What Love Does – Bob Goff

A talk based on his excellent book, Love Does. Click here for my review of the book.

I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. — Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)

We get frustrated when we don’t hear God’s voice. We think that gets in the way of perceiving our calling. But God has given us scripture & community. If God always spoke to us audibly, we’d ignore what God is teaching others.

Knowing God’s will for us is simple:

  1. We’re called to help the hurting
  2. We’re called to love extravagantly

The more extravagant we are with love the less we waste.

Bob Goff is actually this awesome IRL.How do I live a life worthy of my calling?

1. Make sure we’re listening to the right people.

Who has the microphone in your life? Who do I need to stop listening to?

Catalyst Make2. Move past the past and lean into the future.

God is a creator, not an editor. Don’t get caught up in past mistakes. Keep moving forward. We’re going to change in how we used to be for how we could be.

Everyone wants to make a difference,
but no one wants to be different.

3. Create margin

We are often too busy. We need to quit the nonessentials. If we create margin, Jesus will stuff incredible things into it

Our job is to think of creative ways to tell people they’re not who they used to be.

YOUR TURN: What is your calling? What do you need to start doing to live in your calling? What do you need to stop doing?

26-30: The Most Dangerous Thing. And the Most Powerful.

26. Christians need the Gospel as much as anyone.

Since I was raised in the Church, I was raised to think that the Gospel was mainly about getting my sins forgiven.  That the biggest problem in the world was that I was a bad guy and God could make me good.  And all I had to do was say the magic prayer and BAM!  Jesus saved me and set me on the straight-and-narrow.  End of story.  The Gospel had done its work in my life and now I’m one of the Good Guys, God’s Chosen Kid.

But I’ve learned that the Gospel is about so much more than forgiving sin.  The forgiveness of sin is part of the Gospel, but any gospel that stops at the cross is incomplete.  Good Friday is meaningless without Resurrection Sunday.  The Empty Tomb is what gives the cross its power.  Jesus raised from the dead so that we could follow him in that resurrection.

We are not just saved from sin.  We are saved to an abundant, exciting life with God.  The good news is that only the good creator of the world gets the final say in what’s real and what really matters.  Money does not determine my worth.  The cult of celebrity does not determine my worth.  The brokenness in my life, whatever its source, does not determine my worth.  Only God, in whose image I am created, has final authority over who I am and what I am worth.  And that God died so that I might be rescued from the Death I invited into my life.  So I am free to rejoin God and live the life I was created for and called to.

That’s very good news, and I need to hear that now as much as I ever did.

27. We should all listen to the media less.

At the end of the day, the media’s job is to sell us stuff.  Whether it’s music, a magazine, newspaper, TV show or movie, they’re trying to make a buck.  And since no one will pay attention unless they stand out, media outlets spend billions of dollars creating mountains out of molehills so we’ll listen to their message (and end up buying their products).  Sensationalism sells.

We consume so much media that their worldview has become ours.  And it needs to stop.  The media appeals to our baser instincts – they perpetuate our fear and desire to conform.  It’s poison and we could all do with much less than we take in right now.

28. Technology is useful but dangerous.

A couple of generations ago, futurists were predicting that we’d all be working 20 hours per week these days, thanks to the miracle of technology.  We could do so much so quickly that we’d have tons more leisure time.  The mad rush of progress would soon deliver humanity into a new golden age.

Clearly, that hasn’t happened.  In fact, the 9-5 has become the 8-6.  Or 7.  And the five-day work week is nearly a thing of the past, having now stretched to 6 days.  We work now more than we ever have, and all this with technologies that keep us more connected than ever.  We can’t focus on one project or person at a time – we’re constantly checking emails and texts, working on three projects at once (when we’re slow).  And all thanks to technology.

Technology is enslaving us.  Rather than letting it serve us, we serve it.  This week, try turning your email notifications off. Close your facebook instead of leaving it open in your browser.  Put your phone on silent (not just vibrate) when you’re hanging out with people (or turn it off completely!).  Just for a week.  See what happens.

