They grow up too fast.

I found out that my 13 year old daughter liked a boy at school. The following week we had this discussion:

“How was school?”

“Good.” <Pause> “I don’t like ‘someone’ anymore. I told my friend to tell him I don’t like him any more.”

“Why don’t you tell him?”

“That’s just not the way you do it. I can’t tell him.”

“I thought you liked him?”

“I do.”

[Parental pause of confusion]

“Umm…then why are you having your friend tell him you don’t like him?”

“So he will think I don’t like him.”

“But you do like him?”

“Yes.”

[At this point I’m beginning to feel like I’m in Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” skit]

“But why tell him you don’t like him if you ‘do’ like him?”

“Dad, you just don’t understand teenagers.” And with that she walked off.

I started pondering her situation. Not so much that she still liked a boy, but the fact that she wouldn’t talk to him in person. It made me start thinking about our relationship with God.

The courtship process for most industrialized cultures is intended to offer the exchange of personal information between a man and a woman. After analyzing the behavior and information gathered, the two individuals may decide to pursue a deeper relationship. Through active communication, they may discover they have found a suitable life partner, and if so, marriage is the inevitable outcome.  However, this process is often short-circuited in many relationships because the two acquaintances decide to fore-go the getting to know you stage and jump to the sexual stage (the marriage stage without being married) of the relationship.  In my counseling practice, I have worked with numerous couples that, after many years of marriage, struggle with their spouse because they skipped an integral part of their relationship.

Many Christians suffer the same consequences as those pursuing a dating relationship. When we become Christians many of us short-circuit our romance with God. We won’t wait and listen. It’s easier to ignore the discipline and meat of Christianity and run to church to eat our dessert.  We want to hear from God, but we would rather hear from Him through other people. Our pastor, church leaders, friends, or maybe a donkey?

There are almost one hundred instances of God’s voice speaking to man throughout scripture. If God didn’t want to speak to us, we would all be puppets on a string with no will or desire for God.

It seems it is easier for us to listen to other people tell us about God and what He is like rather than find out for ourselves. What others tell us about God may not always be the truth. So, why don’t we find out for ourselves? Develop a relationship with God.

Stop. Listen. Hear.

(excerpts taken from Lifestyle Worship: The Worship God Intended Then and Now)

What do you think? Click on the voice bubble on the top right and share your thoughts.

the church speaks

Posted: September 14, 2011 in Uncategorized
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The lights flicker as Ben Newman glides his broom across my tired floors. His touch is smooth and gentle. I can easily tell the character of a man by the way he treats me. Many men have quickly run over my floors and dabbed at my windows with the forethought of ‘doing’ as quickly as possible. I watch as they gather momentum Sunday after Sunday, month after month, and sadly – year after year all in the name of ‘doing’ God’s work.  Programs are created and class after class is taught. Yet, quite surprisingly they remind me of Lemmings hyped on coffee, running in circles.

Ben is a man of great integrity. It’s obvious. He prays as he gently wipes a damp cloth across the blue-padded chairs perfectly aligned throughout my Sanctuary. Sanctuary: a place of refuge. How long do these people need to remain in refuge before they are able to leave?  Are they hiding?

My restrooms are in serious need of cleaning. Interestingly, Ben whistles an old hymn as he cheerfully cleans the toilet. Again he prays, this time for all those that enter. Maybe the cleaning fumes are too strong. Why would someone pray for those entering a restroom? But Ben does. He grabs a bottle of blue liquid and commences to spray it on my mirrors. I hear him pray, “God help them see inside of their hearts that they may know you.”

The vacuum cleaner is old but it still has life pulsing through it as the dirt is lifted from my carpet. The vibration of the rollers massage my fatigued halls. I love feeling children’s feet running up and down, twisting turning, excited to be here, full of life. But I feel the heaviness of their parent and grandparent’s…happy to be here but afraid to leave. Scared. Unequipped. For them it is better to find refuge with other refugees and rejoice in their safety.

