35@35: Completion

crossing-the-finish-line-1-dr-diva-verdunSo last year I had a goal to write 35 blog posts, using the 35 principles and guidelines for life that I have been gathering during my adult life. I didn't meet that goal. I got through 26, but my schedule just didn't allow me to finish. So, in an effort to follow through (at least to some degree) on that 2015 goal, I'm going to post the rest of my principles and guidelines. Here goes:

27. You improve what you measure.

If you want something to be 'better' in your life, then you need to figure out how to put some metrics around it so that you can determine growth. If I say 'I want to eat healthier', it's only going to happen if I have the ability to look at my performance and see whether there is growth. Am I eating more vegetables? Eating less cookie dough filled donuts? Reducing carbs/calories/fat? The first step to improvement is assessment.

28. My imperfection points to God’s greatness.

When I screw up, I tend to be pretty hard on myself. I am tempted to devalue my own self worth when I screw up. But God chooses to give me grace. So I try to do two things: accept God's grace, and thank Him for that grace. Because God is not threatened by my screw ups. And that just goes to demonstrate how wonderful and fatherly His love truly is.

29. Read a lot of books. You can never have to much outside perspective in your thinking process. When you stop learning, you stop growing.

I think that wisdom comes from having perspectives. We can each see through our own eyes, feel our own feelings, know our own desires, fears, hurts, passions, etc. Wisdom is understanding and appreciating those same things from the eyes of other people. Books are a great way to see through another person's eyes, and therefore to gain wisdom.

30. If you want your life to be different in five years, the question to ask yourself is "what am I doing today to make that happen"?

I knew a person once who wanted to be a professional musician. I asked her if she was taking voice lessons. No. I asked her if she was taking guitar lessons. No. I asked her if she was creating demos and sharing them online. No.

It dawned on me that she was simply hoping that one day, somebody would knock on her door and offer her a dream job, or that she would otherwise luck her way into that position. That's a terrible idea. If you want to work in a particular field in 5 years, I want to know what school you're enrolled in to take classes toward that field. If you want to be a mile away from your current life next year, I want to see the footsteps you took today. Wishing you were at a destination is pointless. Taking steps, even small ones, will move you closer and eventually get you there.

31. In your 20s, try anything and everything you think you might be interested in.

I see many young people going to college right out of high school and joining the workforce right out of that in the field where they got a degree. It's like a race to get in so you can start working your way up. But what if you figure out 10 or 20 years later that you hate what you're doing? That's why people have a mid life crisis. I think that in your 20s, you should travel, try different jobs, have as many experiences as you can. How can you know what you love until you start to discover things that you don't love.

I discovered that money was a much less powerful motivator for me that it was for others. I learned my passions and engaged with them fully and now I work at places where I love showing up each day. I may have seemed like a late bloomer, having not started college until several years after high school, but when I decided my course, I engaged it full steam. Take a moment to aim before you fire. That moment is your 20s.

32. You get what you pay for. (aka: I hate running, but I hate being out of shape even more.)

Pretty self explanatory. If you want something better than what you have, it will cost something. As Jesus said, count the cost. For me that cost is regular exercise, specifically running. I hate it, but if I don't pay that price, I won't get what I want.

33. There is no success or failure, there is only obedience.

Most of my principles are acquired (stolen) from other people of materials. This one particularly so. When my wife and I were in the process of purchasing a business (that would eventually fail), a friend at our church said this to us. It sounded a bit prophetic to me, and I didn't like it one bit because I intended to succeed. After everything came crashing down, I recalled this. It gave me hope, because I believed we had obeyed what we believed God had guided us to do. I don't have to accept the result as being my identity, and I can move forward without feeling like a total failure.

34. The path you take in life makes you who you are. Shortcuts aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

Related to my theory about trying anything you want in your 20s, the point in life is not the same as Youtube commenters yelling 'FIRST!'. Being first is overrated. First into a career. First to own a new expensive gadget.

My wife and I both settled on a long term career in our 30s. Part of us wants to kick ourselves for 'losing' 10 years we could have been investing in these fields, but I don't regret it.

We're very different from somebody fresh out of college learning a job. We bring experience and broader perspective with us. Here's how I think of it: Everybody set out for a particular campsite called 'life'. My wife and I took a long and winding path through the forest while most others took the paved footbath. We arrived much later than those who used the footpath, but we also have way better stories about things we saw in the forest, experiences we made it through, and the ability to navigate the forest again if the campsite has to be evacuated.

I know this is basically the plot of the Adam Sandler movie Click, but life is made up of the experiences you have along the way. Shortcuts usually have less experiences.

(Yes, I'm aware that this whole post is basically a short cut. Thank you for not pointing out my inconsistency :)

35. Think for yourself, but not only of yourself.

As somebody who highly values both faith and intellectual development, I have learned that both of those two area have strengths, and that they are not mutually exclusive.

Intellectual development helps me not to be subject to manipulation of others. I decide the things I believe. I don't just go along with people.

But faith has taught me the value of community. That allowing myself to be reliant on others isn't a sign of weakness. It allows me to gain more value out of life as I love and am loved. As I know and am known.

I work hard to never outsource my thinking to others, but I seek to invest in others and allow others to invest in me knowing that I can never reach my upper limits without others to help me get there.

Have a great 2015!


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #26: Hype vs Depth

ColorfulFireworksTC's guidelines and principles of life #26: "Motivation fades. Inspiration lasts." When I was getting my undergraduate degree from Christ for the Nations Bible College in Dallas, TX, I had to take a course called Evangelism.

