From this little mustard seed

To help myself understand the significance of the “mustard seed” in Matthew 13…

He plants it in an existing field alongside massive fields and farm machinery and silos and grain elevators and genetically engineered crops.

No, this little seed, Jesus says, is his kingdom. The others will eventually die. Everything else will burn. Nothing else will last. It doesn’t how matter how big their crops are, their buildings are, their money is, how rich their tradition is, how confident their laborers are…

This little seed, these little ones, the least of these, this little flock, this remnant, these little children, these humbled ones, from these, from this little seed the kingdom comes.


“Don’t you want to be married with your husband in heaven?”

We had just moved to Utah. We were living in a basement apartment. My wife was pregnant with our son.

BYU professor David J. Whittaker came to where we lived because our host wanted him to talk to me. I had talked faith/Jesus with her. David was in her ward.

I asked him about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, and he conceded flippantly that Smith had little honeymoons (i.e. trysts) with at least some of his plural wives. We got to talking about “eternal marriage.”

Stacie and I were sitting on the couch together, and he was sitting across from us. He asked Stacie, “Don’t you want to be married with your husband in heaven?” And she said matter-of-factly to him, “No.”

He was dumfounded. Stacie explained what Jesus taught in Matthew 22: there would be no marriage in heaven. We will be as the angels. She will worship Jesus. Jesus has joy in store for us at the resurrection that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. Marriage is an old-Earth reality. We trust Jesus for this.

I felt so deeply in love with Stacie. This was a romantic moment. I knew exactly what she meant. I felt closer to her in her very affirmation of not needing our marriage or even wanting it in heaven.

I love you, Stacie.

“Let those who have wives live as though they had none… For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29, 31)

“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30)

The least of these


“I am a special kind of Christian, the elite kind; not like *those* other Christians. I am defined by how I stand out among them, and I have no affection for their weak. I have nothing but embarrassment over them, and I am not eager to be one in mind with them, nor am I willing to be publicly shamed by association with them.”


“The least of Christians are my equal brothers, coheirs of the same inheritance, better men than I in blind spots of my own, especially to be loved when weak, all the more worth associating with when lowly, to be served with loving wisdom when ignorant, and not characterized by their worst. God distributed gifts to them that I do not have, and I am mutually encouraged by their faith. God chose the poor of the world to be rich in faith, and those are my people, since their savior is my savior, their God my God.”

“A plausible harmony of the accounts and sequence of events” of the resurrection

From Craig Blomberg’s Jesus and the Gospels, p. 413:

(1) A group of women come to the tomb near dawn, with Mary Magdalene possibly arriving first (Matt 28: 1; Mark 16: 1-3; Luke 24: 1; John 20: 1).

(2) Mary and the other women are met by two young men who in reality are angels, one of whom acts as the spokesman and announces Jesus’ resurrection (Matt 28: 2-7; Mark 16: 4-7; Luke 24: 2-7).

(3) The women leave the garden with a mixture of fear and joy, at first unwilling to say anything but then resolving to report to the Eleven remaining apostles (Matt 28: 8; Mark 16: 8). Mary Magdalene may have dashed on ahead, telling Peter and John in advance of the arrival of the other women (John 20: 2).

(4) Jesus meets the remaining women en route and confirms their commission to tell the disciples, with the reminder of his promise of meeting them in Galilee. The women obey (Matt 28: 9-10; Luke 24:8-11).

(5) Peter and John meanwhile have returned to the tomb, having heard the report by Mary Magdalene, and discover it to be empty (John 20: 3-10; Luke 24: 12).

(6) Mary also returns to the tomb after Peter and John have left. She sees the angels and then Jesus, although at first supposing him to be a gardener (John 20: 11-18).

(7) Later that afternoon, Jesus appears to Cleopas and his unnamed companion on the road to Emmaus and, in a separate incident, to Peter (Luke 24: 13-35).

(8) That same Sunday evening, Jesus appears to the Ten (the Eleven minus Thomas) behind locked doors in Jerusalem (Luke 24: 36-43; John 20: 19-23).

(9) A week later he appears to the eleven at the same venue, with Thomas now present (John 20: 24-29).

(10) Further appearances take place over a forty-day period, including in Galilee, with over five hundred seeing him altogether (Acts 1: 3; John 21; 1 Cor 15: 6).

