Minimalism: Life as a Story


We are all born with a journey to make.

Your life is a story.

Is it a good story?
boring story?
event-filled story?

The point of a story is not to win. Money or success or accolades. A great ministry.

The point of every story is the character arc.
The protagonist has to change or it’s a bad story.
He has to go from stingy to generous.
She has to go from shame-filled to confident.

And here’s the part nobody likes: pain is the only way we change.

If you’re a writer and your story is all happy and no pain, your character can’t change, and therefore it’s not a great story. It might be slightly entertaining for a second, but it’s not transformative. Cotton candy story.

If you’re a human and your story is all happy and no pain, you can’t change, and therefore your life is not a great story. It might be peaceful and comfortable, but you won’t transform, you won’t grow. Cotton candy life.

The biggest thing that I’ve found that helps me get any traction on this is to throw off everything that hinders. Minimize. Streamline. Focus on one thing at a time, get rid of anything that isn’t contributing to who you want to become.

This is hard. It’s a narrow path.

But the amount of life you receive is closely tied to the amount of meaningless pleasures you’re willing to let go of to pursue a better story.

Evolution of Sin


I spent a lot of time as a Baptist.

Baptists love to quote Paul. The wages of sin is death, all that jazz.

That’s interesting, because earlier Jews wouldn’t have understood that. Sin meant something else several hundred years before Paul. But he updated it. That’s because he was speaking to people in his time, in his culture, not people hundreds of years earlier.

The bible describes sin as a weight.

Then it describes sin as debt.

Then it had archery imagery: missing the mark.

But why freeze it? What is sin in 2018?

It’s been described in Jonathan Merritt’s book Learning to Speak God From Scratch as:

“Anything that robs us of the fullness of life.”

“Anything that contributes to less than what God intends.”

“Death dealer.” (Dementor?)

“Life stealer.”

Sin is excessive internet use.

Sin is Netflix binging when your conscience is telling you there’s something else for you.

Sin is wishing you had someone else’s Instagram life and not being able to live your own, the one God graciously gave you.

Sin is saying no to God’s endless invitations to taste and see that there’s something more than that thing you know is robbing you of life.

Single Task


What if you weren’t scared?

What if you gave away everything that’s hindering your freedom to be completely, fully you?

What if you were completely, radically, ridiculously,
present to life right here where you are?

No pings.

No notifications inviting you elsewhere, sucking away your valuable attention.

What if you were courageous?

What if you said no to everything, even good things, except your one thing.

Kierkegaard said,

“A saint is the person who can will the one thing.”

Meister Eckhart said,

“A heart is divided when it is dispersed over many things and towards many ends.”

What if you threw off everything that hinders?

Singularly passionate.

What truth that’s been whispering quietly will you start to hear when you turn down the noise, or completely turn it off?

And most of it is noise, isn’t it?

Claudia Discovers God’s Variety

Claudia’s father came into her room early one Saturday morning.  “Wake up, sweetie,” he said softly, and only after standing by her bed for a few minutes, just watching his daughter sleep peacefully.  “I have a surprise for you.”

“Oh daddy, you ruined it.”

“I ruined what?”  He looked around the room, puzzled.  “What, what did I ruin?”

Claudia sat up and rubbed one eye with one hand and stretched the other arm up towards the ceiling.  She’s not used to getting up this early.  “You ruined my dream.  I was performing a beautiful ballet in front of a big room of people.  I was just about to do my final chasse and you woke me up.”  Claudia didn’t even seem to be talking to anyone in particular; she was sitting cross-legged on her bed now, staring off into the distance as she recounted her dream, apparently still lost in the whole thing.

A teasing smile came across her father’s face.  “I guess we’ll have to wait until tonight to find out if they liked it or not,” he said.  He always knew how to make his only daughter smile.

“Oh daddy,” she said.

“Get dressed.  I’ll meet you in the car in three minutes,” he said quickly, and left the room.

The drive was long – almost an hour – but they played “I Spy” on the way to their destination, which made the time pass quite quickly.

Claudia’s eyes lit up when the car entered a huge, tree-lined field.  Could it be?  It was!  “An orchard!” she exclaimed, beaming from ear to ear, leaning forward in her seat so she could get a better view.

“An orchard,” Claudia’s father said affirmingly.

Ever since Claudia heard her father tell the story of the giving tree, she has wanted so badly to visit an apple orchard.

They exited the car and stood for a moment at the beginning of a seemingly endless row of apple trees.  “I want to tell you a little about apples, Claudia.”

Claudia put her small hand inside her father’s much larger one and looked up at him.

