Be Optimistic

Personal Story: “Better” from Stevecorn.com

When I was in High School, I worked in the paint department at Sears. Mr Mahoney was an older man (maybe early 70s) who worked across the aisle from me in the sporting goods department. He was always smiling and would be the first employee to jump on the treadmill and start running to demonstrate the product to his customers. I was young, but remember thinking that I wanted to be active like him when I reached his age.

I didn’t work in his department so I had a pretty casual passing-in-the-stockroom-type relationship with him. When I’d see him, I almost always said, “How’s it going?” He always answered, “Better.” I never really gave it much thought, but one day Mr Mahoney didn’t come to work and the word around the store was that he had been admitted to the hospital for some sort of cardiac (heart) treatment. We wondered if he’d ever return, but after a month or so, he did.

He didn’t really run on the treadmill like he had done before, and we all wondered if he’d be able to keep up with the job. As I passed him in the stockroom later that week, I greeted him with my usual “How’s it going?” As soon as it came out, I felt guilty, but his response was still the same. “Better.”

That particular day, we had a little more time and so he went on to explain that every day was better than the one before. Even if things were looking down or not going so well, he knew that he was a stronger man and would grow through whatever circumstances he endured. He knew that each day prepared him for the next and that he was a better man each and every day in spite of his circumstances.

I think I became a better man that day too.

God’s Word:

Philippians 4:12b-13 – I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…… I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Romans 5:3b-4 – ….suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Romans 12:2 – Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Dad’s Word:

Don’t allow garbage thinking to enter your mind. When you watch scary or dirty movies, you invite crazy images and ideas into your mind. When you focus or obsess over things that make you depressed or sad, you will struggle to find hope. Sadness invites “self-absorbed pity-me” thinking which in turn brings more sadness. It’s a vicious cycle that only Christ can break. Think on Him. ‘Cause the opposite is true as well. When we think on Him…when we focus on Him, we see hope in the midst of chaos. We recognize His presence in the craziest of circumstances and we find beauty everywhere we go. He is always working in our midst and when we look for Him, we will find Him. Think on Him. Praise Him when you find Him – cause you will – you will find him – you definitely will.

Famous Words:

Still he (God) seeks the fellowship of his people, and sends them both sorrows and joys in order to detach their love from other things and attach it to himself.” – J.I. Packer

“The winners in life think constantly in terms of I can, I will, I am. Losers on the other hand, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have or would have done, or what they can’t do.” – Dennis Waitley

“Optimism increases explorative behavior and innovation, which is why so many entrepreneurs are on the optimistic side.” – Tali Sharot

“There’s no such things as ‘idle thoughts;’ every thought reverberates in the body and constructs some reality, for good or ill.” – Leonard Sweet

“Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.” – Winston Churchill

“The shadow proves the sunshine.” – Switchfoot

Song:

Shadow Proves the Sunshine – Switchfoot

 

What Could I Be?

Cover - 300pxI wrote a book (What Could I Be?) for Kesleigh and published an iPad version on Amazon. My friend and ex-student Sonya Hunt helped me get started on the illustrations. It’s a Christian children’s book about a little girl daydreaming about what she might do when she grows up. She is transported to the Olympics, a rock concert, into the sky, underwater, and even to a fashion show. In the end, she decides that no matter what she ends up doing, she already knows the kind of girl she wants to be.

 

Community is Messy

communityismessy

In spite of her gifts as a communicator and writer, Heather Zempel is truly humble. She admits her mistakes and paints a picture of stumbling through the maze of small group ministry and leadership, but her passion and heart are also very clear. She loves people and isn’t afraid of a little mess – and in some cases a lot of mess. She doesn’t try to prescribe any particular model for building community but rather draws on her experiences (sometimes very funny) to give the reader some helpful tools for gaining a better perspective on your particular situation.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“I decided a couple years ago to stop trying to strike a balance [in my life] and to pursue life in rhythm instead.”

“People can find legitimate community and be discipled outside our structures.”

