deep

In Too Deep

The radiant spring morning beautifully illuminated the world, yet my three-year-old daughter stood unusually still. It was a delightful day to say the least, and Alethea and I had walked out on our back porch to savor the sun. We lived in a pleasant neighborhood (contrary to the opinion of many), and for a young family braving the world, we had no fear—life was good.

My daughter, Olathe, squirmed restlessly in my arms, as she often did, wriggling for her independence. She was apparently having a hard time saying, “No, thank you,” to the earth’s invitation to a backyard exploration. So I lovingly let her down. She waddled down the wooden steps, across the slab of cement, and ran into our backyard. So much joy, so much life—I can still feel her contagious exhilaration as if it were our own.

Then, something changed. With her back facing us, she stopped abruptly. With an unsure twinge of horror, she slowly turned her head and looked at us unleashing a panicked cry. Instinctively, Alethea and I ran to her and scooped her up. Her little spring-loaded arms tightened around my neck as if something we couldn’t see desired to swallow her whole. I was able to maneuver her around just enough to check her feet for cuts, thorns, snake bites—anything that could have induced such terror. Nada.

Buckets of tears melted my heart. Daddy’s are protectors, so had I known there was something lurking out there, waiting to inflict fear upon my little princess, I would have warned her, stopped her, or enticed her to stay inside with some Cheerios. But the world is a beautiful place. And although there are things in it that may make her cry, should I keep her from the great adventures that beckon her curious soul?

I’ve been wrestling of late with the fine line between fear and love and how these two emotions influence our decisions. My decisions. You see, fear is a powerful emotion. It can keep us bound to the ground when we, or the ones we love, long to fly. It deceives us into thinking we are safe. Secure. In control. But in reality, fear is just a scared dictator fighting for self-preservation at all costs—chaining us to the porch with links of Cheerios.

Opposite of fear stands love. Fear rages against freedom under the guise of safety, whereas love safely wraps freedom in a comfortable, warm quilt. When we trust in love (whether human or divine), we are free to face our fears, experience life, even make mistakes. Why? Because even in our failings we know love will never fail. It will always find a way to scoop us up when our exhilaration or curiosity takes us in too deep.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him… There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” —1 John 4:16,18 (ESV)

“It was the grass. She doesn’t like the feeling of grass on her feet.”

I looked at my wife as this revelation graciously fell from her lips as drops rain on the dry ground of my perplexity. After a brief pause, we burst into compassionate laughter and held our daughter close.

We will all experience itchy ankles—times we get ahead of ourselves and realize we aren’t quite comfortable where we find ourselves. In those moments, let’s remember it is love that gave us the courage and freedom to explore an unsafe world. And that no matter how far we run in life, what fears we will face, when the world makes us cry, we (she) can be secure knowing that we will always… always… have a loving Father who through the wonder, fear, joy, and pain in life, is present and delights in us. Love never fails.

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In the Alley of Invaluable Discards

Have you ever felt completely inadequate? I have.

In different situations.
In multiple settings.
More often than I’d like to admit.

Someone once said, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This nifty little adage was no more apparent than the day I dragged my missed-curfew-again self through the dimly lit dorm lounge at college. It was past midnight, so naturally I was startled by the immensity of a full-size basketball backboard, rim, and net stuck on a board of plywood and stuffed between the ceiling and floor. Seriously, those things are way bigger when you’re up close and personal—something I hadn’t the pleasure of experiencing due to an unfortunate benching in the 5th grade.

Next to the goal, hanging on the wall, was a rather interesting and beautiful velvet tapestry. Apparently, somebody had found something of value in the alley of “invaluable discards” and then . . . brought it home.

I think Jesus would have appreciated that tapestry. I can envision Him sitting on the funky chair next to it (another prized find from the alley) telling a story or parable to us guys while igniting our hearts for the world around us. Then, Jesus would beckon, “Come, follow me.” Our anticipation exploding. Our egos soaring. That is, until he casually drops, “Boys, we’re going dumpster diving.”

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I [Jesus] have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” —Luke 5:31-32

God specializes in calling what man calls trash treasure. He looks for the used, searches for the marginalized, rummages for the inadequate and unqualified. How do I know this as truth? Because when he stepped into time so long ago, He emerged in the dumpster of a sin fallen world looking for the broken.

Philippians 2:6–8,

Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death upon a cross.”

This was His purpose.

Think about it.

In Luke 19:10, Jesus said to those at Zacchaeus’ house, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

In order to meet the woman at the well, John 4:4 tells us, “And he had to pass through Samaria” [emphasis mine].

In John 8:12, immediately after forgiving the sins of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus says to the crowd, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads you to life.”

