Spring Break, Easter, and a brand new question

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imageThis morning, my wife read me this quote from Facebook: “My whole life could be summed up in this one statement- ‘Well, that didn’t go as planned.'”

This week has been spring break for us in Arkansas, and can be described by that statement. My family was supposed to go camping for three days, then circumstances changed – weather included. It was very cold and windy! We ended up leaving a day early, which ended up being the prettiest day of the week.

Then we had a ballgame scheduled, circumstances changed, and we had to cancel.

Some friends our ours were supposed to take their kids to a really fun place, then circumstances changed and they ended up having to change plans all together.

To top it off, I just saw a post on fb about a family whose son ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. Here is the mom’s quote – “We didn’t expect this!”

When it comes down to it, probably none of us could sit here and say, “Yep, this is how I planned for life to turn out.”

Some of us have lost that job. Gone through that divorce. Heard those words from the doctor. Watched your child make those choices.

I can certainly relate.

However, we can take heart today because the idea of life taking unexpected turns is definitely not a new phenomenon.

In fact, If we look back to 2,000 years ago, the disciples of Jesus could relate to this well. You know the story…Jesus told his disciples on numerous occasions that the time was coming that he would be handed over to sinful men to be crucified, and would be raised from the grave three days later.

They heard him. He tried to prepare them, but they just didn’t get it.

Then on good Friday, the disciples felt like time stood still as they watched Jesus pay the ultimate price for all of the sins of the world by being crucified. To Jesus, this was no surprise. He knew the will of His Father clearly. But to his disciples, they were left wondering what in the world just happened.

Things didn’t appear to be going as planned.

During the time period between Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples were left with the same two things we are left with when life takes a different turn than what we expect.
The first thing they were left with were their raw emotions. Doubts. Fear. Frustration. Anger. Questioning what’s going to happen next or how they should respond and is God going to come through for them this time?

The second thing they were left with were The promises of Jesus. Those are the only two things they they had to hang onto.

Then something wonderful happened. Jesus fulfilled His promise as He was raised from the dead! And the first group of people he wanted to see was his disciples. I love this account in Luke 24:40-43. “As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet. Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it as they watched.” Luke‬ ‭24:40-43‬ ‭NLT‬

What can we conclude from this first Easter experience the disciples had? You may be facing uncertainty that comes with different circumstances. Your life right now has definitely not gone as planned.

Here is the good news. With time, God has the ability to resurrect things in your life that as of right now you lack the clarity. He has a way of showing up in ways that leave you and me standing there like the disciples – in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder.

I love how this part of the story ends as we find it in Luke 24:51-53. “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.” Luke‬ ‭24:51-53‬ ‭NLT‬

A Brand New Question

When life takes its unexpected twists and turns, the most natural question we tend to ask first is why? Instead, here is an even better question… A BRAND NEW QUESTION to ask ourselves when life takes unexpected turns:
“Lord, what opportunity does this unexpected situation/crisis/disappointment open up for me?”

And then let Him fill in the blank in His time.

Until next time…Happy Easter to you and your family! May His peace fill you as you walk through your days of doubt and unexpected turns.

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Is this unwanted item in your child’s backpack? (And what to do about it)

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imageWith a son and daughter, one of the repeat purchases every school year at my house is a backpack for each of them. Have you seen how much stuff today’s student carries to school? It is no wonder backpacks only last from August to May. Just a peek inside one of those things would convince you that this is the vagabond generation. Extra clothes. Extra shoes. Books. Binders. Notebooks. Pencil pouches. Calculators. Phone chargers. iPads. Skateboards? Yes. Skateboards.

As if these items in their backpacks were not enough, today’s kids are carrying an oversized load of something else with them every day. Stress. Homework stress. Peer stress. Appearance stress. Social media stress. Test stress. Sports stress. Health stress. Worrying-about-the-future stress. And yes, family stress. It is possible for them to carry the weight of family stress (or the stress that accompanies adult problems) without our even knowing it.

I will never forget the look on my daughter’s face and the words that came from her mouth as a ten year old, shortly after she misunderstood something I said to my wife about our personal finances. My comment to my wife was, “We don’t have any money.” Meaning, whatever it was we were considering buying in that moment, we didn’t have the money to spend on that particular item. But that was not what my daughter heard. In her tears, she said in utter dismay while standing at our kitchen table, “We don’t have any money.”

