I have to admit, I have never seen the show “Malcom in the Middle.” If you are like me and haven’t seen a single episode of the wildly popular (in the 2000s) show, here’s a brief synopsis:
Malcom is a middle child who has a insanely high IQ and wrestles for the entirety of the show’s 151 episodes with being “in the middle.” He’s not the baby so he doesn’t get the attention of being needy, but he’s also not the oldest so no one is praising him for his “bright future” and impending adulthood. From what I gather, it seems that he spends most of his childhood feeling invisible or lost “in the middle.”
How does this show relate to you and me? Well, I think the concept of the show is something that can be a pretty significant faux pas for any of us who work with young people or who may be parents. I’m writing this post coming specifically from the background of student ministry (grades 6-12) in a local church context, however I think you will find it applicable if you have young people in your life in any capacity.
So…now to the point. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen student pastors make (and have made myself) over the years is to forget the kids “in the middle.” Here’s how this happens. Some youth leaders spend a significant chunk of their time, creativity, programming energy and leadership to help kids who are “on the fringe.” “On the fringe” meaning, the kids who have one foot in and one foot out. The kids who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. The kids who are constantly asking for the attention, affection and time of you and your staff.
Let’s say you have a youth ministry of 50 kids…it can be VERY easy, in this mindset, to allow 4-5 students to monopolize the lion’s share of your time and your leaders time. Without even realizing it, you can also find yourself spending a large amount of time in your communication and sermons specifically targeting this group. To be honest, it can become second nature. Largely because every book you read and every conference you attend screams at you about the vast amount of students who are lost, hurting and broken. While I don’t disagree with these statements as they pertain to this generation, I feel like it can be so easy to swing the pendulum so far to this side to where you’ll do anything you can do just “get them in the door.”Instead of building a ministry to build students, you end up building a ministry to build a ministry. Its easy to do because kids who have “problems” NEED YOU. And we LIKE to be needed. We like to be the hero. We can even feel like they can’t make it without us.
Sometimes this is true, so I’m not saying completely abandon every kid in your life who fits this description. I AM, however, saying that sometimes “helping can be hurting.”
Here’s the next step in “marginalizing the middle.” If it’s true that the “hurting, broken and fringe” kids NEED YOU; then it’s equally true that when there are solid, gifted, talented leadership-driven kids you often NEED THEM. The kid who can play the guitar well, who leads the FCA at her school or who is the “star athlete” often tend to monopolize the time, attention, praise and affection of leaders. When I started in student ministry I was told, “Spend all of your time ‘chasing the eagles’ in your group and they will make sure everyone else gets there.” To be honest I fell for it, and have seen dozens of youth leaders, teachers and parents do the same over the years.
Here’s what happens, you spend all your time with the “broken ones” because they NEED YOU…you place all your leadership trust and opportunity in the “eagles” because YOU NEED THEM…however, this leaves the kids in the middle feeling like you FORGOT THEM. What about the kids who on one hand, don’t have a ton of baggage and aren’t making terrible choices…but on the other hand, they aren’t necessarily the next John Maxwell either, they can’t sing on the worship team and the only thing they “lead” is their dog when they take him out on a walk after school. As leaders, we often make the mistake to simply forget about the Malcoms in our world; or we spend so much time caring for those on the fringe and codling those on the “mountaintop” that we neglect those who are in the middle.
While I’m not saying I have the management of this tension figured out, I am saying that I have recently become more and more aware of the dangers of forgetting those “in the middle.” (From a pure “growth” standpoint I have learned that the kids in the middle often end up not only being the ones who invite the most visitors, but also tend to do a better job at actually following up with their friends and walking with them through the process)
Here are a few things, as leaders that I would suggest to help you in this area:
- Don’t just teach to build the youth group, teach to build the kid.
- Make sure you aren’t just celebrating those “made for TV testimonies” and “made for Hollywood” stars in your youth ministry. Celebrate the seeming “small” wins as well.
- Make sure your calendar is balanced with those who NEED YOU, those whom YOU NEED and those who are “in the middle.”
- In your programming and communication to students, make sure you aren’t falling into the temptation of constantly appealing to the emotional, broken side of the teenage years. Teach them the entirety of Scripture, not just the part that makes for a “good emotional altar call.”
I’ve never owned a company. I’ve never been the CEO. I’m not the President of a nation and I’ve never been Mr. Universe (life’s not over yet, though…). I’ve never been the one at the top of the “Corporate ladder.” I’ve never been “king of the hill,” “A number one” or “top of the heap.” (though I LOVE Frank Sinatra)
I was a kid once, though…sometime around the end of the Civil War. Back when the Smurfs and He-man were “the bomb”, Saturday mornings meant cartoons, my social network was called “outside,” and “eating out” meant having a PB&J on the porch. Life was simpler then; there were only a few things that mattered: How much fun can we have, how can I get out of taking a bath and going to bed, can my friend Chris come over to play Contra on Nintendo and last, but not least, everything had to be “FAIR.”
My sister got $10 when I got $5, “That’s not FAIR.” Chris’ parents let him go to bed at 10pm when I had to go to bed at 9pm…”That’s not FAIR.”
While I have outgrown my need for a bigger allowance and a later bed time… as a “second chair” or “#2 leader” I have to constantly caution myself against “fighting for fair.” In fact, this is one of the biggest mistakes I see #2 leaders make. Your department doesn’t get the budget someone else’s does and you “fight for fair.” Your co-worker seems to be immune to the rules that you are strictly held accountable to and you “fight for fair.” A project you worked WEEKS on fails to get the recognition and praise you feel it deserves, meanwhile someone else “mails it in” and gets a “standing ovation.’ “Fighting for fair” is a posture of defense. ”Fighting for fair” is a spirit of entitlement.
This goes beyond your corporate or leadership world. It matters in your day-to-day life as well. In your family and in how you see the world. Most of the time the “fight for fair” is akin finding that Waldo guy.
Let me suggest a better way. Instead of “Fighting for fair,” spend your time “fighting for vision.” In other words, instead of wanting what others have and crying foul when you don’t get it, spend your time “fighting” for the unique vision for your department, your campus, your family and your life. Nothing bothers a manager more than an employee spends so much time focussing on what “the other guy” has or gets that he has no “fire in his heart” for his own career or department. I’m convinced that opportunity, promotion, money, achievement and all the things you are longing for will almost always follow a heart that his inflamed by a vision.
