Anniversary Thoughts: 19 Lessons from 19 Years of Marriage

Today is our anniversary. And as a tradition, on May 23, I do a bit of a blog to honor the bride that agreed to journey life with me. But before the list comes out, I need to give you some background to what stirred this blog.

 

 

On Sunday, I was preaching, perhaps, one of my favorite messages I’ve preached in a long time. Anger is something that, I feel, I should probably do an entire series upon as it’s something we all deal with now and will continue to deal with.

During my message, I stated that there are two types of angry people: Exploders (you explode with anger) and Imploders (you suppress your anger). Then, I asked people to raise hands on the one they identified with. I started by saying,

“Any exploders in the house? Anne, make sure you raise your hand (which she did). Any imploders? I’m one of them (in which I raised my hand). “

People laughed  because, well, it was a humorous moment. Anne and I don’t mind being vulnerable to people, which entails sharing our faults. But what followed after service was quite surprising. There were more than a few people approaching Anne almost offended for her. They were asking if what I said, embarrassed her or made her mad.

Her reply was priceless,

If little things like that set you off, you have deeper issues than that.

It wasn’t said with any type mockery or sarcasm but with a strong confidence. In one simple statement, maturity and wisdom were conveyed and no place was open for the devil to have a foothold. I can’t say it was that way when we started 19 years ago. But there have been some habits (practices) that we’ve been working on for the past (almost) two decades that have helped us have such a rapport that we can have fun and not allow the little things to steal the joy of our marriage.

So here we go, 19 lessons that has helped give us thick skin, healthy hearts, and deep love.

  1. We assume the best in each other. 
    • It is the ONLY kind of assumption we allow in our marriage.
  2. Date days are never optional. 
    • Couples that “lost the feeling of love” have stopped feeding the feeling by not dating. I may sound like a broken record, but till every couple engages in consistent dating, we’ll keep talking about it.
  3. Ice cream is the best way to end anything.
    • From ending a day to ending an argument, ice cream is something we indulge in. Most people avoid things that leave a bad taste on the palettes of their hearts. So if you have a sweet ending to something, you won’t be afraid to revisit it because you ended it well.
  4. We recommend resources to each other. 
    • From books to podcasts, when one of us recommends something, the other doesn’t get defensive. We look out for each other and that includes our spiritual growth.
  5. We refuse to try to read each other’s minds. 
    • Anne and I know each other pretty good after 19 years of marriage and 3 years of dating. But we still don’t assume we know everything the other is thinking. The minute we start doing that is the moment we stop communicating. And that’s a bad place.
  6. Celebration is about not about a “date.” 
    • Right now, it’s our anniversary and we’re at a conference. Believe me, we’d love to be able to celebrate a holiday or event on the exact date, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. We have to remember: It’s the moment that is special, not the date on the calendar.
  7. We keep real issues out of the hands of others. 
    • What you see from us on social media is the silly and the inspirational. Why don’t we post about our arguments and issues? First, because it’s none of your business and second, we want to work on it together without outside interference. Don’t worry, once we’ve learned, it usually becomes a marriage blog later when we can laugh about it. Which leads to #8…
  8. Our faults and failures build bridges. 
    • We don’t mind sharing the stupid things we do and the lessons we’ve learned. I’d rather share in order to prevent someone some pain than hear about it later knowing we could have helped in some way.
  9. Sex is like…
    • I was going to say “like cheese” but that’d mean it stinks with time. I’d say “like wine” but it get better with time but you can’t partake of it for years to enjoy it. I could say “like candy” but you can get sick from it….hmmmm….how about: Sex get’s better the more practice you give it and the importance you place upon it.
  10. Encouragement is the breath in our marriage.
    • We refuse to let someone out-encourage us when it comes to each other.
  11. We don’t have to like the same things. 
    • Outside of Jesus and enjoying laughing together, there is nothing compatible about us. It has nothing to do about being opposites; it’s about being different. And the differences make us work harder. And the harder we work together, the stronger and deeper things get.
  12. Laughter is a non-negotiable. 
    • I’m convinced that no couple laughs more than we do. It’s not that we don’t take things seriously. But having a “merry heart” positions our mind to know what to take serious and what to not take too serious.
  13. The changing of the seasons brings changes. 
    • Every season your marriage (and you as a human) goes through can dramatically change you both. From love languages to sex drives to attitudes, don’t forget to continue to be a life-long student of your spouse.
  14. Our church community energizes us. 
    • We don’t expect perfection from a community that isn’t perfect and they don’t expect it from us (cause they’re not going to get perfection). Anne and I authentically look forward to engaging with the Kfirst community in worship and in service to those around us. We get energized from watching the presence of God touch lives.
  15. There’s no such thing as “Dave’s problems” or “Anne’s problems”; There’s only “our problems.” 
    • We choose to believe the scriptures when it’s stated, “the two becomes one.” Anne and I refuse to look at each other and say, “well that’s your problem, not mine.” If it’s a problem for one, we refuse to let each other journey alone in it. We are one.
  16. I still hate tomatoes; Anne doesn’t like Tuna Helper.
    • There are some things that haven’t changed about us in the past 19 years. We don’t try to change each other to what we prefer; we work on letting the Holy Spirit be the changing agent. So it isn’t about getting my spouse to be who I think they should be. It’s about being open to the Holy Spirit’s moving in our lives.
  17. We cultivate the presence of God. 
    • We don’t do our “devotional” time with God as if it’s been checked off a daily list. Our personal relationship with Christ is cultivated throughout the day in prayer, time in the Word, and interaction with people.
  18. We are always looking to grow. 
    • After 19 years, we feel we’ve only just begun. And each season we hit we understand how much more we need to grow in the Lord and in love for each other. It seems the longer we are together, the easier it is to take each other for granted. So we’ve determined to keep growing and not allow contempt to foster itself.
  19. The best has YET to come.
    • This statement isn’t cliché to us; it’s the prophetic statement over our lives that we see a fuller life together because Christ leads us from glory to glory.