It was a blow to her tender heart. The fact that she misunderstood the context of my statement did not matter. She was suddenly face to face with what she thought was a harsh reality – that her parents didn’t have what we needed to provide for our home. We were able to mend the situation after some time of consoling and explaining. But looking back, the underlying issue was that I unintentionally gave my daughter extra weight to carry in the form of an adult-sized problem. Something she was never meant to carry. I added weight to her emotional backpack that day.

I have a feeling I’m not the only parent who has done this.

Many young people have become the victim of their parent’s circumstances. Without realizing it, parents can cause children to carry the stress of adult problems, leaving them with no solutions but to feel crushed and dismayed on the inside. It can happen as quickly as a misunderstood statement in the kitchen, as was in our case. In can happen when they overhear a phone conversation with your ex spouse in the next room. It can happen when they know tension is in the air, things just aren’t right, and they hear the dreaded words, “Daddy isn’t coming home for a while.”

There are two problems at work that we need to be mindful of. First, we live in a broken world and our kids cannot be completely protected from the pain that life brings. The other problem is that we as parents were not given X-ray vision. We cannot always see or discern what is going on inside our children. They could end up going for days, weeks, months, and even years carrying emotional weight we have handed them without our ever realizing what has happened.

For this reason, we need a plan. Just like we make certain at the end of the school year that their backpacks for school are emptied (we would hate to find out they threw away those extra erasers we bought them with the now-worn out backpack that’s going in the trash), we need a strategy for checking their emotional baggage and making sure it is as emptied as possible of any unwarranted stress or concerns they may be carrying. This is something that cannot take place only at the end of the school year. This is something we need to make sure we do for them and with them on a regular basis.

Here is a plan. It consists of prevention and cure. You really cannot separate the two, because what you do for one, you do for the other. Allow me to qualify my approach by stating clearly that not all stress is bad. It is the unproductive stress caused often by 1) problems that have been buried underneath the surface, or 2) adult-sized problems that have been handed down either unintentionally or neglectfully.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But either way, these intentional steps of action can go a long way in helping your children deal with the stresses of life:
1. Be emotionally present and available for your kids. It is one thing to be in the house with them or in the same room with everyone on their iPad or phones. It is another to be engaged and taking interest into what they are saying, doing, and feeling in the day to day. This cannot be replaced with things you do for them.

2. Running hand in hand with number one is listening to hear what they are really saying. Two of the most basic of human needs include the need to feel heard and to feel understood. One way to demonstrate that you are listening is to make good eye contact and attempt to repeat back to your child what you believe you hear them saying (this is called active listening). This simple exercise in conversations (especially when they open up about feelings) can help your child feel that you are a safe person to talk to about their struggles when they do come, and they do not have to bottle up the stress they could be tempted to carry on the inside. It can also help bring to the surface anything your child may be carrying that has been weighing them down.

3. Be ever-aware of your conversations when your children are present. They do not need to hear your negative opinions about your ex, your boss, or the fact that you are in the red in your bank account. These are adult problems that need to stay that way.

4. Find ways to have a lot of fun as a family! This cannot be overstated. Find some things your family enjoys, and do them often! And it doesn’t have to be expensive getaways. I know for our household that few things can lift our spirits more than a trip to get ice cream or to have an in-home dollar movie night with some fresh baked cookies.

Perhaps a beneficial way to conclude this post is to provide a few conversation starters to use with your kids that may help you get deeper with them than the usual “how was your day?” If your kids are anything like ours, we have one who will share without hesitation anything bothering them or anything they are excited about. Then we have one who we really have to dig to try to get anything out of. I am trying to keep both personalities (and those that fall in between) in mind with these suggestions.
What went well for you today?
What are some things coming up that you are excited about?
What was the best part of your day?
What was the worst part of your day?
Who did you help today?
What are you encouraged about?

And one last thing. Do not be afraid of awkward silence. Let them share what they want to share, and let them be silent without feeling pushed to talk.

I hope these suggestions will go a long way in helping you make sure your child isn’t carrying unnecessary stress in their emotional backpack. And if they are, perhaps these tools will help you bring them to a place of healing and restoration.

One in Passion

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imageLet him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— for your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you! Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (Song of Solomon‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬).

