Soul-Trading

mark 8-36If you’re a parent, I would venture to say you spend a lot of time helping your children explore their interests, find their passions, make friends, and grow in their abilities. Outside a typical school day, you cart them to swim and music lessons, sports trainings and games, tutoring.

You make sure they don’t miss the party invite (what if they don’t get invited again or are left out on the playground at school?)! We only have Wednesday afternoons free and the school just opened up a term of Oztag… perfect! Sign us up! Wait… what’s Oztag?

My own daughter tried ballet, hip hop, gymnastics (at two different gyms) before we realised her passion was music and art. She now also plays netball for both her school and club.

How do we, as parents fit it all in? What’s the motivation for all this, (shall I daresay “over-scheduling”)? We tell ourselves we want what’s best for them. Some of us believe our kids are stars and in order to get ahead, they must perfect their trade. We must set them up for success. And… Kids are demanding at times. They tell us what they want to do and we jump through every hoop to make it happen. I mean, how guilty would we feel if right down our very own hallway slept the next Mozart and we didn’t pay for that extra term of piano lessons?

We live in crazy times! All this taxiing our children to and fro. Then, what’s left of us, these devoted, well-intentioned grown-ups?

Soul weary, budget busted, time strapped adults whose sleep patterns are poor and marriages are weak.

In the pursuit of fostering well-rounded, talented, happy children who have friends and self-confidence, we can lose our own souls. What happened to regular date nights? Adult friends who party with us while the children go to bed?

What are MY interests?

Didn’t I have hobbies once upon a time?

Where are friends who make me laugh, those who spur me on towards becoming my best self?

All of our choices come at a cost. This over-scheduling and saying “yes” to the aforementioned litany of options means saying “no” to other things. Unfortunately, those “other things” can be the very ones which sustain our souls. The fun. Spiritual growth. Marriage. Small group at church. Rest.

Let’s don’t mistake “good parenting” for soul-trading.

Kids need parents who love each other and they need to see us taking care of ourselves, embracing a hobby, setting boundaries, living within our means. The lessons WE teach through lives devoted to Jesus, the church, our marriages, and sabbath rest far outweigh any weekly half hour lesson you could pay for with someone else in charge.

“What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for” (Mark 8:36 MSG).

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Day 10: “Your Kingdom Come”

thy kingdom comeWhat did Jesus mean by saying, “Thy Kingdom Come?” while teaching his disciples how to pray? God’s plans, not mine. His intentions, not yours. Undertaking the Lord’s strategy before our own.

Total surrender to the will of God is easier said than done. Dying to your fleshly desires – submitting your goals, money, children, health to a Heavenly Father comes with resistance.

Your inward focus over the last week and a half has allowed you to hear God with more clarity, to tune into the Holy Spirit, to find freedom in areas where you struggle. Hopefully, you’re learning to yield to his voice in a more meaningful way.

However, if your biggest obstacle is yourself (your problems, insecurities, fears), then understanding “thy kingdom come” as it relates to others, will prove difficult. Ask God, “why have you put me in this spot at this time with these people?”

It’s time to begin looking outward. How can your own personal revelation benefit someone else in your world?

“God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them” (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19).

Sharing the love of Christ looks different for everyone. You may give time to a friend who needs a listening ear. Or, make a meal and cart kids around for a mate stuck at home with an injury or a newborn. You might go out of your way to help your co-worker.

Encourage someone.

Extend forgiveness.

Whatever God is asking you to do, go for it! Pray for opportunities. Step out in faith.

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
 as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).

Who Can You Call A Friend?

myfriends

Throughout my life, friends have brought both the greatest joys and some of the deepest hurts. What happens when we let someone in on our dreams, insecurities, or opinions believing they “get us” only to find we were worlds apart in our understanding? They can betray us or leave us feeling rejected if they exit our “inner circle” unexpectedly.

“There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). How do we define a “real friend?” I heard a great teaching a few years ago from TD Jakes that helps put our relationships in context. Lamenting over a “bestie” who was really just a companion for a season is a waste of time. I’m sure I’ve adjusted the Bishop’s original thought but here’s my take on it:

I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.

I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.

CONFIDANTS are friends that are “FOR YOU” no matter what you are for! They love you unconditionally. They stick by your side no matter where you live, what direction your life takes or what mood you’re in. You can confide in them; they don’t judge you. You can screw up and hurt them; they forgive you. Your best moments will find them cheering. Your worst? Alongside you crying. Time nor distance can keep you apart in your hearts. If you have a couple of these in a lifetime, consider yourself blessed.

CONSTITUENTS are “FOR WHAT YOU’RE FOR” and nothing more. (This doesn’t negate their importance or value.) I would venture to say most people in your circles could be considered constituents. They come along when your kids are in the same class and you have chats over coffee after drop-off. Or, you connect because of a common cause. Maybe it’s political. Or, a project at work puts you in the same place at the same time everyday. You mesh because you’re connected to a vision or the same leader.

