Tag: difficult

9 truths nobody told you about small group

Ahh…small group life. You’re in…by the duping of your pastor. Or by the guilting of your wife. Or because you thought you were signing up for a free vacation.

But that was 6 weeks ago. And you’re finding out that what you expected isn’t what’s being delivered. And what you were sold isn’t being given. Group isn’t exactly what you thought it would be.

I don’t know what the hook was that got you “in,” but that won’t be the hook that gets you to stay. Allow me to tell you what nobody else told you when you signed up. And let me show you why each truth will serve you greatly.

9 truths nobody told you about small group

1. You won’t want to go.

As much as you like it, most weeks you won’t want to go to small group. You’ll start making up excuses about your excuses. Then your excuses will start making up excuses.

But isn’t the same thing true about almost anything in life that’s good for us?

2. You won’t make best friends with everyone in the group.

You’ll encounter people that rub you the wrong way. Speak out of turn. Don’t speak at all. And ones that can’t cook a pot of chili to save themselves. These aren’t necessarily people you’d want to hang out with on Friday nights.

But it’s not about making best friends. It’s about growing spiritually.

3. God will change you. And it’ll be painful.

How often in life do we choose what we know will cause us pain, and what we simultaneously know will cause us growth? Very rarely. This is your chance to grow in a safe, loving environment that wants God’s best for you.

Strap on your big boy shoes. 

4. God will use you. And it’ll be difficult.

You thought small group was about you, didn’t you? You thought you were the one that was stretching in this process. You thought the group, and its growth, its challenges, and its joy was about you. Boy, were you narrow-minded. And even though your story isn’t done, and you’re not where you know you want to be spiritually, God’s going to use you. He’s going to use your journey, and the wisdom He’s given. He’s going to use your insights into Scripture. He’s going to use your prayers.

You’ll find yourself surrounded by a group of broken work-in-progresses. And by the grace of God, you’ll be contributing to that work.

5. There are “better” ways to spend your time.

At least that’s what you’ll tell yourself. You need some “me” time. Your kids need you at home. You’re behind in emails. You’re hungry. You’re tired. You’re crabby. You…need to play golf.

There ARE better ways to spend your time. But carving out a couple of hours every week is time your soul needs. Choosing what we need over what we want helps us to mature.

6. You’ll be offended.

There will be times when you’re offended to your core. Sometimes the offenses will be off-base, out-of-line. Sometimes you’ll be offended on behalf of someone else. But the ones that sting the most are the offenses that are rooted in truth. The ones where you know they’re right as their words slice you like a surgeon.

You’re going to be hurt. In the best way possible.

7. You’ll be the offender.

You’ve offended people before. People at work. Family members. The guy that you cut off in traffic. But the difference in offending someone in your small group is that you will have grown to really love them. And you’ll feel just as pained as they are.

You’ll grow to love the people in your small group. And at some point, in some way, whether it’s implicit or explicit, you’ll offend someone you love. In truth and love.

8. It won’t feel natural. For a long time.

Small group will feel awkward and forced. You’ll wonder why in the world you signed up. These people don’t feel like “your people,” and they’re likely not going to be people you’d naturally hang out with.

These are exactly the kind of people God wants to use to grow you.

9. The information you gain isn’t all that important.

A lot of people sign up for a small group because of the content of the study. But that’s just the backdrop. The content you gain will only serve as long as you SEE it lived out in the lives of your group members.

Content is only a part of the value of a group. It’s a small piece of the pie.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – the apostle Paul, Hebrews 10:24-25

 

 

The most important, yet thankless, job in the world

I had a little time off for the holidays. Oh, how nice it was. I mean, I love my job. I absolutely love it.

But being with my family for an extended amount of time? That’s hard to beat.

I built countless Lego sets with my son. TV binged with my wife. Changed…oh so many…poopy diapers. Took scooter rides around the neighborhood. Slept in. Stayed up late. Put together toys for Christmas morning. Read through, and colored through, the Advent. Worshipped with my family. And at the end of the day, I rested. I Sabbathed. And I needed it as much as the rest of my family.

I need to let you in on a little secret, though.

Tending to our home, and our 2 kids, was no small feat.

Yes, my wife was there. The whole time. But I tried to take a load off of her plate as much as I could. I changed every dirty diaper. Tended to every tear. Made peanut butter sandwiches. Disciplined the whines. Hugged the “injuries.” Cleaned the kitchen. Vacuumed the rug. Made the bed. And did whatever it took to give my wife a little break.

And through this, my respect level for my wife has gone through the roof.

The day-to-day operations of raising children, keeping the house straight, making meals, and keeping your sanity is more difficult than you could imagine, especially if you’ve never done it before. Or if you imagined it was a fairly easy job.

As soon as one kid is fed, the other needs help. Then the other is crying. Then you’re having someone over for dinner, so the house needs to be straightened up. And dinner needs to be started. And…oh wait, dirty diaper again.