“Most people come into groups looking for social space; we encourage leaders to aim for taking their groups [beyond that] to personal space; and we hope individuals will look for intimate space opportunities with a select few inside the group.”

“We need to ensure that our routines don’t become routine.”

This is the best book I’ve ever read on small group ministry! If you’re a part of a small group or want to be, you should read this book!

Heather is actually a family friend, (As a child, Miranda played football with her every Thanksgiving. Mike was the all-time quarterback.) but. . . . well, nevermind – I can’t deny that I’m biased to this book, but it’s still the best I’ve ever read on community groups.

Pick up a copy here: Amazon Link

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus – Draft written June 2009 – Never Finished

satforbThis is a simple list of the things I learned from this book. (Some are quoted) Some things on the list are new to me and others are ideas that I was reminded of. I’d encourage everyone to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. I had a basic understanding of Jesus’ Jewishness, but this book taught me more. I’m sure it only scratches the surface of the depth of this topic, but it’s a great place to start.


When Jesus the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, it followed a very long day, with a large meal, and multiple glasses of wine. It’s no wonder they fell asleep. (p 7) I had never really noticed this.

“Women [in the first century] were encouraged to sit in on the advanced discussions at the synagogue if they were able. A few even acquired the high-level education required to contribute to rabbinic debates, and their words are still on record.” (p 12)

First century Jews were acquainted with this rabbinic saying: “Let your house be a meeting place for the rabbis, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily.” They were expected to open their homes to these teachers and their disciples. This is why Jesus and the disciples spent so much time with Mary and Martha. (p 14)

Rabbis often sat on pillows or chairs when they taught and disciples sat at their feet on the ground or mats around them. “When Mary is described as ‘sitting at Jesus’ feet,’ she is being described as a disciple.” (p 14)

Disciples followed rabbis so closely, they became covered in the dust swirling up from the sandals of his feet. (p 14)

As opposed to the crowns/coronations of other kings, Hebrew kings were with anointed with expensive perfumed oil. (p 16)

The oil Mary anointed Jesus with would have probably lingered for days. “Everywhere Jesus went during the final days of His life he had the fragrance of royalty. ” In the Garden, the soldiers would have smelled it and wondered who stood before them. Even when he was on trial, mocked, whipped, and stripped naked, there may have been a fragrance of royalty in the air. (p 18)

When Jesus’ rode into Jerusalem on a mule, the people would have remembered Solomon doing the same thousands of years earlier. 1 Kings 1:38-40 (p 17)

Davening, the rocking motion used by Jews during prayer, is intended as “a way of expressing that one’s whole self, body and soul, is caught up with God. The old rabbi explained that the movement of the body mimics the flickering flame of a candle, calling to mind the saying that “the candlestick of God is the soul of a man.” (p 22)

Jesus probably began learning to read and memorize Scripture at the age of 5-6 yrs old. (p 24)

On Sabbath, a member of the congregation would read from the Scriptures and expound on the day’s passages. (p 25)

Study of the Torah was done at every opportunity. “When people assembled for a joyous occasion such as a circumcision or a wedding, a group might withdraw to engage in the study of the Law.” (p 26) If we did the same, we might have people studying Scripture during halftime at the football game.

Rabbis believed that study was the highest form of worship. “They pointed out that when we pray, we speak to God, but that when we study the Scriptures, God speaks to us.” (p 26)

Rabbis encouraged debate and believed the mark of a good student was his ability to argue well. Sparing with one another forced students to refine their thinking. (p 28)

Here’s a rabbinic parable (similar to Jesus’ parable of the soils in Luke 8:4-11):

“There are four types among those who sit in the presence of the rabbis: the sponge (soaks up everything), the funnel (takes in at one end and lets out at the other), the strainer (lets out the wine and retains the dregs) and the sieve (removes the chaff and retains the fine flour).” The best disciple is the sieve, not the sponge as one might expect. (p 31)

In American culture, movie stars are revered. In Jewish culture, life’s supreme achievement was to become a great scholar of the Scriptures. (p 33)

