Archives For creation


January 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

My preference is fast. I like to drive fast. I like fast internet connections. I like to work fast. I wish I could read fast. But fast isn’t always best. Sometimes, slow wins.

For someone who prefers to go fast, this reality is a necessary realization (even if it annoys my go-fast preferences). Slow is important in lots of ways, but let me first give you an example of why slow sometimes wins.

A Cutting Reminder That Faster Isn’t Always Better

I’m learning to shave again. It was one of my new year’s resolutions. I know, I know. That’s not very ambitious, right? But for a go-fast guy, this was a way to remind myself that slow wins. So, I got rid of my disposable junk, and invested in a new safety razor. The old school kind like my grandfather used. Metal, not plastic, so it’s got some weight to it. It holds double edged razor blades. I’m told that the classic wet shave is better for the environment and that it’s cheaper in the long run. But the real deal is that it’s just a much better shave.*

Fact: fast shavers end up with little patches of bloody toilet paper on their chins. On average, my new way of shaving takes about twice as long as my old way. But it’s twice as enjoyable and twice as good a shave. And my wife likes it (which is a very good thing).

Shaving is a relatively insignificant change in the big picture of my life, but it serves as a daily reminder that sometimes slow wins.

You may not be sold on a shaving upgrade, but what about the rest of your life?

When Slow Wins in Parenting

I know that none of you struggle with this, but sometimes my children act up. Of course, “act up” is a socially acceptable way of saying that they are depraved little people that disobey God and deserve to be disciplined. Meaning, they are a lot like their parents. We all agree that parents must discipline children. Otherwise, the monkeys are running the zoo. The only question is how we should discipline.

I don’t want to give a complete how to guide for parenting here, but I do want to suggest that discipline of children is one of the areas where slow wins.

Here is what normally happens in fast discipline. Your kid runs through the house with muddy shoes or screams while his sister is napping or dumps her milk on the floor. Clearly, these are things that would happen in your house, not mine (ahem…wink, wink).   When said criminal activity occurs, mom yells for kid to stop. Again, note that I said mom rather than dad, because dads don’t do this stuff (ahem…). But the parent yells stop at the child, the kid freezes in his or her tracks, and then the parent hurriedly threatens an unrealistic consequence like “clean that up or you’ll never eat dessert again” (which we know isn’t going to happen because dad likes hot chocolate chip cookies and it’s too much work to refuse a child a cookie on a regular basis).

What’s the point? Fast discipline involves only two steps: name the issue, name the consequence. Those are both necessary steps, but they are not enough. Fast discipline focuses on behavior modification but neglects the heart. It’s efficient in the short run, but deficient over the long haul. If you discipline fast, you end up skipping the most important stuff.

I’m trying to remind myself that, when it comes to discipline, slow wins. I want to shape my kid’s character, not just his or her behavior. I want them to love Jesus, not just love a clean house. This takes time. It takes time to talk things through. It takes time to talk about disobedience against God and repentance. It takes time to train your child how to talk to his siblings and ask forgiveness. It takes time to celebrate the grace and forgiveness that awaits them in Jesus.

I don’t always do this the right way, and there are moments (like rushing out the door on the way to school) when it seems almost impossible. So, we may have to be creative in those instances (delay the real conversation until later but then follow-up and talk things though). It takes at least twice as much time to discipline slow, but the benefits are infinitely greater.

When Slow Wins in Technology

Another way that I’m trying to slow down is in my use of technology. I live connected. Between twitter, facebook, email, and phone, it is easy to be connected all the time. The problem is that being connected to technology may mean that you are disconnected from everything else. Sometimes, our tech toys cause us to miss opportunities to connect with God, connect with our spouses, connect with nature.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dumping all of that stuff. I’m just managing it better. I’m turning it off sometimes. I’m creating a routine of leaving it behind in certain sections of my calendar (if you check yours regularly at family dinners, your wife should drop it in your chili).

For example, we got a puppy at Christmas. Puppies have to be walked. A lot. Sometimes in the middle of the night. One way I’m slowing down is to leave my cell phone inside when I walk the dog. I feel silly saying it, but it’s amazing to me how hard it is. But when I do, I enjoy the puppy more, and I notice the beauty of creation all around me. Without the light of my cell phone, I see the light of the night stars that God put in place to remind me of his glory and greatness. When I slow down to recognize that I have so many messages from God all around me, my twitter messages can wait a little while.

When Slow Wins in Ministry

I won’t take a lot of time to expound on this one, but two recent conversations also reminded me of how this applies to ministry. In one phone call with a fellow pastor, my friend said, “We’re growing, but I wish it was faster.” I know this friend well, and he’s an evangelist who loves to see people meet Jesus for the first time. He believes in a big God who can bring 3,000 people to faith in a single day, and he longs to see that happen. We have a world full of people who don’t know Jesus, so I hope it happens too. I pray that God moves in a remarkable way to bring people to Jesus through his church’s ministry. But I know that there are some seasons of ministry where slow wins.

