The Antidote to Restlessness

Poison-and-Antidote-Clean-Crop-1038x576

“People look desperately for things to make them happy, often without realizing what they’re missing spiritually.”  ~ Jan David Hettinga

A BOOK REVIEW

Jan David Hettinga in his new book Still Restless: Conversations That Open the Door to Peace does an excellent job explaining that our restlessness comes from within – a longing that is in our DNA. We were all created for a kingdom bigger than ourselves and yet we try so hard to find inner peace and contentment our own way.

31yemfd3il-_sx321_bo1204203200_Spiritual peace is available to us and often comes with our being real with Christ, asking the hard questions, and finding true peace. These one-on-one conversations (thoroughly examined throughout the book) show us that we build kingdoms that crumble but Christ offers peace to our restlessness when we are willing to step through the door of repentance, faith and trust in Him.

Our straight forward gut-wrenching communication with Christ will allow us to “abandon our failed experiments with independence and self-rule” and be replaced “unexplainable peace” our “antidote for fear and restlessness.”

No book explains the kingdom of God, our profound purpose and God’s ultimate plan of redemption and peace any better that this. I highly recommend this book to all and especially those who are Still Restless.

Thank you to Jan David Hettinga and Kregel Publications for a copy in exchange for this honest review.

Tree Down

Fallen-tree-in-Arizona“A tree is best measured when it’s down.”
~ an old Woodsman’s Proverb, Chapter 20

A BOOK REVIEW
I was excited when I found out that I was chosen as a Goodreads First Reads winner for the book Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith written by Charles R. Swindoll. I remember sitting by the radio as a teenager captivated by Swindoll’s creative storytelling and message mastery. As I read the book and followed it’s opulent outline on Abraham and his courageous faith, I could hear the author speak forth its truths as thought it was yesteryear. Although I do not agree with everything within its pages, I appreciated much of the message and encouraged by most of the content of the book.

There are so many lessons that can be learned from Abraham’s life and we are challenged from the very beginning to embrace the good as well as learn from his mistakes. His faith was immense: “Abram had to leave behind everything he relied on for safety and provision — homeland and relatives — and trust that God would honor his commitment.”

Patience and trust are key lessons learned from the book: “Do you wait for the Lord to move” OR “do you embrace the adage that ‘God helps those who help themselves?’” We must remember that God is “never accidentally late.” Dr. Swindoll encourages us to follow Abram’s example and not “wait for all the details to be worked out” before following Christ fully. Many things could have shaken his commitment, but Abraham did not waiver.

Thank you Tyndale & Goodreads for the opportunity to read and offer my review.

chuck-swindollCHUCK SWINDOLL
Chuck’s prolific writing ministry has blessed the body of Christ for over 30 years. Beginning with You and Your Child in 1977, Chuck has contributed more than 70 titles to a worldwide reading audience.

 

Waiting on Him

I love the little reminders along the way. If I were to be honest, I still have my days where I question God and His plan and why we are still waiting to see His hand in things. Don’t get me wrong. We know He’s got a plan but probably like many of you, it seems like God never works within our timetable or moves the way we think He should act. And so, I love the little reminders along the way. The reminders that He knows and that He is working and if we just WAIT, He will come through in big and amazing ways. We can try to step in to “fix things” but we might be giving up on the miraculous if we do so.

Here’s an illustration I just read this morning- another reminder along the way:

Back many years ago, a young boy accompanied his father and mother as they took the wagon into town for supplies. After the supplies had been purchased and were being loaded in the wagon, the owner of the store said to the boy, “Son, you have been such a good boy, I’m going to let you put your hand in the candy jar and get all the candy you can grab.” The little boy just stood there and made no move for the candy. The owner put his hand into the jar, grabbed a handful of candy and handed it to the boy. On the way home, the father asked the boy why he didn’t reach his own hand into the jar. He said, “It’s not like you to be shy.” The boy responded, “I wasn’t shy. I was just waiting on him. I knew his hand was bigger than mine.”
candyboy_wide-e7462d8fce86265e0250a329a8c7e2040b0df017-s1100-c15

WaterPARKED

“Be still.” It has to be one of the most arduous things to do. In an age of instant satisfaction, google gratification, and misplaced relaxation it’s a major pain searching for peace. And that’s probably the problem . . . it’s not found in the search.

sunProbably one of the best things our family did this summer was buy a season pass to the local waterpark. This purchase challenged us to leave behind the melancholy and mundane and set forth on a weekly adventure of calm and composition.

