You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. Psalm 91:13

Insight

Red Pills, Blue Pills and Chasing Windmills

There is one thing that is necessary for someone to truly understand me, I’m a dreamer and an idealist. I believe in striving for the best, even if it might not be obtainable. I believe virtues are more than abstract morals but actually tangible qualities of living. I’ve been told to come down to reality, to see things for how they are and to accept them and move on, many times in my life. I don’t think that’s totally right though. I think there is more to the world than what we can see and that you should accept the fact of how things are, but not accept that it has to stay that way.  The idea that I should bring my expectations and beliefs down to reality is impossible for me to fully comprehend. It may sound narcissistic but I believe it should be the other way around. Who decided that “X” has to be just “X” or that there is no such thing as “Y”?

Everything that is, once wasn’t. At one point there was no universe, Earth, cities, art, or people. They were fiction. They were imagination. They didn’t exist, until one by one they were made. An all-wise God had a plan and he brought it into reality. He decided to make a universe, our planet and us.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…. God created man in his own image” – Genesis 1:1, 27

He made us in his image. His image gave us the tools and traits of a creator and so like our Maker, we created things. We built cities and made art and thought of ideas. The first act of creation allowed us to build on it and continue to build upon each subsequent act of creation.

One day some group of people came up with the idea to harvest fruit. We realized it was good. Then later those groups built on that and thought to farm it. We did that and had lots of it. Then some other group entirely came up with the idea that maybe we don’t want to be ill. Then someone took that and said maybe we can stop ourselves from becoming ill. Then someone thought to take those plants we farmed and made medicine from them and eventually stopped people from being ill.  At the beginning medicine was entirely unthought of, but by each step of creation they came to a point where it was able to be made tangible. By never being satisfied with the current status quo they made progress step by step. We are where we are because individuals refused to confine themselves to reality. What if more of us were willing to embrace that concept?

Look at a blank canvas. It requires imagination and motivated intent to fill it with something, to make it something else or create something new. Reality is a canvas. When we say “that’s just the way it is” or “this is all there is” we are saying that the canvas can only be blank, that it can’t be changed and that it can’t be made into something new. The fact is, that just isn’t true. We aren’t limited by our reality, reality is limited by us and our willingness to stretch our minds and dare to think of new things. It’s  scary but someone must always take that first step and speak out.

Switchfoot really gets this idea well. In their song, “The War Inside”, they have these lyrics:

Yeah, every thought or deed

Yeah, every tree or seed

The big things come from the little dreams

Every world is made by make believe”

And in their song “The World You Want”

“Is this the world you want?

Is this the world you want?

You’re making it

Every day you’re alive…

….You start to look like what you believe

You float through time like a stream

If the waters of time are made up by you and I

If you change the world for you, you change it for me”

What then? Well I’d repeat the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” You in many different ways have the ability to change your world, internally and externally. When you are stuck in unfavorable circumstances that can’t be changed at the moment, you can still change how you respond. That’s probably the most important component, only you get to choose that. In this internal way, you create how you view the world and free yourself to change the world instead of the world changing you.

Which if there is a more hopeful idea, I’ve yet to hear it. Whatever life is to you right now. You are free to change it, to improve on it. To make it something beautiful and to put your own unique touch on it. Seriously what sentence is more freeing than this? Your reality is subject to you. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or that reality changes willingly. But it means that there is a choice to be made and steps to be taken.

Here’s the thing though. Too often, society buys into the state of reality. We love the status quo. It’s safe, it’s easy and it’s boring. We look at those who hold to their imagination, ideals and dreams as modern day Don Quixotes, wayward, well-meaning fools. And when they fall short, or their dreams are smashed, we laugh and say, “Welcome to the real world!”. Truth is we do that because we are afraid. We are afraid for them to succeed, afraid for them to challenge our beliefs, our ways of life. We laugh in fearful ignorance.

But when they succeed. And we are where we are today, because many have succeeded, the whole world stops laughing.  And maybe they embrace it, or maybe they fight it. But once you release change into the world, there’s no going back.

I guess this is that Matrix moment. You’ve been given the choice, now you got to choose. Ignore your ability to change the world or embrace it and open your eyes to the horizon. It’s up to you. Your decision.

Luke

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”  – Robert Fulghum

“I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.” – J.G. Ballard


Our Masks

You think you see me and I think I see you. I know you don’t really see me and I think I might not really see you.

