A Prayer for Those of Us Too Easily Annoyed

Fools show their annoyance at once. Prov. 12:16 

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Prov. 29:11

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. Ps. 37:8

Dear Lord Jesus, of all the prayer-worthy things I can think of, “annoyance” has never made it onto my supplication list until now. Through the pastoral pestering of your Spirit, I see and grieve that I’m too easily annoyed. Have mercy on me, Prince of Peace. Free my foolish, fretful, fitful spirit. How can I possibly reveal the magnificence of the gospel when I’m showcasing the arrogance of my annoyance?

I’m annoyed by the guy who races me when two lanes are becoming one. I’m annoyed when the bar code reading machines in the self-checkout lanes can’t read my items. I’m annoyed when the gas pump trickles way too slowly. I’m annoyed by waiters who fish for a bigger tip. I’m annoyed by the neighbor’s dog barks 5:30 in the morning when the sun rises like she is a roster on a farm. I’m annoyed by humidity when I want to jog. I’m annoyed at the guy in front at McDonald’s ask the girl at the counter “what’s good?” Dude it’s McD’s!

I’m annoyed by low talkers and over talkers. I’m annoyed at people easily annoyed. I’m annoyed when there’s not enough milk for a late-night bowl of cereal. I’m annoyed when I have to repeat myself. I’m annoyed at whiners, so much that I start whining. I’m annoyed at people preening in front of mirrors at LA Fitness, as though I never peek. I’m annoyed at the women who wants a free sample of every flavor of water ice at Rita’s, and then doesn’t order anything. I’m annoyed when people use way too many words and way too big of words to say something very simple, as though that’s not me.

I’m annoyed at ever having to wait in line for anything. I’m annoyed by the color orange. I’m annoyed at any box that has the words “requires some assembly” written on it. I’m annoyed when I’m thirty and I go to the refrig to get some juice and there is less then a swallow in the container.  Oh, Jesus, if only those were the only things that annoyed me!

My prayer? Gentle my demanding, impatient heart with your kindness and grace. Grant me much quicker repentances. Help me to slow . . . way . . . down. Help me to live in the moment and not simply live to get somewhere on tyme or get something done. Let me see people with your eyes and respond to them with your heart.

There are no ordinary people around me. Everybody matters. Everybody has stories of heartache, foolishness, fear, and longing, just like me. Jesus, thank you that you died for all of my sins, including my “annoyability.” I love being loved by you, Lord Jesus. I have no greater hope than knowing one day I will be as lovely as you and will love like you forever (1 Jn.3:1-1). So very Amen I pray, in your gracious and patient name.

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Shake Off That OLD Dust and Move Onto Your Better Soil

This past weekend I have come to close a stage in my life, that I had made difficult for myself! I laugh at myself, not knowing why I made it so hard? But now I’m looking toward the future and preparing myself for moving on with my life.

If I continue to live in the past, it makes it difficult for me to enjoy and appreciate what I have in the present and almost impossible to have hopes and dreams for the future. Reflection is an important part of dealing with the past and no one can tell you how long this process will take but in order for growth there comes a tyme when I have to say enough.  My past will stay in the past and I am ready to start afresh.  We all experience cycles of change for lots of different reasons.

One always has to know when a stage comes to an end.  If we insist on staying longer than the necessary tyme, we lose the happiness and the meaning of the other stages we have to go through. Closing cycles, shutting doors, ending chapters – whatever name we give it, what matters is to leave in the past the moments of life that have finished. Did you lose your job? Has a loving relationship come to an end? Did you leave your parents’ house? Gone to live abroad? Has a long-lasting friendship ended all of a sudden? You can spend a long tyme wondering why this has happened.

You can tell yourself you won’t take another step until you find out why certain things that were so important and so solid in your life have turned into dust, just like that.  But such an attitude will be awfully stressing for everyone involved; your parents, your husband or wife, your friends, your children, your sister, everyone will be finishing chapters, turning over new leaves, getting on with life, and they will all feel bad seeing you at a standstill.

None of us can be in the present and the past at the same tyme, not even when we try to understand the things that happen to us.  What has passed will not return; we cannot for ever be children, late adolescents, sons that feel guilt or rancor towards our parents, lovers who day and night relive an affair with someone who has gone away and has not the least intention of coming back.  That is why it is so important (however painful it may be!) to destroy souvenirs, move, give lots of things away, sell or donate the things you have at home. Everything in this visible world is a manifestation of the invisible world, of what is going on in our hearts – and getting rid of certain memories also means making some room for other memories to take their place.  Let go & let God!

