Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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The Empty Moments

FireplaceThis past week I’ve crawled into the half-frozen covers of my bed earlier than usual. Sometimes I just stare at the ceiling. Thinking. Pondering. But mostly just trying not to think about how cold I am before the sheets warm up. Usually it’s this part of the day I despise most.

I’m a doer. Give me a to-do list and 3 hours of uninterrupted time and I’ll knock it all out. I live much of my life based on efficiency. Why do something one way when the other is just as good and faster?

I have the kind of job you always carry with you. That crumbling marriage. The guy making poor choices while pursuing a woman. The upcoming message on Genesis 38. These are the thoughts and circumstances I find bouncing around my head, nearly all day, every day.

You might not have the same circumstances surrounding your life or vocation, but in a societal push toward vocational independence and entrepreneurialism, many of you can relate to the feeling of work never leaving. My wife often asks, “I have stuff to do tonight, is there anything you have to do instead of us spending time together?” I always respond, “I could work all day, every day, and still have more to do.”

I do my best to shut down the neverending-ness of work while I’m home. Ignore my phone. Turn off the computer. Sit in front of the fireplace. Do the dishes. Forcing myself to slow down. In the moment I never value the simplicity of its emptiness, but I know it’s those empty spaces that bring life to the chaotic ones.

As I get older I place more value in these empty moments. The ones where the needle isn’t moved on the bottom line. It’s that space where relationships and soul-work are cultivated.

This week is one of those weeks of empty moments. Many people have a long string of days off. No one is checking their email every 3 minutes. The to-do list is short, or non-existent. If you’re like me you tend to fill in the emptiness with something, anything.

I think it’s these empty moments that give life to the chaotic ones. And as I wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving, my prayer is that God’s voice will be heard by you as you embrace the emptiness.

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Failing at Faith

Last week I taught a one-week course (9 separate sessions) on the book of Genesis at Ecola Bible School. This was my second week in a row away from my family, but spending a week at one of the most beautiful coastal cities in the world, and getting to know the students and staff at Ecola, was a fair trade off for missing them again.

Theme for the Genesis course (graphic created by Ross Gale: rcgale.com)

Theme for the Genesis course (graphic created by Ross Gale: rcgale.com)

It’s impossible to summarize the whole book into a short blog post, but one theme I continued to land on with students is that faith doesn’t mean avoiding failure. Abraham believes God’s promise of a son and still tells people that his wife Sarah is actually his sister. And then he allows Sarah to convince him to continue his family line through Sarah’s servant Hagar.

Joseph is the one main character in the book that lives is mostly righteous life, but when we meet him he’s an arrogant kid who gives no credit to God for the favor on his life. Genesis is filled with stories of people that Hebrews 11 calls people of faith, and we see mis-step after mis-step by these so-called faithful people.

It all reminds me of what Jesus say to Peter in the upper room, hours before Peter would deny knowing him.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Knowing the outcome of this conversation (Peter, by all accounts, fails), we’re left with two possibilities:

  • Jesus’ prayer was not effective.
  • Peter’s faith did not fail.

I tend to believe Jesus is powerful enough for his prayers to be effective so I’ll go with option two. I also tend to believe that Hebrews 11 recounts men and women who were faithful despite their many failures.

It is our understanding of faith that must shift. Faith is not perfection. Faith is not lacking doubt.

As I shared with the students, this should provide us with faith. If God can work through the sins of faithful people like Noah and Abraham and Sarah and Jacob and Tamar and Judah, and the many other people in Genesis that God’s promises extend to, he can continue on his great work in you.

Come to God through your struggle because he sees beyond your mis-steps to the potential of what He can accomplish in you. He desires you draw near to Him now. And your response then should be, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

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Understanding Over Argument (Or That Time I Spent a Week with Friends in San Diego)

san diego trip

Ignore my white feet. Oregon hadn’t seen the sun in about a month.

Last week I spent 3 days with guys I’ve known for the bulk of the past decade. We met via blogs and then Twitter, and have been consistently involved in each others lives since. These are guys I considered part of my core group of friends. Keep in mind, I’d never spent a single moment with any of them in person.

As I expected, it was an incredible time together. Hard to describe the kind of thankful I am to have gotten to know them better. They’re the kind of guys I wish lived down the street from me, we’d talk trash about fantasy football in person instead of online, maybe both.

But we’re also different people. They’re different than me. We have different experiences. We have different opinions. And we talked about a few tough subjects. I got asked tough questions. I asked tough questions. That’s what friends do.

What I found interesting about our differences is that they didn’t matter. It was like water under the bridge. We’re still friends, even though each of us might see certain things completely opposite.

Why is it that nearly all my online interactions are defined by those who I agree or disagree with? Why is it I can spend half a week with “online” friends and our differences make no difference?

I think it’s because a friendship means we choose to understand before we argue.

And this is exactly what we need more of on blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter, on name-your-social-media-flavor-of-the-week: understanding over argument.

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Dear Christian, Your Politics Are Ruining Your Witness

Barack_Obama_HopeToday is election day. A general election to be specific.

In my home state we find out whether recreational use of cannabis will be allowed, whether illegal immigrants will be able to obtain driver’s cards, and whether non-GMO products must be labeled as such. Nothing earth-shattering, but clearly important issues.

I voted. I will not, however, be sharing my voting choices publicly. I have two neighbors who have been to known to illegally grow marijuana, but I have not asked them about their illegal actions, nor will I announce my voting record on the issue.

