Dinner With My Dad


Reposted from 

I had dinner with my dad once and learned a lot about going places.

When it came to my dad, I carried some stuff around for a while. It was big, heavy stuff and had messed up our relationship . . . resentment, stubbornness, expectations and the heaviest of all . . . pride.

Have you ever had your luggage at the airport over the 50-pound checked-bag limit? I have. You and your bag are in it together and if you don’t take some stuff out, neither of you are going anywhere. Unless you lighten your load, you’re stuck.

I wanted a relationship with my dad, but I couldn’t travel closer to it with my overweight baggage. Our relationship was stuck . . . miles apart.

When my wife Claudia and I got engaged, I hadn’t spoken to my dad in 8 years! But she told me we weren’t getting married until she met my dad. I knew if I wanted to marry the woman of my dreams, I had to lighten my load. If I didn’t take inventory of my stuff, get on a plane and have dinner with my dad, she and I weren’t going anywhere together . . . and I’d be stuck single.

So, I left the stuff on the curb at the Atlanta airport and flew to Memphis, where Claudia and I had dinner with Dad. We ate steak and cried. We were finally able to travel together to a place previously impossible to get to for 8 years because my baggage was overweight.

It still happens though. I try to go places with too much stuff. I wish it was easy stuff to unload like socks and toothpaste. But it never is. It’s heavy stuff like . . .

A bad attitude and critical words.

Pride and entitlement.

Jealousy and comparison.

Expectations and opinions.

Fear.

These things weigh me down big time. You know what’s way lighter? Kind words, gentleness, gratitude, empathy and courage. When I choose to travel with those things instead, it’s like taking a jackhammer out of my bag and replacing it with a box of chocolates. I’m clear to fly. And happier too.

Jesus chose to travel light and load His bags with love and grace. Those things kept Him moving toward people. He must have known a bunch of other stuff would have slowed Him down . . . which feels like good packing advice to me.

Sometimes the places we get to go are destinations on a map. I unloaded fear and ended up in Mogadishu, Somalia once. But more often, the places I get to go are in relationships. Moving closer to family, friends and Jesus. Those are the best adventures and the ones where I learn and grow the most.

Usually I need a push to take inventory of my stuff, get moving and get unstuck. My wife, my friends, some great mentors and words from Jesus and his pals have been super helpful for me. Their encouragement helps me take inventory of the stuff holding me back. And when I slow down and really listen, I know I’m moving closer to going places and doing more things like having dinner with my dad.

Scripture: So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us. Now stay focused on Jesus . . . (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

Speaking of Jesus


 

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

A treadmill . . . a rowing machine . . . an elliptical . . . the piece of exercise equipment doesn’t really matter. With each one, no matter how hard you work, when you finish, you’re still in the same spot as when you started. If I’m being transparent, that feels much like the season of life I find myself in right now . . . busy, tired, and not making much progress. Summer baseball and a family health issue combined with my work not to mention a few new aches and pains (I guess I’m getting older) have led me to do a little self-assessment and reflection. And guess what I realized? I’ve been leaving no time for me and Jesus. Yes, I’m listening to some sermons via podcast and sprinkling in some worship music but its all becoming the background music to my (self-inflicted) busy life.

So the other morning, I grabbed my Kindle and began looking for something to read. I landed on a book I read once before, Speaking of Jesus. The author, Carl Medearis is a Jesus-follower with a huge heart for the Middle East and specifically for introducing Jesus to leaders in the Arab World. Carl loves Jesus . . . not Christianity. He focuses his time on ‘pointing people to his friend’ instead of on the ‘us vs. them’ mentality plaguing us today.

In Speaking of Jesus, Carl explains how we often get caught up presenting Christianity to others instead of just introducing them to Jesus. While probably not his original intent in writing the book, for me it served as a beautiful reminder of my friend Jesus . . . who I had left behind in my quest to conquer the seemingly important but ultimately insignificant matters dominating my calendar. It was a powerful reminder and I wanted to share some of my insights with you as I would venture a guess I’m not the only one who has been in this spot recently.

