More by less.

Every time we add something new to our schedule, we must take something out. Alongside your ‘to do’ list think about keeping a ‘don’t do’ list as well.

“Many times, developing the ability to spend time in the Bible and to hear what it’s saying is less about our aptitude for scripture and more about all the noise that exists around us. We all know we could use more Bible, but we often forget we could use less of everything else.”
—Jared Wilson, Abide

 

Our hearts are longing for the more-ness of our Creator.

One of the greatest challenges we have as parents is to keep our children from settling for less.

The world offers less.

The great lie is that our heart’s longing can be satisfied with the lesser things of this world. We attempt to make a god of created things instead of worshiping the creator. This is why we never find a sustained sense of satisfaction or contentment. Our hearts are longing for the more-ness of our Creator. 1

The beauty of the Creation story is that it paints a picture of the one we worship. The all-powerful, all-sovereign, all-loving, all-just completeness of our God. Here’s the opportunity:

Our struggle as parents will always be to keep the bigness of God in our homes. As parents, we get the enormous opportunity to help our children connect the dots of their deepest desires to the source: their magnificent God.

So let’s help them DREAM and let’s help them to SEE the realities beyond this world. Through it all, they just might develop a taste for the kingdom of God. God is and will always be the best conversation that you can have with your children.

Rooted in Scripture, this prayer of the Apostle Paul for us and with us:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being…
—Ephesians 3:14-16

SC-prayer-day-01

Story Catechism Prayer Challenge

  1. Day 01, Story Catechism Back 2 School Prayer Challenge
 

The beauty of duty and dependence. 

It is the beauty in Christ that fuels true obedience in us.

“Our pleasure and our duty,
Though opposite before,
Since we have seen His beauty,
Are join’d to part no more:
It is our highest pleasure,
No less than duty’s call,
To love Him beyond measure,
And serve Him with our all.”
—John Newton, “We Were Once As You Are” (Olney Hymns)

We delved into this dynamic last Sunday with “Beauty of Duty & Dependence“.

“Do not rest until love and faith in Jesus are the master passions of your soul.” —Charles Spurgeon

“We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.” —A.W. Tozer

 

Create a Crisis for a Change.

“Is it okay that I read your wife’s blog? Her writing challenges me every time I read.”
—recent comment from a man friend 1

Right now our kids are scurrying from the yard to driveway pretending to be a peregrine falcon and Thompson’s gazelle, respectively, so we’re safe to write for a few minutes. Until a playful predator comes.

That would be a crisis to their uninterrupted play time.

That’s what I want to talk with you about: crisis. Crises, in fact. Lots and lots of mini-crises, created from our own hands.

A crisis is when you need God to come through, because otherwise you’ll fail. You don’t have what it takes, so you take what He alone can give.

Of course, we cannot create anything ourselves, but all of our creative powers — our creativity — is on loan from the Creator. It’s borrowed to be used well. Whether we steward these powers for good or spend them foolishly on self, we better know what kind of power we’re dealing with. Too many people use their supposed “power” to play it safe, seek comfort, take no risks. That’s some kind of tragedy. A power failure. (Others create all sorts of drama for themselves and every moment seems like a crisis. That’s sad but not in view here.)

RUNRISE

Humanity has been made in God’s image. We may not look like Him in outward appearance, or take a representative form too often, but our essence, our createdness, is in the similitude of God. Makes sense, since He’s our Father.

God has created us for crisis. We were made to shine brightly in dark situations. Yet a person will only know if he or she is ready to trust Him in the inevitable big, unplanned crisis, if they’ve first learned by experience to trust Him with many mini-crises.