We occasionally feel like pawns in the game of Wait. The “game” can leave you feeling helpless and stuck. If too much time is spent speculating God’s hand or fretting future ventures, one can be left feeling lonely, broken, or forgotten.

And so we’ve been waterparked. Parked by the water. Sitting still in the sun, reclining with a book, watching the children play, and thanking heaven for another God graced day. Waiting and worshipping, thanking instead of fussing, being still and knowing that He is preparing a place for us. Sometimes the best thing to do “in the wait” is relax and be captured by His wonder.

“Jesus did not suffer so that you would not suffer, but that when you suffer you will become like Him.” Tim Keller

DECEIVED?

A BOOK REVIEW
“It’s not the power of the curse, it’s the power you give the curse.”
~ Penelope movie

It’s funny how our minds can trick us. I just read a new Fast Company article (you can read it here) about hurricanes. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers found that a female named “storm seems less threatening and less foreboding. And as a result of that less perceived risk and intensity, we see people less willing to take shelter, more likely to delay evacuating.” “You would think that things would be different, that people would bring to mind more severe, deadly, feminine storms, and maybe they would judge the female storms as more severe than the male storms, but they don’t,” team leader Shavitt said. “Our findings suggest that gender bias could be strong enough to overcome specific experiences with storms.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 11.03.32 AMOne of the best books I read this year has got to be Joseph T. Hallinan’s “Kidding Ourselves.” The book explores the ways in which we deceive ourselves and how the self-deception often allows us to adjust to the stresses of life. The author does an incredible job of sharing intriguing stories and sound statistics to present the power of the human mind to shape reality. Examples of placebos that often work better than the real thing and other “remedies of imagination” are the focus of the book. It all comes back to how we think about things.

We are influenced by others and our life experiences whether we realize it or not. “We form a narrative of sorts in our head” and these stories affect the way we observe things. Sometimes we tell ourselves lies and start to believe them. We fail to see the truth even if we’re looking directly at it!

Because I am a pastor, I found the section on superstition and religion most intriguing. The author shares that our interpretations are often controlled by our own self-interests. I have found this to be true in Christianity. I was brought up to believe certain things about the Bible, God, eternity, and life. I deceived myself to believe that I had it figured out and that the Bible was perfectly black and white in all things. These beliefs gave me a foundation of “exact truths.” I have now found freedom in embracing the complexities, questions, mysteries, and beauties of life and the Word of God. I have allowed myself to try and realize that everyone’s story matters to God and that “one man’s superstition is another man’s religion.” In many cases, I have seen Christians (and other religions) fight for their beliefs and hurt their environment and fellow man.

Robert Bolton shared that “a belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses, it is an idea that possesses the mind.” It’s sad but true. Instead of trying to figure out what we believe and why we believe it, we often settle for what we’ve been taught and deceive ourselves into believing our way is right. When we do this, we may close ourselves to loving others and finding out what really matters in life. My wife shared that it’s not the rules that we are against “it is that man has created the rules based off their interpretation of the Bible.” We “should examine them for ourselves in the Bible.” I’m guessing that the author may not be into religion because it is grouped in the superstition part of the book but he does agree that religion and the hope it offers do give its followers an edge.

Hallinan-Joseph-KIDDING-OURSELVESHave I been deceived and is it possible that my belief in God and His kingdom of love, peace, restoration and hope is just something created in my mind? I don’t believe so. I have this thing called faith. Faith is not knowing. Faith is trusting, believing, and having hope despite the doubts and struggles along the way. I also believe that we need to be careful of the deceptions that lead us to living a life of lies, trick us into following our own way, and the tragedy of being “drunk with power” “dulling our sensitivity toward others.”

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:16-18

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review and I highly recommend this book.

Hurry Up Joy!

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 2.18.47 PMEver go to church and even more so then on other days find yourself saying, “Wow, that was just what I needed today”? That’s how it was for me this morning. It was one of those faith things I already knew but it was so good to hear it from someone else and be comforted and validated in my thoughts and fears.

