Monday, April 28, 2014

Tattoo decisions

I have been asked many times if I would ever get a tattoo. The answer is always the same: "absolutely not". This is a decision that has already been made, many years ago and the answer is never going to change. There are decisions in my life that have been made that will sustain forever. Then there are decisions that have evolved and changed - or could evolve and change. I think it is important to know where an issue lies - is it a tattooing decision or a what to have for dinner decision?

I will never get a tattoo. 
I will always love Kelly as my wife. 
I will always follow Christ. 

I might eat at Long John Silvers (not likely though).
I might eat sashimi some day. 
I might start drinking diet pop. 
I might mow my yard some day. 

I might do those things, but today I would say no. Some decisions are decisions that can evolve with a person - others are permanent and will not change. 

How people come to permanent decisions that will never change is heavily influenced by the culture you grow up in. Sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. I will never get a tattoo. I didn't grow up around people who were passionate about tattoos and I had a fair amount of people in my life that I trusted that were opposed to all tattoos. This combination probably led to my permanent decision. The same is true of my following Christ. 

I am not sure, but I would say my commitment to Kelly stems from seeing both what a committed marriage looks like in comparison to what a marriage that ends looks like. 

Sometimes we are so affected by the results of other's decisions that it permanently causes us to choose a certain direction. The people we respect and trust can have a profound influence on the rest of your life. I know that Andrew is watching me and how I respond to things whether that be my fear of spiders or how I treat my wife - my actions and decisions have a profound influence on the rest of his life whether either of us realize it or not. 

What decisions will not change?
What are you modeling for those who are influenced by you?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Who do you really love?

If you know me, you have probably heard me say it before: "Florida is the trifecta of things I hate." When you put sand, sun and water in the same place; I am not interested at all. 

I don't think people really like sand. A lot of people view a sandy beach as relaxation and vacation. If this is you, maybe you should throw a couple cups of sand in your bed tonight to help you relax a little? The truth is that people like what sand represents - not what it is. Maybe it represents a good family vacation memory or your honeymoon to Hawaii? For me all the good memories I have that involve sand also involve a volleyball - but I would never say that sand all over my body making me itch was a wonderful memory. The sand was there - but it wasn't the thing I enjoyed. 

The sun is the worst. Kelly and I argue about the sun's existence. She claims life could not exist on our planet without it and I argue that God could find a way. She generally replies buy saying: "do you really want to bring God into this? He created the sun and said it was good." She has a point. The sun burns me, makes me sweat and blinds me when I drive - I hate it. I think most people like the results of the sun, not actually the sun. The sun gives us light, warmth and allows cucumber plants to make cucumbers. Those are all great things - but the negatives of the sun are still negatives. I like some of what the sun gives me, but I don't actually like the sun. 

Water. I can't tread water. This is the first time I have admitted this so publicly, but it is true. Everyone and their mother has tried to teach me and I have always worked hard at it but it just isn't going to happen. I can swim from one side of a pool to the other, but if I stop halfway and can't touch the bottom I am done for. Water isn't fun to me, it makes it hard for me to breathe. If I have my chest below water I start to get very claustrophobic and short on breath. I just hate it. Now, I like that water helps me get clean, nourishes my body and cools me down on hot days. I like what water gives me, but I don't like water. I wish I could have all those things without having to deal with water. 

Isn't that us sometimes - we like the benefits of things, but we don't actually like the things. Are we like that in our relationships? Do you love your wife, or do you just love the benefits of your wife? Do you love your dad, or do you just love the benefits of your dad? Do you just love what people do for you, or do you love people? 

I think the easiest example I have of simply loving a person is my daughter. Bristol is 6 months old and is super needy and never helps out around the house. I can't name one thing she has ever done for me - but I love her! This is the truest form of love; loving when there is no benefit from it. The bible in John 15:13 talks about there not being a greater love than laying down your life for a friend and I believe that the reason this love is so strong is because you have nothing to gain, only your life to lose. 

