Lost Art Form

Every Wednesday night, I’ve been hanging out with a group of guys to discuss what we have read in the Bible during the previous week.  I love hearing their insights and watching the discussion take place around the Bible and what the Bible says, and what it doesn’t say.  

 

We recently just finished reading through the letters of John and Jude.  One of the parts of our discussion is around what will we actually apply in our lives.  It’s easy to read the Bible and walk away with more knowledge but not use the truths we find in the Bible.  So each week, we discuss what truth we’ll apply and how we’ll apply it that week.

 

A 19-year-old guy challenged me in a good way.  His application was brought to light from the ending of 2nd and 3rd John, John ends those letters by saying that he has so many more issues to bring up, but he’ll do it ‘face to face’ rather than with ink and paper.  This young man in my group, because of reading these passages, decided that he would start having conversations of substance with people face to face rather than online or via social media.

 

What would happen if we reserved certain parts of our conversations and opinions to the moments we were face to face with people?  

 

As a pastor, people ask me over and over again what my stance is on ____?  I know that as a pastor my opinion might carry more weight for some or others may not like the answer and misquote me.  I’m learning to respond by saying “ ____ is a topic that should be discussed over a conversation or multiple conversations, not necessarily a stance to be taken.”

 

Instead of shooting off a strongly worded email to a co-worker, what would happen if you sat down face to face and had a conversation?  

 

It’s easier to react and lash out on social media about a person, topic or stance someone else has taken. It may even make us feel better, but can the reader really hear and understand our emotions?  

 

Having face to face conversations might be the mature thing to do rather than through social media. We may not get the instant justification we feel when we send a text or an email, but we’ll learn to fight for the relationship rather than be proven right. I think we can learn a lot from this 19-yr-old’s truth application. Don’t just send a text or an email unless it says “hey let’s talk… face to face” and have that conversation in person.  

 

It still surprises me when people ask me my stance on something, and I respond with ‘let’s have a conversation’ that they rarely take me up on it.   

 

I’m not sure what the implications of that reality are, but I’m wondering if it doesn’t say something about our culture.  Have we lost the art of conversation? Have we learned to talk at each other rather than talk with each other?

 

Let’s revisit, relearn and rethink the idea or the art of a conversation.  Let’s learn to listen. Let’s learn to say difficult things with respect. Let’s relearn the art of giving a compliment.  

 

Photo by @rutch_johnson

Professor Shoelace…

A few years ago our oldest son had an issue. A shoelace issue.  He learned to tie his shoes at a young age, but every time he went somewhere, his shoes kept untying.  I thought for sure I could teach him again how to tie his shoe. I sat him down, again and again, showing him “the correct way” to tie his shoes.  He never really got it, so I decided to do some research for him. I would help him out. I did a quick Google search and found thousands of entries on how to tie shoes properly.  I kept instructing Shad to double knot his shoes because that’s how I learned to live my life without having to tie my shoes every two seconds.

 

One Google search result intrigued my interest the most, Professor Shoelace.  He has a Youtube channel! That makes him official right? I quickly realized maybe I don’t know everything about tying my shoes like I thought I did.  At the time, I was running long distances training for a 25k race. I had issues all the time with my feet hurting through my longer runs. Professor Shoelace had tips about lacing and tying my shoes that would keep my feet from hurting.  

 

Professor Shoelace instructs people that if you need to double knot your shoes, then you’re not tying your shoes correctly. Shad and I were watching this video together and Shad laughed at me.  I felt attacked by the Professor.

 

Shad and I kept watching his Youtube channel and I kept learning new ways and methods to tie and lace my shoes.  

 

I quickly realized that I had minimal knowledge of how to tie my shoes.  I thought for sure I was going to be proven correct when I did the Google search.  I wasn’t really interested in learning to tie shoes. I was more interested in finding information that showed how right I was so I could show Shad how smart I was.  That’s not what happened.

 

I confused my ability to accomplish a task with reasonable success as knowing all there was to know about tying shoes.  The reality is that the world we live in is changing. Just because we can accomplish something, doesn’t mean we know all about that particular topic or issue.  

 

I believe we are on the verge of amazing potential in our culture, but potential doesn’t necessarily translate into improvement or success.  The definition of potential is having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. So the question is, how do we evolve into something in the future that is great?  Teachability is the key to improvement.