The whole point of this course was learning how to convert people to Christianity.

For the final exam, I had to memorize a script, go into a neighborhood with several other classmates, and use this script to get people to accept Jesus into their lives.

I hated this whole concept. I felt that we had turned following Jesus into a cheap parlor trick of some kind. I decided to stay disengaged from this transactional approach to expanding God's kingdom.

I didn't know it at the time, but I believed that if you remove relationships with people out of the evangelism, it can quickly become very toxic. A game based solely on numbers rather than the relationships Jesus calls us to create as we 'make disciples'.

Because God is funny, the teacher of this class -out of dozens of teams - chose to embed herself into my group. So much for disengaging. I was going to have to stay involved in this exercise if I wanted to pass this class.

We walked through the streets of a particular neighborhood and met several people outside. Each time, one of us would go into the sales pitch we had been required to memorize.

Everybody we talked to prayed a prayer of salvation with us.

As we headed to the rally point, the other members of my team were celebrating the results of the day.

I felt no such joy.

I worried that we had turned God into a magic password.

Say Jesus and you get to go to heaven.

I have been to rallies designed to convince teenagers to give their lives to Christ at the end of amazing music, lights, and speaker.

I wonder what will happen to these kids when they return to their lives outside of that weekend.

I am a follower of Jesus. Not because somebody convinced me that the carrot of heaven is worth running after. Not because of a rally with great production values. Not because I just believe what my parents believe (I don't).

I am a follower of Jesus because I have caught a glimpse that the God who made everything in the universe also made me. He knows everything I have ever done, said or thought, yet loves me anyways.

Instead of being motivated to avoid hell, or shame, or being left out when everybody else is giving their life to Jesus at a rally, I have been inspired by the new, richer life that Jesus offers to me.

I don't follow Jesus out of fear or for a reward. I follow Jesus out of love and gratitude.

Hype, motivation - you can use these to get somebody to do something for a short period of time. Either you have to keep hyping and motivating them, or they'll fade away. Hype is like fireworks: beautiful and captivating, but quickly faded and forgotten.

Depth, inspiration - these things will last. These things change our lives. These are the impacts that Jesus had in the lives of those who encountered him. Inspiration is like the sun, constantly shining, giving us the ability rely on it day after day.

That is why he asks us to make disciples, not converts.

Fireworks light up the sky, and everybody enjoys them; but the Sun, with it's steady, constant glow gives life to all beneath it.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.


35@35 #25: Work Smarter

ikea-oopsTC's guidelines and principles of life #25: "If you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing, watch a Youtube demo video first." This one is one of my very practical lessons in life.

I'm not the kind of person who does a lot of 'instruction reading'. I'd rather try to figure it out on my own if possible. I'll also spend the time walking around a store to find what I want instead of just asking an employee.

I don't know why. It's one of my quirks. I'm stubborn.

However, I am also not mechanically inclined.

So when I had to fix my dryer about a year ago, this was a bad combination. Fortunately, I have discovered that pretty much every problem I ever encounter in life has a youtube instructional video.

Fixing the dryer? Check.

Building my son's new toy car? Check.

Putting together that new piece of Ikea furniture? Check.

So anytime I have to do something that involves assembly, I try to make sure I watch the Youtube video as soon as I get stuck, because otherwise, I will probably find out later on that I have to do some disassembly to fix what I've just done wrong.

You have the greatest compilation of human knowledge in the span of history at your fingertips, don't forget that.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #24: Anger

angry-coupleTC's guidelines and principles of life #24: "When you get angry, your IQ decreases by about 75%." I am a reasonably intelligent human being. And I strive to follow the healthy, helpful advice that Jesus gives me through the books his disciples wrote about him and what he said.

Jesus especially emphasized two things that he says I should do: Love God with all my being and love my neighbors as myself. I'm a bit of an introvert, and I was an only child, so I'm still learning to be good at the 'loving my neighbor' part.

I'm actually reading a book right now called 'The Art of Neighboring' that is challenging me and I'm already taking steps to better get to know the people who physically live closest to me.

But sometimes I get angry. And I've noticed something: that when I get angry, I stop caring about the things Jesus said.

I don't want to learn about why somebody else took a particular action.

I don't want to learn their story so I can value them more.

Usually, I just want to take the bad feeling inside me and shove it on top of somebody else.

So I argue or I yell or I just kind of act like a jerk.

I was at a gas station the other day when one guy started yelling and cussing at another guy because he didn't like where the other guy pulled up to the gas pump.

It made the guy who was yelling and cussing look pretty bad. He was being selfish and pretty unreasonable.

I wasn't angry, so I could see how ridiculous he was being. But I bet he didn't think he was acting foolishly. Because his IQ was down about 75% at the time.

When I get angry, I think 'not angry me' would look at me and think many of the same things. 'What's that guys problem? Doesn't he realize how bad he looks when he is doing that?'

In Ephesians 4:26, Paul relays a quote: "don't sin by letting anger control you." Later he says that anger gives the devil a foothold in our lives.

So when I'm angry, I try to shut up until I get over myself. Usually I try to remember to pray in those moments, knowing that God is able to help me deal with emotions that seem to be out of my control sometimes.

When I've got my wits about me, I can usually handle situations that come my way. So I try not to let anger steal those wits.

Another product of my personality is that I fear rejection. One of the temptations for me is to respond to rejection (or even perceived rejection) is to use anger as a shield.

