Browse Category: Stuff To Think About

Tears and Tonka Trucks

While I’m out this week, I’ve lined up some serious ‘guest posters’ this week. I’ve gotten to know Keri over the last 8 months via blogging. She lives in the Greater Seattle area with her husband and three boys. She loves to read, watch movies, listen to new music, and blog. You can find her at her blog Pop Parables and Twitter.

Photo credit: Steve Johnson (Creative Commons)

One morning, I was frantically scrubbing away at the dishes, overwhelmed with the numerous tasks involved with maintaining a household.

Enter Lukas, stage left, my {almost} 5 year old.

With tears streaming down his face, he eeks out the words, “I can’t find my garbage truck.”  The pain of the loss stabs him in the chest.

He steadies himself, sucks in all the air in his 3 foot space, and summons his big boy face.

“Will you help me find it, Mommy?”

In frustration I muttered something about kids in Africa never losing their toys.  And, really, how can someone misplace something that is eighteen inches long, six inches wide, bright orange, that screams “Tonka Sanitation Ready for Pick Up…Tonka Sanitation Ready for Pick Up!”

Through gritted teeth I respond, “Well, did you look for it?”

“I did, Mommy!  I did!”  {Now we’ve entered full on ugly cry mode, and are rapidly approaching melt down.}

“Well, you’ve got other trucks, why don’t you play with another truck?  Mommy’s busy right now.  I can help you find it later.”

He leaves the kitchen, chin to chest, shoulders drooped.

Happy to return to my task at hand, I turn the faucet back on.

Then, God nudged my heart.

He reminded me of David’s plea when he was captured by the Philistines,

You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?  {Psalm 56:8}

Here’s the image David’s painting:  our Heavenly Father is a collector.

He is with me at each turn, seizing the moments that can be used to create an anthology of His work in me.

He captures each tear, collects them, drop by drop, recognizing the value in each individual globule, gently placing them in His bottle.

And, when the bottle is full, He says, “I can do something with this.”

He has the panoramic view of my life, when I get stymied by the myopic.

He offers me a new perspective, filled with His grace, mercy, patience, and love.

::

I turned the faucet back off, and went in search of my son.

Of course, the garbage truck was sitting in the middle of the living room.

“Lukas, I found it!  I found it!”

“Mommy, you did!”  He wraps his gangly arms around my waist.

“Thanks, Mommy.  I just didn’t see it there.”

Fresh eyes, that’s all he needed.

::

How has His fresh perspective changed a situation in your life?

 

The Response

While I’m out this week, I’ve lined up some serious ‘guest posters’ this week. I’ve gotten to know Justin Falls over the last year via blogging, HeyTell messages, and even over Skype one time. He is a listener, writer, photographer, and advocate for the abused and neglected. He writes from the perspective of the brokenhearted, and communicates hope through still images. Justin, his wife, Lynnette, and their two sons live in beautiful Northern California. Connect with him on Twitter and his blog.

When someone is angry, do you respond….

 with anger?

with hate?

with judgment?

with criticism?

with malice?

with sarcasm?

with evil?

with spite?

In my life, I have responded to anger – with all of the above.

….but those reactions drive a wedge.

In my life, I will respond with love. Not because I should or because I’m prompted to by a good friend.

I will respond with love only because…I have been responded to – with love.

For there are no other reasons why I should.

Why is it important – or not important to respond with love?

The One You Need

This new Shane & Shane song has been making it’s rounds over the last week. Ever since seeing it here, I’ve had it on repeat.

As a parent, more than anything else I want to point my children to Christ and His unfailing love. The truth of the matter is that I can try and try, but there can/may be a time when I won’t be there for them. But, He always will.

::

What are your plans for the weekend?

A Little Surprise

I had a good Father’s Day.

It was a good day.
Relaxing, in fact.
Just what I needed.

After a nice morning at church, we came home and took a family nap — you know, one of those two hour blissful stretches of time where the entire house is completely quiet and completely asleep. It was great.

We then took the inflatable pool out back and set up the girls’ water table so they could play outside for a little bit. Twenty minutes turned into forty and our plans got a tad derailed.

We were going to grill out but because of the time-crunch we decided to hit up The Varsity (an Atlanta staple, but newly opened a ‘sister location’ on our side of town). Chili Dogs FTW! Later on, after putting the girls down for bed, my wife and I enjoyed some floats while we watched LOST on DVD. A perfect ending.