Pastor Jason’s message today (from the sermon series “Out of Control”) came from John 16:16-24. Here are some of the great truths we were reminded of today. May you also find strength and guidance from these words:

Christ’s disciples were paralyzed in sorrow and Christ had to pull them out! They needed to see their situation from a higher level. They were called to something HUGE and so they had to snap out of the sorrow quickly.

Their sorrow was the fact that Jesus was leaving them. Sometimes in the sorrow and in my case “in the waiting”, we feel left alone and maybe even as if God has left us or is leaving us. BUT, He reminded them and reminds us that “in a little while, you will see Me!” In fact, in verse 19 we read: “Jesus KNEW they wanted to question Him.” Jesus was fully aware of their confusion and He is fully aware of ours as well!!

Pastor Jason reminded us that even Christ ENDURED the cross for the JOY that was set before Him! In fact, Christ cried out to God that if there was any other way, “please take this cup from me!” God is okay with us asking for things to change but ultimately, we must trust Him that JOY is right around the corner.

We were reminded as well that perspective here is key. To a child, “a little while” might mean “in just a minute.” For an adult speaking to a child, “a little while” might be even a few hours. We must trust Him in the sorrow and waiting and believe that he is working behind the scenes and that His “little while” is the exact amount of time it needs to be even though (from our perspective) the JOY couldn’t get here soon enough!

Everything I have
And everything I know
All the plans I made
I put You in control

Through all the sorrows
And all through the pain
You alone can save
You are the Name of Names!
“Name of Names” lyrics by on of my students Josiah Blan!

Never Good ENOUGH

You didn’t do it and it’s not your fault BUT your comment, your post, your success, your decision, your words – they made me feel inadequate and not perfect.

I know I’m NOT but I don’t like being reminded. Wikipedia says that perfectionism has its good and its bad. Perfectionism can motivate us BUT in this situation I started drifting off into that depressive idea that “I’m not good enough and I never will be!”

And then He spoke up and reminded me, “You don’t have to be perfect my child.”

“Do you not remember just this morning when you told your own son that he need not fret or worry but to do just do his best and that’s what matters?”

“Do your best my child! That’s all that matters.”

“You matter to me and that matters MOST!”

My momentary depression has ended. I will move on. I will hold my head high. I did my best and He loves me.
What more could I ask for?

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfectionism-webperfection is God’s business.”
― Michael J. Fox

“But he said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”― 2 Corinthians 12:9

Afraid of Tomorrow?


This is the last message from my January Series “REGRET-Less”
(excerpts from “In a Pit, with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson)

Last week we talked about the stories of risk in the Bible. God used real people and messed up people to do BIG things for God, mankind, and eternity.  Each of them took those small risks, the steps of faith, the leaps forward that were needed to move closer towards their destiny.

I’m so thankful that they were real people with imperfect lives and screwed up pasts and LIKE ME, many took their steps of faith and took their risks while still afraid.

Abraham in Hebrews 11:8  “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

I love what Jonathan said to his armor-bearer when persueing the Philistines.  He knew what had to be done and went forward but not in confidence.  He looked at his armor-bearer and said, “”Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

Regardless your calling or relational status in life, I do know that you must take risks if you want to reach your God given potential and fulfill your God-given destiny. Sometimes we must run away from security and chase uncertainty, but that’s scary isn’t it?  I took a walk through that valley again this weekend. So, today’s sermon is more like a note . . . a letter to my congregation and the best way for me to bring our REGRET Less sermon series to a close.

“Hey, its your pastor. It’s Saturday morning and, well, I’m afraid.  I believe it s a good thing for a pastor to be transparent with his congregation, so here it is . . .

in all honesty, the last two years have been real tough. I’ve doubted more than ever before, I think I’ve cried more, I have lost more sleep, and I have had big fears about the future.

Right now I am experiencing some anxiety because its tax time. Ya, got my final W2s yesterday.  Was already fearful because my teaching job, well they don’t take out any taxes.  Then yesterday, I got my W2s from my other part time job . . . I knew for sure they were taking out Federal taxes, but I was wrong it was Social Security.  We needed every cent just to pay the bills, to put food on the table and now this?

