Beautiful Things

photo (24)It’s raining here in Georgia. I’m sitting at my kitchen table, sipping on my coffee, reading my devotional, and looking out my big kitchen window. All I can see is overgrown grass, gray sky, and invisible rain drops splashing into a puddle. My kids are sitting in the living room watching some kind of behind the scenes feature on Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakuel. My wife is at the gym. Overall, the day feels quiet. Contemplative. Serene.

My devotional is Jesus Calling. Today’s entry read in part:

My world is filled with beautiful things; they are meant to be pointers to Me, reminders of My abiding Presence.

Watching the invisible rain crash into the puddle, I think of what Jesus said: He makes the rain fall on the just and unjust alike. Sounds simple (I mean, have you ever seen rain avoid a person?), but it says a lot about God. Depending on how you view rain, it’s either God blessing everyone equally or God allowing hardship equally. You could certainly drill down deeper on the implications, but at face value, the fairness of God in both good and bad is contained within that one, simple act.

It rains on everyone sometime.

Thinking about that, I imagine that in places where it rarely rains, water falling from heaven seems like an enormous blessing, an occasion to sit down and breathe deeply and silently give praise that a need has been met. I would imagine in places like that no one grumbles about the inconvenience, or heaves a sigh at having to rearrange their plans for the day. I would imagine that on a day like today, they just sit back and watch the rain fall with wonder for however long it might last. Each drop seen as precious. Each rain-filled minute a gift.

Meanwhile, I look at the rain and think, “Man – people will be driving like idiots today.”

Perspective. We all need it sometimes. In fact, a lot of us need a lot of the time – the ability to put things into the right context, the right worldview. Usually the problem is fairly simple: our perspective is myopic, limited to the only creature in the universe that we feel matters.


Today, let’s take a minute and expand that view to at least the people closest to us, whether that’s family or friends or co-workers or the stranger on the street. Let’s make an active choice to see the world not through our narrow lens of self-satisfaction but instead through a lens of wonder and awe and awareness. The rain falls on us all, no one better than the other, so let’s choose to see the blessing in that today. Let’s choose to see benevolence and grace instead of inconvenience and bother. As Garrison Keillor once wrote, in a “News From Lake Woebegon” sketch for Prairie Home Companion, “the Lord offers Himself to us just the same, whether we notice it or not.”

Today, let’s take notice.

Capitalist Pig

For many, this is a temple of worship...

I am a capitalist pig. A greedy, envious, gadget-loving swine.

That realization dawned on me yesterday while dropping off my office computer for repairs at the Mall of Georgia Apple Store. Despite the fact that I have more MacBooks than your average Starbucks, I still found myself wandering the aisles of the Apple Store, running my hands and fingers over each and every little gizmo on display. I drooled over iPads. I stood transfixed before a 27-inch iMac. I lingered a little too long over a 17-inch MacBook Pro and got a nervous glance from the Apple rep nearest me.

I stayed in that store for a few minutes longer than I should have because my heart was yearning for the money to buy some new goodies. I stood in the middle of that store and tried to convince myself that my wanting – my desire to have something new and Apple – wasn’t bad, just mere dreaming. Just healthy ambition.

But after thinking about it for a good, long time, I’m not so sure about that anymore.

Yesterday, I picked up John Piper’s classic Desiring God again, this time with every intention of actually finishing it. I’d began the book once before but set it down in favor of something else, probably something less challenging like Thus Spake Zarathustra. Anyway, after a long time sitting on my bookshelf, I picked it up yesterday and began to re-read.

It was very convicting.

Now, granted, I’m only two chapters in and Piper has spent the majority of time just setting up his premise – that we can pursue a joy-filled life because joy is an essential component of worshiping God, and worshiping God is the highest of all human activity – but Piper laid out a definition of life that blew my mind:

  1. The longing to be happy is a universal experience, and it is good, not sinful.
  2. We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead, we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
  3. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.
  4. The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.
  5. To the extent that we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue.¹

¹ John Piper, Desiring God: 25th Anniversary Reference Edition (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2011), 28.

We all want to be happy. We should pursue being happy. We should pursue that happiness in God. We should share that happiness with others.


Now what really sucks is I’d read this just before walking into the Apple Store. And standing there, my gadget lust in overdrive, I began to feel that faint, familiar tugging on my heart, that subtle but unmistakable movement of conscience that tells me something is off in my spiritual core.

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know: I was desiring the work of Jobs rather than the presence of God.


I’m not saying Apple is evil. Apple is not evil – it’s amoral, or at least its products are. What is evil is my borderline psychological hunger for those products. I found myself thinking, “$2500 for a stock MacBook Pro isn’t so bad…I could scrimp and save and get that by next Christmas”, and the reality is that A) I’m about as likely to scrimp and save as the Pope is likely to breakdance naked with Lady Gaga, and B) even if I did somehow how manage to put back that much money, it would be intrinsically selfish to spend it on a new computer for me.

Especially when I have a couple of perfectly good ones kicking around the house.

Now, as any good capitalist pig would do, I immediately started justifying how I could get that new MacBook Pro minus the side-order of guilt: sell my other computers. Of course, that leads to into fantasies about how much I could get for them, how quickly I might be able to sell them, and then dreaming about how awesome it would be to have that new, out-of-the-box MacBook Pro (hereafter referred to as MBP) sitting in my hot little hands.