 

Industries that have made America what it is today are changing.  They must change. Careers are changing. If we genuinely want to reach our full capacity of potential, I believe it starts with how teachable we can become and remain.   I have written about my thoughts in previous blog posts about how I think organizations can work among the different generations represented in our workplaces. We must realize why we do what we do.

 

I’m convinced that if we as leaders were to remain teachable, we’d reach our potential and inspire others around us to do the same.  There’s no shame in admitting when we are wrong or when we don’t know all the answers. In the organization I lead, we define teachability as the willingness and ability to relearn something we believed we already knew.  

 

I think the most effective way to become and remain teachable is when you teach others what you know.  At RE.THINK we have a mantra, “You don’t know jack until you teach a 3-year-old ____.”

 

No matter if that task is tying a shoe, potty training or disciplines like cleaning up after yourself or putting clean dishes away.  We might know something, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have to learn or relearn some things along the way. The most effective way to become and remain teachable is to teach someone who has less experience than you that same task.  

 

The culture we live in is changing around us. No longer can we simply say that we know something and never adjust to the changing climate around us.  We must remain flexible and teachable. I believe that will lead us to the best days ahead!

 

 

What are some areas of your job that you believe you know?  

 

What is one task that you could relearn to help you become and remain teachable?  

 

What are some of the changing climates of your job that if you relearned could help you become more effective as a leader?  

 

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash

Past, Present and Future: It’s a Generational Perspective

I was recently asked a question in a somewhat formal interview.  “What do you do with the millennials in your organization that you lead?”  My response was pretty simple, “I lead them…”. I didn’t quite understand what the individual was asking me.  She was more pointed than I expected her to be. Her view of millennials in the workplace was an almost always negative one.   I realize that there might be reasons to be negative toward individuals within a generation, but to write off an entire generation because of a few interactions with those individuals, seems a bit extreme.

Her question, however, got me thinking.  Why do people who might be of the older generation have a negative mindset toward millennials and the other emerging generations?  (To clarify, the millennial generation isn’t emerging. Millennials have arrived. I know millennials who are CEO’s, have kids, own houses, lead organizations and lead them well).  The lady who asked me this particular question this day used an example she heard from a conference she attended. The statement went something like this. “Baby Boomers and Gen Xer’s are used to, and are willing to, work 50 – 60 hours per week… companies are reluctant to let them retire because millennials simply aren’t willing to work that much.”

I believe this with everything in me, yes there are lazy millennials, just like there are lazy Gen Xer’s and Baby Boomers.  Lazy individuals exist in every generation. The reality of our era is that millennials and the emerging generations are merely living up to the expectations their parents created for them.  Want to know why younger people expect participation awards for everything? Their parents, who led their little league and soccer leagues growing up, gave them to them, so no one had their feelings hurt. The purpose of this blog is to inspire a partnership among the represented generation and venture hopefully into the future.    I responded to her statement by saying “What if millennials could do the same amount of work without having to put in the same amount of hours each week?”

In the same meeting, another gal asked me a question that arrested my attention long after the meeting was over.  This gal asked me, “Why should we rethink church?” The organization I currently lead is a church. The name of the church is RE.THINK Church.  I gave her the elevator pitch that I have crafted since 2015. After the meeting was over, I couldn’t shake the thought though. Why should we rethink church?   I asked myself over and over again, “What if BlockBuster would have rethought how people should watch movies? What if ToysRUs thought differently about how people purchased toys for their kids?”   I don’t think the church is any different or any less vulnerable to the changing climate around us.

There’s a guy I listen to almost every week, Brady Shearer.  His company’s tagline goes something like this, “we’re living through the biggest communication shift in over 500 years…”  He’s right. In 2018, I don’t think we can appreciate how the printing press changed things for the communication game. I’m not sure we’ll understand what the internet’s potential is in our lifetime.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t or should think how we accomplish what we accomplish.   Think through what your organization does, not ask yourself how does your organization achieve that responsibility.

I’m not convinced it’s enough to move our platform to a digital platform.  I believe we need to rethink our how’s. I’m convinced that partnering with each generation represented is a crucial factor.

