Character in Real-Time

“Then their good character will shine through their actions, adding luster to the teaching of our Savior God” Titus 2 (MSG)

One of my favorite shows of all time was the show “24.” Outside of a great lead character and the crazy storylines was the one aspect each episode offered that no other show was offering:

Real time.

What “real-time” mean in “24 was, essentially, if a person in that had a 15 minute drive, they didn’t arrive till 15 minutes later in the show. It’s quite different from seeing a character get on a plan, go to commercial, then see them get off the plane having traveled across the ocean during the commercial break.

Real time is where we live. And I wonder if we’ve forgotten that we are to navigate life in “real-time.” We read stories like Joseph, we preach about them in a series, and in a matter of a few Sundays, we’ve seen the start, beginning, and the end. Like watching the average television show, in a half-hour, we’ve seen so much transpire and accomplished.

And that’s what brings me to my point. We forget the stories in scripture are not in “real-time.” For example, in Genesis 41:46 Joseph is 30 years old but EIGHT verses later, he is 37. If they were written in “real-time” we’d have so much superfluous information given about the 7 years of plentiful harvest. I’m curious yet very thankful the Genesis author listened to the Holy Spirit on what should be and shouldn’t be included. 7 years would have been a lot of material to cover.

Why do I bring all of this up? Because as much as we know we are not reading in “real-time,” I think we have an unrealistic expectation on how God works in our lives. We want the “sitcom” version of God where we confront an issue and everything is solved in a half hour.

I believe God is not constrained by what we know as time. He is God. Yet the more I read scripture, I see that He works in us in real-time. And the things that He desires to produce in us takes place over time.

And that brings us to Titus 2 and the issue of “character.” Paul writes to Titus about the fact that the teachings of Jesus need to be lived out in real-time. That’s how our character is grown. In the day after day, moment by moment real-time expression. His character on display in our character. I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s choice of using the word “luster.” When we show character, we show not just the beauty of the teachings of Jesus but the value of Christ to life and all.

Character is not optional in the Kingdom of God. Our character is what takes “Christ, the hope of glory” and expresses it in the every day-ness of life so that people can experience the “luster” (beauty and value) of Jesus.

We live in real-time, but God develops character over time. So the way to see the results of what happens “over time” is to engage in “real-time.”

Love you all. Praying for you as you begin to live out the character of Jesus in real-time.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

“TV saved my marriage” 4 Ways to Reconnect Your Marriage

It was the summer of ’03. Anne and I were in a store walking through with the kids secured in our double-stroller. We were in a season of life that was a bit hectic. Cammi was 3 and Ethan wasn’t even 1 yet. We were still discovering who we were as a ministry couple not to mention as a married couple. We were trying to find our “flow” in life. We didn’t have consistent schedules, very few “dates” together, and the age of the kids placed a higher demand upon us. I think it’d be true to say, at that point, we didn’t even realize what we were missing as we had gotten used to the fast-paced, non-stop type of living.

I remember it was a Saturday. Why? We were in this conversation about going to Blockbuster (when they were opened) and renting something to watch. The odd open evening got us thinking about getting the kids to bed and having something to watch. When we walked by the movie section of the store, I noticed a “sale” sign on season 1 of the show “24.” For only $20, we could buy the whole season. I looked at Anne and said, “I’ve heard it’s a great show. It’d cost us more than that to rent all six discs. It’s not a huge investment and it’ll give us something we can enjoy together.” So we bought the set.

That day, we purposely got the kids fed, bathed, and put to bed in a timely way, knowing, we had plans to introduce ourself to Jack BauerAt 1a.m. that night, and Lord knows how many episodes later, we were more than hooked, we discovered something that had been missing from our marriage. We had made and engaged in purposeful time and enjoyment with each other. (Full disclosure: we had watched so long that we were trying to remember when and if the kids were put to bed. Obviously we took care of them, but had a funny little panic moment.)

