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Resolutions and restrictions are for seasons, not a whole life.

You’re Not A Slave To Your Resolutions

When I was in college, I was determined to never drink a drop of alcohol. Now, I always have a bottle of red wine to crack open when friends come over and enjoy a great cocktail. 

What changed? Did I fail in my resolution?

The first answer? I did. The second? Both yes and no. 

I had very, very good reasons for not drinking back then, ones that I still respect and hold in high regard. Those were protective boundaries at the time. But as I got older, matured, became more disciplined, I didn’t need those same types of borders. While I still have strong restrictions on how often I drink, how much I can consume before cutting myself off, etc., I can now enjoy a glass of wine at a vineyard or a cocktail at a cool new bar with zero guilt. 

Some would look at this as failed resolve. But should we be slaves to the same set of restrictions and resolutions for our entire life? Or, should they grow and change as we do to fit each season? I think the latter. 

Another example is my high school resolution to never watch ‘R’ rated movies. (Note: Unless discussing something that explicitly is sinful, I veer away from the word ‘never’ now when discussing things I will or won’t do.) I still have guardrails on the entertainment I consume (largely governed by what it’s doing to my heart and relationship with Christ on any given day), but that boundary is no longer in place. After all, there are many good, teaching movies that are rated ‘R’ for their own reasons. (13 Hours? Passion of the Christ? Ring a bell?) 

And this is not just subtraction. I have ADDED resolutions and restrictions over the past years. I try my hardest to be off social media at least a day a week and try to keep my phone off for large portions of that day as well. I’ve learned over the years what technology does to me, and that “restriction” is a way of fighting back against it. 

When I became a vegetarian, I added a “restriction” against meat into my life. My life has been a cycle of added and subtracted resolutions and restrictions. Don’t hear what I’m not saying: Guardrails are good, necessary, and Biblical. We just need the right ones to fit each season. 

So I first look to Scripture and attempt to apply the guardrails it contains to my life. Then, where there is freedom in deciding, I try to make the decisions that best fit me in that season. Godly people have a lot of freedom, so lets not become slaves to rigid, never changing resolutions that were never even placed upon us.

hands typing on desk with text

5 Positive Impacts of COVID-19

How long has your community been in some sort of lockdown or quarantine? It’s been over six months for my area. 

What began as a doable “15 Days to Stop the Spread” campaign turned into a harder-than-expected cycle of lockdowns, isolation, and disruption of routines. As things begin to open, talking heads are professing this to be the “new normal,” but there is NOTHING normal about this season – it’s just weird. One day we’ll be back to normal(ish), but right now we live in the weird. 

But thankfully the worst type of weird can bring some good things with it. In an attempt to stir up gratitude within me, here are 5 positive impacts of COVID-19: 

MOTIVATION TO TURN MY HOUSE INTO A HOME

I had been in my house for less than four months when COVID-19 struck. And as the weeks since then have passed, it’s motivated me to get boxes unpacked, walls decorated, furniture rearranged, and really turn the space where I live into a home. It’s made me think more deeply about things like my workspace, how to keep everything cozy without being cluttered, and how best to arrange the space when hosting (something I have happily been able to do, albeit in small groups, throughout COVID). 

TIME SPENT WITH PETS

I have a rescue dog with separation anxiety, and my sister’s anxious little dog also lives with me. It has been so good for both of them to have so much time with me, and I have loved it. While it might be a little bit more challenging during work meetings (they don’t quite grasp my need for them to stay quiet during my Zoom meetings), being able to curl up on the couch and write while they sleep at my feet is a delight. 

LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOKS

I reignited a childhood love of reading a year or two ago. I LOVE books. But there are so many other things pulling for my attention on a daily basis. Having a lot of the special events, regular meetings, and reoccurring calendar items canceled has opened up time that (when using my self-discipline to keep me away from Criminal Minds on Netflix) can be used to devour book after book. 

EXTRA TIME TO FOCUS ON HEALTH

My commute is gone, and my time to get ready every day has been slashed. This means that when I don’t sleep well, I can really focus on getting enough sleep by setting my alarm for later. It means that I have the time every day to get a really good workout in. I have the time to cook healthy meals. And, if I’m not getting enough steps in during the day, I can pace around my house while on that conference call with zero judgment. 

