Tag Archives: passion

Ten Words

(Edit: Be sure to read the follow-up to this post, One Life.)

I love deep questions, questions that make you think, questions that get to the core of who you really are and what matters to you.  I love it when my friends ask me those kind of questions and I love asking them in return, and one of my favorite questions both to consider for myself and to ask those around me is this:

If everyone in the world was listening to you for just one moment, long enough to say ten words, what ten words would you say?

It’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s worth the time and effort to come to a conclusion.  You have to boil down everything that matters most to you, everything you’ve ever wanted the people of the world to understand, into one simple phrase, but in doing so you begin to realize what it is exactly that matters most to you, what ten words you believe the world cannot do without.  For me, those words are as follows:

You only get one life.  Don’t waste yours on yourself.

There are so many more things I would say if I had the chance, things about God and love and what it means to be human and how much we all need each other and how little we often realize it, but that is the heart of soul of it; that is my passion.  My life is not about me.  Your life is not about you.  The world does not exist to make us happier people, we exist to make the world a better place, to make other’s lives fuller and happier, to exemplify Christ’s love until he returns to make the world into what it was always meant to be.  So I challenge you tonight to do two things.  First, think about your ten words.  Let the question roll around in your mind for a while, let it define and articulate the loves and the longings that are always at the center of your heart.  And second, think of one way that you can invest your life in someone else tomorrow, a way that you can influence their world for the better.  You’ll be glad that you did, because your life was made for more than you.  Don’t waste it on yourself.

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The Meh Generation

Ask someone what their passion is and most people will respond with a hobby, like, or interest.  “I’m passionate about writing,” they’ll tell you eagerly, or “I have a real passion for the poor”, but how many hours of struggle and frustration and exhilarating effort have they really dedicated to writing that novel or raising money for those orphans that they’re always talking about?  How many nights have they been unable to sleep because they can’t stop thinking about that project, that person, that injustice that consumes their mind?  How can we claim to be passionate for something when we spend all our lives doing just about everything else?

We’ve sliced the meaning of passion to ribbons and ripped all of the action out until the word is just a sliver of its former self.  To our generation, passion means to find something interesting or desirable, love means to enjoy, hate means to fail to enjoy, and awesome means mildly impressive.  We are a passive people, and the devaluing of our emotional vocabulary is just one symptom of the apathy in our hearts.  Deep down, we don’t want to do anything.  We don’t want to engage our hearts, we don’t want to engage our minds, and we don’t want to take action or responsibility for anything.  We want to sit back and watch, to just take life in, and as a result we don’t know what passion is anymore.

Here’s how a friend of mine put it: “‘Passively taking it all in’ is exactly the attitude and behavior that disappoints me most about my generation – and is something I try to discourage the next generation from doing. Hatred and vitriol may be more frightening, at the first sighting, but apathy is harder to combat and correct. Some refer to the collective problem as a Me Generation, but I’m slightly more afraid of a Meh Generation. At least narcissists exhibit human emotion.”

This phrase, “Generation Meh”, has been tacked onto twenty-somethings lately, and it’s  a perfect description of our greatest downfall.  We can hardly bring ourselves to do more than acknowledge something’s existence and express our approval or disapproval thereof.  We can’t be bothered to feel deeply about it, we can’t be bothered to think deeply about it, and we certainly can’t be bothered to do anything about it.  Most of our responses amount to little more than a dismissive “meh” and a change of topic, even if our “meh”s are sometimes put a little more eloquently than others.

In the days when emotions held weight, when people cared about things, passion meant something over and above the norm, an almost unbearable emotional reaction that lead to a physical response, such a strong desire for some goal that they would overcome any obstacle to reach it.  Now, when most of our emotional reactions and psychological responses are as bland as rice milk, any real mental and emotional engagement with anything is stronger than anything we’ve ever felt.  So we call it passion and talk about it for a while, and our friends say “that’s cool” or “good for you” until the emotions are gone and we’re still on the couch, our most pressing goal to keep doing what we’re doing and try not to be bored.  Words don’t change things, passionate people do, and until we reclaim true passion for the things that truly matter, we’ll never accomplish anything.  I pray that God will fill young Christians today with His Spirit, that He will revive our comatose hearts with a hunger for action, because I don’t want us to be remembered as a generation of indifference.  I want us to be remembered as the generation that made a difference.

