You Have My Attention; I Follow Your Direction

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” Psalm 96:11-12

You have my attention; I follow your direction.”

It’s from those eight words that the entirety of last Sundays message was birthed. 8 words tuned into 8 pages that turned in to 35 minutes of focused energy and passion. And they’ve been burning in my heart ever since.

They’ve not just been the “kickstart” to a single message, but they’ve been the substance of my prayer lately as moments have caught my eye and stirred my soul.

As I walk through my neighborhood seeing the beauty of the fall in Michigan, “You have my attention; I follow your direction.
As I step sit quietly in my dark office with the song “Do it again” playing in the background, “You have my attention; I follow your direction.
Listening to my daughter and my wife laughing together, “You have my attention; I follow your direction.

That prayer has not only stirred my heart from those beautiful moments but in the face of challenging situations.

Getting a text from a hurting friend in ministry, “You have my attention; I follow your direction.
Approaching the emergency room to visit a child with pneumonia,”You have my attention; I follow your direction.
Receiving a phone call that seems to close the door on a dream, “You have my attention; I follow your direction.

My simple prayer has been that intentional centering of my soul upon who Jesus is. But it’s not some ethreal thought but a determination to take notice and fix my attention up on the Lord. It’s to grasp the beauty of His majesty and to ponder on His wonder and fame. But that’s where most people leave it. Don’t get me wrong, worship is awesome. Recognizing His greatness is necessary. But it’s shallow at best if we don’t translate it to obedience.

And that has been the emphasis on the last part of my prayer.

I want to recognize Him and I want to respond to that revelation.

In Psalm 96, the psalmist captures the something in nature that captures his attention to who God is. I think we need to do that more.

To take notice on a drive of the beauty of creation as the trees begin to change.
To see an evening sky change colors as the sun sets.
To sit at lake Michigan and see the water splash against the pier.
To walk in a quiet forest and listen to the sound of the wind through the trees.

I love the words of Psalm 104, 24-25 when they say How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.

But let us not leave revelation in our hearts. Let’s live revelation in our hands and feet. Let us allow the shaping and tones of our words bear the revelation of our Savior. Let us look for someone in need to give a revelation of a God who cares. Let us find someone to encourage to give them a revelation of a Savior who hasn’t forgotten about them.

This week, would you take notice of the glory of God in creation around you? But don’t just leave revelation in your heart. Let revelation live in your life in everything you do.

You have my attention; I follow your direction.”

Before you head into your day, an appointment, a store, or into family time, would you say that prayer?

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Secure Your Spotlight” #DreamsAndDrama

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

Sunday, we started our fall series at Kfirst. Every September, we study a specific person in scripture and this year we’ve landed on Joseph.

He’s a brother sold into slavery. A slave who faced trials and temptation. A prisoner innocent of any crime. A wise man, full of integrity, elevated to a position of influence amongst his enemies. This is the story of Joseph.

Sunday, we continued this “dreamer’s” story. Now in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, God is blessing him in the place of his incarceration. It is here where “isolation” begins to test the dreams he’s had.

Check yesterday out either from the website or from the Facebook livestream:

Other thoughts from the Youversion notes from Sunday:

  • When I give God my attention, He gives me my direction.
  • How do we lose our attention on the God-Dream in our lives?
    • Unexpected turns.
    • Unmet expectations.
    • Unreleased Issues.
  • Your faith will go in the direction of your attention. What you focus on most will be where your faith lives.
  • If we’re not careful, our ideals can quickly become our idols.
  • Attention creates access.
  • Those who don’t lose sight of their progress will find joy in the process.

Love you all. Have an amazing week.

BTW: Here’s our new song at Kfirst.

