The Trap of Joylessness

The Trap of Joylessness

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a Saturday Night Live skit called, “The Girl You Wished You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.” Cecily Strong acts the role of the girl who is characteristically drunk and ditzy, with know-it-all opinions in a pseudo-activist kind of way. She’s looking for a fight. The “straight man” is played by Seth Meyers.

“So are you excited about the holidays?” He asks.

“Excited. I’m repulsed. All this ‘mercialism around Christmas is an outrage. It’s a trajesty. It’s like ‘What are we even doing?’ …” She scoffs.

“You really seem like you’re in the Christmas spirit,” he teases. What does one say to a contentious soul?

“You mean the Christ-mas spirit? Oh right, you don’t care about Jesus because you worship Hallmark.”

“Oh boy!” He looks away.

Later she asks him what he wants for Christmas.

“I don’t wanna tell you,” he says.

“Would you just relax? I’m just asking you what you want for Christmas.”

“Okay, well, I was hoping to get the new iPad.”

She responds with staged timing. “I asked for an end to genocide.”

“Oh, c’mon.” He rolls his eyes.

She slams him further. “Okay, so maybe the next time you’re on your new iPad…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” He feels it coming.

“…Look up ‘How to be a decent human being.’”

And so it goes. Though she doesn’t really portray a Christian, her contrary nature is something I’ve seen in Internet exchanges and Facebook arguments by all kinds of people, including believers.

I stopped to reflect. Some have said that Christians would be called “the haters,” in the last days. In a culture that often reverses right and wrong, standing up for what’s right can be polarizing. Still it doesn’t have to be hateful.

Big stack of colorful Christmas presentsAs I watched the skit, I felt a twinge in my chest. Something else was stirring inside me. Continue reading

God’s Voiceover

God’s Voiceover

Last night while lying in bed with the light on, I looked around my room. In the quiet comfort of home, I studied family photos on the wall. On my dresser stood a half-finished painting I started last summer—a landscape of a place I love. The feather comforter over my body felt light as a cloud. A fan gently droned in the corner. How easy it is to take it all for granted—to go to sleep in clean sheets, peace, and safety.

HandcuffedAcross the world from me in a Sudanese prison cell, a woman’s fate hangs in the balance. Though she has just given birth to a baby girl and has her toddler son with her, she is shackled like a criminal for being a Christian. She faces 100 lashes and death by hanging. But she will not renounce Christ. By the time this posts, I don’t know if she will be alive or dead.

Streetside Beggar PeopleI thought about that all day. It’s easy to pick up the concerns of the world. In my mind, it compounds very quickly. For instance, at this moment, thousands of children are crossing our southern border desperate to stay in America. Iraq is being overtaken with terror beyond belief. Many days it feels like I only have two choices: get overwhelmed or get numb. I’m not the ostrich type.

Yet as I laid in the stillness of my room last night, I wondered…God, where are You in all this? What on earth is happening? What kind of world will my children and grandchildren face?

I do feel we are living in a critical time of history with many unprecedented changes. The Lord is shaking the earth so that everything that remains is unshakable. Hebrews 12:27

But in times like this, what is our hope?

For years now, I can’t even count how frequently I see the number 722. On clocks, receipts, airplane tickets, confirmation numbers, license plates, you name it—722 comes up every other day. A pastor friend once said: when you see a number sequence more often than coincidence, search it out in Scripture. So I looked up every possible verse and read the context around it.

Though the study proved interesting, only one verse stood out:Continue reading

A Sunday Idea

A Sunday Idea

“The rush and pressures of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of contemporary violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.”                        —Thomas Merton

Pretty strong words.Young handsome man working

Have you ever thought of busyness in terms of violence? I have. Many violent things happen both silently and insidiously.


Was Toffler right?

Back in 1970, Random House released Alvin Toffler’s book, Future Shock. I remember it well though I was only fifteen. Toffler maintained that the pace of life was increasing exponentially, bringing “too much change in too short a period of time.” The psychological results of stress and anxiety would be profound. The book sold over 6 million copies. A documentary film followed in 1972 with Orson Welles as the on-screen narrator.

Does your To Do List feel overwhelming?

Do you have information overload every time you tune in the news?

Do emails and social media feel like a constant barrage?

Is multi-tasking the new normal?

Do you lay awake at night thinking too much?

How have we handled the stress of “future shock” over the last 44 years?

I recently watched a science show on the NTGEO channel called, The Numbers Game. The episode was called “Could You Be A Better Boss.” One experiment referenced Navy SEAL training and examined the ability to focus under stress. Participants were shown two similar pictures that differed in small details. At first, it seemed easy to differentiate.

Then stressful distractions were added. Continue reading