Ben is very detailed. With the gentle touch of an artisan he meticulously cleans the panes of my windows.  I’m proud of the light I can let flood into my inner being and onto others. God’s light. As his fingers dig a soft cloth into the crevices of my pane he again prays, “God let your light shine into the hearts of all that they may be renewed, refreshed…ready.”  Ahhh! My panes feel so much better, cleaner. Thanks Ben.

My walls ache. I feel more like a warehouse. People come in, but don’t really ‘go out’. Yes, they physically leave but they spend too much time here organizing events, drinking latte’s, slapping each other on the back, and telling each other how great they are. Why don’t they really go…into the world? Not this warehouse-world they created, but the ‘real’ world. The everyday. The sometimes mundane. The hurting. The beautiful. The joyous world around them. My walls ache.

Ben quietly weaves in and out of rooms, down hallways, and through doors. When Sunday comes no one cares that he painstakingly cleaned, washed, vacuumed, took out the trash, or prayed. It is expected that I am clean. Most of the warehouse-people don’t even know that Ben works two jobs.  But they do see the sparkle…on the restroom counters.

Ben has finished his required duties but notices dust on my magnificent wooden doors. He retrieves a clean cloth and wood polish. The liquid polish soaks into my old frame and rejuvenates my worn core. My doors are multifunctional.  They open to let everyone in and close to keep them in. When they are finished with their warehousing duties they throw my solid oaken doors wide and eagerly scamper out in true Lemming fashion.

My walls ache.

What do you think? Click on the voice bubble on the top right and share your thoughts.

My Seven-year-old granddaughter Izzy fidgeted as her dad put in the Justin Bieber DVD “Never Say Never”.  It was finally here. She could barely contain herself. My son Dylan quietly sat down on the couch and she sidled up to him. As the DVD came to life she leaned into him and said, “Dad, this is going to change your life!”

We do experience moments that are life changing, but do often miss out on opportunities to be changed daily, to be renewed…altered… jolted… awed by God?

I was taught to find life’s answers in God’s ‘word’ meaning the written words found in the Bible.  Everywhere I turned I was told that the Bible held all of the answers I needed. And it does. As I extracted the wonderful wisdom of God’s written words verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, book-by-book, I found amazing truths and life applications. But I still wasn’t completely satisfied.

As a teenager, active in my home church I would often hear some of the older Christians talk of their ‘love’ of God. I distinctly remember an older gentleman standing up in church one Sunday evening and speak of how he loved God. I watched as his hand trembled and how passionately he spoke of his love for God. At that moment, I realized I didn’t have that love, that passion for God.

For many years I continued drinking in all of the words written in my worn out Bible. In addition, I read everything I could about God and how to live in His will. I hoped the latest author-of-the-moment would have the answer I was looking for.  Although, these best-selling books were filled with great tidbits of wisdom, I sat them down and walked away feeling flat.

My life changed forever while I was casually reading the book of Matthew for the um-teenth time. It was in the seventh chapter that I paused and caught my breath.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then will I tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23  NIV – bold mine)

Those four key words, “…I never knew you…”  What? Know Him? But I am a Christian. I belong to Christ. I believe. As the last thought rushed through my head a simple verse came to my mind, James 2:19 “You believe that there is one God…even the demons believe that – and shudder.” (NIV)

Not just believe in God, but to know God. Do you have a fervor and thirst to know God at every opportunity? Are you inspired to turn off your TV off and pray, to seek God with a passion, not out of duty, or because the Bible tells you have to, but out of desire? God desires that we give everything to Him. Making an appearance at Church and reading your Bible occasionally is not what he longs for.

Here is an interesting contrast. In the book of John, chapter three, verse 16 (John 3:16), Jesus says “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Maybe you are like me and memorized this verse in Sunday School.  Humor me for a moment and think on this one more time.  God…loves us…so much.   What does he ask in return? In Revelation 3:15 we read, “I know your deeds that you are neither cold or hot. I wish you were one or the other!”  Now check out the Revelation of John, chapter three, verse 16 (Revelation 3:16), “So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot or cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Do you get what the 3:16’s are saying? Do you really, truly understand the depth of God’s love for us?  Do you really, truly understand what he wants from us?