Now, I’m not expecting a pitty party, although I do enjoy a good party BUT I just wanted to be straight with you . . . I told you the last few weeks that in order to REGRET Less, we ought to all take risks. We need to step out in faith and make those hard and risky choices. So, am I now saying OOPS! I take it all back because reality hit me again?

I’m thinking . . . God has been so good. I have been blessed in so many ways and He will take care of us! Would I rather go back to living the way I did before? With a little more certainty BUT a whole lot less faith, risk, dreaming, or God. No way!

So, once again. I find myself swallowing the lump in my throat and taking another step forward. I took the obsessive compulsive quiz offered on facebook. Not sure why I take those quizzes. I guess sometimes I just enjoy the silly results.  The other day, I took a quiz that was supposed to tell me what kind of gun best resembled me and my personality.  My result: it said I would prefer knives and daggers and if I ever murdered another person I’d want to do it up close and personal.  Wow! (By the way, I’m really a loving and caring person if you don’t know me well yet . . . so no need to fear.)

However, I did take one fb quiz last year. It was called, How obsessive compulsive are you?”  I knew it would be high for me but 100% – common!

I got to admit though, I do like my to-do list and accomplishing each step, I do strive for perfection on almost everything and sometimes to my demise, and (maybe like you), I like control.  I like knowing what lies ahead. I’m not much of an adventurer (unless the journey is completely mapped out).

We like to know where we’re headed and how we’re gonna get there, don’t we? I know it drives my kids crazy AND maybe that’s the reason I do it . . . but, have your children ever asked you “why do we have to get dressed?  Where are we going?” and we answer, “Just wait and see.” It’s miserable waiting and not knowing what lies ahead.

Faith involves a loss of control and a loss of control equals a loss of certainty. Faith is the willingness and readiness to embrace our uncertainties.

Our greatest moments in life are unscripted.  We would prefer life to have a clearly defined plot . . . a mapped out beginning, middle, and end.  Why? Because, it’s hard to take those forward steps of faith and let God have control.

When taking the giant leap forward in moving to Joliet, God gave me a verse. A verse that I can’t fully comprehend , but a verse that has allowed me to keep taking more steps forward.

Proverbs 20:24 tells us “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?”

Do we really believe God is ordering every step of the way?

The Bible encourages us to move forward not in certainty but in confidence . . . a confidence that is not contiNgent upon circumstances and certainty but move on with a confidence that relies on the character of God.

My dear friends of Istoria Church, we all have our regrets, but let me remind us once more . . . let’s regret less in 2010.  Let’s never give up dreaming or risking.  Each new day that God gives us, lets just take another step forward.

Keep dreaming. I love you, Pastor Steve

New Dawn Side Notes

BRAINI had a couple of friends who contributed to my New Dawn Narrative by just sharing part of their story rather than answering questions.  Both are teens whom I loved (and still do) and attended the same independent, fundamental Baptist church several years ago. I wanted to share these with you today. And please, if you comment, do so only in love.

For those who are on a spiritual journey but are not “following Christ” on that journey, can I encourage you to give Him a try.  Maybe you have heard or have seen the wrong version of Christ through others, church, or religion.  Please keep reading my blogs and be open to maybe seeing Christ for who He truly is.

For those who say “I am a follower of Christ,” after you read the answers from the New Dawn Questions and these two stories – ask yourself, “What is the best way for us to reach out to our friends and neighbors?’ or maybe “Where have we gone wrong in the past and how do we fix it?”

STORY 1: I would be happy to be a part of the discussion. On a personal note, please do not be disappointed in for leaving the church and the faith. Please understand that it was not to go live in a life of sin. Honestly, I decided that I did not agree with the way the Bible says I should live my life. Once I decided that I did not agree, how could I call myself a Christian? I refused to be a hypocrite.

The actual issue was dealing with my step mother and the idea that we should honor our mothers. Also, once I started studying human nature and the history of the church, it was hard to have faith in the church. I know that is not were any faith should be placed, but much church doctrine is based on what church leaders said and did as the church grew. I can see why certain things were necessary then, but they don’t make since for today.

Anyway, I don’t think it is right for a “Christian” to pick and chose what they are going to do and not because that is not how the religion was set up. So I chose not to be part of that religion or any other.

