My Motivation for 2018

You won’t find things like bringing a child into your family as your own, spending time with a lonely widow or homeless man, or visiting someone in prison on too many 2018 resolution or goal lists.

I don’t know many people who wake up in the morning saying, “Today, I am going to leave my comfort zone and hang out with someone who looks, thinks, or acts differently than I do”.

Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves just isn’t how we are hard-wired. Instead we think of ourselves and our own family and close friends.

We need a motivation that prompts us to do things outside of ourselves. For many that is a sense of justice. Maybe some do it out of obligation or guilt. For others it is for the recognition that it brings.

So what is my motivation for 2018?

I am like many of you, I set some business goals for my writing, blogging, podcasting, and a couple of new things for this year.

I also set a couple of personal goals too. They are quite simple. One is to avoid complaining and criticizing. I do this in my mind more than I vocalize it, except around home. The flip side to that is to use words of kindness and encouragement.

My wife is doing the happy dance about that goal.

The other is one that I know will impact every area of my life, especially when it comes to successfully living a life sent. It doesn’t have anything to do with the external motivations listed above.

My one other goal is to spend scheduled, intimate time with God.

On our property, down the hill from our house we have a large oak tree with two benches under it. I have spent a lot of time clearing cedar and brush on our property, and I will often take a break sitting on one of those benches. I find peace in the beauty, and it directs my thoughts and heart toward God.

But what happens far too often is that I don’t prioritize times to spend with God. Yes, I will read some scripture in the morning. Some days I will journal some thoughts or prayers.

So I decided that I will spend 2-3 mornings by going down the hill without my phone. Just my Bible, journal, and a pen. And spend time with God in what has become a sacred place for me.

Our church called us to a time of prayer and fasting this week. That is how I am beginning 2018. Praying and fasting as I seek God. He is who makes it a priority to place a child into a family, who cares for the widow and the one who doesn’t have a place to call home. God doesn’t forget the one who is in prison, and yes, He set the example of leaving His place of comfort, not just comfort, perfection, and entering our world.

As I spend time with Him…as we spend time with Him, His nature becomes our nature.

If that is the one and only goal that I accomplish this year, it will be the best year ever.

5 Reasons Why We Should Be Better at Hospitality

At a recent small group gathering that we call community group we discussed this scripture verse, “Do not neglect hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

Interesting verse even if you don’t believe in angels which for the record I do.

As a group of suburban Americans we agreed that we do a poor job of showing hospitality to anyone much less to strangers. By hospitality I mean showing friends and strangers a warm, generous, friendly, generous reception into our homes.

Our tendency is to ask, maybe even demand, that guests schedule a time to come over to our house. Any spontaneous drop in gets met with a pause at the door and a look of “what are you doing here”.

What is it that makes it hard for us to be hospitable? Is it image management? Do we feel put out? Are we afraid of people we don’t know? Maybe we are just too busy.

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The Only Way We Will Ever Embrace Our Diversity

Our culture overuses the word diversity. It is forced upon us in the workplace, in our conversations, and everywhere we do life. I bet you just focused on the wrong part of that statement. Diversity isn’t a bad thing. Having it forced upon  us will never work though.

External pressure on anything that requires a heart change will always fail. Oh it might work for a short while, but then we always drift back to our default way of thinking.

The problem is our hearts. We will never embrace people who are different from we are when we have hearts of stone. Left to our own, our hearts will always treat others selfishly. We will always gravitate to those who think and act like we do. We will always shun, or do worse, those different from we are. Even man-made religion divides people into monogamous groups where everyone looks the same, has a similar economic status, and even thinks the same.

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What Is God’s View on Racism?

Black Lives Matter. White Supremacy. Police shootings. Hate crimes. These are phrases that are all too familiar to us now.

I don’t often write about current events choosing to focus more on missional topics like foster care/adoption, non profit work, and missions. But the current state of racial tension in the U.S. impacts how we view a missional life.

I am reminded of a story during WW II about some Christians gathering for worship each Sunday in a church building that sat right next to the railroad tracks. The same tracks that carried train car after train car of Jews on their way to the prison camps, many to their death. The Christians would simply sing louder when they heard the cries from the train cars as they rolled past.

In the same way, we can’t ignore what is happening in our country today. However, I do think that we often take too human of a view of the matter.

We need to understand how God views racism, and respond as He does. That’s what a missional lifestyle is anyway. We see how God, a missionary God interacts with His creation, and we do the same.

No matter where you live in the world, if you pay attention to world news, I imagine that by now you have at least heard about the racial violence that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.