 

 

Marital A.D.D.: 2 Ways to Overcome the Deficit of Attention in Marriage

From the beginning of this blog, let me say that I don’t take things like A.D.D or A.D.H.D. lightly. According to the New York Times, at least 4 percent of adults have the disorder and as many as half of all children that have A.D.H.D. do not fully outgrow it and continue to struggle with symptoms as adults. It is a challenge to deal with as an individual as well as a married couple and more material should be produced to help couples who have been diagnosed with it.

Where an individual, who has either condition, will struggle to keep their own attention, in marriage, there is usually someone (or both) struggling to get attention. I hear comments like:

“He doesn’t appreciate anything I do.”
“Doesn’t she know I have needs?”
“I wish he’d look at me that way.”
“The only time I hear from my spouse is when something is wrong.”
“I wish I felt special.”

I call it, Marriage A.D.D. and it’s harming marriages. There are spouses struggling in their marriage from deficit of attention. Wrap your head around the change that happened when the relationship shifted from courtship to marriage. Back then, we spent time fighting to grasp the attention the one we were dating. Now, we find ourselves fighting to get the attention of the same person, but now, we’re married to him/her. Anne and I have been here. Sometimes we find A.D.D. creeping back. Why? We’re ALL susceptible to it.

How does the attention deterioration take place? 

Mistaken priorities.
Let me say this from the get-go: When you learn to love God first, He enables you to love best (Matthew 22:36-40).  And if this priority doesn’t take place, difficulties follow.

Outside of Christ, your marriage relationship should be the most important relationship in your life. Jobs, best friends, hobbies, church, etc. all must take a back seat to your marriage. Saying “I love you” doesn’t matter if your priorities don’t match up with the words.

Forgotten passion.
Passion doesn’t take place on accident. It is sought after and discovered. This is where we can glean from those “dating days.” Passion is something that is available to anyone but it needs to be fed and facilitated. Those who say they “accidentally feel in love” where actually looking for it consciously or sub-consciously. Bring back the courtship of the heart. Leisure and laughter are essential to regaining the passion back. Make dating both mandatory and consistent.

Shifting of seasons.
What worked in one season may not work in another. Your age, family, and state of life (job, home, health, etc) all shift during the course of your marriage. And what may have been romantic 20 years ago (or even a year ago) may not speak the same thing as it once did. I’ve seen so many couples missing the attention mark, not because there was a failure of attention, it was the failure of the proper attention.

Become a student of each other. Lower your defenses a bit and communicate to each other what you enjoy/like. Communication doesn’t happen by osmosis; it is an intentional act of intimacy. And the more you learn AND put into practice, the less you’ll see your marriage suffer from any deficit of attention.

Self-centered living.
Even though this could have been absorbed into the other points, this demanded its own emphasis. Healthy marriage living can only grow from healthy marriage giving. It’s that type of giving that demands no reciprocal behavior. You without expectation. A.D.D marriages wait for the other to act first. “I won’t until he/she does it first.”

Servanthood is that Christ-like manner for which our spouse see’s the example of Jesus in the home.  “Self-centered” approaches deteriorate that image and, thus, create of deficit of attention by putting focus upon ourselves. I wish I could say that I never struggle with this, but I’d be lying. Perhaps you can come together for a “come to Jesus moment” for the two of you. It can be a place where there is no finger-pointing at each other but ownership over what our human tendencies can drive us to.

Lack of gratitude.
Giving thanks FOR and WITH your spouse is, perhaps, one of the most significant marital habit. Gratitude is an essential ingredient in any relationship, but it takes intentionality and time to put it into practice.

Nobody likes to be taken for granted. Without it you get used to having your spouse in your life but forget why you chose to be with them. A lack of gratitude makes us deadened to our spouse’s special qualities and then gets us to focus on things that annoy us about them. A lack of “thanks” can leave us confused and discouraged in our relationship.

When we come into marriage each day with gratitude, choosing together to see abundance rather than scarcity, relational satisfaction rises. It will change the atmosphere of your home, develop appreciation, enhance sex, soften criticism, and pave the way for forgiveness. Practicing the art of thanksgiving increases attention by leaps and bound, thus reducing the effects that Marital A.D.D. have previously had.

