The 7Up Principle: Managing Expectations

I like 7Up.

I like an ice cold glass of water.

I don’t like getting one when expecting the other.  Spit-take ensues.

In sub-Saharan Africa, a young boy re-inflates his one toy, a worn out soccer ball.  He jogs down to the open “field” of dirt after finishing his bowl of UNICEF rice for the day, and starts kicking his soccer ball around…soon to be joined by other similarly impoverished youth in a game of football – world style…and they are all happy.

In Suburbs USA, a young boy rolls out of bed early in the morning without prompting, and rushes downstairs to the annual celebration of Christmas, and is soon disappointed that he didn’t get the go-kart he had asked for.  He got plenty of other things, he even got several things he had asked for…he just hadn’t gotten the thing his heart was set upon.

Before you start bemoaning the American youth, or praising the African one, think about expectations. The African boy got what he had expected, and was in fact rich in comparison to his playmates.  If his soccer ball had burst in the midst of his daily routine, happiness would have likely not been the result.  The reverse was true for the American.

What do you expect today to bring?  How do you expect to be treated?  What do you expect you will have to do?

God wants to give us as a gift to the world, our expectations are generally the reverse.

Do you want to be happy today?  Begin with a simple prayer something like this:

“Dear Lord, please help me to roll with the punches today.  Help me to focus on bringing joy to others and pride to you.  May I handle problems, people, and problem people with grace and understanding.  Thank you for this day.  Please help me to not waste it.  Amen.”

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Freedom vs. Equality

The worst arguments are when both people are right.

As a pastor, I see these kinds of arguments all the time in marriage counseling, board meetings and conflict resolution.  Should we save money or trust in God’s provision?  Should we focus on evangelism or discipleship?  Should we be generous to those in need or should we “teach the man to fish”?  Should we help our kids out or should we let them learn their lesson?

It’s these types of arguments that seem to have no solution because both sides are convinced of their being right and won’t give an inch.  This is the type of argument that we see over and over again in our politics as well.  Two of the values that Americans value highly are freedom and equality; and yet, if you think about them you know that they are inherently opposites.  These two characteristics are oppositional in nature: Should we force desegregation on our country’s neighborhoods or should we allow people the freedom to choose where they want to live?  Should we utilize affirmative action type of legislation into our society or should we be a meritocracy?

It is so easy to castigate the Republicans for being against equality or to condemn the Democrats for being against freedom.  We wonder, as a nation, why we are so divided.  Here is the reason: we are too busy blaming the other side for being against freedom or equality instead of valuing the opposition’s view as being valid also.

Our country believes that “all men are created equal”, and yet we are the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Here is the biggest crux: should a parent be allowed to improve their child’s life?  I know that the answer seems obvious at first blush – but with the obvious answer of “yes”, we have created an inequality.  The next generation will have unequal opportunities based upon their parents’ accomplishments; and after 200 years of this – the gap will be quite wide.

Everyone knows that if you give the exact same scenarios to two different individuals, that their exercise of their own free will (among a whole host of other variables) will create different outcomes…which will then be inherited by their children.

I would love to see a dialogue begin in our country in a wholistic way that asks this question: “Where are the appropriate boundaries for freedom and equality?”  Ultimately, righteousness should be our highest goal.  As Teddy Roosevelt stated in response to those who didn’t want to get involved in World War I in order to have peace:

“The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”

“if given the choice between Righteousness and Peace, I choose Righteousness.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Children should learn from their mistakes…and their parents should help them through them.  We should store up our provisions as the ant does and put our confidence in God’s provision as sufficient.  We should be generous to those in need and teach him to improve his situation.  Both/and, not either/or.

Just a Closer Walk with Thee

We begin the story with God walking with Adam in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden.  We end the story with the New Jerusalem descending to the New Earth and God being with us for eternity.

In between we see pictures of God’s ultimate desire of sharing Creation with His Ultimate Creation – Humanity:

1. God speaking to such as Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Joshua.

2. God’s pillar of cloud by day and fire by night to lead the nation of Israel from Egypt and through the Wilderness.

3. The Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant which “tabernacled” among the nation of Israel.

4. God’s naming of His Son as Immanuel – God With Us.

5. Jesus living among us, being tempted as we are tempted.  Knowing our weakness, yet not succumbing to them.

6. The Holy Spirit dwelling within the believer.

7. In the midst of where two or three are gathered.

8. In the carrying out of ministry to those who are in need of water, clothing or visitation being done “unto Him”.

Righteousness is not God’s desire for humanity.  It is a required means of God’s presence with us.