This mask I wear is a good one.

Around you, and the rest, I am the noble one.

I stand tall, defiant and bold, or sometimes I may appear introspective, humble and aware.

I am the knight who sallies forth despite fearful odds.

I am the too-cool-for-school, who doesn’t worry about anything and never fails to have a perfect comeback.

I am the quiet one, who always gives the look of knowing more than he is showing.

I am the golden boy, who can do no wrong.

I am the Elder, who knows life’s mysterious depths.

But this is all the mask and though I wear it well, it is not me, is it?

Because behind the mask is a small boy who never understands why his mother hurts him so much.

Behind the mask is a teenager who wonders why he can be surrounded by so many people and still feel so out of place and alone.

Behind the mask is a young adult, who is afraid of almost everything.

Behind the mask is a weary old man who is tired of all the sarcasm and longs for honesty.

Behind the mask is a soul that worries of having no purpose, no contribution.

Behind the mask is a fool who has never stopped running.

Behind the mask is regret, guilt, shame and even pride.

Behind the mask are two fearful voices that say “I must never let them see”, and the other “I must escape this place.

Behind the mask is a wretched, broken creature. One you would pity, but not so much to be willing to get close.

Behind the mask is darkness and hatred.

Yet… still behind the mask is something else.

Behind the mask is the rebellious belief that there is much hope still in this world and life is a beautiful place to be.

Behind the mask is the man who sees his scars as the brushstrokes that transform him into a work of art, instead of a blank page he stands built as an exhibit titled, “Experience.

Behind the mask is another little boy, who has over-exuberant enthusiasm for countless ideas, stories and hobbies.

Behind the mask is a being who really finds his joy in helping others find their light.

Behind the mask is the letdown who says, “Today will be different.

Behind the mask is the long-shot who knows they’ll never see it coming.

Behind the mask is the Son who is “carrying the fire”.

Behind the mask is the hopeful who believes that the great stories of virtue can be made manifest in life.

Behind the mask is a leader who is terrified, but who works the courage to says “Follow after me and I will guide you.

Behind the mask is a believer who stands before the monsters of life to say the words, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Behind the mask is the lover who longs to look upon Beauty and know the warmth of its gaze.

Behind the mask is the father who finds strength in the smiles of children.

Behind the mask is the old sage who knows that he doesn’t really know anything.

Behind the mask is me.

Darkness and light.

Hope and Fear.

Wisdom and folly.

Lies and truth.

Yet still the mask remains, and I question whether it could also be me as well. Though my skin hides my inner parts, is my flesh not also as much a part of me as my lungs or bones?

Yes I am both the mask and the soul behind it.

You too, are the both a mask and a soul together.

Do these words pull at the person hidden beneath your mask?

We must not forsake our mask for it is the armor that protects us, but we must also not neglect that which is beneath it, like we too often do. I must know myself beneath the mask, but to do so I must share it with you. And that too is true for you.

So, let me see more of you beneath and I will too share the same, and let us see what strange and fascinating journey we begin as I begin to know you and you begin to know me too.

Luke


A Night of Stretching

Last night me and a very dear friend spent most of the night on Mt. Magazine in Paris, AR, the highest point in Arkansas. We laid on the ground for hours in surprisingly cold weather, looking at the countless stars, the visible milky way, the  complex constellations, the artificial satellites and the dozens of shooting stars. Time went on forever it felt like while laying there talking and watching. It affected me in ways that I can’t really wrap my head around yet.

NOTE: Click the images to see larger, non-cropped versions.

This is an example of the view from Mount Magazine.

You see something I realized not too long ago is that I’m truly fascinated with space, possibly even obsessed.  I started realizing I was always drawn to science fiction that took place in space, it wasn’t the hi-tech gadgets that drew me in though. It was the exploration, colonization, and study of this massive universe that hooked me.  The thought that the next collective step of humanity is into the depths of this uncharted wilderness. I love studying the immensity of objects in space, and yet despite their size they are ultimately dominated by space, empty space. 99.999999999999999….% of matter is empty space. You are mostly empty space. Your computer is mostly empty space. There are billions of miles of space between planets and solar systems and then these objects bigger than multiple Earths combined are still almost entirely just space. Fascinating.

This is what space does to me. It makes me think about really big things like Red Giants that are hundreds of times bigger than our own seemingly huge sun.

