Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seasons change

For some, the unknown is a scary place and the future represents that place. Watching a cloud as it changes shapes because of the wind is simple enough and while it is a good example of change, clouds are something that most of us overlook. Clouds are something that weathermen worry about, not the rest of us. And yet, clouds are formed by, shaped by, changed by and ultimately destroyed by the winds that surround them. Interestingly, we cannot see the wind but it affects our world in a very real and tangible way every moment of every day. Similarly, there are individuals in your life right now that are having an impact on you and they may be someone you rarely or never see. And just like seasons, there are people who will come into your life for a short time and have a huge impact on the person you are.

The wind is an oft used metaphor in life and truly represents the changes in our lives we cannot see, especially the ones that take place over time. Imagine if it were up to you as to which way the winds blew. Your influence on life would be monumental but in some cases you would have to wait for years to see the impact of your influence. The effects of the wind can be seen in the centuries old eroding of cliff walls and in similar fashion, it can take many years for you to realize the impact you have, or had, on the life of someone. The same can be said about the impact on your life by others.

What does this mean to you specifically? Every day you are influenced by or influencing others. Think about the power of gossip, for instance. If you spread gossip or untruths about someone and it gets back to that person, your impact is felt even though you didn’t say it directly to them. Slowly, we begin to erode relationships, reputations and people. Our wind, so to speak, was not initially seen but the impact can be seen for a long time depending on the situation. If we thought about all of this the right way I am sure our perspectives would change, I am sure we would recognize how damaging our wind can be.

The wind is going to be an intimate and integral part of each day of each season and will continue to shape our natural landscape. Our relationships will continue to be affected by the wind we generate; a wind that we have complete control over. However, if we’re honest we know there is going to be some erosion, so to speak, in regards to certain relationships. This is not necessarily a bad thing as some things must end in order for new things to begin, not unlike spring, summer, fall or winter.

Seasons change, whether we like it or not. Time waits for no man is indeed the truth. Clouds roll by, the wind changes, the weather is different and yet it is the same. As the sun sets on another day we can look back and see the giants we laid down or can see them chasing us into tomorrow. Regardless, the next day comes and with it are challenges not unlike the ones we faced today. Each day a new and unique opportunity to rise or fall under the weight of what we encounter; each day marching us onward to new seasons.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Weed control

At some point in the near future, I am expecting to be able to climb the weeds in my back yard, preferably to a cloud home in the sky, where I’m hoping to find a golden goose. The theory seems perfectly sound given the hardiness of the weeds. I’ll keep you posted.

Every year, we fight the same battle with weeds and yard maintenance and every year I seem to promise myself that I won’t let it get as bad as the last time. And yet, every year I find myself staring down a back yard that more resembles a wild jungle landscape and less like the well manicured ideal I had in mind. Part of my dilemma has been my allergies to most of the weeds and I am fairly certain that this is God’s way of telling me to avoid yard work. Seriously, just thinking about it all makes me itch, and not in a good way. Achoo.

All around me are new neighbors. In the last year, a home builder has put up five new houses, thereby filling up our little street. Four of those houses were filled immediately with new owners and I’m sure when the fifth house is complete, it will have a new owner as well. All of this has meant the advent of new people to get to know which has been very exciting. However, all this newness has left me wondering if maybe I just need to rent a bobcat and rip out all the weeds and everything else and start over. At the very least I know I would enjoy driving the bobcat!

Weeds are such a pain to deal with, mainly because they seem to be so relentless. They come back month after month and never stop. My new neighbors appear to have a handle on the weeds since their yards have just been put in, so maybe I just need a new yard, which sounds easy and I want easy. However, maybe I’m supposed to let my weeds grow really tall and sell them. There seems to be a market for everything else these days, so why not weeds! Maybe in other countries, these aren’t even weeds at all, but precious plants revered by many. There’s a thought!

Seriously though, our dog is not allowed back there for very long for fear she won’t make it out alive. She has actually created little nests out of pockets of weeds and tunnels so she can navigate the space. My biggest fear is that the Loch Ness monster is going to appear in there somewhere and eat her whole and that would be unfortunate. For that reason, I’ve stopped going out there altogether. Of course, we can’t live like this for long; someone has to take a stand against these viscous killers. Maybe I’ll send my kids out there and pay them a few dollars each…that could work.

Meanwhile, I’ve assembled some climbing gear and a team of Sherpas. We plan to make a run at the summit in approximately two weeks if the weather holds. The Sherpas seem a little concerned though because of the lack of snow and the direct vertical nature of our ascent. I’ve assured them however that there is a golden egg at the top, awaiting each of them. I’ve also let them know that if they hang around base camp too long, the Loch Ness monster will surely eat them whole.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pouring on, pouring into

Once again I find myself wondering what to do, especially given the place I seem to be working into in leadership. As I ponder the last several weeks and the personal interactions I have had with several key people, I am left to believe I am where I’m supposed to be, but like Moses I am doubting my abilities. It would seem there are several men who are seeking me out for the sake of some sort of relationship. This is all something I prayed for in earnest several months ago and now that it is happening, I am troubled with finding time for anyone.

I suppose that I did not wander into this current state of mind with the intention of being too busy to pour into the lives of those around me, but none the less I am now shaking my head, proverbially of course, at how this life will leave you breathless if you let it. This position of leadership can be wrought with difficult moments and maintaining a strict schedule seems to be one of the more key components. Aside from scheduling, there is also personality management. Another way to say that is babysitting. Truthfully, it’s less of that, I suppose, and more of having to cater to multiple egos…all at the same time.

As I wade through the personality differences of those around me I have come to the conclusion that having an open ended schedule and broad shoulders are a big deal. In light of the fact that my schedule is nuts and from time to time my shoulders sag, I am also learning that patience, perseverance and persistence are attributes I cannot live without. It also helps to be realistic while at the same time being optimistic. This is tough to do when a lot of times you find yourself wanting to be pessimistic. Unfortunately, it is easy to be a pessimist in light of the schedule I often times try to keep. The trick is to minimize any downtime and keep my mind active, lest it wander.

For a while, I was staying up really late and then trying to get up at a decent hour, like six. My justification was my show of productivity at night after the kids went to bed. I would read, write, listen to music and read. For some time that worked well, but in the last couple of months my efficiencies have soured and I’m finding that my evenings are not nearly as productive as they used to be. Enter in a couple of early morning opportunities and suddenly I find myself refreshed with new ideas and a new outlook. Granted, getting up at four is not for everyone, but at this moment it is working for me. A subtle retraining of my bed time and I am loving the early morning meet ups with a couple of different guys.

