This morning I woke up exhausted. The past two weeks of family life and church life have been especially taxing on me. This morning I simply didn’t have the energy or creativity to handle some of the projects on my to-do list.
So, instead I decided to put my first wax on my new surfboard and go surfing.
I feel refreshed now. After taking an hour or two away from my work, I’m ready to work.
Are you tired? Do something different for an hour, a day, or a few days. You’ll come back to your work refreshed. Taking appropriate breaks from your work will enable you to do better work.
I used to keep a box of kleenex in my office so people had something to stop their tears.
I’m a pastor, so that means people tell me stuff. Once people feel safe enough, they open up about the pain and sin in their lives, and the tears come. I used to think the loving thing to do was to hand out kleenex to help wipe away the tears. I saw other people do this, so I figured that’s what I was supposed to do.
Now I think differently. I no longer hand out kleenex. I think the more appropriate and loving thing to do is to simply let people cry and to do nothing to assist the cleaning up or management of people’s tears.
I’m not against kleenex. But I think kleenex may communicate our discomfort with real people and their real pain, our quickness to clean up wet faces and messy lives. The kleenex might be for you more than it is for the weeping person in your presence—the tissue is there to stop your own discomfort with people’s tragedies and your inability to fix it.
I’ve noticed that when you stop handing out kleenex, more comes out. More tears. More mess. More honesty. More prayers. More fertile ground for the Spirit of God to work.
I recommend you try this. Ditch the kleenex. Next time someone opens up and cries in your presence, just sit there, listen, and watch what happens.
Do you want to be the person who stops people’s tears prematurely? Or do you want to be the person who receives the full weight of people’s tears?
There is always something. I know you think that if you can just complete this project, solve this problem, or navigate through the crisis of the moment you will finally find some rest and peace. You’ll feel in control.
But it never stops. There’s always something. On this side of heaven, your life will always involve difficulties, challenges, problems, suffering, pain, emergencies, and unsolved mysteries.
We constantly face the great temptation to live a “managed life,” a life we can adequately manage and handle. A life of control. There is no such thing. It’s an illusion, a dangerous trap, and one of Satan’s oldest tricks (the lie told in the Garden of Eden was a seductive call to live as Lord of your own life).
Give it up. Living a managed life isn’t much of an adventure anyways.
Instead, God invites us to live an “unmanaged life,” a life that he manages from his throne in heaven where we get to trust him with our somethings, our difficulties, and our tomorrows. Yes, God calls us to bring order to chaos and live intentional lives that bring health to an unhealthy and disordered world. But he has not called us to attempt to play God of our lives, which is what most of us try to do all day long.
There’s always something. Perhaps the “something” in your life right now is there to either gently or abrasively remind you to give up trying to manage everything and to start living in a whole new way, a way powered by the faith and trust of a little child.
In my opinion, a big and often overlooked part of parenting is to give your kids a big vision for their lives. I think it’s wise to start doing this as early as possible, when your kids are very young. As a dad of three boys I pray often that God would help me raise my three sons to be strong, brave, godly men who make a great impact in this world for Jesus Christ.
My three sons are still quite young (6, 4, 2), so I have no idea how the “results” will turn out, but right now I’m aiming to do two main things in my parenting:
1) Parent my sons in a culture of grace. I want to soak my sons’ identity as deeply as I can in the grace (undeserved love) of God, chiefly by modeling my own enjoyment of God’s grace, the enjoyment of that grace in marriage to their mom, and by extending them lots of grace. (I hope to write more on this in the future).
2) To give my sons big vision for their lives, to captivate them with the big purposes God has for them.
This week if you asked my sons what they want to be when they grow up, this is what they’d say (it tends to change every few weeks): My oldest wants to be an FBI agent, my middle son wants to be a spy, and my youngest son wants to be Spiderman. Part of me hopes my sons pursue these vocations, I’d love to hear the stories that would come out these professions! :)
I’m glad my boys are currently dreaming big about what they want to do with their lives. I never want this to stop for them. I believe God created us in his image and put us on the planet to be fruitful and make a great impact for him. I believe it honors God to raise kids who are pumped full of big vision for the impact their lives can have. I dedicated my newest book, The Big Story, to my sons with these words of big vision:
This book is dedicated to my three sons: Cru, Hudson, and Gus. Buzzard boys, I love you, like you, and enjoy you so much. Being your dad is a nonstop adventure. My prayer for all three of you is that you grow up to be brave and happy men who live in the thick of this Big Story and cause a ruckus on this planet.
Right now there’s one main way I give my sons vision for their future. You can try this too.
Several times a week, often when I’m tucking my sons in to bed at the end of the day, I spend a minute or two with each boy and I simply say to them “I believe God has big plans for your life.” Their eyes get big when I say this and this almost always leads to interesting conversation, ideas, and questions.
Dads and moms, I think this is one of the most powerful and important things you can do with your kids. Give them vision. Start now. Use this simple sentence, “I believe God has big plans for your life,” and watch where the years of conversation, prayer, and exploration go from there.
Last month I was interviewed about how (I believe) only the Bible adequately makes sense out of the beauty and the brokenness of our world.