Next Steps:
Simply said: A breakdown of attention is a breakdown of intimacy. This is not a one-date-fixes all situation.  It’s a lifetime of tweaks to two important systems.

  1. Change in the system of thinking (humility).
    • It begins with a mind that is fixed upon Christ and His example. We don’t wait for others to change first; the example starts with ME. James 4:10 says to “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” You were never meant to hold yourself or your marriage up. Humble yourself (rest in His identity and strength) and let the Lord lift up (hold up and hold together) your marriage. Before you fix a deficiency of living, you need to fix the deficiency of thinking.
  2. Change of in the system of living (patterns). 
    • I’ve heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If your old patterns have been creating a deficiency of attention for your spouse, then it’s time to fix them and start new habits. Talk with each other. Find out what you both can do that will work toward providing the proper attention that you both crave.

Start today. Get your attention on the proper things. Don’t get distracted. Focus on what really matters: Jesus and your spouse.

I love you all. I believe in you because I believe in the Christ in you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Touch Your Own Bride: 5 Questions for Pastors and Their Marriages

I’m trying to get back to my “normal routine.”  A month of a literal blur of a schedule has left me clutching my coffee and pondering the thoughts that have been jotted down from services and meetings. One in particular hasn’t let go of my mind.

Pastor Wilfredo De Jesús, better known as Pastor Choco, is the head pastor of New Life Covenant Church and the author of Amazing Faith.  He spoke at our Michigan Assemblies of God meetings last week.  I sat with Anne listening to his challenging message to our amazing council of Michigan pastors about being spiritually dehydrated.  Then it came out.

“The Bride of Christ (the church) is HIS bride and NOT yours.  Pastors, you have your own.” (paraphrased from my notes)

What an amazing challenge to hundreds of pastors all of which are susceptible to the temptation of prioritizing of their time, focus, and resources off of their bride and placed upon the wrong bride.  Out of a genuine passion for reaching the world and a heart to care for people, we (pastors) can make the mistake of divert our attention to the neglect of the most important human relationship we will ever have.

Please note: I’m NOT advocating ignoring your congregation.  But the priorities of our relationships are there for a reason: they flow one into the other.  My priorities are Jesus, my wife, my family, my church.  It’s from this foundation of priorities I can be the pastor I need to be.

bride

5 Questions I have for pastors: 

1. Are we more worried about touching His Bride than ours?  I’m a driven pastor who wants to be all things to all men.  If there’s a need, I will go to great lengths to meet it.  The question is: Am I that driven to meet my wife’s needs?  Touching my wife is more than a sexual connotation (even though pastors need a frequent, healthy sex life with their spouse…but that’s for another blog).  Just as a pastoral touch to a congregation can vary based upon the need, touching my spouse is no different.  Your spouse needs to be touched.  There are needs that HAVE to be noticed and prioritized.  There are good touches and bad touches.  The difference? Bad touches are laced in selfishness.  Good touches are humility based and saturated in servanthood. What type of “touch” does your spouse need? A touch of time? A conversational touch? A physical touch? Find the need…meet the need.

2. Are we more careful speaking to His Bride than our own? Do we save our words for His Bride? We have all been there where there is yelling while the phone is ringing, but when the phone is answered, you go into a nice mode as to not let anyone know what transpired.  It seems we have enough strength to muster tones, words, and mannerisms for His Bride but we starve our Bride of conversational intimacy (words of encouragement, genuine care, affirmation, and outright communication).  As pastors, we spend a lot of currency upon the people we pastor (yes that’s a good thing), but we cannot splurge so much of it that all we have to offer our bride is spare change.  Our words are part of the building blocks for healthy marriage and your ability to prioritize them will lead you to a healthy marriage. Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