I’m a bit of an anomaly.  Technically speaking, I’m part of a microgeneration.  I was born in 1981. I remember rotary phones and dial-up.  I remember only being able to watch TV when the networks wanted me to, instead of when I wanted to.  I remember a day without cell phones or the internet. I remember not receiving a participation award and being ok without it.  I remember realizing trophies were for the champions because we didn’t celebrate mediocrity.

There is a tension in workplaces due to all the generations represented.  Companies need to brace themselves for a mass exodus of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.  That is inevitable. It’s happening no matter how we feel about it. Everyone in human history stops working at some point.  People will either retire or die. Every day, 10,000 Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age. Most Baby Boomers aren’t retiring, however.

The generations behind the Baby Boomers are just playing the waiting game.  The positions that most Baby Boomers hold are the cherished positions.

Companies need to realize that the game is changing on us as we are playing it.  What got us here won’t get us to where we need to go.

This tension, however, isn’t going anywhere.  I don’t think this tension needs to be fixed, only managed.  Here’s the tension Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have put in the work to get us HERE.   We can’t ignore their efforts. We can’t merely think that what they have sacrificed and worked for over the years is pointless.  In my line of work as a pastor, we have a history of over 2,000+ years. To ignore the legacy of church leaders who have gone before I would ridiculous.

Like I mentioned before, what got us HERE won’t get us THERE.  If we only move our platforms to a digital platform, it won’t be enough.

Millennials can come across as almost aloof to the efforts of previous generations.  Leaders of communities, organizations and other companies seem to have a significant issue with working with or leading Millennials because of this trait.  I’ve seen this first hand. I’ve also experienced Millennials learning HOW to accomplish tasks in different ways to achieve more work in the same amount of hours or less than their older co-workers.

I worked at a company that is a first tier automotive supplier.  While working there, a customer changed their expectations from us.  As the supplier, we had to change with the game. Our team struggled to reach our production goals and satisfy the expectations of the customer.  After a few days of a new production system and purposes, we came to realize that one station in our assembly process was the bottleneck. No matter who we put there and no matter what we tried to do, the bottleneck never got better. As a result of this bottleneck and others, we missed shipments, missed production goals, long shifts, no weekends.

While trying to solve our problem, a 19-year-old showed up named Ray.  I was showing Ray around the assembly line and explaining what we were doing as a production team.  He observed the bottleneck and asked if he could try something. We had been doing anything and everything we possibly could at this station with very little success.

Ray stepped in was trained by the associate who had been working at this company longer than Ray had been alive.  The experienced associate watched and ensured what Ray was doing was what the operation manual said to do. She also ensured Ray was performing the task with safety and quality first.  Ray caught on quickly. Like really fast. Ray figured out a way to assemble the parts more swiftly than anyone else who had run that particular station. Ray eventually trained the rest of the team about his process.  It was evident that Ray could accomplish more work in the same amount of time, if not less time, than associates who had worked at the company for decades.

I wonder what would happen if companies would prepare for the inevitable departure that is going to occur of the older generations as they reach retirement age and leave the workforce.  What would happen we could partner the generations together and have millennials learn from older generations and vice-versa.

It’s arrogant for millennials to believe the older generations don’t matter.  It’s foolish for leaders who might be of the older generations to think they don’t have to change to accomplish their goals.

The companies that survive and thrive in the next 10-15 years will be the companies that don’t confuse the WHAT  with the HOW. Blockbuster might still be around if they would have rethought how people watched movies. The reality is, they confused the HOW with the WHAT.  People are still watching movies. We just aren’t watching them by renting a movie on a disk from a storefront. We watch Netflix.

Leaders, don’t be the version of Blockbuster in your industry.  Think outside the box. Ask Millennials HOW. They’ll help you. Don’t be offended when a younger person changes HOW things get done.

Millennials, the reality of life is that you don’t know everything.  It’s ok to learn and mature as you live your life. Don’t ignore history.  Don’t be aloof to what others have sacrificed and worked so hard to create for you to take into the future.

Together I believe we can partner together and create an amazing future.

