December 27, 2011

Top Posts of 2011 (Part 4)

One of my favorite posts to write - and one of the most memorable events of my life - from this past year was the experience of my son choosing to follow Christ. Here's the story of Faith Like A Child

December 24, 2011

Top Posts of 2011 (Part 3)

The next post in my Top Posts of 2011 list is just one more story in a line of many that reassures people, if your life feels like a series of one hilarious, embarrassing event after another, the Mayfields are here for you! I think Morgan and I learned a long time ago that not only do you need to learn to laugh at yourself, you've got to be OK at other people laughing at you. No - not laughing "with" you - AT YOU! Like pointing, choking, doubled-over laughter. Parts of life can be tragic and painful. So take all the other opportunities to know and embrace that whether or not God has a sense of humor, He chose to give us one!

For you reading (and laughing) enjoyment, here's The Little Nosebleed That Could.

December 23, 2011

Top Posts of 2011 (Part 2)

This is Part 2 in my Top Posts of 2011. Here's Part 1: Are We Really Born This Way

While yesterday's post was definitely one of the most polarizing things I wrote all year, the subject of this next post has the same affect. In the classic (underrated & overlooked) movie "What About Bob", Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) makes the profound observation to his therapist, Dr. Leo Marvin, "There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't". [I believe there is scientific data to back that up, by the way.] In the current culture - in a generation of Prosperity Gospel TV preachers - there is one name and personality that has risen above all others: Joel Osteen. Inside the Church and out, most are not indifferent to Joel. His theology - or lack of - is either appealing or repelling. Sadly, with most, it isn't a matter of whether or not you "like" Joel Osteen. That's why I want to be clear, I LOVE Joel Osteen. Here's my explanation: I Love Joel Osteen

December 22, 2011

Top Posts of 2011

As the end of the year is rapidly approaching, I've been looking back through my blog from the last 12 months. Over the next week I'm going to re-post the posts from this year that were either most viewed or stirred up the most conversation. If you're new to the blog, I hope these posts give you a good taste not only of WHAT I write about, but more importantly, WHY I write. If you've been reading my ranting for some time now, I hope these posts revitalize and refresh your heart. I believe as a Christian, all of life is viewed through the lens of the Kingdom of God. His Kingdom isn't something in the future - it's NOW! And as a follower of Jesus Christ, the calling on my life is to advance His Kingdom - to see it unfolding and being fulfilled in my life. In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus told His disciples, "The Kingdom of God isn't coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold...the Kingdom of God is IN YOU now!" Wherever we go - whatever we do - we have the opportunity to "Bring the Kingdom". That's what inspires me. That's WHY I write this blog.

Unbeknownst to me, at almost the exact same time I was writing this first post, Lady Gaga was releasing a song with almost the exact same name. Had I known this I might have re-titled the article, which is why I'm glad I didn't know. It created quite a bit of traffic I might not have seen otherwise. And it bloated my Inbox as well.

Here's the first post: "Are We Really Born This Way"

December 19, 2011

Early Resolve

As of right now, we've got about 2 weeks until 2012 arrives. If you're like every other human being, you'll be making at least some sort of New Year's resolution. I'm all for this. God is all about making things new - new starts and fresh beginnings. I love the first few weeks of the year at the gym because there are always a ton of new faces I've never seen before. The bad part: 3-4 weeks later, many of those new faces seem to suddenly disappear. I'd love to be able to give you some across-the-board reason why this happens. Not possible. It's different for everyone. That said, I want to give you a word of encouragement to ensure that your January 1 proclamation stands the test of time. 

You've almost certainly already begun thinking about the monumental change you're planning for next year - the new habit you're going to start (or) the old habit you're going to break. One way to give yourself a serious shot of motivation would be a reminder of WHY you made the resolution in the first place. Call it intentional early resolve! So here's what I propose:

Over the next 2 weeks, as January 1st is rapidly approaching, keep a journal. If you're planning to quit smoking, write down how you feel 15 minutes after you smoke every cigarette. If you're going to stop overeating - or stop eating too much of something - write down how you feel 5 minutes after you overeat. Keep and journal and very specifically take note of how you feel after you've indulged. If you need to start spending more time in the Word, if you need to start exercising and taking care of yourself, if you need to start getting your house in order, getting to bed earlier, watching less TV, praying with your wife - whatever it is - spend the next 2 weeks taking note of WHY

When February 1st arrives, whether you've faithfully hung in there or fallen off the wagon, you'll be inspired and motivate by your own reminder of WHY you needed to make this significant change in your life. You have to finally come to the place where you decide, "I must do this!" No one can decide for you. And by the way - in case you've forgotten or no one's ever told you - you're worth it! You've only got 1 life. Stop waiting on next week...and next month...and next year. 13 days from now...make it happen!

What change do you know needs to be made in your life?
Whatever it is, keep reminding yourself WHY!

December 14, 2011

Unrealistic Expectations

Expectation [ek spek TAY shuh'n] (Noun)
The act or state of looking forward to or anticipating; looking forward with assurance.

People have expectations. People around you, people who know you, people who follow you, and people you haven't actually even met yet - they all have expectations. And like it or not, they have expectations of YOU! 

Do you know what they are? Do you know what people expect?
Are there unrealistic expectations that - if you simply addressed them - could be cleared up and brought back home to reality?

Or what about very realistic and fair expectations? Are we living up to those?
For instance, it's completely understandable for my son to believe that I should spend time with him. And that I should do it often! But at times my wife and I have to address an unrealistic expectation that I (or she) should spend every waking, living, breathing moment doing the exact thing that will thrill his soul and make him happy. 

2 different expectations. 1 is reasonable and attainable. The other is neither.

