Listening Ears

dog listening

I consider myself a pretty good listener. I try to cultivate a slow tongue and hear what you have to say. I make a conscious effort to allow you to speak, to allow you to communicate your point of view your side. I would like to think I make rational decisions after having weighed all the facts and heard all that needs to be heard.

Granted, I’m not always like this. Ronda will tell you I am an interrupter. And I am… at times. There are moments when I don’t want to listen. When I don’t feel like I need to listen. I honestly don’t believe those times dominate my ears. In my judgment, I listen pretty well.

The other morning, I was having a conversation with a professional who was not a good listener. She interrupted me multiple times and would not stop until I closed my mouth and heard what she was saying. This didn’t stop throughout the entire conversation, even after the second time I said, ‘as I was trying to say’.

This was very frustrating to me. I felt as though this lady would not allow me to get a word in edgewise. Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever feel as though people are some consumed with getting their voice heard, that they don’t hear yours? It almost doesn’t matter what you have to say, because they don’t want to hear it. They are sure what you have to say doesn’t matter. I find it annoying when I encounter people like this.

I have been reading through the book of James a lot lately. At my church, we are going through series of sermons in the book so I have taken this opportunity to study the book as well. This morning I read from James chapter 1, where James encourages us to be ‘quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger’. These are great words of advice for several reasons. I think our interactions with others would be improved if we would make a reasonable attempt to live this out… not just because the Bible says so. Here are three reasons why it is a good idea to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger:

  1. When we don’t listen to others, we dismiss them. Not only do we risk dismissing a potentially good idea from them, but we are dismissing them. Not just their ideas or thoughts, but them as well. When we are dismissive of others, it communicates they don’t matter. We communicate to them they are important, their voice isn’t worth hearing. We communicate t them they have nothing to add or say of value. Nothing that could be important or beneficial to hear. When we are slow to hear, we are dismissive of others and being dismissive doesn’t build relationship it tears it down.
  2. When aren’t slow to speak, we often end up putting our foots in our mouths. We’ve all been there haven’t we? We open our big mouths and say something we think to be informed by the truth, only to find out we don’t have all the information and we were wrong… and we look like fools, idiots really. I always think about the apostle Peter when I think about putting my foot in my mouth. On one occasion, Jesus was telling his disciples he was going to have to suffer at the hands of the religious leaders. When Peter heard this he was, “There’s no way I’m going to let that happen to you! I will take them out! I will introduce them to my little friend!” Jesus responds with the classic, “Get behind me, Satan!” Open Peter’s mouth, insert foot. Peter didn’t fully comprehend what was going on, opened his mouth and Jesus likened him to Satan because to stop the imminent suffer would have been akin to stopping God’s perfect plan. Being slow to speak allows us to gather enough information to speak with wisdom when we do speak.
  3. When are are quick to anger, it has a tendency to be unrighteous anger. Ephesians 4:26 reminds us to not sin in our anger. For me, this is a prescription to not be angry… because I don’t seem to be able to be angry and not sin. I’m a work in progress to be sure. Either way, if we easily anger there’s a pretty good chance we aren’t being angry in a sinless layabout things we should be angry about. Short fuses rarely lead to righteous anger. Again, it is a matter of having enough information to know whether our anger is justified or not, whether it is something ‘worth’ getting angry about. I suppose we need to understand what would qualify as ‘worth’. In my mind, righteous anger is warranted when the issue at hand would also anger God. If it is an injustice or situation where God would be angry, then we can be angry as well. Too many times we et angry quickly, when choosing grace and mercy would have been better choices. If we are slow to anger, consider and think rationally through the feelings of anger we are feeling we will better equipped to be angry at the right time about the right things.

We should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger… essentially because it promotes the most healthy and best relationships with others. It is the best way to interact with others. I don’t always get it right. I miss the mark, often. James encourages us to slow down and make more of an effort to get it right.

Wisdom

  

It’s 8:30 on a Friday night and I’m on I-75 in the middle of South Georgia. Why?
I’m heading to north Georgia with two of my independent living youth. We are headed for the culmination of a mentoring program they started on the spring. It feels a little odd to be wrapping up the mentoring program I wasn’t really a part of. But tha s kind of how it goes. 

