What’s Cool?

Back to the summer camp in the New Mexico Mountains that I wrote about on Monday.

HIKING

One of the fun activities for campers was to go on hikes. Once or twice each week the counselors would take their campers hiking.

I would hurry, as the Pots & Pans Washer, to get the kitchen cleaned up so I could go on the afternoon hike. 

INCREDIBLE VIEWS

The hikes always took us to a places with amazing views. Once we arrived we rested, or explored a bit, until it was time to head back to camp.

On one beautiful mountain day at a magnificent vista were some hikers who were there when we arrived. There were four of them and they were sitting at the edge of a high cliff looking at whatever there was to be seen. One of the counselors and I walked over to say hello. They seemed surprised by our presence and were not in a chatty mood. They seemed familiar to the counselor, he smiled visited for just a moment and then we walked back to our group and back to camp. 

They were interesting to see. They were relatively young, I guessed maybe in their 20’s and had long hair and were wearing things that seemed odd to me. They wore old ratty jeans, hiking books, vests and had head bands. They wore bracelets of silver and leather and they sat there at the edge of the mountain, quiet and still. 

BACK TO CAMP

As we walked along I sidled up to the counselor and asked if he knew those guys. He said, “I don’t know them personally, but I know who they are.”

It turned out that they were a rock band, and a famous one at that. Being 14 I didn’t know much about rock bands, but Milton, the counselor was very excited that he got to talk with them.

THAT NIGHT

So that night, after washing the evening meal pots and pans, I got cleaned up and ready for the devotional. The guys in the band had long hair and wore leather head bands. So, I unlaced a leather lace from one of my hiking boots and wrapped it around my head and tied it in a bow at the back. UhHuh.

I thought I looked really cool. Mind you I had a buzz cut hair style, and there wasn’t a hair on my head that any chance of falling into my eyes. I walked up to Milton and he said, “What is that on your head?” I said, “Its my hair band.” He said, “Why are you wearing it.” And I said “To keep the hair out of my eyes.” Then he said, “You look ridiculous, take that dumb thing off.”

I did. 

TO  CLOSE

I didn’t really know what cool looked like and I really wasn’t the kind of kid who looked to rock bands to imitate their look. 

Eventually, I learned that my identity, values, and choices needed to be influenced by better sources, beginning with my relationship to God of holiness and righteousness. My life didn’t need to reflect whatever was popular at the moment. It wasn’t from the world that I needed to base my life, but on things eternal.

Besides, I needed to put the lace back in the boot for the next hike.

Shalom

Saying Goodbye

TO BEGIN 

It’s all natural. No, not food or food additives, but of the natural way of life, that it ends.

MY WEEK SO FAR

Sunday: I took a gift from a family at church to another family from church who very recently lost a child. I knew the gift would richly bless the family who will soon gather around their Christmas tree with their two children, but not three.  

Monday: I had coffee with one of our ministers and the conversation wandered onto the topic of death. I shared about our stillborn child. Our baby boy never saw the light of day. But he was perfectly formed, perfectly whole and perfectly beautiful. During  labor there was a complication. He didn’t make it. 

Tuesday: I attended a Christmas Party for our group of retired seniors. One of the couples I sat with brought their beautiful baby granddaughter Just a few weeks ago I had the honor of conducting the “Baby Blessing” for her and her family. It was lovely.

Wednesday: Today I’ll attend the “Celebration of Life” service for the father of one of our members. This family has experienced a long, cold season of grief and loss. I can’t recall another family who’s endured so much. It’s heartbreaking and it continues this morning at 10:30.

funeral

IT’S ALL NATURAL

We know that life doesn’t last forever. But we hope it lasts a very long time. And when it does it’s still a soul crushing event. When life doesn’t last a long time, but comes all too early, it’s even harder. People say, “No parent should outlive their children” True enough. But it still happens. 

The writer of Hebrews wrote that it’s appointed once for man to die. Solomon said, “There is a time to be born and there is a time to die.” I think He was right. 

Our minds tell us that death is just a part of the human experience. True enough. But the experience of saying goodbye to a loved one is altogether more difficult than chalking it up to the human experience. 

