Silent Too Long

Silent Too Long

i’ve been silent too long.

i’ve had a lot to say but i’ve been waiting for the perfect words. i’ve drafted the posts, reworked the wording again and again and again and again. and then i’ve deleted those posts time and time again before tapping “send”.

there’s a lot of reasons for that, but i’m coming to realize they’re all pretty much rooted in pride and selfishness.

i don’t want to be polarized. i don’t want to be misunderstood. i don’t want people to get the wrong idea. i don’t want them to think bad of me. i don’t want to be disliked and rejected.

and it seems that anything that is said these days within the race conversation does all of that and more, the minute you start engaging.

but no more.

no more!

shush

the legitimate hurt facing my friends and brothers and sisters in the black community is grievous to me. and what i now realize is that my silence has actually been speaking for me. my silence has put me in a camp. and it’s not the camp i want to be in.

like at the republican national convention last night.

trump walked out to queen’s song (without permission), giving the perception that the band was part of team trump.

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not so, and they were (rightfully) pissed.

by simply doing nothing and saying nothing, i have said something.

and i’m no longer ok with that.

to those in the black community who are hurting and grieving right now, i want you to know that i am hurting and grieving with you. i want you to know that i recognize that you live with a reality i personally have never had to face in my lifetime. and i want you to know that you do not stand alone right now.
i want you to know that i do not believe we need to just get back to normal, as one politician recently said. normal got us to where we are today. we need to create and carve out and slug out a new normal.

a new normal that gets us all honest about prejudice and preference.

a new normal that attacks and dismantles the implicit racial bias we all experience, whether we know it or not.

a new normal that allows us the freedom to converse without being polarized.

a new normal that somehow brings us to true equality and freedom, the mutual respect and dignity that all humans have been given by their creator.

a new normal that genuinely celebrates and embraces the many different cultures within our communities.

i’m sorry for the silence.

no more.

#blacklivesmatter

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Today We Groan

the world we walk and the air we breathe today is not what was intended. this was not the reality God envisioned for us when he created this place. we groan from the depths of our being for the day when all things will be restored, when all tears will be wiped away, all injustice and all oppression silenced.

today we groan

i consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 

for the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

for the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 

we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 

not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 

for in this hope we were saved. but hope that is seen is no hope at all. who hopes for what they already have? 

but if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

 

He’s A Good, Good Father

this past june, due to the generosity of others, shanna and i had the opportunity to head to puerto rico for a week to celebrate our 10th anniversary. for those of us who live in the polar vortex that is the northeastern US, this was a significant upgrade!

for months prior to the trip shanna had been praying we’d get a specific room at the resort we stayed at. we had booked the cheapest room/package, and it was all set… so i honestly couldn’t understand why she was praying for this at all.

but she prayed nonetheless. and she prayed for the room next to the ocean, with the jacuzzi tub, and all the extras.

might as well go for it.

when we landed in PR and checked into the resort, i could see her nervously fidgeting as the receptionist rang us up. then, sure enough, the person helping us told us they had space and had decided to upgrade our room to an ocean-side suite, with the jacuzzi tub, and all the extras.

shanna just smiled and walked towards our room.

this may sound like a small thing, but for a pastor often jaded because i’m sometimes too close to the work of God in the lives of others… this was a profound and very special moment i won’t forget.

i believe the God of heaven intervened to give us a message i had long lost sight of:

he’s a good, good father who loves to give good, good gifts to his children.

“which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? if you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (matthew 7:9-11)

here’s why this kind of a truth is hard for me to sometimes accept:

we live in an extraordinarily, unbelievably, broken world.

we all are well-aware of our own brokenness. and we can just turn on the news to see the rest of humanity’s brokenness. however, on top of that, i often get to see the brokenness that doesn’t make the news. i have wrestling matches with God where i peg him with questions wondering why the h*** he didn’t step in and keep something horrible from happening? or why a newborn baby had to pass away at 2 weeks old to that family? or why so many dear and close to me struggle with relentless hurts, pain, and temptations with no promise of relief this side of heaven. i interact and engage with a level of brokenness every week that most of the world tries to ignore or sweep under the rug.

many times i wonder why God doesn’t just end it all, if in fact he truly is a good, good father.

it’s like a friend of mine recently stated after describing a situation illustrating an acute example of our brokenness:

“all i could do was lament that christ has not come back to heal all this already.”

fast-forward to this week.

this song has been playing in our home all week in the background.

there was nobody in the house wednesday morning when it first came on, and this song turned my busy morning into an impromptu worship session for me. tears flooded my eyes and i couldn’t get them to stop.

to my friends reading: you may not be there yet, and i want you to know that that is ok. though i’m here right now, i may not be here next week either.

today i believe he’s a good, good father. there is a coming a day when he will make all things right. and we hope for that day. we expect it to occur. and we groan for it.

