Being Uncomfortable

“That’s awkward!”  I’ve said this in various contexts: social, athletic, ministry, cultural & lots more. If you’re like me, we tend to avoid what’s awkward & uncomfortable, but sometimes this is detrimental. 

When I look at Jesus’ disciples, they seemed to follow Jesus into lots of uncomfortable, inconvenient & awkward scenarios, such as sinking boats, conversations with demon possessed people, massive throw downs with religious leaders & not just a few baffling teaching moments / parables. 

Here’s some truth that could be helpful:  uncomfortable is often when we grow the most. And maybe we need to grow & mature more than we need comfort & convenience 🙂

Selah 

What Is Success?

It’s interesting to scroll through various social media platforms & look at the abundant advice about how to be successful. When I read through some of this advice, I always walk away asking, “What is success?”  

Is success:

  • living a comfortable life, without conflict or drama? 
  • having heaps of money, recognition, achievements or a glam image? 
  • living a balanced life, all things regulated & controlled for maximum mediocrity?

What is success?  In Jeremiah 9:23-24 it says,  “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches;  24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”

So maybe the most simple definition of biblical success is knowing & loving God, as well as loving our neighbor & ourselves.  Have an awesome Memorial Day weekend living successfully!

Stormy Seasons

Life seems to have seasons that are stormy, despite our best efforts for stability, serenity & certainty.  Stormy seasons can include:  getting laid off from a job, a marital crisis, a literal tornado, health accident or diagnosis and LOADS more.  If we’ve invited Jesus into our lives as storm prevention insurance, there’s a good chance that we’ll be disappointed.  I say this because Jesus never promises us that walking with Him will prevent all storms.  Indeed, walking with Jesus can make for some stormy times in life, both in our interior and exterior.

The exterior stormy seasons happen for lots of reasons, but thankfully Jesus gives us peace on the inside that can be greater than the external storm.  Sometimes we have seasons in our lives where our guts feel stormy:  when we’re unsettled, hurt, disappointed with God, wrestling with temptation, feeling discouraged, depleted or depressed, etc.

I’m thankful that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and that there is no storm, internal or external, that Jesus cannot calm.  Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, no matter the season of life in which we find ourselves!

In the Middle

Do you like Easter?  I thoroughly enjoy celebrating Jesus’ resurrection & His defeat over death!  The next big celebration on the church calendar happens with Pentecost, the outpouring of Holy Spirit, & what a massive demonstration that was!!!  So what about the middle time between Easter & Pentecost?  What should we do in the middle, between these noteworthy events?

It seems to me that there’s a lot of our walk with God that happens in the middle. For example, we pray for something & then there’s often a middle time before we receive an answer. Or think about a time when God led you to start something & maybe you’ve done the beginning but you’re in the middle now, before you see the full culmination of what God has spoken to you. 

In between Jesus’ resurrection & Pentecost, Jesus told His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they’re clothed with power from Holy Spirit. I’m really confident that when Jesus told His disciples this, they didn’t know what to expect – they didn’t know what Pentecost would look like for them. They just knew there was something more on the horizon. 

And I would encourage you, in the middle seasons, to anticipate & earnestly desire more of Holy Spirit in your daily living. More Holy Spirit can look lots of different ways for each of us, so let’s be careful not to specifically define what more is. Let’s just be open to having more of Holy Spirit in our lives!

In the Middle

Death is the pre-requisite for resurrection & today is that middle ground. Death happened on Good Friday & resurrection happens tomorrow. But the disciples didn’t know that Jesus would raise tomorrow, no matter how much He told them. And they knew He was dead with lots of uncertainty on the horizon. This is often how the middle feels – uncertain & tenuous.
I don’t think there’s anyone who is reading this now who isn’t in some middle place in life. We can find ourselves in the middle of: schooling, fighting a disease, a financial crisis, a relationship challenge, a difficult decision & heaps more.
So what do we do in the middle? Here are some suggestions that could be helpful:
1 – community: the disciples held together when they found themselves in the middle & waiting for what was next
2 – faith focus: let’s keep our attention on God who works all things together for our good, as we stay in love with Him
3 – purposeful farming: be sure to plant healthy seeds like patience, gratitude, diligence & others since we will reap what we sow 🙂

Old Technology

As technology improves, I find myself becoming increasingly impatient. It I think about using a modem to connect to the web, it brings back the memories of that static sound before the connection tone. And then I think about the phones we used & how I’d stretch the cord too far & rip it off the wall. And rotary phones, well, that’s like the ultimate triceratops dinosaur!
So maybe your walk with the Holy Spirit could use some renovation & even upgrades! Please pop over to Amazon & buy new new book,

In Step With The Holy Spirit,

just launching today! Let’s be sure our walk with the Holy Spirit isn’t stuck in the glorious past nor overlooked in perfunctory acknowledgment!

Do You Suffer?

Nothing seems to repel us like suffering. Indeed, if we had our way, we’d entirely skip the whole crucifixion thing & leap straight to resurrection.