We are often misunderstood because people have expectations of us - reasonable and unreasonable - that we will fail to live up to. Sometimes it's due to the fact that we had no idea anyone expected this of us. Other times though, it will simply have to do with the painful fact that we failed. Knowing this, I believe there are some key things we can do to prevent failing to live up to people's expectations, and as a result, being (once again) misunderstood:

1. Be CLEAR about the expectations you have of yourself.
If you're the pastor of a church of 500 people (or 200, for that matter) - or the leader of an organization of 300 faithful - you can't possibly meet all of those people's needs. You can't personally shepherd or equip or disciple that many. (At least not affectively!) But you probably don't expect yourself to do that. So make that clear to everyone! I know I need to do a better job of communicating to the people of my church that I have a few very clear, overarching expectations of myself as Lead Pastor of The Brook:
  • Faithfully preach the Word of God and set the pace of spiritual growth
  • Cast vision of WHERE our church is headed, WHY we're moving in that direction, and HOW we're going to get there (&)
  • Lead, equip, and empower our staff and leaders - being available and proactively pouring into their lives
Yes, I counsel people. I (sometimes) read and respond to incredibly lengthy emails. I directed traffic in the parking lot at Brooktoberfest. I spent 4 hours one day moving rocks around on our property. I'm leading our mission trip to Guatemala this summer. While all these things are important - and I LOVE doing (most of) them - I have to make it clear that these can't be everyone's expectations of me. I'm not a professional counselor. I'm not an engineer. 

2. If someone makes their unrealistic expectations known to you, address it.
As Scott McClellan said in his recent post, The Decision To Do Nothing, you can "decide not to address it". But make sure you understand ahead of time, your decision to do nothing is still a decision. And in one, possibly awkward, but totally necessary conversation, you could clear it all up. And for worst case scenario's sake, let's say the person doesn't agree with you - that they think you should live up to their expectations. Well, in that case, all you can do is lovingly let them know that you're going to have to disagree on this matter. And you - deep down, personally, where it hurts - are going to have to be OK  with the fact that sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we are going to be misunderstood

What else can we do to clear up unrealistic expectations?

December 13, 2011

Don't Misunderstand Being Misunderstood

This is Part 2 in a series on being "Misunderstood". If you missed Part 1, I suggest you read it first. You can find it HERE

The feeling of being misunderstood can hurt - this idea that you've been unfairly represented or that what you've said or who you are has been misinterpreted. Especially if you're someone who desires integrity - that what people see is an honest picture of your true character - the thought of your character or your actions being called into question can wreck you. I don't think anyone would argue. But I'd like to submit to you that there's another reason we (as leaders, pastors, or simply just as humans) at times feel misunderstood, when in reality, that's not really what we're feeling at all. To put it this way, I think we can misunderstand being misunderstood.

This past weekend was significant in the life of our church. We affirmed our first 2 Elders. One of the reasons I am so stoked about this (other than the fact that it's the biblical model of church leadership) is because I do NOT desire to lead alone. While, as the Pastor, there's no denying that I am the chief visionary and leader of our church family, this does not mean that the Lord desires for me (or any other leader) to attempt to carry out or champion that vision alone. On a completely different note, I often bear a burden in prayer for our people - a burden to place them before God in prayer. I can't bear that burden alone. We aren't called to lead ALONE! And if we're being honest - taking a deeper look at the patterns of our actions - there are times that, because we've chosen to walk out on limbs by ourselves and place a gigantic target solely on our own chests - we wind up thinking that we've been misunderstood. And while that may be the case, the weight of what we're feeling and the burden we wind up being crushed under isn't really the feeling of being "misunderstood" at all. It's the painful, agonizing, isolating feeling of being ALONE.

I was once told (and have heard it said many times since) that as a leader, there are times you are going to feel "lonely", but you don't need to feel alone. If you're a person who believes God has given you a vision for taking and leading a group of people - especially if that group is the church - to an unknown, "never been there before" destination, there's no way around it being a bit lonely at times. No one else can see inside your head or fully understand all of what's wrapped up in your conviction. But here's the thing we've got to get clear on: Feeling lonely and being ALONE are 2 totally different things! Those times as a leader when I "feel" alone, I need to be able to lean on other leaders around me. I need people in my life who are fulfilling Galatians 6:2, sharing and bearing my "burdens, troubles, and problems". If you're a leader, you are NOT called to walk the road ALONE. 

Don't make the mistake of feeling misunderstood when what you're really feeling is the (often) self-inflicted consequences of going it alone. If you start arrogantly thinking, "I'm just going to take a bullet for the team!", get off your high horse and realize that you're not doing anyone any favors or any good, especially yourself. You weren't called to take one for the team, you're called to LEAD the team...together! 

Is there a chance you've thought you were misunderstood, when what you really were was alone?

December 12, 2011

Misunderstood

There are moments, days, and situations - possibly even weeks at a time - where as a pastor and even just as a person...I feel misunderstood. Someone's reaction, comment, email - or the secondhand information received about someone's reaction, comment, or email - causes me to think, "Wait a minute. That's not what I said! At least, that's not what I meant to say. And that's definitely not how I intended (or hoped) someone would translate or receive it. I've been misunderstood!" And so it goes. Have you been there before?

Over the next few days I'm going to write a series of posts discussing this subject. Ideally, I'd like to start a conversation about how and why this happens - not just to me, but to countless people in numerous leadership positions. The reality: Jesus was misunderstood. I don't say that to insinuate that being misunderstood automatically makes you or me like Jesus. Sometimes when I'm misunderstood it's because I didn't communicate properly. (Or to put it a bit more bluntly, I miscommunicated. Funny how one mis____ can so easily lead to another mis______.) And for sure it doesn't mean that because Jesus was misunderstood I can or should use that as a license to just say what I think or do what I want. (In that case, I'm the one who misunderstood Jesus' instructions!) That said, Jesus was at times misunderstood because of people's misled expectations and/or perceptions of WHO He was and WHAT He had come to do and accomplish. This happens to us as leaders. It definitely happens to pastors. So what can we do to minimize all this misunderstanding?

I remember several years ago meeting with the Personnel Team at my former church. I was used to my yearly review/evaluation being mainly a time of affirmation and encouragement. (And that's putting it lightly.) Which is why it was such a punch in the gut the first time I was informed that more than one person had mentioned that there was a slight possibility at times that I could maybe come across in a way that made it seem like I was....well...UNAPPROACHABLE! 

[I pause here, yes for dramatic affect, but also to give you a moment to allow that word to absorb. I had never even heard that word - unless maybe someone was referring to the status of a grizzly bear in the wild. I had no processor for this. I wasn't prepared to receive it. My defenses went straight up! Unapproachable? Me?]