It's pretty unhealthy, I know. That's why I do my best not to allow it to happen. Being willing to stay vulnerable in the face of rejection is not my favorite thing to do.

That's why I pray. Because, without God's help, it will be impossible for me.

So next time you get angry, remember that you're not just angry: you're angry and stupid. And when you're angry and stupid, it's probably best not to so something that smart, calm you will look at and say 'what's his/her problem?'



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.


35@35 #23: Criticism

ask-for-criticismTC's guidelines and principles of life #23: "When you criticize, you may be getting in the way of the Holy Spirit working in that person." As a pastor, I am never critical of any human being on the planet. Ever.

...but I know a guy named "CT" who can totally be critical of people. All the time. He's a terrible person.

See, what CT does (the terrible guy, totally not me) is he thinks he has the right to tell people the right and wrong way to do stuff.

What he keeps forgetting a couple things.

Here's what he forgets:

1. We can only keep people accountable to the level of relationship with them.

If I don't know you, I can't care about you more than just a general 'I love you as a person' or 'I love you as a fellow believer in Christ' kind of way. Until you know that I care about you as a person, you have no idea whether I have your best interest at heart when I start doling out 'advice'.

And CT has no idea what would help you grow closer to Jesus without having a relationship with you. Trying to keep people accountable cannot outstrip your personal relationship, because that's just being controlling, in a blind and ignorant way.

2. We can't keep somebody accountable without knowing their story.

What right do I...I mean does CT have to tell somebody what they should do if he doesn't even know their story? C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, talks about how foolish it is to judge people on the same set of rules. He talks about the principle that for me not to get high on heroin is not overly commendable, because I don't any kind of addiction or attraction toward that drug. But for somebody who spent years of their life getting high off it, not getting high is a huge deal, and God must be incredibly proud of them for their willingness to fight such a huge battle. Or if they got high once this week instead of 4 times, that would be awesome. Yet CT, in his foolishness, may think he has a right to say 'tsk, tsk' to the person who got high once instead of four times.

So when I start telling somebody what they should and shouldn't do without knowing their life story, I'm doing it out of a place of ignorance and uncaring. God interacts with us out of full knowledge and full love.

I want to be crazy enough to love people, and believe that the Holy Spirit can show people what God wants for them.

Jesus didn't generally around scolding or threatening people whose lives were a mess. He basically showed them what they were missing out on and invited them to stop missing out on it.

Do you know how many times Peter screwed up? And yet, at the end, Jesus is calling Peter to spread God's good news and care for his followers.

If Jesus is more interested in restoring and giving grace to Peter, maybe I should look for opportunities to do the same.

Even Paul, who can have a hard edge to his leadership at times says in Galatians 6:1 "if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path."

If we're to be gentle and humble with believers, who should know better, how loving should we be for those who have not even committed to following Jesus yet?

At no point should we fail to speak the truth in love, but speaking the truth without love (which is what criticism is) is perhaps worse still that just staying quiet.

So I'm going to go back to CT and gently and humbly suggest that we point people to Jesus without presuming to know what everybody else should do in every situation.

I hope he listens, but I guess I'll just have to trust that the Holy Spirit can work in his life.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #22: Standards

stock-footage-tape-measure-on-woodTC's guidelines and principles of life #22: "You get what you tolerate." A couple weeks ago, I read 'Boundaries for Leaders' by Henry Cloud. He said that leaders get what they build or what they allow.

It reminded me of how Walter Isaacson portrayed Steve Jobs in the eponymous biography he wrote of Jobs: that Jobs was ruthless about saying no to projects which were not in the framework of what he wanted to accomplish.

Isaacson spoke of how, when Jobs returned to Apple following his exile, he listened to a meeting where multiple projects were described to him before he cut everyone off and told them that, from that moment forward, Apple only made 4 products: Pro desktop, Consumer desktop, Pro laptop, and Consumer laptop.

Steve said no to anything else until they added mobile devices (iPod, iPhone, iPad) later on.

Apple made 4 devices, and they made them better than anyone else (I'm not an apple fanboy, and I say this point is not really up for debate).

Steve would not tolerate anything less than excellent, and he would not tolerate unnecessary competition between the teams at Apple. Everyone worked for the same goal.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke at an event a couple years ago about how he leads multi millionaire superstar basketball players when he coaches the olympic team. He said he doesn't give them rules to follow.

Instead, he gathers them together and asks them, together, to create the standards that he will hold the team to.

His job was not to tolerate anything less than the standards the players give. An example he included was that they would never have a bad practice.

Calling a team, or organization, or even ourselves to our highest ability is hard. We naturally seek the path of least resistance.

Only if we make the choice not to tolerate such things are we able to accomplish our highest aims.

What we say 'no' to is equally important to the things we say 'yes' to.

And we should probably say 'no' more often than we say 'yes' if we are to have the life, team or group we want.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.


35@35 #21: Mistakes

ist2_6028516-pencil-eraserTC's Guidelines and Principles of life #21: "If we’re not careful, we can become very good at doing the wrong things." I actually got this one from a TED talk at TEDxBaltimore in 2014.

The now former director of the Baltimore department of social services talked about how she came into the department with an eye towards improving all their metrics: adoption rate, response time to complaints, etc.

She led the department to huge improvements in all these areas. And the crowd clapped their approval to her.

But after these improvements, she said she started to ask herself a question: were they doing what was best for these kids and their families?

Wasn't it better to find ways to prevent families from getting to the place where kids are being removed from homes and given to other families?