TO CLOSE

So far this week I wept with a family who has lost a child. I got emotional in the memory of losing our baby boy. I’ll attend the service of a friend saying goodbye to his dad. And I got to experience the exquisite joy of a radiant infant filled with beauty, light and life. 

We say goodbye to those we lose.

We say hello to those we gain.

And We Say Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord

It’s All Natural

 

Overcoming Insecurity: Ignore or Invest? Part Two

Introduction

In Part One of, “Overcoming Insecurity,” insecurity was defined as, “feeling unsafe or in danger.” Overcome was defined as, “to be subdued, defeated, or conquered.”

Being overcome with insecurity is being subdued/defeated by feelings of fear or danger. 

The Question

I closed part one with this question,

“If feeling insecure is a learned behavior then can it be unlearned?”

Ignoring the insecurity, or masking it, or living in denial are ineffective strategies.

Insecurity can be defeated, or at least minimized, by learning from new experiences and  processing new insights. Also, it may be that you need to consult a Doctor or pursue professional levels of help. 

As for this blog, I offer these thoughts.

Suggestions

  1. Write It Down

I have found journaling helpful. Write about your insecurity. What is it you fear? What is it you are looking over your shoulder to see? Be honest and specific. By identifying what overwhelms you, you’ve taken a healthy step in coping with it. So, write it down.

2.  Think It Through

Think through the fear and sense of doom, all the way to the end. What happens if it happens? Could it happen? Is it likely? Often, what scares us most are the things that are most unlikely to happen.

An example: During Hurricane Harvey’s five days of rain my insecurity surged with a foreboding of our house flooding. But our house didn’t flood, not even close. Throughout the storm there was no reason to believe that it would. But I was still afraid, and the fear came from insecurity. But it helped when I finally owned up to the idea that if it did flood then we would deal with it. We would be okay. It would be a huge mess and a giant hassle, but we would be all right. Instead of being overwhelmed with dread and fear I arrived at a calmer place. So, think it through.

3. Provide Faith Messages

Our self talk when insecurity hits us becomes really important. Write about that too. What messages do you give yourself? Are they negative? Full of dread and fear? Are they messages that reflect the worst possible outcome? Or are they positive and strong, full of faithful optimism? Are they messages of trust in God? Giving ourselves a steady stream of healthy messages will help diminish the fear and doom. So, give yourself some good reinforcement. 

The Word

Fine strength and comfort from these verses:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition… present your requests to God ….the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he will lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”                                                                I Peter 5:6-7

In Closing

The Apostle Paul said,

“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”                                            Romans 12:21 (NLT)  

Unsubstantiated, irrational fear comes from an evil place, for God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear. Yes, when danger is real, when we are threatened, then we act accordingly. But fear generated from insecurity doesn’t have to own us.

happy woman

We can overcome!

God Bless You

Overcoming Insecurity: Ignore or Invest?

Overcoming Insecurity, Part 1

Introduction

What is insecurity? What is it to overcome it? Let’s define the terms.

Insecurity:Subject to fear or the fear of harm, feeling unsafe”

Overcome: “To be subdued, defeated, and conquered / to subdue, defeat, and conquer” 

To be overcome with insecurity is to be subdued by feeling unsafe and afraid.

The Insecure Child

When children are overcome with insecurity they:

  1. are afraid of something new
  2. believe something is going to hurt them 
  3. struggle to believe that they are good enough
  4. are overly alarmed by things that go “bump” in the night
  5. feel unsafe when they are unloved, neglected, or unprotected  

A child overcome with insecurity will often have a defeatist attitude and may exhibit the behaviors of a conquered person. They fear what’s new and what’s next. 

scared cute little girl under the blanket in her bed

The Insecure Adult 

When adults are overcome by insecurity they:

  1. are afraid to try new things or meet new people
  2. have a foreboding sense that something bad is about to happen
  3. struggle with body image and their appearance 
  4. believe that others judge them and find them lacking
  5. feel unsafe when they are unloved, neglected, or unprotected 

An adult overcome with insecurity will often have a defeatist attitude and may exhibit the behaviors of a conquered person. They fear rejection or abandonment.

worried woman

An Illustration

I was a shy child, but I wasn’t born shy, I learned it from painful experiences. In time I learned to squirm when introduced as the new kid in class or participating in something different. To some extent, the insecurity I had as a child stayed with me as an adult. There are moments when I still feel overwhelmed by fear, or by the sense of something bad about to happen.

