Working Harder Isn’t the Answer

Often times we find ourselves, myself included, in a place of frustration and stress. We worry about the bills. We worry about work. We worry about school, about our parents, our friends. We worry about what other people think about us. We worry about projects, jobs and our dreams. Will they ever come true?

One of the greatest mistakes I’ve made is setting up my dreams as accomplishments instead of a lifestyle. We list our dreams as goals, as destinations. There is nothing wrong with goal setting. I think it is a great motivator and a way to measure growth, but goals should be secondary.

Make LIFE the dream.

When the destination is the dream we often allow our peace and happiness to hinge on arriving there. So, we’re not really satisfied or happy until we’ve achieved the goal. Our joy becomes circumstantial. It doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be.

When the destination is the dream it can turn a labor of love into work, into a burden we carry around instead of simply enjoying the work of our hands. Haven’t most of us said “If I could just (fill in the blank) every day, I would be in Heaven.” Then, we find ourselves actually doing what we always hoped to be doing, but because we’re not as far as we want to be we’re not happy. We’re on the path, but we’ve not arrived at the destination.

Seek first the kingdom of God. Notice how Jesus said seek the Kingdom, not get to the Kingdom. He says get on the path towards the kingdom. It’s about the journey, not just the destination. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells his disciples not to worry, instead he tells them to seek first the kingdom of God. Don’t worry, seek the kingdom. Instead of spending your time worrying about things, go looking for the kingdom of God. Instead of starting your day wondering about everything, go in search of God. The kingdom of God is where God lives. It’s where the Presence of God is. So we seek his Presence through prayer, quiet time, praise and worship, however you connect to God. There, with our awesome, loving Father, we find peace and joy.

A lot of this really comes down to perspective. Change the way you view your dream. You don’t have to change your dream. You’re just changing the way you define it and the way you look at it. Do this: COPY AND PASTE THE SCRIPT BELOW and write down what your Average Perfect Day looks like. It’s a great starting place to help to turn your dream goals into a Dream Lifestyle.

I love the way The Message translation puts it, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.” And later “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” He only has good for us. You don’t have to wait to be happy and have peace, you can start having it right now.

THE AVERAGE PERFECT DAY

These questions are meant to help guide your mind through an Average Perfect Day. This is what your life would look like after you’ve won the lottery and have already done the big, awesome things. This is what you dream of your day-to-day life looking like. Start at the very beginning with waking up, end with your head hitting the pillow.

 

Morning

(What does waking up look like? What time would you wake up? What would you do in the morning? What would you have for breakfast? What time would work start? What would you do for work? What does the first half of your day look like?)

Afternoon

(What does your afternoon look like? Where would you have lunch? What would you have for lunch? Would you have it alone or with someone(s)? When does your workday end?)

Evening

(What do you do after your work day? Who do you spend your time with? What’s for dinner and with whom? What do you do for fun and/or relaxation? How does your day come to an end?)

MY AVERAGE PERFECT DAY


Here is my own personal Average Perfect Day to give you an example if you’re struggling to figure out your own.

Morning

Wake up rested and invigorated

Quiet time with God in prayer, Bible study, reflection and praise

Enjoy a delicious and energizing breakfast

My “spot” preparing for the day

Afternoon

Meet with clients, partners and organizations

Share lunch with someone

Exercise with a friend

Visit and network with community

Evening

Enjoy dinner with friends and/or family

Relaxing evening with a good book, movie or conversation

Plan and prepare for next day

Evening walk or bike ride

Thank God for the day

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What to do, when you don’t know what to do.

Just be still.

If you can accomplish just this every day then I suspect you will experience a life full of joy and peace and greatness in a way you never imagined. You will also have accomplished something I’m still working on.

Be still and listen. Let whatever comes to your mind, come, and let the thought run its course until it’s gone. If you’re like me this could take a while as thought after thought after thought marches on. Just this past week I went for a walk to chat with God, clear my head, just be alone with only him. No distractions. It was near midnight, a little chilly, but that provided a trail with only me on it. Once again I had found myself at that place of “What now?”

We’ve recently made a decision regarding a contract position that covered most of our rent. The end of this chapter could bring some big changes. That heavily discounted rent gave us the opportunity to only need one job for the both of us; one part-time job at that. It was the sudden jump in expenses that had me walking that trail so late at night, asking what now.

On that walk I spilled my heart, the fears, the worries, all of it. I’ve been believing this lie that I shouldn’t tell God my fears, thinking it would be like telling him that I didn’t really believe him, or believe in his ability, like I couldn’t show him my weakness. I needed to show him I was strong. When I realized that’s what I was doing, my mind immediately broke it apart, showing the failed logic. God already knows me, he knows my heart. He knows every hair on my body. Did I really think he didn’t know the truth of what was going on inside me? Like I could hide something from him? And what kind of relationship would we have if I felt I had to hide something from him?

