Get Lean

Thinning down to the stuff that matters most.

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Unless I’m just really bad at noticing it, I don’t think God sends me direct guidance on a daily basis. Instead, He gives me His Word and a holy nudge now and then. It’s a little hard to explain. Continue reading “Get Lean”

The New Morning Mercies Series

Hi there.

I want to share a few things before I get going in this post. This post is starting off a series that I’m looking to get going. I picked up the excellent book New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp a few weeks ago on the recommendation of Jeff Bethke and was instantly hooked on the way he broke down the gospel. I definitely appreciate the simplicity of the gospel itself being echoed in an artfully written way.

I am reading the book daily and journaling along but won’t make a post for each day’s topic. I don’t plan on posting all of these to social media, but I thought it would be a good practice for me and that it might be nice for any of you clicking around to find a good word.

Secondly, this practice falls in line with a post I’ve been working on, both to share here and to put into practice. I want to prioritize my projects and time towards things, like writing, I feel should be a part of me. Put another way, I aim to get lean. Getting rid of the excess.

With that, let’s take a look at what Paul David Tripp has to say to us on September 21st. Continue reading “The New Morning Mercies Series”

The Last Chance

I don’t see myself as overly optimistic in the classic sense of my glass being half full. Instead, I believe we all have a hope, or maybe the better word is faith, in things going a certain way. The whole objects in motion tend to stay in motion idea is kind of how we live our lives. Flitting about from commitment to engagement to obligation, filling our time with things that let us feel important by how important we make them.

And we all have a trust that in the morning, these social contracts will still be binding. Even those half-emptyers among us rarely see the hit coming. Instead, we expect to have the same marital status, job title, and career outlooks as we did the night before. So we bustle about, ticking checks down the next day’s to-do list while paying little attention to the small things. Paying little attention to all those possible last chances we let slip by.

Today, I attended the funeral for a friend. David wasn’t someone I’d been close to for a few years but was one of the first friends I made when first moving to Clinton. He and I bonded over a shared love for basketball and eating our sandwiches with chips layered on them.  Dave was one of those guys that everybody liked. Easy going and hilarious, we used to joke about him possessing a hundred different laughs.  From the fall of 1996 until a little after high school I stayed pretty close to him. In recent years, however, we’d barely spoke at all. We’d talked a few times about shooting some hoops together but just never seemed to get the timing right.

I just hoped that it would work out. I had faith that eventually we’d find a hoop and talk about old times and how we wish we were still in the shape we were back then. I often fall back to an “It’ll work itself out” line of thinking. And that can be a strength for me. When going through tough stuff, I believe in making it work. I don’t get deterred easily by a roadblock. But relying on that hope instead of intentionally seeking out to do the right thing for the relationship is just easy. It’s not putting in the hard work of what a relationship of any real value takes. The kind of love that means something in our relationships is tough and real and has a grit bore out of working to stay side by side. It involves not taking for granted all the possible last chances.

I’m not some huge John Mayer fan and while the song may be a bit cheesy, I think the message in ‘Say’ is both simple and impactful.

Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put ’em in quotations

Say what you need to say [8x]

Walking like a one man army
Fighting with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you’d be better off instead,
If you could only . . .

Say what you need to say [8x]

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You’d better know that in the end
It’s better to say too much
Than never to say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open (a wide heart)

Say what you need to say

Our relationships are more important than our commitments. We all know that logically. But we all at least temporarily get caught up in cycles where we don’t act like it. We pass by so many possible last chances. And we hate ourselves when we actually miss the real last chance we have with somebody. Regret is a powerfully destructive force. I’m betting there’s at least one someone out there you know that could use a phone call or a session of hoops just to say thank you, give an apology, or tell them you love them. Or to talk to them about Jesus. It’s something that really struck me today after the service. How many chances do I let slip? So think about those people and figure out your next step. It’ll at least be worth not being left clinging to regret years later as you realize you let that last, last chance slip away. So if you’ve got something to say, go ahead. Say it.

Voting from the Heart 

This 2016 presidential election is a big deal. In the moment, it feels impossibly big. To some, it feels end of the world type big. The two main presidential choices currently have approval ratings ranked lower than Mondays and homework. It’s easy to find reasons to not vote for either candidate. It is still utterly amazing to me that we’ve ended up with two completely unlikable people in this position. Yeah, I get that being likable is not a prerequisite of being an effective leader. But it sure seems like a lot of the reasons these two are for reasons that would make them poor leaders.

