Monthly archives: June, 2016

Buckets Of Humility

 

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On the Joshua team’s last day, the Orlando team joined the South Africans to dig a foundation and move stones for a footer; heavy grunt work. Although the Orlando team was predominately male, the Joshua team was pretty evenly split. Remarkably, the women had no problem keeping up. They set a wonderful example of diligence and spirit. At the end of the day, everyone was dirty and smelly. The Orlando team was ever so slightly cranky as the teenagers’ impatience with the lack of power equipment and creature comforts had grown through the long hours of hard labor.

As was customary, the teams were to gather for evening devotions. This would be their last time together. The Orlando team arrived first and took seats in a circle. Moments later, the Joshua team came in with towels…and buckets. My eyes immediately filled with tears. I knew what was about to happen. Looking around, many on the team had tears. Those who didn’t, grew somber.

Our feet were washed. Our smelly, dirty, nasty feet were washed by that Joshua team. They had waited until the end of the day, not the beginning, when our feet would have been at least a little cleaner; somehow more acceptable. Even as I write this, tears well up in my eyes. The Joshua team’s loving act of humility—ten years old now—still has the power to move me deeply.

A foot-washing ceremony may not carry the same weight in our culture, but it is clear that the Orlando team understood the act of humility coming from the Joshua team. The Orlando team was cranky and showing impatience. The Joshua team served them anyway. They cleaned their feet with water, but don’t think the Orlando team didn’t come away clean in other ways due to the demonstrated act of humility. In other words, what are the chances the Orlando team remained cranky and impatient after that?

Our daily, intentional humble attitude and service in the midst of bad attitudes and impatience can accomplish a lot more than the most powerful foot-washing ceremony. Go ahead, clean their feet if their culture calls for it, but be more ready to wash them with buckets of humility.


Encouragement Changes Everything

 

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“But encourage one another daily, while it is still called today…” (Hebrews 3:13)

 

There were days growing up that we needed support, confidence and hope spoken into our lives. We probably would never have been able to describe these essentials at the time, but the need was real. These were some pivotal times. We looked to the key people in our lives to encourage us.

 

Looking back, these times may seem a bit inconsequential; but, at the time they were important. Would we have continued to walk down the aisle at our kindergarten graduation without that pre-game pep talk? Maybe. Would we have recovered from not making the cut on our school’s sports team without that extra hug? Guess so. Would we have survived the daunting, awkward times of middle school without the boost from the kind words from our parents?  Not sure on this one. Would we have not given up during finals week without those written love notes hidden in the pages of our books? Possibly.

 

But take encouragement out of these scenarios (any scenario) and it changes everything.

 

What about life as an adult? Are our needs really that different than they were growing up? Obviously, the scenarios have changed (we’re not dealing with childhood situations anymore), but the need for encouragement is still there. We still thrive when we receive it. But, we hesitate to admit that; in fact, it seems almost narcissistic to suggest we receive such a gift. Somehow it seems like we shouldn’t need encouragement anymore.

 

But we do.

 

And, it’s ok that we do.  Let that sink in.

 

Just think, when that person in your life stepped in and stepped up at just the right time and encouraged you. I’m going to bet you remember these people and times vividly? I know I do.

 

It may have been something seemingly trivial – a simple, kind gesture. But, someone knew what it would take to make your day or make you smile and they did whatever that was. Or, maybe it was someone being generous with their words…affirming, encouraging words that spoke life into your soul. It could have been on a whole other level during an overwhelming time in your life whether you were dealing with a strain in your marriage, a job loss, moving to a new city, an unexpected health diagnosis or you just became new parents. These are the days when God uses those around us to encourage us and keep our heads above water as we navigate our new normal.

 

Funny thing is, many times our circumstances may not improve one bit or go our way; but just knowing you have someone there with you cheering you on, believing in you and that you’re not in “it” alone makes all the difference.

This week we’ve seen the impact it can have when we essentially choose to encourage those around us.  Our beautiful city has rallied and has been giving out huge doses of support, confidence and hope to those affected by this local tragedy. These are the times when the body of Christ in particular can shine.

 

But, what about every “normal” day? Do we practice encouraging often enough that it is just a part of who we are to speak life into whatever person or situation we encounter?

 

Love others well. Encourage.

 

Leslee and family

 

Leslee has been married to her elementary school sweetheart, Jeff, for 21 years. They have two children: Lauren and Garrison and one adorable dog, Potato. Their family loves taking walks, traveling, going to Disney World and just about anything that allows them to spend time together.


Like Proud Parents

 

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The proud parents-to-be stormed into the hospital as the wife was close to delivery. Nurses whisked both of them away to the proper room to begin preparations. This, indeed, was the day. Yes, he was nervous, but the future father couldn’t help but wonder what the baby would look like. Her eyes? His ears? His mouth? Her chin? Excitement overflowed as family began to arrive for the special day. In the other room, the already tired wife and mommy-to-be, breathing heavily, had thoughts of her own, but struggled to keep them as she experienced…other feelings.