I have mixed feelings about being away from home this weekend. Without letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot going on back in Orlando. Ronda and I are in the midst of praying through a big situation for us. On one hand, I want to be there with her. One the other hand, I’m looking forward to the space and clarity that comes with spending a weekend in the woods. 

I suppose that means this weekend has a twofold purpose for me. To capstone the mentoring program and solidify my place in the lives of these youth as a mentor. And to allow God to speak to and mentor me this weekend. I have high hopes for this weekend. I’m trusting God won’t let me down. He doesn’t usually. 

The Celldweller song ‘The Last Firstborn’ is playing. That song always make me think of the Apostle Paul. He claimed his apostleship cake as one untimely born. I feel that way. Not that I’m an apostle, but that I often wonder about God’s choice to love me and use me to fulfill his purposes. But he does. And I believe this weekend he is going to teach me as much as he teaches these dudes with me. 

In some ways, I really need to hear God speak to me this weekend. I need it more than I have in quite some time. We started a new sermon series at church last week on the book of James. I’ve been reading it this week. In chapter 1, James says any who lacks wisdom should ask God in faith that he give generously to the obedient. That’s where j find myself. Asking for wisdom. Asking for God’s spirit of be upon me and inform my decision-making. I want to be a spirit-filled wise leader of the family and ministry God has trusted me with. 

This seems like a good place to close… God grant me your spirit of wisdom to be a wise leader of the people you have given to me. 

The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.

Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isnt said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

Contentment

philippians4-11

Photo courtesy of dailybiblememe.com

Of all the things the apostle Paul wrote, these words are some of the ones I struggle the most with. Words I have some of the hardest time associating with. Learning contentment. This has been a struggle and journey I have been on my whole life.

There have been seasons of my life finding contentment has been easier than other seasons. Some seasons its a minor struggle, others it totally eludes me. Totally.

I wonder what is different about those seasons? Are the desires less? Do I have more of my desires fulfilled? Or is something about me different? Do I walk closer to God during the seasons where contentment comes easier? Do these seasons correlate with seasons of ‘mountaintop’ spiritual seasons? What is the connection and how can I bridge the gap and make the contented seasons become more prevalent?

Why is it so hard to live in a space that seemingly came easily for Paul? I guess it begs the question, did it come easily for Paul? If not, what was his secret and how can I get in on that action?

I can recall reading in the book Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell (I could share many more thoughts on Bell’s books and his current stance on many issues, but now is not the time. Suffice it to say, Velvet Elvis was his first book and therefore remains untainted theologically by Oprah.) that one of the reasons our culture/generation/society has to constantly have music, sound or noise around them is because they are trying to either silence the noise inside their own heads or because they are afraid of the silence that comes from just being still. As I read that years ago, it totally connected with me. It resonated with me. At the time, I constantly had an iPod and earbuds on me or iTunes playing on my MacBook. I couldn’t stand the silence, being left to my own thoughts.

There still remains to question to be answered, what is the cause or root of discontent? The easy answer is sin. Obviously. But really, what is the answer? What is the reason I struggle so much at times with being content?

Because I long for more. My very soul cries out for more. I want more than I can have or am able to have. My soul craves something more. It craves something which can only be filled or supplied by God. The problem is, I often (as all humans do) attempt to fill that longing, that craving with other things which are clearly not able to satisfy. Things unable to fill the hole the void I am desperately attempting to get contented.

Okay. Great. I am trying to make content something which will never be contented because I am trying to content it with the wrong thing.

My heart and soul are restless. It feels as though I need to spend more time finding contentment in God.

I feel as though this is unresolved, but I also feel as though I don’t have much else to say about it right now… I suppose there will be a part two.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Philippians 4:11

Vision with Clarity

Ps. 9:2

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O most high.


