How Does A Christian Think?

That's a critical question to our spiritual growth. Becoming more like Jesus means seeing life the way he sees it, and making decisions that reflect his values and goals. Any tools that are really effective at helping us do that are worth knowing about.

And so I want to pass on the launch of a brand new, very cool project on the web called The Chuck Colson Center For Christian Worldview. Colson has been teaching and writing on the subject of developing a thoroughly biblical view of life for decades now, and this site catalogs and archives almost everything he's done and makes it easily accessible to everyone for free. It also connects many like-minded Christian ministries together such as Summit Ministries and Focus on the Family's The Truth Project.

But that's just the beginning.

The site also has constantly fresh and updated articles and Bible studies from a variety of writers to help you grow spiritually:

  • "Worldview" is a short devotional that helps readers learn to see the world we live in through the lens of a biblical worldview.
  • "Ancient Paths" is a weekly Bible study guide that connects us to the wisdom of theologians throughout church history. You can subscribe to this one weekly for free.
  • "Changepoint" is an column-length article designed to address many aspects of life in our fast-paced society, and provide practical insights on how Christians can live out their faith right now.
Reading these brief, accessible articles on a regular or even semi-regular basis over time would go a long way to helping all of us learn to think about life in more biblical terms. And for those who want to take their worldview training to an even higher level, soon you'll even be able to enroll in online classes. The number of opportunities and resources here is really cool!

I am privileged to serve as one of the contributors to the Colson Center site, contributing to each of the three columns mentioned above on a monthly basis. Currently the site features a Worldview article I wrote based on an experience Amy and I once had growing grapes, and tying that to the lesson Jesus teaches us in John 15. Also, this week's Ancient Paths Bible study is one I put together on the deceptiveness of sin, following the insights of 17th century Puritan theologian John Owen. Feel free to check them out, and as always I welcome your feedback!

I'm told that a strong "get the word out" effort will commence in a week or two to let people know the site is now active, but you get advanced notice! Drop by the Colson Center and familiarize yourself with one of most promising, easy to use tools for Biblical worldview to come out yet.

Why I Twitter (and Facebook)

Twitter! Facebook! These "social networking" sites are all the rage these days. And I've joined in - for some specific reasons. I now have three main portals on the web: this blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Each has a unique purpose for me and they're all interconnected.

Quick links:

  • Follow or subscribe to this blog (see links to the right)
  • Stop by my Facebook page.
  • Follow me on Twitter.
1. Why I Twitter
Twitter allows you to send very brief (140 characters max) messages out to all your friends about what you're doing and thinking right now. Being as brief as these messages ("tweets" - isn't that cute...) are they're hardly conducive to stimulating deep sharing or thinking. But they're great for maintaining a sense of connection with a person throughout the day. Ever have a friend or family member you never seem to have enough time to connect with? Twitter is one partial answer - without taking much time both sender and receiver can stay caught up on some of the little stuff in life.

The value of this for me as a pastor has become evident over the past couple years. Leading a church that has over 400 people participating with some regularity is daunting: I can spend hours each week e-mailing, phone calling, and having face-to-face conversations, and still I will have not touched even 1/4 of our congregation! Twitter allows me to create a small window into my day-to-day thinking, and any church members who care to look through that window will have some connection to their pastor as a "real guy." This is no substitute for deep relationship, but it is a very convenient touch point where one would otherwise not exist. And that's why I Tweet!

If you just want a window into my daily world, you can follow my Tweets directly from my Twitter page or you can follow them on my Facebook page, which leads me to...

2. Why I Facebook
Facebook is the main, one-stop place I use to connect with many people. I have my Twitter updates set to update Facebook, which is where many people see them. I also use Facebook to let people know when I've written (hopefully) helpful and useful things on my blog, or elsewhere on the web. It is the bridge that links all my other writing and connecting. I read everything people post on my Facebook Wall, and that's a great place to connect with me sociall throughout the week if you so desire.

Harvest Community Church also has a great presence on Facebook, so I'll connect directly with church members quite a bit as well. If you're at all connected to Harvest, I invite you to connect with us on Facebook too!

3. Why I Blog
This blog is a year-and-a-half old now, and it is my true love. Here I develop the craft of writing, expand on ideas that I may not have had time to get into during sermons, and write for the edification of fellow Christians. My blog focuses mostly on the intersection of biblical theology and personal worldview; that is, how Scripture shapes our entire view of life. I also cover some personal and fun items here, but the blog format gives me a greater chance to go deeper even with those subjects - to dive below the surface level.