There was more than a “binge-watching” that took place. We found something that we both loved to do together. We enjoyed it so much that we talked about it and made plans for it. Our schedules were adjusted to compensate for our new-found passion. It’s then we began to ask ourselves, “Are there others shows we’d enjoy?” From there, we tried a few shows, invested in lots of popcorn, and scheduled out when we’d watch them.

Nowadays, we really don’t watch shows together. That season ended and a new season began: walking and/or hiking. It’s quite a bit healthier, but with the kids being older, it is also a bit easier to do.

So when I say, “Jack Bauer saved our marriage,” what I’m saying is that a moment of “trying” something together helped us make a reconnection that we didn’t realize how desperately we needed.  We, like most couples, were so busy doing good things in our marriage not realizing we were not engaging in the best things. I’m not saying a TV show is the “best” thing. But look deeper than that. We found something we both enjoyed. That enjoyment gave us a place to relax and connect. And the more we did it, the more we’d anticipate and strategically plan for it. When that avenue of entertainment/enjoyment  begin to wane, we dared to “try” something else. Anne and I knew we couldn’t lose what we had rediscovered.

I’m not saying that you need to get into movies, shows, or sports (even though they aren’t inherently bad to do). That isn’t the overall point. I’d submit: if you don’t have consistent time of leisurely engagement, then you’re starving your relationship. I always say, “What wins a heart before marriage sustains a heart after you’ve married.” And if you’re expecting longevity in something, then you’ll feed it.

How can you find a “reconnection point?”

  1. Recognize the need. Don’t just do this for your spouse, this is for your marriage. People who don’t purposely work on their marriage purposely coast toward catastrophe.
  2. Be willing to try. Perhaps it’s something new to you or to your marriage. Get out of the boat and attempt something. It doesn’t have to be a huge investment of money to be a huge investment in your marriage. Remember: I’d rather a couple fail at trying than fail to try. Take the risk on some healthy activities. If it didn’t work, then the success is in the fact you did something together. If it did connect, then congrats, you found a connection point for you both.
  3. Study your spouse. You can tell if your spouse is getting into it. Watch his/her responses.Listen to see if she/he talks about it. You’ll be able to tell whether the activity “hit the mark.”
  4. Get intentional. Don’t just do something fun together, get strategic about it. The more you plan it out, the more anticipation you create and passion you build.

We get having an empty home.
We get having little ones around.
We get busy schedules.

We also get making time for the things that are the most important. Your marriage is what is most important. Find yourself a “reconnection” and make a habit of it .

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

 

 

 

Spend, don’t save: 5 Ways to Invest Time in Your Marriage

Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! Psalm 90:12 (MSG)

There are “savers” and “spenders.” Judging by the average debt for couples, this country is filled with “spenders.” At the same time, looking at a high divorce rate, we have a country of “savers.” In other words, we spend money we don’t have and misuse the time with our spouse. 

Stewardship is really a huge issue in marriage. While I’m not going to turn this into a financial marriage blog, I will turn attention to how much time we spend (or don’t spend) upon our marriage. 

Please know:  You need to work (provision is important). You need alone time (we all do).  You need recreation that may or may not include your spouse (I’m not against that). But marriages that are time-starved are adding steroids to issues that have no right exploding to the size they’ve become.  Conflict is inevitable.  But when you are depriving your marriage of time, it escalates the size of a molehill into a mountain.  

Think about it.

How many misunderstandings could have been avoided by spending time talking to each other in a civilized way? 
How many issues are exaggerated because no one has taken the time to talk through things at appropriate moments?
How much assumption is inserted into marriage because nobody thought to take the time to communicate?
How many couples are time-starved because, even though time was spent, it wasn’t quality time?
What amounts of stress is being placed upon the marriage because time isn’t budgeted properly?
How many couples act like two ships passing in the night because it’s been so long since they’ve planned alone time?

Wrap your mind about what you two are struggling over and ask yourself, “Have we spent quality time together? If we had, could this issue have been avoided?” (Notice I said “quality time” and not just time…there’s a difference.”

Life is busy.  We’ll catch up later.