NEW PERSPECTIVE ON THE ROUTINES AND OBLIGATIONS I TAKE FOR GRANTED

I miss my alarm going off earlier than preferred on the weekend to wake me up for church. I miss a commute that guaranteed carved out time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I miss regularly meeting with others in the evenings, even if I was exhausted from the day. COVID-19 has breathed new appreciation into these regular happenings, an appreciation I would not have had otherwise. 

How about you – are there things that you can be grateful for, even in this weird and awful season? Let me know in the comments!

text with night highway

Out-of-Sorts Humility Is Spiritually Dangerous

“But what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place.” 

Thus was G.K. Chesterton’s diagnosis in Orthodoxy, and it’s an odd one to be sure. For all of our letterboard worthy sayings about humility, we really don’t have a humble culture to start, much less one where humility seems to be in the wrong place. (Side note, “Stay humble,” is an odd saying – have you ever met a human who really needed to STAY humble? I’ve only met ones who need to humble themselves, self included) 

But following Chesterton’s train of thought for a little bit longer is illuminating: 

“Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert – himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason.” 

Oh. Wow. Isn’t that blunt truth? 

If we pull the curtains back and stare a little deeper into the darkest parts of society, we will recognize that humility lives in a home that we should have never let it move into. It now dwells in our convictions. 

We were designed to humble ourselves, to recognize our fallibility and neediness, to turn to One who is greater, and to deeply hold onto the truths and convictions that carry us. Instead, we now put deep faith in ourselves, our glory, and our ability, and we hold loosely to convictions. (And we loosen our grip even more when speaking them to others, as our wishy-washy disclaimers like, “That’s just what I think,” or, “Whatever works for you,” convey.)

Chesterton’s conclusion of where this road will lead is accurate: 

“We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced. The meek do inherit the earth; but the modern skeptics are too meek even to claim their inheritance.” 

This out-of-sorts humility is spiritually dangerous. Believing in self above all and holding firm to nothing will lead to our downfall. We must humble ourselves and hold deeply to well-rooted beliefs if we want to grow or see this world change. If we refuse to do so, we will lose anyone who is made strong through deep and guiding conviction as we gain those who have no foundation outside of their thoughts about their own self.

Would we give thanks for fleas?

Would We Give Thanks For Fleas?

I recently read a short biography about the ten Boom sisters, Betsie and Corrie. While these godly Dutch women and the way they lived, even in Nazi concentration camps, is wholeheartedly inspirational, there is one story about their faith that always blows me away. 

Corrie and Betsie were in their 50s when they were shipped off to concentration camps after hiding Jews in their home during World War II. While Corrie would eventually be released and live past 90, Betsie would later succumb to illness in the camp. But while they were there, the sisters were determined to make the most of their suffering, sharing the Gospel and the love of Christ as much as they possibly could. 

While Corrie and Betsie are both giants in the faith, the type of women I aspire to be, thankfulness and forgiveness came to Betsie very, very quickly, while for Corrie it often took more time. At one point when they had been moved into horrifying conditions, a rancid bunkhouse crammed full of hundreds more women than the capacity allowed for, Betsie encouraged Corrie to still give thanks for everything that was around them. For being kept together, for the proclamation of the Gospel, and for something unexpected: Betsie told Corrie to give thanks for the fleas. 

And give thanks for the little creatures that made their lives more miserable, they did. 

Weeks went by, and the ten Boom sisters wondered why the little worship services and Bible studies that they held in their bunkhouse were never broken up by guards who would certainly dole out even more brutal treatment as punishment. In fact, guards simply never stopped by during these times. 

Finally, the sisters learned what was keeping the guards out of the bunkhouse. The Nazis were worried about picking up fleas. 

The burden that they still gave thanks for became one of their greatest God-given blessings and defenses. 

Scripture calls us to have thankful and grateful hearts, praising the Father in all things. Am I the type of woman who would give thanks even for the fleas? I know I’m not right now, but that’s who I want to become.

shadowed photo with text

Groaning To Gratitude

A few nights ago, I pulled into a parking lot. I was on the phone with someone, listing my problems and groaning about how the day had gone. 

An hour later, I was driving out of that parking lot. I was struck with the sunset. The city lights starting to flicker on. The feeling of being ALIVE. 

A deeply rooted gratitude that just started flowing out into prayer. And that simple shift from groaning about my life to thanking God because of all the things that I could still be grateful for radically shifted the trajectory of my evening. 