Release them! Detach yourself from them! Nobody plays this life with marked cards, so sometymes we win and sometymes we lose. Nothing is more dangerous than not accepting love relationships that are broken off, work that is promised, but there is no starting date, and decisions that are always put off waiting for the “ideal moment.” Before a new chapter is begun the old one has too be finished:  tell yourself that what has passed will never come back. Remember that there was a tyme when you could live without that thing or that person – nothing is irreplaceable, a habit is not a need.  This may sound so obvious, it may even be difficult, but it is very important.  Closing cycles.  Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because that no longer fits your life.

Tucked away in the narrative of the earliest days of the church is a fascinating and funny story. In Acts 18:5-8, the apostle Paul and his team are in Corinth, and he initially spends his tyme preaching to the Jews, but they oppose him and become abusive. So Paul shakes out his clothes in protest and says, essentially, “Fine! If you’re not interested, from now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Here’s the funny part: Paul leaves the synagogue and goes next door to a Gentile home, where there is a person of peace, and it’s the beginning of a lengthy, fruitful ministry in Corinth. This is a story about what to do with “difficult soil,” and highlights a principle of fruitfulness in disciple-making and gospel ministry: Cast seed widely, but concentrate your efforts where the harvest is ripe. If the harvest isn’t ripe, move on.

I can imagine Paul feeling frustrated that his own people weren’t responding to his message. Oftentymes I’ve felt this way when I’ve really wanted to see a harvest among a certain sub-culture, but it just isn’t happening. It seems right to “keep plugging away,” and “stay faithful,” but the New Testament pattern doesn’t seem to line up with this approach. It’s a bit like Jesus’ parable of the soils – the farmer throws seed all over the place, but only 25% of it bears fruit. It makes sense for the farmer to cultivate the crops that are growing in good soil as opposed to spending tyme trying to coax them out of rocky or thorny soil. Ultimately the total harvest will be better if he concentrates almost all of his tyme on the good soil.

Interestingly, the (Jewish) synagogue leader Crispus becomes a believer after Paul gives up on preaching to Jews in Corinth and goes to the Gentiles. Moving on to better soil can often bring the original fruit you were looking for. It’s a good reminder that this is God’s work, we’re just workers in his harvest fields, participating in his kingdom work in the world. The trick is discerning which season is which, because we can easily normalize fruitlessness in the name of “faithfulness,” just like we can excuse ourselves from the battle in the name of “looking for better soil.”

There are tymes when one must move on because the soil isn’t ready. Moving on, in such circumstances, can be good for both the sower and the soil. The sower may stumble upon soil that is fertile and ready, whilst the soil that has been left behind has the opportunity to lie fallow so that in due tyme it might become rich and fertile. This demands a bi-focal lens when it comes to faithfulness and fruitfulness: embracing the BOTH/AND of fruitful opportunism and faithful tenacity, the pragmatism of testing the soil and working where the harvest is ripe, and the prophetic passion and sight to see potential in unlikely places and fight for the breakthrough.

Now there will be temptation(s), however, to move on to greener pastures rather than moving on in search of better/richer soil. Greener pastures present a great temptation to the sower because they appear lush, fertile, and teeming with life.  Moving on to better soil, however, is different (I believe). When one moves on to better soil, one expects that there will be difficulty and hard work. One isn’t fleeing the hard tymes in search of that which is easier. Rather, one is looking for a place where one’s toil is both purposeful and fruitful. All of that to say, better soil doesn’t equate to ease or even a bountiful harvest. Better soil may be a place in which one person out of a hundred experience life change.

So shut the door, change the record, clean the house, shake off the old dust but yet keep your hands on the plow and tile for you BETTER SOIL!

*Resource: windsweptworship (photo), Paulo Coelho, Ben Sternke & Joshua Rhone

An Apologetic Duel in Poetry

A few weeks back I wrote a blog The Difference between Religion and Christianity. It highlighted the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it’s core Jesus’ gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered.

Amazingly this poem by Jefferson Bethke helped highlight my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel “not good enough” for God. With Jesus though you have humble confident joy because He represents you, you don’t represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect putting us in perfect standing with God the Father.