So if you want to join me on a few deeper dives into what makes life matter, this blog is the place to do it! It is my sincere hope that fellow Jesus-followers find this blog instructive, challenging, inspirational, and edifying. That's why I blog. My goal is to post once per week, and I read every comment posted here and respond to virtually all of them as well (whereas I can't respond to every Facebook interaction - though I do read all those as well).

Social Networking Sites - Philosophy
Twitter & Facebook are not without controversy. Many people avoid them completely, believing they're narcissistic and promote shallow interactions, thus cheapening relationships. These things are undoubtedly true to a large extent. Yet while others (John Piper for instance) see these dangers they also see the potential to redeem such technologies and use them for good. I tend toward this latter position, though for different reasons than Piper. I think he's overly optimistic in his attempt to harness Twitter and use it for larger purposes. But I do think that if we take technologies like Twitter and Facebook for what they are (very wide, shallow, fun connective media) and utilize them as parts of a larger approach to relationships, they can be quite useful.

I think Piper is right to point out that all technologies from movies & TV to the internet & Powerpoint have upsides as well as dangers, and they all call for discipline. For instance it's pretty easy to spend hours each day poring over pretty meaningless stuff on Facebook, and to be thinking about it even when you're not on it. At that point Facebook runs my life. So as with many other things I'm developing some boundaries on my usage. It's a discipline to write one blog post per week (takes a lot longer to write them than to read them!) and so I have designated times throughout the week in which I write whether I feel like it or not. I have also limited my Facebook and Twitter usage to certain times of the day.

As with many things, when used in moderation and with purpose these internet tools can be great ways to connect, teach, and build others up. That's my goal, and I look forward to being better connected with many people! Whether you want to join me on a journey of thinking about the Christian life here on this blog, or you prefer to connect via Facebook and/or Twitter (or all three!) I look forward to seeing you on the web!

Below is my Facebook page - click to expand. Note that some of the updates (center column) are from my Twitter account. I like the way Twitter & Facebook connect!


Yesterday was our 15th wedding anniversary. 15! Time does indeed fly. I spend a little time reflecting on our marriage at this point each year, and Amy unintentionally prompted my reflections this time.

Amy's ability to appreciate beauty has always been more advanced than mine, and I've learned a lot from her in that. Her appreciation for art allows her to quickly see the meaning and truths that beautiful and artistic things express. For example, she likes jewelry that says something so this year for our anniversary I bought her a solid gold bead for her Pandora bracelet. She picked it out and chose this one (pictured right) mostly based on just liking the way it looks. Then she stumbled on its name "gilded cage." That struck us both.

Amy has written before, quite eloquently, about how life sometimes feels like a cage - particularly with a chronic pain condition. See the caged bird poem she has on the sidebar of her blog, for instance. We've talked a lot about imprisonment themes in literature: most recently we've discussed the beautiful way Charles Dickens develops the theme of imprisonment vs. true freedom in his novel Little Dorrit. It has meant a lot to both of us to realize that, though "imprisoned" by something like chronic health problems, one can be truly free as they trust in God's wise providence, serve him wholeheartedly, and cultivate a deep love for him and his word. Sometimes the most "free" people are really the most trapped. Freedom comes from a life lived in concert with our maker and his purposes, not from external circumstances.

Still, despite this true freedom, those circumstances remain. Relationships don't magically heal (usually), cancer doesn't just suddenly go away (usually), or - as in our case - chronic pain doesn't just cease (usually). The external "bars" are still there. And have their ways of making their presence known.

In the early years of our marriage I was a determined cage smasher. Any problem that surfaced I would attack with gusto: work harder, work smarter, earn more money, see whatever doctor or specialist was needed... basically, smash the cage! Nothing, I was determined, would prevent myself or my wife from living the kind of life we felt we should be living. Ah, the idealism of youth... I gradually learned that I had no more ability to alter some of the circumstances of our life than I had to command water not to run downhill, or the sun to not rise today. With the almost intractable pride of the human heart, learning one's own insignificance is not a fun prospect. And I'm afraid I was not a patient or teachable student. But reality has this stubborn way of not changing simply because I want it to. Funny how that works.

So learn I did, eventually. And my emphasis slowly shifted from beating my head against every bar of our cage (which always seemed to do more damage to my skull then it did to the cage) to more of an emphasis on thriving where God had planted us. Rather than insisting that water run uphill I began learning how to successfully navigate a stream that's heading downhill. Rather than insisting that every pain be removed I began learning how to thrive, and how to enable my wife to thrive, with the physical limitations God saw fit to allow in our lives. In short, I stopped trying to break the cage and started learning how to cover it with gold.

