Throughout the last two years, Linds and I would occasionally turn to each other and say: “I wonder where we’ll be a year from now?”
We were in this season of always feeling like God had something just around the corner for us, that we were never quite sure what our future held. Having experienced everything from starting a business, leaving a job, moving from the midwest to the desert, leaving another job, traveling, starting another business, and now moving to Nashville, it has been quite a journey of seeking God for our future. It hasn’t been easy.
Thankfully, we have usually felt a consistent sense of peace and unity together as we’ve sensed God gently leading us, opening doors, and shutting them.
And last month, we said our phrase for the last time. As we were prepping for our move to Nashville, Lindsay and I were on our final date in Phoenix when she looked at me and said: “I wonder where we’ll be a year from now?” We both laughed and I said: “Who cares? Wherever it is, it’ll be awesome!”
It brought to mind these words from Scripture:
Accept the way God does things,
for who can straighten what he has made crooked? – Ecclesiastes 7:13
I would normally tend to read this and think it was a typo. I mean, aren’t OUR paths usually all messed up and GOD is the one who has to constantly correct us to keep us on a straight line?
Not according to Solomon. As I read this verse and thought about the past two years of my life, I realized that far too often, I’M the one who is so focused on trying to make sure my life is even, fair, straight, comfortable, predictable, planned-out, and makes sense…and then GOD is the one who had something different in mind.
I’m always trying to set my life on course and then hit auto-pilot. But the minute I try to do that, God reaches down and (lovingly) taps my course a different way. A zig-zag path is annoying because we’re not able to see the end. We’d rather have a straight path and be able to know exactly what is coming and when. But more often than not, God wants us to trust Him for each step of the journey, without necessarily knowing what the next step is.
I had a mentor who once said that God is predictably unpredictable. And when following Him, be prepared for a lot of unpredictable left and right turns. It can be frustrating, but once Linds and I embraced it, we simply began to enjoy the adventure!
Spiritual growth can be a tricky thing to figure out. Actually, I’m not sure we ever totally “figure it out” but I think it’s always something in the back of our minds. I had the privilege of teaching at Heartland Community Church at their Sun Prairie campus a couple weekends ago about spiritual growth. After being inspired by a teaching from a pastor here in Phoenix named Tyler Johnson when he spoke at our church, New City about Kingdom Power (listen here), I was excited to talk about Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed and what it has to do with our spiritual growth. Oh, and I got to talk about one of my favorites topics ever: 90’s music!
One Hit Wonders – The Mustard Seed
This summer I was blessed with the opportunity to travel across the country and teach at four week-long student experiences. Each camp, trip, and retreat was a ton of fun and offered its own unique experiences for me to learn from as I hung out with and taught each group of students and interacted with the leaders and staff. From Houston, to California, to Baltimore, and Wisconsin, I had a blast at each corner of the US of A and God taught me a ton each day. So, I thought I’d share a few learnings I got from my various trips:
1). Teach to students, not anyone else. Each trip I was on, there were times when I was tempted to tweak my content to make sure I impressed the adult leaders or parents in the room, but I forced myself to make sure that my language and illustrations were specifically targeting the middle school and/or high school students in the room. While I might want to establish a positive reputation with my peers, my passion and the reason I was hired was to speak God’s love and truth to students, not anyone else. And the funny thing about it was that the more I focused on speaking directly to students, the more I would have leaders and parents come up to me and thank me for God speaking to them through what I said! And according to Michael Scott, we call that a win-win-win.
2). Sharing weakness can be powerful. As a communicator to students, especially one that travels to new audiences each time, it can be extremely tempting to put a lot of effort into maintaining a certain persona with the students I teach and interact with. But what I found is that the vast majority of the times, students will talk to me and open up to me about a moment in one of my teachings where I shared something about myself that was less-than perfect. When I gave examples from my own life of how I screwed up, students responded by feeling free to admit weakness in themselves, while also being open to the truth I shared immediately after of what I learned through my mistake(s). Obviously, there’s a line of appropriate sharing (depending on the setting and audience) but always trying to look perfect is far from the most powerful way that God can use our words to speak into students’ lives. Unless, of course, you are perfect…in which case, can you give me golf lessons?
