It's just my junk

We all have junk in our heads. This is mine.

New Strengths.. Soar not Settle

New Strength

I was doing, well honestly catching up since I am meeting to discuss them with a couple friends tomorrow, my devotion times and it was simply titled New Strength.

The title wasn’t the eye catcher but the scripture was…

Isaiah 40:31 “ But those who wait on the Lord, Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

If you are or have been inside a church building or waked through a Christian Store you have experienced this in word or picture… A beautiful bald eagle soring in the wind… looking majestic and awesome.

I assume you might even have experienced it more than once, only to glimpse at it with a been there done that attitude. It is okay to admit it. I have more than I would like to but it is true, I have become desensitized to the beauty and impact of the mighty bald eagle soaring image.

I am not sure this one will hit every audience but I grew up in Michigan and moved to Indiana (eventually toward the Indiana and Ohio border by the Ohio river). I have been privileged enough to see a real bald eagle soaring over the water or setting on an ice chunk in the lake. Simply breathe taking! It is a site I will always cherish and remember. In fact, I could drive you to the very place I sat to observe this amazing bird of prey.

My point is simply we settle way to often for the image of static bird in a photo or picture when God has a soaring image of power, grace, breathless motion and awe. We have a choice in life…

  1. Settle for the normal everyday existence or
  2. Strive for the greatness to come, for an experience and life that is remember able and awe-inspiring.

It is simple as that… we get the ability to choose and I encourage you (me too) to not settle for the everyday static but strive to soar with the Eagles.

God has so much more to offer and provide for us but we tend to get caught up in the “everyone is doing it” mentality.

SOAR MY FRIENDS! Be one who breaks out into the greatness of life and soar.

New Years Resolutions

How do you launch your New Years resolutions? How do you plan to succeed in accomplishing them? Well, I think you might be surprised to read this information but most start them planning and practice to late to win.

I have a chiropractor friend, who I will refer to as Dr. James (since it is his name) that teaches his clients to begin the resolution or any new habit a month in advance to accomplish it. The idea is simply starting to create the habit, routine and disciplines.

We shared some time thinking and digesting this idea recently at youth group. I would like to share some highlights from this experience.

  1. Identify five major stresses in your life.
  2. Identify which you can change (control) and those you cannot control.
  3. Change those you can, give to God to those you cannot.

Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us to not work about things but pray.

  1. Who do you represent?
  2. Your clothes? Mine say DYM, YW, Nike, DHSM, Michigan etc.
  3. Your friendships?
  4. Your future?

We can discover a lot about our attention or life.
Leviticus 19:4 reminds us not to trust in idols but God.

  1. Review time… please refer back to the previous 1,2&3 and check for similarities? Is God trying to reveal something through them?
  2. Repair relationships.
  3. Who do you have conflict with?
  4. How can you forgive them? Or make the relationship better?

Ephesians 4:31-32 reminds us to get rid of all bitterness etc.. forgive one another as Christ forgives you.

  1. Make time for Jesus. Seems simple but it has to be a priority in our day.

1 Timothy 4:13-14 reminds us to devote ourselves to reading bible, praising God and teaching others.

  1. Spend time praying
  2. Make a top five list of things, habits etc you want to continue doing… for example devotion time, exercise daily.
  3. Make a top five list of things, habits etc you want to stop doing… for example cheating on tests, lying, talking bad about yourself..

1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us to never stop praying.

  1. What is the best time of day, week for you to pray?
  2. What can you do to make that happen?
  3. Who can support you in this commitment?

 

I know it is a huge list and seems to be overwhelming but I would totally encourage you to take the next month to get a routine and healthy habits to accomplish some growth.
I enjoy watching sports and often think it would be cool to play in the NFL or whatever… but I am not willing to do the work to accomplish that… Often we think of people who are spiritual champions and want to be like them… but we aren’t willing to do the time to be like Jesus.
Friends it will take work to make it a priority and we are all able to make them… after all we do everyday…

Happy New Habits day to you.

 

Mile Markers in life

Mark this date, June 9,2017, during Indiana Annual Conference a movement was launched. A mile marker was set. I travel to annual conference from I74 from near Cincinnati to Indianapolis, each mile is marked along the way, the closer the journey the increase in signs and directions. I have always found mile makers interesting, partly due to boredom while traveling in Michigan (my home land) as a youth since electronics didn’t exist. I would use the markers to let me know how close to home I was. After all, you can only ask, are we there yet so many times before being yelled at.

