Character and Open Doors

In All the Places to Go John Ortberg writes on discerning the will of God. He says,

God’s primary will for your life is not the achievements you accrue; it’s the person you become. God’s primary will for your life is not what job you ought to take; it’s not primarily situational or circumstantial. It’s not mainly the city where you live or whether you get married or what house you ought to be in. God’s primary will for your life is that you become a magnificent person in his image, somebody with the character of Jesus. That is God’s main will for your life. No circumstance can prevent that.

We all understand that, especially parents. If you’re a parent, would you want the kind of kids you have to tell their whole lives, “Wear these clothes. Take these classes. Go to that school. Apply for this job. Marry that person. Purchase this house,” and you always have them do exactly what you tell them as long as they live? (“No” is the correct answer here. No, you wouldn’t want that.)

Why? Because your main goal is not for them to be little robots that carry out instructions; your goal is that they become people of great character and judgment. The only way for them to do that is to make lots and lots of decisions. Of course, that means they’ll make a lot of the wrong decisions. That becomes a primary way they learn.

Very often God’s will for you will be “I want you to decide,” because decision making is an indispensable part of character formation. God is primarily in the character-forming business, not the circumstance-shaping business.

And God is in the open-door business. This means a new way of looking at God. He prefers yes to no. He loves adventure and opportunity. This means a new way of looking at life. I do not have to be afraid of failure. I do not have to live in fear over circumstance. Each moment is an opportunity to look for a door that opens up into God and his presence.

This means a new way of looking at myself. I am no longer limited by my smallness and weakness. The God who opens the door to me is also the God who knows how small and weak I am.

Four Reasons for Sacrifice

There are a few key reasons people make sacrifices:

Someone is making me. “You may not go outside and play until you’ve cleaned your room.”

There’s something in it for me. “If you don’t eat ice cream for a month, I’ll give you a hundred dollars.”

I want to help someone else. “I’ll give you half my sandwich so you don’t have to be hungry.”

I believe in the cause. “I’ll stand outside in the cold in front of the grocery store and picket because I think it’s important for people to know the injustice of the system.”

Believing in a cause or vision doesn’t always result in radical behavior, yet it does often require sacrifice. But when you’re working toward something that you believe in, the sacrifice is always worth it.

Your Two Lists

Everyone (you and I definitely included) has at least two very specific, very opposite lists—you likely haven’t written the lists down, but they’re probably in your head.

The first list, the list we grumble about and try to avoid, is a list of activities that take our energy. Often and unfortunately, the items on this list are non-negotiable. They take time and effort, and though maybe they’re not essential, doing them certainly improves quality of life (think cleaning the bathroom and taking out the trash).

The second list, the list we spend time dreaming about and rushing to do, is a list of activities that give us energy. Most of the time, the things on this list aren’t exactly crucial (crucial = eating, sleeping) to everyday existence. But time breezes by when you’re doing them, and they always result in increased . . .

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A Night at the Art Institute

Thursday nights the Art Institute of Chicago is free to residents of Illinois. In an attempt to become more cultured I’ve started to take advantage of this perk. According to the website, there are nearly 300,000 works of art “in fields ranging from Chinese bronzes to contemporary design and from textiles to installation art.” Based on the rest of my research, it’s somewhere around a million square feet—but for some odd reason, sources are cagey on that one.

As you know, I really love to watch people and then categorize them. And there are lots of fascinating types of people at an art museum.

Stop and Stare: Their family members go through an entire wing in the time . . .

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Tripping on a Pothole Pt. 2

I love hearing from anyone who is faithful and kind enough to read my blog. After Tripping on a Pothole, I heard from lots of you.

No, I’m not injured. No, I don’t think I’ll sue the city for negligence. The suit wouldn’t take anyways, as one of you says, “I’m pretty sure the city thinks it’s not a real pothole unless they can’t see the top of your head if you’re standing in it.”

In addition to your kind and caring words, I also received a photo of a pothole on the Chicago bike path. The city had the decency to mark this one—which they did with great zeal.



Friday Night: A Vignette

A few interesting people I’ve seen in Chicago this week.

  • Tuesday after work, a lady talking on the phone walked past me. I heard her say, “I’ll do anything to keep my mind off of what’s going to happen on Friday.”

  • Thursday night, a man carrying a to-go container dropped it on the ground. His chicken wings and parmesan brussels sprouts spilled all over the sidewalk.

  • Friday afternoon, a well-dressed man sprinted into a busy street, chasing a balloon. His seven-year-old daughter, wearing a flower crown, waited patiently on the sidewalk for him to retrieve the balloon.

  • Friday evening, a biker cut through a line of parked cars to the sidewalk. Miscalculating the three-inch curb, he flew over his handlebars and barely caught himself on his palms.

Four seemingly unconnected events—but if they were in one of my stories . . .

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Tripping on a Pothole

Occasionally, utter humiliation is probably healthy.

Today, I was crossing a busy Chicago street in front of a silver Mercedes. While checking the bike lane, I stepped deep into a pothole. Catapulting forward, I did that thing where you’re scrambling on your palms, trying not to completely fall over. My water bottle flew out of my hand and my heels went flying up.

The Mercedes pulled up as I skulked over to the sidewalk, and the driver leaned over and asked,

“Hey, are you okay?”

“Yeah,” brief pause. “I’m fine. Just hurt my pride.”

He grinned.

“I thought you were going down hard!”

I tried to say something pseudo-coherent, but probably failed. He drove off, and another guy crossed the street to ask if I was alright.

Guess maybe I’m not all that and a bag of muffins. Just another Tuesday.

See that crater-sized pothole? My dignity is somewhere in that pit.

See that crater-sized pothole? My dignity is somewhere in that pit.

Your Two Choices

You know the feeling—the first time in your professional career you worked really, really hard on something. You stayed late after work for two weeks, poured hours and hours of energy and heart into the project, and drove all your friends crazy because you wouldn’t talk about anything else.

Finally, deadline day rolled around. You printed off the proposal, took the inevitable my-firstborn-child-is-going-to- . . .

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Networking (or, Learning as a Team)

Networking: (v.) a professional term for making friends and then shamelessly using them to learn things and get places in life.

Today, I had the privilege of sitting in on a discussion with several peers in the communications field as they discussed where they’ve gone since college, and what they’ve learned in the process. Everyone has a different story, and hearing insightful people unpack what they’ve learned is a valuable experience.

My four biggest takeaways . . .

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(Pt. 2) A Failed Blog Post: It Wasn't a Failure!

I’m so thankful for every one of you who faithfully engages with me on this blog. You bear with me through the days where I make sense, and also the days where I don’t (I figure it’s about a 50/50 split, maybe 60/40 if I’ve had plenty of sleep). Occasionally, some of you even let me know what you think—which I love!

After A Failed Blog Post, one of you said what I was trying to say 1,000x better than I ever could have—so well, in fact, that . . .

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