Comparison of our sun to red giants

Or ideas like when I look up and see the milky way at night, I’m seeing across the galaxy like looking across the middle of a packed room and realizing my eyes and mind can’t comprehend the amount of stars that are in only a 1×1 inch area of it and most likely somewhere out there is some other intelligent beings looking up across at us thinking something similar.

The Milky Way, or part of it. We are inside it, however this is what it looks like to look through the middle of it straight to the other side. In the middle is believed to be a supermassive black hole.

Space also makes me think of really small things like clouds of tiny particles of space dust that the sun shines through making parts of the night sky glow as if God had splashed gold dust into piles of twinkling diamonds. It strains at my mind’s very understanding of reality.

Zodiacal light, sunlight scattered by space dust around sunset or sunrise

We look up at sky scrapers that take up less than .01% (made up this number but it’s pretty clear they don’t take up much at all) of Earth’s surface and we think those are massive! Yet they are nothing to the size of Earth. We travel all the way around the world and think how it feels as if the world goes on nearly forever. But then you look up and see that tiny burning ball in the sky and you realize it’s the size of a marble from 92.96 MILLION miles away… it’s 870,000 miles across and can hold 1 million earths in it, you can’t fathom that concretely.

Size comparison of earth and sun

Then you read how the pinpoint stars you see up in the sky are often bigger than our own star. In fact there is a star that’s radius is 1650 times bigger than our Sun. If you replaced our’s with it, it would expand out past Jupiter.

Our sun and the sun with the largest radius, VY Canis Majoris. 1650 times bigger than Sol.

Another one is 8,700,000 millions times brighter than our sun. Insane right?

The Sun, the Earth and the most luminous star known in the universe. Unfortunately, there is no way to illustrate such a huge brightness difference, so a size comparison will do.

How about this then… This galaxy, the Milky Way is around 100,000 light years in diameter. That means taking roughly 6 trillion miles and multiplying it by 100,000… no big deal.Except there is another galaxy up in the sky that you can see called Andromeda and it is one of our closest universal neighbors. It is over 200,000 light years in diameter. At this point, you and I both have absolutely lost the concept of how big things are. We have no way of relating with these numbers, but I’m not done yet.

Comparison of galaxies in our local cluster. Fun fact: Andromeda and the Milky Way are on a collision course however it’s speculated that due to the sheer amount of empty space, that when it does happen, it’s likely it wouldn’t affect Earth.

There is another galaxy Hercules A, that is over 1.5 million light years across. 6 trillion miles x 1.5 million will give you the mileage, absolutely huge. The Milky Way has probably around 200-400 billion stars… not planets, STARS. Our puny galaxy is packed! Sort of.

Make sure to actually click on this photo and see it full size. So many stars in such a small space.

The Milky Way is producing around 10 stars per year, there is a galaxy that is making them at a speed around 4,000 per year and it’s just warming up. It’s likely to become one of the largest galaxies someday. Right now though, there are galaxies with similar structure to ours out there with 1 trillion stars and others not like ours with 100 trillion stars…  Backtrack to Andromeda though, being one of our CLOSEST neighbors is still 2,538,000 light years away (you know how to figure the mileage by now). Then there is a galaxy that’s name is just a string of numbers and letters, that is possibly the most distant observed object in the universe 13.3 BILLION miles away think about that distance.

MACS0647-JD, the farthest known galaxy in the universe. The light we see of it here took so long for it to arrive that we only are now seeing it at around 3% of it’s total current age.

It’s maddening to think about… I’m not done though, but close. The OBSERVABLE universe is about 46 billion light years across. That’s what we can see. Also, the universe has expanded ever since the Big Bang. However, recently we learned it’s not simply expanding at a constant speed, it’s accelerating. Whoa. Most of these last few numbers I’ve mentioned are scientific estimates, it’s impossible to be exact, but most of them are confidently within the ball park. However at this point they get a bit more speculative, but they still aren’t vague guesses. These huge galaxies we’ve talked about? There are probably around 100 TRILLION of them in our universe. And that leaves us with around 300 sextillion stars (3.23 x 10^23, or write 323 and add 23 zeros after it.) Finally though, we are starting to gain bits of evidence that lead us to believe that there is a very real possibility of multiple universes. Maybe a finite number, possibly an infinite number all making up the multiverse. To get into the hypothesizes for what they might be like is an entirely different talk though. So now think back about how big you thought that Empire State building was and then realize how far we’ve come to multiple universes in size. Not sure what to think right?