Do you really love people? 
Do you really love your family?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

No regrets.

"You only regret the things you didn't do." This is the wisdom of the crazy. For everything you didn't do, there is something you did. If you regret one, you regret them both. 

"I regret not taking physics in high school. Which means I also regret taking so many music classes."

If it is true that to regret what you didn't do this means you have to also regret what you did. Maybe you don't regret as much as you think?

Life is filled with choices, many times they are choices between two good things. A choice between two good things should never inspire regret because then you are regretting the good thing you chose. 

I don't regret not having kids younger in life, because I wouldn't have had as much time to grow close to Kelly. Regret is a powerful thing. It requires you to admit that you wish you didn't have what you have (even if it is a memory) and you wish you had something else. 

So how do we do it? How do we choose between two competing good paths? 

First: you pick one. 
Second: always look for the benefit. 
Third: never be afraid to change when there is a better offer. 

Pick one:
I know, we should pray and seek God's direction for things and let him guide our life. Seriously though, maybe he brought us multiple good options that are great - just pick one. The beginning of a successful life is littered with making choices. Some good and some bad - but it is the ability to choose and move forward that allows you to be successful. 

Look for the benefit:
Every experience in life can benefit you, but you need to find the benefit. Sometimes that benefit is hard to see at first - but we need to keep out eyes searching for it. Benefits come in a variety of forms. Sometimes the benefit of a business deal is finding out that you can't trust someone. We may feel like that is negative, but knowing you can't trust someone helps you to stay away in the future with bigger business deals. Let learning and growing in knowledge be a benefit and you will never find a situation in life that doesn't have an upside. 

Never be afraid to change:
Change sometimes requires you to admit you were wrong - not changing requires you to admit you are right (whether you are or not). What is worse, being wrong but not admitting it or being right and admitting you were once wrong. Arrogance and pride don't make you more "right" - they just make you more stupid. Never be afraid to redirect life to a better path - it means admitting you don't have it all figured out but it also means you are one step closer to figuring it out. 

Change doesn't require regret. Some feel a natural motivation to regret everything they did prior to their current "thing". Just because you want something better doesn't mean that what you have isn't good. Don't regret the good in your life out of a false assumption that "if there is better, I must have failed." Change that comes your way in life is often inspired by figuring out you want better. We should always be thankful for the things that inspire us to better things. 

What do you think? 
Do you regret things you haven't done? 
Does this mean you do regret what you did instead of it?
What changes in life are you considering right now?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gambling and trusting.

I am making a major mistake. I have written something that is entirely too long for a blog post - but it is legitimately a good piece - so I am posting it hoping you make it to the end. I use gambling as an illustration to look at some principles involved in developing good trust-relationships. Sometimes trust-relationships feel like a gamble - right?I hope you enjoy the read!

I think inside of me is a gambler. Although I rarely walk through the doors of a casino and to this day have no idea how to find a bookie (not that I want to), inside of me in a gambler. I love the thrill of knowing when I don’t know. That is what gambling really is, thinking you know and being right. I think the thrill of gambling is the possibility that you could be as smart as you want to be. You want to be right and you choose to set yourself up for a reward if you really are as smart as you hoped. I have sat down at a few blackjack tables in my life and I generally walk away having paid out more money than I received. However blackjack is a game that can be won by an individual, the game is based upon odds, and odds can be understood and when understood can be predicted fairly accurately. When an experienced (maybe even professional) blackjack player sits down at a table they take into account all the variables that will produce odds, and then they predict how the odds will play out. They know how many decks of cards are at the dealers disposal, how many of each card in in each deck, how many cards will be dealt per hand (this is something that is always changing, but can be observed), and they know what cards they have and half the number of the other players. This is a lot of information. This is really revealing to them the character of the game. On a basic level if you see a lot of face cards (or have seen in previous hands) the likelihood of a non-face card becomes stronger and vice-versa. This information lets the player make a decision that is based on the character of the game and generally that decision can be pretty accurate. When a professional blackjack player loses, they generally know they will before the hand is ever over. With blackjack you can lose even when you have all the information. To a professional it is like watching a baseball game again that you taped... you know that the ball is going to be hit in the gap, but you can not move the man into position, because you are just watching it play out. 

