Why Can’t I Be Good At Something?

When I ask the question, “Why can’t I be good at something?” I’m not asking from a deeply depressed state of mind. I don’t think of myself as someone who isn’t good at anything, because to think that would be an affront to the God who has graced me with a few skills and talents. I guess I should ask the question this way: Why is it that right around the time I gain some skills in my life, things change, seasons change, and the skills I’ve developed aren’t nearly as effective anymore? I’m seeing this so clearly right now as my awesome kids aren’t kids anymore. When my kids were born I didn’t have a clue about how to be a parent. I struggled to figure out how to be a dad to young kids who deprived me of sleep. Over time I began to figure out how to be a good dad to young kids. Around the time I got good at being a dad to young kids, they changed and became teenagers. So then I struggled to figure out how to deal with human beings whose brains are being pickled with hormones. Right around the time I got pretty good at parenting teenagers, they grew into young adults and I find myself completely out of my element once again. Life just keeps coming at me and I just keep discovering that you either learn or you cave. I really want to be the guy who keeps learning, and I’m finding out that simply means I’m always going to be entering into some new place in my life where I leave behind something I’ve gotten pretty good at to discover a new area of life, in a new season of life, where I’m going to have to figure out how to be “good.” Thank God for the grace He provides to give us what we need in each new season of life.

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Birthday’s With A Zero

I don’t know if this is true for you but when you get past a certain age birthdays just kind of blow by and you don’t make as big a deal out of them as you did before the age of 21. As time has gone by, and the work God has given us to do has filled our days, and the kids God has blessed us to raise have made our lives overflow with joy, we’ve just not had time to make that big of a deal about our birthdays. Well, I should say we don’t make a big deal out of a birthday unless it’s a birthday that ends with a zero; 30, 40, 50. When there is a zero at the end of the birthday we go big or we go home.

On my 50th birthday Aleta surprised me with a beautiful old 1959 GMC Truck that drove up while we were having an amazing beach BBQ with all my friends. It was a stunning gift and celebration. This last Saturday I hosted this big event for my wife and my best friend. Though she’s turning 50 she only looks like she’s turning 30 and is still as playful and fun as if she’s turning 21. She is an amazing gift from God to so many people! I contacted all of her family and closest friends from Jr. High School, Sr. High School, and summer camp ministries and invited them to take a Sunset Cruise on the Monterey Bay with The Chardonnay II sailing charter. I had taken on extra speaking engagements, and saved all of my band gig money to scrimp together enough to pay for a bucket-list event in our lives. It was an amazing evening, and God is so good! There wasn’t any fog on the horizon, the sunset was amazing, and my wife was surrounded by people who dearly love her. The bible tells me “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh” Ecclesiastes 3:1 &4 and it also tells me that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” James 1:17. Every time we celebrate a birthday with a zero it’s a reminder that all good things come into our lives from a Heavenly Father who calls us His beloved.

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Taking A Break

We all need to take breaks because God didn’t design us to just keep working without taking some time to rest and renew. How we rest and how we renew is going to look different for each person, but it’s important that we all find a way to get off the hamster wheel and just be – just sleep, hike, retreat, renew, or whatever it is that helps us re-create. As we enter into the last month of summer make sure you’re taking some time to renew in the way that most renews you, and draw near to God in the way you best draw near to Him. I’m going take my own advice and bust on out of here for a vacation, playing with my family, over the next week. This is going to be only blog post this week and I’ll catch you back right here on Monday morning August 13.

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Wounded By A Flip Flop

Yesterday I found myself laying face down at my chiropractor’s office under a heat pack trying to apply the biblical idea that somehow I could “in everything give thanks.” (1 Thess. 5:18) This summer I’ve been working on discipling my gaze to see the goodness and kindness of God that surrounds me all the time, and disciplining my heart to see it even when pain or other distractions tempt me to believe His goodness has disappeared. So this was a good test case.

All I did yesterday morning was to bend over to move a flip-flop. This was a physical motion I’ve done maybe a million times in my life, but on this day something seized up and suddenly I felt lower back pain. I’ve heard from others what that feels like but I never had that feeling before in my own body. So as I laid on the exam table under a heat pack I thanked God for giving me a whole new compassion for the many people who struggle with chronic back pain. God was giving me the gift of a new found compassion for people who deal with this kind of pain every day. I thanked God for providing a chiropractor who could help me, and give me good stretches and exercises as my body recovers. I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to share with Dr. Smith at Surf City Chiropractic, who is an exceptional chiropractor, the things that I was thankful for and so providing a witness to the goodness of God. He is not a believer but he listened to me and agreed with my observations about God’s kindness despite my hilarious condition. My lower back is still a bit sore this morning, but God is still good.