If you’ve ever said thought that stay-at-home moms have it easier than working dads, I’m calling you out. Right here, right now.

Moms have the most difficult, rewarding, exhausting, frustrating, chaotic, never-finished, messy, no-book-can-tell-you-what-to-do, thankless, joy-inducing, tear-stained, God-ordained, grace-filled job in the world.

A mom’s thankless work is never done. [Tweet that]

To think otherwise is to think too little of the work that moms do. To think otherwise is to downplay a task you either

1. Have never done.

2. Are terrible at.

To be an excellent mom takes your heart, mind, and body. It takes Jesus working in you and through you to sustain you. And to keep you from losing it each and every moment of the day, which is a very real and present option. I felt myself teetering on the brink of going crazy many times.

Motherhood is a calling. In my opinion, it’s one of the most difficult.

Thank you, Laura Reed. I love you even more.

To my mom, for putting up with my brother and me…you’ve got crowns upon crowns in heaven coming your way.

To all moms: don’t give up on your children. They need your grace, love, correction, hope, hugs, and cookies, because sometimes only a freshly-baked batch of cookies will do the trick. [Tweet that] I know this first hand.

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life … Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. – Proverbs 31:10-12; 25-30

 

The difficulty of change

Change, change, you are no one’s best friend.

You shake and you shift and make everyone bend.

 

Change, change, you make things so hard.

You stop the mundane like the praetorian guard.

 

Change, change, you make me feel weird.

Things once were comfortable, peaceful and clear.

 

Change, change, you make me want to quit

before your work is done. You’ve made a mess of it.

BUT

 

Change, change, you are good for me.

You stretch me, pull me, push me, grow me.

 

 

Change, change, you force innovation.

Creativity bubbles, ideas are born. They build on creation.

 

 

Change, change, you buck the status quo.

Push us right off our comfortable plateau.

 

 

Change, change, keep doing your thing.

Stretch, encourage, innovate. Bubble up from the spring.

 

 

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

 

Holding on to fortune cookies

Parenting is tough. And I hear it never gets any easier.

image credit mine

It’s easy to feel like a failure, too. Like all of the effort you pour into the work, all of the love you give, all of the consistency in discipline, all of the enforcing bedtimes and pointing your children to God is worthless. Especially when you have friends over and your child is the heathen child of the bunch that runs his Power Wheels into the back of another, smaller kid’s Power Wheels…twice.

But just last week, we opened fortune cookies together after a particularly delicious meal at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants. He hadn’t eaten a huge dinner, but of course, he had room for a fortune cookie (or two). I asked him to read his to me. (bear in mind…he’s 3. Which makes “fortune cookie time” rather interesting.) What he “read” I’ll never forget.

“What does yours say, Rex?”

“It says, ‘We have to go to church and to small group.” Before you jump to conclusions that I’ve raised a legalistic Pharisee, let me translate that for you: “I like to go to church on Sundays, and I like mommy and daddy’s small group. Can we go to either one now?”

That’s one of my prayers for him. That my son would grow up enjoying Sunday mornings. That being the son of a pastor wouldn’t burn him. That he wouldn’t look back with disdain on the evenings when my wife and I attended small group. That he would catch just how vital relationships are to his spiritual growth. That ministering and serving and worshipping on Sunday mornings would be a well of joy in his life.

Did he say all of that in his “reading” of the fortune cookie. Probably not. But don’t ruin it for me. Let me think that’s what he meant. 🙂

That’s one of those moments I’m going to tuck away in my back pocket on the days when my parenting seems to be a flop. On the days when I look at other parents and wish I were more like them. On the days when my child is the heathen, I’ll lock back in to this fortune cookie.

Fortune cookie moments are rare in any parenting’s life. But they’re a diamond worth holding on to.

What “fortune cookie” do you hold on to in parenting?

 

 

Good leaders are good listeners

My son is piecing lots of words and thoughts and phrases together.  It’s quite hilarious, actually.  Here are a few he’s said recently.

Right there!  Daddy…Poppy…eat…hot!

Translation: “I ate dinner there with Poppy one night, and his plate was so hot it burned me.”

Oh no! Wait…Daddy…church…right there!

Translation: “We just drove by the road that we turn down to go to church…turn around!”

Me…Daddy…play…school

Translation: “Daddy and I played on the playground at that school and it was fun!”

Daddy…outside…work…help…me

Translation: ‘I helped Daddy work outside.’ (see picture below for when he said that)

Daddy…back…hat?

Translation: “Daddy, would you turn your hat around backwards?”

Daddy…yucky

Translation: “Daddy, you smell bad.”  (I get that one a lot…)

But this is the one that takes the cake:

Daddy die!

Out of context, this statement from my son seems oddly dark and twisted.  In context it makes perfect sense.  I promise you my son is not a weirdo.

