Halftime: A Musing on Life in 2018

Well, folks, the summer equinox is upon us and you know what that means…

…time for yet another enlightening installment of ‘halftime lessons learned’ where the year goes under inspection, the heart under reflection, and fears under subjection…

…where inventory becomes short story…

…and hopes teetering on paralysis find rest in analysis.

Now, I admit: when probing a year, I prefer filtering my thoughts into bite-sized, applicable takeaways; however, this year, I can’t help but feel I must take a different approach given its narrative and the irony of potentially leaving truth between the lines.

After all, not all years are created equal, and as such, easily quantifiable.

But where to begin…that is the question.

Obviously, life on the home front has changed significantly with Everly. Like Caeden, her joy has proved contagious in a year full of adjustments. Granted, with two under three and an adolescent pup, maturation compels naturally when a family grows for a third straight year. Even so, this year’s home-owning family of four has felt far more settled than last year’s house-hunting family of three. Accordingly, all is well and better than ever for me and my house.

Of course, not all change has been hunky-dory; the lack of youth ministry, in particular, has proven especially difficult.

For starters, I didn’t realize until after-the-fact just how much I’d assigned identity to role and pain to under the carpet 1 2. I suppose when you’re constantly pouring out and giving your all regardless of peripherals, it’s easy for that to become your reality. Unfortunately, the more you tolerate voids in this way, the more you think you can fill them loving on your own terms, as if the Golden Rule alone can grant purpose.

But as we know, that’s not how begetting life works3. Ultimately, if we desire a pure walk with God based in intimacy over responsibility, we must confront the interference…

…which brings me to where I’m at today…

…where if there’s any desperation, it’s for my sense of place and passion to be free from seeking re-orientation in ego4, specifically what should have been.

As the Lord has been convicting me in recent weeks, the world is searching for sacred love…is aching for eternity (as perpetual presence)…and yearning for believers to identify with Jesus. And while it’s easy to emphasize advancement and progress, there are seasons when we must return to awe, re-embrace the basics of our faith, and allow the gnosis5 of ‘we are not what we do’ to seep below the neckline6.

For when we allow God to reset, restart, and refresh both course and inner man, our strength is renewed to release not only what we lack, but what hasn’t worked7.

Think of it this way: whenever you crave wonder to extinguish discouragement, remember what truly lasts. Yes, seasons come and go. And yes, there will be times when you feel what should be happening isn’t happening.

But glory to God life is so much richer than our temporary inconveniences…that even in the midst of what’s not working or happening, he uses those voids to remind us who we are…and how much we need him.

And while the roadmap will surely vary from person to person…

…like a river to be crossed, we will get there.

As for the rest of 2018, there’s so much I could say, from our new family freelancing business to returning to school to finish my meteorology degree (see vid below for backstory); however, given much is still developing, I’ll hold off until December before lending a detailed update/recap.

‘Til then, enjoy halftime.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. In the name of endurance.
  2. Not to mention those pesky what if’s…like what if I had allowed myself to be poured into more consistently? What if I had recognized ‘x’ insecurity sooner? What if I had applied this personal/program correction at ‘x’ point? Etc, etc…
  3. Eternal esurance slogan?
  4. Notably in temporary measures like success, relationship, and comparisons
  5. Head knowledge
  6. Heart knowledge (i.e. epignosis); in case you need to know where I’m at, there you go
  7. Or isn’t working

Photo creds: Fine Art America

The Naked Truth: Why Church Needs a Sex Talk

Since its inception, His Girl Fryday has served as a resource helping bivocational/ marketplace leaders mature their influence…and while our mission has always been to bridge sacred and secular, when it comes to absolute truth, ultimately we’re just as passionate outside our niche as within it.

Thus, as we tackle a hot topic in sexuality, understand this message has not only been internally simmering for years (having been ignited during last week’s Messenger Fellowship summit), but also represents one of my deepest pastoral regrets having rarely addressed it1 during my youth ministry tenure. Of course, much could be said in a testimonial setting; for now, let’s focus on how sexuality has been and should be addressed to effectively equip the emerging generation.

