Author Archive for Jer Monson

04
Nov
10

The Lord Delivers

“The righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”

Psalm 34:19

I heard a very interesting interview on the radio this week, with a 27-year-old Australian man named Nick Vujicic (pronounced Voy-a-chich). Born in 1982 in Melbourne, Australia, Nick came into the world with neither arms nor legs absent any medical explanation or warning. Imagine the implications of such a fate! Think of the challenges you would face in almost every area of life.

Yet, despite his situation, Nick has risen to become a phenomenally successful international motivational speaker and author. His ministry has seen over 500,000 people come to faith in Christ in 19 different countries!

As you can imagine, I find Nick’s story profoundly compelling! It has informed each disappointment I’ve faced over the course of the week. What’s more, it has caused me to consider how God gives us the grace we need to deal with the realities before us. Whether we lack limbs or likely job prospects, we can be sure that God will meet our needs. While this can be difficult to embrace in the depth of suffering or disappointment, it’s always encouraging to see it happening in the life of another.

If you’d like more info on Nick, check out his blogs: Life Without Limbs and Attitude is Altitude.

– Jer

 

28
Oct
10

Kingdom of Heaven

Gentlemen,

Here’s a verse I have been stewing over for the past two weeks:

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.'”   Rev 11:15

I love this verse as a simple proclamation of the truth of our Father’s total victory and Jesus’ lordship over the earth. Sometimes, I need something this short and direct to remind me what’s true, and what’s most important. As those of you who are 1Ls will discover at finals (and those of you who aren’t can attest to), playing for keeps in grad school (test time) quickly becomes all consuming (hence my failure to send out he word of the day until now!). In the face of such pressure, I think it helps to try and maintain focus on simple and direct truths that help forge eternal perspective.

Jer

16
Oct
10

Meditating Day and Night

1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

My Honors Negotiation class has spent time talking about meditation as a means to center yourself and control stress, anxiety, and anger.  These conversations caused me to think more about meditation in general, and remember that the Bible suggests multiple times that we should meditate!  Not some kind of strange, ‘Buddhist chanting monk’ meditation, but a deep reflection on scripture.

So, I’ve been meditating this week – on the first three verses of Psalm 1.  I think you men should give it a try as a means of dealing with law school stress, and centering yourself in the truth of the Word of God!  Here’s how it works:

1) Find a comfortable place to sit, someplace by yourself.

2) Open your Bible to a favorite verse, or use the first three verses of Psalm 1, above.

3) Close your eyes, and spend a minute or two breathing deeply.  Focus on your breath as it moves in and out.  Count slowly as you breath in as deeply as you can, and release your breath as slowly and evenly as you can.  Do this perhaps 15 or 20 times.

4) Acknowledge your fleeting thoughts, and then push them out of your mind. Acknowledge other latent sounds (e.g., the air conditioner, passing cars outside the window, etc…) and push them out of your mind.

5) Repeat the verse slowly in your head, with your eyes closed.  Picture every individual word, and think about the meaning of the phrases.  Do this at least twice.

6) Return to your slow breathing, picturing your breath as it enters your lungs and leaves again.  Do this 5 or 10 times.

7) Open your eyes and return to work.

Practicing this kind of meditation this week has helped me re-gain focus during my study times when I find my mind racing because of too much going on.  It’s also helped me memorize all of Psalm 1.  And not only are the words memorized, but they are internalized, as well.  What does it mean to ‘walk’ in the counsel of the wicked, or ‘stand’ in the ‘way’ of sinners?  What does it mean to ‘sit’ in the ‘seat’ of mockers?  How is the man this verse speaks of different, and what is the result of that difference?

I am beginning to see that meditation is an important and lost art for Christians, and I think it’s particularly vital for us as law students, allowing for both stress relief and impactful study of scripture at once!

You guys are awesome!

– Jer

02
Oct
10

What Color is Your Parachute?

Gentlemen,

This is going to be a long WotD but it’s a good one, so I hope you’ll read it!  Turns out living from your “being” instead of your “doing” is key to your job search…

I recently picked up the perennial best-selling job-searching book What Color is Your Parachute? and started plowing through it as a complement to my on-going job search.  I had never heard of the book, and was turned onto it by a Straus adjunct who got her MPP and JD at Harvard. She informed me that Harvard recommends this book to all its students.  Upon starting the read, I cannot believe nobody has ever pointed me in its direction before!  (Side Note: If you haven’t read it, go get a copy.  I have no idea why Pepperdine isn’t following Harvard’s lead.)

The first appendix is titled “Finding Your Mission in Life” and I am going to reproduce a section of it below for your convenience.  It speaks for itself.

