Archive for the ‘General Life’ Category

What breaks your heart? Are you moved by poverty? Is it racial discrimination that brings your blood to a boil? Do you hate seeing corruption everywhere you turn? Does your heart stir for orphans, or maybe it’s abuse victims that cause you turmoil? Most likely, all of these things bother you at some level, but is there something that really breaks your heart?

Our youth group recently watched a video of Bill Hybels speaking at a leadership conference. He was talking about what he calls our “Holy Discontent”, which is basically the one thing that really breaks our hearts and consumes us. Hybels says that great things can happen when you are absolutely wrecked by something. Not just mildly offended by something, or semi-interested in a cause, but absolutely wrecked by injustice. I may not agree with all of the things that Bill Hybels says, but I do believe that God wants us to get involved with His mission to rescue people. There are many ways to get involved, but you or I cannot do all of them. If we each work toward finding that which breaks our heart, and then allow that passion to grow into action, we can start to really help people. If we are all doing our share, we can really do great things for others. I believe that finding the injustice that breaks our heart the most is the first step in finding our calling.

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What can we do if we all work together?

If I can find my one heartbreaker and focus my attention on that one thing, and if you could find yours and focus on it, and the next person could find theirs… and so on, how much do you think we could accomplish? God wants us to be intently involved in His story. He has gifted all of us and set within us a brokenness over one thing or another. Do you know what that thing is? Do you know what breaks your heart?

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“I didn’t join the Army to pick weeds out of rock beds.”The words were spoken over a decade ago.  In fact, it has been almost 15 years since I heard them.  I remember the conversation well.  I was in jump school at Fort Benning, GA and there was a break in the training.  The Army doesn’t like to pay its soldiers to sit around and do nothing (especially in a training environment), so when there is a lull in legitimate work, special provisions are made.  Cleanliness is a virtue in the military, and someone has to make everything neat and tidy.  The task at hand was a simple one, and not nearly as degrading as spending an entire Saturday cleaning bathrooms.  Our task at the time was picking weeds out of a gravel bed.Sometimes we have to do things that sound stupid, or seem like a waste of time.  There are always tasks that we have to do that we just don’t want to do.  We are, inherently, selfish beings who have been told to look after number one.  We are groomed to put ourselves, our needs, our desires, above all others.  We are also told that we should bail out of any situation that does not bring us joy and pleasure.

Nobody joins the Army to pick weeds out of rock beds.  But sometimes picking weeds out of rock beds just so happens to be the assignment for the day.

This is how the Army determines success

I love to complain about things.  I’m not bragging about it, but I generally need to vent about whatever is frustrating me.  At times I can take things a little far, but I know that if I don’t say something about it, I just sit and fume about whatever the problem is.  I know I complained about picking the weeds, but there is a big difference between complaining and feeling superior to the non-enjoyable parts of work.  I did not join the army to do menial tasks in the hot, July sun but that was what I was told to do.  I was not too good for that job.

I just got back from standing behind a concession stand at an Ohio State University football game this afternoon (I like to wait a few days before I edit and post my articles for those of you wondering why you aren’t reading this on a Saturday evening or a Sunday morning) and honestly, I did not want to go and help out.  I was not being paid for it, and this was supposed to be my first Saturday to relax at home with my wife in far too many weeks.  I was asked by a very close friend of mine who needed a couple of people to fill up gaps in the team.  I reluctantly accepted and woke up way earlier than I wanted to this morning to get up to the stadium by 9am.

Once I got over myself; my lack of sleep, my lack of quality time with my wife… I was able to enjoy myself.  I may not have enjoyed running around and fetching hot dogs, waters, popcorn, pretzels and all sorts of other stuff.  I may not have liked getting up early on a Saturday.  I may not have wanted to spend eight hours away from my wife.  But you know what?  I love helping people.  That’s why I’m in ministry.  That’s why I work for a school district instead of a corporation.  That’s also why I showed up this morning.  Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do, because it helps others.  Someone has to serve food to hungry football fans.  Someone has to clean the bathrooms, and yes, someone even has to pick weeds out of rock beds.

My Jeep - stalking prey in it's natural environment

I love Jeeps.  In fact, I’ve had 4 of them (if you count the Grand Cherokee I had for 6 months).  If you count my wife’s Jeep, then I’ve had 5.  My current Jeep is a 2006 Wrangler Rubicon.  I love it, it’s by far the nicest one I’ve owned.  I had a CJ-5 in high school and I bought a CJ-7 just a few years ago.  I got rid of it and the Grand Cherokee to get the Rubicon when I decided owning 2 Jeeps was pretty unnecessary.  My love for Jeeps runs so deep, I even married a girl who owns a Jeep (hers is a 2007 Wrangler Unlimited for those keeping track).  Granted, that’s not the only reason I married her, but it was a pretty sweet selling point.

