Coming Apart

What is the one thing that many of us fail to guard in a fast paced culture? -Our time. Especially to cultivate ideas, listen to God, and allow ourselves to get in a contemplative mode. Instead we hurry around with our cars, phones, iPods & other gadgets and people filling our lives with noise.

Even in the ancient times of the Bible, Jesus said to his disciples, “Come apart.” One person commented on this that, “if you don’t ‘come apart’ you will come apart.” (Get away from the noise before you come apart at the seams)

Do you have a problem hearing from God? When is the last time you pushed all the sources of noise in your life aside and sat quietly and waited on God…for more than a minute?

Could it be that many of our stress related issues might be resolved if we took time for concentrated meditation? Allowing the Spirit of God room in our lives to operate from within.

Try it. Take a look at your calendar and when could you make this happen? Here’s a few suggestions on finding this time: stay off Social Media for a day, don’t watch TV, return calls tomorrow, tell the people around you that you need to take some time to “come apart.”

Have you had some times where God refreshed you in His presence just by waiting? Do you need some de-stressors in your life today? Give this a try and feel free to share what happens after you “come apart” in a good way.

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Running On Empty

Posted in Margin, Prayer, Purpose, Rest & Refreshing, Solitude, Stress, Victorious Living by PCraig on September 8, 2016

All kinds of information exists on breathing techniques for reducing stress. It seems most of us tend to breathe shallow and live pressurized lives. By breathing deeply through our nose, holding it for several seconds, then slowly releasing it out our mouths, heart rate and stress levels come down. So, you might try it and see what happens.

This got me thinking about how important it is to breathe in the experiences of life. How many of us just getting going in the morning and don’t stop until we hit the bed? God didn’t even do this. In creation, God set aside one day of the week to be a day of rest. In a culture that carries a device that is linked to the world in it’s hand, that is difficult for us to achieve.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Unplug for 15 minutes each morning to connect only with God. Read, pray, sing, meditate and establish connection. How your day begins has a lot to do with how it goes.
  • Set aside a few moments before you pull into the driveway and pray, “God, I’m about to go inside to people who need me to be present and a positive influence, help me to put all else aside to be what they need.”
  • Weekly orchestrate your schedule to attend a church service where you can recalibrate in worship, fellowship and discipleship.
  • Schedule monthly appointments with yourself that include getting away from the normal routine for a number of hours to ponder, pray and rest.
  • Annually take a day, or more if possible, to evaluate your life and the direction you are headed. Ask yourself, “Am I going toward my purpose?” If not, ask God to help you get in alignment with His purpose and create action steps for doing so.

What are some steps you currently take to reduce stress and realign your life to God’s purposes? If you can’t think of any, maybe try some of those I’ve suggested, or seek God to create your own. You can’t live a fully charged life while running on empty.

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A Better Way To Live

I heard the other day that no matter how big the plate is that we Americans will tend to eat about everything on it.  So, a strategy for weight loss is simply to use a smaller plate.  What is that saying about us as people?  Do we really have that little self-control?

Unfortunately, this behavior doesn’t just show up in our eating habits, but also in our spending habits as well.  Most Americans would need to borrow money or use a credit card if they had an expense come up for more than $400.  Do we really think our refrigerator will never go out?  Why don’t we save for occasions like that?  For many of us, we’ve never been taught how.  So, we use this pattern: consume first, save second (what we feel we can) and give last (what’s leftover).  What this makes of us is a consumer.  We consume all we can as a first option.

Generous people flip this list, so it looks like this: give first (a set amount), save second (a desired amount) and spend what’s leftover.  When we do this, we become planners.  Also, giving first is a biblical principle found throughout Scripture, often with promises attached (Prov. 3:9-10).

What should we give toward?  Here are my criteria:  What am I grateful for?  For me, that is easy, it’s the local church.  The local church kept me through my life from making poor decisions and living with fewer regrets.  Then, what breaks my heart?  Again, I believe the church is the best agency to address the needs of humanity.  When the church is firing on all cylinders, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the lost are found and people are brought into the full life of Christ.

Take a look at your life.  Are you just a consumer?  God intended for you and I to be much more than that. If we really got ahold of this, needs would be met, and the world would be changed.

For a negative example, look at the story Jesus told about a guy in Luke 12:16-20.

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Resting In Him

Posted in energy, Humility, Margin, Rest & Refreshing, Strengths, Time by PCraig on November 19, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I just am not as good of a person when I’m tired.  Some people act like they need very little sleep and they can perform fantastic – I don’t like those people.  Then, I wonder, are they only fooling themselves and really don’t understand how much better they could be with more rest?