That night, I prayed, and asked God if the gospel message was for someone like me, too. I viscerally felt the living presence of God as I prayed. Jesus seemed present and alive. I knew that I was not alone in my room. I prayed that if Jesus was truly a real and risen God, that he would change my heart. And if he was real and if I was his, I prayed that he would give me the strength of mind to follow him and the character to become a godly woman. I prayed for the strength of character to repent for a sin [lesbianism] that at the time didn’t feel like a sin at all–it felt like life, plain and simple. I prayed that if my life was actually his life, that he would take it back and make it what he wanted it to be. I asked him to take it all: my sexuality, my profession, my community, my tastes, my books, and my tomorrows.
-Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, p. 21
This is a guest post from my wife, Taylor Buzzard:
I’m on vacation! I’m away from everyday life, my routine, and my usual responsibilities, so my mind and heart are especially reflective. One of the highlights of this past year was our oldest son starting school. I met many new friends and acquaintances through the local school, so many I can’t even count. It was a relationally rich year.
Most of these new friends and acquaintances don’t know Jesus. I have this deep, unshakable desire to introduce them to Jesus, to tell them about his love for them and his offer of grace, freedom, and abundant life. Simultaneously, I can’t stand the idea of talking about Jesus just so I can check it off my “to-do” list, or rather, my “should” list. I don’t view my new friends as “projects.” I deeply love and enjoy them. They’ve become an integral part of our lives, and our family’s life is richer because of them. We are so excited to travel through life with these friends.
I want to talk about Jesus in a way that directly relates to my friends, in a way that gets their attention, that piques their interest, that engages their life stories. As I talked about Jesus with new friends this year, I often felt like right-handed me was writing with my left hand. I longed to be more natural, less nervous, less intimidated. I prayed continually that God would make me fluent at this language.
Three days ago, God answered. He spoke to me. Through 13 words sitting in my Bible, he told me:
“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39)
The context is this: Jesus meets a crazy, naked, demon-possessed man who lives in a graveyard. Jesus heals him. In response, all the man wants is to stay with Jesus, this man of power and compassion. But Jesus says no. Jesus tells him to return to his home and declare how much God has done for him. The man obeys, and proclaims through the whole city how much Jesus has done for him.
Declare how much God has done for me. Right away, I grabbed my journal.
What has Jesus done for me?
- He has healed me of insecurities and devaluing myself.
- He has taken away the loneliness of my childhood and replaced it with his presence, love, and pursuit.
- He has given me a new identity, as his daughter with whom he is well pleased.
- He has forgiven me of all my sin and brought me into a new life that’s based on grace, not my performance.
- He has taken away my fears (fear of standing out, fear of being different, fear of being rejected, fear of failing, fear of exposing that I’m not good enough) and replaced my fear with confidence and courage.
- He has made me fully alive–able to enjoy life, feel pain, laugh, cry–and not just survive.
- He has set me free from loneliness, fear, and looking to other people to validate my existence and my worth.
- My greatest ongoing sin is insecurity. God has forgiven me of this sin, and he has unlocked me from my bondage to insecurity. It no longer dictates how I live.
I believe many of you share my desire to be more natural at introducing people to Jesus, the real Jesus. This exercise was so helpful to me that I wanted to share it with you. People love stories. They want to know what God has done for you. My plan is to return from vacation and make this next year one of bragging about what Jesus has done for me.
If you think of yourself and what’s wrong with you simply as your “sins,” then you will mistakenly believe that the solution to your problems is willpower. Your “sins” of greed or lust or gluttony or whatever may be eventually overcome through deliberate hard work, through a bettering of yourself. There’s something in the language, something in the plural usage (sins), that gets people thinking that their problems are small, merely skin deep, and can be solved by themselves.
But when you think of yourself and what’s wrong with you as your “sin” (singular), you see that something deeper (and darker) is going on inside of you. More like a virus. More like a thorough-going sickness that requires treatment from the outside. More like an addiction that requires an intervention. More like false worship that requires the exposure of your false gods. More like the need for a new heart.
The paradigm-shifting realization sets in: My willpower can’t fix this. I have a big problem. My sin is an offense to God, but only God can help me. I need help. I need to be rescued. I need this “grace” you speak of.
Before your friends can appreciate and enjoy grace, they must somehow make the discovery that dwelling inside of them are not a few “sins” that can be tamed through a to-do list, but “sin” which requires something much more radical than taming: forgiving.
In case this is helpful to some of you, here is an explanation of how I read books.
1. I only read books I want to read.
I let my curiosity, my hunger for learning or enjoyment, guide my reading. I enjoy reading a great variety of books. I’ve got 10+ books packed for vacation this month and the authors, topics, and genres are all over the place.
2. I always write notes and ideas on the back page of a book.
The notes are of concepts or quotes I want to remember from the book and the other notes are of all the ideas that pop into my head while reading a book. (The photo above is of the back page of Buffet, an biography of Warren Buffet I recently finished). I also underline and write margin notes while I read, but the back page is the goldmine that I go back to.
3. I often pause to pray while reading a book as a way of processing the content.
I don’t learn well without praying.
4. Once I finish a book I take a few minutes to review the back page where I wrote my notes and make some of that content actionable.
Generally about half or more of what I’ve written in the back of the book becomes actionable in some way–I use something in a sermon, have a writing idea, I chase a new dream, I work something into how I lead, etc.
Obviously, I don’t read e-books. And, obviously, my handwriting is horrible.
There you go. That’s what I do.
I’m enjoying Father’s Day with my three crazy sons. What a gift.