Instead of being great at getting kids out and breaking families up, shouldn't they find ways to keep kids in and help families get healthy?

Nobody applauded as they realized she was completely right.

This story was a haunting tale for me. If you give me metrics and goals, I will work, innovate and lead toward those metrics and goals.

But what if I get there and discover they were the wrong goals all along?

So I spend a lot of time these days looking for multiple perspectives in any area where I am looking to make progress.

Simon Sinek's Start with Why TED talk has been helpful to me in this.

If I start with what I'm going to do, I can fill a sheet up before I even start thinking about whether those things will truly get me or my group to the place we want/need to be.

For me, this leadership application starts with the basic leadership we all engage in: leading ourselves.

Instead of asking 'what I should be doing in life' so that we can determine 'how we will do it', we've got to ask 'why will my life matter?'

If we applied this to a practical action, I would compare it to a painter.

Before deciding what tools, canvas and colors to use, the painter must know what he or she is painting.

Before deciding what s/he is painting, they must ascertain the purpose of the painting.

Is it going to hang in a museum or a corporate office? Is it supposed to inspire or intimidate?

Only once these essential facts are known can the artist pick up a tool and start to "get to work" without fear that they will finish the work and be horrified to learn that it was the wrong painting all along.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.



35@35 #20: What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

calvin_arguingTC's guidelines and principles for life #20: "Arguing never creates unity; but dialogue can." A couple nights ago, I took my two daughters camping. When we arrived at Assateague Island to camp on the beach with the wild ponies, we were greeted by gale force winds and buckets of rain coming down. The wind whipped pieces of sand that felt like we were being shot with tiny bbs all over.

We moved to another campsite with a bit more protection from the wind (that is, it had a few small brushes taking the edge off) and there was a bit of grass to keep the sand from blowing free at our tender flesh.

My oldest daughter wrapped herself in a blanket to gain some protection from the environment, then threw up as she come off the adrenaline rush of our initial setup attempt and were making a second go of it.

Wanting to give my daughters 'an adventure', I insisted we stick it out. I spent the next hour getting our tent set up. If the boy scouts have a merit badge for setting up a tent in adverse conditions, I demand that they send me one. I earned it.

After going to bed, the wind and rain picked up even more. Around 12:30, I woke up as a pole in the tent was intermittently striking me in the face because the tent was so waterlogged, it was losing its form. There was also a puddle growing in the other room of the tent because a small lake was forming under that part of our tent.

After 15 minutes, I made the call to pack in the camping trip and head home. We waiting for a break in the deluge, and I took my girls back to our truck, then returned to our pitch black campsite with a flashlight to pack up the tent.

On the drive home, I stopped at a gas station at 2am in order to get fill the tank, and decided to take my kids in to get some snacks to make up for our misfortune.

The attendant was a nice guy who had sleeve tats going down both arms.

As we were leaving, I told my oldest daughter that he probably thought I was a terrible Dad for taking my kids to a gas station at 2am in the morning on a weekday.

She looked at me and said 'Yeah, but he doesn't know what we just went through'.

I smiled widely at her and told her that she was absolutely right, and that we should keep this in mind next time we see somebody doing something that seems crazy or foolish.

Communication is so important.

We hear that a lot.

A good marriage requires communication.

Businesses engage in marketing so that they can effectively communicate with their customers and potential customers.

Teams must communicate effectively with one another.

Militaries need lines of communication even in battle.

One of the great values of communication is this: when we don't know the real story, we start to make up our own.

If the man at the gas station knew our story, he would probably have compassion rather than possibly thinking I'm a very irresponsible parent (though my wife says that the camping trip may go to prove that point, but I digress).

If we get to a place where we are telling people what they should think or say or do (arguing), chances are that we're not going to have much impact on them. But if we listen to their story, asking questions, and have dialogue, we may be able to inspire, encourage, and perhaps lend a hand in areas where it would be welcome.

Arguing, in my opinion, is a fairly selfish thing to do. It's all about us getting a chance to tell others how we feel.

Listening, creating dialogue is generous. It takes time, effort and vulnerability on our part. In our modern digital age, we have to be intentional about it, because we all know how fast Facebook comments can become argumentative.

One of the values we hold to at the church where I have the privilege of serving is that everyone should share their story.

Maybe the best thing we can do when we discover a place of disagreement with somebody is to say "Tell me your story."

Because only when we know another person's story will we be able to value them as a person and not just as an opposing opinion that must be defeated.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #19: Crockpots and Microwaves

crockpotTC’s Principles and Guidelines for Life #19: “God works more like a crockpot than a microwave.” I actually wrote a blog post on this one several years ago, and it became one of my own personal proverbs out of that process.

The bottom line is that we live in a day, age and society that often wants all of the rewards and none of the hard work.

If you want proof, just watch commercials on late night or mid-day TV.

We want to lose weight, so we want to buy a pill that will make it happen automatically, because dieting sucks.

We want money, so we need to hire a lawyer and take somebody else's money.

We want a more organized closet so instead of cleaning it out, we should buy vacuum sealing bags so we can fit more stuff in. Seriously.

I decided recently that I needed to eat a bit healthier. Eating healthier always seems like a good idea until the moment I have to put carrots into my shopping cart instead of potato chips.

Because it isn't easy. It takes work. I want to be healthy, but still eat all the junk food I want.

I think we can often treat our journey of faith, or just life in general this way.

We want all the benefits, and none of the hard work.

Maybe Jesus totally understands this, and that's why he said "If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine." (Luke 10:38)

God isn't fairy dust or magic potion or a get rich quick scheme.

