What Our Hobbies Say About Us

Creativity is the corner where work and wonder meet. My wife finds it best in her garden. Even as she fusses over the thievery of squirrels or a sluggish tomato crop, turning over dirt and experiencing every stage of life does something unique to her soul.  As she creates and nurtures, the reflection of her nurturing Creator can be seen.

That’s why hobbies are so important.

But we need a new word for “hobbies.” Most hear it and think, “a luxury meant for people who aren’t as busy as I am.” So, let’s rewrite the definition more clearly.

Hobbies: something you do because you love it, not because you need it.

That’ll work for now. When you do something simply because you love it, the creative part of God in us shines forth. Hobbies aren’t necessary for survival per se. We don’t need music, yet there are artifacts from 6,000+ years ago of animal bones shaped into flutes by men and women.

Aeons before early humans started imagining writing or agriculture, they were crafting tools for making music…the most abstract of the arts. No one likes a hit record because it sounds like the natural world. We like music because it sounds like music – because it sounds different.

Steven Johnson
Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World

When our ancestors were huddled around a fire trying to stay warm, they also created by singing and dancing and inventing. It’s always been that way. Like a signet ring on wax, we are all stamped into the image of our Creator.

Wonder and fun and creativity are a part of the abundant life Jesus came to bring (John 10:10). Whereas some try to find their refuge within recreation itself, Christians get to experience all of creation with the Refuge Himself. Life in Christ simply brings life to everything else.

So, if life is too frantic to do (or discover) something you love, you are not being productive. You’re surviving. Productivity means producing, and that requires creativity and wonder – a hobby. Something that creates a spark in you when talking about it with other people.

What creates a spark in you?

Take roasting coffee, for example. I can bore the brains out of most people talking about the nuances and chemistry that happens when a coffee bean hits “first crack” in my drum roaster, yet it’s fascinating. A lot of my friends prefer grabbing their store-bought Keurig cups on their way out the door, but they don’t love coffee like I do. There’s a wonder to it that sparks the creative part of my heart.

Every morning, as I brew a pour-over, I imagine someone in Japan or Ethiopia or Brazil (other coffee-crazed countries) doing the same thing. In a huge world where my little life can almost feel swallowed up by insignificance, it reminds me that we are connected as people. I may not understand their language or culture, but a hot drink made with carefully burned cherry seeds shows our common humanity. One created in the image of God and redeemed by Christ. In other words, a connected life filled with significance.

I love it so much I don’t even care how ridiculous it is that I’m blogging about coffee right now (which, by definition, is basically the most Millennial thing someone can do).

You may find the same sort of wonder in golf or beekeeping or fishing or stamp collecting. Or perhaps it’s time for you to discover something new altogether. Whatever it is, don’t add it to your schedule because you need to be “well-rounded.” Do it because of the wonder and excitement it sparks in your heart. Remember, Christ came that we might have life, and have it abundantly.

What is something you do because you love it, not because you need it? I’d like to hear about it – post in the comments below!

Why We Need to Have Fun

A little nonsense now and then
is relished by the wisest men.
Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Saturday Night Live and Jimmy Fallon make their living by reminding people to laugh at how ridiculous our world can be. The laughter, though, only promises a momentary escape for most. Hope doesn’t exactly linger once the audience quiets down.

Christians, on the other hand, are a people of hope. Yet we can take ourselves too seriously at times. The Gospel is serious to be sure, but it’s also what gives us the ability to laugh amidst the chaos.

Philippians 3:20-21
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

There’s something about being a citizen of a City to come that makes you less uptight about the city you’re living in right now.  Like Paul said, we’re eternal creatures. Life is too long to be worried all the time.

This allows us to live seriously light-hearted.  It gives me freedom to read a book on leadership without obsessing over the way I’m leading. Why? Because one day I’m going to die and go home. My leadership has a shelf life. So, while efficiency and effectiveness matter, there is freedom knowing that those things are a means to an end (namely, the glory of God and the joy of man).