“The disciple sought to study the text, not only of Scripture but of the rabbi’s life, for it was there that he would learn how to live out the Torah. Even more than acquiring his master’s knowledge, he wanted to acquire his master’s character, his internal grasp of the God’s law.” This is why he traveled with the rabbi and followed him so closely. Imagine handing an instruction manual to a five-year-old who wants to learn how to ride a bike. (p 33-34)

Jesus didn’t come only to save us from sin, but also to raise us up as disciples who would be like Him. (p 34)

Here’s another blog I wrote about one of the concepts in the book: Remez (p 37)

Stringing pearls is the practice of bringing together passages from different places in order to explore their great truths. Jesus did this in the Beatitudes – referencing Isaiah and the Psalms. His Jewish audience would have picked up on these references and been reminded of God’s faithfulness in rescuing His people. (p 43)

“The usual method of learning was through hands-on experience.” (p 53)

“Learning wasn’t so much about retaining data as it was about gaining essential wisdom for living.” (p 53)

“discipleship has always been about a process.” (p 56)

“While the Gospels record many instances of Jesus instantly healing people’s illnesses, we know of not evenone instance in which he simply waved his hand to immediately fix an ugly habit for one of his disciples. Instead, he simply kept teaching and correcting them, giving them time to grow.” (p 56)

Disciples were totally committed. They left their homes, jobs, and lives to follow a rabbi. It wasn’t like signing up for a Bible Study, or a class they could skip when they had a baseball game, etc. (p 57)

This goal of discipleship is not just self-discipline, but transformation into the likeness of Christ. Imagine if someone were to define parenting only as discipline. Of course children need discipline, but we would have great cause for worry if discipline was the only thing a parent focused on. (p 58)

Here are a few statements from Jesus’ time describing the relationship between rabbi and disciple:

“If a man’s father and his rabbi are both taken captive, a disciple should ransom his rabbi first.” (p 59)

“Your father brought you into this world, but your rabbi brings you into the life of the world to come!” (p 59)

“If a disciple is sent into exile, his rabbi should go with him.”(p 59)

Imagine Judas’ act of betrayal in light of the previous attitudes about this relationship. (p 59)

Another interesting saying:

“All acts a slave performs for his master, a disciple performs for his rabbi, except untying the sandal.” To untie someone’s sandal was considered demeaning, the task of a slave. Check out John 1:27 (p 60)

A rabbi was to model how to live by using examples from his own life. (p 61)

“An authoritarian style of leadership has little to do with Christ and everything to do with human ego.” (p 62)

“God’s goal isn’t simply to fill the world with people who believe the right things. It is to fill the world with people who shine with the brilliance of Christ.” (p 64)

An early rabbinical statement: “When two sit together and exchange words of Torah, then the Divine Presence dwells among them.” (p 67) Similar to Jesus’ in Matthew 18:20

“We tend to believe that the only way to deeply encounter God is through solitary prayer and study. But Jesus implies that his presence will be felt most often in the presence of a small group of haverim.” (p 67)

“Jesus never sent out his students alone, but always in pairs. He knew their critical need for haverim.” (p 73)

“In most societies, people don’t experience loneliness as acutely as Americans do. In other cultures, people are rarely alone, physically or emotionally.” (p 73)

“A haver is a fellow disciple who earnestly desires to grapple with others over issues of faith – someone who wants to delve into God’s Word, to be challenged and refined. A haver is like a spiritual jogging partner.” (p 74)

“Jesus was probably wearing small tefillin when he criticized those who were wearing large tefillin in order to advertise their own super piety. (Mt 23:5)” (p 79)

“An observant Jew recites at least a hundred blessings a day.” (p 82)

Father’s Day Surprise

If you’re reading this on Facebook, please go to the actual blog post. The audio will not work on Facebook. http://stevecorn.com/2011/07/fathers-day-surprise/

Miranda helped Kasen and Kesleigh record an audio book for me for Father’s Day. It was a big surprise. It’s actually a book that Miranda bought that was set up for the recording process. Anyway, I took the audio and put it here ’cause it’s so cool. My kids (and bride) are AWESOME!



