
May you be eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, a friend to those in need—may you take up the case of strangers in the land (Job 29).
May your heart break for what breaks His.

May you trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him (Prov. 3).
May you chase after understanding as one runs after riches (Prov. 3)
May you rise early to seek wisdom and choose her over beauty (Wisdom of Solomon 6 & 7).

May God’s intimate friendship bless your house (Job 29).
May you love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6).
May you seek first his kingdom and his righteousness so that your delight may be in Him (Matthew 6 & Psalm 37).

May you hate what is evil, cling to what is good (Romans 12).
May you be an inconvenience to the wrongdoer, an opposition to oppression, and an enemy to injustice.
May you deal gently with the broken.

May you have open ears and a hesitant tongue (James 1),
May you serve eagerly.
May you be a good character in a great story.

May you be curious and inquisitive, asking tough question.
May you love learning,
May you listen well.

May your heart be a tree planted by streams of water,
a well tended garden,
freshly tilled soil,
a deep, pure well,
a tall glass of grapefruit juice.

By his light may you walk through darkness,
By his Word may you hear his voice,
By his glory may you fear his Name,
By his table may you find your sustenance,
By his rebuke may you recognize his affection,
By his love may you know his embrace,
By his Church may you discern your purpose,
By his Spirit may you live each day.

When you come to a fork in the road…
May you pray earnestly, choose wisely, and go boldly.

When you wrong others…
May you sincerely feel remorse, humbly seek forgiveness, and wholeheartedly pursue reconciliation.

When you are wronged…
May you remember your own wrongs, forgive fervently, and move on freely.

When you meet challenges…
May you assess yourself meekly, persevere stubbornly, and overcome honorably.

When you wake each morning…
 May you bathe wholly in God’s love, to heal all your wounded places, cover all your naked places, and strengthen all your weak places. 

And when you are tired and ready…
 May your mourning turn to dancing, your sorrow into laughter, and your death into resurrection.

*John Sowers, The Fatherless Generation. pg. 36-37

Gift 30 – Picture Perfect

A few days ago Amanda and I decided to take our Christmas card picture at the park (actually, Amanda decided and I went along with it, but never mind).

That meant a ten-minute drive with not one but two psychopathic canines crammed into the back of our Chevy equinox. They yelped, they romped, they stormed the front seat nearly nocking the shift stick and bringing us to an untimely doom—you know, the usual. We arrived at the park scratched, slobbered upon, and overall a little flustered, but the fun didn’t end there. The leashed doggies hadn’t yet been for a walk that day and so tried desperately to break free of their bonds with the ferocity of two salivating criminals resisting arrest. Eventually Amanda and I had to practically tackle our little friends and hold them in headlocks while trying to persuade in a singsong voice, “Look at the camera! Come on, boy, look at the camera! Be a good dog and look at the camera! JUST LOOK AT THE DANG CAMERA BEFORE I LOSE IT!” Or something like that.

At this point I was getting a little annoyed at pretty much everything in creation and said something snarky like, “Why are we even taking a stupid Christmas card?” To my wife’s credit she held back a retort, but I could tell she was getting frustrated, too.

Fast forward to a few minutes ago. I received an email notification, Amanda Russ has tagged you in a photo on Facebook, and so opened a new tab to see. This is what I saw…

family

My first thought was, Who is this family, and why was I tagged in their picture?   This lucky clan had two perfectly trained dogs and had probably just finished a pleasant picnic in the park when the photo was taken. Then a looked a little closer. Wait a minute…is that us?!

 My point is this, while I have been so very blessed with a wonderful wife and two playful pups, our real lives and the picture don’t exactly match up. Real life is way messier and more complicated. This got me thinking about all the times I have become subtly jealous of what someone else has, or does, or is while scanning social media. It’s so easy to compare oneself with others while scrolling through photos—Look how perfect their lives are. They never argue. They have the perfect family. It must be nice being them. These thoughts are always accompanied by contrasting self-assessment. I wish I had __________. Why can’t my family be more _________? My life is nowhere near as good as   ___________’s.

This is called comparison, and it’s a killer.

While I’ve always known comparison is harmful, I’m beginning to see that our comparative thoughts aren’t even true. Just like the picture above isn’t even close to being an accurate representation of our day at the park, other people’s photos don’t really capture their lives either. The truth is, everyone struggles, everyone fails, and no one is as perfect as their pictures (after all, who posts pictures of arguing, paying bills, etc.?). Comparing oneself with social media pictures is as misleading and as damaging as a young girl comparing her body with photoshopped women in magazines.  The images aren’t real.