We forget that a lot. I rarely go a week without needing to remind myself on the drive home, “hey, it’s gonna be alright.” It’s my way of remembering who I am; a citizen of another City. (A City that’s way more fun than this one). That usually helps me be more fun in the meantime. There is a light-heartedness knowing all the difficulties and questions today are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

Christ’s love both sustains us and brings urgency to tell others of the hope that lifts our heaviness. Like the old hymn says,

I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more.
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me.
Now safe am I.

Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.

We have a Gospel to share. One where the love of Christ lifts us every day. This current city is tough. There’s not much that’s funny about it. But we’re not citizens of this city. We have Good News.

So, loosen up and laugh a little. It’s gonna be alright.

Good Reads for The Fall

I’m always on the lookout for a good book. The best ones I’ve come across were recommended by someone. I’ve written before on the importance of reading, and want to throw out a few that I’ve found helpful or interesting. If you’re looking to add to your list this fall, consider…

  1. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller (254 pages)
    Keller gives approachable answers to deep philosophical questions about Christianity. If you’re struggling with whether or not the teachings of Jesus are true, this is your book. If you’ve never critically evaluated your own faith in Christ, get it.
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    “A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life to busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.”

  2. “Why an Historical Adam Matters for a Biblical Doctrine of Sin” by John W. Mahony (17 pages)
    This scholarly article published in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was a short, helpful explanation of the importance of a real Adam and Eve. With the rise in popularity for evolutionary theism, understanding the various interpretations of Genesis 1-3 is critical.
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    How essential is it, given what the Bible says about sin, to maintain that Adam was a historical figure? What do we lose if we deny this point? In order to answer these questions I will proceed in three steps: (1) I will survey the biblical view of human sin; (2) I will discuss the various interpretive options proposed by current evangelicals who are questioning the actual historicity of the Genesis account; (3) I will conclude by arguing that the biblical doctrine of sin requires an original image bearing couple, rooted and grounded in history.”

     

  3. The Problem of Pain: How Human Suffering Raises Almost Intolerable Intellectual Problems by CS Lewis (154 pages)
    Although I disagree significantly at points (i.e. Lewis’ Darwinian view of humanity), he lands in orthodox places and forces you to face tough questions gracefully.
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    “Pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think a good assurance that Ultimate Reality is righteous and loving.”
  4. Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How It Can Reclaim Its Conservative Roots) by Matt K. Lewis (219 pages)
    I listened to Lewis on a Podcast recently and was interested in his assessment of the current political world. He pushes back on the conservative “echo chamber” and suggests that our society has become polarized in Washington because of it. Read it before November’s election.
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    “New technology allows us to avoid coming into contact with opposing viewpoints. There is no common culture or consensus. It’s entirely possible nowadays to go through a day and avoid hearing information that challenges your assumptions.”

     

  5. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. (224 pages)
    Every Christian should read this. Moore analyzes the Bible Belt South with aggressive clarity and refocuses Americans to the original message of Christianity.
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    “We are Americans best when we are not Americans first. Therefore, we cannot build Christian churches on a sub-Christian gospel. People who don’t want Christianity don’t want almost-Christianity.”

  6. Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney (67 pages)
    Whether you have small children at home or are trying to figure out how to start family devotions with teenagers, this little book will be very helpful. Whitney takes away all the typical excuses by replacing them with practical (and realistic) suggestions.
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    “Husbands, fathers- if you have been negligent in this duty and great privilege, repent by starting family worship today. Again, you may feel awkward about what to say to your wife or your children about starting, but simply say that God has convicted you of your responsibility to lead in family worship and you want to start at a given time today.”
     
  7. Werewolf Cop by Andrew Klavin (336 pages)
    Sometimes, you need to read something fun. Klavin’s novel is about a cop who solves top secret crimes. It gets real interesting on nights with a full moon because…you know…he’s also a werewolf. You might find the gore a little much. Either way, find a Werewolf Cop for your reading list.712XqhTMN8L-682x1024

There’s one more that I’m excited about…

8. Dear Frankenstein: Letters of Hope to Pieced Together Families by Blake Hudspeth
I’ve been working for the last few months on a short, free eBook that will be available this month. My aim is to encourage families that need hope. The ones on the brink of collapse, or perhaps are now on the other side of divorce and just want to keep their head above the water. Watch for it on this blog in the coming weeks.
Ad Cover

My family didn’t become functional overnight. Each person made important decisions en route and learned many lessons through tears. You will find them embedded throughout this book. Every chapter is a letter addressed to you- someone who needs hope. They will not teach you how to build a healthy, blended family. But they will give you hope that it’s possible.”