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Tacos And Birthdays

On Saturday night Aleta and I threw a big birthday party for our daughter. She just turned 21 (crazy!) and so we invited the entire crew from her summer camp staff over for a taco-palooza party on our back patio. She’s been working hard all summer long at a christian camp where she’s been serving God alongside of other counselors. There’s a special closeness that comes in that alchemy where friendship and purpose meet each other, and where God is a the center. You can just tell that this team of young men and women have grown so much closer to God, and – in a matter of a few weeks – grown to be very tight with one another. It’s a cool thing to see!

The best part of the night for me, as her dad, was the moment her friends from the camp staff began to make speeches about what Cassidy meant to them. Who does that? I got to listen as her friends recognized her loyalty, her smile that always made them feel at ease, the way she worked to smooth out difficult situations, and the way she brought people together around the main thing. To hear other people describe their experience of my daughter, and to hear them describe how they see the reality of Christ in her, was a very special treat. I was exhausted from barbecuing chicken and preparing the taco bar party, but as I sat there sipping my La Croix I was truly a happy man.

 

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Irreligiosa Sollicitudo Pro Deo

Please don’t be impressed because this blog has a Latin title today. Today I want to share with you some rich insights that flow from the mind of Eugene Peterson. He builds an entire essay/mediation out of Hilary of Tours ancient observation that our busyness often is irreligiosa soicitudo pro Deo, or a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him. Peterson writes his article for pastors, but it actually applies to any follower of Christ. Give this a read because it’s good and it will challenge you.

I (and most pastors, I believe) become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble.

I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself and to all who will notice that I am important. If I go into a doctor’s office and find there’s no one waiting, and I see through a half-open door the doctor reading a book, I wonder if he’s any good. A good doctor will have people lined up waiting to see him; a good doctor will not have time to read a book. Although I grumble about waiting my turn in a busy doctor’s office, I am also impressed with his importance.

Such experiences affect me. I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed.

I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. I let people who do not understand the work of the pastor write the agenda for my day’s work because I am too slipshod to write it myself. The pastor is a shadow figure in these people’s minds, a marginal person vaguely connected with matters of God and good will. Anything remotely religious or somehow well-intentioned can be properly assigned to the pastor.

Because these assignments to pastoral service are made sincerely, I go along with them. It takes effort to refuse, and besides, there’s always the danger that the refusal will be interpreted as a rebuff, a betrayal of religion, and a calloused disregard for people in need.

It was a favorite theme of C. S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard. By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone.

But if I vainly crowd my day with conspicuous activity or let others fill my day with imperious demands, I don’t have time to do my proper work, the work to which I have been called. How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?

 

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Celebrate Someone Else’s Success

On Saturday morning Aleta and I joined up with a group of people to learn more about the history of the Arana Gulch area near our home in Santa Cruz. At 10am on Saturday morning a local historian offered a free walking tour of the area and so we just decided to tag along and learn a little something about our city. I thought there might be a dozen or so people who came. No! I was wrong. There were probably about 250 people who came, and they were all much older than me – which is saying something for a 53-year-old dude. Everyone was eager to learn more about the history of the east side of Santa Cruz where we all live. It was fun to learn about Juan and Felicia Arana and their ranch, about Fredrick Hageman (how we get the name for Fredrick Street) and about how we got the Harbor.

The thing I enjoyed the most was observing the wife of the historian. The wife of the historian served him by holding up black and white photos for all of us to see as her husband described the Arana Gulch area and the stories of its history. What really stood out to me was her smile and her joy for her husband’s success. When Aleta and I first arrived she was radiant with excitement as more people kept showing up for her husband’s walking tour. She was incredibly excited for him to have such a large turnout! Then as the tour got going, and as her husband shared all of the historical information, info that obviously came from hours of significant research, she simply beamed with pride as she watched him do something he clearly loved to do. Her joy for the success of her husband made me smile. To me it was a picture of how God the Father is said to look at His children in Zephaniah 3:17  when it says “He will take great delight in you; in his love he . . . will rejoice over you with singing.” Her celebration of her husband’s success reminded me that I want to be that kind of person who just bubbles over with joy as I watch the success of people I love, and the people I’ve invested my life into.

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