What’s More Lasting Than a Resolution?

My family and I celebrated New Year’s Eve in the States for the first time in a couple years. It was a fun night surrounded by friends, playing games, talking, and more importantly, laughing together. It’s been a long time since I laughed like that. I’m not a huge celebrator on New Year’s Eve as I hate staying up that late to watch a ball drop, or to go light fireworks….the years of youth ministry full of all nighters have kind of killed it for me. But being up with friends is well worth the cost the next day of being tired. We were headed back home at 12:10 a.m. and we were all in bed by 12:25 🙂

You hear it as soon as Christmas is over…. the talk of resolutions, the plans for the new year and the list of things people hope to get accomplished. Setting goals is important. I a big proponent of setting goals. For me, if I don’t have goals to reach, I squander my time, run around aimlessly and become a slave to the things of the “urgent” instead of engaging in things of the meaningful. But part of the meaningful things is calling on our lives as followers of Jesus to simply be. Being doesn’t require any doing. And God often times asks us to stop the doing ….and just be.

The burning bush, the small still voice, being in a garden praying, retreating away from the crowd, getting up early before the sun, being away and fed by ravens, not having to prepare meals but simply collect manna from heaven……all of these stories and verses encourage us to stop the doing and simply focus on being. Accepting that we are in the presence of God, begin the inward journey of accepting who we are in Christ, start to understand how God has made us, see the world that is actually around us not just what we want to see.

With the sometimes lengthy lists of resolutions I’ve had, my experience has been that I get focused on accomplishing that list and less about sitting in God’s presence. If things on that list start to control me, I am no longer being a being-I am pushing my being aside to do. And sometimes I’m doing things just to do them. I am a get-things-done kind of guy. And I also know that me being is far more important than me doing. If I have little understanding of who I am in Christ or God’s presence, how can I help others dive into the deeper life?

Moses takes time to stop and just be in God’s presence in the form of a burning bush…but empowers him to lead all the Hebrew out of Egypt and crushing Pharaoh; David, getting up before sunrise, was a warrior king-the greatest in Israel’s history; collecting manna allowed the Hebrews to see God will always provide for them….though there were times when we are asked to quite ourselves and just be, this often times leads to God using us in deeper ways than we had ever hoped.

As we are now three days into 2017, I want to encourage all of us to hold our great list of resolutions and goals very loosely. To not get so caught up in doing that we lose sight of the One who created us. To spend time just being in His presence and starting down an inward journey of  you are in Christ. In that, I believe you will be able to connect with people on a much deeper level and become leaders of others on a similar journey.

Happy New Year

be blessed

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We Really Are Worthless…But…

We really are worthless, you and I.

Recently, my family spent two weeks in an all Hindu culture. We were there for a bit of rest and family time, it just happened that the culture was Hindu. Watching even the most nominal in their beliefs, be so pious just in case what they believed was true, they might be spared some sort of punishment both presently and eternally. Though the architecture was beautiful and the smell of incense was pleasant, the underlying idea that these acts must be done in some sort of feeble attempt to atone for any possible wrong doing, both known or unknown, was sad and heart breaking.

Iris and I’s first encounter with such piety was when we traveled to Nepal and India for two months, it seems like forever ago. That trip in 2000 was a life changing event for the both of us. Part of that was seeing the complete and utter despair and uncertainty of never knowing what side of their god they were on. It confirmed in our hearts that we were to live overseas and share about this loving Savior we know and have complete certainty in.

We really are worthless, you and I. If we look at all the world religions, there really is absolutely no reason any of these gods would want anything to do with us. All are based on acts of piety, sacrifice and fear. Lots of fear. We make lots of mistakes, hurt people, are constantly at war, even with each other in the same religion, we have little compassion for one another, even the unborn. Other than simply toying with us, why would any god want us at all?

Especially the Living God, the Creator of the universe with the power of His simple spoken word. Born into this fallen world, we see the beauty of the Creator in His creation. We continue to experience His power, His love, His compassion and His wrath. In comparison to Him, we are nothing. We will never be greater than He is. We can never do anything remotely close to what He can do. We can die in an instant and even though revived, our days in this very tangible world are numbered. He is eternal.

