I Love You This Much…

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For Grace’s graduation open house, I asked my mom to make some Swedish pancakes and biscotti for her breakfast-themed party. I had no idea the undertaking that was going to be.  My mom and her twin sister, Linda, made 300 pancakes and 10 pounds of biscotti.

People were delighted to try something that most people don’t regularly eat. I was delighted because there were leftovers. Let me know if you want the recipe–they are amazing!

Psalm 38:9

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All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. Ps. 38:9

The number of hairs of my head are known to God. My soul He knows. My sin He knows. My pain He knows. My repentance He knows. My longings for renewal He knows. God reads me like an open book. He is not shocked or surprised. He isn’t amazed at my sin. I cannot hide anything from Him.

David’s cries in Psalm 38 are vulnerable. He is weak. He is fragile. I weeps for God’s protection and love. Who on earth wants anything different, really? God does not hide. Though we feel far away–He is close. He is the sun rising in the morning, the breath in our lungs, the song on our lips, the hope of a better tomorrow. God is always there.

I, on the other hand, stray. I turn my back. I walk away slowly at times, and sprinting at others. I feel the pull to connect coming from him and I hesitate. I pause. He sees me though. He knows me.

God, all of who I am lays open before you. I cannot hide from you. Forgive me when I try.

Psalm 37:23-24

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The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;  though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Ps. 37:23-24

Though he may stumble? Of course there will be stumbling. Life cannot be lived without stumbling. The key to this verse is that the “fall” is covered. God has taken the necessary steps to make sure that we cannot be impacted by the fall. We need not worry about it. We need not be afraid to take a step.

His hand is a hand of support. It is a strong hand that can hold us in even the worst of terrains. My path is treacherous, but God holds me with His hand and so my steps are not filled with peril. There has to be cycle of delight in this as well. When I put my trust in him, He shows that He is trustworthy and deserving of my faith and hope in ALL areas of life.

Psalm 36:7

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How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”‭‭Psalm‬ ‭36:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I used to refer to this verse to show people that the Bible uses metaphor at times to describe God. “God doesn’t have wings” I would say, proving that there is room for creative liberty in God’s Word. But, today this passage has a depth of meaning for me that I treasure.

God’s love can be used as a protective, secure state of presentness. The immenseness of God allows for a shadow to be cast that covers me. It is something I can take refuge in. I can be protected like a young one under the wing of my protective Parent. 

Prayer of the Distressed

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Feeling overwhelmed? Feeling like you’ve been swallowed up? Here is a prayer of someone who felt the same way.

Jonah 2:2 NIV. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

There is no depth you can be at that God cannot hear you…or reach you.

People Pleasing

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Yesterday was President’s Day.  It doesn’t mean much to people anymore. It’s a holiday invented to honor our supreme national leader (and give government agencies the day off).  I was reminded, however, of something that President Abraham Lincoln said:

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

These words, by poet John Lydgate, were used by President Lincoln to talk about the demands of leadership and meeting people’s expectations. Recently, I have had a lot of expectations to consider.  Due to stressful circumstances in my life, I have been forced to look at who I am and how I do things. This isn’t something that is new. In fact, this is how people grow in maturity. We adapt. We grow. Yet, in this phase of my life I am realizing that the path isn’t always clear. The “grey areas” of life seem to grow and I have been stuck wondering, “where do I go next?”

This is when people give me their thoughts and ideas, and I am brought to wonder how I-and if I-should meet the expectations of those looking into my leadership. The more people I ask, the more opinions and directions I am given and the more convoluted the way seems to be. Who do I listen to? Who do I ignore?

Here are a few questions that run through my mind as I seek to meet the expectations of some, and try to lead them all:

  1. Who are my “Arm Lifters”?  In Exodus 17 Moses and the Israelites are in a battle with the Amalekites. Moses is told by God to go onto the hilltop and raise the staff of God above his head. When he does this the Israelites are victorious over their foes. But holding your hands over your head is hard to do for an entire battle–and Moses wasn’t a young man. So, Aaron and Hur sit Moses down on a rock and lift his arms for him. The hold his arms up. We all need people like this. These are the people we need to listen to and trust.
  2. Am I being asked to go against my character or nature?  Sometimes people expect you to be someone else. In this world of cult of personality it’s easy for someone to put the expectations of another leader onto you. “That church has 1000 people” they may say. Or, “this author has a different approach”. I’m not saying that these are bad things (how could I?). What I am saying is that some of the expectations that leaders encounter are due to unrealistic expectations that are put on them because of some persona incognito. We must ask ourselves if the expectations being placed on us are unrealistic for who we are and what we know we can accomplish.
  3. Why do I want to meet these expectations?  Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book The Power of Other, talks about the human’s desire to please others. That sometimes our drive to please them causes us to make compromises in who we really are.  As a leader it is important to understand why you want to meet an expectation of the people you lead. Do you desire to be accepted? Are you trying to please them so they will do your bidding later? Our motivation to meet expectations should be considered. Sometimes leaders have to make decisions that will be unpopular, but they are the right decision. Sometimes we move people to a place that isn’t easy. A strong leader knows what is motivating them to meet the expectations of others.

