Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Quick question:

If sometimes you write a song and realize it is "pretty okay" but you know from experience that a lot of people will absolutely love it except the people like you who will agree it is "pretty okay" so you don't record or release it, you just shelve it, then the years go by and you get older and one day you pick that song off the shelf and start strumming the chords and you realize that nostalgia has added several-years-worth of value to it and it transports you back to who you were when you wrote it and a lump forms in your throat and you can barely sing it and your immediate thought is, "Damn, this is good." Is it?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Four H's To Help Christians

I'm at a crossroads.

What I do next will define a good portion of my life for the next year or so. I have a choice to make, and deciding what to do is never easy.

As Christians, we're told that God has a plan for our lives. Sometimes the idea of this is comforting, and sometimes it's stressful. What's the plan? We know some basic instructions, like, "Love your neighbor as yourself," but who is my neighbor, and how do I do that? Unless you're an ancient Bible hero, you usually aren't told what the plan is, at least not specifically in plain speech.

When it comes to big decisions, deciding what direction to go from faith perspective can be difficult. Do I seek out that new job? Do I move to that new house? Do I go on that trip or reconnect with that person or go off birth control? What's the best plan, here?

I tend to live my life one project at a time, and when a project is done I often find myself in a state of limbo between what I've done and what I'm going to do next. Personality tests tell me I love change, so it's easy for me to keep my options open. I find myself open to new career paths and willing to see where any new rabbit trails lead. This can make the decision even harder.

Over the years I've made some good decisions and some bad ones, and I've always felt like there were certain characteristics that were common across all the good decisions I've made. Last night my owl brain was awake, and I thought of a clever name for these characteristics, as it all suddenly became crystal clear to me in the wee hours of the morning.

There are four principles that are true of every good path I've chosen to go down. I think these principles are also true of every good decision those ancient Bible heroes made thousands of years ago. 

When making decisions I've started to ask myself four questions, which I'll call for clever-catch-phrase sake, the Four H's:

Hard, Humble, Hungry and Human.

When faced with deciding what direction to go in, I ask myself if the direction is Hard, whether or not it requires me to be Humble, whether or not it requires me to be spiritually Hungry (to rely on God more than I usually do), and whether or not it's Human-oriented, as in humanitarian, i.e. will people benefit from it?

Let's break down the "Hard" principle, the one that says that God's calling is always challenging. 

God has never called me to do something easy, something that came naturally. Why? Because I already do those things. I don't need to be called to do them, because I already do them without thinking. I'm a natural at those things, therefore, no calling needed.

God likes to challenge and stretch me because He knows it's imperative to my growth. So I ask myself, Is it hard? Does it force me out of my comfort zone? Is it a difficult task? 

Generally speaking, the things that I've felt called to do contain a level of inconvenient difficulty that has stressed me out. This is true of every Bible character who encounters God;

God says to Moses, "Even though you have a speech impediment and are wanted for murder, go back to Egypt, speak to Pharoah, and free my people."

God says to Esther through Mordecai, "Even though you're came from rags to become the Queen living in a palace, risk your 'good' life to save my people."

God says to Abraham, "Leave everything you have and go to this foreign land and I will make your offspring my people and they will be blessed."

God always says, "Do something hard, take a risk, trust me, it'll be worth it."

This might be hard to hear, but chances are if it's easy and comes naturally, God is not calling you to do it.

The second "H" is Humble. A truth of every action God calls me to is that it takes a level of humility to complete. This means not puffing myself up, bragging about my own abilities and my own talents. It means humbling myself to the task before me. My natural proclivity is to do the thing that boosts my ego, that makes me proud of myself in relation to others. My default-mode is to viciously defend my self-worth and importance. So I ask, Will this humble me?

God has never called me to elevate myself over others because it's something I already naturally do, and I already know He calls me to do Hard things. The Hard thing is putting similar value on others as I do myself. Oh man, it's a really Hard thing to be Humble.

The best results have always occurred when I've lowered myself. It's in these times I realize that by putting others ahead of me, by excusing myself from the competition of life, God is pleased. Good things happen when God is pleased.

You need only to look at the life and death of Jesus to see how much God values humility. Everything He calls us to do contains some level of Humble.

The third "H" is Hungry. 

Will this decision make me more Hungry for spiritual connectedness to God and the people around me? Will it cause me to rely on my faith more? To be more prayerful? 

Hungry is connected to both Hard and Humble, because Hungry recognizes that hard things can't get done without God's blessing. Hungry causes us to want more of God in our lives. Every good thing I've ever done has caused me to pray a whole lot more than I usually do. The situation made me rely on God more. The Hardness of it made me more Humble, and both of those aspects made me more Hungry.

The fourth "H" is an important one, one that stands alone as a key principle to any choice God is calling you to make:

Does it help other Humans? 

Flash back to those paraphrases from the Hard category, where God is calling those ancient Bible heroes to do hard things. At the end of each statement, you'll see that it's always for the sake of people. God always says, "Do this hard thing to help people." God never calls you to do a hard thing that helps only yourself. Other lives are affected by our decisions.

Our spiritual lives are intended to be lived from the inside out, we are supposed to work on ourselves for the sole sake of, sorry for the cliche, "shining a light" to others. We are made to bless others. All throughout the Bible, God calls people to do Hard things so that other Humans can benefit.

So I ask myself, Does this allow God to use me to influence others for good? Could doing this help people? Or am I focusing inwardly because of fear? 

Basically, I need to know that my motivations for making a decision aren't selfish. I know that God cares for others, and anything He has ever called me to do has been to impact others through my work, presence and abilities. Humans are the most important thing to God, as displayed by the life and death of Jesus, and God will always call you to helping people.

I'm not saying that if you employ the tactic of the Four H's your decisions will be instantly easier to make. I'm not trying to cheapen something as nuanced and intricate as those big Pro-vs-Con life decisions, and I definitely don't want to simplify what is supposed to be difficult. Good decisions are hard to make. Life is complex and hard and it matters very much how you choose to live it. 

I simply wanted to share with you a tool that helps me sift through my options, and I wanted to encourage you that although the choice that requires more prayer, more humility, and more service to others is ridiculously Hard, I believe that you will live a better life by choosing it.

The Four H's have been on my mind a lot lately as I try to find my way through the murky limbo I'm in. I think it's good practice in these times to do an inventory on what I believe in, why I believe it, and why it matters.

This is not by any means a complete thought as I've only just fleshed it out in the last few hours. I don't mean to present it as an all-encompassing doctrine for choice-making, because I'm sure there are variables based on different situations, but I wanted to share my opinion in the hopes that it could help you guys make some decisions you are being faced with. 

The practice of writing it down really helps me to figure it out, and the knowledge that you might be reading along really helps me clarify what I believe, so thank you for that.