This gambling illustration has some obvious flaws to it, but at the same time sheds light onto our issue of trust. When we look at someone’s character or something’s character, we can predict what will happen in the future. The better you get at recognizing character the better you get at “betting” on trust relationships. You start to hone your skills in choosing people to trust and through that you develop better relationships and steer clear of ones that will destroy you. But how do we get better at this? How do we hone our trust relationship skills? Well in blackjack there are three things that help you hone those skills 1. Learning the math, 2. practicing observation and 3. choosing the right table. I think all three of these things can be applied to trust relationships as well.

1. Learning The Math
In Blackjack a normal casino shue has 6 decks of 52 cards (312 total), 96 of those cards are worth 10 (these are the “easy cards”), 24 of the cards are worth 11/1 (these are the “power cards”). Then there are 24 cards that are worth each of the values 2-9. Understanding how the deck is set up is the single most important fundamental in blackjack. Since the objective of blackjack is to get the closest to 21 as possible without going over, knowing how they add up together is also important. Really in blackjack a 3rd grader could do the math. But learning it is a priority to the game. Sometimes we think we understand it only to find out that we thought to quickly and our King, Ten and 2 is a bust. Learning the math of Blackjack is crucial.

Learning the math of trust relationships is equally important to us in life. We need to understand what plus what equals what. By the time you graduate High School and go into the adult world or into college, you pretty much know yourself. That is information you know, Other people however, you don’t know everything about them. In comparing them to a blackjack deck you need to identify how many cards of each are in the deck. Only then can you understand a person’s character and create an appropriate trust relationship with them. When you learn that a person is easily offended, gossips when given the opportunity and has a poor relationship with their siblings. This gives you needed information; this allows you to understand whom you are dealing with. You know the cards you are playing with, and through that knowledge you start to create the appropriate trust relationship with that person. You also start to understand what about yourself plus them adds to success. A successful businessperson would call this “understanding your people assets, both beneficial and destructive”. Knowing whom you are dealing with is vital in trust relationships. I think this is misstep number one when people develop trust relationships, if you don’t understand the cards you are playing with and how they add up, you are in for a bad night at the tables of trust.

2. Practicing Observation
A good blackjack player does more watching than they do playing. Observation is key if you want to succeed at Blackjack. Even if you know the aspects of the decks: how many cards and what they are worth, you still need to observe how those cards are being used. You see as hands go on, cards are discarded. So observing which cards have been discarded and which cards are currently on the table is very important. You get to know the character of the deck by knowing what is still left. In most circles this is called “counting cards”. Which is exactly what every good blackjack player does (some better than others). At the heart of being successful in blackjack is the ability to “count cards”. Although this is frowned on by casinos and often times will get you removed from a game, this is truly what blackjack is all about... the only way to be a winner time and time again at blackjack is by being able to keep up and process the cards you observe.

In trust relationships you need to observe as well. Before you jump into a hand, standing by the table and watching how the cards fall for a while is always a good idea. Seeing how someone reacts to hard-times, stress, success, etc will give you a wonderful look at their character and tell you whether that is a good relationship to be a part of. Observation is something that is safest done from a distance with nothing at stake. But sometimes you have to be a part of the game already to really observe it. Blackjack players sometimes post small bets they know they will lose just to observe cards, this is all a part of the observation process. Sometimes for us in relationships we have to place small amounts of trust in people, even if the math tells us they will fail us, just to observe how it will all go down. Having a trust relationship fail you is not the worst thing, not knowing it is going to fail you or not knowing how it will fail you - that is the worst. Observe, observe, and observe... you can never watch too much. My father always told me to succeed you need to learn and to learn you need to listen and to listen you need to shut up. That is the same with trust relationships, if you want to succeed you need to learn and to learn you need to observe and to observe sometimes you need to not be in a relationship and sometimes you need to not have too much at stake in it (small bets you don’t mind losing).