A soul that is engaged with a vision is relentless and almost always gets what it needs; and most of the time gets what it wants.
The next time you are in a meeting and you feel you have been “slighted,” “overlooked” or “marginalized” remember to “fight for vision.” Fight the temptation to allow fairness to be the only measuring stick you use to gauge success and accomplishment. Instead of spending your energy arguing with your boss, your spouse or even God about what you “deserve,” spend your energy casting a compelling picture of why the vision in your heart MUST happen.
There is a difference between expectation and vision. Resources and opportunities follow vision. Disappointment and comparison follow expectation. Strive to be a person who “Fights for Vision.”
I have nothing against dentists. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, I’m not an “antidentite.” However, during their work hours, they are not my favorite people to see. I can imagine you may feel the same way. No one enjoys the metal hook poking and prodding your gums. No one enjoys the shots in the jaw. And the high pitched squeal of that drill…SHOOT ME NOW! And I’m not sure if PAYING for the whole thing (a lot of $$$, btw) isn’t worse than the whole experience itself.
I can imagine it’s tough being a dentist. Not only do you have to put your hands in people’s mouths all day, but you also have to deal with their edginess, rudeness, crying, shouting and maybe even profanity as they bare through sometimes intense pain.
All that being said, as I sat in the chair today and had a VERY intense dental procedure performed I was pleasantly surprised by how kind the oral surgeon was to me. He was patient with my questions, complimented me on my shoes and his staff was very helpful the whole 3 hours I was in the office. They all seemed to not just be concerned with getting me “in and out” of the chair, but they actually seemed like they cared. Like I mattered. As if that wasn’t enough he personally called me this evening to check on me and make sure everything was ok.
Here’s a guy who is the LAST guy that anyone wants to see. He has EVERY reason, every excuse in the world to not be kind. Think about it…you have no choice but to see him, you are a captive audience in that chair and he is the one who will later write the script for your pain meds…he could act however he wanted to. He could have come in the room, performed the procedure without a word and left. This one acted better, and it made my day better.
When it’s all said and done, kindness is just better. Your life may not be ideal right now. You may be having a rough day. But, sowing a seed of kindness today will produce the fruit of joy tomorrow.
When others lash out a server at restaurant who gets their order wrong, you won’t because kindness is better. When others are in such a hurry and so busy that they fail to notice the people around them, you won’t be because kindness is better. When others raise their voice in disappointment and frustration at their spouse, kids, coworkers or employees you won’t, because kindness is better.
In the words of Mark Twain, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
“A 40 hour week is the key to a 40 year (+) marriage”
How many times have you seen “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Even though the movie was made in 1946, it’s in black and white and I have seen it ten thousand times, I still watch it at least once every year during the Christmas season. I can quote the lines word for word and always know what’s coming next, but there is just something about the story, the idea that compels me.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, here’s the JWV (Josh Wright Version) of the synopsis (SPOILER ALERT)…George Bailey gives of himself all the time, he’s at the end of his rope and cannot give anymore, he contemplates giving up. Clarence (an angel) takes George on a journey to see what life would be like without him. Basically, they world would be a terrible place without George and the town wouldn’t be able to function in his absence; people go crazy, there’s a spinster, a gunshot, and a police chase. George has a catharsis, followed by an epiphany, followed by a passage back to reality and is thankful that the world can’t go on without him…a bell rings…Clarence gets his wings. The end.
This movie is great. But this way of thinking can be dangerous.
The reality is that that world CAN, and WILL go on without you. And that’s a good thing. Your office needs to empty more than it’s occupied. The computer has a shut down mode, you should use it sometime and maybe have one of your own. Embracing this (and the subsequent freedom and joy that can come with it) can be quite liberating. What this means is that you can clock out. You can be inaccessible. Your iPhone “DND” function actually works. And you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
In fact, I’ve learned that I am happier, healthier, have a better marriage and actually GET MORE ACCOMPLISHED when I chose to not burn the midnight oil. So, why not chose what’s better today (or tomorrow). Clock out at 5pm (or whatever the appropriate time is for you). Make the choice to not feel guilty about it and experience the BETTER LIFE.
- Dogs are better than cats
- Sunday afternoons are better than Monday mornings
- New York pizza is better than ALL other pizza
- ANYTHING is better than dentists’ offices and traffic (subsequently, experiencing traffic on the way too/from a dentist’s office is quite possibly the WORST experience one could have)
Better is often a matter of preference, interpretation and outlook. When it comes to sports teams, favorite movies or restaurants, “better” is often at best, an opinion.
No one wants to come across like they think of themselves “better” than anyone else; and the moment someone is so bold as to make a declarative about any one area of their world being “better,” it’s almost as if they are asking for someone to make a giant red “S” to put on their chest, reminding the rest of the world, “Hey, this person right here is “Self-righteous and Smug.”
However, the fact is that there are things in life that are just “better.” Certain choices are just “better.” Certain ways of living are just “better.” Certain outlooks on the world are just…”better.” I don’t necessarily strive with an unquenchable passion to make my life better; I
‘ve learned am learning the secret of being content in all things. But, I do recognize that certain ways are better and, when practiced, make my life and the lives of those around me better.
So…let’s take a journey. For awhile (who knows how long) let’s look at some things that are “better” and see what could happen if we embrace better. I’ll write a few thoughts about some “better things,” and share with you how they are impacting my life…then you tell me how choosing better impacts your life. It should be fun.
DISCLAIMER: This whole thing is not about “performance” or good deeds or self-righteousness. It’s about celebrating the “better” in the world around us and embracing a better way, a better life, a better story that could be told about all of us.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they havereceived their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Jesus, from Mark’s Gospel)
God doesn’t need a press release announcing His presence or activity. Love doesn’t need a marketing strategy to further it’s agenda. Charity needs no herald and mercy no trumpeter.
Sometimes I feel we forget these words of Jesus from Mark’s Gospel; “Give in secret.”
Is it because we think God needs a PR team? Is it because we think someone will see the good we are doing and that will be the “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in their faith journey? Do we actually think someone far from God will be sitting in their home one day, at the end of their rope, and will read our FaceBook post about some good deed we have done and they will then say to themselves…“FINALLY, after 39 years of running from God and countless unanswered questions, I NOW have sufficient proof that God is real because someone I know who is a Christian went to a soup kitchen for 2 hours!”