Two days a week are not going to alter my entire perspective but it is certainly a welcome change. The most immediate shift in my thinking has been in the desire to start a men’s group, specifically one for guys that I know who appear to be singular in their day to day lives. What I mean by that is there are some men who seem to operate solo a lot and it is those men who I would love to seek out and create a level of support for. This is how God works too, in putting on my heart a core group of men who for whatever reason just need some other guys around them for support and accountability. I could easily claim I am too busy to tackle another endeavor but from my view, there are already too many people saying those exact words.

Pouring into someone has a weird sound to it and most people simply do not want to know what all is involved. Not because they couldn’t handle it but because they simply do not want to take the time necessary for such a thing to work. The days we live in are busy and everyone seems to not only get that but some even seem to celebrate it as if it were a badge of honor. Busyness is not, however, all that honorable and if we are not careful it will take away from the things that are actually the most important in our lives; namely the relationships we should be pouring into.

If you were to know how many days you had left to live, would you change anything? Probably, you would not only say yes but your behavior would shift immediately. For some, it might be an opportunity to check things off of a list of to-do’s prior to leaving this place. For others, there would be an imminent need to work on the relationships in their lives. The truth is we do indeed only have so many days left and those relationships need your attention right now, even the ones that you haven’t even created yet. Pouring into the life of someone near you is critical thinking; that is, it is not something to put off until tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Back stage pass

Most Sundays, I am an exceedingly privileged man, in that I get to lead a congregation into the throne room of God. Often, I have thought about what that looks like but never taken the time to write it out and explain it. The images in my head certainly could never do it justice, so perhaps my hesitancy to write about it has been that I didn’t want to lessen the impact by trying to explain something that seemed beyond words.

This morning seemed different to me and the images seemed more alive and real than anything I have envisioned in the past. For that reason, I decided to jot it down and tell you about it.

What struck me at first was this idea that while I may be a worship leader, there were thousands of other worship leaders all doing the same thing at the same time. That thought brought humility as I realized that God has entrusted me, as he has entrusted thousands of others, to lead His people into His presence. It’s not that I am any more special than anyone else; instead it’s that this is the role that God has designated me to do in the broader scope of His redemptive work here on earth. I am fulfilling a purpose set about for my life by the creator of the universe and the awesome thing is that I get to do this.

So, let me explain what I imagined as I thought about leading worship each week. Imagine, for a moment, a church building hundreds of times bigger than anything here on earth. This building has very tall, arched top, double doors all the way around it, exposing a sanctuary in the center and in the center of the sanctuary is God, seated on His throne, overseeing all He has made. Leading to the sanctuary are thousands of roads, coming from every direction. On every road, coming from every direction, there are little groups of people, all on their way to the very large church building. Every group is singing and even though the songs being sung are all different, every group is in harmony with the next.

Even though there were literally millions of people all making their way to this large building, and you would think there would be massive lines out the doors, instead there was plenty of room for everyone to come inside. In fact, there was enough room that the crowd could triple in size and there would still be extra space. Each person in each group seemed to have a designated place in this massive building, but instead of it feeling like a huge gymnasium, I remember feeling as if I was in an intimate setting, praising God with the songs we had brought. There were all these people and yet I felt so close to God and the amazing thing was that everyone was experiencing God on that same personal intimate level, but we were all together, as one.

Backing up a little bit, I remember that as we were on one of the roads, making our way to the house of God, an angel appeared next to me and gave me instructions for once we were inside. It was kind of like being in a parade and having the route director let you know where to turn and who to follow and where to stand and so forth. I remember the angel being super encouraging, letting us know we were almost there and to lift our voices to God with spirits of thanksgiving. The angel didn’t seemed concerned about the exact songs we were singing or which key we were in or why I was using a capo for my guitar or any of the trivial things we get hung up on. Instead, the angel sang along with us, harmonizing with us and everyone else as we praised God with everything we had.

And that’s when it really hit me. The bible talks about how we will take nothing with us into the next life and of course I believe that is meant to refer to earthly things. But we will indeed travel into eternity with our voices and I was struck with the power of God that when we at last come into His presence, we will have our voices with which to praise Him. In fact, it is all we will have but what a joy it will be to know that our God has given us a voice to praise Him with and we will get to use it everyday!

So there we were, all of us, walking and singing on our way to meet with God. We walked alongside angels and everyone was simply joyful. There was no anxiety or worry about how we sounded, or if the words were being projected properly up on the screen or if a note was played wrong somewhere by someone, or any such thing. Those concerns simply did not exist. Instead, everyone had a singular focus; everyone was unified as if there were one voice.

And in the midst of everything that was going on, I became aware that my position as the worship leader of my small group was more of a privilege than I could have ever imagined. I was being entrusted with leading this group to this place filled with such joy. For a moment I felt as if I had been given the greatest back stage pass ever, where I got to personally hang out with the headliner but even better than that, I got to invite every person I knew to be there too! This image became seared into my brain of me introducing all these people to God, the single greatest headliner ever and then, at the end, He shook my hand and all I could say was ‘thank you’.

God has been pruning and shaping me for some time now and for a long time, I wondered what for. For the past several years I have been praying in earnest for God to use me but more importantly, I have asked God to humble me because I knew I needed that to happen before I could ever truly serve Him, instead of serving myself. In the last year, God has laid out His plans for my life and in doing so He has shown me the humility with which I am to approach this calling.

My place is to serve others that they might discover the joy that comes with being in His presence. My place is to lead people into a meeting with a Holy God who desires to know each of us on a personal level. My place is to introduce others to the mighty God, whose grace covers all. And my place, on a daily basis, is to thank God because I get to do this.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Not so perfect

We're SO busy, working SO hard, trying to make everything SO perfect, we lose sight of the fact that nothing will ever be SO perfect and in fact, it is Jesus we need; the only perfect being ever.

A friend said something the other day that really made me stop and think. I made an initial note of it, relating to wanting everything SO perfect but not understanding that it can NEVER be that way until we go home to meet Jesus, then I sat down to hammer out this point.

Why then do we pine for perfection in this life when as Christians we are painfully aware of the imperfectness of this place? Are we simply trying to manage the time and space better? Are we simply trying to make things more tolerable? I wish that were the case but I truly believe that Christ followers have fallen victim to the idea of heaven on earth based on perceived ideals. If this is the case, it explains why people snap. And even prior to people losing it, so to speak, it explains why so many on this earth are living lives filled with frustration and angst, especially when discussing polarizing topics such as religion and politics.

I don't think this is a simple case of blaming the media or our society or prevailing thought or religion or politics. There really isn't one place to lay blame except possibly on ourselves. We have allowed ourselves to be duped into believing we can achieve some level of perfection if we would simply vote a certain way, buy a certain product, listen to a certain program, act a certain way, wear specific clothes, speak in a particular way or even become educated to a certain degree. This is all a hoax and a ruse and a lie and it cannot be achieved; not here.

