Preach To Yourself

Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalms 42:5

I love that God put a passages in the Bible where people talk to themselves.

“Hey soul, why are you so grumpy and down? Stop hoping in things that lead nowhere and remember to hope in God. Don’t worry, you’ll find joy in worship again.”

When you’re down, when your soul is troubled, when the darkness feels like there is no end… Talk to your soul.

You can let your worry and stress control you or you can speak life to your worry and stress.

You can let turmoil drill your life into the pit, or you can remind yourself that there is a hope that has the power to lift you up.

Lately, I’ve been talking to my soul daily. Reminding my soul that this is a season where I can grow in ways that were previously unknown to me. I talk to myself daily with words of God’s love and purpose so that I don’t fall into pity or impatience.

What situation do you need to talk to your soul about? Chances are likely God has a story or passage in the Bible that will guide your inner dialogue.

#thinkaboutthat

Missing Childhood Or Missing The Point?

The following is a list of things from my childhood that my children will likely not experience unless specifically led.

Telling time on an analogue watch.

Writing in cursive.

Memorizing multiplication tables sans common core.

Shooting things with a BB gun.

Hiking in nature absent supervision.

Playing outside without boundaries or a gps tracker.

The Dewey Decimal system.

Encyclopedias.

Building tree forts with a jar of nails and scrap wood.

Chopping down trees in the wild.

Times change. My kids have infinite information at their fingertips. They can call me from anywhere in the world without a cage enclosed phone that costs a quarter. They can record videos and edit them. They are learning to code computer software. They’ll never have to take a typing class. The list is immense. I’m sure there are aspects of your childhood that are long gone for kids today (I’d love to hear them).

Much can said about what our kids will never experience. Instead of focusing on what they won’t experience, we should ask what they will get to experience that we never had the opportunity to share in. We can lament that they’ll never know “our world” or we can prepare them to be amazing humans in their world and the world to come.

Teach them to create beautiful things for human flourishing so they create a vocation that makes their soul sing.

Teach them to be kind to others regardless of differences so that dialogue can return to civility.

Teach them their worth doesn’t come from the approval of others so they can be free from the endless cycle of popularity by likes, views, or whatever new metric may come.

Teach them to care for the poor, widows, and orphans so their lives are rooted in service to the least of these.

Teach them to hold convictions that matter so that convictions that don’t matter can be sifted like chaff.

Teach them critical thinking skills so they aren’t tossed by the ever changing pulse of culture.

These lessons and qualities (with many others I’m sure) transcend the changes that time will inevitably bring. We can lament a childhood gone missing or raise children in the here and now for the days they will face tomorrow.

#dadlife #raisinghumans

One Week. One Bath. The Results.

I am one week post surgery.

I am was, until today, one week post bathing.

Have you ever gone a week without bathing? Sound gross right? It is. I washed my face everyday, but the bathing process proved to be a bit much… so I didn’t. I used baby wipes to try and sanitize myself, but smelling like clean baby butt is a terrible alternative to bathing.

First thing noticed is the hair grease followed by itchy scalp. Then the wafting fragrance of man. The only saving grace is that my splint is at the other end of my 6’6 frame which protects me from the wrath of stinky foot. No matter how much I changed clothes, the power of the funk could only be held back so long. The baby wipes could only clean so much. I needed a full scrub and rinse.

Connecting with God is like bathing. Necessary daily. Spiritual wipes don’t help much. We all need a scrub down of denying ourself and turning to Jesus everyday.

#thinkaboutthat

Percocet Pastor – My Journey In Opioidland

I have never taken pain medication other than Tylenol or Ibuprofen until my recent run in with a ruptured Achilles. On February 20th I was given my first Percocet and the evening ended with my brother taking a 5 minute recording of a FaceTime where I am apparently spewing comedy gold (tbd since I haven’t seen the footage). My medication cycle seems to follow a very predictable pattern: loopy, sleepy, super loopy, groggy, repeat.

The post surgery pain was excruciating, and they prescribed 1-2 Vicodin every 4 hours for this round. After being medicated continually for 13 days I called it quit today.

Last night when some friends were visiting I said something that shook me. They asked how the meds made me feel, and after my obligatory joke I said, “at least they numb the pain, but they also seem to numb my soul.” When the words left my mouth I felt the Tirona-pain-equation formulating in my mind.

Pain + meds = numb pain and numb life

*By numb life I mean I desired less, or significantly lacked, in areas where I normally swim in abundance. Less emotions. Less appetite. Less libido. Less joy. Less motivation to read. Lesser thinking ability. Just less.

The alternative: Pain + no meds = more pain and more life

I’m not an advocate of “toughing it out” with all the amazing medical treatments available to us, but I needed to establish a baseline to see how my pain was with no medication. So took my meds at 7pm and went to sleep on a prayer. I’m great today. Yes, a little more pain is reminding to lay down more often, but my brain is chugging along with a bit more focus. My desires are building up. My soul is less numb!

