Month: February 2014

Hurried

The dishes stood stacked to the right of the sink. Plan of attack; wash with scalding hot water and soap, then place the dishes on a mat to dry. This activity involves speed to move on to the next task or assignment. Do we really need to dry the dishes? They can dry on their own and we can put them away later. I started my normal quick and efficient plan of attack until a question stopped me…28529_3190The question went something like this, “Why are you hurrying right now?” There was not a task following the dishes. I had the time to wash each piece thoroughly, dry them, and put them back in their correct location.

The idea of hurry starts at a young age. Many of us cleaned our rooms by simply pushing our toys in the closet. We played sports with timers and tried the full court press to overcome the scoring deficit. Five minutes until the bell rang at the end of class and our bags were packed while the teacher finished the lesson.

Somewhere along the way, we bought into the lie of hurry. It can come from obvious reasons like poor planning, surprises, or detours. Often though, these do not factor in our hurriedness, because we rush activities with no next task in site. Just get it done becomes our motto.

Brother Lawrence wrote the classic Practicing the Presence of God. He viewed menial tasks as an opportunity to converse with God and show love. One of his best lines says, “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.” 

The hurried life rushes tasks and leaves the unfinished work for others. Hurriedness wraps up conversations with people before they are ready to share what’s on their mind. Hurrying rarely stops to hear the voice of God in the midst of the silence.

I don’t think we totally eradicate hurriedness from our lives. We can learn wisdom in patience. Stopping in the middle of our day and asking, “Why the hurry?” Remaining in conversation with people without cutting them off. Thoroughly finishing tasks. Not rushing the 15-20 minutes of unscheduled time. Because these are the moments when we experience God at work and express love for others.

For me this practice came from doing the dishes. What one task can you complete without hurrying? 

Busy – A Message to the Weary and Worn Out

Jeff Martin, blogger and friend, asked me, “Peter, how are you?” The standard reply, “I’m doing well, but very busy.” I will never forget the day Jeff responded differently. He said, “Can you think of something else to say? Most people say their busy.” His comment literally changed the way I answered that question.699110_59043426

If you Google the phrase “stop saying you’re busy,” you will find a slew of articles. Along the way, we equated this response to productivity. The busier our lives sound then the more people will respect us, we will like ourselves, or perhaps God will be more pleased. At least for myself, I came to believe a lie; people want what I can do for them rather than wanting me.

This past weekend my wife Robyn and mother in-law Kathy spoke at a conference on the topic of busyness. They referenced Psalm 90:12, “Teach me to number my days so we might gain a heart of wisdom.” Pursuing busyness has become a cry for meaning and significance. This verse profoundly causes us to not only prioritize what truly matters, but asks for a heart of wisdom to know what to pursue as priorities.

At the conference, they referenced a quote by Peter Kreft which says:

We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We wanted to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hole in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it.” (Christianity for Modern Pagans, 168).

The antidote to busyness comes from understanding our need for God’s grace. Following Christ means recapturing the life He intended us to live. Creation in Genesis speaks of a seventh day of rest. We were meant to live a life of rhythm consisting of work, leisure, rest, planning, and reflection. In my struggle with busyness, I have come to ask these questions:

What/who has motivated my busyness?

Does the pace of my life reflect the pace God intended for me?

Am I planning my schedule well?

Do people leave conversations with me rushed or feeling heard?

In some way, all of us struggle with busyness. The message for those of us weary and worn out; the message of the Gospel never equates our worth to busyness. God gives us grace and wisdom to live a life of meaning with Him as the source.

You may want to check out Kevin DeYoung’s book Crazy Busy.

How do you combat your busyness?

4 Ways Life Changes When You Marry a Therapist

One year ago today, I boarded a plane to San Diego, CA. My wife Robyn was visiting family and I had hoped to surprise her with the big question. She had known about the surprise beforehand, because I had inadvertently shown her text about the surprise visit. Needless to say, she said yes and we have been married for almost four months.319470_571051167951_161979655_n

Spouses have a unique influence on each other’s lives. In the past few months, I have attempted to see in my daily life how Robyn has influenced me. Therapists understand emotions and the implications behind the words. The skills of therapy translate visibly to everyday life. So these are my observations of what I have learned from Robyn, the therapist:

1. Asking Permission

The old saying, “I’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission,” goes out the window. I use to blatantly ask possibly difficult questions. Now because of Robyn, I find myself asking, “Would it be all right, if I asked you a hard question?” This action braces a person and then gives them the opportunity to share what they really think.

2. Stop Saying “Should”

If you Google this point, they have been studies on why the word “should” carries negative connotations. Robyn has reminded me that this word implies judgment. Most people use this word as a suggestion. It can come across as an indictment.

3. Guided Images

Robyn brought together an idea to the small group a few years ago. A guided image acts as a relaxation exercise. People close their eyes and imagine themselves in a scene to calm their nerves. Right now, think of a beach with waves going back and forth…

4. Restating Content

I find myself saying, “So what you are telling me is…” Restating the content brings parties of a conversation to understand each other. I have now picked this up when Robyn says this to me. We want to seek ways that people feel heard.

As we think of the people closest to us, it might be a good idea to see their influence in our lives. What ways has your life changed from your closest relationships?

