Gentle Peacemakers

  
I sit down this morning with one of my favorite passages of scripture: the Sermon on the Mount. These 3 chapters in the Gospel of Matthew have been the basis for many hours of personal bible study for me. Two of the verse pictured are some of the hardest for me to swallow: Blessed are the gentle… & Blessed are the peacemakers… I find these verses difficult because I don’t think I’m either. 
Honestly, I find myself relating more to Colt’s peacemaker than to that of a maker of peace. I struggle with being a peace maker for a couple reasons. Peace isn’t just absence of conflict, it’s the presence of calmness. I certainly don’t being calm to most situations, but do bring my share of conflict. I’m cantankerous, quick tempered, I have a fast tongue & I have to be right. All qualities the scriptures urge Christ followers to NOT be. I have decided to I want to make a goal of my to be more of a peacemaker in my interactions with others… especially my family. A few weeks ago at church, we discussed how as parents we shouldn’t exasperate our children… even if they do so to us. I’m trying to me less argumentative. It doesn’t always come out that way. 

And gentle… which I know being gentle or meek means have overwhelming power that you keep restrained. I’d much rather display said power, in order to control. Which is problematic. 

These are shortcomings I’ve noticed in my life. Shortcomings, that bother me. Shortcomings, I want to change. Each day, I try and I have success as well as failure. But each day, I will continue to fight the good fight to become a better husband, a better dad, a man who is more like what Jesus has called me to be. 

What about you?

An Unpleasant Emotion

fear 1

fear

ˈfir/
noun
  1. 1.
    an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

    “drivers are threatening to quit their jobs in fear after a cabby’s murder”

    synonyms: terrorfright, fearfulness, horroralarmpanicagitationtrepidation,

    dreadconsternationdismaydistress; More

There you have it. Fear.

When I think of fear, I can’t help but to think of The Replacements and the classic locker room scene where the coach asks them to admit their fears. Watch it here.

I have come to believe the reality of life is that we are held back in every aspect of lives by fear. Fear takes on many faces and comes in many forms, but the ultimate reality is that fear controls us all at some time or another. Fear traps us and keeps us from being able to move forward in life. Fear inhibits, prohibits and limits us from moving. It paralyzes. It overcomes and overwhelms. It conquers and leaves devastation in its wake.

Why? Why do we let fear immobilize us the way we do? Is fear really that powerful? Does fear really have that much control? Has fear been unlimited power, rendering us powerless to battle against it?

I think what gives fear its power is the unknown or the intangible nature of what it does to us. There are times when our fears are rooted in reality or in previous experience. But many times, fear is not rooted in anything other than our own fear of fear or a fear of the unknown or fear of an outcome based on insufficient or incomplete information. Let me explain. On Friday I took the youth from Grace Landing’s group home to a high ropes course. A couple of the obstacles we tackled you had to climb a ladder for about 15 feet, then climb a telephone pole for another 15 feet arriving at the obstacle approximately 30 feet in the air. One of the youth was barely able to make it off the ladder. He was afraid of falling. His fear in that moment was fear of an unknown, or more specifically fear based on insufficient or incomplete information. He was wearing a climbing harness which was secured around his waist. He was securely attached to a safety rope by locking carabiner. The safety rope was proper rigged and secured to an anchor point. There was a trained professional belaying this youth. There was literally no way for this youth to be injured while at the ropes course, yet his fears kept him from experiencing the ropes course to its fullest. His fear based on insufficient and incomplete information – if he fell, he would get hurt or die. His fears were never going to be realized at the ropes course.

This happens to us across the expanse of our lives. We face situations and determine our course of action based on what we think could possibly occur and if it is an outcome we don’t like, we are afraid. We begin to fear the outcome and then fear has crippled us from completing the task at hand. Fear based on a possibility. A possibility that is just as likely to not happen as it is to happen. Fear is at its essence being crippled by the possible. Even when experience supports our fear, there is no guarantee the fears will be realized this time around. For the person who gets married and their spouse breaks their heart and leaves them, just because this was their experience it does mean they should withhold from engaging in authentic relationships with other for fear of being hurt again. They may be hurt again, but they may also find a rewarding relationship in which they are surrounded by the love they deserve.

Fear, in reality, only has as much power as we give it. Fear is only as strong as we allow it to be. Fear can only overcome and cripple us because we allow it to do so.

My hope today is identify fear as a force working against us, only having the power we give it. Tomorrow, I want to identify how to limit the power we give to fear.

How has fear limited or crippled you?

Razor’s Edge

  
Maybe it’s just me, but I find I live life on a razor’s edge. 

What I mean is this: each day has the propensity to be a good day or a bad day. It all depends on which way I lean. Which way am I going to go. Which direction do I allow my day to be taken. 

