For Such a Time as This

What a time we’re living in right now, huh? The COVID-19 virus is running rampant across the globe. It’s a global (read that word again … “global”) pandemic. Everyone in every country everywhere is being affected.

We are certainly living in unprecedented times.

I’m sure you are all aware of the fallout that is happening because of this disease. I don’t need to spend a lot of time talking about how many people are sick right now around the world. Neither do I need to labor over the people who are losing their jobs, the potential number of people who could lose their homes long term, or the global recession we’re starting to experience right now. You all are keeping up with the news (some of you too much) and you know what’s going on … probably better than I do.

Suffice it to say that this pandemic is changing our world. Nothing will ever be the same. The way we work (and the things we do for work) will change. The way we care for people will change. Everything we know about our lives will change.

I wish this change came under better circumstances. I wish that we didn’t wait for a disease to come and hurt so many people before we decided that the way we did things needed to change. I wish we didn’t have such short-term thinking.

That’s me by the way. I am probably the worst of the short-term thinkers. I am very much a “right now” kind of person. I don’t think with a very long-term mindset. That has to change.

That’s going to change.

Some Encouragement

But here’s the thing … change, in general, is not a bad thing. Hitting the reset button and doing things better or different is awesome. Finding new ways to do what you do, being creative and coming up with new things, that’s what’s gotten the human race to where we are today. That’s why we’re still surviving.

New medical procedures save countless lives every day. New tech means that we can work in new ways. Smart, creative people come up with new ideas all the time.

Change is all around us all the time. We just need to open up our eyes and see it. We need to be willing to take out our notebooks and dream. We need to turn off Netflix for a minute and spend some time thinking about who we want to be and what we’re meant to do. Then come up with some ways to make it happen.

This isn’t a time to sit back and do nothing. On the other side of this virus - and yes, there will eventually be an “other side” to this virus - there will be a whole new thing waiting for us. A whole new world.

This is the time when it’s up to us to adapt and change. If you’ve got some free time on your hands now, what productive things can you be doing with that time? If you work in an industry that’s still moving along right now, what are some ways that your industry could change and move forward better than it is today? How can life be different moving forward?

The world is changing. This is our chance to change right along with it. This is our chance to not get left behind.

The world might be changing us but this is our chance to change the world.

We’ve all got ideas inside of us. They might be buried deep, but they’re in there. We just have to be willing to do a little excavating to find them. What better time than right now?

Get out your shovels, my friends. Let’s start digging.

Peace

What do I share in such a time as this?

We are in the midst of an outbreak of a disease whose repercussions are potentially longer lasting and more devastating that anything I’ve seen in my lifetime.

I talked last week about fear. I don’t feel fearful. Thanks be to God.

I do have to acknowledge the seriousness of what we’re experiencing though. To ignore it would be unwise. I refuse to obsessively watch the news and give in to the fear they would have me believe in. I do, however, believe that this is a serious thing worthy of my respect and that we should be extremely careful in how we respond to it.

As Christians, we have a great opportunity in front of us. In a world that would continue to spiral into chaos and confusion, what a great chance we have to be love and peace; to be a shelter in the midst of the storm.

We are bearers of light and hope.

Galadriel: And for you, Frodo Baggins, I give you the light of Eärendil our most beloved star. May it be a light to you in dark places when all other lights go out.

– The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Frodo went on to use that light in his battle with the spider Shelob. As the battle progressed and things were looking grim and that darkness would win, Frodo remembered the light he had been given and used it to push the spider (and the darkness) back.

So can we. We are bearers of light. This is not the time for us to hide. This is an opportunity for us to stand up and shine. To point the way to the One who is light. To light the way to He who can lead all others out of darkness.

Maybe we can’t physically get together with each other. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be an encouraging voice in the midst of chaos. Virtually high-five your family across the country. Help others where you can, when you can. Be generous with your stuff and money where it’s possible. Don’t hog all the toilet paper.

At the end of the day, in the middle of the storm everyone is looking for peace. Jesus was able to speak to the storm and tell it to cease. In Mark 4:35-41, He brought peace in the midst of the storm. Christian, you have that peace too. A peace that transcends understanding.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

– Philippians 4:7

Do you see that? God has a peace that no one can understand … and it’s yours. It will guard your heart and your mind. In a land where all seems hopeless, where the darkness seems to be winning, you can have peace. You can give that peace to others.