And there it was. Unapproachable. Like a scarlet letter U on my chest. How had an extroverted, Christ-follower, people-person-pastor who loves people become - BIG LUMP IN THROAT - unapproachable? After weeks of licking my wounds - humbly realizing that this was not the end of the world, but someone who loved me actually pointing out that there had been something that creeped into my character that they were certain I didn't desire to be there - I suddenly began to realize something. On Sunday mornings - especially those Sundays when I was the one preaching, and my mind was completely bent and wrapped around the message I was preparing to deliver - there was a distinct possibility that if someone "approached" me, it might seem like I wasn't fully engaged in what they were saying. Put plainly, it all of a sudden became incredibly clear to me that on days when I was about to deliver a sermon, my mind was fully, completely, and wholly focused on ONE thing: preaching. And if you tried to talk to me at 10:41 (and the service was starting at 10:45), good luck. I'm out. I may love you and genuinely care about what you want/need to say to me, but not right this moment. I'm like a squirrel running straight across the road after that nut sitting beside that tree - tunnel vision at it's premium. And it all started to make sense. And I began to wonder not just how many people had walked away feeling ignored or insulted, but how many had simply stopped even trying to engage me. This was starting to sting and hurt a bit.

Here I sit several years later, in another town, in another church, (both of which I love!), and not long ago I heard that word again. Unapproachable. But this time, without reacting or jumping to conclusions, I simply began to pray about it. I asked the Lord to show me what I needed to do to deal with this head-on. After some serious prayer and reflection, I reached a few conclusions - about myself and people's perceptions - and also felt the Lord lay some very specific and tangible things I could do about this in front of me. A few things I decided and realized were:
  • People need to know WHO I am and WHAT I believe I'm called here to do.
  • On Sunday mornings, in a church the size of ours, I firmly believe my priorities are to 1) preach the Word of God, and 2) be available to meet and greet guests, and 3) be available to counsel if needed.
  • Most of the time people were attempting to engage me in conversation about things deeper and weightier than the color of my shirt, it would be a leader. This prompted me to ask our staff and leaders to please not bring any administrative/business/strategy question (or anything of the sort) to me on Sundays. I told them (and still tell them) that if what you need to tell me is important, I want to be fully present and engaged. On Sunday morning, I will NOT be fully engaged. 
  • I am much more aware of the way my actions can be perceived. And a huge lesson for ALL of us is simply put this way: MY INTENT does not always equal OTHER PEOPLE'S PERCEPTIONS. Fair or unfair, people's perceptions matter!
We're all going to be misunderstood at times. But there are certain things we can do to reduce the potential of this happening. And we can also make sure and not jump to conclusions about others. 

Have you been misunderstood?
More to come....

December 8, 2011

Spiritual Worship

There's a great article (cover) in the latest edition of Christianity Today, The Good God Who Came Down. The basic point is that morality and religion could never bring us what Christ brought - salvation. As I read Michael Horton's thoughts and arguments, it brought another issue to mind that I believe greatly parallels and is incredibly prevalent in the Western Church. I believe much of what Christian culture describes as "worship" today - the corporate gathering of God's people - a "church" - to lift praise and adoration to Him in song - can be (and often is) merely a faint glimpse of what it could and should be. Much like we've been told we can only access a fraction of our brain's power, it seems that we're only tapping into a portion of the Spirit-filled worship that we're intended to experience. Allow me to explain.

In Romans 12:1-2, the Apostle Paul says,
"...present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

In most churches across America on any given weekend, worship is much about the feelings we're overcome by as we sing praise to God. We feel elation, comfort, release, empowerment, conviction - a chasm of different emotions. And these emotions are not bad. In fact, they are often evidence that God is moving in our midst and in our hearts. But here's the thing: It can't stop there! If you re-read Paul's words, notice that he doesn't say anything about feeling, or experiencing, or even singing. But he DOES mention our "spiritual worship". And he exhorts us to do things like "present" and "test", and says that much of the transformation God desires to bring in our lives comes through the "renewal of your mind". All of this leads me to a conclusion: We are entering into worship much more focused and concerned with the emotion we feel than we are with the actions we're called to take beforehand. I've heard a lot of people say things like, "Let's not get bogged down in theology. We all love Jesus! Let's just find that common ground." That's fine and all, except that it's spiritual laziness! I understand where they're coming from. We can't let nonessential matters of theology divide the Body of Christ. Agreed! But if you and I claim to be worshiping the God of the Universe while simultaneously doing nothing to seek to know Him more and understand His Word, we aren't really participating in "spiritual worship". We're merely looking for something to stir our emotions.

How much of our worship includes "testing" and "discerning what is the will of God"? 
Have we really presented our bodies - which includes our eyes, our minds, our thoughts - to God as a "living sacrifice"? 

Much of the argument from science and academia against Christianity has been rooted in the premise that it's irrational and emotional - that it doesn't embrace logic and practical facts. While this argument or idea holds no water (because TRUE Christian faith, the Word of God, and much of evangelical theology is rooted in deep, weighted truths), many secularists have managed to patch some of the holes in their boat with the mindless faith of many who call themselves Christians. We aren't all called to be C.S. Lewis or A.W. Tozer - or to wear a corduroy blazer with patches on the sleeves and begin going by our initials - but we ARE called to engage our mind in our faith. Paul prayed for the Colossians (2:2-3) that "their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of the full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Does it sound like Paul was hoping and praying that their Sunday gathering would be powerful? Or that their pursuit of God would be relentless? That they might discover the deep mysterious treasure that can only be found in knowing Christ? I think it's evident. (When this happens, you can guarantee that what happens on Sundays will be powerful!)

Where am I going with all this? Simple: Don't check your brain at the door. Don't underestimate what God desires to do IN and THROUGH your life if you search the depths of His Word to know Him. Don't forsake that our calling to worship has much more to do with how we've lived our lives and presented them back to Him the other six days of the week than it does whether we sing loud and lift our hands on Sunday.

Be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind!

December 7, 2011

The Need

This week our church begins a two-week challenge of generosity. It doesn't take much effort to look around and realize that there are countless people in our own cities, communities, and even neighborhoods who are hurting financially, emotionally, and spiritually. For many, the pain begins with the battle of trying to make ends meet on a daily basis - struggling to pay the rent - wondering if they can put food on the table for their family. At the same time, most of us can take a seconds inventory and realize that we've been blessed beyond measure. We have ALL that we need! And because God has met The Need in our lives, we are called to meet The Need in the lives of others!

