February 21, 2013


Do you have enough?
Enough what, you may ask. 
Enough anything. Enough everything.
If that one more of whatever it is would finally be enough, wouldn't the next one more just eventually take it's place?

These are conversations I have with myself.
Sermons that I preach to myself while I'm driving down the road.
(That's multi-tasking right there, my friends.)

I was talking with a friend a couple of days ago and he was sharing with me about the frustration of looking for a new house, trying to sell the old house, and all that comes with it. As a ripple effect from our conversation I found myself, later in the day, just driving through neighborhoods, looking at houses, admiring the newness - whether new to the world or simply new to me - getting lost in the lure of hardwoods, granite, and sprinkler systems. Then I began having that dialogue with the invisible person in the passenger seat (which if we're just being honest, you could call a monologue), throwing out all the justifiable reasons why I should at least consider that, at this moment in the course of history, our family could seriously benefit from a little more room to breathe, spread out, entertain guests, and call home. I NEED this!

I am not telling you to never move or buy a new or different home.
There are occasions and circumstances when it may actually be the best option.
Owning something NEW in no way makes it BAD.
This is not a blogpost about houses. 
It's about the painful reality that very often I lack contentment.
It's the punch in the face when you realize that you're allowing yourself to be pulled into the trap of the never-ending need for "one more".

Paul told the Philippians (4:11-12) that he had "learned how to get along happily...with much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing." He also wrote to Timothy and told him that "there is great gain in godliness with contentment." (1 Tim. 6:6)

That's the heart and life that I want. I want to be able to say (and mean it from the depth of my inner being), "What more could I possibly ever even think to ask for? I am the richest man in the world!" Not because I finally brainwash myself into thinking it's true, or that I finally figure out how to make you think I look at the world this way, but because it's actually TRUE. I have ALL I need!

Today is Thursday, February 21, 2013. 
Today I am laying down my "need" for "one more".
Tomorrow I will intentionally and out of necessity be given the opportunity to lay this need down once again.

Paul said, "I have learned to be content..."
All I can say right now with a truthful heart is that "I am LEARNING to be content."
Lord, please keep teaching me. You are enough.

February 14, 2013

The Best Bad Idea We've Got

I recently watched the movie "Argo". This post is not a movie review OR a recommendation to watch the movie. But if you are any student of history and don't know this backstory about the Iran hostage crisis in the late 70's, I would highly encourage you look into it. It's fascinating to discover that because so much light was being shed on one aspect or side of a story that another side of it that most didn't even know existed was overlooked, overshadowed, or possibly just plain flat ignored. For the sake of shedding enough light on this post, allow me to share with you a brief rundown from our friends at Wikipedia:

"Militants storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, in retaliation for that nation's sheltering the recently deposed Shah. More than 50 of the embassy staff are taken as hostages, but six escape and hide in the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). With the escapees' situation kept secret, the US State Department begins to explore options for "exfiltrating" them from Iran. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA exfiltration specialist brought in for consultation, criticizes the proposals. He too is at a loss for an alternative until, inspired at home by watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes on TV with his son, he plans to create a cover story that the escapees are Canadian filmmakers, scouting "exotic" locations in Iran for a similar sci-fi film." Sounds crazy, right? Because it was.

As Tony Mendez is confronted by two members of the Cabinet, one of them hits him with the sarcasm-laced question: "Don't you have any other bad ideas?" In quick response, Mendez's agency boss (played by Bryan Cranston) replies, "It's the best bad idea we've got!" This statement and conclusion - that we're in a situation where there appear to be no "good ideas" - and the willingness to act in spite of this conclusion, are great insight into a necessary characteristic of leadership. Sometimes, you simply have to be willing to do something.

I think we often forget that NO response - that doing nothing, not caring, not acting, pretending a problem doesn't exist or standing with our hands in our pockets because there's just no real way to come out a winner - is still a response. Leaders are often revealed and refined in times where there are no good options. They still see that something must be done, a need must be met, a wrong-doing must be confronted, and they act. They move. They go. They don't wait for someone else to exhort them; they exhort by example. (Another great example of this is Mel Gibson's character, Lieutenant General Hal Moore, who led 400 young soldiers into a fight against 2000 North Vietnamese at the beginning of the Vietnam War. While they flew in knowing that this was potentially a lose-lose situation, Moore's feet were the "first to hit the field, and the last one to come off".) In Argo, we learn that Mendez, acknowledging that there "are only bad options. It's about picking the best one." is also the one to say, "I'll go. I'll get them out." While everyone else stood by, paralyzed, he acted. And ultimately, he saved 6 lives.

God may not call you to fly into a foreign country like a spy and rescue hostages. But He may very likely give you to opportunity to what's RIGHT rather than what's EASY or CONVENIENT. You will most definitely get the chance to STAND when everyone else remains SEATED. And to put it another way, as Christ-followers, you will constantly be called to walk the road that's NARROW while countless others keep stumbling down the big, wide path to nowhere. And when it happens, there is great likelihood that you will face more opposition and criticism than support. For encouragement in this area, remember that Jesus knew this scenario very well. 