A day or two later, a newsletter I’m subscribed to included this very timely quote from Maya Angelou: 

“Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards, and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this… So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

While Angelou’s words ring true, Scripture is even simpler: 

“Rejoice always…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18).” 

Groaning and grumbling and complaining stacks up, but so does gratitude. They both impact our hearts, but only one turns our hearts toward joy, toward Christ. Shifting from groaning to gratitude is a choice – let’s choose it.

signing of the declaration with text

What Can Hamilton Teach Us About Learning?

For the past few weeks, one word has taken over the internet and the dinner table conversation across the country: HAMILTON. 

An on-demand world means that Broadway has now entered our living rooms, and the release of the live recorded production of Hamilton on Disney+ is the most recent development. However, this one show isn’t set apart simply because of its innovative music or diverse cast, but because it is based on historical events. While not perfectly factual, it documents the beginning of American independence by focusing on one Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. 

(Full disclosure, I have the soundtrack playing in the background as I write this. The music is VERY good.) 

Now, there are certainly people who watched Hamilton and took it at surface level. They watched it, were entertained, and then turned it off and walked away without another thought. And that’s okay. 

But the musical sparked curiosity in the minds of others. What were the actual political stances taken by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton? Why was Angelica so excited about Common Sense by Thomas Paine? After rapping about it so much, what role did the Marquis de Lafayette actually play in the French Revolution? 

In this capacity, Hamilton serves as a case study on learning. It doesn’t matter what form knowledge comes in – what matters is what is gained from it. If having rap music on repeat can drill important pieces of American history into our heads, all the better. But maybe we all can learn much through not only music, but movies, poems, art, podcasts, or anything other than lengthy books. 

To be sure, we should always fact check what we are learning, no matter the source. Alternative forms of learning can often take artistic liberties that make the facts less precise. But once we make sure our facts are in order, these resources are wonderful tools in growing our understanding of the world. 

We live in a culture where constant learning is undervalued. If things like Hamilton can help change that, we should be all for it. 

Kelvey's April - June 2020 reading picks

The Quarterly Reading Roundup: 2020 Q2

Anddd we’re back! As you know, this year I’ve started a new series (but can it really be called a series when it only occurs four times a year?) that highlights some of the best books I read every three months. 

Here are my picks from quarter two of 2020: 

The Vanishing American Adult by Senator Ben Sasse

To be totally honest, I’m wrapping this book up right now. But Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) is not only my favorite person in Congress – he is also an amazing author and historian. His diagnosis of America’s coming-of-age crisis is analytical and accurate, and his ideas on how to chart a new course are phenomenal. As a young adult, this book has left me not only thinking about how I want to raise my future children but how I can set a better path forward for myself even though I’m already in my twenties. 

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson

I am desperately in need of grace at every single moment of my life, and Wilson writes for those of us followers of Jesus who are thankful that Jesus has it all together because we know we never will. I don’t usually quote Amazon summaries, but a line about this book (from the Amazon link above) was accurate: “For the believer who is tired of quasi-spiritual life hacks being passed off as true, down-and-dirty discipleship, here is a discipleship book that isn’t afraid to be honest about the mess we call real life.” 

50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren W. Wiersbe

To start with just a small critique, the targeted audience for this book is obviously pastors and many of the people featured are pastors most of us have not heard about. However, even with that knowledge, this book was extremely encouraging. I loved being able to read short biographies of so many giants in the faith, and have resources listed if I wanted to learn more about specific figures. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, so we should allow their lives to urge us on. 

What books are you reading?

crates with white text

Let’s Take Ideas Out Of Their Boxes

Okay, pop quiz. What box would you place the following ideas in? 

The best solution for hate speech is more speech, not less. 

Demilitarize the police. 

Excessive and wasteful taxation is theft. 

Climate change is a real problem. 

The right to bear arms shall not be infringed. 

Drug legalization/decriminalization would lead to a more equitable criminal justice system. 

Religious liberty should be protected. 

Immigrants built America and we should knock down barriers to legal immigration. 

Free markets lead to freer people. 

Okay, what boxes did these check? Liberal? Conservative? Libertarian? 

I don’t know – I pulled them all at random from a box titled “Kelvey’s political beliefs.” 

Have you noticed that shoving ideas into strict boxes makes us reluctant to pull from the boxes that wear labels we don’t like? We prejudge the idea based on what it falls under instead of on the merit of the idea itself. 