President Lincoln was wise to point out the obvious. We CANNOT please everyone…not for very long that is. So, we must know why we make decisions. Why we listen to some, and ignore others. Why we stand for something that others might not. That is leadership.

How to Have a Tough Day

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Tough days are something we all have from time to time. The key is: How do you handle them? Here are a couple of quick tips in how to have expected tough days that won’t keep you down.

  1. Wake up early for it. No point in trying to sleep through it. Meet it head on. There is something about being fully awake for a difficult day that prepares you for obstacles unlike just trying treat it like normal.
  2. Create alliances. When you know you have tough things to say, hard things to do, or difficult news to hear, it helps if there are others that are there to make it as painless as possible. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to hurt. Only that it will hurt considerably less.
  3. Admit that it’s tough. My toughest meetings have almost always been prefaced with “this isn’t going to be an easy meeting for you.” It sets the stage for the difficult journey that is required.
  4. Understand your “dark issues”. Are you a child of divorce with abandonment issues? Are you so afraid of conflict that you sweep everything under the carpet? Do you yell when you’re stressed? Know these things (and more) about yourself in trying times. Say them out loud in the midst of them. “I normally yell at times like these, but I want to have a calm tone with you…” or “I normally run from situations like this, but…”
  5. Ask for feedback.  Sometimes our perception isn’t what is exactly happening. Get others to give their input as to how the difficult situation is being handled.
  6. Seek love. The Bible is right that love “covers a multitude of sins.”  When we seek to show love in the midst of the worst situations it can only be beneficial.  Even more that being understood or agreeing, feeling love and showing love can get you through some pretty tough stuff.

So, next time you’re preparing for a bad day, think of a couple of these and I know it will help.

2016: A Look Back

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It is a tradition every New Year that Karla and I look back at the previous year with review and introspection. Here are the “highs” and “lows” of 2016.

  •  Spring Break trip to Laguna Beach, FL
  • College visit weekend for Grace (University of Iowa, Bradley University, University of Chicago, Loyola University, Lake Forest College)
  • Seth wins U14 Iowa State Cup in soccer
  • Seth plays in regionals in Indianapolis, IN
  • Grace goes to state for the 3rd time in IHSSA storytelling
  • Karla gets new job in West Des Moines School District
  • Brandon and Karla do Whole30 for 6 months losing much needed weight
  • Grace declares University of Iowa as her college destination
  • Westwind Church celebrates its 8th birthday
  • Jason and Tara Bollback move to Iowa to join the Westwind team
  • Brent and Kari Minter leave Westwind to lead church in Ankeny, IA
  • First ever St. Oktobrick’s Fest party: It’s a holiday I invented combining Irish and German cultures
  • Major house remodeling project
  • Seth gets his driving permit
  • Grace travels to Albania for mission trip
  • Karla helps pack up and sell her childhood home
  • Seth gets braces
  • Grace turns 18…nine days after she would be allowed to vote
  • Close out our foster care license
  • Nate and Jamee Heemstra join the Westwind team

A Yearly Consideration

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A year ago I didn’t know the difference between a “whip” and a “nae nae”. I couldn’t fathom that the Hawkeyes would ever end their season undefeated. And, I didn’t know that a world could be held in fear by the violent acts of just a few people with guns. What a difference a year makes.

So, what will this year bring? What unimaginable events will take place in your life that will give you pause for consideration at the end of 2017? For some, it is marriage, graduations, new career paths, births, new starts. For others, 2017 brings the news of serious illness, a family death, or other tragedies that may be too terrible to think about.

The Bible talks about the duality of life in the book of Ecclesiastes:

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:
a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot;
a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build;
a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (HCSB)

This passage shows that life is full of high times and low times. They are to be expected. What matters is how we meet those times—how we face them head on.

Having our minds set on eternal things like God, faith, and love helps us with perspective as we deal with any event in the coming year. We recognize that temporal things fall away and all that remains is what is truly substantive. When we think of the eternal we desire to be around others who do the same, those who have eternity’s values in view. At Westwind Church we encourage people to connect with others in order to experience eternal values lived out in everyday life. This helps us experience the “occasions” that the writer of Ecclesiastes forewarns.

What will this year bring? I cannot tell you. But, what I do know, is that without the right perspective, and the right people beside you, it will be much more difficult. Maybe this is the year that you concentrate on your faith, which will help you no matter what comes your way.