There are usually three stages also to learning what your Mission in life is, and the two earlier stages are not to be disparaged. It is all “Mission” – just different forms of Mission, appropriate to your development at the time. But each stage has to be mastered, in turn, before the next can be approached… [The stages are] defined generally as follows:

1. Your first Mission here on Earth is one that you share with the rest of the human race, but it is no less your individual Mission for the fact that it is shared: and it is, to seek to stand hour by hour in the conscious presence of God, the One from who your Mission is derived. The Missioner before the Mission, is the rule. In religious language, your Mission here is: To know God, and enjoy Him forever, and to see His hand in all His works.

2. Second, once you have begun doing that in an earnest way, your second Mission here on Earth is also one that you share with the rest of the human race, but it is no less your individual Mission for the fact that it is shared: and that is, to do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place, following the leading and guidance of God’s Spirit within you and around you.

3. Third, once you have begun doing that in a serious way, your third Mission here on Earth is one that is uniquely yours, and that is:

a) to exercise the Talent that you particularly came to Earth to use – your greatest gift, which you most delight to use,

b) in the place(s) or setting(s) that God has caused to appeal to you the most,

c) and for those purposes that God most needs to have done in the world


The Two Rhythms of the Dance of Mission: Unlearning, Learning, Unlearning, Learning

The distinctive characteristic of these three stages is that in each we are forced to let go of some fundamental assumptions that our culture has taught us, about the nature of Mission. In other words, throughout this quest and at each stage we find ourselves engaged not merely in a process of Learning. We are also engaged in a process of Unlearning. Thus, we can restate the above three Learnings, in terms of what we also need to unlearn at each stage:

We need in the first stage to unlearn the idea that our Mission is primarily to keep busy doing something (here on Earth), and learn instead that our Mission is first of all to keep busy being something (here on Earth) (emphasis mine). In Christian language (and others as well), we might say that we were sent here to learn how to be sons of God, and daughters of God, before anything else. “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

In the second stage, “Being” issues into “Doing.” At this stage, we need to unlearn the idea that everything about our Mission must be unique to us, and learn instead that some parts of our Mission here on Earth are shared by all human beings: e.g., we were all sent here to bring more gratitude, more kindness, more forgiveness, and more love, into the world. We share this Mission because the task is too large to be accomplished by just one individual.

We need in the third stage to unlearn the idea that the part of our Mission that is truly unique, and most truly ours, is something Our Creator just orders us to do, without any agreement from our spirit, mind, and heart. (On the other hand, neither is it something that each of us chooses and then merely asks God to bless.) We need to learn that God so honors our free will, that He has ordained that our unique Mission be something that we have some part in choosing.

In this third stage we need also to unlearn the idea that our unique Mission must consist of some achievement for all the world to see – and learn instead that as the stone does not always know what ripples it has caused in the pond whose surface it impacts, so neither we nor those who watch our life will always know what we have achieved by our life and by our Mission. It may be that by the grace of God we helped bring about a profound change for the better in the lives of other souls around us, but it also may be that this takes place beyond our sight, or after we have gone on. And we may never know what we have accomplished, until we see Him face to face after this life is past.

Most finally, we need to unlearn the idea that what we have accomplished is our doing, and ours alone. It is God’s Spirit breathing in us and through us that helps us do whatever we do, and so the singular first-person pronoun is never appropriate, but only the plural. Not “I accomplished this” but “We accomplished this, God and I, working together…”

So there you have it! First, we need to unlearn the idea that we are here to do something, and relearn the truth that we are here to be something – Sons of God! Second, we need to allow that ‘being’ to issue into ‘doing.’

Men of eNgage, I hope you’re as encouraged by reading this as I am! This is exactly what we have been focusing on for the beginning of this year! This is exactly what we are learning to help each other do.

And to have it reiterated by a secular job-searching book, written by a Harvard/MIT grad, and further recommended thereby… Who would have guessed!?!

– Jer

23
Sep
10

Man. Leader. Serve your generation!

“After David has served his generation according to the will of God he went to rest with his fathers.”

Acts 13:36

A good friend of mine put this quote on his Facebook status the other day.  It apprehended me as I read it, probably because we have been talking so much lately about defining ourselves by who God has created us to ‘be’ instead of what we ‘do.’  I thought about my ‘being’ sentence, and how I finished it my stating that I am a man after God’s own heart.  David was too – of course, that’s where that line comes from!

As we’ve discussed, ‘doing’ should flow from our ‘being,’ and not vice versa. This quote struck me because it says exactly what ‘doing’ flowed from David’s ‘being’ a man after God’s own heart: He served his generation, according to the will of God.

That’s what I want to do too! When I die, I want it to be said of me: He served his generation, according to the will of God. We each have that chance gentlemen! To serve our generation!  And to do so according to the will of God.

Let’s do it!
eNgage!