I read a verse this morning that was incredibly profound to me.

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”-Ephesian 5:14

There are people who love themselves. There has been much teaching in the Church that loving yourself is bad. It is un-Christ like, it is selfish, it is prideful, it is unloving. I remember hearing this growing up. People who loved themselves didn’t understand Christ nor the sacrifice that He made for us. To love yourself was a sin. I think there is some truth to this, but I don’t think it is all true. Yes, I do believe there are people who love themselves in a way were they don’t care about others, they are trying to get as much out of life for themselves as they possibly can-fame, fortune, sex, attention, good feelings, power, etc. Perhaps it’s not even a love of self, it may be more of an insatiable greed.

But I also believe there are people who love themselves exactly how God desires us to. What do I mean? When we love ourselves because of Christ, we are honoring who we are in Him and honoring the humanity in which He has made us. If we don’t love ourselves because of Him, we do not honor the gifts He has given us, abilities He has given us, our history, past, relationships….pain. All of those things He has given us become pointless.

My journey of recovery started about three years ago. I am a big proponent of recovery ministries, the 12 Steps and other recovery resources. I personally think every follower of Jesus should start down the road of recovery because I have seen more honest, raw, healthy, growing people in their relationships with Christ because they realized their need for recovery, than I have in churches full of “healthy” people.  But that’s just my opinion and experience. In the Step groups and breakout groups I’ve been a part of, I have seen people who have had no love for themselves at all. It seems they are only going through he motions of living because they fear dying, or they want to be their for their kids or spouse. But in regards to having any self love or self respect, they lost it all to their various addictions, hurts, habits and hang-ups. I shouldn’t say “their” but “our” as I am one of those who believed the same.

But coming to a point where you have nothing and realizing how little and insignificant you are, you begin to realize how incredible it is that Christ does first love us. When we realize this and begin to more fully understand (because I don’t think we will ever fully understand), we begin to have a love for ourselves and everything that makes us us, because of Christ. When we come to a point where we can love ourselves, be thankful for what has happened before, what’s happening now, be honest with how we are feeling about all of that with a God who can handle us and our emotions, I believe is when we are at a place of the greatest understanding of God’s love for us and communion with Him.

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

What hit me about this verse today was that yes, the Creator is telling us to wake up from our sleep. Wake up from the idea that we are to deny ourselves to the extreme, wake up to the falsity that how we were made, everything about us is bad. To wake up and rise from this death speak into the truth that Christ loves us. To rise up and see what freedom their can be if we love ourselves because He first loved us. What life giving truth is that. My prayer is that because He first loved us, we love ourselves today even if it’s the the very first time we ever have. Honoring Christ and honoring ourselves, how incredible.

Have you found this to be true? Have you gone from despair to a love of yourself becaseu of Christ? What was your journey like?

be blessed today

Photo Credit: http://www.worthless.co/

Nothing To Live For

Being content. Happiness. Fulfillment. Satisfied.

These are all words that have come into my journal the past two to three years. Not so much as I am these things, but more along the lines of will I have or will I attain these things. And more questions like “are we to be happy, are we to be fulfilled or satisfied with where we are (geographically, socially, emotionally, etc)?” I know I’m not the only one who has had to ask the same things, wonder about the answers or spend time reflecting on where I am at the moment. Iris, my friends and others have allowed me to sit in those questions, those sacred glances off into the distance of the past and future. And I wonder am I to ever be content? Am I ever to be happy? Am I ever to be fulfilled? Am I ever to be satisfied? At least “ever” being on this planet.

Ricky Gervais, the British comedian, whom I find really funny, is also an Atheist. He’s fairly outspoken about his faith and has disdain and critique of all religions, especially Christianity.  I really do like his brash and honest comedy, I have read many of his quotes and thoughts on those who believe in Jesus. A few months ago, I read the following quote by him-  “It’s a strange myth that atheists have nothing to live for. It’s the opposite. We have nothing to die for. We have everything to live for.”