Instead of right or wrong, factual or nonsensical, reasonable or radical, we let the labels do the talking. And these labels often make us swerve away from an idea if we deem it too out-of-step with the rest of the boxes we like to dig through. 

And you all know the feeling of agreeing with an idea that is boxed in with a label you don’t like. You cringe a little bit, wondering, “Did I really agree with something that ____ thinks?” 

We like our boxes because it takes the hard work of analyzing ideas one-by-one away. It’s much easier to sort boxes than it is to sort all their contents. It allows us to lazily claim whole boxes as our own instead of pulling together a worldview composed of individual ideas. 

Let’s make things harder on ourselves. Let’s think some more. Let’s take ideas out of their boxes. They were never supposed to be labeled and sorted like this anyway.

Just because you're moving and living doesn't mean you're growing or progressing.

All Motion Is Not Progress

Smack dab in the middle of a public education policy diagnostic summary, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) writes in The Vanishing American Adult, “All motion is not progress.” 

Simple. Profound. True. 

Have you noticed that humans tend to act like we’re sharks? While some sharks are certainly able to stop moving and still get oxygen, there are many species that must keep moving in order to pass water through their gills and get oxygen. If they stop moving, they stop breathing. They move just to stay alive. 

We often act like the latter. 

We think that as long as we keep moving, we’re living, even progressing. Whether this is in the personal habits of the everyday citizen or in the halls of Congress, mere action is equated to growth and improvement. But is that accurate?

Motion isn’t necessarily progress. Pulling from a larger perspective, just because Congress passes a bill does not mean things are progressing or improving. The bill could certainly be (and often is) something that is burdensome and regressive, offering more problems than solutions. 

On a personal level, just because we’re going through our days and weeks does not mean we are progressing at all. How many of us get to the end of these time periods, wonder what we actually accomplished, and write it off as okay? I know I am too often at peace with stasis instead of analyzing it for opportunity to actually move forward. 

Movement doesn’t mean that something is actually happening, changing. We need to, I need to, start questioning ourselves on this idea. Where are we going through the motions in our lives, expecting that to propel us forward? Where are our lives static? Where do we need to compel ac? 

Left to our own devices, we would all fall into meaningless motions and become blind to the lack of progress those actions produce. Let’s challenge ourselves to become more intentional in our ways, our motion, and look forward to the growth that produces.

state of justice with text

The Place Where Perfect Justice Lives

Right now I’m angry, furious. 

Angry at injustice, angry at authoritarian policy, angry at the government, angry at the moments where I feel uncomfortable in the midst of all this, angry at people who inflict violence in their anger, angry at people who think that others have no right to be angry. It’s often not a righteous anger, but it feels good to hold onto it, like something steadfast in the midst of all this.

While preaching on Micah 6:8, my pastor defined injustice well: Injustice is sin with power. It’s taking something that already stands in defiance to the ways of God and layering more weight upon the victim through their powerlessness. And Micah 6:8 summarizes God’s direction for His people on their response to such injustice: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (emphasis added)”

The pursuit of justice in America is worthy. And the pursuit feels good. Every conversation, every written word, every bit of legislative advocacy, every moment spent processing how my heart needs to change on the subject of justice, especially justice for black Americans, feels like following through on the Phillippians 4:8 call to dwell on the true, noble, and right.

But in the midst of this, I’ve had the lyrics to Slain by Beautiful Eulogy running through my mind. You should listen to the full song, but this specific excerpt has dwelt side-by-side with Scripture in my heart lately:

Let’s also talk about the throne where perfect justice is /

It sounds insensitive and some will hate the stench of it /

But the church is not faithful if we fail to mention it /

We worship a God who can speak to the world’s pain /

Pure salvation for us came through the Lamb who was slain

Injustice exists because sin does. To be sure, I’m not using that line as an excuse to sit back and wash our hands over the push for social reform. Sin is the cause of every evil we see in society, and yet we still pursue legislative reform for things. 

But what you and I and all of us need to be reminded of is that there is only one place where perfect justice lives. There is only one place that will ever see injustice totally slain and righteousness falling like rain. There is only one place where perfect love and kindness dwell. 

That’s before the throne of God. As we pursue justice in America, let us also be faithful to declare the God who is perfectly just and the Savior who bore that justice so that we might be shown mercy.