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Never Settle For Normal: The Proven Path to Significance and Happiness

Never Settle For Normal: The Proven Path to Significance and Happiness

$19.99

Paperback
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:We're All Glory-Chasers and Pleasure-Seekers

Every human wants to matter and be happy...as it should be. God made us to resemble and reflect His worth as we enjoy our true identity in Him.

But we too often swap that calling for the trifles of this world, pursuing cheap substitutes to fill the craving of our souls. As Jonathan Parnell puts it, we settle for "stupid normal" over the transcendent, even though this world can never satisfy our hopes and dreams.

In Never Settle for Normal Jonathan speaks to the heart of both skeptics and searchers by addressing their deepest longings. With insight and passion, he examines the key tenets of Christian faith-creation, fall, redemption, new creation-and reveals the life-changing glory of the Christian story in a fresh, new light.

Discover the personal meaning and gladness you hunger for… and Never Settle for Normal!

- Publisher
Also Available In

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About "Never Settle For Normal: The Proven Path to Significance and Happiness"

:We're All Glory-Chasers and Pleasure-Seekers

Every human wants to matter and be happy...as it should be. God made us to resemble and reflect His worth as we enjoy our true identity in Him.

But we too often swap that calling for the trifles of this world, pursuing cheap substitutes to fill the craving of our souls. As Jonathan Parnell puts it, we settle for "stupid normal" over the transcendent, even though this world can never satisfy our hopes and dreams.

In Never Settle for Normal Jonathan speaks to the heart of both skeptics and searchers by addressing their deepest longings. With insight and passion, he examines the key tenets of Christian faith-creation, fall, redemption, new creation-and reveals the life-changing glory of the Christian story in a fresh, new light.

Discover the personal meaning and gladness you hunger for… and Never Settle for Normal!

- Publisher

Meet the Author

Jonathan Parnell

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at desiringGod.org, and is the lead pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, where he lives with his wife, Melissa, and their growing family.

Excerpt

Excerpt from: Never Settle For Normal: The Proven Path to Significance and Happiness

:Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled  with glory.
—1 Peter 1:8

1.
THE STUPID NORMAL 

And I don't want a never ending life
I just want to be alive while I'm here.
-"Spirits," The Strumbellas


There is nothing necessarily wrong with normal. It all depends on how you’re using the word.

A lot of times normal is good for you, like that garbage bag that needs to be taken out—the one with the little hole in the bottom that leaks a trail of some unidentified substance from the kitchen to the front door and demands an extra five minutes to retrace your steps on hands and knees with a paper towel.

Normal like that is an everyday sacrament meant to train humble hearts and level heads. That’s why it’s good for us to put on our socks one at a time, scrub the frying pan with a sponge, and stand in line for an hour just to buy a sheet of stamps so we can mail out our Christmas cards. This book is not about turning your nose up at menial things.

We need menial things.

Instead, this book is about not settling for the normal that has become our cultural mind-set. I’m talking about the kind of normal that pretends God doesn’t exist, that casts a vision of life devoid of ultimate reality and then acts like we’re better off that way.

I’m not talking about your nine-to-fivejob that feels boring. God bless your boring job—and I think most books that would tell you anything different are a sham. So I want to be clear from the start.

You’re not going to find in these pages a message that runs with the whole “find your inner champion” glibness. You don’t have an inner champion. You have an inner brokenness that desperately needs to be healed by Jesus. All of us, including me, are sinners who have bought into the lies around us, at least at some level. And if we’re really honest, we’ve likely fallen for them hook, line, and sinker. That’s because the lies are so many and so common that we don’t recognize them as lies. They’ve become too normal. It’s what I like to call “the stupid normal.”

LIFE IS LIKE [A CUP OF HOT] CHOCOLATE

I first heard my daughter Hannah use this phrase when she was four. It was a cold Minnesota night as we were getting ready to leave our local YMCA. Hannah was standing beside her brother and sister as they waited patiently for our van to warm up in the parking lot, which is the sort of thing you do in Minnesota. The kids had been so compliant the whole evening that I promised them each a cup of hot chocolate when we got home. Hannah, however, was not impressed by my reward, so she tried to sweeten the deal.

“Can we get it at Ana’s house?” she asked.

Ana was our girls’ best friend who lived a couple of doors down. We had sipped hot chocolate with her and her family several times to wrap up afternoons of winter sledding, but on this particular night we just didn’t have time.

“No,” I replied smiling, “we’re going to drink it at our house tonight.”

And that’s when she said it, with the unforgettable face of unfiltered disappointment. “But we just have the stupid normal!”