It’s easy to feel like “BFFs” but if your commonality changes, you might feel the relationship fade. Understanding constituents properly can help you avoid being hurt when this normal cycle occurs. I’ve often met someone new at church who’s offended because “no one reached out” to her after she left her last place of worship. (You may have experienced this in a job transfer too.)

Maybe you mis-took those friends as confidants when all along, they were constituents? 
Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don't buy one too soon!

Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don’t buy one too soon!

You were connected because you both “FOR” the same thing. If YOU chose to leave, you can’t expect the ones who are still there to follow you. You’ve detached yourself from what joined you together. You may remain connected for a season but don’t be surprised if your relationship vaporizes over time.

Constituents are great. You need them in your life! But if they go, remember they were merely “for” what you were “for.” They were never “FOR YOU.”

COMRADES are actually “AGAINST WHAT YOU’RE AGAINST!” They might be the people on the committee at school who help you fight the administration’s decision to get rid of recess. Or, you’re connected on FaceBook because you all hate Ps Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. Caution: As quickly as you hooked up, you will be dropped because the next bandwagon is available for hire. I see these groups play out in kids sports; everyone is on the same page because they dislike a certain coach or rule. You’re allies as you rant over how YOU think things should be run. Then, when the team disseminates or you get a new coach, nothing remains to keep you connected.

Pastors, be careful of the comrades who join your church because they are against the way the last church operated. They will leave you too once you offend or refuse to bend to their demands.

Comrades aren’t always negative. They can come along like scaffolding to help you fight a fight. Once the job is done, they are gone but their impact and importance aren’t soon forgotten.

Knowing the difference between confidants, constituents, and comrades brings perspective and keeps your expectations in check. Feel free to post comments if this post helped you or you have another perspective on the matter!

 

Rub People the Right Way

shorts

One of the most annoying things about running long distances is the chaffing that can occur from clothes or other objects rubbing your skin over and over. I bought a very expensive sports bra last year that was cute and colourful; yet, after wearing it for my first 10km run, I realised the shoulder strap had one little spot where the overlap was rough and that tiny 2cm seam rubs uncomfortably the ENTIRE TIME. I have pushed this to the back of the drawer and only wear it on days when workout clothes make me feel productive even when I haven’t stepped foot out the door!

I bought some new bright orange and grey Nike running shorts recently when I was in America and couldn’t wait to wear them. I did a few shorter runs and they were fine. Then, one morning on a longer one, the seams between my legs suddenly felt two inches thick and I realized how course and bumpy they were as they rub, rubbed, rubbed my inner thighs all the way home. I had a scab mirroring minor road rash for over a week after that one!

So many times, something seems nice on the outside, even enticing (I mean who doesn’t love a hot pink and blue Lorna Jane bra?), but upon further investigation, it’s actually not suitable for where I’m traveling. If I’m pushing ahead, extending myself and actually going beyond normal expectations, something as silly as clothing takes on a whole new meaning. I’m no longer looking at it for its “cute-factor” or whether it’s the right size. Now, I’m looking deeper into its construction. Finding out if what seems right on the outside is actually good for me on the inside (of my armpits, legs, or foot). What might seem like a perfectly good pair of shoelaces, if laced up too tightly for several kilometers can cause a bruise on the top of your foot (that’s my most recent faux pax).

Our relationships work much the same way. Have you ever been around someone for a short time who was funny, interesting, and kind and then spent a little more time only to find out his humour is actually used negatively to insult or tear others down? She’s “interesting” because she knows all the latest gossip and is happy to share it. Or even her “kindness” comes with an agenda.

I want to be the type of person who, upon further investigation, actually looks and feels even better than the first impression. I want people to feel good after spending some time with me and I pray their experience of rubbing shoulders with me leaves them stronger and more like Christ, not down in the dumps, wanting to avoid me next time my number comes up.

I often say we become the people we hang around and the books we read. I encourage you to look at your friendships and ask yourself:

“If I keep running with this person, am I gonna be better for it or am I gonna have some scars and bruises?”

“Is my conversation life-giving and generous towards others, believing the best and seeing the positive?”

“Can I become more like Christ with each encounter I have, or am I being pushed away from God, my church, and other Christian friends?”

It’s the subtleties that make all the difference in time. Paying attention to our words and taking note of how someone affects us can determine our endurance level and strength. Take note when someone “rubs you the wrong way” because it may be your first clue to pick another partner to run with.

 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:28-30

Fasting Devotion, Day Nine

Philippians 2:1-11

Healthy relationships matter. When we are lonely, we need friends to come around us. When we have a blind spot, it’s nice for someone we love to help us out and have our backs! We value and appreciate acts of kindness and sacrifice of others to stand by us during tough times.