Click here for an image that will blow your mind but is too big to show properly in the blog!

I’ll give you this take away though, you are small, incredibly so. Yet, we know us humans are composed of atoms, and atoms have particles like protons and electrons which get broken down more and more until you get to things like quarks which to tidy up briefly is like this:

Atom = 1,000,000 times smaller than a human hair

Proton = 100,000 times smaller than an atom (or 1,000,000 x 100,000 times smaller than a hair)

Quarks are far smaller than these to the point of being geometrically a point, like the dots you put on graphes. Taking up no space and having no size but still existing as a place. I have no idea how to even make sense of that to be honest. Yet now it’s become likely that quarks are made of even smaller things we haven’t figured out how to look at yet. So yeah, you are small, but not THAT small. Which means really you are just average if even that. You aren’t even a footnote, just a random number on a scale.

So how about I finish by getting to my point?

Looking at space stretches me. It stretches my understanding of everything. It challenges every thought I have like some eccentric professor saying, “Think bigger Luke! Yet also, still you must think infinitely smaller too!” It forces me to look at myself, my life and everything else and realize how insignificant it all is in comparison to the majesty of all this creation before. Luke Liddell is not special. I am not important. I am made up of the dead atomic remains of once gloriously powerful stars. I’m smaller than small and bigger than big. Yet the Bible says creation is broken and the Grand Canyons and starry skies which appear so beautiful are but a shadow of what they were and what they will be.

The Helix Nebula

They are awaiting redemption along with us. And yet still even beyond that beauty and majesty is an infinitely more majestic God.  God is this being that is bigger than ALL of these unfathomable reaches and still smaller than the most microscopic of crevices. Infinite in both directions. Alpha and Omega. He who was and is and is to come. I start sputtering words trying to think of the size of Him. That’s a good thing though. In his size, he made all these things, universes and quarks each. He built them and placed them and knows them absolutely perfectly and they run and work as they do every single moment of existence each individually because he commands them to. Yet surrounded by all the beauty and power that is producing awe and wonder in this multiverse, he chose us. Humans. He chose to place us at the pinnacle of ALL creation. Governors or co-heirs with him of all it. He gave us all of it. And you, a human being, a person, despite innumerable beautiful things he made and the countless things He is always doing, chose to know you intimately. Not just a matter of knowing absolutely everything about you, but knowing you personally.

Here’s an example; do you have a relationship with a piece of wood you pick up on the ground? Yes! You and it have crossed paths and though insignificantly so, you and it are tied together forever. Maybe you carve it into something which makes that relationship with it a little less insignificant. Yet still, your relationship to a piece of wood is nothing in comparison to your relationship with your best friend, your kid or your significant other. Out of every animal and organism, out of every object from whole universes, to excessively bright star, to the thing that make up quarks… he chose you *insert your name here* to love and cherish and dwell with. God doesn’t dwell with the supernovas and black-holes like he dwells with you. You are far more important than them. And it has nothing to do with your own intrinsic value. He bestowed value and importance to you, you did not earn it. Instead he made you in his image. You, a finite being carry in your soul a piece of that infinity, his “otherness”.  Nothing else has that. NOTHING. It’s something more powerful than all the burning suns combined and that is why sin is so ridiculously awful and his grace so unbelievably incredible. Despite the mess we’ve made of things, he died for us and is restoring everything, us and all the beautiful things in existence. He is making all things new.  He became sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That is our God. That is Jesus. God himself does not dwell in stars or galaxies, no instead he chose to live in us. We are his temple… what does it mean? Well… it means he’s good and truly awesome. Beyond that I don’t know. I know one day I will see him face to face though and I will finally comprehend all these intangible things  talked about here and I will be in awe, and I will be so overwhelmed that all I will know to do is worship him for who he is. Where we go from there I don’t know either, what adventures he has planned for us then, I can’t speculate but thinking about it last night certainly made me smile.

The Milky Way taken in Greenhead, Western Australia. Source here: http://www.reddit.com/r/space/comments/1kexf3/the_amazing_view_of_the_milky_way_from_greenhead/

So next time you get a chance one evening, read Job 38 through the rest of the book, or Psalm 19 then go outside and see the blackness of space and all the stars. Have your mind stretched a bit by simply stopping and taking it in and just as God himself said, “Be still and know.”