Life is always busy.  But in the name of providing, parenting, and even ministry, we’ve sacrificed time from the one who needs time the most. I love my kids (as they need time too). But what use is it to them for me to deprive my wife of quality time so that we fall apart when they’re graduated and gone? What legacy/example to I have my kids if I deprive my spouse

You two need intimacy.  And intimacy is essential to a healthy marriage. It doesn’t have to cost any money. But it will cost you time.  What are you waiting for?  Are you “saving” the moments up for a weekend away? Are you waiting for the right moment to give “quality time.” Time is a currency that you cannot save for later.  It cannot be saved.  You must invest it.  And outside of a relationship with Jesus, the best place to invest it is in your spouse.

Here’s 5 practical investment tips on time and marriage: 

1 – Take the initiative.  Stop waiting for the other person to get motivated.  Get out of the childish (and selfish) mindset of “I won’t if he/she won’t.” Put time on the calendar. I do. I block off time for my wife and my family.  I block off time for me to be home to get stuff done (sometimes just being home is huge…especially for a quality time-driven person like my wife).  Whatever you do, be the one to take the initiative and fight for time together. 

2 – Walk through your week together.  Anne and I have a standing appointment every Sunday night.  Most of the time, we do it on a walk (good cardio + good communication) but we take a few moments to go over the week.  When we do a “flyover” of our week, it gives us a chance to look at our two schedules and talk through what to expect. We both have Google calendars (which are shared so we can see what each other is planning).  Those walks help prepare us for our weekly schedule and prevent fights and misunderstandings. It gives us a week-by-week perspective.  

3 – Frequent Dates. You are harshing the buzz of your marriage by not consistently/frequently dating your spouse.  It doesn’t have to be expensive financially.  But investing in intimacy will cost you time. Young in our marriage, dates were as simple as hitting up McDonalds at Midland Mall for an ice-cream cone and walking together.  Hit up Redbox and microwave some popcorn. Just pick a time conducive for you two and do something that your spouse wants to do.  Just get back to dating and do it frequently. 

4 – Maximize moments. Life is busy all by itself.  Add children into the equation, and it’s pandemonium.  Especially with little ones around and the expense of babysitters, you look for moments to maximize. From going home for lunch during your child’s nap to scheduling time when the kids go to bed, find times to develop quality moments with each other.  Anne and I used to tape (yes with a VCR) our shows during the week and use specific evenings to make popcorn and enjoy Jack Bauer and Gil Grissom solve criminal activities. Here’s another tip: Connect with a few other families and trade evenings every few weeks where you watch the other family’s kids so that you can have a night out. 

5 – Rotate between “tastes.” Don’t let your definition of quality time be the ONLY definition you work with. Quality time by my definition usually involved two things: Sports and/or sex (why not combine the two?). Anne’s definition of quality time doesn’t have anything to do with either one of them.  She likes shopping, coffee, walking with me, and frozen yogurt (which sometimes gets combined). I work with couples all the time, who have time together, but they feel it’s dominated by the preference of one spouse.  Trade back and forth on how your time will be spent together. 

They say time is our most precious commodity.  Whether you realize it or not, it WILL be spent on something. It’s up to you to choose what it is being spent upon. Don’t wait to spend it on each other when the kids are older. Don’t wait till the kids are out of the house.  Be liberal with your spending.  Splurge your time on your spouse. 

Lord, teach us to live wisely and well with our time (Psalm 90:12). 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Confessions of an Insecure Pastor Part 2: 10 Things that definitely are NOT a waste of time for pastors

I’ll begin this post like my last in this series: My name is Dave. And I am an insecure pastor. 

Insecurity, defined, is the lack of confidence in oneself; the state of being open to danger.  For generations, pastors have been fearful to admit this struggle, let alone, talk about it openly.  I’ve been told it will damage the platform we preach from.  It’ll compromise the office and title. 

I think it does quite the opposite. 

