I was watching TV and a commercial came on.  I had seen this commercial before, but this time I was drawn in.

The scene opens with men on an assembly line…almost like robots; they all look the same (Portraying that humans are simply cookie cutter versions of one another).

Then…out of the assembly line a head pops out.

He’s not content with being like everyone else. He wants to be different. And so he jumps off the line and begins to escape.

Alarms are going off. Security guards are scrambling. The man is running for his life…and for seemingly his ability to be unique from everyone else. I was so drawn in. Will he escape?

I was quickly snapped back to reality when the logo for Gillette Shaving Cream came on.

Go figure.

But I’ll tell you what it was that drew me in like I was watching a blockbuster movie in the theater.

It was my own desire to be unique; To be different than everyone else; To be the only me.

I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in this. I believe deep down there’s a desire in all of us to know we’re unique…that we weren’t just carelessly made from cookie cutter templates.

It’s a human longing.

It’s also a spiritual truth that dates back all the way to Genesis 1 & 2.  God creates man and woman in His image.  His image isn’t cookie-cutter, though.  How is that possible?  I’m not exactly sure, because I’m not Him.  But I do believe He’s infinite…and so creating infinitely unique individuals doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

All throughout scriptures we see glimpses of uniqueness in each individual.  Sticking with the Old Testament theme, we see the Temple being built by people who were uniquely and purposely gifted to do different things (wood working, metal working, etc).

Additionally, when Nehemiah took the task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, he called people that had specific and unique gifts to do specific and unique things.  Every one in Scripture is unlike everyone else in Scripture.  It’s just the way things are.

Ironically though, uniqueness doesn’t come naturally. 

The marketing team that put together that commercial was able to identify a tension that most humans struggle with – settling for blending in with everyone else, or doing the work that uniqueness requires.

Make no mistake, they both require work.  It’s exhausting work to constantly compare myself with other people and to always second guess myself based on what other people think.

It’s also work to spend time listening to Jesus, discover my unique wiring, and figure out how God is calling me to implement that uniqueness.

My encouragement to you (and me) is to do the work of discovering your uniqueness, and like the guy in the commercial, run away from the temptation to do what everyone else is doing.

Above The Clouds

“Chicago is experiencing some stormy weather, so we’ll likely experience more turbulence as we land.”

That’s what I heard when I was coming back from a short trip to Memphis. We had already experienced a significant amount of turbulence as we took off from the Memphis Airport.  The Pilot got on the speaker and said we were in for more.  It seems as though I was flying on a day that had windy/rainy weather all throughout the middle-north USA.

I have flown before, so “turbulence” was a word I was used to. But what we experienced during takeoff was a bit more than I had signed up for, which made me nervous for the landing into Chicago.  I normally chew peppermint gum to make sure my ears pop at the right time…but during takeoff I had hoped the peppermint would calm the ever-growing nauseous feeling in my stomach.

It is not an overstatement to say that I was becoming fearful.  Not the outlandish, screaming, panic-y kind of fearful; even still, I began wondering how much jolting this aircraft was built to handle, and in my minds eye I created scenarios where I’d have to act heroically and make life-saving decisions if the plane were to go down.

Before it got too bad, however, and before anyone was reaching for the barf bag, we had broken through the clouds and when I looked out the window I saw a beautiful contrast.  Above and beside us was nothing but blue skies…while below were the dark grey clouds we had left behind.

It’s amazing the perspective you have when you’re above the problems you were just facing.


So many times, however, we aren’t above our problems.  We’re in the midst of them.  Because of that, we allow them to create fear — a low-grade level of anxiety that sits at the pit of our stomach and the forefront of our minds.  We begin creating scenarios in our head about the worst possible outcome.  We rationalize that kind of thinking because, well…better to have a plan in case the worst happens.

All the while, if we’ll just lift our perspective so we can think above the stormy clouds, we’ll be able to see clearly.  We’ll be able to right-size fear and put it in it’s place.

“Do not be afraid.”

God often reminds his people throughout Scripture of this command.  And that’s what it is…a command.  Each time these words find their way into the narrative, God is reminding someone that fear and anxiety, although real, must not define the reality of a Jesus-follower.  There’s a better way, and God is there to help us experience it.

The task ahead of Joshua — to lead the Israelites after Moses passed — was daunting, to say the least.  But God was there.

The story God was writing for Mary & Joseph was bizarre, difficult and confusing — but God was with them.

This four-word command from God doesn’t negate the fearful situations we find ourselves in…it simply offers us a better way to engage in those situations.  We can meet the fear and anxiety when it comes, recognize it, and then immediately bring it to the more-powerful presence of God.

When our fears meet God’s presence, the feeling we get — the peace that passes understanding — will be like breaking through the clouds after experiencing some turbulence.  Calm will surround you, and the fear will be below you.

Realizing God is with us enables us to rise above the clouds.

Why Not Me?

