Life is Messy

July 26, 2013

Life is messy.

Some of you may read that line and think, “Duh Brandon. I think you are a little behind.”

Truth be told, I might be.

There are times (and they come way more often than not) that things do not go exactly as planned. Our plans may conflict with someone else’s. The kids may have a different idea for nap time. Time may get away from us. We get fired. Family and work may pull us in different directions. Car troubles pop up. 

I heard someone say this week, “If it’s not one thing it’s ten things.”

We just cannot always plan for everything.

Now don’t hear me saying that we should never plan ahead. Planning is good. Being prepared for the future is a good idea.

Go ahead and set money back.

Make goals.

Decide to reconnect with friends a year from now.

It’s a good idea for us to be thinking about the future. However, don’t be too frustrated when everything does not work out exactly as you had planned. More often than not, there are bumps along the way. 

And that’s okay.

Those bumps or twists and turns make for great opportunities to grow. Our character can mature and develop as a result of these unforeseen circumstances.

The road may twist in a way that leads to even better opportunities than you could have imagined.

That is not to say the bumps are not difficult. Often they can be very trying. They can test us and push us in ways we don’t want to be pushed.

But when we face these trials as opportunities to grow, we can face them with a fresh perspective.

I will be the first to tell you I do not like change. I squirm at changes in my pace and sometimes I down right hate when things don’t go as planned. 

But when I refuse to let it get under my skin, then I continue to take advantage of the opportunity. I come out of the situation stronger. It’s not easy. It is doable though and even good for us.

So keep your head up if you are facing situations different than you had planned. Keep pushing forward, and look to see what can be learned where you are.

It may surprise you how this can help you in the future.

 

On Sunday night the teens that went to CIY had the opportunity to get up in front of the church and share about the week. It’s really cool being a part of a church that cares about the teens.

I was able to get up and share a little about CIY and the different ministries they perform. If you are hearing about them for the first time click here and you can head over to their webpage. Then the floor was open to each of the teens to talk about their week and we opened it up for the adults to ask questions.

The part of the trip everyone was most interested in were the Kingdom Worker cars.

CIY has a passion to help young people grow in their walk with Christ. They desire to see life change happen, not just at their events but long after each of the kids have left the conference. They encourage everyone to take steps to advance the Kingdom of God.

One way they get the ball rolling is by giving everyone a Kingdom Worker Card. This card comes sealed in an envelope. On it, is some way the teens will be challenged to trust God and advance His Kingdom. The teens know if they open the card, they are committing to doing whatever is inside.

Want to know what was on the cards that have been opened so far by our group?

Read 1 chapter from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John everyday for the next school year.

Adopt a widow or widower from the church to invite over for holiday meals for the next year.

Lead 4 lessons over the next year in youth group.

Tutor a group of Jr. High students in a subject or activity you are good at.

Raise $2,500 to help 10 non-churched friends to go to CIY next year.

Isn’t that incredible?! Each of these students has quite a challenge ahead of them. Each of these tasks will require commitment to complete, and each will have an impact on their lives as well as the lives of people around them.

They have decided to leave the pew sitting “Christianity” behind and trade it in for an active faith. They want to change the world for Christ.

One girl, before getting a card, told my wife she wants to raise $2,000 to Central India Christian Mission to help send a guy through Bible College so he can plant churches in India.

Another girl, before getting her card, said she wants to share her testimony with a group of people. She wants the opportunity to share about how Jesus has changed her! She knows it will be hard, and maybe even scary, but none-the-less wants to do it.

These teens are an inspiration, and they are everywhere across our country, and even the world! They are serious about their faith and want to reach others for Christ.

If that does not get you motivated, I don’t know what will.

Christ has called us to more than going to a 9-5 job, coming home and watching TV until it’s time to go to bed. He’s called us to more than just going to church on Sunday’s and maybe Wednesdays.

We are called “for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10b). We are called to trust in our creator and go into our world, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is amazing that these teens have the desire to make a difference. It’s not so they look amazing, or even because the tasks are all that glamorous, because in some cases they are not.