Now that I’m married, I have been thinking a lot about finances, specifically debt, and wondering if making payments on two Jeeps is a smart idea.  My wife and I have two car payments, a motorcycle payment, credit cards and student loans.  I understand that it’s not so abnormal to owe lots of people money.  In fact, I would venture to guess that you are in a similar situation. Although debt is normal, normal does not seem to be working anymore.  At least not for me.  I see a lot of people around me who are struggling financially, but have no plan of escape, and don’t have any idea how to even start to dig free.  I want to be in charge of my financial life.  My wife and I decided to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course and in it, we are learning about how to look at money from a different perspective.  To be honest, we just started the course, but it has already taught us a lot about money, retirement, debt, emergency funds, credit cards and savings.

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I put a quarter in, but the loan on the piggy bank is $100 a month

My wife and I have been talking for a few months about our debt and how we plan on getting out of it.  We are both fairly impulsive with our money, and we both want need to make better decisions.  We both want to have more financial freedom and we both want to be able to give money to those who need it.  We also would love to be less tied down by our debt.  We want to be able to move around and do whatever we feel called to do.  We are sick of being stuck by our financial decisions.

We now have a choice to make.  Keep the Jeep because it’s fun, or sell it because it makes financial sense.  If I sell the Jeep, I can make enough money to pay it off and buy a cheap car with the money left over.  How willing am I to get out of debt?  How willing are any of us?  Are you out of debt?  Did you have to make tough decisions?  Are you glad you did?

I’ve heard that a lot, and as a Christian, I’ve said that a lot.  “II pray for you” is the Christian knee-jerk reaction to hearing anything from anyone.

  • You need a job, I’m praying for you.
  • Sick grandma, I’m praying for you, and her, and any other random family members who might be affected.
  • Hey, you lost a limb in a strange farm equipment accident, I’ll be in touch with the Big Guy, maybe He’ll get you a new one.

There is nothing wrong with praying for others.  Prayers of intercession (the ‘hey, look at me, I know big words’ way of saying prayers that help others) are an amazing way to support people.  Why would you not pray for those around you who need help?  All of us know people who have needs.  Whether those needs are physical or spiritual, we are all close to people who could use some prayer.  God is a big God, and why not spend some time talking with Him about the issues on our minds?  I love praying for other people’s needs.  It really helps me take focus off myself, and it reminds me that God is in control.

You know what else is a kind gesture to those in need?  Helping them.  It’s a novel concept, I know.  Some of you are probably staring blankly at the screen, trying to understand what that even means.  ‘Helping them? I’m not sure what he’s getting at.  I mean I said I’d pray for them, what else can I do?’

Not that prayer isn't good, but these kids might need some physical help we can provide right now.

When I see people around me who have needs, I pray for them, but I try to help them when I am able.  If they are feeling low, I offer an ear or a hug, or both.  If they need some money, I offer to help out.  I allow myself to be open to the needs of those around me so that I can be used to reach into their lives.  I get to use my gifts to help others, and I love it.

Where is the love?

Apple Inc. has made so much money during the recession that it is poised to beat ExxonMobile as the most profitable company on the planet.  This is not a statement against Apple, but a question posed to those of us who helped make that happen.  The unemployment rate is just above 9%.  Costs of goods and services are skyrocketing, and yet we spent so much money on unnecessary gadgets this year that we pushed a company that only makes unnecessary gadgets into a position to become the most profitable company in existence.

I have no problems with buying iWhatevers or iShinyThing#3 but where is our neighborly love?  Why must we force social programs onto the shoulders of our government?  If we, as ordinary people, took some time and helped those around us (volunteering at shelters, donating food and clothing, adopting and fostering children…) we wouldn’t need so many government programs.  There are so many people in the world with their legitimate needs left unmet, and so many people with so much excess in their lives, why don’t we give a little bit away to help those around us?

Prayer is an amazing way to help those around us, but we need to realize that sometimes there are practical solutions that we can provide to others.

James 2:15-16 - Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

It doesn’t take a keen eye or some sixth sense to know that today’s kids are struggling with life. There are so many options and so many paths they have laid out before them. Most don’t seem to know where they’re going or even that they should be going anywhere. Their parents tell them what to do after school(usually college), their teachers tell them what to do, and their friends tell them what to do. They are constantly bombarded with options and choices, some with dire consequences. I see students all of the time. I work for a public school district and I am a youth leader at my church. What I see around me are students who are trying to figure out where they fit into the grand scheme of life. They have lots of decisions to make, and lots of factors to weigh. The big question is; who is actually helping them?

You won't get through to him if you can't get him to pay attention

Teenagers need direction; but who can they turn to for real help? Parents would be the easy answer, as would teachers, friends, older relatives, clergy… and many others who may or may not be the ones you want investing time into today’s youth. Sometimes even those who seem like obvious answers to us adults are not necessarily the first places teens will turn for advice. In fact, those people might be the last people teens turn to. Some teenagers are afraid of looking stupid, or failing to meet expectations. Some just don’t want to deal with the stress. The fact is, some teenagers just don’t have good role models to emulate.

See, still not paying attention

What can be done to help? Is there any way to offer help and support? I think there is. I spend a lot of time working with teenagers, and I consider that one of the best decisions I have ever made. Working with the youth group at my church has been amazing. I get to spend time with some of the greatest people I have ever met. These students are fun, funny, smart, caring, energetic and lovable. Like anything, there are good times and bad times. Joy is mixed with frustration and heartache. There is also a lot of work and it can be very stressful at times. The rewards are worth the effort, though.