David will be glad and rejoice and sing praises for what happens in verse 3-20… namely, God destroys all of David’s enemies and rescues his people from certain doom. David rejoices because he knows God will deliver him and his people. David is glad because he knows the sadness at this present moment is not one that will last, but will be overtaken by joy and gladness. David knows the afflicted will not perish. David knows the evil will not go unpunished. He knows God will be victorious, triumphant. He knows God will defeat all of the enemies of the good and righteous and he will lift up the head of his people and bring them home with him. God’s people will be the victory march, the triumphant parade at the conclusion of the battle. Despite all of the terrible swirling around David, he was able to see with clarity the future ahead of him.

Why is it so hard for me? Why is it so easy to get bogged down by the garbage surrounding our daily life? Why is it so hard to see the future outcome of God sitting on his throne being absolutely victorious over all his foes? Why is is hard to visualize evil being struck down and cast into the abyss? Why is it difficult to see the future where the throne of God is visible by all of creation and there is no weeping or sadness?

This is a future we all long for desperately, yet we fear hoping in something like this on the off chance it never comes true. On the chance that God isn’t who he says he is.

The book of Revelation is one human’s attempt to explain and describe the awesome, beyond description scene he saw in heaven. John was given a vision of heaven and he describes it for us in all its glory and majesty. he describes terribly frightening scenes of utter destruction of evil. He describes scenes beyond our ability to understand of glorious beauty with God at the center.

Why is it so hard to live life with end in mind? The same reason it is hard to finish a marathon. At some point we hit ‘the wall.’ The place where you think, this is the end. I can’t go any further. For me, that was at mile 23. We think the pain is too great, the outcome isn’t worth it and that it will be ok to just give up now.

Sure, its ok. If you don’t want to participate in the party at the end!

Paul reminds us to finish the race. To keep our minds set on the goal, the prize, the end. We must finish the race. Complete the course set before us. We must claim our prize at the end.

2 Corinthians 4:17 reminds us our troubles are light and momentary when compared to the eternal glory far outweighing them… which to troubles are actually working towards defining in us. So while the Bible doesn’t say, ‘this too shall pass’ we can know these troubles are not the end. We can be glad and rejoice in God and sing praise to his name, knowing he is going to utterly demolish and destroy our enemies.

Never-Ending Shopping List

Give me this, I want that, bless me Lord I pray. 

Grant me what i think I need to make it through the day.
Make me healthy, keep me wealthy, fill in what I miss
On my never-ending shopping list.
I will forever remember this song, I don’t know who wrote or even sang it first. I remember a good friend of the family singing this song somewhere along the way at a church sometime. This what prayer can feel like sometimes, right? 
A never-ending shopping list of things we want, things we feel we are owed or at the very least deserve. Jesus is not Santa Claus. Never has been, and I suspect he never will be. A few years ago, my boys made Christmas humorous for us as a family when they confessed they had prayed to Jesus to work with Santa to bring us a white Christmas. Coincidently, if we were to ever have a white Christmas at our house it would take a monumental miracle that could only come about if Jesus and Santa collaborated. I told them, living in Florida, a white Christmas is likely something we will never see.
I suppose it is possible your prayer time and prayer requests are holier than mine. Could be. But I bet even at times you miss the point of prayer too. We all do. Three reasons: we are human which leads to reason two, we are selfish which is caused by reason three, we are sinners. And we mess everything up… when left to ourselves. It’s kinda what we as humans do.
I’m not setting out here to give you a dissertation on prayer or specifically recite the various appropriate ways Scripture guides us to pray, for what and when and how and why. I simply want to confess to you, I suppose more than anything, I often don’t take full advantage of prayer in a way I should.
I have come to realize I pray way too small. 
I pray in such a way that doesn’t show I trust in a God much bigger than myself. I pray in such a way that doesn’t illustrate I believe God when he tells me to ask and I will receive. 
I don’t know this is terribly a big deal. I mean I have faith in God and trust him in and with my life. I live each day in service to him… so even if I don’t pray the biggest, most bold prayers I still am a follower of his. But it is a big deal because I have three young men God has entrusted to me to teach about him and to teach them how to trust him, to teach them how to be men after his heart. I owe it to them to pray bigger and to pray in a way that demonstrates I believe the almighty creator of the universe is listening to my prayers. Because he is!
Maybe the beginning is to spend more time in prayer myself. To spend more time getting to know my God. Maybe the first steps are to not treat prayer like a shopping list, but instead a relationship built on trust and love. I never want to hear Jesus say to me what he said to the church in Ephesus: ‘you have lost your first love.’ How heartbreaking it would be to hear Jesus say such a thing to you? I can’t imagine the ache inside my heart.
I never want to lose sight of my savior.
I never want to lose my first love.



