Living Backwards

Recent studies show that one out of every one persons will die at some point in their lifetime.

With that being said, we all have a day coming where family, friends and other random people who assumed they were our friends will gather to reflect and (hopefully) celebrate our lives. My question to you is simply this:

How do you want to be remembered?

I’m not talking about the generic, “Oh, he was such a good man” or “She was such a sweet lady”—you and I both know that people will say that regardless of whether you live like hell or not.

But what do you want your legacy to be? What is it that you want people to know about you before the preacher stands up to try to remind (or persuade) them?

It’s a tough question, isn’t it? This is the question that was brought up in our life group a few weeks ago. It’s the question I’ve thought about fairly often since then. It’s the question that I’ve set aside a page in my Moleskine journal for. It’s the question that sparked an hour-ish long discussion over our dinner table last week.

When we think about legacy, it’s so easy to think long-term. But legacies are not made in the long-term. Legacies are built brick-by-brick in the day-to-day grind of life. Our legacies are forged a little more with each setting of the sun.

Want to be remembered as a loving spouse? Love your spouse today. Want to be remembered as a beloved parent? Be intentional with your kids today. Want to be remembered for your generosity? Start giving today. Want to be remembered for your faith? Walk with Jesus today. If you want your legacy to be remembered tomorrow, get started on it today.

So what do you want your legacy to be? I think that’s a question you should ask yourself. Not just in passing—really ask yourself. Make some notes. Do some reflecting. And then once you decide what you want to be known for, try living each day with the end in mind. Live backwards.

Thanks Mom

Dear Mom,

Thanks for loving dad so well; I’m not sure you’ll ever know how important it was for us to see what an “I’m not going anywhere” kind of marriage looked like (and continues to look like).

Thanks for doing without so that we wouldn’t have to; I never realized this until I became a parent.

Thanks for being so patient; dear Lord, how were you so patient?

Thanks for calling me on the nights I was out past midnight; it made me realize you cared.

Thanks for the many spontaneous road trips; they have taught me to enjoy life even when I’m not sure what’s around the corner.

Thanks for all the home-cooked meals; they were way better than eating fast food every night.

Thanks for still buying me meals when we eat out; generosity has always been your love language.

Thanks for loving my wife; she is my priority, and your love and acceptance of her means more than you know.

Thanks for working so hard; it showed us that work is a good gift to be embraced.

Thanks for family vacations; they reminded us that, while work was important, rest was also a commandment from God.

Thank you for being so strong-willed; it taught us that our convictions are worth fighting for.

Thanks for disciplining us like you did; looking back, I now know it was because you were loving us well.

Thanks for letting your boys be boys; I think it helped us to become men.

Thanks for not allowing church to be an option; it’s one of the reasons us kids are in church today.

Thanks for looking past all the things I’ve neglected to thank you for; you’ve always leaked grace on us kids.

Thanks for kneeling on the pink carpeted floor and floral print couches of the family room and leading me to Jesus; that has made all the difference.

But seriously, what made you think pink carpet was ever a good idea?

Love always,
Your son.

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Having An Affair With Jesus

I’m currently reading a book entitled, “The Senior Pastor and the Reformation of Youth Ministry” by Richard Ross. It’s really challenging my perspective on the “why” and “how” behind student ministry and what a healthy student ministry should look like–but that’s a topic for another day.

Eighteen pages into the book, Ross references some comments made by a well-known worship leader. Here are the two paragraphs that have wrecked me for the last couple of weeks:

Often it feels to me as if, for many of our people, singing praise songs and hymns on a Sunday morning has turned into an affair with Christ. . . . Too many of us are far more passionate about less, temporal concerns such as getting ahead at the office, finding personal happiness in a hobby, driving a new car, or rearing well-balanced children. But we rarely ever get that excited about Christ Himself, at least on any consistent basis.

Except when we enter a sanctuary on a Sunday. Then for awhile we end up sort of “swooning” over Christ with feel-good music and heart-stirring prayers–only to return to the daily grind of secular seductions to which, for all practical purposes, we’re thoroughly “married.” . . . Christ is more like a “mistress” to us. He’s someone with whom we have these periodic affairs to to reinvigorate our spirits so that we can return, refreshed, to engage all the other agendas that dominate us most of the time.

I wonder how many of us are merely having “an affair with Christ”? I’m not casting stones here. I’ll be the first to acknowledge my guilt of singing and raising my hands from the stage on a Sunday only to turn back to the “secular seductions” (work, schedules, finances, and yes, sometimes ministry) when the alarm clock goes off on Monday morning.

I don’t have this figured out yet. In Paul’s all-too-familiar words, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18) But “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25) who calls us his Bride, even when we treat him like a mistress.

When God Speaks Through a Coke

Each Sunday morning I lead a group of college and young adult aged men and women through some sort of Bible lesson, discussion, etc. (Yes, it’s a Sunday School class; there’s just something about the phrase “Sunday School” that makes me cringe a little.) Last Sunday we talked a bit about the account of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42. If you’re not familiar with the passage, Jesus applauds Mary for sitting at his feet, while encouraging Martha to be less concerned about the “many things” that cause her to be “anxious” and “troubled” and to be more concerned with him. Naturally, I encouraged the group to make time for the most important thing–their relationship with Jesus–in the midst of other important things–relationships, school, work, etc.

Then Wednesday happened.

Wednesdays are always busy days for me. On a typical Wednesday I’m usually up around 5am, at the church office at 9am, and finally get back home around 10-11pm. But this past Wednesday made a typical Wednesday look like a walk in the park.

