Futile Pursuits

“You must not turn aside for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver because they are futile.” 1 Samuel 12:21

Samuel spoke these words to the Israelites after Saul was confirmed as their first king & I can’t help but think that these words apply to my life. Do I pursue futile things? I want to answer, “no”, but if I’m truthful, I pursue futile things. For example, when I’m painfully honest, I pursue popularity & applause from people, getting frustrated when I don’t get enough. I pursue an adrenaline rush when I consider adding kite boarding to my hobby list. I pursue futile things when I get sidetracked with making image more important than genuine love. I pursue futile things when I let my intellectual appetites undermine my spiritual development. These dont have to be exclusive, but I know myself well enough to know that my intellect can lead me on endless rabbit trails away from walking with the Holy Spirit.
What might be some futile things in your life that would distract you from growing in your walk with Jesus?

Watch OUT!!!!!

Don’t text & drive. Why? When our attention is divided, the quality of our focus decreases & our ability to engage declines. Simple translation: you’ll get in a wreck 🙂
I would suggest that the same principle applies to spiritual values as well. Because we live in a tangible & natural world, it’s easy to get our focus / attention on natural & flesh stuff. But if we become entirely absorbed with natural stuff, we’ll have a spiritual wreck. To be sure, we need to have balance with our focus & attention. Let’s be sure to give our attention to spiritual growth & not only natural urgencies & inclinations.

Stay Informed

We live in a world that is inundated with information. It’s super easy to find out all kinds of information, so sometimes we can drown in such an abundance. But there’s some information that needs to stay in our thoughts everyday! These things include:

  • You are loved by God, deeply & wholly
  • You can’t increase nor decrease God’s love for you
  • The more you love sincerely, the more fully love can be experienced.
  • Genuine love & fear are incompatible

What’s Important???

Tonight is the final game of the World Series – the annual culmination of the baseball season in the US. The Cleveland Indians & the Chicago Cubs haven’t competed in the World Series for more than 60 years each & the series has been a nail biter to be sure! If you can’t tell, I’m UBER excited about this game tonight, but alas I won’t be watching the majority of it because we have church tonight & I’m scheduled to preach.
I’m not writing this to get your sympathy but rather to talk about what’s important. If the truth is known, I’m a really big sports person & I love watching almost every sport. But in the grand scheme of important priorities, sports don’t really carry eternal significance. For that matter, I seriously wonder if many of the things that we stress over, goals that we work towards & stuff that we spend time on, I wonder if many of these things really have any bearing on eternity.
Let’s be careful that the things we deem as important & worthy of our attention / energy are really the important things with lasting impact!

Chasing a Laser

I’m currently watching my friend’s daughter use a laser pointer for entertainment, with their cat chasing the laser. She shines the laser on the floor & the cat pounces on the red dot, only to find that the dot has leaped beyond his grasp to another spot on the floor. Looks like it could provide some amusement for at least several minutes. 
Seems like the devil gets us in this game as well. He dangles something shiny in front of us, we pounce & find that the shiny bait evaporates to reappear somewhere else. We think that being pretty is the same thing as being significant. We think that being smart makes us valuable. We think that achievements or promotions make us important. 

While our looks, intelligence & achievements are important, let’s remember that our value & significance is because Jesus loves us, full stop 🙂

Keep It Simple

Our world can get complicated super fast – technically continues to evolve at warp speed, our schedules get increasingly dense & we are encouraged to be strategic in our thinking & planning. These things aren’t bad but they can add layers of complexity to our daily living. So for me, it’s a breath of fresh air to stop the proverbial roller coaster & refocus on my essential priorities. 
It helps to take a deep breath, close one’s eyes, sit in the car for a few minutes & be still. Our brains can of course make this challenging but let’s keep our essentials as the bull’s eye for our living:

  • Love God
  • Love people
  • Love ourselves 

Bad News


Nobody likes bad news, including me. I don’t want to hear things that disrupt my bliss & when I’m super honest, I don’t want to face stuff that’s uncomfortable or disturbing. It’s ok to watch an occasional YouTube video that’s not good or to see a FB post that’s distressing, but I get to choose when, how & in what quantities I see / hear stuff that I don’t like. Just because I choose to ignore something bad doesn’t mean it’s not there – indeed I think bad stuff gets all the worse when we pretend it’s not there. 
Sometimes, however, we need a wake up call – the proverbial 2X4 to the head. Yesterday I had one of these experiences here in Cambodia w Saving Moses. I saw something that wasn’t merely deflating but it was borderline demoralizing. As I woke up this morning, I still had a pit in my stomach from what I experienced yesterday & maybe that’s good. I think it’s good, from time to time, to have a wake up call about our lives. Otherwise, it can be too easy to live in distractions or denials about what’s happening not only around us but also what’s happening inside us. Sometimes it takes some bad news to shake us up, stir us to action & compel us to compassion. Let bad news be a catalyst!