3. Are we more apt to move appointments for His Bride than our own?  I love talking with pastors older and more experiences than myself.  Their perspective is priceless.  The more I talk to them, the more I hear things like, “Someone else could’ve done the visit…Another person could have responded…It’s okay to shut off the phone….Guard your time with your bride.”  I hear over and over the regret of pastors who set their bride aside for the sake of His Bride.  It sound admirable to some, but it’s a short-term fix that has two detrimental affects: (1) It helps us feel more important because we are “needed” as pastors and (2) creates more of a dependency from the congregation upon us instead of first, upon Christ, and upon each other (community).  It’s from this false sense of dependency, we tend to mindlessly move or cancel appointments with our spouse.  I’m not saying that can never happens.  Of course cancellations and reshuffled calendars are gonna happen…life happens.  You know as well as I do that I’m not talking about emergencies and situations that come up.  I’m talking about those of us who, in a whim, will lay down quality moments with our bride for quantity moments with His Bride that could/should be managed in balance.  If his has become the hallmark of your marriage/ministry, something is off.

4. Does His Bride get the best of our time and does yours get the leftovers? I take my days off on Fridays for a reason: I want my bride to get my best.  If I did it on Monday, after a weekend of pouring out (focus, preparation, preaching, etc), I’d have nothing left for my bride. Jesus gave His bride his best…shouldn’t we do the same?  Be purposeful about how you plan out your week.  Remember: QUANTITY doesn’t necessarily equate to QUALITY.  Make the most of every opportunity with your bride.  Ecclesiastes 9:9, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love…”

5. When you are with your bride, is your mind on someone else’s (His Bride)? More hurt has been done in ministry marriages by unfocused attention.  Just because you are there physically in the same vicinity, doesn’t mean you are present mentally or emotionally. In this world of technology, it’s quite easy to multi-task thinking we’re being productive.  We think we can adequately pay attention to our spouse whilst getting ministry done.  Your presence demands more than physical location.  The only way to “be there” for your spouse is the “be there” in every way possible (emotional, spiritual, mental, physical). Don’t share the moment with another. 

Pastor Choco got this ball rolling.  It was (and still is) the inventory check I needed in the moment to help me step back to make sure that my priority, above my church, is the bride Jesus has given me.  The only way I can be an affective pastor is to be an affective husband. It can’t be the other way around. 

Love Jesus with all your heart.  Take the love and lavishly pour it into your spouse . I promise, the better you care for your bride, the better pastor you’ll become for His bride.  

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 Barringer family

Warning Shots: 10 subtle actions your marriage needs to pay attention to.

You’ve opened my ears so I can listen.
Psalm 40:6

I’m an aficionado of military movies.  And there’s certain lines and terms that you can count on hearing frequently.  For some reason, especially in movies involving ships, you’ll hear the term: warning shot. 

A warning shot is a military and/or police term describing an intentionally harmless shot toward the opposition.   The intention of the shot is to get the attention of the party at hand letting them know you mean business.  The warning shot doesn’t harm or hurt anyone.  It’s what I call the “attention grabber.”  It tells the opposing person that if you do not head the “warning shot”, consequences will follow. 

I’m not being a proponent of firing a shot, both literal and physical, at/toward your spouse.  But there are subtle things that happen in a marriage that are the “attention grabbers” of your relationship.  Many times, these are not intentionally done by a spouse.  They’re the subtle responses to situations that are not completely healthy. But to ignore these “warning shots” is to inviting the issuing circumstances. 

10 warning shots to take notice of: 

1. Taking for granted “The Big 5.”  They consist of: 

  • “I love you.”
  • “Will you forgive me?”
  • “I forgive you.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “You’re welcome.”

2. Love languages are becoming a side issue. I think couples should monitor the changes in their love languages as they get older.  The seasons of life change you.  What used to speak to your spouse may not speak to them now.  Take time to read, talk, pray, and discover each other all over again. The pursuit will feed the passion. 

