His Love

God loves you.

I’m not really sure how else to say it.

There is not an easier way I can think of to put in front of you the idea that the Creator of the universe cares for you than those three simple words.

Understanding His Love

His love is deep. His love is wide. His love crosses over every boundary. He loves with a love that lasts forever. His love eliminates everything we’ve ever done wrong. His love is unconditional. His love is great. His love is big enough to cover the entire world yet small enough to impact your heart right where you are.

His love is probably the most important thing I will ever write about. There isn’t a topic more pressing, more interesting, or more in need at any time in our lives than His love for us.

It’s His love for us that sent Jesus to the cross. A love so great that one of the Trinity stepped out of Heaven (which I imagine to be a pretty amazing place) to become exactly like us. He left so that he could experience what we experience, feel what we feel, and then die as the final sacrifice for the sins of everyone in the world … ever.

It took love for God to send Jesus to this earth. It took love for Jesus to die for a people that hated him - a people (that’s us, by the way) that are still hostile toward him. I believe it’s God’s love that keeps Him from just shutting this whole thing down and starting over again.

His love isn’t a respecter of persons either. He doesn’t just love the people who have been pretty good in their lives and haven’t really done anything wrong. He loves everyone regardless of what they’ve done. There is no such thing as “I’ve done too much for God to love me.” There is no difference in the mind of God between the person who has only ever said a swear word once and the murderer. He created both of them. They are both His children and He loves them equally. You don’t love one of your kids more than the other just because one does something worse than the other one do you? You still love them both equally. It’s the same with God. He loves us all no matter what we’ve done.

His love isn’t a one time thing either. He didn’t just love us when He created us. His love didn’t stop when Jesus died on the cross. His love is a love that will last for eternity. It will never end. He loved the people that came before us, He loves us today, and He will love the people that come into this world after us.

An Invitation to Love

So I invite you in. No matter what you’ve done. No matter who you are or where you live. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what color or race you are, or where you come from.

In Romans 10:9, the Bible tells us the only thing that matters:

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

That’s it. It doesn’t say you have to be perfect. It doesn’t say you have to have your act together. It doesn’t say anything about never having done anything wrong in your life.

All it says is that you say out loud (“declaring” is saying something out loud) that Jesus is going to be the Lord of your life and that you believe in your heart that Jesus died for you and came back to life 3 days later. Do that, really mean it and believe it, and you will be saved.

Saved?

What does that even mean?

Does that mean that everything from that point forward will be perfect for you? Nope. You’re probably still going to experience some failures and setbacks. You most likely still won’t win the lottery. It doesn’t mean that your neighborhood will get better overnight, that you’ll get the job or the girl, or that you won’t ever do anything wrong ever again.

What it does mean is that you have a relationship with the Creator of the universe that rescues you from an eternity in Hell. You are now an heir of the King. You have the God of glory on your side. And at the end of days, Jesus will say “I know you. Well done.”

Understanding His Love (Reprise)

God loves us with a love that never runs out. It’s there in the morning when we wake up. It’s there in the middle of the day when we’re struggling at work. It’s there in the evening when we’re handling kids and ball games and ballet and what seems like all the things. It’s even there at night while we’re sleeping.

Through it all, in everything and during every situation, no matter your circumstances, just remember:

God loves you.

Rhythm and Identity

If you haven’t done it in the last 7 days then it’s not who you are; it’s not your identity.

– Jeremy Pryor, Family Teams Workshop

There is a rhythm to life.

The tides come in and the tides go out. In much the same way, your life has ebbs and flows. It has comings and goings. It has times for work and times for rest.

God created the world to work in 7-day cycles. We covered a lot of that in the series we did on rest (which started with this post back in April).

Because of this, our lives work better when we follow a 7-day cycle as well. Who we are and what we do should fall into this 7-day cycle. When you go looking for your identity - for who you are and what’s important to you - look at what you did during the last 7 days.

Sometimes there is the odd thing thrown in there. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pops up, so you take it. You get sick and it throws off your whole week. For the most part though, we are creatures of divine habit and our identity, who we really are, can be found in the patterns we keep week to week.

Saying that, I think it’s important to also note that if you haven’t pursued something that you say you really want to do in the last 7 days then I think it’s safe to say that you don’t actually want that thing to be a part of your identity.

If you say you want to be a writer but you haven’t written in the past 7 days then you probably don’t really want to be a writer.

The same goes for 5-year-old Billy, who dreamed of being a firefighter. If Billy is now 28 and he still dreams of being a firefighter but in the last week hasn’t done some sort of firefighter training, taken a class on how to become a firefighter, or even talked to a firefighter, then being a firefighter is not who Billy is. It’s not part of his identity. It’s a dream. It’s a “wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-I-could-be”.