Recently Jeff’s poem has sparked a lot of talk on nation talk/radio shows. And now there are even Spoken Word Battle replies, similar is in Hip Hop. I fell it great in the sense people are reading the word of God,. And its promote a healthy discussion. These are views and opinions, of two difference sides. And it does not mean that you must agree with either? I believe that If someone wants to defend their views and beliefs please do so, and not to try and embarrass someone else!

I struggled with whether I should even upload this videos or not, but I prayed about it, and you obviously can see the outcome of that.

Below are the dueling videos from a young Muslim and a young Christian poet.  Apparently, the Muslim’s video launched first, and the Christian responded with the support of Alpha & Omega Ministries.  One thing should be abundantly clear from the videos: Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.  That should have been obvious, but sometimes people need it stated.  It’s creatively stated here:

 

*Resources: Dr. Harrell Rhome, Jeff Bethke, and Alpha & Omega Ministries

Big Dreams Aren’t Available at Bargain Price$

One of the greatest things about the world we live in today is that everybody has an opportunity to make a dent in the universe. The narrowing gap between creativity and technology is bringing about a creative revolution that is enabling people to tap into their potential like never before. If you stop focusing on all the things that are wrong with the world, you’ll start to see why it’s the greatest time in history. You have an opportunity to live the life that’s truly at your disposal like never before.

From a very early age, we’re indoctrinated into a traditional rewards system.  Everything we’re taught about accomplishment and achievement reinforces the need for instant gratification. We approach success as though it has an expiration date. As a result we become impatient in the pursuit of crazy wild eyed dreams and eventually abandon them to return to the pursuit of mediocrity.

The Faster the Reward Comes the Smaller the Payoff Has to Be. Recently I was having a conversation with a friend, who left a career at Microsoft, wrote 3 well selling books and became a professional public speaker.  But none of that happened overnight. In fact the version of him that you see today evolved over the course of about 10 years. In our conversation he said “unfortunately the faster the reward comes the smaller the payoff has to be.”  People lose sight of the difference between settling and settling down because they become impatient. To make a dent in the universe you have to be willing to make a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain.

What’s the Price You’re Willing to Pay? Achieving anything of great significance rarely comes without a steep price. CEO’s of startups give up six figure salaries and stable paychecks in order to turn their dreams into reality. Authors spend years writing in an effort to get their first book deal. Many wildly successful people are victims of the late bloomer syndrome. They often face years of dealing with critics, naysayers, and less than ideal circumstances before their moment in the sun.

You have to invest more than a dollar or an hour in a crazy wild-eyed dream. If you think you’re going to write a New York Tymes best seller in a month, think again. If you think you’re going to build a castle in the sky overnight, you’ll be a bit disillusioned when you wake up in the morning. The truly great things in life are worth waiting for.

As a society we have a rather deep-seated need for instant gratification which can be detrimental to our future. We rush through life sometymes in so much of a hurry and forget that there might be long-term consequences to our short-term actions. The last few weeks here in Southern California, the surf conditions have been less than stellar, but that didn’t keep from getting in as much tyme in the water as possible. It took about 5 weeks by my patience and persistence paid off on Saturday with some truly fantastic waves that left my arms feeling like they were going to fall off and a post-surf glow that I hadn’t felt in a while.  In that moment I remembered that with a bit of patience and faith, we all get our moment in the sun.

We seem to have this idea that there is a right and perfect tyme for everything in our lives. Rather than let nature take its course, we tend force things, forgetting that resistance kills our flow. When life doesn’t according to plan or according to our tymelines, we take action out of fear, ultimately resulting in situations that could damage our futures.  We limit the possibilities in our future because of our fear and anxiety in the present.  Actions we take out of fear produce sub par results at best, while those taken from a place of peace and patience enable us to tap into what we’re truly capable of. Sometymes its chasing dreams and dragging ass that give you that opportunity to take two steps back so that you can take 20 steps forward.

Take Little Risks Every Single Day. If you’re afraid to take chances, start small. Make what Peter Sims refers to as little bets. As you take small chances, you’ll get comfortable with failing, learning from your mistakes and you’ll develop a tolerance for risk. Challenge the Status Quo! If you’re the type of person who is hell-bent on defending the status quo, you won’t make a dent in the universe. Just because something has always been done a certain way, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Defending tradition blindly is not only stupid, but it hinders the progress of humanity. The willingness to try something different has resulted in some of our greatest achievements.

