Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Celebrate the Baby Steps

I've heard the definition of leadership is taking a group from "where they are" to "where they need to be." Vision is knowing "where they need to be." When God puts that in your heart, you desperately want to be there NOW....not months or years from now.....RIGHT NOW! There is a fire in your belly to see it through to completion. There is so much that needs to be done to get there, which can be completely paralyzing because the goal seems so far away. So how do you keep from getting paralyzed by the distance between "where you are" and "where you need to be"?

Here's my secret: Instead of getting mired down in the frustration of what is not happening yet, I have to celebrate the small steps we are taking in the right direction. There have been way too many times I did not celebrate the little victories because I was so frustrated with not being at the final destination yet. To keep the frustration from dominating my mind, I choose to focus on those little steps toward "where we need to be." The funny part is that most people don't see those baby steps. They don't pat you on the back in recognition of the of those positive forward nudges. Many times, people who follow you even question why you're doing what you are doing. As long as you have a clear picture of where it needs to be, the path toward the goal becomes more obvious. Just follow the path. Take the next step...however small it is....and celebrate the fact that you're not going backward or stagnating, as so many do. Remember, you won't know if those baby steps are victories unless you have the final destination in mind. So we can't ever forget where the final destination should be! Don't beat yourself up for not being there yet...just know you're getting there!

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." -Proverbs 19:21

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book Recommendation

There are a few national pastors that I enjoy following by reading their blogs, reading their books, and listening to their messages every now and then. Mark Batterson, the pastor of the National Community Church in Washington, DC is one of those thinkers who constantly challenges me. When I was given the chance to preview his new book, Primal, before it's nationwide release I jumped at the chance. Primal is a call to rediscover the love for God that has been diluted, convoluted, and distorted by our modern lens. My first, of many, highlighted quotes is from page 3, "I couldn't help but wonder if we have accepted a form of Christianity that is more educated but less powerful, more civilized but less comapssionate, more acceptable but less authentic than that which our spiritual ancestors practiced."

Batterson calls on believers to rediscover what it means to love God with your heart, soul, mind and spirit...what he terms as "compassion, wonder, curiosity, and energy" as the answer to rekindling this lost Christianity of our culture. This book is chocked to the hilt with many illustrations from science (my favorites), pop culture, and literature to show the wonder that we need to rediscover. The result is a clear challenge for all of us to bust out of the modern mediocrity miring us down. The title reveals the heart of this challenge: getting back to the heart of our faith by being awed at the wonder of the God we serve, His work around us, and the Word He gave us. I highly recommend this book as a jumpstart to your new year!

You can purchase it directly from the publishers here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Update on Matt Chandler

Here is the link to the update shared on Matt Chandler's church website. I wish there was better news to post, but I firmly believe that God is in control.

Apparently, the brain tumor is malignant. Please join with me in praying for Matt's healing and for his family as they go through this difficult time.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Matt Chandler- One of my heroes...

Over the past few years I have been greatly inspired by Matt Chandler, who pastors the Village Church near Dallas, Texas. He's one of those clarion voices in the American church landscape sounding the call for clear biblical preaching and progressive methodology. Recently, at the age of 35, he was diagnosed rather abruptly with a brain tumor. Within a week he was scheduled to have the tumor removed. The video below was a message he recorded just days before his surgery for his congregation to watch in his absence. As I watched the video I kept thinking about the Steve Fee song we do often here at Good Hope, "Glory to God. Glory to God. Glory to God forever!" It is so easy to praise God when everything is smooth and going our way. My prayer is that each of us will see every circumstance, good and bad, as opportunities to echo back praise to God for His goodness through it all! Consequently, the surgery went well and Chandler is recovering in the hospital. They await tests of the biopsy some time this week. Keep him in your prayers!

Here's the link to the video:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rain, rain fall away!

I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful day. It's yet another rainy day. Many of you find yourself complaining about a dreary, cold day like today. When that feeling hits you, remind yourself of how dry it was this past summer. We would have begged for this kind of rain back in July. I promised God this past summer during the big drought that I would never grumble about the rain ever again. Rain is a blessing from God. In fact, the Scriptures describe rain as a powerful instrument God uses to get our attention.

