Accomplish more and attempt less

large_charles-spurgeon-preaching-through-adversity

Photo credit:  DesiringGod.org

I want to share a quote from a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon in 1871. Is it a coincidence that if you flip 71 it becomes 17, as in 2017?? Yes, it is. Nothing supernatural there.

Charles Spurgeon has been dubbed the Prince of Preachers. (If you’re interested in his writings or life, Midwestern Seminary has done a service to us all here.) Being the Prince of Preachers means Spurgeon brought the Word of God to life in a way you and I, well, don’t. Not because we aren’t filled with the same Spirit, but because God uses different people in different ways. You’re not the next Spurgeon any more than I am the next anyone else. You’re you. I’m me.

If you aren’t a pastor, preacher, teacher but happen to read this, the point is just as applicable. It holds true for moms who find food in the strangest of places and executives who are prepping that $300,000,000 deal. There’s no difference in God’s eyes, by the way. Don’t be fooled on either side, whether rolling in dollars or diapers.

Preaching on prayer, Spurgeon made the audacious claim that

The more we do, the more we should pray…it should be the life-blood of every action, and saturate our entire life…I fear that some of us would do far more if we attempted less and prayed more about it.

  • What if, as pastors, we devoted less time to strategic planning and more to praying strategically?
  • What if, as teachers, we thought less about making points and more about pointing to the Maker?
  • What if, as parents, we resolved to be less busied with activity and more active in the business of prayer?

Is it possible that we would accomplish far more if we attempted far less but saturated all that we did do in prayer?

 

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God forbid you catch the rabbit

Image result for greyhound chasing rabbit track

Idealism and life don’t mesh very well. Not because you can’t have a great life, but because that target of greatness, when idealized or idolized, turns you into the greyhound chasing the rabbit around the track.

I’ve heard if a dog ever catches the rabbit they won’t race again because apparently the psychological ramifications of such an experience are insurmountable–dog days, right?

This makes me wonder, though, how many pastors, professionals, parents, and other p-words are on their fourth lap around the track thinking the next season or service or strategy or selfie is FINALLY going to satisfy.

Pretty much every one of our endeavors has a rabbit of its own.

For tennis players the ultimate rabbit is Wimbledon. Kids imagine diving across the All England sod and hitting a winning volley before raising the cup overhead and winking at the queen.

Boris Becker did that. I don’t know about the winking part, but the other stuff. Yet with two Wimbledon championships to his name, he was popping pills, throwing whiskey down into his belly, and contemplating how he would kill himself.

That’s why I said, God forbid you catch the rabbit and find out it’s a stupid stuffed animal that was never meant to fulfill you.

See, the target always changes.

The rabbit is often an ideal in our minds.

And what ends up happening–that is, what happened to me–is your vision of the perfect ministry (or life) becomes the enemy of your present one. What you’ve imagined in your mind can never measure up to reality.

Life has a way about sorting through our bogus visions and plans. If you’re chasing rabbits, hit the brakes and ask, “What if I catch it?”

  • What if my kids stay healthy and get into the best college? So what?
  • What if my church grows past 200, 400, 4000….so what? What then?
  • What if my business hits the $1 million mark? Woohoo! More taxes. Then what?
  • What if my boss recognizes my brilliance and gives me the promotion? What’s next?

You get the rabbit. Then what?

It’s a question worth asking. Maybe there’s a better goal, vision, or target. Maybe not. You may be exactly on the path you need to be on. But it’s still healthy to turn a few rocks over every now and then.

 

Here’s what may be sabotaging your satisfaction

Don’t worry, I’m a pastor.

That’s my new line for ensuring anyone and everyone that I’m trustworthy, and also poorer than them.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about your dissatisfaction with life!

  • Your job isn’t fulfilling.
  • Getting that degree was supposed to make all the difference.
  • This relationship should’ve been the one.
  • The new car smell wore off, but the payment continues on.