If you’ve encountered Jesus then you are no longer trash—walking in the despair, darkness, insecurity, or inadequacy of being. Dr. Tony Evans says, “If Satan can keep you looking back, he can keep you from moving forward.” Stop letting the choices and identities of your past dictate your present and future possibilities in Christ. 

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have past away; behold, all things have become new.” —2 Corinthians 5:17

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” —Lamentations 3:22-23

Every morning when I wake up, I have an opportunity to be the person I want God wants me to be. To be all that I can be. All I was created to be.

Jesus was a dumpster diver.

And for that, I will be forever grateful.

“Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done. Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who You are.”  Casting Crowns

Change Your Life with One Small Word

CHANGEKimberly wants to finally get healthy, but doing so feels out of reach. Jason wants to start living his dream, yet he feels trapped at work. Jenna? She simply wants to enjoy life, but her situation feels like a hopeless prison.

Day in and day out, do you find yourself in a similar struggle—dreaming of more, but stuck in the rut? Do your hopes to break out, step up, and start living your dream seem to get crushed daily by the demands and routines of your reality?

If you want to change your life—go after a dream, start a business, get healthy, enjoy your day-to-day—you’re not alone. Many people desire change, but just because we want change doesn’t mean that we will change.

Last night in our small group study, we discussed what motivates people to make changes in their life. According to Steve Corbett and Brian Finkert, there are three triggers for change—things that have the potential to move people from merely wanting change to making change. They are:

  • A recent crisis
  • When the burden of the status quo becomes overwhelming
  • The introduction of a new way of doing or seeing things that could improve life

The authors go on to propose that many people, although they need a change, are not ready for change. This is because they either don’t think there’s a problem or just refuse to see their own responsibly in the process. Basically, they think about their situation and say,

So what?!”

However, that isn’t you. You hung with me this long because you see your need for change. But, if we want to pursue change then we first need to evaluate the triggers above that help us do just that. Honestly, I don’t want or need to wait around for a crisis or for things to become so overwhelming that if I don’t change I’ll die (physically, spiritually, emotionally). That only leaves one trigger: discover a new way of doing or seeing things that can improve my life.

Now that is something I can control.

That is something I can manage.

That is something I can do.

I may not have someone to go with me to the gym, teach me a new skill, or partner in business, but what I can do is learn, read, study, ask questions, and begin taking new steps towards a new way of living. I can stop saying, “So what?!” and start exploring “So what if…?”

By simply adding that one small word “if” to the end of my “so what” I give myself the potential to change my life—even more so if followed by a specific action towards a dream or goal.

So what if . . . I buy a book on how to start a business or a non-profit?
So what if . . . I plan ahead for five healthy meals a week?
So what if . . . I begin to set aside 10% of my income for savings?
So what if . . . I sign up for that foreign language class?
So what if . . . I commit to writing once a week?
So what if . . . I set aside one night a week for date night with my spouse?
So what if . . . I get up 15 minutes earlier and start my day with a devotional?

If gives you and me the power to discover a new way of doing or seeing things. If represents forward thinking and starts the ball rolling in right direction. If represents imagination and allows our creativity to work towards positive change.

So… if you want to change, but are having a hard time doing so, maybe it’s time to add that simply two letter word to your situation and explore what it may look like to start taking steps towards your dream. Trust me, living the dream is always better than dreaming the dream.

So . . . what if?

If you found this article helpful, would you consider sharing it with others?

photo credit: Will Clayton via photopin cc

I’m Sorry… I Didn’t Mean to Hurt You

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I try to see the best in others, however, I’ve come to the conclusion there are some people in this world that are straight out evil. They find pleasure in hurting people or inflicting pain—maliciously and selfishly asserting their control and power at the expense of others. Just watch the news.

For the rest of us, well… we have to sort our way out of a different dilemma. There are times when even though we may have good intentions and love others deeply, you and I will inadvertently hurt people—including those we care about the most. How can I be so sure? Because we’re human.

I was four years old and I’d just found my very own pet. We owned a family dog, but it wasn’t mine. Besides, I was a bit tentative around Shanny—probably having something to do with my dad (trying to be playful) lifting me up by my feet and allowing this over excited mutt to jump and lick my face while I screamed like a banshee. Don’t worry though, it’s all good now. As you can tell… I’m over it. I digress.

My new pet’s name: Wormy. Don’t look at me like that. Sure I could have named him something more macho like Butch, Eastwood, or Hulk, but I didn’t. I found him in the garden and brought him over to the cement porch in our back yard. It was in that glorious moment I made him my pet. I loved Wormy. He was wonderful and I was fascinated. I pet him with my finger to show him how much I cared and that’s when it happened. I must have pet too hard against the cement because I tore him apart and instead of one new pet, I now had two—writhing in pain and oozing God knows what.

I didn’t mean to kill him!

He’ll never see his family again.

How could I do this?

