The one thing you can actually choose every single day

You really choose it.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

It may not seem like a choice.

But it is.

And I’ve made the wrong choice for years. Actually, choices…

See, you can choose joy and optimism. It’s shameful to consider how often over the years I have chosen gloom and melancholy and pessimism or cynicism.

Add to that the fact that misery loves company, it’s not wonder our workplaces, schools, churches, and wherever elses are full of gloomy, melancholy, suspicious, pessimistic, cynical people.

So whatever else you do today, when that shroud of darkness begins to fall, go ahead and give it a big yank. Pull it down. Throw it to the side.

Instead, Choose Joy. Choose Hope. Choose Trust.

Choose collaboration instead of isolation. It’s funny how much clearer we see without that shroud in front of our faces. And how much brighter everything actually is that we’ve made it to be.

“May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15.13



….wouldn’t it be nice to rest on this pillow each day?

That Time I Wanted to Name Our Son Benjamin Franklin Mitchell

The creative writing teacher at the school where I teach put up a flyer for a contest, and on that flyer is a quote from Benjamin Franklin–“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

“Easy for you to say,” Ben. That’s what I think anyway. A world-traveler. One of the most brilliant men of his day, perhaps of this day as well. An innovator. Inventor. I wanted to name our firstborn Benjamin Franklin Mitchell. I got the Benjamin, but Patrick would have to suffice for that mysterious middle place. Ben wrote and did something worth writing, many somethings.

You may not know but I suffer from what’s called “Golden Age Syndrome.” At least that what’s the pedantic, self-consumed character in the movie Midnight in Paris calls it. When suffering from this affliction one believes that he or she would be happier or more fulfilled in a different age of history. I don’t have a particular age, preferably one where I wouldn’t die from the slightest infection or have to skin a beast for breakfast.

In the minds of dreamers–of which I am terribly given to–the present generally seems most dissatisfying. The past is tempting…mainly because it is known. And I can imagine myself in that already traversed landscape, usually as someone far more accomplished that the present me. The future, though, well that’s a vast unconquered land of bogeymen. Oh the possibilities! Oh what might I be in the land of “what ifs” and “one days”.  I’m an incredible vision caster in my head; you should see it.

But I find myself here today. What would a life worth writing look like? What about a life worth reading? Thinking cumulatively is when I start stressing, feeling anxious about not having done something truly great…like Chia Pet great. I mean, come on, the grass grows like the animal’s hair.

How do I live a more writable life? My conclusion is this, and feel free to push or prod: Living today and its multitude of moments given over to the leading of the very Spirit of God.

Give this. Go there. Say that…no, not that, that other thing. Get up. Put the book down. Pray. Pray more. Pray for her right now. Ask this question. Don’t speak at all. Seriously, shut your mouth.

The Holy Spirit says more each day than I care to hear, which is probably why I don’t listen two-thirds of the time. Should I do all that the Spirit says, my days would look dramatically different. I mean like Chia Pet different. Only God knows how differently my story would’ve read by now.

What if for one day you and I did everything we sensed the Spirit telling us to do, or not do? String together a week’s worth of those kinds of days. Maybe our blogs and facebook pages and tweets and vineagramchats would be more interesting, at least worth reading.

Walking the Fine Lines of Leadership

Leadership is a world unto itself.

Just walk through Barnes & Noble or do a quick search on for leadership books (over 130,000 results).

Then you have all the different kinds of leadership, or at least the sectors in which a person may lead: education, church, non-profit, fortune 500 companies, etc.

I myself am concerned with the non-profit sector, especially church and education. What I’ve discovered is there are innumerable fine lines of leadership.

For instance…

– Where’s the line between leading and appeasing? When do I go from caring about someone’s opinion to catering to that same opinion?

– Where’s the line between shepherding and babying? When do I go from helping guide someone through a situation to holding their hands, feeding them, burping them?

– Where’s the line between requesting and rebuking? When do I go from making an ask or urging involvement to reprimanding?

There are better, smarter, wiser leaders who have answers to these questions, and I’m sure collectively the blogosphere could have a field day with questions like these. But it doesn’t change the fact that every leader, no matter the sector, has to walk these lines and know when and where and how to cross them.