Getting this out is having a profound effect on me and I am realizing that for so long I simply wanted people to see my point of view because if they did, they would become aligned with not only my way of thinking, but with what I perceived as right. It's more than simply offering up my opinion and expecting someone to accept it, it's believing that my opinion is more correct than theirs and will usher in a more perfect state of being in the world. Clearly, that rationale is inane, among other things.

Politics has provided the most recent examples of this type of insanity and we are all fools for believing that one side, or one point of view, can fix everything. This is the greatest scam of them all, indeed. However, religion has also provided us prime examples of this same methodology. For centuries, men and women (men especially) have gone so far as to go to war to espouse their opinions in regards to religion and those opinions vary from man to man, from city to city, from country to country and so on.  Are we really so crazy as to believe that we are going to usher in a more perfect state by going to war over whose God is better? Or killing in the name of "insert your opinion here"?

This is not to suggest we should not stand upon our principals, morals, ethics and laurels. It is important to be a principled man (or woman) in this life. However, it is also important to be rational and realistic and understand that even our principals are imperfect because everything in this place is imperfect. And yet, we impose our imperfections upon others by expecting them to be perfect, even though rationally we should know better. We somehow rationalize that perfection is not possible and even man's obsession with science can prove that and yet daily we seem bent on destruction over the idea that it is. Our relationships fall apart because of it and then we turn around and attempt to explain it all away by claiming that if only we had known more, or practiced harder, or worked more, or spent more time on, when in all truth what we all need to do is love more and give more grace.

Love and grace. On this planet, there are not any more perfect examples of perfection than these 2 things. This life will not be made better by their absence, instead it can only be made worse and we have mountains of data to prove it. And yet, even with such insurmountable evidence, we attempt to fill our lives with temporary substances and false hopes based on a place that we know for a fact is eventually going to go away. If this doesn't prove insanity, I don't know what does.

Skeptics might contend that while absolute perfection is unattainable, we can come close to perfection and therefore should be satisfied with that. I will tell you that you will never be satisfied with “almost perfect”. You will strive and push and chase after and ache for things to be just a little more perfect than they were the last time. This is a guarantee and can be seen in all facets of life from the way we vote to the way we drive.

Perfection is truly unattainable in this life. Because of that simple and yet profound truism, we must learn the fine art of grace and the distinct joy of love. Without them we will chase the wind and die trying to catch it in our vain pursuit of perfection.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Good evening sir.
I have not really stopped thinking about this topic, this one we have talked about in depth, this subject that seems to pervade nearly every area of our lives thanks to the media and all sides who appear to want it to become more than it probably should be.

I'm not saying I am sick of anyone or anything, but I have to wonder if all this volleying is doing any good or if it is just furthering the divide. The world seems bent on creating a chasm of us versus them and hiding inside their exceptionalism until Jesus comes back on the wings of an F-18, holding an American Flag and shooting RPG's at anyone sporting a rainbow sticker on their Mazda Miata.

You may have to pardon me for my excessive wit as I'm afraid that most of my compassion for those who call themselves Christian is waning. I suppose this was bound to happen given my strong liberal leanings and the fact that I was a liberal before I gave my heart to Jesus, but I am so tired; frankly.

In this day of communication and social connectivity for a wide range of platform broadcasting, how is it that there is so much hate? Oh wait, I know, let me answer that one...it's because the people who control the platform for broadcasting are full of hate and anyone who dares to stand up and speak love is labeled as a softy or a pacifist or worse....a Jesus freak.

Over the last few weeks, I have had the honor to sit and talk to quite a few people who have different views than mine and share with them about this topic. Our positions on a host of topics are all over the board but we all agreed on one thing: we are not doing anything to show the love of Christ in this matter, at least not to the extent that we could be. Furthermore, we are forgetting about a few simple tenets, so let me share them with you.

When did we become perfect? Seriously, think about that one for just a second and then remember what Jesus told us to pray. He prayed what is now commonly called the Lord's Prayer. In that prayer we pray to God to "Forgive us our debts". Remember that one? It's a good part of the prayer and we like it because we know that God forgave us our ultimate debt, the one we could never repay, the one we could never do anything about unless somebody did something for us. Our debt was sin and without the ultimate sacrifice, we would be eternally guilty with no way to ever pay back that debt. We should all be found guilty and forced to spend eternity separated from our creator but that wasn't the plan. God wants us to be with Him so He forgave us our debt.

Have you ever scratched your head on that one? I know I have because I know I am certainly not worthy of being saved. As the song goes, I was a wretch. But Jesus came, lived a sinless life, was crucified in our place and then rose again. This is the story of our lives too, not just the story of His.

That redemption story is for you and me.

That story is for everyone.

That story is for the gay man.

That story is for the lesbian woman.

That story is also for the murderer and the thief and the adulterer and so on. We've touched on the beauty of grace before but let me delve a little deeper this time. Bear with me. This is a story of redemption, to be sure, but this is also a story of perfection and of forgiveness of sins. This is even a story about justice...just not your brand of justice.

You see, in the world today we seek justice for those who commit wrongs. Those wrongs could be against society or they could simply be personal things, like having someone lie to you. They could be serious offenses like childhood abuse or a different kind of abuse, like watching your father cheat on your mother and then walk away from everything. In our world, we want justice to be served because somehow it will make us feel vindicated and give us closure and help us sleep better at night so we can say that the other person got what was coming to them and we can sit back and say "I told you so" and laugh.

We want people to hurt because we've been hurt. That's our brand of justice. And the reason we want justice so badly is because we have a problem and that problem can be traced back to the very beginning, to an apple, a garden, a snake and two people. Before that fateful bite, life was good. In fact, life was perfect. Let me repeat that, because it bears repeating....life was perfect. From the moment those teeth sank into the skin of that apple, we have been desperately trying to get that perfection back. We have tomes full of rules that have been written since nearly the dawn of time and those rules have always been for the sole purpose of keeping people in line, keeping the peace, honoring others, honoring God and if we would only keep all the rules, things would be....wait for it....perfect.

So far, that's not working out very well for us.

In fact, since that fateful bite, there hasn't been a perfect moment since. And yet, we strive for perfection daily. Our marketing gurus tell us to do so and our society says it's attainable and we teach and coach our kids in such a way that we expect it and when we go anywhere and do anything we demand it and ARE WE OUT OF OUR MINDS???!!!!