03
Jul
10

Saving Society

Most days, I try to make my monotonous, hour-long commute into downtown Los Angeles profitable via talks, lectures, or sermons by great leaders, thinkers, and preachers. Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi has become one of my favorites. If you’ve never been exposed to his work, let me highly recommend Must the Sun Set on the West? No matter your religious or political persuasion, I guarantee you’ll find yourself challenged as India’s foremost Christian intellectual unpacks Western culture and details its heritage.

This week, I found Mangalwadi’s “From Monasteries to the Twin Towers: The Crumbling Spirituality of Capitalism” to be particularly timely. Let me apologize in advance for the length of my explanation.

There have been many times in recent months where I have found myself asking “What the Hell is going on!?!” I turn on the news to see Muslim suicide bombers blowing themselves up to kill innocent people, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike, all over the world. Closer to home, I see an inept Federal government populated by corrupt, self-serving politicians, beholden to special interests, passing bills they haven’t read, and making policies that punish ‘good’ behavior to reward the ‘bad.’ I see unscrupulous and greedy bankers and businesspeople who have driven the global economy into the ground while executives continue to pocket tens of millions of dollars for themselves. I see flagrantly immoral ‘entertainment’ in every medium, glorifying illicit behavior and irresponsibility. And, I see men gorging themselves on porn as they float the ever-quickening current toward the increasingly well-documented waterfall of impotence that awaits them.

Did I mention that the Gulf of Mexico is filling up with oil?

Our society is in social and economic tatters, and if there’s any light at the far end of the tunnel, it’s a train.

So, just what the Hell is going on?

We’ve become the master of our own destiny, that’s what. Wasn’t there some kind of aphorism about sowing and reaping? As Dr. Mangalwadi discusses in the talk referenced above, we have chosen to divorce ourselves from the foundations of Western culture and are thus facing the consequences. Hell is going on.

You see, after the Reformation, European monks picked up on the notion of ‘calling’ evident throughout the New Testament, and most particularly in the writings of the Apostle Paul. Given to lives of service to God and committed to work, these monks inadvertently laid the foundations of Western capitalism. As they specialized in the production of different products (e.g., wine for the church) and their operations grew, they developed the early management and accounting principles that gave rise to those we apply today. These men saw purpose in life via the ‘calling’ to work in all things for the glory of the Christian God. Interestingly, these monks also took vows of poverty that established the humility necessary to manage the people and money their operations accrued.

However, modern society has divorced itself from these shackles of Judeo-Christian thought and assumed carte blanche. Thanks to the influence of four modern men, we no longer need worry about humility or honoring any god but ourselves.

The men we have to thank for the modern state of affairs are Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Charles Darwin. As Dr. Mangalwadi so eloquently expounds, these individuals had other ideas about the centralities of life. Marx said money; Nietzsche said power; Freud said sex. Society gradually bought in; and, planted in the fertile soil of the tenets inherent in Darwinian macro-biological evolution, these philosophies took root and blossomed into the catastrophe we see around us today. Our society’s divorce from its Judeo-Christian foundations has led to a loss of humility before God, and therein self-restraint. Instead, we’re faced with the precipitant arrogance and depravity that has manifested itself in the corruption and immorality we see in politics, business, and entertainment, as noted. This will not change until we change.

But how, given the tumult?

Some hope in serendipity, but we need to hope in Providence.

My wife and I went to see Toy Story 3 last night.  Before the show, one of the previews was a spot from The Foundation for a Better Life. (You can see it here.) I thoroughly enjoyed the commercial, and appreciated its message; however, I was also bothered by it. Why? Because humanistic notions of morality are innately amorphous and ephemeral, and thus not robust enough to mitigate humanity’s natural depravity. Yes, they are ‘good,’ but they are also helplessly adrift like a sailboat that’s lost its mooring. This is because they don’t actually have a mooring – they aren’t tied to anything. Thus, as with a boat drifting loose on the water, people see and take notice. They find humanistic morality appealing and relevant, but ultimately inadequate.

The potency required for changing our world will only be found in morality moored to an absolute – anchored to something that won’t allow for drifting. Gentlemen the mooring I am referring to is your Christian faith, and it’s the only thing that can shore up our world.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27

Men, society needs us to eNgage! Look around you as Jesus’ words once again ring true: The rain is coming down. The streams are rising. The winds are blowing and beating. What do you see happening?

There is a solution, and it starts with our engagement. This nation does not have to fall “with a great crash” on our watch, and neither does the rest of the world. But averting the disaster will require long-term change, and it will be difficult.

As men, we need to pick up on the notion of ‘calling’ and then dedicate ourselves to working in all things for the glory of God. This means we need to dedicate ourselves to excellence in the arenas to which He has called us. This means we need to be willing to shrug off complacency and comfort in favor of taking steps of faith toward our dreams. Are you called to law, business, public policy, formal ministry, music, or athletics? What have you done about it lately? Don’t be caught with your pants around your ankles or your Xbox controller in hand when society is crashing down around you.