In the news I am constantly hearing about the opioid epidemic. The high addiction rates. The related causes of death. I’ve pondered the effects of opioids for years since my wife has battled chronic pain from a cyst that has resulted in two brain surgeries, but this has been my first personal run in with them.

I definitely feel the danger now. The loopy high gives a temporary sense of pleasure, but the trade off, and fall off, was too much for me to continue a regular dosage.

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” My meds, like illicit drugs I had taken before, provide a moment of pleasure and type of joy, but they are far from lasting. Look at that verse. In God’s presence is the fullness of joy and at his right had are pleasures forevermore! That’s what I want. Full joy and forever pleasure. This probably sound fuddy duddy, but I genuinely felt my meds trying to trade my divine pleasures and joy for fleeting pleasure and micro-joy.

Please hear me. I am not saying all drugs are bad for all people. I am saying these drugs were bad for me. I can see the allure, but I chose not to settle in to the quasi joy and short lived pleasure. (I also don’t think Percocet Pastor would be a good moniker in my vocational field.)

What’s your experience with meds and drugs?

Or deeper yet…

What’s your experience trading full joy and lasting pleasure for small joy and temporary pleasures?

Overcoming FOMO During Recovery

FOMO: Fear of missing out.

Time seems to creep slowly when stuck in a room recovering from surgery. The infinite reading time, video games, movies, and shows all find their boredom point with haste. Then there is social media. Spinning down screen to see your church family worshipping, birthday parties being celebrated, and a group of friends going axe throwing! FOMO can set in quickly.

The apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

How in the world did Paul learn this? He learned to be content in any situation… any!?! I’ve found many ways to not be content, but the battle for contentment is compounded with social media plastering axe throwing, brewery visiting, and skateboarding in every scroll. I’m taking some intentional steps to curb FOMO and find joy in my current situation by thinking through these questions regularly.

1. What opportunities does my current situation give me that I would have missed otherwise?

2. Am I letting my thoughts run free or am I in control of my own thinking?

3. How am I spending my 24 hours each day? (Literally, I’m logging my hours. Currently Fortnite time is reigning supreme, probably because I get to talk to other humans.)

4. What is my default time waster? What can I do instead?

5. What new habits can I develop with this new perspective?

These questions have helped turn my emotions around. In addition to daily management of my life I am also compiling a dream list of things I will do as my recovery moves forward. If you can’t tell from earlier, axe throwing… axe throwing is on my list. As soon as I’m up and going on my new peg leg (aka i-walk 2.0) I will donning a pirate hat and throwing axes.

*For those of you who have managed life while stuck* – What did you do to find contentment in your situation?

You’re an A+ Student In Jesus

My oldest son loves getting good grades. I did not parent him this direction or pressure him to do homework. Actually, I’m a terrible school parent. I don’t check the agenda. I never ask about homework. Most mornings I tell my kids, “Grades don’t matter in the long run, but being kind toward everyone, especially kids you don’t like, matters a lot.”

Despite my lack of academic parenting he has excelled in school, but recently he received a B in Reading & Writing. On report card day his normal flaunting of grades became a tentative sliding of paper across the counter. The fear of rejection was palpable. I could see tears gathering in his eyes before I even opened the envelope. He thought his B grade was going to change how I saw him. In his 4th grade heart acceptance and worth was tied to academic performance. In our family his acceptance and worth simply is. A’s or F’s he is my son. He is my beloved son and I am his father. Poor grades will never unshackle my love from him. Present, or future, moral failures can not remove my love for him. I have chosen to love him despite his failures and letdowns because Jesus loves me despite mine.

The amazing news of the Bible is that in Christ we are already perfect, actually perfect, before God because we have been united to Jesus. If you believe the good news of Jesus you are a straight A faith student with a perfect attendance record and glowing notes from the headmaster. Your moral failures have been converted from F’s to A’s. Your late projects were turned in on time by way of the cross. Your graduation gown was purchased for you. The pressure to earn God’s love is no longer yours to bear since I Christ bore it for you. You already have a perfect report card filed in heaven and the grades can not be changed. The pressure to earn God’s love is gone because everything you could ever need from God has been gifted to you by faith. This is the gospel and it is very different from religion.

Religion says, “I obey therefore I am accepted.”

The gospel says, “I am accepted therefore I obey.”

Religion says, “I will be loved if I am good enough.”

The gospel says, “I am loved therefore want to be good.”

The gospel alone connects us to Jesus. His life and his power course through those who call upon his name by faith. Religious obedience can not bring about this cosmic union. Faith alone grants us this divine access, and it is this type of faith that produces in us a desire to love God and keep his commandments.

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“My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”