Chapter three of Revelation continues with Jesus saying, “…be earnest and repent (19)…If anyone hears my voice…I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (20)…he who has an ear, let him hear (22)…” (emphasis mine). God gave His only Son for you. What are you giving Him?  Many of us are lukewarm. I was.  God desires for you to passionate for Him.  I wasn’t. I thought I was living as I should. Waiting for the next sign from God, but not really knowing Him.  Are you  listening to God, or other people? How often do you stop and lend an ear to God that He may speak to you?

What this means is that your energy level will have to increase. Being quiet takes energy when you are not used to being quiet. What do you do with your own time? Watch TV? Spend it on the computer?  Spending time with God, waiting for His voice, takes energy.  Loafing in a chair while watching TV, or traveling from one website to another takes very little energy.  This is where hot and cold collide. Where hot becomes lukewarm.

God is passionate about us being passionate for Him.

The only way to know Him is by spending time with Him. Psalms 46:10 makes it clear that we are to, “Be still, and know that I am God…” The Hebrew word for know is Yada (yaw-dah), which translates: “to know, to perceive, to find out and discern, to know by experience.”  How can we know God, by experience, if we are not still, or quiet?  It is a choice we must make if we truly long to develop a relationship with God.

It boils down to this: either you want to follow God…or you don’t.  If you don’t, don’t, but if you do, do it with a passion.

What do you think? Click on the voice bubble on the top right and share your thoughts.

Charlie, Lucy, and the Zen of Duo-Tasking

Posted: January 22, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Good Grief! It’s that ol’ I’ll-hold-the-ball-for-you trick again. You would think that Charlie Brown would learn and listen to his own conscience and not fall for Lucy’s trick over and over. But, alas, he is Charlie Brown. He never changes.

Change is not always easy. Sometimes we embrace change. We are adaptable people…when we want to be. We have learned to do many things at once.  We enjoy the challenge of multitasking.

In our crazy, busy, ADD culture we brag about multitasking. Even the origination of the name: multiple tasks, is compounded to make it easier to understand. Doing multiple tasks at one time can seriously affect your ultimate goal because each time you introduce a new object of attention into what you are doing, you dilute your attention on any one object. If our goal is to have an intimate relationship with God, how do we accomplish this when we dilute our attention with the soft glow of our computer screen, while changing the channel on our T.V., while talking to our friends?

Our culture has created a multitasking environment. Sometimes we need to multitask, and sometimes we need to stop. Multitasking can be addicting. Longing for God often takes a back seat to a busy lifestyle and we become God–Defecit. We become passion-less towards God.

As Christians we should be Duo-tasking: doing two things at the same time. We live in a physical world, but as Christians we have access to the spiritual world. Duo-tasking is the obligation of every Believer to live in the physical world and to be constantly aware of God.

Many of us try to Duo-task only when we are in a Fellowship gathering. Throughout the week we forget that God is always waiting for us to be used by him. People are hurting and needful all around us, sometimes within arm’s reach. How can we be listening for God’s voice, his purpose for us,  if we are only living in the physical world? Whether at work, recreation, or alone, we should be tuned in to God.

Jesus is the model we use to live a lifestyle of worship. Everything about Jesus was Duo-tasking. He lived in the physical world but was continually listening to his Father. The story of the Samaritan woman he meets at a well (John 4) is a prime example of Duo-tasking. He meets her (physical world) and while they are talking Jesus is listening to his Father (spiritual world). God reveals to Jesus that this woman has been married five times and the man she is living with is not her husband. If Jesus is able to Duo-task, why shouldn’t we?

Be available. Listen.

What do you think? Click on the voice bubble on the top right and share your thoughts.


Oh crap…she’s up!

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized
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My childhood friend, Donna B. sent this quote on her Facebook page:

“Be the kind of woman that when you wake up in the morning and put your feet on the floor the devil say, “OH CRAP…SHE’S UP!”