In another conversation, some friends encouraged me to slow down. In my passion to see ministry happen, I wanted to get moving as quickly as possible. My friends wanted me to “move slow, go deep, dream big.” That stuck with me.  It takes time to build the right foundation, to instill the right DNA in the church, to get the right people on the team. You can start a ministry fast, but it takes time to launch a movement. When you are building something to make a significant impact over the next 25-30 years, there are some important areas where slow wins.

A Concluding Thought

For people who like to go fast, going slow is an act of faith. It can lead to a more rewarding life, a more significant life, and a greater enjoyment of the life God gave you–a life made up of fast and slow moments strung together to make up days and weeks and years. May we make the most of all our moments, and may we make some of those moments slow ones.

What are some other ways that slow wins? What helps you slow down in disciplining your children? Is it as hard for you to turn the cell phone off as it is for me? Any of you dudes enjoying the glory of a classic wet shave?


* For a great guide to a classic wet shave, see “How to Shave Like Your Grandpa.”

I recently had the privilege to watch a wonderful documentary: Waste Land. It’s a beautiful film that stirred my soul with both sorrow and hope. I want to tell you about the movie and then offer some thoughts about its message.

Waste Land was directed by Lucy Walker with soundtrack by Moby. It received an Academy Award Nomination in 2011 for Best Documentary Feature.

The film follows the journey of Brazilian born contemporary artist Vik Muniz to Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill located just outside of Rio de Janeiro. Here we meet an array of characters called catadores, the “pickers” of recyclable materials who sell their goods for profit in order to survive. We enter the stories of these men and women who crack jokes, quote Machiavelli, pass along proverbial wisdom, and generally put a good face on their existence in the dump.

Muniz recruits several “pickers” to help him create works of art by beautifully shaping the trash from the landfill into images of the broken people who work there. These inspiring “self-portraits” (the pickers are in a sense painting themselves) are a perfect collision of dignity and despair. Art made from trash. Something good from something broken. The images themselves are magnificent, and so is the message–there are no “throwaways.”

The creation of these works of art reminds the catadores that they are of great value. As the art of their own faces comes into view, they begin to open up.  They share more honestly about the struggles and pain of their lives, but they also see more clearly the nobility of their lives. This juxtaposition gives the film its power. The irony of the title, Waste Land, is in full view here. Out of supposed waste, beauty emerges.

Beyond Waste Land

What I love about Waste Land is the reminder that humanity is beautiful. In all of the pain and pleasure, sadness and joy, evil and goodness of human lives, God has placed an inherent value in us that cannot be overlooked for long. We are the stuff of novels and paintings and songs and poems and food and dance and laughter.

Followers of Jesus know why this is true. God has set eternity in our hearts, and at some level we remember what we were created to be. When we experience a work of art that is true and beautiful, it awakens in us a memory of how things ought to be. It makes us mourn a world where things are broken and long for a world where all things are whole again. Too often, we turn down the volume of this proclamation, but a faint echo summons us to remember our Creator and to long for our redemption.

When we experience works of artistic beauty, portraits of human nobility, signs of grace and redemption, we should look beyond these to the one who made them. God has placed hints of himself in the world to be pursued. Like bread crumbs on the road, not dropped by accident, they serve a purpose to lead us to God.

The Bible says that we humans bear the image of God. The day he made us, God himself said that humanity was “very good.” He puts his fingerprints on each of us. Our Creator dreamed us up as his special creation and has chosen us to carry his glory in the world. Even in our sin-tainted state, we are noble. Evil has defaced the image of God in us, but it has not been erased. It is this mark of God the Creator on us that gives us a dignity that cannot be taken away. Humanity’s greatest stamp of approval is the incarnation of Jesus, who being eternal God also took on flesh and became one of us. Nothing could speak more loudly of the significance of human life.

This truth has huge implications for all people, but it ought to especially instruct us about our care for the poor, the forgotten, the abused, the unborn, the disabled, the suffering. They too bear the imprint of God. Even the people that our cruel world casts off as trash are God’s glorious creation. There is a dignity in every human life that is worthy of our love.

But there is also a potential danger in speaking of the glory of our humanity. We might be tempted to worship ourselves as the ultimate source of dignity and beauty. At one point in the film, after the auction of his painting nets a huge sum, Tiaõ says, “God was so good to me, so wonderful.” Vik Muniz, the artist, interrupts him and says, “You’re the strong one. You are the one who is doing everything.” Whether intended or not, God is excluded from the conversation, and Tiaõ himself is seen as the ultimate strength and beauty. Now, I do not know anything of Mr. Muniz’s spirituality, so I do not intend this as a statement about his faith or lack of faith. But I think the passing comment highlights a temptation for us. Muniz’s remark cuts off the pursuit of beauty before it reaches its ultimate end. It stops short of its goal. It effectively says, “Let’s honor the beauty of humanity, but let’s not ask where that beauty originates.”