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Day to Day

Lately, whenever anyone asks me about my passions, the only way I’ve been able to sum it up is that I love stories.  It doesn’t matter to me what form they’re in – books, poems, songs, plays, movies, TV shows – I just love to tell, hear, and revel in the beauty of a well-told story.  The stories that fascinate me the most, however, are the ones that people live out day to day all around me.  Our  lives are so intricate, so nuanced, every moment building off of the last and no two days the same.  It’s impossible to truly look around at the billions of stories being lived across the globe and not stand in awe of the Author who imagined them all.  All of our attempts to create fascinating worlds, complex characters, and beautiful endings are but a reflection of His utter creative mastery.  All of history, every story played out since time began, was the work of His infinite imagination, and I’m grateful for nothing more in this life than that He has given me just a fraction of that creativity.  If I’m not harnessing it for His glory, I am nothing, but if I live day to day seeking to guide my story by His truth and turn as many of my fellow characters toward their Author as I can, my life couldn’t be more meaningful.  Tonight, I just want to worship our great Author for all that He is, and encourage you to do the same.

This is all for You, God, the Author of the greatest story ever told.   May you always gain glory, not just from the words that I write, but from the thoughts that I treasure, the activities into which I pour myself, and the influence I exert on the world around me.

I love You.

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Pathos: Robert Wallace

Robert Wallace is my next door neighbor in the dorm I call home, and he is both a talented musician and bold-hearted lover of Christ. Find out how he would change the world – and maybe accidentally destroy it – in this week’s Pathos interview.

The Author’s Apprentice: What is your greatest passion? How are you using that?

Robert Wallace: This question plagues me often. At first glance I would say music, but this does not cover it. I really want to use music as a tool to encourage and exhort. Lots of my friends at Moody Bible Institute surpass me in musicality. Though few of them share my same passion to specifically direct it towards uplifting believers and travel extensively while doing it. Adventure paces in my heart. I cannot put it to sleep. So perhaps I will eventually search out the far-forgotten places of this country. If not I’ll settle down with my wife and have 20 children or so – that would be an adventure!

TAA: If everyone in the world gathered around to hear you speak for five minutes, what would you tell them?

RW: They would not understand me. If they did, I would tell them all to jump at the same time – just to see what would happen. On a more serious note, I would exclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them!

TAA: If it was up to you to change the world, how would you go about it?

RW: I would help plant a church movement in Chicago that would multiply itself every 2-3 years. I would help plant a church next to every stop on the “L”. After that, I would do the same in every other “Alpha” city in the world. (http://northshorecrossing.org/)

TAA: Who are your heroes? Why do they inspire you?

RW: Systematically I have heroes and then see how flawed they are in some aspect of their character. The greatest example of this is electric bass virtuoso, Victor Wooten; incredible player, amazing talent, horrible spiritual ideas.
However, probably the most continuing “hero” that I have (besides Christ) would be a friend of mine from high school, Nate. He is four years older than me. Seeming to possess all the creative juices the human race has in one body, he taught me a lot about music philosophy and how to be cool in general.

TAA: What is your favorite thing about being a student at Moody? The biggest challenge?

RW: Favorite thing about Moody – the intense classes.
Least favorite thing – the intense classes.

TAA: How can the readers of The Author’s Apprentice pray for you?

RW: Pray that I would learn to manage my time in a God respecting way and that I can encourage those around me.