I can speak to this phenomenon of dissatisfaction from any number of angles, both anecdotally and personally. I’m an expert.

I’m especially qualified to speak as a pastor and parent, and a little less so as an educator. But when have qualifications ever stopped anyone? Look at the presidential race. (Too soon?)

Here’s a little nugget from a pastor for pastors by a guy who’s no stranger to the blog, pastor Eugene Peterson:

“Unrealistic expectations about what church is like will kill you…”

I imagine when Eugene typed that one out for his memoir (required reading for pastors) he did so with a curled upper lip…veiled ever so slightly by his bearded awesomeness.

Here is my shot at boiling this whole thing down to a single phrase: Expectations affect the way we evaluate our experiences.

For instance, if I expect parenting to allow the same time and energy to do everything I did prior to having children, then I would be frustrated with my situation constantly, not to mention bitter towards my children upon realizing how misguided my expectations were.

  • When they interrupt Downtown Abbey or New Girl for the umpteenth time or 
  • color in my books or
  • dip their fingers in their milk or
  • “help” wash the side of the car with tire cleaner that I’m pretty sure is also used to clean oil vats        

What right do I have to be frustrated towards toddlers acting like toddlers? Every right if I expect them to act otherwise.

In a similar way, If I expect pastoring to be what I think it’s going to be based on minimal experience and an ill-informed 24 or 25-year-old mind, then my conflicting experiences will inevitably leave me bitter, cynical, critical, and looking for the greener grass. And would you guess what happened? No really, guess………Yep. I became bitter, cynical, critical, and looked for greener grass.

Turns out my unrealistic expectations are akin to Round Up. I can kill whatever grass I find, no matter what kind of grass it is or what season it is.

My expectations have been the problem, regardless of the job. Changing expectations is one of the quickest and most effective means for enjoying experiences.

I’m not great at it yet, but I’m better than I was.

My public #DaddyGame is strong

I shall not tell you a lie.

imagesyour-words-have-powerI’ve embarrassed myself as a parent. Mostly it in the privacy of my home.

After all, I’m a B.O.S.S. daddy in public. Ladies see me and be like, “Oooh, isn’t he the best daddy?” I can get backtalked in the grocery store and give the, “Now little honey sugar boo, it sounds like you have an unhappy heart. Would you like to try that again?” spiel. #DaddyGame

But inside the walls of our home, I can do exactly what Wendy Speake describes in chapter 2 of her collaborative book, Triggers:

When we exchange angry words for angry words, nasty face for nasty face, slamming door for slamming door, and tear them down with our words because they tore us down with theirs, they will never feel remorse for their own actions (p.28).

I have a glare that has made my children cry. Yep. Not everyone who wears cardigans is a pushover. I’ve forcibly placed my books on the table (read, slammed). I have yelled from one end of the house to the other.

As Speak points out, though, how are kids to know they should be doing anything different if mom or dad mirror the exact same behavior the kids are generating?

Answer: They don’t.

They have to be discipled. And we are always discipling them, no matter our responses. Those little ladies and gents are being discipled to live a particular way. But you know this. The reason you do those things your parents did that you said you didn’t want to do, is because you were their disciple.

Christian parents show kids an alternative and more attractive way of living, an in this world but not of this world way of life. This includes responding to conflict, asking for things, apologizing, expressing dissatisfaction, and all the other learned responses/actions/attitudes.

So it’s Monday. Could this week look different in your home? Does it require a change in tone? Perhaps a knee bend to get down at eye level with the little one? Maybe a quick prayer before answering?

Let’s show them something different. Something better. Something out of this world.

May we all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

 

 

Weary Mama, Jesus has been there

jesus-feeds-5000

Moms, the struggle is real. I’m not a mom, but I am married to one. We have four kids, the oldest of which is five, three of which are girls, which means there’s more drama in my house than on all of daytime television.

And when I find myself taking care of all of them solo, I wonder how my wife does it the other six days of the week. But what’s that have to do with Jesus, you ask?