3. Choosing the right table
There is a lot to look for when you are looking for the right blackjack game to join, some would say the table selection helps you decide how much you will win or lose. At a normal casino most blackjack players don’t know what they are doing, they may know the math... but are probably not observing or applying anything. They are simply relying on their “luck” that day. That causes problems for those who know what they are doing. So as a blackjack player walks around the floor of the casino they are looking for a table of people that generally know what they are doing, or are at least consistent. For a gambler, consistency is success, if they can find consistency they can generally find a way to come out ahead. However, when faced with erratic players that throw money around and take too many or not enough cards inconsistently, the game for the seasoned player becomes harder.

Again, I think there is something we can apply to our trust relationships here. Finding people who are consistent is going to help us to develop better and stronger trust relationships. People who are consistent can be read and observed better than those who are inconsistent. As stake holders in a relationship we need to build them with others who are going to be consistently trustworthy (or untrustworthy). Oddly enough, consistently untrustworthy is better than randomly untrustworthy. This may sound a bit strange, but it makes since. If someone is consistently untrustworthy then you can trust them, you can bet on that! You can trust that they will continually let you down. I actually think it is pretty healthy to have people in your life that will let you down. If you are building a business this may not be true, but I think in life let-downs help us to develop ourselves. Regardless of whether you agree with me on that, wouldn’t you rather know what you are getting into when you are dealing with people than being surprised every time with a new response to your trust?

I think, hands down, these three elements are the essentials for building trust relationships. Without taking into account who the person is, how they react, and their ability to be consistent I think you are doomed for failed trust-relationships. What do you think? 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Oh yeah... It is Good Friday.

I have been asked (twice) why my blog hasn't been focused on passion week this week. That is a good question, to which I will provide an honest answer: "because I haven't been focused on it."

What is in front of us, the "urgent", often times trumps the "important" in our lives. This is definitely true in our minds. When our minds are being used to tackle the urgent stuff in our family and at work - it is hard to remember to spend time focusing on the truly important. It is now Friday and instead of my scheduled post (that I set up a week ago) I have slowed down and made the decision to focus on the important. My mind is wired to assume that urgent things are burning to the ground around me as I focus in on the important - but in reality they aren't. (If you are a fireman they might be burning to the ground so understand this isn't meant literally.) They are being neglected, but they should be; they aren't as important!

Our lives only have so much time. This is true of every day and our entire life span on earth. How we spend this "blink" shows God and others what we value and what we deem important. Jesus spent about 33 years on earth (me too) and during most of it he spent time studying and teaching about mankind, his father and how they interacted. He spent about 10% of that time explaining who He was and who we were to be. Jesus came to the end of his life focused on the important even though it meant many things would go undone. He knew what he should be passionate about and he embraced it - even to death. Jesus had something important to do: rescue mankind from their separation from God. He was focused and would not be distracted by urgent things such as: drinking water, breathing, NOT bleeding to death, etc.  Jesus chose the important over the urgent, even when it cost Him His life. 

Good Friday is good because Jesus focused on the important job of rescuing humanity. That is good for us. This should inspire us to make Good Friday good as well by focusing on the important job we have been given. Jesus summed up our calling in two statements: love God and love others. He said everything that God has communicated about how we should live is built upon that. So what is important in your life today? What would you die for?

How can you love God with your time and energy this weekend?

How can you love others with your time and energy this weekend?

What urgent stuff do you need to let "burn to the ground" so that you are free to focus on the important?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Love your work!

Sitting on the edge of a huge event is exhilarating. The build up that is created through all the planning, preparing - sacrificing energy and time - is leading to the moment you are about to experience. This nervousness, mixed with weariness, has quite an impact on your life. It is as if this event will legitimize your existence as a person. 