Oddly, I’m no longer shy, the shyness drained off a long time ago. But the memories and feelings of fear dug in deep, rooted within my soul. Have I been overcome by insecurity? 

Growing and Overcoming 

The options? Well, I can ignore my insecurity. Thats what we do, we put it in a jar and  tighten the lid. Does it work? Or maybe we pretend and deny. Sometimes we learn to excel at something to camouflage our true selves. It’s painful being overcome by insecurity. 

However, if I learned to be insecure by allowing fear to subdue me, can I learn not to be? Rather than ignore it maybe I can invest in something that helps me. Can I conquer my insecurity rather than be conquered by it? 

In Closing

This is part one of Overcoming Insecurity. Stay tuned for part two on Wednesday morning. I will answer the above question with practical suggestions, warm encouragement, and something valuable from the Word of God. 

Hang in there. 

Conquer, Subdue & Defeat

The Overcomer

Part One

Introduction

The word, “overcome” is typically used in one of two ways:

  1. Overcome: something that defeated us
  2. Overcome: something we defeated

Something that overcomes is a force that subdues and conquers us. To be an overcomer is to subdue and conquer that force. Either we overcome something or it overcomes us. 

Some Examples

  1. Nicotine
  2. Depression
  3. Over eating
  4. Pornography
  5. Anger

Those are only a few of the many forces that battle with us and that we battle against. If we win then we have overcome. But if we lose …? 

Overcoming can look different for everyone. I know two men who were heavy smokers and decided to kick the habit. One of them threw his cigarets into the trash and never smoked again. The other threw his pack into the trash but later dug them out. He struggled for years. He quit over and over. Was he an overcomer? 

A Few Verses

The apostle John frequently used the word overcome, some examples:

I John 2;13, “…and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”

I John 4:4, “You… have overcome, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

To Close

For the next few weeks my blog will address the topic of overcoming. I intend to post Monday and Wednesday mornings. Each blog will be purposed to help you overcome the forces fighting against you. I will use scripture, practical suggestions and encouragement. 

Stay tuned…

How Are You Really?

Men Are Tough

At least they are up to a point. I’ve seen men injured and yet soldier on with true grit to finish the game, I did it in High School. However, in other aspects of life, men are not so much for toughness.

OU RED WHITE SPRING GAME
Not me or the High School game I was injured in. But close, really very close.

A True Gentleman?

If we are hurting our conditioning trains us to not speak of it, especially if its emotional pain. Being a gentleman calls us to never cause discomfort to another. So, a gentleman  doesn’t seek sympathy. Unless of course we are sick or have a cold, then we call for Mama.  

Yesterday at Church

Sunday morning I wasn’t feeling well. I felt ill and was down emotionally due to some deaths/funerals I was facing, and some other things. But we preachers are a tough bunch. We play hurt. We tighten our belts and do our jobs. I didn’t know if anyone could tell, but I was hiding how I was feeling and pretending to be fine.

Besides, there’s nothing worse than a whiny preacher. 

But a friend saw beneath the facade and asked how I was doing. The asking was laced with concern. So, I said that I wasn’t doing well and explained why.  My friend offered encouragement and useful advice and then said this,

“Thank you for telling me, for telling the truth about how you are really doing.” 

That stopped me in my tracks, kept me stuck to the ground.

“Thank you for telling me the truth.”

In that moment I wondered how many times through the decades of Sunday mornings I’ve walked into church masking my struggles and heartaches.

I know

I’m compensated for serving the people and responsible for an uplifting service and a decently encouraging message. Everyone employed has to deliver when they are paid to deliver. Even preachers. 

295063_3076114632888_2017250877_n
Even at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall preachers have to deliver.

To Close

Frankly it was liberating to tell a friend at a Sunday service how I was doing. And it may be a stretch to believe, but I’m rarely asked that question. It’s my job to ask how everyone else is doing. 

I get it. 

But I’m doing better this morning, thank you. 

Twenty-Eight Days?