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When it comes to modern day sexuality, no question we live in a unique time caught up in the crossfire of change. On one hand, we have church and culture experiencing seismic shifts in how intimacy and its abuse are perceived. On the other, we have integrity and cross-generational tension in how the Word is interpreted and behaviorally applied².

Yet, while the divide may seem like a slippery slope, how we close the gap is worth discussion given we all struggle (or have struggled) with sexual identity, temptation, compromise, or at the very least, our identity in Christ.

Take my case for example…

As a child of the ’90’s, I grew up in a time when intimacy was seen as forbidden fruit. Not only was sex not talked about outside ‘the birds and the bees’, but hardly anyone wanted to…apart from a few exceptions.

I remember during one 8th grade chapel, my school brought in a young Christian couple to share their “love story”, a PG-13 account of why they waited. Unfortunately, while their testimony captured the wonder of affection, it failed to connect sex to Scripture leaving many peers in a wake of armor-less intrigue.

A few months later, I invited a friend to summer camp during which the last guest speaker defined purity as avoiding promiscuity. But again, like the married couple, though the message conveyed the mystique of sex, the big picture only grew more convoluted, especially for those like me who had become skilled in evading Cosmopolitan without knowing why.

Enter the day my sophomore year when I discovered Victoria Secret in my parent’s mailbox.

Yes, I had learned not to go looking for lust; however, I hadn’t learned what to do when lust came looking for me. Factor in a freshman year marred by peer rejection and bullying and suddenly those scantily clad women were more than just tempting…they were void-filling.

And so began a decadal stretch where self-gratification and fantasy lust not only became on-and-off defaults to loneliness and self-loathing, but self-seeking manifests in romantic relationships3 (more on this in a future post). Thankfully, after years of denial and compromise, the Spirit would meet me in a point of surrender and reset my course.

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But by then, the damage had been done. Despite the fact I was a new creation relearning grace, forgiveness, and perseverance in the midst of shame, insecurity, and depression, the weight of deferred awareness -what could have been had I just trashed the lingerie clippings instead of stashing them ten years earlier – bore heavily on my mind.

Not to mention all the ‘what if’s’…

…like what if someone had taught me the wrongs of self-gratification?

…what if someone had taught me the boundaries of intimacy in dating relationships?

…what if I had a mentor who connected taking thoughts captive to pornographic temptation?

…what if the message of sexuality in my youth had involved discovering God’s intent as opposed to guilting people from living outside it?

Maybe then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

But the reality is we are…because I believe God not only wants to reshape and ‘de-grey’ the way we teach sex, but purge our family lines of where it’s been abused.  Like me, you may have wrestled with a checkered past, but this doesn’t mean God can’t use your fearless voice to stir implicit trust in places of explicit exposure.

The question is: are we willing to be entirely honest and sensitive when we need to?

For as long as sex is minimally approached and swept under the rug, we set our children up to learn the hard way; however, if we truly desire our youth to see sex through the fear of the Lord/their identity in Christ, if we truly long for them to be content in their singleness, and to understand the positives of purity, the rewards of repentance, and the repercussions of sexual sin4, only then will we set a foundation on which they can stand firm.

‘Til then, I submit the church refreshens her approach on teaching intimacy. To paraphrase John Piper…

the problem with the church’s guide to sex education isn’t her instruction on walking in light, but her negligence in modeling a hatred of darkness.

As a result, youth are growing up aware sex has a time and place, like fire in a fireplace, but are far less aware of what to do when the chimney starts to crack or when the fire breaches the home. At some point, we must be willing to convey the fire of intimacy not only through the fatherheart of God, but in eager fashion as people unashamed of the Gospel and our testimony (Romans 1:15-16 AMP). Perhaps then will today’s young people know how to ‘house’ their sexuality where the fireplace was designed to be.

tenor

As for me, all I know is far too long I’ve been on my knees crying for help, but now that help has come…and in its wake…my heart yearns to see future generations know the warning signs that flare in the night and proceed against greed in light of the stronger, holy fire burning within5.

In closing, I encourage you, my friends, let’s be unified in advancing a more vulnerable talk on sex while praying generational healing into the roots of our family trees. After all, as great as the struggle or freedom we’re walking in, how much more glorious the triumph when we embrace the legacy of God’s highest?