Living a holy life is not trying to please God.  It is rather our saying to Him, “I want you in my life more than these”.  When we sin we are not only disappointing God, we are saying, “I don’t want you around”.  Sin is the ultimate story of unrequited love, of the willing suitor and the spurning object of His love.  Sin is not ultimately disobedience, but relational distance.

If God is feeling far off, be sure that sin is nearby.  It is only when Christ took upon himself the sins of the world that he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”

God desires to walk with you.  What do you desire?

Be sure of this if you choose sin, He will leave.  He finally left the mercy seat and his beloved, Israel after all.  This is Hell – the absence of God.  Choose to be holy, for without holiness “no one will see God.”

Brokenness

brokennessA few years ago, my wife stood up to go turn the light in the hallway off.  Instead, her lights went out…she passed out.  In the process of passing out, she fell on her left forearm – and snapped both bones resulting in a hand that was an inch too high and an inch and a half too far to the left.  Needless to say, we went to the hospital.

In the hospital, x-rays were taken, pain medication was administered, and the doctor pulled on my wife’s broken hand – wrenching the bones back into place (not to mention my stomach getting wrenched while watching).  She had to have surgery, pins, plate and cast.  The cast eventually came off – the pins and plate remain.

Her arm will never be the same again.  No one else can tell just looking at her, or how she functions on a daily basis.  In fact, thanks to good medical care, there is very little difference in how she functions on a daily basis – including playing the piano on our worship team.  But every now and then, there’s a catch.  There’s a reminder.

Healing takes time, but it also takes a healer.

Same time, same effort, same person without the healer pulling, setting and pinning – no hand and no forearm.

Sin is brokenness.  Sin causes brokenness.

God wants to heal you…but it’s going to hurt, it’s going to take time and its going to take your cooperation.

Go to church, go to God, grit your teeth and let him set your broken heart in line with Him.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3, NIV)

Reinvestment instead of Retirement

English: Photograph taken at the Washington Na...

English: Photograph taken at the Washington National Cathedral of the Moses window by Lawrence Saint This window depicts the three stages of the life of Moses, each of them being 40 years long. The first 40 years is depicted in the left panel, when Moses is a prince in Egypt. The next 40 years is depicted in the right panel, which is Moses before Pharaoh. The last 40 years depicts Moses with the 10 Commandments, representative of his time with the Israelites in the wilderness as a lawgiver. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Noah began his approximately 75 year process of building and supplying the ark at around 525 years old, Abraham left Haran for the Promised Land at around 75 years old, Moses started the 40 years of leading the nation of Israel at 80 and Joshua started conquering the Promised Land (a 50 year process) at approximately 60 years of age.

According to the US Census bureau, approximately 77% of our countries’ wealth is in the hands of those 50 years old and older.

Jeremiah and Timothy had to be encouraged to lead despite their youthfulness.

All of these things seem to point in the same direction…back to work.

I don’t mean that you have to continue at the same job until you drop, but if you are a Christian who is looking at the retirement years as a candy store of your favorite hobbies and interests…you might have missed the boat.

The life of a Christian is to be an investment in the Kingdom of God and in eternity itself, not a nest egg that we wontingly spend on ourselves.

This is the 4th Quarter of your life – it is win or lose time.  This is the time in the game that you pull out all the stops, not stop from all the pulling.

God is not finished with you yet.  In fact, the most significant days of ministry are in front of you.  You now have your greatest supply of time, talent, relationships and resources – use them for the Kingdom don’t blow them on yourself.

What is God calling you to do with your next 20 years?  You have raised your family, you have created an independent wealth in which for the first time in your life  you don’t have to do someone else’s work to support yourself.  It’s time for you to enter your own Promised Land… and to conquer it one step at a time as you follow your Lord and Savior.

Don’t retire, retreat or rest.  Our rest will come when we hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

How to Be at Peace

Peaceful lakeview1024

Peaceful lakeview1024 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peace and Joy are probably the two most sought after commodities (if we can call them that) on the face of the earth.  We might call them significance, being respected, self-esteem or having “made it”, but the reality that is sought after is Peace and Joy.

