Monthly Archives: November 2011
A few months ago I made a choice I never thought I would make. I decided to stop chewing my finger nails. I have done it my entire life, as long as I can remember. I have heard for years about how dirty of a habit it is, how unhealthy it is, yada yada, blah, blah… I never cared.
So what made me care? What suddenly made me decide to change? I saw my son chewing his finger nails.
This experience has reminded me of two very important things that I already know but easily forget.
1. Any lasting life change starts with a heart change
Whether it is a bad habit, an addiction, losing weight, finances, or Spiritual commitment if a change is going to last your heart must change first. Right now, I am really tempted to chew my finger nails. The first few weeks were easy, but now the only thing keeping me from going back is my inner motivation of being a good example for my son. The same is true with bigger more important changes too. If your heart or outlook hasn’t changed, neither will your behavior for very long.
2. Everyone follows what they see before what they hear
My son heard all the same reasons I did about why not to chew your fingernails, my wife and his mom said it a lot to me. But seeing me do it anyway is what gave him the green light to ignore everything he heard. Integrity does matter. A lot. I do not want to hear financial advice from someone who is bankrupt.
The implications of these two things are huge for youth ministry. Like I said, you probably already knew these, but are you living up to them? Did you need to be reminded like I did? How are you living these out in your ministry?
I realize that I need to be teaching more on heart issues than behavior issues. I realize that before I teach anything I better be living it out myself. It just reminds me, once again, how important 1 Corinthians 11:1 truly is.
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
I have blogged on this verse before, if you want check out that post
I have not posted any “rants” on this blog. I figure you all probably don’t really care that much about the things that make me mad or upset. But I am about to break the no rant streak with this post.
I just returned from Walmart. It is 10pm Thanksgiving night. My wife and I walked into the store, fought our way through the crowds for a few minutes, then turned around and went home. I am completely disgusted with the society I live in.
A new precedent has been made with this “black Friday”, because it isn’t on Friday anymore, it is on Thursday night. Several stores have decided to infringe on the Thanksgiving holiday to grab a slightly bigger piece of the black Friday profits. Not only does this decision make the employees of these stores lose their holiday, but it will undoubtedly keep crazed shoppers up the entire night fighting for deals. There have been news reports of people camped out for literally days to be the first to get the next new video game system or flat panel T.V.
Are we all really so greedy and so materialistic that we will sacrifice a nights sleep, even weeks of our life sitting in the cold to save a few hundred dollars on the next new gadget that we won’t even care about by February?
As I walked through Walmart tonight, it completely breaks my heart to think how many of these people are trying to buy love from their kids and families. How many of them are going to charge their three carts full of stuff on credit cards and still be paying on it when next year’s black Friday deals are tempting them. How people can be so dedicated to stuff that is so meaningless and empty in the end.
My wife and I decided it was not worth waiting in line all night to save $20 on the few items we had planned to buy. Thanks to Dave Ramsey and the Financial Peace plan, we have our cash ready to buy presents. And we can pay the extra $20 for those things, have a great nights sleep tonight, and probably still have some left over to give away like we did last year.
I think the thing that bothers me the most is I don’t see an end to this trend. Thanksgiving is NOT about turkey and family and football anymore. It is now about greed, materialism, and buying happiness. Someone posted on Facebook earlier today “Anyone else find it ironic that Americans spend the most money the day after they give thanks for what they already have?!” Yes, yes I do. But I don’t think they even pause long enough to actually give thanks.
I know what I am praying about tonight…
The reason why this is number one is because it is the one that fills me up the most. This is something that is not easily attained in our society and in my current phase of life, at least not for more than a few minutes in a row. There is always some interruption or pressing need that hinders any solitude. When I can get it, this time is usually filled with meditating on scripture, prayer, and journaling. I do a regular “quiet time” most days, which does include all three of these, but it is normally only a ten minute part of my morning routine and does not qualify as solitude. It does help me to “top off” my emotional and spiritual tank, but when I am on empty I need a few hours, not a few minutes.
I am not, and have never been a “reader”. Reading is not enjoyable for me, the phrase “pleasure reading” is an oxymoron in my book. However, I do love to learn. I quickly realized while in college, if I am going to learn I need to read. I like reading blogs because I can read and learn in quick and small doses, and if I want I can react or comment to the author instantly (which is sometimes a good or a bad thing). Since I don’t read books on a regular basis, when I do it is very refreshing.
I think this is somewhat of a guy thing, but I love to play. This is one of the reasons I love living in Idaho because the outdoor recreation is close and abundant. I am definitely one of the people that come home from an ideal vacation more physically exhausted than when I left. Staying in a hotel is not my idea of relaxing. I would rather sleep on our boat so I can literally step out of my sleeping bag and directly into my wakeboard.