They want to do this work because they love God and have come to salvation and want to see the same change happen in others.

As an adult, that drives me to live out my faith a little more. If a teenager has the faith and courage to pursue a walk with Christ in his everyday life, what is stopping me?

Who can I share Jesus with today?

How can I serve someone?

What needs can I meet in the name of Christ?

What about you?

What can you do to make a difference for the Kingdom?

How can you be a Kingdom Worker?

Joseph’s Example

July 22, 2013

This last week my wife and I took a group of high school students to Longview, TX to attend CIY (Christ in Youth). 

Guys, it was downright awesome!

I’ve attended CIY in the past and enjoyed it. This was the largest group that we’ve taken and it was the best conference I have been to yet. 

The whole week we looked at the life of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Jacob (Israel) in the Old Testament. His story can be found in Genesis 37-50. Here’s how his story goes in a nutshell.

He was Jacob’s favorite son.

His brothers hated him.

His father gave him a coat.

His brothers hated him more.

He had dreams that one day his family would bow before him.

His brothers wanted him dead.

He was thrown in a bit by his brothers and sold into slavery by them.

He was sold in Egypt and ended up a slave in Potiphar’s house (the captain of the guard.)

Potiphar’s wife wanted to sleep with Joseph but he refused.

Potiphar had Joseph thrown in prison on a false accusation of trying to rape his wife.

Joseph interpreted dreams in prison but remained there for several years.

Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams and was made 2nd in command in all of Egypt.

His brothers came and bowed before him.

He revealed himself to them, displayed his forgiveness and they all lived in Egypt for the rest of their lives.

You can see why his story takes up so much of Genesis. 

Through all circumstances Joseph never gave up on God. When Potiphar’s wife tempted him day after day, he responded “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” He didn’t say, “Well God has left me here, I enjoy a good time with a beautiful woman, so okay. God will hopefully overlook this.” 

After being in prison for so long and then being brought before Pharaoh, Joseph still had not lost sight of who God was. When Pharaoh told Joseph he heard Joseph could interpret dreams Joseph said, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” 

In other words, “No, I can’t. But God can.”

Joseph knew that God was in complete control of his life, no matter what was happening.

When bad things start happening to us, we look to God and blame Him. We yell at Him. We refuse to follow Him until He changes our situation. We compromise, believing God will understand because we have it so hard.

As Christians, that is not the response we should have. Joseph was in a pit, sold into slavery, and in prison, but never turned his back on God. 

I’m not saying we don’t face hardships in our lives. I’m not trying to downplay the difficulties you may currently be facing. None of that, though, excuses a lack of faith in God. 

God is faithful in all circumstances. We may not be able to see Him, or feel Him, but when we are carrying out His will, you can guarantee He is there.

God is faithful and that requires we are as well. We must be faithful followers in every circumstance we find ourselves. No situation is an excuse for us to leave the will of God.

So stand up! Rise up and carry out the will of God. There are people all around this world doing what you are doing every single day. 

As Christians, we are a part of the Kingdom of God. He has a plan for each of us. He has a purpose for us and he wants us to complete the work he has laid before us. 

Be faithful with the work He has given you. 

Be a Kingdom Worker.

Let’s face it. There are days when we all have to do things we just do not want to do.

It’s not always easy to get up in the morning. You may have had:

a restless night

a child kept you up

a bad dream

“baggage” carried over from yesterday

or any number of situations which cause you to want to stay in bed.

Perhaps going to work isn’t the problem for you. Maybe there is a task you just are not looking forward to doing. There might be a person you want to avoid at all costs. Maybe it’s a phone call you are dreading.

Whatever it is, I think we can agree there are days we just don’t want to do the things we need to do. Everything seems more difficult on those days. Communication and interacting with anyone seems that much more labored.

Well there is some good news!

You are not alone!

You are not the first person to feel the way you do. You are probably not the only person to be feeling that way at this very moment. There are others like you who have something in their lives they are dreading.