I betrayed his trust.

Why is his body still flailing after being torn apart?!

I was devastated and cried a deep cry. I think this is how most of us feel when we hurt others unintentionally. You know, those moments we realize we affected someone’s life negatively and there’s no one else to blame. So how does one pick up the pieces and mend an unintentionally broken relationship when we’ve hurt someone we love?

  1. Acknowledge that we hurt that person whether we intended to or not. This is where our pride will rise up because, of course, we want to defend our intentions. I’ve done this. I don’t intentionally mean to hurt my wife or family, but sometimes I do… by the things I say, the way I say it, or what I do. Often, I’m oblivious to their hurt until they tell me. It’s at that moment I can either defend myself or acknowledge their feelings. Unintentionally hurting someone is hurting them none the less. It’s never an easy thing for me to admit because I really don’t like the version of me that hurts the people I love. But the simple fact is I do. We do. If we want to move forward in our relationships, we need to let our walls down and acknowledge the pain we’ve caused.
  2. Let the person you hurt know how you feel. If you honestly didn’t mean to hurt someone, then say so. Further explain that even though you didn’t intend to hurt them, you still feel horrible for doing so. They can’t read your mind and as long as you are authentic and sincere, it will be comforting for them to know we actually do care. The two halves of Wormy saw my tears and heard my intentions and heartbreak. Unfortunately, that was one relationship I severed beyond repair.
  3. Make things right. This is the next step that makes an apology genuine and acceptable to most people. Once they know you didn’t mean to hurt them and that you feel awful for doing so, people still want to know how will you make it right in order to repair the relationship. This could be something as simple as a loving gesture or as complex that it requires tremendous effort and time to heal. Regardless, it shows that you are interested in continuing that relationship and making it a priority. This could mean making a concerted effort to be more mindful the next time around, committing to get some professional help in an area of compulsive behavior, an offer to buy lunch and talk things through, or maybe even putting two halves of a worm in the ground for a proper burial.

Together, let’s strive to put others before ourselves and live the kind of life that heals the broken, even if we are to blame.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:1-3)

Have you ever found out that you unintentionally hurt someone? Share your story below. If it has been a beneficial read, would you consider sharing it with others on your social network?

photo credit: piers nye  cc — title added

 

Jesus Wants You to Stop Resisting Sin

Resist
Christians should stop resisting sin. A bit controversial I know, but frankly I’m tired of seeing the people I care about wrestle with the intense and forceful temptations that claw for their soul. From the fall of Adam sin has been in our nature. Where was sin just before Cain killed his brother? At the door—knocking… pounding… anxious to come inside (Gen 4:7). Resisting sin makes the noise in our head and the angst in our soul echo all the louder. Why? Because when there is a vacuum in our souls the emptiness yearns to be filled.

Smoking can be a difficult habit to break. Although nicotine cravings only physically stay within the body for about five days, the random urge to smoke can last a lifetime. The reason for this is that it’s a habit set into motion by a trigger—like a time you would typically take a short break from work, stress, or anxiety. A friend of mine told me how he quit smoking: “Instead of lighting a cigarette, I would suck on a blow pop. It tasted better… AND I got gum at the end.” Fairly insightful, no?

Jesus said it this way…

When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. —Luke 11:24-26 (NLT)

Many Christians are losing the battle against sin and temptation because they are trying to resist while they still have a vacuum inside. The Bible tells us to resist the devil and he will flee… but not before we submit to God (James 4:7). We are to be filled with the Spirit which, in turn, leaves no room for the enemy.. even if he makes a good case to enter our lives.

Imagine an airplane packed to capacity and someone runs up and says they need to get on the plane because it would make everyone on the plane feel better or less stressed. Considering they were telling the truth… would that really be such a bad thing considering the handful of sweaty first-time flyers nervously talking to the person trying to read next to them?!

“I need to get on the plane so everyone can relax.”

“Sorry, sir, there’s no more room.”

“Please… please let me on. It will make people feel better.”

“Nope… no room.”

“LET. ME. ON!”

“Sorry. Go home now.”

When the vacuum of the human soul is filled with the presence, peace, and love of God, even if we desperately want to give in, we can’t. There is simply no room for the devil. The only way sin can creep in is if we leave the door open, unlocked, or unattended (something I will expound on in another blog).

So, Christian, my advice is this: stop resisting and start replacing. Let your life be so full of God that there’s no room for sin. Go to church, get involved, do daily devotions, listen to music that brings glory to God, think on the cross, meditate on God’s goodness, memorize scripture, nurture healthy relationships, fill the void that the enemy wants to fill. When you start replacing your sinful habits with Godly ones, God will begin to fight your battles for you. You’ll still need to keep your guard up (Eph 5:13, Prov 4:23), but when you turn your energy towards the things of God, He will exponentially multiply your resistance.