As stated in Confessions of an Insecure Pastor Part 1, it’s time to bring it out in the open.  Then enemy works in the shadows.  Jesus brings light into the darkness. If we’re gonna attack what grows in the darkness, it’s time to bring it into the light. 

Another area of insecurity in pastors is in our schedule. 

I’ve stated before that I struggle with my schedule.  I get the work-ethic honestly from two hard-working parents.  I don’t take it for granted. I see it as a gift.  But, like any gift from God, I need to be a steward…a manager of it. But my schedule can get so out of whack. Can I tell you what drives it? 

Insecurity.  

It is crushing to me for people to think I’m not working hard.  I used to wake up in a panic (I still do from time to time) thinking I should be in the office even though it didn’t open for 4 more hours.  I’d fret over people thinking I wasn’t being productive if I didn’t have an appointment EVERY night of the week. I found myself bragging about working on my day off.  Every thought, action, tweet, comment, were all laced in an insecurity over what people thought about how hard THIS pastor was working. It’s from there, I went into an unhealthy schedule driven, not by passion and calling, but by a stifling sense of insecurity.  I couldn’t enjoy time with my wife.  I treated time with my kids as “babysitting” instead of parenting.  I’d spend most of my vacations battling depression over the guilt of being away.  

I needed healing.  I needed a refocus.  I needed to rediscover where and who my security rested in. 

The past few years for me have been revolutionary.  I’ve discovered there are moments I was missing out on because my insecurities got the best of me.  Rest and recreation where a waste of time in the past.  They were moments that stole from me.  A new, healthier mind now sees them not just as blessings but as necessities for a pastor. 

I’m still driven. But it’s out of a different heart and mindset.  I’m working on stuff in the early morning way before the office opens.  I have evening appointments.  But everything is driven by a healthy passion and drive while maintaining a healthy balance. 

Here are 10 moments that insecurity will convince you is a “waste of time”: 

1. Consistent devotional life. Don’t let your time in the Word preparing for your congregation supplant/replace your time to receive. Stop serving out of a dry well. 

2. Romance. I define “romance” as “serving your spouse’s love language.”  Go on dates.  Spend time with our spouse. Whatever speaks to your spouse, discover it and DO IT!!! Don’t let it be said that you are better serving your congregation than our spouse.

3. Time with kids. Be more of a parent than a pastor.  You don’t babysit your kids. you spend time with them.  They need to know they are the #1 kids in your life.  (Check out my thoughts for pastors about their kids.)  

4. Rest.  Not the same as #5.  You need moments of rest where you have unplugged and pulled away from the office.  You need to discover what gives you rest and allows you to relax. Some of you deal with sickness because your body cannot rest and recoup properly and, therefore, cannot fight off viruses.  Resting isn’t a waste of time.  You need to convince your mind of that.

5. Sleep. Not the same as #4.  You need sleep.  If you don’t, your body will not put up with it.  Like #4, some of you deal with sickness because you are depriving your body of sleep and it cannot recoup properly and, therefore, cannot fight off viruses.  Get to bed at night.  Find a way to fit in a power nap.  Get some sleep.

6. Networking. You are not the epitome of ideas and creativity. You need pastors (both in and outside of your DENOMINATION and pastors in and outside your GENERATION) to talk to.  You need people to celebrate “wins” with as well as lament “frustrations” with.  I’ll admit, it’s easier to find people to complain to.  It’s hard to find other pastors who will legitimately let you share “wins” with who won’t get grumpy out of pastoral competition.  Find people who will celebrate with you. Find pastors who will challenge you. Find pastors you can challenge. 

7. Recreation.  Fun is severely underrated.  It is NOT a waste of time.  Go to a movie.  Play golf. Do something on your own.  Do something with your family.  Find something fun and just get out and have fun.  

8. Vacation.  Staycations are okay IF you can unplug and actually “get away from office stuff.” But you need time and relocation away from the pastorate.  I’ll admit, these are tough for me to do.  It’s when my depression wants to take over the guilt of not being at the church.  Fight the forces of guilt and enjoy time away with your spouse and family.  God will bless it and, therefore, bless you.

