WATCH: #beachestopeaches

Watch the video above of our road trip from San Diego to Atlanta!

The transition has taken a good deal of time and energy to settle in. Sophie is loving school and thriving being a student again. Jared is dominating film projects and spends hours at the editing desk. Our house is great and has a guest room ready for visitors! In this new season of life we're working on lots of intriguing blog posts to share with you. Here's how you can subscribe and get updates when we post. 

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Things Wise People Do

(however, it is  not wise  to perpetuate stereotypes, like a wise older Chinese man...)

(however, it is not wise to perpetuate stereotypes, like a wise older Chinese man...)

1) They listen more than they speak. Silence is an important discipline. Noise crowds out wisdom.

2) They learn from everyone.  I once saw a person, who I consider wise, bend down in full formal garb to take a knee strictly for the purpose of seeing eye-to-eye with a 6 year-old. This requires patience, and open mind, and a willingness to seek out new influential sources.

3) They learn from failures. Wise people do not need to make every mistake themselves, but they learn lessons from watching the mistakes of others. 

4) They do not ignore "red flags".  If your gut tells you something, follow it. Being wise means putting knowledge into action. 

5) They take advice from other wise people and pursue this wisdom. 

Scripture: Matthew 7:24

"So then, everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice, is like a wise man. He built his house on the rock."

Further Exploration: What is the best advice you have ever been given? Share it here in the comment or on the Facebook thread. 

Cell Phones Are Killing Us

Even without active use, the presence of mobile technologies has the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections. Individuals are more likely to miss subtle cues, facial expressions, and changes in the tone of their conversation partner’s voice, and have less eye contact.
— Virginia Tech research study

This is all just because cell phones are present. Simply in our pockets. The idea that someone else might be trying to reach you... or tweeting something amazing, or "liking" something you've posted...it robs of us genuine face-to-face experiences. 

This is not news. We know this is happening. Yet do our actions change? How are we rebelling against the temptation to look down and flick our thumbs? Look up. Jesus loved people by truly seeing them. How do we see and love people if we won't look up?

Scripture: Matthew 9:20-22 (NRSV)

Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. 

from Jumio's 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits survey

from Jumio's 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits survey



The Problem with "Fine Print"

It seemed like an unbeatable deal to my junior high self. Twelve CD’s for the price of a penny. Heck, I found pennies on the ground sometimes. The fact that I could convert that into 12 CD’s was incredible. Plus, it avoided convincing my mom to drive me to Tower Records (or the local Christian bookstore). I carefully selected my first shipment of CDs and sent in my subscription. Little did I know, I would start racking up the bills for unwanted CDs that I “failed to return” in time to avoid the charge.  This was not where I wanted my paperboy money to go.

Adding fine print ruins a good offer.

The gospel of Jesus is truly an unbeatable deal. And then the church adds a bunch of fine print that ends up entangling the good news in a mess of rules, regulations, and restrictions. People need the good news of grace, peace, hope, joy, and love. Yet they get hurt and shamed by our fine print and essentially cancel their subscription, never returning to our church communities. We have been set free from the law by the faith of Jesus Christ. Now we as the church must accept the challenge to live into that truth without adding new and unnecessary laws.

Before the coming of this faith,[j] we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
— Galatians 4:23-25

Luke & Legos: A Kingdom Story

It was with a heavy heart that Luke walked back to his wooden cabin that night in the dark woods of Idyllwild, CA. His friends around him had already started plotting the tactics that they would use in the water balloon war the next day, or what the camp food was doing to their stomachs. Luke, however, quietly made his way back to his bunk bed, got out his pajamas and got ready for bed without the pulsating energy of a 12 year-old boy who knows that he probably won’t have to go to sleep any time soon.

The room looked like a quintessential summer camp cabin, with rows of bunks and bathroom equipping each little shack. Picture Heavyweights, when all the boys are unloading their secret stashes of candied goods on their first day of camp.  When you walk in the door you are greeted by a wall of scents so thick and impermeable that you wince your eyes a little, like you would in fog or smoke. Sweat, suntan lotion, mosquito spray, chocolate and a week’s worth of unwashed boy clothes unite in the air and permeate everything.

And the boys. They swing from the bedposts and scuttle across the floors. They jump on each other, dodge each other and wrestle each other. To be bunkmates is akin to being partners on a pirate ship; it is their vessel for the week, and great pride is taken in protecting it and parading atop the wooden beams. It is a week in which they are allowed to be Lost Boys, where time stands still and the 12 year-old warriors within are allowed to rule sovereign beside their mates, their friends.