There’s a tremendous power in patience that brings an incredible peace and calm into our lives. The irony of this is that the world around us aligns much to our desires much faster when we seem to have no concern for the rate at which it happens.  But, patience doesn’t mean sitting around and doing nothing. It means you take action towards a goal or dream with no concern when you’ll see the fruits of your labor. You paddle out every single day, you work and move forward because deep down you know that all it really takes is one good wave.

Don’t give up when it gets hard. Inevitably things are going to get difficult. Remember that anything worth doing requires the courage to fail. If you’re on the verge of a breakdown, you’re probably right around the corner from a breakthrough.

Don’t Stop Dreaming! Its crazy wild-eyed dreams that move us forward. Everything you see in the world around you was once upon a time nothing but a dream. Don’t ever stop dreaming. It’s a beautiful thing. Don’t be afraid to be wrong! There are no grades in the school of life. The fear of being wrong holds so many people back. The more you’re willing to be wrong, the more often you’ll eventually be right.

If you make enough small dents in a big dream, eventually you’ll make a dent in the universe. So ask yourself, how far you’re willing to go? That will determine how far you get.  Big bold dreams simply aren’t available at bargain basement prices.

*Resource: Srinivas Rao, PETER SIMS & Photo Credit: Pete Jelliffe via Compfight

4 Ways to Pour Yourself into Your Pursuits

This is a guest post from Ryan J. Ferrier. Ryan has successfully launched internet startups that have been acquired by Microsoft and Zynga. He now helps young professionals launch lives that matter. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Norman Vincent Peale once said, “Nothing can stand in the way of the man who focuses his entire self on a problem” (from The Power of Positive Thinking).

If you have a problem worth solving or a prize worth pursuing, it’s not enough to just put your mind to fulfilling that purpose. It is not just a matter of putting your heart into it either.

If nothing is going to stand in your way, you’ve got to throw your entire self into that pursuit. It’s an all encompassing task.

But what does it look like to put all of who you are into something?

There’s a short scripture verse that I have found helpful:

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Interestingly this sentence is just about all that is said about Jesus in the years leading up to his public ministry.

Still, it says quite a lot. In preparing to live out his purpose, Jesus grew in four key areas:

  • Wisdom: mentally and emotionally
  • Stature: physically
  • Favor with God: spiritually
  • Favor with man: relationally

With this model in mind, invest accordingly.

  1. Invest in wisdom. Wisdom is more than just mental acuity. It’s really about insight and understanding. Insight into how the world works, how people operate, how situations unfold and in light of those insights, understanding the most appropriate way to live. Wisdom is mental and emotional intelligence applied to the study of life. It’s being ‘life smart.”

To grow in wisdom, I like to:

    • Read and study material that makes me smarter
    • Listen to my life by taking time to reflect on patterns and situations that reoccur
    • Watch and follow others that I admire
    • Practice what I have learned
  1. Invest in your body. There is no area of my life that has as much immediate impact on all other areas as when I invest in my physical health. When I spend time nourishing my body, my mind is sharp, my emotions stabilize, my spirit is awake, and my relationships improve. However, the opposite happens when I either neglect my physical body or when I punish it by working it too hard.

Keep it simple and keep it fun:

    • Eat whole foods
    • Move around a lot
    • Go hard occasionally
  1. Invest in your spirit. Whatever you believe, the benefits of activities like meditation, prayer, and being still are documented and well-proven. For me, these practices have a restorative effect on my soul and open me up to connect with a deeper sense of purpose for my life.

Each morning I like to take time to do the following:

    • Sit in silence
    • Read scripture and other inspirational material
    • Meditate on what I’ve read
    • Pray
  1. Invest in your relationships. This is an area that, for me, has been underdeveloped over the last six years. I invested heavily in my professional career, starting companies and getting them off the ground. Frankly, I did this at the expense of developing meaningful relationships, and I have some regrets about it.

A company can fire you. It’s a lot harder for true friends to do the same.

And ironically, if you want the work of your hands to have a real and lasting impact, you’ll need key relationships to keep you committed to that purpose.

