Tuesday, December 9, 2014

2 Words That Might Be Crushing Your Marriage

In truth...the two words I'll offer as the "crushers" of your marriage are most likely not the thing hurting it.  The root of why we use these words is really the thing to address...the disconnect we have with our spouse is the real fire we need to extinguish. These words are just the gasoline we pour on an already smoldering mess.

In a previous Blog on marriage I wrote that when couples come to me for marriage counseling and are near divorce, it's RARELY because of one instance or event...typically, folks I talk to want to divorce because of 1000's of emotional paper cuts, year, after year, after year...and these two words are part of the reason you feel so helpless.  Are you ready for them? Drum roll, please....

"Always" and "Never"...these are two words that you need to stop saying to your spouse.  Yes, it's true sometimes one partner in the relationship does more around the house, or the yard, or with the kids, or does most of the shopping, or wants to have sex less than the other, or add any number of things that frustrate you about your spouse but to say to them in the heat of your frustration (not that Kari and I have ever said these to each other) :) that;

"You never help with the kids..."
"You always leave your dishes in the sink..."
"You never want to make love anymore..."
"I always do everything ("everything" is the cousin to never and always) around the house..."
"You never support me in what I want to do..."
"It's always a mess whenever we get together with your side of the family..."

Two things about these statements:

1. If you are already disconnected with your spouse, try using one of these statements and your spouse will immediately do the very thing you say he/she never does or stop the behavior you say they always do...you know why? So they can make the statement false AND add it to the horde of arsenal to pepper you with in your next fight.

2. It's just not true...it may feel like you are carrying the weight in an area of your relationship and that you do far more in an area (cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, outside yard work...) than your spouse, but to say they "never" or "always" is simply false. (sadly, some of you are saying right now, "No, Rhyan...He/She "never" helps") You are missing the point, my friend...

The goal in your marriage is not "winning" (although Charlie Sheen may disagree, #winning)  The goal is constant growth in all the ways you publicly made vows to each other on your wedding day.  I know that thriving in your marriage is tough...especially when it feels like you are barely surviving.  But I guarantee you, if you talk to each other with these definitive statements, it won't get better...your spouse will most likely resort to just proving you wrong, and the cycle continues...

Step 1. You get mad. Step 2. You say an "always/never statement. Step 3. They work to prove you wrong. Step 4. They keep tabs of things you do so when you come back with your "always/never" again, they can shove it in your face with all the ways your wrong.  This is not marriage, this is middle school.

So here is one idea for you to consider as you are frustrated and trying to figure out how to approach things that frustrate you with your spouse.

Never (see what I did there), try to correct/challenge/address something you are frustrated about when you and your spouse are disconnected.  Do we really think we are in a good space to work on our differences when we are already disconnected? (this is the case in parenting too...but I'll save that for another blog).  Ask your spouse if you can talk later about something that is frustrating you...give them the permission to set the time/date to work it through.  If it goes south while you are "working" on it (aka...fighting), take a time-out...again, the goal is not winning, the goal is growing, thriving, flourishing, for the long haul.

Kari and I had to make a rule...we realized that the majority of the times we fought after 9pm, it would not end well.  You know what we did?  We stopped working on things that frustrated us after 9pm...which is hard, because it's often the only time that we really saw each other after getting home from work, driving kids to and fro with their activities, dinner, homework, bedtime routines, etc...but if we fight after 9pm, it most likely will end poorly because, we are tired, we most likely haven't connected much for the day, and so we often say, "When would be a good time for us to talk about this?" and we set the date.  The trick will be to consider this a good thing, not acting like a frustrated 12 year old toward your spouse until you finally talk it through.

Lastly, here are some phrases that you might try instead as you embrace and look each other in the eyes..."We are on the same team!", "I am sorry.", "I love you very much.", "I want to keep working on this.", "I don't wake up in the morning thinking of ways I can frustrate you."

Keep going my friends...it's worth it...you are one the same team!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Talking To Your White Kids About Race and Privilege In America

I've been super hesitant to write about this topic for a number of reasons.  I'm white. I live in suburban America.  In this blog, I've loved talking about marriage and raising kids...but race conversations are difficult,  I wonder often if I have any real ability to add anything helpful to the conversation...because of my aforementioned biological and demographic disposition.  But as my Facebook feed is blowing up on this topic from friends of mine on all sides...a few things just continue to grieve me;

1. I am the father of 4 little kids, who right now, love everyone and everything...they have no fear of others with regard to race, ethnicity, social status or other...and their only opinion right now on race relations is that not everyone has the same skin color. They will most likely grow up where the majority of their relationships are with other white kids...their social interactions will be predominately with other white kids and they, like me and their mom...will have little to no understanding of what white privilege in America is really like, because we are subjective white suburbans...and we don't even realize such a thing exists.  And this is part of the problem...we don't get it.  We don't face the same trials that our American brothers and sisters of color face on a daily basis.  There is a great article that highlights this disparity.  Here is the link if you are interested...

Two lines stood out to me...

"Clearly white Americans see the broader significance of Michael Brown’s death through radically different lenses than black Americans. There are myriad reasons for this divergence, from political ideologies—which, for example, place different emphases on law and order versus citizens’ rights—to fears based in racist stereotypes of young black men. But the chief obstacle to having an intelligent, or even intelligible, conversation across the racial divide is that on average white Americans live in communities that face far fewer problems and talk mostly to other white people."

The other brings me to tears as I think of what it would be like to parent my children in these ways...

"Jonathan Capehart’s Washington Post column after the Brown shooting contained a personal and poignant account of his mother’s lessons to him as a young black man:

How I shouldn’t run in public, lest I arouse undue suspicion. How I most definitely should not run with anything in my hands, lest anyone think I stole something. The lesson included not talking back to the police, lest you give them a reason to take you to jail—or worse. And I was taught to never, ever leave home without identification."

2. It's easy to look at the "facts of case", as people are saying...and make statements around why this is just another example of "a man" who attacked a police officer, who wouldn't surrender, who was a violent criminal, who got shot by a police officer who was fighting for his life...here are some of those "facts" as noted by the Washington Post;

It's easy to talk about other cases of inequalities for whites.  It's easy to use examples of blacks killing white's.  It's easy to make these comments about this being nothing about race...it's easy...especially if you are white.  This again, is part of the problem...we (forgive me for speaking in general on behalf of white Americans), are not listening.  The Ferguson protests, riots, looting and more are the collective voice of tired souls crying..."Mercy! When will it end?"  Ferguson highlights once again the continue distrust between police and minorities...and a cry from many asking, "Will anyone do anything about it?"

So what will we do?  

  • I hope we will work on listening...I want to hear more about what it means to be a "person of color" in America and how that shapes ones daily interactions in life.  I want to know what I can do to help...because I know that I have a lot to learn.
  • I want to talk to my kids all the time about how their worldviews shape the way they care for others regardless of their race/ethnicity/other.  Maybe in the generations to come (praying it will come sooner)...we'll see the mercy that Ferguson is calling for. 

  • I also want us to work hard at not growing calloused toward one another. I have shared this before, as a status post on my FB profile but I think it's worth saying again...When my dad was murdered, I thanked God for the hard work and perseverance of the officers who investigated and solved the case...and I am still grateful today, more than they know. I am praying for police officers around the country, for tirelessly providing safety, security and peace, so I can sit at my computer and post things on Facebook, while they literally put their life on the line every day for me and my family...and I'm praying for those police officers who have become calloused because of a broken and brutal world...may they care again. Thank you, to all who serve.
This Youtube video link is worth the 3 minute perspective on how hard it must be to serve in situations I'll never understand.  "That is why I love them, that is why I grieve them."...

Lord in your mercy...hear our prayers! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2 Reasons Why We Don't Let Our Kids Have Their Own Room

Raising kids has become one of the greatest joys and greatest struggles of our marriage.  Many of you know, Kari and I have 4 kids, all age 11 and under.  We have so loved seeing each of them become such unique, fun, and challenging little people.