Whether married or single, old or young, introvert or extrovert, most of our days are spent interacting with other people. Christ desires our relationships to prosper. As a matter of fact, we are to be known as Christians by the way we love one another. The greatest commandment after loving God with all our hearts is to love our neighbour as ourself. We are to love one another as Christ loves us, unconditionally. We are to forgive each other when we are wronged.

Proverbs gives many examples of flourishing relationships: Offenses are overlooked; friends can become “family;” reliable friends are refreshing, not draining.

We all know healthy relationships are vital to a good life. But how do we ensure we have them?The Apostle Paul gives us a guide:

We use Christ as the model and commit to living with humility, not seeking a position or pushing forth an agenda. Christ had equal status with God yet gave all that up to come down to our HUMAN level and serve mankind.

Who have you served lately? Who needs you to come down to her level and stand united? Who might you forgive as Christ has forgiven you?

When we invest in other people, we gain a heavenly reward. People are what matters most to God. If we need a friend, we should be the type of friend we desire. Living to serve and honor those in our lives will reap a lasting reward for each of us.

Dear Lord, it’s an honour to call you my friend. You love me unconditionally and modeled true servanthood when you stepped out of heaven to join me on Earth. I pray I can follow your example and truly serve and love the ones you have placed in my life. Mend any relationships that are broken. Strengthen my friendships and teach me how to love so that you may be glorified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Who Will Follow Me?

follow me

You ever meet someone new and think, “I’d like to be friends with her?”  Or, maybe there’s someone on social media whose life looks interesting and you watch their Instagram posts; do you track what clever thing they have to say on Twitter?  You “follow” them in order to have their influence or to live vicariously through them.  There’s only one problem with those types of relationships: they are one-sided.  You might follow someone on Twitter and re-tweet everything they say only to find they never write you back or even know who you are. We all want someone to want us, but real friendships take two people reciprocating attention to one another. You put yourself out there to pursue the relationship and cross your fingers the other person responds.

Oftentimes, in my relationships, I’m the pursuer.  I think that’s why I was so good in sales when the motto of our company was, “the fortune’s in the follow-up!” I enjoy the follow up.  If I like someone or something, I have no problem going after it/her. When someone new visits our church, we make sure to thank them for coming and we call them afterwards.  If there’s any hope of connecting or forming a relationship, we can’t leave it to chance.

When someone tracks me down, I find it surprisingly refreshing.  Amazing, actually!  A new acquaintance remembering me and taking time to reach out is wonderful.

In the “striving for attention” sort of age we live in, I like to be reminded:

There’s one follower we all have.

The Ultimate Stalker.  The ONE who doesn’t have to troll our FaceBook pages to know what we’re up to or where we “checked in” last.  He knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb and he promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

We can be sure, no matter how lonely we might feel, forgotten even, that God is hot on our trail. He is pursuing us. He came to seek and save. HIs love is forever overtaking us. No amount of striving can earn what he freely gives. Running cannot put us out of his reach.  Ignoring him won’t change his position or cause him to shrug his shoulders and walk away.  The Author of Time will wait for us to turn our face towards him.  He won’t “un-friend” us, block us, or report our bad behaviour. His friend request sits waiting for us to accept.  He tells us to come follow him as an invitation for relationship, not just a way to boost his stats.

I’m so thankful for friends and followers in my life.

But, I’m mostly grateful for a God who is both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and who never, never quits (Psalm 86:15).

Ode to Friendship

In three short days, we will fly away to Australia to begin our new life.  As I reflect on the last few weeks, the phrase “rich in friendship” comes to mind.  Greg and I truly are rich in friendship.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”  I look back at the last seven years in Austin and all the way to sixth grade where I made a friend for life named Erika, and I can’t believe how many loyal friends we have.

You have been here in our time of transition to encourage and believe in us.  You have prayed for us, cried with us, written us cards and notes, fed us, housed us, made us laugh, sown financially into our church, and more.  What a privilege and honor it is to know so many wonderful people and be surrounded by such love.

Although we are moving several thousand miles away, we are connected forever.  Memories, photographs, laughs, and pain have entwined our hearts and we can cherish that no matter where we live.

I don’t have enough time or words to write to each of you how much you mean to our family.  I can see your faces when I close my eyes and I can hear your laughs.  I once heard that we become the books we read and the people we hang around.  If that’s the case, I feel pretty good about myself.  The people in my life are wonderful.  This gives God great honor as well.  The Bible says we also ought to love one another since God SO LOVED US. If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

We will continue to love one another in this next season.  It might look different and cost a little more to get together for lunch, but we have Skype, Facebook, blogs and Twitter to make connecting so easy.  Please continue to pray for us as our journey is just beginning.  We will pray for you as well!

And with faces like this, we are sure to make new friends quickly!!