To be best interpreted, the Song of Solomon is not merely an allegory about Christ and the church. Solomon’s Song is a love poem between Solomon and his bride, celebrating their mutual love for one another, including the delights of the marriage bed. This is an up close and personal view – planted right in the middle of scripture of what being one in passion is intended to look like in a marriage!

Yet, there are many things that can affect the passion in a marriage, and we will look briefly at ten of them.
This is to get you thinking…to challenge your thinking…and to hopefully debunk some marriage myths that have snuck into your belief system.

Myth #1 There is a One and Only out there for me.
Fact: There are hundreds of people that would make a great mate.
Problem: If a person believes this, and then encounters problems in their marriage, they may conclude that they married the wrong person. Even worse, they may believe they should not have married at all. But it is God’s desire, once married, for that person to be the ONE AND ONLY for the rest of your life.

Myth #2 Love is all we need. If we really love each other, everything else will work out.
Fact: No amount of love can prevent problems of self-centeredness, dishonesty, and the reality of having unmet emotional and physical needs.
Problem: When either person believes love is all we need, they may not get help they need for critical issues that eventually arise.

Myth #3 If we are faithful in church, and serve in a church, we won’t have the problems that non-believers have.
Fact: It is very important that couples attend and perhaps serve is a good Bible believing church. However, the divorce rate is still considerably high among church attenders as it is with non-attenders.
Problem: church attenders may assume that because they ” go to church,” things will be okay, when in reality they are just as likely to have conflicts if there is a neglect of needs within the marriage.
If you have a spouse that is verbally or emotionally abusive or neglectful, the marriage will face the same consequences whether or not they attend church.
Perhaps a more common issue involves differences from the home of origin that are brought into the marriage. We tend to repeat the same unhealthy traits learned at home.
There is also a reality at work in our lives that cannot be overlooked: we have a real enemy working against us who is out to destroy marriages and any work of God in our lives.
Bonus Myth -(not counted in the ten) The closer you get to God and each other, the easier life will become.
Truth: The closer you get to God and each other, the more fierce the enemy is likely to fight against you!

Myth #4 If my spouse really loves me, they should be able to read my signals and know what I want or need or expect at any given time.
Fact: Your spouse is not a mind reader. Learning to communicate desires and needs is a sign of maturity and helps eliminate frustration and the pain of needs going unmet.

Myth #5 The use of pornography enhances marital intimacy.
About 64-68% of young adult men and about 18% of women use porn at least once every week.  Research suggests that half of all churchgoing men have porn in their life and there is a rising percentage among women.

This all comes from our culture. I ran across a fb post from a guy I read this week that summarizes our culture’s view of this:
“If Porn is a distortion of God’s whatever, then so are all non-documentary films, television, comic books, and video games. Get over it. It’s fantasy. The human brain has a natural tendency to fantasize. It’s only harmful when it permeates one’s real-life expectations. I feel really sorry for guys whose wives flip out about porn. that must be like living in prison.”

The illusion of using porn in a marriage is that it creates a level of excitement that just being together as husband and wife cannot naturally create.
Fact: it creates a false reality that keeps true intimacy from being experienced, and opens the door for a constant battle of the mind that can lead to very unhealthy behaviors.

Porn is the food for lust, which is never satisfied. It is progressive in nature – meaning what satisfied momentarily last week, will eventually fail to satisfy in the days ahead. The person will have to have more and more, and the means to the end will have to become more hardcore. There is no line drawn in the sand that says enough!

Proverbs 27:20 The eyes of man are never satisfied.

God designed marital intimacy to be the most excitable and the most erotic experience between a man and a woman. But for that to happen, God says this in Hebrews 13:9:
“keep the marriage bed pure.”

One more note worth mentioning, while there can sometimes be physical issues involved, the majority of problems impacting physical intimacy are emotional and can be worked through. There is help available that doesn’t involve bringing other people into the marriage bed either literally or mentally.

Myth #6 There is nothing wrong with having a best friend (confidant) of the opposite sex who is not your spouse.

Truth: The majority of affairs begin with friendship. Very rarely does someone just happen to slip into bed with someone they just met. Your spouse is the only person deserving of your inmost thoughts, struggles, and dreams…in essence, your heart!