Let's get back to the Lord's Prayer. After the line where we pray to God to forgive us our debts, we then say "as we forgive our debtors". This is simply meant to say that we should pardon the debts of the people in our lives who owe us, because there is nothing that someone owes you that is anywhere near the debt that God pardoned for you. The trouble is that we have that pesky perfection problem, so anyone in our lives who isn't living up to that standard of perfection that we set becomes a failure in our eyes. This goes for anyone who owes you anything, including an apology. This goes for anyone in your life that you have deemed imperfect based on your standard of perfection. This goes for anyone who you want the swift arm of justice to come down on. The truth is, this goes for anyone you can think of, regardless of whether you know them or not, that you think deserves God's wrath and if it were up to you, a lightning bolt from heaven would simply smoke them out. Or maybe an RPG from a guy standing on the wing of a jet.

Did I mention I was tired? I'm not tired, I'm fired up; frankly. But getting fired up isn't going to solve much, it's just going to raise the anxiety in the room a little and with all these RPG's flying around, that might not be good.

Perfection is not going to happen. But you know what will (and can) happen? Forgiveness.

And that happens because of grace.

Not justice. Not your brand of justice, anyway.

In the world of forgiveness, we live day to day wanting grace but also wanting justice. We want to hurt people because we've been hurt and maybe if they apologize just right and make us feel all warm and squishy inside, we might offer them a little grace. But only maybe.

So we go on hurting others and calling it justice because in our heads, it's what people deserve. Grace becomes something we think we deserve and as we continually strive for perfection and demand even more from those around us, we want to be worthy of grace but in all reality, we want justice first.

And in this life, there's only room for one. Grace or justice. You can't have both. Not your kind of justice, anyway. You can't have perfection either. Not your kind of perfection, anyway.

But you can have grace. In fact, you've already been given grace, even though you don't deserve it.

The only thing left is to give it out.

Because trust me, justice and perfectionism and all this striving isn't working.


But grace will. Grace always works. And grace is what this world needs if we're going to compassionately address the gay community in love. If we're going to reach out a hand to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. If we're EVER going to accept the fact that perfection in this life is unattainable, but love and grace are in abundant supply at the foot of the cross.
My life is not mine, and yet it is mine to live for Him. Peace to you all.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Environment variables

Recently, I made an observation about myself that got me thinking. After more observation, which included watching others, I began to form a conclusion, at least so far as the initial observation is concerned. I think this behavior is key to understanding certain adaptive settings as well, but for now I am intrigued with what I have seen to this point.

Namely, I am talking about how some of us change behaviorally depending upon the setting, the people, the music, the sub-culture or the language. To understand this clearly, one must consider his or her own behavior from a certain base point. A base point for indicating behavior would be found by pinpointing where a person spends the majority of their time, or who a person spends a majority of their time with. For instance, in my case one could simply observe my behavior at home with my wife and kids. After a certain period of time, specific behavioral elements could be obtained. For some people, a workplace can also be an excellent spot to determine behavior, but not always.

Once a base point is established, regarding common (or expected) behavior, the next step is to watch someone in a setting that is not normal or is outside of routine. Some good examples would be a family reunion or any function that involves a setting and people that are not familiar from the base point. A company holiday dinner party or a professional meet and greet for business purposes where spouses are invited or a school reunion are just a few more examples. In any of these cases, it is common to observe individuals behaving differently than they would if they were in their daily routines.

Using myself as an example, I occasionally travel to spend time with my two brothers, my sister, their respective others and their kids (my niece and nephews), as well as my mother. From the moment our conversation begins, I am different. My speech patterns change, as does my vocabulary, even my demeanor. These are not subtle changes either, they are indeed quite noticeable. I use words, mannerisms, figures of speech and gestures that are not part of my typical daily routine. My desire for specific food and drink changes as well which ultimately leads me to feel as if I am on some distant planet every time I see them.

Determining if my actions are the result of a choice or if they are due to programming is something I wrestle with. Mostly, the way I react feels intrinsic so I am led to believe this is something I am hard wired with but I don’t like the idea of being unable to control these patterns so naturally I want this to be an act of choice so I can correct it. The trouble is that I have been travelling up there for many years and it has always been this way. Changing this is going to require a tremendous amount of focus on my part. I’m positive it can be done but then it leads me to wonder if anyone will notice, and if so, what will the reaction be?

I also believe that it may be possible to have had a base point at an earlier time, only to be replaced by a newer base point. In my case, I grew up and remained in the same area for 25 years and then moved away. For the last 18 years I have been living apart from my immediate family. To some degree, I have lived nearly 2 different lives. Initially I was surrounded by brothers, a sister and parents who all sounded, acted, thought, ate and lived the same. I was surrounded by similar speech patterns and behavior that was distinct to my family, introduced by parents who came by their own distinct personality traits from their own respective upbringings. There can be no doubt that even though I moved away, I maintained some piece, some part of me that was built, so to speak, by how I was raised.

After I moved, I became surrounded by new influences. Over the last 18 years I have been changed based on my surroundings and most certainly by my wife and 2 kids. The mannerisms I have today are a direct result of them as well as co-workers, friends and even acquaintances. Therefore, all of this makes for an interesting dynamic when I go back to where I am from and visit family. There is a bit of a clash at first, between my current personality and my old one, but before long I talk and act like I had never left. It feels uncanny, to be certain. I have begun to wonder if there will come a time, when after spending enough time in my new surroundings, I will not be affected by my travels.

Interestingly, even when I talk to my family on the phone, my voice and speech are influenced by what I hear. Consciously, I have been working on deliberately sounding like myself (which is very weird since it should be natural) and I am making some progress. The last few phone calls have been better and I believe that in time I will simply talk like I usually do and there won’t be any sliding towards what used to be. It’s the difference between that initial base point of behavior and speech patterns to my current base point that was established nearly 20 years ago.

Have you experienced anything like this? A tale of two lives perhaps, with distinctly different sets of personality traits, behaviors and speech patterns? I find it all very fascinating and wonder how a person could change their innate and early speech patterns and behaviors that would conflict with newer, more adopted patterns. Share with me if you have.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My dog, the cat

My dog thinks she’s part cat, and based on the amount of time she sleeps during the day, I’m inclined to believe it. Also, because of how much she sheds, year round, she is a terribly messy cat to boot. There is certainly some dog in her and of course, she does bark from time to time but this almost seems like a front or a diversion.

Many believe that a dog is man’s best friend and my first dog was certainly the embodiment of that phrase. I adored him and he was my buddy, always so excited to see me and always ready to please. Before he (Boo) passed away we acquired our current dog/cat, knowing full well that Boo was going to be gone soon. Our new dog (Scout) came with a few interesting warnings, such as she did not like women; at all. When I first met Scout, I was somewhat indifferent because of my attachment to Boo, but when my wife and daughter met Scout, it was love at first sight. And even though Scout was supposedly not that into women, she took to my wife and daughter from the word go. We adopted her the very next day after having met her at a downtown fair.