That weird feeling you have?  It’s called freedom…

29. Despair might be the most dangerous force in the world (but only second-most powerful).

There comes a point for every person striving for a goal when they have to decide if they’re going to finish.  This is whether you’re running, competing in an athletic event, trying to finish a book or project, fighting a war, or anything.  When something seems overwhelming, we are very tempted to call it quits.  It becomes easy to believe that the battle is over, that we’ve already lost.

And that is  called despair.  It’s dangerous.  And it’s always right around the corner.  Despair is what tells us the marriage isn’t worth fighting for or the friend isn’t worth forgiving one more time.  It’s the little voice that convinces us not to try any more because we’ll just fail again.  Or that people never change, so we might as well give up on them.

It’s the voice that tells us redemption is impossible, that rescue will never come, that hope is a fool’s virtue.  And the voice of Despair is ever-present, often overwhelming and seemingly all-powerful.  But that’s a lie.  Despair is not, in fact, the most powerful force in the universe.

30. Love wins. Every time.

The truth is that Love conquers despair every time.  This Love is available to all of us, and when we are at our best, we embody it to each other.  In our darkest moments, when all hope seems lost and Despair whispers in our ears that we are foolish to imagine that anything could save us or redeem our circumstances, Love rises and covers us.  Love rescues and redeems us.  Not with Cupid’s bow, but with Jesus’ cross and empty tomb.

I can’t say it any better than Paul of Tarsus, so I’ll quit trying.  Brothers and sisters, this is Love:

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way.
Love is not irritable or resentful.
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
— 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love wins.  Every time.

Remember the Masada!

The Beard Goes Home is an ongoing chronicle of my trip to Israel, Cairo and Rome from November 3-18.  If you want more information on a picture, hover your mouse over it for a pop-up caption.  If you want to see a bigger version of the picture, click on it.

The view of Masada driving up to it. Even from here it looks intimidating!After saying Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the morning of Thursday, November 11, Thomas and I picked up our rental car and left Jerusalem.  After getting turned around only once, we headed East and South, towards the Dead Sea and Masada.  The transformation of the countryside was immediately evident as we quickly entered the Judean Desert.  Any trace of greenery vanished and we were left with large, brown hills sloping endlessly away in all directions.

We turned and headed south at the tip of the Dead Sea, and it wasn’t long before the Sea fell away before us on our left while the caves of Qumran – where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered – loomed high on our right.

Looking out over the Dead Sea. The haze is actually chemically produced by all the crap in the Dead Sea.

In almost no time at all, we reached Masada, a mesa rising out of the Judean Desert surrounded by nothing and looking out over what was once known as the Devil’s Sea.  It feels like the loneliest place on the whole planet.

A model of the Northern Palace, complete with private baths and everything. It's three levels and built into the northern cliff face. Which is awesome.

History of Masada

Masada was originally the site of one of Herod the Great’s palaces, built as a sort of ‘last resort’ in case things got really bad for him.  It’s grotesquely inaccessible, but Herod managed to deck the whole top of the mesa out with nothing but the best, including two palaces, a full swimming pool (in addition to public and private baths), three small ‘guest palaces’ and of course two full fortresses.  He also devised an ingenious system for delivering water up to Masada, so that the whole complex could be endlessly self-sufficient.

Looking down from the top level of the northern palace to the lower two levels. The original stairs from levels 1-2 were destroyed in an earthquake. Which totally made me feel safe.After Herod’s death, Masada was basically abandoned for 70 years.  During that time, Rome increased their hold on Israel until in 66 CE, rebellion broke out.  This First Jewish War (66-73 CE) brought the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple (70 CE) and was a major turning point in the history of both Judaism and Christianity.

Battles were fought all over Israel (including on Mt. Megiddo, which we’ll see on Saturday), but the Jewish Rebels’ last stand was here at Masada.  The rebels climbed the mesa and dug in as the might of Flavius’ Roman army spread around them.  The siege lasted three months, during which time the Romans constructed a ramp that allowed them  to break down the walls of Masada.  On April In a fierce battle, the Romans breached the walls of Masada near the end of the day; because it was so late, and because victory was now assured, the Romans broke for the night, intent on finishing off the Jews the following day.

The view of the Judean Desert and Dead Sea from the top level of the Northern Palace. The large dirt squares are the outlines of the Roman encampments. These completely surrounded Masada, along with a siege wall.