There’s a hilarious sketch on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment called “REALLY!?” In this sketch the highlight someone from pop culture who has done something absurd and they sarcastically ask them redundant questions followed by a perfectly timed response from the anchor… “REALLY!?” For example they may show a picture of the Los Angeles Lakers logo and say, “I don’t know…we got one guy who has won like 300 NBA Championships (Phil Jackson) and one guy who has none (Mike D’Antoni) either one could be our next coach…let’s go with D’Antoni!” … “REALLY, Lakers…REALLY!?”
I think Jesus said those words in Mark’s Gospel partly with our time in mind. Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets have made it so easy for people to remind the world of all the good things that they are doing. Sometimes I just want to say… “REALLY!?” You do know that these words of Jesus weren’t a suggestion or just an aside?
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
That’s a pretty stern warning….”No reward?” I’m not sure I am fully aware what that means, but I do know that it makes me think twice every time I feel the need to tell the world one more good deed that I have done.
I encourage you, as a fellow Christ follower…
Go serve at a soup kitchen, give to the poor, sponsor a child in a foreign country, give the shirt off your back to a friend in need, work at a Habitat home site, help an old lady cross the street and pray for your enemies…………
Just don’t take out a full page ad in the local newspaper telling the world about it and stop posting it on Facebook every 5 seconds…..REALLY!?
I usually don’t work on Fridays. As a pastor at a church with services on both Saturday and Sunday, Fridays are typically my Sabbath; not so this week. I took off Monday this week because I was in the wedding of a few good friends in South Carolina last weekend. As a result…here I sit at my desk at the church building on a Friday.
People walk by my office and say, “What are you doing here on a Friday?” and “This is so weird, I’m not used to seeing you here on Fridays.” “Glad to see you too,” I’m thinking. Nonetheless, my presence in the office was unexpected, atypical and unusual.
Usually, I wouldn’t bore you with the random details of my off day schedule and the sad, heart-breaking self-reality that my co-workers are more interested in figuring out the “Friday puzzle” than telling me how incredibly glad they are that they get to see me one more day this week. However, today is an exception. Today is different.
I walked in to my office today, placed my bottled water on my desk replaced the blown light bulb in one of my lamps and sat down to my computer to begin answering a “Kilimanjaro-sized” mountain of emails. Usually my day begins with some Bon Iver, maybe a little Mumford & Sons or an Avett Brothers tune. However, today is an exception. I opened Spotify and played the song “Set a Fire” by the United Pursuit band. As I was sitting there soaking in the beauty of that song’s simple plea “Set a fire down in my soul, that I can’t contain and I can’t control…I want more of you God, I want more of you God” As I began to make those words my prayer, I could sense that God was present with me in my office.
It’s almost as if He was saying to me, “I don’t see you here that often on Fridays.” Maybe it was the change of scenery, maybe it was providence, maybe it was God’s way of telling me I need to work more on Fridays (I’m hoping it’s not that)? Whatever the case, my “unexpected visitor” today has changed the course of my Friday. I find myself wanting to go, lock myself in a room and seek Him for the rest of the day. Funny how I wasn’t thinking that this morning, I was just thinking “Man, I REALLY don’t want to go to work today.”
The interruption of the norm, the change, the unexpected (sometimes good and sometimes bad) is often an opportunity. It’s often an open door. It’s often an ordained shift for God to say “I don’t see you here that often.” It’s funny to me how over the course of my life that it has been those moments where I wasn’t looking for Him, but He was looking for me, where I seemingly “stumbled” into God’s presence, those moments are often the catalyst for a greater change that God wants to do in me. Often, God uses the unexpected to draw us near to Himself. It’s not about my schedule, my plan or my routine being altered…often when the unexpected happens it’s about my heart being altered.
Have you ever fallen into this trap? You hear about someone who is successful, you decide you are going to go and learn from them. Then you convince yourself that if you just DO what they are DOING then you will GET what they HAVE. I call it the “GO, learn, do, get” lie. ”If I GO to this conference (business, person, school), and learn what they are doing, then I do what they did/do, eventually I will GET what they have.“
I’m beginning to learn that this philosophy is not only very consumeristic, it can be very dangerous and damaging as well. “Why?” you ask…well, simply put it boils down to this:
“What happens when you DO what they are doing and don’t GET what they are getting?“
Does it make you “less” than them? Less favored, less loved, less called, less worthy, less qualified, less capable?
It brings to light all sorts of self-doubt, it surfaces our improper belief that God’s plan for us is “success.” (Success, in this illustration, being someone who has more, better, bigger of what we have) To put it Biblically, is the misappropriation of the word “abundant” in Jesus words when He said, “I came that you might have life and life more abundant.” If there’s ANYTHING I’ve learned over the past 3 years it’s that MORE doesn’t always mean BETTER.
This improper way of thinking can dangerously lead to the errant theology that “He who has more, is more favored by God.” In my life, I wanted to believe that I could GET what others have if I DID what they are doing because I wanted (deep inside of me) to be able to find a way to “prove” that God “approved” of me. I was SOOOOOOOOO wrong. Being faithful, being approved of, being loved by God IN NO WAY AT ALL can be PROVED by ANYTHING I have, or do, or can amass. If so, the Cross is irrelevant and unnecessary.
Even (Sometimes especially) in the arena of ministry, this errant belief can be crippling and damaging. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat across the table from a youth pastor, worship pastor, senior pastor, etc and said “Just because he/she has MORE than you it doesn’t mean you are LESS than them. God IS WITH YOU. Enjoy your season, your calling. Take joy in your post. Love your people, love yourself.” (To be quite candid, I’ve told that one to the guy in the mirror more times than I have anyone else.)
I think that we have read so many leadership books, attended so many conferences and heard so many “strategies” that our culture almost implies that life is a formula and that all you are missing is whatever variable that the current “flavor of the week” is inputting. It’s almost like these “gurus” or “favored ones” would look at our world and go “DUH! HERE’S what you are doing WRONG.” As if having LESS than someone else is WRONG.
I guess the lesson to learn here is that contentment and “success” are not “riddles” that only the “chosen few” figure out in life. And, no I’m not saying that we should ever stop learning, sharpening ourselves, evaluating ourselves or going to conferences. What I am saying is that your everyday life, your everyday coffee appointments, prayer times, meetings, times with your wife and kids…..THOSE THINGS are more the “SECRET SAUCE” than ANYTHING you’ll EVER get anywhere else. Take joy THERE. Enjoy the present.
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12: 1-2 (Msg))
I don’t repost a ton of videos on here….but this is HILARIOUS!!! Enjoy.
