It was an incredibly hot day and I was selling Jesus junk at a Christian bookstore when she came in. She had on a pretty, eggshell-colored sleeveless summer dress and she was asking about a Donald Miller book.
And from under her arms burst more armpit hair than I had ever seen anywhere. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but it looked like she had a 1986-era Jon Bon Jovi in a headlock.
It quite literally made me nauseous. Read more
Unless you’re dead (or a big fat liar), you get angry. Don’t worry—it’s a perfectly reasonable emotion. We don’t do wrong by getting angry; it’s just that when we’re angry, we often do wrong. Paul expresses as much in his letter to the Ephesians, “In your anger, do not sin.” (Eph. 4:26)
But when we give shelter to anger, when we nurse and indulge it, when we give it a long lead, it becomes wrath.
Where envy resents when someone else does well, wrath is hellbent on ensuring that its object suffers loss. And it isn’t always through physical violence—it can be a desire to see someone lose face and suffer humiliation. Read more
When Ben Franklin turned 20, he was determined to become virtuous. He put together a list of 12 virtues (frugality, sincerity, justice, etc.), and worked out a system of regularly focusing on one virtue a week while tracking his progress as he went.
He showed his finished list of values to a minister who pointed out that Franklin was missing humility—the queen of all virtues. Ben added it to the list bringing the total to 13.
After spending many months working on the virtues, Franklin’s friend asked how he was doing with humility. Franklin responded, “I can’t boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.”
If you’re acting humble, you’re not
Virtues are a lot like garments; you can put them on on without owning them. It’s tricky because we don’t just fool the people around us by playing dress up—we fool ourselves.
Humility’s much easier to manufacture than it is to internalize, and as long as we’re more focused on humility’s appearance, we’ll never experience its transformation. Read more
Taking gluttony seriously is more than simply wringing our hands about the Western obesity epidemic.
Although the idea of gluttony is often tied to food, it’s much, much bigger. Simply put, gluttony is the act of taking something acceptable, useful, or even necessary and indulging in it in an unhealthy manner.
With this in mind, gluttony includes, but is not limited to, things like: Read more
Samuel Beckett, the famed Irish novelist and author of Waiting for Godot, married his long-time companion Suzanne in 1961. As his fame continued to grow, she was consumed with jealousy and their marriage weakened.
One day in 1969 she answered their ringing phone, spoke to the person on the other end, and hung up. Turning a pallid face to her husband, she mumbled, “Quel catastrophe. . .” (What a catastraphe) She’d just been told that the Swedish Academy had awarded Samuel the Nobel Prize for literature.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”—Romans 12:15
It’s a challenge of Christian spirituality to desire the intangible over the physical. Longing for an invisible Christ is hard to even wrap our minds around, especially when we compare it to more obvious concerns. This is even more difficult in our post-enlightenment culture that is suspect of anything that’s not concrete.
Rather than learning to embrace the mysteries of Christian spirituality, we resort to a faith that’s either mimicked or prescribed. To copy someone else’s behavior or submit to their direction, for Christ’s sake, has some sense of observable reality to it. Read more
The old cliché says that, “Christianity is not a religion but a relationship.” And while there are aspects of this saying I’d quibble with, there is more than a morsel of truth here. The struggle is that we’re all learning what it means to live out this relationship in a concrete and natural way . . .
When it comes to spirituality, we’re all absolute beginners. Those of us who live within the context of post-enlightenment Christianity struggle with intangibles. We’re suspect of anything that smacks of supernaturalism, and so we fill our minds with information with the hope that this alone will transform our inner lives. Read more
Image by Jhong Dizon
The church might be suffering from infoenza.
The Bible, which chronicles God’s relationship with mankind, can easily become a substitute for relationship with God. Let’s be honest. The Bible is a real and tangible thing, where sometimes God is not. It’s not hard to understand why we would elevate biblical knowledge above any other spiritual indicator.
Our weakness propels us to work harder at things others can see and appreciate. I can demonstrate my biblical knowledge in all sorts of Christian contexts easier than any other discipline—so why wouldn’t I do that? This can make biblical study a no-brainer (and fool me into the believing that by knowing it, I’ve done it). Read more
Image by Bryan
The Holmes and Rahe stress scale lists the most stressful life situations in order of “life-change units.” These life-change units affect the chance that various events will negatively impact your health. At the top of the list with 100 units is “death of a spouse.”
Here’s where it gets tricky. You might think that, if you’ve already walked through the hell of a top-tier stress, you now have the strength to endure everything below it on the list. But that’s just not true. Each life crisis is unique and doesn’t always give us the stamina for the next one. Read more