Maybe that’s why Peter, James & John slept in Gethsemane when Jesus told them to watch & pray, while He travailed in prayer with sweat like drops of blood. I would likely chose to sleep as well rather than watch my Invincible Hero suffer & appear frail & unraveled.
But here’s the best kept secret: there’s tremendous intimacy potential in sharing with suffering. While we follow & admire strength, nothing connects us with someone more than seeing & even sharing in weakness & pain. Some of my best friends have been through the most abysmal experiences with me – we’ve shared in suffering & the bond between us from those experiences has been immensely strengthened.
In Holy Week, today is Maunday Thursday. This is the day when Jesus shared the last supper with His disciples, washed their feet & travailed in Gethsemane. Jesus understands suffering & wants to connect deeply with us, not only in resurrection life, but also in struggles & suffering – the fellowship of suffering: Philippians 3:10-11

Shocking!!

Some of us do shock better than others. Some of us need an hourly stability infusion & others need a more steady supply of edgy & unpredictable. Seems to me that Jesus fits the bill for each of these mindsets & He gives us stability when we need it & unpredictable when that’s what’s necessary. 
Consider that Jesus was the steady Eddy for His disciples & earned their trust being His continuous faithfulness to them. He was also a shocker from time to time:

  • The walking on the water thing completely freaked out His disciples – Jesus walking on the water was the last thing they expected to see at 3am in the middle of a storm!
  • The multiple resurrection appearances was seriously shocking – a wake up call for sure!
  • Jesus’ disappearance after the Emmaus road chat made those guys recognize the holy heartburn from their traveling conversation w Him

Let’s be clear that whether we’re in a discouraging storm, or we’ve endured a tragic loss or we can’t understand what God is going, Jesus is fully capable to continue doing supernatural & shocking things. Let’s keep our eyes peeled & hearts open to Jesus throughout this day!

Prison Was the Plan

Prison doesn’t sound appealing to me from any perspective. So thinking that God uses prison for good outcomes seems counterintuitive, full stop. Nonetheless, I read this morning about how Paul was put in prison & I remembered how Joseph was also imprisoned for some years. During the imprisonment season for both of these men, some really amazing things happened. Paul wrote heaps of letters, called epistles, to various churches which we can read today. During Paul’s imprisonment, he was also able to share about Jesus to some highly influential leaders, including Nero, the Emperor of the Roman Empire. With Joseph, he practiced his administration & leadership skills, as well as sharpening his dream interpretation abilities. 
Let’s be clear that God uses all kinds of scenarios for divine outcomes: imprisonment, hardship, deprivation and not just our physical comfort ,)

So let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us to be successful regardless of our situation & remember that Sunday is Pentecost!! 🙂

Pentecost is this Sunday! Waiting not so patiently

Waiting doesn’t seem to be one of my strong suits.  Frankly put, I’m often impetuous, sometimes impulsive and infrequently patient.  So the idea of chilling out and waiting for something is not appealing to me.  And yet, this is exactly what Jesus told His followers in Luke 24:49, “‘ . . . , stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.'”  Thankfully, the disciples followed Jesus’ directive and I’m grateful to read about the fruit of their patience and waiting in Acts 2 – the Day of Pentecost.

So in our fast-paced, microwave popcorn and warp speed living, let’s take a step back & consider some of the benefits of waiting for the Holy Spirit:

  • waiting in a community affords the opportunity to build relationships and grow in our fellowship with other believers
  • waiting enforces a healthy discipline on a personal level that defies instant gratification
  • waiting teaches us to let Jesus be the Lord of our time and how we resolve our desires
  • waiting to be clothed with power and the Holy Spirit is what our world desperately needs from us, as followers of Jesus

Take a minute to grab a copy of Heavenly Help and as you read it, let the Holy Spirit speak into your heart about Pentecost becoming more real in your life!

Path to Pentecost: Jesus?

Before there were planes, trains & automobiles, people used camels, donkeys & the sandal express to resolve their transportation needs.  So once upon a time there were a couple of guys walking from one town to another and a random stranger joined their pedestrian ambulation.  There ensued a heated conversation about the current events of that time: something about a very magnetic man getting brutally murdered by the key religious leaders of the region & supposedy this murdered but magnetic guy had risen from the dead, according to the rumor on the street.  The stranger seemed unaware of these current events, but somehow started a religious conversation that caused a holy heart burn in these fellow travellers.  Long story short, these guys came to understand after Jesus disappeared that He was talking with them along their journey, even though they didn’t recognize Him.  Luke 24

Just because we know about Jesus doesn’t mean that we always recognize Him in the events or journey of our daily living.  I think that part of our Path to Pentecost is letting the Holy Spirit help us recognize Jesus better in our day to day existence.

Lessons in Resting

Springtime always seems to ramp up the activity level.  There’s fresh air outside that’s not too cold, the trees bloom with fragrant life, the hibernation of winter dissipates and of course there are all of the activities that go with school, Easter, graduations, weddings, showers, etc.