This year we are incredibly excited that our Christmas offering will be used on a local, national, and global level. We are always blessed to partner with Inside-Out Ministries as they reach out to people right here in our own city to help pay the rent, put staple food items on the table, and even provide budget counseling. We are also incredibly excited to begin partnering with Ryan McCoskey and his core team as they plant The Seed, a brand new church in the heart of downtown Wichita, Kansas. And as we give to the Cooperative Program (supporting and funding missionaries around the world), we are also PUMPED to start a brand new relationship with Casas por Cristo as we build a home for a family in need in Guatemala. At home and around the world, The Need is great. We are grateful to the Lord that we can partner with Him to meet The Need in others lives for the sake of His Kingdom!

Is your family doing some special to give your time or funds this year?
How is your church meeting The Need in others lives this Christmas?
Would love to hear your stories!

Click HERE to learn more about how you can give to The Need.

December 5, 2011

Keep Simplifying

My recent revival of purging and attempting to simplify my life appears to be contagious. Morgan and I spent several hours this past weekend clearing out our closet, drawers, and the nooks and crannies where we had clothes buried and hidden for that supposed "rainy day" that never seems to come. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? "I've got to keep this Hawaiian shirt in case I somehow get invited to a luau next summer when I might take that trip to Tahiti I've been planning for years but can't afford because I keep wasting my money on crap - like Hawaiian shirts." While much of my argument in my last post for minimalism and simplicity was an aim at removing chaos from our lives, I want to take a very pointed angle on the subject - I want to look at this from the perspective of being a follower of Christ on a lifelong mission. Because when I look at our lives, it doesn't really appear that we're on much of a mission.

In Luke 10:1-12, Jesus sends out seventy-two of his followers to alert the people in the cities and towns that "...the Kingdom of God is near". Before He sends them on their way, He gives them very specific instructions. And part of what He tells them - in contrast to what you would expect to be told in preparation for a journey of this type - speaks volumes: "Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals..." Jesus essentially tells them, "Travel light. Don't take a backpack loaded with things - I'll provide what you need along the way: food, shelter, clothing. Keep your mind on the mission!" And in my perspective, as I examine my own life and the lives of those close to me, this is not a reflection of the approach I seem to have taken for this mission. I have by no stretch of the imagination been "traveling light". My closet, my drawers, my garage, my attic, my refrigerator, and my trunks and totes all speak otherwise. They're an indictment that I can't refute. At least not a week ago. Then I read Becker's intro to Principle #7 in his book, Simplify: "You don't need to chase everything you've always wanted if you already have everything you need." And there you have it.

Reflecting on Matthew 6:25-34, it's obvious that Becker isn't saying anything new - especially to a Christ-follower who has read the Gospels numerous times. Jesus makes it clear: Either you're going to live your life consumed with YOUR mission and everything it requires and demands of you - and walk down the paths where it leads you - OR - you're going to be focused on MY mission...to advance a kingdom of another kind. A Kingdom where God's economy dictates what we have, what we keep, what we hold tightly and loosely, what we give away, and how we live and see this life. And to just put it bluntly, I'm sick and tired of trying to live on mission carrying all this baggage on my back. And if you don't think that all the STUFF crammed in your closet, your drawers, your garage, under your bed, and looming overhead in your attic is weighing you down, I just dare you to spend 1 hour throwing some of it out. Take 1 hour and go through your closet. Empty 3 drawers onto your bed, sort it out, and only keep what you NEED. See what happens. Watch as you begin to feel as though some weighted chain that's been holding you down was suddenly broken. As I said, I'm sick and tired of attempting to live on mission with all this baggage on my back (and in my closet). And whether you know it or not, I bet you're exhausted from it as well.

It's time to simplify. And when you do, KEEP SIMPLIFYING
It's time to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (KNOWING THAT WHEN I DO) all these things will be added" to me. He'll take care of me. Do I trust Him? Do you trust Him? Do we trust the Great Provider to provide?

How are you going to simplify? Where are you going to begin?

December 1, 2011

Simplify

"The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you."

I have too much stuff. There, I said it. And this is coming from a person who routinely gives clothes away and throws junk out. It's therapeutic! Yet, I still have too much. If there are 64 shirts in your closet, but you only wear 20 of them, that's a clue. If you have more shoes in boxes than in your shoe rack, another possible indicator. If our attics and sheds and garages are packed airtight...and we still need to rent from U-Store...is this not a HUGE waving red flag? It's not necessarily junk. It's not crap, either. It's just STUFF. And we have way too much of it.

I just started reading Simplify, by Joshua Becker. (The Kindle version is $2.99) This was a dangerous idea. Like Dick Vitale reading a book called Yelling. Or Joan Rivers curling up on the couch with 10 More Reasons You Need MORE Plastic Surgery. Dangerous! I've been convinced for years that simplifying my life is essential. But Becker has spelled out a few things that have made it even clearer why striving to live a (rationally) minimalistic life just makes so much sense. I wanted to share just a few highlights with you that I've read so far:

"What our heart believes and loves always determines the path of our life." This sounds incredibly familiar, doesn't it? Like Jesus saying, "Where your heart is, there your treasure will be." (see Matthew 6:19-21)

While many of us get caught in the trap of thinking we need more money, "...the real secret to financial freedom is spending less. If you live a life that accumulates less stuff, you will spend less." Novel concept. Because the reality is for most of us, if we do wind up getting more money, we just wind up spending more money. And low and behold, we wind up with more...STUFF!

"Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it." Did you catch that? It's not just about making space or cleaning up - it's about intentionally pointing to the things that you believe hold the most value. It's an exercise in priorities; an opportunity to determine what's going to control us. Or maybe more importantly, that (other than the Holy Spirit), we're not going to be "controlled". Because let's just get it out there in the open: "The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you." I know there's a snowball's chance in hades you might wear that shirt again, but could someone else be wearing it much more often? I know that I can rationally justify that I have 3 brown jackets - they're different shades of brown, thank you very much. But isn't someone else out there in need of a jacket? 

Here's a thought that Becker throws out in his book: Find 2 different countertops; 1 that's clean and free from clutter (&) the other that has dirty dishes, knick knacks, & food stains all over it. If you just stand in these 2 kitchens for a few minutes, what completely different emotional responses do you think it will invoke in you? Try it.

What have you done in your life to simplify?
Do you have any tips for the rest of us to simplify?
Or are you still hanging onto your stuff - and your chaos - for dear life?