(Note: these next two are intentionally more inclined to one or the other gender)
Myth #7 I have the right to withhold intimacy from my spouse.
Let’s keep it real..most men won’t turn intimacy down, even if exhausted!! If their wife gives them the look or nudge, they suddenly will find energy!
Fact: this Myth is a very dangerous conclusion. Wife, if you have taken a stance of withholding intimacy from your husband, by that decision alone you have done two things:
– removed a much needed God-given layer of protection from your marriage, and;
-multiplied your husband’s already-existing battle of keeping his heart pure.
Here’s why…
As described by a pastor friend of mine a few years back, While you’re saying no, every woman in every tv show, movie, on every magazine cover in the checkout of every store… is saying yes! Yes with their eyes, body language, and dress.

This is such a big deal in marriage that God designated a whole section of scripture on it to help us get it right:
1 Cor 7: 3-5 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

If you and your spouse have  a legit situation, agree to a timeframe together of when you plan to come back together. I suggest 24 hours.

Myth #8 I have the right to expect intimacy from my spouse no matter how I’ve treated them.
Fact: husband: you can’t expect a woman to provide for you physically what you haven’t provided for her emotionally. This is more than putting food on the table.
Bill McCartney was formerly the head football coach at the University of Colorado, and led his team to the national championship in 1990.
He attended church one week and a visiting preacher said: ‘Do you want to know whether a man has character or not? All you have to do is look at his wife’s countenance, and everything that he’s invested or withheld will be in her face.”
That statement was a turning point in Coach’s life and marriage and ultimately led him to withdrawal from coaching.
Some of you may be sitting there and are now landlocked in your marriage. The wife is thinking we aren’t going there until he apologizes for how he’s treated me. And the husband is thinking I’m not apologizing for anything until she meets my physical needs.
HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: go home, put the kids to bed, lock the door and pull the shades, apologize and clear the air between you, and DONT LET THE ENEMY HAVE ANOTHER MOMENT OF VICTORY IN YOUR MARRIAGE!!

Myth #9 A really good marriage should not require a lot of work.
Fact: the best marriages are the ones where both partners have invested the most work and attention.
Ex: building a house. If money were no issue. If resources were no issue, and you could build the kind of house you’ve always wanted, why would you settle shy of your goal?

It is the same with marriage.
We have all the resources in God and His word that we need to build a godly marriage that far exceeds our expectations, but we have to work for it and invest in it!

Myth #10 Doing things as a family is the same as doing things as a couple. After all, we are together.
For those of you with kids in the home…
Definition of KIDS- Keeping intimacy Distanced Successfully
Back to withholding intimacy, often times the kids become the weapon a spouse will use to avoid intimacy when there are unresolved problems in the marriage. (I.e.: Letting them always sleep in the bed between you.)
Fact: most households are kid-centric. The schedule and checkbook are dictated by what the kids have going on, with little or no thought to how it is impacting the marriage.
For example, my concern for traveling sports year round is not just for the long term health of the young athlete and their motivation to play later, but for the wellbeing of the marriage.

“We only have them for so many years, and then they’re gone.” And in many cases, so is the marriage.
You cannot replace time alone together. Make time together and staying connected a “no matter what” in your marriage, before no matter what you try to do to recover your marriage just isn’t enough.

 

People Still Matter to God – Here’s One Way I Know

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imageWe live in such a misunderstood world, especially when it comes to social media. And I have hesitated to write this post, simply because it is so fresh off the press in my personal life. But I value transparency so much that I felt compelled to write anyway, and I hope this serves as an encouragement to you.

In church on Sunday, I sensed a fresh touch of God during the service. It wasn’t anything bizarre or weird. I just knew God was working on me. I sensed that He was preparing me for a ministry opportunity, as He has done in the past. Much of the time, it has been God preparing me to preach somewhere, or to have important God-centered conversations with someone in need. It was also during the service on Sunday that I told the Lord my answer to Him is yes to whatever He wants me to do, and that I am ready for Him to open whatever door He sees fit.

Yesterday morning “out of the blue” I received a text and email from a dear pastor friend inviting me to help him launch a Sunday morning marriage series at his church, beginning on Valentine’s Day. This is a church that runs around 600-700, and even more on big days. It’s not about the number of people in the room, except that numbers represent people, and people matter to God! In addition, pastors typically don’t just give up their pulpit on the “big days.” But this guy did! He has asked me to preach two times during the series. What an incredible honor!