I’ve reflected on his thought from time to time wondering if he is correct, if his premise and main notion is true. Do atheists have nothing to die for? Do they have everything to live for? What about those of us who follow Jesus, do we have nothing to live for and everything to die for?

I think Ricky is right. He, as faith in atheism, is right- he has nothing to die for. He has nothing, including himself, that he needs to die to or die for. It is totally up to him as to what he does with his life. Which is why he is right about the second part. He has everything to live for. Anything and everything he wants to do, he can try to do it. That is true. And in the end, he will have done everything that he may have wanted to do for himself that he possibly could.

But does his statement mean that for those who believe in Jesus the complete opposite is true? In other words, if we believe in Christ, we have everything to die for and therefore nothing to live for? In my opinion, not totally. I’ve been trying to figure out why this statement bothers me so much….I think I know why. Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I searched and read and tried to understand why that quote bothered me so much. The idea that I have nothing to live for or nothing to die for really didn’t sit well with me. Praying through that, I realized why. If I, we, live for Christ, it’s a win for us as well. If we die for Christ, it’s a win for us as well. In my mind it looks like a win win. But I am biased. I realize that.

So, how does that fit into being content, satisfied, fulfilled and happy? I know of some people who say that this world is going to hell in a hand basket. “It’s ok, we’ll get it in the end living eternally with God,” is the comment given after some tragic event or negative thing that may happen.  It’s almost a justification for us to accept being beat down, joyless and accepting that God doesn’t have something better for us. I’ve interacted with a lot of people as I have traveled and I am often saddened at the apathetic and defeatist mentality I have found in some of the believers I’ve engaged with.

We have the ability, when we are able to dig through all the layers of junk and dysfunction laying on us, we have the ability to be at incredible peace even though there may be massive chaos around us. This is a gift from the Prince of Peace for all those who follow Him. I am learning that I can be content in Christ, that He satisfies my every thirst. But I am not fulfilled unless I am being used by Him for the purposes He has created me to be apart of. Sometimes I need help in seeing where He is using me, exactly how He wired me. Sometimes I need to lean into the community around me, my support system, to gain perspective as to where He is using me in my giftings. It just may not look like how I envisioned it.

He calls us to Himself, to no one else, to nothing else. Simply to Himself. And as I follow Him, grow closer to Him, learn more from Him, the more I am learning that heaven is Heaven, but there is so much goodness, so many gifts, so much here that He has for me. We have everything to die for-eternity with Someone who loves us deeper than our wildest imagination. But we also have everything to live for-community, nature, compassion, joy and the list goes on. To simply wait for the end to come, when there are glimpses of it now that would be missed, well, that’s not really living, is it?

We have everything to both die and live for. Start living.

Have you found this to be true? In those moment you have chosen life as opposed to waiting for eternity, what was your experience?

Be Blessed

Photo Credit: http://www.bambuclinic.com/child-with-daisy-between-toes-lying-in-meadow-relaxing-in-summer/

Are You Gasping For Air?

In the early 90’s, there was a show that aired in the U.S. about how the national emergency response system was beneficial in helping to save lives. It was a way to promote the system/special phone number as well as a way to build greater awareness that such a service existed. It was based on true events using the actual emergency conversations that took place. The host was William Shatner, most famous for playing Captain Kirk from the original Star Trek franchise and television show.

Apart from him, the show was filled with horrible, over-the-top dramatic, bad acting. It always involved someone doing CPR to try and get the victim of the unforeseen accident back to breathing, as well a pulse. Compressing the chest to get the heart pumping, then breathing into their mouth to fill up their lungs to get them breathing again was just a normal part of what was on the show. Though it was bad acting, the show was effective in helping everyone understand just how beneficial the  911 system was/is.

One thing I do remember about the program was when people performed CPR on the victims, eventually most of the victims would suddenly gasp as if actually taking that first breath after not breathing for so long. It showed, as real as it could, how taking that first “breath of life” is a powerful moment when trying to bring someone back to life. The rescuer was literally breathing life into the victim.