A life of following Jesus is going to be an always developing journey. He won't 'fix' us when we open our heart to him. Instead, he will come in and live with us.

We don't become a ventriloquist puppet for God. We open ourselves to the maker of the universe who makes us spiritually alive, then he helps us to spread that life through the rest of who we are.

But he doesn't force it to happen. And he won't snap his fingers and remove the selfish urges and desires that live within us.

Over time, he'll work with us and in us to create a masterpiece. Adding spices here, stirring the pot there, putting in new ingredients when the time is right, letting heat and time do their work.

If we want to be fully and masterfully prepared, we must keep in mind that he is a patient chef. He uses ways that create richness, not salty, overheated garbage. God loves us too much to treat us that way.

But will we allow him to finish his work? That's the question we all have to face, especially when the process seems to be stretching out for an eternity.

Just because the chef doesn't seem to be constantly working on the dish in the crockpot doesn't mean he's making any mistakes.

Our job is simply to cooperate as much as possible, and not to give up.

Patience, after all, is one of the things he wants to instill in us.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23, emphasis mine)


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #18: Community

TC's Guidelines and Principles for Life #18: "There’s no such thing as the Christian Lone Ranger. You can't do it alone." I am a bit of a strange person. My personality (if you're familiar with the DiSC personality model) is primarily an I. That's the creative, outgoing, persuasive talking personality. The fun loving collaborator.

Yet I'm also an introvert. Not in the sense that I don't like being around people. Just that being around people uses my energy rather than charges me up. So when I'm around a bunch of people, I enjoy myself, but then I need to have some alone time afterwards to decompress.

It is easy for me to casual interactions in the crowd, and it is easy for me to withdraw and be alone.

What I have to put effort into is building real relationships with people.

This doesn't come naturally to me.

Year ago, I noticed this about myself, and I realized that I needed to do something about it. So I looked around my life and identified the person who I thought I could most likely create a deeper friendship with.

I needed somebody who was trustworthy, pragmatic, laid back and genuine. I asked him to join me for a coffee and I outlined what I wanted to do: form a friendship where we could help each other grow closer to Jesus.

Our friendship grew as we met every other week and just talked about life.

I would not be the husband, father, Christian or person I am today without that ongoing friendship.

The bottom line is that we need other perspectives in our lives. When things are going terribly, somebody who can give you a perspective of hope is so critically important. When things are going great, somebody who can ask you challenging questions keeps you grounded.

Books are a great way to gain other perspectives. Art, movies, they can also do this for you. But a person who knows all about you and where you're at is worth their weight in gold.

Trying to lead a life, especially one rooted in faith, is impossible without that. We become myopic, only able to see what is directly in front of us, never seeing the things that are around and behind.

Find people or groups of people who you can trust with the keys to your life. Invite them in so that they can give you other viewpoints which will help you as you move through life. And, of course, be willing to provide this to them.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #17: Devotion

PoiseTC's Guidelines and Principles for Life #17: "God doesn’t call us to a life of balanced devotion. He calls us to radical devotion." Aristotle tells us that in seeking virtue, we should avoid both excess and deficiency. For example: courage is good, but foolhardiness (excess) and cowardice (deficiency) are not.

I think, in general, there is value in heeding Aristotle's call. However, when it comes to our relationship with God, the thrust I see across the narratives of the books included in the Bible do not paint, to me, a picture of God wanting a balanced relationship with us.

Rather, I see a God who passionately and relentlessly pursues the people whom he loves.

In the Gospels, in the letters written by Paul, and in the book of Revelation, the imagery of a Bride and Groom are used to provide a picture of the church and Christ himself.

This is not some casual relationship that God calls us into. It is one that calls for utter abandon of our former way of life for one that is focused primary on him.

If you get married and try to work your spouse into the areas of your life where you happen to have room for him or her, your marriage is not going to go well.

You have to be willing to bulldoze large sections of your schedule, your living spaces, your habits, your desires and preferences, etc.

How much more for a relationship with God himself, who connects with us on a level far deeper than what is possible between those of us who are living in this world?

Jesus hints at this concept when he shocks us in Luke 14:26 with these words:

"If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison--your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple."

Wow. Hating my father and mother, wife and children, even life itself in comparison to how I love God?

That's not balanced. That's pretty excessive. To the point of being possible crazy.

Here's why I submit that violating the Golden Mean in this case makes perfect sense: because this isn't one sided on our part. We're not giving utter and complete devotion and then being let down.

Rather, we're responding to the unbalanced devotion that God has already shown us. He sent his son to die for us before we deserved it. Heck, we never would have deserved it.

God showed 'unbalanced' compassion and love and mercy and forgiveness long before we did. It is in responding to this with 'excessive' devotion that we can actually start to grasp, and receive and appreciate the relationship God has extended to us.

Our relationship with God has no Golden Mean. We can never match what he has done. We can only respond. As he has given his best, the only response that makes sense if for us to do the same.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #16: Consequences

A road leads deep into a  Kansas cornfield in late July.TC’s Principles and Guidelines for Life #16: “Bad choices do not lead to good places.” One thing I don't see Jesus doing in the writings of his followers is trying to force people to make better choices in life.

For instance, there's the guy who Matthew tells us about in his writings. He gets the title of 'Rich Young Ruler' in most instances.

And Richie (I'm going to go ahead and give him that nickname) asks Jesus what he has to do to have eternal life. After a short conversation, Richie decides he values his possessions more than his relationship with God.

