dord (dôrd), n. density of mind; chiefly exhibited by one who attempts to demonstrate supposed knowledge --adj. dord'ish


Saying Goodbye

Two months ago was a time of saying goodbye. It's hard to say goodbye.

But I realized that it's hard because I have been given so much to be thankful for. It's not hard to say goodbye to people you don't love... I'm reminded of Tennyson's words, "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

After spending the last five years in school as an undergraduate, I decided last year to pursue graduate school; last spring I decided to go to a new school in a new state. I'd be not only starting at a new school, but starting life in a new city away from the family and friends that I had grown up and become close with. And so the time came to leave Akron, the only home I'd ever known. 

I've moved. But where one chapter ends another begins. And in God's grace, beginning a new chapter doesn't mean that the previous one is lost.

Because the gift of modern technologies takes some of the bite out of distance. Airplanes can bring one home from hundreds of miles for holidays. Skype can bring people together face to face from hundreds of miles at a minute's notice.

Because even though the dynamics of relationships inevitably change, the bonds of strong relationships aren't severed by distance.

Because there is That Day. Even when Christians say goodbye, never to meet again on this earth, what is regained for eternity can never be called lost.


And now again, the time has come to say goodbye, to leave Dord Defined, the only blogging home I've ever known. I've moved. But where one chapter ends another begins. I'll continue the conversation as we Journey Til That Day

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A Tragedy in the Making

You may not be sure that you want your life to make a difference. Maybe you don't care very much whether you make a lasting difference for the sake of something great. You just want people to like you. If people would just like being around you, you'd be satisfied. Or if you could just have a good job with a good wife, or husband, and a couple of good kids and a nice car and long weekends and a few good friends, a fun retirement, and a quick and easy death, and no hell--if you could have all of that (even without God)--you would be satisfied. That is a tragedy in the making. A wasted life.

John Piper
That's why I read Don't Waste Your Life every summer. That, and so many other paragraphs like it.



Officially a Graduate

My diploma just came in the mail. I always hated it when people talked about going through school just to get a piece of paper. Thankfully, the last five years were about much more than a little paper diploma. Here are some highlights... five years, five lists.

5 Things I Survived Undergrad Without (as in zero... yes, it is possible)
Student Loans
Wireless Internet on my laptop

4 Reasons God Kept Me Home for Undergrad (always easier to see in hindsight)
I learned a lot by being more involved in my local church after high school
Eighteen years was not enough time to appreciate the blessings of family
After all those years of praying for a brother, it was too early to leave
Commuting saves loads of money... and keeps home-cookin'

3 Courses I Didn't Think I'd Survive (each of which ended up becoming a favorite)
Intro to Ordinary Differential Equations
Spanish Composition

2 Spiritual Lessons I Learned (among many)
Apart from the grace of God, I can do nothing
Learning a lesson once does not mean that I will not need to learn it again

1 Truth That Makes Me Want to Laugh And Cry (and just thank God)
"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." (Proverbs 19:21)



Cross Road

I’m at a crossroad – a big one. I could choose option A or B or C. Quite literally I could turn north or south – or neither.

Life seems to be a series of crossroads. The options now before me have come partly as a result of past choices. The choice I make now will affect future options – when still more choices will still have to be made. Each road at a crossroad leads to another crossroad. The number of branches becomes dizzying.

What will I choose? Where will it take me? Where will I end up?

I want answers. This is important stuff here – it’s my life.

Is it?

“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:19-20)

That changes my perspective. My life is not my own. But…

What will I choose? Where will it take me? Where will I end up?

I want answers. I want to see.

The answer doesn’t come as I wanted it to. I don’t see further down each branch of the road. Instead, I see the road itself with new eyes: I’m not at a crossroad; I’m on the cross road.

What will I choose? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Where will it take me? “Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24)

Where will I end up? “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Rev. 21:3)

I want to see. “They shall see his face.” (Rev. 22:4)

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There and Back Again

In the last 18 days, I...

...was out of town or traveling for all but 6
(and tried to stay on top of school at the same time)
...flew for the first time
(and I'm not joking)
...missed a connecting flight for the first time
(but was put on another one and made it to my hotel room by 1am)
...walked 40 minutes to church because I decided against taking a taxi
(but got a return ride from a great guy I met after the service)
...walked a mile to find ground transportation
(but used the underground shuttle the next time)
...experienced heavy turbulence for the first time
(and found that it's like jolting around on on old roller coaster)
...drove a full tank of gas without stopping for the first time
(and made it 420 miles, from the local gas station to the one at my destination)
...set personal records for travel to the north and the west
(and came close to a personal record for travel to the south)

...concluded that, wherever I live on this earth, Akron will always be home
(no buts or ands)



Finally Starting read what is said to be one of the greatest books penned by man.