And this is okay! Not everyone is meant to be a firefighter or a writer. Not everyone is meant to probe the depths of outer space or the depths of the drain under your sink.

What I think is important is that as individuals and as families, it’s up to us to define what we do want our identities to be and then to put effort towards those things on a consistent basis.

For example, I talked about Shabbat in last weeks post. We want, as part of the identity of our family, to all take a break from our busy schedules and, at least once a week, come together for a meal. A meal that’s a source of blessing, reflection, and that ushers in a time of rest for our family. We don’t have to all rest in the same way or even together (although we should make efforts to include each other), but for an hour or two once a week, we feel like part of the identity of our family should be a meal shared together.

This wasn’t the case 4 weeks ago. Meals together were desired, but we didn’t really put forth the effort to make them happen. However, once we decided that the Shabbat meal was going to be something that was a part of who we are as a family, we adjusted our schedules and figured out where to fit it in and are making it happen every week.

We defined what was important to us, what we wanted part of the identity of our family to be (we want to be a family that shares a meal together at least once a week), and then put effort behind making it happen.

You can do the same. Whether it’s for your personal life, your career, or the life of your family and loved ones, you have the power to define what your identity looks like.

Here’s a little exercise for you. Take a look at the last 7 days. What did you do? What kinds of things did you work on? Where did you go? Did you do those things and go those places in the weeks leading up to last week? When you find the common denominators, the things you do consistently week after week, then you’ve found your current identity.

Write that identity down. Take a look at it. How does it make you feel? Is there anything there that you regret? Are you humbled by how you’re currently living your life? Are there things you’d like to change?

This is your chance! Look at your current identity and then write down what you want your identity to be. Once you’ve done that, all that’s left is to put action behind the things that you want to become your identity and to stop putting effort into the things that you don’t.

You can define a new identity. As a Christian, I’d recommend sitting down and praying through this exercise before you start. Ask God what He would say about your identity and about who He wants you to become. He has the best plans for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says:

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Ask God what He dreams for you to become and make those things a part of your identity.

It’s never too late to start over. It’s never to late to become the person that you’re meant to be. You get to define who you are and who you become.

Start today and your tomorrow can be completely different.

Shabbat

I know next to nothing about Jewish customs and traditions. But that’s okay. I don’t have to know all the things about something in order to see when a good idea is a good idea.

During our Family Teams Workshop the other week (that I mentioned here) there were many things that hit home with me about how our family should function and operate. One thing in particular that stood out was the idea of having a weekly meal with your family that ushers in the Sabbath.

When our kids were younger, having dinner together every night was a priority for us. As they have grown and we’ve gotten involved in more things, the opportunities to have this meal have slowly but surely gotten laid by the wayside. We’ve chosen good things to do, but they’ve taken time away from the great thing that is our family. There are many weeks where we may not even have ONE meal together as a family.

The realization of that has been weighing on us for some time now, but it took someone else mentioning it for us to talk about it and then actually do something about it.

For the past 2 weeks now we’ve made time to sit down together as a family and have a meal together. It’s not a traditional Jewish Shabbat, and our current weekends are far from restful, but it is a chance for our family to come and spend some time together. We talk, we catch up on our weeks, and on each others lives. We just enjoy each others company in a way that our weeks currently don’t allow us to.

We’re still figuring this out. We are far from where we ultimately want to be. I mean, we still don’t even really know what we’re doing. We have yet to have our Shabbat meal at the same time or even the same day. Our current schedules were planned way before we knew about Shabbat. But in this busy season we are learning how to schedule time for something like this as a family and making sure we honor that time once it is on our calendar.

I anticipate this meal will change over time. How it looks, what we do, and how we celebrate will all change. As we get past our current busy calendar, this will shift to be more of a tradition that actually does usher in Sabbath for us. I also anticipate opening up our home to others to enjoy in our Shabbat meal as well.

But for now, we’re learning once again what it’s like to sit down together as a family and have a meal together. We’re learning that we actually are a family and we don’t have to exist as individual entities under one roof. I’m learning just how far removed I have gotten from everyone else and I’m using this opportunity to come back and be involved. This meal is becoming a “center” for our family. A much needed time of connection and joy.

I’m so thankful for this. This is a change that our family needed.

What changes does your family need?

On Being Tired

Are you tired? I’m tired.

Our lives are so busy aren’t they? We just go, and go, and go. Never stopping to think about if we should be doing the things we’re doing. I do it. You do it. We all do it.

Busy is built into our culture now. We seem to thrive on the idea of productivity. We value businesses that are open 24/7. We love hacks and tips that are meant to make us faster so that we can get more done. We hold up the side hustle as the epitome of effectiveness. Because your 8 or 9 to 5 isn’t enough anymore.

