Poised

poisedAre you a poised individual? Would anyone use the word poise to describe your mien and air, your manner and your bearing?

Poise is a word that refers to elegance and grace in a person’s carriage. It is the state of composure that allows one to remain centered and upright in any given situation. Older uses of the word described balance and equilibrium in a person’s core.

The opposite of poise is discombobulation, the state of being confused or disconcerted by external forces, and when we get discombobulated we make up for it by posing. Since we don’t have a natural composure flowing from within us, we wear external masks and strike external poses to compensate. Which one best describes you? In a given day are you more poised and composed or posed and discombobulated?

Our level of poise and composure is directly tied to our confidence—the more confident we are the more poised we become. Conversely, as our confidence ebbs our fear, confusion, and distress increases.

So how do we shed our posing and grow in confidence that leads to ever-increasing poise and composure? Two thoughts. First, stay close to Jesus Christ, who always modeled poise and equilibrium. He moved through the storms of Roman oppression and religious persecution like an eye of a hurricane, ever-poised and composed. Second, remember that confidence flows from the presence of God. The more we cultivate the presence of God in our lives the more our confidence grows and poise becomes our posture.

I know it can take time to overcome our fears and grow in poise and confidence, but it changes everything when we attain it. Let’s set poise as a goal, and learn to bring the peace, hope, and composure of Christ wherever we go every day of our lives.

Seventeen years after Alexis Grace

Alexis GraceIf you have tuned into any of these little essays or videos of mine you’ve likely observed that Jessica and I have a daughter that died seventeen years ago. Alexis was three-and-a-half when we lost her, and we’ve thought about her every single day since.

I don’t know why it’s been on my heart to write about her—perhaps some of you need to be encouraged in regards to bereavement and loss, or maybe it’s just part of my ongoing therapy. 🙂 Regardless, I wanted to share a few thoughts seventeen years later.

Jessica and I still miss her daily. There has not been a single day when we haven’t thought of her multiple times, and the emotions are still surprisingly fresh. We are very happy in life and we are probably as healed as people can be after losing a child, but it doesn’t take much digging to have all of the old emotions rush back to the surface. The right sight or smell or memory can very quickly open the floodgates and ruin us.

We don’t understand why Alexis’ life went the way it did. We haven’t been able to make sense of her–or our–pain. There aren’t any neat little platitudes that can put a pretty bow on this part of our life. We haven’t easily moved on. Rather, our recovery has been more like being pulled, barely breathing, off of a battlefield. We’re here and we’ve healed, but we’ll never be the same.

Great good has come from our life with Alexis. She lived up to her middle name in stunning ways and forever introduced us to the amazing grace of God. Our life with Alexis taught us to love people…it focused our priorities on things that truly matter…it filled us with a gratitude for life that has never left us…it bonded Jessica and me in precious and priceless ways…it injected our parenting with a joy and delight that we experience every day with Amber and Madelyn…it made us better human beings…and it brought us into the presence of God.

However, just because good can come from a bad situation it doesn’t necessarily make the bad good. The bad is still bad, and we should always remember that when we comfort or counsel people who have lived through loss. The bad is still bad, and we shouldn’t disrespect people’s pain by only focusing on the good. Having said that, we must also remember that sorrow and death do not have the final word. We are indeed following a God who can create breathtaking mosaics out of the shards of our lives. He’s done that with Jessica and me, and He can do that with you.

Loss will change you, and you might carry a limp forever, but it can also be a portal that opens new horizons and brings you face to face with the eternal, boundless grace of God.

 

 

New songs and your supernatural goals

new-beginningsThere are two kinds of new songs: re-treads and originals. Which one is your soul singing?

Psalm 149:1 exhorts us: “Sing to the Lord a new song” but what exactly does that mean? Does it mean learning the latest Hillsong or Bethel tunes, or finding a contemporary way to sing the old hymns, or is it something more?

It’s okay to sing re-treads. It is good and helpful to re-package classic hymns for a new generation, and it can always be helpful to revisit the songs that sustained our soul in the past; however, those songs aren’t original. They aren’t truly new.