Father’s Day 2011.mp3

Miranda says that she didn’t coach them at all, but some of their answers are pretty perfect. Of course my kids are pretty perfect too.  (I’m not biased either.)


Transcript:

Miranda: Where do you like to go with dad on a Saturday and why Kesleigh?

Kesleigh: The beach

Miranda: Where do you like to go Kasen?

Kasen: Go to . . . play volleyball.

Miranda: OK. And what game do you like to play with dad?

Kesleigh: I play a game

Kasen: That’s me.

Miranda: Would you and dad have more fun on a boat, a dog sled, or a spaceship Kesleigh?

Kasen & Kesleigh: A spaceship.

Miranda: and where would you go?

Kasen: to the moon and jump.

Miranda: You would go to the moon and jump Kasen?

Kasen: Uh huh.

Miranda: Where would you go Kesleigh?

Kesleigh: to the moon and jump.

Miranda: You would go to the moon and jump too?

Kesleigh: Yes

Miranda: What else would you do when you were there?

Kasen: Uh. . . not slide down.

Miranda: Not slide down?

Kasen: No, because it’s too far.

Miranda: Too far. Kasen, if you and daddy were superheroes, what powers would you have?

Kasen: Fly super high. . . fast.

Miranda: Superfast. And what would your names be? What would you call yourselves?

Kasen: My name would be Batman an daddy’s name would be Superman.

Miranda: Those are good names. What do you think Kesleigh? What would your superpowers be?

Kesleigh: My daddy o Superman.

Miranda: He’s Superman?

Kesleigh: Yes.

Miranda: Well, what are you?

Kesleigh: I’m SuperBatman.

Miranda: Kesleigh if daddy were a king, what kind of food would he have at his feast?

Kesleigh: Ketchup

Miranda: Ketchup? What else.

Kesleigh: Just ketchup.

Miranda: Just ketchup. Kasen, what kind of food do you think daddy would have at his feast?

Kasen: Uh. . . . sausage and biscuits.

Miranda: Sausage and biscuits. That’s a good food. Do you think your favorite food is the same? What is your favorite food?

Kasen: Grilled Cheese.

Miranda. Grilled Cheese. What is your favorite food Kesleigh?

Kesleigh: Cheese.

Miranda: Cheese. Just cheese huh? OK – What kind of animals would daddy have at his castle Kesleigh?

Kesleigh: I don’t. . . some ketchup. . . some ketchup.

Miranda: What animals?

Kesleigh: some ketchup.

Miranda: Kasen, what kind of animals do you think daddy would have at his castle?

Kasen: Sheep and uh . . .  uh. . . a king.

Miranda: He would be the king?

Kasen: Uh huh.

Miranda: Kasen, where do you think daddy’s favorite spot in our house is?

Kasen: . . . . in the bathroom?

Miranda: <laughing> In the bathroom? And what do you think daddy does there?

Kasen: Potty.

Miranda: He goes potty. OK. Kesleigh, where do you think daddy’s favorite spot in the house. . .

Kesleigh: He goes to get ice cream.

Miranda: When he goes to get ice cream?

Kesleigh: Yes.

Miranda: Where does he go to get ice cream?

Kesleigh: At. . . at Chick-a-lay. (Chickfila)

Miranda: At Chickfila? OK. If daddy could be the same age as you Kasen, for just one day, what do you think you would do together?

Kasen: Swing.

Miranda: You would swing? What else would you do with him?

Kasen: Umm. . .

Miranda: What else would you do with daddy? What do you like to do with him?

Kasen: Potty.

Miranda: You like to go potty with him?

Kasen: Uh huh.

Miranda: OK. What else?

Kasen: Um. . .

Miranda: If daddy won a gold medal for doing something incredible, what do you think he’d win the medal for?

Kasen: Loving.

Miranda: Loving. For loving who?

Kasen: For loving me and Kesleigh.