About one week before I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer, I came across a Matt Chandler video that he recorded for his church when he was first finding out about his Brain Cancer.

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I was inspired by Matt’s resolve to love and serve Jesus in spite of this challenge he was facing, and I was inspired by his ability to see it as just another thing in life to trust God with and use to build his faith.

He talks about Hebrews 11, and how some great men of God shut the mouths of lions and fought injustice and did phenomenal things in their lifetime…but then some great men were killed and tortured for their faith; yet both were counted as ones who had great faith in God.

Then, he said something that would completely change my perspective on trials and challenges for a follower of Jesus:  He felt honored to be considered worthy to endure this trial (brain cancer), and be given a chance not only to praise God in the good times, but to praise God in the tough times.

I remember sitting in my bed, watching that video, thinking to myself, “I hope I would have the same response if something like that happened to me.”

Fast forward to the hospital bed I was in on May 8, right before my emergency surgery.  I truly believe it was Gods grace and strength that allowed me to lift my perspective, but I turned to my family and said, “ya know? Why not me?”  It’s hard to explain, but in that moment, I felt a sense of honor that God would trust me with this trial.  I had that video in mind that I had seen just the week before.

Theologically, I believe God was aware and allowing this to happen in my life.  And since He was allowing it, I had the choice to trust and praise Him through it, just like I’ve trusted and praised Him through all of the good times in my life.

Pause & Sidenote:  I realize this could sound super prideful…it even reads that way as I write it.  But I hope my heart’s intent comes through these words – nothing I did enabled me to have this response.  I believe God allowed me to see the bigger picture.  Did I have my doubts and down-days?  Absolutely.  Not every chemo day was all smiles and Bible verses.  It sucked, and it’s ok to be human, and weak, and honest about those days. 

That Chandler video shifted my perspective on life, how I read the Bible, and how I viewed trails and challenges in this life.  Why not me?  If trials are inevitable (and they are), then may they be yet another way to lift up the name of Jesus.

Also, if trials are inevitable, then why not allow Jesus-followers to experience them?  We can be the people to walk the tough road differently.  We can be the people of peace, grace, and kindness in the midst of a storm.  The world will be able to look upon Christians walking through trials and notice how different our response is to theirs.

I’m not confident I know all the reasons I had to walk through Testicular Cancer.  When I think about my life and where I was at the time, perhaps God wanted to show a youth group of Junior High students in Michigan what it looks like to be a Christian and still walk through really tough times.

If I could be part of God’s illustration in a broader teaching to the watching world…then, why not me?

By Faith…

was thinking today about all that we, as christians, believe.
conclusion:  we believe some pretty wacky stuff.

by faith we believe

that behind this created world is a loving creator
a virgin gave birth to God’s son, Jesus.
Jesus lived a perfect life (didn’t sin), died on a cross, and rose again.
that by rising again Jesus defeated death…so that we can live.
that anyone who calls on Jesus will be saved

that hell actually exists, and that it’s gonna suck
that Christians make up the Church.
that as the Church, we have access to the Holy Spirit.
that this is the same Holy Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead.
that through Jesus we are “adopted sons and daughters” into God’s family.

that the power we have (God in us) is greater than the power that’s in the world.
that Satan is really real and he’s really mean.
that the Bible is the only inspired word of God.
that one day the world as we know it will cease to exist.
that Jesus is coming to our world again…this time to reign forever.

that no matter what a person has done, Jesus loves them.
that he died for them.
that no one is beyond grace.
that anyone can be redeemed.

I believe all of that.

the theology of private ryan

i watched Saving Private Ryan on Memorial Day.  great reminder of the sacrifice made for the freedom we enjoy.
i had seen the movie before, but had forgotten the power of the plotline.
to do an injustice to the movie i will now sum it up with this statement:
a team of soldiers mobilize to find another soldier, private ryan, in order to grant him his freedom (a trip home).
throughout the entire movie the discussion is had – how valuable is this one life (private ryan’s) that we would risk a team of 8 soldiers to bring him home safely?
that’s a great question.
most of the 8 soldiers end up dying to save private ryan…and one of the last words muttered from the captains mouth was:
earn it.
translation: live a life worthy of the sacrifice me and my team just made for you.

I couldn’t help but think of christianity.
ephesians 4:1 calls believers to “live a life worthy of the calling you’ve received.”
pause:  there is NO WAY we can earn salvation.  i’m not saying that.  we are not under the law anymore…we’re under grace
it’s not by our works that we are right with God…its by Jesus’ finished work on the cross.  amen.

every analogy breaks down somewhere…but the lesson is the same.
every day we have the opportunity to live our lives in such a way that it would be considered “worthy of our calling.”
all too often we use that “we’re-saved-by-grace” mentality as an excuse to do absolutely nothing about our faith
that’s not how its supposed to be
let’s pursue discipline
let’s pursue stronger faith
let’s pursue generosity
let’s pursue sacrifice

let’s pursue lives that are worthy of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