God's control of the rain is a sign of God's power and stregth. Remember the last huge thunder clap that made you jump, or the helplessness you felt looking out at your brown yard this summer? "God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,' and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.' So that all men he has made may know his work, he stops every man from his labor." (Job 37:5-7) The fact that God provides rain for us is amazing when you think about what we deserve. The older I get the more I realize that I don't deserve anything good from God. My heart is deceitful and dark. God allowing the sun to shine on me, or the rain to fall around me, just illustrates His patience and mercy toward me. I was God's enemy, and yet He chose to save me, adopt me into His family, shower me with love, and make me His son.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48). So, God provides the sun and the rain on those who deserve it and those who don't deserve it. He gives us more than we need, and yet we complain when He sends the rain. As the rain falls today, remember God's favor on you and breathe a prayer of thanksgiving. Rain really is a beautiful thing...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Keeping off the Weight

I've been on a weight loss journey since January that now finds me 50 pounds lighter and feeling better than I have in many years. This weight loss journey is now in the "weight management" phase, as I have met my goal. I seriously think that losing the weight was the easy part. Keeping the weight off requires constant effort and attention. Here are the lessons I'm learning about keeping the weight off:

1) Fight boredom. I lost a lot of the weight by eating a steady diet of the same entrees just about every week. Some of them I ate every day. For example, I have now eaten approximately 200 western omelets since the end of January. That's a lot of eggs! The food I ate was appetizing....the first 8 months of the diet....but now I'm starting to actually be repulsed by the very things I craved while on the strict phase. I've had to tweak my meals and find new healthy alternatives for foods that I crave. This takes extra effort to plan and cook, but it's worth it.

2) Don't beat yourself up when you slip. I ate 2 oatmeal raisin cookies this week in a moment of weakness and literally felt sick with guilt and the sugar high. I never knew cookies could give you that kind of headache! I confessed it to my wife. I also woke up the next morning and went back to the diet. You will slip up sometimes. Sometimes, you even need to cheat just to enjoy rich foods occasionally. The key is get back on the saddle and continue. Let the slip-ups be the exception, and not the norm.

3) Quit weighing yourself so much! I now check my weight every 2 weeks or so. I was checking every day for a time and had to stop. I was getting fixated on the day to day fluctuation of my weight. I do not want to get consumed with my weight to the point that it paralyzes me. If I gain a pound here or there, I will just modify for a short time until I get back to my target weight. If I am not careful, I will let this area rule over me. I've had to battle being prideful and more concerned about my appearance as the weight has come off. Keeping track every day only feeds that pride in me.

I am still glad that I was able to lose the weight. Now, the real challenge begins. This diet can't be a passing fad that I tried. It must be a lifestyle of discipline. What this boils down to for me is maintaining self-discipline and focus.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Heart

I was just reading this week in I Samuel 16, where the young boy David is annointed king of Israel. If you'll remember, David was the scrawny kid who didn't even get asked to meet with Samuel when Jesse was asked to present his sons for kingly consideration. In fact, David was sent out to watch sheep while Samuel was judging the other guys. The oldest, tallest, and most athletic son, Eliab, passed the prophet and Samuel thought to himself that surely this was the Lord's annointed. (I thought, "Hello! Didn't he learn that lesson from the Saul situation!") At that moment, God corrects Samuel's misguided criteria in verse 7. "But the LORD said to Samuel, `Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'"

Being a rather short man, my first reaction to reading this statement was to smile! YES! God doesn't care about who looks like a leader. (Think about most high school football quarterbacks :) Most look like Abercrombie models....AKA: my polar opposite.) I once got to meet the leadership of a nationally prominent church and was intimidated by their towering height. I literally was looking up to them, as these 2 pastors are over 6' 3" easy. I felt like a little kid standing next to them.
So I was relieved that God doesn't care about my vertical challenges.
But then I got to thinking. Do I really want God to make my heart the criterion for whether or not He uses me? You can engineer all kinds of external changes to what man looks at (makeovers, diets, clothing updates...or even elevator shoes). At that moment I had to do a heart check. Is my heart qualified to lead? Are my desires and passions positioned in the right direction so God can use me? I had to pray David's words from Psalm 139:23-24 and soul search a bit, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." I had some confessing to do...a heart check. I advise you to take some time today to take a heart inventory as well. Can God use you, based upon your affections, devotion, thoughts, and attitude?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mission Trip Reflection