During the above mentioned Indiana Annual Conference on June 8th a motion was presented to bring attention to the many teenagers of LGBT persuasion thinking about and/or committing suicide. I am a Youth Minister who is very thankful to be associated with a people group (UMC) who care about young lives. But something didn’t settle well within my heart. I was struggling with a people group who cared about a certain population of people being the LGBT group but not the countless others who live outside that spectrum such as, African American males, or Caucasian females or others who happened to be straight/heterosexual.

I was privileged to participate in the connectional part of the UMC denomination by sharing lunch with Samuel Padgett and his family at Chick-Fil-A. We shared small talk while walking to the restaurant, as we ordered, and well into our meal. The conversation took a right turn after the last waffle fry was consumed. Sam’s daughter, Leah, asked to share something she was working on. I am all about youth ministry and encouraged her to read it. I was left in awe. I wont get into the details but Leah felt a similar tension but for a different reason and was moved to make a difference. I began to think about 1 Timothy 4:12 ESV “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believer’s an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity”

Leah patiently waited her turn in line to bring an amendment to the above mentions motion. She asked for it to be more inclusive of all teenagers struggling with suicidal thoughts. She respectfully asked to speak in favor of this and bravely shared her story as a PK (pastor kid) who struggled with thoughts of suicide and knowing many other teenagers who felt the same way. It was a brave moment that will forever stand in my mind. Leah, a class of 2017 high school graduate who listened to God, was moved and did something about it.

I know God used her in this tense moment to bring awareness to teenagers, in and outside the church, that struggle with suicidal thoughts and God used the moment to impact and empower a quiet, respectful, passionate young lady to trust in Him and follow with a passion and trust that will move mountains. Leah set an example for us in word, in conduct, in love and faith. She bridged a gap many adults would never do… she risked her story in order to help others stand in the gap for others who may never have the chance to due to suicide. She also had many who supported the original motion reach out to her in appreciation of what she did and said.
I am thankful that God is willing to use all people, including a recent high school graduate to impact a state in serving its people, all people. I am asking you to pray for Leah, teenagers who struggle with suicidal thoughts, the parents of teens who have experience the tragedy of a teen suicide, and our church as we grow in this much needed area.

Rock Painting, Football and a Fire

Rocks, paints, brushes, footballs, can jam, little Debbie snacks, marshmallows, chocolate bars, grand crackers, chickens, wood, newspapers and fire, it is a great combination especially when you throw in some soda (pop), water and a group of senior high students and caring adults.

The scene was set 3 summers ago, when a couple who are friends and awesome people felt led to purchase (save) their families farm. A farm (with an outhouse) that has a hundred year history of being in the same family! The patriarch of the family passed away and it appeared to be slipping out of their family hands. The purchase was made successfully, over the next few years the little farmhouse began to take on a new look. The couple added to their house, resided the entire house, moved the outhouse. Yeah moment of silence the outhouse was later struck by a falling tree limb and became future fire wood a sad sad day for me. The fire pit was put in place along with some chickens (and coop). The family was ready to begin hosting youth, family and other events at the farm. I am sure grandpa would be excited and proud.

Fast forward to the event…. Students arrived with excitement, leaders arrived with excitement…. the fire was stoked, the tables had coverings (it was the wife’s choice to use them to cover the mess) and games set up to be played.
A simple announcement and brief history lesson was given and the night was in full action. Students played, laughed and painted, while the adults intermingled with them and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

The night came to and end. Students were picked up, some drove home and others helped clean up. Everyone in attendance left with a full stomach, painted rock (if they chose to paint one) and memories of fun, fellowship and Jesus moments.

We (the home owners, my daughter and I) cleaned up the paint, stowed the left over goodies and reflected on the night. It was a simply but powerful night. The homeowners hosted an awesome night. The students enjoyed some good old fashion hang time. The adults (all who are leaders in the Student Ministries) were able to relax and connect with students. It was an amazing night for sure.

As I review the night a couple lessons peculated to the surface….

1. Communication is so important… people need to be invited, directions of travel, supplies purchased.
2. Fellowship is important. People are so busy planning a variety of activities and hang time so everyone can enjoy.
3. Follow up is vital… Make sure you thank people for attending, helping, serving and providing for an awesome event.
4. Look to grow… make a few notes that will enable you to host and run a better more effective event in the future
5. Pray often… sometimes we forget to pray in the planning moments, or after the event. But prayer is important before, during and after… Give God the praise he deserves.
6. Allow room for students to be students, they like to laugh and play, also allow your student leaders the chance to just be students. Don’t assign them jobs or tasks.

I am so thankful for a community and people who are willing to open up their farm and lives to share Jesus Love through their gifts and lives.

Who is your Boss?