That term and concept has always been interesting to me; a “controlled burn.” I’ve always wondered why someone would intentionally burn land. After some study, I’ve found that controlled burns can actually cause a forest to GROW. They are also used to stop wildfires from consuming land, life and habitat; this is called back burning. According to Wikipedia Controlled burning reduces fuels, may improve wildlife habitat, controls competing vegetation, improves short term forage for grazing, improves accessibility, helps control tree disease, and perpetuates fire dependent species.
On the other hand, a WILD fire, often does nothing but destroy. While it may produce some of the same results as a controlled burn in the short term, it eventually ends up destroying the very good things it generated. It’s purpose is consumption, not creation.
Why are we talking about forestry and fires? Well, I purchased the new Jesus Culture album tonight (Yes, I ACTUALLY purchased an album, this is only the second since I got Spotify; the other was the new Coldplay album) and immediately I began listening to the song “We are Hungry” which is followed by the song “Fill Me Up” on the CD. The song “We are Hungry” took me back. It reminded me of a time in college where I passionately pursued God and His “fire.” Man, those were some great times. God did some AMAZING things. I have many fond memories of hours spent in prayer, Bible reading, fasting and sharing Jesus. However, I have other memories of those times too. Memories of a very immature, zealous young Christ-follower who did and said a lot of things, believing them to be right. In my zeal, though, everything was black and white. I was right, because I was “on fire.” I think, though, at times I was a “wild fire.” I hurt a lot of people, confused a lot of people and left some parched ground and ashes in my wake. Granted, this was NEVER my intention….it just was. It wasn’t the fire’s fault, it was the vessels fault. (If you are reading this and you were one I “burnt” during that season of my life…please forgive me, that was never my intention.)
A “controlled fire” on the other hand, has the potential to bring much life. It accomplishes the SAME things as a Wild Fire, it just does them in a setting that is life-giving, purposeful and not rampant and insatiable.
To be real honest, there are things about the wild fire that are very compelling to me. And I think, at times, the “controlled fire” can be so controlled that it isn’t really a fire at all. I think, if you are not careful, you can try so hard to control the fire that it becomes a “strange fire.” (See Leviticus 10). But think about it, God gave specific details about how the altar was to be built and dealt with in the OT; so there WAS some ORDER to the whole thing. And I think God blesses that.
However, I do know that there are some things from that season of “wild fire” in my life that were right. I know that all I wanted, in those times, was Jesus. I was HUNGRY for Him, and He responded. I was PASSIONATE and BROKEN for Him, and He was pleased with that sacrifice. I want to be there again, just not in away that destroys and confuses, but rather in a way that spreads and brings life.
I DO want to burn. I do LONG for God to “fill me up;’ for Him to provide the “fire” for my sacrifice.
Just watch videos of her singing. She could belt out the most powerful, picth-perfect notes as if it were nothing. If I tried to hit the male equivalent of those notes the veins in my neck would stick out as if I were trying to regurgitate a whole watermelon. Whitney, though…she sang with poise, with passion and with power all while remaining completely “in control” during the song. It really was something to see.
The difficulty with effortlessness, though, is that it is never effortless. There is always a price to be paid for any inkling of greatness. Any attempt at the grandeur, meaning or the “otherworldliness” that people who seem “larger than life” possess, is always rooted in a whole lot of dirt, clay and dust. In other words, effortlessness is an illusion. In the 81-point game Kobe Bryant, of the Los Angeles Lakers, had against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006 he missed 24 shots; He MISSED twice as many shots as any other player on the court even TOOK that night. For those of us who saw the game though, we will only remember the 81 points. No one sees the bodybuilder’s hours in the gym; just the body. No one sees the months practicing lines in front of a mirror, just the standing ovation at the end of the play. No one sees the scars left by the betrayal and heartbreak, just the preacher’s great sermon on forgiveness.
Kurt Cobain said, “The greatest songs come out of the greatest pain.” Not surprisingly then, to this author, one my favorite song performances of all time is Trent Reznick’s Hurt, as performed by Johnny Cash. It’s not that I dislike Trent’s version, I just think Johnny Cash “hurt” more, when I heard him sing it. His effortless song about pain, connects with the all the effort I have exerted in life to avoid it.
Ok, let me sum all this up in a few words. Maybe the lesson that Whitney Houston taught best was to shine in the public light, one must often first wrestle alone with the private darkness. Maybe its like my friend and mentor, Jeanne Mayo says, “You can relate to someone through your strengths, but you connect through your weaknesses.”
So, the next time you see some “larger than life” person who is seemingly effortless in their greatness, just remember….
Effortlessness isn’t effortless.
Josh’s annual Grammy observations
1. Mad respect for LL Cool J
2. The Foo Fighters are genuine rock stars
3. Fergie is STILL on my axis of evil
4. The Civil Wars are GREAT and John Paul White’s real name is Johnny Depp
5. Taylor Swift is officially America’s little sister.
6. Kinda like the Gospel, Adelle doesn’t need a circus, lasers, and a bunch of props to shine and connect with people.
7. Tony Bennett is cool, no matter how old you are.
8. BON INVER!!
9. Nikki Minaj, ummmmmmmmm…see #6 please.
10. Adelle’s accent is jolly good; if she did audio books, I’d buy them all the time.
11. Blake Shelton seems like a nice guy.
12. Paul McCartney is TIMELESS.
13. Katy Perry seems sad (rightfully so), pray for her.
14. Fergie…you wear an orange table cloth and you wonder why #3 is still true. (stop stalking me and sending the emails, I’m NOT taking you off the list.)
15. Gungor was ROBBED!!!
16. Well done Jennifer Hudson.
17. Whitney Houston could FLAT OUT SANG!!!!!
There are conferences, books, blogs and even entire organizations created to answer the question… “What’s wrong with the church?” The latest “broken” thing with the church is “Why are 23-30 year-olds leaving in mass numbers?” As one who is currently in full-time vocational ministry I HAVE to answer questions like this. It’s my “job” to help ensure that the local fellowship that I am a part of not get caught up in useless rituals and ways of doing things, in such a way that we become irrelevant to the world around us. That being said, I have spent much of the last 12 years of my life asking the same question over and over again in a different way “What’s wrong with the church?”
