Archive for the ‘Lessons learned’ Category

Connections

Posted: December 7, 2011 in Lessons learned, My Life, Spiritual Thoughts

imagePeople rushing hither and thither.  Some running and looking excited, some just look tired and bored.  Tall people, short people, people of all races and ethnicity.  Everybody going somewhere, and they all depend on the actions of others to help them get there.  Some are alone, some are with others, but they all have one thing in common. Wanna guess where I am and what it is they have in common?

If you guessed the Atlanta airport, you are right.  Man oh man are there some funny looking people here (I know – I am one of them!).  As I watched them, I realized that they all have something in common.  They are all looking for a “connection”.  I liked that word, so I looked it up on my handy dandy iPhone.  Connection means, “The action of linking one thing to another”.  Okay, that makes sense, I see lots of people linking up around here with planes taking them somewhere they want to go, but it raised a larger question for me.  What am I connected to?  What do I want to connect to?  Of course right now I am wanting to connect to a plane to take me home to my wonderful wife and daughter, but I have lately realized that I want more than that.  I want to be connected to people, and have us work together to connect closer to God.  There have been a lot of times in my life where I was pretty alone, and it was by connecting with others I came through it.  I believe we all need that, and a while back I decided I wanted more of it.

So a couple of weeks ago, I got intentional about making some connections.  I got involved with a new process at  my church called “Huddles”.  Huddles connects 2 or 3 men together to help each other be accountable.  Accountable to God, to themselves, to their family and friends, etc.  I have met twice with one of my Huddle “connections”, and I have to tell you I have really, really enjoyed it. We have now invited another man into our group, and I really look forward to connecting more with him as well.  It just feels like it’s gonna be good!  There is a process for ladies as well called “Tangles”. 

Well, gotta go make my plane connection, so I will leave you with this verse:

I Cor 14:26 – “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.”

Sounds like we need each other, huh?  So go!  Get connected!

imageChristmas is in just a few days, but I am not gonna talk about that.  Can we just chat a bit instead?  I wanna get in your heart for a minute.

At a restaurant this weekend, I witnessed an obvious family argument.  It was such that it literally stopped all conversation around it as people watched the drama unfold.  The end result of it was that it unsettled the attitudes and the hearts of many people around them and literally sucked the joy from the room for a moment.  It was sad to see, and it spread grief to others so quickly.  For a moment, it made my heart heavy, and at Christmas time, that really annoyed me!

I have mentioned this before, but my good friend and pastor Jay Hanson is often heard asking the question, “What is the condition of your heart?”.  I want to ask that question of each of you today, and I want you to think of it in terms of what is deep inside, especially during this holiday season.  Jay asks a couple of companion questions as well:

-    Is your heart glad (light) or sad (heavy)?
-    Why?
-    Has someone hurt your heart?
-    Have you hurt someone else’s heart?

These simple questions can help you get closer to where you are in your spiritual life, and understand how your own heart condition can affect those around you.  By stopping and examining what is really in your heart as only you can do, you can make incredible progress spiritually and relationally.  If you do this examination on a regular basis, you can approach most things with a calm sense of peace that will take you to all the right places and decisions.  Discuss the condition of your heart with God regularly.  You will never hear anything from him except the truth, and he is the Great Healer of hearts.  I love this verse from Proverbs:

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV):
Above all else, guard your heart,  for everything you do flows from it.

As we all get ready to celebrate Christmas, approach it with a healthy heart, and guard it jealously!  If you work on getting that healthy, just think of all the hearts that will be uplifted – just because you made sure yours was light.

Merry Christmas – may God grant you a light and merry heart this year!

imageMirrors give off a reflection.  I bet you knew that already.  Why do we use mirrors?  Because we do not have the ability to clearly see an image of ourselves OR see what is behind us.  Christmas is a time of reflection.  It is a time when we stop, look into the mirror of the past, pause, think about the birth of Christ and what it means, and celebrate it with family and friends.  Okay–so that’s not anything original, right?  Well, let me give you a new way to think about it.

Every day we make decisions that can change our path for the better or for the worse.  Every conversation can strengthen a relationship or can tear it apart. During EVERY season of our lives, we should always take time to reflect.  We should stop periodically and examine where we are, take a look in that virtual mirror and see where we have been, where our decisions and actions have taken us.  Have you ever said or done anything and later found out it was the wrong thing or that it caused pain?  You found that out by reflecting, probably.  If you had never looked in a mirror of memories, you would not have realized it or had been able to see it clearly.  But, what do you do with your reflections?

