11. Eyes


The eye reveals our designed dependency on others. They, above all other faculties, declare us a social species. No other species of primate has a noticeable sclera allowing for the detection of a glance. And the ones that do, seem to be oblivious to it, following the movements of the head rather than the eyes. Even infants before developing language follow the direction of a person’s eye (Senju, 2008). Chimpanzees and other animals cannot, instead they only follow head movement.

“If I am advertising the direction of my eyes, I must be in a social environment full of others who are not inclined to take advantage of this to my detriment—by beating me to food or escaping danger before me. Instead, I must be in a cooperative environment where others following the direction of my eyes somehow benefit me” (Tomasello, 2007).

Our eyes do not naturally hide or deceive, as many species of animal find it necessary to do, for the sake of competition and surprise. If we note that the Heavenly command is to love other’s as ourselves, then it makes sense that our eyes are not antagonistic to this end. Instead they show we are fundamentally dependent on one another. Love works no ill towards others. Love is the fulfilling of the Law, and our eyes are witnesses to it. (Romans 13:10).

~John Bryan

Recommendation: The Brain by David Eagleman


10. Turtles

Every story must begin somewhere. And this one begins on the seaside. Nature loves to hold on to mysteries, as if to disclose them meant she’ll lose a part of herself. For a long time, it was a mystery how turtle hatchlings found the sea. Perhaps the gentle sound of waves was calling out to them, saying “come, this is the way home.” But there is a stronger explanation. Not the call of the sea, but light from the moon glistening upon the horizon (Rivas, Tomillo, Uribeondo, & Marco, 2015). These turtles follow the moonlight as it reflects over the ocean. They keep their eyes on its glow, as they make their way towards the freedom that the ocean brings. CONTINUE READING…

Reference- (Rivas, et al., 2015)

9. Heartbreak


Heartbreak—had I been born anything but human, perhaps I would not have felt it. But we don’t get to choose what we’re born, any more than we get to choose who loves us. And when those we wish would love us don’t—love hurts. Yet, it is not love itself which hurts, but the lack thereof.

We know we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves; I am led to believe that this is of greater importance than love for God. Because to love Him whom you have not seen, while you passively neglect those whom you have, is an unprofitable contradiction (1 John 4:20). Your love of religion, your faith, your hope, all collapse before you when you show indifference. All your eloquence and scriptures become dead noise, profiting you nothing. How can your God be with you when you are not where He is? I have seen Him with the lonely and rejected. With those who eat by themselves. With those who are forced to walk alone. With those whom you did not associate with.

Our brains respond to heartbreak, the way it responds to physiological pain (Kraft, 2011). Too many cry alone for us as followers of God to do nothing about. We are fundamentally dependent upon one another for our cognitive, emotional, and physiological development (Harlow, 1958). Our words and actions, our neglect or compassions, all mutually influence the well-being of others, which in turn influence our own.

As Christians we should enjoy taking the love of God to those who are destitute of it, knowing that in so doing we bring them life. We are social beings, and loneliness can affect everything from heart disease to blood pressure, to how long you live (Resnick, 2017). I propose that the loving embrace of a friend, is nothing short of life itself. And the sweet embrace of God’s love, nothing short of life eternal.

We are a broken people, and they will know us by our love. (John 13:35).

~John Bryan

Book Recommendation: I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris

Reference: (Harlow, 1958) (Kraft, 2011) (Resnick, 2017)

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8. Garments

Does what you wear matter? The psychology of how dress affects behavior is termed Enclothed Cognition. It isn’t coincidence that makes people who dress the same to act the same; or perhaps you yourself have noticed that when you dress better, you feel better, and you do better.

Research conducted on subjects made to wear lab coats showed improved attentiveness on tests, particularly when made to believe they wore a doctor’s coat as opposed to a painter’s coat (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). Had the test measured creativity, perhaps the results would have been reversed.

“For He has clothed me with garments of Salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His Righteousness.” -Isaiah.61.10.

As Christians, you know you have been clothed with heavenly garments. Remember that, and act accordingly.

~John Bryan

Book Recommendations – Christ and His Righteousness by E.J. Wagonner

Reference: (Adam & Galinsky, 2012)

7. Deception

Deception. Very few words carry such a wealth of negative emotions. But what sort of things are deceptive?

The first televised presidential election occurred in 1960 between Nixon and Kennedy. The day after the debate the Chicago Daily News ran the headline, “Was Nixon Sabotaged by TV Makeup Artists?” A number of things occurred during the debate that has since shaped our notion of a public image. Two in particular were body language, and presentation. Firstly, Kennedy was bronzed and aided by the use of makeup, while Nixon was pale and began to sweat under the lights. Secondly, Kennedy made eye-contact with the camera while Nixon tended not to do so, giving the impression of lying (History.com staff, 2010).