We had a wonderful trip to Bluffton, S.C. this past week to help a new church plant there, Crosspoint Church-Bluffton. Our days were usually split into a morning and an evening segment, as far as work. Every night, we put on a Vacation Bible School for Crosspoint and a sister church in the area in a borrowed facility. During the morning ministry time we did some nursing home ministry and an outreach at a local Boys and Girls Club...the highlight of the week for me! I learned a few interesting things about our team and about the work to be done in Bluffton that I thought I would pass on to you:

-Beaufort County is the most unreached county in South Carolina, with only 9% of its population considering themselves to be Evangelical Christians. Wow.

-Many of the residents we met this week were transplants from up north...and I don't mean North Carolina! In our conversations with residents at 2 nursing homes, we determined that about 90% of them were from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. Who woulda' thunk that?! Come to think of it, I only met a handful of people who were actually from Bluffton. That being said, there are many people who have little exposure to Evangelical Christianity.

-The population of Beaufort County is expected to double in the coming 3 decades....a little boom town! There were subdivisions popping up everywhere...and strip malls...and lots of road expansion. You could tell that this area is getting ready to explode with people!

-When you think of the general Hilton Head area, you usually think of very wealthy people. However, it takes many, many "regular" people just to keep things going there (retail, business owners, construction work, etc.)

Having said all of that, there is much work to be done in this area. I'm glad we partnered with Crosspoint this week and hope to continue supporting their work. I was so proud of our Good Hope mission team. All in all, 20 people went with us on this trip. Each one of them worked very hard, and with very little complaining. They did what was asked of them and beyond! I had a blast getting to hang out with this group.

-We have some men who would intimidate grizzly bears with their snoring, no lie. I have never slept with ear plugs...until this week! Thanks Jesus for inventing ear plugs.

-Danny Owens is a cooking machine. We ate well.

-We had a few children who went with us and they were great assets to the ministry, especially the nursing homes and the VBS. Great job kiddos!

-The teens/college students who went with us really made me proud with their effort. Whoever out there who has lost faith in teenagers just don't know the good ones!

-The construction crew were real troopers: lugging it 50 minutes each way to get to the site each day and completing everything they were asked to do!

-Jody, Michelle, Tim, Justin and the other adult leaders did a great job of ministering to the kids at VBS. I couldn't have asked for better quality in preparation and effort.

As I said, the trip was a great success. If you're a Good Hoper, I hope you consider going to Bluffton with us the next time we get a trip together. See you Sunday!

Friday, July 03, 2009

SBC Reflections

The Southern Baptist Convention was a wonderful experience for me a few weeks ago. It reignited a passion in my heart for both the Great Commission and my denomination. Of course, there are always knuckleheads in every large meeting who try to make weird the weird guy from New York in a bad toupee who made the resolution for our seminary professors to stop teaching that the world was coming to an end in May 2011...and the Mark Driscoll bashers who want to incite friendly fire on a strong brother who is on our own team. But, on the whole, the experience was positive and uplifting. The highlight of the Convention for me was the SBC Pastor's Conference. For some of you this might be considered torture...but to me it was absolute delight. For an entire day...all day long...I got to sit under powerful preaching from some of the leading voices in our denomination and beyond. My dad and I were literally sitting on the front row directly in front of the podium. The experience was like trying to get a sip of water from a gushing fire hydrant! The most awesome experience, to me, was David Platt's message on the state of the Church today. I highly encourage you to follow the link below to the video and watch. It might be the most impacting 35 minutes you'll ever spend. The Brother started off his message by quoting from the Psalms for a really long time...completely awesome! I watched it again 2 nights ago just because I needed to hear it again. If I'm ever sick and can't preach, Good Hopers will be watching this video message in my place.

For a video link to David Platt's message, click on the link below:

With all of the good things, there was also some discouraging news that requires action from each of us. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is a special SBC offering that all churches in our denomination take up to support our international mission efforts. There was a 30 million dollar shortfall this past December, severely crippling the IMB from sending out new missionaries. We were told there are 2,000 missionaries who are "in the pipeline" to be sent out. Many of them have sold their homes, gone to school, and are waiting to be sent. At the present time, we can only send 300 of them to the field due to the budget shortfall. I am joining with other SBC pastors in calling for a "Christmas in August" special offering to make up for this shortfall. Good Hoper's, please be in prayer and prepare to give sacrificially so we can provide for our missionaries who are depending upon us for the resources to "go and tell." We can't let these guys down!!!