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. —Galatians 5:16 (NLT)

For further study, read and meditate on Galatians 5.

I love to hear feedback from my readers. If you agree, disagree, or can add to this topic in any way, I want to invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section below. If it has been a beneficial read, would you consider sharing it with others on your social network?

*Photo credit by Bahi P under CC License. Title added.

The Parable of the Plug

If you have ever been to my house, you might have noticed the small little “coffee nook” we have. Actually, I think it was meant to be a desk area, but that wouldn’t work for more reasons than one, so a coffee nook it became. For close to five years this nook has seen plenty of action and served us well during times of fellowship, Bible studies, and entertaining friends—providing a gathering spot for those late nights where good times demanded a little extra caffeine.

If you looked close enough in the corner of the nook you will find a single plug that once supplied the power to our coffee brewer. This little guy worked hard for several years as our church grew from our living room to where we are today. He was an important and necessary conduit that for all practical purposes helped launch a church. He was faithful. He didn’t complain about the late nights that we asked him to put in. He had a purpose and we used him often.

One day, our plug decided to hold some things in. It started slowly. Little by little he began to not put as much energy and commitment into his ministry. He started to hold onto some of the energy meant to freely flow through him. He started to get hot when we tried to use him. We should have seen the signs, but for whatever reason we didn’t. We were busy trying to go after the vision and thought we were all on the same page. We had no idea the little guy was holding back, not letting go of some things, and getting hot all about it.

Eventually this type of behavior led to the plug’s destruction. It stopped the flow of that which he was designed to transfer and caused him to overheat, which eventually led to a meltdown (literally). He became dangerous and destructive to all those around him, even melting the cord closest to him. Therefore, we had to stop using him. We didn’t want to, but to do so would put too many people at risk.

Where is the plug now, you ask? Oh, he still hangs out isolated in the corner of the nook. The fellowship he once helped foster and encourage has moved on though. To this day, he still can’t seem to let go of some things although he has cooled off. He often still thinks about the good ol’ days, but his pride won’t allow him to let go of the past—his plastic is too warped and hard. So there he sits … alone, melted, and unusable.

Note: This parable was inspired by an illustration I shared in a recent message on Ephesians 6:10 and how it was written in the context of relationships.

Stop Pushing Me!

Today, I heard a boy yell at his younger sister, “I have a right to push you because you’re not moving,”

… a right to push you.

… because you’re not moving.

I’m sure upon hearing this some would quickly join suit and overtly blurt out an emphatic preach it. There would be others in the crowd who would defensively disagree citing that each person has a right to do whatever they want to do and shouldn’t be pushed by another.

What side would you fall?

What I didn’t tell you about the story was the context. The girl was actually behind her mom, who was behind another person, who was behind a long line of people waiting patiently to exit the airplane parked with closed doors at the airport terminal.

Flawed Logic
To be fair, this boy might not have been able to see the stagnant line in front of his sister. However, his reasoning was flawed—he pushed his sister because she was not moving. He never even bothered to consider why. He just tried to make what he thought should be happening happen.

I’m sure he was uncomfortable after the 1 hour 20 minute flight from Dallas to Kansas City . . . weren’t we all?!? I’m sure he didn’t like being behind his younger sister . . . who would?!? However, was pushing his sister going to help him get off the plane any faster . . . no.

Pushy People
I am not a big fan of the pusher. Pushers don’t take the time to think through the perspectives of others. They don’t care if there are obstacles in the way. All they see is the fact that those around them aren’t going where they want them to go, and try to assert their will. This doesn’t often turn out well and causes many negative feelings and resentments down the road.

A Better Way
Maybe a better way of helping someone take that next step is to INVITE them, not push them. When you invite someone to move, it means you’re moving too—and most often already a step ahead. Inviting takes control out of the equation and merely gives others an opportunity to take the next step. The choice is theirs. Most people appreciate an invitation to something worthwhile.

Think about someone proposing marriage. The suitor takes a knee and invites his dream girl to a lifelong journey in marriage together. If he pushes, or does this in front of a family reunion or live T.V., he could have a mess on his hands. However, an invitation shows respect, love, and genuine care from the beginning no matter how the other person answers.

Eternal Invitations
Jesus was a perfect example in this area. He invited the disciples with the simple phrase, “Come, and follow me.” The disciples had a choice. They put down their nets and followed. The rich young ruler also had a choice, but even as he walked away the scripture tells us that Jesus didn’t chase him, but rather loved him.

Jesus loved him while letting him walk away.

Today, if you find yourself pushing, why not take the first step yourself. If you are already ahead, then simply invite others to join you. They may say no. That’s okay because controlling someone isn’t the same as loving someone, and pushing someone doesn’t necessarily help them move forward.