What is the point of being a Christian anyway?

Is this a picture of heaven, or a timeshare? Because the sales pitch is usually about the same.

Is this a picture of heaven, or a timeshare? Because the sales pitch is usually about the same.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because it seems like we need a sales pitch to get people in the door. What will I get if I agree to this thing called Christianity?

Will Jesus make my life better?

Will I be a better person?

Will I get to go to heaven?

There are a myriad of promises that were made to us when we first accepted Jesus as our “personal” savior, a bunch of guarantees that we could be certain of. I don’t usually do this, but I love Micah Murray’s blog so much, if you haven’t read his Four Reasons I’m Not Going to Heavenyou should (right after you’re done here.) He’s done a great job and I’m not going to retread his points.

There are a lot of bait-and-switch jobs we do to get people to accept Jesus. They are the little Easter Eggs that we scatter around in the hopes of making Jesus more appealing. But I’ve got to think that the greatest trick that we have perpetrated, the biggest bait-and-switch of all time has got to be the certainty that if you accept Jesus, you get to go to heaven when you die.

Here’s what I mean.

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I’ll be honest about something right now.

I kind of hate going to stores to shop. Like physical stores.

It’s not that I dislike getting in the car or handling real products as I browse.

I’m just addicted to checking the reviews of every product I purchase online. A store seems somehow primitive by comparison now. Sure, I can whip out my phone and do a quick search for an item. But that’s a hassle. The point is that I worry that without consulting the opinions of others, I’m going to buy a lousy product. How do I know if this microwave is a piece of junk?! I need random strangers to tell me!

I do the same thing with restaurants.

I can’t visit a new restaurant without first finding out what everyone else thought of the restaurant.

Yes, I know, we have to take reviews with a grain of salt. Some people give bad reviews because they were expecting something other than what the restaurant delivered. Or maybe they are spoiled or something. But God forbid, I endure a fifteen minute meal without first consulting Yelp.

My wife and I spent the last two weeks in the back country of Idaho. We rented a cabin, flew out to Boise and spent a week in solitude.

And all of our friends said, “Why???”

No one we know had ever been to Idaho.

In fact, it sounded like an absurd vacation spot. That’s potato country, right?

But I discovered something.

You don’t need to check the reviews on everything.

Sometimes, you just go.

That’s how you find secret places.

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Remember, if you are looking for a place, a adventure or an experience…

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What if we stopped living, enslaved to the reviews and just went? 

We might find something that no one else knows about.

It’s the end of another week.

Summer has officially started, of course. After a couple of weeks of summer school art classes, I’m actually going to leave school for a little while. I’ll be gone for the next week and a half, on retreat in the peaceful Sawtooth Ridge region of Idaho. Cheri and I going to do a lot of resting. We’re going to look at mountains and walk around lakes and streams. I’m going to do a lot of writing. We will probably eat some potatoes. It’s going to be wonderful.

Before I leave, here’s some cool stuff that’s been really great for me this week.

On My Bookshelf9780800721794_alt2

The funny thing is, I don’t actually have time to read this book.

This book is so well timed for me, it’s unbelievable. One of my blog-friends, Bonnie Gray has just released Finding Spiritual Whitespace. You know how most books you read are some kind of a to-do list? Not this one. It would be ironic if it was, because this book is about laying down the false god of being busy and giving our souls the rest and space they need to thrive. It’s about finding peace. It’s about finding shalom. It’s about stopping, which is a good thing sometimes.

Yeah, I don’t have time to read this book. That is the point. 

Go find this book and read it next to the pool, at the park, or during your own retreat this summer.

In My Art Room

The last two weeks have been spent on summer art camp, an amazing, intensive time when we get to do stuff that just doesn’t work with a full classroom of students. Check out my Instagram feed to see what we made.

In My Blog Reader

Interestingly, there were several great blogs that popped up in my reader this week that were about writing, something that as bloggers and authors, we all struggle with. There is no romanticized reality when it comes to writing. It’s hard. There’s never a perfect time or place to get it done. (That’s why just getting started is one of the biggest hurdles for writers.) KC Proctor shared how he struggles not with writer’s block but writer’s doubt. And Birgitte Rasine share some practical points on The Write Practice on how to write through duress.

On the subject of practical living, there were also a couple of great blogs. Jeremy Statton laid out the five elements of a great ten year plan. And The Art of Manliness, one of my perennial favorites, discussed the virtues of and how tos of one of my most dreaded activities, (and something we were all told not to do), talking to strangers.

