The Art of Reflection

Well here we are—the last day of 2012.

How was this year for you? After all, you’ve lived another year. You’ve made some mistakes and learned from them. You’ve enjoyed a few successes and you understand how they’ve come about. Your wiser now because of your experiences. You’ve got good sense of who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish and more importantly—why.

And you have a pretty good sense of where you’re going in 2013. Right?

If you’re struggling to answer these questions, may I suggest you’re not reflecting enough on your life. We are a busy culture always moving on to the next thing. I am afraid we’re losing our ability to reflect on our lives. So I am asking you to be different. I am asking you to slow down, at least today. Your life is worth it. Your experiences are important. You can learn from them. God is writing His story through your life and it’s worth you taking the time to understand it.

Reflecting needn’t be complicated. I am going to spend some time with my journal. I thank God for the discipline of keeping one. I’ve been journaling on and off for twenty-five years so my journal will present me with a timeline of my life. But you don’t need a journal to reflect. You can simply sit down and write down a few of the major events of your life this year. Heck, check out your Facebook Timeline at the very least. The point is to make space today to think about your life.

If I had to graph my life in 2012 it would definitely look like a penny stock—full of dramatic highs and lows. There have been many highs: A cruise in May to celebrate our 20th anniversary; a trip to Ecuador and the launch of my blog, Misison Glue. But there have also been some hard things—real hard. My brother Michael died in July tragically and suddenly. I am still reeling. Then In November, my beloved Grandma Honey died after a short illness. I love them both very much and life kind of seems scary without them right now. And we’ve had quite a year at Restore. More and more people calling Restore their church home; more baptism; more church plants. All-In offering confirmed that God is planning to Expand us in ways that are sometimes scary but always exciting. In December we gave away 50,000 dollars at Big Give and people blew me away with their generosity in our community.stock

Reflecting is an art that I am still learning but it pays me some significant dividends.

Reflecting helps me to know where I was this year. I am not talking about physically. I am talking about a better understanding of where I was emotionally and spiritually. This helps me gain perspective on the events. I give God a chance to show me my life from his perspective. I am going to review the key events in my life and give God the opportunity to speak to me about the take-aways. I am going to look for the times when God showed up in my life this year. Inevitably, I’ll find times when God showed up but I missed Him because I was too busy with my own agenda.

Reflecting helps me to know where I am. It gives me insight to my life today. Right here and now. I deal with the stuff that is coming at me—what I need to deal with and what am I to do about it. I have several ‘big’ decisions to make about opportunities. Reflecting helps me understand where I am so I can make wise decisions about my life in the next year. I need to know where I am before I can start moving forward.

Reflecting helps me to understand where God is leading me in the new year. You see, I am trying to honor God with my life. I know—that’s a loaded phrase. Many days I don’t know what it means. But I do believe God has a will for my life and part of my journey is letting Him lead me.

Most of all, reflecting helps me stay grateful. And there is much to be grateful about. We have many new ventures at Restore planned for this year. I am in good health and so are my wife and kids. We have an awesome community of friends around us. God continues to use me to help people find and follow Jesus. No other way to describe it–I am blessed.

So take some time to reflect on your life today. Because life is happening and you’re going to miss it unless you slow down.

God Bless you and Happy New Year.

(Now grab a glass of bubbly and let’s celebrate!)

No New Year Resolutions! (But I Do Have Some Intentions)

How long is your list of New Year resolutions? How do you decide the items on your list? Which ones are you leaving off that really need to be there? When it does come down to it, how will you decide which to keep and which to break?

I mean—kudos to you. I applaud your desire to grow in the new year by setting some resolutions for yourself. But this year, I am not playing that game. I am throwing off the yoke of this annual oppressor once and for all. no-new-years-resolutions

You see, I understand. I’ve been there. I am that guy. During this time of year I would be making lists of New Year resolutions. Come mid-January, I would be exhausted and frustrated trying not to break them.

So this year, I am choosing a different path. No New Year resolutions for me. But I do have some New Year intentions.

Better to make New Year Intentions I think. Intentions seems more positive and fluid—more adaptable to the rhythm of my life. (And more forgiving when I inevitable fail to live up to them.) There’s frankly more wiggle room and for me that means a better intentions to completion ratio.

Resolutions seem old school—formal and static. They’ve been harsh and domineering on me in the past and it’s time to do away with them. After all, resolutions are for governments and courts. They’re cold and impersonal.  (Not to mention my inner rebel has always screamed and clawed again resolutions.)

Besides, come the 4th of July, I want to tell people I’ve managed to live up to a few New Year intentions rather than admit I’ve failed to keep any of my resolutions.

I’d love to hear from you on this one. (And let me know if you want to see my list of New Year Intentions!)

Do You Rest Well? (Six Truths to Help You Rest Better)

restingDo you rest well? I am not talking about managing a good night sleep. I am talking about real, soul-enriching rest.

These past couple of weeks I’ve been physically sick. First it was a cold. Then I got the flu…bad—really bad. I even missed our Restore Christmas party because I was sick. Besides that, I’ve tired and lethargic. I am short-tempered and easily frustrated. I am finding it hard to slow down. I think much of this is due to the fact that I am not resting well.

So I am taking a few days off this week to spend time with my family. I also intend to get some extra sleep. while I am looking forward to this physical rest, what I am realizing is that I really need spiritual rest.