Brave

“If God sends us on strong paths, we are provided strong shoes.” Words attributed to Corrie Ten Boom1025753_69628668

What comes to your mind when you hear the word brave? Pixar or Atlanta might come to your mind immediately. Some would point to a person who they perceive showed courage under duress. These types of stories draw inspiration for writing books or film.

Bravery can seem like a distant virtue from our everyday lives. Christians often communicate words like faith and trust which at times can sound passive. On the other hand, bravery receives negative connotations for focusing on human ability rather than reflecting a Christ-centered life.

Yesterday, I came across I Peter 5. This chapter sums up the whole book with the lasting exhortations to the community of faith. You can hear the invitation to faith by vs. 7 “Casting your anxieties on him…” At some point we need the invitation to cast our cares and the humility to recognize the work of Christ in our lives. Peter takes us deeper into a life with Christ which endures in the midst of challenges.

Vs. 10 makes this lasting statement, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

So then, what does Christ-centered bravery look like especially in the light of I Peter 5? More than merely a passive belief in the God of the universe, but living out of the motivation of His grace to endure.

The brave person who realizes Christ keeps the score, thus the courage not remain bitter.

The brave person who walks in the midst of turmoil while seeing that Christ Himself walks with them.

The brave person who sees past their complaints and refocuses their attention on the grateful acts of Christ in their lives.

The brave person who has walked the hard roads, because Christ has provided the hard shoes.

We see brave people follow Christ on an everyday basis. Most of all, we see that the bravery starts with Him and sent to strengthen and establish us. Perhaps, we are stronger than we think through His grace.

Who in your life has shown Christ-centered bravery?

3 Starting Points for Reading the Bible

I received my first personal Bible around the age of nine. Like many other children growing up attending church, I carted a blue hard covered Kid’s Life Application Study Bible to every service. Along the way, I started reading a chapter at a time. You could see the uneven underlining of verses and squiggly highlighter marks on the pages.

991902_98839418A friend and I have had the opportunity to develop and teach a class on reading the Bible. Many people experience apprehensions to studying the Scriptures. Questions arise like; Am I reading this right? Did I miss something in this passage? Where do I even start? Both skeptic and growing follower of Christ may understand relevancy of reading the Bible, but also will need direction on how read the Bible.

This process has brought me to ask the question, what do I wish I knew about studying the Bible when I started? Here were three points which have enhanced reading the Bible for me.

1. Think Big Picture 

Graeme Goldsworthy in According to Plan says, “The Gospel is the fixed point of reference of understanding the meaning of the whole range of biblical revelation.” The big picture of Scripture is the Gospel – the saving work of God for humanity through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Genesis to Revelation directs us to a congruent message. Dr. Daniel McNaughton, a professor from college, summed this up by saying, “God is the hero of biblical revelation.”

2. Read a Book in One Sitting

I started reading one chapter of the Bible a day. This practice gave me micro understanding of the text. When we take time to read a whole book in one sitting, then we have the opportunity to understand the flow of the whole book. Many books of the Bible were read aloud to the original audiences. Philippians, a letter from the Apostle Paul, develops with certain themes and ideas relating to his personal relationship with the church. Reading a book as a whole allows us to see the message unfold. You may want to start small and then move to longer books.

3. Study in Community

The term “quiet time” implies isolation. So the use of this term can equate to an inaccurate understanding of reading the Bible. Christian community gives us the opportunity to share what God has revealed to us in Scripture and to listen to others on the same journey. Hearing each other invites people to relate experiences. Community invites us to seek other resources and perspectives. We were never meant to read the Bible devoid of community.

These points have helped me read the Bible. What starting points have assisted you in reading the Bible?

When Going Back Looks Better…

Picture yourself as Moses. Though stuck in the wilderness, you have seen God part the Red Sea, lead through a pillar of fire at night, and daily send bread from the sky. The people you lead begin to cry, “We want to go back to Egypt!” They want to go back to the people who held them captive.1057598_34937544

This scene from Numbers 14 including God, Moses and the Israelite people looks all too familiar. We find ourselves in the wilderness of life saying to ourselves, “Going back to where we were looks so much better…” Just like the Israelite people wanting Egypt, we want to go back. Back to when things seemed easier or more comfortable. Back to our old way of living.

Our journey of following Christ will lead us to the wilderness. Those seasons we ask the questions of where are we going and why are we here? The issue of belief becomes central. Not merely that the situations will fix themselves, but the faith to trust the character of Christ in the midst of the wilderness.

To go back to where we were forgets to observe how far we have come. Growth in Christ can happen without us even knowing. He leads us from insecurity of ourselves to security in His grace. We move from a self-centered perspective to the perspective of seeing His work in our lives. Even more so, our stay in the wilderness becomes strength to others. Ultimately, this leads us to the question; does the way we live reflect what we believe about Christ?

I find myself coming back to This Road by Jars of Clay. The words of this song gives hope in wilderness and the reminder of Christ’s presence with us:

All heavy laden acquainted with sorrow
May Christ in our marrow, carry us home
From alabaster come blessings of laughter
A fragrance of passion and joy from the truth

Grant the unbroken tears ever flowing
From hearts of contrition only for You
May sin never hold true that love never broke through
For God’s mercy holds us and we are His own

This road that we travel, may it be the straight and narrow
God give us peace and grace from You, all the day
Shelter with fire, our voices we raise still higher
God give us peace and grace from You, all the day through

 

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