So I spilled the beans, shared my fears about not being able to pay rent, the bills, and my confusions. I would pause to listen for a response, but he was pretty quiet, so I continued to spill. Then I would pause, nothing, spill some more, pause, spill and so on until there was nothing left. Coming to the end of the walk I thanked him and praised him for his goodness and just before I got to my door I heard a still, small voice, saying something I knew I had heard before. What it was I couldn’t tell you now, but I do remember Matthew 4 being mentioned and something that led me to a notebook of mine.

My entire mood had changed, even though my circumstances hadn’t. The peace of the Lord. This faith thing is incredible and indescribable. He knew exactly what he was doing, letting me get everything off my chest while teaching me something at the same time. He is very good. It was the next day when I dug into that notebook to find it there, waiting for me.

In my own handwriting I wrote to him, “What now?” And what had I written down, what had that still, small voice said to me then? Matthew 4. I had been in that same place so many times before and the last time it spurred one of the greatest studies God has ever taken me on; what it really means to seek the kingdom of God, the freedom therein, and everything I needed to be reminded of.

What is most important to God is the dreamer, not the dream. He is so much more focused on our identity than he is our purpose. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the doing part of life, maybe because I’m a man, maybe because I’m American, maybe because it’s just my personality, or lies I’ve believed. Or maybe it’s the wounds from the past that have somehow convinced me that my worth is directly equivalent to what I accomplish while I’m here. Yet, we can neither add nor take away from the will of God. We can’t get extra credit or bonus points. We don’t earn his love or grace. We only receive it.

God gave the Jews freedom from slavery from the Egyptians, but they still had to wander the desert for 40 years. Jesus was the Son of God, destined to overcome the enemy and death itself, but he still had to suffer the cross. God gave the Israelites the Promised Land, and us too actually, but they still had to defeat their enemies. In fact, God told them they already had the victory, he was with them. So, if God already had their victory mapped out, why not just wave his hand and let the earth swallow up all the enemies? I believe because of the process, he wanted them to have to act out their faith, because he knew the process would change them for the better. Victory is ours, He is truly with us and has gone before us, but we still have to claim it. I still have to claim it.

This is why it’s so important to seek Him every day. Every day I just need to get quiet, open up to him, share, talk, listen and then trust him. Trust the Word and just focus on today. He’s got us.

 

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Salvation is Not the End

The whole point of getting a business off the ground was to prove to people that this “model” works, that you can trust God, you can live a bold, courageous, exciting, adventurous life of passion and love towards others, doing your good works with great faith. What I have found, and suspect y’all will too is that the point becomes the dreamers so much more than the dream. Meaning, God has always been more concerned with you than he is your dream.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the dream, in its grandeur and promise, but many have persevered, pursuing the grand dream only to find themselves on top, achieving all they wanted, but finding their success empty and without the fulfillment they once imagined it would bring. That’s why it’s about the dreamers. This life is about relationships so much more than it is about anything else. Our Father knew this, look at the two great commandments; Love God and love your neighbor (everyone else). He wants a loving relationship with you and he wants you to have loving relationships with everyone else.

I think the corporate church may have gotten lost in the dream. So many congregations have gorgeous buildings with concert level performances, great marketing, big audiences and big names, but I’m meeting more and more people, like myself, that are walking away from the hype and wondering if there isn’t more to all of this? Did Jesus die for three songs and a 20 minute message every Sunday? Is salvation the whole point or does something come after it?

Jesus was so controversial, he turned so much upside down and contradicted the knowledge and ways of man. It’s like someone who was living a “wayward life” full of despair and loneliness, fear and suffering, who was approached by someone who shared the gospel with them and responding to the call of God, they got saved. “Now what?” they ask. Our response sure seems to be “Well, now you go to service every Sunday, then you volunteer.”

Sounds life changing, doesn’t it?

This is what so many people have suffered and died for? So we can go to church once/week? No. In the beginning of the Church forming, there was a grand vision, a big dream, there was a world before them to be saved, there were entire populations of people to be freed from the bondage of darkness. Jesus, the disciples, Paul, the apostles, these guys were out Braveheart-ing the world. They were out bringing freedom to people, freedom from death and dead-ends. As the movement moved along things got organized, sometimes for better, sometimes for not. Politics got involved. People got involved, fallible people. The dream turned into massive feats of stone architecture, war and dominance, and wealth beyond counting. (Though I’m sure someone was counting it.)

My goal is not to be cynical.