 

Photo by Elijah O’Donell on Unsplash

 

3 lessons I learned by eating lunch with 5th and 6th graders

When Heather and I decided to start a church in a community where we didn’t know anyone, one thing we knew we wanted our church to be recognized for is adding value to the community.  The summer we moved to Merrillville, I sent an email out to all the principals of each school in the Merrillville School Corporation. One school, in particular, responded. It was Merrillville Intermediate School.  The Principal from Merrillville Intermediate School, Kara Bonin, and I met and started to explore and discuss what it would look like for a brand new church that didn’t even exist at the time to partner with her school.  We discussed what it would look to add value to the staff, students, and teachers.

We started out small yet intentional.  In fact, we are still in those beginning phases.  We started out by bringing snacks for teachers and partnering with the Crossroads Chamber of Commerce to provide gifts for new teachers in the corporation.  We met again after that first school year and started to explore the idea of doing something more intentional.

Kara and her staff identified a handful of 5th and 6th-grade students.  Every Wednesday I drove the five minutes to MIS and had lunch with these students.  The drive might have only been five minutes, but for some reason, it seemed to be worlds apart.   My typical day usually consists of message prep, meeting with adults, casting the vision for what God has given us for RE.THINK and other ‘pastoral duties.’  Each week the distance I felt started to diminish. I walked in thinking I would add value to these students but whoa, I quickly realized how much they would add to my own life.  

Below are the top three ways these students added to my life.  

#1.  The times they are a changin!

I quickly realized that the world and culture these students are growing up in is not the same as the world and culture I did.  

Let’s take video games for example.  Yes, I grew up with video games in my house.  I’m not that old, even though my hair has migrated.  That doesn’t mean I’m that old. There’s no comparison between my Nintendo NES System and an Xbox One X.  The graphics, type of games and the ability to connect with people around the world to play a game together are just a few of the cool differences, and the list could go on and on.

 
The fact that this generation of students has information at their fingertips in their smartphones is also a major difference than when I was growing up.  Think about this, they are walking around with more technology in their phones than was used to propel the first man to the moon and back. Some parents trust these twelve and thirteen-year-olds with that amount of technology unchecked.  A small amount of guidance and parameters go a long way in this area for these students. I had the luxury of not having social media when I grew up. My mistakes are not documented as theirs are. This generation of students has been called the most arrogant generation because of the access to information and at the same time the most insecure generation due to the lack of adult influence in their life.  


#2.  Consistency matters.

Knowing I was going to meet with these students every Wednesday, seemed intimidating at first.  I said “no” to several meetings on Wednesdays from 10 am until 1 pm due to this commitment. In the beginning, I thought I was missing out on ‘good leads’. I also thought that I was missing out because I said “no” to several people in our church that wanted to have lunch on Wednesdays.  After a few months, I quickly realized that holding this commitment forced me to become more efficient in my other responsibilities.

I enjoyed my time with these guys.  They may be crazy at times but think back to your fifth and sixth-grade years.  I can guarantee you did some crazy things. I did, that’s for sure! I walked out of MIS each Wednesday feeling more alive than I did walking in.  

The complexity of most students’ lives these days sobering.  I grew up in an era that divorce and mixed families weren’t the norm.  What was unusual for me growing up, now seems to be the norm. It’s encouraging when you realize the power of a positive, consistent voice in the life of a teenager.  

#3 Every child/ teenager needs six things in their life to mature into their potential.  
Every child needs love, stories, work, fun, tribes and instructional words over the course of their life.  As adults, we need these as well.

Love…helps us understand that we are accepted and known.  
Stories…help us understand that our story is part of a larger story.  
Work… helps us contribute to something using our giftings and abilities.
Fun…who wants to go through life bored and grumpy?  Not me!
Tribes…everyone needs a group of friends they can be their true selves with. Instructional words…we all need guidance along the path of life.                                      See It’s just a Phase by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy


Each week I realize that these fifth and sixth-grade students need to understand those six crucial elements in life to mature.  It’s difficult for parents, teachers or pastors to provide and communicate these six elements on a consistent basis by themselves.  Together, however, we can teach them over the course of time. I think the future looks amazingly bright if we can get this right.

Wherever you’re reading this, I hope you sense the HOPE that is behind this blog.  I find so much hope in the potential of this emerging generation. They might need guidance, but so did we, right?  I wonder what will happen when community leaders, business leaders and you and I start to add value in the life of students as we realize the times they are a changing, consistency matters and every child/ teenager needs six things in their life to mature into their potential.