Oddly, Scout is not a “man’s best friend” kind of dog. She was, and still is, a dog who will follow my wife around incessantly as if my wife is holding the last dog treat; ever. I have tried repeatedly to win favor from Scout by taking her for walks (she usually makes it 1 block before ripping her head out of her collar and running home), playing with her (she becomes ultra submissive after a few minutes and usually pees on herself), being overly doting (typically, she makes a bee line for her bed and won’t come out unless I have food) and petting her nearly every chance I get (all she wants to do is lick my hand).

I suppose I was expecting too much from a dog. I had hoped that Scout might be a running buddy that would run with me whenever I went jogging. I tried it once. We actually made it 2 whole blocks before she stopped and looked at me as if to say, “you sir, are completely mad”. Scout also hates the water and refuses to go into a lake or the ocean. Bath time is tantamount to some wicked form of medieval torture. I may have also recently traumatized her by throwing her into a 3 foot snow bank of fresh powder. Scout stands approximately 12” high and while she hopped out like a rabbit, I’m pretty sure she was doing so while planning my demise.

All of this is not to say that Scout is a bad dog, she’s just a weird dog. In some odd attempt to lick the faces of everyone, she will stand on her hind legs and put her front paws on you, completely stretched out, as if standing up like a human. When Scout gets excited, she will jump straight up from that position. She has been known to “walk” to my wife before while standing upright; it’s hilarious.

At night, she will use her nose to completely cover herself with her blanket in an almost cocoon like nature. My wife thinks this is cute but I’ve never seen another dog do it, so therefore it’s weird. In an effort to enhance the cute factor, we have purchased a few outfits for her, especially for when it’s cold out. Scout wears them well but I often wonder what she must think. Then I remember, she’s part cat; she doesn’t think.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When grace is enough

It’s been said that we are our own worst enemies. Why is that? Why do we judge ourselves differently?

When I was younger, I was much more critical of others and less so of me, mainly because I thought I had it all figured out. Now that I’m a little older and don’t know near as much as I thought I did, I’m much more lenient towards others but much harsher on myself. Did age and experience do that? Is it based on a certain level of life’s successes and failures which create higher expectations?

A lot has been said about extending grace towards others but little is said about accepting grace for you, from yourself. The first step in that realization is grasping the subtle fact that we are indeed, only human (insert sarcasm font). Knowing that you are prone to fallibility helps to keep some rose in your glasses. After that, finding grace is as easy as realizing you are loved in spite of your goof-ups.

I truly believe that most of us walk around with the idea that when we screw up, we are not as loved as before we made a mistake. Or we truly believe that we would be more loved if we made fewer mistakes. Romans 5:8 makes me smile every time I read it: But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Fewer mistakes, no mistakes, whatever you think it takes, you were loved before you made them, after you made them and even in the middle of making them. Nothing I’ve ever done changes that fact and because of it, I am a new and changed person.

When you mess up, the enemy is right there to wave it in your face. Your mistakes are thrown at you in the form of shame as you are led to believe you aren’t good enough and your sin makes you unworthy of grace. It’s at that moment your own judgment takes over and you not only believe the lies that say you’re not good enough, but you compound the problem by burying your head in the sand, so to speak. Knowing who Jesus was and is and will always be is nice but unless you know who He is in your life, then He’s just another guy and grace will remain foreign. But after you let Him in, your life will never be the same.

You see, grace is God’s ability to counter our inability. Accepting grace for yourself means accepting that you are unable to save yourself, no matter how many good deeds you do, or merit badges you earn, or old ladies you walk across the street, or people you help out of a ditch, etc. But the heavy lifting for your salvation has already been done and once you accept what has been offered, you will realize that grace has covered you completely. That moment will change your life, and what follows will be your opportunity to give back, by sharing that grace with others.

Grace is a gift to you that you didn’t and couldn’t earn. Because it was so freely given, it is expected you will extend it to others who need it, as it is the single most important gift anyone could ever receive. You’re still going to make mistakes from time to time because, again, you’re only human. And yet, grace covers you completely once you accept it. The same goes for the people around you. They didn’t earn it, it was given to them freely and it covers them completely. And guess what? They’re going to make mistakes from time to time too (crazy as that sounds)!

What I’m trying to say is, stop withholding grace. It is a gift that was given to you SO THAT you could pass it on, not hoard it under your couch. Grace is not something that is in short supply so stop worrying about it running out, which also means, there is plenty to go around for you too. When you grasp that grace is FOR you and you personally your mind will be blown and you won’t be able to stop sharing it.

Monday, March 31, 2014


This flesh betrays me daily. I battle my own flesh in order to serve my creator and it weighs on me heavily. My lips claim fealty and my mind tells my lips what to say and yet my mind also turns on itself all the time. It is frustrating and I demand to know why I must wage this war on a daily basis. I know from the book of Romans that Paul dealt with this exact same thing and yet he seemed to move beyond it to a place I can only seem to dream about.

Struggling with doubt is no fun, let me tell you. Sometimes, I feel like I’m putting the right foot in front of the other at the correct time. Other times, I have two clubbed left feet. Please accept my apologies if you have two clubbed left feet. Simply stated, I want what I cannot have and that is to claim my love for Jesus and then simply hang on for the ride. As it turns out, there are some hazards along the way and if I turn away for too long, assuming the auto pilot is doing its job, I am surely doomed.

Lately, the toughest things to deal with are emotions and I am certain the enemy is throwing road blocks in my way to trick me into thinking that I am incapable of working through them. To some degree, that assessment is fair; which is to say that I am incapable of working through them. Fortunately, God is faithful and I am thankful for His provision in all things, especially in dealing with something as tricky as emotions. The toughest of these is the feeling of inadequacy. Oddly, I have never experienced this to any great degree until recently. Sure, there have been a few moments when I questioned myself for a split second, but somehow I have always managed to rise above when necessary. Lately, it has been a battle and I have found myself questioning my abilities, even with God’s help. It’s not that I question God’s abilities, as I am fully aware that He can and does do great things through His people. It simply comes down to falling short.

As I am discovering, my greatest weakness is indeed His greatest strength. I fall apart and He shines. I slip and He stands firm, ready to catch me when I fall. He never falters and that’s the part that is so hard to comprehend! Even during times when I feel strong and able to run on my own, He is right there, ready for whatever this life throws at me and ready for whatever bonehead move I make that causes me to stumble. I used to question what it looked like to praise Him in the midst of my trials and now I know He is faithfully waiting for me to acknowledge Him as the one whose strength carries me through those tough times.