Friday, June 05, 2009

SERVE: Summer Missions

Summer is here! Can you believe it? It snuck up on me before I even knew it. Summer is a great time at Good Hope: VBS, the churchwide family campout at Hartwell, outdoor Home Group meetings, and church fellowships involving ice cream :) usally make for some great times in our summer calendar. We also like to spend quite a bit of time doing some kind of recreation or trips with our families. You deserve it and should relax a bit.
Having said that, I want you to also consider how you can use your summer to impact the world for the Gospel. I want you to experience the JOY of serving others in the name of Jesus. Hopefully your Home Group is carrying out an outreach for the "I (Heart) L.A." campaign in the coming weeks. Our Home Group is distributing bread tomorrow to some apartment complexes and trailer parks in the hope of sharing the Good News. Good Hope is offering some great opportunities to serve others and share the Gospel in the coming weeks. You'll never regret reaching out! There are a couple of mission opportunities available that I you want you to check out:

1) Vacation Bible School is a great outreach for our church. There will be many children and families from our community who will be on our campus that need to see we care. We have a real opportunity to reach these families for Jesus this week. You might not be a "children's ministry worker," but you might can help with crowd control or engaging parents as they drop off their kids each night. VBS starts this Sunday and runs through Thursday night. If you can help and haven't contacted Jody Slice, then jump in now and help out with this awesome outreach.

2) Backyard Bible Club is a little pet project that Sierra Sevy is coordinating this summer. Our plan is to do a weekly Bible club for a couple of hours in one of the local apartment complexes in Iva. She'll be doing this program the last 2 weeks of July and the first 2 weeks of August on Tuesdays. Let her know if you can help prepare lunches, lead/play games with kids, help with crafts, or teach Bible stories.

3) The Bluffton Mission Trip is an opportunity for you to help a new church plant in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Our goal is to help Crosspoint Church in Bluffton do a jam up VBS. We'll need people to lead the various VBS stations: craft, snack, Bible lesson, and games. We also need some cooks to help us prepare the meals for the team and some skilled labor to help renovate a homeless shelter nearby. The dates for this trip are July 19-25 and the cost is about $100. Contact me if you're interested in this trip. Did I mention that Bluffton is one town over from Hilton Head? Come suffer for Jesus at the beach with me...
4) Our Firstfruits Ministry is getting off the ground. Beverly Arthur has been working to make this food pantry ministry a reality. We need perishable and non-perishable items to give away. (Remember to bring in those fruits and vegetables from your garden so we can give them away this summer!) We also need helpers to keep things organized and to walk clients through the process when they come on our distribution Sundays.
I know you can't do all of these things...but you can do something! Make sure you use your summer to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. You'll never regret serving others!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Basketball just isn't my thing...

I just got back from playing basketball with some of the guys from church. We do this on the first Thursdays of every month. Every time I go I realize just how bad I am at basketball. I'm short. I have poor aim. I try way too hard to make creative passes. In fact tonight I single-handedly blew a 6-4 lead by passing the ball to the opposing team 3 times in a row and then completely missing shots when I had the chance to shoot. We lost the game: 10-6.

I only played organized basketball for one season in 5th grade. I had 2 points the entire season. The coach was my neighbor and he would let me play the last 2 minutes of each game out of the kindness of his heart. Jim Goodman was a merciful coach. He pitied me. I say all of this to reiterate that my basketball game stinks...and that's okay. I'm not good at basketball... but I'm pretty good at other things:

I take really good pictures...lots of practice now with 3 kids.
I can relate with most people pretty well.
I usually can come up with some good ideas.
I'm a good dad to my kids.
I can run 3 miles now without feeling like I'm going to pass out or die.