Graduation, wedding, birth of a child, speaking at "that conference", release of the first single from the album, electronic prerelease of your new book, moving day, your child's first standardized test scores... These things are exhilarating when you are on the edge of them. The anticipation thrills us. 

Then, it happens. You breathe in deep because of the pride of finishing and presenting to the world the product of your tireless work. You just shared with the world something of huge value to you. This is huge for your life and you acknowledge that. 

If we could stop at that point and evaluate our life we would get an accurate picture - but we can't. We step through the event and no longer find pride and accomplishment based on our hard work, but instead by the words that others use to evaluate our product. 

"Congrats - do you have a job lined up yet?"

"This is when the hardwork begins."

"The song is good, but hopefully the second single will really grab the audience."

"That was pretty good, do you have any other events coming up?"

"Sometimes it takes a few days for people to know it is available."

Ugh. The letdown. Even when you hit it out of the park - people are only interested in what is next. All your work is spent and now you have to do it again. Where is the celebration? Where is the reward? Isn't the work done now? When do I get to rest in the "fruit of my labor"?

What happened? "When I was doing that last evaluation to make sure I was looking at a successful finish it felt so right. When I was in the middle of it I knew this was great."

If you only love the praise, if you only work for the few minutes of reward, you will find disappointment setting in quickly. However, if you work because you love the work and you don't allow the reward to tell you that what you have invested in is valuable the disappointment will vanish. 

...that college degree is valuable because of your hard work - not because it is a college degree. 

...that song you wrote is great because your work was great - not because it is just a great song. 

...speaking at that conference was an accomplishment because of the work you put in to get there - not because you are there. 

Let your work be the validation for your work. Reward in this life is fleeting - it feels good, but it dissappears. Success does not rest on the shoulders of reward; success rests on the shoulders of work. Successful people do not require the validation of others, but instead, the validation of themselves. 

What can you work at that you love?
What work would you do despite the potential reward?
Is there some kind of work that you feel you could never have too much of?

Winning and quitting.

I never won much as a kid. When it comes to participation ribbons, I have them in spades. There are really only a few things I have ever done exceptionally well at - and even those things didn't win me any trophies. 

The biggest reason I don't have a closet full of football trophies is because I am not genetically set up to be a football player, but a close second is that I was a quitter when it came to football. As early as third grade I realized that I like watching people play football - but I don't like people hitting me. If I had only stuck it out I would be down at the local hardware store right now telling stories about how I almost got a scholarship to play at some D3 school somewhere. My lack of baseball trophies, however, is a different story. I was not only genetically set up for baseball, I had a father who helped nurture me in the sport. I was not lacking for instruction and early on I had a real love for the game. I was quite good. So what happened? I am glad I don't have a "torn ACL at just the wrong time" story - although that would garner more respect. No, no injuries. I just quit putting in the time. Instead, Jr. high brought a new love of music into my life and I began to coast by with the natural ability for baseball that I had. As other kids honed their baseball skills, I let mine become lazy and "just enough". Just enough doesn't get you a spot with the Red Sox (or the Nashville Sounds). 

I can think of 3 or 4 examples from my life just like baseball. I suffer from a common issue in the United States called: "Jack of all trades, master of none". How does this happen? How did I wake up one morning with nothing I am exceptional at? It happened because I woke up every morning choosing to be less than exceptional at things. 

Paul tells us that if we want to win the race we need to "press on to the goal"(Philippians 3) and "discipline" ourselves ( 1 Corinthians 9). Winning happens at a low level because of natural ability. When you are competing against a bunch of beginners, natural ability is your best friend. When you are competing against a bunch of "seasoned pros" you better have disciplined yourself - otherwise defeat is inevitable. 

