Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Daily Prayer

This is something God put on my heart this morning as I was praying that pretty much sums up where I'm at and where I want to be, thought I'd share in the event it's helpful to someone else! (links go to related verses/songs)

Lord I thank you for all you’ve done for me and all you’ve called me to.  Please draw my focus and heart away from the burdens of this world--work, car troubles, projects (insert your own here)--and towards the future-Heaven, ministry, the work you’ve called me to.

I pray you’d help me to be confident and persistent in those things and carry out the mission you have for me here at home, work, and in the Church with my eyes focused on you and what you’ve done (the Cross) and what you want (my Heart) for me and from me.

I pray you’d help me to seek first Your kingdom and not my own on a daily basis, to give grace to myself and those around me, to live with joy, purpose and love for others. To cast off the weight of this world and the burdens that come with it and live freely with my eyes focused on You--the author and perfecter of my faith and life. 

Amen
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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Perspective

As I’ve thought and prayed more about how things got off in the spring and again recently I’ve come to realize that it hasn’t been the circumstances of life that have changed but my perspective.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the minute details of life are plentiful and can become all consuming if you let them which can easily happen (at least for me) if the big picture perspective is lost.  Things that don’t matter become the focus and their draw on our attention becomes all consuming and exhausting.

I love this quote by John Eldredge for several reasons:

"Right now I don't think it) my personality) is based on His love at all.  It feels built upon Make It Happen." Walking with God

One, this is how I’m wired—Josh Simon gets things done.  But the second is the seemingly insignificant statement “right now,” which indicates this is a temporary condition and can and will pass with the right amount of refocusing and realignment. Eldridge further elaborates, hitting the nail on the head, at least for me:
"This is nearly constant. This sort of thinking, planning, anticipating, maneuvering comes so naturally. Seeing it so starkly now, I'm left speechless.  May Jesus have mercy."

Striving to knock out task lists, flip cars, hammer down an aggressive budget, make as much happen as possible at work.  Worrying about a myriad of things as Eldridge puts it "We have a bad month financially, and I run with the thought 'we're going to end up living under a bridge.' The truck makes a thumping noise when I start it, and my imagination jumps to 'The engines going. I'd better sell it before it explodes.'"

Speculating about a meeting I wasn't invited to-I bet they're talking about how much I botched up this project and are planning on how they're going to replace me-when the reality is they were just trying to cover something for me because they knew how busy I was working on higher priority tasks.

"It's a form of hypochondria." (Eldredge, Walking with God)

It’s sobering to think about how much of my imagination is wasted on thinking through work scenarios, home and car projects and other unfruitful things. How much of a blessing and heart shifter would it be to dream about the future of my family, ministries, and what God has in store!

I don’t have a magical formula here but as always there are multiple verses that can serve to realign and remind.  The first is a phrase repeated several times in the book of Haggai-“Consider your ways.”  A simple phrase to remind us to evaluate our priorities, motivations, focus and to turn back to God.

Another more lengthy passage I ran across that’s been very encouraging is the words of Paul in Romans 8:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (v18-25)

Futility, bondage and corruption is what this fallen world has to offer but freedom, glory and hope await those who are faithful and wait patiently/joyfully/hopefully for what’s to come.  There’s way more than what’s right in front of us and what’s to come is way better, think about your best moments here on earth and you get a glimpse of what’s to come!

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Soul Care

Soul care. A lot of what I've been writing this year (or at least the first half of the year before I quit making the time to write, thanks to the friends who recently encouraged me!) has been related to this topic.  Even so, being relatively at the forefront of my mind, I began to feel the weight of an empty tank as spring rolled into summer (when I originally wrote this) and again as summer rolled into fall, in fact I’m still feeling fairly drained as I write this.

I have certainly noticed this cyclical pattern in my life over the past couple of years and as one who's wired to push, persevere and generally just get stuff done, my soul can quickly get left in the back seat, forgotten amongst the list of to-dos in a very short period of time.  I can very easily put myself in a pressure cooker of self-derived expectations at home and work despite a lack of outside influences leading me in that direction.