There’s this worship song called Tremble that I feel fits so perfectly in these days. It has become a prayer of mine recently. Part of it says:

Peace, bring it all to peace

The storm surrounding me

Let it break at Your name

Still, call the sea to still

The rage in me to still

Every wave at Your name

Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble

Jesus, Jesus, You silence fear

Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble

Jesus, Jesus

Your name is a light that the shadows can’t deny

Your name cannot be overcome

Your name is alive, forever lifted high

Your name cannot be overcome

If you have Spotify you can listen to it here.

What we all need right now is peace. We need someone that can calm our fears. We are craving relief like a cold drink of water to a parched throat in the middle of an endless desert.

That someone is Jesus. The one who makes the darkness tremble. The one who silences fear.

That same Jesus lives in you. You have something that so many others need so badly right now. Give it away friends. Give it all away.

Fear

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7

There is a lot of fear going around right now. I’d go so far as to say that it has a stranglehold on the entire world.

Coronavirus (or specifically, COVID-19) has got everyone on edge.

The media, which sensationalizes everything, would have you believe that “the end is near!”

The end is near

That is fear mongering at it’s finest.

I am definitely not a health expert. I am no doctor or nurse or any kind of health practitioner. And I honestly don’t know that much about this particular disease.

What I do know is that fear has a grip on us all and there seems to be no stopping it.

But here’s the deal, fear is not from God. There are many fruits of the Spirit, but fear is not one of them. Fear is just another of Satan’s ploys to get you to stop following God and start following anything else.

In 2 Timothy above, we can see that fear is not something that God gives us. He instead gives us power, and love, and a sound mind.

God gives us the ability to think clearly and be level-headed about even the most incredible, fantastic, and terrible things that could come our way.

Perhaps the Coronavirus is terrible. Maybe it really is a pandemic as the World Health Organization claims it is. It definitely has spread across the world at a rapid rate.

So does the common cold. Or the flu. Should I be fearful of them?

Yes, wash your hands. Yes, cough or sneeze into your sleeve. These are things you should be doing anyway.

But stay away from fear. Be careful and alert, but be wise and clear-headed. Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. - John 14:27

Don’t let your hearts be troubled friends. Satan is a roaring lion just looking for someone to devour. Don’t let him devour you. Stand firm and in peace, whatever comes your way.

And please, if you’re sick, stay home. They give you sick days for a reason. 😷

Year Seven

This past Wednesday I celebrated 7 years on staff at NewSpring Church. I’ve said before that this is easily the best job I’ve ever had. I can’t imagine a better way to pour out my gifts, talents, and abilities than to do what I do right now. I love it.

Is it perfect? No. Nothing is perfect. There are challenges we have to work through all the time. As long as us imperfect humans are involved, nothing will ever be perfect. Even when the robots take over it won’t be perfect because people had to program those robots. But is it awesome? 100% yes.

The other day one of my coworkers asked the something akin to “Knowing what you know now, what would ‘now’ you say to ‘7 year ago’ you?” That’s a great question, It’s been kind of stuck like a thorn in my mind ever since. I have some thoughts. Here are just a few … a “completely incomplete list” … of things I wish I knew when I started.

Your job or title doesn’t matter as much as your calling

In my seven years I’ve gone from developer, to leader of developers, back to a developer, to almost a leader of developers, to solidly in developer land again. I’ve gotten raised up and lowered back down a number of times. It’s exhilarating to know that there is something I can contribute beyond writing lines of code and it’s disheartening when you’re told that part of who you are isn’t needed in that role anymore.

When you place all of your hope in a title or a job and that thing doesn’t pan out, what does that leave you with? After all, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12)

What I’ve come to realize is that regardless of what job I hold or what title I’m given, I have a calling and a purpose. My calling is to use technology to reach people for Jesus. I can fulfill that calling in thousands of different ways. When I tie my hopes to a certain job or title I end up disappointed or heartbroken. When I tie my hope to my calling and if I’m working inside that calling then every day is fulfilling, no matter what I’m doing.

There are very few emergencies.