I get to watch teenagers grow and mature. I get to see them stumble and fall, and then pick themselves back up again. I get to help them make decisions (well, those who choose to listen) and many have bent my ear from time to time. The relationships built as teenagers can grow into real adult friendships, too. I still spend time with a lot of my former students, and one of my old students was even the best man at my wedding.

What is the secret to being a good mentor? There really isn’t one. There are some ingredients that are needed, but they aren’t really secrets. Time and effort are key, though. Make time to be with those you mentor. It’s like any other relationship. If you neglect to spend time with someone, the relationship you form will start to die. If you don’t invest any time at all, there will eventually be no relationship. Effort is also important. Some teenagers have been let down before and it may take some legitimate effort on your part to build a solid relationship with them. They need to know you aren’t going to throw them to the wolves or berate them when they make mistakes. They need to know they can confide in you and that you are trustworthy enough to listen without judgement. There might be some baggage to sort through and some pains that need healing, but when you can see hope in the eyes of a teen, especially one who never had hope before, you will see why people devote their lives to investing in others.

Freedom

Posted: June 30, 2011 in Christian Living, General Life

FREEDOM

Go ahead and look at that word again.  Stare at it for a second and let the word sink in.  Everybody wants freedom, but what exactly is freedom?  What makes someone free?  What do we do with freedom once we obtain it?

The U.S. is built upon the promises of freedom.  Freedom of speech, religion and press are the foundation upon which we built our nation.  We fought for these freedoms, and in many ways, we still fight for them.  One thing that bothers me is that I think we have lost sight of what freedom really means.

In the movie, The American President, Michael Douglas’ character says, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours”.  When you think of freedom, is this how you imagine it?  That is freedom of speech.  If you want to be able to say things, you need to allow others to oppose your ideas.  If you believe in something, there is probably someone out there who disagrees with you.  True freedom is allowing others to speak their minds.

I am a Christian.  I believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  I also believe the Bible is true.  Some of you are not Christians.  Some of you believe the Bible is a book of fiction.  Some of you believe Jesus was just a guy, others just a prophet, and even others don’t believe He even existed at all.  Some of you believe that there is no God, while others believe we all are God.  There are many different religions and theologies out there.  Most of us are pretty stubborn about our beliefs, not just in our convictions, but in our conversations.  We may not agree with other faiths, but do we have to be so angry toward others when they tell us what they believe?  We don’t have to berate those who disagree.  Just like the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion gives everyone the right to believe what they choose.  That freedom is important.  If God gives us the right to choose, and the Constitution gives us the right to choose, who am I to take that choice away from you?  I can offer my beliefs, and defend my choices.  I can even try to convince you that you should believe what I do.  What I don’t have is the right to tell you what to believe.  I don’t have the right to force you, or coerce you into believing what I do.  I can’t beat you, kill you, threaten you, round you up and imprison you for disagreeing.  We all have the same rights to believe whatever we choose.

Civil discourse.  My favorite type of discourse.  I love to debate, to exchange ideas and thoughts about almost everything.  I am fairly opinionated, and usually very stubborn, but I try to listen to what other people say, and try to understand where they’re coming from.  I enjoy hearing multiple sides of an argument because it helps me learn.  I like learning why people do things the way they do, especially when they do things that I wouldn’t, or do things in ways I wouldn’t.  It would be amazing if everyone else enjoyed a good, tasteful debate.  Think of how the political arena could be if the candidates could just say that they don’t agree with their opponent.  “Hi, I’m Joe Awesome and I’m running for Congress.  I think that my opponent, John Supercool, is a great guy, but I just don’t believe that his thoughts on balancing the budget are what we need at the moment.  Now, here are my thoughts on the subject…”  That would be so much better than the hateful and disrespectful exchanges we are subjected to during the political process.

If these guys can laugh together, surely we can find common ground with each other

We live in a world full of different people.  Those different people have different viewpoints, different experiences and different approaches.  Here in America, we have the freedom to express those differences.  Embrace those differences and especially the freedom we have to express them publicly.  Freedom isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort.

Yeah, if only campaigning was done with this much smiling

…Hello? Is there anyone still around?

Hopefully you didn’t think that I stopped writing for good. I got married and decided to take some time off to prepare for the wedding and to be with my wife on our honeymoon. I had a great time in the beautiful parks of Utah, and for those of you who have never been there, you should definitely go visit sometime. Hannah and I got married in Bryce Canyon and went to Zion National Park for the honeymoon. Both were amazing, and well worth the money we spent to get there, stay there and eat there.

I do not deserve such a beautiful and wonderful wife

I am enjoying this married life, and all the fun and craziness that comes with it. But I missed writing. I didn’t think I would miss it, but I did. I really enjoy organizing my thoughts on paper (or online, whatever works). So, I guess what I’m saying is, I’m back from my break, so expect to see more of my thoughts soon. I’m going to shoot for one or two articles a week.

I guess that’s it for now. Go do something productive.