This is commonplace in a world at war against what we truly desire and the busyness, demands, and distractions of life can quickly sneak in like a thief in the night (our enemy is cunning, remember) and before we know it we feel drained, off track, and in need of a reset once again. As John Eldridge says in The Sacred Romance "Sadly, most of us watch the oil level in our car more carefully than we watch over the life of our heart." This is certainly me, even ignoring the fact that I've rarely driven anything that didn't require an oil check at every refuel…

When I get in this mode I shift from living with joy and purpose to living just to survive.  Everything feels like a burden, even things I enjoy.  I fall back into my default mode of checking boxes--work, home, hobbies, even my prayer/quiet time.  A while back I distinctly remember even being frustrated one morning because I didn't get a chance to read as much as I wanted to and just wanted to finish a devotional and move on to something else.  Warning!  I'd certainly fallen out of "restful posture of faith and assurance," as John Eldridge puts it in Walking With God…

As Song of Solomon 5:2 says "I slept but my heart was awake," going over various tasks and concerns, waking up already racing through the coming day, meetings, worries, anxiety.  My 2017 goal of "Ruthlessly eliminating hurry" is continually at risk of going out the window and I feel on a regular basis I can relate more and more to the opening of Breathe by Jonny Diaz:

Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life

In our world this is certainly not uncommon, and I think for most expected, considering that "Starting very early, life has taught all of us to ignore and distrust the deepest yearnings of our heart.  Life, for the most part, teaches us to suppress our longing and live only in the external world where efficiency and performance are everything." (Eldredge, Sacred Romance)

School, jobs, parents, even our churches, which are supposed to be a place to help water and grow the desire for God within us can turn into centers for achievement and busyness.  Taking this into consideration, it's no surprise that many of us get and stay off track despite looking like we have it together on the outside.

In God's eyes, however, all that needs to be achieved is already done and while in His grace he chooses to allow us to be a part of what his is doing, he certainly doesn't need us to accomplish his purposes.

So how do we get back on track and reconnect with our heart?  How do we live like a reservoir of life that constantly flows without emptying instead of a canal that fills up and then quickly transfers its contents to the world around it?

This looks different for everyone and it's crucial that we figure out what things fuel and refresh us so that we can come back to them time and again.

For me, during these times things that typically help are:
-Riding my bike a lot and spending more time outside
-Chillin in my quiet time, maybe reading a short devotional and just listening instead of trying to burn through a book or study
-Sleeping in a little
-Pausing extra efforts and side projects at work and just focusing on the core of my job
-Trying to push out noise and listen to my heart

I've been asking the question of "God, what do you want" a lot.

What do you want me to read this morning? Sometimes the answer is nothing.

What do you want me to learn from this situation? This person? What are you calling me to do in this situation?

This has taken time-in the summer it was probably 3 weeks before I was able to push out enough noise and distractions to get back to a place where I can hear my heart and the still, small voice of God. This fall it’s been several months and I’m still wrestling with it, clinging to the words of Galatians 5:1:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Thanks to everyone who’s encouraged me to live more freely and share here on this blog, those reminders are very valuable and much appreciated!

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Made for Greatness

This may come as a surprise to you (it certainly does to me) but we are all made for greatness.  Maybe not fame, fortune, and popularity, but in each of us is the greatness that only God can create and bring out in a world that is constantly telling us otherwise.  In the fairy tale of our lives we are the hero, the prince or princess, the savior of the world around us, the messenger and example sent to save the village.  As Frederick Buechner said "Not only does evil come disguised in the world of the fairly tale but often good does too."

We are sinners but that's only part of the story.  As John Eldridge says in The Sacred Romance "Your evaluation of your soul, which is drawn from a world filled with people still terribly confused about the nature of their souls, is probably wrong."  The fall made it much harder to achieve the greatness we were designed for but it's still possible and the goal of our lives.  We are God's chosen ones, the object of His affection, created for relationship with him and greatness in his name.

As the Psalmist said, "what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor." Ps 8:4-5

So why do we run? Why do we settle for a mediocre life absent of adventure and the greatness God designed us for?  I think Eldridge perfectly sums it up here: "As hard as it may be for us to see our sin, it is far harder still for us to remember our glory.  The pain of the memory of our former glory is so excruciating, we would rather stay in our pigsty than return to our true home." (The Sacred Romance)

Acknowledging this and living it out are two completely different things, so how do we pull our heads up out of the muck, mire, and noise of life?  Away from our sin and dejection, negative, defeatist feelings about ourselves, our worth and our potential to achieve the glory and greatness we were designed to embody?

Walking with God. It's the only answer, the only approach that is effective and feeds our desire for intimacy and for the "the courtship that began at the Garden (of Eden) and culminates in the wedding feast of the lamb." (Sacred Romance).  Allowing God to woo us with his love, beauty, and adventurous character.  Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.  Being caught up in His Glory, by the fact that the creator of the universe, all of the beauty around us, angels, heaven, and everything in between wants nothing more than to love, encourage, and grow us into the fullness of relationship with him.  