Miranda: For loving you and Kesleigh? That’s a nice one. OK Kasen, look here. If daddy gave you a big trophy for doing something amazing, what do you think you would be doing that was so amazing for him to give you a trophy?

Kasen: ?????? <distracted>

Miranda: Kesleigh, what is it that you like about daddy?

Kesleigh: Kisses.

Miranda: His kisses?

Kesleigh: <whispered> Yes.

Miranda: What else?

Kesleigh: and his birthday.

Miranda: And his birthday? Kasen, what do you like about daddy?

Kasen: For playin’ baseball.

Miranda: Cause he plays baseball with you?

Kasen: Uh huh.

Miranda: What else do you like?

Kasen: Uh. . . eating ice cream.

Miranda: Eating ice cream with him?

Kasen: Un huh.

Miranda: That’s a good one. OK. Let’s say we love you daddy.

Kesleigh: I love you daddy.

Kasen: I love you daddy.

Miranda: We love you daddy.

Miranda, Kasen, and Kesleigh: Happy Father’s Day!

Prayer is Christmas

Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation. Jesus became a man and came to dwell on the earth as Emmanuel – “God with us.” In his book, “A Praying Life” Paul E. Miller says,

“Prayer is a moment of incarnation – God with us.” ~ Paul E. Miller

So here’s the breakdown:

Christmas = Incarnation
Prayer = Incarnation
Prayer is Christmas.

I love this idea!! We can have a little bit of Christmas…Wait…No, ALL of God means ALL of Christmas…We can have Christmas every day of the year as we spend time with God in prayer!!

Radical: Lessons from David Platt’s book

David Platt’s book “Radical” has been a great book for me! As Miranda and I have struggled this past year with our finances, (I’m still looking for a full-time job) we’ve learned much about what it means to trust in the LORD for our needs. We’ve learned new spending habits (well…non-spending habits). And we’ve both been feeling called to give more. It’s a crazy time to begin feeling this calling so strongly, ’cause it’s also the time where we’re pinching pennies more than ever before. This book has really pointed out some of the things we’ve already been learning and made the concepts much more concrete. Even in the midst of unemployment, we are choosing to work on some of these principles and to give in spite of our situation. After all, as Platt explains, “I don’t think God will ever say, ‘I wish you would have kept more for yourself.'” Anyway – pick up the book and read it. You won’t regret it. Well. . . maybe you will regret it temporarily as God interferes with your “American Dream,” but in eternity, you won’t regret any of it.

Here’s the video preview, and below it is a list of my favorite parts of the book.


My favorite parts of Radical:

Jesus’ spent his life with 12 guys. He ran people off who were “ready” to follow Him. When he finished His ministry there were only about 120 who were actually doing what He asked of them.

Luke 9 – Jesus turns 3 different people away saying, (1) “You’ll be homeless.” (2) “Let someone else bury your dad.” (3) “Don’t even say goodbye to your family.” – Jesus persuaded them NOT to follow him. David also tells a story about one of his mentors who began a talk saying, “My goal tonight is to talk you out of following Jesus.”

Quote: “The modern-day gospel says, ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved.’ Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, ‘You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to ’cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do.”

Requirements for discipleship include: Hate father, mother, sister, and brother. Hate even your own life. Carry your cross and follow Jesus. Give up everything. Drop your nets, your careers, your families & friends. – Compare this to the modern: Admit, believe, confess, and pray a prayer after me.

Quote: “This is where we come face to face with a dangerous reality. We do have to give up everything to follow Jesus. We do have to love Him in a way that makes our closest relationships in this world look like hate. And it is entirely possible that He will tell us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor. . . . We rationalize these passages away. . . And this is where we need to pause. Because we are starting to redefine Christianity. . . We are molding Jesus into our image. He is beginning to look a lot like us. . . And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves.