Much Love,

Luke

“Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!” – Job 22:12

“The stars are the jewels of the night, and perchance surpass anything which day has to show. A companion with whom I was sailing one very windy but bright moonlight night, when the stars were few and faint, thought that a man could get along with them,—though he was considerably reduced in his circumstances,—that they were a kind of bread and cheese that never failed.” — Henry David Thoreau, ‘Night and Moonlight,‘ published in Excursions, 1913.


Finals, All-Nighters and the Thirst for Satisfaction

College student! Stop for a second! Don’t avoid this because you are busy and I write too much. Take a break for a moment and be filled up on some truth that’s relevant to you!

It’s finals week here at the University of Central Arkansas. It’s been a busy week for me, but not overbearingly so. However, if you spend more than 5 minutes on social media this week you’ll see a lot of overwhelmed, burned out students. It’s understandable and even expected by the time spring finals roll out. Through all this I’ve come to see a deeper layer beneath it all. This post is for the college student or really any student.  Nonetheless,  it can be truthfully applied to much more with a little work.

The all-nighter study sessions. The massive caffeine infusions.  The tedious, methodical, bleary eyed, grind of reviewing the Power points, rewriting your notes, making the flash cards, memorizing the textbook(s), writing the novel sized research paper(s). They can be worth it. They are worth it for me because of Christ. That’s the key to all of it.

Would you laugh if I said that we are incredibly blessed to be able to have such burdens as those? And that though its okay to be tired and a bit pressed, there is a reason to be thankful for these kind of nights?

Look at the world. Very little of the world has opportunities to pursue dreams, callings and visions like we do. Yet you do. Maybe you don’t know what it is yet. Maybe you are certain of it. College is rare opportunity that VERY few get to experience. The purpose for college has been hijacked a bit by society, however the original purpose and values remain. You are in college and part of that means you are chasing after something bigger than most will ever get to. You have something worth pursuing intensely enough to stay up for and put in the countless hours. This is a unique opportunity in time and I promise you, it won’t last forever and when it’s gone, friends, it’s gone. Use what you’ve been given wisely.

One day all striving and chances to do such things will cease. 

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10

“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah” – Psalm 39:4-5

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” – James 4:14

The time will come to reflect on your life and all that you did and failed to do. You as a believer will be judged as well. This isn’t the same judgment that leads to eternal life or damnation.  Nor will salvation be determined by your work at all so don’t misinterpret that. Salvation is through Christ’s redeeming work alone and not at all by any merit of your own.  The measure of your reward will be determined by this judgment based on the stewardship and obedience  to Christ (For a better in-depth explanation: Read this.)

See here’s the neat thing about work for us in Christ:

“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. ” – Psalm 128:1-2

This is an amazing promise to those that Christ calls his children. It means you’ll have work. Maybe not what you hoped for or expected but you will have work, that’s why you aren’t dead yet, your job isn’t finished. Have you ever spent a week doing nothing at all? Just sat around and watched the clock tick? It’s miserable. It can lead to a mental and spiritual depression because you were made to work and labor. God called it “good” before the fall. God himself works… Let me rephrase that. The Maker of all that is good, worthwhile and holy, the One who knows all, finds work worth doing. 

Secondly, it’s a promise to us that we will enjoy the fruits of our labor. Will that mean it will be easy? Not necessarily or even likely. Does this mean I’ll be healthy, wealthy or happy? Again, not necessarily and for many not likely. Then what? It means that all honest work  pursed for the Lord will matter in some way. Work will have an eternal significance. God will satisfy the intrinsic desire we have to labor well and cultivate in a meaningful fashion.

This does one of two things. It either makes us relieved and thankful, for we do not labor in vain or it convicts us for avoiding our responsibility to labor and to do so well.

Which leads me to this warning about your motivations to work and shirk your responsibility to work:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” – Proverbs 127:1

“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” – Proverbs 12:11

“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10

So now would be a good time to stop for a second and ask yourself some tough questions. Ask yourself what your motivation is. For example, if you want to be in a medical field just to for money or recognition, those are both unworthy motives and ultimately they will not satisfy you. If it is to help others, though it is a good thing, that motivation alone will not satisfy you either. The motivation behind all goals and efforts must be Christ for there to be any true satisfaction and lasting achievement. He must be your ultimate purpose. Which means all goals must be in line with his Word.