In December, I was able to speak with three friends that have had a place in my heart for a while. Two of them have been friends of mine since college (a mere 18 years now) and the third, for just over a year. But each has a part of my heart because of the laughter, encouragement, honesty, vulnerability and love they bring to my life, and I, hopefully, to theirs. No matter the topic, time difference, length of call or via phone or Skype, they are important to me. Why? Because they breathe life into me.

Sometimes in talking with them, and others in my support circle, it is as dramatic as that tv show. This moment where I feel lifeless, hopeless even. Suddenly, truth is spoken over me, life is breathed into me and it’s as if I am taking that first big ‘gggaaaaasssssspppppp’ of air…..of life.

I’d love to say that I created this group of people around me, of these life breathers….but I didn’t. Perhaps I had a hand in it as I sought some of them out, kept them as friends, allowed them to speak truth, breathe life. Perhaps. I also think God placed these people in my life. I simply had to allow them to breathe life into me and allow them to see me, warts and all. This also means that I had to say no to those who didn’t breathe life, who didn’t speak truth over me. This was hard as I am part people pleaser. I don’t like it when people don’t like me. Often, though, those who didn’t speak truth I allowed myself to believe it was truth. it wasn’t life giving, it was life taking. Setting up boundaries and saying no, then seeking out those who did speak truth was is a long process that will probably be an on going, life journey. But it is so worth it.

To have life breathed into you and you breathing life into others, is nothing short of a miracle. A freeing miracle. We are told to do this and see it modeled throughout Scripture. God literally breathed life into Adam. Jesus breathed life into those around Him as well as the disciples and apostles with those around them. And, we are commanded to do the same. But it starts with seeking out those that speak truth into you which means vulnerability is needed on both sides. My prayer is that you and I continue to surround ourselves with life givers.

   Do you have those around you that breathe life, speak truth and edify you?  Are there boundaries that you need to set in place for those who take life? What are some truths that those around you have spoken about you that brought you life? Thanks for sharing!

 

Why You Feel You Never Have Enough and Never Measure Up

I’m constantly feeling like I never have enough. Or, worse yet, I never measure up to the next guy. I never have enough time to wake up in the morning. I never have enough time to get to work. I never get enough done at work. I never have enough time with my kids. I never have enough time to decompress. And, of course, I never get enough sleep! It get’s really bad when I start comparing myself to the “other guy.” He always has plenty of time to play with his kids. He always has enough money for the things he wants to do. He always has the right timing and right kinds of family vacations. Yep, he’s pretty well off.

The one thing I always forget is that I know nothing of this other guy. I don’t know what kind of debt load he may carry, or the arguments he may have with his kids or the hours and pressures he’s feeling at work. And of course, I always forget that it is none of my concern nor business!

Brene Brown in her book “Daring Greatly” says that we are a culture of “never enough.” This perception and outlook on life warps the truth of what we actually do have and hides those things that are incredible possessions. In recovery, and part of my own spiritual formation journey, you get to a point in the 12 Steps where you begin to realize that life is so much better in freedom than bound up with your addictions. In some of the final Steps, we are encouraged to create a Gratitude Journal.

Simply put, it is a list of the things you have to be grateful for. The sun shining today, the rain falling out your window, you had to get up early but saw an incredible sunrise you would have normally missed, having a hard conversation but being true to yourself, being able to walk or not  and moving about in this world with the perspective that 95% of the population does not have, and the list could go on. On some days, I write down the first one and feel the desire to journal about that one thing. And other days, I just list things. When we begin to take our focus off of what we don’t have, we are able to more clearly see the things that we do. These gifts are just that-gifts.