Proud Papa!

I normally don’t write up “recaps”, but this one was just too good to pass up.

I was reminded about how blessed I was — even though there I have tough times and difficult moments.

I tend to think they are mutually exclusive.

God is still teaching me things. A lot of things, in fact.

My mind processes things in a very practical fashion. 1+2=3. You know how it works: the problem arises, we work through it, then the solution happens. Wash, rinse, repeat. I don’t typically interject things in the middle, while processing, you know?

Last night I was reminded that our Father is in the business of transformation. That transformation does not always have to follow a set list of commands. Thinking logically, I assume there is a cause and effect to everything. In a simple way, God reminded me that He doesn’t follow a certain set of protocols. One thing doesn’t have to happen for Him to ‘do His work’.

Even in my trying times, He can surprise me with a blessing.

::

What did you do this past weekend?
When was the last time God surprised you?

 

 

These Are My Confessions

I am tired of faking it.

“Look at Dustin. Boy, he has everything together. What a perfect life!”

Truthfully, that is what my pride feeds off of. I do whatever I can do to make sure I look “okay”. I sacrifice important things like my relationship with my wife, my time with people, and transparency/true connection with others because of this ugly self-preservation mode I get in.

I wrote about “colliding with Christ” on Monday. Oh how I need that again in my life!

A little about me…. in my best Usher voice, these are my confessions:

  • I sweep things under the rug to avoid dealing with conflict that “makes me look bad”.
  • I avoid bringing up “issues” because I am fearful that it shows a sign of weakness.
  • I isolate myself and don’t seek out connection with other men because I think I can manage by myself.

The appearance of self has been so important to me. I’ve looked at it as this crucial piece of my identity and, quite honestly, I can’t keep it up. It’s exhausting. I just can’t do it.

I get angry.
I am impatient.
I am inconsiderate.
I have impure thoughts.
I am selfish.

But…. I am thankful.

I have a Father who is always there for me.
I gave a wife who loves and encourages me.
I have friends and family who will support me.
I don’t have to do this alone.
I can embrace an identity as Abba’s child… right now.

Not sure the entire purpose of this post, but it has been my life these last couple days (scratch that, these last 29 years). It is where I am at.

I am specifically seeking out a collision with Christ. I desire change. I can no longer simply be okay with resigning to the fact that “this is who I am”. This agreement will be broken. In the past, I would have tried to break it myself. Now, however, I chose see that is God who will bring me though.

::

What agreement(s) need to be broken in your life?
Will you commit to specifically praying for me?

The Isolationist Mentality

Helen Keller once said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.

Thinking about that quote, one question came to mind: Do we sometimes mistake solitude for isolation? I think I do.

On Monday, I touched on how I want to take advantage of the “little solitudes” that come about during my day. What that means for me is intentionally spending time with God even during the seemingly insignificant moments — simple moments like my commute to work.

But in larger examples, after thinking about it, I think I may suffer from what I call The Isolationist Mentality.

Definition of an Isolationist: a person who believes that his or her country should not make alliances with other countries

An isolationist refuses to enter into alliances or agreements with foreign entities. Isolationism, at its core, focuses on its own country–it’s own people. While the definition of an isolationist has political roots, I find it can directly translate to how I view relationships at time.

Rather than viewing solitude as an intentional time to commune with my Father, I look at it through a self-serving lens. This mentality feeds on self-service, thrives on covetousness, and breeds isolation. How can I recognize these tendencies in my life? For me, the following thoughts are indicators of this mentality’s presence in my life:

  • I can do things by myself.
  • I don’t need to call this person–they’re probably doing okay right now.
  • I need to have/deserve some “me time”.
  • I don’t want to rely on any friends for help.
  • I am not going to make a difference anyway.

Instead of saying to myself, “Oh, I don’t need this person in my life right now”, I want to switch my thinking and tell myself, “Maybe this person needs me in their life right now.” I also want to remember the importance that God places on friendships and community. He has placed certain people in my life for a reason. In the same vein, He has placed me in other people’s life for similar reasons. Not only has He has called both you and me to fellowship with other believers, but He also desires both transparent and authentic living. I feel a solid example in scripture is in Acts 2:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and good, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

How do you curb “The Isolationist Mentality” in your own life?