9. Sexual intimacy.  It’s not a waste of time to talk about.  It’s not optional for you and your spouse.  To deprive your spouse because of busyness or desire is to give the enemy a huge place of temptation. There is no one else that can meet this need in your spouse but YOU.  Far too many pastors who have fallen because sexual intimacy isn’t handled correctly.  If a healthy sexuality is fostered in your marriage, you create a connection that has amazing benefits on every level: spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. 

10. Health and exercise. Too many pastors are severely unhealthy.  Personally, I don’t think it’s a good testimony with our congregations. I’m not after a certain size or shape.  I’m about endeavoring to be healthy.  I run for three reasons: First, I enjoy the time outside away from the office.  It’ll break up my day.  Second, I do quite a bit of praying when I run.  The atmosphere of God’s creation is, to me, the best place to talk to Jesus. And third, my body belongs to the Lord and, therefore, I need to be a steward. 

That was a longer list than I anticipated. But the healthier I get (I’m still working on it), the more I rediscover deeper passion and excitement for what I do.  The enemy wants to use insecurity to steal, kill, and destroy your ministry.  Jesus came that we might have “abundant life.”

Walk in abundant married, family, and ministry life by being a good steward of your time.  Be the pastor He has called you to be. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Marriage blog: Shut off the soap opera.

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I love friendships.  As much of an introvert as I like to think I am, I’ve grown to love people and the relationships that come from that. The greatest relationship, outside of my relationship with Christ, is what I have with my wife.  And if I’m not careful, I can allow other relationships to steal energy, attention, passion, and from my wife.

Bear with me…

I’m a stubborn movie-goer.  I will endure a terrible movie because, “I paid money and I’m gonna find some scene/part that is gonna convince me it was worth it.” I can be the same way with TV shows and even my sports teams (darn you Detroit Lions and my years of watching you lose).  For some reason, the little investment I made seems to be the reason I feel obligated to continue to feed that “thing” with my attention hoping the I’ll have some return on my investment.

In the end, whether with my movies or teams, I find myself feeling cheated. I feel used. There seems to be blocks of time I know I will NEVER get back.  But what do I still do? I keep running back hoping for better times and experiences.  But over and over I go back to these “things” that I know full well that will siphon me of time, money, and/or emotions while leaving me less of what I should.  The cycle of drama seems unending my life

You may make better movie/TV/sports choices than me.  But there are a number of you that chose to suckle upon certain relationships hoping they’ll feed you something worth the attention you’ve already invested.  In the end, they have drawn you into soap opera-like drama only to leave you in a place where you are less than what you should be.  You get drawn into drama that siphons emotion, mental, physical, and spiritual strength from you…

And when your mate comes to you, you’ve got NOTHING left for them.

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You marital communication dies down since you’ve exhausted your words on someone else.  Quality time is no longer desired because you want to be alone.  The marriage bed has far less activity because you don’t feel like you don’t want anything and/or you don’t have anything left to give.

You’ve been cheated. You’re spouse is being cheated.  You’re marriage get’s the leftovers of an individual disoriented from the motion sickness of the unending drama in other people’s lives.

If you are bringing their drama to the house…
If you find yourself obsessing over their facebook drama…
If you find yourself constantly fielding calls, texts, facebook messages, etc during dates and/or family time…
If your spouse is showing signs of jealousy over the attention you are giving others that he/she should be getting…
if you are engaging with them to the sacrifice of your marriage…

…then it’s time to shut off the soap opera.  It’s time to limit (or possibly cut off) their time.  They’ll survive just fine.

First, find your completeness in Christ. 

The main characters of your life cannot be them.  The main character of their life cannot be you.  I like what John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:11-12, the main character must be Christ. 

(The Message)“I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.

Our fullness comes from choosing Christ as the main character of the narrative that is our lives.  It’s from His fulness that He pours into our incompleteness AND it’s out of that place where we are able to help others. I believe we are meant to be contributors instead of consumers.  But contributing to people doesn’t mean that our marriage gets sacrificed because someone doesn’t know how to shut their mouth and control their emotions.