This is something I have just started doing in the past few years. As God has continued to mold me and use me in different ways I felt like writing was something He wanted me to do. I can say the publishing side of writing is NOT refreshing or fulfilling for me, in fact it has proven so far to be quite frustrating. But the actual process of writing does indeed fill me up, whether anyone actually reads what I write or not.
5. Spend time in community
One of the most refreshing things I can do as a youth worker is hang out with other youth workers. Whether it is a local NNYM meeting, a national conference like SYMC or NYWC, or online through social media I love connecting with other youth workers.
One of the most refreshing things I can do for myself is to hang with my wife, my kids, my extended family, family friends, or even a good conversation with the random person that gets stuck next to me on an airplane. No agenda, nothing to accomplish or create, but just time together.
As I look over this list, I realize that every single one of them have to be done intentionally. If I don’t purposefully schedule it, set it as a goal, or focus on it none of these five things would ever happen. My daily life always has other things that are more pressing or more urgent, and if I let it happen these things will get pushed to the bottom of my priority list.
The other thing I notice is how they directly counteract the things on my empty list. It is almost like God knew what he was doing when he made me….huh, how about that! This week while I am away, I am purposefully pursuing all five of these things.
I challenge you to take a few moments in the next few days, and write out your empty list and full list. Obviously yours will probably be different than mine, but I am sure it will be just as valuable for you as it has been for me.
I am on vacation this week since my wife and boys are out of school the entire week for Thanksgiving. We drove to my in-laws house yesterday and I can honestly say I have been looking forward to this week for a while.
That is a really big statement for me to make since I normally do not enjoy going toYakima,WA. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife’s family and enjoy time with them. But my idea of “relax” usually needs to include our boat, or my golf clubs, or riding something that goes really fast, or riding a chair lift over and over; Yakima has none of these things to offer in late November and not a lot of people to do it with.
This week, I can honestly say I am thankful that no plans include any of those things. My last several weeks have been completely insane. From all the stuff involved in buying a new house, and all the stuff involved in renting the old house, and moving our stuff from one house to the other. Then add on one of the most frustrating days of my life plus all of the regular stuff that goes with having a young family and being a youth pastor I can say that I have been running on empty.
Doug Fields wrote a book a few years back titled Refuel, and in that book he describes some signs he sees in his life when he is approaching empty. When those signs start to appear it is time to take a time out, go to God, and be refueled. Here are a few of the signs in my life that show I am on empty.
1. I get frustrated easily.
My personality thrives on success. I don’t like to do things that don’t matter or don’t make a difference, and I expect to succeed quickly. If I don’t, I get frustrated and want give up. When I am near empty I reach frustration a lot more quickly. I have been frustrated a lot lately.
2. I lack motivation.
When I get exhausted, whether physically or mentally or Spiritually, I just want to be lazy. I am not normally a lazy person, I love to go and do and talk and create. The only time I want to sit around and watch TV or waste a whole day doing nothing is when I am approaching empty.
3. I get hard on my boys.
My boys are 7, 5, and 3. They are typical boys; they are loud, do annoying things, make a lot of messes, fight with each other, have fun doing most anything, and turn everything into a weapon. I love the fact that our house is the way it is. But when I am empty I find myself more annoyed at their short attention spans, how slow they do stuff, and basically start disciplining them for being kids.
4. I cheat on relationships.
I love meeting new people and involving others in my life. I love talking through life issues and discussing things from someone else’s point of view. When I am empty I tend to lose the relating side of me and walk over people that get in the way or just use people to aid in my success. This is a weakness in my personality type that I am well aware of, and if I have ever done it to you I am sorry. When I am empty I catch myself doing it more and all my relationships turn strictly business.
There are probably more that I could add to my “empty list”, but these are definitely my top four. As you can see, each one feeds the others, so when I am near empty it effects everything I do. It is really hard for me to stop, even when I know I need to.
What things are on your empty list? If you haven’t ever thought about it you need to. If you don’t know then ask your spouse or kids or coworkers, they most likely do know what yours are…!
This week I am intentionally doing things to fill myself up. My next post will be my list of things that fill me up, I like this list a lot better!
I came across this quote the other day, and it has made me think a lot since.
“Programs don’t change people, God does.” (Maximum Faith, Barna, pg. 190)
It has made me think a lot because a good chunk of my week is spent on making programs happen. We made some major changes to our youth ministry this fall, and over half of them were about our programs. I realize how much the success of your youth ministry is tied to our programs, not just by me but by most people in our church as well.
This quote also is a shock to my own ego, because it reminds me that the change I desire to see in students I have no control over. I can work hard and convince (or beg) students to change their behavior, but I can’t make them fall in love with God. The hard truth that we sometimes forget as youth workers, or even as Christians, is that I can’t save anyone. It has to be between them and God.