But Luke, that night, wasn’t a Lost Boy. His thoughts were far away and troubling and very, very adult.

David, the boys’ camp leader and youth pastor, rounded up his scruffy squadron and asked that they make a circle on the floor to talk about the sermon they had heard preached that night. The boys obliged and sat down, still fidgeting and whispering with each other when it happened. Luke’s round cheeks began to twist and shake a little, and his breathing became very heavy and through the nose, as though trying to keep from crying.

Luke fought the tears as long as he could, and when every eye in the room was on him, he burst out loud a very peculiar sentence.

“I…I…. I LOVE LEGOS!!!”

His face, ridden with equal parts guilt and relief that he’d said out loud what had been bothering him all night, looked around at all the faces in the room who had stopped squirming and whispering and were all very focused on their friend.

He continued.

“I love Legos,” he wailed. “And tonight Pastor Jared was telling us how God wants to use the things that we love for his kingdom and stuff, but I don’t think Legos really count and I don’t know what that means because I want God to use me, but I also really love Legos.”

His face was anguished, as if he knew that at any moment he would be told that he were to never touch a Lego again.

David remained silent. He racked his brain for a nugget from a seminary class, or a verse from the Bible, or a similar experience that he could relate to Luke’s. But he was stumped. Luke’s lament was so simple and yet so complex that over 10 years as a pastor hadn’t prepared him for this confession on the floor of a stinky boy’s cabin in the middle of the woods.

A small voice spoke up from the circle and David watched as magic unwove before his eyes.

“Luke, wait! I have an idea! You can design Lego stop-animation films that tell stories about Jesus! I’ve seen some and they are really cool.”

Another boy, emboldened by the first, chimed in, “Luke, have you ever been to Legoland?”

“Yea…” Luke conceded, through a snuffle.

“Well, what if you could work at Legoland one day, and you could tell all the other people that you work with about Jesus, and you could be really, really nice to all the kids that go there to visit Legoland, and Jesus can use you there too.”

David remained silent, listening to the chorus of encouragement around him. The boys continued to spin a web of excitement and hope large and genuine enough to lift Luke out of the despair that had enveloped him for the night.

Luke slept soundly that night, clinging dearly to his still intact love of Legos, his comrades by his side, and for the first time, a glimpse of his place in the Kingdom.

 

[Thanks to Amy Smith for using your gift of writing to help us tell this story. We love you tons.]

Don't Start a Non-Profit

When confronted by the reality of social issues, it's a natural reaction to want to get involved. And we are indeed called to respond! Yet we need to respond smarter. At this point, the answer isn't always a new organization or a fresh fundraising campaign. Damage can easily be done by taking our good intentions and moving too quickly. When you feel a prompting to respond, slow down. Find and listen to who is already involved. Many groups have invested deeply and built roots over the years. They've built relationships that create sustainable change. They have wisdom and knowledge and experience that allow for effective transformation. Learn from them. Support them. Let's work together.

Here's a short introduction to the anti-trafficking work done by Restore International. 

[Well done Chadwick Gantes on a beautiful video. Check out his work here: http://gantes.co]

Scripture: Luke 4:16-18

And he [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

Further Exploration:

Read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...And Yourself

Valuing Your Father: More than a Necktie & Instagram

My feed was flooded yesterday. At this point, Father’s Day felt like a chance to post cute retro photos. On this day we post to social media to say “thank you”, but do we live gratefully the rest of the year?

In the past few years, I have come to understand more fully, although I will probably never entirely understand, the depth of the gift that my parents have given me. I work with people. The longer you work with people, and the more deeply you get to know them, the more stories you hear about horrific or traumatizing childhoods. I have realized that most of what I am is the result of the hefty investment made by my parents.

I was in Georgia this week for the first time since we've planned to move there.  I noticed many things: 1) They have lots of bugs. 2) Lots of critters too. Like armadillos, wild turkeys, and even tortoises strolling on the side of the road. 3) The girls call their father “daddy."

In my mind the only people above age 11 that still say “daddy” are spoiled high school cheerleaders. In the vein of “Daddy bought me a car for my birthday.” I was surprised that the term, said with much respect and affection, was used in regular speech.

It brought me back to Galatians, where we are invited into the fullness of the family of God, to share in all the riches of our Heavenly Father, and to call him Abba...daddy. 

And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
— Galatians 4:6-7
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
— Ephesian 3:18-19

So instead of the obligatory once-a-year gift and social media post, what if we live daily in response to this love that was shown to us? 

What if living a Kingdom life faithfully is the better gift, showing appreciation for that love?

For those whose earthly parents fall short, how can you acknowledge the love of God as a parent even more fully?