Here are the steps that I am taking to become more relationally connected:

    • Clear time on my calendar for family and friends
    • Open myself to chance encounters and impromptu social opportunities
    • Invest deeply in a few key relationships

So that’s the whole picture. And if, like Jesus, we commit to being whole people, nothing will stand in our way.

Did I Do That?

This i isn’t easy to write because it stings me to remember how I have failed.  However, along with my failures, I am reminded of God’s grace.  Let me explain.  Paul describes me in Romans 7:15 and following (Read this passage slowly)…

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  18 I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  23 I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man who I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  8:1 There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

There have been more tymes than I’d like to remember when I have transgressed against God and my fellow-man.   I have said and done things that wounded people… and I didn’t know it.  Sometymes I did it and didn’t mean to.  Sadly, there have been tymes I purposefully said or did something to make a point and/or put someone in their place (God forgive me!).

When I realized what I (!) had done, I was grieved.  The realization of my failures came about as a result of prayer.  I had spent a few months asking God to: 1) Make me more like Jesus, 2) Reveal to me my blind spots.  It was the second request that resulted in the previous paragraph’s specific occurrences.

As a result I knew I couldn’t just ask God to forgive me, I had to make an effort to contact individuals and ask THEM to forgive me.  And if there was something I needed to do to make it right, then it needed to be done.  So I contacted as many people as I could think of, with God’s help, so I could seek reconciliation.  What I write next only a very few people know about.  Aside: I am not writing this you to think anything of me, but to suggest what it might take if God deals with you about like things.  Consider…

Matthew 5:23 If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

James 5:15 The prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

Here are some of the things I did to seek reconciliation.  I contacted people from High School that I thought I had offended.  I contacted a professor from seminary about how I cut corners on some assignments.  I contacted every staff member I ever served with in a church to ask if I’d done anything I needed to make right.  I contacted the pastor of a church I served previously and requested to talk to confess my shortcomings while I was a ministry leader.  I contacted a guy from my college to ask his forgiveness.  I talked with my dad.   And I asked my wife to forgive me for my failures as her husband.  (That’s enough… you get the idea)

Several tymes people didn’t remember what I was talking about.  Most often people were gracious and granted forgiveness.  One person walked away without saying anything.  One said they’d get back with me, and didn’t.  One person (After calling twice and writing a letter twice) never responded.  Every tyme I was scared.  Every tyme I was nervous.  Every tyme I prayed and put the outcome in God’s hand.  And afterward I knew I had done what God required of me.

Is it possible that there are people you need to confess failure to and seek reconciliation?  If so, don’t put it off.  Don’t ignore The Spirit’s promptings.  Be obedient to God.  Keep His commandment as found in Matthew 5:23-24 above.  “Honor God and He will honor you” 1 Samuel 2:30.

What Did You Sign Up For?

Ernest Shackleton’s 1907 ad in London’s Times, recruiting a crew to sail with him on his exploration of the South Pole:

Wanted. Men for hazardous journey.
Low wages. Bitter cold.
Long hours of complete darkness.
Safe return doubtful.
Honor and recognition in the event of success.

Sounds like another ad:

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.Luke 9:23-24 NIV

We didn’t sign up for easy lives.  But afterward there will be glory. If we can just take it one step further and pursue The Journey with the goal that the ‘honor and recognition’ are not for ourselves but for Him, then we have brought the illustration to full bear I think.

As I remember, the recruitment ad had a huge response. The challenge for me is that Jesus‘ “ad” has to be responded to every day. I’m so grateful to be in a church that preaches about the tough voyage we are called to as believers. Seems that often in today’s churches, the call is more like an ad for a pleasure cruise.

Reminds me of this quote from Ray Ortlund’s excellent blog:

“Why do people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? The tourists are having coffee and doughnuts on Deck C. Presumably someone is minding the ship, correcting the course, avoiding icebergs and shoals, fueling the engines, watching the radar screen, noting weather reports radioed in from shore. No one would dream of asking the tourists to do these things. . . . The wind seems to be picking up.

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”

Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk (New York, 1982), pages 52-53.

Challenging, counting the cost of following Jesus is hard, but I guess important that we do so as well – if we don’t know the truth of what it means to follow Jesus, we’ll think Him to be a liar when things get tough, as opposed to follow Him and delight in Him, knowing He’s fully aware of what we’re going through and has planned it through to the end.

*Resource: Mark Altrogge