Like I said, I've got some things I can do well. That's the way God made me. He did not make me to be an NBA player. The key is to know what I do well, what I was made to do, and then do those things to the best of my abilities. It'd be ridiculous for me to spend hours on the court trying to better my basketball game when I know that I'll never be that good at it. I need to work on my strengths and make those the best they can be instead of focusing on my weaknesses. Most of us try way too hard to make our weaknesses stronger when, at best, with lots of attention and training, all they'll be is mediocre. Meanwhile I'll have taken too much precious attention away from my strengths. Even my strengths suffer when I'm focusing on my weaknesses. Find out what you're good at and work hard there.

I think this thought can transfer to many areas of personal and organizational philosophy. As churches, we sometimes try way too hard to do many things when there a few things that we're made to do. We need to spend our precious resources (time, people, facilities, energy, and money) to do those things we were made to do and be. It's difficult to not spend energy on those areas/ministries/programs that will only be mediocre, at best, with lots and lots of attention. But sometimes we just have to eliminate our weaknesses in order to really focus on the few strengths that will help us grow. If we can get to that sweet spot as an organization, where our strengths are really humming, then we'll soar. Otherwise, we'll waste lots and lots of energy trying to maintain and improve the many mediocre things we feel that we have to maintain. Let's pick a few things and do them excellently!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Everything is spiritual.

Words cannot describe the kind of week I have had. It has been a week of extremes.

Joy and sadness. Exhileration and despair. Good news and horrible news. Confrontation and avoidance. Progress and regression.

All of this occurred while adjusting to 3 children and striking that fine balance between work and home. Some weeks are just crazy! Looking back on what I've been through this week reminds me even more that I am engaged in spiritual warfare. My tendency is to get caught up in the urgency of the immediate...solving the problems, fixing stuff, when in reality the surface problems are just fronts for the real spiritual battles behind the scenes.

Paul reminded us of our real war in Ephesians 6:10-13 when he wrote: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."

Everything is spiritual. The physical world in which we live is just a facade of the superstructure of spiritual activity around us. It is very easy to look at everything through physical eyes...when someone hurts you....or when things don't go as you planned....or (as what really happened to me at 11:30 last night) your laptop dies just as you are finishing your Sunday message manuscript and you have to start over again. When this happens, I take a deep breath, say a prayer, and remind myself that my battle is not with people, calendars, personal agendas, or computers. My battle is against Satan himself. Satan hates me and my work. He hates my church. He hates the fact that I have a great life and that I love my family. He so desperately wants to subvert the work of God in my life that he will do whatever he can to distract me and throw me off course.

Satan has this crazy way of orchestrating things to happen around us that affect us without us ever giving him credit. He wants you to get mad at people, and agendas, and computers. He wants you to get so wrapped up in the surface world that the spiritual realm never enters your mind. So remember, the next time something's not just physical. Consider the devil and his schemes...and stand your ground. Remember that greater is the force within you than that which is in the world! (I John 4:4)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I've been thinking alot about change lately. Our family has really changed over the past few weeks with the new addition. Our family has had to make major adjustments to accomodate our sweet Baby Brooke. We hope to bring her to church this prepared to get a squirt of hand sanitizer before you touch her, though. She's fragile and it's still "sick season."

Our church is also changing and adjusting, which has been a fun ride. It seems that "change" is in the DNA of Good Hope. I'm very thankful for the previous pastor who ushered in new changes way before I got here. He helped to establish a culture of change. The expectation of our people is that we can't be happy where we are. Many churches resist change as if it were inherently evil. Most of it stems from the fear of the unknown. After all, change brings about different results than what has always happened. Those results might be good and they might be bad..but they are unpredictable at first. This unpredictability scares people. Ironically, most change brings with it a new set of problems with which to deal.
This brings to light a question: Why do you change?
I'm glad you asked it. :) You must change in order to solve problems. If you have problems and you don't make adjustments, then you will perpetuate those problems. There are many churches who have problems, but refuse to make the necessary changes that will solve those problems. The answer, for many of them, is to work harder at the things they've always done or to get new people to lead the things they've always done. The answer is usually not in effort or personnel. The answer is usually in "how" you do things. "How" is always a harder issue to tackle than effort and personnel. I've heard someone say that the definition of insanity is doing what you've always done and expecting different results. I never want to get caught up in the trap of perpetuating ineffective things just because we've always done them that way.
Here are 4 thoughts about changes in church life that I came up with the other day:

1) As a Church, we can never feel that we have arrived.
The minute we get comfortable and rest is the minute we start to die. It’s called atrophy.