If I allow my day to be dictated to me and don’t specifically take steps to make it a good day, it won’t be one. It’ll be a bad day. This shouldn’t be surprising to us. We live a world marred and broken by sin. We live in a world where selfishness and sel-gain are the order of the day. Our world is broken and leads towards destruction. So it shouldn’t be surprising that our days can easily become bad days full of pain and suffering. 

On the other hand, if I wake up and determine to make this day a good day it is more likely than not thT it will be a good day. I know what you are thinking, some days are always going to be bad due to their circumstances. True, but our perspective incredibly affects our outlook on life. Perception is 9/10 of the law, right? We can’t always make everyday an epic specimen of existence, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying. Here’s four practices I utilize in my efforts to make everyday a good day:

  1. Remember today is a new day. P.O.D.’s song Alive starts with the words, ‘Everyday is a new day, I’m thankful for every breath I take’. I often find myself reciting these words at the conclusion of a tough day or at the beginning of the day. Everyday is a new day. Today doesn’t have to be like any other day you’ve ever had. 
  2. People depend on me. I’m a dad, husband, boss, mentor, friend and role model. People are looking to me to gain insight on how to handle their lives. People are looking to me to learn something. People are relying on me to be strong and consistent. I am not an island. People need me to be the best I can be today. 
  3. God has blessed me beyond what I could ever deserve. Even in my darkest moments, my life is favored and blessed. As a child of God, I am in dwelt by the Holy Spirit and therefore have found favor with God. He loves me. He watches over me. He is preparing a place for me that is free of pain, suffering and hurt. 
  4. The last practice is somewhat more practical in nature and may qualify as more than one practice, but whatever. I use everything at my disposal to make each day good. Counseling, prayer, reading the bible, wise counsel from friends, self-help articles and books, time with my kids, video games, anything. God has blessed me with a myriad ofresources at my disposal to make my day good, all I have to  do is reach out and use one of them. Surprisingly, God doesn’t want me to be miserable. 

I still have bad days. It happens more than I want. But those are the days when I let life happen to me and not the days when I happen to life. Decide today to be more than conquerors and Almagest today a good day. 

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.

A Future of Freedom

  
What would it be like if you woke up tomorrow and all your problems were gone?

In solution focused therapy, this question is often posed by the therapist to motivate the client to imagine a future without the ailment bringing them in for therapy. This question excites and empowers the client to imagine a future of freedom… freedom from what plagues them… freedom to live unbound by labels… freedom to live without the weight of their troubles upon their shoulders. 

This question is meant to evoke feelings of hope and courage for a future that is different. It seeks to break the cycle of dysfunctional thinking the client is trapped in. It aims to change perspective. 

I dare to say, it is one of the most powerful questions that can be asked in therapy. It has the ability to re-capture the excitement of life. 

The only drawback to this question, is sometimes we aren’t ready for it. We aren’t ready to dream, to hope, to envision a future of freedom. We aren’t ready because we are too happy in our misery. Sure, everyone wants freedom inside their core… but we also revel in the familiar, in what we know, in what is comfortable. Which means, it can be easier to wallow in misery and not hope for a future of freedom. 

This is what keeps us from breaking free from our ‘prisons’… it’s not that our prisons are inescapable, as much as we don’t want to escape. We limit ourselves. 

We don’t have to live this way… we don’t have to live chained to our problems, our issues, our baggage, the things that hang us up. We can be free… free to live lives unchained and unfettered to the junk that brings us down, holds us back and keeps us from moving forward. 

The miracle question allows us to realize this possibility. It allowsus to envision a future of freedom. We must be courageous enough to dream for a future of freedom. More than that, we mis be courageous enough to take the next steps to realize that freedom. 

The first step to overcoming a life chained and fettered by issues, baggage and ailments is to dream the miracle question… dream what life would be like free. The next step is working to make that dream a reality. 

What would it be like if tomorrow you woke up & all your problems were gone?

Bandwidth

BandwidthI am not a techno-wizard or computer geek or any kind of over the top tech-savy intellectual giant by any means. I know enough to get by… maybe enough to be dangerous with my knowledge. But, as I understand bandwidth it speaks to an amount of capacity something is able to handle. For instance, your internet has a specific amount of data that can flow down to your computer and back up to the internet. This is bandwidth. This is the amount of information that can come and go freely. When the bandwidth gets bogged down or bottled up, the info doesn’t flow freely and slows down dramatically. Causing issues. This is one reason why cable modems have been superior to DSL modems in the past. Cable modems have a specific amount of bandwidth dedicated to your specific location while DSL modems dedicated to say the block and if everyone is using the DSL modems to stream Netflix at the same time, no one will enjoy it.

We as humans, have a certain amount of bandwidth. I have noticed bandwidth within humans is a lot like pain. My threshold is not your threshold. You may find it very painful to have your fingernails clipped, while I may enjoy bamboo shoots under my nails. It is all relative. So is bandwidth. For a variety of reasons, we each have our own level of bandwidth and capacity to manage tasks or responsibilities.