I’ve heard that if you do something every day for 28 days it becomes a habit. I’m not sure if that’s true, but its true I’ve heard it. But it sounds reasonable. Would the reverse be true? If you stop doing something for 28 days it breaks the habit? 

So, what behavior would you like to become a habit? A few thoughts:

  • Exercise 
  • Reading books 
  • Doing unlikable chores
  • Pulling weeds/gardening 15 minutes a day
  • Making the bed (assumes you aren’t already making it) 

A few thoughts on habits to break:

  • Leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor
  • Yelling at drivers during morning/evening commute
  • Irritating other drivers during morning/evening commute 
  • Falling asleep during meetings at work 
  • Playing mean practical jokes on the guy who falls asleep during meetings

That all sounds wise and useful.

Something Better

Yesterday morning I was in a parenting class with 48 parents of preschoolers. The teacher was encouraging the parents to take advantage of the time they already spend with their kids to teach them about God. She was emphasizing the value of doing these things over time, that children learn best by doing something over and over again.

For Instance

  • Play CD’s of music from their bible classes at church.
  • At bath time, get a boat and a few plastic figures and teach Noah’s Ark.
  • Cuddle with them and assure them you and God love them.
  • At bed time pray for them and with them and for their friends.
  • Read bible stories every night.

You get the idea. 

Then one of the moms shared a story. Whenever she goes somewhere with her preschooler she points out the sun and the sky, saying  how beautiful they are and that God made them. One morning they were headed someplace and mentioned that the sunrise was beautiful. Then she heard her daughter in the back seat begin praying and thanking God for the sun. It was a moment. 

Twenty-Eight Days 

There is great value in doing important things every day. 

  • Finding time to pray
  • Reflecting on God’s Word 
  • Being kind to someone 
  • Honoring your commitments
  • Teaching a child the value of knowing God

Mother and daughter praying in bed

To Close

Be awesome today. Do something truly worthwhile. Love and care for your children. Nobody has as much potential for shaping your child’s heart than you.

Shape it well. 

 

Fear or Faith, Its Up To Me

Some of My Childhood Fears

  1. The neighbor’s big barking dog
  2. Something under the bed at night
  3. Being the new kid in class
  4. Going to the blackboard to do math problems
  5. Snakes

Kids have fears. I don’t think its genetic, I think it’s taught and I was taught to fear snakes. “The only good snake is a dead snake,” my Dad would say. That stuck with me. 

Some of My Adult Fears

  1. Failing in my ministry
  2. Fatal illnesses 
  3. Something happening to my kids
  4. Becoming ineffective and useless 
  5. That in the end I wasn’t good enough 

My fears were learned over a lifetime and rooted in the core of self-esteem issues.

Often our fears are based on imaginary problems resulting in unreasonable anxiety.  

An Example

Years ago, I was in my office at the church when I got a call from an elder of a very large church in Nashville. They were searching for a new Senior Minister and said I was at the top of a very short list. He told me about the opportunity and asked If I would like to bring my family for a visit. I said, “No.”

I didn’t think about it or ask for a day or two to get back to him, I just said no. 

Why?

Because I was afraid. I was afraid of the idea of leading a really big church. The fear was based in inadequacy, that I wasn’t good enough, not possessing the requisite skills. I was intimidated, flattered, by intimidated. We didn’t visit. 

Over the years I’ve wondered if that was a mistake, a missed opportunity, the shutting of a door that the Lord had opened.

The Boat Story

Remember Simon Peter asking Jesus if he could go out to him to have him on the water? Jesus said yes and out of the boat he went, walking on the water. But began to sink. He saw the stormy winds causing the big waves and he doubted. The word doubt means to lose confidence. In that moment, Peter lost confidence in Jesus. 

peter-walking-on-water

Losing confidence was about looking at things that cause fear. Peter could have walked the whole Sea of Galilee if he had kept his eyes on Jesus.

To Close

Let’s be encouraged to keep our eyes on Jesus. Trust requires us to stay focused on his word and his power. It’s a faith experience to walk with Jesus in confidence. It’s a fear experience to give our attention to anything else. 

Shalom

Gathering a Circle

My cousins and I were once asked to heard some chickens. It was a joke on us.

Chickens won’t heard. 

boy and chickens
Not me or the chickens I chased, but close, really very close.

