Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Empty Grace Tank

Ever feel like your grace tank is empty?

I spent last weekend with my kids at my parents house in Emily, MN.  Stephanie stayed home and had a quiet house alone where she could focus and knock out some projects that she needed to get done.  It was wonderful to see my parents and get out of town for a few days.

I was optimistic and upbeat last Friday morning about what a fantastic weekend it was going to be.  I had grand plans of being Super-Dad and having a weekend full of memory-making and fun.  And it was pretty fun.  We climbed a 'mountain' in the mines, played lots of Pick-Up Sticks and enjoyed being with my parents.

But I noticed something as the weekend went on.  My grace tank was rapidly decreasing and I found myself becoming more and more irritated and upset at the behavior of my kids.  By the time I got home on Sunday night I was completely empty and had zero patience and very little kindness.  I hated myself for it, but the fact was, I felt like I had nothing left to give, to anyone.

Stephanie noticed right away and did her best to engage the kids so I could just disappear and recharge.   

It took almost a full day for me to feel back to normal. 

Looking back now I see a few things that contributed to the situation.

1.  Unrealistic expectations
2.  Hyper-focus on trivial things
3.  Poor communication with my parents
4.  Poor communication with my kids
5.  Failure to ask for help or prayer
6.  Failure to debrief daily with Stephanie

All of these things are factors that led to the depletion of my grace tank.  And the problem is, all of these things are things I could have easily done better to avoid the situation.  I wish I would have been more intentional about reading God's Word to get me through.  I could have read and meditated on verses like these,

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11-12 ESV)

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

I learned a lot from this trip and I'm more prepared now for the next one.  I'm interested to hear what strategies any of you readers use to manage your emotions in draining circumstances.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Being Afraid and the Sin of Anxiety

I hate feeling afraid.  I've never liked it.  Never been a big fan of haunted houses, scary movies and people jumping out from bushes to startle me - not that I have know lots of people who do that, but you get the point.

Being afraid of scary movies is one thing, but there is another kind of fear people experience that is a much bigger deal.  The fear I'm talking about is often referred to by its other name - anxiety.

Anxiety is fear that is based on assumptions or concerns about uncertain future realities.  Anxiety is a crippling kind of fear, paralyzing a person and preventing them from feeling peace and calm in their minds and hearts.

The Bible has a lot to say about anxiety.  

Before I say anything else I should confess I am not a doctor, and I am not speaking here about the kind of anxiety that is clinical diagnosed as a mental condition.  What I am more focused on is the kind of anxiety experienced by someone who is considered a 'worry-wart.'

This kind of anxiety is sinful because it represents a lack of faith in the power, goodness, protection, and provision of Jesus Christ.  This kind of anxiety shouts, "I don't trust in Jesus to walk me through the circumstances of my life, for my good and his glory."

Let me share a few examples,

- For the past couple weeks I have put off making a phone call because I was anxious about the potential response of the person I was calling.
- Last week I was anxious about speaking to my boss because I was concerned with how he felt about me and how he might react.
- At times I feel anxious about my family's finances and how we are going to pay for all the things that may come up.

These are all examples of the sin of anxiety in my life. 

In each situation I was more focused on myself than I was on God.  I was concerned and paralyzed because, instead of looking upward for help, I was going inward and putting my hope in myself.

Bad move.

When we are feeling anxious we must go to God's Word to have our minds transformed and our thinking renewed (Romans 12:1-2).  Look at just a splattering of what the Bible says about being anxious.

Matthew 6:34 - “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Psalm 127:2 - It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Isaiah 35:4 - Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

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

One of my favorite Bible verses is Joshua 1:9 which says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  When I am tempted to be anxious I cling to this verse.  

Do not be frightened.  
Do not be dismayed.  
In all situations.
In all things.  

Why?  Because the Lord God is with me.  Wherever.  At all times.  

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38, 39)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Our First Experience with Traveling Sports Try-outs

Exciting time for me as a parent getting an email like this.

Thank you for attending the Northfield Youth Baseball Association’s 4th Grade Player Evaluation last Saturday and Sunday. From the results of the camp, it has been determined that you will be placed on the U10AAA Travel Tournament Team.

The U10AAA Travel Tournament Team Coach will contact you in the near future.