 

Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

Underdog

One of my favorite narratives of all time is the story of the underdog.  Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised in a small Indiana town or the fact that my entire life I have felt like an underdog, struggling with dyslexia, my dad who has been MIA since I was born or the fact that I am built to withstand high winds.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have been a Cubs fan my whole life or a Notre Dame football fan. My sports teams usually have been underdogs for sure.

 

A few years ago, we were in the midst of a transition in our lives.  If I had to be completely honest, I was afraid that I was going to fail in my venture while in the midst of this transition.  It seemed like I was failing left and right. My wife and I had made the decision to move on from our positions with an organization that we had grown to love.  It simply was the right time to move on for the sake of our family and for our careers. As we explored the next several career options, doors were shutting left and right it seemed.  

 

I remember moping around wondering why God was seemingly holding me back from what I thought was my next season in life.  I wrestled through the thought of “am I really this big of an underdog?” I’ve kept a journal since I was 17. Don’t judge me.  It’s a journal not a diary! I’ve never written “Dear Diary…”. In that journal, I’ve told God “I don’t think you’ll ever be able to use me because I’m not qualified.  My chances are too slim. My reputation is pretty much screwed because of the decisions I’ve made in my past. I don’t have enough resources or the right connections.” These statements that I continually believed and told myself literally arrested my potential.  

 

Maybe you’ve told yourself some of those same statements.  If so, I want to give you permission to allow yourself to believe that you are significant.  You can be used to make this world a better place. You have the potential to be used for good.  Someone had to literally give me permission to believe that God wants to use me in order for me to believe it.  If you feel like you’re an underdog, if you feel like you’re not qualified enough or your reputation is screwed because of the decisions you’ve made in your past (even if your past is the last few seconds), you are not alone.  

One of the wisest women I know asked me a question during those ‘moping’ seasons of my life.  She asked me, “Why not you? Why shouldn’t you be considered for that job? Why shouldn’t you be considered for that promotion?  Why shouldn’t you be used to change this world for the better?” As I sat across the table from this amazingly wise woman, I couldn’t come up with any legitimate excuse.  So, I had to challenge this thought pattern that had been part of my life for as long as I could remember.

 

If you google parasite cuckoo bird you’ll discover something remarkable.   The cuckoo bird lays an egg that if undetected will kill the future potential legacy of the native bird and eventually may kill the parents of the native birds.  The cuckoo mamma bird lays her egg in the nest of a neighboring bird. The cuckoo egg hatches and kills the other eggs in some Survivor-style TV show. The parent birds have no clue what happened to their actual offspring and can only think of feeding the cuckoo bird.  If they don’t realize that the cuckoo toddler bird isn’t their real offspring, they will feed this bird nonstop exhausting themselves to the point of death. They will kill themselves trying to feed this bird that isn’t even theirs to feed.

 

Being told we are underdogs can kill the potential in us if we aren’t careful.  If we don’t detect the lies in our lives such as we aren’t qualified enough, our chances are too slim, we don’t have a good reputation or that we don’t have enough resources, we’ll kill the potential in our lives.  

 

At this point in the blog, we usually would go in one of two directions.  I could tell you that everything you need to succeed is already in you. I could tell you that you’re good enough, smart enough and doggone it, people like you.  I could tell you that God has put some amazing potential in you and that all you have to do is pray and seek Him.  That is usually how this goes, but I actually think there’s a different path.  Maybe there is the potential of a third direction. What if God does have an amazing plan for you full of potential?  What if you actually had to respond to God’s leading? What if you need to challenge the cuckoos that have been dropped into your life throughout the years?  Without challenging these parasites, we’ll never live up to our potential. Those cuckoos in our life will keep us from reaching our potential!

 

Cuckoos will usually look like a label that someone gave us.  Some of the labels might be ‘loser, fat, not good enough, wrong, bad person, slut, failure, punk or fired’.  Whatever the label, I’d encourage you to examine that label and compare it to what Jesus says about you. In spite of the label you might carry, Jesus found you worthy of giving His life for you.  