After years of study, conversation, attending conferences and reading books I have come to a conclusion….I AM WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE CHURCH. The church isn’t broken, people are. You are, I am. WE are what needs “fixing.” The church isn’t reaching 23-30 year olds because I not reaching 23-30 year olds. Worship isn’t authentic because MY WORSHIP isn’t authentic. Giving isn’t joyful because MY GIVING isn’t joyful. If the church is “broken,” it’s because I am broken. (I say this all with a bit of sarcasm…as if anything or anyone could stop Jesus from presenting His Bride, spotless)
That being said, it is one of my DEEPEST passions that the generation coming up behind me speak of the church in the same way that it would speak of Jesus himself. The whole, “I hate religion but love Jesus” thing is like saying to me “I love you Josh, but I hate Summer.” That would be a slap in my face, not a compliment to my greatness.
Now, if you’ve been in any organization long enough you know that it only takes one person to “sour” an entire group of people’s taste to that organization. (If you’ve ever not gone back to a restaurant because of poor service from one waiter, or a bad experience with one meal; you know what I am talking about) If one pastor, one small group leader, one board member one fellow congregant can be the thing that is “wrong” with the church…then it is equally true that one person could be what’s “right” about church too. Maybe we should stop asking the question “what’s wrong with the church” altogether. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the church. Maybe she is the Bride that Christ freely gave up His life for. Maybe the church is the hope of the world. Maybe the church is altogether great.
Maybe, in all our efforts to “fix” ourselves we’ve missed the point.
Maybe it’s our brokenness that is our relevance. (Think on that one for a while) And in covering it or attempting to use the wisdom of man to get around it, we have put our lamp under a basket. What if we decided to stop focussing on the “broken” things in the church and turned our attention to the “broken” things in the world? Isn’t that what Jesus did?
26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own.
This chapter in the book of Mark has been a topic of study and wrestling in my soul for over a year now. Like a fine wine, it seems to get richer and more robust the longer I let it simmer and age in my soul. There have been many days, over the past year, where I have woke up in the morning to read God’s Word that God led me to Mark 4. After the 20th or so time starting my day with the same passage, I kind of began to wonder if God “might” be trying to tell me something. Maybe there was something deep down in my soul that God was trying to speak to. Hopefully, today, my journey and wrestlings with these words of Jesus can bring you a bit of understanding and freedom
Ok, so rewind back to the fall of last year. I am the High School pastor at one of the fastest growing churches in America. Feeling fully led of God into this post, I began my time there looking forward to a season of fruitfulness and God’s favor. Having experienced “growth” in all of the other youth ministry posts I had been in before, there was nothing that would lead me to believe that anything different would happen here.
However, almost the exact opposite happened. Over time. no matter what we did we just couldn’t seem to get any momentum. We tried everything: we fasted, we prayed, we brought in consultants, we just couldn’t figure out why (in any logical way) this thing just wasn’t “working.” Now, I must admit, at this point in my youth ministry journey “numerical growth” had become something that was just an “understood” for me. I had come to just “expect” it. As you can imagine, when it didn’t happen the way we thought it would, it rattled me. Rattled me to the point of MANY sleepless nights filled with anxiety wondering “What is wrong with me?” “What am I NOT doing?” “What am I doing wrong?” “Did I miss God?”
(For those of you who are in vocational ministry, like me, I’m certain that the thought of going public with the truth that ministry was causing you to lose sleep, turning your hair gray and causing you to question everything is terrifying. But, honestly, the only reason that I am able to write this blog is because after a year of wrestling with Mark 4, I’m sleeping well again.)
You see, in this passage Jesus says that “THE WORD DOES THE WORK.” And when you plant THE WORD into the soil of people’s souls, it WILL grow and you WON’T be able to explain it, understand it, or take credit for it. To be honest, the reason I was loosing so much sleep at night probably had to do with the fact that I thought I could build God’s kingdom. Instead of planting God’s word, I had resorted to planting strategies, philosophies and ideas that I had learned from others who were experiencing seasons of harvest, and even things from my past that had been successful in other places. I found myself believing that I could generate hype and excitement around a program, or even myself and that that would build the youth group. Ministry had become a machine and my soul was it’s fuel.
The freeing part of this passage, however, is that when Jesus says, “…night and day, while he’s asleep or awake” the asleep part is an understood. Jesus felt no need to explain to His listeners that it was possible for someone to plant seed (build for God’s Kingdom) and sleep. The understood of sleep, peace and rest however, hinged on one thought. That the farmer knows that it’s the earth that produces the harvest. He can’t explain it, understand it, make it happen, or take credit for it, but if he will be faithful to plant the seed, the seed WILL grow.
I don’t know if any of this resonates with you, but let me speak to your heart for just one moment. Let me make a plea to your soul from one friend to another. God’s Kingdom DOES NOT depend on you. Much like the Ark of the Covenant and poor Uzzah, God’s presence and God’s Word doesn’t need you to prop them up. If you are laboring under a heavy yoke and hard burden, it’s probably because you are laboring for the wrong reason. If the work you are doing FOR God is destroying the work God wants to do IN you, hear my plea….There is NOTHING you can do to make ONE MORE PERSON respond this Sunday/Wednesday. NOTHING.
From one co-laborer to another I ask you, examine your heart. Has “success” (WHATEVER that means) in ministry become an altar that you sacrifice your health, family and joy on? Jesus says, “There’s rest for you.
It’s 10:29am here in Dallas. Today, I’ll go home at 4:30 with peace. Tomorrow, I’ll have an off day. I’ll enjoy some time at the gym, some good ol’ Texas BBQ and go on a date with my wife. I’ll lay my head on my pillow tonight and sleep well. And night and day, while I’m asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, and I do not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. And for that, I am thankful.
Barak-to kneel or bow, to give reverence to God as an act of adoration, implies a continual conscious giving place to God, to be atuned to him and his presence
The word “Barak” is used, as a verb 330 times (ref. Strong’s Hebrew) in the Bible. 327 times it refers to bending the knee or bowing as a natural action of motion (I.e. “The camel had to ‘barak’ to drink water from the pool”) or paying homage to a superior, king or royal (i.e. ‘barak’ before the king of Syria). The other 3 uses of the word are quite interesting. In Matthew 4, Satan tells Jesus that “all that you see before you, I will give you, if you ‘barak’ before me.” In other words, “Give me the place only reserved for God, and will make sure you get everything you could ever want.
Now I’m not too old of a guy yet, but I do have a few gray hairs on my head. And if there is anything that those gray hairs have taught me it’s this:
- “The things you get will never be right, if the way you got them was wrong.” In other words; “You can’t bow to the wrong things (adore, revere, give place to, worship) and EVER expect to get the right things.”