A Savior that knows…

Artwork by V-K-S

Artwork by V-K-S

Psalm 8:4 asks the question what is man, that you are mindful of him? Interestingly, as I read Hebrews 2 this morning I find the same question being asked. The Psalm reference is clearly messianic and the Hebrews reference supports this as it is found in a section describing how Jesus became like the creation in order to be in a position to perfectly offer us salvation. We needed a savior who had experienced everything it is to be human, while at the same time was able to keep himself unstained by the world… in other words sinless.

Philippians 2 tells us Christ emptied himself of some aspects of being God and became a human. He limited himself.

Why does a Savior who has experienced what we have experienced appeal to us? Why do we want a God we can relate to?

I think it is because we are community creatures. And this is an essential element founded in us by our creator. We are community creatures because our God and creator is a community. He is a triune God. Three distinct personalities comprising of one single God. An essential piece of being made in his likeness is the built-in desire to have community.

Misery loves company, but so does joy. Joy is much more potent or poignant when we share it with someone else. Love is difficult to accomplish alone, there has to be at least an object of love. I can attest from past experience being angry at myself is much less ‘rewarding’ than being angry at someone else. Our emotions require another person. They require community. This is how we were created. This is how God made us.

It is significant then, that he became like us before he died for us. It’s significant for several reasons. First, someone had to pay the penalty for our sins. It had to be someone who was human. Someone who had been asked to live within the confines of God’s law. Jesus was the expression of God’s willingness to allow himself to live within the confines of his creation. I don’t know that I can articulate the full ramifications of this played out, but God himself took on the form of a human and lived under the Law. Equally significant, is that he not only lived under the law, but he didn’t break the law. Jesus is the only human in history to have lived under the law and never broken any of it. Jesus lived a sinless life under the law. Of every human who has every lived on the planet in all of human history, he is the only one who was able to escape God’s righteous wrathful penalty for sin. Yet, he was the only who suffered that wrath. He took our place and stood in judgment instead of us. A third reason this is significant, is being a human living here on earth, he knows what it is to be us. He knows intimately the struggles of everyday life. He knows what to feels like be betrayed by a close friend. He knows what it feels like when friends die. To me John 11:35 is one of the most profound verse in all of scripture. We see Jesus having difficulty dealing with life on a specific day. He was overwhelmed by the circumstances of the day. He knows the hurt that comes with being lied to. He can feel the frustration that comes from the daily grind of doing the same thing over and over and over again. He knows what it is like to work hard, to sweat, to have a long day at work. Jesus knows every aspect of being human. He knows what it is like to walk in our shoes.

This makes it all the more sweet when he offers us rest, when he offers to carry our burden, and wants to take our yoke from us.

In a season of life where it feels like no one understands and the world is against us, there is comfort to be had in knowing we aren’t alone. Knowing God does know ho bad the hurt hurts. In my darkest hours, this has been the light in the darkness. This has been the only thing to comfort me at times. We read much later in Hebrews Jesus makes the statement, he will never leave us nor forsake us. Even in our darkest hours we aren’t alone.

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

coffee & donuts

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “Y OU ARE MY S ON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU “? And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM A ND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME “? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP H M.” And of the angels He says, “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND H S MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.” But of the Son He says, “Y OUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU W ITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” And, “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A MANTLE Y OU WILL ROLL THEM UP; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET “? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (‭Hebrews‬ ‭1‬:‭1-14‬ NASB)

Wow!!

My first thought is just wow. Awe and wonder at what I have just read. Of course, this passage is speaking primarily of Jesus and his role in the kingdom of God, but let’s do a little reading between the lines.

