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 how you’re sabotaging satisfaction in life!

  • Your job isn’t fulfilling.
  • Getting that degree was supposed to make all the difference.
  • That 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’ve maintained adequate levels of dissatisfaction my entire adult life.

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 he doesn’t know exists, 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 Downton 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………You didn’t guess. I’ll just tell you. I became bitter, cynical, critical, and looked for greener grass.

As it turned out, my unrealistic expectations were akin to Round Up. I killed whatever grass I found under my feet.

My expectations have been the problem, regardless of the job.

It makes sense, then, that changing expectations is one of the quickest and most effective means for enjoying experiences.

Where is there joylessness in your life? Where is there discontent?

Now, what adjustments–however small–can you make to your expectations in these areas? Give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

 

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.

 

You can start one, too. No excuses.

img_20160922_173702208_hdr

Who says Bluff City can’t do fancy?

 

 

Lindsey was reading Jen Hatmaker‘s book For the Love a while back (I read it too and recommend it) and came across the idea of a supper club. I don’t think that’s anything new, especially after watching a few seasons of Downton Abbey.

The premise is simple. Get friends together and eat. We have four couples and rotate houses each month. The host covers all costs and does a theme if desired. If the madness is too severe to think about themes or decorations, there is no judgment from anyone–the struggle is real, y’all.

Table fellowship is so important throughout the scriptures that it doesn’t make sense why we would downplay it now. Conversation flows, hearts are opened, and you’re encouraged to hear what God is doing in other people’s lives, including how He’s showing up in the not so rainbow and butterfly seasons as well.

So make the calls or start a Facebook message (or whatever you crazy kids do now) and break some bread. Even if the food is bad for your body, it’s good for your soul.

Will your kids be able to cope with culture?

lazy-river

Culture itself is a tricky notion to nail down.

You can go technical and talk about language, education, economics, etc. But quite simply, culture is the sum total of what a particular people believe about life.

So if you were a stranger from another planet and dropped into the USofA somewhere, in or around any decent sized city, you could piece together what the people believe about religion, government, money, family, and so on. Even amidst the variety, there is enough consensus to formulate an understanding.

Now, should what you notice in the broader swath of the populace be any different when it comes to observing Christians?

Or does it look as if these Jesus followers are mostly indistinguishable from everyone else?

How about the way they raise their kids? Does that look any different?

As I move along in Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart, the matter of cultural influence is emerging. I always picture culture as a lazy river, and Christians are the weirdos going the other way, which isn’t really relaxing or lazy at all.

If, as the Shorter Catechism states, man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, then how are Christian parents inculcating that anti-lazy river belief into their (our) kids?

Here’s how not to do it. This is how, as Tripp writes, “you teach your children to function in the culture on its terms.”

How do we do this? We pander to their desires and wishes. We teach them to find their soul’s delight in going places and doing things. We attempt to satisfy their lust for excitement. We fill their young lives with distractions from God. We give them material things and take delight in their delight in possessions. Then we hope that somewhere down the line they will see that a life worth living is found only in knowing and serving God.

That last sentence is powerful. We go the way of culture with basically every aspect of life, and belief about life, and perhaps we take the kids to church most Sundays and don’t let them cuss in front of us, and then hope they see that life with God is better than all else.

It’s nonsensical. It’s illogical. Let’s all say it together–It’s dumb.

But it’s what most Christians are doing right now.

We tell our kids with our mouths that a relationship with Jesus is the most valuable thing in this life and beyond. Then we say with our lives and actions that Jesus is great, but not as great as the stuff we can buy or places we can go or experiences we can have or cars we can drive or clothes we can wear or clubs we can join.

Jesus ends up relegated to Sunday mornings and election years.

So if that stranger from another planet dropped into your home, what’s different? What is it about what you are doing and how you are doing it that would cause the stranger to conclude, “I am not sure if the kids get it yet, but their parents are trying to show them the surpassing worth of life lived in devotion to God.”

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.