Other Animals Difficult to Heard

  • lizards
  • goats
  • badgers
  • humming birds
  • small children  . 

Last Night

We tried something different. We asked our Life Groups to come to the building. They didn’t all come, but 16 groups did and about 250 people gathered. We had to set up more tables and chairs. We talked and visited and enjoyed seeing everyone. There was a fun table game for everyone to do.

FullSizeRender   FullSizeRender[3]

Then we stood and lined the four walls of the gym. We were crowded and people stood shoulder to shoulder and two and three deep. We sang a few songs, had a prayer, and then left to have our Life Group meetings in classrooms. It was organized for two groups to meet together, an older and a younger, it was inner-generational. The teens, middle schoolers and children had their own events. 

It was simply marvelous. 

FullSizeRender[6]   FullSizeRender[4]

The Connection

People got acquainted that had never met. We each shared a few thoughts about ourselves. We laughed a lot and realized how much we all had in common, from people in their 30’s to people in their 80’s. 

We called the event, “The Circle.” 

Jesus had circles. His apostles were a circle of followers. Among them were a smaller circle of three: Peter, James and John. He also had a close circle of friends: Lazarus, Martha and Mary, a family of a brother and two sisters. Jesus often stayed in their home. 

To close

Crowds can be unruly. Goats will find their own way. Kids run and play. Getting any group of people to cooperate can be challenging. 

But last night, we had the Circle and then had smaller circles. It was tremendous. I enjoyed people of all ages and could easily see Jesus in their lives.

It wasn’t like the chickens at all!

Shalom

Even His Clothes

Labor Day

Sure, why not? Let’s have a national day of non-labor.

 Labor Day was created by the labor movement and inaugurated as a federal holiday in 1894. For a 124 years we’ve recognized the first Monday in September as Labor Day. Congratulations, you don’t have to go to work.

The Timing

I find the timing interesting. After three months of Americans taking time off for vacations, trips, and get aways, we enter September with a day off of work. Banks are closed, schools are closed (having just started). Federal offices are closed, no mail.  

You know who isn’t closed today:

  • Starbucks
  • Home Depot & Lowe’s
  • Denny’s 

So it isn’t all bad. Even on Labor Day you can get a cup of coffee, a Grand Slam breakfast, and whatever you need for home care and repair, so labor on. 

My Labor

I’ve labored, here’s a partial list:

  • 8th grade I did yard care for my Bible Class teacher.
  • 9th grade I used a hoe to weed crop fields.
  • 10th grade I worked on two different farms and a hog farm. 
  • 11th grade I put up hay bales, all summer long.
  • 12th grade I worked after school at the Skelly Gas Station out on the hi-way.

I earned $1.00 an hour for weeding fields. Farm work got $1.25 an hour. The Skelly Station paid a $1.50 an hour, It was skilled labor! 

And Now?

Well, now I’m the Senior Minister for the Southeast Church of Christ in Friendswood, Texas, a very pleasant Houstonian suburb. It’s a great job and I’m blessed to have it.

Reasons for feeling blessed:

  • I have a job instead of being unemployed.
  • I make more than a $1.50 an hour.
  • Only work one day a week. (as some suggest)
  • It’s a great church
  • Get to work with a phenomenally gifted staff.

 

And Jesus?

Was Jesus ever employed? Scripture says he was a carpenter, which is a bit confusing since the word translated as “carpenter” actually means builder. Most building in Palestine was done with stone. Was he ever paid? 

He once said that he had no place to lay his head. People gave money for he and his apostles to travel and minister; and we know Judas stole from the fund, but was that gainful employment? 

At his death Jesus owned nothing. Even the clothes on his back were taken. With outstretched arms he hung naked on the cross and the King of Kings owned nothing; no money, property, or possessions.

He preached, healed and ministered to the masses, all for no charge. He never asked for anything. Well, he once asked a woman for a drink of water.

Thank you Jesus. You were the son of Joseph, the son of David, the Son of God. You were the Lamb that gave his life. You were the perfect sacrifice to bring us back to God. You  labored to get it all done and get it done you did, you even said so:

“It is finished.”
And then you died.

The Bible

Happy Labor Day