See, if you’d been there in the moment, you wouldn’t have thought anything was out of place.  He was riding his four-wheeler, and right in the middle of the yard, the battery died.  All he was doing was letting me know that, so that I’d go plug it back in and charge it up.  Not weird at all.

And that’s what building a relationship does.  It helps put things into context.  It helps make sense of a person.  Learning their story, understanding their struggles, their heartaches, their missed opportunities, their hopes and dreams takes them from being an “outsider” to being someone you relate with and that you can serve with.  All of a sudden, they’re not so un-relatable…you begin to see how your stories at some level mesh, and how you can speak truth into that person’s life.

Relationships are difficult, no doubt.  And they’re messy and frustrating and will test your patience and your life’s calling.  But taking the time to hear someone’s story, helping them pull out the bright spots, shining light in the dark places, will make you a better leader.  Because through truly getting to know people, not just brushing them off and casting them to the side, you’ll grow to love them more.

People aren’t a means to an end.  They’re your calling.  It doesn’t matter what “business” you’re in.

Good leaders are good listeners.

 

 

When life falls apart

We know what it feels like, but what does it look like when life falls apart?

Here’s a beautifully well-done short video trying to capture the raw feeling and emotion that happens when our life comes unravelled.

 

In An Instant from Tungsten on Vimeo.

 
Does that seem to come close to capturing it?

 

When it doesn’t go right

Ever hit a rough spot in life?


The Bible’s full of people hitting rough spots.

In 2 Chronicles 32, it says that Hezekiah (the king of Judah in the early 700s – late 600s b.c.) had just finished doing what the Lord had asked him to do.  In distributing food to the people, in following the laws and commands of the Lord, and in all that he did, he sought the Lord wholeheartedly.  He was very successful. (2 Chronicles 31:20-21)  Yet it was in the midst of this success that he was invaded by his enemy, the King of Assyria.
The people must have quickly lost hope.  I’m sure some said, “We followed God, now this?!?”  But Hezekiah encouraged the people with this:
Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people.
So how should we view our circumstances?  The ups and downs of life?  Should we look at them as a door…opening and closing to different possibilities?  Or should we look at them as an indicator of our spiritual health?

Here are a few things we can rightly say that circumstances are not:

1. Circumstances aren’t a good barometer for how you’re living your life. Hezekiah was following the Lord with all of his heart.  He was seeking God wholeheartedly.  Yet things were still crumbling around him.  There can be a connection with how you’re living your life and the natural consequences you reap…but not always.  I’ve heard people say that, when things fall apart, there must be some unconfessed sin in your heart that God’s punishing you for.  Thankfully, I don’t think that God operates like that.  If He worked off of a scale, and every sin I committed meant I got a given punishment, then my life would be a mess most of the time.   I’m so thankful Christ has paid my ransom.
2. Circumstances aren’t a good barometer for how you should plan your life. If they were, then every time you failed a test, you could assume that God didn’t want you to finish school; every time you got sick, you could assume that God didn’t want you to do whatever you were set out to do; every time you were short on money, you could assume God wants you to do whatever it takes to get more money.  Don’t plan your life around circumstances…plan them around what God’s called you to do.  Circumstances are complicated.  And if you’ll sit down and think through it, you could just as easily convince yourself that God’s leading you to do something as He is asking you not to do that same thing.  Circumstances may help confirm the Lord’s work, but because of the work of Satan (which God allows…see Job 1.6-12), it’s hard to know for certain that a given situation is the Lord’s direct work.
3. Circumstances aren’t a good barometer for whether the Lord is with you or not. Hezekiah’s circumstances, from man’s perspective, looked pretty awful.  He was being attacked!  But the Lord was certainly with them.  Just because you’re under attack doesn’t mean that the Lord has left you.  In fact, He may have allowed you to come under attack so that He could rescue you.  One thing he clearly loves to do. (see…the whole Bible)

If you find yourself in some difficult times, take hope that God’s not left you.  He doesn’t do that. He works right in the midst of the difficulties.
I’ll post tomorrow about some things we can rightly assert about our circumstances.  But until then,
Have you ever used circumstances, in and of themselves, to make a decision?
Have you found any of the above to be true in your life?
 

Quit waiting

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.

If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

Change is difficult, no matter who or what you’re trying to change.  We humans quickly habitualize (yep, I just made that word up), meaning that even changing things that aren’t “old and stuffy” is a big task.

Don’t find yourself noticing what needs to change, but paralyzed while you’re waiting for the “perfect” climate.  Or the “perfect” new small group leader.  Or having just the right amount of time.  Or having enough resources.  Or…well…the “perfect” anything.

And the moment you find the “perfect” situation, be ready…a storm is likely on its heels.

If you’re waiting for everything to line up perfectly, change will never happen.

Where things don’t line up “perfectly,” creativity, collaboration, and hard work more than make up the difference.

Leaders know what changes need to happen.  And they go ahead and “plant.”  Because if you never plant, you’ll never harvest.

What changes need to happen in your church?  In your small group?  In your life?

 

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