Happy Anniversary babe. No one loves you like I do. Here’s to the continued journey we have and MANY more lessons to learn. There’s no one I’d rather do life with.

Thank you for encouraging my effort.
Thank you for celebrating our progress.
Thank you for always feeding hope.

 

Oh yeah….Thanks for letting me ramble for the past 19 years…

Kingdom Health: 3 Pastoral Lessons from the Vineyard

One of the strategies of preaching that I’ve really tried to learn from Jesus’ example was the ability to connect the Kingdom to present surroundings/experiences. He was a master at helping to give people understanding by turning people’s attention to things like fields, birds, lost coins, and sheep. A tangible metaphor helped explain the Kingdom in a way that people of that culture could understand and grow from.

It’s for that reason, most of my sermon illustrations come from personal experience and not a book. Jesus didn’t get his illustrations from hanging out at the Temple everyday. He walked around the local cities and villages. Jesus took notice of people and atmospheres. I believe if pastors/preachers are looking for fresh illustrations, the best ones are waiting for you…

  • …outside of your office. Be a pastor who is in your community.
  • …when you spend time with your spouse and/or family. My wife and children have taught me a ton of lessons, but remember, only use family illustrations with permission.
  • …during times of leisure/fun. It’s amazing the things you can learn about yourself if you’ll stop taking life so serious and enjoy yourself.
  • …on vacations. Usually, vacations help lower my guard a bit. And it’s in that place of vulnerability, where moments happen and God speaks.

If we’ll take a moment to listen, it’s amazing where the Lord will speak to us from. And for me, one of those moments happened in the Napa Valley.  I’ll admit, I was nervous about being in a winery. I remember telling my wife and kids, “no one posts anything on social media” out of fear of what people would assume. In my denomination, there has been so much recent debate about alcohol and the last thing I wanted was a fantastic experience, on one of the best vacations of my life, to turn into a social media debate.  I wasn’t there to drink. I was spending time with some amazing friends to experience a tour of a historic winery.

The guide walked us through a variety of locations. He would stop, tell us about the winemaking process, but also interject some history. The more he talked, the more notes I was typing into my phone. I remember, at one point, turning to my wife and saying, “Every pastor should take this tour.”

For example, I learned that the vineyard owner would find the most difficult soil and plant there.  Finding easy, fertile soil produced fast growth but sour fruit. He discovered that the harder the plant worked, the sweeter the fruit.  (Insert “church planting” or a “discipleship” lesson HERE.)

But apart from the vast amount of things I learned from the vine, I really grasped onto some Kingdom lessons that came from the history the man behind the vineyard.  He has been referred to as the face of the Napa Valley: Robert Mondavi.