To be clear, I don’t think either option deserves to be anywhere near the office. But I do take particular issue with Donald Trump. He’s got a sexy slogan. We all want to be great. And the good old days always feel too far away. Recency bias is at play here too. Today’s problems look greater, yesterday’s good times are remembered a bit sweeter. I’m definitely faulty in that kind of thinking too. I don’t see many of the qualities I’d like to see a leader in Trump. Honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility, humility all seem to be lacking in him. Part of me here is wanting to tell you how lacking I can be in those qualities too. I find myself playing apologist in many arguments, finding fault with myself or the side of the argument I’m weighing in on. But the problem is that I’m not running for the most important job in the entire world. The standard I should be held to is high, but the one I have to be held to isn’t that level. Luckily, my inability can’t cause wars, lose lives, create economic turmoil. There are lots of policy reasons to consider on both sides. Lots of things to be angry about.

I won’t apologize for wanting more in a candidate. Someone who’s respectful of those they disagree with. Someone who’s view of women, minorities, and those who can’t help him isn’t less than. There are many examples of his words displaying that kind of thinking. I could post them all here, but the truth is probably that as you’re reading this, your mind is made up. Instead, I want to get to the heart of it. Not the most central point of dissension, but the point that is most central. Where I always want to land with my writing. That we’re all human. That we need to be viewing everyone as if we’re all in this together.

I forgot that for a moment while posting something on Facebook recently. A friend pointed out that I lost my way. I let my disdain for a candidate emotionally get in the way of me viewing them as a person. A person that needs love, forgiveness, and is made in the image of God just like the rest of us. I still won’t be voting Trump (or Hilary for that matter, Johnson isn’t great but the only place my conscience can rest). He doesn’t show off the qualities that say he values others in that same way. I just can’t put my faith in that.

When the Talking Heads Get Too Loud

“Forget cocaine or heroin, there is no drug more dangerous than being right.” – pastor Jonathan Martin.

Louder.

The world that we live in can get pretty loud. Everyone has an opinion and a burning desire to share it. Politics, religion, family structure, the environment, race, taxes. These are heavy topics that will have emotion packed behind the words used to articulate feelings on them. It seems more and more, there’s a call to put more emotion into our words we use to disagree with others on these and other topics. The internet has surely made this worse, adding a layer of anonymity to further distance us from the power our words can wield. The call to mix anger with our opinion is strong. And the talking heads around us have become very loud. They drone on in concert, like angry war drums.

Louder.

I’m not sure we are even aware of the polarizing effects that culture has on us in the moment. It’s pretty easy to get carried away into the stream of insults, claims, and boasts. Goodness knows that I’ve let myself fall into that mindset. If I can just tell you what I’m saying loud enough, you’ll agree with me. If I’m louder, surely I must be right. And being right feels so good.

Forget cocaine or heroin, there is no drug more dangerous than being right.” – pastor Jonathan Martin.

Louder.

Isn’t that the truth? In an argument, we’ll forgo the idea of getting our point across and aim more squarely at getting the other person to submit to our correctness. Power and not peace becomes the point of the conversation. It’s not enough to be heard and understood, but they must admit that we were right. And if they won’t do it, then we’ll find others that agree with us and rile each other up with the mantras we share.

Louder.

Confrontation can be healthy and lead to a resolution. But discourse seems to rarely lead to that any longer. Our current political climate encourages using a heavy hand when entering into any debate on stance and policy. The war drums want more than polite discussion. They demand us to be loud.

Louder.

And we want so badly to be right. We need it. If it sounds like we’re losing the argument, we’ll change it to avoid the weight of being wrong. And we’ll align our views with those closest to us and join in on the chanting.

The quickest way to find common ground with someone else is by listening. Not just pausing while grasping for spaces to make counterpoints. Society has little time for something so passive. How counter intuitive it must sound to so many. But that’s where we need to start. I have a few ideas on what to do when the talking heads get too loud.

  • Start by listening. There’s already enough noise going around. There are times to speak up for what you believe. But try listening before you do anything else. You don’t have to have a take on every topic.

  • Pause and consider. While you’re listening, you might hear something you don’t like. It can be easy to write it off as someone hating or being argumentative. But just because someone says something you disagree with, that doesn’t make it wrong.

  • Don’t trust your opinion too much. If the other person has space to not be wrong, that creates room for you to not be right. That’s actually a freeing thing to not have to trust our own judgment to be perfect. Trust in the things you know, realize the rest is just your opinion, man.

  • Think about how you sound. You might be completely right. The other guy might be totally in the wrong. But he’s not going to listen when you’re badgering him and attacking his character. People don’t respond well to hate.

  • Know that there’s almost always some middle ground. Okay, you’re right. And you’re even being nice in the way you discuss it. But the other guy still isn’t buying it. The thing is, there’s basically always room for both sides to have some ground to stand on. They might be coming from a good place too. Rarely is a situation black and white. Be okay with exploring the nuance.

I get it. It’s not easy. I can be pretty difficult and cling tightly to my own perspective of correctness. But that’s what it really is, my perspective. And perspective changes everything.