There is a blessing, peace, joy and discipline that comes from understanding this and taking it to heart.

For me personally, I want to be able to look back when my time is done and say for all the pursuits in my life, “Yeah, I lost sleep some nights. Yeah, I pushed myself to mental, physical and even spiritual exhaustion some times. Yeah, I had moments of questioning if its worth it and fought fiercely against apathy. I was once a worthless wretch with no aspirations. Jesus paid it all, freed my soul and renewed my heart, my motivations and my pursuits. And through all these things, He was my rest, He filled me with himself when I was weak, he became the ultimate goal behind all my other goals. I ran with a joyful abandonment and focus towards the finish line, but only to cross it so I could reach Jesus waiting on the others side.  And now I’m here, at labors end, satisfied  not by my work but by Jesus’s. He made all my efforts “good” and worthwhile., and used them to shape me into His image. I truly started at the bottom and now I’m here. Thank you dearly, my Father.”

Relish the earned exhaustion that comes from your efforts; give thanks for them, be intentional with seeing the eternal significance behind them and keep your head high and your heart full.

Finally,

For those who are unsure of their direction at the end of this semester:

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” – Proverb 16:3

For those of you up all night  this week:

“Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.” – Proverbs 20:13

For those in need of mental and spiritual rest: 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

For those who are anxious and worried:

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:5-7

And I’m here for any and all of you, stranger or friend, not just this week but every week. If you need encouragement, prayer, advice, or just someone to talk to just let me know.

Much Love,

Luke

“God has created each of us with a thirst that only He can quench.  French philosopher Pascal called it a God-shaped vacuum in our hearts that only He can fill.  Or as Augustine put it, “Our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”  Man is perpetually seeking.  To whatever degree we don’t know the unseen and eternal realm; we seek answers in the seen and temporal.  We look for eternal answers among temporal things.  But we discover that they cannot provide them.”

“The soul of man bears the image of God; so nothing can satisfy it but He whose image it bears.”


The Value of Souls

Spending the last month or so pledging a Christian fraternity isn’t something I would have told you I planned to do 2 months ago. Sure I thought about it, but it would require sacrificing independence, time, etc. Yet here I am, and man I got to say, the reasons I had for not doing it sound so ridiculous now. Beta Upsilon Chi has been a life changing experience.

Here’s the odd thing about me though. I’m a junior. I’m right at half way to being 22 years old. I don’t fit the “typical” pledge. I mean I’m older than most members after all. This has its burdens and its blessings. I want to share one of its blessing.

When your time is limited, you appreciate what you do with that time. I have very little time to influence BYX, at least in comparison with my fellow pledge brothers. I’m acutely aware that every time I let an opportunity pass by to put myself out there, to encourage, to uplift, to take initiative, I’m wasting a precious moment. When you only have one little bag of candy, you notice all the subtle flavors it offers because its got to last you. That’s how my time in BYX is. If 3.5 years is the typical life span of a member, then I’m going to live just half of that. I want to leave a legacy behind in BYX and that means I can’t waste my time.

Now that is where God takes that thought and flips it on me and turns it back towards my life as a whole and I end up feeling small. If 75 years is all we typically have, how would I live my life if I only had half that? What if I died at 38. I mean I’m over half way there… It’s terrifying. I’m living with urgency, I’m not wasting my life being frivolous. I’m not putting things off to later because I know the end is very close for me in comparison to others. I have no time to waste.

Then He backs it up on me again. What is 70-100 years (if you are seriously lucky) in comparison to the eternity that follows it? What I do now affects eternity more than I ever will know. There are forces beyond me that are watching my actions with great anticipation. My time here is short, and I must be diligent to serve my part, to carry my cross daily. At the resurrection, I don’t want to look back on this and regret all the times I squandered opportunities. So what should I do?

Ecclesiastes 9:10

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”

It means investing my time in things that last, that keep their value. One day all of heaven and earth will pass away, what will remain then that I can put stock in?

Souls.

What are their value? Well, they were handcrafted by the Great Craftsman, in the image of the most beautiful Being that will ever exist. They were paid for by the blood of the Son of God, which the bible tells me is quite the price.