The cost of discipleship is high, but the cost of non-discipleship is even higher. “Consider the cost when Christians choose to ignore Jesus’ commands to sell their possessions and give to the poor and instead choose to spend their resources on better comforts, larger homes, nicer cars, and more stuff.” David tells a story of 2 headlines side by side: (1) “First Baptist Celebrates $23 Million Building” and (2) “Baptist Relief Helps Sudanese Refugees” ($5,000 – not even enough to get a plane into Sudan.)

Matthew 13 – Sell everything to purchase a the field with the treasure in it. No matter how crazy people think you are for selling all your stuff, you sell it anyway, ’cause you know about the treasure that awaits you in heaven.

God hates sinners. (Ps 5:5; John 3:36)

Story: Preaching Professor who takes students to graveyard and asks them to speak over the graves and call people from the ground to rise up and live. After some awkward moments, he reminds them that this is the exact thing God has called them to do – call the spiritually dead to life. Only God can do such a thing.

Quote: “God beckons storm clouds, and they come. He tells the wind to blow and the rain to fall, and they obey immediately. He speaks to the mountains, ‘You go there,’ and he says to the seas, ‘You stop here,’ and they do it. Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator…until we get to you and me. We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, ‘No.’

When Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” He is NOT speaking of the cross, but of the “Cup of wrath” (2nd Cup in the Passover). He is not fearful of the cross, but is sweating blood as He considers all of his own Father’s wrath, for all of mankind throughout the centuries being poured out upon him.

Story: Preacher describing the wrath of God in this way: Imagine your standing a mere 100 yards away from a dam which is 10,000 miles high and 10,000 miles wide. The dam breaks and the water rushes toward you. In the last moment, a hole opens up at your feet and swallows all the water. At the cross, Christ drank the ‘cup of wrath’ which was meant for us.

Quote: “Suddenly contemporary Christianity sales pitches don’t seem adequate anymore. Ask Jesus to come into your heart. Invite Jesus to come into your life. Pray this prayer, sign this card, walk down this aisle, and accept Jesus as your personal Savior. . . We have taken the infinitely glorious Son of God, who endured the infinitely terrible wrath of God and who now reigns as the infinitely worthy Lord of all, and we have reduced him to a poor, puny Savior who is just begging for us to accept him. Accept him? Do we really think Jesus needs our acceptance? Don’t we need him?”

Matthew 7:21-23 – Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven. – Jesus was speaking to the religious people. Many people will be shocked.

The only proper response to the gospel is much deeper than a prayer, a “decision,” or an intellectual assent. It is a total surrender to an infinitely worthy Savior Jesus. “We are saved not just to be forgiven of our sins or to be assured of our eternity in heaven, but we are saved to know God.”

Quote: “Where in the Bible is missions ever identified as an optional program?” It’s for everyone. No one can say, “I’m not called to missions.”

We like to interpret Scriptures how they suit our own preferences. For example: When it comes to the responsibilities given to us in the Great Commission (Matthew 28), we say it’s just for the people who are “called,” but when Jesus offers to give rest to the weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28), we claim it’s for everyone. We like the “abundant life” verse (John 10:10) and claim it as our own, but write off Acts 1:8 (“you shall be witnesses”) as something only for those who are “called.” Or we rationalize it saying, “Well Jesus was only talking to the disciples.”

We should listen to Scripture in order to reproduce rather than just to receive. It’s the difference between watching a football game as a fan or watching like a coach watches – examining the opposing team’s formations and strategies so he can be better prepared to use what he learns when they play again.

Materialism is a blind spot in American Christianity, much like slavery was. Christians in the future will look back on our generations and probably be ashamed of our selfishness.

Wealth can be a barrier to God.

Story: John Wesley makes a purchase: [Wesley] had just finished buying some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a winter day and he noticed that she had only a thin linen gown to wear for protection against the cold. He reached into his pocket to give her some money for a coat, and found that he had little left. It struck him that the LORD was not pleased with hos he had spent his money. He asked himself, “Will thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward?’ Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money that might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?

We should put a financial cap our lifestyles.

Quote: God won’t ever say, “I wish you would have kept more for yourself.”