You know what? I'll let Matthew tell his own story:

Now someone came up to him [Jesus] and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich. (Matthew 19:16-22)

Notice what Jesus does here: lets him walk away.

Doesn't run after him. Doesn't try to sugar coat some issues that Richie needs to deal with. Doesn't lower his standards to accommodate this dude. He lets him walk.

See, one of Jesus' later followers tells us that "...a person will reap what he sows..." (Galatians 6:7)

In other words, if I plant corn seed, later on I'm going to be eating corn. And if I live selfishly, I'm going to get the results of a selfish life down the road.

This is true whether or not you're a follower of Jesus.

If following Jesus meant that I could avoid the consequences for my dumb, selfish actions, I bet everybody would follow Jesus.

It doesn't. If I, as a follower of Jesus, make bad choices, I'm going to have to deal with the consequences.

God will forgive me when I ask for forgiveness, but he's usually going to leave the consequences for me to deal with.

This doesn't even have to involve sin.

My wife and I bought a business several years ago. We didn't do enough research on what we needed to know. When that business failed, it left us with a lot of financial burden. We're still dealing with it today.

God didn't give me a winning lottery ticket. I didn't get a call one day that my debt had been paid in full.

We ran a business unsuccessfully, and we have to deal with the consequences.

That was an inexperienced, unwise choice.

When we make truly bad choices - why should it be any different?

Consequences help us learn.

So if you are in a situation where you are constantly dealing with difficult circumstances, start planting different crops.

Plant grace and mercy and forgiveness instead of anger, frustration or resentment.

And then be patient. What kind of foolish farmer would plant seed on Monday, then give up on his crop that Wednesday?

We sow what we reap, and bad choices lead to bad places.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.


35@35 #15: Arguing

loving divorceTC's Rules and Principles for Life #15: "Never argue with people who aren't listening." You ever get into an argument with somebody who just refuses to see any logic or reasoning whatsoever?

You get increasingly frustrated, annoyed and angry and then you leave in a huff having a terrible mood.

I'm going to help you stop losing those arguments. You ready? Here you go: stop having them.

Seriously. Have you ever resolved anything by getting loud or belligerent, or harsher?

Here's what you're doing - harming a relationship in the hopes of being told you're right.

But guess what you hate doing for somebody who you don't have a good relationship with? Admitting they're right.

So you're creating an impossible situation. "I'm making you angry, now admit I'm right!"

If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do is stop arguing. And then stop getting into arguments.

Conversations? Discussions? Great. But not arguments.

If there's somebody in your life with whom you cannot converse without it becoming an argument, then stop getting into conversations until you have fixed the underlying relationship problem.

Here's how the Bible says it in Proverbs 26:4: "Don't answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are."

You will not change another person through arguing. You might change them through love and mercy and grace and acceptance.

I often relay the quote from Martin Luther King Jr: "Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

When people stop shouting at one another, it creates space for relationship to form, and genuine relationship fixes a lot of problems.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #14: Dead Ends

sinking-shipTC's Principles and Guidelines for Life #14: "If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got." Yes. I did totally steal this one from Einstein.

I have found that doing some study of human personalities (including assessments of my own personality) has been extremely helpful to me both in understanding myself and in learning to interact in a healthy manner with others - including within a community setting.

Using the DiSC personality system, I have quite a bit of "I" in me. The I personality is generally playful and innovative. Think 'squirrel' or 'otter'.

So I'm not only okay with change, I crave it. I want to do something differently just to keep it interesting for myself.

Vastly different than the I personality is the S personality - somebody who is Steady, reliable, dependable, loyal. Thing 'golden retriever'.

11% of the population has I as their primary trait.

69% of the population has S as their primary trait.

This is why, when you try to initiate mass changes, you get resistance.

When Facebook updates something, all the S personality people on your wall are upset because they don't like change.

So for me, if something isn't working, I'm almost happy, because it turns into a puzzle - what new approach can I try to improve this?

But 7 out of 10 people would rather keep doing something ineffective than try something new.

As a leader in an organization, I have to be sensitive to this. One of the most effective approaches to leading change is by using a model called here to there that Bill Hybels leverages.

Paint a picture of where your organization or group is at, and make sure everybody sees all the problems.

Imagine you're on a sinking ship - you need to take them around to all the places that water is gushing in and show them the areas that are underwater so they get a picture of the fact that the ship is indeed sinking.

Only then can you convince them to move off of that ship.

Because for some people - many people, in fact - getting what you've always got is preferable to doing something new. Even if what you're getting is effectively useless.

So Einsteins statement, which I have totally adopted as a proverb in my own life, is brilliant. But not everyone is going to be able to embrace it immediately. They may need help making that jump.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #13: Unpopular Opinions

Radioactivity-WarningTC's Principles and Guidelines for Life #13: "It's good to have a couple unpopular opinions." I wear my unpopular opinions like a badge of honor.

To me, they indicate that I am not simply willing to accept what I hear as fact.

They mean that I think for myself in an age where we have multiple cable channels that are incredibly popular simply because they tell people what they want to hear.

I'm always weary of 'group think', the dynamic where alternative perspectives are ignored for the sake of pseudo harmony.

If you put me in a situation where everybody is agreeing, I'm going to start playing counter point just to force everyone to examine their own belief or opinion.

Sometimes, I may go a bit far and start arguing just because I like to argue, but the overall purpose is to make sure there is safety in sharing opposing viewpoints for anybody who wants to disagree.

