If You’re Looking For It

If you are looking for a reason to be mad, you will find it.
If you are looking for a reason to be happy, you will find it.

If you are looking for a reason to complain, you will find it.
If you are looking for a reason to be satisfied, you will find it.

If you are looking for a reason to hoard, you will find it.
If you are looking for a reason to give, you will find it.

If you are looking for a reason to love, you will find it.
If you are looking for a reason to hate, you will find it.

If you are looking for a reason to praise God, you will find it.
If you are looking for a reason to curse God, you will find it.

We all live in the same world but each one of us sees it completely different. Maybe it all comes down to what we are looking for. So, what are you looking for today?

Your Legacy

I was recently reading an article and it contained a line that caught my attention. The article said, “Your future son-in-law will determine your legacy.” The writer went on to explain how he had witnessed strong Christian people whose daughter had married a non-Christian. The marriage was a mess, often ending in divorce, and this great Christian couple now had grandchildren who were far from God.

As I read this article I thought back over my years as a pastor and I was reminded of the influence not just of son-in-laws but also daughter-in-laws. I have seen the influence on all sides by the in-laws from brother-in-laws to mother-in-laws. It is definitely true to say that “Your future in-laws may determine your spiritual legacy.”

Why is that significant to us? As parents and grandparents we need to guide the next generation on who they date and who they eventually marry. It will not only be the biggest decision of their life but also of the little lives they will raise.

I see too many Christian parents who take a passive role in their child’s love life. The end result is often a tragedy and not a fairy tale.

When Your Parent Fails

I am going to admit that this post is a little tricky to write since my mother reads my blog. So let me be clear that I am writing this as an adult son of my parents but also as the parent of my own teen children. I also want you to know that I write this because I have talked to three people in the last 10 days who have told me about the struggles they have as parents with their adult children. The Lord has not given me a chance to talk to those children, and maybe He never will, so I wanted to write a post to express what I might say to them in a counseling type setting.

1. Remember they are flawed, just like you. It is easy to place your parents on a pedestal, but they are sinners just like you. I will admit it openly. I make some huge mistakes as a parent. All parents make mistakes. Why? Because all of us fall short of the glory of God.

2. Talk Openly. Many children have been hurt by their parents and they never talk about it. They stuff it down inside and the hurt simply grows. Parents and their adult children still need to have deep conversations about things that really matter. Most of us try to avoid those at all costs.

3. State Your Love. Often when we talk we only show our disappointment. The more we dwell on the failure, the more the other person feels like a failure. It is okay to talk about what happened but parents desperately want to know that their children still love them. All of us want and need unconditional love. All of us.

4. Let Go of the Pain. This is easy to say and extremely hard to do, especially the deeper the hurt. BUT it is still the truth. The longer we hold onto pain the more it destroys us. I am not 100% sure how this might look for you – maybe it comes in writing a letter, having a deep conversation, maybe counseling is needed or possibly taking an extended period of prayer. I do not know what you need to do exactly, I just know that you need to do it – if only for yourself.

5. Embrace God’s love and forgiveness. God has forgiven all of us in Christ Jesus. We need to embrace that fact in our own lives and we need to share it with others. This may mean that we need to forgive them. It may also mean that we make sure they understand God’s grace if we were not the ones offended. God loves us and them no matter what.

I know these are simple answers. This is especially true if the offense has been going on for years. Unfortunately, most of the people I have talk to lately struggle with recent failures. Their children have simply forgotten some of these simple answers. As a result their families are being torn apart. Don’t let that happen to you.

When Your Child Fails

Through the years my children have been a part of numerous sports teams and it has usually been a wonderful experience. But anytime you compete in sports there are going to be some down moments. There are games when they make the turnover, miss the tackle, drop the ball, get the penalty and end with a disappointing defeat. Through the years there have been tears, anger and unspeakable disappointments to go along with every moment of joy and victory.

Every time I find myself in this situation I try to do several things.

1. Recognize Their Effort. Giving your best effort is not the same as being the best.

2. Affirm My Love. Personally, I do not care whether they win or lose. I believe they need to hear that. All of us need unconditional love.