Here’s some simple pastoral lessons from Robert Mondavi: 

1 – I am not here to build my empire; I’m called to build the Kingdom. Prohibition was devastating to the valley. Not only were their economics devastated, but people came to the valley and started burning the vineyards. Family’s whose livelihoods, not to mention their homes, were in those fields.  People lost everything. Robert Mondavi was one of the few whose fields survived. When prohibition was lifted, he welcomed those who lost everything to come to work for him.  He didn’t see others as “rivals.” He saw broken people.

For too long, we have treated the church across the street (or across town) as a “rival church.” The competition spirit amongst pastors has absolutely grieved me. Why? Because I was there. Other churches (namely youth groups at the time) were nothing more than the ministries I needed to “beat.” I get it. I’ve been at the place where coveting, envy, and frustration crowded out my passion and vision. I totally get being so frustrated with my lack of results that I pointed fingers at other pastors and churches instead of checking my own heart and seeing the Enemy for who he is.

The winemaker and his history was the reminder of the Pastor who took me in and showed me that the Kingdom always trumps Empire. He showed me that success wasn’t the size of my ministry but the expanding of the Kingdom of God.  Pastors are co-laborers and not rivals; we, together, serve Jesus. Which leads me to…

2 – I am to freely pour out what has been poured into me. What Robert Mondavi had, he offered to others. This man gave displaced families and workers an opportunity to learn and engage in what he was doing.  Nothing was hidden.  He shared his methods and talents. And when they were in a place to move out on their own, he helped them to start their own vineyards.

This is a mentality I didn’t always understand. I think I was more worried about making a name for myself, my church, and my denomination than I was lifting up the name of Jesus. I think sometimes we’re more worried about branding OUR church that we’ve forgotten WHO we are doing this for.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with branding, marketing, and doing things with excellence as long as it exalts the name of Jesus.

One of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made (and continue to make) is to chase mentors.  If you’re waiting for mentors to chase you, you’re missing the point of it all. Growth comes when we lower our pride and admit we need help. It’s why, in the midst of my own ministry hurt, I ran after the “Robert Mondavi” type pastors who weren’t jealous of others but were zealous for the Kingdom. I desperately needed (and still need) pastors who were willing to share what they have without any worry of reciprocation.  And because of their faithfulness, it increased my passion and filled me with hope for a future of healthy ministry.

And for that reason, freely I received, I want to freely give to anyone who comes to me as God gives the opportunities.

3 – Networking means “God is working.” God works in community. Our guide told us that when, Robert Mondavi learned something new, he would call together the local vineyard owners to share what he discovered. Why? He philosophy was, “When I help others, I raise the vintage of the Valley.”

This was completely contradictory to what my nature wanted as well as what I learned in ministry.  In my broken pastoral mind, what I had was mine, and if I shared it, I then have to share the “success.” Not only that, but IF I shared it, I wanted to make sure I raised the “vintage of my reputation.” I was driven to build MY church not realizing that it wasn’t MINE to begin with.

I am eternally grateful for the healthy pastors who spoke into my life for the purpose of “raising the vintage of the Kingdom.” I’m thankful to the Paul’s (mentor) and Barnabas’ (encourager) who unselfishly poured into me from their own failures and successes, from their creativity and dreams. The more I networked with other leaders, the more health I began to see in ministry. The greater opportunities of allowing people to speak into me lead to a deeper move of God in my life. I don’t think that happens by chance. The scriptures are proof that God works through community. We just have to allow for that.

I seriously wish I could take pastors through that tour. Apart from leaning about wine, vines, and crop growth (which is brought up so often in scripture), the Kingdom lessons have transformed my ministry philosophy.

Today, purpose in your heart to take a new turn in ministry. Make the decision to raise the vintage of the Kingdom by taking strategic next steps to see Kingdom health in your life.

Repent of selfishness and give God your brokeness.
Chase a mentor. Be a mentor.
Share a some of your failures; Celebrate His victories.
And when God does/shows something new to you, call up another pastor to talk about it.

Raise the vintage of the Kingdom today.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Pastor to Pastor: Master the Mundane

Every day I get to wake up and do my dream job. It’s not necessarily how I envisioned my life as a child (or a teenager for that matter), but it has become what feeds the passion of my soul. I think that’s really what the “dream job” looks like. It’s that fit, that situation, where you are where you are (1) passionate about where you are at , and (2) that place challenges you, on a daily basis, to grow on every level.

Within this vocation, I’ve discovered that many, if not most, pastors don’t feel the way I do. Instead of a calling, you feel sentenced. And to leave what you do leaves feelings of disobedience and failure. So you endure what should be a joy.