Second, draw boundaries. 

Again, I love people.  I enjoy friends. I love helping individuals. BUT…being a friend and a helper doesn’t mean we get allow people to abuse us with their drama.  Being a Christ-follower and friend doesn’t mean we don’t have boundaries.  There are times that Jesus was with the crowd.  Other times he went off with the twelve or even the three (Peter, James, and John).  Jesus even found moments where he’d get away from them to spend time with himself. Why?  Boundaries are places of safety and rest from the crowd.

Some of you need THAT rest; a rest from the drama of others.

Lastly, don’t stop being a helping hand to people.

Don’t stop being a contributor in life.  Don’t stop helping those who are hurting. Through the strength of the Holy Spirit, don’t stop pouring compassion upon others.

BUT….the only way you can be of help, while keeping a healthy marriage, is to keep the top priorities the top priorities.

The top priorities:

  1. Jesus
  2. Spouse
  3. Kids
  4. Everything else

Thanks for letting me ramble…

7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages: Part 3 No Fun

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Two weeks ago, we started a new series of seven blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits. If you missed the last two weeks check out our first TWO Highly Defective Habits:

Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity.

Habit #2: The Single Life

Here we go…#3 on the list of my 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages:

Defective Marriage

Habit #3: The Fun-less Couple

fun/fən/
nounenjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.
synonyms: enjoyment, entertainment, amusement, pleasure
adjectiveamusing, entertaining, or enjoyable.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing

For a while, whenever I read Ecclesiastes 3, my eyes went to the negative parts of the scripture.  (Maybe that reveals something about my psyche…that would explain a lot). Focus get’s drawn toward words like die, kill, break, weep, and mourn.  We can get so caught up in theses inevitable unfortunates.  Marriage is no different.  We too can get drawn into “inevitable unfortunates” and dwell on them as if to forfeit the other side of the coin. It’s time to get out of our marital pessimism.  It’s time to return to what we relished in our dating/courting.
Fun…times of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.  It’s more than a noun (something to do). It should describe who you are (adjective).
Defective marriages struggle with a deficiency of fun.  We treat our marriage like a business transaction instead of a growing relationship that THRIVES on fun. Couples forget that fun isn’t optional for a growing marriage. It’s a vital time filled with, according to our writer a time of building up, laughing, dancing, and embracing (which is my favorite one).
A couple of years ago, we had an odd winter here in Michigan.  We hit temperatures in the 70’s to the 80’s.  In the Michiganders minds, this was the best winter.  It’s as if we skipped the season of winter.  The problem: it messed with our agriculture and was a tremendous burden for our farmers.  Our harvest wasn’t the same which affected our economy.  Skipping a season may feel okay in the moment, but it’s detrimental on so many deeper levels.
It may not seem like a huge deal, but I want you to know something:
“FUN” is a marital season that is not optional. Skipping the season of fun in your marriage is detrimental on so many deep levels.
Come together with your spouse and plan out some fun.  I’m not talking about what YOU think is fun.  Look into your spouses heart and position them for a great time.  What do you two like to do together?  What can you both do that will facilitate laughter, emotional intimacy, and stress-release?  What can you two try that may be new? Have you talked with other couples to see what they do (get some ideas from others)?
Know this: marriage wasn’t designed to be in a constant season of stale monotony.  It’s to reflect who God is.  God is life.  God is celebration.  God is a God of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure. God is fun.
If our marriage is to reciprocate who He is, then our marriage, therefore, needs to have “fun.” Don’t just let it naturally happen. Be purposeful with your fun.  Be strategic in your busyness.  Be a fun spouse. I leave you with a great scripture out of the Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 12:7 (MSG) Celebrate everything that you and your families have accomplished under the blessing of God, your God.
Get off your butt and go have a time of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure with your husband/wive…
Go have fun!
Thanks for letting me ramble…