3. Instruct Them. I have tried to reduce the amount of this I say through the years. Most of the time, they know what they did wrong and what they should do right. I know that I still give too much instruction, but I do want them to learn from their mistakes.

4. Remind Them of God’s Love. Everyone’s life has infinite value and worth whether they are a great success or failure. All of us need to be reminded of that regularly. I especially remind my children that God loves and cares for them no matter what happens in sports. All failure is a place for God’s grace.

5. Help Them to See the Big Picture. Honestly, very few children will receive scholarships. All of the champions will be forgotten (especially in Jr High and elementary school). Sports are a simple activity to have fun, get exercise, and enjoy time with their friends. Enjoy the moment and let God direct your life. Often God directs our life through failure as much as success, if we let Him.

So far, by the grace of God, my children have not had any major failures in life, but I am planning on using the same approach when that happens. And it will happen, I know that. What we say and do in those moments of failure help shape the lives of the next generation. I do not enter into them lightly or without thought and I hope you will not either.

Where do you find the time?

Yesterday I posted some things I do to keep growing as a person and especially as a Christian. The follow-up question to suggestions like those is usually, “Where do you find the time?” I recently preached a sermon series entitled “Overload” and I talked about how most of us have an overloaded schedule already. So how do we find the time to do anything to keep growing? Here are some ways I have found to help myself use my time more efficiently.

1. Wake up a little earlier than you need. Seems simple but it is very effective. I once read that Chuck Swindoll tries to type in one complete page to a book everyday. At the end of the year he has 365 pages or 1-2 books complete. The opposite is true also – read a page or two every day and at the end of the year you have read 1-2 complete books.

2. Keep material in your car. This is great if you have a long commute. You can listen to a sermon or lecture each way you drive. I also suggest keeping a book, magazine, iPad or Kindle in your vehicle at all times. If there is an unexpected road delay you have material. Also, if the kids are running late from an activity you have something to make that time more effective.

3. Use mealtime wisely. I try to meet with people over lunch as much as possible. I have to eat. You have to eat. Then lets eat together and maybe I can learn something from you at the same time. Never eat alone if you can help it, that is unless you use that time for Bible reading and prayer.

4. Subscribe to a Blogreader. I use feedly.com I have the setup on my computer and the app on my phone. The best blogs from some of the best Christian thinkers in the world are at my fingertips all the time. Most can also be subscribed to in email form and you can save them till later.

5. Always be prepared. This is one thing I love about technology. I carry with me hundreds of sermons and lectures on my iPhone. I have a blog reader on my phone. I have and love the Youversion of the Bible on my iPhone. Couple that with Evernote and you have everything you need to do a deep study anywhere and keep notes. I have found myself setting in the doctor’s office and reading and learning. I have sat in the bleachers at halftime of the game reading deep theology while you choke down more popcorn:-)

*Finally – as an added bonus – AVOID TIME WASTERS. Reduce the amount of TV you watch. I watch a lot of sports, but I do it with the sound off and usually have a magazine to read at the same time. I do not do Facebook or Twitter. I did once upon a time, but found out a lot of information I didn’t care about – like your mood today. I also found out information about people I didn’t care about. I haven’t contacted some of my classmates in 20 years for a reason.

I have found it is possible to grow spiritually without adding a lot of extra stuff into your life. I just try to use the time I am given better. As I said earlier this week, “If it is really important to you, you will find the time.”

Keep Growing

I firmly believe it is important to keep growing mentally and spiritually as a follower of Christ. That conviction has led me to doing several things almost everyday.

1. Take time to read the Bible and pray. Simple enough to understand.

2. Read something everyday. I read blogs, magazines, newspapers and books. Honestly, I am amazed at the number of times God has used some seemingly worthless information in my life. It becomes illustrations, conversation starters, life lessons or simply underlining the need for God and his grace.

3. Start a conversation with someone. God has surrounded us with an enormous amount of knowledge in the brains of other people. Ask questions and listen to the answers.