Now, my four-year-oldwas not a hot chocolate connoisseur. She had no extensive research on which to base her claim that the hot chocolate I made was somehow inferior to others’. In that moment she just knew that the hot chocolate she drank at Ana’s was better than the stuff I made at home. Maybe it was the whole experience itself, maybe the company, maybe some extra marshmallows —I don’t really know. But for whatever reason, my hot chocolate just wasn’t the same. She knew there was something missing. She knew there could be something more. According to her assessment, our house just had the stupid normal.

And too often, that’s what many of us would say about our lives.

If we were to sit back and consider our everyday routines compared to the depths of reality—the depths we’ve at least heard to be true—a lot of us might look as disappointed as my daughter. Even if we know the right things to say, we’re rarely satisfied by how this knowledge contributes to the way we live. The grind of this life can get so monotonous. The labor never pays off the way we imagine it will. The vacations never deliver what we hope for. Even our most anticipated joys fizzle, leaving only fractured memories.

Is this it? Is this all there is? Something has to be missing. Surely there is something more.

We all wonder those things sometimes, even those of us who consider ourselves Christians.

We think about the bigness of this planet: all this life, all this action, all these sunrises. And then we take a look at the stack of trifles we’ve been buying into from this world: the ads that define the essence of joy, the pop lyrics that determine our value system, the magazine covers that set our standard for beauty. Not to mention the “calculated barrenness” being shoved down our throats.1 It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that all this air we’ve been breathing is a smog of lies. We’ve been running after something deep, but we’re not even scraping the surface. The psalmist tells us it’s the fool who says there is no God (see Psalm 14:1), and yet that’s the anthem we’ve all learned to sing. It has become normal. That’s why I call it “the stupid normal.”

THIS WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE

You shouldn’t feel strange if you’ve felt disappointed about these things. Instead, you should feel strange if you have not.

This is the issue at the center of the human experience.

It’s the issue our ancestors dealt with before us, and it’s the issue especially worth dealing with today since we live in such a secular age— an age that has “progressed” beyond the need for genuine faith, or so it seems.We now live in this moment of history in which our everyday existence plays out in what one philosopher has called “the immanent frame.”2

“No,” I replied smiling, “we’re going to drink it at our house tonight.”
 
And that’s when she said it, with the unforgettable face of unfiltered disappointment. “But we just have the stupid normal!”
 
Now, my four-year-old was not a hot chocolate connoisseur. She had no extensive research on which to base her claim that the hot chocolate I made was somehow inferior to others’. In that moment she just knew that the hot chocolate she drank at Ana’s was better than the stuff I made at home. Maybe it was the whole experience itself, maybe the company, maybe some extra marshmallows—I don’t really know. But for whatever reason, my hot chocolate just wasn’t the same. She knew there was something missing. She knew there could be something more. According to her assessment, our house just had the stupid normal.
 
And too often, that’s what many of us would say about our lives.
 
If we were to sit back and consider our everyday routines compared to the depths of reality—the depths we’ve at least heard to be true—a lot of us might look as disappointed as my daughter. Even if we know the right things to say, we’re rarely satisfied by how this knowledge contributes to the way we live. The grind of this life can get so monotonous. The labor never pays off the way we imagine it will. The vacations never deliver what we hope for. Even our most anticipated joys fizzle, leaving only fractured memories.
 
Is this it? Is this all there is? Something has to be missing. Surely there is something more.
 
We all wonder those things sometimes, even those of us who consider ourselves Christians.
 
We think about the bigness of this planet: all this life, all this action, all these sunrises. And then we take a look at the stack of trifles we’ve been buying into from this world: the ads that define the essence of joy, the pop lyrics that determine our value system, the magazine covers that set our standard for beauty. Not to mention the “calculated barrenness” being shoved down our throats.1 It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that all this air we’ve been breathing is a smog of lies. We’ve been running after something deep, but we’re not even scraping the surface. The psalmist tells us it’s the fool who says there is no God (see Psalm 14:1), and yet that’s the anthem we’ve all learned to sing. It has become normal. That’s why I call it “the stupid normal.”
 
But as much as I disagree with this philosophy, I’m really not writing this book to bad-mouth the world. Enough people have done that and could do it for years to come, so I’m trying to not go there. At the same time, I’m also not writing this book to explain how we can change the world, at least not overtly in some concerted, high-adrenaline kind of way. You certainly can change the world, but it won’t come by the clichés we see printed on T-shirts. My goal in this book is to help us live in this world. That’s because this world, after all, is the world in which we live. That’s how G. K. Chesterton navigated the waters of pessimism and optimism about the world in his day. He simply called himself a “cosmic patriot.”7 He tried to be more loyal than critical. His example teaches us that whether we celebrate this world or gripe about it, it is inescapably our world; therefore, it deserves our commitment. We might despise it for what it’s become and we might be weary of what it’s made normal, but that doesn’t mean we just keep complaining about it—and it certainly doesn’t mean we settle for it.
 