Selfish Solitude

Photo credit: Jeremy Staveley

Last year, I went through a book with my men’s coffee group called “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster.  He details out the central spiritual practices of the Christian faith, what they look like, and how you can practically apply them into your life. I found the book to be pretty compelling, and felt like it could be one of those “reference books” that you just seem to come back to every now and again. The chapter on solitude in particular stuck out to me. Foster writes about how Jesus used times of solitude to hear from the Father, and about how God uses the Discipline of Solitude to promote growth in our personal walks with Him. True stuff. In fact, both Michael Hyatt and Charles Lee wrote about alone-time and solitude a while back. I agree with Foster, Hyatt, and Lee…

But…

I’m just going to go out and say it: I view my solitude selfishly most of the time. Do I take advantage of the quiet times I have? Probably not. Between a full day at work, coming home to a wife and kids, I don’t get much alone time. So when “that” does happen, my first instinctual reaction is to be like, “Let me do what I want to do!”. A question that kept coming back to me as I was reading (and a lot lately) has been:

Do I view my “solitude” selfishly or as a way to experience God personally?

Confession: without fail, when I have some “me time” it always used to do something that involves just me (surfing the internet, writing a post, watching TV). I know I could take advantage of the quiet times God gives me to know Him more. I think we all need to evaluate our hearts during times like these. I know I do. So, what’s next? I like how Foster encourages you to take advantage of the “little solitudes” that fill our day. For me: that may mean capturing the quiet moments each morning before the rest of the house is awake to create space for some God-time.

How do you view your “alone time”? What steps can you take to intentionally foster solitude in your life?

It Takes A Child To Raise A Village

Today, I have a rockstar guest posting here on Abraham Chronicles. In fact, she is such the star that she will be contributing once a month! Mark your calendars ladies and ‘gents, Jen Valencia is bringing the heat on a monthly basis. She is a SAHM who loves reading, writing, and making a mean Arroz Con Pollo dish–not to mention that she is my stunningly beautiful better half! Show her some love in the comments!

In our house, the end of winter signals a steady hum of anticipation. Like worker bees, we begin making our preparations for the warmer months: the garden is planted, patio furniture cleaned, garage (or the “abyss” as we refer to it) is excavated, and we find ourselves content to look out on our small patch of backyard, and smile at the sidewalk chalk, bubble wands, and other trappings of a house full of children. Like a long sip of sweet tea, spring brings us a comfort and hope that goes beyond simple weather patterns.

As soon as the weather hits a steady 65 degrees, the park becomes our second home. I open the door in the mornings to find my three year old half-dressed in shorts and her pink Crocs, already talking about taking a ride on the swings. We enjoy meeting up with friends, but if I’m really honest, a lot of times I just enjoy taking them by myself, and getting lost in thought while the girls laugh at each other and run in circles. As we pull into the parking lot, Sophia always asks, “Mommy, the friends are here? We play with the friends?”. To her, everyone is a friend — she is all-inclusive to gender, age, and ethnic backgrounds. She will play with anyone, talk to anyone, and thinks of people enough to pray for those she has only met for a moment.

There are times when that pessimistic side gets the best of me, and I wonder when that innocent view of people will change– when will she begin to question other’s motives? Recoil at those who act differently from her? Make judgements without a first glance? Keep her heart at a distance?

Surely it does take a child to raise a village. You heard me right, a child raises a village. It takes the heart of a child to build true community amongst ourselves — relationships that are transparent and vulnerable at the core, a view of others that looks beyond the surface of circumstance, upbringing, and physical appearance, and sees the heart, a way of relating that values people because they were created in the image of our Father God, and for no other reason that that. If we lose sight of these things, than our villages are nothing more than groups of strangers living in close proximity, clusters of homes built on a foundation of sticks, easily knocked down by life’s trials and circumstances.

How easy it is for us to love the loveable, to accept those who are worthy in our own sight, to invest in those friendships that yield a profit, to help those who can return the favor. Yet, how often do we find ourselves willing to open up our lives, our homes, and our finances to others with no expectation of anything in return?

In what ways do you need to see others as the Father does?
How have children taught you to view people differently?

