The Long Journey to the Pie

Pie is always a good idea.

Pie is an even better idea when it is shared with friends.

Not too long ago I got together with some good old friends. It was a typical “guys” night. Way too many buffalo wings, lots of laughter, and a sad realization that we all are a lot older than we used to be. As the night wore on everyone threw out options for what we should do next.

We stood in the parking lot for a solid 15 minutes trying to decide.

  • Go-karting? Too expensive.
  • Mini Golf? Too lame.
  • Video games back at so-and-so’s house? The baby was asleep.
  • Pie? Perfect.

“Why don’t we just walk there!?” I exclaimed. “It’s literally right down the street!” My idea was met with a lot of enthusiasm and even called, “the best plan of the night.”

So, we set off walking. And it was just about a half a block into our journey that I realized the pie place was quite a bit further than I had originally thought. Our short walk was not going to be short at all.

After about 10 minutes the group caught on that our walk was no small stroll. One person even asked if we should turn back and just drive. But the collective answer was, “No. We have come this far. The pie will be worth it.”

And let me tell you, the pie certainly was worth every step of that brutally long (I’m exaggerating just a bit) walk. At the table, one of my friends suggested I write a blog about the event (this is your shout-out Steve) and so here it is.

And here is the point…

Often times our journeys turn out to be a lot longer than expected, and that’s OK.

Many of us are faced with situations and seasons that cause pain, frustration, and fear. Maybe for you, it’s a frustrating situation at work. Or a broken relationship with someone you love. Or maybe you are dealing with health problems that just don’t seem to go away. Or maybe you are like my wife and I and are waiting to adopt and experiencing the pain of childlessness. Whatever your journey is, it may seem unbearable, or at least unbearably long.

But we must patiently endure and pray that God would help us to be content.

Proverbs 16:9 is clear that even though we may have our own plans ultimately it is God who directs our journey. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

And because it is the Lord who “establishes our steps” we need to remember that He knows what He is doing. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

As I walk through my own unexpectedly long journey I find comfort knowing that God is with me through it all. King David knew that truth as well. In the 23rd Psalm, he wrote about walking through terrible, dark, and deadly times, but he did not fear. Why? Because he knew that God was with him. We need to remember that truth as well.

The journey may be long, but we have a wonderful companion.

We also need to learn to be content in the midst of our journey. Now, please understand that contentment isn’t just simply saying, “I guess I’m fine with this for now.” Contentment is saying, “Lord, if I have nothing else in life other than you, I am ok with that. Because you have already given me everything I need, and you are what I want above all else.”

If you are reading this and you resonate with the frustrations of a longer-than-expected journey I want you to know that I am praying for you. I am praying that God will give us the strength to endure, joy in the midst of pain, and peace that can only be found in Him.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

Say What?

Communication is hard.

It took me a solid four minutes to settle on that first sentence. I typed a few initial sentences out only to highlight and delete them seconds later. I even went back and changed a few words in that previous sentence before writing this one. And now I am writing this sentence in an attempt to explain to you just how difficult good communication can be.

Clear and helpful communication takes times and effort.

We all have a lot of words floating around in our heads. And most of us, are able to put those words together into a coherent string of sentences in order to communicate a specific point or idea. The problem, however, is that sometimes what we say is not what we mean. And what people hear is not always what was intended.

Years ago, I was with some friends in a tea shop in Prague. There was a wide variety of loose leaf teas on display behind the counter and, after deliberation, I had made up my mind, I wanted the Early Grey. I walked up to the clerk, who still had not said one word to my friends and me, and I began to order.

But at the exact moment I opened my mouth I realized three things.

First, I wasn’t actually sure how to order loose leaf tea. Did I order a container? A bag? What wording should I use?

Second, I didn’t know if the clerk spoke English or not. Should I try to speak Czech and make a fool out of myself?

Third, if I did make a fool out of myself I knew my friends would mercilessly make fun of me.

I panicked. What I wanted to communicate was… “excuse me, do you speak English? If so, I would like to purchase some tea. However, I am unsure of how it comes packaged. Can you please assist me?”

What actually came out of my mouth was, “Um, how do I tea?”

The clerk looked at me strangely, and I quickly recovered with, “I’m so sorry. Do you speak English?”

Her response, “Yes. Do you?”

Now, that’s a funny example of bad communication, but at that moment there wasn’t all that much at stake. However, there is always something at stake when we communicate with spouses, our children, friends, co-workers, and bosses.

It is important for us to communicate well, especially when there is a problem or frustration that needs to be addressed. When we have a difficulty with someone, we show that we care about them by being conscientious with our communication.

So here are four principles of communication that can be found in the Bible. I must state that these initial principles or rules are not original with me. I simply am passing on what I have learned from others, and hopefully, you can pass it on as well.

Four Principles of Communication

Found in Ephesians 4:25-32

1- Be Honest -found in verse 25

There are three ways that this rule can be broken:

An outright lie -Yes, this includes “white” lies.

Deception -Not telling the whole truth or intentionally misleading.

Avoidance -Not talking about the issue because it is hard to deal with.

2- Keep Current -found in verse 26

Deal with the issue or situation immediately, or at least as soon as feasibly possible. Stop what you are doing and devote time to figuring it out. Don’t let things fester.