November 29, 2011

A Reminder of WHY

Lately I've been shopping, hunting, exploring, and giving thought to the idea of completely redesigning my blog - like hitting DELETE and starting from scratch. There are a lot of reasons behind this - mostly having to do with my inability to stare at the same thing over and over for too long without going completely crazy. Ideas are still on the table. I'll keep you posted. But one very good thing this has all caused me to contemplate is a simple question: Why am I writing this blog, again? Why do I spend my time with this? Why did I start this in the first place? Is that reason still the same reason I have for continuing on? And (thankfully) after much soul-searching and prayer, I believe the Lord has rejuvenated my heart through the simple reminder of the small seed of a thought that ignited this in me just a few years ago. Jesus put it this way: "The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is among you - in the midst of you - is IN YOU!" The Kingdom of God has arrived. Not with pomp and circumstance or through some mighty wave of military strength. Through the coming of His Spirit, God has strategically placed His Kingdom in the hearts and lives of His people. And wherever we go...it goes with us. 

The thought occurred to me just a few years back that I'm called to see every facet and aspect of my life through the lens of the Kingdom that I'm living in - that's living in me. It changes the way I see things - the way I talk to people - the motive I carry into the relationships I build. And maybe my lens has gotten a little dirty and needed some cleaning. 

Kingdoms exist to advance a cause and to exalt a king. The Kingdom we live in - HIS Kingdom - overpowers them all! But not through physical might or force, but through the power of the movement of the Spirit of God in the hearts and lives of His people. And if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, that's YOU!

I want to see life through this lens.
I want my life to look different - like something has changed me. Not as a facade, but because it's actually changed me. HE has changed me!
I can't help but see things differently. 
His Word won't allow me to just keep looking at it all the same.

I love how the NLT phrases Matthew 6:33: 
"Your heavenly Father already knows your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern."

Seek first the Kingdom of God.
Wherever you go...BRING THE KINGDOM!

November 22, 2011

Seeing Our Sin

Sin is blinding. Like a Chuck Norris knuckle punch straight to the eyeball.

Sin taints our view. It keeps us from seeing clearly. Like when my son borrows my sunglasses for 10 minutes. It's as if someone told him, "See how many fingerprints you can smear on those lenses. Hurry! And make sure, whatever you do, don't touch any other part of the glasses except the lenses! Your Dad loves fingerprints!" Forget about it. You're not going to see your hand in front of your face. This is sin. It completely distorts and corrupts the way we see things. Everything!

Sin settles. It removes us from the presence of a Holy God. It refuses to "abide in Him". Sin causes wandering sheep to run like cheetahs away from their shepherd. Although I would love to see an actual sheep in a dead 60mph sprint, when that sheep is you or me...and we're moving in the opposite direction of our Protector and Provider...it's dangerous.

Sin excuses. It whispers excuses in my ear. It gives me multiple reasons and rationalizations - all of which are still, at the end of the day, sin.

Sin not only refuses grace - turning it's back on grace extended - but it also refuses mercy - turning it's back on extending grace. Sin blinds us to our own shortcomings, while magnifying everyone else's. Sin points fingers. Sin points very big, stiff fingers.

"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is a log in your own eye? Your hypocrite, first take the log our of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." - Jesus (Matthew 7:3-5)

"You know that He appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.... No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." (1 John 3:5-6, 9)

When sin blinds, distorts, excuses, settles, and corrupts our view, there's not enough Windex in the world to wipe those windows clean. ONLY the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient. 

Lord, help us to see our sin when it separates us from You. And to restore our brothers and sisters when they are led away. Transform us! Help us to see our sin...and to remember that Your Cross and Your resurrection wiped it away. Thank You, Jesus, that You have given us victory over sin and changed our view forever!

Dig Deeper
1 John 1:5-2:6
Hebrews 9 & 10
Romans 6 & 7

November 17, 2011

(More) Conviction Confusion

I think there's been some confusion. And if I'm being honest, I think I may have contributed to the confusion. When you come to that realization, there's really only one option: attempt to clear it up. Over the last weeks I've written several posts on "Convictions". When I use this word, I'm referring to the idea that as a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit leads us and guides us into how we should act, speak, walk, and live. Decisions aren't made flippantly by rolling dice or flipping a coin like Two-Face on Batman. We've been given the Word of God and the Spirit of God to birth conviction in our hearts over certain matters. Not only in a recent blog post, but in previous posts and in sermons, I have made the statement that there are 2 clear biblical principles when it comes to the issue of alcohol and drinking:

1. Drunkenness is a sin.
2. Drinking is not a sin.

What I need to convey in this post is simple: Principle #2 is not always true!

Romans 14 begins with Paul telling us that some of us will be convicted not to eat or drink certain things and others will sense the God-given liberty to partake of those foods or drinks AND the one person should not judge the other for their abstinence or their liberty. So when your interpretation of the scriptures is that drinking is permissible for some, and your personal conviction is that God has given you the liberty to drink, you come to the conclusion that "drinking is not a sin". While that may be true for you - if you've actually prayed over the issue and sought out the leading of the Spirit - for the person who has also prayed over the issue and sensed clearly that they have NOT been granted that liberty, for that person, to drink would simply be sin. So to make the blanket statement, "Drinking is not a sin", is a short-sighted, sometimes UNTRUE statement. This is another great example of why ALL of scripture has to be taken into account. If you read on in Romans 14, Paul also says, "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" and that "each of us will give an account of himself to God". He goes on to say that "...whoever doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." 

Here's the skinny: If you've prayed over an issue like drinking - asking God to reveal to you what He is allowing in your life - and you sense a liberty to partake, do it with faith, and do it with sensitivity to those it might cause to stumble. But, if you have prayed over this and clearly sense a call and conviction to abstain from it, to partake of it is sin. Plain and simple.

Have you asked the Lord what He desires of you in these matters?
Are we respecting and trusting others to seek the conviction of the Spirit?

"So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding."
"So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up."
Romans 14:19

November 16, 2011

A Welcomed Warning

I love how life can often seem to swing things from one end of the spectrum to the other. Quickly! My last set of posts were addressing the issue of convictions - not only praying over our own, but trusting the Holy Spirit to speak to other Christians in certain areas. And understanding that my convictions are not always going to be everyone else's. It's not supposed to be that way. (Why am I going off on this again?) Back to the reason for writing today. I'm seeing more and more evidence that there's a clear lack of understanding with some Christian's that there's a difference between a brother or sister in Christ confronting sin in your life (&) someone simply being judgmental. I have a few thoughts about this and would love to hear your input.

