Tag Archives: Service

Christian Kamiwaza

You should strive to be like the gods. Or maybe not. (Wait, what?)

In The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin writes about a Japanese term kamiwaza:

“Like most great words for which we have no equivalent, it is difficult to translate. The shortest version is “godlike.”

When we strip away self-doubt and artifice, when we embrace initiative and art, we are left with kamiwaza. The purity of doing it properly but without self-consciousness. The runner who competes with kamiwaza is running with purity, running properly, running as the gods would run.”

That statement is so close to correct, it’s almost painful. Isn’t it?

Kamiwaza isn’t something we should strive for… I mean, Adam and Eve wanted kamiwaza, to be like God, to be godlike, and it didn’t turn out so well.

So, no. Not kamiwaza. But Christian kamiwaza. (I’m not super original.)

Christian kamiwaza.

Like most ideas rooted in scripture, it’s simple to understand but difficult to master. The shortest version might be “as created.”

When we strip away self-doubt, artifice, and doubts of our Creator, when we embrace what we were created for, we are left with Christian kamiwaza. The purity of doing it properly but without self-consciousness. The runner who competes with Christian kamiwaza is running with purity, running properly, running as God created him to run.

What would Christian kamiwaza look like in your work, art, home life, friendships? You would be fearless, decisive, adept, skillful. You would be intentional. You would be humble. You would be free from the unnecessary restrictions of others or self.

You would be whole.

You would be as created.

The Function of Struggle

“Hope is a function of struggle.”
-CR Snyder

People really hate math class. They love to say, “I’m 40 and I’ve never once used calculus.” But you never hear people say, “I’m 40 and I’ve never once used the knowledge that Genghis Khan died in 1227 AD.” Why is that? It’s weird. Especially since math is everywhere. Even in suffering and struggle.

My mom is a math teacher, and the other day she was commenting to me how she appreciates that algebra math students are now instructed to solve a function rather than just solve for a variable.

For her, f(x)=1+x^2 > y=1+x^2. (Don’t worry, all the math in this post is made up and unnecessary to understanding the main point. It is fun though, to find a Gospel application even for algebraic notation.)

At first, this made no sense to me. It’s all the same, right? It’s just a semantic difference. Swap y for f(x) for z for the word banana… it’s all just a representation of a variable right?

But no, she said. Functions are different than variables. Once you solve a function, you can apply it to any number set, or combine it with any other function. Functions become building blocks that can be combined, transformed, modified and shifted. They are much more than an individual variable, they are a single component in a broader tapestry of understanding the world around us. And it’s not just math. Functions are everywhere and can be applied to anything. Once you start thinking with functions, you can better understand almost any causal relationship.

CR Snyder (who I don’t know… obvi) didn’t know I had that conversation with my mom. He did, however, give us an interesting function to test our theory with.

So: If hope is a function of struggle, what are its properties? What are its components? How do we get from struggle to hope? How do we define the struggle function? (What does “function of” mean?)

Multiple choice tests taught me that it’s always easier to work backwards (and that’s the only thing), so let’s start with the product. What is hope a direct function of?

Hope is a function of character.

Brene Brown describes hope this way: “Hope is not an emotion, but a cognitive behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when we have faith in our ability to get out of a jam.” That cognitive behavioral process could be described as your character. After all, who you are… what your character is… is just a combination of all the different behavioral processes you exhibit. (That’s as clinical as it gets… stick with me.)

Hope is not an emotion. Hope is a function of character.

hope = hope(character(x))

Or: more character leads to more hope.

Character is a function of endurance.

We have a useful start, but remember we can modify functions, we can combine them and transform them. So what is character a function of? Endurance.

Endurance is the ability to continue through discomfort. Research shows that the best distance runners in the world have a higher pain tolerance than the average person, but not a higher pain threshold. That means they feel pain at the same point but don’t succumb to it as quickly as you or I. They have trained themselves to be able to endure.

Which sounds a lot like this function which produces character right? Things in our lives will hurt, they will be uncomfortable, but in enduring (and in properly addressing and dealing with those issues) we build character. The ability to do it again tomorrow, but better. We’re distance runners building our endurance.

character = character(endurance(x))

Or: more endurance leads to more character.

Endurance is a function of struggle.