I love seeing Andrew succeed, but I also secretly hope for some failure. I hope he gets discouraged against baseball, football, and basketball. I am not a horrible dad, I just happen to realize my kid is more of a mathlete than he is an athlete (I blame Kelly...). I hope he doesn't waste his best "disciplining" years on the wrong thing (or too many things). It is fine to be both a geek and a jock - however, it generally isn't a realistic long term possibility. When you are spread thin, it is hard to run deep. My hope for Andrew is that he finds one or two things that he can "run deep" in. My job as his parent is to help him discipline himself to win the race, but I believe it is also my job to help him realize the race God has set out before him. 

As parents we shouldn't force our kids towards our passions - but let us not spread them too thin either by parading too many things in front of them. They say "winners never quit", which is true as long as they don't quit the things they are good at. Make no mistake, winners do quit! They quit the things that they aren't successful at so they can spend more time focusing on where they are a winner. 

So what is a parent to do?

1. Pray that God will show you and your children the passions and desires he has for their lives. 
2. Don't let your kids quit on their passions that they "press towards" and succeed at. 
3. Help your kids quit at the things they don't "press towards" and succeed at. ("Try, try again" is great advice if you are passionate and are actually trying!)
4. Celebrate accomplishments - all accomplishments. If kids fall in love with succeeding - they will find something to succeed at. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

The hard work of home.

The hard work of home. 

I love coming home. As someone who travels for 80% of my work the return home is a retreat - for sure. I know that when I am walking through the Nashville airport I am only an hour and a half from being with my kids and wife. Even just the thought energizes me at the end of a work trip. I pull into my driveway, park my truck and step out into my yard. It never fails that I pause in that moment and thank God for what I have been given and what this work I do help provides. I pause because although I am thrilled to be back home where I recharge - I also know what awaits me on the other side of the door. What is there? More work. Work I enjoy, but it is still hard work.

Checking back into my life at home used to be very challenging and, depending on how long the trip is, it still can be. Home is hard work. I have closer relationships with my "coworkers" at home and a couple of them even rely on me for their existence. I have a "coworker" who covers for me when I am away and she deserves a break when I make it back. Sometimes I feel like I work two jobs: work-work and then home-work. Both have people to please, deadlines, goals and dreams. I don't want to fail at either of them, but I am so tired from both. Why am I choosing to do things that are hard and tire me out? I would be lying if I said I have never thought: "life might have been easier if I was a bachelor with no kids living in a studio apartment." Honestly - it would be easier; so much easier.

If you are married with kids you know I am right - it would be easier. In comparison though, easier sucks. Let's talk about easy things:

It is easy to eat at McDonalds
It is easy to watch TV all day
It is easy to work a job you are too good for
It is easy to skip church on Sunday
It is easy to have superficial relationships

Easy sucks.

Now, let's talk about hard things:

It is hard to work a job that challenges you
It is hard to acquire wealth
It is hard to maintain a lifelong committed relationship
It is hard to give up sleep to build a relationship with your child
It is hard to be involved in your child's education
It is hard to instill good values in the lives of your kids
It is hard to save for the future

Hard is awesome.

I tell my son all the time that he can do BIG things, he should be brave in life, if he wants to be happy he needs to be good and his hard work results in reward. These things are not easy at all - but they are awesome.

Let home be hard work. It is hard to have honest conversations about dreams, desires and feelings - but marriages are stronger when you do. It is hard to make time to build your relationship with your son - but there is more joy in life if you do. It is hard to give up watching football to instead watch your daughter's dance recital - but you won't regret it when you do.

It isn't natural for us to choose hard over easy, it is a habit that takes time to form. It is a habit worth building though.

What is one thing that you know would be better if you worked a little harder at it?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The death of mentorship.

The death of mentorship. 

I feel like I woke up one day and I no longer had mentors. I am not sure how it happened, but it did. No longer do I have any older man in my life that I regularly look to for guidance and consult  on hard issues that I face. What happened?

