Design Decisions

Design Decisions

Okay so I’m a sucker for design, especially modern design.

I could stare at Dwell for hours.

Frankly, I find great beauty in the clean lines and sharp definition; I feel peace when I see the discipline of editing and minimalism.

(p.s. These things are not always present in my life.)

One of the striking features about excellent design is the forethought that goes into material selection and function. Over and over again, you can see this played out in spaces with features that actually look better now than they did when they were new (in some cases maybe 40 or 50 years ago).

In other words, good designers make choices today with the future in mind. They are asking, “How will this doorknob, this pull, this frame look when it has been used 5,000 times by children’s hands…

…when it has been beaten by the wind…

…when it has been broken and repaired…

The point is this: The best design decisions—and materials—age well. It’s not about price or perfection, it’s about what a building, or a piece of art (or anything with intentional design) will look like when it has aged. When “life has happened” to it.

This is profoundly similar to our lives.

Most of our lives—both in terms of our “stuff” we have and the decisions we make—isn’t designed to age well, if at all. 

We buy for the short term; we organize and decide for the here and now.

Cheaply designed bookshelves break rather than age…

Hasty choices can be the same way. 

But what if we took a step back and asked, “What are the one year implications for the way my life is designed now?”

How will my life’s “design decisions” age over five years? Ten? Twenty?

Because that is the evidence of good design. We’re not supposed to look perfect; but we do have the opportunity to show the scratches and weathering of good use and design with a long view.

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds on a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is build on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds his house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” (Jesus, Matthew’s Gospel, 7:24-27)

peace

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Faith Not in the Prayer, but in the One Behind It.

The issue of prayer is not prayer. The issue of prayer is God. (Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel)

I read that this morning…

That’s a heavy way to start the day.

How much do the words we speak (or sing, for that matter) reveal our true beliefs about God?

I think more than we realize.

Or how about this: how much do the words we avoid speaking reveal our true beliefs about God?

Same.

My wife and I are constantly debating this, but when I read the Bible—and especially the Old Testament—I see people boldly praying to God, even to the point of arguing and bartering with Him. At the very least, they aren’t afraid to be honest. Some of my favorite “honest” prayers are recorded in the Psalms, like this one:

O God, do not be silent!
Do not be deaf.
Do not be quiet, O God.
Don’t you hear the uproar of your enemies? (Psalm 83:1-2)

This is a gentle one, but Asaph isn’t afraid to basically tell God to wake up and see what’s going on.

At first glance, we tend to think that these words are more pious than they appear to be; that Asaph is calmly reciting words that don’t really mean what we think they mean.

But then we read some of Jesus’ words on prayer:

‘There was a judge in a certain city,’ he said, ‘who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, “Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.” The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, “I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!”

Wow.

Jesus said that.

The implication is that we are free to be honest, passionate, and even a little bit brash in our prayers.

Where does this passion come from?

  1. belief in our cause
  2. belief in the character of the judge

Jesus goes on to ask that if this judge—who was lacking in love and justice—could eventually respond to this woman, how much more would God respond to us? 

Returning to Psalm 83, it’s easy to see the tension we live in. Though we might be afraid that God is being silent, or not hearing, or even somehow unaware of our situation, we don’t need to be afraid of His character that invites us to persevere in coming to Him.

The upside-down logic in this is that if I stop asking someone to act on something that is important to me, it’s because

  • I no longer believe that it’s important
  • I no longer believe that the person cares
  • I no longer believe that person is capable of acting on my behalf

Wow.

When you think about it this way, the brash honesty of Asaph, or Abraham, or Jesus is actually a radical statement of faith in the capacity of God to care for His children (not to mention His graciousness to allow them to come in honesty and freedom).

Are there areas in your life where you have “stopped knocking”? 

 

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Jack Gets It

Jack White gets it.

In this interview, he talks about the relationship between creativity and constraints, and I think it’s right on.

So much of creativity is about boundaries; great things are made at frontiers:

  • emotional frontiers
  • technological frontiers
  • physical frontiers
  • spiritual frontiers

So much of our life is about making things easier and more efficient. Faster, easier, more convenience.

But as a very wise man once told me, “love is not efficient.”

If you do what you love, you’re not interested in efficiency; you’re interested in engagement, in connection. 

The thing about any creative endeavor—be it a sermon, a song, a painting, or a restructure—is to engage and connect with it in such a way that moves you towards a frontier.