It’s interesting, however, that God would ask us to “barak” at the feet of something entirely NOT shiny, appealing or glorious. Something dirty, shameful, bloody, rugged and horrible to look upon….the Cross. The cross, where Christ gave up everything that shines is where we realize that we never needed all those shiny things in the first place. It’s where we realize that trusting God, not self-reliance, was how to “win” in this life. It’s where we learn that making much of God is significantly better than making much of yourself. It’s were we realize that there is more joy found in hugging the dirty neck of an 8-year-old in Guatemala than gripping the steering wheel of an $80,000 Mercedes in America.
Over time though, you can bow to the wrong things for so long that your emotional knees give out. You feel like everything is your master, except God. You see, when you bow to something, or someone, you place yourself under that person or thing’s Lordship; you “owe” them/it. That type of slavery/bondage is what the Hebrews experienced in Egypt building brick after brick for the slave-master/tyrant Pharaoh; No matter how much they did, it was NEVER enough. This is why when God rescued the Hebrews from Egypt one of His commandments for them was, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy.” The Sabbath wasn’t about resting, it was about Lordship. Whom, or what, you aim to please it whom/or what will have your heart.
As the writer of Proverbs (95) is reflecting upon the Exodus, he is reminded about the Hebrews bickering and complaining to Moses at Meribah (Exodus) about “not ever having enough.” (food/water) His suggestion for the sense of lack and emptiness the wrong type of bowing brings is found in verse 6:
Let us kneel (barak) before the Lord our maker…
God told the Hebrews, “You are more to me than brick-makers and I will be more to you than a task-master.” Because of this, Sabbath was not only about Lordship, it was about Sonship. It was about identity… “You are not just my servants, but I call you friends.” (Jesus would later tell the disciples).
That’s why “honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy” is not a one-time deal. It’s a continual, ongoing state of the heart. It’s the mindset of “right-sizing” God’s place in your life. Of prioritizing God’s Lordship over your need for ownership. I don’t know about you, but I don’t “barak” enough. In the ongoing, condition of the heart way or in the temporal, lie prostrated before the Lord in a moment of peace, awe and humility-way.
It’s my desire that nothing is ever so shiny and alluring to me, that I would bow to it and put it in a place in my heart only reserved for God. That in a world that finds its identity in bowing and serving all the wrong things, that I would “barak” and find rest, identity and awe only in the presence of the Lord, my maker.
“I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?”
“I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.”
“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you
In this parched and weary land where there is no water.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.”
I woke up this morning starving…like a DEEP hunger that I haven’t felt in a REALLY long time.
I have been a Christ-follower for nearly 15 years now. In those 15 years there has always been a level of hunger for God in my life; a longing to be near to Him. However, there have been specific times when that hunger has been SIGNIFICANTLY stronger. When the longing has been deeper.
I believe that there are times when God “calls” us to Himself. There are seasons when He draws us in closer. In those times His presence is “easily accessed.” The tangible sense of his nearness is obvious and almost covers you like a blanket. You can’t escape it. The sense of His presence is with you in your car, at your desk, in your home, as you walk down the street, in the mall. It’s almost effortless. The sun is brighter, the birds sing louder, food tastes better, the air is lighter. I LOVE those seasons.
Then there are those times when you don’t “sense that call.” It’s as if you have to pursue Him in the midst of a spiritual desert. It’s almost as if there is a “roadblock” that is in your way. As if you are in a cave. Alone. Thirsty, hungry and longing. To be honest, I have spent MUCH of my 15 years as a Christ-follower in this place. This place of no feelings, no emotions, no tears, no deep sense of His nearness. But rather, a deep sense of a million and one other things OTHER than my need to come close.
Is it because coming close reveals who I REALLY AM? What I really prioritize? What the real motives and condition of my heart is? Is it because I’m lazy? Is it because I am content and my soul has “found rest” and my “thirst has been quenched” by other things? Is it because my own sense of the levels of my own “cleanness” or “performance” tends to dictate my feelings of closeness and nearness?
Am I the only one who ask those questions? Probably not. But to be honest, I’ve been able to answer “Yes” to all of them for a good portion of my 15 years following Him. (maybe even to ALL of them at once on many occasions)
All that aside….I woke up this morning at 6am from a deep sleep with an INTENSE, DEEP longing for God. I longed for Him in an “effortless” way that I haven’t in years. No clouded thoughts of bills to pay, task lists to complete, calls to make, sermons to write, people to help. Just Jesus. (There’s something about that that just sounds right doesn’t it? “Just Jesus.” )
As for me, I hope the hunger pangs stay. I pray they don’t leave. I look back on those seasons in the past and they seem to be fleeting, as a vapor; here and then gone. Right now, I’m praying time stands still. That minutes seem like hours and days seem like weeks.
Augustine said it this way…“Our hearts are made for God, and they will not rest, until they rest in Him.” CS Lewis wrote, “If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”
In other words….
Hunger is so satisfying.
I believe that one of the most under-appreciated, least mentioned and least celebrated disciplines is “getting back up.” We can understand why, and how, someone may choose to fast, pray, have moments of solitude, meditation, confession and worship. All of those disciplines “make sense.” One could see the reason, methodology and pragmatics of all of these things. However, it simply just doesn’t make sense for someone, when knocked down over and over, to “simply” get back up.
I was fascinated today when I read a list of some VERY respected, influential and successful people. What was compelling was what they all had in common. Let’s see if you can figure it out. What do all of the following people share?
- PT Barnum
- Mark Twain
- Abraham Lincoln
- Henry Heinz
- Oscar Wilde
- Milton Hershey
- Walt Disney
- Wayne Newton
- Larry King
I LOVE Coldplay. It seems like they get deeper and deeper each album they release. Their new project “Mylo Xyloto” looks like it will hold true to that pattern. Right now I’m especially caught up in the song “Paradise.” The lyrics are intriguing:
When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach so
She ran away in her sleep
And dreamed of
Para-para-paradise, Para-para-paradise, Para-para-paradise
Every time she closed her eyes
We all do that. We dream of “Far, far way.” We long for ”Never-never land.” We hope that “Happily ever after” is a real place. It’s not just kids who buy into fairy tales, daydreams and plans of escape. Be honest….there are times when you already have a mental “knapsack” packed with imaginary plans of “running away” and escaping the reality of the present. But the problem with tomorrow is….it never gets here. The difficulty with “far far away” is that it’s always “far far away.”