2) As a Church, we can never feel we have a handle on how to “do church.”
The minute we stop being innovative is the minute we start to become irrelevant.

3) As a Church, we cannot do what we’ve always done and expect different results.
The minute we do something because “we’ve always done it that way” is the minute we start creating idols out of our traditions.

4) Change is not easy, but it is necessary to grow.
The minute we refrain from changing because of what it might cost us is the minute we start turning inward instead of facing outward.

What needs to change in your life? In your family? In your church? The other options with change is to resist the solutions or to ignore the problems. That's the choice we all have to make.

Monday, April 06, 2009

New Additions to the Family...

We are scheduled to induce the birth tomorrow morning starting at 5am. I am excited! As I type this blog, "Cinderella" by Steven Curtis Chapman is playing and I'm getting teary-eyed. Brooke hasn't even been born yet and I love her so much. The anticipation level is high at our house...and the ANXIETY. Anna Beth announced today that she did not want another sister. She didn't say this with a nice tone of voice either! When asked what we should do with the new baby when she comes, Anna Beth promptly told us to "give her to another family!"

It's tough for children to adjust to a new baby in the house. There are still only 2 parents, but the number of ones requiring added attention increases. The end result is what my friend Steve calls going from "playing man-to-man" to "playing zone coverage" around the house. I think children sense that they will get less attention than before and are scared.

There's an analogy here as to how many church people respond to new growth and new faces. Some people feel threatened by new people coming to their church. New additions require extra resources. Staff end up running zone instead of man-to-man in taking care of people. New babies are tough. They require more time, energy, and attention than mature children. New babies spit up and poop everywhere 24-7. They might even get more attention from the leadership than the people who have been there a really long time.

But aren't new additions fun?! People gloat over them and pinch their cheeks and take pictures with them. Don't you wish the church would feel the same way over new additions at church?! I mean, they can't do a thing on their own but we stumble over ourselves trying to take care of them, making sure their needs are met. I'm thankful that most of the people at Good Hope have the right perspective about new people. They are really excited about where we are going. Let's just keep the right perspective as new people join us! Let's gloat over new additions to our family. Remember, the most important people at Good Hope are those who are not there yet!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Waiting for baby...

Our next child is due March 31st, and the Duncan house is brimming with excitement about a new Duncan girl...(#3!)...entering the world. There is a sense of anticipation and impatience that hovers as you get closer to the expected due date. We're all talking to Chrissy's belly, trying to persuade Baby Brooke to hurry up and make her entrance into the world. Someone asked me the other day why Brooke hadn't come yet and all I could say was, "She probably hears all the commotion going on in the world outside and she's barricaded herself in." I'm sure she hears the Spring hyperactivity around our family right now...crazy soccer games, muffled music and TV programs, young sisters yelling and playing, lots of jostling from a stay-at-home mother's daily activity. Brooke has no idea what she's getting into!

She also has no idea how much we're really looking forward to holding her. A new friend asked me the other day how many children I had and my automatic reaction was "Three." Brooke's already a part of my life. I can't wait to see if she looks more like me and Anna Beth (mini-me) or Chrissy and Sarah (mini-Chrissy). Anna Beth's only concern is whether or not Brooke has blue eyes like her so she won't be the only one in the family with blue eyes. Statistics and genetics dictate that we should have another Brown Eyed Girl among us.

This anticipation and adoration is yet another parallel to how much our Heavenly Father dotes over us and longs for our "birth." He can't wait for those of us who haven't been "born yet into the family" to do so. A bigger difference, though, is the perspective of potential. I try to figure what Brooke is going to look like. I dream about what each my children will do with their lives...fear what decisions they may make...sometimes fretting over their futures prematurely. God has the perspective of eternity already. He knows what we will become. He's living that potential already...and He loves us. Oh, how He loves us!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to Handle Worry

Have you been under alot of stress lately? Do you find yourself worrying alot about the future? I corresponded with a friend recently about worry and thought this might give you some encouragement today.

When you worry...

1) Don't forget who is in control.