Here you can still see the ramp the Romans built to ascend the side of the western cliff face. The Romans BUILT A RAMP UP THE SIDE OF A CLIFF. Do not mess with Rome, my friends. They will get you NO MATTER WHAT.That night,  the Jewish rebels made a terrible decision: rather than face certain defeat and enslavement, they would kill themselves and their families.  They set fire to the store rooms and killed themselves.  When the Romans came onto the mesa the next morning, they were greeted only by corpses.  In the wake of the mass suicide, Masada was abandoned for nearly 2,000 years.

The Masada Shall Never Fall Again

The public SWIMMING POOL Herod built. Dude loved him some freestyle. Probably not the rap kind though.Until the mid-1800s, we knew about Masada only through Josephus (a Jewish writer from just after Jesus’ time).  But archaeologists located Masada and began to excavate it, and it quickly became a pilgrimage site for Jews from around the world (remember that this was about 100 years before the state of Israel would exist).

Today Masada has entered into the popular Jewish cultural imagination.  They speak of a ‘Masada-complex’, which is basically a ‘you’ll-have-to-kill-me-first’ mentality.  Some divisions of the Jewish Defense League are sworn in on Masada, with the phrase, “The Masada shall never fall again” included in their oath.

The stairs leading down from the second to third levels of the Northern Palace. The original stairs. That's way old.What struck me most about the Masada was how little connection I have to it.  It doesn’t play an important role in my history, and as a non-Israeli, I relate to the story of the Jews there less even than I do to the story of the Alamo (because I’m not Texan, either).  The introductory film presentation and all the literature (maps and signage) make it very clear, however, that Masada is a vital piece of the Israeli identity.

The story that’s told is one of Jews who would rather die free than live as slaves.  And as rhetoric goes, it’s great stuff.  But that’s not really the whole story.  The Jews weren’t just any Jewish rebels.  They were Sicarii – a radical splinter group who had broken off from the Zealots (who were already pretty radical) because they weren’t radical enough.  The Jews at Masada were not typical first century Jews.  They were a fringe movement, lead by a charismatic (but probably slightly unstable, as leaders of these movements tend to be) guy who, when the chips were down chose the easy way out.  I couldn’t help but think of Jonestown (where, granted, the CIA threat was much more imaginary than the Roman Empire).

Remembering Masada Well

Looking out into the Judean Desert from the Southern Tower, built over the one weak spot on Masada. This is NOT where Rome chose to build the ramp. Why go the easy way when you could do it the hard way? Just so everyone knows not to mess with you EVER.I think what disturbs me about Masada is that what happened there was not the result of normal, everyday persons put into extraordinary circumstances.  The Sicarii were fringe revolutionaries.  But because of the way we are now reimagining their stories, their response to a cause that seems overwhelming and insurmountable has become laudable.  What’s working into the Israeli psyche (and that of any visitor to Masada) is that the most courageous response to overwhelming violence is a stubborn refusal to compromise and bitter acquiescence and passivity.

This cannot be true.  We must never give up pursuing peace.  Masada ought to be a reminder of the dangers of following zealots.  A lesson that meeting overwhelming force with force only ends badly.  That if we want something better than death, we’d better get more creative.  Masada ought to be a tragedy, not an inspiration.*

*Of course, I’m the comfortable American who says this not having been a part of a people without a land for 2,000 years.  In that way, it’s impossible for me to know fully what Masada means to the Jewish people.  But I do not believe that remembering a glorified, sterilized Masada is helpful or redemptive.

A Death in Reflection

The final installment of my reflections on the life and death of John Barnes, my grandfather.

FW - Barnes I had driven down that road dozens of times.  And I had parked in that driveway just as often.  Every step I took towards the door was intimately familiar.  As was the doorknob I gripped and the entry way.  It wasn’t until I turned the corner into the living room that I noted the first difference.

A hospice bed.  Where the couch had always been.

And on the bed a wizened, crumpled form, barely larger than a child, and wrapped in a white sheet.  It took me several moments to realize that form was my grandfather John.

Amanda and I had flown into Kansas City to spend a few of John’s last days with him.  His kidneys were shutting down as a result of his lung cancer, which in turn had resulted from smoking for three quarters of a century.