3). A Conversation Has Much More of an Impact Than a Teaching. As a teacher, it would be real easy to simply show up, talk, walk off stage, and head back to my room to watch That 70’s Show on Netflix or play Candy Crush ’til my fingers bled (happened to a friend of mine). But each time I talk at a student event, I make sure to intentionally carve out time during the day, night, as well as before and after teaching to step out of my comfort zone (has#brown: introvert) and engage with students. And every single time I do this, I’m so glad I did. The times I spent talking to students about everything from girls to guys to tattoos to celebrity doppelganger, to God and faith and pain and hope and everything in between is by far, the most rewarding part of working with students. I could deliver a killer teaching and hope students remember 10% of what I said, or have a personal conversation for 10 minutes and know that they will remember it for a long time. The pulpit (or music stand) is important, but I’ve learned to never underestimate what God does through conversation and a personal relationship with the students that we serve. Plus a bonus is I learn about all the strategies for the video game I’m playing (Dishonored).
4). Students Want to Go Deep. Part of my ministry philosophy for students is that we should never dumb or water down the truth from Scripture. According to 1 Timothy 4:12, an eleven-year-old is just as capable as taking their faith seriously as I am. So, when it comes to the way I teach about the Bible, the way I talk about God’s love, and the way I challenge students, I never shy away from going deep and getting real with them. Each time I fear that I might end up pushing them further away or possibly even offending them, but the response I see from students is remarkable. Everybody from 6th grade boys to 12th grade girls (about a 30 year maturity gap, FYI) come up to me and tell me how God encouraged them and how they’re so excited to start a new journey in seeking after God and living their lives for him. I’m not opposed to having a stupid amount of fun (IE: a cricket-spitting for distance competition…true story), but when it comes to a student’s faith, they’re hungry and ready for depth.
Sometimes the things that make me a good leader, make me a bad husband.
One example: Seeing the weakest links.
Something I’ve seen good leaders do is find the weakest links in whatever they’re leading and strengthen them. They look at their team, ministry, or organization, identify what most needs improvement, and then do what they can to improve it.
But even though this might be a good quality for a leader, it makes for a bad habit as a husband or dad.
I’ve found myself drawn to thinking about the one negative part of a conversation with my wife or experience with my daughter, and ignoring all the positives. I’ve caught myself mentally removing myself from a moment and all the amazing parts of it because I’ve noticed and am dwelling on something less than perfect, and started to process how it could be changed.
The way my daughter didn’t say “thank you” to the cashier at Chick Fil-A (even though she did say “hi” and “please”), the fact that my wife didn’t ask me about a meeting I had that day (even though she made me dinner and complimented my new hat), when I’m not able to watch a game I wanted to (because we’re having an awesome family day at the zoo), and so many more.
I’ve started to see it more and do my best to dismiss it, in order to focus on and enjoy the more frequent and important positives of the people in front of me.
I might be tempted to think that I need to be a strong father or good leader in my marriage so focusing on the negatives to improve things is healthy, but more often than not, I’m pretty sure I’m just missing opportunities to love the amazing qualities of my family…and then tell them about it!
There might be times when challenge is appropriate, but I’d rather default to being the kind of husband and dad who was always looking for the positives, and experiencing the present moment with full appreciation for everything it is.
Friday Five is back! Enjoy!
1). The Art of Small Talk.
As an introvert, this article was super helpful and interesting to learn some tangibles about how to engage in quality small talk.
2). The most beautiful and accurate baby lullaby I’ve ever heard. The Maya Rudolph variety show was a lot of fun to watch, but this was by far my favorite performance of the night. I loved Chris Parnell in Anchorman and Lazy Sunday, and this song just confirmed how awesome he is. For those of you with kids, this won’t get out of your head for a while…which you’ll thoroughly enjoy.
3). Ginger Sympathy. For my fellow pasty-skinned, red-heads, here’s some truth and love for you all: It’s a Tough World Out There for Gingers.
4). The Greatest Unscripted Movie Scenes Ever. Some of these are pretty shocking that they were ad-libbed moments in movies that became super famous. I found #4 most interesting.
5). Skiing with Dolphins. Here’s your feel-good video for the week. This is not only amazing but totally makes me jealous, wishing it had happened to me!