The irony is that, today, reading the Institutes seems to be viewed as something that only theology nerds or super-spiritual Christians actually do -- whereas Calvin wrote the book as an introduction to the Christian faith.



Kevin DeYoung on "Christianity and McLarenism"

Some of you may have noticed a little box on my sidebar, just under the blogroll. It's a nifty feature that's part of Google Reader, whereby I can choose to "share" certain posts by other bloggers. I've used it for almost two years now, with two main purposes in mind: (1) To share notable blog posts with others (2) to provide easy access to posts that I may want to find again later.

But this post isn't about Google Reader. I say all of the above to explain why I so rarely make my own post to recommend another blogger's post: I just share it with Google Reader. This time, however, I wanted to provide a stronger recommendation than just clicking "share."

No group can exist without a devil, McLaren says at one point (175). This is probably true. In which case I suggest the best devil is the devil. But for McLaren, the devil appears to be fundamentalist conservatives.
--Kevin DeYoung
I first heard of Kevin DeYoung a few years back when he co-wrote Why We're Not Emergent with Ted Kluck. Although I have not read the book, I remember it making some waves (in a good way).

But over the past year I've really come to appreciate Kevin -- reading his new book Just Do Something, hearing him speak at Next (where he'll be speaking again this year), and keeping up with his blog (via Google Reader, of course) -- not only doctrinally, but also because he is insightfully witty. Case in point: the above quote. [Note: Blogger is telling me that insightfully is not a word. Maybe that would make him wittily insightful.]

This week he has put together an insightful (yes, witty too) review of Brian McLaren's new book, A New Kind of Christianity. I strongly recommend it to you. Even if you've never heard of Brian McLaren, you will face liberal Christian arguments in some form or another, and DeYoung does an excellent job deconstructing them.

CHRISTIANITY AND MCLARENISM: Ten Questions and Ten Problems



I Must Be An Adult

Here are a few reasons why:

I like sour cream on a lot of things
I refuse to eat donuts or sugared cereals at breakfast
I have to set aside time to sort through piles of mail
I spend leisure time cleaning/organizing my room
I cannot remember anything about my birthday this past year

Do you suspect that you are an adult?



Too Fruitful?

“Is it possible to have too much fruit and not enough productivity?” That was the question raised by Laedelas in response to the last post.

It started me thinking (or kept me thinking -- you might call this Round 2), and I found my response to be far too long for a comment. Thus, this post!

Clearly, I'm no expert, and I hope people will call me out if my answers are unbiblical (or just plain don't make sense). After a lot of thinking...

I propose that there are three main categories of "not enough productivity"
(1) Reasons unknown and/or beyond our control (priorities are right and responsibilities stewarded, but the results aren't there)
(2) Inefficiencies that are being or will be appropriately addressed (we all have these)
(3) Laziness, misplaced priorities, etc

So Laedelas, if I understand your question, you're not talking about (1) or (2), because you mentioned "too much fruit" in conjunction with “not enough productivity” -- a problem of priorities (not mere inefficiencies) that hasn't been personally addressed. I talked about overemphasizing productivity and ignoring fruitfulness in the first post, so I think you're asking: what happens when they are switched? What does it look like to overreact?

Can we emphasize fruitfulness and relationships to the point of being unproductive (and ultimately irresponsible)? Yes. But would I call that situation one with "too much fruit"? No. I can't think of any Biblical reason to say that one could have too much [real] fruit.

So if there is "not enough" productivity in sense (1) or (2), I don't think it could be attributed to any manner of over-fruitfulness. If it's in the sense of (3), caused by a person suddenly becoming obsessed with producing fruit and ignoring productivity*, I would question whether one is truly being fruitful. And therein is the irony: instead of being fruitful, the focus fallen on producing fruit. It's just an over-spiritualized re-invention of the productivity obsession.

Productivity and fruitfulness aren't meant to be an either-or. I argued in the last post that one can have "productivity" without having any fruitfulness. But I don't think that one can have fruitfulness without having productivity*, because fruitfulness is neither an abstract idea nor a pursuit unto itself, but comes as our lives image forth the character of God in all that we do. Fruitfulness can come while productively displaying creativity and integrity and patience... the list goes on.

The testimony of a person who over-emphasizes productivity in the typical American sense might be, "He gets a lot accomplished, but he doesn't have time to truly care about you." The testimony of a person who over-emphasizes productivity in the over-spiritualized sense might be, "He says he cares about you, but he doesn't have time to practically put actions behind the words or to practically fulfill his responsibilities." The testimony is not really any better when it is one of irresponsibility in the name of relationships. In fact, it's probably worse for the hypocrisy.