“Take a look at all these trees.  On these trees, Claudia, there are not just red apples but green and yellow apples, and different shades of each.  And there are not just big apples but small apples, too, and not just sweet apples but tart apples as well, and some even have a combination of both.  And there are differing textures, too – some are really crispy while others are softer.  Do you know how many different kinds of apples there are, Claudia?”

“Well my favorite is Red Delicious.  That’s the kind mommy always gets.  She says they’re better than the sour yellow ones.”

“Red Delicious is one kind.  There are also Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Breakey, Braeburn, Winesap, Rome Beauty, Norland, McIntosh, Jonathan, Vista Bella, Bolero, Fuji, Gala, Goodland, Honey Crisp, and that’s just the beginning.  There are hundreds.”


“Hundreds.  And that’s just the variety of apples!  Think about bananas and pears, grapes, kiwis, oranges, papayas, grapefruit, pineapples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, tayberries, cranberries, cherries, mangoes, tangerines, watermelon, muskmelon, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, and nectarines, for starters.  And this is just fruit!  Think about all the different kinds of vegetables, as well!  And these are just foods, and foods are just one of the many things God has made.”

Claudia was just staring at her father, smiling.  She likes it when he talks about the physical world.  He gets lost in a world of his own, she often tells her mother.

“Why did he do it, daddy?  Why did God make all the different kinds of apples and oranges?”

“Y’know, I’m not exactly sure why, baby.  But he seems to be pretty enthusiastic about it all.  He said ‘It is good!’ and was satisfied with it, so when we taste and touch and smell it all, we can agree with him and say ‘It is good!’  It’s a beautiful thing to live in God’s world and imitate his own enthusiasm for it.”  He looked down at Claudia, who was just smiling up at him.

“Let’s go get some apples,” he said.

“Yay!” Claudia responded.  And they spent the whole day wandering through the orchard, picking apples.

12 Depression Busters

So I was reading an article by Lauren Winner about why she loves the Mitford Series winnernovels and came across 12 “depression busters,” which are actually just good pieces of advice for life, depressed or not.  I couldn’t help thinking in the back of my mind what the depression busters would look like on a Christian website.  Maybe something like this?

1.   Pray
2.   Read the book of Job
3.   Listen to Praise & Worship music
4.   Pray
5.   Listen to Praise & Worship music
6.   Clean out your Bible
7.   Read the book of Philippians
8.   Read the first chapter of James
9.   Read the book of Job again
10. Repentmoses
11. Go to the Christian Book & Gift Shoppe
12. Do another ministry

I think one of the neat things about being a Christian is claiming truth wherever it’s found, because it’s God’s world, and like Philip Yancey and Moses say, it’s a good world.  I think Beliefnet’s 12 depression busters are actually really good wisdom for life, even though they don’t have a Christian stamp on them.

Dallas Willard on Living


“How the disciple lives naturally comes out of who the disciple is.”
–Dallas Willard

This is profound, and here’s why:

Matthew 12.34

Whatever is in your heart determines what you say. (NLT)

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (ESV)

Your words show what is in your hearts. (CEV)

The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. (KJV)

Sophie’s World: The Faculty of Wonder


“The only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder.”

To summarize briefly: A white rabbit is pulled out of a top hat. Because it is an extremely large rabbit, the trick takes many billions of years. All mortals are born at the very tip of the rabbit’s fine hairs, where they are in a position to wonder at the impossibility of the trick. But as they grow older they work themselves ever deeper into the fur. And there they stay. They become so comfortable they never risk crawling back up the fragile hairs again. Only philosophers embark on this perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and existence. Some of them fall off, but others cling on desperately and yell at the people nestling deep in the snug softness, stuffing themselves with delicious food and drink.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” they yell, “we are floating in space!” But none of the people down there care.

“What a bunch of troublemakers!” they say. And they keep on chatting: Would you pass the butter, please? How much have our stocks risen today? What is the price of tomatoes? Have you heard that Princess Di is expecting again?

Sophie’s World, pg. 16

Rob Bell: Salvation is Holistic


When we started Mars Hill I would say that my understanding of the gospel that Paul talks about in Colossians, my understanding was that you believe in Jesus and you go to heaven. That’s how it works. “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.” So my understanding was that the goal, then, was to get other people to believe in Jesus so that you could all go to heaven somewhere else some day. And so the super fired-up Christians were the ones who could best explain to people how to turn or burn, and how to get out of here to the next place. But I realized that something really, really destructive happens when that’s how we explain the life of Jesus. Something gets missed in the process, namely this life.