As men, we also need to cultivate the humility necessary to respect God, love each other, restrain ourselves, and manage that which He gives us appropriately. This means we need to be asking God for wisdom. This means we need to be making the daily decision to be the men we know God has created us to be, moment by moment, hour by hour. How’s your walk with God? Are you seeking him for wisdom and guidance? Don’t assume you can skate through society’s depravity unscathed.

As men, we also need to be purposeful in developing transparent, armor-bearing relationships with one another. As you probably already know, that’s what eNgage is all about: Purposeful relationships. Young men helping each other live God-honoring lives, pursue excellence, and be the men God has called us to be in our marriages and families as husbands and fathers, our companies as employers and employees, and our governments as lawmakers.

If we can do these things, I think we have a shot. Our influence can establish justice and morality in our institutions, and Godliness in our society. If we can’t…

I think our alternatives are well-established.

“The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”

Proverbs 19:23

– Jer

21
Jun
10

Joy Compromises!

Paging through my daily copy of The Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a half page BMW advertisement that I immediately detested.  “JOY DOES NOT COMPROMISE!” it proclaimed, in bolded, size 84 font.  And, just as biting into a handful of Jelly Belly jellybeans unleashes a torrent of bad-tasting sweetness when I accidentally eat one of those flavors I normally pick out and throw away, it took me a few seconds to assess the discord in my mind.  I like BMWs, but I hate the ad.

The reason?

Because I think joy DOES compromise!  It is pleasure that does not.

Unfortunately, a retreat to the dictionary bears little fruit because the words joy, happiness, and pleasure are ostensibly interchangeable.  Thus, they are used to define each other, though they are actually quite different. Think of your own connotations and this reality becomes clear: ‘Pleasure’ connotes sensual gratification and ephemeral feeling whereas ‘happiness’ is more of a lasting characterization.  Joy is perhaps more temporary, but is more akin to great ‘happiness’ than ‘pleasure.’

I’m risking rhetoric here to get us all to the starting line.  It’s from a well-defined perspective we must address this ad because its message so aptly characterizes the pervasive American thought process that has got our country in this horrific financial nightmare (with California leading the way)! This thinking so permeates our daily reality that we will miss its monstrous error if we don’t explicitly identify it.

Joy compromises! Joy, as it relates to happiness, is long-term and requires investment and sacrifice. Joy is not achieved or sustained by instant gratification. Joy is comprehensive in focus, and accounts for the needs of others as well as self. Joy is balanced. Ecclesiastes 2:26a ties joy to wisdom, indicating that God gives both to those he loves. More powerfully, our Ultimate Example chose to endure the Cross! For what? The joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2)! He gave up his temporal wishes for something much greater (Luke 22:42).

But pleasure does not compromise!  Pleasure does whatever it wants. It’s short-term and shortsighted, and relates most often to instant gratification. Pleasure is also self-focused and easily self-centered. Pleasure is certainly not associated with discomfort or self-sacrifice; rather, it’s concerned with the here and now: “If it feels good, do it.” Think about it, this attitude is ubiquitous. Case in point: Don’t compromise – drive a BMW!

If the ad couldn’t get any more blatant in its errancy, it goes on to detail the financing options available. “Quick, everyone go to your nearest BMW dealership and instantly amass tens of thousands of dollars of debt to finance a major liability!  Don’t compromise!”

That’s obviously not what the ad actually said, but it should have.

Gentlemen, this kind of thinking is foolishness! Our culture caters to it at every turn and worse, we have grown up bombarded by it in every media format.

Learn to recognize it – and avoid it!

Our future, the future of the people we love, and the future of our nation depend on us learning to exercise more wisdom and more discretion than our parents have in these matters. We can’t fall prey to this kind of stupidity.

In case my point still isn’t clear: Joy does not “deserve” a luxury automobile, and joy would not steer you into debt to get one. Joy compromises. The state of California, our nation, and our world can be attributed in large part to people’s misunderstanding of this truth.

Here’s the other side of the coin: The only thing joy doesn’t compromise is it’s willingness to compromise as directed by wisdom. Let’s apply this. If the car you can currently pay for is a used Honda Civic, that’s what you should be driving. It’s still a liability, but at least you’re not paying for both the car-related expenses and the debt you created to obtain it.

This lesson can be applied in many different situations, but my aim is to help us all recognize the thought process. Joy compromises, as directed by wisdom to do so.

So, eNgage! Be the wise men God has created you to be and compromise, as wisdom dictates you should. Though it won’t always lead you to pleasure, it will lead you to joy!

If you need help, turn to the Godly, wise man next to you and ask for it.

– Jer




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Wednesday Jan 26th 2011
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