(11) A climactic commissioning in Galilee instructs the disciples to spread the news throughout the world (Matt 28: 16-20).

(12) Perhaps only shortly thereafter, Jesus gives his parting instructions to await the coming Holy Spirit and ascends into heaven (Luke 24: 44-53; Acts 1: 4-11).

Four quotes on excellence in the ordinary

“To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.” (Henry J. Heinz)

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle)

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” (Annie Dillard)

“The strength of a man’s virtue must not be measured by his efforts, but by his ordinary life.” (Blaise Pascal)


“Do little things as though they were great, because of the majesty of Jesus Christ who does them in us, and who lives our life; and do the greatest things as though they were little and easy, because of His omnipotence.” (Blaise Pascal)
“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself” (Thomas Watson)

Five thoughts on faith, hope, and love

1. We admire faith, hope, and love in children before they’ve even developed a critical discernment between good parenting and bad parenting. They seem like virtues to be cultivated and protected.

2. Discernment has a place in the maturity of faith, hope, and love: love “rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

3. It is impossible to be neutral with these virtues. We seem either eager to have them or eager to avoid them.

4. Because of #3, we must be resolute in choosing, resolving, intending, and determining to have faith, hope, and love. Or else we default to a *disposition* of cynicism, suspicion, and lovelessness.

5. Resolve isn’t enough to change our deepest desires. We need God to recreate and shepherd our hearts. “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:25)

Good memories of my friend Braden Anderson

  • Meeting him and Valerie ten years ago in a little office in Provo. He was my first new friend after moving to Utah.
  • For ten years after: many, many discussions.
  • Going to OpenWest with him.
  • Him joining Instructure with me. In the office I could hear him from across the way coming, flopping with his sandals… in Winter.
  • Double dates. Restaurants. Card games. Civ 5. Speed typing!
  • Lunch at the Porcupine. Just me and him. Catching up. Talking life.
  • His relentless courtesy. He could have trained others to work in a queen’s palace.
  • His patient listening. Always listening. Always ready to hear. Available. There. Willing to talk. Ready.
  • Him politely enduring my endless litany of programming questions.
  • I advertised a programming party to some friends. He is the only one that showed up.
  • THESE are my sweetest memories with him: Running for 3-4 miles a few times a week and talking the ENTIRE time with him.
  • But it wouldn’t end. Deep discussions ensued across the shower stall walls of Dimple Dell Recreation Center.

Braden, I thought our conversations would continue for decades to come. I loved YOU, economics-loving atheist friend. I enjoyed having those conversations WITH YOU. YOU were an amazing human being. I am crushed and devastated. I HATE death and I want you back. And you were WRONG about life not having any intrinsic value, because YOU had it.

More memories of Braden:

  • Him introducing me to BYU’s 100 Hour Board. Often the topic of our conversation at Proton Communications.
  • Late-night speed typing contests with him and his wife.
  • The dude loved Scrolls and Minecraft.
  • Civ 5. Dude logged 209 hours on it.
  • A vocabulary for exclamation: Indubitably! Excellent! Breathtaking! Outstanding! Fascinating!
  • Double-date to an Ethiopian restaurant. And quaint little restaurants downtown.
  • I accidentally asked his wife if she was pregnant once while in the act of telling the story of accidentally asking a cashier if she was pregnant.
  • Really hard to offend.
  • He loved to quote
  • Him and his wife were quirky nerds and were made for each other.
  • His kids are sweet and gentle, a reflection of Braden’s personality. 
  • His haircut experiments. From full head, to monk, to bald.

He was leaving Remedy and got an offer at Lendio. I had recently joined Instructure. I convinced him to apply here before he took the position. He BCC’d me his e-mail to Lendio:

“To be frank, the main obstacle at this point is that Aaron Shafovaloff decided to go with Instructure. I would be excited to work with Aaron again, so I would have a hard time accepting an offer right now without at least meeting with Instructure.”

That meant a lot to me. He was my friend. And I miss him.

A coworker writes:

“Precisely…I just hear his voice ringing in my ear when i think of that word. I’d struggle to grasp and then put into words some developer concept, and when i finally explained it correctly, he’d quickly response in an upbeat voice…”PRECISELY”. That particular response always made me feel like I had it more together than I actually ever did.”