Let me approach this another way and show you how to get even more value from reflection.  Since I am a computer guy, I think in computer terms sometimes.  In computer science, "reflection" is the process by which a computer program can observe and modify its own structure and behavior.  Did you catch that?  "Observe AND modify its behavior".  Ahhh, that offers a different perspective on reflections doesn’t it?  What if we did that in our lives every day.  What if we looked into the mirror of our past actions, and used what we saw to modify our behavior for tomorrow?  I’m not sure about you, but I have made some bad decisions in my past, and I really do not care to repeat them.  But, if I reflect on them and use that examination to modify my behavior, I bet that I will not make the same mistakes as easily.

So don’t pass through this Christmas season missing some really good results of your reflection.  Look at your family and reflect on how much time you have given them this year. Look at your job and decide how you may want to modify your behavior to be a better employee.  Look at the birth of Christ in the inner reflective mirror of your soul, and decide if you need to modify your spiritual disciplines as a result of that.

Life is a great thing.  Don’t pass through it without reflection – and modification.

imageWell, it is about this time each year that we all get into the old battle of Christmas.  You know what I mean, it’s that honest desire to get back to what the holiday truly means, while all the while fighting the tide of commercialism, the “requirement” to get everyone on your list a gift (whether you really want to or not) and all the other miscellaneous society induced requirements of it all.  Are you as tired of it as I am?  Then I have a suggestion for you.  Read on.

Christmas is a fun time for a lot of reasons.  I know a lot of people like to do the shopping thing, enjoy all the lights, the parties, the tree, etc.  There is nothing wrong with liking all those things.  But (you knew it was coming, right) – how do we get back to that somewhere in your heart buried desire to truly connect to and honor the “reason for the season”?  I have a suggestion for you, and it fits nicely with this month’s theme we are doing at The Chapel on “Simplify”. 

Quit fighting the battle.  Just quit fighting – I mean it.  Quit trying to make this season be all about one process or another and simplify it by separating the two.  Address each area in its own right, but do not confuse or lose either one.  I know you are going to buy gifts, do the tree, and decorate the house.  That’s fine – do it to the best of your ability and budget, and enjoy the festivity of it all.   BUT, be very deliberate about intentionally making a plan to celebrate the birth of Christ and what that means to us all.  How you do it is up to you, but JUST DO IT in a meaningful and simple way with your family.

Need suggestions?  Well, you could do a daily reading, you could read about the songs of christmas, or how about spending time reading about the various traditions and how most all of them sprang from some religious beginning, yet have become so commercial.  Whatever your topic (Google is your friend here folks), just make a plan and DO IT.  I’m betting it will help you recover some of the lost effort of truly worshipping during this season, and possibly even relieve some of the stress.  Whether it is a daily time, a weekly time, or just a topic this year, just do it.

Make a plan – then let us know what that plan is and I will share it with others in a future blog post.  Tell me what you did, what you discovered and what God told you during this time.  It will help us all.  You can just post a paragraph on the one thing you will do this year.  Let’s see how many people take the challenge and what ideas we come up with!  Will you?????

I’m waiting for your post.

We are all thankful for something.  I can be just as thankful for the absence of something as I can the presence of something else.  Wait a sec – that was confusing wasn’t it?  Let me ‘splain then.

We tend to think of "thankfulness" as just being thankful for things we DO have.  I have my health, I have a great family, a nice car, etc., etc.  But what about the absence of things?  I for example am thankful that I do not have a serious disease.  I am thankful I do not have a big pile of bills that I cannot pay.  Right now I am thankful for there being no major drama in my life! 

imageI have a silly head game I play when I have a pain of some type.  For example, if I have a toothache, I think to myself, " When this pain is gone I will be so thankful, and I will appreciate healthy teeth even more".  But do I actually ever follow through on that?  Not usually, because when the pain is gone, I forget it.  When my car breaks down I am always SO annoyed with it.  Then I have to take it to a car dealer to get it repaired, which is always a difficult experience.  But when I am driving down the road on a long trip, and my vehicle obediently and reliably takes me 500-600 miles in comfort, quietly and safely, am I thankful enough?  Rarely.  Ouch.

You see where I am going here?  As we approach a new holiday season with both Thanksgiving and Christmas coming, how thankful are we for the things we do not have to deal with?  Here is a radical thought process for your holidays.  On Thanksgiving this year, before you say your prayer of thanks, have each person share something they do NOT have that they are thankful for.  You may find some interesting things, but it will also make you more thankful for what you do have.  Go ahead – shake up the tradition a little!

Here is the one I really want you to hear though.  At Christmas, before opening a huge pile of new presents under the tree this year, why not pause, and thank God for something you do not have to worry about, which was the entire meaning of the day.  Know what that one is?  You do NOT have to pay the price for your sins.  God solved that problem for you, and continues to solve it for you every day as he gives you grace and forgiveness.  Jesus died so that you do NOT have to suffer the consequences.  If that sounds hokey or religious to you, then find someone who does understand that.  Because he DID have to, I DO NOT have to.  I am so thankful I don’t.  Are you?