I hope I can help in some way today.

I’m a pastor who has a burden for pastors. I think that burden has been birthed in large part to my own pastoral hurts, struggles, and (even more so) mistakes. You and I may be in different church scenarios, size, and/or surroundings.  And because of that, you may feel isolated in what you’re dealing with.

I understand the weight of expectation (and, consequently, wish I handled it better).
I understand being in the hospital over anxiety and/or chest pains.
I understand the feeling of letting down your congregation, staff, and family.
I understand emotional breakdowns that debilitate you on every level.
I understand the how 1 critical comment/letter can devastate you in the midst of a plethora of encouraging words.
I understand what it’s like to resign because of frustration.
I understand when people are hearing what you are saying but they miss your heart.
I understand not being able to shut down your mind so you can sleep.
I understand what it’s like to be accused of something I’m not guilty of.
I understand what it feels like to hear your kids say they miss you (and you haven’t traveled anywhere).
I understand pouring into someone only to see them destroy their life.
I know what it’s like to stare at a blank page not knowing what to preach.

As therapeutic as it is making this list (kinda wanted to write more), there’s a point to all of it. It’s to let you know…

You’re not alone.

But amidst of all of the flurry of everything that encapsulates ministry, there’s one significant lesson (of MANY lessons) I’ve come to understand. It has been a guide to help get some sanity (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually)

Master the mundane.

Find/discover a routine that will facilitate health and well-being for you and your family. It’s hard to expect the church you lead to be healthy when you, the pastor, refuse to be healthy. And health, in large part, comes about when you master the mundane. I’m not talking about throwing some kale into your lunch every now and then. I’m talking about strategically shifting the “mundane” (schedule, routine) to a place where it facilitates productive pastoring instead of it mastering you into a place of ministry monotony.

Here are some thoughts to help take ownership over the mundane/routine/schedule…

Please be a spouse. You married a human; you didn’t marry a ministry.  In efforts to build a great ministry, far too many pastors have chosen to sacrifice the most important relationship outside of their relationship with Jesus. Connect daily. Date often. Laugh together as much as possible. Be intimate consistently. Pray endlessly.

Be a parent. Some of the most sobering words I have heard over and over from older ministers regarding lost time with their children: “Someone else could’ve led the meeting/preached the message/counseled the person…being on the sideline was more important than being in the pulpit.”  Don’t get me wrong, this is my vocation, but the heart behind the comments to me was a matter of priority that was missed. You’re kids need to see that they are the most important children in your congregation. It’s not about showing favoritism (as in spoiling them with entitlement). It is about making sure they know they are a priority to you.

Set a pace. Take care of yourself. Build both rest and exercise into your schedule. We have far too many ministers harping on congregations about inner and outer health when they refuse to practice what they’re preaching. Because of so many evening appointments, almost daily, I will build a run into my schedule. It gives a good break PLUS I use it as time to spend in prayer. I can put more, but I’ll let you read the blog I wrote for Converge Coaching on the subject.

Be in the community. Have a presence and connection in the community where you live. It’s way more simple than you realize. Frequent the same venues and develop relationships without wearing your sandwich-board sign that says, “I’m a pastor.” (Note: if you ask for a pastoral discount ANYWHERE…turn in your credentials.) I’m in the same coffeehouse every morning (on my day off, I still stop in). I go to the same person to cut my hair. I have a favorite place for lunch. Relationships in the community is currency and far too many pastors are relationally bankrupt. Jesus only had a bit more than 3 years of ministry, yet he spent much of that sitting at tables with people who were not welcome in church. That should challenge us all.

Have a social network presence. This is where most of your congregation lives and connects, why not have an online presence? But here’s what i’ll say about it: Have fun and don’t be “that person” who people groan at when they see your name in their feed because of the negativity. My social network philosophy: encouragement and amusement. Look for the fun and inspirational. Let your congregation know your human and have a life AND you have fun. Use social network to pray over people. Send messages of encouragement when you see people come across your feed. Just don’t add to the mess by being that snarky pastor who post more critical blogs from Christians about Christians so that we can be “better Christians.” Be a breath of fresh air to the social media feeds of the people you are connected to.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

Don’t be a slave to a schedule of ministry no one can live up to. Master the mundane. Get control over your schedule and breathe a breath of health into your routine. Get a healthy grip of what your calendar looks like and watch your, your home, and your ministry transform.

