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Stuck in the Mud

Years ago, on a particularly rainy Sunday morning, my dad and I had a difficult time getting to church. As we worked our way to church through beating rain, we had the sense that oars would have been more useful than tires! When we finally got to church, we found two long tire tracks in the grass next to the building. One of the leading men in the church had tried to drive his car close to the building to let out his passengers…and got stuck! Warning:Before you wag your finger at him too badly, understand he has a big heart for Christ and a love for people. The church had recently installed a French drain, right under the spot he parked. That, coupled with the heavy rains, left the ground very soft. Needless to say, he sank deep into the soaked earth. Try as he might, he could not get out of the mud without help. A tow truck bill and a lot of laughs later (and many by himself), he got his car into a parking spot at the church.

Sometimes our lives can be like that car. We feel sunk down in mud. We make attempts to get out, but our efforts only cause us to spin our tires in the mud. Our attempts to break free from the muddy depths leave us exhausted, frustrated, and depending on where you stand, dirty.

This can be true in our spiritual lives as well. We gain no traction and instead of freedom we just sling mud around. We improve in no particular area of our Christian walk. Our relationships with others are marginal, rocky, and sometimes nonexistent. Our home lives are marked by periods of struggle and conflict. We wake up tired, stay tired throughout the day, and end up going to bed tired. We get up on Sunday morning and we hope that something will happen when we go to church. We attend Sunday School and worship; we sing songs and listen to sermons, then go home. But nothing changes. Are you tired of spinning your tires in the mud?

You need a mento

Perhaps what is missing in your life is a coach. I have men in my life who are my mentors—coaches who speak into my life. They are men whom I can call, text, or meet for coffee, and they will be honest with me. I share my spiritual struggles, they in turn give honest, biblical feedback. They tell me what I need to hear, not necessarily what I want. Here are some good ground rules for having a solid mentor-coach in your life.

1. Select someone you trust

Finding solid mentors is essential. So take your time in doing this. Ask individuals who are both willing and who can be trusted to hold what you say in confidence. A mentor ought to be someone you highly respect, someone with exceptional character, someone with whom you know the Holy Spirit is deeply at work. If your best friend is know for making bad decisions, then he or she is not the person you are seeking. Remember, you are looking for someone who can share biblical insight into your life, so find someone who is grounded in their faith.

2. Same sex relationships

This is so important. you don’t want to go wrong on this point—men should be mentored by men, and women by women. When you allow yourself to be open and vulnerable to the input and feedback of others, the last thing you want to do is to open the door for improper relationships to foster. Too many think, “I can handle this,” only to find themselves making choices that ruin their lives and their witness. But such downfalls can be avoided by simply limiting your personal counselors to someone from the same gender.

3. Allow others permission to to speak

Once you have selected a mentor, give them permission to speak into your life. By this I mean they need to know that you are willing to hear what they have to say. If you are not prepared to listen to their insight , then you are wasting their time and yours. This is not a gripe session, but a faith-building season. So make sure you take full advantage of it by allowing those who invest their time into your life the benefit of actively listening to what they say. Trust me, it won’t always be easy, but it is worth it. God will use these individuals to open your eyes to your blind spots—and ultimately tear them down!

4. Respect the relationship

When you find someone who is willing to be a mentor to you, that is a special thing. Treat that relationship with care. Respect the time that they give you. Don’t bring every little thing before then, and don’t just bombard them with things throughout the week. In other words, blowing up their phone with insanely long texts is not the answer. Here is a good tip that one of my mentors gave me. Make a list of the things you need to discuss. When you meet, go quickly through the list. Show then that you value their time by coming prepared for the meeting. As your mentor shares insight over what you have brought, listen carefully. Perhaps more important than coming organized and prepared is coming prepared to hear more than speak.

5. Take action

When it is all said and done, take action on the things that you and your mentor discuss. Don’t just rant for 45 minutes about a problem. Every time you meet, identify one or two areas that you can work on before you meet again. In the interim, work on those one or two hot issues. You may not fully complete the task before you meet again (depending on the complexity of the issue and how often you meet). Be sure to give an update to your mentor. As you do this, you will begin to see the amount of spiritual progress you are making, and so will they.

You will get stuck in the mud from time to time. The question is how long will you stay there? How long will it be before you reach out to some for help? My prayer for you is that you will find someone to serve as a mentor for you. Do you know someone who is solidly grounded in their walk with Christ? Do they spend regular time in God’s Word? Do they have a reputation for making good choices? Are they a person of integrity? Then perhaps this is such a person to whom you could approach, asking them to consider cultivating a mentor relationship with you. Ask God for such a person to come into your life.

5 Things I Do To Relax

“I’m so exhausted!”

I can’t tell you how often these words leave my lips. It happens far more often than I care to admit. The pressures of work, family, and life in general leave me feeling overwhelmed and overloaded. So how do I unwind? How do I get my joy and delight back? Let me share some of the things that I like to do to relax.