So knowing that, I pour myself out to others. Sometimes that’s fun and easy. Simply sharing joy and encouragement and living life with them. Other times it requires deep sacrifice. Not just sympathizing with others sorrows, but entering into their sorrows with them, being vulnerable, living in a way that is consistent regardless of circumstance or others reaction to me. In the end, the amount I put in will always be so much less than what is returned in eternity. The people around you, they are the reason you are here. You are either an agent of reconciliation for Christ or you are the image of the power of Christ to overcome all things to unite and make a people of his own. People matter is my point. Don’t waste friendships. Don’t waste brotherhood. Don’t waste sisterhood. Every human interaction is a divine interaction. Every conversation that has goodness in it brings life and is holy. Realize behind every person is a soul. A broken soul, that just like yours is desperately seeking wholeness in the Father and sometimes they don’t know that’s the case.

When you realize this, people become more than just people. A stranger isn’t just a stranger. They are an opportunity, a potential friend, a possible divine moment of life changing serendipity. Friendships are messy because we are messy. The Church can be jacked up because we are jacked up. That’s why grace is so amazing. That’s why we are different. We aren’t chosen because we are perfect. We were chosen because He is and He loves us. This means that nobody is too far away, too difficult, too unlovable for us to pour into. So those times we ask ourselves, is this person too cold or hardened for me to encourage or love, we know the answer is always NO. No one is too far gone. Anyone is welcome. God does the work, we give them our best and in the end, lives are changed. It’s pretty cool.

The love you share, the relationships you’ve made, the bonds you build, that is all you will have one day. Those times I spent on me, what do they buy me in the end? Make the most of this time to invest in them. Don’t lose yourself in things that will perish, the cost is far too great.

One thing I’ve told my pledge brothers this about pledgeship: Its not about finishing first, it’s not about being the winner. It’s about crossing the finish line and crossing together, leaving no man behind. Carrying people on your back, exhausted, finishing 10 hours past when you expected to, but still finishing together. That’s the truth of our lives. We need each other. We finish together. Help everyone. Love everyone. Give everything. Because time is passing us by quicker than we’ll ever know.

Much Love,

Luke

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”


Forgive My Inconsistency

Lately I’ve been listening to a spoken word poet and rapper who goes by Propaganda, specifically his album Excellent (Which is available legally for free via the link, I highly recommend it) He has a song called “Forgive Me For Asking” in which he calls out American Christianity for hypocritical, agenda-oriented, shallow faith. He then calls out Muslims on their faith, followed by the scientific and agnostic\atheist community. Finally he finishes on a personal level by bringing to light our tendency to a hypocritical works based faith instead of by grace through faith. It’s a deeply thought provoking song. There is one lyric though that has stuck with me for the last few months, its after he has pointed out flaws with Christians, Muslims, and Agnostics, as well as himself:

“Maybe I’m wrong, maybe you’re right.
Maybe we’ll find out the day after the world ends.
Yeah, I guess we’re all a little inconsistent,
So maybe we can just show each other some grace?”

That gets me. I know I’m inconsistent. One day, my sin is so clear to me that all I can do is beg the Lord for grace and forgiveness in that moment. The next day, I’ll some how have convinced myself that I got it all figured out. God gave me a hand up, but I did the hard work. All these sinners need to get their lives together and stop disappointing the Lord. I’m on my own level.  Anyone else ever like this?  Anyone else find it easy to slip into self-righteousness? I do.

The fact is I’m human. I carry the human condition. This means I am innately inconsistent. Some days, I say and do the all the right things. Others, my life looks like a train wreck. This is why we fail to be excellent. Excellence has consistency. We rely on the source of Excellence, the Christ. And that’s a beautiful, relieving moment.

See I feel I’m a generally good person, not by my nature, but only because the Spirit within me is constantly course-correcting my devious bent for wrong. I didn’t earn that Spirit, it was a gift and isn’t something I can brag about. Left to my own devices, I’ll always act on my own selfish ambitions and desires and make no amends for their consequences. With the spirit, while, still not truly consistent, I’m working towards it. Not to be saved, see that’s already been given. I’m working towards this because I’m free to work towards it, to refine myself and better myself without having to “win” anything and I can do it free of arrogance, because it wouldn’t have even been possible without the Cross giving the ability.