Why, you ask? Because I have desires beyond influencing the laws of the land. I have eternal things in mind for my neighbors, not just the things surrounding current events. I may have disagreements with my neighbors, but I’m learning to lay aside those differences in the hopes that greater things can be fostered.

About a year ago Ed Stetzer had this to say on the subject of sharing your political opinion:

“Statistically, the unchurched lean heavily Democrat. So—and I know it’s just me talking crazy now—if you want to reach the unchurched, maybe constant Facebook/Twitter posts about how stupid Democrats are might be a bad idea.”

I think you could easily flip Ed’s statement around as well, recognizing that your liberal understandings for society and governance may not line up with your conservative neighbor. And you know what should trump your political perspective? Care for others.

I don’t write posts shorter than 300 words often, but the message here is simple: Christians must have greater things in mind than getting their way on election day.

May your response to today’s votes reflect your foundation in Christ and not in your political perspective.

 

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The Peripheral Should Be the Priority

My week tends to revolve around two different times: Sunday at 9am and Tuesday at 6am. Sunday at 9am is the culmination of a week of preparation. Tuesday at 6am those preparations start all over again.

The times of studying for a message, practicing music, or coordinating with people involved with something on Sunday quickly rises to the top of the priority list. And then there’s meeting with people, knowing their lives, and prayerfully considering how best to care for and disciple them.

These are the things that make my to-do list each week. These are the things that cause me to wake up at 4am with floating thoughts. These are the things that are the highest priority in my life.

Yesterday I went to the park across the street with my son. Monday is my day off, and my wife is usually busy working, so it’s a fun day of father-son time. Before that we wrestled in the living room for an hour. As much as I enjoy those times I tend to see them as a peripheral—the things I have to do until I can do what I want to do.

time with the boy in the park

Yesterday something landed differently in me. I have a to-do list the length of fiction novel for the week ahead, but I haven’t touched it. Yesterday I focused on the peripheral things, and made them the priority. Because I don’t damage people when I fail to finish my to-do list, but I only get one chance to be a husband, dad, brother, son, and friend to those nearest me.

During the month of October my wife organized a bunch of friends and family members who blessed me on different days. Texts from Seattle, a letter from NYC, lunch with a friend from Portland, dinner delivered to my door. Too bad normal months aren’t like that!

For me it was a startling reminder that the summary of my life in those previous 30 years is not found in any of my accomplishments. I have two degrees. I’ve written a book. I own a house. All these are great accomplishments that I’m proud of, but none of them took time to say, “thank you for being in my life.” I hope that in the next 30 years I have more accomplishments in people than I do in things.

Today is here in front of me now. The to-do list is being punched in the face. But this week I decided not to make it the priority, and I don’t think you should either.

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30 for 30

nebraska fansToday I am officially entering the years of old. 30 years old to be exact. Those of you who are beyond 30 will chuckle, that’s okay. I’m sure I will in another few years. “Oh how young I actually was back then,” I’ll think. As someone who has typically identified himself as a “20-something” today is a day of transition beyond that label.

Don’t blame me if my blog still says I’m 29. I have to hang onto something from the past. Nobody but you all will know the difference.

I’ve taken time in recent weeks to examine my life over the past three decades. Here’s 30 lessons I’ve learned over the past 30 years.

1. Do not take on any debt for school. Instead, pursue higher education degrees, but pay for as you go. It’s worth the sacrifice.

2. Marry someone you can’t not be around. Someday the butterflies won’t be there if you marry for an emotional romance.

3. Read more, watch less. I still say it’s better to watch the movie than read the book, but reading engages the mind much more than a screen.

4. Focus more on formation than grades in school. How are you being shaped as a person? No one ever asks you what your GPA was during a job interview.

5. Always cheer for the underdog.

6. Don’t take your ex-girlfriend to prom.

7. Despite what you believed in middle school, your parents usually know best.

8. Find a few extracurricular activities to get involved with while you are in school. I don’t remember much from classes over a decade ago, but I remember friendships that were deepened and lessons that were learned through after school activities.

9. Don’t underestimate the value of an unpaid internship.

10. Don’t park your car, and then get in the backseat, on a date. You can do the math on that one.

11. Seek out opinions different than yours and learn to value them.

12. Though some personalities are able to develop lots of friendships, it’s very difficult to sustain more than a few over the course of decades.

13. You’re more like your parents than you’re ever comfortable admitting.

14. No amount of money guarantees contentment.

15. Never expect your favorite sports teams to make the playoffs (oh? that’s just a Minnesota sports fan’s issue? I see…).

16. Getting drunk isn’t cool after you turn 21.

17. Debating politics online never ends well.

18. Debating anything online never ends well.

19. Don’t listen to what people say, real friendships can happen online.

20. But don’t rely on Facebook to stay connected to your friends. Real friends sacrifice time and energy for each other.

21. Between the ages 20 and 29 staying up until 1am will become less and less appealing.

22. First impressions are of utmost importance.

23. You will always have someone who sees your actions in a negative light. Don’t listen to them.

24. Your 20s are an opportunity to take chances and make mistakes without people questioning you. Once you hit 30 people think, “he/she should know better.” So take some risks in your 20s. Some of them will pay off.

25. No one ever says they took too long to get married. Don’t rush a relationship to take it to the altar.

26. Learn to give a firm handshake, while looking the person in the eye, while saying “nice to meet you.”

27. (I’ve learned this the hard way) No one cares if you think highly of yourself, they care if you think highly of them.

28. Honest, face to face conversations are some of the most rare and most important things in life.

29. Loyalty is key to your legacy.

30. Not everything you read on the internet is true (but this is) :)

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