The day started with a doctor’s appointment for Owen, which revealed a nasty ear infection along with some other medical issues that his pediatrician wanted to examine further. Then it was off to the lab for blood work (which, might I add, is absolutely miserable for a one year old and parents). I finally made it into the office around 12:30 where I managed to get caught up on Wednesday night youth group preparations before venturing back out to run some work errands, pick up O’s prescriptions, and swing by to check in on the family. I got back to the church building around 5pm, jumped right into youth band practice which ran right up until our gathering started at 6:30. For the next hour and half we sang, laughed at people eating disgusting flavors of jelly beans, sang some more, and talked about Jesus. No sooner than I had said “amen” on the closing prayer, Kelli informed me that we needed to take Owen to the hospital as a result of some of the aforementioned medical issues. So off to the hospital we went–and after an X-ray, a CT scan, some IV fluids and a lot of waiting, I finally laid down to sleep around 4am (which would’ve been later were it not for a self-sacrificing wife).

But what I didn’t tell you was that throughout the vast majority of that Wednesday I carried around a bottle of Coca Cola that I had purchased earlier in the day. It was one of those bottles from the “Share a Coke” campaign that had a random name on it. But for that particular Wednesday, I don’t think the name was very random at all. What was the name?

Photo Apr 22, 3 43 44 PM

Martha. You know–the Martha from passage I had just talked through the previous Sunday. The Martha that was so preoccupied, troubled, and anxious with her “many things” that she nearly missed the most important thing.

The Martha that I encouraged my group not to be that week was the Martha that I had been that day. I had gotten so caught up in doctors appointments, schedules, preparations, and yes, even ministry, that I had neglected just sitting at the feet of Jesus.

I don’t want to be the guy that over-spiritualizes every little thing–but what a subtle reminder to practice what I preach. More importantly, what a reminder not to miss the most important thing in the midst of other important things.

And clearly, God enjoys Coke more than Pepsi.

What Do You Dream Of?

I’m generally not one to walk around with my head in the clouds; I’m far too much of a realist (aka pessimist) for that. But just for the sake of conversation, here’s a question for you: What do you dream of? I’m not talking about those “post-late-night-mexican-food” dreams. I mean aspirations, goals, the type of dreams that keep you going even on your worst days?

About two years ago Kelli and I took a weekend vacation just to get out of town. I remember on the drive up we took a sheet of paper and wrote down some of our dreams and goals in life. I still have that paper stuck to the inside cover of my journal, so I thought I’d take a chance and share a few of my dreams with you (as long as you promise not to laugh).

Write a book.
I love to read—which makes me want to write. Obviously, I write on this blog. I’ve also been fortunate enough to write some articles for 1798 Magazine. But I really I want to write a book. I have no idea what I would write a book on, but I know at least two people would read it. Thanks Kelli and mom.

Earn my doctorate.
In all fairness, having a child changed my perspective on this one a bit. I’m not willing to exchange precious moments with my children for a couple of letters before my name, but maybe someday down the road I’ll have the time (and money…crossing my fingers) to pursue that doctorate degree.

Plant/pastor a church.
I know these are two very different animals (and by animals, I mean that both can maul you and potentially leave you with some nasty scars.) Nevertheless, if I’m honest, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of planting or pastoring a church someday. Also, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t remember that I am far too inexperienced and unwise to plant or pastor a church. Maybe someday.

Build a house.
This is at the pinnacle of my list. I’m a family guy, so very few things make me more excited than dreaming of designing and building a place for my family to laugh, cry, play, fight, eat, sleep and make memories together.

What about  you? What do you dream of? Do you dream at all? If not, you really should.

A Lesson from Lent

In an effort to try something different and new this year, Kelli and I decided we were going to partake in Lent. Before the 40 days of Lent kicked off on February 18 (turns out it’s actually more than 40 days) we each decided on a “lesser thing” we were going to give up in an effort to better focus on the “greatest thing”—the gospel. Kelli abstained from caffeine and sugar for the entirety of the 40 days while I took an extended vacation from social media. In addition to giving up our “lesser things” I also found a great Lent guide from The Village Church for us to walk through together as a family. The guide led us through a series of passages from the gospels as well as through a series of weekly fasts (food, TV and movies, social media, caffeine and sweets, radio and music, purchasing non-essentials, sleep—in that order) with the goal of “preparing [us] for the joy of Resurrection Sunday as we enter the sorrow and pain which preceded it.”

I wish I could tell you it was a time of incredible spiritual awakening. It wasn’t. I wish I could tell you that each and every week I led my family through powerful devotions full of deep and life-changing spiritual insights. That didn’t happen either. However, Lent did reveal something in my own life that I’m certain many can relate to.

Having decided to give up social media for 40 days, I deleted the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram apps from my phone. What’s funny (or mildly disturbing) is that over the first few days of the fast I would mindlessly pick up my phone as if to jump onto Twitter or to scan through Instagram, only to realize that the apps were no longer available. So did I just put my phone down? No. I checked my email instead—you know, just in case I started getting emails from people who haven’t messaged me one time in the last three years. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’m overconnected.

We live in a world that makes it incredibly hard to power down and disconnect. The devices we carry in our pockets make it nearly impossible. We’re always connected. Yet in the gospels we have record of Jesus slipping away from time to time to pray in a quiet place. Jesus exemplified what it means to disconnect—and if Jesus exemplified it, I think we would do well to imitate.  If you’re like me and find yourself on social media quite often, let me encourage you to shut your phone (or tablet, or computer, or whatever you use) off every once in a while (maybe even for a whole week or weekend—gasp!). Unplug. Disconnect. Your husband/wife/children/family/friends will appreciate it—and you’ll benefit from it as well.