 

God has something amazing for you in store.  He created you on purpose for a purpose. You will need to respond to His leading though.  Life transformation usually doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a series of decisions that allow God to move in our lives to transform us.  It might need to begin with you verbally declaring that you’re worthy or reading a portion of the Bible each day to grasp what God says about you.  It might be that you need to identify the cuckoos in your life and decide to challenge them. Whatever it is, I would encourage you to do something starting today.

 

Several years ago, I was on a trip and had to rent a car.  When the I got to the rental place they gave me an upgrade.  The car had GPS and I was in a parking garage with a very weak signal.  After the attendant showed me how the GPS system worked, I entered the address and expected the entire list of directions to be given to me at once.  I was frustrated because I couldn’t get all of the directions at once in order to determine if I should trust the given directions. The GPS system told me “the map will appear when the car is in motion.”  I had to trust to a degree, but I also had to put my car into motion. The same principle can be applied to my own relationship with Jesus.

 

I don’t know if I’ll ever receive all the directions to my relationship with Jesus at once.  It most likely is going to happen as I follow Jesus a little bit at a time. As I continue to follow Jesus, I identify more and more cuckoos in my life that don’t compare to what Jesus says about me.  As I identify them, I have to determine whose voice I’m going to follow.

 

Photo by Dan Chung on Unsplash

 

Revealing

Several years ago we bought a house.   This was the first house we owned. It was a pretty big deal for us.  There were some changes we wanted to make to it. The beautiful thing about owning your own house is that you don’t really need to ask for permission, you can just do it.  When we purchased the house, there was carpet throughout the living room and hallway. We didn’t really love the carpet and wanted it removed. One day, one of our friends, Aimee, was over.  We were discussing the carpet and she reached over in the corner and pulled up part of the carpet. She was amazed at what was underneath. Beautiful hardwood floors were covered by this dull boring carpet.  

 

We immediately started doing research on how to remove the carpet and how to refinish the hardwood floors.  After doing the research, we decided to move forward with doing this project on our own. I rented the sander, sandpaper and all the other necessary items.  

 

Now both Heather and I knew what to do.  We had watched several youtube videos. The guy at the rental store even told us what to expect.  That makes us experts, right? Well, even if we both understood what should happen, it didn’t prepare us for what happened next.  We removed all the carpet, tarped all the hallways and doorways etc. The rooms were empty. The house was prepared and there we stood waiting for the next move.  We prepared the machines and I stood in the middle of the living room ready to begin. As I started the sander and began the process, I looked over in time to watch my wife walk out of the house.  Even though we both expected it to be loud and messy, she needed a few moments to brace herself.

 

As we started this process, sawdust flew everywhere.  The old layers of stain and polyurethane were removed, revealing the true beauty of the floors.  

 

Even though we knew it was going to be loud and messy, we had no idea to what expect.  It was shocking to both of us.

 

Sometimes as a follower of Jesus, I know what to expect as Jesus begins working in my life.  I know that parts of my life will need to be modified. I shouldn’t return to sinful ways of living.  I shouldn’t click on that website. I shouldn’t rely on substances to get me through the day. As Jesus begins the process of removing my old ways of living, it’s painful.  I don’t like it. I sometimes want to stop the process.

 

Some of us have done that in the past.  We’ve stopped the process of maturity and renewal that Jesus wants to do in us.  The process of removing the old is just the beginning. The process of revealing our potential and beauty isn’t easy.  It isn’t fun. It’s actually messy, but it’s so worth it.

 

Once the process of removing the old is complete, we can begin to put on the new.  There would be no point in putting on the new until the old is gone.

 

I am reminded of a time when I foolishly tried to cover up a huge mistake I made with a tractor while on the job.  I accidentally ran the tractor into a concrete structure that scratched the paint right off of a decent sized area.  In order to not get fired, I decided to find the same color of paint in the barn and repaint the damaged area. My boss, the farmer, came into the barn the next morning and didn’t say anything.  The paint job wasn’t perfect but it was good enough to fool him… that time. I took the tractor out again to get some work done. When I returned it; however, the new paint had worn off. It looked so bad.  It was obvious that something had happened. I returned the tractor to the barn hoping my boss wouldn’t notice. This time my boss asked me what happened. I was caught. He mentioned to me that he thought the tractor had looked a bit odd in the morning.