For me, I was upset the other day. Saturday didn’t not start how I had wanted it to. I woke up late, had to go the the hardware market to get a few supplies, come home and fix the things that were broken. All this after me packing for an overnight trip I had planned to take with my 8 year old son as part of his “rite of passage” birthday and getting a pocket knife. Our “Manventure” was something I had been planning for awhile. When I had hoped to get out of the city by 10 a.m., find our camp site for the night and then go hiking, we didn’t leave until 1 p.m. Those thoughts of “well the “other guy dad” would have already been out of town and been hiking with his boy having a grand ole time by now and here I am still having to go to the store for a few last snack items.” I would like to meet this “other guy” sometime. I’m not sure if we would get along or even hang out, but perhaps I would see that he is nothing like the idol I have built up in my mind. Perhaps I would finally stop comparing myself to him.

So, back to the trip with my son….. once we got out of town, the drive, the hikes in the caves, going up to the peaks, climbing rocks and probably letting him get a little closer to the edge of some cliffs than his mother would, the time was priceless. Playing kid card games for three hours straight, having s’mores for breakfast and seeing wolves could not have been topped by anything this mystery “other guy” or the ridiculous idea of “never enough” could have ever topped. It wasn’t until I sat down to write a post tonight that this flood of gratitude came over me for this weekend. God has blessed me with so much.  Who am I to constantly have the mentality and perception that it’s never enough? God, in his omnipotence, love and grace is more than enough. This “Percieved Scarcity” as Michael Hyatt calls it, is just as he describes- OUTRAGEOUS!!

I’m not great at keeping this gratitude journal. But, when I do, it has always been a way of recentering myself under and surrounded by, Jesus. So, what if you kept one? What are some things you could list off right now, not necessarily write about, but simply list? What would they be? Comment below, I would love to hear about some of them. Remember, we all learn from each other, please help my understanding of God grow as you share from your own experience!

When Reality Hits-“Oh, Crap!”

   So, Christmas. Ahhh Christmas. If I had a house or could string up lights outside, you could equate me to Clark Griswold. Starting as early as Iris let’s me, I will play Christmas music non stop. I have my own set list that I very rarely sway from of nothing but the classics. I have my movie playlist, some of which I watch only once a season, and some multiple times a week. Ahhh Christmas.
     I grew up on a farm and we always had a lot of snow in the winter. We’d decorate trees on the outside of our house, and wrap the fence that lined our drive way in big white lights. It was an old farmhouse, so the ceilings were quite tall which led to us getting large Christmas trees. There is a magic that revolves around Christmas-family, snow, lights, seeing your breath, the surprise of Christmas morning, music dedicated to this one event and of course the reason we celebrate in our household, the birth of Jesus. The hype is part of the fun for me. Many radio stations will play holiday tunes non stop the weeks leading up to the 25th. Stores are decorated, cars are decorated and there are Christmas concerts everywhere. It’s great.
     And then there is the 26th of December.
     A day that for me at least, is a massive buzz kill. Suddenly, the radio stations go back to playing what they were playing before Thanksgiving. No more tv specials, no more parades, no more big family or work get togethers. It all kind of ends..and people just complain about the winter weather from that point forward. The magic is gone, reality hits.
     Oddly, I feel the same way after reaching some big accomplishment, meeting a big goal or attaining a major strategic point. Whether it be developing a team, opening a business or getting the nod to start a new project, the magic and charisma built around the moment leading up to that is gone. Casting vision is something I love to do. I love public speaking, I love sharing about what’s on my heart, the vision that I or my team has created for the future, the strategy of how to get there-it’s all fun for me. But, when the point comes and it’s time to start, the small pinhead of fear turns into a a major chasm in my chest. “Crap, they are counting on me. How in the world are we going to be able to continue on with what we’ve accomplished? My credibility could go out the window if this fails.”
     I can get by on my own, pushing down the fear for a little while. But then it starts to infiltrate every aspect of my life. I either crumble and become uber controlling or I become paralyzed about what to do next. At least these are my two defaults. And by every aspect I mean family, friends, work, spiritual, emotional and physical. Thankfully, I have people in my life who I’ve surrounded myself with who can call me on these things. They tell me when I am in a downward spiral and can speak truth, encouragement and gentle correction into me.