How do we become that kind of woman (or man) that is strong and righteous? Is it by reading our Bible? Going to church every Sunday? Or both? What is it that God really wants from us?

Could our reaction to life struggles be an indicator of how relevant our relationship with God is?

What are your thoughts? Click on the voice bubble on the top right.

 

 

“Heaven! Please hold…”

Posted: November 16, 2010 in Uncategorized
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My friend’s daughter, Julie Johnson, was teaching her first grade Sunday school class on bringing all your concerns to God in prayer. She told the class that they could pray if they were sad, or sick, or lost.  To which one little boy replied, “Miss Johnson, I don’t have to pray if I’m lost. I just use my cell phone.”

It’s interesting how are understanding of certain words or meanings change as we get older.  I hope this First Grader will come to fully understand what it means to be spiritually lost, and experience God’s amazing love.

What I have learned is that we should continually be learning. Certain concepts like Worship, Heaven, and God’s Love have become more relevant and clearer as I seek God more and more. For example, I think of Heaven a lot. As I meditate on Heaven and God I begin to long more for God and to be in His presence. I’m beginning to understand Paul’s true feelings when he said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die gain.” (Philippians 1:21). I like the way the Message Bible puts it: “Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.”

Best selling author Ted Dekker, took a moment away from writing NY Times bestsellers to write a wonderful book on this subject. He puts it this way, “ . . . if your passion for being with Christ isn’t greater by far than remaining in this life (as Paul characterized his desire for heaven), then your motive for following Christ is suspicious (according to Christ).” (From: The Slumber of Christianity – Nelson Books).

What is your passion? What are your true motives? What is it that is keeping you from an incredible, life changing, miraculous relationship with God. What is it that separates us from other major religions? The answer is not a deep theological argument on divinity, salvation, or any other righteous topic. It’s very simple. It’s experience.

Do you experience God on a daily basis?  If we aren’t experiencing God, our motives may be highly ‘suspicious’.

What are your thoughts? Click on the voice bubble on the top right.

If i only had a soft warm puppy

Posted: October 30, 2010 in Uncategorized
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My then, six year old son Aaron came bouncing into the house after school. His mother asked him how school was. He replied that it was good. “I bet your one of the smartest kids in your class aren’t you?” she said, trying to boost confidence. Aaron pondered the question for a moment and replied, “I don’t know if I’m the smartest, but I’m one of the most pay-attention-ables.”

I wish we all had his self-esteem.  Aaron is now 11 and is still one of the smartest kids in his class, and yes he is still one of the most pay-attention-ables (at least he is at school).  I have spent many years counseling with individuals, couples, and children. One thing I’ve learned over the past 20 some years of counseling, is that many people don’t have the strong self-esteem they should.

From low self-esteem comes a feeling of loneliness. This can come from a break-up, financial concerns, marital woes, childhood issues, etc. My friend and author, Dr. Rae Andre wrote a wonderful book called, Positive Solitude: A Practical Program For Mastering Loneliness and Achieving Self-Fulfillment.  She uses the term “Feedback-Gap”.   We all need Feedback in our lives: “love your hair”,  “good job”, “I love you”, ‘nice shirt”.  We may also get Feedback from our pets who love us unconditionally, or from some other stimulus.

But what happens when we don’t get the Feedback (we think) we need? A gap in our life grows. So, we either try to fill it with something (usually unhealthy) or we become lonely. Dr. Andre says: “Meaningless is what we are left with when we let others fill the feedback gap…It characterizes the life we lead when we do not face our selves, alone…” It’s ok to be alone. It’s not healthy to feel lonely. She also says that loneliness is not an emotion. Interesting. It is something we as humans create for ourselves.  I talk about solitude in my book. Solitude is now being used by Psychologists and Psychiatrists as a curative therapy.

What are you lacking? Self approval? A relationship? Confidence?  I like the way the Message Bible translates Jesus words on bringing our care, our gaps, our lackings to him:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(Matthew 11:28-30).

Get away with him. Rest. Give it to him.