When all you have left in your arsenal is "the best bad idea we've got", will you still be ready and willing to use it? 

February 11, 2013

What I See in My Son

As a parent, it's a beautiful and powerful moment when someone - often a complete stranger - will approach you, point to your child and say, "He looks just like you!" And of course I hear people all the time telling me, "Man, you look so much like your Dad." It's awesome to see that very visible evidence that you "belong" to someone - that you see your parent, cousin, grandparent, or child and somewhat feel like you're looking into a mirror in time.

And of course, this goes way beyond just physical looks and appearances. You watch your child's habits or personality traits and don't have to wonder very long as to where they inherited or learned them. I have a couple of mannerisms that I'm becoming aware of that were 100% my Dad. Ironically, one of them used to drive me crazy. How's that for paybacks?

Several years ago we started noticing my daughter (who's the firstborn) in a constant battle for control. She not only wants things done a certain way, she wants to do them herself. There's just no way you're going to pull it off in quite the right fashion. Better let her handle that. Not long after becoming aware of this behavior in her, I began to be mortified over the fact that I was actually watching myself in motion. Why is my daughter a control freak? Because her father is an expert! As your kids start getting older, you begin realizing more and more the extent of the personality traits and learned behavior that they've either inherited from you genetically or have soaked up like a sponge, watching you so powerfully model and put on display. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be a great thing! We just have to be aware that it's constantly happening and probably won't let up.

In light of this, the other night I had possibly one of the weightiest conversations I've ever had with my 8-year old son. He REALLY wanted something he saw at the store: a jersey of a very popular NFL player. You see, Nathan would wear nothing but wind pants and football and baseball jerseys if we let him. It's his thing. But for several reasons (which I will spare you in this post) I didn't think he should spend his money on this item. He had just shared with me the day before of something very special - something very selfless for someone else - he wanted to do with his remaining money. Now he's telling me that he "needs" this jersey. "But Dad! I really really want it!" We debated - and I use that word graciously - for quite a bit of time in the store. Finally I told him, "Son, it's your decision. But please understand, I'm not just trying to teach you how to spend your money. I'm trying to help you learn how to make wise choices. And I don't think this is a wise choice."

As you might have guessed, he bought the jersey. And of course, he wore it the next morning.

The whole way home from the mall and most of the evening I was incredibly agitated. And it seemed to be focused like a laser in Nathan's direction. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew it was something much bigger than just the jersey incident. If I'm being honest and transparent with you, I have a great struggle at times having grace, patience, and compassion with my son. He puts me to the test. And I sat there Saturday night, frustrated and distracted, wondering why I was in this condition. And then Sunday morning came and it hit me like a brick upside the head.

When I look at my daughter, I often see some of my quirks, personality, and mannerisms. But when I see my son - when I have to discipline him, teach him the same thing over and over, and sometimes feel like I'm not getting anywhere, I don't see my personality, my facial expressions, my love of laughter, or my easily-distracted zeal for life. What I see in my son is my SIN.

Please understand, this is not to say that my daughter always acts like an angel OR that my son is always in trouble. But my son struggles with the need for other peoples approval. Guess what? So do I. He is constantly at war with a pride that hates to lose and selfishly wants to be first. So am I. My son is often tempted to buy into the lie that if he just gets his hands on that ONE LAST THING...that happiness will arrive like a gift with a bow on top. That a new jersey or pair of Vans or one more game for the X-Box or an iPhone 5 (to replace this dinosaur relic of an iPhone 4) is finally going to bring the satisfaction and elation that will eternally sustain the sunshine of my heart! And of course you know, that's all a big, fat lie. Those moth-eaten, rust-destroying, temporary idols I place on the throne in my heart momentarily will never satisfy me. Only Jesus can. Only Jesus will. And I want my son to know this. I want him to see it so evidently lived out in my life, in my actions, in the way I spend and save money, in the way I value people, and as I intentionally and deliberately pray for God's Kingdom to reign in my life instead of my own. This will not only bring very painful moments where I have to confront his sin, but incredibly humble times I have to confess my own. He doesn't need to think I'm perfect; he needs to know that Jesus is.

This struggle - of seeing my own sin in my son's life - is not going to just disappear. But I'm reminded this morning of the opportunity I have to look at his life, the joy he brings me, the constant laughter he provides everyone around him, the bursts of selfless generosity that come flooding out of him, the passion he has for anything he sets his mind to, and the heart-wrenching love I have in my heart for him, and to remember that I've only seen or experienced but a glimpse of the Father's love for me. And because of the great love of the Father, I now know how to love my son. And now, as I look at him, what I see in my son doesn't have to be my own sin, but that overwhelming, grace-filled, life-changing love of my Savior. Thank You, Jesus.