Scarcity

There’s something to be said for scarcity elevating something from just okay to “perfect”.

My bleary eyes stared at the screen for what seemed like the 24th straight hour.

Searching.

Scrolling.

Clicking.

More scrolling.

I need a new truck. Well not new, but new to me. I need to find that perfect combination of price, mileage and features that would make me want to drive it for the next decade.

Search.

Scroll.

Click.

“Hey!,” I exclaim, “This one looks great.”

I pick up the phone an call. “Hi, first question, does the truck have a clean title?” I ask.

“No, sir, it’s a salvage title.”

This is the fifth time tonight I’ve found “the perfect truck” and it’s turned out to be a salvage. I consider hurling my iPhone against the wall. The prospect of iPhone and truck shopping simultaneously stops me.

Search.

Scroll.

Click.

“This one isn’t bad. Nice truck. Great price. Low mileage. White isn’t my favorite color, but it could work. We’ll add it to the maybe list.”

I pick up the phone and dial the number.

Voicemail.

I leave a message. Seem interested, but not eager. There is, after all, still that age-old dance of negotiation to do.

An hour passes. No call back.

“Why hasn’t he called me back?”

Search.

Scroll.

Click.

“Seriously, this is 2013. Technology, man. Pick up the phone and CALL ME!”

Search.

Scroll.

Click.

“What if it’s sold? What if I missed out on the perfect truck by minutes?”

Search.

Scroll.

Click.

Okay, I need some sleep.

Eight hours later: “He still hasn’t called! I want this truck. I need it more than the air I breath! Why can’t I have it?”

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Healthy

There’s always that moment in the middle of being sick when you think, “why am I not more thankful for my health when I have it?”.

I got sick the second week in August, then it stretched to the third week, then the fourth week, and then most of the way through September too. I don’t get sick often and I’m pretty sure I’ve never been that sick before. Throughout it I just kept hoping I’d get over it so I could wake up in the morning and just feel good again.

Well it finally happened and you know what, I’ve been much more thankful for health the past two weeks. I find my thoughts often going back to those weeks when I just felt terrible all the time. If nothing else, maybe having a more grateful heart is worth dealing with all that.

Six years makes all the difference

My 13-year-old walks into the room, iPod Touch in hand.

“Dad, I want to buy this game.”

“Well,” I respond, “I don’t.”

“It’s only $4,” he says.

“$4 is a lot of money.”

“No it isn’t, besides, you owe me from when I had some gift cards on iTunes that you spent.”

I grudgingly punch in the password to download the game and quickly send him away in annoyance. He walks out, smug sense of entitlement firmly in place.

The next day my seven-year-old walks into the same room, iPad in hand.

“Dad, can we download this game?” he asks.

I take the iPad from him and look at the screen. “Do you really need a $3 game?” I ask.

“No, I clicked the free version,” he says “It’s a really cool game and I just want it but you don’t have to pay for the nice one. We can play the free one.”

I quickly punch in my password and download the full version, paying the $3.

“Here you go,” I said, handing him the iPad back. “I bought you the full version.”

A huge grin spreads across his face and he jumps in my lap to hug me, almost dropping the iPad.

“Thank you so much, Dad!”

He quickly rushes out of my office and I can hear him all the way through the house.

“Conner! Dad bought us the full game!”

Best $3 I’ve ever spent.

The wrong mine

I watched the steam curl up from the fresh brewed cup of coffee.

“I’m off to the salt mines!” I yelled as I always do and began the 20-foot walk from the kitchen to my office.

“That’s the problem,” Rebecca said, “You always go to the salt mine. Maybe you need to try the diamond mine.”

The nis list

Nis List

I’m not sure why, but this note Cody wrote to Santa and placed under our tree makes me profoundly sad this morning. Maybe it’s the realization that my kids are growing up too quickly and I feel like I’m missing large portions of it. Maybe it’s the bittersweet thought that I get to watch my kids grow up while many others do not after last week’s events.