You may have noticed I used the word "become" because, when our kids were all under six years old, every time someone would say to us, “Enjoy it, it sure goes by fast!”...I would throw up a little in my mouth.  “Enjoying” chasing, changing diapers, cleaning up several times a day, making meals, wiping noses and behinds is a bit of an oxymoron, all the while feeling like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, living the same day, over and over again…the monotony was sometimes painful. While parenting toddlers can be tremendous...it can also often feel like survival on so many levels.

Hindsight is 20/20 for sure...looking back on those times, there is much I miss.

When our kids got to the age of "needing" their own room, we made an intentional decision to have our kids share one bedroom.  Over the past several years, I've had a lot of conversations about this with folks, wondering how/what/why we would do this and so I thought I'd take a few moments to share what we have found to be helpful in this decision.

First though...let me qualify it (a ton). :)  This idea is obviously not for everyone...I think you could easily write a blog about why it's important to give every child their "space" in your home, and I get that.  If this is you, bravo...I am in no way challenging your parenting choices nor trying to brag of ours.  This past year as I've written a few blog posts on marriage, I've realized how much people are longing to join the conversation (almost 10,000 visits to this blog) in how to flourish in their marriage and in their parenting...so, this is only an attempt to give some thoughts on adding to the "flourishing parent" conversation.

So, for what it's worth...here are 2 Reasons Why We Don't Let Our Kids Have Their Own Room;

1. Selfish Autonomy That Leads to Entitlement - I've spoken on this a bit before from a pastoral perspective when I wrote about entitlement being the number one killer of the American Church.  But this is the case in general for humanity...we want things our way.  We are selfish, and prideful, and while we fight to serve and care for others, at the end of the day...most people (probably not you) care more about themselves then they do the interest of others.  We look at the man on the corner with disdain, believing he'll only use our charity to fuel his addiction.  We publicly celebrate the promotion of others while privately loathing that it wasn't "me".  We struggle to honestly and earnestly serve the other with no strings attached...I know this from the hundreds of conversations I've heard and had with statements like, "She didn't even say, 'Thanks.'", or "I don't need anything in return, but it would have at least been nice to have been acknowledged..."  My point is this...my kids are learning this idea of autonomy and entitlement on their own.  They live in a world that is all about it; Look good. Smell great. Have the perfect body. Get the right job. Get great grades so you can get into the right college. Wear Axe hair spray and ladies will literally jump you...basically, be perfect and nothing should stop you from that...it's truly all about, YOU!  But it's not actually...the reality is, the job you get, the spouse you marry, the roommate you have in college...they will all demand sacrifice of you, and your autonomy and entitlement will be challenged in every stage of your life.  So, in our home, we want to create a space where you have to intentionally know how to operate in a community...sharing a bedroom forces you to compromise your selfishness, especially when you are 11 and your little brother is 4. When you are trying to read a book and he's making bombing noises destroying all things in his imaginary sight in the bunk below.  Or when she leaves her smelly socks on your "clean" jeans and you've got to figure out how to resolve your frustration, because you'll be waking up with her in the morning.  When our kids get mad, they can't just go to their room, shut the door, and listen to music...they share that room with 3 other people.  Living in community is one of THE BEST ways to fight your selfish autonomy that leads to entitlement.

2. Creating a Generous Heart - I spent the past 20 years working with families, in an organization called, Young Life.  I've had countless conversations with parents about their kids, and each of them LONGS for their child to flourish in life...all of us want our kids to grow up to be great participants in society, and to contribute in a way that makes a difference.  One of the things we want our kids to have is a generous heart.  We want them to absolutely care about "the other".  There are several ways you can foster this in your kids, but for us...sharing a room together is one intentional way we've tried to accomplish this.  Creating a generous heart is not just in giving or sharing, but it also can be seen in how we resolve conflicts and frustrations.  Our kids will have plenty of opportunities to think about themselves (see point number 1), but in the community of their bedroom...they have to figure out how to be generous with their space and "their things".  Because again...every stage of their life will require working with others, and I pray that our kids will be givers and not just takers.  Some of the first words our kids learned (after of course, "Dad-da" and "Ma-Ma"), were "Mine!", "No", "Mine!", "No!"...in fact when our kids were toddlers, it was everything we could do to get them to share with others...they could have a toy on the shelf that they never played with and as soon as one of their siblings went to play with it, it became absolutely the most important thing for them to have at that moment, and the fighting commenced.  Sharing a bedroom, has forced our kids to figure out how to share their space and time and I'm convinced it is helping create in them a generous heart.

The truth is, one day, we may change our mind on this approach of a shared bedroom...but for now at least, we are going to keep helping our kids work on their charity, care, generosity, community, and benevolence.

In whatever ways you and yours are doing this in your home...keep going!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Staying Connected With Your Spouse When You Feel Like Two Ships Passing In The Night

It's been just over 6 months since I wrote, "The night I wanted to divorce my wife, and why 4 years later, I am so glad I didn't"  If you didn't get a chance to read it, here is the link;

It received a huge response (a couple thousand peeps read it).  I didn't realize at the time, how many couples were longing for language to help them work through their difficulties.  For those of you who are married (or once were), you know just how hard marriage can be while simultaneously being the most tremendous gift you've ever received (when things are going well!) :)  When couples are able to work well together and intentionally fan the flame of their relationship in ways that grow it...there is simply nothing like it (insert here all of your favorite synonyms of, "Joy"!).  While at the same time, you are fully aware of the Jenga like nature of your relationship, where just one wrong move can send the whole thing crumbling.  The good news (sticking with our Jenga theme), it can be rebuilt (sometimes daily...sometimes hourly).  

This fall, was another change for our family and marriage...my wife (Kari) received her dream job, but it meant our schedules had to change.  She is up and out of the house early, and I am up to get our 4 little ones moving, dressed, fed, with some semblance of good hygiene (and by good hygiene, I mean minimal bed-head).  Once the kids are off to school/pre-school the fun hasn't stopped, it's just begun for the day...once school is out, Kari picks the kids up to start the second half of the crazy (homework, activities, sports, etc...).  Throw in the carpool routine and you've got a family of 6 running around from wake-up to 8pm, with about as much marital connection as a wet band-aid (wet band-aids aren't sticky or "connected" well...for those of you still kicking that visual around) :)

So, in an attempt to help you start thinking about being better connected with your spouse in the midst of the busyness of life...here are some thoughts that have helped Kari and I stay connected when we've felt like "two ships, passing in the night."

1.  Stay Intentional!  Do you remember when you started dating your spouse...you were busy then too.  You both had individual lives, working, going to school, studying, etc...you had to be intentional about getting time together, and you loved it as you were excited to spend time together.  Why has today's busyness caused you to stop being intentional about your time together?  A few years ago, Kari and I decided that we would plan at least two significant times together throughout the year...one of those times would be a few nights away just the two of us, and one would be a time away with our kids.  It's an intentional act to take a pause from the busy and to invest in the most important thing to us...our marriage and family.  What ways are you being intentional in your marriage?

2.  Never Stop Dating.  Dating is related to the first point in that, it has to be intentional...people love to be sought after.  We love to be longed for, to be needed, to feel wanted.  Dating is one way you can tell your spouse, "I need you...and I want you to know it!"  If you only took two trips a year together, my hunch is, you'll have a pretty disconnected marriage...but dating can take place any time and on a regular basis.  Sure it can be a dinner out, a movie, or drinks...but if you are on a budget, and can't afford these things, there are hundred's of things you can do at no cost; Go for a walk, play a board game, play frisbee golf together, read a book together, lay in bed naked as you talk about your day (you probably want to do this when the kids are gone), watch funny animal videos on YouTube together...do something!!!!  If you don't date on a regular basis, you are missing out on an incredible opportunity to grow your relationship.  When is the next date you have on your calendar with your spouse?