 

I really tried to think of some excuse that would cover my butt.  In my 14 year-old-life, I had never really had to deal with something like this before.  When I admitted what I had done, he laughed. He knew the whole time. He had watched me run into the concrete structure the other day.  

 

He taught me the proper way to fix a major screw up like that.  The area needed sanding and I had to remove all of the other dust and debris before repainting.

 

That day I learned a difficult lesson.  In order to truly repair the affected area, the old had to be removed.  

 

There are so many kinds of lessons like this, whether it’s painting a tractor or refinishing floors to reveal their true potential.  There are times when we need to realize this lesson in our own lives. This is called discipline. When we encounter discipline, we can either avoid it or embrace it.  I’d encourage each of us to embrace it. Learn from it and mature through it. Avoiding discipline may allow us to ‘feel’ good, but in the long run, we are only going to repeat our foolishness.  

 

What area of your life are you avoiding discipline?  What area of your life, if you practiced discipline, would improve by simply embracing discipline?  Don’t avoid it. Don’t cover it up. Embrace the whole process! Your true potential will be revealed as you do!  

 

Hammock

A few years ago this image came across my computer screen.  I thought it was comical at first, but then I started to realize it was pure genius.  It’s pure genius because it is a perfect example of my life growing up in church. I grew up knowing all the right answers about the church, Jesus, and the Bible.  At times, I walked around thinking how great I was because I knew all the right answers.

 

In seventh and eighth grade I participated in a competition called Bible Bowl.  If you’ve never seen a competition, click here to check it out. It’s an academic competition to see who knows the Bible better than the other team.  I truly believe it started with good intentions, but no one, not even my Bible Bowl coaches realized I was only in it for the fame and millions of bonus points it promised.  I wasn’t even a follower of Jesus yet. I honestly had a desire to prove how smart I was and how great of a competitor I could be. My main goal was to crush my competition with my Bible knowledge.  I’m pretty sure that’s why God wrote the Bible in the first place right?

 

The problem was, I had no relationship with Jesus.  I only knew the facts of the Bible. I could push the button pretty fast, recite part of the Bible and come out victorious.  I really believed that knowledge of the Bible was good enough.

 

After a short career on the Bible Bowl circuit and realizing the promise of millions of bonus points was empty, I retired. The problem still was that I had no clue what I was supposed to do with this Bible knowledge.  I had no clue that this knowledge meant little to nothing in everyone else’s mind. It also did not actually make me right with God. I knew where to find the right answers. I knew the process other people should follow to be made right with God.  

 

I still found myself awkwardly standing, like the dog in the picture, in the presence of God.  I volunteered at my church. I attended church all the time. I read my Bible but still had no idea how to act.  I thought I had to perform for God. I thought I had to go through all the ‘right’ motions and have all the ‘right’ answers.  

 

I was 17 years old when I finally had a real come to Jesus conversation.  I found myself on the back porch on a spring night. It was past midnight on a Wednesday.  My student ministry pastor had just given one of the clearest explanations of Jesus and grace.  I remember my emotional response to the message. I can remember the smell of the building and the feeling of the wind as I drove home that night.  As I sat on the back porch alone, I lit my cigar and cracked open the beer bottle I stole from my step dad’s stash. Still not knowing what to do, I asked God that if all of what I had heard was really true, then what’s next?  What should I do? I was still like that dog in the picture above, trying to be comfortable standing in the hammock, instead of resting in the hammock.

 

After asking God what to do, He simply responded: “Rest in my grace”.  One of the parts of the Bible I read through that night was Matthew 11.  One of the verses in Matthew 11 says, “Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls”.  That night, I finally found the proper way to rest in the presence of Jesus. It wasn’t more knowledge of the Bible or emotionally driven worship songs.  It was simply resting in the presence and grace of Jesus. He bore the punishment for my sins. He endured hardships beyond measure so I could make right with God.  The issue we all need to face is that our personal sin separates us from the God who created us. God so loved the world that He sent his son, Jesus to the world, to save humanity.    

 

My prayer this Easter season is that we will all be able to rest in the grace Jesus offers us. Enjoy the hammock as it was designed to be enjoyed. Don’t just simply fit in it, but rest in the hammock.