Quote: “A radical lifestyle actually begins with an extraordinary commitment to ordinary practices. . .” (Prayer, Bible Reading, etc)

How we could start over and build our lives on the necessities rather than the luxuries? In America, we think things are necessities that others would consider luxuries.

Quote: “We can stand with the starving or with the overfed. We can identify with poor Lazarus on his way to heaven or with the rich man on his way to hell. We can embrace Jesus while we give away our wealth, or we can walk away from Jesus while we hoard our wealth.”

Quote: “Franklin Roosevelt was emphasizing how Americans will postpone immediate gratification and even endure hard sacrifices if they are convinced their future will be better than their past. Americans are willing to take great risks, he said, if they believe it will accomplish great reward.” I’m not sure this holds true anymore. Seems to me like Americans have a tendency to always go for immediate gratification.

We like to say that there’s no safer place to be than in the center of God’s will. What if God’s will was the most dangerous place to be? Would we still want to be in it??

Here’s another post which was inspired by this book: Troop Carrier or Luxury Liner?

Matthew 10 – God even takes care of the sparrows. Why wouldn’t He take care of us??

Redeeming Love

I finished an audiobook recently called “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. It’s not the kind of book that I would normally read, but it was only $7 on itunes and I had a giftcard to use. Also, the book just came up in the most random conversations quite a few separate times so I thought I’d give it a shot.

The book tells the story the marriage of a girl who goes by quite a few names (Angel, Amanda, Sarah) and her husband Michael Hosea. She was a prostitute, but God told Michael to marry her anyway. It makes for an interesting set of circumstances in which He tries to love her in spite of her “baggage” and she struggles to receive the love that He offers to her – all-the-while trying to learn how to live a new way of life as a wife. The story also mirrors the Biblical account of the prophet Hosea with is prostitute bride, Gomer. Although Redeeming Love takes place in a completely different setting and the author doesn’t follow the Biblical account exactly, there are certainly many similarities. Rivers says herself that her intention was to retell the Biblical story and I’d say she has done a great job of it.

For me, this was a good story to hear during this time in my life. I have been looking for a job for almost a year. I feel like I have tried everything I know – I finished an alternative certification program and have interviewed for a few teaching positions, but I still seem to be coming up short. As a man who wants to provide for his family and make a difference in the lives of students, I feel worthless sometimes. I know God is using this time to mold me and He’s using it in ways I’ll probably never understand, but my knowledge of those things doesn’t make the emotional turmoil I’m feeling go away. With each interview, my hopes are ignited, but with each phone call saying they have chosen someone with more experience, those hopes are thrown to the ground once again. This emotional roller coaster is wearing on me. Today, I spoke harshly to my wife for no reason. This is not who I am – but it seems to be . . . well. . . who I am right now, and it’s not acceptable.

In Redeeming Love, after getting married and running away from Michael, Sarah eventually finds herself on the auction block being sold as a slave. (I can identify – life is being stripped away from me too.) But then, in the last possible moment, Sarah is bought and redeemed. She eventually finds her way back to Michael.

The hope in this story is helpful. My only problem is that I feel like I’ve been on the auction block for a while and for some reason – I guess God thinks I can handle even more stripping before He steps in – or maybe there’s more to learn?? or new habits to develop?? or new thoughts to develop??

Prayer: Lord, if you’re listening, I’m ready. I need You. I need Your help. I cannot do this. I have no power or control. I want to be who You have called me to be. (and I believe that’s a teacher) I want to provide for my family. I want to help students to understand the world around them and live productive lives. I am weak and I need Your strength. I am desperate, but I know You are in control. I will trust You. Help me to stand strong, to trust more, to notice Your gentle nudges and respond appropriately. Lord, help me to be and to become all that You’ve called me to. I surrender. Redeem me. AMEN.

Expectations Matter – Two Words

Expectations Matter. Part 1 – Two words matter. (This will be a short series of posts.)

Check out this psychological test!

