Category Archives: dreams

Will you be my Valentine?

will_you_be_my_valentineDo you remember asking the question, often with an accompanying small, awkwardly sized card and a box of tasteless, sugar hearts?

“Will you be my Valentine?” It’s a pretty vulnerable question to ask when you are in grade school and your heart is on your sleeve (I still remember the 4th grade when Dalene Whitney told me yes then no then yes again all in the same day).

It’s even more vulnerable years later when you ask a variation of the question: “Am I still your Valentine?”

Today is the 22nd year that Jessica has been my Valentine, and I’m desperately hoping that I’ve been a good Valentine for her. I hope that her years of having me as her Valentine have reinforced in her the reality of God’s overwhelming love. When she stops to count her blessings I hope she has overwhelming evidence that God—through me—has been good to her.

And this isn’t just a post about Jessica and me! It’s a question for all of us to ponder as we think about our many sweethearts today. Have we made them better? Have we been agents of healing? Have we lived and loved so well that our children, students, friends, family members, and loved ones have evidence of a good and gracious God? God is good and gracious and loving and kind; the question is: have our lives highlighted that reality?

One of the most remarkable things about the Gospel story is that God allows us humans to represent Him to our world. Sometimes we do it well, sometimes we fall down on the job. If you’ve fallen down on the job it doesn’t mean the story is over. Valentine’s Day is a perfect day for refreshing resolutions and charting the courses in life that we truly want to follow.

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YOUR Olympics (a Post-Rio Reflection)

olympic_ringsDid you get your Olympics fix this summer? Did you carve out enough time to vicariously swim, jump, lift, dive, tumble, and throw alongside the greatest athletes in the world?

Fortunately, for Jessica and me, this summer’s Olympic Games occurred in the middle of our ministry sabbatical so if you missed any of it let me know—we watched it all!

We have always been Olympics fans, and every two years we clear our schedule so we can cheer and cry and pretend that we too are being crowned champions in our chosen disciplines. When we lived in Colorado Springs we routinely visited the Olympic Training Center there so we could touch the spirit of the Olympics even in the off seasons. There really is something about the Olympic Games that strikes a profoundly deep chord in the human soul.

It might be the beauty of the different people groups of the world…it might be the brilliance of watching someone set records that no other human can attain…it might be the human interest stories that augment the tumbling of Simone Biles or the pole vaulting of Ashton Eaton…or it might be something else.

It might be that the Olympics are a metaphor for our lives. WE are athletes in training, contending for victory and mastery in life. The Apostle Paul realized this, and he sprinkled his letters with powerful Olympic imagery. He spoke of competing for a crown “that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25), winning “the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), and he compared Timothy’s calling to an athlete who longs to “receive the victor’s crown” (2 Timothy 2:5).

WE are Olympians. As the Rio Games fade into history, OUR Games are just beginning. What prize so consumes you that you are willing to sacrifice to attain it? What victory is so essential in your life that you will rival the work ethic of Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt in your whole-life pursuit of it? Let’s go for it! Let’s pay the price.

When the 2018 Winter Games commence in South Korea, let’s be transformed. When the 2020 Summer Games are inaugurated in Tokyo let’s be brandishing medals and crowns that will never fade away.

 

 

The Next Right Thing

multidirectional signsWhat am I supposed to do with my life?

Which path should I take, left or right?

Is this the right time to make a move, or should I wait a little bit longer?

Should I follow this counsel or that opinion?

And most importantly, how long is it all going to take?

Sometimes questions like these can make us crazy. We can be so concerned with knowing exactly what the next steps are for our lives that we become obsessed. We fret and stress and live under a canopy of frustration, fear, and anxiety. We fail to enjoy the present moment because we’re so desperate to get into a future moment, and ultimately, we miss what we are supposed to learn and receive today. What we don’t even realize is that today’s obsession with tomorrow can actually disqualify us for tomorrow.

There is a better way.  Sometimes rather than obsessing over the ultimate answer or our final path, we need to simply do the next right thing.

Quite often, if you and I will simply do the next right thing, our larger path will become clear. If we do the next right thing, we will be ready for the next right thing after that. Then if we do the next right thing after that one, we will be ready for the next one that appears. If we were to consistently do this for a lifetime, several things would happen. We would live really good lives, some really great things would happen, and we would always be prepared when our new seasons arrived.

This is not a diminishing of vision. Nor is it an appeal to stop dreaming. Not at all! We need a vision. It is imperative that we dream. However, it is the maximization of today’s opportunities that qualifies us for the vision that is coming tomorrow.

The Man in the Arena

cliff-scalingA recurring theme in Theodore Roosevelt’s writings and speeches was “the man in the arena.” Here is one of his classic quotes about such a person—hopefully a man or a woman like you:

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

That’s it for today. Some truths are best absorbed through brevity. May Mr. Roosevelt’s words ignite a noble fire in your soul!

