Would you rather…?

In my work helping schools connecting students to adult mentors, I’m always on the lookout for good ways to help get both sides talking. One way to get conversation going is by asking good questions. One such type of question starts with, “Would you rather…?”

Would you rather have a rewind button or a pause button for your life?
Would you rather be poor and work at a job you love, or rich and work at a job you hate?

And this one: Would you rather have no one come to your wedding, or your funeral?

Once, I asked this question of some high schoolers, and their answers were largely along the lines of: “My wedding. Who cares about my funeral? I’ll be dead.”

I get it; I see where they’re coming from. But my answer would be the opposite. I’d rather have nobody at my wedding. While it was nice to have family and friends there, when I got married, I really only needed 2 other people: the minister, and, of course, my bride.

(Ironically enough, we’re now living in a time where weddings – and funerals – may have to look something like this for awhile. I recently did a funeral where there were 6 people present – all immediate family. My nephew is scheduled to get married next month. Sadly, he and his fiancée may not have a choice how they answer this “Would you rather?” question.)

But in normal times, if no one came to my funeral, what would that say about my life? If the only people at my funeral were the minister and my family – in other words, those who have to be there – what kind of impact would I have had? If the church is empty at my funeral, there’s a good chance it’s because I lived an empty – even selfish – life.

The writer James Davison Hunter tells of a woman who worked as a grocery store checkout clerk. Not a very glamorous position, certainly, but she recognized that these few feet of space were her “sphere of influence.” So, she chose to love – right there. Everyday she greeted customers with warmth, remembering their names and asking about their families. She would end their brief time together by saying that she would pray for their families.

As a result, her line would back up – because so many people wanted to get in her lane. People were willing to wait in line — when’s the last time you heard of that happening? — because she genuinely encouraged them.

And when she died, years after she had retired, the church was packed for her funeral visitation — as people came to share how she had blessed them in her checkout lane.

I bet I know how she would have answered the question, “Would you rather people come to your wedding or your funeral?” Through her job — one very few would want, and most would just “get through” — she chose to be a blessing.

So, what about you: Would you rather have an expensive, elaborate, picture-perfect wedding (and life)  — or would you rather live your life in such a way that people pack your funeral as a testimony to a life well-lived?

What Time Is It?

In the Bible, there are two main words for time. The first is chronos – something we see appear in English words like “chronology.” Chronos is clock time; it’s minutes and hours and days. Chronos happens like clockwork (literally), for it is the regular passing of seasons and times. We see this in Acts 1.6, where the disciples ask Jesus, Is now the chronos for your kingdom to come?

But the other word in scripture for time is kairos. Unlike chronos, kairos isn’t that interested in the clock; it’s focused on the content. Kairos doesn’t so much measure time, as it makes use of time. Kairos is finding meaning in the minutes; it’s seeing (and making) purpose in this time, this moment, this now. We see this in Acts 1.7, where Jesus answers the disciples, You don’t know the kairos the Father has planned.

Everyday, you make use of chronos AND kairos. You get up, you get ready for your day, and you do the next thing. You get the kids ready for school. Or you get your spouse breakfast. Or you go for a morning walk. You head to work. You run that errand. Your day is full of chronos; it is one chronos moment after another. And those chronos moments are important. Decide one day simply not to show up for work, and not tell your boss, and you’ll likely find out pretty quickly how important it is to honor the chronos moments in your life.

But it’s also possible to do chronos and completely miss kairos. For kairos is not simply showing up for work, or doing the next thing on your calendar — it’s being present in them, with eyes and heart ready for the Spirit to show up in the midst of what you thought would just be another normal day. Kairos is expecting to see God at work in the expected, the everyday, the normal. It’s about being where you are and doing what you do, yes; but, even more, it’s about being fully present and ready for God’s love to be real through your words, your listening, your faithfulness, your presence. Living in kairos moments involves not just going through your day, but going ready – ready to see how God will use you, this time.

So, the next time you look at your watch or your phone, wondering “What time is it?” — don’t simply notice the chronos. Remember to live in the kairos.

Places to go, books to read

So, back at the turn of the year, I thought I would do a bunch of blogs on stuff I liked in 2017. Now that we’re more than halfway through the 2nd month of 2018, I am woefully behind. But because this stuff doesn’t have an expiration date, here’s some more stuff I enjoyed in 2017.