I got to that conclusion through rational thought. And that is what I value more than anything else now. It is my life’s goal and calling to teach others how to think so they can make rational decisions. All I want people to do is make informed decisions! Whether it is about religion, politics, finances, ect. I want people to believe in things for some reason that resonates with them, not because a pastor or parents or the media say something. I want people to know why they believe in something.

When I was a Christian, I read the Bible (unlike most Christians) to achieve this goal. And I came to the conclusion that the Bible does not allow for the freedom to decide what is right or wrong. For instance, I lived with my husband for four years before we married. And I am sure that that time has allowed me to make an informed decision about marriage. I know that I can live with his idiosyncrasies, and I can make good decisions with him. I know that our marriage will last and be a happy one. I don’t think that majority of people can be that confident. And I think that is why our divorce rate is so high. People used to forced to lived together (even if they did not make a good decision) due to public pressure. Now there is not as much so they feel free to jump in and out of marriage. This is just wrong! But the way to fix it is not to say just live with your bad decisions, it is help people make good decisions in the first place.

Do you see what I mean?

Anyway, this is the basic outline of what happened with me. I would be happy to talk with you more about it. But please see this was not a whimsical decision. I fought with it, and I think I made the right choice. I honestly think I am a better and happier person, because I know what I believe and why. Also I change my opinions when as a better argument comes to my attention.

I really have a great fondness for you and the other leaders of the old ________ because I think y’all tried to be the best Christians you could be.

STORY 2: I’ve taken a bit of an all-inclusive approach to spirituality. I got tired of dogmas and decided just to love everything and everyone. Seems to work out pretty well for me. Mainstream Christianity has taken a rather sad turn in the past years.

When I left the church, I started asking those big questions and found my way into a lot of fringe areas of thought and philosophy. Definitely not the most popular route, I started studying indigenous cultures and their understanding of spirit. I wanted to get back to the core of my relationship with spirit and doctrine and just wasn’t doing it.

I’ve taken some strange roads. I’ve been to Central America and have participated in shamanistic rites involving ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogen that has a very common affect on most people that is both healing and profound. There is a reason these plants and others like it grow on earth. They are tools for communion with nature and have been used thusly for thousands of years.

I lived in Costa Rica for three months a few years back, and in my times there I started really paying attention to the ways that I thought about everything and how it affected my daily life. Thoughts truly do become things, which is why many people just seem to manifest their fears most readily. Many people waste their thoughts worrying and all it does is create more of the situations/things they’re afraid of.

I live in the mystery of the moment these days. I don’t do plans, I don’t do itineraries. Going with the flow has become more than a mantra. I still have a bad habit of taking the weight of the world unto my shoulders, my mom says I’ve done this my whole life… I’ve just had to learn to trust in spirit to sort it out. I change the world now by changing myself. I’ve come to understand that the current state of the external world is the result of our internal struggle as a species and as we move closer to truly loving ourselves and each other.

This is exactly the kind of dialogue that needs to happen to open people up to the idea that the universe can be so much bigger than we allow ourselves to see it. This is a topic I can go into great depth over.

Patience: When Your Just Not Sure Enough

I read something today that really gripped me. It made me stop and decide that today I would worship my King in a whole new way. I read the statement, “Patience is an act of love.” My worship today is PATIENCE.

Think about it – we show our children, managers, relatives, and spouses our love when we don’t make judgment calls, when we don’t get things our way when we want them, but rather are patient with them. Through our patience they receive one of the greatest acts of love.

Paul lists “patience” and “long suffering” as fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Patience is a way of training our inner spirit to persevere. Patience is also a means to trusting in God. If we go forth in our own strength, we will faint, and utterly fall; but setting our hearts and our hopes in the Lord, we will be carried above all circumstances.

It’s not easy, but patience is faith being tested. God is using this period of time to mold us into the person He wants us to be. WE ARE LEARNING TO LOVE HIM DEEPER THAN EVER BEFORE. It’s part of the journey, especially if you’re stepping out in faith and trusting Him with everything.

Today I offer Him patience and must remember that God makes everything beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

When the going gets tough
When the rides too rough
When you’re just not sure enough . . .

Jesus will still be there
His love will never change
Sure as the steady rain
Jesus will still be there
When no one else is true
Hell still be loving you
When it looks like you’ve lost it all
And you haven’t got a prayer
Jesus will still be there