Jesus performed two separate feedings of thousands of people with minimal resources.

In Mark 6, there are 5000 men and who knows how many women and children. The disciples have just returned from their maiden missionary voyage to report all they’ve done in Jesus’ name. But Jesus says, “Shhhhh….you need to rest.”

Out on the boat they go for some rest and relaxation. After all, you can only pour so much of your cup out before the thing is empty. Time to refill.

BUUUUUUUUUUT here come all those needy people. It’s like no matter where Jesus and the boys go, the crowds find them.

Jesus has compassion. “They’re like a sheep without a shepherd,” lost, wandering aimlessly without a clue of how life is supposed to look. After instructing them even more, Jesus feeds them. Actually, he makes the disciples feed them after miraculously multiplying the fishes and loaves.

So I’m reading this in preparation for Sunday’s sermon, and I think, hold on one daggum minute. I’ve seen this happen. In fact, I see it almost everyday.

Lindsey has 2 or 3 kids with her depending on the weekday. Inevitably I get a call or text about 2pm. That’s supposed to be nap time for the kids, which would mean mommy time, which would mean rest or something productive for her own sake.

But that 2pm text usually reads something like, “Addie sabotaged nap time today” or “Caroline is still awake and asking where you are” or “Why do my kids hate me?”

I try to reassure her it’s only a season…that’s going to last another 5 YEARS!

And before you do the whole, “Cherish it because it goes by so fast and you’ll miss it” thing, I hear you. But I’d be better off slapping a lion in the face and trying to outrun it than telling that to my bride.

There will be times, dear mommies–maybe every single day of the week–when you’re at the end of your proverbial rope.

  • Physically exhausted.
  • Mentally shot…like you just found the milk in the pantry that you thought you put in the fridge mentally shot.
  • Emotionally worn.
  • Spiritually sapped.

Because you pour yourself out and out and o..u…..t.

And still, here come those needy people. They’re hungry, tired, scared. They have a belly ache or need a drink of water for the fourth time in 14 minutes. They have no idea what life is supposed to look like. That is, no idea except what you show them.

You’re poured out for them. You resemble the disciples, called by Jesus to shepherd and feed and love those who can’t seem to fend for themselves.

So you have compassion. You shepherd those little hearts (sometimes with the spanking spoon), but always with love. Even when it doesn’t feel like love, it’s love. You’d roll yourself across burning coals for those little punks.

Jesus was literally broken and poured out that we might be blessed and filled. You are figuratively broken and poured out that they might be blessed and filled. But what a calling that is. What a season.

 

What’s Your Motivation For Disciplining Children?

There are certainly a variety of methods that have proven effective when it comes to disciplining children.

  • There’s the “go grab that switch and then I’ll whip ya with it” OR…
  • The “stick your nose in the corner and don’t you dare turn around to see all the fun that’s being had behind you” approach. OR…
  • Perhaps like the picture above you need to get highly specific to make sure the punishment fits the crime and has some redeeming qualities built into it. And also makes for great footage.

Whatever the punishment you decide to dole out, do consider these words from Tedd Tripp in Shepherding a Child’s Heart:

Sadly, most correction occurs as a by-product of children being an embarrassment or an irritation.”

I admit, I fight the embarrassment motivation off pretty well, and it’s tempting! As a pastor and school administrator, now with a kindergartener (and a couple yellow lights under his belt), I have those meandering thoughts of how my kids are making me look. Ultimately, though, I don’t think my 2-year-old’s inclination to draw on the piano with a sharpie means I’m a bad dad (what’s a few less white keys??)

But it’s that second motivation that gave me pause when I read it–an irritation. Look, I don’t feel guilty for saying that my kids irritate me sometimes. We decided to have several kids close together.  That means at any given moment, with 4 kids 5 and under, there are at least two kids whining about something and one antagonizing another. It’s a symphony of chaos and beauty.