Maybe you saw this when we were talking about building endurance, but you can’t have endurance if there is nothing to endure. I mean, by definition, endurance implies pain or discomfort. The Google definition for endurance is, “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” The without giving way part is interesting because it implies a control or effort being exerted. A resistance to the pain being presented.

There is no endurance without struggle.

endurance = endurance(struggle(x))

Or: more struggle leads to more endurance.

And with that, we have all we need to make our proof:

hope = hope(character(endurance(struggle(x)))

Or: more struggle leads to more endurance leads to more character leads to more hope.

CR Snyder’s logic was right, but it wasn’t complete. Hope is a function of struggle, but what is struggle a function of? What sets this whole chain reaction in motion?

Struggling is a function of suffering.

Endurance is “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” It’s the ability to prolong your struggle, which can only be brought about by struggling. We can only struggle in the face of pain. In the face of suffering. I mean, try to struggle while comfortable on a beach with a tiki drink in your hand. Just as we cannot build endurance without first struggling. We cannot struggle without first suffering.

struggling=struggle(suffering(x))

hope = hope(suffering(x))

Or: more suffering leads to more hope.

Solving the suffering function gives us hope.

And are we surprised?

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

All of this is to say that in a non-intuitive way, your suffering today is a gift. The losses and difficulties are building in you a hope for the one who will not disappoint you. Tomorrow might not be brighter than today, but there is coming a day that will be much much brighter.

Take a minute to think about a struggle you have had. What is something you struggle with at work? Can you feel traces of endurance building up? Can you see shadows of your character strengthening? Do you find even the smallest amount of hope where previously there was none?

Now, what’s a hard or painful thing you could do at work today? What is a pain or suffering to struggle against? Start struggling.

Binary Actions

Everything you do will bring glory to God or to something else. Said another way: everything you do honors God or dishonors him.

There is no middle ground. (and yes, it really is that simple.)

Every action in your day will be honoring or dishonoring to God. How could it be any other way?

At work: that email you sent, that font change you made, printing in color versus black and white, staying late versus leaving early, remembering to run the reports on time, spell-checking your document before it gets sent out.

At home: not making your bed, eating out instead of cooking at home, drinking water instead of soda, reading that book, reading THAT Book (get it? *gag*), brushing and (/or?) flossing, exercising for an hour… you get the picture.

Everything you do. Everything. Everything matters.

And maybe as you were reading those lists, you were tempted to think I’m making a statement about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. “You should print in black and white to conserve ink.” Or, “You should always make your bed.” I’m not saying that at all.

If I’m printing a report for a client, you better believe I’m printing in color, and you better believe I printed a proof in color as well, and I am probably printing on a heavier paper. And if I’m running late in the morning, it’s possible it would be downright disobedient and God dishonoring to stop to make my bed.

So the message isn’t, “Do this, not that.”

The message is, “Be mindful.”

You’re always going to bring honor and glory to something, no matter the task. Make sure you know where that glory is going.

3 sentences that will revolutionize the way you work

It sounds click-batey but it’s true. Here are three sentences that are absolutely revolutionizing my work. They’ll do the same for you. [Full disclosure – They were inspired by the book “Let Me Be a Woman” (I was reading it by the pool, but don’t worry, it has a very masculine cover.)]

Let Me Be a WORKER!

Let me be… a worker?

These three sentences are meant to be personalized and then recited whenever you are feeling lazy, scared, apathetic, frustrated, disrespected, belittled, arrogant, short tempered, or a thousand other negative ways.

These three sentences work in every situation, good or bad, and have a special way of tuning your attitude rightly. Seriously, it’s like oxiclean for your attitude (Lame analogy… Even I am rolling my eyes.)

Three sentences. I’ll give them to you all up front, then we will go through them one by one.

“Today, I am called to be a ________. The fact that I am a ________ does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of ________. For I have accepted God’s idea of me today, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that he wants me to be.”

 

“Today, I am called to be a _______.”

Sometimes you just need to be reminded that the work ahead of you today, this hour, this minute is a calling from God. (Because it is a calling from God.)

When the Corinthians asked Paul how they should live and what they should do for work after being converted to Christianity, he answered them this way: “Let everyone lead the life which the Lord assigned to him, and in which God has called him.”

In other words, Paul said, “keep doing what you are doing. If you’re a blacksmith, that’s your assignment from the Lord and your calling from God. The same is true if you’re a butcher a baker, or a candlestick maker.” (Little known fact about Paul: biiiiiig fan of the nursery rhyme.)