More than my savior who rescues me; more than the rock that I lean upon; more than the foundation I build my life on; He is the breath in my lungs. And while that thought makes me smile, it doesn’t end all my doubts. Sometimes, I wish God would just grant me superhero status so I could fly above all of this. But I’m no superhero and every time I attempt to fly I rediscover I wasn’t born with wings. Being made aware of my inability to fly isn’t so terrible, it’s the forgetting how to walk that ultimately brings me to my knees. I suppose that being down there is a good place to be but after having spent the first 40 years being more than capable of walking on my own, I’m realizing I’m not strong enough for the next 40 if I try it alone.

I am convinced that God is refining me right now. He is pruning and shearing and shaping me for His purposes. For that, I live in a constant state of joy because I know that He is working on me and as I change I see His handiwork displayed in the reflections of the people that He continues to bring into my life. The trick is to let Him make His changes before attempting to branch out too far on my own. I get so ahead of myself all the time that I become unplugged. And when that happens I lose sight of what I’m supposed to be doing in the first place. It feels like I’m trying to follow Him in a driving snow storm and I keep winding up in the ditch. So naturally I accept responsibility for driving off course and I begin to doubt whether or not I can keep up. And this is exactly what weighs me down.

However, I am determined not to fall away. I have something in me that cries out for more and I know what it is. No one can take it away from me either, it will live in me for all time and I am thankful for it. God has given me hope. It is a gift and I cherish it until my final breath, knowing full well that the hope within me will live on long after I am gone. Regardless of my doubts, inadequacies, inabilities or imperfections, God declares His love for me by writing that hope deep within me, on the lining of my heart.

“I’m not saying that I have this altogether, or that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: by no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back”.

Friday, March 28, 2014


In this landscape of space we live in, it never ceases to amaze me how angry some people get, especially when having a conversation about a polarizing topic, such as politics. Personally, I have taken to refusing any conversation that involves a polarizing subject matter. This frees me to concentrate on heady issues that are not laden with anger and vitriol, but instead I can be positive through and through. The results are remarkable for my very being as I have noticed a sincere change in my temperament.

Beyond getting angry in conversations, humans tend to get angry in a lot of high friction situations, including driving, shopping in crowded locations, attending crowded events and attending sporting events. In each case listed, there is a task involved that induces a type of situational stress. Some handle that stress well and others not so well. Typically speaking, it comes down to a position or more specifically; an opinion. Opinions are seemingly all too often tied to emotions and while this might seem natural, having an opinion about something should not lead one’s blood pressure to rise rapidly, as is often the case.

For instance, if someone asked you your opinion on coffee and which brand you like and why, you might offer some sound advice based on your experiences and knowledge of coffee. An opinion like that is typically devoid of any emotion with the exception of possibly the emotion of pleasure (or displeasure) as you describe your favorite (or least favorite) coffee. At best, the emotion is simply not there. At worst, you may exhibit an over-reaching opinion that went beyond what you were being asked about as you got excited about something you really like or dislike. Ultimately, any conversation like that can be had without much trouble. There are a bevy of topics that one can discuss in a similar manner and we would do well to take mental notes as to how we interact with such conversations.

Unfortunately, there are also a few topics that when they come up, cause heart rates to rise immediately. There is absolutely nothing healthy about such conversations and yet we find ourselves drawn into them from time to time, sometimes without want. The trick is learning to pull away from them as gracefully as possible, because in the end, no one is going to remember you for how eloquently you argued for or against the color of dominoes (or whatever useless topic you get sucked into). Life is simply too short to get entwined in angry chats about things that people vehemently hate but have absolutely no understanding of how to truly fix. This is not to say there are no good ideas out there about how to solve a lot of what is wrong with our current society, but it more comes down to proper implementation and follow through, something the average citizen has no clue about. This is not to suggest that we as a populace should not be educated about our world, but instead we need to come at arguments armed with solutions, not just stones to throw.

This comes down to intent. I’ve written about it before for other reasons but this is a little different. Intentionality is more than just why, or why not; being intentional reveals not only who you are but also what you think about others. When we drag someone else into a conversation involving a toxic subject, we make certain assumptions and jump to conclusions. The first assumption is they want to be involved in this discussion.  The second is we overvalue our own opinions. We conclude it’s because we enjoy a good argument. And lastly, we seek to validate our position, usually from the perspective of being heard that we are right. For some of us, we might read that and think; what’s wrong with any of that? Your intentions are what speak the loudest and they give away the position of your heart. Conversations are either constructive or destructive in nature and our words will decide which direction we take.

Simply put, you can decide the direction of any given conversation based on what guides you. If your ego is central, your conversations will be guided by what you want and you will find yourself in discussion after discussion involving hollow content (that which does not build up). If instead you value others as much as you value yourself, you may find yourself listening more and responding less. You will avoid baseless chats unless they provide a spring board to a more valuable conversation. And valuable conversations are what we want!

The signs of a healthy discussion should be obvious by now, but just in case there are questions, let’s list them out. The words you use should be for building up and not tearing down; of anyone or anything. Opinions are OK but not if they are used as weapons or ultimatums. Your opinion matters, just try and remember that other people have an opinion too and it might differ drastically from yours; this does not make them ignorant. Everyone deserves to be heard because when we invite as many diverging ideas and opinions to the discussion, we learn not only what other thoughts exist on a given topic, but we become more aware of how and why people think the way they do.

All of this is not to suggest that we cannot have a heated debate because in reality, healthy arguments do exist but they tend to be rare. The reasons for this are quite simple and will always boil down to two things; intent, which we have already discussed and respect, which has been alluded to. It is quite possible to have an ardent debate with one or more people without it leading to a fight. In order for that to be possible, we must learn to respect each other first.

If we can reach the point of respecting each other we can erase most of the anger from conversations and begin to truly arrive at solutions to our woes instead of creating more troubles because of our fighting. It’s a noble thought indeed, but I suppose, it’s only an opinion.

Monday, March 10, 2014

steps to leading

What makes a leader and what entices people to leadership positions? Possessing the qualities of leadership is one thing that marks a true leader, but what happens when a person that is marked as a leader does not step into their place?

First of all, should all those that are marked as such, automatically step into roles of leadership? My belief is that those who possess the character of a leader will not only feel led to that place but others around them will follow accordingly. True leaders have a way of acquiring a following, without trying very hard; this is called influence. This is not always a good thing but when someone possesses the skills of a natural born leader, there is a great deal of responsibility that must be acknowledged, both by the leader and those who follow.