3.  Talk positively about each other, to each other, and back it up with your actions...I know this sounds like a "self-help" idea, and perhaps it is, but there are power in words (positive and negative) and telling each other what we like about the other is work that cultivates growth.  I had shared in my previous post on marriage that I had stopped thinking positively about Kari, and it was killing the way I viewed her and our relationship...my heart was growing hard.  Once I started thinking positively about her, telling her and showing it through my actions, it not only changed the way I was thinking about her and our marriage it changed the way she was responding to me.  This is one of those areas that we neglect in the midst of the crazy...and it's perhaps the easiest thing to do.  When you walk in the door from work/school/activities...just stop, hold your spouse, look them in the eye and tell her/him what you like about her/him...even just one thing.  Not only will this grow your fondness to each other...your kids will see it and you will be modeling what it looks like to grow a great relationship.  Lastly, be sure to back this up with your actions...I could tell Kari how great she is all day long, but if I don't make the bed, help with the dishes or help around the house in ways that speak her love language, then my words are deafening to her.  So here is my question for you...how are you speaking positively about your spouse and showing it through your actions?  

As you surely know by now...to be good, marriage like anything, takes intentional work...in marriage it takes the intentional work of both people to truly flourish.  Keep working at it friends...your marriage is worth every moment of intentional work you put in to it.  Now stop reading and go on a date with your spouse!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why it might be a good thing if Christians lose their freedom of speech.

Recent headlines around the country have caused many Christians to be outraged because of the perceived violation of their First Amendment rights.  Many of my dear friends have posted such frustrations on social media outlets claiming everyone else has the free right to speech, except Christians.  Here's a link to the Washington Post describing the scenario;


As I pondered this notion of Christians having "rights", I began to wonder, "Maybe it would be a good thing if Christians actually lost their rights to freedom of speech."?! #entitlement

So, before you de-friend me, label me, or other...can we just pause for a moment and think of what you are saying, when you argue you have rights as a Christian in light of the New Testament narrative of God's sovereign plan for creation through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Full Disclosure; I'm a pastor in America.  I love my "rights" and privileges as an American, as I sip my coffee at my favorite local hot spots, hoping passerby's are convicted of their propensity to sin watching me read out of my leather bound red-lettered bible, believing that I'm being a good "witness" for Christ #maybetheyllseemycrossnecklacetoo.  If you were to ask me where I fall on the political scale (left/middle/right) I would say, "It probably depends on the issue."  (let's grab a beer and talk more one day). :)  But if we really take a deep look in the Clouded American Gospel Mirror, the entitlement we (as Christians), daily take for granted has very little to do with the biblical notion of "dying to self", "picking up a cross", and "losing yourself for me (Jesus) and the gospel..."

So here are a couple reasons I think it might be a good thing if Christians actually lost their "freedom of speech".

1.  We might actually start living our faith out in an intentional, strategic, "Go and make disciples" kind of way.  Just think about it...if you couldn't talk about your faith for fear of imprisonment, fine, or worse, you'd think and act quite differently.  You'd probably stop believing it's a huge sacrifice to lose a couple hours of sleep on Sunday mornings, to "be blessed" for 59 minutes of Gospel goods and services...your "getting something out of it" desire, "I'm ready for meat" mentality, "they don't have a good children's ministry" mantra, would probably be challenged, if we really took seriously the idea of "what good is it if you gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit your very soul."

2. We might actually be better witnesses of the Gospel.  One of the things we've come to realize over the past several decades in American culture, is that we are living in a post-Christian world...Christendom in America is slowly (if not completely), dying (dead).  It's not the thing to do anymore to just go to church.  It's an intentional act, and sadly, many "non-Christians" know more about what we are against then what we are for...we talk a lot, and it's not always positive and it's not always gracious and it's not always truth.  Instead of living with a missionary mentality, to "Go and Make Disciples" we've often reduced this great mandatory charge to handing someone a pamphlet, wearing a sandwich board, or believing in the great myth to "preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." (See Romans 10 for more on this)

So what would it look like if we had no rights as Christians?  I think we'd see a far better picture of the church in America, then we see today. We might identify ourselves with our brothers and sisters around the world who are actually living this out, and truly "considering it pure joy" when they face such trials. (http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-persecution-of-christians-in-2013)  One of Jesus great promises as he was nearing death was that, "In this world, we would have trouble...", and I don't think he meant the "trouble" you experience when the barista is super slow at 9:52 on a Sunday morning, which causes you to be late for the 10am service. #sacrificeforthegospel #goodjob

Friends, the Gospel story is about God...the greatest love story ever told.  It's a story that reveals we actually have no rights (see Ephesians 2 on this)...yet in an incredible shift of grace, one day, as full heirs of the Kingdom...we have been given the right to say we belong to God.  This however, it's not a "right" of yours, it's a privilege for sure, not granted by any American court, nor to be taken by one.

So please, by all means, let's give thanks for all the rights as Americans we are entitled too, and not confuse those with rights we think we have as Christians...the two are quite different.  If those rights get taken away, maybe...just maybe, we can rejoice in the opportunity we are given to live in real tangible, sacrificial kind of way.  That we might truly hear Jesus when he says,  "...come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…"

Monday, October 6, 2014

2 Reasons There is Life AFTER Young Life.

To the 4 people who will actually read this post...let me try to explain why I'm writing it.

I've been involved with Young Life for just over 20 years.  For almost 10 of those, I was on Young Life staff (affectionately known in YL vernacular as being "on Staff" ie..."I'm on Staff in _____").  It is the GREATEST ministry I have ever been involved in with regard to reaching kids...YL is genius in the way it reaches out to kids who are disinterested in Jesus or the church.  I was one of those kids as a 17 year old senior in high school.  

I got involved as a leader for many of the same reasons other leaders do; our hearts were captured for the mission.  We shed tears in cabin times, laughed uncontrollably around dining hall tables and club rooms, put on countless unsuccessful car-washes, listened and heard the still small voice during all camp quite times.  We loved the mission...and still do.  In fact, I am still a volunteer middle school (Wyldlife) leader today...like I said before, it is the best ministry I know in reaching disinterested kids.

But there is also a side to Young Life that is talked about far too little...it's the burnout, exhaustion and frustration that comes from joining the crazy of contact work, club, campaigners and camp.  We come off the "Best Week of Our Life" only to sprint back to camp follow up, student leadership, fall club kick offs...wondering in January if we can really gear up again.  

I write this post in an attempt to give a voice to all of those folks who absolutely love the ministry of YL (please hear me...I love the mission of YL.  Have I said that enough?) But are one of the hundreds of souls who have been lay to waste, wondering what happened and what's next.  Here are a few reasons why there is life after Young Life.

1.  There is no such thing as a vocational call in the bible.  Many of my friends have and are bound by the guilt of hearing one of their superiors say something to the effect of, "You were called to this ministry." Which is Christianese for saying..."You can't leave or God will be displeased and you will let people down who love you."...this just simply isn't a biblical notion, it's an American Gospel ethos of hard work, commitment and faithfulness that took the idea of one's calling in the Kingdom of God and replaced that with the idea that God has just the right vocation for everyone and until you find where that is, you are running from God.  In other words, when you look at the idea of "being called" in the bible...there is no where that the context means your job, how you pay your bills, or where you volunteer with your time.  If you are tired, exhausted, frustrated with YL...one of two things should happen in your life.  A.) Either change the way you are doing ministry...stop being gone 4-5 nights a week from your family or B.) Perhaps it's time to take a break from the mission you love...YOU ARE NOT THE SAVIOR.  If YL is truly God's mission, then God will reach those kids with or with out you.  Stop believing you are bound by some mystical "call" and that others won't reach out to those kids...it will kill you (literally) and your family.