But we still think about it like it’s a reality, a possibility, a plausibility. Anything to escape.
Is this desire for tomorrow, built in us? Is is attached (somehow) to our desire to see all things restored and put in their rightful place. Is it fueled by some innate understanding of how far things are from that divine reality now? Or is it simply a means of masking the one thing that we all are TERRIFIED to ever even think about, talk about or hint to? The stark differences between my “Ok Today” and my “Wishful Tomorrow.” As if happiness can only be achieved…tomorrow. As if wholeness can only happen in a place called….tomorrow.
Now if you know me you know that I’m all about “Living a Better Story.” But, if you follow that rabbit trail too far you’ll end up perpetually circling tomorrow’s date on the calendar and life itself will become elusive. The circle on the calendar is nothing more than a trap that constantly compares your life to some “dream of grandeur” in some far off place/time. So, what’s the answer to this “Pandora’s box” of the underperformance of today and the unproved over performance of tomorrow?
In the Bible the writer of Proverbs says…. “Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.” What would he say to our “current conundrum?” I think it would be “Take joy in present obedience.” Take joy in going to the gym. Take joy in reading a passage in Hebrews. Take joy in dating your spouse. Take joy in giving your tithe. Take joy in telling a story to your kids. Take joy in not cheating on your taxes. Take joy in buying a displaced man a hamburger. Take joy in a good book. Take joy in watching a ball game with your grandfather. Take joy in going to the lake. Take joy in dinner at the table with your family. Take joy in the decision to not gossip about your coworker or classmate. Take joy in your hardship. Take joy in a cigar and a game of poker with friends. Take joy in today’s prayer. Take joy in the present obedience. It’s the only certain thing you have.
This is a HUGE QUESTION…..and how you answer it says a lot about your view of who God is. (DANDELIONS….yeah, we’ll get to that in a minute.)
How do you reconcile being hurt by someone else? Was it “God’s will”, was it “Man’s mistake?” Could it be “both?” Or is it…”God is going to take this person’s mistake and turn it for my good?”
I heard someone say onetime, “Never mistake man’s free will for God’s perfect will.” I LOVE that quote….however, even in the midst of man’s free will, God is not unaware of what has already, or is about to happen. Do you just chalk it up to “Free will is the rock God made that God can’t move?” (Think about that one for awhile)
I’m not sure where you stand on all that but, when (noticed I didn’t say “if”) you have been wronged, hurt or disappointed you almost expect to hear some well-minded friend speak the true, yet very cliche-esque words like “It’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it that matters.” Really??? While I’m sure that words like these are meant to bring solace or comfort in tough times, I’m convinced that we are guilty, at times, of minimizing crisis, trauma or pain.
To just “faith” your way out of pain, hurt or disappoint is to miss a HUGE piece of the beauty of Christianity. To simply conjure up enough verses to make yourself “feel better” or even to take the sting away with the Biblical assurance that God is just is almost akin to denying that the event ever happened in the first place. Denial does not equal faith, nor will it produce faith Most of the time, in matters of the heart and emotion, denial equals delay. Delay of the introspection, catharsis, fall-out, doubt, uncertainty and even beauty that can follow pain and produce……life.
So, what DO we do when hurt? First, maybe we were never intended deny pain, or it’s side effects. You’re hurt, that’s ok. (And NOT ok, at the same time) Your broken, you are no stranger in that state. (I’ve found that people love, respect and even LIKE a “hurt” me, more than a “got-it-together” me anyways) Feel, embrace, cry, cuss, doubt, yell, cry again. Second, don’t try to figure out what, why and how this happened. There is almost never an appropriate, just and satisfying “reason” to answer the question “Why did this happen?” You’ll have the question “Why,” but you probably won’t get an answer. I’m reminded of Jesus on the Cross….”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The Bible never says that He received an answer to that question. Silence is sometimes purposed for the shell to crack. Only then can the seed die and the flower live.
Today, I watched a dandelion seed-head break off the shoot and fly seemingly aimless in the brisk Milwaukee wind. It didn’t question the break from the shoot. There was nothing it could do about the direction or speed of the wind. It didn’t question where it would land after being detached and flung from it’s place. It didn’t even brace itself for how hard the crash would be. It almost seemed to “give in” to the wind; as if to say “I trust you.”
The hurt…the pain…the trust…the process…the uncertainty….the beauty.
My wife and I were in the car on Friday, headed out to do a million and one things. Our checklist was prepared, our GPS was loaded with the addresses of our upcoming journey and we were focussed on tackling the day. The car was a bit quiet as we were sipping our Dunkin Donuts coffee (the BEST coffee, btw) focussing on the million and one details that encompassed the next 8 hours or so.
Not too far into our drive we were able to observe an elementary school play ground while stopped at a red light. On the sports field at the play ground there were nearly twenty 7-8 year olds playing soccer. The scene immediately grabbed our attention. Not because there was some “Freddie Adu-esque” phenom on the pitch or because the contest, in-and-of itself, was all that enthralling. What immediately clutched our attention was the larger than life smile on one of the boys as he kicked the ball (he didn’t even score a goal). He just ran around the pitch smiling. Running, smiling. Kicking, smiling. Pushing other boys to the ground in a fury of testosterone, smiling. (Ok, so I made that part up.)
As I watched the boy in the time between the red light changing to a green light, something VERY profound hit me….. “He’s smiling so exuberantly right now because kicking that soccer ball into that net is ALL that matters to him. There is NOTHING more important in the WHOLE world to him right now, than kicking that ball into that net.”
You are probably WAY ahead of me right now, but this scene unfolding in front of me awoke a simple, profound and deeply important question:
“When’s the last time I just smiled and kicked the ball?”
Call it “living in the moment” or “fulfilling your current purpose” or “singleness of vision.” It’s all the same….it boils down to all my energies…mental, spiritual and emotional being channeled into ONE thing……..
What’s that one thing? It can have a million and one different implications for us all, but it has the same name. No matter the intricacies, details, joys, pains, hopes or fears….The ONE THING that calls out to each of us to embrace, to LIVE to the fullest, to take joy in and run with is called:
For now, make RIGHT NOW the most important thing in your world. Stop…breathe. Take it in. Enjoy the present presence of the Divine in your world. Be present. RIGHT NOW…smile, run, kick the ball.