A professor doesn’t show up to teach one day @ MIT. The students are told there will be a substitute and they are each given a short bio describing their sub. It reads:

“Mr. ___________ is a graduate student in the department of economics and social science here at MIT. He has had 3 semesters of teaching experience in psychology at another college. This is his 1st semester teaching this class. He is 26 yrs old, a veteran, and married. People who know him consider him to be a very warm person, industrious, critical, practical, and determined.”

Now, here’s the catch. Although they believed that everyone was reading the same bio, only half of the class got this bio. The other half got the same bio with two different words. The words “very warm” were replaced with “rather cold.” The last line of the 2nd one read, “People who know him consider him to be a rather cold person, industrious, critical, practical, and determined.”

After sitting in and viewing the exact same teacher under the exact same circumstances, the students were given a short questionnaire about the sub. By their responses, you’d think they had experienced two completely different classes with two different teachers. The students who got the “warm” bio, loved him. Their descriptions were: good-natured, considerate of others, informal, sociable, popular, humorous, and humane. The 2nd group with the “cold” bio described him as: self-centered, formal, unsociable, irritable, humorless, and ruthless.

Two words have the power to change our perceptions and possibly destroy a relationship before it even begins.


Expectations matter.

The example above is from the book “Sway” by Ori and Rom Brafman. I will be using a few more of their examples throughout this short series of posts. You should check out their book. It’s great stuff!

They call this effect the “diagnosis sway.” Once someone has “diagnosed” another person, it’s very difficult for them to let go of their perception and they will view every interaction with them through this lens. This is what happened to the students. The bios gave them a pre-determined diagnosis and so they viewed everything about the substitute through this lens – picking up subtle nuances and perceptions which would support their diagnosis. This is why first impressions are so important. Once someone has diagnosed you, they will see only those characteristics which will support their first impression diagnosis.

I wanted to write this series of posts because we’ve been talking about expectations in my teacher’s alternative certification classes. Teachers can be “swayed” or have the wrong expectations of a student for many reasons. At the beginning of the year a teacher may be tempted to talk to the students previous teachers to find out what he/she is like, but I’d say they should refrain. A student should have the opportunity to “start over” each year. The new teacher should be willing to “draw their own conclusions” without the influence of others.

“Stand and Deliver” is one of the great movies about teaching. This is the teacher hero’s secret. He has higher expectations of his students. He has not diagnosed them as average or incapable, but instead he sees the possibilities within them and encourages them. Expectations matter.

Primal – A Book Review

PrimalInspired by a trip down a staircase which descended into ancient catacombs, Mark Batterson encourages Christians to be great at the Great Commandment! There, beneath the layers of 2000 years of Christianity and tradition, he imagined the ancient primal form of the Christian faith. In Primal, he takes the reader back in time and reminds him/her of the essentials of the faith. Centering on the Great Commandment (Mk 12:30), Batterson acts as a tour guide exploring the depths of genuine compassion, infinite wonder, insatiable curiosity, and boundless energy – the very ideas that sparked the first-century movement and exploded into the modern Christian faith. Hidden by 2000 years of tradition, Batterson leads the reader to rediscover and reclaim the power within them. Primal uncovers the greatness of the Great Commandment and calls the reader to join the primal force which is revealed by it’s convictions.

Primal is a very interesting read. Batterson has become a great writer and is a master at weaving together personal stories, Scriptural examples, psychological research, and scientific evidence. He also knows how to turn a phrase. Here are some of my favorites:

We’re not great at the Great Commandment.

It’s much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one.

You can give without loving, but you can not love without giving.

The mind is educated with facts, but the soul is educated with beauty and mystery. And the curriculum is creation.

Conclusion: I would recommend this book to anyone interested in reclaiming the Christian faith and pursuing with abandon the Great Commandment. Primal is absolutely the first book you should read in 2010.

More info: www.theprimalmovement.com


PS: Reading Mark Batterson‘s book “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” was truly a life-changing moment for me. Therefore, it’s an incredible joy and honor to have been selected to be a part of his blog tour for this book. I was sent a pre-released copy and asked to post a book review.