William’s 400-meter failure

EUGENE, OR - JUNE 23: Bryan Clay reacts after getting disqualified in the men's decathlon 110 meter hurdles during Day Two of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 23, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)During the past few months I have been volunteering as the assistant track and field coach at my daughter’s high school. I’ve loved it, and it has been the fulfillment of a dream I’ve carried ever since I first met Pat Stahl, the track and field coach who profoundly shaped my life in high school.

Part of why I love track so much is that its lessons speak so profoundly to our spiritual journey. To spend a day on the track is to witness lessons about perseverance, work ethic, mental preparation, and hitting the wall. It is a sport about running with comrades and also running alone. It’s a tremendous sport that is jam-packed with spiritual truths and metaphors.

I experienced one of those lessons last week when William failed in the 400 meters.

He didn’t actually fail; he just thought he did. Leading up to our last track meet, William (not his real name) was about one second shy of qualifying for league finals in the 400-meter dash, and I was convinced that with some extra training and inspiration he would be able to qualify.

He worked incredibly hard all week, he ran the best race of his life in the meet, but he still failed to qualify. I was proud of him, I commended him for setting a personal record, and then I watched him slump under weighty feelings of personal failure and shame.

I am a competitor and I hate to lose so I understand the post-failing emotions that accompany a moment like William’s. However, after he apologized to me for the 10th time for failing to qualify I realized that something was wrong. He didn’t just feel failure; he felt a sense of shame.

As I spent the next thirty minutes trying to reinforce truth and liberate him from shame I realized that we do the exact same thing. Sometimes we work hard, do our best, fall short of our personal expectations, and then get taken out by shame.

I’m sure my words to William would echo God’s words to you: “I’ve seen your effort…I’m proud of you…you’re doing better than you realize…you’ll do even better next season…you are not a failure…now kick this shame to the curb because WE’VE GOT ANOTHER RACE TO RUN.”

Retracting our ‘nevers’

high diveDo you get annoyed when missionaries say, “I told God I would never go to Africa, and sure enough that’s where He sent me”? Or when ministers exhort us to, “Never say ‘never’ to God because as soon as you say ‘never’ that’s exactly what He will make you do”?

I don’t love those kinds of statements because they give God a bad rap. They make it sound like God spends His time looking for ways to disappoint our deepest desires. They ignore verses like Psalm 37:4 that say, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

That’s a profound verse. God doesn’t just give desired outcomes; He gives the desire itself. If you are delighting yourself in Him, and you have absolutely no desire to do a certain ministry, it is likely that He isn’t leading you to do it. If He wants you to do it He’ll have to give you the desire first.

So let’s stop being afraid that if we go all in with this life of discipleship that God will make us do all of the stuff that we don’t want to do. He is not going to send you to some remote assignment just to spite you.

However…once we defend God a bit and push back against the inaccurate statements from certain teachers and preachers we DO need to build a figurative altar and sacrifice our ‘nevers’ on it.

Truly submitted prayers say, “Lord, send me where I’m needed most” not “Lord, send me where I’ll get the best tan…or where I’ll see the best scenery…or make the most money.”

Consider Oswald Chambers’ words from the devotional, My Utmost For His Highest: “Before we will serve, we stop to ponder our personal and financial concerns: ‘what if God wants me to go over there? And what about my salary? What is the climate like there? Who will take care of me? A person must consider all these things.’ All this is an indication that we have reservations about serving God.”

God can be trusted completely. So let’s retract our ‘nevers’ and dive into the deep end of our destinies.

 

Divine Delays

Detour_AheadHow do you handle holding patterns?

How do you handle the delays between God’s promises and their fulfillment?

How do you cope when you’re enjoying a sweet fellowship with the Lord and then heaven suddenly goes silent, and no matter what you do, you can’t break through to the other side?

These moments of divine delay reveal who we are on the inside. They show us the authenticity of our faith, and they expose the true benchmarks of our character.

They break us…or they make us. And just as our favorite Bible heroes taught us, how a person handles their holding patterns determines whether or not they’ll land in safety.

  • Abraham was delayed in barrenness.
  • Moses was delayed in the wilderness (twice).
  • David was delayed in the cave.

And yet their divine delays teach us a powerful truth about God: He knows the way through the wilderness, and He knows how to get people to their destinations.

You’ve been delayed in your story too, and you might need to remember today that God has not lost sight of you. He doesn’t need a compass or a GPS to find you. He has His eye on you, and He is still determined to bring you to all of your appointed ends.

Remember what the Lord told the prophet Habakkuk when he was spiraling in a holding pattern. His words will help you survive your divine delays too. God said, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Habakkuk 2:2-3 NKJV)