Regardless there is something magical about childhood innocence. As I’m learning with Colton, our 12-year-old, kids eventually hit a point where you just want them to grow up. Until then, though, I’m just going to enjoy Cody’s hope that he’s “not on the noty list” and not think about the fact that he won’t have many more years of notes like this.

Don’t worry, buddy, you’re definitely on the “nis list”.

The morning after

I woke up this morning to news of an Obama reelection. A quick check of Facebook shows the majority of my friends, most conservative like myself, losing their fool minds. Talk of secession, the end of America and the stupidity of half the country abound.

I used to love politics and I think there are two reasons I soured on them. One, I discovered that inevitably whomever we elect will be a massive disappointment, continue to spend too much money and work within a deeply flawed system. Two, I became sick of watching perfectly normal people who I tend to like put their hope in sinful men. Any man who runs for election is not our ultimate hope. God decides who rules and reigns temporarily on this earth because He rules and reigns eternally.

There are three things in my life that truly matter to me.

Leading and loving my family well
The man in charge at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has absolutely no bearing on this. How I love my family and how I lead them is up to me.

To love those around me
God has put a great many people in my life that I am called to love and serve. I live my life to show them grace, help where I can, and walk with them, all in the hope that Christ will impact their lives in a way that undeniably glorifies Him and points them toward our great God and King. Again, no law, decision or idea coming out of Washington will ever impact me helping those around me.

To work hard and grow my business
This is the one where the president can have a slight impact. The amount of taxes I pay and other restrictions will effect the growth rate of my business, but not the eventual destination, which is success. I’m not going to lie, the last two years have been the best my business has ever experienced and gives me great hope for the future. I don’t give President Obama credit for my success any more than I would fault him had I failed. My business will live or die on the back of my hard work and determination. I am more determined than ever to make it work, despite anything the government might ever do, not because of it.

Did I vote for Obama? No. Would I have rather seen Romney in the White House? That’s a yes, but not by much. I’m not one who believes the other side of the aisle is inherently evil. I think they do what they believe is right based on their current set of motivations. Can those motivations be sinful and wrong? Sure, but so are all of ours sometimes. I think it does us all a huge disservice to just assume that everyone who disagrees with us is ignorant or evil. They are humans in need to love and grace, just like you and I.

I respect President Obama for the great calling and burden God has put on his life as President. To lead a few is a massive weight. To lead the free world…I can only imagine.

So, to all my conservative friends, keep calm and move along. What are the most important things in your life, and are they really any different today than the were yesterday? And who do you really look to for your hope?

I leave you with Daniel 2:21: “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.

Freedom in a sovereign God

Great post on Desiring God about God’s will and its authority over all other authority.

Which means that our comfort comes not from the powerlessness of our enemies, but from our Father’s sovereign rule over their power. This is the point of Romans 8:25–37. Tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger and sword cannot separate us from Christ because “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35–37).

This is where a faith in God’s complete sovereignty has really relieved a lot of my previous worry. Things will occasionally go bad, but none of those things is ever outside of God’s control, which makes them ultimately for my good. It’s faith in the power of God to finish His redemption plan that gives me hope that even a sinner like me will make it.

Focus and dimming vision

It’s always amazing to me how we focus on God and the periphery things, those things that don’t really matter, become dim. I go through times when I know God is calling me to cut things out and focus. I’m in one of those times and what that looks like is deleting all the distracting things off my phone and taking a break from Twitter and Facebook. Basically all the things I have trained my mind to constantly move to in order to stay distracted. After removing them it takes a few days for the muscle memory to stop.

Complete a to-do item, check Twitter.

Finish a call, check Facebook.

Wrap up a project, play Angry Birds.

Now in place of all those things it’s take a few minutes to pray, read the Bible or any of the other five theology and ministry books I’m in the middle of. It took a few days to calm my brain down and have it realize it doesn’t have to be stimulated by something new every 30 seconds. I think it also serves to lower my stress level in general.