 

Some hours ticked by, but when the time was right, their baby was born. 1:04 in the afternoon. After the necessary clean-up and checking vitals, the now 3-person family enjoyed their first moments of being together. Through their tears, they whispered to their baby boy, “I love you.” “He’s perfect,” they told each other as baby boy enjoyed his first nap.

 

This scenario may repeat itself thousands of times a day in hospitals all over, but I have to be honest with you. The babies…they’re not perfect. At least, they don’t grow up to be. The love of the parents, however, is quite real. This gets at the heart of contentment. Some of you may gloss over a dictionary definition, but don’t miss this: Merriam-Webster says content means “not needing more.” Not needing more.

 

Our tendency, temptation even, is to understand and apply some of these demands in terms of anything other than relationships. Remember though, Paul instructed us to love people. If the definition of content is “not needing more,” then the demand to be content is “not needing more from them in order for you to love them.” Not easy, but our call, nonetheless. The parents don’t need anything more from their baby in order to love him. Indeed, even if there was something they needed, the baby couldn’t give it. Isn’t that how some of our relationships might operate at times? They can’t give you more. They won’t give you more. They don’t give you more. But you are content. You love them regardless.

 

What then? Are you complacent? No, you are not and neither are our parents in the story. The parents don’t want an eternal infant. They want and expect the child to grow. You can want and expect the same in your relationships, but the demand to be content gets at the root of our character. So, when your friend, your spouse, your parent, or your neighbor is acting like baby, choose to act like a proud parent. Be content.


Called To Be Kind

 

“There is no reason for you to be so kind to me.”

 

There they were…this family of four. A bit dysfunctional. But aren’t all families in their own way?

 

They could have had their own TV reality show. There were two charming sons and even though Mom would deny it, she had a favorite.  Eavesdropping happened often in this household, but this particular conversation that was overheard prompted some serious plotting. You see the parents were getting older and it was time to talk about the kid’s inheritance.

 

Scheming was happening at a whole new level.  After all, Mom wanted her boy to get all the goods and she was stopping at nothing to make that happen.

 

She went to great lengths to deceive her own (almost blind) husband and persuade him to bless the “wrong son”. She helped make her younger son appear to be the older one by sneaking in the brother’s bedroom and snatching some of his clothes so he would have the aroma of his older brother (he worked in the field…need I say more?). She also helped make him appear a bit more hairy like his older brother. Yuck. Even momma’s boy got a bit nervous at the thought of deceiving Dad, but Mom insisted that if something bad happened, she’d take the blame.

 

Deception took place. Blessings were bestowed. The birthright stolen. Truth was revealed. Hatred was born. Vengeance abounded.

 

Around 20 years went by and despite their complicated past, the brothers were going to see each other again. The younger brother kind of assumed that because he stole his brother’s birthright and blessing, there was a good chance that he may still be a bit irked at him about that.

 

In hopes to appease his older brother’s assumed anger, he sent friends with gifts to see his brother and to test the waters so to speak. He was hoping that somehow they could have a friendly exchange between the two of them.  The younger brother was alarmed as he heard his brother had numerous friends coming to meet him…four hundred people to be exact.  This can’t be good, right?

 

But then, a surprising turn of events happened.

 

“Then, in the distance, Jacob saw Esau coming with his four hundred men. Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him affectionately and kissed him. Both of them in tears.”

–Genesis 33:4 NLT

 

Endearing comments were exchanged between brothers. Introductions to family members were taking place. Despite the betrayals, the deep hurt, the feeling that a part of his heart had died, Esau the older brother forgave. With tears in his eyes, he ran and embraced his brother. Wow. He was kind despite his brother’s behavior. He still acted like the older brother. Looking out for his younger brother…offering protection for him and his family. He showed the I Corinthians 13 version of love. “Love is kind…” Forgiveness and kindness went hand-in-hand.

 

“There is no reason for you to be so kind to me,” Jacob insisted.” – Genesis 33:15 NLT

 

He was right. Esau had no reason to be kind. In fact, he had every reason…every right to feel angry, he was wronged, betrayed by his own flesh and blood. But like all of us, Esau had the opportunity to choose between his rights and his relationship. He could stick with his rights in that he could/should be angry, but where would that leave his relationship with his brother?

 

We’ve all been there, too. Perhaps you’re there right now. The sting of betrayal. Unmet expectations. Lied about, even lied to. Painful words. Painful actions.

 

Simply put, to the person who you’re thinking about in your own life who has caused you pain or wronged you – “There is no reason for you to be so kind to them.”  But yet, we’re called to love. We’re called to be kind.

 

It’s not only the way of Esau. This is the way of Jesus.

 

Leslee and family

 

Leslee has been married to her elementary school sweetheart, Jeff, for 21 years. They have two children: Lauren and Garrison and one adorable dog, Potato. Their family loves taking walks, traveling, going to Disney World and just about anything that allows them to spend time together.