John’s long and full life was almost over.

And I couldn’t help but observe how undignified death is.  I’d experienced death before, but this was the first time I’d ever watched someone in the process of dying.

For the next two days, we sat with John as he wasted away.  We fed him bits of toast and pieces of peaches.  He slept often and while he was awake he was barely coherent.  He didn’t know where he was, occasionally didn’t recognize us.  And he was scared and sick and all of this made him mean.  Undignified.  But as I sat with him, I saw two pictures of grace, beauty that even then grew out of the indignity of death.

These two moments will remain with me forever:

John had pulled himself up to sit on his bed and was complaining that he was tired and wanted to go home (he was home).  And my grandmother, Helen, went to him.

She sat down beside him.

And she spoke softly to him.  Whispered into his ear.  And scratched his back.

She held him and sat with him and even as he lashed out at her she stayed beside him.

John and Helen would have been married 60 years this July.  And in their interaction, in Helen’s loyalty and faithfulness to John, I bore witness to a picture of God’s loyalty and faithfulness to us in the midst of our pain and suffering.

God is faithful to us even when we lash out against him.

In another moment, Helen and Amanda had left, and I was alone with John.  He woke up, and in one of his more lucid moments looked at me and scoffed, “You and your tattoos.” (John was never a big fan of my ink.)

I laughed and we had a brief conversation about God.  My mom had told me that in the last year or so of his life, John had begun to doubt his picture of the afterlife.  I and his pastor had both had conversations with him, and one of those conversations must have come back to his mind in that moment, because he looked at me and spat out, “You don’t have any more idea than I do what happens next.”

I have discussed in two of my previous posts John’s faith, which he expressed primarily through his embodied life as a part of the Mound City, KS community.  John was an active part of his faith communities throughout his life, and his faith was lived out through his physical presence in the world – his generosity and service – much more so than through his thought and contemplation.

I sat by John as he lay dying and questioning and I wondered if a short season of doubt at the end of a long, full life can invalidate a lifetime of service and giving, of embodying the Gospel.

And I thought of the man who came to Jesus, asking for his daughter to be healed.  Jesus told him that all things were possible to them who believed and the man cried out,

“I believe!  Help my unbelief!”

Jesus told the man – doubts and all – that his daughter had been healed.  And the guy had to leave, travel a day and a half back to his home, not knowing anything about his daughter’s health.

His actions proved his faith, even when his thoughts couldn’t.

I held John’s hand as he slid back into the stupor of the dying.  And as he slept, I reflected on these things.

God is faithful to us.  And I truly believe that our actions speak at least as loudly as our words.  And hopefully, sometimes, even louder.

John was dead less than two weeks later, his body finally giving up in its long struggle against death.  And I mourned then, and mourn still, but it is a sorrow laced with hope.

I believe that, because Jesus’ resurrection is an embodied reality, I haven’t seen the last of John.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
— 1 Corinthians 15:55

25 Reasons I Love My Wife

Manda Head Shot So if you didn’t know, today is my wife, Amanda’s 25th birthday.  It’s her ‘Golden Birthday’, which is when you turn the age that is the same number as the day of your birthday (so, 25 on the 25th).  In honor of this special occasion, I present to you 25 reasons I love my wife (in no particular order).

1. She’s a reader.  I love that both of us read a lot.  She is always reading something – usually that I haven’t read.  It makes for some great discussions, and we can kill hours in a bookstore together.

2. She has great style.  One of our first conversations revolved around our mutual love for Chuck Taylors.  She has a unique fashion sense that means she always looks great and probably different from anyone else in the room.  In the best way.

3. She is a people person.  We’re both super-extroverted, so she loves having a housefull of guests as much as I do.  She’s wonderful with people and has never met a person she couldn’t make into a friend.

4. She’s smoking hot.  But I don’t have to tell you that.  Clearly she is the hottest woman on the planet.  Sorry, fellas!

Triceratops 5. She listens to great music.  We have the same taste in music, more or less, and she’s always up for heading to a show with me, or picking up a new CD from one of our favorite bands.  She only sings along when I do too, because I sing way louder.  But it’s still fun.