And of course that thought lead to further justification: if I got that new MBP, then I would be able to spend even more time writing, which might lead to me selling more articles, which would lead to money coming back into my pocket, which would virtually guarantee that the MBP would pay for itself. And by writing more, I would be fulfilling part of God’s plan for my life by utilizing the greatest talent He’s given me, which would in turn bring Him glory, which would in turn make me happy, which would in turn complete the spiritual and worshipful experience that buying a new MBP is almost certainly supposed to be.

And if you find that line of logic staggering, I can only say this: Genius doesn’t just work at the Apple store.

Of course that line of logic is patently counter-intuitive Piper’s point, and happens to be the kind of crappy thinking that irked many of Desiring God‘s critics (Piper addresses those criticisms in the 25th Anniversary Edition). What really gets me, though, is how stunningly easy it was for me to make this kind of leap – how quickly I could take a simple impulse and turn it into something holy and profound.

I was also disturbed by how quickly the other computers I had became undesirable. I happen to like my computers, even if the battery on one is kind of dying an early death and the other one has a bum command key. Both are good, reliable, run very fast, and are perfect for the kind of things I do on them. But in comparison to the new MBP…well, it was like placing a Pinto next to a Ferrari. Nothing wrong with either, but the Pinto sure seems a lot less by comparison.

All of this began to convict me even further: how much of the discontent that I feel in my life is rooted in my hunger for something other than God? If I were, for example, more concerned about pursuing God through reading or spending time with my kids or prayer or watching sunrises or just actually enjoying the things in my life that are good, how much better would my life be?


The Buddhists talk about letting go of self, of emptying out your desires and wants and all of the other self-created crap that makes a heart ache, as a way to inner peace. Funny enough, Jesus said the same thing: “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” There is something freeing about being free from yourself.

I won’t pretend like I don’t have other problems, but with respect to technology, the question of what I desire really came to the fore yesterday. How much of my life is pissed away wanting things I don’t need (iPads, iPods, etc.) instead of seeking the One that I both need and want? How much am I a product of the market rather than a product of God?

To be honest, I think there are a lot more people out there like me, people who can sometimes bend their personal desires into something about which God would say, “Okay – go for it.” If I may be so bold, I think there are an awful lot of us who call ourselves Christian who are more Capitalists than anything else.

And please don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m against capitalism. I’m not. But I think it introduces some cultural tendencies that have infected the American Christian in a negative way. I think that, a lot of times, we assume that God is okay with what we pursue when in reality what we’re pursuing is anything but Him. And He’s certainly not okay with that in any sense of the word.

I am a capitalist pig, a fat, consumptive wad of flesh that is always after the next fix, the next feeding. And like some of our more hormonally-enhanced porcine products, I’m unhealthy as a result.

The question is: how does a capitalist pig leave behind the food he knows to seek after the Food he needs?

What are your thoughts?

And Justice For All?

No, I’m not talking about the Metallica album.

Nor the Declaration of Independence.

That's Mayra in the blue. She deserves a response from her fellow citizens.

I’m talking about a little girl in my community named Mayra Ortiz. She’s fourteen years old, the daughter of an American citizen, and she’s in danger of being deported.

How, you ask?

Simple: a combination of bureaucracy, misfortune, and the selfishness of the American people.

I’m not stupid – I realize that immigration has been an issue in this country since 1492, and it’s not one that we’ve always managed well (just Google “Trail of Tears“, “US wartime internment camps“, and “Elian Gonzalez” if you don’t believe me). I know that there are no easy fixes, and that a policy that will not only make fiscal and jurisprudential sense, but common sense, will require a deft mixture of political capital and innovative solutions, both of which seem to be in short supply in our modern governmental climate.

But what grieves me, as a citizen of this country and as a father, is when I read a story like Mayra’s – where a little girl who has done nothing wrong becomes victim to the very system that is supposed to protect her.

Look, we need laws in this country, but we also need them to make sense. Right now, immigration (both nationally and here in Georgia) doesn’t make sense of any kind whatsoever – we spend the majority of our time yelling at one another for being idiots instead of stopping to listen to one another and working on a solution. This group wants to shoot illegals on sight, while this one wants to give them a nice house and free taxpayer money, and that’s not even coming close to the real views that are out there on the extremes.

And in the midst of the cacophony, what’s just and right fails to get done.

I don’t have great solutions to the issue of illegal immigration, in part because it’s such a huge issue with so many different ramifications connected to it. To choose one course is to choose against another, and I know the analysis paralysis that comes with that responsibility. I’m not asking for us to create a law that will please everyone, mainly because I’m old enough to not believe in magical unicorns.

But what I am asking is that when the laws we currently have are creating a miscarriage of justice, we as a people need to stand up and take notice, and not just turn our head or surrender to nasty rhetoric. We need to pay attention to the human lives being affected by our government and let the government know when it’s wrong. We need, for moments such as this, to quit worrying about how the government can serve me and my needs, and consider how it should function: as the protector of our people, not our whims.

Right now, a little girl is being railroaded, and there are plenty of people who are content to let it happen, some because they don’t want to get involved, others because they are blinded by a convenient self-serving rhetoric that serves only their own best interests. As Edmund Burke is credited with a saying, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

I would say that sums up my thoughts, but for this one haunting voice that keeps repeating the same refrain; it is the voice of Jesus, asking, “What man is really good? There is none good but God.”

May He have mercy on us.