2.  The Burden is gone...When I announced I was going off of YL staff, the burden was immediately gone.  If you have ever been involved in YL as a volunteer or staff...you know that burden well.  More kids, more leaders, more money, more banquets, more fundraisers, more committee, more contact work, more spots for summer camp, more buses, more kids struggling with sin, more...more...more...more.  Being involved with YL is a lifestyle...and it requires more of you, all the time.  It's one of the reason's YL is so successful, but it's the main reason so many people burn out.  When my friends would ask me about how I felt about going off of YL staff, I would ask them, "You know that burden you are carrying right now?" to which they would smile and laugh agreeably...my response would simply be, "Yeah, that burden is gone."  Please hear me, my burden for those who are not yet a part of the kingdom of God is still among the top reasons I am pastor and volunteer YL leader today...but it's a different burden.  A burden no longer measured by my cashflow, R&E, GPS, donor care, camp spots comparatively to last year's numbers, etc... (YL terms...sorry).  If you have ever heard phrases like, "Nobody is doing what we are doing?", "Nobody is thinking about the city like you are." "You are the most important person in this community." and you believe that, then you simply are not aware of the missional movement around the world today.  Here is a great resource for more info on that; http://www.gocn.org/  The aforementioned phrases are used in the same vein as God's "vocational call" in your life which are at best, simply not true, and at worst, arrogant words to guilt you into action....be free my friend, be free. 

Lastly...let me offer one thought on why you might be burdened more so today in the mission.  As we continue to Reach A World of Kids (RWOK) we are using ministry models like Brian Summeral's Strategy 41 (see info here...http://bsummerall.com/site/Welcome.html).  I have met Brian, gone through two of his training's...he is an awesome guy, and has a tremendous heart for kids and the Lord.  I know this critique may sound harsh...but Brian's model of ministry (IMHO) is not sustainable long term...has anyone ever asked why Brian is no longer leading this type of ministry?  (I just heard you through my monitor..."Well, he's going around now and teaching it so we can reach more kids.")  To which I would argue, I don't think that's the only reason he's no longer doing it.  I'm just not convinced a team can stay healthy in life and implement that type of model long term...yes, they will reach more kids; yes, more kids will come to camp; yes more kids will come to club...but to what expense?  As you just finished this years 14 day camp follow up, helped your student leaders pick out this years school t-shirt, stuffed the school newspaper with YL fliers, began planning for this years Mr. Christmas tree (well you should have began planning already!), started promoting camp for next summer, and more...are you really looking forward to this pace of life for the years to come so we can say to our donors, "We reached 2 million kids!"...and yet, you barely have a family to go home to anymore.

I am all for reaching more kids, seeing live's transformed by the Gospel, and hearing story after story of struggling kids finding their way because of the investment of their loving leader...but I worry, with great sadness that for each kid we reach, there is a volunteer or staff person out there licking their ministry wounds, wondering how in the world they got there and how in the world to do anything about it.  

If this is you...please, ask for help.  Change the way you are doing ministry. Or perhaps for some of you, it may mean taking a break from the mission you love so you can serve in it through out your life and not just the 5-7 year sprint you are in right now.

Thank you for caring enough about kids to want to reach them in the great mission that is Young Life, but please always remember, you are not the savior...

Friday, September 26, 2014

3 Things People Will NEVER Say At Your Funeral!

Our oldest just started middle school this year, and in 7 short years, she'll be moving out (unless she red-shirts a few years in high school) and on to her next adventures (insert here all paternal hopes and unfair expectations for an 11 year old).

Knowing middle school was rearing it's awkward pubescent head in our household and celebrating my last birthday in my 30's this past August (3rd, in case you want to get that on your calendar for next year. #RedRobinisoneofmyfavoriterestaurants), I've been reflecting a ton on life, our future, family, how we are spending our time...things that really matter.

So...in a humble attempt to remind myself (and hopefully, encourage YOU!), here are 3 things that people will never say at your funeral;

1. "I sure wish he worked more."  Many of you know I'm a pastor...I officiate weddings, celebrate baptisms and minister at funerals...Sadly (and from a Christian worldview, joyfully), I have been to a lot of funerals...no one has ever stood up and said this.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Whether it was, "I wish my dad was around more.", "He was a workaholic", or "She was never able to do the things she really wanted."  People who go to funerals are saddened not by your inability to go to the office again, but by their deep longing to spend more time with you.  I don't know what your life is like...I have no idea how your family is doing, or how you spend your time...but PEOPLE, PLEASE NOTE...no one is going to say they wish you worked more.  If anything, they'll be sad they didn't have more time with you and so will you (Well, actually, you'll be dead...but you get the point).  Be free from the lie that if you start working less, your family will fall apart...if anything, you'll have more time to enjoy them.  What's that you say? "But Rhyan, I can't stop working because I've created a life that costs too much."  If that's the case...un-create it.  Start over...be free from the crazy and start enjoying the people that really matter to you.  They might be out of the house in 7 years.

2.  "I wish she had a bigger net worth." Did you know that if Warren Buffet invested his wealth in a savings account at a measly .06% he'd still make more than $34 million a year in just interest (see TIME magazine report on richest Billionaires)...that's a large net worth.  My question to you is; How much is enough? How long do you want to spend building your empire of stuff, when all along the things that matters the most in your life are the people in it, not the things you buy.  A few years ago, my son and I were playing Frisbee golf at a camp for kids in Canada (A Young Life camp called Malibu)...there was a reported Cougar (the animal) sighting that summer, and so we were talking about it as we wandered the forested golf course...about the third hole my son looked at me in deep earnest and asked, "Dad, if a Cougar attacked us, would you die to protect me?"  With out hesitation, I sad, "If I had to...I absolutely would.  I love you bud."  We were silent for a long time as we both pondered the depth of that truth.  Our relationship turned a corner that day in a profundity we had not yet known.  You know what he didn't ask?  He didn't ask,  "Dad, how much money do you make each year?  Will it be enough to provide financially for our family, and our future?"  He doesn't care about my net worth...he cares about our relationship.  At my funeral he won't be talking about my portfolio, it's ROI, or the S&P...he'll be sharing memories of our time together, not giving out investment advice I told him.

3.  "I 'm SO glad we kept that grudge all of these years." One of the hardest things to do is to is to forgive someone who has hurt you...our nature is to protect ourselves and when we get hurt by others,we tend to try and write them off instead of wading through the difficulties of restoration.  Have you ever experienced the freedom that comes with forgiveness?  I guarantee you, it's better than the weight of allowing someone else to live rent free in your head (I'll let that set in for a moment)...Sadly, I have had far too many conversations with people at funerals who say things like, "I wish we could have talked more about ______. I wish we would have forgiven each other. I wish I wouldn't have waited to talk to them...now it's too late."  Friends...please...if there is a relationship that can be healed and your pride is the only thing keeping you from beginning the process of healing...for crying out loud; Make the call. Write the letter. Go to coffee.  You won't be glad you kept that grudge when you go to their funeral.  Last year I spoke at a men's retreat in CO. During one of our times together, I had the men go and write a letter that could begin the process of healing in a broken relationship that they currently had, and I challenged them to send it.  I wish you could have been there to hear the conversations...grown men...far better men than me...crying, because they had never taken the time to ask for forgiveness or were too hurt by someone else to even try.  One man said, "I have some work to do with my son-in-law.", Another said, "I've had a grudge with my sister for 7 years...we haven't spoken, that needs to change."  I hope it does in your life too, my friend.