As 2 Corinthians 4:16 says "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."  This is the method, the process, the only way to rise above our lowly world and lowly view of ourselves.  The only way to be transformed by His love, glory, and beauty into what we were created to be. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. 


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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Balance


    Now that I've set the stage for goal setting it's time to jump back into the foundation of my goals for the year.  Balance is another thing that got way off last year and is something that is at constant risk with all of the options and demands of life.  Just the basics of being a parent of 4 kids, manager of an organization and leader of a small group can be tough to juggle, both from a time and an emotional and spiritual health perspective.  Throw in a house and a propensity for car projects and you've got a recipe for disaster (or burnout) if not properly managed and balanced. 

    I know I've been plugging the book The One Thing quite a bit here, and honestly I haven't read the whole thing, but I have been picking it up from time to time and reading a page or two and God has consistently landed me on a concept or image that directly relates to something timely in my life.  Demands on your time, energy, and focus can shift over time but as Gary Keller says  in the book "Pursuing a balanced life means never pursuing anything at the extremes." 

    There have been several times over the past couple of years where I've seen work start to eat into other areas of life, usually from a time perspective, but also from a focus and emotional balance perspective as was the case last year amidst all of the org changes we experienced.  Around this time I ran across this image in the book and thought it painted a really good picture of what we should be trying to achieve: 


    The concept here is that work is best served by bursts of short, focused efforts: a project or initiative or maybe the setting up of an efficient organization.  Thankfully, I work in an environment where these things are typically cyclical and allow for some re-centering from time to time, the nature of product development naturally lends itself to this and the key for me is to synchronize this with the natural rhythm of life.  

    Life, on the other hand, needs constant balancing, keeping you, your focus, emotions, and energy on an even keel with much shorter cycles of ups and downs.  This is also critical to success in your work life and like at work, there is also a great need in life to evaluate and prioritize the myriad of options to spend our time and energy as  "It's not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it's that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have." (The One Thing)

    "Balance" would obviously be a pretty weak and not very actionable goal but knowing yourself and what both throws you off and lifts you up can direct you towards things to both watch out for and make sure you do to keep life in a healthy path.  


    For example's sake, here are some related goals for me this year:
    • Loosen up, Have more fun, take self less seriously
    • Spend more time outside 
    • Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life (ie slow down, take on less at home, and prioritize!)
    • Don't let things fester, take 'em head on--work, friends, home issues etc.

    As John Ortberg says in The Life You've Always Wanted "God did not create people in his own image for passivity. He is not a passive God.  When we face important decisions, we must pray, seek guidance, and exercise judgement, wisdom, initiative, choice, and responsibility." How we spend our time each day is an important decision and is the key and primary reason to set God-sized and God-directed goals to ensure the decisions we make are along the path we should take.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Goals

As you’ve probably noticed, my plan for the first part of the year is to record what I found as I unpacked the events of last fall, mainly for my future reference and reflection but also in the event it may help someone else.  

Before getting too far down that road I wanted to share some thoughts on goal setting, specifically how creating and praying through "God sized goals" as Mark Batterson puts it can be a guiding force in life in growing us in the direction and into the people God created us to be.  As C.S. Lewis puts it in The Weight of Glory
"If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

This (goal setting, not being too easily pleased) is something I started last year after reading the book Wild Goose Chase and goes way beyond New Years resolutions.  It is a process of thinking and praying  your way through both annual goals and life goals to direct both long and short term focus and activity and a way to "Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death." (A Trip Around the Sun)

I highly recommend a read of Wild Goose Chase as the book is a life changer and has much more detail, but this PDF gives a good overview to get you started: http://chasethegoose.com/files/10-steps-to-setting-life-goals.pdf

You may ask, why do this?  Aren't resolutions good enough?  For me, no.  I don't have much resolve and they tend to be short sighted, shallow, and not very compelling.  Also, as I've gotten older I've found I can relate more anid more to this statement and this process has helped me combat the effects of age on my imagination: 
"Neuroimaging has shown that as we age, the center of cognitive gravity tends to shift from the imaginative right brain to the logical left brain.  That neurological tendency presents a grave spiritual danger: at some point, most of us stop living out of imagination and start living out of memory.  Instead of creating the future, we repeat the past. Instead of living by faith, we live by logic.  But it doesn't have to be that way." (A Trip Around the Sun)