See you at the park!
I remember hockey try-outs always being so stressful for me and my parents.  Jacob did really well with it, and we played it pretty low key with our expectations.  We're pumped for him and can't wait to watch him play.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What Every Young Man Should Know

This is an excerpt from a well-written and some what humorous article on Skills Every Young Man Should Know.  I am compiling a list for my own boys and I found many of the things in this article useful to incorporate.  The list of skills comes from the work of Robert Littell in 1933.  There is way too much in the article to share here, but these two paragraphs on learning how to 'take a walk' interested me.
Walking is a noble but neglected sport. Americans “hike” once in a long while but seldom walk. And hiking easily becomes hitch-hiking. The automobile, organized athletics, and the fact that American cities and American suburbs are dismal places to walk in have caused American feet to abandon the roads. For every climber in an American national park–some of which are quite as beautiful as any Alps–there are ten “hikers,” fifty who “pack” on horses, and ten thousand who survey the wonders of nature from the windows of a sedan. 
Walking in this country is a lost cause, yet walking is one of the habits I should wish my son to acquire. No other exercise, if indulged in several days at a time in pleasant, moderately wild country, has greater power to remake a man, to iron out his creases, to produce deep health and spiritual calm. The first steps in this elementary course had best be taken in Europe, where the natives do not look upon people with heavy shoes and knapsacks as slightly cracked.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

8 Ideas for Getting the Most from Your Time

Who among us doesn't wish they could get more done with the precious little time they have during the day? I know being efficient and organized with my time could help me out a lot. The demands between my walk with God, my leadership in the home, my parentings, my workplace, and my involvement with friends and the community continue to pile up more and more as I get older.

I found some of the ideas in this article very helpful for better using my time.

1. SAY NO.
Try “No” templates — canned responses for all the common situations where you find yourself saying no. I first heard about the idea from entrepreneur and investor Mark Suster, and it’s saved me immeasurable time and anxiety.  
This lets you put the time and attention you want into crafting a response. You just don’t have to do it every time. The most important thing is that you close the door to further communication. Do it nicely in a way that truthfully explains the situation, but don’t leave things open-ended. 
2. BE AN EMAIL NINJA.Rule of thumb: If you can respond to or act on any email in under two minutes, just do it immediately. If it’s going to require more than two minutes, move it into your task manager to process later. When you do this, you have the ability to prioritize tasks and emails in relation to each other, and your inbox no longer owns your time. 
3. MANAGE YOUR ENERGY.Not too long ago, the average human used to walk 12 miles a day. Now we sit. We sit a lot. We sit so much. It’s so bad for us that Harvard Business Review has called it the smoking of our generation. If you work in tech, you average 9.3 hours sitting every day. This is more than you sleep. As people, we’re meant to move. It’s vital to our health, but also our ability to be effective. 
4. BUILD PLAYBOOKS.For anything you do more than three times, write down your process in detail. Build playbooks that you can hand off to someone else, so they can execute something exactly the way you would. Never get held up by people asking what the next step is or whom they should ask about a process.
The startups that I have seen succeed the most at scaling are the ones who have systematized their common actions and core procedures early, and made a habit of it as they grew. 
8. GIVE YOUR TEAM LEVERAGE.If you implement these simple hacks, you can get that 70% of time you aren't maximizing back. You can spend less time in meetings and your inbox. Most importantly, you can get back to leading, inspiring, closing deals and changing the world.

Read more:

Monday, March 24, 2014

How Both Rejection and Reenforcement of the Past Affects the Present

It is remarkable how great of an impact a person's childhood has on their adulthood.

More than we realize, our expectations and reactions are shaped not on what is reasonable and right, but on how we grew up and how we have chosen, either consciously or subconsciously, to allow that growing up to form and inform our adulthood.  Wow, that's a mouthful.  Let me explain.

I grew up in a house on a pretty tight budget; for most of my life I lived in a single income home.  My dad worked hard driving a semi while my mom worked hard taking of my three siblings and I.  Because of this, I ate lots of leftovers, reused things most people throw away, and didn't take many trips or family vacations.  That wasn't bad, it was just my normal.  But now as an adult I have to chose what my new normal will be.  I have to decide if I will continue to eat leftovers, reuse as much as possible, or go on vacations.  

In thinking about this there are two ways I have found myself responding to these choices.  

One way to respond is to reject the past.  I can throw out all those behaviors and attitudes that I grew up with.  My thinking is like this.  I can leave all the lights on in the house all day if I want, and if I want to heat the whole neighborhood by leaving the doors open, well by golly I am an adult and I can!    

A second way to respond is to reenforce the past.  I can grab hold tightly to everything and work hard to push the past into the future.  When I do this my behavior looks like this.  I tell my kids to put away their clothes baskets every Saturday because when I was a kid I put my clothes basket away every Saturday (I doubt I did this exact thing, but you get the point)!

Rejecting and reenforcing the past creates all kinds of difficulty in a marriage.  

Two people, from completely different backgrounds, and with completely different experiences and baggage and expectations, are now force to chose what to reject and reenforce, in the context of their relationship.  This is really tough!  My spouse my not like what I choose to reenforce.  I may agree with what my spouse wants to reject.  Neither spouse, at least at firsts, understands or empathizes with the reasons for the other person's behavior.