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Pathos: Jay Lauser

This week on Pathos, I had the privilege of interviewing Jay Lauser, the creator and administrator of the Holy Worlds Christian Fantasy Forum.  Jay is a man with an obvious love for God, an equally apparent passion for excellence, and many firm, grounded convictions.  Be sure to swing by his website, Sir Emeth, after you read the interview, and if you’re an author or reader of Christian fantasy, give the Holy Worlds Forum a look – it’s pretty much amazing.  Now, without further ado, Jay Lauser:
The Author’s Apprentice: What is your greatest passion?
Jay Lauser: This question is kind of like those annoying “what is your favorite book” questions. There are two reasons I don’t like those. One is that I have a ridiculously hard time picking a favorite of anything, and the other is that of course the Bible is my favorite, hands down. Everything else is leagues below it.
Thankfully, my greatest passion is much easier. My greatest passion is to serve and glorify God, but the unique vision and calling that He has given me is much more specific than that. Thus that fundamental passion is expressed through my subordinate passion of Liberty. Liberty in thought, in lexicology, in government, in family, in church, everywhere. I tend to focus most on liberty in lexicology, though.
See, I define liberty a bit differently than most people. I define it as the freedom to do what is right. So liberty in lexicology would be freedom from sophist lies and manipulations of communication so that we can articulate ourselves clearly and effectively for the glory of God.
This over-arching passion links together and drives everything I do.
TAA: If it was up to you to change the world, how would you go about it?
JL: Depends on what I wanted to change about it. * chuckles * But I guess that is kind of an implied question there, so I will answer both.
I would like to change the way people think and make them all agree with me, of course. But since even God doesn’t do that, I guess that isn’t really an option. And besides, it really isn’t that good of an idea anyways.
But if you leave that out, you are left with few other options. Mostly everything is tied directly to people’s own decisions about things. And I can’t change those.
Above all, I would like to change the fact that there isn’t a nation on the planet that exists in a state that is based completely off of the Bible and nothing else. America was pretty close when it was founded, but it fell short back then, and now it is even farther from that ideal. This world needs a nation dedicated to God in every facet of its existence.
Of course a lot of people would like that too, but few would consider it possible. I think it is, though, and I also think it is a worthy goal. There are several options for how to go about making it become a reality, but I think the most likely to succeed is also the most risky: gathering a large group of like-minded individuals, moving to an uninhabited location, and setting up a new nation. Far-fetched, but plausible, with the right preparation.
TAA: What gave you the idea for Holy Worlds?
JL: Haha, well it was a combination of two things, mostly. First off, I got tired of repeating myself when I talked to my friends about my fantasy world, and figured it would be a good idea to put them all in one spot for them all to read for themselves. Secondly, I figured they would probably like to do the same things as well, and not only just so I could read them. I figured they would like to read about each other’s as well. So a forum was the natural solution.
And since I already knew about forum management from my previous forum experiences (on Liberty’s Light and the Rebelution forums), I was able to get it off to a good start.
TAA: What is one lesson that you’ve learned through working on Holy Worlds?
JL: That you can’t do stuff by yourself.
People like to congratulate and thank me because Holy Worlds is such a great place. And it is. But I didn’t do it. Yes, I got it off to a good start, and set up the rules and guidelines that made it tick, but forums like Holy Worlds and the communities that go with them don’t just pop up out of nowhere. The fact that we haven’t had a single unruly member that we have had to delete or even warn in the year and 200 members we have so far is a miracle, plain and simple.
The work that goes into maintaining it is also quite simply impossible for me to do by myself. Even a tiny part of it is impractical for me to handle. That is why I am eternally grateful to my wonderful, amazing forum team. They have got us through some tough times and sticky situations very ably, and I completely trust them with my forum. Again, a team like that just doesn’t come from nowhere: they are a blessing from God.
TAA: If you had the world gathered around to listen to you for five minutes, what would you tell them?
JL: “Please back off: I don’t have room to breathe!”
Just kidding. I would probably start off with an illustration disconnected with anything and then move into an impassioned speech on something I have no idea about. It is difficult talking to people about anything when you know that there are thousands of people in your audience that know many times more than you in most subjects you could talk about, and that only a couple people would be interested in the other stuff. * chuckles *
But I think the most effective thing I could possibly do would be to talk about worldviews, and how only the Christian worldview can possibly be internally consistent, basing it off of Jason Lisle’s incredible talk on the subject. It might get a couple million people thinking at least. 🙂
TAA: Who are your heroes and why?
JL: My biggest hero is William Wilberforce, although there are several other men that I look up to and follow after quite assiduously.
I picked him because he is so much like what I want to be: a man who defied the cultural expectations of his day and persevered in not only one grand object of his life, but in several. He impacted the world like few other men have done, and we are still enjoying the blessings that are from his life. He not only brought about the abolition of slavery in England, but brought about a massive revolution of morals in England which spread to the States, setting an amazing example of God’s power wrought in one man in modern times. We have no excuses.
My father is my largest hero other than Wilberforce. I trust and rely on him implicitly, and respect his skills, knowledge, understanding, and devotion to God as I do no other living man. I am extremely blessed by his presence in my life, and for how he has put up with all the troubles I have given him over the years.
TAA: How can the readers of The Author’s Apprentice pray for you?
JL: Well my greatest weakness, surprisingly enough, considering all the projects I start, is laziness. I have to work real hard to … make myself work hard. Which is pretty awkward when you think about it. Haha. So prayer on that point would be greatly appreciated by me (and, I am sure, by all the people I delegate stuff to, haha).

 

 

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Pathos: Adam Swensen

Earlier this week, my friend Adam Swensen interviewed me for a post on his blog, The Next Generation, the first in his new weekly series called “Fire-starters”.  I really caught onto his vision for the series, and with his permission I’ve decided to start a similar series of weekly posts here on The Author’s Apprentice called “Pathos” (Greek for “passion”) featuring interviews with Christians who want to be used by God in big ways.  This week, I interviewed none other than Adam Swensen, a teenager who is incredibly passionate about God, people, and justice.

The Author’s Apprentice: If you only had one day left to live, what would you do and why?

Adam Swensen: I think I would put out a blog and vlog stating my situation. I would tell everyone I could that I love them.  I would definitely hang out with my family.  I would pass on my blog to someone to continue writing.  I would definitely make sure everyone knows that I love them.

TAA: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?

AS: I would definitely become friends with homeless people, former slaves, kids that think about suicide, and the kids with no friends.  I really can’t say that I have one way I want to change the world, but I would like to begin speaking and seeing our generation rise!

TAA: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?