3- Attack the Problem, Not the Person -found in verse 29

Attacking the person gets you off topic and brings up other issues you haven’t yet dealt with. Usually, you end up saying something out of emotion that you really don’t mean. Also, avoid using absolutes. “You always…” “You never…” Absolutes normally are untrue and unfair.

4- Act Biblically- Don’t React -found in verses 31-32

Act in a way that honors God and the other person. Avoid reacting to situations. Think through the situation, then act in a way that is consistent with how God has called you to live.

 

And Then There Were Monkeys

There we were, roasting in the Caribbean sun, covered in sunscreen and looking for adventure.

A few years ago, my wife and I went on a family cruise. It was an extremely fun time. We ate food, walked on beaches, ate food, went to shows, ate food, visited a volcano, ate food, went parasailing, ate food, snorkeled, and oh…ate food.

As we were making our way into one of the island’s ports I remember we were immediately hit with a barrage of people looking to sell us something…anything really. There was no point in trying to hide the fact that we were tourists, so we decided to just smile, nod, and try to make our way through the crowd.

Now, I honestly can say that I have no clue how it actually happened, but before I knew what was going on there was a monkey on my back….literally.

My wife was laughing as a monkey suddenly appeared on her as well. Our smiles grew as the monkeys increased. There was a local man smiling and laughing with us as he egged our furry little friends on. Then he asked me if I wanted him to take our picture.

I should have known better.

After he snapped a couple of photos of us his smiled faded, the primates jumped from our shoulders to his, and he held his hand out.

He got me.

Now, I want to be clear, I don’t begrudge this man for trying to make a living. My wife and I certainly aren’t missing the few “American dollars” our monkey pictures cost us. But I think what irritates me (only a little bit honestly) these years later is that fact that I had been “gotten.”

I should have seen it coming. I should have been ready. I should have just kept walking.

It could have been the scorching sun, the fresh air, my wits dimmed from the all-you-can-eat buffet, or just simply the excitement of the day. Whatever the reason, the reality was that I had been suckered into paying for something I didn’t need.

My defenses were down and it happened so fast.

We need to be careful how we live our lives, because the monkeys on our back can be crazy dangerous.

It’s frustrating, but this is usually how sin works in our lives. It jumps on to us (or we willingly put it on) and before we realize what is going on, payment is due. There is a quote from Ravi Zaccharias (although it has been attributed to several people) that goes like this,

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

That quote is, unfortunately, so terrifyingly true. We can get caught up in something, and before we even realize it, we are neck deep in the consequences of our actions.

James 1:14 reminds us that, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Those words “lured” and “enticed” could even be translated as “dragged away by.” That’s an unpleasant thought.

So what do we do when we are faced with temptation?

We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

We remember the truth of who we are in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We put on the protective armor that He has supplied us. (Ephesians 6:13)

Run away from those monkeys. They may be fun, cute, and cuddly at first…but they will always end up costing you.

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9

Back To School: 4 Reminders to Put in Your Backpack

Summer is over. School has started.

Alright, that may have been a pretty depressing start for most of you. But this post will get better I promise, so please read on.

The beginning of the school year can be a mixed bag of emotions. Excitement, fear, anticipation, frustration, hope, despair, happiness, sadness, nervousness, peace and stress just to name a few.

Because there are so many mixed feelings surrounding the “back to school” season I think it is important for us to remind ourselves of a few important truths. While these reminders might be geared towards students, teachers, and parents at the start of school, I do think that they can apply to anyone during any time of year.

1-This is a time for opportunity.

Forget about what happened last year, the good and the bad. Today is a fresh start to a new year. What will you choose to do with these new opportunities that have fallen into your lap?

This new season opens the door to the opportunity to make new friends, learn more, experience new things, and trust in God to carry you through. Don’t squander these new opportunities.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Trust in God as you face these new opportunities and make the most of them.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

2-It is going to be OK.

You don’t know how this year will turn out, and that can be scary. But God does know, and we should be encouraged by that. No matter what this school year may throw at us we can be confident that, if we trust in Him, God will carry us through.

We need to remember and practice Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

And God’s words to Joshua in the Old Testament can be just as encouraging for us today. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

If you have a bad day just remember – tomorrow is always a new day. Don’t be anxious, it is going to be OK.

3-You are going to teach.

Your actions and reactions will teach others about who you really are. We need to remember that our words, deeds, and even our thoughts are a reflection of where our hearts are at. As we live our daily lives we need to make sure that we are both talking the talk and walking the walk.

Philippians 2:14 tells us to, “do all things without grumbling or complaining.” Why? Because, if we are children of God, then we are called to something so much better.

People are going to watch us. They will learn about us, and before long they will know who we are and what we represent. So, what will we teach them?

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

4-You are going to learn.

You can be sure that someone is lying if they answer the question, “what did you learn today?” with an unenthusiastic, “nothing.” We learn something new every day. And there is no age limit on learning either. The Proverbs make it very clear that fools despise wisdom, knowledge, and learning. Those that are wise, however, love to learn and are willing to be corrected.

Proverbs 3:7 reminds us to, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”

The school year is an excellent time to learn, not only that “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell,” but also life lessons that impact our daily lives. We can learn how to better interact with and love others, who we are, and how God sees us. Ultimately, though our hope and prayer should be that we learn how to love God and love others.

“Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14)

Class dismissed.