So the questions remain and the clock is ticking...How are you spending your time?  Perhaps a better question is, "Who are you spending it with?".  What are you living your life for?  To build an empire of temporary stuff or to have an impact on eternity (picture the scene here of Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator saying, "What you do in this life will echo in eternity!")  Now, turn off your computer AND phone, tell your boss you are going home, go to your kids school today for "pick up" and take them out for ice-cream (or a gluten free snack of your choosing if that's healthier?).  The point is this friends...it matters how you spend your time and your money, and I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss it, and I certainly don't want to look back when it's too late and feel like I wasted my life.  Lastly, reconciliation is one of the hardest things you'll ever do in your life and it may not happen fast...but the process to forgiveness and freedom is worth every ounce of the pain it takes to get there.

May you be free!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What being a Seahawks fan tells us, that Christianity has been saying for centuries!

If you live in the Northwest right now, it's an incredible time to be a Seahawks fan.  The 12th man (Go 12's), Blue Friday, gameday jersey's, defending Superbowl Champs....the atmosphere in the NW around being a Seahawks fan is like, Ralphie getting a Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle for Christmas! (Sorry...movie reference from an Amercian Classic, "A Christmas Story"...I know I just lost a generation of readers.) :)

If you are a 12th man right now, there are some things others outside "the family" just won't understand;

  • Like when you are wearing your game day jersey and complete strangers either high-five you, hug you, or say "Go Hawks!" in seemingly random and odd places (grocery store, mall, sidewalk, gas pump, school pick up, public restrooms, etc...)
  • Like when you are in a crowded area and someone yells out, "Seeeaaaa...." and you immediately think or yell back, "Haaawwwwkkkssss!"
  • Like when you see the 12th man flag waving gloriously from someone's home or car window, and your first instinct is to honk your horn obnoxiously and give them the universal fist pump as if you were sitting front row at a Journey concert together, singing..."Don't Stop Believin'!"
  • Like when you routinely say phrases like, "Beast Mode!", "Why not us?", or "He's all about that action..boss!" and others laugh hysterically as if you were saying, "That's what she said..."

So what does any of this have to do with Christianity?  Well...I'm glad you asked!  You see, you are experiencing one of the greatest gifts of the Church...we call it "Community" or "Fellowship"...the biblical word is, Koinonia...it's a deep sense of community, and it's a reminder that we are made for relationship.  Did you hear that, YOU WERE MADE FOR RELATIONSHIP, and as a Seahawk fan you are experiencing the depth of that in wonderful ways.

This is what the church has done for 100's of years...cared for each other, prayed for each other, celebrated with each other, and grieved for/with each other (yes, even greater grief then hearing Hasselback say, "We want the ball...and we're gonna score" and then promptly throwing a playoff ending interception)

For the church, it lives this fellowship/community/relationship out because the love of Christ compels it...for the fan, it does it for their love of the Hawks...the only difference is this, and it's huge...the Seahawk nation will one day fade, but the kindgom of God will forever reign.

Praying you find a true community that lasts more than 16 weeks each fall...because you were made for so much more!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why the "Favor of God" is killing the theology of Americans and destroying our witness in the world.

So, before you de-friend me on Facebook, can we just for a minute, re-examine our understanding of who God is, and why God's plan does not necessarily equate to receiving the "American Dream" (a great job, family, and prosperity).

There is a whole theology around "prosperity" and God's favor, that is leading to ideas about what God owe's Americans because we are "His Children", and I'm worried it's killing our American witness to the Gospel...and I get it, I've got four kids of my own, and I love "blessing" them, and I "delight" in them, and I absolutely want to give them things, my entire inheritance is theirs...but as I read the scriptures, especially the early church, and look around the world...if the "Favor of God" is about what I get as a consumer, then I've got a bevy of questions;

If the favor of God is about prosperity and blessing...Why do 1 in 5 kids around the world still not have safe water to drink?  Why are 1 in 3 kids still with out adequate shelter?  Why do 22,000 children die PER DAY because of poverty?  Why do well over 1 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day?  Isn't God about "blessing" and "giving"? 

I bet there are thousands of women and children held captive in the atrocity of slavery, just waiting for the "Favor of God" in the same way you proclaimed "God's Favor" shining upon you when the front row parking stall opened up at Forever 21. #Godsfavor  

Because here's the deal friends...God's favor is not about us, it's about God.  If we are blessed, it's so that we can be a blessing to others (maybe a re-reading of Genesis is in order?)  Sorry Joel and Victoria Olsteen...I know you think God is your own personal vending machine, who is just waiting to bless you, like a cosmic Santa Claus, but the truth is we exist for God's glory, God doesn't exist for ours.

A few months ago, I came across an article that really challenged this idea for me and I'm worried our Gospel witness will be become compromised, if we think God is only about "blessing" us.  Here's a quote from the article that I found profoundly helpful;

"The truth is, I have no idea why I was born where I was or why I have the opportunity I have. It's beyond comprehension. But I certainly don't believe God has chosen me above others because of the veracity of my prayers or the depth of my faith. Still, if I take advantage of the opportunities set before me, a comfortable life may come my way. It's not guaranteed. But if it does happen, I don't believe Jesus will call me blessed.

He will call me "burdened."

He will ask,

"What will you do with it?"

"Will you use it for yourself?"

"Will you use it to help?"

"Will you hold it close for comfort?"

"Will you share it?"

Here's a link to the article if you'd like to read it.

Is it possible that our American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has crept into our understanding of the Gospel...if you want to get rich, go for it.  If you want to feel blessed, proclaim it.  If you want others to know you are grateful for who God is in your life...brilliant.  But can we be careful how we make blanket generalizations about how God operates in a broken and hurting world?  People don't need more things or a higher net worth...they need hope. And joy. And purpose....I think Rick Warren said it well in an interview about the purpose of life when he said,

"...God is more interested in your character, than your comfort."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2 Things Kids Really Want From Their Parents...

I married my high school sweetheart (we met in ceramics class #best.class.ever.), and  9 years ago, we moved back to our hometown to raise our kids...

We were intentional about moving back home to be by our family and raise our kids...we described it as choosing a location over a vocation (we literally moved back with no job...we were young-ish and had a dream).  We've tried to be intentional as well about how we raise our kids.  After 20 years of being involved in youth ministry having countless conversations with yutes and parents, we know that kids won't accidentally grow up with healthy habits in their lives and we also know that we live in a broken world that is doing everything it can to create unhealthy habits in them (i.e...media that tells my daughters they aren't right unless they look a certain way, or little league sports that tell my sons they aren't valuable unless they perform well...or peer pressure, selfish desires and more...) so even if we create the healthiest environment we can in our home, there is still a chance one day that they won't grow up to "follow the yellow brick road." (sorry to get that song stuck in your head). :D 

Because of our life stage, we interact with a ton of peeps who are navigating the same rat maze we are in; parents (married and single) who are working hard, who literally have minutes to go from work to shuttling their kids to practice/activities (if they don't have carpool to help), only to rush home and make dinner (and by "make" I mean, pick up Subway), scarf down said "made dinner" only to go back and pick up kids and their friends from previous drop-offs, get home, make lunches for the next day (lunches are made typically in September...Oct-June is mostly hot lunch), do bedtime routines (and by routine I mean...ensuing kid madness of a scene that is equivalent to herding cats in an open field with no fences) and now it's 9:24pm...and parents are asked to "connect".

I have been having so many conversations lately with parents who are becoming increasingly disconnected with their spouses and rising tensions with their kids...and we wonder why. 

I guess I'm writing this to say...What if there was another way?!  What if in the midst of the crazy, we figure out ways to stay connected with our spouses and/or kids...because here's the deal, the two things our kids really want from us might be shocking!!

Last summer I read an interview of Ellen Galinsky, President of Families and Work Institute and author of "Ask the Children." who was reporting on interviews she had with over 1000 children (ages 8-18)...when kids were asked what they wanted most from their parents, the kids said (drum-roll please)...For parents to be;

1. Less Stressed
2. Less Tired

Wow...kids want their parents to be less stressed and less tired.  Is there space in your life to become less stressed and less tired?  How can you create that space?