Does Hell Know Your Name?

It’s a weird question for sure, but a necessary one.

Is there an active, ongoing conversation amongst the devil and demons (yes, I believe) regarding the fact that you’re making their job harder?

In other words, is hell concerned that you’re making it too hard for darkness and evil to reign supreme around you?

Are committee meetings being held to talk about how you will be slowed down, put down, or cut down?

There’s an incredible account in Acts 19:11-20 from which I gleaned this question, does hell know your name.

Paul and others have been preaching with Spirit-empowered boldness and courage. It’s said in Acts 17 that they’ve “turned the world upside down.” They had positioned themselves to be used by God in crazy ways.

And some who were familiar with the likes of Paul were capitalizing off his name and fame. In particular there were seven sons of a Jewish high priest going around town and casting out demons, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” So basically, “We don’t know this Jesus, but we like what he can do!”

These seven men come across a demon possessed man who isn’t impressed by their religious posture. And he certainly isn’t having any of their presuming on Jesus.

So when the seven feed this evil spirit their one-liner, he responds, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” Don’t you love that?!?

    Jesus we’re well aware of. We thought killing him was going to be enough, but turns out he really is the Son of God. And Paul, well we had him on our side for quite   some time, but then Jesus knocked him off his horse one day, and we’ve been trying to stop him ever since. But who in the heck are you?

Even hell can tell the posers from the real deal.

What’s most fascinating is that after the possessed man beats the seven guys bloody and sends them running away naked, people all around start repenting of their wicked ways and burning their Harry Potter books (sort of…witchcraft books).

God is going to use the faithful and the imposter, the proclaimers and the posers. You’re going to be used by God to spread the good news of the gospel. It’s really a matter of whether you do that on his side or if you’re the one who ends up bloodied, naked, and that’s how you point people to Jesus.

So, the question remains. Does hell know your name?


Pledging Allegiance In Word and Deed

Pledge of AllegianceIf I asked you what makes someone a citizen of a particular country, you would most naturally, and correctly, answer, “It’s where they were born.” That’s the simplest answer.

Now of course we can move to another country and go through the requisite process to become a citizen.

But what are we to say of those men and women who are born in a country, possess citizenship, and then betray that country?

What about the Timothy McVeigh’s who pledge allegiance to country with hand over heart, serve in the military, and then park a truck filled with explosives in front of a government building and blow it to smithereens?

Most countries call such actions treason. Punishable by death. Which basically says, “You’re no citizen of this country.”

So beyond birthplace, pledges, and oaths, it seems that behavior is of utmost importance in the discussion of citizenship.

How you behave says more about your allegiances than birthplace, pledge, or oath.

Does that same line of reasoning apply to the spiritual realm? What of those who pray a prayer, confess faith, are baptized, but who behave no more like a citizen of heaven than the devil?

In Philippians 1:27-30, the apostle Paul makes the case that one’s behavior is indicative of his true citizenship. He commands those who call themselves citizens of the kingdom of God, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” Our English translations don’t use the word citizens, but it’s there: “Only behave as citizens worthy of the gospel…”

Paul proceeds to list behaviors becoming of a citizen of heaven.

1. You stand firm (v.27)–like a soldier prepared for battle. The same word is used just prior in Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

If a soldier is prepared for the physical assaults of the enemy, shouldn’t a citizen of heaven be prepared for the assaults of hell? To push it further, isn’t it true that you know when and how you’re most likely to be attacked by the devil? A pet sin, private indulgence, proclivity towards a particular evil? You know it’s coming and yet you stand unprepared. That’s suicide.

Be prepared to stand firm against the specific attacks of the enemy.2.

2. You strive side by side (v.27)–like an athlete determined to be victorious. The word for strive is where we get our word athlete, so it makes sense to take advantage of the metaphor. In an age when there was no ‘tapping out’ in boxing or wrestling, he who lived won.

That’s why Paul takes this issue up elsewhere, such as 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Athletes discipline their bodies and train and diet and compete with utmost intensity. Why? For a perishable wreath. A bonus. An over-sized ring. A gold medal.