So this first sentence, “Today, I am called to be a __________.” Is a reminder and affirmation that your work has significance to God himself. He’s asking you to do it (not just your boss).

For me, this sentence might read:
– Today, I am called to be an investment banker.
– In the next hour I am called to finish this memo.
– In the next 5 minutes I am called to answer these emails.

Simple truth. Easy reminder. It gets me out of my laziness pretty quickly. My motivation for doing the task ahead isn’t for anyone other than God himself, which is much more motivating to me than working for a boss I may not agree with or being prompt in my email responses “just because.” Maybe you’re the same way.

This reminder isn’t simply about the fact that we’re working for God though. It’s that he cares about the work we are doing. Afterall, why would he call you to a task that had no value to him? He wouldn’t. (1)

 

“The fact that I am a __________ does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of __________.”

There is both humility and pride in this statement. Can you see the humility? Your specific calling doesn’t gain you any special standing (bummer if you have a cool job). But it also offers pride because your specific calling can’t demote you to a shameful position (that’s good for you to hear if you think your job is low and without purpose.)

Secretly, we like to think that people with cool or sexy jobs are somehow better Christians. But no matter your job, you’re not a different type of Christian. God shows no partiality to your title, he’s after your heart.

(As a side note, and maybe it points out the absurdity that we think certain jobs earn us a better standing with God – for some people, being a pastor or missionary qualifies as a sexy job… others scoff at this position and think that the title of trial attorney or tech-startup founder qualifies as a cool job worthy of God’s approval… both of these groups disagree whole heartedly… neither are correct. But we digress.)

By reminding ourselves that we’re not a different type of Christian, we’re attacking all of the weird identity issues that come along with our work. We’re attacking both the pride and the shame of our work, the self-righteousness and self-loathing.

Read it simply: The fact that I am a ______ doesn’t make me a different kind of Christian.

I hope this helps you remember that you aren’t your work. I hope this helps you see that the work ahead of you doesn’t define you – your faith does.

Now the second half of our statement attacks an entirely different issue in our hearts. “…but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of _________.”

While the fact that you are a banker or construction worker or speech pathologist doesn’t change God’s view of you or your ability to interact with him, your identity as a child of God changes everything about the way you approach being those things.

As a Christian, you will be upright, steadfast, honest, diligent, fearless, faithful, compassionate, encouraging, patient, forgiving, shrewd, generous, and on and on… (1)

For me, when I remind myself that I will work differently, it usually encourages me to work harder. For you though, it may encourage you to be less stressed about deadlines. Or maybe you take a bigger creative risk. Or maybe you pay a little more attention to the details. Or maybe you’re a little more generous with your time and attitude.

 

“For I have accepted God’s idea of me today, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that he wants me to be.”

The last of the three sentences falls into the category of “simple, but not easy.” (It may be the hardest.)

To accept God’s idea of you today means to accept every part of you. That includes all of your strengths, but also the parts about you that you currently view as weaknesses. Your lack of intellect, charisma, physical strength. The mole above your left eye, the way you sometimes say “you too” to a waiter who says “enjoy your meal”, the funny way you sign off on emails.

When you accept God’s idea of you, you accept that God created you a certain way, unique. And in that uniqueness he’s given you both strengths and weaknesses that he hasn’t given others.

You accept that God is the only perfect being and that you are not perfect.

Once you accept that, it is easier to affirm that today is an offering of praise to him. Your “whole life is an offering back to him of all there you are and all that he wants you to be.” All of your being. All of your life. Not part of it. All of it.

That means your weaknesses are used as an offering of praise, right alongside your strengths. This isn’t to say that we throw our hands up and give up on improving. But it does mean we don’t worry so much about comparing our weaknesses against other’s strengths (there’s so much freedom there anyways). We’re grateful for who God has made us to be and we respond accordingly.

 

“Today, I am called to be a _______. The fact that I am a __________ does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of __________. For I have accepted God’s idea of me today, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that he wants me to be.”

I don’t have a clever way to end this. No gimmick. Just a simple request: take a minute, type out (or write down) your affirmation of work, then print it out and put it somewhere you can see it. If you get off track while working, look at the note you wrote yourself. Remind yourself as frequently as you need to. (sometimes I read it three times before I get it.) I guarantee (2) it will make a difference.