One of the ways this plays itself out in my life is the difference between typing on a laptop and writing with a pen: for me there’s a significant difference. Different parts of my mind (and heart) are engaged. When I want to get ideas out quickly and almost sub-consciously, I type. When I want to make sure I’m emotionally connecting with my ideas, I write.

(By the way, I approach my calendars the same way; when I need to slow down and “own” my calendar more intentionally, I start using paper. When I’m okay with feeling a little more reactionary, I use an electronic calendar.)

It may seem counter-intuitive, but is there anything you need to make more difficult, if for no other reason than to wake you up?

THE Prayer, Part 8 :: Deliver Us From Evil

Our Father, who lives in the heavens,
May Your name be kept holy.
May Your Kingdom come,
May Your will be done,
On earth just like it’s done in Your presence.

Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Don’t bring us to the times of trial,
But deliver us from the evil one.
Amen.

It doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to believe in the presence of evil. In fact, it may be easier to believe in the power of evil than it is to believe in God. After all, the headlines are definitely sexier:

  • suicide bombers
  • poverty
  • drug addiction
  • promiscuity that leaves lonely and shattered lives in its wake
  • acts of hatred committed in the name of religion (almost all of the religions)

And that’s just off the top of my head.

The last line of the prayer (at least in Mark’s version) asks us to deliver us from “evil” or “the Evil One”, and sometimes it seems like God has chosen to ignore this request.

Has He?

Ultimately, I have neither the brains or space or typing capacity to wrestle with the question of why evil ultimately exists, but I do have a few thoughts.

  1. Jesus’ ministry, especially as portrayed in Mark’s Gospel, is a running battle with evil: over and over again we are told that Jesus confronts “evil spirits” and though they seem to know exactly who Jesus is (in contrast to most everybody else, including his own closest followers), they don’t stand a chance against him. So Jesus knows what evil looks like, and he doesn’t like it. At all. We like to think of Jesus running around, showing everyone what God’s love looks like, and being a good teacher; I don’t think we often think about Jesus primarily focusing on confronting evil, but that’s pretty much what Mark describes. 
  2. This battle with evil comes to a head, in a way, in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus leaves his closest followers behind and goes into solitary prayer. By this point, he can easily see where his actions are taking him—to death—and so he prays to God one of the most honest prayers we’ll ever read: “‘Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’”

    And God said, “No.”

    As N.T. Wright put it, “We have to come to grips with the fact that Jesus gave this prayer to his disciples, but that when he prayed it himself, the answer was ‘No’… He would be the one who was led to the Testing, who was not delivered from Evil… Jesus was called to throw himself on the wheel of world history, so that, even though it crushed him, it might start to turn in the opposite direction.”

  3. As Jesus embraced his call to the cross, I believe that he knew this call was to be a sort of ultimate battle with evil. However, this battle would not be fought on “evil’s terms”. It would be fought on God’s terms; which meant

    … surrender, not slaughter

    … humility, not arrogance

    … sacrifice, not triumphant destruction

    In other words, Jesus’ would fight and win the battle against evil by (ironically) letting evil do its worse to him.

  4. The early followers of Jesus struggled to make sense of the cross. Among other things, they recognized that something cosmic happened there, and it had to do with the power of evil in the world. One of those followers wrote this to a small church in Asia: “He (Jesus) canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.”

So what do we do this this? Is evil defeated? Because sometimes it sure doesn’t look like it… How do we live in light of this?

  • Evil has been defeated, so we no longer have to pay undo attention to it. We are free. Some would call us to retreat from the world so that we won’t be contaminated by its evil, but we can say, “look at the cross; the powers have been defeated there.” We are called to live as free people in a world that God has created, and is redeeming.
  • Evil has been defeated, but that doesn’t mean we ignore it completely. Redemption is a process. History is moving. Jesus ultimately defeated the powers at the cross, and ultimately evil will be completely defeated, but in the meantime, we are called to help in its defeat, but using the method that Jesus used: by exposing the vacuous and empty nature of evil—of violence, of power, of economic supremacy, of consumerism (just to name a few)—through the humility, meekness, and even irony of the cross.

To pray, “deliver us from evil” is to simultaneously claim the power of Jesus’ ultimate victory and to embrace the call to be a part of defeating it, daily, hourly, moment-to-moment in our world and in our lives.

Shalom.

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