A new song is a song that flows out of a new encounter with God; new songs follow the fulfillment of our supernatural goals.

This month at Grace Church we are setting some supernatural goals—we are asking God to do some things in our lives that are beyond our natural ability to accomplish. We fully intend to change our lives via the strength and ability of our humanness, but we are also looking for something much greater than that. We want some new encounters with God that generate new songs and new expressions of praise.

Remembering the past is a crucial part of the Christian life. God constantly reminds us of yesterday to encourage us for today, but He is not stuck in our yesterday. Yesterday’s faithfulness is following us into today, and it will still be waiting for us tomorrow.

I wish I knew what new songs you will be singing at the end of 2017. They probably haven’t been written yet, but they will be. Whether your supernatural goals occur exactly as you want or not, there will be new things worth celebrating and singing about.

Read the red and pray for the power!

red-lettersRead the red and pray for the power.

These were the instructions that Dr. Fuchsia Pickett gave to our class when Jessica and I were in Bible school in the early 90s, and I think they are the perfect marching orders for each of us as we start a New Year together.

Yesterday, Grace Church committed to three New Year resolutions, and I would love for you to join us as well.

  1. We set a human goal. This is an area of our lives that can be changed solely through the efforts of our determined humanity. We don’t need God’s help to accomplish this goal—we simply need some leverage and true resolve.
  2. We set a supernatural goal. This is an area that will require some divine intervention—we will not be able to accomplish this goal unless God gets involved.
  3. In order to position ourselves for our supernatural goals, we committed to a 90-day “Read the red and pray for the power” New Year campaign.

Our “Read the red and pray for the power” campaign includes two elements: we are going to read a 90-day Bible reading schedule called “Read the red stuff” that will take us through all of the written words of Jesus Christ in 90 days, and we are going to engage in focused prayer around three areas. If you aren’t a part of Grace Church, your three prayer targets will differ slightly from these, but here are the items we are praying for at Grace:

  1. We are praying for each others’ supernatural goals.
  2. We are praying for our “becoming”—we want to step more fully into our individual and collective destinies in 2017.
  3. We are praying for resolution regarding a permanent church facility.

Please join us. Let’s work hard and pray hard this year. Let’s live 2017 to the best of our human abilities and then let’s pray for some things that are dependent on an amazing God. My daily prayer book, The Valley of Vision, includes the following prayer: “May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened, that I may honor you by the greatness of my request.” Let’s not focus on trivia this year; let’s ask some great things of a great God.

You can download a copy of the “Read the red stuff” Bible reading schedule here, and join our campaign today.

Happy New Year! Know you are loved.

Peace or Adrenaline?

adrenalineWhich word best describes the consistent state of your soul this Christmas: peace or adrenaline?

Are you living a life of “untroubled, undisturbed composure and well-being” (New Testament Greek definition of “peace”) or are you in a constantly stressed, adrenaline-laced, fight or flight posture?

Most of us would align with the latter. It is the bane of our 21st century Western Civilization existence to ride the endless roller coaster of adrenaline spikes and crashes.

It’s actually kind of funny when you think about it, because we are seldom engaged in activities that truly warrant that kind of response. We don’t often have to physically run from predators to save our lives. We don’t have to hunt and overpower smaller prey if we want to eat dinner tonight. We aren’t surrounded by constant dangers that startle us and send our hearts into panicked palpitations.

Except that we are.

Although the comforts of our modern life have never been greater, the pressures and stresses of life have risen alongside them, and we are awash in an unstable sea of pressures, insecurities, and demands that are beyond our control. We need two scoops of adrenaline with our morning coffee just to survive.

Fortunately, it is into this kind of world that the Christmas story still speaks. The angelic announcement to the watchful shepherds still resonates: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14).

How do we kick the adrenaline and access that peace? It begins by accepting Jesus’ gift of life so that our existential worries can melt away in the light of a greater hope and destiny. Second, we choose to love and forgive. And finally, we hearken to the words of Scripture that remind us that we are not alone amid the chaos: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).