Now, here’s the raw truth. I’m just a Jr high coach and P.E instructor. I’m a nobody. A knucklehead. Or to use the words of Elf, a cotton-headed ninny muggins. I love to joke around and be funny. And I love to eat monstrous amounts of peanut m&m’s. Yet, by His grace and purpose, God saw fit to prep me on Sunday to receive His divinely appointed assignment yesterday through a friend who had no idea what I had prayed on Sunday. In fact, he lives over two hours away, and we haven’t even talked since that last time I preached in his church early last year.

I have so many reasons why I shouldn’t have been picked by God for this assignment. So many broken pieces in my life. Struggles that I don’t have answers for. Personal pain that seems to have no end in sight. And the reason I’m writing this post is because I believe I may be talking to someone out there who feels like me. You feel you have been disqualified for whatever reason of ever being used as a vessel in God’s hands for a mighty purpose. And the enemy has been using the same lies on you that he has used on me: You’re too broken. You don’t have it together enough for God to use you. You aren’t smart enough. If the people around you only knew what is lying behind the scenes in your life, the mistakes, and the pain that is there…

And yet, dear friend, God, who knows ALL things, hasn’t given up on you. He sees the broken pieces, and He still cares…cares not just for you, but for the people He wants to touch THROUGH you. You see, people still matter to God! And here is one way I know that – He cares enough about people to use your deepest weakness as a means to provide strength for others. Your deepest pain to provide healing for someone else. Your deepest sense of hopelessness to bring hope to someone who can’t see it for themselves. If you’ll only let Him.

You may or may not stand in front of a congregation to share what God has spoken to you. But more importantly, someone, somewhere needs YOU. They need you to care for them. To listen to them. To love them in a way only you can. What greater calling is there than that?

I don’t know who this is for, but I trust my Heavenly Father to use this simple post in such a way as to remind you of how much He loves you, and to also nudge you off the couch and realize He is waiting to use you the moment you say yes. Because people still matter to God.

Love means going back to get the mustard

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pexels-photo.jpgIt was a cold, rainy, winter morning when I received her text. My wife had been searching for the sausage biscuits. It was then that hit me. I was supposed to have gotten a box of sausage biscuits the night before when I was at the grocery store. I forgot. And I am such a selfish pig sometimes and didn’t want to be bothered with a trip to the grocery store.

So, I replied to let her know I would leave right then to buy some sausage biscuits and take them home to her for breakfast.

I marched ever so confidently (and rather hurriedly) into the grocery store to pick out what she wanted, hoping no one could read the expression of disgust on my face for having to be in there for the second day in a row. On my way out in the pouring down rain with the bag of biscuits in hand, it felt like it was mission accomplished. I could deliver the biscuits to my wife and my life would be back to the normal routine for the day. I had bailed myself out of a potentially bad situation. Yay me.

But that’s when another thought came to mind. And this one irritated me even more. I wonder if she’s going to want mustard with her biscuits? As I stood there in the freezing rain contemplating this question, I decided the least I could do for myself was ponder this in my car out of the rain. And the least I could do for her was to send her a text, asking about the mustard. Mind you, this was while knowing good and well that we had run out of mustard at home a few days before. And I was secretly hoping she wouldn’t respond to my text in time where I would have to get back out and go back in the store. I waited patiently for a couple of minutes for her response. But got nothing. As soon as I pulled out of the parking lot, a quiet little voice in my head said, “You know you’re setting yourself up for failure by leaving without having gotten her text, right?” Am I the only man who talks to himself that way?

You know what happened next. The text came…just as soon as the back tires of my car left the grocery store parking lot.  I pulled up to a stop sign and read her text.

She wanted mustard.

I begrudgingly turned around at the next stop light, went back into the grocery store, and bought some mustard to go with the (stupid) sausage biscuits. When I made it home, my wife was thrilled to have mustard to go with her biscuits. And I was soaked and well on my way to pneumonia (at least, in my mind).

There are many people in our world trying to define and find true love. Our culture tries to convince us that it is found in the sappy, romantic reality tv shows that fill the networks of the day. It seems like it has almost become a thing to see who can go on a date and take their clothes off the fastest. But In real life, love is found in the simplest of things. In this case, love meant going back for the mustard when everything in me just wanted to go home and not spend another second in the cold rain or in the grocery store.

One thing I am learning is that love is rarely convenient for the one trying to express it. And yet, by its very nature, that’s exactly what love is. Love is sacrificial, the opposite of self-seeking. And I’m not very good at it.