 

 


The Benefits Of Being Patient

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Patience is one of the greatest signs of maturity in the life of a Christian. Think about it:  when do you see an eight-year-old demonstrate any amount of patience?

I’m afraid the eight-year-old version of Jeff manifests itself far more often than any mature form of me that I long to be.

So I may be the absolute worst person to write a blog post about patience. Which means I’m probably the absolute perfect person to write a blog post about patience. If even I can see the beauty and blessing of patience, you’ll already have a great head start.

Patience may be the most fading human characteristic on the planet today. In fact if you’re even pausing long enough to read this blog post (or any blog post), you’re in an incredible minority. And if you’re actually still reading this one to this point – well you deserve a trophy. Or something. Seriously, reach around and give yourself a pat on the back. But hurry… We got things to talk about and stuff to do.

Patience and rest seem virtually inseparable. Which is likely why we find both so difficult to experience.

So a request: rest for a moment, pause with me. Please?

Because I’ve been reflecting on those moments and windows in my life where I’ve truly slowed down enough to experience and demonstrate patience. And I’ve come up with a short list of things I’ve seen happen as a result:

  • Patience causes me to more readily recognize and taste this beautiful thing called grace.
  • Patience gives room for miracles to happen. And it gives room for me to see the miracles that are already happening all around me.
  • Patience gives me space to heal. When I get impatient and try to rush the recovery – from a failure, from a hurt or betrayal – I never heal properly. What is true physically is true spiritually. And emotionally.
  • When patient, I can recognize beauty. Because of God’s presence, provision and protection, I can actually see beauty in the messy, in the pain, in the heartaches – if I’m just patient enough.
  • Wait, stay with beauty for a moment. Patience allows me to slow enough to see to beauty of creation. The song of a bird, the wisp of a cloud, the sound of kids laughing, the tenderness of a momma cat caring for it’s baby kitten, deer prancing across a field, the explosive colors of a sunset. That’s not just a random list: patience resulted in me experiencing each of these just tonight!
  • When unhurried and patient, I can actually smell the fragrance of the flowers. Seriously – have you done that lately? It’s amazing! I can also see the weeds that attempt to choke out the flowers. Patience gives me the ability to recognize the difference between the life giving flowers and the life choking weeds in my life, and the resolve to choose to pick the flowers (pun intended).
  • Patience lets me enjoy the puns (additional attention to the pun intended).
  • Patience helps me experience peace. Just typing that makes me take a deep, restful breath. That alone makes me wonder why I don’t embrace a restful patience in every single moment.
  • When I’m patient my wife sees a man of faith. (What does she see when she see’s the opposite of me being patient?)
  • When I’m patient my kids see a man of faith. (What do they see when they see the opposite of me being patient?)
  • I’m also less carnal. That’s church talk for “worldly”. Almost supernaturally (almost?), patience causes me to see and celebrate life from God’s perspective.
  • I’m less manipulative. And I don’t try so hard to impress others.
  • I’m more forgiving. And more aware of how badly I need forgiveness.
  • When I’m patient I’m less narcissistic. My thoughts go more quickly to the welfare and joy of others. And I get intentional about serving and encouraging them.
  • Patience also means I frustrate others less. Except for the guy behind me who is almost as impatient as I am. Seriously man, the light just changed – breathe!
  • I’m more enjoyable to be around when I’m patient. And I find others are more enjoyable to be around. Which means not enjoying others is really more about me than them. But not in a self centered way.
  • I’m more creative. And productive. By being patient? It’s such a paradox, isn’t it?
  • My heart softens. Yes, figuratively. But I think even literally. Who knows, I’m not a doctor.
  • Patience allows me to hear the stories of others. It absolutely drives me crazy that as hard as I try, sometimes I can’t remember names. OK, often I can’t remember names. But when I hear people share their stories? Oh, man. My joy grows and my heart expands at learning who they are and what God is up to in their lives.
  • When I’m patient I smile more. A lot more. Like I’m guessing I smile around 27½ times more when I’m patient then when I’m not. Oh, and I laugh a whole lot more.
  • I trust others more when I’m patient. And I don’t work so hard to convince other’s that I’m right and they’re wrong.
  • Which means patience often results in the space to recognize that it was actually me that was wrong. And returns me to recognizing and tasting this beautiful thing called grace.

But maybe you already knew all of this. Maybe you already have this one mastered.

If not, perhaps we can seek to grow in this together. I mean right now! Let’s do it – let’s go, go, go!

Shoot…see what I did there?

Please be patient with me.

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Jeff has been married to his bride and best-friend, Leslee, for 21 years. They have two amazing children together (Lauren and Garrett) and one adorable puppy (Potato). He loves spending time with his family, hiking, Notre Dame football and enjoys the great outdoors. Jeff serves as the Pastor of Connections at Northland Church.