Jesus defines salvation for us in John 17:3 when he says “now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
I can do everything in my power to introduce them to God. I can encourage them. I can lead by example and let them see my love for God. I can use programs as a tool or an aid in all this. But ultimately I can’t make them fall in love with God. The change they need in their life I can’t do for them, only God can.
I have to be reminded from time to time of this truth. If I am doing everything God has asked me to do as a youth worker, then the ultimate “success” of this youth ministry is outside my control. If I am not reminded of this, then I tend to carry too much of the burden, and focus more on the “success” I can control instead of the success God wants.
How have you defined success? Do you and God agree? What burden are you carrying that was never yours to carry?
Yesterday was one of the most frustrating, confusing, humbling, slap you in the face over and over again kind of days I think I have ever had. It was not any one thing that made it that way, but a long list of things all pilled on top of each other.
I will not give you the list, since most of them would require a lot of back story and others I am still trying to understand exactly what it is about. But I wanted to share this with you because I am willing to bet that you have had a day or two like I had yesterday. Maybe one of those days is just around the corner for you. No matter when it comes remember this verse:
John 16:33 (NLT) 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
As my day ended late last night, working in our old house by myself, I was faced with a choice. I could either stay in my “victim mentality” or I could give it all up to God, believe the words Jesus said in this verse, and find peace about everything that had happened. Typing it out like that to you now, it seems like a pretty easy decision. But I have to be honest with you, I am still struggling to truthfully choose that and live it out.
“Many trials and sorrows” defined my day yesterday, but I do believe 100% what Jesus says; He has overcome the world, I know He loves me no matter what, and I so deeply desire the peace in Him he promises.
As I have been continuing to think about this series of posts, I want to conclude these by looking at scripture so me, and you, will not be focused on me or my ideas, but on God.
I in no way have meant to imply that if you don’t cry that you aren’t a real man. My hope for both you and me is that we will be exactly what God created us to be. If that includes crying, then no need to hide it. If it doesn’t, then don’t fake it.
To wrap up this series, I want you to read some of God’s opinion of what a real man is really like. I focused on 3 identities that are pretty common for most men: God’s child, a husband, and a father. I feel like I have not even scratched the surface of what God has to say. Please read through these verses, and feel free to add the ones that I didn’t.
Mark 10:6-8 (NIV) 6 ”But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’7 ’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Ephesians 5:31-32 (NIV) 31 ”For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
1 Peter 3:7 (NIV) 7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Ephesians 5:21-28 (NIV) 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Colossians 3:19 (NIV) 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Colossians 3:21 (NIV) 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20, 7:1-5 (NIV) 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Proverbs 19:18 (NIV) 18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to their death.
Proverbs 23:13 (NIV) 13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. 14 Punish them with the rod and save them from death.
Hebrews 12:7-11 (NIV) 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
2 Corinthians 5:16-20 (NIV) 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
As I continue my thoughts about this topic, I have to say that most of my life I have felt embarrassed when I cry. In fact, I have been putting off writing this post for days partly because of that embarrassment. Yet, as I think about what makes me cry I should feel honored, not embarrassed.
I cried when I was baptized.
I cried at my wedding.
I cried at the birth of all three of my boys.
I cried at my ordination service.
I have always said “the only 2 things that make me cry is my family and when God works.” As I think back to all the times I have cried (like the times listed above) and the times I have not cried (like when I felt the most intense physical pain of my life after my bike wreck) that statement really is true. My struggle and embarrassment about being a crier comes with how our world defines “a man.” The traditional world view is that men don’t cry, or feel emotions, or ever say I love you. A friend and speaker recently said “if your wife knows you will die for her submission is not a problem.” This statement really made me think, and truthfully challenged me. I tell my wife I love her every day, but does she know I will fight for her, even die for her and our boys? I hope she does because I would.
I disagree with the traditional world view of manhood.
I think real men cry about the right things. I think real men love their wives and kids so much they will die for them and actually tell them that. I think real men lead by example. I think real men invite accountability. I think real men find a balance between discipline and love. I think real men are strong enough to be the Spiritual leaders of their households. I think real men work hard, play hard, and love even harder.
I love it when I see other guys striving to be real men. This past week I had a former student from our youth ministry, who is now married, call and ask to use me as an accountability partner in the X3 program he was putting on his computer. He was nervous and embarrassed, but I am proud of him for stepping up. I was also proud to tell him I have the same accountability software on my computer, and have my report emailed to my wife so she never questions my online activity.
If you need help with online accountability go here and get the free program from XXX Church.
Are you a real man? Are you striving to be one like I am? I hope so because our world seems to be short on them. From my own boys, to the guys in my youth ministry and church, they need to see a lot of good examples of real men. So do the guys in your world. Whether you are a crier or not, you can be a real man with God’s help and grace.