The following are 10 ways that I have found to increase my peace.  Feel free to add your own.

1. Learn the art of saying “no” graciously.

You can never truly say “yes” without saying “no”.  We all are limited to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.  We cannot do everything, but we must do something.  The key to peace is doing the right thing with our lives.  When we know what we are supposed to say “yes” to, the “no” becomes easier.

2. Don’t wait for a vacation.

Don’t live your life so frenetically that a vacation is required to bring peace.  Our daily lives should be filled and overflowing with peace.  We were created to work 6 days and rest 1.  A vacation should be about focused time with family, not a needed to break in order to keep going.

3. Integrity.  Always be who you are.

Peace in some ways can be defined as a lack of war.  Seems obvious, I know, but let’s follow that thought through: Integrity is all about being whole/one/complete (comes from the same root word as integer – shout out to all the math fans out there).  If you are someone different at work than you are at home, than you are at church – who are you really?

4. Improvement.  Get better daily.

Perfection is impossible, but improvement is essential.  If you are not growing you are dying.  Not only should our existence in the world make it a better place, but we ourselves should be better for having lived the day before.  Do not accept that status quo.  Know where you are, where you are going…and keep walking.

5. Systems.  Systematize areas of weakness so they cease to be worrisome.

We all have weaknesses.  Blindspots.  Systems have the potential to remove that nagging worry from the back of your mind that you are forgetting something…that you have left something undone…that you are about to fail.  This could be as simple as sharing a calendar on google with your spouse or as complex as an annual checklist of facilities maintenance items.  Whatever troubles you – create a system (with accountability) that will handle it.

6. Clean your desk.

For those who work at a desk this is literal.  For those who do not, it is figurative.  My day off is Friday, so by the end of every Thursday I work to leaving my desk clean.  I don’t mean dust free (though I should probably do that as well), but everything that came to my desk has been dealt with, and therefore doesn’t have to live on in my mind over my “weekend”.

7. Reduce debt…reduce stress.

No explanation necessary.  Just get it done.

8. Communicate with your spouse.

This person shares your life.  Stop abusing them by leaving them in the dark, and you will no longer feel at odds with them and guilty for causing the problem.  Share calendars, checkbooks and constantly update each other on both.

9. Finish things.

Unfinished projects are a necessity in order to prioritize your family over your work, but they should remain at the top of your to-do-list until they are completely done.  They will nag, worry and frustrate you until you close the file on them, so break down big projects into achievable steps so that “progress” and “on schedule” are the way you view them.

10. Be centered on the center of the universe.

Try throwing a clay vessel without centering the clay first.  It can’t be done.  The vessel will pull itself apart as the wheel speeds up.  God is the only healthy center, every other focus of life will tear you apart as life speeds up.  Start on your knees, in His Word and the rest of the day will fit instead of fight.

A Handcrafted Life

father and son

 

My second son, Caleb, wanted to spend every moment I was in my woodshop with me.  He was constantly looking for something that he could bang with a hammer, cut with a saw or tighten with a screwdriver.  On the one hand – nothing is more gratifying to a dad than a son wanting to be like him.  On the other hand, nothing is more frustrating than constantly having to tell your four year old that he just isn’t big enough to hit, cut or screw whatever it is he was attempting.  

Solution: I got him a cut-off 2×6 and pounded a bunch of large-headed nails into it about 1/3 of the way in.  He then gleefully pounded away at the nails.  This was a short-lived success.  That’s when I decided that he needed a workbench of his own.  Under the guise of seeing how big he was getting, I measured the height of his hipbone, his reach and his spread.

I built him a workbench that was as deep as he could reach easily, as wide as his spread and as high as his hipbone.  We then outfitted the workbench with a pegboard back, some hanging baskets for tool storage, basic tools and his very own nail apron.  He was ecstatic!!  So was my wife…until he started banging away in the playroom  🙂

Caleb’s bench fits him.  It is a horrible workbench for me, but for him – it is exactly what he needed.

Life is a lot like that workbench.  When we try to make ours look like someone else’s, we are constantly frustrated, inefficient and ineffective.  When we build a life that fits us though…it fits, it just fits.  

God knows you and every little detail about you.  He knows how far you can reach and what kind of tools to put on your pegboard.  Stop fighting his handcrafted fit for your life, and let him – the Master Craftsman, build you a life that fits.  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13, NIV)