“And they were astonished at His (Jesus) teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Mark 1:22

Two things about this scripture jump out at me:

  1. Jesus wasn’t the only one teaching information; in this case the scriptures in the world.
  2. He was the only one teaching with authority.

 

So, do you agree or disagree? Have you experienced this in your life; someone teaching with authority and others not?

I immediately think of several situations where I have experienced this situation:

  1. Professional baseball… the pitching coach goes to the mound to help, encourage, and correct the pitcher. He does not do anymore than that. But the head coach is the one who speaks authority. He is the one who goes to the mound and removes the pitcher from mound and game. You, see the head coach has the Authority to move or change things in a game.
  2. College.. Many of us had Associate professors who would teach but they conducted themselves through the authority of the Professor. The professor as ultimate authority in the classroom but grants some authority to his assistants.

 

What does this mean to the average person? We are always lobbing and checking out whose authority we are under. We live in a world where someone is in charge, maybe your teacher who has a boss, the principal, who has a boss, the super-intendant, who has a boss the School board, who has a boss, the voters who elect him or her. No matter what situation we find ourselves under, we have some authority over us. This is both good and challenging, since we are required to figure it out and balance the tension within it.

Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authority.”

We have a president who is elected official. One the people (not 100% of the people) elected. Some have been vocal for and against this elected official.

I struggle with the extremes simply because he is a human being and has feelings. But as a Christian, struggle more from the teaching of Romans 13:1.. see above.. It says every person be subject to the governing authorities. It doesn’t say to the authorities you like or voted for or align with. I am not saying I agree with everything our presidents (most of them in my years of voting) but I do try to honor them as authority.
I am not tooting my own horn but challenging my fellow believers…how are you being subject to the authority? I know it might be more challenging for some than others but where do you sit… ? Where does it end? If we want our kids to follow under our authority shouldn’t we be setting the example and doing the same for those who are in authority of us? I would say yes. We need to practice what we preach.

Athletes exercise self-control in all things

I was struck between the eyes when I read this statement. I have read it probably a thousand times and it never really hit me this deeply. I first need to confess…. It is a bible verse. 1 Corinthians 9:25 “Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.” Paul is a stud for the church, his resume is rich… a Hebrew Check, a Pharisee (think religious leader who is way smarter than most) Check, a descendant of David (think big time lineage.. David’s name carries weight in the bible) Check.  Paul is also a noted to be the first missionary (establishing churches throughout modern-day Europe) Check, Paul was ship wrecked, thrown into prison etc. Check…

I was what I call an athlete in high school. I was a distance runner and accomplished some cool things. For example: 1986 set a school record for 4×800 relay that wasn’t touched till 2016. Ran Cross two years and went to state both years. My senior year in track I finished 1st in every dual meet in the 800 but I confess to not exercising self-control in all things.
For example, I practiced as I felt like it. I did not listen to the coach like I should have. I did not study as much as I should have. I can honestly say I never went to parties or drank etc. so that is good. But as you can see I was not interested in self-control completely.

What is Paul trying to get at with the comment? I feel as if he is prompting us to put our whole selves in to being who God created us to be. We need to fully exercise self-control in all areas of our life so we can be free of distraction or settling for less than the best.
So, if you are a student… focus on your education, give it all (be the best you can in the classroom), do not worry about relationship that really cause you to settle for less than your best, Do not fight the teacher but learn from them.
So, if you are an athlete… listen to your coach, give it all you can and practice patience in your exercise but give it to the full when you should, take care of your body.
So, if you are an employee… do the best you can do.. show up ready to work, be on time and grow to be the best employee you can. Someone will experience your product or presence that it should impact their life.

I think you get my point. It is important to be focussed on growing you and those around you. Help others as they help you. Be focussed and ready.

I know Paul lived a long time ago but we need to heed his warning and focus on self-control and step up to be a role model for someone. Please do not act like you aren’t one because everyone has someone looking up to you. Go for it and win in life.

Love in a coke bottle

“Love never gives up, never loses faith is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
“Love…. Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

Love as mentioned above has no limits but what about our limits? Do we put limits on love? Limits to manipulate and gain something for ourselves? Limits to protect our hearts that have or may have been hurt or damaged?

Yes, we all have the ability to love without limits. The challenge is determining a couple things:

1. Do you have a healthy respect for myself?
2. Have I dealt with any past hurts or fears that might prohibit love without limits?
3. Have you risked love in a healthy way and found some success?
4. Do you find a longing to connect and be in love with someone, something?

The challenge isn’t finding love as much as it is discovering love that is pure, and a love that never gives up, never loses hope, always endures etc… That love only comes from God.

