There’s a popular tv show out called “The Voice”. The general idea is related to finding vocally talented peeps & putting them on tv to compete for the top prize. There are loads of phenomenal individuals who have amazing voices, but there’s only one Voice that needs our steady attention & the is the voice of our Good Shepherd, from John 10.
When we think about all the voices in our lives (appetites, worries, relationships, things we need to do, etc), we can get overwhelmed with this barrage of input. But alas, there is one Voice who is worthy of our consistent attention. There is one Voice who invites us to experience genuine Love. There is one Voice who leads us along paths of peace & divine productivity & that is the Voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Let’s be sure that the volume is appropriately adjusted for the various voices in our lives so that Jesus’ Voice gets our best attention & obedience!
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!
This morning, I read a verse that hit me between the eyes – 2Kings 17:41, “So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; . . .” This verse really spoke to me about my passion to follow Jesus.
I think that we generally have respect for God, but all too often we serve idols. No one sets out, usually, to be an idolator but there are lots of subtle idols that can allure our attention. Greed seems to be the most obvious idol & it has certainly a firm foothold in our culture & values! Another subtle idol is image & vanity. Of course sports & fitness can be an distraction from serving Jesus & so can consumption & food. Comfort & convenience have also become significant values that often sway our priorities.
Let’s be sure that we respect & serve God with both feet!
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:
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
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 🙂
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 🙂
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 🙂
This month, there’s a convergence of interesting phenomena in conjunction with many Jewish holidays and feasts. I have friends who think that this month is a very strategic month, maybe even the return of Jesus. I also have friends who think that the end of the world things in Sept is nothing more than history being repeated yet again.
Regardless of your opinion, if you think Jesus is returning this month or not, let’s keep some essential priorities in mind, based on Jesus’ teachings when He lived among us:
As a follower of Jesus, these two commandments need to shape my priorities and how I live everyday, so that whenever Jesus does return, He finds me doing His work 🙂
I like alot of things: snowboarding, swimming, coffee, travel, family, chiliquiles, pho, rain, friends, reading, sleep, etc. But I can also overdose on all of these things – too much family, too much travel, too much reading, too much pho, etc. But I have yet to find the limit of my appetite for genuine Jesus and in actual truth, I can’t seem to get enough of Jesus.
A strategy that helps me with getting more of Jesus in my life is being more integrated with Jesus. Here are some ideas for integrating Jesus into our daily living more:
family – there are lots of times when I learn lessons about Jesus and have ample space to ask for Jesus to help me in relating constructively with my kids and husband
serving – I’m always blown away by how closely I feel connected to Jesus when I serve others (not to be noticed, validated or repaid), like some of our work with Saving Moses
praying – in my thinking, prayer is a two-way conversation with God and this can be happening all the time throughout any day; I need this
watch – looking for Jesus and paying attention to Him helps me be more aware and attentive to Jesus’ involvement in my daily living
Thrills, chills, spills and frills – we all love being excited, inspired, encouraged & sometimes, even schmoozed. Perhaps we can even be “excitement junkies”, from time to time, living for the next thrill or rush. I don’t think, however, God designed our lives to be a continual roller coaster, going from peak to valley and curve to corkscrew. There’s huge value in stability even when it seems boring. If the truth be known, you can predict with fair accuracy a person’s future success by their daily routines & disciplines.
While it can be lots of fun to get excited, never resent the importance of stability. Here are a few quick perks from stability:
Truth be known, I’m not a Mon morning fan & when I taught high school, I used to think that hell would be made up of perpetual Monday mornings. So on that happy note, let’s think about some really awesome things to keep our Monday perky & uplifting:
God’s love is continuous & reliable
Life is about exploring God’s love for us throughout each day
nothing we do or don’t do can make God love us less
we can trust God to work in our lives to bring about good things as we stay in love with God & true to God’s purposes for us
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 🙂
You and I probably try to do alot of things – maybe too many on any given day. But regardless of whatever day it is, we all have things to accomplish and checklists to plow through. Here are a few pointers that have helped me to be productive & I still need to learn LOTS more:
stay focused – being distracted is the enemy of getting the important things done
make a daily list of no more than 5 things to attempt with your highest priorities at the top of the list
be efficient with your time – make errands based on geographical proximities rather than by topics (put things that are close together on the same errand)
maximize the small pockets of time (waiting in the carpool line, an dr’s appointment that goes late)
delegate – getting your kids to help can be super helpful
ask God to help you to be efficient and productive
send random and kind text messages – it’s good for everyone including you 🙂
What else have you found helpful in being productive? Please share your wisdom, insights & help!