Marked By a Life of Change

Today’s post concludes a short 3-part series on wholehearted commitment– what it looks like, what the Bible says, and how we can go “all in” with our faith. Last Monday, we explored the WIIFM mentality and how it’s so seductive in today’s society. On Wednesday, we touched on lukewarm faith. Today, we’re concluding with the “what’s next”. Hope you enjoy reading!

My life has gone through a bit of change lately: new job, new child, etc. Those two alone are pretty big! As we conclude this mini-series today, I wanted to touch on exactly that: change. With regards to our relationship with God, I believe the following statement to be true:

Wholehearted commitment is marked by a life of change.

Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on things of this world. Some pretty bold questions that challenge the best of us.

A great example of someone in the Bible whose life was marked by change is Paul. Before his conversion experience, Paul (went by Saul) was a mean dude. He was uber-religious, knew his stuff, and persecuted the early church. In fact, he was there when the first martyr (Stephen) was stoned. Then God came into the picture. On a trip to Damascus, God met Saul where he was and changed his life. He changed his name to Paul and later became one of the principal figures in the early church. Here is an example of that change he experienced:

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 9:20-22)

Paul didn’t just stop killing people, he changed. He acted. His faith was real.

At times sometimes I believe that change only involves the elimination of a certain action in my life (“I’ll stop being selfish”, “I’ll put away my iPhone at night when I’m with the family”), but most of the time it is characterized by what happens next (“Instead of stopping selfishness, I’m going to chose to prefer this person.”, “Instead of just putting away my phone, I’m going to intentionally engage my family”).

What area needs to be marked by change in my life? My relationships with others? My discipline to spend time with God? My bad habits?

Without holding back punches, Jesus wasn’t interested in those who “fake it”. Many times He addressed Pharisees who behaved like this (Matthew 23) and, like we mentioned last Wednesday, a lukewarm faith claims to know God but doesn’t live like He exists.

Like myself, it may be time to examine and search our hearts so that we can truly give God wholehearted commitment.

Have you seen a powerful example of change in someone’s life?

Photo credit: dunkind

What Does Your Love Look Like?

This week we’re talking about wholehearted commitment– what it looks like, what the Bible says, and how we can go “all in” with our faith. I’m going to touch on three areas which specifically highlight why God desires this for our lives. On Monday, we explored the WIIFM mentality and how it’s so seductive in today’s society. Today, Part 2. Hope you enjoy reading!

Most of us want a balanced life that we can control, that is safe, and that does not involve suffering. Would you describe yourself as totally in love with Jesus Christ? Or do the words half-hearted, lukewarm, and partially committed fit better? Lukewarm faith is prevalent, no doubt. I’ve been in that boat (head faith vs. faith lived out) and don’t want to get back in. In fact, John talks about “lukewarm” when he speaks about the church in Laodicea:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Rev 3:15-16)

Let’s put it this way: have you ever sipped lukewarm coffee? It’s nasty. Most of the time it is spit-it-from-your-mouth nasty! That is the picture that is painted in the above passage. Like the coffee, God feels that way about being lukewarm. Instead of this lackluster, tepid and half-hearted living, He wants lives that are radical, unbalanced, and overboard. Those three words characterize what wholehearted commitment looks like.

In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan challenges the lukewarm person with the some of the following questions:

  • Do you find yourself more often than not, choosing what is popular over what is right?
  • Do you desire to fit in both at church and outside of church?
  • Do you care more about what people think of your actions than what God thinks of your hearts and lives?
  • Are you moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet you don’t act?
  • Do you think doing what God says in His word is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones?
  • Do you rarely share your faith with your neighbors and friends because you don’t want to be rejected or make people feel uncomfortable?

I’ll be honest: I am a people-pleaser. It’s hard for me to say no when people ask things of me. So caring what people think of my actions (rather than what God thinks of my heart) is something that challenges me the most.

Lukewarm people call “radical” what Jesus expected of all His followers. Chances are, at times you may feel lukewarm. We are all flawed human beings, but there is a difference between a life that is characterized by these sorts of habits and a life that is in the process of being radically transformed. I want the latter!

What does your love look like? Instead of a complacent existence, let’s chose to be radical. Let’s chose to live an unbalanced and overboard life for Christ.

Which one of Chan’s questions resonates with you the most?