We are designed to be in relationship, that relationship is often connected with money, stuff, people or careers but God designed the relationship to be with Him.

A Youth Pastor friend of mine once told a story, illustration really, about people having a coke bottle shaped (we all know it isn’t a coke bottle but it worked for the example since he was holding one) container in our hearts. We will try our hardest to put things in it… for example.. sports, games, friends, drugs, alcohol, relationships. He went on further to say some of those things seem to fit for a season then we become discontent with them and then look to fill the bottle with something else and repeat… We never seem to fill that with something that lasts or holds long term.
Guess what? The reason isn’t because of the stuff we are putting into it are bad or unhealthy, it is due to the source. The source is supposed to be God.

The challenge isn’t fitting God into the bottle of our heart; it is allowing God to consume the space meant for him.

My friend went on to invite people to fill the coke shaped god bottle if you will with God. Some accepted, others waited and some didn’t respond at all which is ok.

We transition through Valentine’s Day this week and watching so many people stand in line at the local store buying flowers. I am not talking one or two but a line about 10 people long. We want to give our loved ones gifts that they can see, taste, feel but we should be giving the gift of God. A relationship with Him that fills the void and gives so much we change and share it with others. A gift that shares grace, patience and peace.

I encourage you all to spend a little time enjoying the gifts, flowers eventually die, the chocolate with run out, gift cards will be used, the watch or other material thing will break or wear out, but also invest in the eternal gift.. a relationship with Jesus.

Hold your tongue…

Proverbs 5:1-2 “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise council. Then you will show discernment, and your lips will express what you’ve learned.”

Interesting thought?  If we pay attention to wisdom, listening carefully to wise council.. we will show discernment and we can express what we learned. One might think, how does this play out in the world of life as we know it.  Well, allow me some time to unpack it bit…
1. Do you listen to your athletic coach? Really, do you then practice what he or she is asking you to do?
2. Do you listen to your math, english, science teacher? Really, do you then practice what he or she is asking you to do?
3. Do you listen to your pastor? Really, do you then practice what he or she is asking you to do? Especially, when it is directly from the Bible?
4. Do you listen to your parents? Really, do you then practice what they are asking you to do?

I confess NO to each of the above questions throughout my teen years, and since then but I also confess to working on being a better listener and apply the lessons that I have before me.
I have since then am working on the idea of gaining discernment and that I can express the words to others but more importantly applying them to my life.

Things I know…
It will take submitting to authority.
It will take submitting to the process of learning and growing.
It will take submitting to a bigger picture then the one I currently see or even think I see.
It will take submitting to the idea of work, and more work and more work.. you get the picture. It will take work for me to listen… learn and apply…. work

I often find the most challenging moments happen when I want my way, my stuff or my agenda. I am working towards the future and it will take time but I will get there. I hope you will too.

Sow Seeds of Righteousness

Proverbs 11:18 “Evil people get richer the moment, but the reward of the godly will last.”

Righteousness is the quality or state of being righteous.. Righteous is characterized by uprightness or morality; Morally right or justifiable.

How do we sow seeds of Righteousness in a world that seems to lack both the quality and state of being upright and moral?

We need to keep working our our salvation as we pursue the godly rewards that will last, Contentment, peace, grace, eternal life.
We need to fend off instant gratification, one thing I admit to struggling with.. the latest gadget, the new computer, the vast amount of stuff we “need” to make ourselves feel content, peace, and full.

I want to challenge you and myself to begin focusing on both ends of the Proverbs 11:18 verse.. we need to beware that evil people (I will define them as not with God) seek and gain their riches in the present. But the reward we seek is that of God and of the future.

For some it is saving up the money to pay cash for those shoes, phones, etc..
For some it is leaving or not being friends with certain people, let me reframe this maybe it is not having the best friend but just keep them at a safe distance.
For some it is working hard in their present employment to get to their new and better job.
For some it is studying a little bit harder to pass the test that we normally blow off.
For some it is putting in a tougher practice when the rest of the team is comfortable with the current…. swim another set, shoot another 50 free throws, run another mile, do some extra reps in the weight room.. you know
For some it is putting down the iPhone, remote control or tv and pick up the bible or devotional.

I honestly do not know what you need but you do. Let’s be honest, you have always known what you need to be doing so lets begin fresh and get it going.

Today is a new day… a fresh start… a new beginning to a more rewarded future. Please consider starting today.

 

Reflections on a Journey

I have the privilege of investing in a variety of people in ministry. Some are adults, some are senior citizens, others are youth workers across the country, and yet many I am investing in without even realizing it, like Starbucks employees, the garbage man etc.