It’s interesting that the Bible has a lot to say about rest.  God even through in an extra day in every week for that very purpose.  Jesus, God in the flesh, intentionally pulled away from the crowds, went off on retreats (40 days in a desert), prayer times in a garden.  So, who am I to think I don’t need to do similar?

My problem is that a strength of mine (according to StrengthsFinder) is achiever.  Therefore, I want do it all.  I want to work really hard, see progress, exercise to be as healthy as possible and be a great husband and super dad.  Unfortunately, there isn’t always time to feel accomplished in all of those areas at the same time (and those aren’t all the areas).  Do you ever feel that way?  Strung out, pushed to the limit, going 100 miles an hour in many directions, everyone needing a piece of you.

Let this be a reminder to all the achievers and people who tend to push it as fast as possible that our Savior calls us to rest.  Take your foot off the accelerator, find a quiet place to meditate and pray, get to bed a little earlier tonight, leave work a little early and hug your kids, and enjoy the earth that God put you on.  I think we’ll find that He will honor our act of wisdom and bless our humility in acknowledging that He is God and we are not.  Plus, we’ll probably be more pleasant to be around, I know I am.

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Invest In Your Core

You may not be into fitness, but experts say that you’ll be better off as you age by investing in your core.  What exactly is core training?  It is building up the muscles that support your spine and help with balance.  Two very important areas.  The idea is that you build up the entire area that supports the spine, so that the burden of supporting your body weight isn’t just placed on your bones.

Besides our physical bodies, what are some other core areas where we need to be paying attention?  Faith, family, our minds, spirits, soul, thoughts, finances, marriages, and ministries are some I thought about.

So, just like there are core exercises to strengthen your physical core, what are some things you can do for these other areas?  Read the Bible, meditate (on Scripture), pray, eat dinner as a family (without devices and only dialogue), listen to worship tunes, attend church regularly, work a plan for getting out of debt, establish a regular date night, discover, develop and deploy your spiritual giftedness, build margin in your life.

Hope this got you thinking about ways to invest in your core – in all areas.  Make it happen!

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The Power of Pondering

Posted in holiday, Margin, Perspective, Solitude, Time, Wisdom by PCraig on December 11, 2014

What would be your reaction to an angelic appearance and message from God, experiencing a supernatural birth and a bunch of strange men (shepherds) showing up at your door to worship your son?  Especially when these men explain that they have also seen angels who told them their Savior had been born in Bethlehem.  Strange occurrences.

Here is Mary’s (mother of Jesus Christ) reaction:  she treasures up all these things and ponders them in her heart (Luke 2:19).  What kind of person does that?  I think the answer is a wise person.  Foolishness often coincides with rashness.  People hurry up and get married, then later talk about how they should have waited.  Or, we quickly quit our job and jump out and take another to realize the grass isn’t any greener over here.

There is power in pondering.  Maybe it’s one of the reasons Mary was chosen to give birth to God’s Son?  David is another biblical character that pondered.   In Psalm 111:2 he writes, “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them.”  Maybe that’s how David came up with so many great Psalms? He must have trained his son how to ponder as well to have come up with all the wisdom of the Proverbs.  He wrote, “haste makes mistakes”, maybe you’ve heard of that one?  It comes from Proverbs 19:2.

In the hustle and bustle of the season, let’s take some time out to ponder.  It’s in these times that we can come up with our greatest thoughts, make better decisions, and live with fewer regrets.  Sounds like a superior way to live.  Maybe God will choose us to do something great for Him, as we take time to ponder?  It may not be to birth the Son of God, but maybe we can birth a new business.  It may not be to become a great general of an army, but maybe we can generate people to follow Christ.  It may not be to wear the title of the wisest king, but we can still be known for making good decisions.

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Jesus Said Rest

We for sure struck a nerve last weekend with the launch of the new series: De-Stress-Ed.  I don’t even know how many people said it definitely spoke to and challenged them.  Why?  Because it is such problem in our culture, so don’t miss this weekend for part two.

Along those same lines, I shared with our staff a devotional thought on rest this week as well.  I know I didn’t grow up thinking this way, but God intended for us to get our proper rest.  Here’s how we know:

  • He gave a command to rest (it made the top 10 – Exodus 20)
  • Jesus rested & taught the disciples to rest (Mark 6:31)
  • Jesus said he would give rest (Matt. 11:28-29)

Now, if God commanded it, Jesus promised it, practiced it and promoted it, then it’s probably something we should do.  At least that’s how I look at it.

In addition, medical studies have been done to conclude that disease, sickness, and mental weakness results from lack of rest.  Just two nights of improper rest will slow down your reflexes by 3 times normal response.  This isn’t even mentioning the irritability factor and other negative responses that can come.

