Tangible

It’s not enough for people to respect me.

I want to know, I need to know, in the deepest part of me, where there’s no one but God and myself, that in our partnership, we weren’t lazy nor dishonest with each other. I know that He’s faithful with His part. I need to focus on being faithful with mine. This is why I put a lot of emphasis on measured results, so that I never fall into the vanity of being honored by man and think that is proof of  a good life. It’s easy to impress a shallow judge. Man is a shallow judge. But by putting standards, even difficult standards, I push myself towards actual, fundamental, tangible results, that I may sleep content that I did everything in my power to be faithful to God as well.

When I am not meeting these standards, I feel the insecurity of dissonance. There is no peace in a lying heart, and my heart has, through the years, gone through many lies. Chief of which is that I am here to promote, protect, and pleasure me above all. It manifests clearly when I say things like, “I’m not so bad” or “I’m alright” or “I’m enjoying my ‘me’ time” or “I’m allowed to feel this way” or when I entertain other excuses. These are some of the conversations I have in my head when defending my small laziness and dishonesties, not thinking of the other lives deprived or hurt by me When I catch myself do this, I switch the question from “How do I feel today?” to “What is my measurable impact today?” and it changes my mental framework. Before I think about what I think I lack or need, I think about what I have given.

In Matthew 11, there’s a story where the John the Baptists sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if He’s the real deal. John was having doubts, probably due to his situation in prison. Jesus didn’t go on an offended, angry, defensive “You don’t believe in me!” speech. Instead, He said, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

Jesus simply said: Look at the results. The reply wasn’t “look at my posts”, “look what the media is saying about me”, “look at my likes and comments”. He said, “Look at the fundamental improvements in the lives of people I’ve touched. Look at my life’s message.” 

Jesus never argued His value to anyone. He let His results do the talking, and His results weren’t cute or vanity metrics. They were fundamental life improvements that transformed.

This is the example I seek to follow: to live such a good life that whenever there are doubters, I can simply say, “Look at the results. Look at my life’s message. I’m not perfect. There are a ton of mistakes. But look at the results.” To do this, I need to make sure that every day is spent generating results, not necessarily for monetary ends, but for life transforming impact. This is where discipline, diligence, and determination trumps intention, inspiration, and ideas. Too many people share a lot of inspiring crap but completely fail when they are asked, “So where are the actual, tangible, fundamental results?”

#db

 

Easy Expressions and Meaningful Masterpieces

There will be a noticeable theme among many of my posts, and it’s really the challenging of widespread ideas, accepted conventions, and popular advice that I believe are useless at best and, not only counterproductive, but destructive at worst. I go about this early in the morning or late in the evening by diving deep into a concept until I reach its essence, which is, its fundamental purpose, its reason for existence. In other words, I look for the “why”. Then I ask, “Is the fundamental purpose achieved by this type of thinking? Does this behavior or this advice or this technique or this trend or this event achieve the fundamental purpose it was supposed to?” From there, this journey goes through a series of more “why” questions as I investigate and learn.

There’s a simple word for all of this. It’s called study. We were supposed to have been taught that in school, but how many people today truly study their lives and the lives of others in order to to learn how to live life masterfully.

I guess it’s the difference between a masterpiece and an expression. Anyone can throw color on a white sheet and call it art. But it took a Boticelli to produce a Primavera. Anyone can stick things together and call it art. But it took a Michaelengelo to sculpt a David.  Anyone can compile a series of events and call it a life. But it takes a special kind of effort to live life masterfully.  It takes a Steve Jobs to build a company like Apple. It takes an Abraham Lincoln to keep a country together when there’s a civil war. It takes a Picasso to produce a Guernica. This is why I have a photo of paints on my Facebook page, to remind me that each day, each moment, is a stroke on my life’s painting.