First off, scripture makes it clear that if we call ourselves Christ-followers - if we claim the Spirit of God is living within us - we have opened ourselves up to the confrontation of sin in our life. Obviously our first desire should be that our life be rid of sin (Romans 6, 1 John 3). Along with that, scripture not only exhorts us (Hebrews 10) to "admonish one another", it even gives us clear instruction on HOW to approach and confront each other when sin has taken root (see Matthew 18:15-18). What kills me is when I hear someone, after being confronted over sin in their life, say, "Who are you to judge me?" or "Didn't Jesus say we aren't supposed to judge each other?" What this shows is not someone who's been immersed in scripture and being led by the Spirit, desperate to know the heart of God on in their life, but someone who's living in sin, possibly apathetic in their faith, and defensive from being called on it. There's a HUGE difference!

Jesus speaks clearly when He tells us in Matthew 7 that "with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged". Understood. But admonishing and confronting a "Christ-follower" to stop walking in sin is not judgment: it's (supposed to be) a welcomed warning! And we're called to usher this warning to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 5:12, Paul says, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?" In other words, when a person within the body of Christ is living in sin, the body of Christ is called to confront the sin. (Paul actually even goes further with it and tells the Corinthians that if there isn't repentance, "Purge the evil person from among you!") How's that for judgment?

Here's the thing: As a follower of Jesus Christ, if there is ever anything in my life that even resembles sin, I want to know about it. Because I want to purge it from my life and get as far away from it as I possibly can. I want to constantly have a heart like David in Psalm 139 as he cries, "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test my thoughts. See if there is ANYTHING offensive in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. And if my response to a brother (or brothers) in Christ coming to me in love (which takes a TON of courage, by the way!) to confront sin in my life is to defensively cry, "Who are you to judge me?", all this does is affirm it loud and clear. That's not humility and holiness talking. That's pride and apathy. That's sin.

Do you want biblical instruction, correction, and exhortation in your life? Do you welcome the warning? This is a question - as Christians - we have to answer.

November 7, 2011

Conviction Confusion

My last 2 posts have dealt with our convictions and how we express them. I feel I need to clarify that this is NOT commentary on whether or not we should preach the Gospel &/or speak words of truth to others. That is our calling as Christians. But it is also our calling to "speak the truth in love" and to trust that it is the Holy Spirit that actually does the work. Sharing our faith and imposing our convictions are 2 completely different subjects. In this post, I'm focusing on the latter.

We could grab one of a hundred different issues: gambling, what movies or TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, dancing, and on and on and on.... These issues (and countless others like them) are what we can label GRAY areas of scripture. The reason for this is because there is no "Black & White" rule in the Bible that says you can or cannot participate in these things. What scripture does teach is that we have been given the Holy Spirit to discern what God desires of us in these matters. And because I believe it is probably the most sensitive subject in this area, let's taking drinking as an example. 

There are 2 major Biblical principles regarding drinking:
1. Drinking is NOT a sin.
2. Drunkenness IS a sin.

That's it. That's what we have to go on. And as Christians, we are to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us in knowing whether or not we have been given the freedom to participate or the conviction to abstain and refrain. But because this is not a post on Drinking, I'm not going to go much deeper into that subject. What I do want to look at is Paul's directive to us about our convictions and how we live by and share those convictions with others. 

There are 2 people in this world that will be subjected to your life and convictions: Christians and others (or "the lost", as we all them). It's important to understand that the idea of imposing our "convictions" - Spirit-led beliefs - on someone who isn't even filled with the Spirit is ridiculous. If someone is not even aware of their sinfulness, they're not going to see it as sin. And your convictions aren't going to get them there either. The message of Jesus Christ and the power of the Word and Spirit of God - the Gospel - are the ONLY thing that bring "many sons to glory"! But back to those 2 types of people, the others are Christians. And in Romans 14, Paul puts it this way: "As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." To further expound, the NLT translates that last verse as, "The Lord's power will help them do as they should." Think about this for a moment: Often, when we impose our convictions on other Christians, it's because we don't trust them to make the right decision. If we're being honest, we think, "There's no way they've prayed about this!" And we might be right. But if Paul's statement is true - that the Lord is able to make each of His followers stand - that it's the Lord's power that causes us to do as we should - isn't it in all actuality that our imposition is exposing that we don't fully trust God? Isn't it that we really, in this person's case, just don't think He can handle bringing conviction into their life as He's done in ours? 

So again, let me make sure a few things aren't misconstrued:
  • If you're under 21 years old and drinking, you're in sin. (See Romans 13)
  • If you're providing someone under 21 with the opportunity/ability to drink, you're in sin. (Read Romans 13 with group 1)
  • If you're using your so-called "freedom to drink" to get drunk, I will go out on a limb and tell you that I don't believe for a second you've prayed about this conviction. You're just living how you choose to live. There are consequences! (See the whole Bible)
But, if you and I wind up at the place where we believe that everyone should hold the same convictions about every issue that we do...the bottom line is...we aren't trusting God. His Kingdom doesn't look like this.

Agree? Disagree?
Would love to hear your thoughts.

November 2, 2011

HOW Overpowers WHAT

In my last post I talked about the danger of our own convictions becoming a "hill to die on" - becoming our "cause" - which in turn leads us to believing that everyone else should share our convictions. Romans 13 says there is danger in this. If you missed it, read that post first: When Our Conviction Becomes Our Cause

Yesterday I talked about my neighbor's posted front-door protest: WE DO NOT OBSERVE HALLOWEEN! Which was followed by an explanation of why you shouldn't either. Some things just rile us up, don't they. We go from sensing that something is not quite right for us (or for our family) to believing it is our mission in life to convince the whole world that our conviction is most certainly what God intended for the whole of humanity. And sadly, we don't know how we even arrive at that place. We just wind up there. On a corner with a poster. In a free speech area with a bullhorn. Posting a sign of protest to our front door. And as I said in my last post, our motive and intent is nowhere near being rooted or grounded in hate. But - whether we intended it or not - that's how it's coming across. And this is why we have got to begin realizing that if HOW overpowers WHAT, our message will never be heard.