That is one secret to Jesus’ life. He is the definition of true humanity, coming to recreate what has been broken lost in us. Yet He did not do it by Himself. Jesus the Son depended moment by moment on the love, approval, and power of God the Father. He imaged the Father well. Perfectly, in all manner of crises. Never hurried, ever-present, calm and collected to unleash the power of God on the situation of Their choosing.

~~~

On my wife’s blog Sacred Mundane (on which this post first appeared) she reflects on various mini-crises encountered each week. As crises help you consider ours, each can find perspective to keep on creating these crises and growing as people. It is because of her steadfastness in the face of these crises, forged in fact by each crisis itself, that each us gets to read on the Sacred Mundane. That’s why many men I know read her blog. There’s meat there, substance more than mere style. Using the mundane moments of each life, what seems at first so un-spiritual, she makes connections to the Gospel. Every man, woman and child can benefit from that. Kari makes public many private details, though each is processed in prayer and with her husband (me), and together we sense the Spirit’s leading for her to share. Frankly, it would be easier to not share anything personal. Just “write about God,” but while the words would be true, they would not be real.

Realness is where the crises happen. Realness is what we’re after.

Actually, wholeness is the goal. Wholeness in Christ. We’re convinced real wholeness is only found in Him, and only on the other side of embracing realness.

There is a gap for each of us between the ideal and real, between what we say we believe and how we really live it out.

Most men I know … scratch that: every man I know likes to do things he feels confident about. Some only do the things they feel confident about. It’s why some don’t search for a better job, and why others like to fish. Confidence makes one work on their own car, and for the same reason others take it to the dealer to get serviced. Confidence. One can have the appearance of confidence with mere talk, yet to truly reveal one’s confidence, a crisis has to do it’s work.

Continue reading

  1.  This post originally appeared on Sacred Mundane, as guest writer for my wife Kari.
 

Love: Fitness, Fatigue & Form

In recent months a few friends have asked me to help them get in shape. Mostly through “friendly” encouragement, but sometimes more directly (and firmly) as a coach would. Various requests came in the form of invitations to run together, so we formed the Arch Bridge Running Club (Tuesdays, 5:00 AM running in/between Oregon City and West Linn). 1 A couple of us are training for a triathlon. Mostly we’re just running buddies.

RiskOne friend — not a runner nor desiring to become one! — asked me earnestly one day in mid-January if I would help him get in shape. Sure!

It took 86 days for his verbal desire to become “day one” of action. This month he began the journey through physical fitness. His resolve is now taking the shape of a new habit. (Don’t give up. Habits are usually stronger than desires.)

The key for him? Probably many things, like being disillusioned with getting older and sedentary. The inspiration of others on the journey, and a commitment to eating healthier has helped. Probably, like me, saying “no” is a challenge for him, so that there’s little left for cultivating a whole life.

Yet the key factor was this: beginning a new routine alongside his wife. (Yes!) This meant saying no to the customized fitness plan I had sent him (85 days prior) in order to say yes to a better and more realistic plan. (Principle: It’s good to say no to your friends for the sake of your wife.)

Personally, I default to doing just about anything alone. Which is precisely why I must not do so. Sure, there are times of solitude, and out of six runs in a given week, five usually are alone before the sun comes up (though with Strava you’re never really alone). Tuesday mornings are a reminder that I am both known and needed, and not just because I’m the one who usually sets the week’s running plan.

Being known is about vulnerability, where others can see you as you are: whether fit and fresh or fat and fatigued. In physical terms that means getting up early, when no one else will (especially yesterday’s you), to hit the road or gym hard. It means showing up to give your best, while not looking your best. It means turning on screens in order to get needed sleep. It means running slower on recovery days, since that’s wisdom. It means asking someone significant to check on what you’ve eaten, what you’ve spent, giving personal access to someone to see the behind-the-scenes of your life. The same holds true spiritually, relationally, emotionally. This is the pursuit of wholeness, where we see God’s love at work it us, whether fit or fatigued. Continue reading

  1. The Arch Bridge Running Club is open to all, though for your enjoyment some basics and baseline fitness are needed: 1) Be able to run continuously for thirty minutes, 2) sustain sub-9:00/mi for three miles, 3) a desire to be challenged. There are no dues, nor t-shirts (yet).
 

Let’s get uncomfortable!

“Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.”1