Sometimes, I flat out disagree with commonly held viewpoints ("As an American, I have a duty to engage in the political process by voting"), and other times I feel it is important to explore nuances ("Does supporting troops mean that I support war?")

Now, I think that in order for an unpopular opinion to be valid, you must be able to defend your position. Taking a stance just to get a rise out of people isn't valuable in the least.

Anybody can say that they hold another viewpoint, but without the ability to intellectually defend a position using respectable grounds (logic, philosophy, theology, scientific, etc), you're demonstrating ignorance. On the internet, we call this 'trolling'. I'm not a fan of this.

We must be willing to drop our opposing viewpoints if facts or compelling arguments demand that we must do so.

I am willing to be proved wrong as I explore new concepts within frequently trod paths of understanding.

Our brains...our intellect...is a gift from God. I never turn it off. Not when I watch TV, not when I go to church, not in meetings or conferences.

As long as we know how to have respectful discussion around disagreements, sharing differing perspectives and viewpoints makes us stronger.

Oh, and I almost forgot:

Cats are better than dogs.

U2 is the best band of all-time (Coldplay is 2nd and rising fast).

Hawaii is overrated as a vacation destination.


You're welcome.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #12: Being Wounded

Broken_glassTC's Principles and Guidelines for Life #12: "Imperfect situations do not have perfect solutions." Sometimes, I wish I had magic prayer words. Or fairy dust. Or silver bullets.

I run into people on a fairly regular basis who find themselves in tough circumstances.

They have a loved one who is struggling with addiction; or their finances are a mess due to un/under employment; or they are struggling with serious illness.

And in those moments, I want to fix what's wrong.

I hate looking them in the eye and knowing that when our conversation ends and they walk away, that problem is still going to exist.

I offer genuine words of encouragement, I pray with them, I give advice if it's asked for, and I truly empathize.

But I can't fix it.

They are in pain, and I can't make them better.

Instead, I point to the one who is healer.

See stuff gets broken: cell phone screens, cars, furniture, etc.

But people don't get broken. They get wounded.

So we don't need a fixer. We need a healer.

That's one of the aspects of God - He is a healer.

Wounds will normally heal on their own. But if it's a big injury, it needs help to heal. A bone may need to be set. Stitches may be needed. Infection may need to be cut out.

Broken things stay broken if they aren't fixed. Wounded things may not heal properly if not treated.

So I spend most of my time in these conversations pointing to the healer. Offering scriptures and prayer that remind us to trust in God.

But it's the same thing as telling somebody to go to the doctor: I can't force them to go. They may decide not to.

And if they do go, there's no guarantee they will follow the prescription.

If a doctor tells you to take medicine, if you fail to go to the pharmacy, or fail to take the pills as instructed, you're not going to get the benefit.

Healing takes time. We have to follow the instructions of the healer in order to see the process occur, and we have to be patient.

Engage with the cure and give it time to work.

This is the formula for healing.

And if the first approach doesn't complete the process (not that God is wrong, but sometimes there may be more than one issue), we must be willing to return and submit to further instructions.

And cure is often painful. Have you ever read the side effects of medicine? It's nuts! For a temporary period of time, you're going to hurt yourself in order to get healthy.

This is why I say imperfect situations do not have perfect solutions. Because healing will involve pain.

Setting a broken bone is not fun, but it's incredibly important.

It's not a perfect solution, but it's the best one we've got.

Trusting ourselves to the care of a capable healer is essential to life.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #11: Tactical

tactical_russian_gm_by_lordhayabusa357-d6m3gguTC's Guidelines and Principles for life #11: "When searching for a product, to see the best version of that product, search for the word ‘tactical’." Look, normally my posts have some kind of spiritual and emotional value associated with them.

This one? Not so much.

Here's how I started to learn about this life hack: when I needed good gloves for an adventure race I was about to join, I had a ton of trouble finding ones that could handle adverse conditions.

Until I added one little word in front of my searches: 'tactical'.

And that's how I found the blackhawk gloves that are marketed to special forces troops.

Need a good flashlight? Get a tactical flashlight?

Backpack? Boots? Raincoat?

Getting something designed for military use is a great way to get a product that can handle a lot of rough and tumble use.

I still have those gloves years later. I still have my Maxpedition sling backpack as well.

Any anytime I need a product that can stand up to harsh use, I only need to remember one simple little word.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #10: Loving Others

workshops-ocdTC's Guidelines and Principles for Life #10: "God doesn't call us to change people, he calls us to love people." I was listening to Nadia Bolz-Weber the other day and she said something that impacted me. She said that, as a minister, she doesn't feel responsible for what people in her faith community believe. But she does feel incredibly responsible for what they hear coming from the pulpit.

In other words, she is only responsible for what she can actually control.

To share a similar concept from an entirely different realm, I head Tyson Chandler (center for the New York Knicks) share some advice he got early in his playing career: that some nights, his offense was just going to stink.

Some nights, the ball just won't go through the hoop, and there's nothing you're going to be able to do about it in that moment. But that there is no reason why his defense should ever have an off game. Because defense is about hustle - and that's a choice rather than luck.

We have been given freedom of choice by the God who created us.

We can choose to have faith and follow his calling in our lives, or to ignore it.

God shares, broadcasts, announces his love - through his scriptures; through his sacrifice in Jesus; through faith communities that are called by his name - and he allows us to decide if we will accept that love and allow it to change us.

Jesus, in his ministry, doesn't spend most of his time telling people to stop doing this or that, but instead pointing to what we miss out on if we neglect a relationship with God: love and peace and joy and community and true fulfillment, etc.

