The Success Of Others

The internet has the power to connect people in ways no one could have anticipated. Now I can keep track of where my old acquaintances go on their holidays, see pictures of lovely dinners eaten by people I haven’t spoken to in years, and find out what my childhood playmates think about government policies. Amazing, isn’t it? Through their pictures and posts, I get a glimpse into their lives—their homes, families, travels, and their stunning accomplishments and successes. 

I’m glad for them, really. But sometimes I also wonder—how does my own life measure up to theirs? Is my life still important if it doesn’t include the same kinds of successes that I see other people achieving and enjoying? If they reach higher and go further than I do, am I just one more loser bringing up the rear in some kind of cosmic reality show competition?

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How Much Does A Good Deed Weigh?

On the ruins of an ancient cathedral in Ardmore, County Waterford, on the south coast of Ireland, there are a series of pictures carved in stone. Each picture tells a story from the Bible, and most of them are still complete enough to be recognisable. Adam and Eve are under a tree, and three wise men are bringing gifts to Jesus. Solomon is there with a sword, making a judgment between two women who claimed the same baby. There’s also a pair of weighing scales—but what Bible story is that?

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The Places I Used To Pray

There’s a spot on a lonely quay beside a river where I used to go sometimes to pray. It’s in the middle of a town, but it’s quiet there because it’s not on the way to anything and there are prettier spots nearby if you’re going for a walk. I revisited that spot recently, a little older now than when I used to pray there. I feel the time that has flowed passed, like the water in the river, always flowing since before the Vikings founded the town in the first place. 

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The World Needs Your Story

“All dreams deserve to be seen, and all stories deserve to be shared,” said the Netflix ad. “The world needs your story. Show them!” But that wasn’t the real point—it was an ad, after all—so it ended with “Discover the world’s stories.” On Netflix, of course.

But Netflix isn’t showing my story among “the world’s stories.” They don’t have any plans to produce it, either (that I know of). So how will I get my dreams to be seen? How will I get my story to be shared? I need to figure this out. After all, Netflix said, “the world needs your story.” 

Does it, really? Another regular guy doing regular things in regular ways? That’s the story that the world needs? It isn’t as entertaining as the stories they already have. It isn’t as impressive, or interesting, or mysterious, or anything fun like that. There’s a reason Netflix hasn’t called for the rights to my story. Who would want to watch it?

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The Free Way

I’ve driven on motorways and interstates and highways, but my favourite name for big roads is freeways. It captures that windows-down-radio-up feeling better than the other words—the speed and freedom of four wheels and a smooth road combined. Freedom to travel. Freedom to move fast. Freedom to stop whenever I want to. It feels good to be free.

Of course, this freeway freedom does come with a few rules. A speed limit, for example, and lines on the road that mark my lane, and some lanes that go one way and some that go the other. Simple enough, but very important—without those lines and rules, the freeway would be a death trap. Imagine driving on a freeway with no lanes, no directions, no rules. In one way it would be even more free, in the sense that you could use the road however you wanted to. But with everyone using the road as they saw fit for themselves, no one would be able to use it well, and a lot of people would end up seriously injured. That’s why we accept the rules of the freeway. We know that these boundaries actually give us more freedom to move quickly and safely to our destinations. 

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Approaching the Throne of Grace for Afghanistan

Those who belong to Jesus have the privilege of being able to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Is a greater privilege possible? Through Christ, we can speak directly with the God of the universe. We can approach him with confidence, because our standing with God does not depend on our own goodness, but on Christ’s. He has already won all the mercy and grace we need, for every situation, if we are putting our trust in him. This is a great comfort—but it’s not only for us. Everyone who believes is a member of the body of Christ, together, and “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

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Focusing On What I Can Measure

I got a watch recently that counts my footsteps. For my whole life I’ve never had a clue about the number of steps I take each day, but now I know, and all of a sudden I care. If I reach my goal number, I feel good. If I don’t, I feel less good. I do think my watch is good for me. It’s helping me be more aware of my level of activity, which helps me be more active, which I’m sure helps me be more healthy.

Walking is good, but there’s a lot more to my health than the amount of steps I get day by day. My watch can only measure certain things, and the most important aspects of how my body is working are beyond its ability to tell me about. I could have a severe underlying condition and still meet my step goal, and still get a little celebration on my wrist telling me how healthy I am. It’s even possible that an underlying condition could be made worse by more steps, not better. Thankfully that’s not true (as far as I know), but if it was true, I wouldn’t know it from the metrics on my watch.

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God Doesn’t Get Tired Of Answering Prayer

Psalm 121 reminds us that God does not “slumber or sleep.” Isaiah tells us that “the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.” That’s hard to imagine for people like us who spend a quarter of our time on earth (at least) unconscious in bed. Even when we’re not in bed, a single day full of activity can leave us mentally and physically exhausted. Not God. He never slumbers or sleeps, he never flops on the couch and rests his eyes, he never gets tired at all. 

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The Discipline Of Being Overwhelmed

Beside the road, the grass was parted into a path created by the feet of those who had walked there before me. I didn’t know the destination, but I had time, so I decided to follow the lead of those feet and find out where they were going.

It was a good decision. The path took me over a rise and around a corner, then sloped down gradually with a panoramic view of the ocean in front of me. On the right, the ground sloped down sharply towards a rocky cove where people were swimming. On the left, there was no ground. Only a sheer cliff, and the waves far below.

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Unless

Christianity is full of surprising reversals. Just think of Good Friday, where the King of Heaven abolishes the power of death—by dying in our place! He said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” And that’s exactly what he did—first the dying, then the bearing much fruit. Now, he calls us to follow him in the same way: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” As we approach Easter, I’ve been thinking a lot about this–what does it look like for me, right now? How is my own life reshaped and redirected by these reversals? These are the things I was thinking of when I wrote this poem:

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