So, do your spouse, your boss, your employees, co-workers, children, students, friends and everyone else within ear-shot a favor and get your rest.  You’ll be healthier, probably wealthier, and definitely happier.  And, you’ll serve and glorify God so much better.

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You Gotta Cheat Somebody

Posted in Choice, Commitments, Margin, Relationships, Stress by PCraig on October 15, 2013

I’m taking our church board through a book this year entitled, “Leaders Who Last” by Dave Kraft.  In this month’s reading, we reflected on “The Leader’s Pacing”, in which Kraft discusses the incessant need that many of us develop to be overly busy.  We just keep cramming more and more things in there until we are about ready to break.  Some in fact do!  They have nervous breakdowns, stress disorders, panic attacks, and all sorts of negative results.

My question is what do we do with a culture that insinuates that “You can have it all” with a reality that you can’t?  The bottom line is discussed in another of my favorite books called “Choosing To Cheat” by Andy Stanley.  (The book has more recently been renamed “Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?”)  I love that premise of looking at our schedules as cheating somebody.

For those of us who are people pleasers, this is a tough thing to do, because we don’t want to cheat anyone.  We feel bad if people are disappointed in us.  We want everyone to like us and want them to be as happy as possible.  Sooner or later, however, you have to come around to the fact that you can’t please everyone.

Abraham Lincoln said, “You can please some of the people some of the time all of the people some of the time some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”  It’s true.  So, the question becomes, “Who are you going to make happy or who are you going to cheat?”

Here’s our options:

  • We can cheat God (Avoid church, praying, building ourselves up in faith…)
  • We can cheat ourselves (Don’t exercise, eat fast & cheap, don’t further yourself)
  • We can cheat our spouse or family (Give them our leftover time, never our best)
  • We can cheat our jobs (Give them our leftover time instead of our best)
  • We can cheat others (Get with people when you can, but not to the expense of yourself, your family or God)

Which one of these describes you?  Who are you choosing to cheat?  Remember, you HAVE to pick one.  You can’t possibly be doing all these well at the same time.  I’ll probably write some more on this later, but what do you think?  Are you a people pleaser?  Does it pain you to know, you’ve gotta cheat somebody?

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Slow It Down

Posted in Hearing God, Margin, New Year, Rest & Refreshing, Solitude, Stress by PCraig on December 13, 2012

Slowing down.  Doesn’t that sound good?  Then why don’t we do it?  I think some of us are addicted to the adrenalin rush of feeling important; running from meeting to meeting, talking on the phone in our cars, texting while walking, and over-booking ourselves.  Many of us have a need to look important and busyness, we think, gives that appearance.

The problem is that God has mandated we take time in our week and reflect upon Him (called a Sabbath – see the 10 Commandments).  Also, Jesus seems to suggest a daily getting before God to request His assistance in our lives (“Give us THIS DAY our DAILY bread”).

Here are just a few things taking time to slow down will do for you:

  • Calm your nerves (your family & co-workers will thank you)
  • Centering or regaining balance to your life
  • Greater focus
  • A word from God (you can’t hear Him well on the run!)
  • Reflection on what’s important (realigns priorities)
  • An awareness of beauty around us (creation, people, our blessings)

Especially during this season, let’s make sure we take time to delight ourselves in the Lord.  In the New Year, I’m encouraging us to all make a daily practice of reading the New Testament through slowly and with contemplation.  By picking up a Crossroads Scripture Journal at the iCenter, you can have a plan to slow down and hear from God in 2013.  I hope you’ll join me!

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Too Close To The Edge

Posted in Holy Spirit, Margin, Victorious Living by PCraig on August 11, 2010

Ever hear anyone say, “Don’t get too close to the edge or you might fall in”?  I never really had to worry about that because I’ve always had a fear of heights.  I’m always careful to give myself margin when it comes to looking over the edge of a cliff, balcony, ledge or anything higher than the third rung on a ladder. 

I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could have been there for people who got to close to the edge in other areas of life, such as affairs, substance addictions, or broken relationships.  Then, because of my knowledge of people, I think, “would they even have paid attention to me if I had been there”?  Maybe, somebody already was there saying, “I wouldn’t go to lunch with him if I were you” or, “I hear that stuff can be really addicting” or, “Perhaps you should think that over some more before you say that.” 

Seems to me the problem is more in ignoring the voices than the lack of them.  Plus, there’s always that voice inside of us isn’t there?  That one that whispers, “I wouldn’t go there if I were you” or “That doesn’t seem like a wise thing to do in your life right now.”  Between our conscience and the voice of the Holy Spirit, you’d think we all would be making better choices – what do you think?   What area of your life do you need to place a line of margin?  

*More on this topic in our weekend series called: MARGIN

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