99% of the time a politician gets publicly angry...and it shows...I stop listening.
When I discipline my children in anger, I wind up hurting them more than helping them.
When we post signs of protest, 99.9% of the time...NO ONE reads them!

And when we attempt to communicate the love of Christ to the world through judgment rather than love, our message is never heard. More important, HIS message is never heard! Remember that Jesus himself said, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:17) Trying to communicate a message of LOVE in a spirit of ANGER makes no sense. ZERO! Yet, people do it every day. We stop paying attention to HOW we're speaking, walking, communicating, acting, living...not realizing that the most important WHAT in the history of the world - the love and redemption of God through His Son, Jesus Christ - is being buried, covered, and smothered. Lost in translation.

And all of this hinges on another vital question: WHO are we trying to communicate with? If we're hoping our message reaches the eyes and ears of the lost, what is the message going to communicate to them? More on that later....)

Have you seen HOW overpower WHAT?
Have you been guilty of this in your own life? (I know I have.)
What steps can we take to walk and live in intentionality to share the love of God and the message and hope of Christ with others?

November 1, 2011

When Our CONVICTION Becomes Our CAUSE

Not many people thoroughly read and study Romans 14. I don't know this because I walk around asking or surveying; I believe this with great certainty based on the evidence I see in many of our lives - and moreover, our attitudes and reactions to other people's lives, habits, and convictions. I also strongly believe this because of the tendency with many to believe that their convictions should be everybody else's. And as this happens, our conviction turns into our cause. We move from personal (private) conviction to open (public) soapbox. And sadly, what is most likely our motive - defending what we think is right - becomes not only clouded and muddied, but invisible and completely lost in translation. Let me give you an example.

Last night Morgan and Libby went "Trick or Treating". (Already, someone has read this and winced.) In our neighborhood, they approached a house where the lights were on, the family was in the yard having a good time, but there was an enormous sign on the door that read: WE DO NOT OBSERVE HALLOWEEN! (followed by a descriptive explanation of WHY you shouldn't either.) My wife watched as a few very young kids approached and said, "Trick or Treat!", only to hear one of the family members mumble under their breath, "Can't you read?!" My first thought upon hearing this story was, "NO. They CAN'T read! They are 6 year olds!" But what's more painful in this story is the stark realization that I don't believe for one second that my neighbors' desire in all of this was to communicate hate or anger. But that's exactly what was coming across. And the plain and simple reason why this happened: Their conviction had become their cause!

Please hear me: I'm not saying that there aren't some things in this world we aren't supposed to speak out against. Standing up and saying that abortion is wrong - yes. Defending the orphan and the widow from oppression and hunger - absolutely. Doing everything in our power to eliminate slavery and human trafficking - without a doubt! But the lines begin to blur when our personal conviction over whether or not to dress up like a Power Ranger and roam the neighborhood in pursuit of sugar (or) to lock our doors, turn off our lights, and pretend we're not home becomes our mission in life. When we start thinking that everyone else needs to care about the environment as much as we do or that everyone else should give to the humane society or that every living breathing human being owes it to the world to protest gambling, prohibit the sale of guns and alcohol, or to publicly renounce Halloween, our conviction is no longer our conviction - it's our cause. And when we MAKE our conviction our cause, we begin to believe that it should be everyone else's conviction. And there is grave danger in this!

"Those who think it is alright to eat anything must not look down on those who won't. And those who won't eat certain foods must not condemn those who do. For God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let Him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord's power will help them do as they should." (Romans 14:3-4

I've wrestled and struggled with this before myself. Have you?
Has your conviction become your cause?

More to come....

October 27, 2011

Bringing Home Our Little Brother

When Morgan and I began to sense the Lord was calling us to open our hearts up to adopting, there were countless questions and concerns that flooded our hearts: Adopt from where? Where do we begin? How will we pay for this? That's just a sample. But the one question that loomed over us and that we constantly prayed about was plain and simple: How will Libby and Nathan respond to the idea of having another brother? While I don't want you to think for a second that there haven't been questions (and even concerns) raised by both of our kids (who are 9 and 7, by the way), we have been blown away by the evidence that the Lord was preparing their hearts just as He was preparing ours. He's like that, you see. Faithful. And today I want to share with you the vision and plan that my daughter Libby has for bringing a little brother she's never even met home.

Clean Hands * Pure Hearts Hand Sanitizer
Made with all natural products (right in our dining room), coming in 3 scents (Vanilla Pomegranate, Green Tea & Cucumber, and Tangerine), and sold for a suggested donation of $5 a bottle, every penny will go to fund our adoption and to raise awareness of the thousands of children right here at home in the US who are waiting to be united with their family.

Here's Libby to share with you a little bit more about her plan & product:
Clean Hands * Pure Heart Promo

Here's our Facebook Page: Clean Hands * Pure Hearts

Here's how YOU can help us:
- Go to our Facebook Page & hit the LIKE button
- Share our story with anyone and everyone you know
- Pray for our family - that in the Lord's timing and in His ways He will lead us in all of this and we will ultimately be united with that little boy He desires to be part of our family!

Details coming soon on WHERE & HOW you can purchase & promote Clean Hands * Pure Hearts. Stay tuned.....

October 26, 2011

Dealing With Discouragement

What do you do with discouragement?

I guess you have several options. Like the most commonly chosen coping method: pretending that "Everything's fine". We tell ourselves to just not think about it and - for heaven's sake - don't let anyone else know that we're feeling beaten down and weary. Of course there's also the classic "If my day (week...month...) is going to suck, then your's is going to suck, too!" mentality. There's the tendency from some to evidently believe that their misery really does need some company. LOTS of company! We all handle it differently. There's no right-or-wrong textbook blueprint: What To Do When You're Discouraged. [If there is, please pass it along!] That said, I see God's Word give us some very clear instruction and encouragement of how we're to handle times like this - and some evidence as to why we wind up feeling the way we do when discouragement appears to be eating away at our soul. So here are a few words I've reminded myself of today (as I've felt this way for a few days) that might encourage you as well:

We aren't created to face it ALONE.
In Galatians 6:2, the Apostle Paul says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (ESV) The NLT puts it this way: "Share each other's troubles and problems...." Again, even though you don't want to "bother anyone else with your problems", that's exactly what you're supposed to do! We are called to carry the weight with each other. To pray for each other. To listen. Don't think you can lock it away. Discouragement knows how to pick the lock! [For more, see Romans 12:6-21]

We aren't created to face it FOREVER.
No matter how heavy or hard it's weighing on you, and no matter how longs it feels you've endured it, it will NOT go on forever! 2 Corinthians 4 tells us that we may feel beaten down, but we won't be destroyed, and that while we may be afflicted, we will not be crushed. And Paul says that our "light and momentary are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." The LIGHT will overcome the darkness. It will! Hold on to Him and trust. 