If you live in America, the deadline for filing our taxes is next week. Maybe that’s kind of stressful for you. If you’re a pastor or highly committed church volunteer, you probably just survived a stressful season called Easter. Some of the upcoming events and holidays might have some stress potential for you – Mother’s Day & Graduation / Commencement. Despite our best efforts, I don’t think that any of us can immunize ourselves from stress. But how we deal with stress is a different issue & there’s some potential for good outcomes with stress. Here are a few suggestions:
relax & take a deep breath: I’m learning from my physical therapy from shoulder surgery that getting tense & uptight doesn’t help my muscles. When I relax & trust the therapist (aka Helper), we make better progress
let stress put some fuel and motivation in your efforts: Sometimes I need deadlines and pressure to help me be more productive – smile 🙂
the lifestyle question: stress as a lifestyle is entirely unhealthy and can cause us to make poor decisions in our health, relationships, priorities and time management; consider that you might be addicted to stress and maybe it’s time to actively choose peace over stress #selah
This sounds like a rhetorical question to which we automatically reply, “No!” But if we look at our actions & how we treat God, maybe we treat God like a vending machine: please answer my prayers, make my life comfy, give me the money & significance that I want, fix everything & I’ll pay You for Your services with possibly church attendance, tithing or at least a tip for good service – OUCH!!
This morning I read Jer 7:27 & God told Jeremiah to speak to the Israelites even though they wouldn’t listen. So here’s something to consider: do we obey God for the results or from being faithful to our relationship? Let’s not treat God like a vending machine 🙂
My husband went skiing this morning & just before he left, he asked if we had any un-contaminated water bottles. The backstory on this is that I’ve had a cough for more than a week and have germified all of our water bottles. I did some quick hygiene work (soap & boiling water) so he could take a few water bottles with him, contamination free ,)
All that is to say that sometimes we drink out of contaminated water bottles, figuratively speaking, when we pick up garbage from other people. Here are some examples:
when someone is having a bad day & they do / say something rude to you, when you dish back their cranky there’s a good chance you drank from a contaminated water bottle
if you pick up a friend’s offense from a situation or conversation they describe to you, there’s a good chance you drank from a contaminated water bottle
if you bring a failure expectationinto a current opportunity, there’s a good chance you drank from a contaminated water bottle
if you secretly hope that a person fails because you’re jealous, there’s a good chance you drank from a contaminated water bottle
There are lots of other examples for consideration, but let’s always remember to daily practice Prov 4:23, guarding our hearts, so we don’t let contamination get into our bloodstream or life 🙂
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year when we celebrate lots of things & in lots of ways. We lavishly spend time, money, people interactions, parties, etc and revel in the celebrations of the season, opulence and abundance. Then there’s the day after, today, when we might be groggy, overstuffed and possibly fatigued. On this day, I find my heart longing to recover a sense of balance, desiring some still and quiet, centering into what’s really important, the One Thing that Jesus spoke about with Martha at her dinner party in Luke 10:42. Sometimes it helps us regain our core when we sit at Jesus’ feet like Mary, waiting, listening, watching and paying attention to Who is the most Essential in our lives, Jesus 🙂
I haven’t wrapped a single Christmas present yet & a few years ago, I didn’t wrap any until 11pm on Christmas Eve – what was the point in that?!??? I don’t think I’m generally a procrastinator, it’s just tricky to remember & find time. Maybe this year, I’ll wrap our presents soon, maybe. One question worth a little consideration is what will you & I be giving Jesus this year, to celebrate His birthday. It seems kind of counterintuitive to give everyone but Jesus a present on Christmas, the day when we celebrate His birth 🙂
So going with the 5 Love Languages idea, here are some gift suggestions for Jesus:
affirmation – take some moments to sing one of your favorite praise / worship songs directly to Jesus or make a brief list of reasons why you love Jesus and tell Him
touch – consider giving someone a hug that would appreciate that; sometimes when we touch someone with genuine love it’s a nice way to communicate genuine love to Jesus (when you do this to the least of these, you’ve done it to Me – Matt 25:40)
gifts – think about giving a coat, hats, mittens, socks, etc to a homeless shelter or discretely helping a needy family in your church, maybe make an extra donation to a charity (Saving Moses is awesome – smile)
service – every church has extra services, usually, to support the Christmas season: consider volunteering a little extra to share some love 🙂
quality time – consider dropping by a park and taking a brief walk with Jesus or waking up maybe 10min earlier just to give Jesus your presence, which is possibly the ultimate present He desires 🙂
Happy December 1! The beginning of every December, I remind myself that while I’m about to enter an extermely busy season, the whole point of all of these festivities, parties, frenzy & busy-ness is Jesus, full stop. So I want to look for Jesus every day this month:
like the shepherds looking for a newborn in a feeding trough,
like the wisemen looking for a King guided by a heavenly anomaly,
even in all his perversion & tainted motives, like Herod looking for a newborn who would upend the status quo
Jesus said that if we ask we’ll get answers, if we seek we’ll find & if we knock the door will be opened to us. So let’s decide to look for Jesus everyday during this season – let’s streamline our focus with the help of the Holy Spirit to look & watch for Jesus, who is daily with us 🙂