 

(1) Hey! Footnotes, huh? If you’re interested in the theology that supports these claims (and they are beautiful theological truths!) you should sign up to get posts sent straight to your inbox. I include supporting scripture and theology there. You can sign up by enterinng your email below:


(2) Here’s the guarantee: If these three sentences don’t change the way you work, feel free to crumple them into a ball and throw them at me the next time we see each other. (I won’t even be mad.)

 

 

You do what you want

I’m always doing what I want. You are too. We all do exactly what we want all the time, and if we don’t want to do something, we don’t do it.

“But, but, but… I want to eat better… I want to exercise… I want to read more… I want to get off twitter.”

No. You don’t.

Because if you really wanted to, you would.

This is the truth about everything, sin included. Any sin you’ve ever committed, you wanted to commit. In the moment, you wanted to sin more than you wanted to be obedient… so you sinned. I mean, contrary to what I tell my wife sometimes, I have never accidentally eaten a cupcake.

When I eat a cupcake, I eat it because eating the cupcake seems more valuable to me than being healthy, or not glutting myself. (I just ate half a dozen cupcakes… just HALF a dozen. and it was an accident. ACCIDENT.)

This is the truth for all of our sins, and we can see it play out over and over again in our work. When we are lazy, when we are unfocused, when we cut corners, when we are short tempered with our co-workers. These are all things that we “don’t want to do.” But in the moment we want to. We want to more than we don’t want to, or we wouldn’t.

When we find ourselves failing at work, the first thought many of us have is to try to white knuckle our way into being better workers. “I should just DO BETTER!” we tell ourselves.

When was the last time that actually worked?

Never. And it doesn’t work because in the moment we don’t believe that being disciplined, or working hard, or whatever it is, is better than the alternative. So we do the things that we ultimately “don’t want to do.”

But you did want to do it.

Have you ever had something that you wanted so bad, you could taste it (why is this whole post about food?) One time I was in bed, but I wanted a taco so bad I got up from bed, put on clothes, and talked my wife into driving across town with me to Taco Bell (don’t judge me… your sins are no different than mine… they just have less sour cream.) Let me say that again for effect; I GOT OUT OF BED AND DROVE ACROSS TOWN FOR A TACO.

And then, after eating my taco, I wasn’t satisfied, so I went back for another taco. (I almost wish this was a made up story, but it isn’t. Here’s a tweet from 2012 to prove it.)

Taco Tweet

In that moment, I made the decision that a taco (or two) from taco bell was better than being healthy. I wanted those tacos.

If I had been training for a marathon and was going to run it the next morning, you can bet I wouldn’t have eaten a taco at 9:03 the night before. I would have wanted to run a better race more than I wanted a taco. I would have done what I wanted to do, just like I did what I wanted to do. But the action would have been different. See, it’s all about what do you want more?

So what’s the point of all this?

Unsurprisingly, Jesus told us this was the case.

When Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” He wasn’t putting some weird guilt trip on us. Jesus was making an observation. He’s observing the fact that, “If you love me – if I’m the most important thing in your life – you won’t be able to help yourself… you’ll keep my commandments.”

Jesus is saying that if you love him. If you truly love him and you can understand what he’s done for you and how much HE loves you. You’ll WANT to keep his commandments. And you will want to every second of every day, because keeping his commandments will look sooooo much better to you than any alternative.

And therein lies the problem and the solution. You doing the things you “don’t want to do” or not doing the things you want to do. It’s a simple “want to” problem. It’s an affection problem. You don’t want to, because your affections are in the wrong place.

So today when you are tempted to procrastinate, or be short with a coworker, or be disappointed in your job title – the answer is not to mentally flog yourself, or feel terrible about yourself. The answer is to think about what Jesus has done for you.

The Gospel is a great motivator, but not because you feel guilty. The Gospel is a great motivator because if your heart is full of love for God, it won’t have room to love anything else.

Today you only need to work harder at one thing, and this is going to sound really corny, and I’m sorry for that, but today you only need to work harder at loving Jesus. If you get that, everything else will fall in to place.

If you love Jesus more, you will work harder and more diligently at your job. If you love Jesus more, you will be more patient and kind with your coworkers. If you love Jesus more, you will focus more clearly on the most important task. If you love Jesus more, you’ll do exactly what you want to do.

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