If you're discouraged, reach out. Don't even try to walk it alone.
If you're discouraged, hold on. God is faithful.

"David said to Solomon his son, 'Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be discouraged, for the Lord God...is with you!" 1 Chronicles 28:20

October 25, 2011

Grateful

Tomorrow will mark 2 weeks since my shoulder surgery. Spending these last 13 days trying to learn to do most everything one-handed and with one arm has caused me to do some serious reflecting. It's helped me to be extremely grateful for some things I normally take for granted - some of which I didn't even begin to consider to be as important as I do now. I wanted to share with you some of these things that I now have a heightened sense of appreciation and gratitude for. And hear what might be on your list that isn't on mine. Today, I am with enormous anticipation looking forward to (and grateful for) once again being able to:
  • Tying my own shoes
  • Lifting weights, running, stretching, and seriously exercising
  • Wrestling, throwing the baseball, shooting baskets, and countless other things I do with my son
  • Driving my car and shifting gears
  • Giving my daughter big bear hugs
  • Putting on my own shirt without wincing
  • Brushing my teeth with my right hand
  • Enthusiastically shaking hands with someone (I like enthusiasm!)
This is a snapshot of some of the things I now believe to be much more precious than I realized them to be beforehand. I am grateful for these things. And I'm looking forward to doing them again very soon. VERY, VERY SOON!

What about you?
What are you grateful for today?

October 20, 2011

Healing Hurts!

8 days ago I had arthroscopic surgery on my right shoulder. For over 2-3 years now I've put this off, not wanting to deal with everything that came along with it. I didn't want to pay for it. I didn't want to take the risk - hearing one person's radical transformation, but then listening to the next person's nightmare horror story. I had all these excuses why I just didn't want to mess with it. But beyond any other reason or excuse, there was one that paralyzed me more than any other: I didn't want to go through the healing.

I exercise regularly - I love to run. But over the last couple of years I have grown to enjoy weightlifting more than anything else. (I know - you were looking at me and wondering, "Does he take steroids?") I knew that having surgery on my shoulder was going to mean that at minimum, I would be out of the weight room for 6 weeks. And when I go back, it will be a LONG road. I didn't want to deal with this. I didn't think I was patient enough to go through the healing. And physical therapy? Forget it! Those folks are sadistic torturers! To put it straight: I spent several years just "dealing with the pain" and furthering injuring myself because I didn't want to take time to heal. And as I sat in my recliner last week with ice plastered to my shoulder, I began thinking: How many people are in this same position in their lives? How many of us are in desperate need of healing, but because we don't want to go through the pain...we just keep on walking, keep on hurting, fooling ourselves into thinking that we're just fine "dealing with the pain"?

I don't know if you've got a back injury, a wounded ego, or even a broken heart, but whatever it is, you can't just keep walking without doing further damage. I know it hurts to deal with it. Sometimes, it can even feel like you're ripping the wound open all over again. But when a cut doesn't heal properly, often it has to be reopened so that real healing can actually begin. And typically, that hurts a little. To put it plainly: Healing hurts! But you do want to heal...right?

David praises God in Psalm 30, saying, "O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and you have healed me." Jesus Christ is the Great Healer. He is faithful. And whatever your wound or hurt, He can touch your life and bring healing. But just like David, you have to cry out to Him for help. You have to come to the point of saying, "I've had enough, Lord. Whatever you have to do to restore me, here I am."

Where are you in need of healing in your life?
Are you convinced you'll just keep "dealing with the pain"?
What are you waiting for? Cry out to Him!

October 18, 2011

From MINE to OURS

When you have kids, you begin hearing the word "Mine" more often. I used the word "hearing" very intentionally, in that we as adults don't necessarily say the word as much as we think it. Nonetheless, my 2 children have not yet accessed the filter that tells a person, "I really don't want anyone to know how selfish I am!" We just blurt it out: "Hey! That's MINE!" As a parent, every time you hear those words echoing through your home, it's like a defeating punch in the gut. You're tempted to say things like, "Oh yeah! Who bought you those toys? That's right - I did. And I'll give 'em away if you're not gonna learn to share them!" Ever said anything like that? Those kinds of things come out of my mouth more times than I can count. So the question remains, how do you teach your kids to move their heart and mind from MINE to OURS?

One way that Morgan and I have determined to teach this in our home is simply by modeling this mentality and heartbeat. We try to intentionally show Libby and Nathan that every single thing we OWN, we don't really own - that everything we have is a gift from God that He's entrusted to us so that we can bless others with it. For example, this summer we hosted 2 soccer coaches -from the British Soccer Camp Nathan attended - into our home. They lived with us for 6 days. We loved it! Matt and Tom very quickly became part of the family. We told them, "Whatever we have, it's yours if you need it." They used our shower, slept in our guest room, ate our food, stayed up late talking and watching American TV with us - they even drank my Red Bull! I actually loved this because it affirmed to us that they felt the way we wanted them to feel - like they were at home! And we try to model this on a constant basis. Many of the kids on our street come in and out of our backyard like they own the place. We love it! We WANT them there. And for that to happen, you have to start caring less about your grass, your furniture, and your fence. (Sometimes, I even think the fence just needs to come down!)

We travel a lot as a family. When we do, knowing that my car may be sitting in the garage for 7-10 days, I would rather someone who needs it get some use out of it. So I try and loan my car to friends who may not have their own. Again, it's not MINE in the first place! The Lord blessed me with that car so I could be a blessing to others. And I trust and believe that my children are not only hearing what we're telling them, but that they're watching us live it out, and that eventually...it's all going to click. That's what I'm praying for!

If you're still struggling with ownership, I encourage you to read Matthew 5:19-21.
If you're feeling defeated as a parent - feel like you're continually teaching, but it's not sinking in - I encourage you to read Proverbs 22:6. And do NOT give up!

What steps have you taken in your life to move from MINE to OURS?