AS: I would definitely change my habit of procrastinating and wasting time.  Time wasting and procrastination are my worst enemies.  I wish I was more organized.  I have begun in the process of changing those things… lemme tell you, it is tough!

TAA: Who are your heroes and what about them inspires you?

AS: Zach Hunter and E.J. Swanson are my heroes.  When Zach was 12, he became aware that there are still slaves – 27 million to be exact. Well he didn’t just sit and weep for those 27 million.  He went out and did something.  Through the course of events, he became the global spokesperson for Amazing Change, an organization founded through the movie Amazing Grace.  He started a student campaign called Loose Change to Loosen Chains.  It is student-run, and exists as a money raiser for organizations fighting slavery.  He has written 3 books (his first one when he was 15) and he is still a teen! That in itself is inspirational. He did all those things that ADULTS are doing, and he is just a teen! He is evidence God will use us if we are open to it.
E.J. Swanson is my adult hero.  He is a nationally known speaker.  He has shared the stage with Big Daddy Weave, David Crowder Band, and many more and he is only 26!  The way he invests in teens is exactly how I want to.  He is very inspiring and encourages teens to do big things!

TAA: What do you want your life and ministry to look like in 5 years? 15 years? At the end of your life? What are you doing today to bring that about?

AS: In five years, I would like to have started speaking in churches all over and be used by God to MOVE my generation. In 15 years, I would like to see myself as a known author of several books, still glorifying God, and still being used by him! At the end of my life I want to be able to look back and KNOW I was used by God. As of right now, I am writing blogs, preaching whenever I can, and investing what I can into others.

TAA: What is your passion?

AS: My passion is to be used by the BIG God we have! When I die, I want to die KNOWING I stood for something, and I want people to see that!

TAA: What makes you angry?

AS: Social injustices make me angry. Whether it is unfairness at work, a guy disrespecting a girl, bullying, or slavery! I was born a sensitive person and can’t stand to see people go through stuff that is not right.

TAA: If everyone in the world gathered together to listen to you speak for five minutes, what would you say to them?

AS: I would tell the Christians to MOVE! I would tell them that we have the same power that rose Christ from the dead, we just need to use it! When we learn to use it, our lives will begin to be lived as more of what Christ lived! For the unbelievers, I would tell them they are loved and that there is a God who can’t stand for them to live without seeing Him! I would tell them that HE IS THEIR HOPE and nothing else will satisfy! I would hope that the Christians would also take that to heart.  I am seeing more and more Christians falling in to sex, drugs, and alcohol. WE HAVE THE LOVE OF GOD IN US!  He should and can satisfy us alone!

TAA: How can we pray for you?

AS: You can pray for me that I would be used by God and that I would be open to His will. I need direction as to what to do after high school. I also need prayer for the elimination of my time wasting and procrastination habits!

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A Love That Feels

Why is it so easy for Christians to be suspicious of emotions?  Let me explain: last Saturday I attended a meeting of Prayer House, a group of young people who meet for three hours every week in Grand Rapids to worship and pray.  As I listened to them singing and praying, I noticed the emotions begin to run high.  The prayers were powerful and the music moving, people lifted up their hands and even wept.  It really was beautiful, but my gut response was doubt.  “Are these people just putting on a show?” a voice in the back of my mind asked.  “Are they sincere?  Or are they just looking for an emotional high?”  As I examined myself, I could see that the seat of my suspicion was in the cynical, legalistic part of me, the part that insists that following God is a dry business of just doing the right things in the right order and staying away from sin.  But as I listened to two young women sharing their thoughts about God’s love, I was reminded that God gave us our emotions, and just like everything else he built into our beings they are there for one purpose: to love and praise him.  God has been pursuing us from the beginning of time.  He loves us with a fierce, jealous, passionate, emotional love.  He sings and he weeps over us.  So maybe there’s nothing wrong with the man standing in the corner, his hands raised and eyes teary with gratitude  to the God who gave His Son to save him.  Maybe the problem lies with my broken perspective on what loving God looks like.  Sure, emotions come and go, and we can’t depend on a warm feeling to keep us close to God.  But how could our hearts not be moved when we think of how deeply God treasures us?  How could we not think about him like a lover obsesses over their beloved, trying to find every possible way to bring a smile to his face – the way he thinks of us?  How could we refuse to give him our love in return, a love that weeps when we hurt him and rejoices to see him honored?  A love that touches the deepest emotions of our hearts and harnesses them for his praise and glory.  God asks us to love him not only with our minds and our strength, but with all of our heart and soul.  He has created us for this great romance, and he has done all within his power to win our hearts.  Have you surrendered to the overpowering wonder of his love – a love that can both unleash the deepest emotions of our souls and carry us through the times when they run dry because we know that he still loves us the same?  Have you opened your heart to a love that feels?

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