That’s a keen insight from long-distance runner Dean Karnazes. His words apply to all “adventure,” really all of life, as running and training can be a good metaphor for the real “endurance” events we call daily life. The ordinary, common, everyday activities are where we need the will to persevere and willingness to get uncomfortable.

In short: We can either be comfortable and stagnate or stretch ourselves—become uncomfortable—and grow.

We tend to think that comfort leads to happiness. It doesn’t. “Happiness” comes from growth, a deeper joy than temporal circumstances. In comes in part from making commitments and keeping them. We find a measure of joy in making progress, and especially joining others in their development. When we persevere, we grow.

Let's run up those hillsFor me that means hitting the pavement in search of some hills almost every morning. In reality, running is the easy part. It’s the other “endurance” events of life where we must embrace the uncomfortable: relationship tensions, hard decisions, confrontation, adversity, setbacks, each new challenge an opportunity. This is essential if we are to reject apathy.

I wonder if one reason 80%+ of people fail on their New Year’s resolutions is they remain committed to their own comfort. The love of comfort keeps them from a better adventure. People embrace apathy, which is a slow death. And a love of self-comfort keeps them for pursuing health and wholeness for the sake of others. If we are to benefit—and better yet: if others are to develop under our care and leadership—we must get uncomfortable. Seek out a measure of adversity, and train for the real adversity than will inevitably come your way.

“Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity.”2

  1. Dean Karnazes in an interview with Outdoor Magazine, published online December 2006.
  2. Timothy Keller, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.
 

We cannot love the world until we stop loving the world.

“You cannot love the world until you stop loving the world.”
Kari Patterson, teaching OSU Real Life college students last weekend at Lake Shasta

An idol is anything you add to Jesus as a requirement for being happy. 

There are four common idols: Comfort, Approval, Control, and Success.

Life coming into focus as students enter the waters to be baptized in response to Jesus reconciling them to God

Life coming into focus as students enter the waters to be baptized in response to Jesus reconciling them to God

In teaching about Love, Kari and I explained each of these four as representing the false gods of our age — which then represent numerous others, for our hearts are idol factories. Our flesh is tempted by the world system most clearly in these four common ways.

Each pretend god promises good things but in the end lets us down. It’s easy to see why: we not meant to find comfort, approval, control or success apart from the loving protection and provision of our Creator. He is our Father, and He is good. We need not run to other seemingly “good” things to find satisfaction.

Real life comes into focus as we give up control to receive approval from God the Father, because of the successes of His Son Jesus, who gave up all His comforts for us and for our salvation.

What Do You Love?

Many students asked about this helpful tool, delving into the root desires, fears, and problem emotions, of each idol. Here’s a page from The Gospel Primer on the four common idols (click to enlarge image):

Four idols

As you can see, this discussion on heart idols moves far beyond sin-is-bad-behavior, for even very “good” things can become destructive in our hearts when they take the place of God. Worldliness is anything that steals your full enjoyment of Father’s Love. That’s why we must say we cannot love the world (people, creation) until we stop loving the world (system). Pride, greed and foolishness have not more place in our lives. Let us not tip-toe around worldly thinking and living; let us dive deep into God’s Love.

Love: What the World Needs Now

We taught the weekend’s main sessions tag-team, side-by-side, focusing on asking and answering three key questions:

  1. Who loved you? (on the Father’s Love, our identity in Christ, and receiving His love)
  2. What do you love? (on idolatry and removing obstacles to reciprocating Father’s love)
  3. Who will you love? (on whole-life intercession by relaying God’s love to others)

The first two deal with our relationship with God, yet if we stop there we will only get to thinking about life through this lens: “How will this affect me?” That’s not deep enough. Jesus told the story of the (Good) Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to lead us far beyond asking how situations affect ourselves. He desires us to capture His heart and ask: “How will this affect her? How will this affect him? How will this affect them?”

Throughout the weekend we heard leaders comment how nothing was exactly what they expected, and a refrain “this is deep.” The unpredictable weather provided a metaphor and helped us get to the end of ourselves: we cannot control outcomes. Salvation visited those shores, and many crossed the line into the Kingdom. Because Jesus loves us He does more than give us a motivation talk about our missed potential. His words are better than vague, pithy, positive sayings. He heals us by first wounding us. Only through embracing and embodying God’s Love in Jesus can we love as loved ones. That’s the kind of love the world needs now.

Students & leaders at #rlshasta 2014

college students & leaders at #rlshasta 2014