Do you ever feel like if someone found out that you and your family don’t have something going on every night of the week then they’d view you as some sort of outcast from society? “What do you mean that you go home and have dinner with your family? Don’t you have anything better to do?”

We don’t even have time to have a conversation anymore. Now we just pass each other in the hall. “Hey man! How’s it going?” “Great. So busy. You know how it is.” “Yep, sure do. See ya.” Then we rush off to wherever we were headed.

We all wear “busy” as a badge of honor. We shouldn’t.

Busy is an addiction.

It’s a drug. There is a rush associated it. We’re proud of it. Like any addictive drug, it draws you in and leaves you wanting. So you need more and more of it to get that same rush you used to get.

Just so you’re aware, this isn’t me railing against you or our culture … although I probably should. It’s me railing against me. If you ever want to know what’s going on in my life or where I’m struggling, just pay attention to what I’m writing here. I write for me as much as I write for you.

I have a lot of irons in the fire; a lot of plates all spinning at once. I have a lot of roles that I’m trying to fill. The problem with that, of course, is that we can only handle so much. For everything that you add, something else has to get put aside. The more roles you have, the more things that don’t get the attention they deserve. Things get dropped. You forget things. Man, have I been dropping and forgetting things.

Also, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t me complaining. I’ve chosen a lot of the things I’m doing. On purpose for the most part. Things just catch up to you, you know?

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s time to make life simpler. It doesn’t have to be stark white and minimal where you do nothing at all. I mean, maybe that’s a great solution. But I’m not quite there yet. I don’t think I can just stop cold turkey.

What I am saying is that it’s time that I take my life and make it be what it needs to be for me and my family, and not what everyone else wants it to be. It’s time to simplify. It’s time to start being more intentional with what I do with my time and my life. I only get one of these lives after all.

Maybe you can relate? Are you tired? Have too many things going on and too many roles to fill for the time and space you have available? Are you tired of being tired?

Let’s start to make our lives better. Let’s make the hard choices. Let’s choose the right things and not all the things. Let’s choose to live with more intention.

It won’t be a popular decision, but it will be a healthier one. That’s a decision worth making.

One Step at a Time

It’s still conference season!

Over the last two days I was able to attend a “Family Teams” workshop and it was incredible. If you’ve never heard about Family Teams, they believe “that the way we do family in the West is mostly a failed experiment, and the scriptures are calling us back to a bigger and better design.” They are on a mission to restore the Biblical definition of “family”.

Over the past two days I have learned so much, found so much hope for what could be, and been convicted deep down to my bones.

Have you ever attended a conference, workshop, or even just a talk where the entire time you felt convicted about the things you were doing and how you were doing them, but at the same time felt incredibly encouraged that things could change and that you (along with God) had the power to change them? That’s really how I feel about what went down over the past couple of days.

From the very beginning I could feel God kind of pressing in on some things in my heart and life that I needed to change. Over the course of the conference He also allowed me to see tools that we could use together to fix things and gave me hope through the Family Teams team that things could actually change for the better … for me, and for my family.

In talking about families, it’s really easy to get stuck on families with small children. They have the most opportunity to grow their family into what they want it to be. For those of us with older children (or children that are already grown), it can feel like we’re too late to the party. It can seem that we’ve run out of time to make a difference in our family. I guess, better luck to the next generation, right?

Wrong.

That is a lie from the enemy and blatently not true. I almost fell for it. From the very beginning as the team was talking about “littles” and creating traditions for your family there was a whisper in the back of my mind that kept saying “See … it’s too late for you. You’re family can’t change.”

Side note: if you ever hear that or something like it, that isn’t God telling you that. That’s your enemy and you can fight back against that crap.

But I really almost believed it. I almost checked out right then. Thank God I didn’t. I would have missed so much and been so much worse off.

Here’s the truth and the gist of what I wanted to share with you today. There are two things:

First, I want you to know that it’s never too late. It doesn’t matter if your single, just married, have “littles”, older kids, or your kids have all grown up and gone. If you have a vision for anything (your family, your life, your career, whatever), you still have time to make it happen. If you’re not dead, God’s not done.

Second, if you want to see things change in your life, invite God in. Things probably won’t change over night. You might fall back into old habits. Change always and inevitably takes time. It’s not the quick changes that make the biggest difference anyway. It’s slow, intentional change. It’s one step at a time, worked out consistently over time that leads to the biggest change.

If there are places in your life that you want to change, they can change. Invite God in, follow His plan for your thing, and take small steps. Don’t rush it. Fail forward. You’ll be amazed where you end up.

Reconnect

Can I be honest with you? I hope so. I mean, you’re pretty much all I’ve got here.