When you worry remember that God is in control of everything. Nothing happens in my life that caught Him offguard or has Him wringing His hands. Psalm 139:16 says, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be..." He knows what's happening in your life and He wants you to trust Him. I've realized that I can categorize everything that happens to me in life under 2 categories: "Things I Can Control" and "Things I Cannot Control." Most of the things I worry about usually fall under the "Things I Cannot Control" list. When you think about it rationally, it really does no good to worry about things I cannot control because I cannot control them! Jesus talked about this in Matthew 6:24-35. We really do worry about stuff that we can't do a thing about!

2) Choose to pray instead of worrying.

The next time you feel yourself paralyzed by worry turn that moment into a prayer. I think that Worry and Prayer are actually the same mental exercise. In both instances I'm thinking about a particular situation and wondering how it's going to turn out. In both instances, I'm focused on the issue and am blocking out other things around me. The difference between Worry and Prayer is that when I worry I'm asking how am I going to solve the problem...and when I pray I'm asking God how is He going to solve the probelm. That's a HUGE difference!

Here are some great verses when you feel paralyzed by worry:

Matthew 6:25-27 in particular
Psalm 55:22
Psalm 139
Proverbs 3:5-6
I Peter 5:7
Phillipians 4:6-8

Monday, February 02, 2009

Men and Emotions

We're starting the message series "Fireproof Your Marriage" this coming Sunday and I'm extremely excited about it. We had a packed crowd on Sunday to watch the movie this past Sunday morning. The day was a success. I really hope that many of our new visitors will return to catch the messages on marriage this month. A much deserved shout-out is due the college students and other adults who watched the nursery and children so our regular children's ministry volunteers could watch the movie. I could tell that people were engrossed in the film. One girl told me that she couldn't tell what was happening during one part of the movie because her dad was crying so hard behind her. She turned around to check out the commotion and he sobbed out, "I hate this movie!" I admit it. I'm a softie, too. I cried both times I watched it. Later that night in our home group we talked about the differences between men and women. We touched on an interesting topic that was off-script, but very apropos. The topic came up about how many men don't show their emotions - ever. This is not just in public, but also in the context of the most intimate relationship of all, marriage. I know some of you wives are "amen-ing" here because your hubby seems distant. In fact, you've probably said at some point in frustration, "Why don't you tell me how you're feeling?!" Many men don't show emotions to anyone because we've been trained from childhood to "suck it up" or "don't act like a sissy"...or worse...when we cried.
Sadness, hurt, and pain are universal emotions.
Don't lie men.
You get hurt.
We've just been conditioned from years and years of cultural pressures to not show it. I have one question: How does crying, or showing emotion, equivocate weakness? In actuality, it's being honest. When we tell a little boy to "suck it up and not cry" we're encouraging him to lie about what he's really feeling. From the start, we're encouraging him to not share what he really feels. Is it no wonder that these boys grow up to be men who have difficulty being emotionally open with their spouses...or anyone...for that matter?
In Acts 20:36-37 Paul is bidding his Ephesian brothers and sisters goodbye and the Scripture says, "When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship." Do you think this crowd was a bunch of women?! The Ephesians had become tight with Paul and they were genuinely overcome with the emotion of never seeing him again. What a beautiful sight! When is the last time you cried with emotion over an important issue...loss...sadness...sin...lost friends...?
I encouraged a recent convert recently to give his testimony in front of the church because his story is SO POWERFUL. He outright refused, as tears welled up in his eyes, because he said he'd start crying and didn't want people to see that. But that is exactly what our people need to see. Brokenness is not evil! Blessed are those who mourn (over their sin), etc. etc. We need emotional men to lead out in our churches. Men not afraid to really convey how they are feeling. Men who will raise their hands and cry out to God in worship. Men who will cry over the lostness around them.

I had a father who cried. He didn't mind sharing what he felt. It was always a touching thing to see him cry because it was usually over spiritual things or family issues. Aren't these the 2 areas where we should see men cry...where they should be passionate and emotional!? How awesome would it be if men were open with what they were feeling or thinking? I think a revival would break out in both churches and homes if dads would tear down the walls they've built inside...constructed over years and years of emotional denial...and lead with emotion. The women in our lives need to see ALL of us. We're actually hiding (ie: being dishonest and lying) when we're not conveying what we're feeling inside. Crying is not weakness, it's honesty. Just a thought... here's a tissue.