Love ya pastor!! I believe in you because I believe in the One who called ya. 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Pastor to Pastor: Stop Quitting On Monday

 

For years, I’ve heard the old adage from Pastors: I quit my job almost every Monday

Honestly, I get it….but please stop.

(From the get-go of this blog for pastors, I want to speak into this thing of “The Calling” upon your life. The greatest calling you can have upon your life has nothing to do with a title or position per se… 

…the highest calling is obedience. 

I don’t give a crap what title you have. Obedience is the highest calling.  That is to say: If you are where God wants you, you are no less “called” than ANY minister in ANY position regardless of size or notoriety.  Now that I’ve got that established…back to the blog.)

Pastoring can be frustrating.  According to ChurchLeaders.com, the numbers come in at around 1,700 pastors leaving ministry a month. Pastors resign for a number of reasons.  Most articles I’ve read list criticism, failure, loneliness, burnout, discouraged, and frustration as reasons pastors hit the “eject button.” Of course it would be naive to not mention leaving ministry because the Lord is leading in a new direction or your church has changed Lead Pastors and the “fit” as an associate is no longer there.  Pastors leaving a position doesn’t have to be a bad thing and/or a sin thing.  But stats show that most are leaving a bit more fractured than when they started. 

If you are in this place right now, today, Monday…HANG IN THERE! 

Why? From what I see in scripture, most mistakes come when people act out of fatigue and hunger.  From Moses weary from the murmuring,  to Esau selling out for a bowl of soup, examples abound of leaders who acted out of a desperate place (David, Sampson, and Elijah are a few more examples).  Are you feeling weary? Are you famished internally? I get it. Especially on Monday after you’ve studied, counseled, prayed, preached, and served on the weekend. 

For a glimpse moment 17 years ago, I was at my threshold. In just year 2 of ministry, I was exhausted. The passion was gone. I felt beaten up and useless.  Thoughts of “is there anything else I could do with my life?” came through my mind. I wasn’t ready to give up a position.  I was wondering if I was cut out for ministry. I was tired.  I was empty.  And I sat at my computer wiping away my tears trying to type a letter of resignation.

I get it.  

But after 19 years of this ministry thing, I can say: I love being a pastor and there’s nothing else I’d rather do. Not only that, but I get to wake up ever day and pastor Kfirst.  I’m a different beast from 17 years ago.  And there’s a thing or two I had to learn along the way that has not only fed my love for Jesus, but has helped feed my love for pastor ministry. So I thought I’d share a few of them:

Release fractures to Christ.  Brokenness sucks.  And if we do not completely give it over to God, it can be the identity we embrace and take from position to position and/or church to church.  I’ve known pastors who have stepped out of ministry positions who have yet to get past the fracture of the past.  I’ve been there.  It’s an easy place to stay. It’s also a hell-hole to live in. Don’t just give your fractures to Jesus, release them completely to Him.

Find a “Paul” (or two). Pastor’s who isolate themselves are easy targets.  Find a “Paul” (a minister who has more experience and wisdom) for mentoring and accountability. I’m eternally grateful for men like Curt Demoff, Joel Stocker, Hal Barringer (my dad), and a load of others who have been sources of encouragement, wisdom, and (when needed) were willing to kick me in the rear on issues.  Remember: the enemy works in isolation; God works in community. Surround yourself with quality mentors. 

Get a “Barnabas” (or two). As stated before, get into community.  Mentors are great, but you also need peers who are in the same/similar situations for you to encourage as well as for your own encouragement. I love talking with my best friend (Aaron Hlavin) in ministry and don’t know what I’d do without him. My peers mean the world to me and continue to be “iron sharpening iron.” 

Find your identity and your joy in The Lord and not your church. I hear it from pastors all the time. From attendance numbers, finances, to issues rising from the loud minority of people in the congregation, there are always going to be things that want to speak into your identity and joy (or steal it for that matter).  The congregation wasn’t meant to feed who you are nor are they equipped for you to draw your joy from.  Live in the Lordship of Jesus and not of people.  Just that little tip can be a game-changer.  I was for me.

Enjoy time with your marriage and family. Your family isn’t an accessory to your ministry.  They are your first and most important ministry.  Ministers who develop unhealthy marital habits (no dating, inconstant sex, zero healthy communication, etc) are setting themselves up for failure. On top of that, your kids need you more than the congregation.  A healthy marriage will pave the way for healthy family.  Healthy family will help pave the way for healthy leadership.