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!

Let Go

There are some dangerous traps that we fall into, often with well-intentioned ignorance. Let’s consider that many of these traps started off in good ways, as tools that have been helpful, but maybe such tools have turned into traps. Consider some of these possible traps:

  • Achievements: while it’s helpful to achieve lots of good things, sometimes this becomes a trap when we find our value / significance in what we do instead of who we are, a fully loved child of God. Full stop.
  • Cell phones: a helpful tool, but a dangerous trap that can disconnect us from engaging in this moment & from what’s happening immediately around us 
  • Money: we know that money can help us do things, but when our lives become entrenched with acquiring or the absence of money, it’s become a trap & not a tool
  • Image: while it’s important that we reflect our internal beauty, it’s a trap to think that our image is our identity

Let’s get out of the traps that are designed to be nothing more than tools 🙂

Let Go

There are some dangerous traps that we fall into, often with well-intentioned ignorance. Let’s consider that many of these traps started off in good ways, as tools that have been helpful, but maybe such tools have friend into traps. Consider some of these possible traps:

  • Achievements: while it’s helpful to achieve lots of good things, sometimes this becomes a trap when we find our value / significance in what we do instead of who we are, a fully loved child of God. Full stop.
  • Cell phones: a helpful tool, but a dangerous trap that can disconnect us from engaging in this moment & from what’s happening immediately around us 
  • Money: we know that money can help us do things, but when our lives become entrenched with acquiring or the absence of money, it’s become a trap & not a tool
  • Image: while it’s important that we reflect our internal beauty, it’s a trap to think that our image is our identity

Let’s get out of the traps that are designed to be nothing more than tools 🙂

Black Friday

It’s interesting that we call today Black Friday & the day that Jesus died Good Friday – arevealing choice of adjectives for these respective events. 

Today is when lots of people do some Christmas shopping & the retail industry attempts to lure us with discounts, sales, bargains, etc. For many people, today is indeed Black Friday, a day to denote financial difficulties. On a more introspective note, Black Friday can often be an indication of black thinking: darkness in the mind about how we see ourselves, our achievements & value, various relationships, external expectations, etc. 

Instead of thinking of today as Black Friday, let’s celebrate that Jesus is the Light of the world & He has come into human existence to remove the darkness from our lives 🙂

I Yelled

One of my offspring, who will remain nameless, became distracted during their kitchen cleaning chores & flooded the kitchen sink, floor & down into our basement. I yelled & I’m still in the unhappy camper zone – it will take me some time to come off the ceiling & not be snarky (nicknames like Noah, Ahab from Moby Dick & swimming snipes are fully flourishing in my brain). 
All of this started when someone didn’t pay attention to an important responsibility. And this is a problem any one of us can experience. I don’t even want to think about how many times I’ve had to compensate or fix something that’s been messed up for the simple reason that I was distracted. 

Let’s keep our focus on the important stuff: do justice, love kindness & walk humbly with God, Micah 6:8 🙂

hot topic: Starbucks & Christmas

large_Starbucks-Red-Cups-2015-2  As I was making my way home from Singapore yesterday, I checked the news & saw there was some kind of uproar about Starbucks & Christmas.  Since I’m a coffee fan, I decided to briefly look into the uproar only to be disappointed.  I’m disappointed because there are many issues in our world today that are super important that need our prayers & attention.  And today, Donald Trump jumped into the conversation, leaving me to speculate about not only cup decorations and caffeine, but now I get to add politics into this busy buzzy world.

All of which brings me back to thinking about what’s important & specifically what’s important about Christmas:  God loves humanity & Jesus’ birth into human existence.

In the grand scheme of things, let’s keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing 🙂

crowds

Yesterday, I mentioned a few thoughts about being alone so I thought it fitting to look at the other side today – crowded. Some people love crowds & revel in the energy, noise & pulsation of people collections – concerts, mosh pits, congregations, World Series & symphonies come to mind. 
If you struggle with crowds, here are some ideas from Jesus’ skin time:

  • Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw a crowd
  • Jesus saw & crowd & their need for leadership (sheep without a shepherd)
  • Jesus knew that a crowd was the conduit for His necessary crucifixion & ultimate resurrection. 