What started to happen to me is that I realized salvation is holistic. That Jesus doesn’t just want to get me a ticket to heaven, but wants to heal and wants to mend and wants to put me back together here, now, today.

What happens when it all becomes about some other life is we end up being very fractured, broken people. I began to discover that you could be a Christian in a nice Christian church and be saved and be singing all the right songs and actually be miserable. And to have anger and rage and people you haven’t forgiven. I discovered it’s possible to be a super-Christian and yet salvation hadn’t even begun to (be) a part of your life. It’s possible to lead a church and to be like a shell of a person. I want to be the kind of person who’s pursuing wholeness and allowing every single area of my life to let the light get shone in, and let God make peace where there wasn’t (peace) before.
–Rob Bell, Directions 1.0 II, January 2005

A New Kind of Life

I want to spend a month in the wilderness, with nothing but healthy food to eat, natural spring water from the mountain to drink, my soul, and the person who made all the universes. I have spent 25 – by the time May rolls around, 26 – years of my life mostly existing and letting life happen to me, being blown wherever the wind of the world wishes to carry me. I will not spend the next 50 years, God-willing, like this. I want a disciplined life – physically, mentally, spiritually – so that I am a receptacle that God can use to do in me what He wishes to do in me. I didn’t create myself, so I have no right to live as I please. This is not something I have any control over – I cannot choose to end my life and bring myself into existence again so that I’ll be held accountable to nobody but myself. This fact will remain forever – I have been created by somebody else; I am not my own.

In the past I have tried to totally re-orient my life in a good direction, even in the God-direction, and I’ve failed, usually within the first week. I don’t pretend to believe that if I spent a month in seclusion everything will be completely different. We are essentially the same people throughout life. The person I was when I was 10 is not much different than the person I was when I was 18, which is very similar to the person I am today. Sure I’ve grown. I’ve learned. I’ve been through life experiences that have made me who I am today. But an introverted person doesn’t usually turn extroverted just because he admires extroverts. A lazy person doesn’t become a super-disciplined man because he realizes he needs to accomplish more. Some people don’t struggle with laziness. Give one woman 24 free hours and she’ll sit on a couch, watch TV, surf the internet, talk to her friends on the phone, and read a novel. Give another woman 24 free hours and she’ll start her own business. Everybody is different. I can’t believe that I’m going to be a different man because of one month in solitude and a change in geographic location.

When I moved to China for a year I didn’t think my struggles could follow me up 30,000 feet at 600 mph, over a vast ocean, through numerous time zones, across several continents, and through my new locked apartment door. But they did. China didn’t change fundamentally who I was. I learned some things. I met some new people. But I was still Victor. Same Victor.

Hopefully the difference this time will be that I am Victor under a different authority. For most of my life I’ve been God to myself. I didn’t make myself but I acted as if I did. I didn’t know what was best for me but my actions proved that I believed otherwise.

In God’s dealings with certain humans in history, when their father died God gave them a new name. In the Hebrew language and culture, a name was not just a name, but it had to do with actually who a person was. When Avram’s father died and he moved to a new land, God re-named him according to his plans for him. He was no longer Avram but Abraham, because his destiny was to be the father of billions of others. In the Scriptures, whoever named a person or animal had authority over them.

I don’t plan on having a new name (although anything is possible with Him) but I do hope to have some sort of idea about my destiny. I don’t think this is always a cut-and-dry thing that God reveals to each of us once-and-for-all at a certain point in our lives (though he has done that with a few people), but I also would be foolish to continue letting the wind of the world blow me where it wishes, molding into a person I was not intended to be, slowly raping me of an existence that is exploding with the kind of life that God has in himself.

Sexually promiscuous, cocaine-snorting, acid-dropping hippie chick becomes Christian by accident

Barbara Curtis

Barbara Curtis (pictured above), a sexually promiscuous fag-hag attended a FamilyLife conference twenty years ago with her second husband and they came home as different people. She says in an article in Christianity Today:

We weren’t sure what had happened to us, but we knew something had changed.

Isn’t that the way it is sometimes? We don’t know what exactly it is, but we know something has happened?

Barbara also talks about being weary of being so involved in church activities that we don’t have time for hanging out with non-Christians. She says,

We should try to strike up conversations with everybody we possibly can—not about Jesus—just about life.

Not about Jesus. Just about life.

Sister Curtis also suggests canning the Christian jargon, because it’s creepy and non-effective among non-Christians. Instead, use everyday language and common metaphors.

Read the whole article here: Credible Christianity