Scripture tells us we are sons and daughters, co-heirs with Jesus. If this is so, then our value to God is greater than that of the angels. Think about it for a minute. The writer of Hebrews goes at length to describe the higher place that has been given to jesus a higher place that we to some degree also hold as co-heirs with Jesus. God has never called an angel his child. But he has called us his children.  God did not die on the cross for any angels, but he did for us.

Ephesians says God has lavished his grace upon us. I don’t use the word lavished all that often, maybe you do. What it means is, God has ridiculously poured out his grace on us. He has so limitlessly dumped it out that it’s obnoxious. It’s crazy. It’s out of control. God shamelessly poured out his love by dying on the cross for the likes of us.

If the thought of God loving you that much doesn’t invoke a little bit of joy in you I’m not sure what will.

At it’s heart and essence, fighting for joy is a fight to find contentment and satisfaction in God. Not in things this world has to offer us.

Not coffee and donuts.

We all have some addition or false god that draws our attention and robs is of the joy that can only truly be found in Christ Jesus.

There are many things that draw my attention and focus away from God, but as trivial as this sounds coffee and donuts make that list. They are weak attempts to find satisfaction and joy in something other than God. When I feel anxious or as though I don’t have control of my life, rather than turning to God in prayer and supplication, I turn to coffee to help ca my fears.

At least it’s not cocaine, but it’s still unhealthy. It’s not whatGod intended.

It’s almost like I’m replaying the scene in the garden of Eden all over again. But instead of Adam and Eve it’s just me and I’m the one supplanting God on the throne of my life.

How do we overcome the barriers holding us back from firming joy in God? Focusing on the positive. Finding time for his word. Making the effort to communicate with God in prayer. Engaging with a community of believers who love us enough to challenge us forward.

Today we can find joy in God, if we look for it there. How are you going to find joy in God today?

IMG_6185.JPG

Coffee & Donuts

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “Y OU ARE MY S ON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU “? And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM A ND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME “? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP H M.” And of the angels He says, “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND H S MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.” But of the Son He says, “Y OUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU W ITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” And, “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A MANTLE Y OU WILL ROLL THEM UP; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET “? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (‭Hebrews‬ ‭1‬:‭1-14‬ NASB)

Wow!!

My first thought is just wow. Awe and wonder at what I have just read. Of course, this passage is speaking primarily of Jesus and his role in the kingdom of God, but let’s do a little reading between the lines.

Scripture tells us we are sons and daughters, co-heirs with Jesus. If this is so, then our value to God is greater than that of the angels. Think about it for a minute. The writer of Hebrews goes at length to describe the higher place that has been given to jesus a higher place that we to some degree also hold as co-heirs with Jesus. God has never called an angel his child. But he has called us his children.  God did not die on the cross for any angels, but he did for us.

Ephesians says God has lavished his grace upon us. I don’t use the word lavished all that often, maybe you do. What it means is, God has ridiculously poured out his grace on us. He has so limitlessly dumped it out that it’s obnoxious. It’s crazy. It’s out of control. God shamelessly poured out his love by dying on the cross for the likes of us.

If the thought of God loving you that much doesn’t invoke a little bit of joy in you I’m not sure what will.

At it’s heart and essence, fighting for joy is a fight to find contentment and satisfaction in God. Not in things this world has to offer us.

Not coffee and donuts.

We all have some addition or false god that draws our attention and robs is of the joy that can only truly be found in Christ Jesus.

There are many things that draw my attention and focus away from God, but as trivial as this sounds coffee and donuts make that list. They are weak attempts to find satisfaction and joy in something other than God. When I feel anxious or as though I don’t have control of my life, rather than turning to God in prayer and supplication, I turn to coffee to help ca my fears.

At least it’s not cocaine, but it’s still unhealthy. It’s not whatGod intended.

It’s almost like I’m replaying the scene in the garden of Eden all over again. But instead of Adam and Eve it’s just me and I’m the one supplanting God on the throne of my life.

How do we overcome the barriers holding us back from firming joy in God? Focusing on the positive. Finding time for his word. Making the effort to communicate with God in prayer. Engaging with a community of believers who love us enough to challenge us forward.