Most people will be living expressions, simply trying to participate and partake of the back and forth of society. When they’re happy, they express happiness. When they’re sad, they express sadness. When they’re stressed, they express it. When they’re horny, they express it. When they feel cheated, they express it. When they want to talk, they express it. When they want something or feel something, the express it, which isn’t necessarily wrong, but also not necessarily wise, for wise is choosing the path, the activity, the expression, that is aligned with our purpose. Most will buy into the idea that “we’re free to express whatever we want”, and we are, but, sadly and detrimentally, will not filter their expressions in light of their purpose. I know this because I struggle with this. Also, we accept whatever expressions others make, telling ourselves that this is “love”, that this is “freedom”, that this is “understanding”, that “love wins” when everyone is free to do whatever they want for whatever reason they want, because we’re all equal. When someone is happy, and they express it, we automatically respond, “Nice! He’s happy.” When someone is sad and they express it, we automatically respond, “I’m sorry you’re sad.” When someone is expressing anything, we automatically express back, without thinking about this simple yet most essential thing: purpose. What’s the purpose of the moment? What’s the purpose of his or her expression? What’s the purpose of my response? The automatic and unreflected response is not freedom, it is not understanding, it is not more loving either. I would argue that it is less because it is impulse, it is reactive, and it is shallow. Maybe the happy person doesn’t need an, “I’m happy for you” but a “Time to move out and be a man. Your life is too easy.” Maybe the sad person doesn’t need, “I’m sorry” but “get over yourself.” These may sound harsh but may actually be what’s benefitical. Just like a coach who tells his team to fight harder, screaming at their faces to show the seriousness of the matter, maybe what people need to hear is not simply a mirror of their expression, but reminder of purpose.

One way I see this regularly in my own experience is when I see hundreds, if not thousands of people like or share my posts, then find that the average number of minutes spent on the post are actually not too high. Which means people either read really fast, faster than me at least, or people aren’t really reading the whole thing and simply browsing. Which makes me wonder, “What are they liking? A piece they didn’t actually read? The title? The little blurb they happened to resonate with? What if the rest of the piece was junk?”

They’re expressing their support for something they didn’t actually read, much less truly understand. 

But there will be those willing to make the impossible effort necessary to live a masterpiece. Unlike those mindlessly expressing themselves, these people don’t start with “How do I feel?” but with “Who am I?” and “Why am I?”, for our identities are closely related to our purpose. These people aren’t randomly stringing life together based on the circumstance or the feeling of the moment, they’re disciplining themselves, they’re chipping away at their marble souls to bring out the sculpture they envision in their minds. The end result is not a mishmash of expressions and moments but a life, that, despite the struggles present in all our lives, maybe even because of it, impacts the world with such meaningfulness. Of course that life is meaningful, FULL of MEANING, because it was lived with meaning, with definition, with a clear why, or in other words, it was lived on purpose.

So every day I have a choice: Do I merely live a collection of expressions based on the experiences of the moment or do I cultivate true art? Do I, like a true artist, and not one of those pretenders, hold myself up to that impossible standard of the great vision in my head, deliberate, systematic, passionate, tirelessly producing study after study until I get things right, ignoring the pressures of society, and transcending the shocks of life, that I may someday unveil a masterpiece.

#db

Why Do We Turn Sporting Events into Morality Plays?

Keep seeing comments and posts about how the NBA Finals is about Lebron’s pride and Curry’s humility, and that God will let Golden State win because He humbles the proud.

Um… Could it be that the Cavs are losing because Kevin Love and Irving are injured? Could it be that there are some proud people in the Golden State organization that need humbling too? Could it be there are people in the Cavs organization that are Christian and praying to win as well? If sporting events dictate the reality or goodness of God, then what happened to Pacquiao means God isn’t really real or good?

I really don’t understand why we like to make sporting events morality plays, why we think it’s right to make the loss of a man or a team a reason to put them down as a model for failures of faith. Is God pleased when we lift up one man and pull down the other (by highlighting his failure) when He loves them both?
And if it’s about Christian versus non-Christian, why didn’t Mark Jackson (former coach of Golden State), who is a minister, not win?

There’s a big difference between celebrating someone’s faith and pulling down someone else for not having the same faith in God. Celebrate men of faith. But don’t tear down others who don’t share the same faith. I think God would be more pleased if we prayed for those we disagree with than publicly shaming them. Would we like it if someone took our public failure and used it to push us down more? No. Why do it to someone else?

I’ve found this to be true: how we treat the success and failures of other people has a little to say about them but much to say about our own condition. To make sporting events morality plays doesn’t accurately portray the good versus evil battle we like to make it, but a shallow understanding that fails to understand that more than proving Himself in sports, God is interested in bringing all people to Him.

Many times it shows that our faith is not wisdom but a rationalization of how external events are validation of our faith. The true morality play is inside us. Do we, not them, respond in love when our team losses or wins?

#db

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