Places I visited last year:

  1. New River, West Virginia. Rafting the New River was one of the best things we did as a family in 2017. My next goal is to tackle the more difficult Gauley River before I’m too old to hold a paddle.
  2. Eagle Falls, Kentucky. Located just down-river from the way-more-popular Cumberland Falls, Eagle Falls has a similarly deep waterfall, without all the visitors and the guardrails. If I get back to Cumberland Falls State Park, my first priority won’t be Cumberland, but Eagle — with a goal of going during the summer so I can swim up to Eagle Falls.
  3. Cabins with friends & family. There’s something about spending time at a cabin by the water that helps put everyday life on a needful pause, even if for just 24 hours.
  4. Fred Howard Park, Florida. This fall, I enjoyed time with my wife at this public park on the Gulf Coast. I even did a bit of snorkeling — one of my all-time favorite activities.
  5. Fritz’s Frozen Custard, Missouri. On any trip to the St. Louis area, you need to go to either Fritz’s or Ted Drewes. My family has something of a running debate over which of these 2 has the best custard, but I don’t think you can go wrong with either one of them. If you want history and nostalgia, go to Ted Drewes. If you want good custard and don’t want to look like a tourist, go to Fritz’s. Or, cover your bases and go to both.
  6. World War 1 Museum, Missouri. This museum in Kansas City helps make WW1 real, with all of war’s death, destruction, and evil. Visiting this museum — and then watching Ken Burns’s series on World War 2 — reminds me how even the winners of war face terrible losses.

Also, in 2017, I read some books that I would recommend. If you’re a reader, pick these up. If you’re a thoughtful reader, buy these. If you don’t read, find someone to read these to you:

  1. Daniel Taylor, The Skeptical Believer. Perhaps the best treatment I have ever read on faith, doubt, and the honest search for truth. Taylor writes as a believer in an age when faith is increasingly marginalized and mocked. Taylor honestly wrestles with reasons to disbelieve, and doesn’t offer 4 simple steps to know that everything you know is absolutely certain. Instead, he does something better: he takes a look at the options, and suggests a way forward that deals with the reality that any choice a person makes is ultimately a step of faith.
  2. Randolph Richards & Brandon O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. Great insight into how we can read the Bible through a different mindset, one more in tune with its origins in the Mid/Eastern world. Just one example: Richards served as a missionary in Indonesia, where he learned that Sunday worship started at “midday” (siang). Being a westerner, Richards tried to tie that to a time on his wristwatch, but his Indonesian friends didn’t think of it that way. He finally came to learn that ‘siang’ was connected to temperature, not time. Once the morning turns hot, it becomes ‘siang’. But, he wonders: “How do you start church at ‘hot’?” In short, relationships trump schedules – the opposite of how we do it in the west.
  3. Alan Jacobs, How to Think. A much-needed rebuke of the current tendency to listen only to people we agree with — and to ostracize those we don’t. Jacobs gives a simple, yet challenging, call to listen and think better.
  4. N.T. Wright, The New Testament & the People of God. A thorough examination of the background of the NT, and how we should read it. Has reshaped my understanding of the story of God. Wright is an indispensable thinker and writer that every thinking Christian ought to know. (If this book is too long for you, he has plenty of other shorter, more accessible works, like: Surprised by Hope, and Simply Christian.)
  5. Shushaku Endo, Silence. Powerful fictional account of how far faith can take us, and how deeply challenging it can be to know what faithfulness looks like. The movie version that recently came out is equally good.
  6. Gerald Sittser, A Grace Disguised. An easy-to-read, but hard-to-forget book on grief, loss, and moving on. I would recommend this book to anyone who has faced loss of any kind — written by a man who has been there.
  7. Brene Brown, Rising Strong. A friend recommended this to me, and while not everything in it stuck with me, this definitely did: her insight that, by-and-large, people are doing the best they can, and so we’ve got to offer grace. At the same time, this doesn’t mean we accept everything they do. We’ve also got to establish healthy boundaries. It seems to me this is where we should meet everyone we encounter: at the intersection of grace and boundaries.
  8. Walter Wangerin, Paul. An account of the Apostle Paul and the early church that just rings true. Wangerin writes fiction that is deeply rooted in truth.
  9. Andy Crouch, Strong & Weak. Leadership is rooted in authority and vulnerability, Crouch writes. A true leader has to have both. I’m convinced he’s right.
  10. Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective. Rooted in John 15, this short book is rich with insight into how God calls us into intimacy, fruitfulness, and joy. A wonderful read, along with just about everything Nouwen wrote. Hardly anything he wrote was over 100 pages, but it’s amazing the spiritual insight and wisdom this man packed into the pages he wrote — as well as the life he lived.