It’s amazing how those things that ate up so much of my time now appear lifeless and dim to my vision.

32

It’s 3:04 a.m. as I write this. I can’t remember what time I was born 32 years ago. I think it was in the 3:00 a.m. range, but I could be wrong.

For whatever reason I can’t sleep.

32 years down.

I wonder what God has for me in the next one.

The American dream

I can do it. That is the driver of the American dream. Given enough hard work and effort I can achieve the dream. And at times, that dream looks so sweet. A couple of kids. A couple of cars. A house with a couple of floors. Vacations at Disneyland or exotic beaches.

And for all that, all we have to do is work hard. Used to it was working 40 hours a week. Now it’s 60. We’re always chasing.

More.

Newer.

Better.

Faster.

All of it based on “I can do it.” My struggle this July 4th is my understanding of the gospel which says I can’t do it. I can’t run fast enough to outpace my sin. I can’t work hard enough to be justified. I can’t buy enough stuff to fill that hole in my soul.

I can’t.

And yet I try. I run and work and buy. And sometimes, through God’s grace, I achieve. The joy of success floods over me but like every wave that has ever crashed on the shore, it fades. It doesn’t last. That’s the dirty secret of the American dream. Not only does it not last, it doesn’t satisfy.

So then why? Men and women have sacrificed their lives so that I might be free. Free to run and work and buy, but I want more. God put me here in this time and place. It has to be for more than just that. Look across the globe at the suffering and sorrow in some countries. There are places where people are ripped from their homes and killed for what they believe. There are places where food is so scarce people go days or weeks without a real meal. But God placed me in a place of physical safety and comfort.

And in some ways I think God placed me in a place more dangerous than all of those. How easy is it here for my soul to wander? How easy is it for me to fool myself into thinking I can do it and I don’t need God? We don’t live in a place of great physical danger, but we do live in a place where we can be sucked in by shiny things that won’t satisfy. We live in a place where we are constantly chasing but told to chase the wrong things. We live in a place where we’re increasingly okay with that. We know these things won’t satisfy, but we continue to chase.

Anyone who knows anything about Spider-Man knows the great line that changed his life: “With great power comes great responsibility.” God did put me here in this time and place. He put me in a place of abundant resources and technology. And it isn’t just to terminate on my temporary joy. My joy is the end goal, but not temporary or perishable.

This 4th of July, I’ll cook something outside, enjoy a cold Coca-Cola (from a glass bottle), watch Jaws, see fireworks and hug my children. I’ll be thankful for all those who have sacrificed so that those things can happen. And I pray I don’t waste those sacrifices on the shiny lure of the American dream.

I can’t do it.

He can.

Various and sundry

It’s been so long since I’ve written a real blog post, I barely remember how to start them. That’s why you get this awkward intro. Looking back at the history of my writing, it’s odd for me to go long stretches without saying something. Over the last few months I feel like I’ve had things to say, I just haven’t had the time to pull the thoughts from my brain and place them here. And so this post serves as a stretching of muscles. I’m trying to remember how it was that I used to write on a regular basis.

We survived the long stretch of the spring baseball season, only to enter summer, which has somehow been just as busy. Cody and Colton’s teams both finished somewhere at the back of the pack, but they both had fun and learned a lot. Conner’s made a run at the championship and ended up in third place. It was the most fun I’ve ever had on the baseball field.

Since joining Life Church in February, we’ve once again become sucked into ministry which seems to eat a substantial amount of time. More so than actual church work though, we’re spending a lot of time really getting to know people we’re doing life with. It’s honestly something I’ve never been good at, but I’m learning.