Feed yourself. Two things.  First, Sermon prep is no substitute for person time with God.  One is preparation to serve the needs of others. The other is serving the needs of your own soul. A starved pastor is a vulnerable pastor. And starvation, if not cared for, can feast on the wrong things. Second, never stop learning. Find some great authors. Listen to podcasts. Get to a conference (in person or online).  Search for ways to deepen yourself from deep people and deep resources. Learn from everyone.

Be Teachable. If you don’t walk in humility, you’ll never grow past where you are at. Pride will callous you from teachable moments. Every encounter you have with people will always be an opportunity to grow.  Even if the method was not correct, look at the heart and/or issue behind it. Is there some way you could grow from the situation? If anything, maybe you learned how NOT to approach issues of offense and frustration. 

Get proper rest. Perhaps the most fruitful thing you can do for your ministry is rest. To the chagrin of some pastors I’ve encountered, “burning out for Jesus” doesn’t glorify Jesus.  It’s driven by pride because it draws more attention to you instead of our Savior.  If Jesus, in his 3 and a half years of ministry took time to rest, perhaps you can get some too. I’d rather be humble enough to rest than be humbled into rest by stress and fatigue. Be a steward of your body and your emotions. Get rest. 

The list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a few of the things I’ve come across that have helped me.  I think of the words of Paul,

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” Philippians 3:12

Unless the Lord has released you, don’t move from where you are. Fix your face like flint, humble yourself before the Lord, and seek after the Kingdom. Be faithful where God has placed you. I believe in you. I’m praying for you. And I expect great things in you because of how great Jesus is. 

Press on faithful servant. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

 

“Godly Venting?” : 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Vent

I can be quite silly with venting.  Social media has been my therapeutic outlet for my continual disappointment with my sports teams (I apologize to the twitterverse and Facebook world).  But I think both you and I know what I’m talking about when I use the word “venting.” Some of your venting is quite obvious because you use the words “just sayin” at the end of your rant (as if the phrase is a new form punctuation in the english language). Others, you start off with “I apologize for the length of this” as if to say, “gird your loins, I’m about to unload.”

I can hear some of your thoughts right now. “Dave, you’re blowing this out of proportion. Let people do what they want. For some, that’s their only outlet.”

But that’s just the thing.  It is an outlet.  Your best friend is an outlet.  Your coworker is an outlet. But just because you have an “outlet” doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest one and, two, your venting may not be actually getting you help.  

PLEASE NOTE: Momentary relief is no substitution for deep lasting health.

This blog isn’t here to beat you up.  It’s here to encourage you to get help…the right help. Much of the venting I’ve been privy to has been an excuse to “unload” displeasure about other people instead of going to the person.  In the name of “venting,” proper healthy conflict is avoided and a septic inner attitude or mindset is facilitated. It’s time to take a stand. It’s time to get healthy.

Here’s some questions to ask yourself before you go “venting” to someone…

1 – Am I wanting Godly PERSPECTIVE or just an opportunity to PERPETUATE the issue?

This is why I love how the entire book of Psalms starts out, Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2

Do you avail yourself with what God’s Word may say to the situation?  I’m convinced that, if people who came to me to “vent” started with the Word, conservatively speaking, ¾ of my appointments would cancel on me. I have learned that a majority of Christians won’t check the scriptures because either, first, they already know what it’s gonna say, and second, you don’t want to do it. The other portion doesn’t know and/or needs direction on how to practically do it.  And for that, I’m glad to help.

2 – Am I willing move into healthy ACTIONS or sit in ASSUMPTION?

So much of venting results from stewing over something and coming upon conclusions that may or may not be reality. Thus, venting can be constant spillover of issues that are being ignited by assumption with little to no healthy actions.

Why does the Hebrew writer tell us to, “Fix your mind on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:2)?  Because of the example of Christ.  He didn’t sit in assumption over our sinful condition as to wonder why we are doing what we are doing and/or what the heck we are thinking when we do what we do. He joyfully stepped forward in action. Joy isn’t found in the situation (can’t say the cross was a fun thing to endure). Joy is found in the presence of God. And His presence and His example propels us to fixate upon Him and the health he wants to bring.  He gives us a perspective of what needs to be done as opposed to what might be going on.

3 – Is my goal to END the story or RETELL it?