But if we don’t settle for it, what do we do? How do we lead our lives with significance and happiness when everything around us says there’s nothing beyond the stuff we see?
 
BE SOMETHING AND BE HAPPY
 
Truth is, the reason so many of us think there must be more to this life is because, well, there is more to this life. Something is missing. We crave something we’ve tasted before. And the taste we miss, the deepest craving of the human heart, is rooted in the beginnings of time. It’s a taste of glory. It’s a longing for significance.
 
Ignacio knew all about it.
 
Ignacio is the main character in the hilarious comedy Nacho Libre.
 
He plays a Mexican cook working for a Catholic orphanage while also moonlighting as a pro wrestler named Nacho (and nobody in the world could have played him better than Jack Black with a mustache). Midway through the movie, in Nacho’s attempt to recruit a new tag-team partner, he asks a question that resonates with all of us: “Aren’t you tired of getting dirt kicked in your face? Don’t you want a little taste of the glory? See what it tastes like?”
 
Yeah, Nacho, we do. We all do.
 
Dirt in our face is actually a fitting metaphor for what the world offers us, and it doesn’t come close to satisfying our souls. What the world gives doesn’t add up with who we are. We have greatness in our bones. We’ve tasted glory before, and we want it back.
 
It’s about more than glory though. Beneath and in and around our craving for significance is a craving to be happy. Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth-century theologian-philosopher-ninja, once put it like this: “All men are in search of happiness. There is no exception to this, whatever different methods are employed. They all aim for this goal.”8 And before Pascal, Saint Augustine, in the fourth century, shared the same conviction: “Every man, whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy. There is no man who does not desire this, and each one desires it with such earnestness that he prefers it to all other things; whoever, in fact, desires other things, desires them for this end alone.”9 
 
So the desire for glory, the ancients would say, is really about happiness. And I think that’s right; the two are actually intertwined. We find happiness in our significance and significance in our happiness. The truest gladness requires meaning, and meaning is found in our capacity to be glad. The two go hand in hand. Our happiness bleached of our meaning feels arbitrary. Our meaning bleached of our happiness feels too abstract to understand.
 
Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, gets at this same point. Haidt is a leader in a new positive-psychology movement that attempts to help people find happiness and meaning.10 The question of all questions—he calls it the “Holy Question”—is “What is the meaning of life?” Everyone should want to find an answer, he argues, and the hope, he says, is that all of us will discover something enlightening about who we are and what we’re doing in this world.11 
 
Each of us, in one way or another, is searching for the secret sauce, the silver bullet, whatever that thing is that will quench our thirst for significance and pleasure. We all want a “good, happy, fulfilling, and meaningful life.”12 
 
But we’re not going to find that in the mainstream culture.
 
There is, however, another path, one different from the one most commonly traveled in this secular age. And that path is found in the Christian story.
 
BIG BRUSH BRIGHT COLORS
 
Dorothy Sayers once wrote, “The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama.”13 Sayers understood that the essential pieces of Christian dogma, or doctrine, are inherently dramatic.14 She saw that the basic tenets of Christian theology are actually scenes within a greater narrative, and this greater narrative isn’t exactly a bedtime story. It’s a narrative full of brokenness and beauty, despair and hope, darkness and light. It’s a story we all live in, which means, one way or the other, we’re all journeying somewhere. We’re living in this story, and we’re going somewhere. And our lives at some point, in whatever age we might exist, will come to a clearing. There is a path we should know about. It’s not an easy path, but many have walked it before us, and it’s the only path that has the answers to our souls’ deepest longings.
 
So that’s what this book is about.
Over the next ten chapters, I will introduce to you the central parts of the Christian story, but not in the form of bland bullet points. I want you to encounter each doctrine as a milestone along a journey, leading us to the significance and happiness for which we were made.
 
Though originally shared in a language we don’t speak and told from the perspective of a culture and age different from our own, the truths you’re about to encounter speak to our greatest need. They form a path that resonates with our souls. These truths show us what’s missing, where to find it, and how we might experience something truer and better in this life—something much truer and better than the stupid normal.

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Product Details
  • Catalogue Code 472530
  • Product Code 9781601429063
  • ISBN 1601429061
  • EAN 9781601429063
  • Pages 160
  • Department General Books
  • Category Christian Living
  • Sub-Category General
  • Publisher Multnomah Publishers
  • Publication Date Aug 2017
  • Sales Rank #79259
  • Dimensions 202 x 131 x 11 mm
  • Weight 0.136kg

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