One  way  is taking a moment, pausing and then being grateful

     One major way I (usually) can put that feeling in it’s rightful place is taking a moment, pausing and then being grateful that I have the privilege to do it. Whether it’s taking on a multi-million dollar project or getting to run the meeting for the day, being grateful for what we have, the opportunity given, the trust others have in us and the relationships intertwined with each of these is something that can calm us down and focus on the next step or two that needs to take place for the vision to come to fruition. At least for me, this helps me to not become controlling and it also helps me to not become paralyzed.

     Another way is to stop and take a moment to remember who I am

     Another major way that I, again usually, can put this feeling back to it’s correct size is to stop and take a moment to remember who I am. I am not defined by the job I have, the title I’m given, the role I have at a company. I’m not defined by my salary, standard of living or stuff that I have. I’m not defined by a comparison of me versus someone else. For me, first and foremost, I am defined by what my God says about me. Second, I am defined by those things I chose to embrace about me. No one can ever take any of those things away from me. When I take a moment, pause and reflect on those, suddenly that overwhelming, let down, buzz kill, paralyzing, over controlling, “oh crap” feeling dissipates, or at least minimizes back to a proper size. Reality seems much clearer, attainable and enjoyable.
     These aren’t the only things that help. I did say “usually” because sometimes there are other parts I have in my life that help me to refocus and not get caught up in panic mode.
     The last, but massive influence is people. Like I mentioned earlier, I have people in my life who speak truth into me. This is the single most important gift in helping me realign myself as to what reality really means. Without the myriad of relationships I have that surround me, there is no way I would be where I am today. This way is not in the “usually” category because I am constantly calling on and asking for input from others. It’s a part of my rhythm and community I need.
     These are just a few things I have done and learned to do in my life when reality hits. Maybe they’ll give some inspiration and insight into what you could do in yours. If you have any thoughts on this or ways you deal with reality, please comment below!

Castles and Pallets

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      I’m sure over the course of time, themes will pop up in my writing. I’m not sure of it, I know they will. Depending on what situation I’m going through, what book I’m reading, or perhaps a series of conversations I’ve been having with someone, there will be common threads and categories that will be present.
     One of those, at least from my last post to this one is the idea that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. Which leads me to creating. I love to create. I love to dream, research, obsess and then create. Ok, I don’t like the obsessing part, and I know Iris doesn’t either (she hears about whatever little project I have at the moment, a lot….A LOT). But I love to create.
     I’ve made furniture out of pallets, drawings in my journal, built sand castles, ramps for my kids to jump their toys, bikes or longboards off of and pieces of “art,” as well as many other things. But none of the things I have ever made look perfect.  I think that’s why I like creating these kinds and types of things…because it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to fit my personality and comfort level. And, I need the outlet and freedom to create. I need a pace where I can let that piece of me show. I need to do something simply for the sake of doing it and seeing what happens on the other side.
     It’s never gotten dangerous…well for the most part. Usually I end up with a cut finger or sometimes the ramp was a little too steep and the kids might get a skinned knee. Oh, speaking of which, One of the things I’ve tinkered with on and off for several years has been a rocket powered radio control car (that got a little dicey when we lit it off, lost control and it headed for the nieces and nephews at a family get together). But, even if it is a little dangerous, it’s the story that comes along with it. The fact that I can create something, that I have the ability to make something and the story of how I got from point A to point B, is one of the most fulfilling things for me.
     Allowing yourself to create, to do something simply for the sake of doing it, is allowing parts of yourself to shine, to see the world and to be as surprised as I was…and continue to be with each new venture! free, even if for a little while. I know this can sound silly and maybe even frightening as you allow yourself to be this vulnerable…even if you are the only one seeing it. But, in it’s silliest form, your enabling you to be more fully you than you were before. That is something pretty incredible…something sacred…something perhaps even holy. But it is something that is giving yourself worth and value and honor.
     Pick up a pen, a paint brush, drill, lump of clay, scissors, chisel, garden shovel or whatever your heart is yearning and try it! You might be as surprised as I was…and continue to be with each new venture!