If, however, we fail to pursue this beauty beyond ourselves, we deny the full power of art. Just as the beauty of a work of art directs us to the artist, so the beauty of humanity directs us to the Creator. In this sense, I believe Vik Muniz likely has a sense of what I mean, but he fails to follow the logic all the way through. In the film, Muniz does not praise himself or his work, but he allows the people and the works of art to speak for him. He knows that art reflects the artist; the beauty of his artwork points people to his skill as an artist. Since that is true, would it not seem wise to allow the beauty of humanity on the whole to point us to the ultimate Artist?

One of my favorite lines in the documentary deals with our sense of perspective. Muniz looks out over the unending slums and shanties and buildings of Rio de Janeiro and observes, “They are not pretty places except when you look from far away.” It is a poignant comment that is also true of the portraits he is creating from recyclable trash. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps we should try to see our world from even further away. From God’s perspective, there is greater beauty in our world than we can imagine in the midst of it.

The Gospel says that humanity was broken and discarded on the trash heap of life, but Jesus came to rescue and restore us. He redeems us, gives us a new perspective, and fills us with a new hope. In Jesus, we discover that we are a part of a living and cosmic work of art. The Scripture says that “we are his workmanship,” and he is forming us into something wonderful. It is Jesus, not us, that finally transforms our lives into something wonderful. Our ultimate nobility and beauty comes as Jesus creates and recreates until we experience a new heavens and a new earth where joy and peace rule forever.

The most powerful line in Waste Land occurs when Tiaõ looks at the beauty of his completed portrait and says, “I never imagined I’d become a work of art.” The statement reveals a fantastic combination of humility and glory. It is as though Tiaõ realizes his smallness and his greatness in the same moment.

Perhaps followers of Jesus have something to learn from this. The Gospel says that God is making broken and sinful people into a new and beautiful work of art. Because of this, we should live with a constant sense of humility and glory, smallness and greatness, brokenness and beauty. This is the art of God’s grace on the canvas of the universe.

Is it easy for you to lose sight of the beauty and dignity of human life? How would it impact you if could gain a new perspective and see your life as a part of God’s cosmic work of art?


All photo and artwork rights and credit to Waste Land or Vik Muniz at the following:


People watch movies. People go to church. Most fail to see how the two connect. This is why we have just begun a sermon series called Intersection: Where Christ & Culture meet. My hope is that we equip followers of Jesus to engage our world thoughtfully, creatively and biblically. In the sermons, we will explore themes from the movies “Inception,” “Toy Story 3,” “True Grit,” and “The Social Network.”

There are many reasons one might preach a series that deals with films, but here are five that surfaced as I thought about this series.

1. Faith relates to all of life. If we are going to live healthy and whole lives, we will fight against the temptation for a compartmentalized faith. Too often, people put “Sunday” into a sacred compartment and then isolate that “church” part of  life from the other six days a week. This is not the life Jesus came to give us. Gospel-faith should influence every realm of our lives.

2. We need to be discerning. If we are going to watch movies (and almost all of us do), we need to process what we watch and be discerning about the things that we see. We need to ask questions of the films we view. What is the story about? What is beautiful about the film? What is looked down upon? What is exalted? Is it honest about life? What moral and ethical viewpoints are used? What is redemptive? What emotions does it stir? Is this beneficial for me? Then, we have the chance to see how these questions relate to our following of Jesus and interacting with our world.

3. We can learn from films. Films have the potential to open us to new ways of seeing our lives and our reality. They can ask good questions with which we need to wrestle. If we enter the theater with a healthy humility, good films will help us realize that we don’t know it all. They remind us that we are thoughtful and feeling beings who like to be stretched both intellectually and emotionally. Watching a movie is viewing the world through another person’s glasses, and a shift in perspective inevitably opens us to new space to explore.

4. Creativity honors God. Too often, the church has taken up the call to confront while abdicating the call to create. Both are needed, but we are way out of balance. Andy Crouch says that we are “creators made in the Creator’s image.” When human beings stop creating, some God-given possibility is being muted or suppressed. We honor God when we create something beautiful and good. [What’s the over/under on comments about bad christian films for this post? Just sayin’…] We need more followers of Jesus who are courageous enough to attempt the creation of great films.

5. Movies are bridges for the gospel. As we seek to present and defend Jesus to our friends, co-workers, classmates, and neighbors, films can serve as common ground on which to have conversations about issues of life and faith. Like the apostle Paul in Athens interacting in the public square through philosophy and poetry, we can describe life with Jesus through the shared experience of films.

So, what do you think? Like the idea of incorporating an occasional conversation about film into a sermon series? Would you add anything to what I’ve mentioned here?