This is a great thing. Yet this isn’t my point. I am still so quick to point out other groups failures and issues. Yet I have just as many failures and issues! Don’t lose me here, I’m not making a statement over whose right and wrong. I’m simply saying, instead of all of the bickering (I mean look at the status quo, has it really gotten us anywhere?) why don’t we show each other some grace. Instead of labeling the president a heathen, Muslims as terrorists, Professors and scientists as liars and Christians as bigots, can we just own up to our own inconsistency and share the same grace we bestow ourselves, to others?  There is a really famous thought about all this: “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

It doesn’t mean you have to agree with someone else, it just means you show respect, and goodwill towards them. It means you stop waiting for them to misstep so you can pounce on that moment to prove your point. It means trying to get along.

Specifically to Christians, I just want to say,  you are called to serve Christ by serving others. Rich, poor, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, Republican, Democrat, Anarchist, Communist, Capitalist, Pro-choicer, Pro-lifer, Pro-Guns, Anti-Guns, White, Black, KKK, Westboro. All of them. They do not serve you. You serve them, just as Christ served us (who are a wrong, ignorant and hostile people) It doesn’t matter how wrong or right they may be. The foundation of every word and action is love. Our actions are never reactions, because in all things we love and serve others. This makes life far less complicated for us too, though not necessarily easier. Whatever good or bad some person or group does to you, you already know your response. Love and service. Working that out, isn’t easy, wasn’t for Christ either, but we are called to do it. So maybe instead of spending so much time explaining why the other side is wrong, we can work on this whole love-service fundamental. Alright?

Much Love,

Luke

“It is this lack of love among Christians which today makes the church an insipid, lukewarm institution. People come to find affection and are turned off by our tepidity.”

“If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary’s love.”

“Assuredly there is but one way in which to achieve what is not merely difficult but utterly against human nature: to love those who hate us, to repay their evil deeds with benefits, to return blessings for reproaches. It is that we remember not to consider men’s evil intention but to look upon the image of God in them, which cancels and effaces their transgressions, and with its beauty and dignity allures us to love and embrace them.”


The Struggle

So. I don’t write a whole lot these days. Sorry for the 2.3 people who actually are interested in my thoughts. But I got something now!

For all but 3 hours of 2013, I’ve been sick. Whether its the flu or a cold I’m not sure. I may have had a fever at one point. Now I just have the runny nose, sore throat, congestion, chills, shakiness, all around miserable feeling. It really sucks, but I’ve also been a lot sicker before. But it’s a good opportunity to talk about something… I’m not exactly sure if it’s a common thought or not

I’ve always been thankful for unfortunate, sad, depressing, and even painful events in my life. When I’m dealing with them, i’m usually preoccupied with the existential questions of “Why me???” Almost always afterward, and occasionally while i’m in it, I’ll have this moment where I just kinda see it. It’s this realization of all the things in life and in making life, that work against me existing are innumerable and that fact that I do exist and have done so for 21 years is mind-boggling. And that’s when it hits me. I’m alive. By the grace of God, my heart is doing it’s thing. The fact that I’m sick, shows me, I’m alive right now. My body is fighting and struggling. And that’s the key. Struggle. Challenge.

It’s life’s challenges that remind us what we are after, what we are about. Its when everything is peachy and we stop struggling and stop being challenged that we fade away. It’s like being in space, without the challenge gravity presents, our bones and muscles literally fade away.  Yet when I add struggle to them with say weightlifting, they build and they grow and they become more and more alive.

I love football. Its a sport that highlights this idea really well. You struggle and you challenge and its can be punishing but to those who play the game, they’ll tell you themselves, its worth it. The pain is almost pleasurable. It’s a mark of progress, it just isn’t the same without it.

The best athletes and the greatest minds will tell you: Pain, struggles, challenges aren’t obstacles, they are opportunities. And the reason they are the best is because they’ve embraced that fact.  You can’t have a mountaintop moment until you’ve hiked a mountain.

I truly believe there will be struggle and challenge in heaven. Just not the way we know it. It will always lead somewhere, we will never struggle or challenge in vain. We won’t become weary, or disheartened.

So next time you have a moment or situation that is negative. Thank God for the chance to grow.  Embrace the struggle and realize that against all odds, YOU’RE ALIVE.

Much Love,

Luke

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.” – Frederick Douglass

“There is scarcely any passion without struggle.” – Albert Camus

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.” – Thomas Paine