Saturday, December 19, 2009


May be I am turning out to be a scrooge, but I grow weary of Christmas commercials during this time of year. The message we receive is that buying that perfect gift will make everything right. In particular, it appears that jewelry creates a one-way path to good relationships.  My thought is, may be if you thought about her and made sacrifices during the other 364 days of the year, you would not have to jeopardize your financial future for a relationship-saving piece of jewelry.

Right now I am reading “Predictably Irrational” by MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely. In this book, he tells a story about a guy who harvested black pearls from an East Asian island. Unfortunately, he was unable to sell them to anyone on the island; no one thought they were valuable. Eventually, someone put them in the window of a swanky New York department store with a high price tag. Only then did they become extremely valuable and start showing up on the streets. Ariely says that these pearls show how often products are given arbitrary value. If they would have made their debut on a Wal-Mart rack, the story may have been different.

In I Corinthians 10, Paul told the Corinthians twice to flee from idolatry (which is the worship of created things). He says that these “valuable” items are nothing. Instead, Paul wrote that Christians should seek the good of others and the glory of God.

I am not trying to say that everyone should stop giving each other gifts for Christmas. I think it is a good practice that reminds us what it is to give. I am merely saying that real value comes from the relationships God has given us. Thinking a perfect gift will repair a relationship or make us whole is wishful thinking.

Friday, December 18, 2009


For the past few months, my roommate (not the guy in the picture) has been training to run marathons. He ran the San Antonio half-marathon, now he is training to run the full Austin marathon in February. I started the training for a half about this time last year, but I sprained my ankle with not enough time to recover and prepare for the race.

It seems to me that training for a marathon brings with it a whole host of difficulty. It is not just the difficulty of completing the training (which can be complicated by weather, especially this time of year), it is also dealing with the pains and injuries that accompany such a task. Although he has not encountered a significant injury like a sprain, he has had sore feet, chins, back, and legs. We went to 3 stores before we could find a strap that is supposed to hold his knee in place during long runs.

Overall, it just seems like the body is not made for such abuse. Although it is made for a significant amount of physical exercise, it seems like marathon-type distances are in excess to it’s normal functions. I guess that is why comparatively few people run marathons. It takes a lot of determination. I still want to do it someday, may be next year.

In I Corinthians, Paul compares spiritual striving to physical training. He says that he runs in such a way to win the prize. He works his body into doing that which is not natural, ignoring it’s aches and pains. He has an all-encompassing purpose, to live as Christ lived.

I often wonder what it would look like if Christian people started to treat our spirituality in such a way? What if we broke a sweat trying to force our weak flesh into better service to God? It seems that many of us are like me, once sidelined by a sprain and unwilling to return to action. What would it look like for you to beat your spiritually weak flesh into submission? How would life be different?