Yet how many times have I used my irritation as a catalyst for discipline? Ugh…Dang you, Tedd with two d’s.

But it’s true. I’ve disciplined out of that motivation with great regularity over the years. Thus the point of the book, namely, parenting is about shepherding hearts. Being near and corralling and leading and guiding…not getting irritated and dictating or blasting.

Discipline is intended to bring about the fruit of peace and righteousness according to Hebrews 12:10-11.

  • God disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline is training.

So we must ask, how is my disciplining training? What lesson am I teaching? What principle is being reinforced? How is the heart of God being communicated? If they get what I’m teaching them, how will they be better off later?

This raises the bar in parenting, in education, and in other settings where discipline is part of the job description. But there is grace for parents and educators. Thanks be to God! Regardless of how it’s been in your home, classroom, or wherever, today is today.

“Get to the Chopper!” -Helicopter Parent

Helicopter parenting is a thing. There are books about it, spoofs of it, and it’s a wildly popular practice.

The long and short of it is that helicopter parents hover over their children in most every venue of life–school, sports, social, spiritual–in such a way that the child or teen (or young adult) is never really left to herself to survive or figure it out. Especially if that means stumbling or someone tripping them up.

Be childlike again and imagine this: a mom hovering over her son, keeping  a close watch over the grade book, seeing he didn’t do as well as he could have on an assignment. She lands the chopper at school, strides (somewhat passive aggressively–though you don’t know it right away) into the teacher’s work space, and proceeds to explain why Jimmy deserves a higher grade…any of the following arguments may ensue.

  • WE have been struggling over the last unit–and so have lots of other students. (Because hover parents usually stay connected with one another)
  • WE just aren’t getting the concepts.
  • WE were at a Circus Olay performance very late, and WE didn’t get enough sleep.

Notice the use of We. That’s mom acting as if she and her son are one. It’s a tell tale sign. In any case, the thrust of each argument is the same: my child is a victim. Of what? Not getting the grade I want him to have.

Are there legitimate reasons why Jimmy may have blown a test? Sure. Was he ill? Did someone in the family pass? Does he just flat out not get it? Those things are possible and do happen. Communication is key, of course.

This scene is playing out on every level, though. From kindergarten through college. Yes, college. I have heard professors speak of parents calling to argue about their kid’s grade, even on single assignments.

Whether it’s grades or a disagreement with another students, the helicopter parent is always alert and ready to intervene.

Smothering is a hard way for kids to grow, kind of like a fire. “We need this fire to get bigger and warmer and more beautiful.” “Smother it!” “Oh, okay.”

I have helicoptered over our oldest. Especially in public play scenarios–playground, soft play (AKA, Bring your kid here if you want sickness to spread through your household Play), etc.

I would keep a close eye on Ben (now 5). Waiting for someone to look at him the wrong way, run past him too fast and thus need my scolding (you’re welcome other parent staring at your phone), or in the event that he might fall, trip, stub his toe, get a hangnail, or look constipated.

I’ll admit it. I hovered. And it’s been hard to stop. To stop making sure he never gets scraped or has to struggle. To stop making excuses for why he colored outside of the lines more than other preschoolers (weak hands….mine are small, too….it’s the economy??).

And thankfully we have friends around us trying to prevent doing the same, so we can laugh about our neurosis together. There are things kids can’t fully do or think through themselves; that’s why parents matter. But some struggle is good.

Not letting them struggle when they’re safe in your care could lead to some silly and socially devastating experiences later. And to illustrate…

Image result for helicopter parents

Let your baby boy or sweet little princess feel some of the tension they will face evermore. In other words, coach them. Don’t take their place on the court.

They will eventually work alongside that difficult kid in class you’re trying to keep them away from. The coach who doesn’t always say something encouraging will be their boss. The players may be different, but the game will look pretty much the same.

God’s grace be to all of us trying to prepare kids for this world. It’s hard and vulnerable and tiring. And it’s so worth it.