Go ponder this one.  It’s very cool.

Reach!

Posted: October 19, 2010 in Lessons learned, My Life, Spiritual Thoughts

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I have a thought for two people today, and they both need to do the same thing – they need to reach out to the community.  I’ll bet you know which one you are by the time you get to the end of this article.  Or will you???

First I want to draw you a picture.  Picture a small room.  It’s not a nice room, and in fact it is dirty, dingy, and only lit by a dirty naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling.  There is a small sink full of dirty dishes, a hot plate with an open can of some nondescript food sitting beside it.  The old refrigerator in the corner really serves no purpose, because it is empty of any decent food.  There is one dirty window in the corner which faces a brick wall, but it is so dim it is hard to determine if it is truly night or day.  On the opposite wall there is a small bed with a lumpy mattress, and a dirty sheet with a blanket half on, half off the bed.  On a small plastic table beside the bed there is an old black telephone. There is a person lying on the bed.  Motionless.  Their eyes are open but not really seeing anything except the darkness of their own despair and loneliness.  All of a sudden the silence is jarred as the phone rings loudly, causing the person on the bed to jump in alarm.  But then a small glimpse of hope darts across their face as they jump to answer – just as it stops ringing.  They pick it up anyway, but there is only the lonely sound of an empty dial tone.  They hang up, and the silence returns.  They sink back down onto the bed, and the sobs start to come, with no end in sight.

Step back in your mind and look closely at the person.  Look closely at their face.  With a jolt to your soul you realize the dirty unkempt face you see – is yours.  It is you sobbing on the bed feeling the loneliness, this despair, disappointment, helplessness and hopelessness.  It is you who is racked in sobs that just won’t seem to stop.  Please God – please help me you cry!

And then God answers.  One day they look up to see someone reaching a hand down into that pit that is their life, and grasp theirs with a strong and comforting grip.  They may only have enough strength to give one small squeeze to the one offering it, but it lights something in their heart that allows a glimpse of hope, a possible change in their direction. The sobbing stops – just for the moment at least.

I hope you can feel even one small bit of the emotion this imagery is intended to create.  I also hope you realize that this is not just a lesson in creative writing, it is so very real in some people’s lives as they deal with situations or decisions that have caused them to end up in some pretty terrible situations.  They have fallen into a pit that they just cannot see a way out of – until someone reaches out to them.  That is how redemption occurs.   If no one ever reaches out to them, it never happens.  Thank God someone did that for me.  Now imagine it is you who have reached down and offered a hand you know only you can offer.  Now picture the smile on God’s face as he considers what you have done on his behalf.

There are two people in this story.  There is one person who needed to be reached out to, and one person who was willing to reach.  They are both a part of what we call community, and are good examples of how God has designed His world to support itself if we will only submit to his desire for us to do it.  This illustration may appear extreme, but it is so very real.  Every situation is not that bad, but there are so many who need to be reached out to, and so many who could reach if they will take but one small step.  What is critically important to remember is that YOU could be either person at different stages of your life.

Whichever one of these is you today, I hope you will reach out.  Whether up or down, please reach out.

Reach!

 

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Ever notice in the Bible that Jesus was not into crowds?  He dealt with them when he had to, but most of the time he avoided them.  I think he was most comfortable and yes more effective when he was with the smaller groups where the intimacy could be felt.  People connect with people in a lot of awesome ways.

I really dislike crowds.  But I also dislike being alone for extended periods of time.  I am at my best when I find a balance between the two.  Ever wonder about that, about why we need to be involved with others in our lives?  I truly believe that God designed it that way.

image Some of my very best times have been when I am alone, and I have also enjoyed being caught up in the excitement of being in the crowd as well.  But somewhere inside of me I understand that the best place to be in general is somewhere in between those two, as a part of a community of believers.  People need people to help them through their lives, and God places people in our paths to help us on our way.  When I am struggling with something in my life, I believe God sends people to help me get through it.  They are a support group that can help hold my hand, and an accountability factor when I start to stray where I should not.  They help me get out of trouble, but they help keep me out of trouble as well.  I also believe that I need to be a part of that community to serve.  Just as I need help in times of trouble, I need to be there and offer help to others.  God has given us each individual strengths that just like a link in a chain, make us all stronger.  To not put those to use would be a shame.  I think this completes the circle of need that God has made perfect.

So where are you?  Are you a part of a community?  If you get in trouble, do you have a support mechanism around you?  How about when others are struggling?  Are you present, aware of their struggles, and there to lend help as needed?  If you

are, then you know the joy of helping, and of being helped.  If not, then you are really missing out on what God has for each of us.  Seek it out – you will soon discover the joy of being part of something bigger than yourself, where you can help and be helped!

Gotta go now.  Gonna go hang with my "peeps"!

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