As we go about our day, may we be found growing in this area of our lives, looking for those moments to express true love, even when it means going back to get the (stupid) mustard.

The Value of Clarity

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As a husband and father, coach and teacher, I stay busy and my life is full. In the day to day, there are few things more important to me than clarity. When I have clarity, I feel like I am operating at full force, reaching my full potential, and seeing good results. When my mind is not clear and I feel like I am operating in a fog, I get frustrated and feel like I am not being productive or accurate in my decision-making.

Jesus met a man who had operated under the influence of total blindness. One of the most unique stories in the bible is how Jesus dealt with this man. We pick up his story after Jesus has already spit on him and touched him for the first time.

“Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
Mark 8:25 NIV

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to see everything in your life clearly today? Your marriage struggle? That situation with your kids? Your finances? That circumstance at your work?

This man in the story went from total blindness to partial vision. But what he needed was to have his sight fully restored. It is possible to go through life with partial vision (metaphorically) and not even know it. Partial vision brings partial peace. Partial understanding. Partial confidence. A partial sense of direction.

I know there are areas in my life that I need God to restore my vision so that I can see clearly. Won’t you join me in praying this simple prayer?

“Jesus, I want to see my situations, circumstances, and the people around me clearly. Please remove anything from my vision that keeps me from understanding what is true and from experiencing your best. Amen.”

Don’t pray this prayer unless you mean it

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As the famous Beatles song reminds us, life is made of seasons. We cannot always predict the kinds of seasons that will come, how long they will stay, whether they will gradually evolve into the next season, or simply come to an abrupt end. All we know is that life doesn’t stay the same.

Now that we are all depressed from reading the opening paragraph and need a good glass of wine (I mean grape juice – almost forgot for a minute that I’m a good Baptist), I believe there is a dangerous question we need to be willing to ask God as we carefully listen to His voice in the midst of whatever seasons of life we find ourselves.

Here is the question, in the form of a prayer:
“Lord, what do you want me to turn loose of? What do you want me to keep in my grasp? Is there anything new of which you want me to reach out and take hold?”

Lord, is there anything I need to turn loose of that is affecting my ability to experience your best for my life?
How about unforgiveness? Someone once said that forgiveness is giving up hope of having a better past. The desire for opportunities that are not in my gift set? Predictability? Financial security? Fears of the future? A bad habit? A toxic relationship?

Lord, what do you want me to hold onto?
That job? That unpleasant task that just doesn’t make any sense?

Lord, is there anything new on the horizon that you want me to take hold of?
A new opportunity? A new way of doing things? A new habit? A deeper level of trusting you?

Why ask such a silly question? Why not just let life happen as it will?

Well, because 1) God is a very personal God who cares about the most intricate details of our very lives and wants to speak to us; 2) we are reminded to seek His face always and in every situation; and 3) who wants to live a boring predictable life when you could actually be following Jesus?

For me personally, there is one specific passage of scripture that God has used in times past that has helped immensely to bring clarity to areas and decisions that tend to fill up with fog quicker and longer than I would like to admit (which is one big reason why I need to ask this question of Him more often than not). It is found in the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:29.

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

It is worth noting that this verse follows the invitation of Jesus that seems to almost contradict.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Hmm. But then it clicks. Simply put – there is His yoke for you, then there’s everyone else’s. The way we find rest in Christ is to realize and take on only the yoke that He calls us to. (This kills those of us who like to say yes to everything and everyone for fear of letting people down.)

I am forty-two years young. I would like to believe that I have a lot of living yet to do, but we all know how that goes. No day is promised. Even still, I am faced with several realities in front of me (and within me) that require my attention. And the one thing I caught myself praying today is this unscripted prayer I have shared with you. And I believe it is a prayer God is going to answer in His timing.

It is a dangerous prayer, because by praying it, we are relying on replies we get from the Lord (imagine that). And depending on what we hear, our obedience to His voice can be a real faith -stretcher.

But may I convince you that it could be much more dangerous to NOT be willing to pray this prayer, or one like it? Why risk holding onto something that ends up choking the very life out of you that Jesus came to offer? Why let go of something before its time and miss out on a life-changing blessing from God? Why miss taking hold of something that God wanted you to have in your grip and eventually bless others with?

I dare you to pray it. Until next time…