I was lucky to have a father that I lived with all the way until I was 18 years old. Having an older man in my life that was interested in my future was a huge blessing. My dad wanted me to make good decisions and he was there to give guidance when it was needed. I also had a relationship with a youth pastor that always encouraged me to choose God's best for my life and protect my integrity. I would say that these two men (and a few others) had a remarkable influence in my life that helped me to mature into the man I am today.

Something strange happened around age 23-24 though. All of a sudden I no longer had older men speaking into my life. What happened?

Titus chapter two talks directly to the idea of older men and women pouring into the lives of younger men and women. In the church it is a responsibility of older men to help guide and support younger men as they mature and love their families. The same is true for women. Are we doing this as a church? It is easy to talk about how churches fall short of the bar set in scripture - but it is sometimes hard to take personal responsibility for it. If the church is failing - people are failing. So, who is responsible for making sure there are mentor relationships active in the local church?

I suggest that if we want to solve this problem we need to have the older generations of Christian men and women find younger believers to mentor. If this is you let me give you a few pointers as you step up to the role of mentor:
  • Don't mentor someone who doesn't want a mentor. Futile. 
  • This doesn't have to be formal - just pour into the lives of the younger generation. 
  • Mentoring is not focused on "fixing" problems, it is focused on encouraging good choices. 
Another thing we need to help solve this problem younger Christians seeking out older mentors. If you find yourself without an older mentor - do something to fix that. Here are a few ideas as you seek out a mentor:
  • Mentors don't have to be perfect, they just have to be good encouragers. 
  • A mentor is not a boss. If you want a boss to tell you what to do with your life, join the military. 
  • Having a mentor doesn't mean you aren't a mentor yourself. Everyone should be focused on helping and encouraging a younger person in the faith. 

Who can you mentor?
Who can mentor you?
Are you willing to allow yourself to be influenced by someone else?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Relationships are a crutch.

Relationships are a crutch!

I was always the guy at the school dances that was just hanging out, I went  bowling but never threw a ball, I went to the mall but never bought anything, swung by the pool party but never got in - I have always been interested in being around people. Engaging in banter and discussion is one of my favorite things, I don’t even care what the subject is, or who you are. I want to be around you more than I want to be by myself. 

Not everyone is as extreme as I am, but God created us for relationship and because of that we all have a deep desire to have community. Whether a little community here and there, or even being around community but being left alone to spectate. We have a built in need to be in community. This need comes from God, he created us to want Him, and to want other people. The church is the way that God intends us to live out this need we have for community - with both Him and others. 

It is a pretty common idea that people seek out religion (or church) as a crutch for life, as if they need something to get them through the day. I have found that churches sometimes take offense to that, thinking that it makes their relationship with God less. Honestly though - the church is a crutch and as needed as a physical crutch is to a boy with a busted knee so is our need for a relationship with God (and each other.) People have a need for something greater than themselves. Christians understand that this need is for a savior, but many find help for that need in other (insufficient) ways. 

Why is this a weakness? This is like saying: "you need to eat food, what a weakness. You need to breathe? Man it must be hard for you to be so needy!" That is ridiculous! We have a need for community with God and other people and it is a good thing to crave it! How we fill that need is the important thing to focus on. Spending time with God's word and with other Christians is where we need to start. This has to be intentional though - there are too many distractions to authentic relationships with both God and others. Television, laziness, books, this blog... We have plenty of things that we can invest our time in that don't foster real relationships and community. It is a good idea to intentionally set aside time every day for relationships. Carve out time for your relationship with God (prayer and bible study), your relationship with spouse and kids and also some friendships that know you and your family. 

Consider some intentional "real talk" with your spouse every day: share the ups and downs of the day and then talk about a dream for the future that you both share. Listen and talk. 

Try to spend time with your kids doing something they want to do and then something you want them to do. We help develop habits in our kids by what we do with them. Let them know that you are interested in what interests them but also encourage them to good new habits and activities. 