My business continues to grow and branch out. Not as quickly as last year, but still growing, slowly but surely. Always with me at the helm, questioning everything we do all the time. Does that ever stop? That uncertainty that comes, not only with developing a business, but with knowing the decisions I make help or hurt the future of my family. It’s the odd position of always having to be sure of what you are doing, but never actually being sure.

In a few weeks I get to preach on the Gospel. All the study that goes into that has me examining my life to see all the places where the Gospel of Jesus really doesn’t have a hold. It’s a process of God prying my fingers off the things I want to control. It’s a battle He is winning, and I’m thankful for that. The transformative work of Christ is by no means easy or even fun, but I can see changes for the better.

Maybe that’s the source of my introspection this hot July evening. Maybe it’s my impending 32nd birthday. I tell myself I’ve accomplished a lot in my 32 years but the other side of my brain knows I probably could have done more, made better decisions here and there. But my deep-seeded theology about the sovereignty of God tells me I had to make every decisions the way I made it. He has been very gracious in my life and I should be more thankful for that.

As a rule, getting older doesn’t bother me. A big part of me relishes the idea of being in my sixties or seventies and really enjoying the wisdom of age along with finally having an excuse for my cantankerous nature. But, every so often, I have the occasional day when I acknowledge that I am getting older. My kids are growing rapidly and before I know it will be out of the house. I tell myself I’m looking forward to that day so Becca and I can start a different chapter in our lives, but I know the day one of the kids leaves my house I’ll be devastated.

God has blessed us with some of the most amazing friends in the world. Tomorrow night they will descend on our house for hamburgers (hopefully), margaritas (definitely) and swimming. We’ll swim and splash with our kids. We’ll relish the fact that their oldest just had his cast removed and is on the way to recovery. We’ll stay up entirely too late and talk. We’ll probably spend a lot of time dreaming about the future of the people God has entrusted us to care for in the church. And in that time I’ll take a moment and thank God for all he has done and I’ll forget that I’m about to turn 32 and anything else that’s bothering me.

But for now I get to be quiet and introspective and listen.

And that’s okay every once in a while.

The view from the parking lot

I’ve done everything there is to do in a church. I’ve taught kids, welcomed people, cleaned up after services and preached from the stage. Until Sunday I had never worked in the parking lot.

Now I have.

Often through my life I’ve worked on the big picture at the churches I’ve been at. Despite working in the trenches, my love and focus was really on the overall direction things were headed. People weren’t people. They were Sunday stats, demographics and groups. It happens because that’s how a big part of my brain is wired.

What I learned Sunday, as the Texas heat radiated up from the parking lot, was that there is an intimate view of the church to be had from the parking lot. I was able to welcome every person there that day. People were no longer groups. Suddenly it wasn’t about the total number of people we could serve on Easter. It was about each individual family. Each person who had decided to come to Life Church on Sunday.

I saw members who knew what to do and where to go. I saw families who had clearly fought all the way to church. I saw new visitors who just wanted to know the quickest way in because of the nervousness that comes with visiting a new place for the first time. I saw faces. Individual faces.

We worked for weeks prepping for Easter, often with our eyes on the big picture. On Sunday, in that hot parking lot with a bright yellow vest on, the big picture came into focus. It was made up of a group of people, some new, some old, but all family.

If you’ve never worked the parking lot, volunteer to wear the yellow vest, at least for one week. There’s a lot of value there. It might just change the way you look at the big picture.

Early in the morning

Over the last couple of months I’ve started getting up early. I’m amazed at the difference it makes in my day. If I get up at 5:00AM, by the time the rest of the world is working at 8:00AM, I already have a few hours under my belt.

I really notice the difference when I don’t get up early. Yesterday morning I didn’t get up until 7:15. The entire day felt like I was under the gun. I was constantly running and my stress level was just higher.

Getting up early seems to lead to less stressful days for me and allows more creativity. Granted, I have to be in bed by 10:00PM at the latest, but that’s a fair tradeoff for more productivity and less stress. It’s been one of the best changes I’ve ever made.