  1. “We have an unfair advantage. We know the Creator. We’re friends with the King.” – In almost every area of life, we all look for advantages. Yet, I found that in my faith, where I already have the greatest advantage, I was leaving Jesus on the sideline.
  2. “We have salvation insecurity. We want to measure, scrutinize, and secure our place.” – Others call it eternity amnesia; either way, I had it. I’d replaced spending time with Him with spending time simply doing things.
  3. “Follow Me” is a matter of personal contact – Jesus gives us a simple invitation with simple instructions.
  4. “My faults don’t keep Jesus from me, but they keep me from Him.” – Too often, I allow my sin and shame to build a wall between Jesus and myself.
  5. “We spend so much time laughing at Peter for sinking, when in reality, every single one of us would probably have stayed in the boat.” – Peter had what I’ve lost: the wonder of Jesus.1

So, my plan for this summer is to reintroduce myself to Jesus. As Medearis writes, “living a life like Jesus must begin with being a student of Jesus.” I am going to dig into the Gospels . . . to see how Jesus treated others, to read what He said, to better understand who He was and is today.

Scripture: You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately tried to keep it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did – Jesus crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

Antichrist??


 

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4:2-3)

I’ve always dreaded the day the antichrist would show up. The description in the book of Revelation is scary . . . with graphic imagery of beasts and dragons and war and tribulation and Armageddon. But these verses remind me that it’s not just a future thing, it’s a present thing too . . . the “spirit of the antichrist . . . is already in the world.”

Boom.

We live in a culture dominated by voices of people who do not acknowledge that Jesus came in the flesh and was the Son of God. Some are overtly ‘anti-Christ’ while others seem benign . . . simply ‘being themselves.’ Think how few celebrities, athletes, actors, actresses, politicians, musicians, writers, talk show hosts, news anchors or columnists acknowledge Jesus Christ for who He is. These are the people who are shaping our culture . . . and the evil spirits are running wild. 

Let me take a shot at what an evil spirit might be. The movies tell us it’s a spooky voice, ghost, zombie or monster of some kind. I believe evil spirits are much more familiar and their voices sound a lot like the voices we hear in our heads every day. The spirit of fear, the spirit of bitterness, the spirit of jealousy, the spirit of violence, the spirit of lust, the spirit of greed, the spirit of cruelty, the spirit of envy and the spirit of hopelessness . . . just to name a few. These spirits are talking to us constantly, leading us away from Jesus and His peace. Unbelievers explain these as human emotions, bad behavior or poor mental health. I believe there’s more going on. Take a look at the themes in popular music, movies and television shows or the lives of our heroes from the world of sports and entertainment. Many, if not most, subtly or even overtly reflect the spirit of the antichrist.

The opposite of antichrist is Jesus Christ. He gives us the spirits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, not to mention forgiveness, compassion, generosity, mercy and true hope for the future. Few of these spirits are being promulgated by media and culture.

This isn’t a rant against culture so much as a call to create new culture. A new model for life, marriage, fatherhood, work life and leadership . . . a ‘light of the world, city on a hill’ kind of culture that will draw people toward Him and away from antichrist.

At the same time, let’s not lie to ourselves about the culture we’re living and raising our kids in. Take the initiative. Make new culture. Be creative, building a family and reputation that’s all about Jesus and His righteousness. Be diligent to discern and then courageous to resist media and culture that’s antichrist. And don’t get lulled to sleep and pretend there’s a benign ‘middle ground.’

Scripture: Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me. (Matthew 12:30)

You Need to Know How to Help Depressed People


Reposted from Rethink

Christians need to rethink the way they view mental health, and how to respond when someone approaches them suffering from mental health issues.

If you’re anything like me, finding yourself in a situation you don’t know how to handle can be difficult to muscle through.  Imagine a friend or loved one, perhaps even someone you don’t know that well, coming up and confiding in you that they believe they might have major depression, that they’ve been having dark thoughts, even thoughts of self-harm.  How would you respond?  What would you say?

Depending on who you are or what culture you live in, talking about feelings or deep personal problems might be very difficult and uncomfortable for you.

Regardless, conversations like these still happen, and can come up seemingly out of the blue from people we least expect, so it is vital for people to know how to handle situations like these in a calm and cool-headed manner.  This is especially true for youth leaders within churches, as children do not have the adequate thinking abilities and life skills needed to seek help for depression (or any mental illness) on their own.  So how we respond, and our words and reactions to the suffering individual is paramount for their step towards healing.

First, understand that depression is entirely too large of an issue for Christians not to have a viable and adequate response to it.  In 2014, around 15.7 million adults age 18 or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, which represented 6.7 percent of all American adults.  That is no small group of people, and the ones that suffer from this mental illness are our friends, coworkers, and even family members.