Can judgements be manipulated by impressions? In the aftermath of the debate an interesting division began to emerge. Voters who saw the televised debate believed Kennedy was superior, but voters who listened to the debate on radio felt Nixon was the winner. It is written, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting” (Proverbs 31:30). This is called the Halo Effect. We tend to like everything about a person, or nothing at all. This means little bits of information about one aspect spill over into other unrelated categories. A person you consider to be polite, may also be considered to be more charitable by you. Even though politeness does not imply charitability. Or in this case, a candidate’s body language and demeanor is unrelated to their political knowledge and leadership (Kahneman, 2011).

A similar situation occurred in Scripture, when Samuel went by God’s command to find a successor to King Saul. Arriving at the house of Jesse, Samuel began to examine his sons. Upon looking at the eldest son Eliab he said, “Surely, the Lords anointed is before Him.” Notice the disconnect. Samuel saw, and concluded he was fit to run the kingdom. But the Lord said, “Do not consider his appearance, for I have rejected him.” From elections, to the people who walk in our church, what you see with your eyes is deceptive. The verse continues, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

~John Bryan

Book Recommendations: Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Reference: (Kahneman, 2011) (History.com Staff, 2010)

6. Empathy

Some people are the world to us, and others hardly matter at all. Strangers do not compel us to compassion, but rather to caution, fear, and exclusion. But Christ teaches us that our moral obligations extend beyond those whom we know and trust. He teaches us that the mere presence of a stranger, makes him a neighbor, and thus worthy of love. (Bloom, 2013)

The system of mirror neurons stands at the forefront of empathy. It makes us feel what others feel. It is a basic level of connection, of humanity. Take a simple emotion: disgust. When shown videos of people smelling a foul odor, participants watching the facial expression on a screen showed activation in the anterior insula. Observing an emotion in others activates the neuronal representation of that emotion in us (Wicker, 2003). Our own brains connect the gap between us and a stranger.

~John Bryan

Book Recommendation: Against Empathy by Paul Bloom

Reference: (Bloom, 2013)  (Wicker, 2003)

5. Adversity

Adversity has made us who we are, and adversity must sustain us. If God has chosen us in this furnace of affliction, why do you fear and why complain?

Longitudinal studies show a U-shaped curve between adversity and resilience. Extreme adversity is never good, but neither is no adversity (Seery, Holman, & Silver, 2010). Individuals who had experienced at least some lifetime adversity, showed better resilience, mental-health and well-being than individuals who had experienced no adversity.
Moreover, optimism in the face of adversity has been correlated with increased life longevity, even when corrected for health risks. So, who taught you to fear?

“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).

~John Bryan

Book Recommendations: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Reference: (Seery, Holman, $ Silver, 2010)

4. Eternity

Would you want to live forever?

The most common objection is no for fear of boredom. Boredom is indeed an interesting emotion, it expresses an egoistic dissatisfaction with the majesty of the universe. But the desire to be entertained is not a proper gauge for our desire to live. Instead, how socially satisfied we are, often correlates directly to our interest in life. Consider the sad reality of suicides. Why do people end their life? Not because they got bored, but typically because they didn’t feel loved, they felt excluded, or were experiencing heartbreak. We are social beings, and therefore social reasons are at the forefront of suicide. 87% of people who attempt suicide have no adequate social network of friends or meaningful relationships (Magne-Ingvar, et al, 1992). In the elderly suicide attempts begin to rise as time and age wears away precious relationships and social support (Conwell, et al, 2002).

Life is truly about loving and being loved, and we are all responsible for one another. Life is not about what we’re doing, but who we’re with. Interacting with other people. Spending time with those you love, that is what this life is about—and that is what eternal life is about.

So I posit that eternity is not boring, but rather the natural craving of every heart that’s found love. Hearts lucky enough to bathe in love don’t want the world to end, and time to tick away. The promise of heaven rests on this. That where He is, there we may be also (John 14:3).

~John Bryan

Book Recommendations: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Reference: (Magne-Ingvar, et al, 1992) (Conwell, et al, 2002)
*Please note: Not all suicides are due to loneliness, just like depression is not always due to sadness. Our brain is a delicate organ, and the slightest change can lead to thoughts that are not your fault for having. 
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

3. Fear of Flight

Plane crashes are devastating. It isn’t too difficult to recall all the planes that have been lost. The memory persists, and the list increases year by year. I cannot say that I have overcome my fear. I don’t fly often, therefore I don’t have to face that fear as often. Since I am located right under their path to the airport, planes seem to always fly over my house. I can see them from my window. Day after day. Hour after hour. I look out the window of my room as I lay in bed. I gaze up and see all the planes that are safely reaching their destination—it helps me.

Whenever I do fly, there is a strange comfort in knowing that the pilot is human like me. He is driven by the same fear and the same self-preservation. He wants to stay alive as much as me, he wants to get home to his family, and will do everything possible to ensure it. We share the same humanity.

Christ plays a similar role. There are many things in life that will create fear in us. There are many things about religion that may be as unknown as what’s outside the window of a plane. But there is one thing we do know. That He who is flying this plane, is a Man like me. We share the same humanity.

May we not lose sight of our Heavenly Pilot.

~John Bryan