Maybe instead of living a life we hoped never to create, we could take a collective deep breath, talk with our kids and/or spouses, have a family game night, go for a walk together, play at the park, laugh together...and maybe learn to start saying "No."  Because as the saying goes, the more you say yes to things (activities, sports, committees, etc...) the more you are actually saying no to the things that matter most (family time, dinners around a table, etc...).  

Do you have a date with your spouse on the calendar this week? This month? When is your next family vacation planned? (I don't mean tropical vacation...maybe just a drive in the car with your family to the beach?) or maybe even tonight...SKIP PRACTICE, and take a walk or bike ride and get some ice cream together.  Don't worry, missing one practice or rehearsal isn't going to take away the full-ride scholarship you so long for your child to receive nor will it lead to her rejection of entrance to Julliard.

Slow down and stop the crazy! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

4 Reasons Why Little League Baseball Tells Us More About Adults Than The Kids It Is Meant For...

So...my kids are at the stage of life that is all things sports and activities.  I used to be Rhyan...now, I am "Hannah's Dad" or "Cooper's Dad"...and the truth is, I love it.  I love watching my kids play sports or go to ballet performances and I love being introduced to parents at said games as the aforementioned. But the last couple of years have brought a whole new level of "enjoying" these events...yep, that's right.  I'm talking about little league baseball.

My kids play all sorts of sports (football, basketball, soccer, golf, and ballet...is ballet a sport?), they love it...some of my kids just love to be out there with their friends and some of them love to compete.  In the hundreds of hours we've spent on bleachers and sidelines I've never witnessed intensity like I have from little league baseball and it's not from the kid's desire to win...it's because of the parents.

Here are a 4 reasons why;

1. The bleachers and field are arranged in such a way that you are literally a few feet from your opposing teams families/friends...you can hear every word they say.  Every. Word...it's not like I'm across the field from you. Yep, that's right dad who yells to his son on the pitcher's mound, "This kid ain't nothing...outfielder's scoot in! Strike him out!"  That kid  at the plate you are passive aggressively exasperating...yeah, that's my nephew...he's a good kid, and he's 9 years old, not David Ortiz.  You sound like a member of Cobra Kai from Karate Kid yelling, "Put him in a body bag Johnny!"  Just stop it...seriously...you sound like an idiot!  

2. You are putting more pressure on your kids than they can handle...they hear you...you are a few feet away.  Your son know's he has two strikes and no balls (you yelling at him actually makes him feel like he has no balls of his own either.)  He can hear you say "Come on!", "Seriously!", "Be a man!", "Are you kidding me!"...It's almost like his next swing of the bat echoes in eternity.  It doesn't! In fact, your son is more interested at this point in what the post game snack will be then the score.  Get over yourself...please. 

3. Your yelling is perhaps one of the reasons your son is making errors...want your son to make less errors?  Here's an idea...shut up.  Check out www.zipit.com!  Pretend you are 8 and you have friends...but you aren't sure if your friends like you for you or because you can do things (like catch, hit, make a play).  Now pretend everything you do in life at your age is to receive affirmation for positive things you do.  Yeah...that's an 8 year old.  When they make mistakes on the field...they know it and they aren't taking it lightly, so lay off a bit...you yelling at your son for making such an error is only going to make him more anxious the next time the ball comes his way...and then you know what happens?  Pretty soon, he may not even want to play anymore...the pressure isn't worth it.

4. Lastly...can we stop yelling at the Umpire?  It's little league people...can you start coming with the expectation that the ump is umping (is that a word?) in little league because he/she is not a good ump?  Here's a crazy secret...umps who are good typically don't ump little league.  Are they nice...absolutely!  Are they trying their best...you bet!  But if they were good...you'd probably see them at a higher level with a little more at stake...when you yell at "Blue"...it doesn't bode well as an example for your kids to follow.

I'm grateful for little league baseball...it is so fun watching these little peeps have fun, laugh, learn from adversity...but parents, come on...it's little league, you aren't going to lose your house if your son strikes out or makes an error.  Maybe instead of yelling you can just say, "Great job son/daughter...I love watching you play!!"

Monday, May 5, 2014

"God is in control" and other Christian cuss words...

For the past 20 years, I had the privilege of working (on staff and as a volunteer) with an incredible organization called, Young Life.  I have had countless conversations with kids and adults through those years around the idea that there might be a God, who cares, who loves, who redeems, who wants a relationship with the humanity God created...I didn't grow up in the church, and had very few questions about this God.

In fact the year I began my journey of faith was a great year...I was crowned homecoming king at my high school, started dating my future wife (marriage is easy, just read my other post, "The night I wanted to divorce my wife and why 4 years later, I'm so glad I didn't!") #enteremoticonhere, and my peers voted me "Most Romantic" (I borrowed Brian Fontana's Sex Panther cologne...which 60% of the time works everytime) #moreanchormanquotes AND I was even voted "Best Smile".  Life was good...on the outside.

On the inside I was a mess (and mostly still am)...but it was in and through my (continual) understanding of who this God was and is that I began to put the pieces together of what life is really about...I discovered life that is really life.

One of the hardest things about having a relationship with God is reconciling the age old question, "If God is good and all powerful...how come there is so much evil in the world?" (in theology, this is called "Theodicy").

To those of you reading this (now that you have made it past my reminiscent narcissism) who don't "believe in God" or aren't quite sure what you believe...I want to apologize on behalf of the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Christians who have said phrases to you like "God is in control", "There is a reason for everything...", etc...in an attempt to comfort you, but in reality felt more like they were cussing at you or that they had just raked their nails on the proverbial chalkboard.

What they are trying to say to you when they say "God is in control" is..."I care about you, I love you...and I don't know why you are going through this, but I think I know someone who does."  

This side of the holocausts of history, 9/11, sex trafficking around the globe and other like atrocities...it is hard to make sense of a benevolent God who is seemingly anything but, "in control".

I wish Theology was neat and tidy...but the truth is, it's quite messy.  Karl Barth said that all Theology is "broken thought".  My seminary President told my incoming classmates and I that in the reception of our graduate degrees we will realize not only do we not have all of the answers, but we won't even know all of the questions.  Does this make God any less God?

I don't think so, I think it makes me and us, less God...and that is a good thing.

What I do know is that we live in a broken world, a world that was not God's original intent...when I start there, it at least gives me a few footholds to brace myself upon when I think about the tragedies I've faced in my own life (ie...child of divorced parents, death of my best friend in 7th grade, and even just 2 years ago as my dad was murdered...beaten to death) or look around at the constant cruelty in our world.

I wanted to write this post for a couple reasons...

  • I wanted to apologize to those of you who have been frustrated with statements about God that seem to reduce your experiences of pain to fatalistic philosophic statements instead of REAL, and DEEP grief.

  • I also wanted to write this to ask; Can we (the church) stop positing such statements in the midst of people's pain like a "mic drop" at an Eminem concert? The certainty of said "mic drop" can come across in a way that is anything but helpful.  I'll never forget the time someone belittled my dad's murder by comparing it to their own experience of grief.  Maybe start with saying, "I am so sorry...I love you" and then in the silence of your presence through the weeks and years ahead, maybe...just maybe you'll see the fingerprints of what God is or might be doing?

As a pastor...I truly believe in a God of loving grace who is absolutely in control.  But this "control" that we profess on God's behalf, is an understanding that leads to peace and hope, and frees us from anxiety or fear, not a certainty that God is maneuvering the world like a cosmic puppet-master...so be careful how you use that phrase, "God is in Control".

For in the words of the great theologian, Inigo Montoyo..."I do not think it means what you think it means." 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The night I wanted to divorce my wife and why 4 years later, I'm so glad I didn't!