“i consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. for the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:18-23)

so right now, we groan. but we groan with hope.

he’s a good, good father.

Lead With Grace Before Articulating Truth

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

I heard a talk this morning that so resonated with a lot of my thinking and feeling lately on many issues facing our culture. You can check it out here.
In the talk, Michael Lindsay quoted Timothy George (Dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University), as follows:

“John is such a careful writer that the order of those words [grace and truth] really mattered. I believe that Jesus’ ministry was one in which people came to encounter the GRACE of Christ before they could appreciate the TRUTH he had to offer.”

Wow.

One of the things that burns me up inside is this idea that we in the Christian community have to run towards the brokenness in our culture and shout the truth that we have personally come to realize, without first adequately communicating grace. We have burned many bridges in this process over the years. Bridges of ministry that no longer exist with many individuals, people, families, and entire communities.

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If we want to make a difference in this world, we need to learn to lead with grace before articulating truth.

Discipline Demonstrates Love

i felt this article on discipline (disciplining your kids) was especially helpful. here’s a portion of it; head here for the rest!

At some level, most parents fear the possibility that using discipline with their kids might drive them away. Yet the reality is that discipline is needed, and (for most kids) it works.

Many kids aren’t mature enough to realize that if their parents don’t ground them; if they don’t attach consequences to actions that are outside the established boundaries, their parents are not acting in love toward them.

Healthy discipline is a sign that parents love their children. Let’s think about God for a moment. The Scriptures tell us that He disciplines us because He loves us: “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” –Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT) This passage in Proverbs ties God’s discipline to the human discipline a parent provides to his or her child, and this is how we know that discipline (provided in a healthy way) is a demonstration of love.

I believe the healthiest and most effective way to discipline teenagers is to set up consequences for violating boundaries ahead of time. When consequences are set ahead of time, you set up the dynamic where it’s not you versus your child, but rather you and your child versus the consequences. continue reading…

The One Thing I (Almost) Always Pray For Each Night

with 2 kids under age 4, every evening is an ordeal getting the packages securely into bed. we would love to be the parents with always-consistent-routines and self-discipline that never allows for deviations, but those kinds of nights rarely happen for us. most nights, shanna and i look at each other and without words say “i don’t care how you do it, just get this one into bed, and get them into bed quick.” to be honest, many nights we feel like a struggling high school football team just trying to get something on the scoreboard… it doesn’t have to be pretty, just get the ball across the goal line.

whether they brushed their teeth or not, whether i remembered to change his diaper or get her in pajamas, whether they got  2 songs and a story or neither… i try really hard to be consistent with one thing: i try to always pray in front of them before they go to sleep.

the prayer changes from day to day. often we thank God for something we got to experience during the day, or someone we got to share some time with. we sometimes pray for the people we plan to interact with tomorrow, and we even include knock-knock jokes from time to time to see if Jesus will laugh. most everything we pray about changes from one night to the next, but there’s one thing that almost always stays the same. 

with rare exceptions, i pray every night that my kids grow up walking closely with Jesus.

Watch-and-pray

here’s what i know: as parents, we all have dreams for our kids.

and none of them are bad…

  • we want them to be successful,
  • and athletic,
  • and musical,
  • and good looking,
  • with good people skills,
  • and a hard work-ethic.
  • we want them to have just enough self-esteem,
  • but not too much arrogance.
  • we want them to have good jobs,
  • have good friends,
  • be good friends,
  • have a sense of humor,
  • get good grades,
  • go to a good college,
  • and go there with a full scholarship.
  • we want them to not be interested in dating until they’re 30,
  • and eventually marry the right person (that we select ourselves),
  • avoiding every form of pain and hardship,
  • and be self-sufficient enough to support us in our later years.

but to me, the most important thing – more important than anything on the list above – is simply that they get to a point where they understand that life only makes sense through an authentic relationship with Jesus, and that that relationship isn’t the side show in their life, or the thing they do on the weekend, but that it is the life-blood of everything they are.

maybe it’s because pastor’s kids get it rough, and many times come out the other end jaded by the church. and maybe i’m paranoid that my own kids will someday interpret what i do for a living as a job rather than a calling. but i just want them to know the Jesus i know, not because they “inherited” this faith or because they want to please their parents, but because they honestly searched it out themselves and came to the same conclusion that i did one day.

there are many things down the road that will affect this dream, for better or for worse, and more of it is out of my control than i’d like to admit. but i can pray about it. and i can pray about it every night.

4 Thoughts on Balancing Work and Family

a perfect balance between work and family: the ideal we’re all longing to someday experience, while secretly questioning if it’s even attainable. some say it’s a myth… and, while i’m not sure i’d go that far yet, i do think we at least have a goal to shoot for.

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here are 4 thoughts on balancing work and family that i hope can add value to the discussion.