I’ve really struggled with writing lately. Like, really struggled. I’ve written 2 blogs posts in a row that were last minute jobs. They probably have read like last minute jobs as well. In fact, this post today is a last minute job.

I hate that. I hate writing something at the last minute. It’s not my best work and the pressure to get something out the door makes this whole process feel way worse than it should.

Literally the only reason I’ve posted anything lately is because I made a promise to you at the beginning of the year that I would post 1 post a week all year long. I think that kind of consistency is important. Showing up every day is one of the keys to success. But it’s hard.

I’ve struggled with what to write about. Even though I have a hundred different ideas, I don’t really want to write about any of them. I’ve stuggled with making time to write. I’ve struggled with the words when I’ve finally sat down to write. So I think to myself “Maybe motivation is the problem? Maybe I’m just losing my motivation for writing.”

Or maybe it’s my job. I’ve been really busy at my work lately (we’re trying to ship a new app) and I’ve chosen to use the time that I should be writing as time for work. If I get up at 6:00am and I have an hour to do my quiet time and write for the day, I’ve been choosing to get up, maybe do my quiet time, and then get an extra half hour of work in before I actually go to work. That’s great - from a work perspective - but it sucks from a writing perspective.

Let’s just be honest, being busy at work is just an excuse for not writing. A “lack of motivation” is an excuse for not spending time where I know I need to spend it. Being busy someplace else doesn’t mean that I can slack on my other responsibilities, right? A lack of motivation doesn’t mean that I don’t have to show up every day. Just because I’m not feeling motivated or I’m busy doing other things on any particular day (or week) doesn’t mean that I can stop showing up at my job and doing what they are paying me to do. They would quite literally stop paying me and I wouldn’t have a job at all.

So I have to be able to work even though I don’t feel motivated. I have to be willing to show up even if I have other things to do.

But I’m not showing up. Not really. I’m posting, but it’s way less than half-hearted. I’ve gotten away from the habit of writing. I haven’t made the time to sit down and write on a regular basis in a long while. I don’t have the words to write effectively. So what’s going on? Here’s what I think is really happening:

Writing is where I have my best thoughts. Writing is one of those places where God and I tend to communicate best. So when I skip my writing time I lose out, not only on time to think but on time with God. Which is what I need more than anything else to be successful … in my job, with my family, in my life in general. The extra 30 minutes of work is great. Investing 30 minutes in God, writing, and my thoughts means that I can and will get way more than 30 extra minutes worth of productivity out of my day.

It’s the tithing principle, right? I can do a lot with 100% of my money. But when I am faithful and tithe 10% and allow God to handle my money, then He can do so much more with the 90% that’s left over than I ever could with the whole 100%. God desires the first and best of my finances because it helps us to trust Him. We and our money are blessed because of it.

In the same way, he desires the first and best of our days. So if I give him the first hour of my day (allow time for reading the Bible and praying and writing whatever it is that He wants me to write about that day) that means that I get to learn to trust that He is going to make me more productive throughout my day, and that He will bless me and everything I touch because of it.

So I guess if I were to boil all this down, my lack of writing shows my lack of spending time with God. I do a “quiet time” most days, but it’s probably 5 minutes reading through one of the plans on YouVersion. I don’t actually sit down, pull out my Bible, and read anything. I don’t usually take time to pray. I just move right into the next thing. Then I set about getting a head start on the work that is keeping my brain busy. I mean, we have an app to launch, right God?

What I’m learning in this season is that what I really need is this time with God. Three things specifically stand out.

  • I really need to pull out my Bible and read it. I need to listen for God to speak through the words.
  • I really need to take a few minutes - it doesn’t have to be long - and pray for a thing or things. I need to listen for God to tell me what to pray for and for Him to speak to me during that time.
  • I really need to write again. It doesn’t have to be journaling my thoughts for posterity (although that’s good too). It can be writing for my blog if that’s what I feel like God wants me to write. In the midst of that writing, I need to be attentive and listening to what God, through His Holy Spirit, wants to say to me and through me to other people.

So maybe in the end it’s not really a lack of motivation to write. I mean, this little bit of rambling is over 1100 words. Maybe it’s not that I’m too busy. Maybe, just maybe, it’s more about my lack of time, presence, and relationship with God. While it feels like the problem is motivation, perhaps it’s a lack of divine inspiration because I’m so disconnected from the source.

It’s time for me to plug back in.

What about you? Are you struggling with the motivation to do what you know you should be doing? Maybe, like me, you’re finding yourself disconnected from your source. I’m challenging myself - and now I’m challenging you - to reconnect and give God the time He deserves as the first and foremost part of your day. Together, let’s see what happens. I bet we find motivation we didn’t know we had, and a productivity that will rival the best of the “hustlers” out there.

I’m in this with you. Let’s go!