It seems like it was just yesterday...I remember leaving the house to go see a movie with a friend.  My wife and I had just been in another fight (yes, about the same things...over....and...over....and...over again.  The same fight we'd been having for 11 years.)  I got in the car (visually frustrated), my friend asked if I was okay...then those words came out of my mouth. "I want a divorce!" (My friend told me later it was the worst movie he'd ever seen because all he was thinking about was my dissolving marriage that was facing doom).

I couldn't believe we had gotten there...12 years earlier, I was getting ready to marry "my best friend", "my soul mate"...now, I felt like Ron Burgandy after Veronica Corningstone told him he had bad hair (sorry for the Anchorman reference.)  How did the love of my life become my enemy?

To add insult to injury...I was a youth pastor, and I helped families navigate these types of things for crying out loud!  People were coming to me for advice on marriage and how to raise great kids.  I was a business man in the community, we owned two coffee shops and I would get asked to speaking engagements to talk about the balance of a healthy life (God, family, and work)...I was a hero everywhere else except my home.

It's been 4 years since that night...I was failing at the one thing I publicly vowed, I wouldn't fail at.  I write this, because I have had countless conversations with couples who have been there or sadly who are there and don't know what to do, they are stuck...I write this to say, ITS NEVER TO LATE TO RECONCILE!!  I write this to say, THERE'S HOPE...YOU CAN GET THROUGH IT! I do realize not every relationship or circumstance is the same...in the previous sentence, I'm not referring to any situation of abuse.  I'm speaking to couples who have, "grown apart", become "hard hearted", don't like each other anymore, are holding grudges, who think the grass is greener on the other side, etc...

I am so glad we worked toward reconciling our differences...our marriage is better now then it's ever been...we actually like each other and I am so grateful, we have worked at working it through.  Along the way we've learned a ton...here are a few things that have been helpful for us...perhaps they will be for you? (or your "friend" who needs help...) :D

1. One of my favorite writers is a pastor named Tim Keller (#mancrush). He wrote a tremendous article on marriage called, "You never marry the right person."  Here's the link to it;


The idea that there is a perfect soul mate out there that will meet all of your needs is ludicrous.  You are selfish and prideful and so is your spouse...when you can admit that, I think that is a good starting point to work through your frustrations with each other.  You want the grass to start being greener...then start working on your own lawn, not coveting your neighbors.  There is just no such thing as a perfect marriage.

2.  Focus on your strengths.  What do you like about each other.  One of the things I started doing when we'd get in a fight (although sometimes the timing isn't helpful), is I'd ask, "Well...what do you like about me?"  The truth is, you got married to your spouse for a reason...remember that?  Do you remember that one time when you actually liked your spouse? :D  That one time, when you guys would actually laugh with each other, go on walks, play cards, go to movies, concerts, or make out with passion?  Remember those days?!  One of the things you can do to rekindle that is to FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS...not spend hours reminding each other of what you suck at.  So tonight...tell each other, 5 things you really like about each other.  You'll be glad you did.

3.  Don't let your heart get hard. My heart was getting hard toward my wife...I got to a point that, "I didn't care." and nothing anyone would say mattered.  I knew I had made vows, I knew that I was a pastor who was supposed to lead by example, we had 4 kids together...but I didn't care. My heart was hard!  Please friends, don't let your heart grow hard...and if it is, there is still hope...figure out a way to let it soften (hint; it won't soften if your spouse changes to the way you want them to change...your hard heart hasn't grown that way because of your spouse, it's grown that way because you are selfish and prideful and no one will ever perfectly meet all of your needs...go re-read the article in number 1 above...so get over yourself and let your heart grow soft again toward your spouse.)  When couples come to me who are nearing divorce...one of them typically has a hard heart, and the other one is desperately hoping that this "counseling" appointment will work.  Two things I've noted over the years...the first, is that the person with the hard heart is only coming to see me so they can say, "I tried counseling, but it didn't work!"  Truth is, that person doesn't want counseling, they want to check a box to tell the divorce court they tried and now have irreconcilable differences.  The second thing I've noted over the years is that marriages don't typically end because of one event...they typically end because of 1000's of emotional paper cuts, year after year, after year...once the heart gets hard, it's difficult to let it soften...but it can soften, there is always hope!!

4.  Submit to each other.  In all of the weddings I officiate and pre-marriage counseling sessions I have with couples, this is one of the first things I tell them...be sure you are submitting to each other.  Do you care as much about your spouses needs and wants as you do your own?  For some reason, the idea that only wives are to submit to their husbands has become the biggest load of crapajawea (yep, made that word up) I have ever heard...if you are a bible reader, look it up.  The verse right before that verse is, "Submit, one to another..."  Some other words for submit (because Americans hate the word submit) are; comply, accept, yield, consent.  But it has to be mutual, if it's not mutual, then you don't have a partner and it will take both of you to reconcile your hurts...do we care for our spouse as much as we care about ourselves?

5. Go to a marriage conference, get a vacation on the calendar...Do something, where you can get away and work on your marriage, JUST THE TWO OF YOU! Take a long car ride, borrow a friends cabin...Like I said in number 3 above, you are probably experiencing the results of 1000's of paper cuts over several months and years...it's going to take some time to heal your hurts/pains/anger toward each other and it won't happen over night...I'm not sure the marriage conference or the vacation will be the one thing that renews your marriage, but it sure is a start...so what are you waiting for? Get something on the calendar where you can get away and be together with no distractions (yes, this means you may have to give up some social media for a few hours, but you can do it...you will survive 48 hours without social media!) Your marriage is worth it.

We are a few days away from Easter...it's a day of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus (that's a whole other post)...my hope for you is that you will find resurrection in your marriage.  It's never too late to reconcile, there's hope...you can get through it.  It takes work...but it's worth it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

3 Reasons the death of the Presbyterian Church is a good thing.

To be clear, I am referring particularly to the Presbyterian Church USA, to which I am an ordained minister in.  And to qualify my comments, let me start by saying I have no desire to leave the denomination...I am simply tired of hearing how it "grieves the Lord" that churches are leaving the denomination.  So in a humble attempt to respond to like statements, here are 3 reasons I actually think it's a good thing our denomination is dying;

1. "There are no denominations in heaven."

I remember hearing this statement as a new follower of Christ and even in my years of studying Greek and Hebrew at seminary...this statements seems to hold true biblically.  I have yet to find the denominational idea in the scriptures.  While there are many good reasons for denominations (polity, theology and accountability to name a few), arguing for the survival of a denomination is not a biblical argument...it's a theological one at best, but in many cases it has become a sentimental one ("I have been Presbyterian all my life")...that is frightening to me, and telling.

2. Because the Presbyterian church is not the same as the Kingdom of God.

I am actively involved in my Presbytery (or at least I was until my Committee on Ministry reads this post), I sit on two committees (I can just hear the excitement exuding as both the people who read this think about what it means to be on a committee) and I am a Synod Commissioner (which is about as popular as David Hasselhoff's music career in the U.S...important to a few but not to most).  Let's just stop for a second and realize our arrogance when we argue for the survival of our denomination and demonize our brothers and sisters who are seeking dismissal.  Our denomination IS dying...let's be more excited about the kingdom of God than trying to penalize our friends for trying to leave.  Do we really want our epitath to read, "The smallest denomination with the largest endowment!" (To my non Presbyterian friends reading this...the statement has to do with churches leaving the denomination and being financially penalized, sometimes for millions of dollars in order to do so).  So, let's be excited for them in their desire to live out what they see as a more biblically accurate picture of what it means to be the church...every church and every denomination has to make a decision on how they interpret and live out their understanding of the scriptures.  This is done corporately and individually and for 2 millennium the Church (Big C church not little c church/denomination) has been articulating these interpretations through confessions (see Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Westminster, etc....) so that the Church's witness might be lived out in orthopraxis and orthodoxy. (sorry if I lost you there)  My point is this...if churches want to attempt that "correct practice" and "correct theology" in a denomination other than the PC USA...let's be excited for that to happen because if it's really from God, then we will not be able to stop it, we will only be fighting against God (that's in the bible).  When the Son of Man comes in glory it appears he won't be separating sheep and goats by checking our membership certificates.

