Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ten Ways to Simplify Your Relationship With God

Do you ever feel life is too complicated? Or that your relationship with God is too complex? If so, here are ten ways to simplify and live.

1. Turn the volume down. Way down.

The world is too loud. You can’t hear God’s whisper in a traffic jam. Or a crowded schedule. Or during a day full of distractions. Find a quiet place. Rest. Focus on God. You’ll be blessed.

2. Stop counting likes and start receiving Love.

We like approval from others. Some of us love it. For many of us, our well-being is based on a like button. We ask a question like: “What will others think?” And, we live in an age where we can find out what others think, instantly. Good luck with that. Our lives will be much more simple, and a whole lot better, if we asked a different question: “What does God think?” In case you are wondering: You are loved. You are accepted. You are God’s masterpiece. It’s amazing stuff.

3. Take a bite of the elephant every day. 

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And so it is with Scripture. Just read a little bit daily. Daily. Every day. Sometimes it will be a fairly neutral experience. Sometimes God will speak clearly and convincingly. Soon enough, you will be the delighted owner of a biblical worldview.

4. Get past your past.

Don’t let your past hurts harm your future. Don’t let your past failures define your future. God is a God of healing and second chances. 

5. See others through God’s eyes.

Interpersonal conflict will clutter your life with God, if you let it. Don’t let it. Try to see others like God sees them. Even if you have to do so through clenched teeth. 

6. Start waiting for some patience.

You have your schedule of how and when things should happen. God’s timing is independent of your desires. God not only knows who and what and how—God knows when. Practice patience. 

7. Forget fear. Choose courage.

Fear causes you to miss too much life. Courage means something else is more important than your comfort. Take a risk. Don’t be afraid to fail. Your best life will only happen if you can overcome a few fears.

8. Pray like a child. And like a well-adjusted adult.

Kids use simple sentences. They are straightforward. They speak what is on their mind and do so often. A well-adjusted adult listens frequently and with great skill. When you pull these two things off when communicating with God, your prayer life and your life will be revolutionized. 

9. Stop comparing and start thanking.

Comparison is brutal. Whether you win or lose the comparison game—you lose the comparison game. Stop. Play another game. Thank God and others as often as you can. 

10. Cut the strings and serve away.

Serve others with no strings attached. Frequently and faithfully. Love like God loved. Friends. Foes. Family. Foreigners. Whoever. Strings complicate. Service unites.

The best it yet to come…


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Simplicity in our Relationships

The weather is cold. A group of hedgehogs crowd together to share each other’s heat, which they need to survive. However, their closeness causes them to bump into each other and they experience pain from each other’s sharp spines. This causes them to separate until the cold causes them to come back together until they bump into each other again. They move from one source of discomfort to another until they find a distance that allows them to survive. But, this distance does not allow them to experience the warmth and benefits of community.

Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, and psychologist, Sigmund Freud, have used this dilemma as a metaphor to describe how individuals relate to each other and to society. Humans need connection with each other, but the nearer people get, their potential for hurt increases. Schopenhauer and Freud observed humans simultaneously crave and reject connection. The Hedgehog's Dilemma creates cautious behavior and weak relationships. Hedgehog’s Dilemma explains loneliness.

We live in a connected world. Our associations have certainly grown broader. Technology and social media have made that possible. With the click of a button, we can see what Taylor Swift is wearing, what Donald Trump is thinking, or what an old high school classmate is up to. But a real connection is different than an association. Connecting brings people together so that a strong bond can be formed. I’m not convinced we live in a connected world. Like the hedgehogs, we are surrounded and associated with others, but how many of us are experiencing the warmth and benefits of authentic community? 

It is not good for the man to be alone. –Genesis 2:18

That you can be lonely in a crowd, maybe especially in a crowd. You can also be lonely with friends and family. To be lonely is to be aware of emptiness that exists in the heart and mind. It is the sense that something is missing—namely loving and being loved by others and loving and being loved by God.

Friends. A friend is a friend for no particular reason. You can't have more than a few of them. You can disagree and you would be wrong. Friends embrace both the imperfections and the possibilities of each other. They are better together than they could ever become separately. A friend is able to look at the other and say: "I like me best when I am with you." Jesus talks about friendship: "You are my friend if you do what I command." (John 15:14) The command, of course, is to love each other as we have been loved by Him. Jesus is saying friendship takes lots of work and makes no implications otherwise, but his message is at once clear and compelling that true friendship is worth all the effort and then some.

God. "Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Zion," sings the Psalmist (137:1). In the end it is Zion that we're lonely for. A place in our heart that can only be filled by the love of God

May your life be filled with the love of others and the love of God…


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Prayer for a More Simple Life

Dear God,

My world is complex. Too complex.

I deal with details and dollars.
A full calendar and an empty tank of energy.
My relationships are cluttered and complicated.
I face daily distractions and difficult decisions.

Give me faith to trust in Your words and Your ways.
Teach me to practice Sabbath so that I may rest, reflect, and be renewed.
Guide me to give You my burdens so that I may experience Your peace.
May I stop trying to earn approval and start living under Your acceptance.

Train me to sit and speak and listen to You.
Give me imagination about who I can become.
Lead my actions so that I focus on the most important priorities.
Shape my character. I want to be more like You.

I struggle with patience. Bless me with humility and tolerance.
I chase money and possessions. Fill me with fulfillment and contentment.
I often feel scattered and stuck. Move me forward with focus.
I deal with loneliness and isolation. Connect me to others and to You.

I have made myself too complex. Restore me to simplicity.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Swing

One of my favorite places in the world is a swing on a dock on a lake at the water’s edge. Life is so simple there.

I love the early summer mornings on the swing. A cool, gentle breeze calms the warming sun. No waves. No boats. No traffic. No clutter. No commotion. The only things I hear are some birds, the locusts, and an occasional fish breaking through the surface of the water.

Fifteen miles due east of the dock is Branson, Missouri. It is a complex and busy place. Its little roads are congested with minivans, motorcycles, and mega-buses. Shoppers and tourists. Locals and families on vacation. Retirees and thrill-seekers. Probably even a few thrill-seeking retirees. You can do everything from seeing comedians to racing go-karts to visiting the Titanic museum to shopping at an outlet mall. Because of the hectic pace and long lines on the streets, in the stores, at the attractions, and in the restaurants – frustration and stress exist. 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. You will find rest for your souls.” –Matthew 11:28-29 

Many of us live in Branson. Our lives are busy and crowded and complex. We fill our schedules with obligations and activities. Life is like stop and go traffic. Some of this is necessary, of course. Most of us have to work. Our kids have to go to school. We want to do other things in life. But I life is too cluttered, congested, and complex. 

A swing on a quiet dock is calling many of us. Jesus says he will give us rest for our souls, which is the kind of rest we need the most. But, we have to go to him. We must create time, energy, and space in our lives so that we can experience God’s grace. The possibility is to live a more simple life full of balance and peace. The alternative is being stuck in the traffic jams of life and experiencing anxiety and discontentment. 

Consider children. It’s possible that we could keep our kids busy with activity pretty much all day, everyday. We could watch them practice, play, and perform all seasons of the year. The danger is that our children become activity-rich and relationship-poor. They have experienced many things in life but are lacking in one of the things that matters most—a nurturing and loving relationship with their parents. 

And so it is with us. We can go through the motions of life and experience pretty much everything under the sun except the thing we need the most—a nurturing relationship with our Heavenly Parent. The one who can give us rest for our souls. 

A swing on a dock on lake is calling your name. A simpler life. His name is Jesus. I pray we all discover and experience him together and help others discover and experience him at The Water’s Edge. 

The best is yet to come…