*Please read this blog entry as one of questions rather than statements. As wrestlings rather than criticisms. Feel free to join the discussion. (Part of me is a bit sad that I even had to write that, but with as many “church critics” and “Monday morning pastors” as there are out there, I certainly don’t want to get bunched into that lot)
Ever hear this one? “75 people ‘got saved’ tonight!” or “453 people became Christ-followers today at our church!!” It seems that, lately, I’m hearing more and more statements being made like this every week from all across the country. Each time I hear them, part of me wants to dance around on my couch like Tom Cruise on the Oprah show. I want to celebrate. I want to party like it’s 1999.
But then, there is this other part of me….this part of me that I don’t quite know how to reconcile. I can’t decide if it’s criticism, jealousy, envy, religiosity or if it’s genuine Godly, Biblically-based concern. Knowing that I’m not 100% certain of the foundation of my own motives; I’m choosing to publicly enter into this conversation. Partly, in hopes that you might have some insight; partly, in hopes that maybe there are others who feel like I do.
My concerns are as follows:
- It concerns me when a church with an average attendance of, let’s say 1,500 or a youth group with an average attendance of, let’s say 200, publicly celebrates 20, 30 or 40 salvations EVERY week and then at the end of the year…the church or youth group hasn’t grown by 1 single person.
- It concerns me that of the thousands of adults I have had the privilege seeing get baptized, it seems like nearly half of them have said, “I got saved and baptized at youth group when I was 15, but walked away from God for 20 years….now I want to make it ‘really’ right with Him.”
Yesterday I had the privilege of attending NorthPoint Church with my wife and a few friends. As was to be expected, the service was amazing. Particularly good was Andy Stanley’s message (You’re shocked, I know). His text was Mark 10, where James and John ask Jesus to be seated at His right and left hand when He comes into Kingdom. Jesus goes on to give them a powerful example of what to do when you feel “entitled” to something; specifically influence and power. The passage goes on:
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
Not so with you…
When faced with an opportunity to leverage money, time, influence, or power for your own good, gain or greed remember….that’s the way everyone else does it. Not so with you…you will be the opposite, you will leverage what you are “entitled” to for the good of those who are less “entitled.”
Specifically, Stanley gave examples of mad dashes and fights for flat screens and blouses after Thanksgiving to depict our sense of entitlement. How most people feel “I got there first, I’m entitled to it” or “I’m entitled to the same thing they have (when left empty-handed of Black Friday prizes by other shoppers plunder). Not so with you…Andy then went on to challenge NorthPoint with the idea that if the church would embrace the “basic” idea of leveraging what you are entitled to for the benefit of those who are less entitled, it could literally change the course of financial, and maybe spiritual, recovery of our nation. He concluded the sermon with the end of the passage in Mark 10…”45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Fast forward 3 hours. My wife and I are in a Rooms to Go outlet sitting on a couch/loveseat we are about to purchase. It was a great set that we had our eyes on for three weeks in the retail store and had been waiting on the outlet to receive. (This set was $400 OFF retail price and was SPOTLESS). As we are deciding which day we would want the pair to be delivered a salesman walks up with another couple, completely ignores us, and they begin to discuss the furniture my wife and I were about to purchase. The couple tells the salesman that they want it and he places a sold sign on the it.
Needless to say, I was a bit shocked. I was there first…I was entitled. That was MY furniture. You can see the internal dilemma that was about to surface. How I handled this situation would answer a HUGE question for me. ”Do I believe God’s word is spoken randomly or sovereignly?” Was it a “coincidence” that I heard a message on this EXACT thing that morning? Or even that I went to NorthPoint at all? ( I had never been to a service there and will be moving to another state in the next few weeks).
So, what do you think I did next?
EXACTLY what you would do….I went straight to the store manager to talk about MY couch (I’m stubborn sometimes). The manager informs us, the other couple and the salesman that the store policy is if someone is sitting on the furniture when you walk up, they reserve the right to purchase it first. He then tells us that the couch is ours, if we want it. Am I thinking “No….you guys take it. We’ll find something else.”? NOPE, I’m thinking…HA, HA… “Vengeance is mine,” “All I do is win, win, win…” so forth and so on.
Then these words echo LOUDLY in my soul… “Not so with you.”
Long story short, we do not have a new couch today and I learned a few HUGE lessons yesterday. God will always give you opportunities to respond to His word. God’s word is not just randomly spoken. As James says, “Be doers of the word and not just hearers.” God’s word demands a response. It demands action. The next time you are faced with an opportunity to do something you JUST heard/read in God’s word remember this….. Obedience is ALWAYS better than a new couch.
I have some great memories. I’m only 31, but I’ve been to a LOT of places in my life. In my brief time on this rock I’ve been to 43 states and 10 countries. I’ve lived in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan and soon another state will be added to the list (that info will come soon) I’ve seen a lot; done a lot, experienced a lot. Made a ton of memories.
There’s a great sense of fullness that can come when you remember; when you look back. Great friends, great moments, great food, great times. I remember the first time I saw “The Goonies”; classic. I can almost taste the Oklahoma bbq sauce from Lee Roy Selmon’s in Tampa; so good. And I’ll NEVER forget the first time a group of teenagers here in Atlanta experienced Summer’s (my wife) french toast; they were giddy. Street ministry in college, missions trips, sitting for what seemed like hours after youth service after youth service “just listening” as countless teenager after teenager poured out their guts (I’m a youth pastor). Celebrating baptisms, fall retreats, weddings, palm trees, Saturdays at Jordan Hare and, of course, that one night at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. (some of those you can relate to, some you can’t….they are MY memories, go get your own )
The problem with memories is that, if you are not careful, you can make “The good ole days,” seem so good that you wonder if tomorrow will ever live up to the mystique and allure of yesterday. If you are not careful you will believe that the memories are, and will be, the best part of your life. Remembering can replace living. “It’ll never be as good as it was back then….” or “Those were the best days of my life.“
If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few years and my, now 3rd move to the 4th state in 3 years, it’s that you must FIGHT to embrace today. You have to CHOOSE to make new memories. Sometimes it may seem that you are being a traitor to the relationships, experiences and “mile-markers” of the road behind you, but you have to remember…it’s BEHIND you. Make some new friends, put your heart out there one more time, try a new restaurant, make some new photos, write a new song…embrace today.
No matter where you are at you have not yet experienced the best days of your life. All is not lost. If you are 15 or 65, your greatest memories are waiting for you to get out and live them.