3.The schedule doesn’t allow you to worship or pray together.  We are more than physical beings. We are spiritual as well.  When the two became one, the two were meant to experience everything together…including worship.  If the schedule is preventing time of spiritual refreshing, something needs to change.  When you can’t remember the last time you haven’t prayed together, served together, or worshiped together, they’re subtle hints that spiritual intimacy needs to be a priority. 

4. The decisions you used to make together are now being decided without the other.  This is a sign that communication and unified decision-making are beginning to break down.  It always starts off with the little things. 

5. Sex isn’t happening.  My love language is “Physical Touch” so this isn’t a subtle hint.  But for those of you who are not driven physically, if sex isn’t happening in a healthy frequency (no magic number for that), it’s a definite sign that something needs to change. The heart should drive the mood.  Both spouses should possess the heart of a servant to make sure that the most intimate needs of their spouse is being served. As I’ve always said, “you are the only one that can meet that need in your spouse.”

6. There’s much more tolerance for what you never tolerated before.  There’s freedom in Christ and there’s just cashing in on Godly standards.  Your entertainment, conversations, thought-life, and private time should have healthy Godly boundaries.  If they’re not attended to, it amazing me what gets past them and desires to take root in our lives. 

7. “This is your problem not mine.” becomes a common line.  This is one of many quotes that shows the breakdown of oneness in a marriage.  “Mine” and “yours” are natural words used by couples whose unity is beginning to erode away.  Take notice on how much they’re being used and in the context they’re being used. Take a step back and realize: you are in this together.  Make sure your words follow suit. 

8. Date night? I hear couples joke “Does that happen anymore?” and it makes me cringe every time.  When you can’t remember when it’s happened last, it’s a sure sign that you desperately need time alone.  It doesn’t have to cost much if anything at all.  Take a walk.  Go on a drive.  Do something together. 

9. Kids are higher priority than the marriage. I know you have such a short window of time to raise your children. I’m a firm believer that kids are a high priority…just behind my spouse. I don’t neglect or ignore my kids.  BUT…my wife is a higher priority.  She needs to know that.  My kids need to see that.  This is why so many people get divorced after 20-25 years of marriage.  Everything was poured into the kids and nothing into the marriage.  

10. There’s more talk about what you DON’T have than what you DO have.  Envy is a killer of joy in your marriage.  It wants to guide your eyes and heart to what others have and what you lack.  You end up forgetting the blessings of God because you can’t see them past all of the “stuff” that should be yours.  “If only I/we had it.” is a lie.  Why? Because when you do get “it”, you’ll still continue to say that line. 

My prayer for you is that of Psalms 40:6.  That you would be able to say, God “opened my ears so I can listen.”  Ask the Lord to open up your 5 senses to hear the subtle things that you haven’t noticed before.  If you see these things, they are the attention grabbers that are screaming at you saying, “it’s time to attend to your marriage.”

Don’t grow deaf to the “warning shots.”  Open up your senses and listen. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Devo: “Attentive Devotion”

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We started a new series this month called “His Faithfulness” We are looking at the faithfulness of God revealed to us in the scripture.  Take time to read the passage here on the blog or in your own bible.

Today’s scripture: Joel 2:18-27

18 Then the Lord became jealous for his land
and had pity on his people.
19 The Lord answered and said to his people,
“Behold, I am sending to you
grain, wine, and oil,
and you will be satisfied;
and I will no more make you
a reproach among the nations.

20 “I will remove the northerner far from you,
and drive him into a parched and desolate land,
his vanguard into the eastern sea,
and his rear guard into the western sea;
the stench and foul smell of him will rise,
for he has done great things.

21 “Fear not, O land;
be glad and rejoice,
for the Lord has done great things!
22 Fear not, you beasts of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit;
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

23 “Be glad, O children of Zion,
and rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the latter rain, as before.

24 “The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
25 I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.

26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.