Proverbs says "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches" (22:1). One thing I've been thinking about in regards to fruitfulness is that our testimony is far more important than racking up the longest (checked-off) checklist. I think we're fruitful not in people seeing our lives and attributing it to ourselves (much like accomplishments, etc), but in people seeing our lives and attributing it to God. But must someone attribute it to God for us to be truly fruitful? It's important that this happen, yes -- we must guard against thinking that we will honor God without anyone else ever needing to know that he deserves credit, but fruitfulness can't ultimately be judged by others or ourselves. Others might never attribute our lives to God. They might never recognize that God has changed our priorities and our lives.

This is tough, because we want to see results. More than tough, it's part of our problem, because we want a way to deem ourselves worthy. But it is no better to replace "Look how productive I've been!" with "Look how fruitful I've been!" as the boast we want to make. It's not a matter of switching priorities from short-term "to-dos" to long-term relationships -- still with our eyes and hearts set on this life. If fruitfulness is judged by God from an eternal perspective (and everything that matters is), and if we can’t produce it, then we have no boast in ourselves.

So life gets tricky, because it's not a matter simply of choosing to spend time with the family instead of working on my checklist. This makes me desperate for God, because my choosing certain priorities for my time doesn't guarantee productivity or fruitfulness.

I want to be productive, but in a way that shows that my treasure is in heaven, not on earth. I want to be fruitful, but in a way that my fruitfulness is not the focus. I want to have a good name, but in a way that my name is not on people's lips, but rather "the name that is above every name" (Phil. 2:9).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ saves me not only from God's wrath, but also from a wasted life -- and not only from a wasted life, but also from having to make myself good enough to be able to stop wasting it.

*in a Biblical sense, not according to the world's expectations



Productivity and Fruitfulness

Our culture talks a lot about productivity. We Christians do too -- at least, I do. Let me give a recent personal example: I wasn't as productive over Christmas break as I had planned to be. True statement. Disappointing, too, considering I have had to play some catch-up since then. So yes, it's disappointing in a sense, yet I don't regret the way I spent my time over break. Why? As I've jokingly told some people over the last week, I suppose that to be more productive I should've spent less time with family and friends. (After all, it's only Christmastime.)

Bottom line: yes, the way I chose to spend my time was less productive than it could've been. But was it less fruitful?

I've been starting to ponder the difference between productivity and fruitfulness. Have you ever noticed that the Bible talks a whole lot more about one than the other? But wait, maybe that's just due to the translators' choice for English wording. I don't have the academic credentials to definitively state otherwise, but I don't think the difference is that simple for one reason: the English words aren't considered to be synonymous, and translators pick up on such things.

I think the difference is more than just semantics.

Trying to measure the effects of our choices is difficult, in some ways even impossible. But here's my thought: we view productivity as generally measurable, while fruitfulness often isn't (not in the short term, anyway). Because of this, I think the American tendency to strive for measurable results pushes us as Christians to give more thought and effort to our productivity than to our fruitfulness.

Am I saying that productivity is bad? Or that I will never again plan out ways to be productive? No and no. Productivity is good. But I think that if it's not sought in tandem with fruitfulness, it becomes ultimately worthless.

Unless you're in a planning meeting, simply spending time with people -- accomplishing nothing in particular -- is not done to be productive. (Either that, or relationships are viewed for their business potential in some kind of what-will-I-be-able-to-get-out-of-this-person-later attitude.) But I think that fruitfulness comes by investing in relationships. That's why I don't regret bumping my to-dos down the priority list to spend extra time with family and friends over the past month.

As an extreme example, think of a workaholic. Would you call him productive? Probably. (Look at all of the results he gets in his job!) Would you call him fruitful? No. His life and priorities are totally out balance. He is totally neglecting relationships -- with God and with everyone else.

We've all heard the old saying that no one says on his deathbed, "I wish I'd spent more time at the office." The idea isn't that a person realizes that he was unproductive. Looking at his life as a tree, perhaps the tree has grown large and can be seen from afar. Not only that, but the lawn around it has been carefully manicured, and a fence has been built around it to keep out intruders. But as one looks at the tree, it becomes clear that the tree itself is barren. Completely. It's impressive, it's noticeable, but the few pieces of fruit that once hung from its branches long ago shriveled and fell to the ground from neglect. That is what we might call a very productive, completely unfruitful life. Too easily, it's the American life -- not just for "them" but for us too.