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Time to Take a Break

It sounds so simple, but it can be very hard to do. Its hard because I am a doer. My days are filled with family, church, work, and school activities. But sometimes I just need a break; which is exactly what I’m doing right now. I have made it a point not to fill my time off with a bunch of tasks. This time is designed to get recharged. I have felt my tank running on empty. Below are five things that I like to do that recharge me. Perhaps as you see what I like to do with my down time, it will inspire you to find ways to unwind yourself.

Spend quality time with my wife

Whether its a movie or TV show, I like to snuggle up on the coach with my wife. Besides just entertaining ourselves in front of the TV, we read together, play games, go shopping, take road trips, and so much more. In short, we spend quality time together. She laughs at my ridiculous jokes and I listen to what’s on her heart. Just a little aside here, guys don’t neglect this! When she gets home in the evenings, we spend as much time together as we can. Cherish the quality time spent with your loved ones.

Read good books

My walk with Christ is central to my life. I get up each day and have a quiet time with my Bible open (sometimes with worship music in the background). But I need more than just a daily dose. Sometimes I need an infusion. I do thins by reading good books. There is usually a stack of books that I want to consume by my desk. Today is no different. Breaks permit me the time to do just that. Of course, I don’t just read non-fiction works on the Bible and theology. Some of my favorite authors are novelists, like J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings many times over. In short, I just like to read. I only wish I had more time to do it.

Drink a delicious cup of coffee

Did someone say coffee? Let me be a little honest here. I like coffee a little too much (that and chocolate). There is something very refreshing about a hot cup of coffee. The smell of a rich roasted blend can often be found in my home. You can be assured that while I am taking it easy, I’m tanking up on the good stuff! Just don’t tell my doctor, please.

Time for writing

As a kid, I used to pretend to write books. I imagined myself a fantasy or science fiction writer. In high school and college, I found that I enjoyed academic writing as well. I wish that I had kept some of those early works, even though they would be painful to read now. It would be interesting to see how I’ve grown as a writer. There are a number of ideas floating around in my head at any given time, but very little time to actually do it. Breaks give me time to give more attention to this passion. What I love most about writing is being able to educate and inspire readers. What kind of writing do you enjoy reading? What works captivate you attention?

Play Minecraft

If you don’t already know what Minecraft is, that’s okay (I’ll forgive you). I like to think of this PC video game as Legos for the computer. I can let my creative inner-child out to play. It can be very relaxing to build a house or castle any way I want. You may think me silly, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

This is a sampling of what I like to do. During this down time I’m doing some of these things today. I know this season of rest won’t last forever, but I am making the most of the time that I have.

Question: What do you like to do to relax? What activities bring you joy and delight? Let me know in the comments below.

3 Ways to Let your Light Shine

Imagine walking into the living room to watch your wife turn on a lamp, only to immediately cover it up with something dark.  The effect is striking. One minute the light illuminates the room. The next it is dark.  The light has not gone out.  Power still flows to the lamp, but it cannot be seen because it has been hidden.

The likelihood of my wife doing something like this is inconceivable.  I honestly cannot think of a single reason she would do something like that.  I am sure that you yourself cannot think of why you or anyone you know would do such a thing.  But that is the illustration that Jesus used to describe our testimony.

““You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16, ESV)

Cities on hilltops cannot be hidden, nor should lamps.  You life is a testimony to others around you.  As followers of Christ, we have the calling to reflect the glory of God in our daily lives.  That is worthy repeating.  We were made to reflect the glory of God. We do this by letting others see the “good works” we do so that they can “give glory to[our] Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

Let’s lake a moment to think of three “good works “ you can do today that will reflect the glory of God to a watching world.

1. Control your temper.

No one like to be around time bombs, least of all those who profess to be believers in Christ.  We all know people who explode at the slightest nudge.  We also know people who just simmer over issues.  We know those who don’t get mad, they just get even.  We might even be one of those people.  Jesus told his disciples, “First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”.  Don’t let unresolved anger blow up your life.

2. Be faithful to your spouse.

If you are married today, God gave you your wife or your husband.  Guard that relationship from outside pressures, especially the pressure that sexual temptation brings (Matt 5:27-28).  There is no such thing as an innocent flirtation.  It can ruin your marriage.  It can ruin your life.  It can ruin your witness.  Steer clear of this danger.

3. Love your spouse unconditionally.

My granddad told me repeatedly, “if you love your wife the way Christ loves his church, then you can’t run her off”.  People tell me that I still have the newlywed mentality, but I believe it doesn’t have to disappear.  You see, God never intended divorce.  It has always been his plan for one man and one woman to spend a lifetime together (Matt 5:31-32; 1 Cor 7:10-11).  Let the light of Christ shine through you as you unconditionally love your spouse, with a world gone crazy with divorce looking on.

Out of these three light-shining acts, which one do you struggle with the most? Share your comments below or send me an email.