Over the past several months, if not the past several years, racial tensions that simmered under the surface have erupted out into the open. It is not a pretty sight. In fact, it is quite ugly. For many reasons no doubt, more and more people feel as if they can use violence to communicate their hatred.

I don’t feel anger. I don’t feel confusion. What I feel is a deep-seeded sadness that resembles depression.

Just in case you don’t know this already, I am white, male, in my mid-50s, and hold to morally and fiscally conservative views. I know now that those facts about who I am causes some kind of negative emotion in some of you.

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You Are Probably A Worthless Vessel Unless You’re Broken

That is a paradox when you first read it, but it’s true. If you need to carry water, then yes an unbroken vessel is best. But I am talking about you and me. The falsehood that we believe is that we need to be perfect and whole to be of any use to anyone or anything.

The real tragedy happens when we quit or feel unqualified only because we come face to face with our own brokenness. I can’t count the times I felt this over my lifetime.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I limped into the kitchen from my office to announce to my wife that I quit. I went on to bemoan how I wondered why I ever thought that I could be a writer and a podcaster. Nobody wants to hear what I have to say! I am too broken and messed up.

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When You Feel Like Tapping Out

3 Ways to Stay in the Game

I am one of the many who watches a LOT of basketball this time of year. I enjoy seeing teams play well together, the cinderella stories, and buzzer beaters.

If you watch team sports, especially basketball or football, you probably have seen a player tap the top of his head or look over to the sideline and raise his hand. He is signaling to his coach that he wants out of the game.

In today’s up-tempo style of playing, this is common. It’s definitely a different approach to the game from a generation or two ago when players stayed in the game for longer stints. In football, some even played both defense and offense.

It isn’t that the players are giving up or don’t want to play anymore. They just need a breather or a short rest. But some do “tap out” because they feel defeated or want out of the game.

An athlete though has put in hours of preparation to play in the game. If they were to give up, it would mean that they were not fulfilling their purpose.

But what about life? Do we ever want to tap out? I don’t mean for good. I mean, do we tap out of what God’s purpose or mission is for our life because we are tired, discouraged, or feel defeated?

Can I let you in on something?

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Do You Know How to “Be With” Others Well?

I am the classic introvert. I can ride or drive for hours without saying a word except, “Do you need to stop?” It’s not that I don’t like people. But I get lost in my thoughts and even can feel interrupted if you talk to me.

I have improved some, but sometimes I have to purposefully interact with others. It just doesn’t come natural. God, with his sense of humor and, I expect, out of His loving desire to help me grow, first gave me an expressive wife, then years later, a son who wakes up talking until the moment his eyes close with sleep at night.

Being with. A simple phrase, but how well are we at “being with” other people? It’s a lot more than simply talking to them, acknowledging them, or even tolerating them.

Here are three ways we can “be with” someone well:

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What Does It Mean When God Knocks Us Down?

A grove of oak trees stand in front of our house. The kind that looks perfect with white lights wrapped around the trunk and limbs.

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So I took inventory of what lights I had, and I decided that I needed a few more strands. Off I went to Home Depot to get several more boxes of lights. I had chosen a beautiful day to do the work; the kind of day that makes me glad I live in Texas, especially in December. The blue sky was cloudless and high. The temperature was a crisp upper 50’s. Not too cold. Not too hot.

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A Year of Change and Thankfulness

As I sit here looking out the window of my home office across a tree-filled front yard reflecting over the past year, my heart is full of thankfulness.

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When the end of the year arrives, I begin a time of reflection. Thinking back through the past year helps me to remember reasons to give thanks. When I forgo this important ritual, I tend to get caught up in the weeds of each day which often only serves as a way to blind me of the many reasons for thankfulness.

Year of Change

This time last year I was recovering from major ankle surgery hoping it would heal enough so I could chase my young son around.

Soon after my surgery we bought and moved into a new home (new to us) that sits on 5 acres. This brought lots of change. Especially for our son. Not only did he move from the only home he remembered, but he also began Kindergarten at a school where he knew no one.  As you know, change can be very challenging for a young child, especially one with a trauma background.

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My Thoughts on the 2016 Presidential Election

I am 55 years old, and the first presidential election that I voted in was in 1980. I have always paid attention to politics with both a curious and discerning eye. I cannot recall a presidential election that caused as much angst as this one has for me.

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Through the years I have watched many debates that over time reveal less and less to me where the candidates stand on different issues. In the same way we become fixated on a car wreck, this presidential season captured my attention.

A thought I had this year is how much social media has changed how we talk about politics. It seems my generation bridges the gap between two very different generations where one never talked openly about their political leanings and most definitely never revealed who they voted for in an election, and another generation that not only talks freely about politics but with a brash and “I am right, and you are wrong” tone.

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