There weren’t a whole lot of religious-type blogs this week. But, Zack Hunt of The American Jesus took advantage in the pause to ask a question about the importance of almighty “truth.” Is our faith simply a list of propositional statements?

That’s it for me.  I’ll see you in a couple of weeks!

We Americans enjoy celebrating a lot of stuff.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

Those of us who consider ourselves Christians like to talk about and celebrate God. That goes without saying.

We like to celebrate family too.

Some of us like to celebrate freedom.

Or even America itself. Many of us will celebrate America in just a couple of weeks…on Flag Day, the most important and widely celebrated holiday of national patriotism. Well, maybe not. Most of us will celebrate a lot of “American” stuff a couple of weeks after that. I don’t really know what Flag Day is for.

Here’s what’s happening though, and it might be something to think about the next time we come to a holiday or other celebration.

People can celebrate anything they want. Americans celebrate a lot of diverse values. But those of us who celebrate God, had better be extra careful.

Because God is sharing space with a lot of other things that seem to get equal billing.

Here’s what I mean.

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School is out.

It’s time to make some memories.

Maybe you will make memories at home with your family, with some spontaneous or silly moments in the summer twilight.

Maybe your memories will be made out of trying something new with the people you love.

Or perhaps, you will make some lasting memories by going some place far away.

The thing that I’ve discovered about living in the age of blogging and social media is that we started out doing cool things and then thinking, “That was awesome. I want to share that.”

Then, we start feeling the need to share more.

And our thoughts shift to, “This would make a good blog post,”  “I’d better tweet about this.”

And then finally, we start looking for things, sniffing through the corners of our lives, for things we can share, almost like we need a steady flow of information about us being broadcast, so that people know I have a life.

I’m just as guilty as anyone. But the thing I’ve discovered is that mindset is a trap. It makes us a lot less creative. It makes life a lot less fun. Because it makes life a means to an end. It makes life about a product. The product is our blog or our social media feed.

What’s the best thing we can do this summer?

Make some really great memories…

Do some really awesome stuff with the people we love…

And don’t tell anyone.

Don’t blog about it. Don’t tweet about it. Don’t post Instagrams and wait for the likes to roll in. Let the best parts of your life be a secret, fantastic secret between you and the people you share those memories with.

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Next week, I’m leaving town, to make some memories with my wife. I’ll post a few pictures. I’ll share with friends. But the best moments, I’m keeping for myself.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Around here, it’s been a week of catching up and cleaning up after returning from a mission trip with my high school freshmen (more on that next week.) I’m already into summer school, which isn’t bad for an art teacher. And there’s about a million projects beckoning me at home.

Anyway, my blog reader was jammed with good stuff, waiting for me to come back home.

Prayer In School

Maybe it’s a function of where we live, but I don’t hear the prayer in school debate as much as some of you may. (I thought Kansas City was in the Bible Belt. Then I visited the Bible Belt. Whoa…) Anyway, it’s funny to me that we talk about prayer in school, but we don’t debate how much prayer we need in our workplaces, hospitals, or really any other public place. Michael Perkins does a great job turning this problem on its head.

Praying Over the Cable Bill

Doggoneit, this post convicted me, even though I convinced my wife that we should dump our cable earlier this year. It’s not just about cable, it’s about all the money that flows through our bank accounts unnoticed. Most of us have a lot of our bills on autopay (I know I do), which means we are being less and less intentional about where our money is going.

Writer’s Doubt

I don’t usually suffer from writer’s block, and apparently, neither does my pal, K.C. Proctor. (I think the hardest part for me, like many people, is not writing, but finding time to write). K.C. and I share what I’d call an even tougher problem though, writer’s doubt.

An Evangelical and a Progressive

Sure this post is mostly about her own church, but Kathy Escobar is illustrating what the rest of our churches could be, if we were committed to this. Where many of our churches (“most,” dare I say) create community by first producing uniformity (or telling themselves they have produced uniformity), her church starts with community. Isn’t that what loving one another is about?

Female and Made In My Father’s Image

Finally, we live in a time when some of us are pushing for gender neutral language in the Bible. How can women be “made in God’s image” if God is a “He.” Admittedly, God is not a “He,” though some people would strongly disagree. Karen Swallow Prior wrote something fantastic for Her.Menutics about looking like her own dad, and what it really means to be made in God’s image (hint: it’s not about our gender.)

And that’s it! What fueled you this week?