Not that I'm a genius in that department. Not by a long shot. I still have difficulty knowing as a husband and father when to move forward on an opportunity or when to hold back for the good of my wife and kids. And I make decisions I regularly regret.

But Amy's "gilded cage" bead is the embodiment of the marriage ideal. I don't have the ability to break out of every circumstance that I consider confining. But I do have the ability to thrive in it - to cover those bars with gold, which reflects the beauty of God. Turns out that Amy's little golden bracelet bead is a much better 15th anniversary present than I had imagined.

Of course, that's to be expected: I'm not the one who picked it out.

From The Off Beat Side Of My Brain...

Yes, we're into the dog days of summer - you might say the "Hot Dog Days" of summer here in the Northwest! - and the slower pace got me reflecting on several smaller and off beat things... such as, where does the phrase "dog days of summer" come from anyway?

Two random musings:

First, from the "truth is stranger than fiction" category, here's a sign I saw posted at the cash register of an ice cream shop in Ashland last week:

"Out of courtesy to others, please refrain from talking on your cell phone while ordering."

Huh? Who talks on their cell phone while ordering ice cream!?! I was so surprised at this sign that I asked the lady working there if that happens so frequently that they really needed to post a sign about it. She assured me it did. She said it often happens in the summer heat with a line running out the door, that just when a customer gets to the front of the line their phone rings and they usually take the call. With the popularity of Bluetooth headsets nowadays, the customer will often stand there facing the store employee, and speak in full voice to their caller while everyone behind them is waiting to order. That just strikes me as weird.


Second, I introduce my Charles Dickens Hall Of Name list!

Amy is in the midst of reading all of Dickens' works and watching many of the recent well-done films of his stories. On vacation last week we watched Little Dorrit, which I really enjoyed. That film got me reflecting on the many colorful and off beat characters in Dickens' stories, several of whom have hilarious names. My current favorites:

From Bleak House, Mr. Tulkinghorn, the sullen, sinister lawyer. His name befits the dark and ruthless character of a man who is only too willing to impale anyone who crosses him, without remorse. He makes my list along with his law clerk, Mr. Clamb who (appropriately) says very little.

Mr. Tulkinghorn

Also from Bleak House, Mr. Guppy, the young, jumpy (and ever-so-slightly creepy) lawyer who darts around kinda' fish-like trying to gulp down opportunity for personal advancement wherever he can find it. Guppy really is a very small fish trying to become a big one by swimming with other "big fish," but he's the only person (other than his mother) who doesn't realize that he'll always remain a little guppy. He even looks a bit slimy and fishy:

Mr. Guppy

From Martin Chuzzlewit... well, Martin Chuzzlewit! What a name. This is maybe the only entry on my list chosen purely for its creative and odd sound.

From the same story I'd include the sad, clueless, and unscrupulous distant relative of the Chuzzlewit family, Mr. Chevy Slyme. That one slides off the tongue so smoothly... Slyme is dense, easily manipulated, and without either morals or brains - kind of a pond scum character.

But above all from this story is the greedy, bumbling, pretentious poseur
Seth Pecksniff. That name does a fantastic job capturing its owner's (false) high moral airs, which don't really conceal the conniving, shameless way in which he takes advantage of everyone he meets. This name alone merits the Pulitzer Prize!


And finally, from my recent Little Dorrit viewing, I can't resist adding three more to my Dickens Hall of Names list. First is the edgy, gruff, touchy old manservant Jeremiah Flintwinch. While discussing this list on vacation my mother suggested Flintwinch as an addition, but I initially thought not. Yet the more I pondered how his name fits his mean, harsh, short-fused character the more I realized that mom is right. I should know by now: always listen to your mother! Thanks for a good suggestion mom.

Jeremiah Flintwinch

Also making my list from from Little Dorrit is Edmund Sparkler, who (quite appropriately) is a bubbly, vivacious -- and completely air-headed -- rich kid. Sparkler is an initial flash of expressive energy... and nothing else. Kinda' like those bubbles in your soda pop. They tickle your nose for a second, and then they're gone.

But the grand prize so far (I haven't read or watched all of Dicken's stuff yet) goes to... Mr. Tite Barnacle - a singularly brilliant name for a man who embodies the wasteful, bureaucratic red tape of his employer, the fictional Circumlocution Office. This government entity is a leech of a bureaucracy which pushes meaningless paper around at taxpayer expense for no reason other than to keep its own employees paid. Well named indeed!

As you can see, Dickens had a flair for not only odd or funny sounding names, but names which captured the key facets of many of his characters. And I thoroughly enjoy this rather eccentric bit of Dickens' writing talents!

Anyone care to add to my Dickens Hall of Names list?

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