Jesus was (and still is) a perfect example of a natural born leader. What is interesting is looking at how He might have felt regarding the following that occurred during His time and how He dealt with it. The Bible gives us accounts of Jesus own words regarding how, in my opinion, He tried many times to stifle the effect of His leadership. I understand by reading the scriptures that Jesus was making a case first for the intent of the hearts of His followers and was concerned for what would become of these people after He was gone. Jesus had the clarity of knowing His future and how He would only be with these people for a short amount of time. It is important to realize that His concern was the long term effects of following Him and that those around Him during that time were not aware of what was coming.

Leaders in the world, that are of the world, are consumed with a following as well as maintaining a popular view in order to draw as many people to them as possible at that moment. Most leaders are not concerned about their following after they are gone, it is only in the here and now. Leaders who are thrust into their roles early in life are naturally consumed by a certain level of celebrity once a following is established. It is difficult to contain those feelings once they manifest themselves. Ultimately, this type of leadership is mostly concerned with a ‘my needs first’ mentality.

A true leader will inevitably get out of the way so that his or her followers can become leaders and that process will multiply if each new leader shares the same vision. Leadership must start with humility because it is a humble person who can take the hearts of others into consideration before leading them in any direction. Therefore, leaders must also possess compassion in order to manage the tenderness of those that follow. Classically, it was Jesus who told His disciples that whoever would be first must be last and whoever is last will be first. Jesus was specifically referring to the concept of a servant leader. The term is an oxymoron in western culture, but for Jesus it was, and still is, someone who leads from a position of service, especially service to those closest to you that you are leading.

Here in America, we might view that type of leader as weak, or soft, and therefore dismiss their insight and prowess as a leader. However, we would do so at our own peril as it is typically this kind of leader that is thinking of the needs of others ahead of his/her own needs. It is not intrinsic to be this kind of leader as it takes coming to a point of humility first, before one can see the needs of others clearly. Interestingly, I find that people who have kids are more likely to possess the ability to be a servant leader, as opposed to those who have yet to have kids.

Ultimately, I would suggest that we beware of any person who considers themselves to be a leader but does so by ordering others around without compassion. It comes down to being able to count the cost and a good leader understands what is at stake. A humble heart and a tender disposition is key, because those who follow are often exceptionally impressionable. Understanding that is vital because leaders are looked to as motivational forces who hold the ability to shape and mold others. Future leaders will rise up because positive, bold and empathetic role models and leaders invested in their lives; not because they were ordered around on a whim.

Leading by example means leading by performing the steps necessary to teach, train and educate those who follow. This is no small challenge but it cannot be met by simply telling others what to do. Leadership will never be just words, it must be an action. And the first action must be a step in that direction.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Game time

The other day, my daughter got invited to play basketball with some friends. My son was also invited, as my daughter’s friend has a little brother. Technically, I was invited too since their dad was going to be there, but I had planned to go for a run, which sounded infinitely better than shooting hoops; any day.

Naturally, the moment we got there my kids both said goodbye as I was expected to leave. I hesitated and started chatting with the other dad and within seconds I was tempted to stay and play with them. The kids were planning to play Bump, which is a terribly addicting game. As if I were a moth drawn to a flame, I gravitated towards the basket and a ball and simply felt compelled to stick around.

We ended up hanging out for more than two hours and played some 4 on 4 as well as more Bump. The atmosphere was nothing more than fun and everyone was into it. We ran hard, we sweat, we high fived each other and at the end agreed we needed to do this again very soon. In fact, we ended up playing again just a week later and the experience was the same.

The takeaway from our play time was in watching how the kids simply played. I say this because over the past two years or so, I have seen how our kids, and really most kids, get so wrapped up in their electronics. As a parent, I, along with my wife, have worked hard to limit what our kids have access to, which also means we have worked to control what they might become addicted to, in a way. Electronics can become just that, an addiction of sorts. This may very well be this generation’s version of substance abuse.

Looking back over the course of a few days off, where my wife and I set aside an entire day to be free from tech of any sort, we can instantly see the ramifications on not only our kids, but even ourselves. In the times where we pull our minds away from these screens that at times seem to enslave us, we enjoy more, laugh more often and even love each other better. This is not to say that electronics are somehow inherently evil but there has to be a limit placed. I think most parents know this but giving your two year old your tablet to keep him from running amok is an easy remedy and one that I completely understand. The problem is the tablet acts more like a sedative, rendering the child completely inactive for as long as they have it.

It seems we all know this about our devices, including the effect they have on us as parents, but we trudge ahead anyway. Mindless and numbed by the glow of the screen, we dive into each day with less enthusiasm and wonder than the days before we held a light in our hands. Stephen Covey said, “Between stimulus and response is our greatest power – the freedom to choose”. We indeed have the ability to choose to stimulate or to engage ourselves and those around us. My suggestion is to start with a “tech-free day” and see what happens. Maybe you’re so ingrained you have to start with just an hour at a time! Either way, give it a shot. There’s a lot to do out there when we lift our heads up.

I would recommend some basketball with friends.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

life of service

I used to believe that I had to give something to God before He would give me anything. It was this concept of penance that made me think that God was holding His love over my head, just waiting for me to obey Him first. It only made sense, especially given all that I had done in my youth.

Naturally I was bitter towards God, or what I thought was God. For a long time I thought of God as very impersonal and untouchable. I believed He was far away, never close, except when He came down to punish people. I used to think that it was only a matter of time before God was going to just rub me out and then I would spend eternity shoveling coal into a furnace for the devil.

As a kid, I was never privy to the word grace, except for at dinner time, where someone needed to say grace before we could eat. Grace meant nothing to me even though we grew up going to church every Sunday and I attended a private school through the 8th grade. I was left with a very clear understanding that for me to get on good terms with God, I was in for a life time of work…and even then there were no guarantees. To quote a recent sermon, I felt unlovable, worthless and lonely. I struggled with close friendships and as I entered my teen years I became bitter, resentful and arrogant. At the time, those feelings felt completely natural because of how alone I felt. I isolated my thoughts and shared them with no one.

During that time, I would still jump at opportunities to help others. There was always someone that needed help moving, or needed a ride someplace, or needed ten bucks until Friday. I would listen patiently to girls cry about their boyfriends and listen to guys whine about their girlfriends. In the process, every time I did something for someone or helped in any way, I found ways to angle and leverage my position so that I got something out of the deal. Sometimes it was food, other times it was money, sometimes it was a favor but in every case, I was building myself up as a sort of super hero. I was the guy who could solve all your problems, fix everything that was broken and move mountains when necessary. In the process, I became exceptionally prideful.