6. She loves coffee.  This is good because we work at a coffee shop, but also because we can drink it together in the mornings.

7. People like her better than me.  No exaggeration, and no lie.  I have a tendency to be too blunt and not very compassionate.  She balances me very well in that regard.  And I think it’s pretty awesome how much everyone loves her.

8. She is a great leader.  She quickly earns the right to speak truth into other people’s lives, and she does so with grace and gentleness.  It’s quite a thing to watch, and she inspires fierce loyalty in those she calls friends.

Creation Museum 2 9. She thinks about stuff from a theological perspective.  Even though she’s not formally trained in theology like me and a lot of my friends are, she doesn’t hold back from jumping into a conversation and offering her thoughtful opinion.  She does a great job of considering all aspects of an issue, and she offers really practical advice.  Speaking of which…

10. She is always very practically minded.  At the end of the day, I’ve typically been content to contemplate abstract and detached theological ideas.  Amanda is always concerned with how this changes our lives in the here and now, how we can put something into practice.  She has taught me a lot about how to make the Scriptures and my faith more real.

11. She listens to my sermons at least 4 times.  By the time I preach a sermon, I’ve usually talked it through at least 4 times.  And usually Amanda has heard most of those practices, offering me critiques and feedback to make my talk more focused and practical.

12. She gives great feedback.  Yup… like I just said, her feedback is really good.  It’s thoughtful and helpful.  My talks are always better after I’ve given them for her, and she does a great job of helping me come up with solid, concrete content that relates better.

13. She’s fluent in Spanish.  Like for real fluent.  Remember how I said people love her?  You should see her in a Spanish-speaking country.  At least 3 different people told her her Spanish was better than theirs.  She’s truly a marvel to watch in action.

El Sal Group 1 14. She loves to travel.  You know how she got fluent in Spanish?  By living in Spain.  Oh yeah, and Mexico.  And El Salvador.  And she’s going to Honduras twice this year.  I love that she loves to travel so much.

15. She plays Guitar Hero.  She doesn’t play a lot of video games, but she does play Guitar Hero like a fiend.  And she’s just bumped up to Hard for a couple of songs, so watch out world.  The only thing better than rocking out at a concert together is rocking out in our TV room together.

16. She enjoys Sci-Fi.  She has a soft spot for Star Trek and we watched (and loved) Battlestar Galactica together, and discussed it much.  That is way hot.

17. She’s adventurous.  If you haven’t picked up on this by now, she’s the first one out the door when it’s time to explore Dayton or drive across the country to visit a friend.  We’re rarely ever home.

Brandon and Manda 18. She loves her family.  She has a huge extended family, and most of them live in the immediate vicinity of St. Louis, so they’re all very close.  It’s a lot of fun to hang out with all of them, and – no shocker here – they all love her quite a lot.

19. She has tattoos.  Not just a couple, but lots.  And she’s working on her 3/4 sleeve right now, which is blowing my mind.

20. She loves going to concerts.  And she loves getting in the Pit.  This is important.

21. She does hair for fun.  If you’ve never had Manda work on your hair, you don’t know what you’re missing.  For real.  This is one of her many forms of artistic expression.

22. She disciples really well.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, people are drawn to Manda, and she is always on the lookout for younger persons to mentor.  She does a great job of helping them to discover how to live in the story of the Gospel.

23. She serves better than anyone I know.  She is up and serving before most other people have even figured out there’s a need.  I love doing things like Target: Dayton with her, but she has an eye for the little, everyday needs that escape me.  She’s incredible!

24. She uses technology without being addicted to it (blogs, TomTom, etc.).  While I have a gadget addiction, Amanda is a lot more balanced.  She can use pieces of tech for what they do well without becoming obsessed with them (read: unlike me).  She is a great check for me in my gadget obsessions.

25. She has the Sermon on the Mount memorized.  Before she started on her 3/4 sleeve (which is Sermon on the Mount-themed), she decided to memorize the whole thing (Matthew 5-7) and spent a couple of months diligently doing so.  I’m blown away.  Impressed and in awe.  She’s so awesome!

There you have it… 25 of the 100s of reasons I love my wife.  And what about you?  What do you love about Amanda?

Engagement Session 6