Teddy Roosevelt said it best, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” One of the great secrets of life is in contentment, in silencing comparative lies and looking instead to all you have to be grateful for. And next time you’re skimming social media and begin feeling like you would rather be someone else, just remember that the lives you’re seeing probably don’t exist.

Gift 29 – Super Cool

As the school year begins I can’t help thinking about cool and the deep desire of just about everyone to be popular. Underneath the desire is the innate human longing for acceptance and approval; to be a part of community—and this isn’t bad. The problem comes when we prioritize becoming cool over just about everything else.

For this reason I have compiled a list of 5 reasons why cool should not have priority in our lives…

1. Cool is fleeting. Can you believe that this look was ever cool?

cool 2

Or that these slick-haired, booty-shorts wearing boys used to rule the school?

ball 2

Or that these mmmbop-in’ brothers once captured the hearts of teenage girls around the country (pretty impressive considering they look like teenage girls themselves)?

cool 1

But before you laugh too hard, you should know that no matter how in-style you think you are at this very moment, in a few years you will look back at pictures of yourself and shake your head in embarrassment.

The truth is, cool changes. In fact, cool is so incredibly temporary that whatever is cool today might very well be laughable tomorrow. This means that investing too much in cool is as foolish as building your house on a fault line. Cool changes far too often to make a good foundation.

2. Cool is not fun. I think most people would agree that their most miserable years (often middle or early high school) were those spent running after cool. Put simply, obsessing over the desire to be liked can be stressful and even downright destructive. There is nothing enjoyable about the sick, panicky feeling in your stomach as you wonder what other people are thinking about you. Wouldn’t it be so much better if you let your guard down and were able to relax a little? Those wise and confident enough to stop caring about what others think are nearly always the ones who have the most fun, build the most genuine friendships, and have the least regrets.

3. Cool is uncool. The great irony of cool is that it isn’t. Cool is paradoxical in the sense that those who want it most will never achieve it, and those who simply don’t care are the first to earn the approval of their peers. At work, at school, and at play, human beings are drawn to those with confidence, conviction, and compassion. Not those who are trying to be cool. You might be jealous of “the cool people”, or maybe even afraid of those on the top of the social ladder, but deep down, no one really respects those who have only achieved a mere surface-level coolness. The truly respected ones are those who have prioritized more important things over their desire to fit in.  Example: One of my best friends Ron Radcliffe came to college with a fanny pack full of Pokémon cards and a collection of homemade swords…and within no time became one of the most well-known and well-liked people on campus. Why? Because Ron is man of confidence, conviction, and compassion, and people always eventually gravitate to character.

4. Cool is almost always hierarchical. In other words, in places where cool is the currency, there are varying degrees of rich and poor. There are those who are cool and those who are…not so cool. This is how it works. For someone to be “in”, others have to be “out.” Unfortunately, when you have so many people trying desperately to ascend the social ladder, people are inevitably going to be stepped on. This is one of the reasons why bullying is such a serious problem in schools across the country. However, as followers of Jesus we are called to a different pursuit. In fact, Jesus flipped the ladder upside down when he spoke to social outcasts, when he touched lepers, when he refused to turn children away, when he ate with tax collectors, and when he washed his disciples’ feet. This is the pattern we’re called to carry on.

5. Cool gets in the way. In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul writes, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Clearly, there are times in our lives when we have to choose what and whom we’re living for, and so often, cool and Christ are calling us in two very different directions. I can think of several times in high school alone in which I was clearly aware of Jesus’ leading to befriend the friendless, or to speak against gossip, or to hold my tongue when tempted to say something funny but potentially hurtful, but why did I often resist? Because cool was telling me to look out for myself. This, I think, is the most fundamental difference between the call of cool and the call of Christ: one is primarily about self, and the other is primarily about self-denial. And yet, only one of these paths leads to authentic, free, meaningful life.

It’s time we considered a new definition of cool as we think about what really has value, importance, and precedence in our lives. What needs to take priority? What really matters? These are the things that do not change from day to day, the things that satisfy and build character, the things that consider others as valuable as ourselves, and the things that allow us to love with the love we’ve been given.

These are the things worth running after.

Love,

Your Super Cool Dad324329_10150599512740546_65753411_o (1)