My goal is freedom. That was, is the vision, that all would be freed from the darkness. Salvation is but the first step. Salvation is accepting the gift of freedom that Jesus paid for. All the darkness washed away, all our crimes forgiven, we’ve been given freedom.

Now what?

If you’d been in prison your whole life and someone just let you out, what would you do?

**

“Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it.”

 

 

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Love as The Big Bang

I just had this thought only minutes ago.

While I spoke to my wife and a child that we, God willing, we would one day have, I felt such a swell of love in me. I had to stop the thought, because just the mere thought of this child, which doesn’t even exist yet, brewed a size of love in me that I felt as if something from the inside was trying to push beyond my own body. I’ve felt this way when I’ve been around my best friends children. I have so much love for them. When I think about literally holding my own…how would I bare that feeling, that wanting to scream there’s so much love, wanting to explode?

That’s when the thought hit me.11059_sheldon-cooper-en-big-bang

If that’s how I feel concerning just one child, just one person, what does God feel like when He feels love for one of his children? His love is so much bigger, grander, purer than our own. Now, times that by every child of God ever to have walked earth, ever to walk this earth. That amount of love, how could He bare it?

Maybe He didn’t.

Maybe the only way God could really express that love, really get it “out of Himself” was to literally get it out of Himself. The Big Bang.

What if the mere thought of all these people He would create, all His children, created such a love in Him…that that power of love created everything?

What a beautiful way to create a world.

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There’s only One Church

We are a Church. We are a Church without walls. We are a Church with no limits, no boundaries. We are a Church for the un-churched. We do things a little differently, not to say we’re better, not to say we’re more right. We do so because we felt led by God to do so.

We have no desire to build a building. We’d rather build community.

We have no desire to create programs. We’d rather spend time with each other, build relationships and friendships in a way that is more akin to just spending time together.

We have no desire to create and manage a staff. We’d rather do life together with family.

This morning in prayer I felt led to read John 4, where Jesus goes to Jacob’s well and asks the Samaritan woman for a drink. She’s surprised by this, a cultural divide existing between Jews and Samaritans. Kind of like regular Church attendees and believers that don’t attend regularly; never felt they fit in, sometimes actually weren’t really accepted. (I understand this is a generalization and mean nothing derogatory by it.)

Jesus says “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” He goes on to say “Everyone who drinks this water (from the well) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Revelation: the modern churches – congregations – are like this well. We keep coming back to get our water, keep working for that which we thirst for…God, Fullness. We don’t have to keep going back to the well to find fullness, to quench our thirst, for the Spirit of God has been given to us and once we drink it in, accept it, invite it, we find life growing inside of us. Our thirsts for God becomes quenched by God, regardless of what day of the week it, regardless of where. (Do not make the mistake of doing it alone though. We need each other and Christ says “Where two or more gather together in my name, there I’ll be)

What was so striking about this is that just a few verses later the Samaritan woman says, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem is where the temple was. A building. The chapel. A “church.”

Jesus’ response?

“Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”

Not the way our Fathers did? Not at the temple?

Jesus continues, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.”

The Samaritan woman seems to understand what He’s saying enough and responds with “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

It’s like she was saying, “Ok, so the way we “do church” will change, but that probably won’t happen until Jesus comes.”

Jesus responds to her. “I who speak to you am he.”

The time is here. The time is now.

The Church is not a building, not a temple. We are the Church. Simply by following Christ and his commands, love God, love others (all others), we DO Church.

 

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BANGARANG!

From years of study and my own personal journey I have come to the conclusion that it really all comes down to just three primary things:

1. Seek Him – forego the opinions of the world, put the opinions and advice from family and friends and even trusted leaders and mentors in second place, and find a quiet place and seek God for the answers you need.

2. Abide – Remain “connected.” Do not let worry or fear or sin separate you from your connection to the Father, for surely sin may not dwell in the Kingdom of God. In this abiding we are filled with his abundant love and direction.

3. Give – From out of the abundance that was given by our Heavenly Father we then turn right around and give to others. We give time and money and our talents and skills. We give love as he gave love to us to the greatest of our ability.hook movie

It is that simple and that hard. It is so hard. I can’t believe how challenging it is at times. If you can imagine an alternate dimension existing simultaneously with ours…like if I gave you magic glasses, you could suddenly see it. Like that scene out of Hook where Peter Pan’s imagination suddenly kicks in and he can see all the food. The Kingdom of God is like that. We only see it when we believe, not the other way around. (Seeing and then believing) I know, it’s crazy.