Happy reading!

A Meeting in the Bog

Until the Blue Planet, I had never seen a place where something other existed. There were cosmic worlds suspended in darkness and nomadic chunks of iron, like myself, barreling along waiting to be pulled into one of their orbits. That was it. Gas and metal and rock and speed.

I’d seen a few of us get close enough to collide and disintegrate into some of these distant worlds. Even so, after the enormous amount of energy was released, not much changed. Gas and metal and rock smashing into more gas and metal and rock for billions of light years in every direction.

But when I saw the Blue Planet, it was filled with…life.

Massive life. Strange life. Life much different than after our collision. Life with fangs and tusks and scales. They were equal parts majesty and terror, and I would soon disintegrate with them. It’s the reason The Mover redirected me towards it in the first place. He knew an object of my size and speed would modify The Blue Planet without destroying her.

It was a magnificent place. There were steep mountains with glowing rivers, thick patches of vegetation, and black swamps that breathed steam. They sat waiting to swallow up the creatures. Those that dared to cross a swamp became trapped in its sludge.

A few days before contact, my eyes happened upon such a pit and noticed two creatures caught in the tar. The tree-like one must have submerged some time ago leaving only her tall, slender neck sticking out in the air. She seemed to know that death was imminent in the bog. It was also hurtling six miles closer each second.

“My name’s Agnes,” she said. “But that doesn’t matter anymore.” The anguish on her face was both deep and kind, as if her insides were boiling but she didn’t want the other creature to know. A tree behind them had been laid down in the bog. Its trunk stretched all the way back to land. I wondered if she knew about it. There was little doubt it could support her weight.

“Maybe you’re wrong, Agnes,” the other said. He was a stumpy brute with three horns protruding from his head. There was an innocence in his voice, but not the naive kind. His skin cracked with age. The ooze crept in his pores. “There’s always a way out.”

“I’m sure many have said that.” Her lips were somewhere between a snarl and quiver. “It’s ignorance. No one knows how to get out of the mire. I’ve been here for weeks, and each minute the bog swallows me more. I’m tired of thinking. Everything’s a dead end.”

“Weeks?” he replied. “I’ve been in one before but only for a few days. It must be agonizing.”

“More unfair, really.” she said.

I couldn’t believe it. Had she not been listening? Freedom wasn’t impossible. He’d found a way out once before. Perhaps she didn’t believe him. It was hard to tell. To be sure, these creatures were mysterious.

The tree sat half-submerged listening to their conversation.

“I know it’s dreadful,” the brute said. “But if you would be willing to stay uncomfortable for five minutes longer, we might see the way out.” The thought almost convinced her. She could tell that he, too, was uncomfortable. The crisis would have driven anyone to their breaking point.

They were silent for some time. “Even if you’re right,” she straightened her neck, “we’ll all die soon enough. One way or another.”

“Yes,” he said. “Death will meet us all.” There was more silence.

The brute took a long, calculated breath. “But when he looks at my eyes, they will be filled with hope,” he said.

“Good luck with your hope,” Agnes replied. There was despair and contempt in her words. She was angry. Not at him, but at hope itself and the notion of purpose. She could see no meaning in life and, therefore, no meaning in death. It must have been more unpleasant than the awful bog.

The Blue Planet turned away before I could see the end of their encounter. It wasn’t until the next day that I saw the tarry swamp again. Neither creature was visible, but over by the tree there was one set of black footprints trailing away from the mire.

Time had come to enter the atmosphere. I would soon become part of this world forever. As its surface cradled the impact and sent my DNA burning across the land, my eyes raced to find the one who got out. After a moment, I saw him. He was easy to see. It wasn’t his size or beauty that caught my eye as I rushed towards him. The brute’s face was what separated him from the others.

He was the only one smiling at me.