Do you want to see resolution or are you just wanting to rehash it? What is your goal? Refusing to take appropriate steps forward by unhealthy venting is like scratching a rash thinking it’s going to solve something when, in reality, it’s spreading it.

So many people are used to venting a story that has, in essence, become the identity they live by. They’re a constant victim. It’s time to lay down the story and begin one new in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old has gone and a new ‘story’ has begun.” Continuing a story can continue an identity.  Start a new identity in Christ and, thus, a new story.

4 – Do I want to RESOURCE healing or am I looking to REPRODUCE I’m experiencing?

There’s an old saying. “Misery loves company.” Very similar to 3, this has a bit of a twist. Instead of just finding people to retell it to, some people vent to rally people to their cause. One of the best ways to resource healing is to go to the person for whom you have offense with. As you do:

  • Go with a humble heart. Be open to the fact that you could be wrong about the person and/or the entire situation.
  • Check your tones and mannerisms.
  • Be ready to be the first to apologize and ask for forgiveness.
  • Go into it go get a HEALTHY result and not necessarily your DESIRED result.
    • Resolving conflict biblically doesn’t always mean you get your way OR that you win.

5 – Am I looking to PROCESS or am I looking to UNLOAD?

This is where the real help comes in. Unloading feels good for a moment. I’ll admit, getting something off my chest has the sensation of relief. But stopping right there leaves you feeling lighter, but also empty. On top of that, most people are ready to fill the newly discovered relief/ emptiness with the same substance they had been carrying before. Having Godly counsel and wisdom spoken into your frustration properly processes the issues of the heart to become a foundation of health and vitality.

Do more than look for someone to help unload what you are carrying? Those people are easy to find (and sometimes eager to be involved in your business).

Find someone:

  • Who loves Jesus.
  • Who knows the Word.
  • Who cares for people.
  • Who will approach the situation objectively and confidentially.
  • Who loves you enough to say the tough things (even what you don’t want to hear).

If you are needing to “vent,” chances are, there are deeper issues than the need to “get something out in the open.” Don’t deal with it is isolation.  I don’t want you to deal with this on your own. As I’ve said so many times,

The enemy works in isolation; God works in community.

Get some help. And HELP is as simple as:

1 – Turn to Christ.  “What does Jesus think about me?” (BTW: He loves you immensely and don’t let anyone tell you different!!!!)

2 – Turn to His Word. “What does the Bible say about what I’m dealing with?”

3 – Get Godly counsel.  “Who can help me process this instead of helping me unload?

Love ya. Rein back your “venting” and step into a healthy mindset of how to approach the inner frustration you are experiencing.  I believe if we’ll turn to Him first, if we put Him first in our offenses and hurts, he’ll do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine according to His power at work within us.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Slave to the Scale: 6 Thoughts to Help You Be Healthy Without Destroying Yourself

[My disclaimer to this blog: This article has high capacity to offend on deep levels if you lose the heart behind it. My heart is to tell MY story and not someone else’s. I’m not trying to point fingers but open you up to the struggle and temptation that I deal with that lies in ALL of us.]

I’m driven.  But the “drivenness” I have seems to have two sides to it.  One side is the passion I have for Jesus and the other side is the calling upon my life.  They are intrinsically combined.  I love what I do and can’t believe that I get to wake up every day doing my passion for a living.  I’m driven to do it, so therefore, I struggle turning it off. What I do is I break up my schedule throughout the day (by day I mean moment I wake up till I go to sleep) so that I can step away from the “vocation” and into rest/relaxation/health.

The other side is obsessive. This is the ugly side to my “drivenness.”  I get obsessive over silly little things like foods and hobbies as well on things of greater importance like people’s opinions and my dreams/ideas. To let you into my world of obsession…  
– I get obsessed the church hasn’t grown enough. We’ve grown ahead of the curve BUT I can get caught up in pessimistic pastor mode.
– I get caught up in opinions and criticisms. When someone “wants to meet with me,” my mind obsesses over EVERY scenario it could be and, usually, it’s the one I didn’t think of. SMH
– Comparison with other pastors/preachers can plague my mind.  In Bible College, I was told, frequently, what I lacked as far as tools and background for successful ministry.  Not sure if those guys from the campus were trying to help me or hinder me. Who knows. 
– Preaching NEVER leaves my mind.  From the second I walk off the platform to forward planning, my mind is consumed in sermon illustrations, ideas, and future series.  I just want to give God my best and, therefore, I don’t let it leave my mind.