1. we have an opportunity to lead up here.

balancing work and family is generally not something senior leaders are great at. they’re fantastic at setting the bar in so many other areas, but this is usually not one of the strong ones. if you’re in any role in your organization other than the top dog, this is likely one of your best opportunities to lead up and set the example. over the course of time, as your colleagues become more fatigued and burnt out, you’ll seem refreshed and renewed on a continual basis. the change will be evident, and your influence will be noticed.

2. busyness doesn’t mean success; busyness means brokenness.

why are our to do lists always so full? why do we always have to bring our kids 4 different places in the same night? why do we rarely eat dinner together at the table anymore? why do we have to make that presentation not just adequate, but over the top? why do we feel we can’t leave the office when we promised we would? why can we not give ourselves a day off from the gym every now and then?

when we honestly dig into these questions, i think what we end up uncovering is often pretty dark. it’s incredible how much insecurity drives our behaviors and actions. we try to prove our value and worth by our achievements and accomplishments.

this is brokenness.

the nice thing about brokenness, though, is that someone else came to fix it. jesus came to give us worth and value. we don’t have to keep trying to earn it.

3. God calls those who won’t work “lazy”, but those who won’t rest “disobedient“.

thank you, perry noble, for this line.

how soon we forget that the sabbath (a 24 hour period of intentional rest, every 7 days) was one of the 10 commandments. it seems pretty significant to be included in God’s top 10 list. if you think of it, there’s a lot of details to consider when putting up parameters on human interaction, and yet God made sure this was one of them.

if we truly observed this ancient practice of sabbath, i think this discussion on balance wouldn’t come up quite so much.

4. it takes strong accountability to keep a temporary season from becoming a permanent situation.

we all have busy seasons where our engines have to hit some higher rpm’s than normal. the problem comes when the season turns into something longer. do we have people who regularly hold us accountable as we try to phase out of a series of red-lining weeks?

the perfect balance between work and family may not ever be truly found and perfectly sustained, but we can move towards it and stay closer in it with some intentionality.

what else would you add to this list?

Pastors and Depression

Perry Noble had all the markings of success—one of the largest and fastest growing churches in America and a great family—but as his inner world crumbled, he ending up feeling like he wanted to kill himself.

He tells an amazing story of how he overcame anxiety and depression to keep leading.

the above was taken from carey nieuwhof’s blog as he introduced an interview he ran on his brand new podcast. shanna and i listened to this together the other night and it gripped us from start to finish. i actually had a stack of copies of the mp3 burned onto cd’s and am giving them out to everyone around me.

if you’re a pastor, you’re gonna wanna hear this. 

you might not be struggling with depression right now, but your day is probably coming. don’t let your pride fool you into thinking you’re invincible.

grab the podcast here.

here’s some quotes from the interview I pulled from carey’s blog:

“People in the church will praise you for working yourself to death…until you’re in your coffin.”

“Leaders develop really unhealthy patterns and we call it leadership.”

“I wanted God to deliver me from depression. Instead, he delivered me through it.”

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Why I Haven’t Blogged For 3 Months

it certainly has been a while!

here’s why…

1. our little man
the transition from a family of 3 to a family of 4 has been a little more intense than we thought. mini-coop (cooper) is now almost 9 months old and so much fun to be around. we are fortunate beyond comprehension to be able to parent him, and wouldn’t trade it for the world. his laugh is contagious when he really gets going. here’s some pics…

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2. job transition
right now i have one foot in student ministry at my church and one foot in adult ministry. i have been leading the search for lakeshore’s next youth pastor for a while now, and the plan is to have him in place before i fully transition to discipleship pastor. it has been a tiring process, but one filled with many God-moments and growth steps (for me and for the church).

3. small groups launch
the “one foot in adult ministry” is all related to small groups, and we’ve been working hard to get everything launched for this ministry year. i am beyond excited about the 34 new groups that have launched within the last few weeks, and the ones getting ready to launch later in the year. the leaders of each are top notch and committed to doing life with their group for the next year. if you have yet to join a group, you should check it out!

Think You’re Called To Ministry?

i absolutely love the fact that i get to serve the church and be in ministry. there are many joys and exciting moments as you see God work as only he can.  when you see a person recognize the power of the cross for the first time, or when you see someone take a clear step towards closer intimacy with God… wow! it gets me fired up every morning.
but there’s another side to the story as well.
  • ministry is hard.
  • in fact, somedays it’s downright maddening.
  • many days you want to throw the towel in and call it quits.

 

in light of this i’ve heard pastor vince give the following advice a number of times.  i think it’s both profound and simple, and certainly worth sharing today.

 

if you’re thinking of going into ministry.  think again.  in fact, if you can think of ANYTHING else to do for a career, you should do it.

but…

if after thinking of anything else, you can’t come up with anything else, you should totally go into ministry.*