Today we can find joy in God, if we look for it there. How are you going to find joy in God today?

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My Takeaways from #Catalyst14

catalystI enjoyed the catalyst experience very much overall. I feel like personally, it had much to say to me and where I am in my life currently. It was good to be able to sit in the worship and enjoy the music and to participate in worshipping our Savior. It was also very encouraging to hear all the great sermons we heard in a short time. My friend who picked me up from the airport asked me who my favorite speaker was… I wasn’t able to pick just one! I think they all had some fantastic things to say and were all very challenging of me. So, let me try to funnel that down into a few thoughts of what challenged me the most.

  1. Andy Stanley’s opening message which challenged us to answer the two questions – 1. Who are you? and What breaks your heart?; really stuck with me because I honestly had to really think through the answer to the second one. Not because I don’t know what excites or invigorates me (I hesitate the use the word ‘passion’ since it is so overplayed these days) or what really gets me fired up. I had a hard time with this I think thanks to where I am in my life. I would have answered the questions slightly differently along the way in my life, and as my brain and heart catches up to where I find God has led me in life I found my self searching for what the answer is in this season. Strangely enough, the answer in this season is not very different from the answer it has been in previous seasons of my life. Families. Families break my heart. Families who need help of any kind. I have seen so many families without the resources and tools to do better than what they are doing and this breaks my heart. I realized as I worked as a caseworker, the difference between the families I worked with and me was a very fine line. A fine line of tools that were in my toolbox, but not in theirs. This has been the driving motivator in me finding the path God has set before me for some time in my life. My heart breaks for families in need. This is perfect, considering where I find God has put me. Working with children and families in a local church setting. Working with children and families in the child welfare setting. I guess the first takeaway for me was more of a confirmation or reaffirmation of being in the place God wants me. This has been something I have spent time considering and thinking through recently… just trying to figure out my life.
  2. The second takeaway comes from Dr. Leaf and the small amount of the book we purchased that I have read. This ‘new’ information regarding habit and thought formation has truly revolutionized the way I think about behavioral change. When coupled with what I have been learning through TBRI, I have a new landscape moving forward in the brain and assisting others to make behavioral changes. Not only is it possible to change behavior, but it is possible to change the brain to adjust the thought patterns. This is a total game changer for the way we think about helping people effect change. I am excited to read more in this book and learn more about changing habits.
  3. Robert Madu had words which were very fitting for us at Grace Landing. Being a small organization, it is easy to play the comparison game and look at other agencies and wonder why we aren’t able to do things the ways they are. We aren’t those other agencies, so we can’t do things the way they are doing them. And we shouldn’t want to. God has blessed us in a unique ways to accomplish the ministry he set before us. When I look at the individual pieces of the puzzle we each bring to the table, I am encouraged to see the plan underneath it. We are approaching the issues of young men needing transitional assistance and foster parent training in a revolutionary way! We are coming at these problems in a way that is different than how anyone (in our area, and for the most part throughout the nation) else is addressing them. We are running the race God has set before us and no one else. I also took much comfort in Craig Groeschel’s thoughts on how to experience exponential innovation as they apply to us. The first thing needed to experience exponential change is limited resources. I heard that and thought, well that’s us! Think about how much God is doing through a small, meager organization. We are a part of totally redefining the way foster parent training and recruiting is being done in Florida! Foster care will never be the same thanks to the work we are doing. Are you serious? YES! We are game changers.
  4. The last major takeaway I have is this, we are precisely where God wants us to be. I think we heard that 100 times at catalyst. God has set this ministry before us and we are to run this race to the best that we can, trusting God will provide the resources necessary to finish the race. God is able to accomplish his purposes without or without us, but he has decided to use us to accomplish those purposes in the ministries he has called us to. God has put us here because he has gifted us with what we need to do this work. He hasn’t set before a ministry we aren’t able to accomplish, on the contrary – he has gifted us in a way to accomplish this ministry.
Catalyst was exactly what I needed in life right now. It renewed my mind and reignited my heart.