3.  So we can get back to Mission.

Our denomination is not dying because churches are leaving...our denomination is dying because we have forgotten our ecclesial vocation...to be the sent people of God, because our witness to the world matters.  We are spending more time arguing for why people should stay, and how much money churches should pay in order to leave, than we are trying to equip congregations to live out our vocation as the Church.  Let's focus on witness and mission to the world around us...your church won't die because of where your brother or sister in Christ decides to transfer his/her membership.  Your church will die, if you don't start building relationships with your neighbors.

In our last Presbytery meeting someone said, "We need to figure out how to stop churches from leaving!"...no Sir, no we do not...we need to start figuring out how to be the Church.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Why pornography is NOT harmless...

In the 20 years I've been working with youth and families, I have had countless conversations about internet pornography and it's hold on people's lives.  One of the biggest problems seems to be the fact that we aren't talking about it with our kids or each other and that scares the hell out of me.

Especially as a father of four young kids, who I know are just clicks away from entering  a world I pray they will never enter...but I know better.  Even if in the slight chance they are able to navigate their adolescents without ever clicking on to a pornographic website (which is about the same likelihood they have of catching a fart in the wind), I know they will be exposed by the seemingly innocent pornographic pictures circulating their friends smartphones who will say, "Hey, look at this!" or by mistakenly (or purposefully) clicking on a Vines video (or any myriad of other online "harmless" sites) of said nature.

Don't believe me that it's an issue?  PLEASE READ the article that I've attached to this post...my wife and I just read it and I am now praying for ways I can talk about it well with my kids.  Which, drum-roll please...is perhaps a start...just having the conversation.

It's more than the idea that boys and men are merely perverted in our thought life...science is doing more each year to reveal the fact that pornography is truly the drug of the new millennium.  "The Drug of the New Millennium." by Mark B. Kastleman.

PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE and then get ready to talk about it with your kids...ask questions, know what they are looking at online...until there is no more demand, the supply of pornography will continue.  Perhaps in our lifetime, we can begin to take action...because pornography is NOT harmless.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The battle of Identity and Self Worth

I'm getting ready to go speak at a mens retreat soon and I've been thinking a lot about where we get our identity and self worth.  At the retreat I'll be sharing a bit about my childhood, growing up with a dad who battled mental illness, and my own issues with finding my value (identity and self worth) in life. I came across some pictures of me growing up...

The first is the summer after my 6th grade year (I was about 180 pounds there...with the mullet) and the other of my senior year in high school at a wrestling match (I was about 165 pounds there...)...when I saw those pics I realized, when I looked in the mirror during both of those times (and truth be told...sometimes even today),  I thought I was fat...both pictures and times, I still struggled with self worth, identity and ultimately worried about what others thought of me.
I guess it's especially hitting me in my attempt to raise our 4 kids to be gracious, loving, and sure of who they are...as I often catch my young daughters looking long in the mirror, or hearing of my sons adventures on the playground and who gets to play in what games, I have all sorts of questions.
What do they think of themselves...how can I help them navigate life well and do it with an assuredness of who they are?  If their self worth and identity become validated only through the approval of their peers or others...Sadly, I know where that road will lead.
My greatest hope for them, is that they will find purpose, value, identity not in created things, but in their Creator.  Oh, Lord...may it be so!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ENTITLEMENT :: The Number One Killer Of the American Church

What does it mean to be a part of a local church in America today?  

Let me start this by saying, I am so grateful to live in America...we have so many choices, and we have a ton of rights.  Intrinsically as Americans, we understand what it means to have rights...the very fabric in the development of the US Constitution protects its people, from the government (in theory...but, that's another blog) should the government try infringe on said "rights"...the first 10 amendments of the constitution that protect us, are called (shout out to Mr. Gerst here for US history in 10th grade)...THE BILL OF RIGHTS!!  In other words, as an American...you deserve things, and this "deserving things" has crept into every aspect of our way of life; (read these next several lines as a critique so my satire is not lost on you...)

You aren't happy with your family...get another one...because you deserve to be happy, life is too short.  You are stressed at work...take a vacation (or a nap)...you deserve it.  You aren't happy with your marriage...get a divorce, your irreconcilable differences are too difficult to work through...you deserve someone who will love you the way you need to be loved.  Your house is to small...even though you can't afford it, get a bigger one...you deserve it.  Your closet full of clothes are old and out of date, the 30 pair of shoes you own are so 2000 and late...get new ones, you deserve it!! 

You go to the grocery store...you have options.  You drive through the auto mall...you have options.  You go out to dinner...you have options.  You don't want to go to a gym...buy P90X and get fit in your home...you have options (enter Cross Fit sighs here!).  And SADLY...these options have become more "rights"...things you think you deserve.  "OMG...it is so inconvenient that we don't have a Whole Foods here."  Because Trader Joe's, Top Foods, and Food Co-Ops aren't enough!!

You are American...we have rights for crying out loud...and your pursuit of happiness is what really matters...right?  

And just like that...the church of America is doomed, because we take our entitled American ideals and place them on the church...grievously, our entitlement is killing the church.

What does it mean to be a part of the American Church today?  

What could it look like for the churches around America to start seeing their number one priority as pursuing God...not what we think we deserve to get out of the church.  What if we came to serve...not to be served (I think that's in the bible?! :D)  Not only is it killing the church...our Christian "Bill of Rights" is killing our witness to the Gospel.  You see the Gospel is the craziest thing ever...in fact, it's the only time as Americans we actually don't get what we deserve!!  

What if we (the church) started really understanding the Gospel...I bet it would change the way we "do" church, we might actually start to "be" the church.  #forgiveuslord #weknownotwhatwedo #orwedoandwejustdontcare

Monday, January 13, 2014

Gun Control, Homosexuality and Jesus...let's talk about this on the internet.

Actually, we'd most likely agree that such significant and complex matters aren't best "talked" about via the world wide web.

So instead of adding another blog about who's right and who's wrong, I thought I'd take a moment and ask for us to consider the possibility that relationships are probably the best place to have conversations about such important issues.

Before the next public figure, or entertainer says something about Gun Control, Homosexuality or Jesus that supports your side of the fence creating another internet meltdown, I thought I'd just ask; what would it look like for us to talk about these issues in person?  In actual relationships?

Seems like any partisan rhetoric causes us to hate each other...right now, my Facebook feed is filled with my friends excitement over the Seahawks, birthday greetings or how funny Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were at the GG's last night, but I guarantee you, as soon as a celebrity or politician makes another public statement about any number of like matter hot-button issues, everyone will turn to homophobic, intolerant bigots, or Nazi loving gun control fanatics, or Obama-care socialists...and just like that, with the stroke of a few keys; we hate each other!

Why do we let that happen?  What if we invited each other to coffee or lunch instead?  Perhaps have some folks over for a cold one and some conversation so that we might navigate these issues in more helpful ways?

Full disclosure; I am a pastor and as such, I do the best I can to have a biblical world view.  I know that brings up all sorts of thoughts in your head right now, but you have a world view too...and it may be that we disagree on certain issues, but I don't think you are an ignorant nitwit because you hold such a view...we are simply viewing things from a different lens.

Eugene Petersen writes about a pastors role as helping to keep people attentive to the things of God, and I try to live that out every day, but the truth is...nobody ever changes their world view because they lost an argument.  I have found over the course of being involved in ministry for the past 20 years (volunteer or vocation), that through relationships, in the daily conversations of life and faith that such space creates an opportunity to hear someone's side.  It certainly is not in the space of the internet that allows us to so quickly demonize each other.

So how about it...instead of posting about how amazing your ideas are in the freedom of your proclaimed enlightened autonomy, let's grab lunch!