Imagine, you find a quiet place and start praying and there before you an ethereal structure starts to form. As you continue to pray to God, as you continue to go after Him for whatever it is you seek, this ghost like vision becomes clearer. It is a large door. The gate into the Kingdom. You let go of your fears, you sense the peace come over you and you enter in. In this place is comfort. There is no fear here. Only love. There are no worries, no condemnation. It does not take long for things to surface that are in you, guilt from decisions and/or actions. Forgiveness sweeps them away. The longer you remain, the more is “cleaned out.” The way you feel is incredible, more free, more loved, more safe than anywhere else, like you’re in the very arms of the Father; loved and protected.

In this absence of fear and worry, in the abundance of love and generosity, you can’t help but want to give to others. So you give as you like, as much as you like. In whatever way you love best, you do that. Maybe it’s artistic, maybe it’s leadership, maybe it’s comforting, maybe it’s laughter and fun, maybe it’s teaching. The way of it all is incredible, amazing, that something that could bring you such joy would also give joy and love to others.

hook peter panYet at any time the danger of submitting exists within us. Fear, worry and doubt stand outside, using every trick in the book to get our attention, to get us to step out for just a second. They want us to come out, they want us to think about their questions, they want us to doubt, they want us to be afraid. If we follow, they’ll take us as far away from those doors as they can. They’ll try to convince us it was all a dream, that the doors don’t even exists.

Yet, we can overcome. We can even expand that Kingdom. We can show others where the secret door is. We can show them how incredible it can all really be. It is not easy, but it is worth it. And the life we are searching for is not an easy one, it is one worth living.

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Learning How to Love is a Neverending Story

First and Foremost, THANK YOU Joshua for your very kind words and constant encouragement and for your very generous donation to our efforts here. It makes such a difference for us – thank you, from our hearts to yours.

While I woke up this morning with a slightly achy back, I opened my eyes and smiled wide. I rolled off the partially deflated air mattress and stood up with a grunt, stretching and looking around at our mostly empty, but new home. I walked through the two bedroom apartment, my feet soft on the faux wood floor, noises echoing in empty rooms and a vaulted living room ceiling. From outside was clear sunshine and the sound of birds. I love the sound of birds, especially in the morning.

Perspective is so important. We are still several months behind on several accounts, have less than $200 to our name, I am still without a strong source of income, we have no microwave or pots and pans (grocery shopping becomes very interesting without those things), no internet, no cable, no furniture, barely any gas in the car…

Yet, I feel as if I have all I need. Why is that?

Perspective.

artax sinkingI had spent the last weekend feeling so great about everything. My wife just had a job offer, we got accepted into the community ministry we we’re hoping for, and I was 99% sure the job I interviewed and tested for was mine. So when I woke to a voicemail Tuesday morning learning that the job was not mine…my entire mood shifted. I didn’t want to be worried, I prayed for strength, I tried to focus on God and forget my concern, but it was not working. I was sinking.

My entire day was effected by it. I barely got any work done. I had no peace, no joy and it was just a waste of a day. It wasn’t until the next morning with a fresh start that I opened my journal to write down a few things. I began to realize that, actually, a lot of great stuff had happened the day before. My wife had started a job she likes, we got a new retail account for Hope Soap, we got an online order, and it was the first time I was getting to meet a Be An Acorn follower, in PERSON, to be an encourager and point of hope for someone else. I think it was my conversation with him that changed my outlook.

I think one of the reasons, if the not the number one reason, God was so pleased with Solomon’s response – asking for wisdom instead of wealth or long life – was because of Solomon’s focus. It’s also the reason I had a bad day when it was actually a good day. Focus, or said another way, perspective. I argue “Heads,” you argue “Tails.” We’re both talking about the same coin, just from two different angles. If Solomon would have asked for wealth or long life, the focus of those requests would have been himself. He asked for wisdom:

“Therefore give to your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:9 NKJV)

His focus was towards others, towards the consideration of others. It was not love for himself, but love for others. When I realized that, it was like the veil came off and I remembered so much of what I’d forgotten. It was in that excitement that I wrote the previous blog, trying to capture in words what I was understanding. I think perhaps I did that in haste. So I understand a little more now when Jesus said:

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7)

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16 Emphasis mine)

neverending story falcorSuddenly, it’s dawning on me that all this miraculous provision and progress lately, I think,  is because not only have I been abiding in Him, seeking Him daily, but that the things I’ve prayed for, asked for, have been to communicate love or serve others in love, over myself. I have made loving others my priority. Worrying about the job, fear of not having money, paying bills, was honestly more of me thinking about myself than anything else.  Today, and I hope all the days following, my focus becomes how I can love others to the greatest of my ability, using whatever skills and talents I have to do so. This feeling, this awareness, is setting me free and I think maybe this is what God had in mind; we take care of the work he has for us, loving his children (each other) and he’ll take care of us. He is the Father. We are the children. Feels like freedom.

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