Why should our purpose be different?

Martin Luther King Jr said that hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Instead of finding things we hate about other people (which leads us to want to change them), let's instead find the areas we love about them and build community around that.

When we live in a place of sincere acceptance for others, we truly become agents of God's good news - that the God who made us and knows everything about us, loves us - and wants to help us become the version of ourselves that God intends for us. A person filled with love, peace, joy, etc.

You can't control people, but you can chose whether or not you will love them.

Like hustle on a basketball court, there's no reason why we can't love people in any given situation, because while what they do isn't in our control, how we respond to them is.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #9: Self Awareness

drowningTC's Guidelines and Principles for Life #9: "Don’t send an email response while angry.  Put it in the draft folder first." This is a pretty specific guideline, and maybe you don't have the problem of sometimes over reacting to mean emails like I do, but the principle of this statement actually goes beyond just getting a frustrating email/facebook reply/rude text.

Psalm 4:4 says this: "Don't sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. "

Other translations start that verse even more bluntly: "Be angry and do not sin."

Here's what I get out of that: God knows we are going to get angry sometimes. The scripture doesn't say 'Don't get angry.' It says 'When you get angry, don't sin.'

Then, it gives a specific instruction: think about it overnight before you say anything.

I don't think we're supposed to spend that interlude stewing and thinking of how we can say the most hurtful, hateful thing we can thing of.

It seems more like we're supposed to calm down before we respond to whatever has made us angry.

For me, a rude or obnoxious email can send me to that place of being angry. A lot faster than it probably should. I'm working on that.

But because I'm not a robot and I can't flip a switch to be better at handling that part of my emotions, I need a way to handle them while I'm also trying to get better at it.

So for me, it means that if I am replying to a rude email, I put the message in a draft folder before sending it. I give myself time to cool down, then I go re-read it (and usually change it) prior to sending it.

Maybe for you, it's not a rude email. Maybe your weakness is dealing with change. Maybe it's when people are condescending to you. Or it's a tendency to over react to people based on self esteem issues. It could be anything.

Whatever it is that puts you in a place of angry responses: first, be aware of your trigger.

When somebody hits your trigger (like sending you an angry email), recognize it.

Create the space to calm down. For me, it's a draft folder. Maybe you just need to go breathe deeply for 10 minutes. Maybe you need to just smile and say you'll talk to them later.

Whatever it is, put healthy guidelines in your life that will help you not to sin when you are angry.

We all get angry, but we can all learn how to respond to that emotion in healthy ways.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #8: Selflessness

PufferTC's Guidelines and Principles for Life #8: "Never defend or justify yourself, let God do that. Just answer questions with honesty." So listen, this guideline will totally not work for everybody.

It will only apply to people who take Jesus seriously when he says "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

Those of us who have made the choice to follow Jesus have signed up for a life of learning to die to ourselves.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in Cost of Discipleship, "when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die".

I hate this part of following Jesus. Everything in me wants to be selfish and fulfill any appetite I may discover within myself.

Yet I have learned the value of not doing that. It's because of this that I'm participating in Lent this year. I have given up all electronic entertainment (TV, Netflix, Movies, Video Games, etc) for 40 days so that I can instead focus on reading and prayer. Activities that I know improve the quality of my life and help me grow closer to God.

But they are less instantly gratifying that entertaining myself, so I naturally neglect them.

How does this all relate to the guideline that I try to live by, not to defend myself?

It may sound like I'm advocating that we, as believers should be doormats. On the contrary, I believe it's easy and expected and instantly gratifying to defend myself. To try to get revenge on people who speak ill of me.

Indignation is like rage candy. "How dare you!"

I'm asking us to go beyond that. To make the choice not to pick up our weapons when insulted. That takes more courage that most of us commonly walk around with. It's the opposite of being a doormat.

It means not being passive aggressive, or fantasizing about putting people in their place.

Miroslav Volf, in Exclusion and Embrace, makes the argument that in a world where trying to pay back injustice with injustice creates a never ending system of...you guessed it...injustice.

"If you want justice and nothing but justice, you will inevitably get injustice. If you want justice without injustice, you must want love." (Volf, 223)

It is not until we are willing to let God have the last word by refusing to repay evil for evil within our own lives that we truly become the peacemakers that Jesus talks about in the Sermon on the Mount. (See Matthew 5).

When I seek to justify myself, it leads to angry emails or pointed conversations. But when I trust God to deal with any unfair or untrue accusations, I embrace what Henri Nouwen refers to as the 'downward mobility' that should exist in the life of every believer.

We fulfill the parable of the wedding guests who take a seat of low honor and are publicly honored by the host (Luke 14:7-14).

I've been reading the book of Job again recently, and the only mistake I see from Job is that he tries to justify himself. God, in his response to Job, never takes issue with any of Jobs specific points of argument. Rather, he appears to take umbrage with Job's tone.

Job's only mistake was his efforts to defend and justify himself against his friends (and considering what he went through, that's pretty impressive).

When we are attacked or criticized without cause (look, if you're not doing your job and your boss criticizes you, this doesn't apply to you. Do you job.), we have a choice. We can defend ourselves or let God defend us.

Personally, I like the latter choice. Because when we put ourselves in God's hands, not only are we safe from anything that he doesn't permit, but we make ourselves open to receive his blessings.

That's a much better alternative than me getting the visceral benefit of demonstrating my contempt or anger through criticism or insult.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.