Let me know your thoughts. Click on the voice bubble on the top right.

mr. know-it-all

Posted: October 18, 2010 in Know God
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It was my turn to pick the kids up at school. My seven-year old daughter, Nikki, piled into the backseat and wrestled with her backpack until she was able to thrust it to the floor.

“I’m not going back to school,” she announced.

Surprised by this declaration I shifted my body and turned to look at her straight on. I was concerned that something might have happened to her.

“Oh, well why aren’t you going back to school?” I asked.

“I know everything there is to know, so I don’t need school.”

“Really?” I said, now intrigued and armed with Fatherly wisdom to teach her a simple lesson. “Well,” I continued, “If you know so much, what is 8 x 7?”

“Dad! We haven’t learned that yet.”

“Ok. How about something else?”  She began to fidget but was ready for the fight. My wife grew up in Washington State, so I thought I would giver her an easy question: “What is the capital of Washington?”

Her eyes narrowed and she folded her arms in defiance. She pondered the question for a moment then blurted out, “W!”

Well, I couldn’t fault her for that answer. Maybe she did know it all… at least in that moment in time.  In her mind she was right. Nikki is a straight A student and might have felt bored that day. Nikki is now much older and understands more about life and that the capital of Washington is Olympia.

I’ve often thought back to that day and pondered, ‘Have I learned everything there is to know in God’s school?’ When I finished college I was ready to take on the world and let the masses partake of my knowledge. Even after completing a grueling doctoral program I thought I knew it all. But as I sought to know and experience more of God, I realized I was missing something.

I was taught to find life’s answers in God’s ‘word’ meaning the written words found in the Bible.  Everywhere I turned I was told that the Bible held all of the answers I needed. As I extracted the wonderful wisdom of God’s written words verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, book-by-book, I found amazing truths and life applications. But I still wasn’t satisfied.

As a teenager, active in my home church I would often hear some of the older Christians talk of their ‘love’ of God. I distinctly remember an older gentleman stand up in church one Sunday evening and speak of how he loved God. I watched as his hand trembled and how passionately spoke of his love for God. At that moment, I realized I didn’t have that love, that passion for God.

For many years I continued drinking in all of the words written in my worn out Bible. In addition, I read everything I could about God and how to live in His will. I hoped the latest author-of-the-moment would have the answer I was looking for.  Although, these best-selling books were filled with great tidbits of wisdom, I sat them down and walked away feeling flat.

My life changed forever while I was casually reading the book of Matthew for the um-teenth time. It was in the seventh chapter that I paused and caught my breath:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then will I tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me you evildoers!’” (NIV – bold mine)

Those four key words, “…I never knew you…”  What? Know Him? But I am a Christian. I belong to Christ. I believe. As the last thought rushed through my head a simple verse came to my mind, James 2:19 “You believe that there is one God…even the demons believe that – and shudder.” (NIV)

Not just believe in God, but to know God. Do you have a fervor and thirst to know God at every opportunity? Are you inspired to turn off your TV off and pray, to seek God with a passion, not out of duty, or because the Bible tells you have to, but out of your desire to?

Let’s pray for the “desire” to want to know God.

Let me know your thoughts.

getting older

Posted: October 14, 2010 in Quiet
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Today is my birthday. To me it’s just another day.  My younger sister called and asked if I was still breathing, my stepdaughter called me an ‘old geezer’ (lovingly of course), and my youngest kids bought me a plaque in the shape of a dog that reads: “If you counted my age in dog years, I’d be DEAD!” I don’t dread birthdays, but I don’t relish them either. It just reminds me I’m getting older.   But it does make me stop and pause. I truly want to know God more. I am constantly reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7. He speaks of the wise man and the foolish man. Before he gives a visualization of two men building houses, one on sand and one on rock, he speaks of “knowing him”.   I don’t want to stand before God and have him tell me that He never “knew” me.

As each year passes  as each “day” passes, I hope you will consider spending time getting to know God. My pilgrimage is to sharpen my hearing by pausing each day (hopefully many times throughout the day) and listening to him. It takes practice, it’s not easy at first. But like anything you practice – you become better.

I hope you become a Pro at it.