A Life of Greatness is Meant to Appear Ordinary

“Better to be ordinary and work for a living
    than act important and starve in the process.” Proverbs 12:9

In Zack Eswine’s book, The Imperfect Pastor, he writes something similar to this: Long for greatness, dear Christian, but surrender your definition of extraordinary to the one Jesus supplies. To begin with we must embrace this one important truth: obscurity and greatness are not opposites.

Jesus is into the ordinary; He is of Nazareth. Place matters, even if it is small and somewhat despised. He said to His disciples (Luke 7:44): “Do you see this woman?” He saw Matthew at a tax table, a little man up a tree, and noticed the unnoticed in a crowd. Are we so focused on the “great” on our phones that we can’t see the greatness of potential right under our noses?

Jesus seems to avoid fame, yet was great. “Everyone is looking for you,” His disciples declared as if He was in the wrong. He wasn’t tweeting, blogging, or promoting His services. Jesus wasn’t acting important and starving in the process. Whereas I wanted fame, yet was kept ordinary, over time Eswine’s message affirmed God’s grace to us to whom ordinary is fitting.

Do you possess a stamina for going unnoticed by children, children in law, or your peers? Do you possess a spirituality to do a 1,000 unknown acts of kindness in a small place for God’s glory?

Here is what the living take to heart at a funeral of a person, who lived a truly great life: they loved well and faithfully kept their vows day in and out; they showed mercy by noticed the faces of those around them; and they generously gave away their opportunities for fake greatness for the privilege of true greatness – loving well.

How? Great people realized on the front end that the Gospel is true for themselves personally. Let me put it this way: you have already been discovered as the great and adorable person you are in Christ, which frees you up to go discover others in the same light today.

“Better to be ordinary and work for a living than act important and starve in the process.”

See Zachary Eswine’s The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus (Crossway, 2015)

I=Phones and I-dentity: 5 Ways You May be Missing Out

We use social media via our phone, which becomes an extension of ourselves and cared for as our own hand. Why? We don’t want to miss out! When we become slaves to our phones we are missing out on human flourishing. What are we missing out on? These writers and commentators caution us about five ways we may be missing out.

1. Missing out on Identity Formation?

“We spend so much time these days, I think, looking for external validation— with our carefully crafted Instagrams, clever postings, perfect pictures, counting our likes, favorites, followers and friends— that it’s easy to avoid the big questions: Who am I? Am I doing the right thing? Am I the kind of person I want to be?”

“Katie Couric to Grads: Get Yourself Noticed,” Time magazine (May 18, 2015).

2. Missing out on deep conversation and thought?

Alan Jacobs, “I’m Thinking It Over,” The American Conservative, theamericanconservative.com (Jan. 4, 2016).

3. Missing out on freedom of choice?

Andrew Sherwood, “The Sweet Freedom of Ditching My Smartphone,” All Things for Good, garrettkell.com (Jan. 21, 2016).

4. Missing out on the purpose for which we exist?

John Piper, “Six Wrong Reasons to Check Your Phone in the Morning: And a Better Way Forward,” Desiring God, desiringGod.org (June 6, 2015).

5. Missing out on solitude with God for the sake of more loneliness?

Tony Reinke, in his book 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), summarized how using social media is causing more loneliness:

“The bottom line: technology bends us in a centripetal direction, pulling us toward a central habitat of loneliness and filling our lives with habits that benefit the stakeholders who seek to monetize our attention (p.128).”

Katie Couric seems to agree:

“Social media [and] Constant connectivity can leave you feeling isolated and disconnected. Do not be seduced by the false intimacy of social media.”

“Katie Couric to Grads: Get Yourself Noticed,” Time magazine (May 18, 2015).


I’m on vacation. I played with grandchildren this morning and worked out in a Lifetime Gym, and ended up sitting in a whirlpool counseling a broken man pleading for hope from me.

Back at my daughter’s home, and we just heard my son in law (a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America) is with a couple in a hospital grieving the loss of their one year old daughter. Yesterday we left my oldest son’s home with a hug and a tear after we spent a weekend grieving over the anniversary of the loss of their daughter (my granddaughter; Elizabeth Joy).

Emily Dickinson describes hope as a bird (“the thing with feathers”) that perches in the soul. There, it sings wordlessly and without pause. The song of hope sounds sweetest “in the Gale,” and it would require a terrifying storm to ever “abash the little Bird / That kept so many warm.” Dickinson says that she has heard the bird of hope “in the chillest land— / and on the strangest Sea—”, but never, no matter how extreme the conditions, did it ever ask for a single crumb from her.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash
the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
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What Men Avoid

Men avoid shame, but may sense shame whenever our inadequacy or our glory is seen by the eyes we long to be admired by.

Men are passively or actively avoiding the shame of inadequacy (since the curse on masculinity in Genesis 3) and the glory of tender strength (love) required for war against Evil (faith), and required for rescue in a world of chaos and meaninglessness (hope).

The range from passive to active avoidance may be thought of as a continuum of four types of males in search for significance, with a fifth type to circle back the types. (This is commonly taught in various ways in upper level counseling courses.)

(Most Passive)—-Little Boy—-Good Boy—-Distant Boy—-Macho Boy (Most Active)—-(Added fifth to encircle)—-Seductive Boy (the sexual variant).*

All types seek to diminish their shame and to deaden their longings (glory) in order to keep “safe” and in control by some form of contempt – either directed towards others or themselves.

Men, who are passively or actively avoiding shame, must be called out of hiding by the strong voice of kindness and invited into the Gospel-transformation process that empowers men to walk out on to the battlefield against spiritually dark forces at work in a world now marked by chaos and meaninglessness; men are called out to let their tears, longings, and Christ be their strength.

Calling out Masculine Glory: A Significant Life in Christ

Men are best called out by older Gospel men into three directions: first, to cease silence & avoidance in order to speak an honest story with courageous naming of both inadequacy and glory in Christ. second, to repentance, which begins with an invitation to embrace sorrow & grief over the damage done by Evil. Third, to rise up in faith, hope, & love: moving us productively back into the burned over dirt caused by Evil (faith), moving us resiliently forward towards a new day and bright future (hope), and moving us courageously into intimacy and community in the ongoing war to compassionately rescue others (love).

*Dan Allender and Larry Crabb lectures significantly influenced me on this subject ever since I was enrolled in their courses around 1987-1989. They are not responsible for how I express or work it out, but ought to be honored for the way Christians have been greatly helped in the area  of gender shame and glory.