God sized goals are a way of stretching and living by imagination.  "It's not enough to dream big and pray hard.  You also have to think long.  If you don't, you'll experience high degrees of discouragement.  Why? Because we tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a year. Of course, we also tend to underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.  The bigger the vision the harder you'll have to pray and the longer you'll have to think. But if you keep circling it'll come to pass in God's timing." (The Circle Maker)

Start big (life) then narrow in on steps over the year to get you there (image from The One Thing)
There is some sold guidance and examples in the PDF linked above but here are some additional questions to help hone in on God ordained passions to drive goals:
• What makes you sad mad glad?
○ Your true calling is somewhere at the intersection of those things 
• What makes you angry or pound your fist on the table?
• What makes you sad?
• What/who brings joy to your heart?
• What wakes you up early and keep you up late? (Netflix is not a valid answer here)
• What am I doing that I could not do apart from God?  (If the answer is nothing, pray that God would open your eyes!)

In the Bible there is the example of Nehemiah weeping for days over Jerusalem--if you feel this way about something it's a good indication God wants you to take personal responsibility to do something about it.  If you need some inspiration I would also highly recommend David Platt's Counter Culture.

Also, write them down.  As Lee Iacocca said "The discipline of writing something down is the first step towards making it happen."  Writing your goals down also allows you to share with friends who can hold you accountable as well as your spouse so that the two of you can dream and plan together!

So what's it going to take to stop living like God is an insurance plan?  What changes can you make, whether big or small, can shift your life and focus in the direction you were designed to go?  "Something as simple as a change of pace can give you a new perspective on life." (Wild Goose Chase)

Think big, pray hard and then jump in with both feet.  As John Ortberg says in If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat "When I say yes, I set in motion an adventure that will leave me forever changed."

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Approval

As I headed into my goal setting for 2017 I felt I first needed to take a step back and work through how I got off track in 2016.  In this post I briefly mentioned some changes my organization went through, and while it ended up being a net positive from both the organizational and workload perspective, there were also some impacts that I did not foresee going into it.

As new leaders came in I found myself having the urge to prove something while also questioning alot of what I was doing.  As John Eldredge puts it in Walking With God I'd "moved out of the restful posture of faith and assurance." Having been in my role for a few years, I'd become very comfortable with both the people and expectation aspects of our previous leadership and the reality is that while there is always room for improvement the way I had things set up and had been operating had been working well for 3 years.  

The issue, I think, was as Eldridge says "We give our hearts over to so many things other than God.  We look to so many other things for life… Especially the very gifts that he himself gives to us--they become more important than he is. That's not the way it's supposed to be. As long as our happiness is tied to the things we can lose we are vulnerable."  (Walking with God). A lot of prayer and intentionality had gone into how I'd formed my role and organization and had chosen to operate.  As with all things earthly there was plenty broken and non-ideal but I had also not gone about them willy nilly and shortcomings aside I think God was still well pleased. 

The crux was that I had put too much stock in the gift and position God had blessed me with, I was worshiping the gift (or title and responsibility) instead of the giver and had lost sight of the fact that I had not gotten there on my own nor would I remain so that way and when the questions came my pride became at stake and I was easily rattled. I had shifted to servanthood of man and my own ego as Paul writes in Galations 1:10: "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." and holding others opinion/approval above Jesus leads us to being held hostage by them.

We live our lives struggling with being worried about what we think others are thinking about us--which sounds ridiculous when you really think about it and our thinking could be and usually is completely off base.  As Ortberg puts it, at some point "you realize nobody was thinking about you anyways.. (but) that information does not alone bring true freedom. When our identity is wrapped up in whether or not we are perceived as successful, we are set up for approval addiction. Our sense of self is on the line."  (The Life you've Always Wanted)

The solution to this is in those times "When I catch myself comparing myself with others or thinking 'I could be happy if only I had what they have', then I know I need to withdraw for a while and listen for another voice… it always asks of self-absorbed children 'What are you doing here?'  When Jesus spoke, he was free from the need to create an impression. He was free to speak the truth in love." (The Life you've Always Wanted)

When we become Christians our framework for approval changes.  We are inherently approved by our belief in Jesus as our savior and as this song so harmoniously states we are no longer slaves to others but his children and ultimately no one else's opinion matters which should be both encouraging and empowering to us. 

Matthew 10:37 says: "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."  Loving Him most allows us to love not only our father, mother, wife, children and others the right way, but also ourselves from the right motive, because He first loved us.  We will fall short otherwise. Loving Jesus means our allegiance and affections are grounded in Him and loving him is the only requirement for approval.   


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