Also, it’s okay to be feeling this way.

Often, we as Christians, are expected to be in a constant state of feeling great. It doesn’t matter what situations surround us, other people expect us to be smiling and cheerful, ready for anything under the sky because Jesus has saved us from those days of feeling bad.

Or when we are allowed to feel bad, the grace period does not last very long. I’ve actually heard people say things like, “I know they went through a divorce, but that was a 6 months ago, he needs to be getting over it by now.”

Other people can easily make your “blah” days feel as if you are committing a terrible sin. You are not!

Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, prayed to God that He would not have to go through what He knew was going to happen. Our Savior had an obstacle to face that He just did not want to face. What a reassuring thought!

Now this is where it gets tricky. The uncertainty is normal. The lack of motivation is also normal. Everyone goes through periods of their lives when they are not quite as motivated. We all have our giants to face that we would rather not.

At some point though, we need to face the giant.

The phone call we need to make is not going to magically go away.

The conversation we need to have with an employee about his conduct at work wont resolve itself.

The chapter we are writing wont just finish itself.

Whatever it is we need to face. Whatever it is that is glaring down at us, causing us to hesitate, will continue to be there until we take care of it.

As I mentioned before, Jesus did not want to endure all he was getting ready to endure. He was in turmoil about it. But He did. He faced it head on, and as a result, each of us can be saved.

Each of us have been given certain tasks in our lives to accomplish. They can help grow our character or walk with Christ. They can make us stronger so we can face larger problems in the future.

Whatever you are facing that you may not want to, take courage. Stand strong, and face your situation. If you need to, find someone in your life who can encourage you through it. It is always better to face a trial with somebody.

I’m not trying to trivialize what you are experiencing. I understand that the situation is difficult. It may take great strength to just move through the day. But keep moving. Keep marching forward and following after God, even if it is a slow process.

I know it is easy to let these situations get to us. Rise above it, and overcome what seems to be impossible.

 

Have you ever started an activity only to quit after a short time because it seemed too impossible? I’m talking anything:

 

Learning a new style of dance

 

Knitting 

 

Crochet

Cricket 

 

Croquet

 

Running

 

Learning an instrument

 

Picking up a new job

 

ANYTHING.

 

Often times we become interested in learning something new because we have witnessed someone else performing their trade perfectly. As we watch, in the back of our minds we think, “It would be so cool to be able to do that! I think I’ll try to learn.”

 

The problem is, we are left in awe by people who have been doing those things for years and have learned to perfect their art. We are just beginners, and as beginners often are, we are messy, awkward, and down right not any good. 

 

So we get frustrated and we quit.

 

But we have forgotten something. Most of those people who left us inspired, have been working hard at it a long time and started out just as frustrated and terrible as we currently find ourselves.

(You can read the rest of the post by clicking here)

Being in a ministry position means often times working in an office. I mean, the church gives you a workplace and they expect you to use it.

It’s really nice because it means that I have a different place to store all of my ministry related items (or other random possessions that I enjoy) and they aren’t taking up space at home. 

I was actually super excited to have such a big office when we moved here almost 2 years ago. That being said, I hated working in my office. It was greyish on the top half and purple on the bottom. I’m not talking a nice purple either. It was dark and dull. Basically, I felt as if I was working in a prison cell. No window, florescent lighting, not fun.

So I changed it. It’s yellow (like the sun), green (like the outdoors), several lamps light the room, and big posters of wooded areas and the mountains. It feels so much more alive and vibrant, and it actually helps me to be more productive. 

I know sometimes people do not have the option to change up their work space. You can’t exactly do some major modifications to a cubicle, or there may be other restrictions in the way. 

It is so important for us to find space (and time) to be productive. We may not be able to make the time every single day, but we need to have a regular time.

Finding a space we can call our own helps us to be more productive at work, home, school, and in extra activities. 