This post is about my boys… the small group guys that meet with Mr. Henson and I weekly. Some of the play soccer, others play tennis, some don’t play anything and one group of them play Football. Their positions aren’t important on this post so we will for go that formality.

Last night (November 18) the ballers played for Semi State football game against the number 1 ranked team in the division. For those who don’t know what I am referencing, simply put if they won they would head to Lucas Oil Stadium for the State Finals. I feel the winner of this game will be a state champion.
The game was one of the best played games of the boys lives, which is a statement since last year the team was state runner up for the championship, a feet not happening for over 10 plus years. Back to the game

We (as if I was on the field or doing anything important) had a game plan that was being executed to perfection. Ball control, limited mistakes and penalties, great communication on both sides of the ball. Leaving the field at half time our team was up by 7 points (remember the opponent is ranked #1). Coming out into the second half (excited since this season we play our best in the second half). Everyone was excited; a human tunnel was created for the boys to run through. Momentum on high for sure…. #12 goes by…#3 goes by…. #97 goes by…. #27 goes by. And finally #74… getting to see their smiles through their football war paint was priceless.

The second half was a battle… one that only allowed a total of 10 points for both teams. It was a war. The fans on both sides of the field supporting their teams with respect of the opponent and energy. The Band was playing some great tunes and the Trojan Stadium was electric with energy. The game came down to a young man who would eventually after 3 time outs to ice him (this is meant to make him nervous so he would miss) with less than 2 seconds left on the clock. Well he didn’t miss it and time ran out. The #1 ranked team won the semi-state trophy on our turf.

As one would expect, some of the fans complained about play calling, others cried for their sons and friends, some just sat in disbelief. The band formed a tunnel to honor the warriors as they exited the field. This to me bridged a major gap in social groups and was a true example of support, respect and grace. I compliment the band director big time.

What came next was truly a blessing for me… as usual I was waiting at the end of the tunnel for the boys (my boys) to walk through and congratulate them on the game. Well this was going to be interesting since they didn’t win.

I am not going into details but God showed up and He was honored through the hugs, prayers, smiles and tears shared in that moment in time. I was present for a senior who carried some weight of it all being over, and another who was dealing with a chapter ending to what might be next in his football career. I spent some time with a couple that are younger players who would be playing more football in their future. The emotions were raw, true and honest. I was just there to help them feel loved, accepted and appreciated, to be a shoulder to cry on (I am not implying that happened), to give some leadership perspective and to others just a smile and nothing more.

I drove home with mixed emotions:

What would the night been like if they won? Would it have been as special?

What would my seniors do and where is their identity now? How will they navigate and settle as a Christ-Follower?
What about the other boys… would they rebound? Did I push too much? Not say enough?

Eventually settling in my vehicle a thought came to mind…

When Jesus was on the shore preparing some breakfast for the disciples, he was waiting to have a conversation with his boys (the disciples) as I fast forward to the meeting; Peter swims ahead of the others to meet Jesus. What would Jesus say to a man who denied him (as Jesus told him he would) three times? What would Jesus do to help restore, support or kick him out?
What Jesus did was an example in some ways what transpired at the end of the tunnel for my boys and me….

  1. He spent time with Peter and his boys prior to the breakfast encounter.
  2. He knew them in a special way, a way that allowed God to speak through to touch them where they were with what they each needed. Peter needed to be reminded and restored, loved and accepted, renewed.
  3. He was present with them in a time of need.
  4. He spoke love and truth in each word, and action.

If you are a youth worker, coach or caring supporter, please never forget the importance of spending time with your boys (or ladies) regularly.

  • Please invest in who they are as they discover Whose’s they are!
  • Please remember God gives words and actions that might seem simple or insignificant to you but might be huge in impact to them.
  • Please keep things in perspective… it is a game…. It will fade into the memories of life and people will move onto the next sport, next event or next opportunity. But the time, the words, the love and support will last a lifetime. It will out live the moments of this season ending and another starting. It will out live seeing the boys hang up their helmets forever, the chapter of football ending. It will carry them into the future chapters of their lives. It will help shape them into who God is creating them to be. It will be something (maybe it was a 1 second high five or a 10 minute hug fest ending in you praying over them, or a grab their face mask and say you are a gift from God) that they will be able to store in their memory bank and eventually display and share with a peer, or as a coach and parent one day to their teenager or someone else.

God is so good to allow me the privilege of being present in my boy’s lives, having a team of adult leaders who are present and for parents willing to encourage, make at times and drive their students to be present with us.

In closing, when you are at the moment of victory or defeat please remember this blog post… be present and allow God to use you to shape a life for today and tomorrow.

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