Oftentimes, Christians’ response to mental illness is often to pray about it, or recommend more time with God because they mistakenly believe mental illness is a spiritual problem.  Although these ideas are well-meaning, they fall short in adequately interacting with someone with a mental illness.  Below are a few steps on how to appropriately respond to someone when they have confided in you that they are depressed or have suicidal thoughts.

Relax

It might feel like you’ve been thrown a bomb and you have to find a way to diffuse it in twenty seconds.  It might even seem like this person’s life is now entirely in your hands, but relax, take a deep breath.  This might be awkward for you, but imagine how it must feel for the other person.  Depression and suicidal thoughts often come with deep feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment, so be extra sensitive to that.

You want to appear approachable so mind your body language.  Place your hands by your side, or if you’re sitting, place them on your knees, and don’t cross your arms. Soften your face and listen to what they are saying.  Engage in the conversation, ask questions, be gentle, and just listen.

Thank Them for Sharing

Telling someone the darkest thoughts that run in your mind is no easy task.  It takes a lot of courage, and is absolutely worth commending.  This person has handed you something very delicate and they’re waiting to see how you react to it.  Be grateful that this person found you trustworthy enough to speak to on such a tough subject and be sure to tell them you’re glad they did.

Think Before Speaking And Don’t Make It About You

Telling the person to focus on good vibes, dishing out Bible verses, recommending uplifting books, or telling them that “the night is darkest just before the dawn” (it’s not) are often said with great intentions, but realistically, they can have adverse effects.  It might be tempting, but try not to reach for that inspirational phrase you believe will magically disappear their dark feelings, because it more than likely won’t work.  People battling depression are incredibly intuitive, and will pick up when you are trying to say things simply to make them feel better or to change the subject.

Try to refrain from stories of when you were very sad once, or when you had depression one time, because it really is entirely irrelevant at the moment.  This is not about you or how you’ve overcome similar struggles, this is about the other person and them only.

Responding with, “I’m very sorry you feel that way.  What can I do to help?” is the direction you want to steer, and often, will make the individual feel like you are empathizing with them.

Seek Wisdom, Speak To The Appropriate People

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge to this person that you don’t know how to handle it.  Strongly suggest local mental health professionals they can see, perhaps even a trip to the hospital might be in order.  Offer to help them get in touch with the people they need, and then suggest the two of you go to a mentor, a trusted family member or friend and gather a very small group of people to rally around this person.  The key is for the person to feel like you are with them, that you acknowledge their struggle, and that you are going to help.

Unless you are a licensed mental health professional, you don’t have the knowledge, training, or ability to correctly diagnose or treat anyone with depression or suicidal thoughts.  It’s best not to even try.  If you are dealing with an underage minor, you have a moral and legal obligation to not keep it a secret.  Let the minor know that you must bring the subject to light with their parents or guardians.  They might feel like you have betrayed their trust, but in the moment, their well-being and safety is of far greater importance.

Do Something, Don’t Just Pray About It

There is nothing wrong with suggesting prayer to someone who is hurting with mental health issues, but prayer must be done alongside professional help, not in place of it.  When the individual does not feel better after being recommended more prayer and “quiet time with God”, they are bound to feel as though they are not praying well enough, aren’t devoted enough, or even that God has abandoned them entirely.

Depression is made up of misfires in the brain, either brought on by trauma, major life events, or just not enough of a certain chemical they need to function.  Prayer alone is not enough to remedy this.

Speak To Your Church About Setting Aside Money For Therapy

I know of some churches I’ve attended that do it, but it’s a good idea to open a conversation with your church about setting aside funds for people who need to seek therapy.  Life is tough, and sometimes it requires a helping hand from professionals who know how to work with people.  Having funds for therapy can also be beneficial for married couples or for people in need of crisis counseling.

We would do well to remember Luke 5:17-39, when a band of people lowered a man through a roof to be healed by Jesus.  They were not content with merely waiting outdoors in prayer.  Rather, they climbed the building, broke through the shingles and rafters, through the sheet rock, and lowered the man to be healed.  Jesus declared it was by the action of their faith through which the crippled man could be heal.

What would it look like now for church communities to rally around, uplift, and support not only the physically afflicted, but the emotionally and mentally wounded?  What would it look like to not allow prayer to be limited to words, but be made into a call to action?