These places help to rejuvenate us. In ministry, it’s really easy to get bogged down with the expectations I have of myself as well as the expectations 100+ other people have of me. My stress would only be multiplied by a work space that was dead and uninviting.

Nearby Pond

Stream

Special Room in the House

Coffee Shop

Your Office

Wooded Area

Certain Couch

Working on a Project

Low Lit Area

Brightly Lit Area

It could be any number of places, and it may take some trial and error to figure out just where you can be the most productive. Even if you don’t figure it out right away, keep searching.

The next thing to remember is to not be ashamed of how your operate.

It is really easy to feel ridiculous for what makes your productive.

When I’m wanting to sit down and flesh out some lesson plans I make sure that the main light is off and turn on my laps. I turn on a certain kind of music and sit on the couch in my office. It doesn’t look super professional, but it works better than anything else I’ve tried. 

Sometimes I start to think about what others might think when they see me working this way.

“Oh he’s slacking off today.”

“Why doesn’t he have his light on?”

“Who works like that?”

“Hope he knows he can’t always work like that, especially when he becomes a real preacher.”

People may or may not be thinking these things but they cross my mind and there have been days I’ve allowed these thoughts to change my working atmosphere.

Don’t let that happen. Work in an environment that promotes productivity for you. The results will speak volumes about how much you have accomplished! Don’t let the words of others (or just what you think the words of others are) get in the way of you doing the best work you can.

The last thing I would say is to remove distractions. If you do work best at a computer and desk, don’t have Facebook open while writing. Seeing or hearing those notifications while trying to focus is a distraction. If your music distracts you, turn it off. Don’t let any distractions keep you from doing your best work in the time and space you have designed to do it.

Find a place to be productive and then actually be productive. It is amazing how much we can get accomplished when we set ourselves up for success. 

Don’t give up.

Keep plugging away.

Succeed.

I’ve been avoiding myself. I’m not even completely sure why. I have no idea what has been causing this illegitimate fear. I’ve been avoiding doing something that I absolutely love to do.

Writing.

I had this blog and was doing a great job at keeping it up. I worked hard to keep my ideas flowing and write (or type) them down as soon as I could so I wouldn’t forget them. I actually looked forward to sitting down at the computer and typing out my posts. It was one of my favorite activities.

I enjoyed it so much there were days I got up early just to do it!

Sometimes my posts could have been more thought out, or maybe some should have had better grammar, but I was working on the blog consistently. I was working hard at it and enjoying the challenge of putting out a new post 4 or 5 days a week.

Then I started missing days. I would miss one or two here and there, but then I started missing larger gaps. I guess some part of me was worried that if I tried to pick things back up people would think, “Oh boy, here he goes trying again. We can’t rely on him to keep this up.”

Another fear I had was people wouldn’t like what I typed. They would think it was stupid or just so basic there was really no point in reading the material. I let these fears keep me away from blogging at all.

But here I am, starting up once again. But this time is different. 

You see, Jon Acuff posted on his blog about starting an adventure, and I wanted in. So I emailed my information and have become a part of a Facebook group full of people who are just as excited as I am. We all have fears to “punch in the face.” We all have uncertainty and some of us are down right confused. 

But we all want to beat out average. We want to take some steps to flip the switch from average to awesome. That’s what the group is for. We are going to spend time over the next 24 days (starting July 15) encouraging and challenging each other to take risks. These risks will help us on our adventure to achieve goals that God has placed in our hearts. 

The first step for me, includes getting back to the blog. So although my mission doesn’t officially start up for another week, I’m getting started right now. I’m tired of pushing it off, and for me, it was time to get moving. 

I hope you find encouragement in my writing. I hope you feel motivated to move on and take that first step. 

I was terrified to send that first email to become a part of this Facebook group. I had no idea what was in store, but I knew I wanted to move towards living the awesome life God has in store. 

So there’s a little bit about my fear. There’s a little bit about this adventure I’m starting. And it’s all a little bit scattered and crazy (much like the thoughts running through my head).

But I’m off.

I’ve left the starting blocks. 

I’ve Started.