The first step to resolving this difficulty is to recognize that my behavior is probably not as "right" as I think it is.  It takes humility to honestly assess attitudes and actions in determining if they are as appropriate and necessary as they initially seem to be.  Many people die on the alter of rejection and reinforcement instead of doing the hard work of understanding another person and being selfless enough to set aside personal preferences for the sake of the relationship.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An Example of How Prophecy Can Work

Sunday at church a visitor to our church introduced herself to my wife and told my wife to write down Psalm 84:7 & 11.  My wife read the verses that night and couldn't understand why the woman would have shared them with her.   I looked up the verses myself, and made a few comments on how the verses might relate to some circumstances in Stephanie's life.   Little did I think that the verses may actually have been given by the Lord to Stephanie for me.

They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. - Psalm 84:7 

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. - Psalm 84:11 

I received a text message at 6AM Monday morning from a co-worker who was going to be out sick. That meant that all the responsibility for the week lay on me and one other guy.  I would be the unplanned point person.  I spent the next 30 minutes before my shower laying in bed vacillating between prayers and work preparations.  The last few days of work last week were tough and I knew I was walking into a difficult situation on Monday.  Now I'd be doing it without the support of a peer.

As I laid in bed, and many times since then, I have considered the words of the Psalmist.   The Lord is my sun and my shield.  He will bring me warmth and protection. In other words, he keeps me safe.  The Lord bestows favor and honor.   He will give me good relationships with others. He will work things out for good.  No good things does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.   All I need to do is be honest, have integrity, speak the truth, and be humble. 

Meditating on these verses has really strengthened me despite the difficulties of my work day.  God's Word is true and it is an encouragement to His people.  I am grateful the woman spoke those words to my wife, and I am grateful that I was given eyes to see how they could apply to me.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hillsong United "Oceans" (Video) - Favorite Worship song

Every so often a worship song comes along that I absolutely cannot get enough of. Oceans is one of those songs. What song is meaningful to you right now?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Removing These Two Words from Your Marriage Will Instantly Improve It

I don't subscribe to vary many email newsletters and publications.  I've found that when I do, most of the things that fill up my inbox add very little value to my life.  In fact, the majority of the time they hit the 'trash' before they are even read.  However the communication I get from Refine Us Ministries is different.

The following is an excerpt of an email I recently received.  The excerpt itself is powerfully eye-opening.  I would encourage you to go to the ministry website and sign up to receive these emails yourself.  If nothing else, spend a few minutes reading their blog to see firsthand what a helpful ministry Refine Us is.
There are so many things that your marriage can survive. You marriage can survive miscommunication. Your marriage can survive busy schedules. Your marriage can overcome conflict with your in-laws. Your marriage can get through sexual brokenness and unforgiveness. But, there are two words that will eventually bring an end to your marriage…if not legally then definitely emotionally. 
The two words are… 
If only my wife had sex with me more often
If only my husband looked at me like my boss does
If only we had kids
If only we made more money
If only we lived in a bigger house
If only we would have dated longer
If only she took care of herself like the lady at the gym
If only my high school boyfriend and I would have stayed together
If only we hadn’t had kids so young
If only she understood me
If only he listened to me
If only I knew we were soul mates
If only she cooked more or better
If only he could do things around the house
If only will slowly destroy intimacy and leave you in a place of resentment. If only will trick you into believing that the best days of your marriage are behind you and and not ahead of you. 
The best thing you can do for your marriage today is remove “if only” from your mind and heart.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Giving Rules w/o the Groundwork of a Relationship Never Works

My kids have this weird habit. Maybe your kids have/had it. They hate being told what to do. I think they got it from their mother. OK, maybe they didn’t get it from their mother. I have always disliked being told what to do. I’ve always wanted to do things my own way, which has unfortunately lead to me having to learn many lessons the hard way.

- I had to touch the stove to believe it was hot
- I had to lick the flagpole to know my tongue would stick
- I had to pee on the electric fense to find out if….ok that’s a lie, I’ll take people’s word on that one

Truth is, and I know I’m not alone in this, most people don’t like being told what to do. And this is especially true if the directions are coming from someone we don’t know or don’t trust. I saw this over and over again when I worked in retail. The giving of rules without the groundwork of relationship never works out well.

Many people have this same problem with religion. They perceive Christianity as nothing but a bunch of rules, because they don’t understand the relationship with Christ undergirding the whole thing. Christians themselves are guilty of perpetuating this problem by laying on unbelievers the laws of God instead of inviting people to come and see and know Jesus as a first step.

We learn from Matthew 17 that the first step in becoming a follower of Jesus is seeing who Jesus really is - the beloved Son of God, in whom God is well pleased. It is this knowledge of Jesus, this intimate knowing of who Christ is, that motivates my listening to him. This is why reading your Bible, for yourself, regularly, is such an important practice. In reading God’s Word we come to know in greater detail and depth who Jesus was. In God’s Word we discover the love, grace, forgiveness, power, humility, kindness, compassion, strength, passion, and welcomingness of Christ.


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