 

What Baseball Taught Me About The Bible

Baseball Bibles available on Etsy.com

Baseball Bibles available on Etsy.com

While Jared is away, I pondered writing a super feminine post simply for the fun of it. And instead, what do I turn to? Sports. Baseball, to be specific. I have Jared to blame for making me a baseball fan. Early in our relationship, he explained his fascination with sports and the love of the game. He was trying to prepare me for the extensive sports watching that would come in this relationship, while I mistakenly thought he was saying he just loved the “spirit” of sports.

It started out simple enough. Attending a baseball game with friends. Catching the “Top 10” on Sportscenter. Watching football on Sunday afternoons. Suddenly within a year of marriage, I found myself a year employed by the San Diego Padres and a member of a Fantasy Football league.

And this was the first thing I learned. When you love someone, you are strengthened when you learn to love what they love. It doesn’t mean I’ll memorize the roster of the San Francisco 49ers or follow the top NBA draft prospects. Yet bit by bit, I began to dive deeper into our relationship by paying attention to his interests and letting him teach me something new.

My own love of baseball developed as I personally learned the intricacies of the game. If you’re reading this thinking that baseball is slow or boring, I get that. But my study of the game has led to an appreciation that didn’t exist when all I could notice were strikeouts or home runs. There’s just something about noticing the way players shift on the field because of the player at bat, or recognizing a pitcher nearing a no-hitter. You appreciate the fundamentals, the details that make the game beautiful.

I also identify when people think the Bible is boring. For years I only knew the key verses repeated in sermons or printed on In-n-Out bags. I would read a passage, be slightly inspired, and not pick up my Bible for months. Something changed when I began to learn the intricacies of Scripture. I saw the details - the way Jesus quoted Hebrew Scriptures, and the ways Paul’s letters acknowledged his readers personally. I saw truth and beauty and poetry arise from what used to feel like an ancient and confusing language. I saw how words could actually transform my spirit and character.

The commentary in my Bible written by Renovare defines the spiritual discipline of study as “The intentional process of engaging the mind with the written and spoken Word of God and the world God has created in such a way that the mind takes on an order conforming to the order upon which it concentrates.”

What could you learn from the Bible if you studied instead of simply read? What could you learn from the world God has created if you looked deeper?

It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes
— Deuteronomy 17:19-20


 

 

P.S. I also learned in writing this post that there is an impressive amount of Christian baseball crafts on Pinterest. Click here for some entertainment in that realm.

Greater than...

Recognize that little math symbol? I loved drawing the alligator teeth to remind me which direction was which. Anyone else? When this posts, Jared will be on a plane to the deep South. He's speaking at a high school summer camp this week, where the theme is "Greater Than." The local churches who selected the theme hoped their students would see that God is greater than their sin, greater than their brokenness, greater than the world they see. In sermon preparations, we reflected on verses that contain those words.

Psalm 135:5

I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods.

John 10:29

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

John 14:11-12

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 

Matthew 18:1-3

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

1 John 4:3-5

...but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.

 

In this equation, God is always greater than. God's reign is greater. God's love is greater. God's works are greater. God's Kingdom is greater. God's Spirit is greater. These are only a handful examples of God's greatness in Scripture. In your life, what is God greater than? 

I Don’t Hate Alarms Anymore (an invitation)

I am not a morning person. Once I am out of the house I’m alright; but the process of getting to that point can be the bain of my existence. I often dream vividly, so alarms typically interrupt whatever fantastic thing is happening in my subconscious. I hated alarms until recently.

“Praying the Hours” is not a new thing. It’s the practice of letting certain times in the day serve as markers or reminders to pray. During the Babylonian exile, there was no temple, so the Jews set specific times to sing, pray, and read the Torah. Later, in the Roman Empire, the Jews and new Christians continued the practice when the forum bells would ring at 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, and 6pm - the markers of the work day. They used these regular bells as a reminder to bring themselves before God. This practice has been adapted by varying Christian traditions. 

At a lunch meeting recently, I agreed to pray over Ephesians 3:20 at 3:20 pm PST every day for a year. I set a recurring alarm on my phone. It has a different ringtone than my morning alarm. Every day it goes off, I pause whatever I’m doing, and I read:

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
— Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT)

I pray for about 30 seconds. Then I go back to whatever I was doing at the time. When appropriate (or when I’m with other believers) I explain what we are doing, and invite them to read the Scripture and pray as well.

This verse leads me to ask, what are the ways we have limited God because we have failed to ask? to dream big? to expect more? to trust his mighty power?

Alarms can be a good thing. Want to pray with us? Set an alarm.