People are the worst at making things seem urgent.

Just watch the news. Everything is bad everywhere and we’re all screwed. If you don’t do these 3 things today you might as well kiss it all goodbye. Good luck.

We are great at doing this in the tech realm too. “Feature A is broken and we need to fix it … now!” Notice the exclamation point. Everything has an exclamation point.

  • “I need it!”
  • “I can’t do my job without it!”
  • “It’s the end of the world!”
  • “You and your software sucks. Fix it!”

We get things thrown at us left and right. We’re told all the bad things about our software almost every day.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Take a breath. It’s almost never as bad as we make it out to be. Most of the things we call emergencies we make into emergencies ourselves or let other people make them into emergencies for us. We shouldn’t let other peoples emergencies become ours.

Put out the very best product you can. Work hard to make it better. Of course, fix the problems. But if you spend all of your time responding to all the “urgent” things that people say is wrong with your product you will never move your product forward and give it better value for the people who are currently screaming that “this line of text isn’t centered.”

Can your product be better? Yes. Is it an emergency? Take a step back and look at it twice. Chances are it’s not.

Rest is important

If you’re working in your calling and making things happen, chances are that you love your job and you have a hard time disconnecting from it. It can consume your every waking moment (and sometimes the non-waking ones too).

This is a good thing! You want to be greatly invested in what you’re doing.

But God gave us six days of work and one day to rest for a reason. He told his people to work the field for 6 years and in it’s 7th year to rest it … on purpose.

The magic happens when we rest. When you exercise you tear muscles and break them down. It’s only when you rest that your muscles heal and grow. We leech the nutrients out of the soil for 6 years and it’s in the 7th year that they return to normal. We work our fingers to the bone for 6 days a week and it’s only in the 7th day that we can find the peace and strength we need to go forward into the next 6 days.

At the end of 2019 I took a sabbatical. I was off work for 5 weeks and it truly was magical. I didn’t set an alarm clock. I slept until my body was rested. I read books I had been wanting to read but wasn’t making the time for. I started exercising and moving my body again. I read my Bible every day. I discovered newfound health in my spiritual and physical life. I spent time with God and renewed my commitment to my calling and confirmed that I was in the right place doing the right work.

None of that wouldn’t have happened if I had just kept trudging through and had not stepped back in a concerted effort to find rest. I knew my body needed it. I had no idea how much my soul needed it.

Please, whatever it looks like for you, find rest.

Don’t do it for the money

As a husband and dad, I want to provide for my family as best I can. I want to give them the best and make sure they have no need. I think this is a noble and honorable goal.

Here’s the thing though. If you work just for the money to fund the things that you think your family (or you) wants or needs, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. There are always more things to buy or more ways to spend it than you have money.

The result is that you’ll end up hating your job or moving from job to job constantly in search of the next pay raise. You’ll end up resenting yourself or your family because the search for more is endless and you can never find the end of everyone’s desires. You’ll keep seeking, but never finding.

There’s a better way. There is fulfillment in more than things. Stop chasing money and start chasing hearts.

By all means love your job but do it because you love it and it’s fun and challenging and growing. Do it because it helps you grow as a person and it has a positive impact on others. Show up because you know it’s something you are supposed to be doing.

Don’t do it for the money or the fame or the chicks or whatever. All those superficial things will go away and you’ll still be left with you and the positive or negative results of your work. When you work a job you love and that fulfills your purpose, that will overflow into everyone around you. Maybe your family dynamic changes because now Mom or Dad is happy when they come home from work. Perhaps they have time to spend with the kids instead of constantly rushing in search of what can only bring temporary happiness.

Do what you do because you love it, not for the paycheck it provides. You’ll be happier all around.

Fin

These seven years have gone by so fast. I’ve never been at a job this long but it feels like I’ve just gotten started. Seven might be the the number of completion in the Bible, but I’m nowhere near done. I’ve got more to do. I’ve got more to see God do. I’m definitely not done yet and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Let’s go!

It Starts With Me

I once believed that, as a parent, my job was just to raise my children to be as independent as I could so that one day they would leave the house. That was it. That was the goal. So many people told me that. The literal goal was to spend 18-24 years or so putting all my effort and energy into these humans who just so happen to share my last name so that they would go on to do their own thing where I would no longer have any influence or impact in their life. I was taught that the “goal” was to, at some point, be able to do whatever I wanted to because I would no longer be “held back” by having children around.