4. Use the internet for good. While there is so much bad stuff on the internet, there is also an enormous amount of good. If you want to know how to do anything practical then just do a YouTube search. Someone has probably made a video about how to do it. I now use it for everything from advice on certain situations, information about purchases to detailed explanations of Biblical passages from multiple points of view. I no longer need to search out a special person or book because it is all at my fingertips. Take a few minutes away from Facebook and Twitter to learn something useful.

5. Listen to something educational. I try to listen to at least 1 sermon a week or 52 sermons a year. With podcasts I can listen to the best preachers in the world at no cost and no travel. I can also weed out topics of no interest to me and focus on sermons that teach me and stretch me. I keep somewhere around 1,000 podcasts of sermons and lessons downloaded and ready to go at all times.

I hear people tell me all the time that they “just need to be fed.” Usually that means they cannot get involved or help out somewhere because they will be out of our weekly worship time. Being a preacher is a unique because I am doing the “feeding” on Sunday morning. No one is feeding me and that means I am required to feed myself. These are some of the simple things I do to keep myself growing. Maybe they can help you too.

“I Don’t Have Time”

I read years ago that when someone says they do not have time, what they are really saying is “It wasn’t important to me.”

People make time for what they find important. In fact, if you received a called that a beloved family member was sick or in trouble you would probably be able to drop everything and go see them. Somehow you make time for what you deem as important. I would even take it a step further. Importance is usually placed on things that I find enjoyable. That is why thousands upon thousands of hours are burnt up on Facebook and Twitter. It is important to us to catch up on the latest events. But you maybe thinking, “I am not a computer guy.” Then how about sports? How many hours do men spend watching sports and shows related to sports. I am sure the amount of time we “waste” each month and each year is staggering.

I think the biggest challenge for a Christian is to re-prioritize their life. For each one of us to somehow readjust what we see as important. C.S. Lewis once said, “The things of heaven are an acquired taste.”

So I am continually asking myself, “Did I make time for the things of God today?” Because I believe it is the most important thing in the world.

The Red Lantern

While living in Alaska I was exposed to “The Last Great Race.” That is the phrase used to describe the dog race across Alaska named the Iditarod. Racers start in Anchorage and travel almost 1,000 miles to the city of Nome. There are actually two different routes that they take on alternating years. While it is not a big event for the Lower 48, it is huge in Alaska. It makes front page news in the paper and school children track the race and its participants. During my time in Homer I learned a lot about the race and dog racing in general.

One interesting fact about the race is that they give out a special “Red Lantern” Award each year. This award is given to the person who comes in last in the race. It started as a joke in 1953 during the Fur Rendezvous Race. It then was passed over to the Iditarod. Today, it is a symbol of perseverance and mushers feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when receiving it. Those who do not finish the race receive nothing, but for those who travel the 1,000 miles in the cold, snow and wind there is pride in just finishing the race.

I love this tradition. Most of us will never finish first. We will never be considered the greatest. We will not have our picture plastered all over the front of newspapers and magazines. Most of us are called to simply keep doing what God called us to do. We attend Church, serve faithfully, love our spouse and raise our children faithfully without recognition. Sticking to our task is not glorious but incredibly important. I honestly believe more “Red Lanterns” should be given out than MVP awards. God does not call us to be the best at anything He calls us to be faithful.

God’s Chisel

Ike showed this video to our teenagers on Wed. night at RUSH youth group. I thought it was great and several of the teens had very positive comments to me afterward. It is a little longer video at 9 minutes, but I think it was be some of the best minutes you spend this weekend.

Enjoy. (and You’re Welcome)

Make Two Lists

Last week business guru Seth Godin had a great post entitled “Make Two Lists.”

One list highlights the lucky breaks, the advantages, the good feedback, your trusted network. It talks about the accident of being born in the right time and the right place, your health, your freedom. It features your education, your connection to the marketplace and just about every nice thing someone has said about you in the last week or month.

The other list is the flip side. It contains the obstacles you’ve got to deal with regularly, the defects in your family situation, the criticisms your work has received lately. It is a list of people who have better luck than you and moments you’ve been shafted and misunderstood.

The thing is, at every juncture, during every crisis, in every moment of doubt, you have a choice. You will pull out one (virtual) list or the other. You’ll read and reread it, and rely on it to decide how to proceed.

Up to you.