James Gleick, in Chaos: Making a New Science, writes: “Watch two bits of foam flowing side by side at the bottom of a waterfall. What can you guess about how close they were at the top? Nothing. As far as standard physics was concerned, God might just as well have taken all those water molecules under the table and shuffled them personally. Traditionally, when physicists saw complex results, they looked for complex causes. When they saw a random relationship between what goes into a system and what comes out, they assumed that they would have to build randomness into any realistic theory, by artificially adding noise or error. The modern study of chaos began with the creeping realization in the 1960s that quite simple mathematical equations could model systems every bit as violent as a waterfall. Tiny differences in input could quickly become overwhelming differences in output - a phenomenon given the name ’sensitive dependence on initial conditions.’ In weather, for example, this translates into what is only half-jokingly known as the Butterfly Effect - the notion that a butterfly stirring the air today in Peking can transform storm systems next month in New York” (8).
Glenn Packiam, associate worship pastor at New life Church in Colorado Springs, and director of New Life School of Worship, transforms the above scientific abstract into a meaningful metaphor for those disciples of Jesus who are looking for the next step. His book: Butterfly in Brazil: How Your Life Can Make a World of Difference. The lesson: small changes at the beginning can lead to big differences in the end. This is a great, and incredibly simple lesson for all of us!
Many of us want to change the world. We have heard God’s call and we have caught a major glimpse of Jesus of Nazareth’s vision. So, we attend a lot of church meetings, read a lot of books, enroll in theology schools, and some of us even pursue and earn master degrees. We do all of this in preparation for the call. We really do want to change the world; we want to fulfill our call. It’s our mission in life. It is a noble quest. The world would be a much better place, if only more people would join us on the quest.
More often than not, however, we wait for God to show up and launch us into our world-changing greatness. We fill our days and nights with mere preparation and await the great moment when all that we have stored up is suddenly released upon the masses by a divine move of God. This sudden release of stored potential, of course, will most likely occur as we stand before throngs of people who are ready and willing to become the blessed recipients of our cache of greatness, or so we imagine. So, we wait, for God to do something. And we wait some more …
Packiam address this phenomenon directly in Butterfly in Brazil. Glenn uses a wide array of Biblical principles to show readers that the sort of revolutionary change Jesus inspires followers to seek usually - most of the time - begins in small things. He suggests the we trace the steps of those Christian and Biblical heroes who went before us back to their incredibly humble beginnings. Should we actually do so, while paying close attention to the humble beginnings of these revolutionary heroes, we will discover a collection of principles that will revolutionize our own call and our own lives.
Practically, Packiam begins the book by describing most of us, and uncomfortably so. Why is it such an uncomfortable description? Well, because it is entirely true! “Everybody wants to start a revolution,” Packiam writes in chapter one. “But nobody wants to fight the last man standing.” Said differently, most of us are comfortable preparing for greatness, but few of us are actually willing to engage those small, everyday things from which such greatness is born. It’s all about getting directly involved with what God has placed before us right now. It’s all about today!
Packiam emphasizes the point clearly by writing:
“If we live each phase of life as if it’s a stepping stone to greatness, we will find ourselves living each moment at half-speed. God wants us to take what’s stirring in our hearts today and act upon it here and now. Instead of waiting for great things to happen, we should be asking God, “What do I do about this idea now? I know that someday there may be a greater fulfillment of the dream - maybe there’s a piece that won’t unfold until twenty years from now - but what do I do here and now?” everything God has put inside us must be expressed and acted on here and now - or it will never multiply and grow. No matter how small and seemingly insignificant it might be, we can do something today; we can get started with something” (11).
Packiam fills the rest of this great read with examples and illustrations of Carpe Diem plucked from his own life, church history, and Biblical stories. Readers are introduced to a few familiar and not so familiar stories illustrating reality’s preference for small, initial changes (input), and how these seemingly tiny differences in input produce overwhelming and lasting differences in the end (output). A few of these practical illustrations include a narrative describing his effort to gain acceptance from his wife’s Midwestern family, Frank the security guard who suspiciously spied a piece of tape on a latch a basement door in the office building in which he worked (his spying that piece of tape led to the event we now know as “Watergate”), Cyril Evans (who was the radio operator of the California, which was floating eight or nine miles away from another ship named “Titanic”), Martin Luther, Billy Graham, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Each of these stories - and many others included - serve as living examples of how sometimes the smallest things make the biggest differences, in the end. Some of the stories teach this lesson from positive, successful examples; other stories offer readers examples of how not to pursue this truth.
I highly recommend this book. It is a great, practical read. If you are one of us who dream big dreams but need a nudge to actually start getting involved in the small things of everyday life where big dreams are realized, then get this book. It is an easy, entertaining read, full of great, great stories which illustrate the point. It’s a great book! In fact, I think it is fitting to close this review with one final excerpt from Packiam’s Butterfly in Brazil:
“Imagine Jesus looking into your eyes with his warm smile. He sees your big dreams. he knows your desire to create massive change because of the massive change you’ve experienced. But he wants you to know that your opportunities to change the world are not waiting for you in the future, they are waiting for you right now.”
Gleick, James. Chaos: Making a New Science. Boston: Penguin (Non-Classics), 1988.
Packiam, Glenn. Butterfly in Brazil: How Your Life Can Make a World of Difference. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.
The proceeding was an Ooze Select Bloggers Book Review.