I feel like that is such a dim and short-sighted view of what being a parent is.

Now, what I’m not saying is that I want my kids to be 30 years old and living in the basement with no prospects or plans for the future. I’m not saying that I want to baby them forever and never have them know what it’s like to work hard or sacrifice. I want them to have goals and dreams and plans and to take action on what they want in life.

But would it be so bad if that action, if those plans, revolved around being a part of what our family does as a team and that I would get to have an impact and influence in their lives for the rest of my life? That doesn’t sound bad at all. In fact, it sounds amazing!

I love my children and I want to be able to spend time with them on a regular basis for the rest of my life. I don’t want to push them out and tell them to never come back because now it’s “me time.” “Listen kids, I’ve put in my 25 years with you. Now I’m going to go do all the things I couldn’t do because I had to feed and clothe you.” That sounds horrible and completely selfish. My job is to raise my kids and that job doesn’t end until I’m dead.

I want my kids to be around forever if they want to be. I want to build a compound and let their families live near us. I want to build our family as a team that has an impact on the world for a thousand generations.

I’ll be talking more in the coming weeks about what it means for our family to build a “family team.” But let me end with this:

If you want to do something, whether it’s building a family, making a website, starting a business, or even changing the world, it has to start with you. This whole change I want to see in my family thing … it has to start with me. I have to be the one to start it. I have to want it with everything I have. No one is going to do it for me. If I let it slip then it will be another generation that has to pick up the slack and who knows if they will? Change has to come from somewhere and it has to start with me.

What kind of change do you want to see? It starts with you. Make it happen.

30 Days Caffeine Free: The Results

Can you actually feel better without caffeine?

If you remember from this post a few weeks ago, I have been experimenting to see what it would be like if I removed caffeine from my life for 30 days. After hearing Jeff Goldblum say that he hadn’t had any caffeine in years and he felt better because of it, I wanted to give it a try. I figured that 30 days would be long enough that I would be past the withdrawals and it would give me a pretty good indication of how my body would feel without it in my life.

Well, I’m happy to report that this past Monday (February 17th) I celebrated 30 days caffeine free!

So How Was It?

I’ll be completely honest, it was pretty tough for me in the beginning. Like I mentioned in the post linked above, that first week not only did I stop using caffeine, but I had to get up 2 hours earlier than normal because it was the last week of 6:00am prayer time at church. So I was going through the headaches and the out-of-body feeling that goes with not having the caffeine in my system plus I was sleeping less. It wasn’t my best week.

Since then though, it really hasn’t been too tough. There have been times when I’ve been super tired where I would normally have reached for a caffeinated drink only to replace it with a nap. Let me tell you, having the occasional nap back in my life again has been awesome.

Plus it’s not like I just stopped drinking caffeine and replaced it entirely with water. There are still plenty of sugary, overly-intense flavored, high-fructose corn syrup wielding drinks out there that don’t have caffeine. I’ve had my fair share of root beer and Hi-C and other such things. So while I’ve made strides when it comes to one chemical in my body, there are still plenty more that I need to work on removing from my life.

One step at a time here folks.

How Do You Feel?

I feel good. I think I was expecting to be feel sluggish and run down all the time but I really don’t. My body is reacting just fine to it. If anything the struggle I have is habitual. It’s been harder than I thought it would be to just be able to stop wanting the thing I know I’m trying to get rid of. My habit of going to the grocery store or gas station and getting a Mountain Dew off the shelf is a hard one to break. Right now, I’m doing that by grabbing something non-caffeinated. In the future though, I can see myself wanting to remove sugary drinks entirely too. That one will be a little harder to work through, I think. I haven’t gotten to the point where I love water enough by itself to not drink anything but that. That day may come though. And maybe sooner than I think.

If this is something that you’ve been contemplating, it’s totally doable and worth it. You don’t need that mood-altering substance in your body anyway. Be prepared for the first week to be hard, but after that things should get easier for you.

As for me, I’m going to keep going on the non-caffeinated track. I feel pretty good so far. Let’s see where this thing leads.