Your family needs friends. If you are a two-parent and two-kid family search out friends that are similar in make up. Single moms need other single moms, young couples need other young couples. Developing honest relationships with others in the same place as you is very important. 

What relationships in your life help "prop you up" when you need the help?
Do you need to adjust your life to intentionally add in more community with other Christians?
How can you be intentional this week with building a better community around you and your family?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Remarkable Kids: Family Friday!

Remarkable Kids.

To change things up a little I am planning on posting something more personal that focuses on my family specifically on Fridays. Family Friday!

One of the things that I am most proud of right now is my son. Andrew is 5 years old and he is KILLING IT! Andrew started Kindergarten this year at 4 years old and I was very worried that we were starting him too early. School faculty said he would be great, tests said we should start him and he said he was ready. I agreed but was very worried. My fears have been proven unfounded and it is further proof that children this age can rise when challenged and encouraged. I am so proud of him. 

Andrew also joined coach pitch baseball this year and again I am worried that he just isn't big enough for this. All his friends are playing and after one practice I know it will be tough for him - but he is very interested so I have to believe it will be fine. 

Andrew also has been working with bible drill at church this winter and the season is coming to an end - he is incredible! He has committed to memory about 15 new verses and has learned the references of four new key teachings that are in the bible. I am so happy for him. I can tell that he loves knowing more about the bible and it makes me happy to know that he shares a passion for God's word like I do. 

Isn't it true that we can inspire our kids, challenge them to work hard, help them set high expectations and then watch them exceed them? Andrew is special to me - but all children are remarkable and can be successful. So how am I going to encourage Bristol the same way? How will you encourage and challenge your kids?

What is one passion you would love to pass on to your child?
What are 2-3 ways you can pass this passion to them?
How can you encourage your child this week to work hard to be successful at a passion that is beneficial for their life?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

No Way Out!

No Way Out!

Family, ugh. (I was going to leave the post at this – but since my audience consists mostly of my family I thought that would be dangerous for my readership numbers.)

Continuing my mini-series on relationships I want to again focus on God creating the first eternal relationships. The idea of mankind being eternal from the outset!

The greatest part of the creation story involves two new eternal beings named Adam and Eve. Created male and Female and one for the other relationship drove the creation of these two. First, a creation in God’s image  and then a creation to accompany the original. The creation story is almost immediately followed by the story of the fall of man into sin (or out of relationship with God). In truth we don’t know exactly how long Adam and Eve experienced the benefit of relationship with God in the Garden – however the opinions of this range from minutes to years.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter, humans were created to be eternal, and that is just what Adam and Eve were. Come to think of it, that is what we are now. You see, from the outset of creation, humans have been eternal. At no time were humans any less or more than eternal. We don’t have a great grasp on what it means to be eternal, but to be honest I have a hard time imagining 65 years old too! We do understand that we are not physically eternal because of sin (although we were originally created that way) – it seems that we retain being spiritually eternal though.

To rephrase it another way, when we were created, there was no way out for us. We exist, whether in this body or not, and nothing we can do can change that. We are, and we always will be. God is eternal, and he then created man in his image. We need to come to grips with the eternal nature of our existence because only then can we truly focus on the relationship we have with God. It is hard for us because we had a beginning so, naturally we want an end.

When we come to grips with our relationship with God going beyond the physical limitation of time it should bring us to the point where we value it higher. Our relationship with God (good or bad) is never ending. We don’t get to opt out. God’s creation will always be judged and evaluated based on the relationship between Him and it. The good thing is that God offers to make us into a new creation when the old one has lost respect and love for God. This new creation we are made into is like when a potter reforms clay from one thing to another. The new creation is still the eternal material God started with, it is now just in a new glorious form that can again be in good relationship with Him.

When you think about the eternal nature of man, how does that settle with you?
Do things have to change in your life if you understand that you will exist forever?
What are the questions that come up as a result of being eternal?

How is the new creation a better creation? Can mankind fail again as a new creation?