You see, resting is not something that comes easy for me. I will struggle to stay away from projects at Restore. I will struggle to just sit and enjoy the time off.  While I embrace the concept of rest and know that God has built it into the rhythm of my life, it seems I am naturally disposed to forsake it. But why the difficulty?

I’ve been reading the scriptures to learn more about rest. And what I am learning that my concept of rest is mostly wrong. For me, rest is a lack of activity. But resting is really about setting aside time to be with God. This is spiritual rest and it’s what I am lacking in my life.

  • Even God Rests. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:3).
  • God made a day of rest Holy. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20: 8-11).
  • My true rest is found in God. Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him (Psalm 62:5).
  • When I abide in Christ I will find rest. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28)
  • God commands Rest for His People. [ A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God ] Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it (Hebrews 4:1).
  • To rest is to be in His presence. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence (1 John 3:19).

The more I study rest from a biblical point of view, the more I find my lack of rest a rebellion from God. I am learning that rest is another way of trusting God. When I am working I am mostly pushing my agenda. When I am resting, I am allowing God to work his agenda in me.

I am resolved to develop a better rhythm of resting in 2013 based on these truths.

So here’s my ask of you. Before the year starts, get some sleep. And then try to find a rhythm of rest in your life. And pray for me that in 2013 I will more fully adopt God’s plan for rest in my life. I will do the same for you.

I’d love to hear about your wins and challenges when it comes to rest. What it looks like in your life?

Christmas Eve 2012 Meditation

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-13).

The shepherds believed that witnessing the birth of Jesus was to witness the birth of their long-promised Messiah. Countless people throughout the ages have believed the same.NativityScene

Contemplate, the incarnation of Jesus for a moment—The God of the universe born of flesh and blood—and what significance it has for you and for me.

Immanuel: God with us.

Today can be just another day—just another Christmas Eve. Or you can let it be the day that you finally come to terms with the staggering reality of God with us—in the flesh.

Author Don Everts put it this way:

“God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen.  He came not as a flash of light or an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter.  The hands that first held him were unmanicured, calloused and dirty.  No silk.  No ivory.  No hype.  No party.  No hoopla.  Angels watched as Mary changed God’s diaper.”

Wherever you are in life today.
There is hope.
There is purpose.
There is a reason to get out of bed this morning.

…For God is with us–Jesus, the Christ. He makes all things new.

Merry Christmas

The Big Give 2012 –A Catalyst for Generosity

Big Give12I love the Christmas season for lots of reasons. One of them is the Big Give at Restore. This is something we’ve done the last four years and it gets a little more crazy every year. The goal of the Big Give is simple: catalyze extravagant generosity. The big idea is to point to Jesus and remind people of his extravagant gift to each of us.

But before you start thinking I am just blowing our Restore horn, keep reading. Yes, I think it’s cool. But what I really hope is that you’ll read this and be inspired to do your own Big Give.

This year, we handed out $50,000 dollars in cash to our people and asked them to find needs in our community that they could meet. Every adult in all of our Celebration Services received $20, $50 or $100 dollars in an envelope that we call the “Givelope.” Some families received hundreds of dollars—in cash. Oh yeah—we asked people to match the funds we gave them. Thus the $50,000 we handed out immediately became $100,000. That’s catalytic generosity! I know that many people do way more than match the funds. They give their own money or they ask friends and family to join in the Give. Finally, we ask people to tell their stories on our Big Give Facebook page if they’re comfortable. If not, no worries. We want to inspire generosity.

I think the Big Give helps us be a more generous church in number of ways.

  • Disrupts Expectations. The Big Give disrupts expectations people have about the church and money. Many folks believe that the relationship between church and money is one way. The Big Give messes with these expectations.
  • We Uncover Needs in Our Community. The Big Give helps people identify and respond to needs they might not have otherwise. It gives our church community a deeper understanding of the needs of the community where we live. And each of those needs are a person or persons. Putting faces on these needs is powerful to humanize them.
  • Generosity is Contagious. People often tell me their friends and family who want nothing to do with church will participate in the Big Give. That’s awesome!
  • Creative Generosity Inspires. People are way more creative in how they match and use the funds then we could ever be. We inspire each other.

One of the benefits of the Big Give is that we get to tell and hear lots of stories of generosity. Already the stories are starting to come in:

  • One couple helped a co-workers in need of groceries.
  • A family helped a homeless man buy clothing.
  • Another family gave their money to their waiter at a restaurant so he could host a Christmas party for his family
  • One small group is helping a homeless family move into an apartment.
  • One woman is paying a month of rent for another woman.
  • One couple is providing car parts to a family who needs a vehicle.
  • Etc, etc, etc.

But the best part of the Big Give for me is the conversations it creates in our home. My daughter has identified a single Mom with two kids that needs help and so we’ve all agreed to make her the target of our Big Give. My boys are stoked. We’re buying her gift cards at grocery stores and gas stations and Target so she can buy groceries and clothes for her family. My kids are leading us in generosity and I couldn’t be more pleased.

So what about you? What can you do to catalyze generosity in your family, at your work, or if you’re a ministry leader, in your church? Remember, The Big Give isn’t an amount—it’s a mindset. We should know by our love.

If you want to participate in the Restore Big Give, check out our video and/or hit the Big Give Facebook page. While we’re done handing out cash this year, that doesn’t stop you from contributing some of your own.

Feel free to steal any or all of this idea. Just let me know how you do it so I can steal back from you. Keep giving BIG!

Restore’s Big Give 2012 from Restore Community Church on Vimeo.