The list could go on.  But when I get obsessive,  I began to think that I’m not doing enough so I throw myself into unhealthy patterns.  There’s drive and there’s obsession. There’s “healthy initiative” and there’s an “all-consuming focus.”

About 10 years ago, I had an accident prepping for a youth retreat that sent me to the ER (me going to the ER as a youth pastor was no new thing).  Hearing how unhealthy I was (blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, etc) scared the crap out of me. I was also the heaviest I had ever weighed. Being 30 and having a conversation with the doctor of that nature was sobering.  I needed to do something.  That something began a repentant heart.  I was living like I was invincible…doing what I wanted, how I wanted, and ate what I wanted when I wanted.  I forgot that my body, life, marriage, and family were gifts from God.  I don’t own them.  I’m a steward of them and I lost the heart of a steward. 

I proceeded to make some lifestyle changes to my diet that included portion, accountability, and appropriate meal times. 6 Months and 50 lbs. later, I was looking good and feeling good.  I learned to celebrate every ounce lost.  My wife (home accountability) and friend (work accountability) were a tremendous support system (Anne and Leon, I can’t thank you enough).  Discipline and accountability were tremendous catalysts for me. 

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Enter “obsession.”

My drive was no longer about health.  It was driven by the scale. I would weigh myself multiple times a day and decide to eat in accordance. As ridiculous as that might sound to you, I was consumed in it.  I didn’t care about complements per se, I wanted results that I could see and appreciate. The scale was my master.  The scale was my measuring rod. As the scale went, so did my moral.  It was in a place of frustration and discouragement that the Holy Spirit cornered me with a simple scripture, 

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

I was a slave to a scale.  More specifically, I was a slave to results…a destination. My diet and living was no longer centered upon developing a healthy body (inside and out).  130 lbs wasn’t enough. I was consumed in the product it was producing. 

Again, I lost the heart behind being a steward and this scripture was the 2×4 between the eyes I needed.  

Here are 6 lessons I learned from serving the scale: 

1. My security is not and cannot be found in the shape of my body but in my identity in Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, in Christ I am a “new creation.” In His presence I find the fullness of joy.  In my identity in Him, I find purpose.  He is my comfort and my safety. 

2. Jesus is my “true North.” Just like a compass always points toward North, my life (as best as I can) is lived in the direction of Jesus as the center.  His Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. He’s love must be my filter for knowing Him, understanding his Word, and relating to others. This may seem strong, but being centered around anything but Jesus is missing the mark.  The bible calls it “idolatry.” Trust this person who served a scale of all things. 

3. I need to love myself.  Quit hating the one in the mirror. You need to see yourself “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God.  That reality doesn’t eliminate us as being stewards (see #4 for that), but it keeps the proper perspective we need.  The realized value we have from God helps us to love others. Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The more we embrace God’s value of us, we reciprocate that to others.

4. I need to see myself as a steward (be a manager of what God has given me).  It keeps me from letting my “successes” and “failures” consume my mind yet places healthy responsibility upon my shoulders.  I know that, as a steward, I can’t do it under my own power but by though “Christ who gives me strength.” 

5. A shaped body doesn’t equate to a healthy life.  Fitting into a size doesn’t mean success. The amount of your love and the “size” of your serving matter more than your waist.  It doesn’t mean that shaping your body is wrong or sinful.  I’m a proponent of exercise. (1 Timothy 4:8, tells us it has value. But cultivating your identity with Christ (relationship with God) is a greater value.)  It’s all about the heart behind it that determines the depth of health.   

6. Living in community is a non-negotiable.  My congregation has to be sick of me saying, “the enemy works in isolation; God works in community,” but it’s so true. Accountability and connection helped me lose 130 lbs. as well as helped me navigate through getting released from “the scale.” If you are hearing tough medicine from friends and relationships, please head them.  If you are needing help, get into connection and accountability.  You’ll be better for it and healthier from the inside out. I love the word Paul gave to the Galatian church.  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Let someone help you.  Speak up and let the Body of Christ BE the Body of Christ.

It wasn’t the easiest lesson to learn, but my focus and obsession upon Christ is a daily choice.  Every day I wake up and decide to follow Him. And part of following Jesus is doing my best to make decisions that will lead to a healthy life that points people toward Him. 

Celebrate Jesus. Keep your life centered upon Him.  And be a steward of your body as a gift from Him.

If you need a encourager in it, all you have to do is ask.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…