One lesson I learned at H2O Church Orlando, is I have the tendency to overestimate my bandwidth. I was not unique in this. The other pastors at H2O had the same problem. John and I used to say, ‘for guys like us who are able to do so many things very well, it is hard for us to not overcommit to stuff that needs to be done.’ It was a half-joke, but also true. When you bandwidth allows you to accomplish much and when you are talented at many things, you tend to overestimate what you can and can not do therefore overextending yourself and overloading your actual bandwidth.

Going hand in hand with the lesson on overestimating my bandwidth and thereby over committing myself, I had to learn how to determine what were reasonable additions to my proverbial plate that my bandwidth could handle. What I had to do was come up with a strategy to realistically assess whether I could handle the added responsibilities and pressure. What I began to do (with varying degrees of success along the way) was ask myself these questions:

1. Is this something that is important to me? The first place to start is by determining whether the new task is something you actually care about. Are you passionate (I dislike use of that over-played word), excited, fired up, really interested and care strongly for the new responsibility? IS this something you see as a priority and needs to be done and you have the interest and skill set to do it? If you can’t answer yes to this question, you should strongly reconsider taking on this new thing whatever it is and however vital it is. There is nothing more taxing and stressful to our bandwidth than to take on something we could care less about.

2. Do I have the skill set to do this? I alluded to it in the first question, but this is a deeper exploration of the required skills and abilities to accomplish the responsibility in question. There are a wide range of things I am good at. There are even a handful of things I am really good at. There is a plethora of things not falling even remotely close to my wheelhouse, things I am not good at at all. When considering taking on new responsibility, we have to realistically assess our abilities and what it is going to take to successfully accomplish the task, not just do it. If the new responsibility doesn’t fall within the range of things we do either good or really good, we shouldn’t do it. While still taxing and stressful to our bandwidth, taking on things we aren’t skilled to do also is detrimental to the responsibility in question because it could fail due to our inability to accomplish it and our unrealistic assessment of our skills.

3. The third question I ask myself is, does it fit into my schedule or am I willing to rearrange my schedule to make it fit? This is critical. If we are super excited on fire about something we are over the top skilled to do, but have no time to do it… why are we taking it on? No matter how excited we are or how skilled we are, if we can’t find time to do it, it won’t get done. It just won’t. And what have we accomplished by adding something else we don’t have time for into our schedules? Nothing. We haven’t accomplished anything… literally, cuz it didn’t get done. I have found by adding every minutiae to a calendar so I can see how everything fits, is very useful when determining whether something can be done or not. I used to be super-organized (I have slipped dramatically in recent years), but this kind of organization and control over my time has been exceedingly helpful in making an informed decision about whether I can realistically do something or not.

Our bandwidth is not limitless. There is a finite amount of space we have and ability to realistically commit to various responsibilities taxing our lives. We will be better served and more effective in everything we do, if we ask ourselves these three questions when looking to add something new to our lives. If we want to be successful in what we put our hands to, we have to realistically assess if our lives are arranged in such a way that we may be effective in this new responsibility. This isn’t just a good idea, its scriptural. Paul writes in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,”. If we are overcommitting ourselves and adding more things we aren’t capable of actually doing we are not giving God what he deserves. We are not doing it ‘heartily’ or to the best of our abilities.

I am learning to be realistic about myself and my bandwidth. I have also found there is much more joy in being able to say yes to what I can accomplish and accomplishing it than there is adding something I can’t handle and not finishing and having to step away from it because I am unable to follow through and complete. These questions may not be the solution for you, but I bet they are a good place to start.

Do you have any advice or processes which you use to think through what your bandwidth is capable of? I’d love to hear them.

Being a dad is hard!

As you must know by now we are moving most likely to Orlando sometime in January.  As we are trying to get the boys excited about this move they occasionally will exclaim they don’t want to move.  This is very saddening for me to hear this.  I just want to make it all go away.  I don’t like watching my boys suffer.  It is just hard.  It is breaks my heart to watch him suffer because of the way that life is working out.

I imagine this must be how God feels about us.  When he looks down and sees the difficulty that we have in our life because of the sin in the world, it must break his heart.  He must ache for us every minute of every day.  Some of the struggles that we face are of our own design and some are not.  Either way, they must hurt him.  I find as a father one of life’s worst things is to watch my children suffer.  I think that being a father has done more to grow me in my knowledge and understanding of God than anything else.

Sometimes the best road for us is the one that is the hardest to follow.  When we lack certainty we must trust God.  Why does God allow suffering?  I don’t know, but I bet some part of the answer to that is to allow us to trust him more than we trust ourselves.  If we are in control, then he is not.

Who is in control of your life?