More often than not, Springtime wears me out with the hustle and bustle of demanding activities.  So this Sping, I’m endeavoring to strike a better balance, integrating some rest into the mix.  Here are some ideas that might help you with finding rest in a busy Spring:

  • be careful not to fall in the “value in achievement” trap – you’re valuable because God loves you, full stop
  • consider Spring cleaning your calendar / schedule and not just your house
  • be sure the way you use your time accurately reflects your priorities
  • don’t ditch church 🙂

Of course I’m always keen to recommend reading a good book as a form of relaxing & a great book to read in preparation for Pentecost in a few weeks is Heavenly Help

Path to Pentecost: Doubt

In the world of faith, doubt can sometimes feel like a cuss word of the four letter variety. On the surface, those of us who endeavor to follow Jesus don’t doubt, maybe. But when we’re honest, there’s plenty of times & situations when we doubt. And even today something will probably happen that could cast a shadow of doubt on our faith. 
Thankfully, Jesus has the capacity to accommodate doubt, as evidenced in the way He interacted with Doubting Thomas. 

Poor Thomas. He wasn’t around when Jesus first appeared to His disciplines after His resurrection & Thomas couldn’t believe that Jesus was risen when everyone expressed this jubilant transformation. “Not unless I touch His side & put my fingers in His nail prints, will I believe”. And for more than a millennium Thomas has been the redeeming hope for those of who struggle with doubt. Of course there’s a price to pay for doubting: for 8days Thomas was the lone doubting ranger among these hyped up believing disciples. But Jesus appeared to Thomas after 8days & Thomas did exactly what he required: he felt the nail prints in Jesus’ hands & he touched Jesus’ side that was sword pierced. 

Jesus most certainly accommodate our doubts, but let’s be willing to change our doubts & not cling to them in obstinate entrenchment. If we aren’t willing to change our doubts then we can become moribund, a word rooted in the idea of death & decay. 

Remember to grab your copy of Heavenly Help – this could be just the tool that Jesus would use to help you work through some doubts 🙂

Concussion Writing

Recently I had a snowboarding accident, landed on my head and got a concussion, despite wearing a helmet.  Clearly, this is not a pleasant experience and the recovery feels slow, to this fairly impatient person 🙂

Writing with a concussion is an interesting experience.  I find that my thinking is slower than normal and sometimes it feels like my writing is murky.  So here’s my solution:  Heavenly Help 🙂

Truth be known, in some ways this concussion experience has helped me lean into the Holy Spirit like I’ve never done before and the results are super encouraging!  For example, last night, I attended a school function with one of my kids where I’d normally be super insecure and awkward.  Instead, last night I felt lots of strength and confidence from the Holy Spirit and left the event not only relieved but also very pleased and secure in the Holy Spirit’s very practical help and strength.  This whole concussion thing can really help me grow deeper in my relationship with the Helper and that, my friends, is the best thing in the world!

The Path to Pentecost: Failure

Regardless of our best intentions, all of us fail.  The most encouraging example for me with failure is when I think about Jesus’ disciple, Peter.  I think he majorly failed when he betrayed Jesus & it seems to me that he was more than disappointed with himself with this failure (Luke 22:61-62).

In sharp contrast to Peter’s failure with betraying Jesus, a little more than six weeks after this downfall, Peter is the lead promoter to stand in front of thousands of people on the Day of Pentecost to be Jesus’ lead frontman.  This is quite the reversal in Peter’s life and this encourages us that

no failure that we’ve experienced can exceed Jesus’ power to redeem.

 So rather than hide or run from our failures, let’s sit at Jesus’ feet, be transparent and vulnerable, and yield to the Holy Spirit pouring love into our hearts (Rom 5:5), for redeeming each shortfall to lift up Jesus better than we could without that failure 🙂

Dont’ forget to grab your copy of Heavenly Help & be sure to write a review on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles & Goodreads!

Keep Practicing

  

This picture is at the top of a black ski run. I didn’t take a picture of the din because it was a steep drop 🙂
I’ve been snowboarding with my this week as they’ve been on Spring Break & I decided to try a black run (translation: advanced as opposed to beginner or intermediate). The first time I tried it, I conquered! The second time, I was conquered ,)

So I’ll keep practicing. Practice is a good thing – it’s the space where we can mistakes, learn, grow & improve without feeling shame or embarrassment, usually. 

There are heaps of things in which I want to do better & honestly, I sometimes get discouraged with myself for not improving more quickly. So I remind myself, “Keep practicing, you’re getting better & better!”

You too! Keep practicing 🙂

The Path to Pentecost: Mary Magdalene

 The first person to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene. Mary seems to be an unlikely prospect for Jesus’ 
 
first appearance, 

considering that He could’ve appeared to some “higher quality” folk. In Mark 16:9, we read about Mary, “He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.”  
Why would Jesus pick a former lunatic chick to make His first appearance? Why not Peter, who denied Jesus but was clearly a leader among the disciples. Why not Mary, Jesus’ mom? Why not John, the disciple whose love for Jesus was noteworthy? Why this Mary Magdalene?

I totally love that Jesus first appeared to this woman. I love that Jesus picked the least likely person who had possibly been the most deranged & to her He revealed His resurrected self. 

On our journey to Pentecost, let’s allow Jesus into the “crazy” places in our lives. Indeed, Jesus is our resurrected Prince of Peace, the One who calms the chaos & dispels the darkness. 

Let’s keep walking toward Pentecost!