Let’s see crowds & more importantly people, from God’s perspective: individuals available for redemption & reconciliation 🙂

Tom & Jerry

My boys are on Fall Break & they’re watching a classic Tom & Jerry cartoon, where the cat gets killed in a thousand different ways & manages to come back for more. I remember watching these cartoons when I was little & I was perplexed how that cat could stay alive & then be so stupid to keep coming back for more. I guess I missed the point & sometimes I still do. 
There are other points that we can sometimes miss:

  • How is it that we sometimes miss the point that God loves us because God is love & not because of our pristine behavior
  • How is it that we miss the point that forgiveness is supposed to be a continuous action in both receiving & giving
  • How is it that we miss the point that life is more rich from being generous rather than from consuming & hoarding
  • How do I miss the point that Jesus is God’s selfie & Christmas affords me the yearly chance to celebrate such divine extravagance?

Maybe the volume is too loud with Tom & Jerry or the white noise in our lives to catch these seemingly finer points ,)

What Bugs You?

There are things that get under my skin & there are things that BUG me. I get agitated when people tailgate me, I don’t like it when my family leaves a dirty knife on the counter & I don’t like that my car’s alarm goes off randomly. These things are annoying. But in the grand scheme of things, it BUGS me that we withhold our love because someone doesn’t believe like we do. It BUGS me that we use religious jargon to manipulate & even shame people. It BUGS me that I can sometimes be the same hypocrite that I judge someone else to be. 
It doesn’t bother me that my nails haven’t been manicured in countless years. It doesn’t stress me out that I wear wool socks to keep warm in the Winter & I’m not jittery that my clothes don’t always match well 🙂

Let’s keep the Main Thing the main thing 🙂

hot topic: Memorial Day

Memories are important ingredients for learning & sometimes the lessons we apply from various memories aren’t very helpful.  For example, I remember an occasion as a kid when my dad came home from a later afternoon walk with our new puppy & my dad was sobbing & totally busted up.  I could barely figure out through his broken words & tears that our new puppy had been run over by a car & was dead.  My dad explained that our puppy had darted in front of a car into a busy street during rush hour traffic and was run over.

To this day, the place where my dog was hit still has negative associations for me & I find myself subconsciously avoiding that intersection.  That negative memory has shaped my behavior & I’d venture to guess that you may have some similar memories that shape your current behaviors & values.

I think it’s super important that our experiences and memories teach us valuable take aways, but let’s be sure that we choose the right lessons.

Some important memory lessons could include:

  • mistakes and failures are merely practice and lessons for some great success, likely just around the corner
  • communion: Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  – may we never forget the infinite love Jesus expressed in His sacrifice for us
  • forgiveness – practice makes perfect
  • fond memories can be helpful motivations for endurance & perseverance 🙂
  • don’t forget the babies of prostitutes (the least of these) who need genuine love 🙂

winning

FinishLine   I love to win & I hate to lose – in pretty much everything.  So I automatically like all of the Bible verses that talk about me winning, being victorious, more than a conqueror, etc.  On the opposite end, the Bible verses that talk about sacrifice, losing my life, crucifixion, pain, . . . . these aren’t nearly as appealing to me as the winning verses.  But life seems to have both the winning and losing experiences wrapped into each day:  driving, competing at work / school, controversial conversations, competing against myself, etc.

I think that it can feel much better to win than lose, but let me throw out a few perks that can happen from losing:

  • losing can reveal our character when we might be at our lowest
  • empathy seems to grow better when we lose rather than win
  • winning can be sometimes be an impediment to connecting with someone
  • losing can be a place where strength, endurance and roots can grow
  • sometimes humility grows better in the soil of losing more than winning

Please don’t take this blog to mean that losing is everything.  On the flipside, winning isn’t everything either.  Maybe “everything” boils down to genuine love 🙂

#selah

Just say NO!!!

There are lots of things in our lives that we should affirm.  It’s super great to be positive and optimistic.  It’s also really helpful to say, “yes” to job promotions, good grades at school, kind offers from friends and unexpected blessings from random sources.

There are, nevertheless, several things that need to always require a “NO” reply.  Here are a few ideas:

  • doubt:  pre-decide that doubt always gets a “no” answer and faith always gets a “yes” answer
  • unforgiveness:  meditating about hurtful words and actions done by others should get a consistent “no”
  • mean actions & words:  give yourself “no” permission to react hatefully or with snarky words to someone else’s mean behaviors or libel
  • insecurity:  sometimes a simple mental “no” is enough to jolt us out of that destructive thinking pattern laced with the poison of insecurity
  • destructive behaviors:  let’s be certain that we’re consistently saying “no” to addictive patterns, an undisciplined lifestyle, debilitating relationships, poor eating habits and unproductive usage of time, to name a few suggestions

What else should we be saying “no” to in our lives?  I’d love to read your thoughts & wisdom 🙂