If an athlete will exercise such discipline for that which fades and is left behind when s/he dies, how crazy would it be for us to not train all the more for that which never fades?

We train together and run alongside one another, side by side. Paul says we do this “for the gospel,” but he isn’t saying we strive in order to attain the gospel. Rather, we strive ‘on behalf of’ the gospel mission and message. We run to the next person who needs to hear of Jesus. We discipline ourselves to flee from temptation. We shed sweat and blood in order to help rescue a teammate in need. Our citizenship drives our behaviors.


3. You show courage (v.28)–like the outcome is known. Your opponents can’t shake you because you know that Jesus has overcome the world. When your opponents see that you aren’t flinching, it’s a sign to them of their destruction and your salvation, their defeat and your sweet victory.

Who are these opponents?

– A friend who encourages you to seek vengeance against the guy who wronged you.

– A boss who asks yo to cut corners in order to increase profit margins.

– A husband who asks you to view pornography or act out pornographic fantasies.

Be not afraid. For you’ve not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. Jesus has overcome your opponent in that moment. Your victory and your salvation are from God.


4. You suffer for the sake of Christ (v.29)–like Christ himself suffered. Suffering comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. But one things must be made clear.

Having the 10 Commandments taken off the courthouse walls is not suffering. Not being able to pray out loud at a designated time in school is not suffering.

Our brothers and sisters around the world who are being beheaded, bombed, and raped, they may speak a better word as to what constitutes suffering.

The strange thing about the way Paul says it here is that “you should not only believe in him,” which translates, “you won’t JUST believe…you’ll go over and above belief…you will also suffer.” It’s counted as a grace to suffer for Christ. Blessed are the persecuted.

While the most intense sufferings have yet to reach the US, we do suffer by way of disease, decay, and death. And how we suffer says much of our allegiances. Can we say with Paul, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain!”? Do we bear on our bodies the marks of Christ?

Are you standing, striving, showing courage, suffering? These are behaviors that mark a citizen of the kingdom of God. What does your behavior say of your allegiances?

Good Will Hunting and God

One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is in Good Will Hunting (set in Boston, starring Bostonians Damon and Affleck–#GetBeard–#GoSox!!) when Sean, played by Robin Williams, is assuring Will Hunting, played by young Matt Damon, that all the events of his past are not his fault. Sean begins: “It’s not your fault.” Yeah, I know. “It’s not your fault.” I know. “No, no you don’t. It’s not your fault.” I know. “It’s not your fault…” Good.Will.Hunting.1997.XviD.DTS.CD3-WAF.avi_001529070

The scene goes on until Will breaks down and his otherwise tough facade crumbles.

What if someone approached you and repeatedly said, “You’re not God.” I know. “You’re not God.” Yeah, I know. “No, no you don’t. You’re not God.” I know!

I feel like that’s what God does to me when I respond in a less than stellar way to the unexpected.

So much of life is unexpected.

Unexpected circumstances, be they tragic or triumphant. Unexpected people, be they pleasant or petty. Consider how much of your life is spent encountering the unexpected.

I like routines, schedules, plans, and honestly, predictability. But God is constantly messing up my plan and schedule and the predictability of life. And how do I usually respond? Anger. Anxiety. Aggravation. A litany of alliterative A-words.

But what if, in all the  unexpected, God’s doing something better than my plan? What if he’s growing me through the unexpected in a way that just wouldn’t have happened if I got my way? Can I possibly bring this back around to Good Will Hunting? You bet I can.

Will didn’t expected anyone to ‘help’ him because he didn’t think he had a problem. Eventually the barriers were broken down, as I so passionately illustrated above. But even more unexpected was the change in Sean–the bearded Boston Red Sox fan therapist.

See, Sean hadn’t taken any chances or really lived life since his wife died a few years before. But his unexpected relationship with Will changed him. He tried to resist the impact Will was having on him, but after a while he embraced it and stepped out with a renewed sense of hope.

The next time your plans are interrupted or someone slows you down, take a breath and consider whether the God of the unexpected is trying to do something unexpected in your life.