Interestingly, I was serving others in the process but I never saw it that way. It was always about what I wanted and what I could get out of the deal. I did nothing for free, or at least, rarely. My intentions were purely motivated by how I looked for doing any such act and I wanted everyone to know what I had done. What could have been an amazing 15 years of giving my life for others was severely tainted because it was so one-sided. Certainly, I lacked humility completely and had no interest in humbling myself to others. Not only was I prideful but I was also full of condescension and cynicism; most people were beneath me, or so I felt. Even when faced with individuals who were clearly bright people, I would simply resort to having to one up every story in order to tout my abilities and knowledge. That attitude cost me friend after friend, including family members. Sadly, for a while I was OK with that, because I believed it was easier anyway. If they were so less than I was, why in the world would I want them in my life?

By the time I moved to Oregon, I was down to a couple of friends. Slowly that changed as I met new people and began settling into my new home. But my personality hadn’t changed and before long I was manipulating my relationships for personal gain, just like before. Sadly, even after I met the woman of my dreams, fell in love with her and began our new life together, I continued to treat those around me in the same way as always. It seemed that I was happy to help anyone and even became known, for a while, as the guy that dropped everything to help. Sometimes I would do something just because but most of the time I expected something, even the notoriety and accolades.

The slow change started when we moved to Oregon City and my family life became a little more insulated. I began to take notice of how my help affected others and I became aware that I was capable of more. I had also started spending a little time reading a Bible; something that was somewhat foreign to me at the time. I certainly knew what the book was about and even owned one, somewhere, but I had never truly investigated it. What I found, especially from the New Testament writer Paul, was something I had never really heard about before, and that was grace. More importantly, I learned that grace was something to be given out, especially in acts of service.

The more I read, the more I responded with helping others out with no expectation of a return. It certainly didn’t happen all at once but over the next few years I was able to grasp a reality that I had been ignorant of up until then. That reality was that this life wasn’t about me and never would be. When I faced that reality down for the first time, it hit me hard. I held onto a piece of control for a while afterwards, just to see if I could. The more I fought it, the more obvious it became that I was fighting a losing battle. In time, I stopped trying so hard to please myself and instead spent hours trying to serve others.

That shift in mindset took many years but today I am thankful for the road that God carried me down. And while I certainly do not have it all figured out, I love that He was patient with a wretched sinner like me, that He taught me grace and in the end He showed me what it meant to truly serve another.

I learned that I didn’t have to give anything to God to get something from Him. In fact, I discovered that He gave me His grace and His love while I was still a mere sinner and now all He wants back is my devotion and praise. And as I praise Him for all He has done for me, I am led to pour out that love, grace and joy on others.

Monday, March 3, 2014

It starts with a smile

When we talk about first steps at reaching a lost world, we usually talk about building relationships. It is a natural place to start and we often consider that it all starts with a simple introduction. I think that for most people, it would be easier if that introduction happened through a hospitality ministry worker at their church, but then again, that may be my sarcasm showing, in which case, I apologize.

Being proactive about your witness and sharing the gospel is something we are called to do and yet in today’s modern culture there is an extreme disconnect between individuals. We can certainly place blame all we want to, whether it be on social media, smart phones and electronic devices of all shapes and sizes or even on the fear of rejection. Whatever the case, our receptiveness to reach a lost and dying world seems rather frozen at times. This is not to say that people are not coming to know the freedom of a life that is fully devoted to Jesus, but the ways in which that is happening has more to do with the recently saved reaching backwards to help someone they know. The proof of that can be seen in nearly every modern church today.

What is necessary then, to make a change for those in church today, is to look at how we approach evangelism. That word may take on a different meaning for you than it does for me but either way, it should mean reaching the lost, pure and simple. Sometimes, I think that wearing a T-shirt that says Jesus on the front should be ample but I know the truth and that is that those who are truly disconnected from Jesus aren’t looking for an interrogation. They are also not looking for condemnation, but instead they all seem to want respect for having an open mind. So we stand back, pray for them at times and let them be, hoping that one day they will walk into our church and be introduced to us by the guy at the door. At that point, they are now safe enough for you to talk to because they are in your comfort zone.

Wouldn’t that be nice; evangelism without the messiness and effort? Time for a wake up call; the chances of that happening are slim to none and we need to face that fact in a hurry.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this thought entirely. The spreading of the gospel is said to start with a relationship and therefore we are advised to get to know our neighbors, co-workers and friends who are far from God in order to share with them about our hope. There is truth in that, believe me, and I do not want to deter you from that truth. However, let’s take a look at scripture for a moment. In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus called his first four disciples to join him. All we have to draw from these verses is that Jesus simply called them to follow him in order to be fishers of men. We do not get a glimpse into the emotion, banter, dialogue or possible doubts and/or hesitation that filled the moment, primarily from the 4 men who were called. However, consider this; if someone called out to you to drop what you were doing and follow, what would your response be? Jesus probably didn’t yell at the men in an angry tone, to be sure, but He must have been convincing. There must have been something about Him that led those 4 men to make the choice they did. Do you suppose Jesus introduced Himself first? There must have been some sort of introduction, right?

Given that we have to read something into these passages, I am led to believe that Jesus was probably a fairly positive individual. As we read further into His ministry, we find this to be true and in fact, we find no negativity in Him whatsoever (although maybe a hint of frustration at times). What Jesus possessed is something we call assertiveness but He was also very positive in the way He spoke to His disciples and also the crowds. In order for Him to be effective in His approach, He had to possess an immense air of positivity and assertiveness, all before He spoke a single word. Jesus indeed had all that and more because of the authority He was given from the Father. What we fail to recognize at times is that we too possess the same attributes because they have been given to us as gifts by the Holy Spirit.

What does this mean in regards to the spreading of the gospel? Before we even introduce ourselves to someone, we have to possess an air of positivity and assertiveness. In order for us to do that, we must pray for discernment and seek to listen and wait for promptings from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will indeed lead us, even with the right words to say, but we must be willing in mind and body to be used by God for these works. And the first step is not to wait inside the 4 walls of a church building for a supposed lost soul to be introduced to us. Instead, we must be prepared to project an air of positivity to the world around us at all times; prompting conversations from strangers that want to know the reason for our joy.

If you still don’t know what this looks like, imagine walking into every room, every day, for the rest of your life, with a huge smile on your face and a spring in your step. You might think it’s goofy but here’s where I ask you, what on earth are you here for? Those lost souls are going to stay lost unless we choose to take some bold steps of faith for the kingdom. We have been called to be light to dark places and even if where you work is a “dark place”, that might be your best place to shine. The hope that is inside of you needs to be visible outside of you, too. And when that happens, people will want to know why.

The hope within you should be all the introduction you need in order to begin a conversation with someone far from God. Positivity is contagious, more so than the opposite and this world is ready for a reason to smile.