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Granted, the effort was made multiple times; at least we got this far
  2. Hence, why sexuality is such a challenging subject given its taboo label and sandpapery effect on identity/ego/security
  3. Specifically, the lie of ‘as long as it’s not intercourse, it’s okay’
  4. Including the various forms of pornography and self-gratification
  5. Yes, I have DC Talk’s ‘The Hardway’ in my head now; again, I’m a child of the ‘90’s 😉

Cover photo creds: Pond5, Called to be Free

Making Time for Quiet Time: Part 1

Have you ever wondered how your pastor spends his alone time? Or what he does away from church?

I know I have.

In fact, I remember as a kid, thinking the pastor was like the Wizard of Oz – a man of big presence and mystery, yet shielded behind the curtain of Monday thru Saturday.

But as I grew older, and watched my dad make the transition from road warrior to senior pastor, I learned firsthand the importance of not only making time for God, but being a wise steward of that time.

And now, as a bivocational minister, I’m living what I learned, rediscovering the value of quiet time in an entirely new light.

Now, I know when we talk quiet time, it’s easy to get squeamish. After all, it’s not easy making room for it with so much going on in life.

But it’s not like pastors are any exception.

‘Cause with pastors, quiet time can get lost in the shuffle rather easily, whether in tedious logistics…like studying and writing out sermons, orchestrating service flows, making phone calls, responding to e-mails, staff meetings…or the personal items like counseling sessions, house church, attending important social engagements, hospital visits, etc.

And keep in mind, we’re not even talking about other full-time jobs, academic loads or family commitments.

But maybe you’re reading this wondering what the heck is real “quiet time” anyway?

Well, at its core, quiet time is time intentionally set aside for intimate communion with God, whether through prayer, intercession, reflection, reading the Word…or a combo platter of two or more.

So quiet time is basically premeditated meditation.

670px-Establish-Personal-Quiet-Time-with-Christ-Step-5However, for ministers and church leaders, quiet time can be a slightly more complicated issue.

For instance, many pastors prep multiple messages on a weekly basis, spending many hours submerged in Scriptures, commentaries, concordances, databases, journal articles, etc.

Is it okay, then, for them to occasionally use prep time as quiet time?”

Well, the quick, smart-aleck answer is: Of course!

‘Cause if you think about it, prep time is literally applied quiet time

 …yet, with one notable caveat: Prep time is  seeking God with an agenda, quiet time is seeking God for the agenda.

 True, both can be purposeful…and planned out in advance.

However, with “quiet time”, we’re talkin’ about a holy hangout we get to have with the living God, completely free of technical, relational or work-related distractions.

Pretty amazing, eh?

Yet, when we dig a little deeper, we find “quiet time” to not only be a conversation with God, but also a gateway to higher level understanding concerning the ways of God. Thus, if we’re truly thirsty to see our relationship with God advance, then spending yielded time with Him is not an option.

And hear me, guys, I know what it’s like to wrestle with a desire to spend quality time with God, especially on days when I have a lot on my plate or when I’m feeling burnt out.

Yet, whenever I find myself wrestling with the decision to spend quiet time with God, I ask myself:

  • Have I committed this day to the Lord?
  • Have I expressed praise and thanksgiving to God today?
  • Have I spent agenda-free time with God today?
  • Have I opened my heart to give and receive from the Lord today?

If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions, then chances are, I need to pause and recalibrate through quiet time. And hey, if you run down the checklist, but are still struggling, simply ask God to fill you up with a deeper desire to know Him more. It won’t take long before He pours into you with supernatural hunger.

So coming back to the initial question: is it okay for ministers to use prep time as quiet time?

Well, yes

But think about it: wouldn’t it be better for quiet time to lead into prep time?

Shouldn’t prep time flow out of quiet time, given the point of either is seeking God first and foremost above content?

‘Cause bottom line: We don’t prep to have quiet time, but have quiet time so what we do flows out of it.

Matthew 6:33 confirms this:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (ESV)

In other words, when we lay down our agenda and seek the Lord first, we’ll find He, in turn, will inspire the content for the prep. Thus, quiet time doesn’t have to hinge on our productivity or intellectual efficiency. Rather, we can rest in knowing God will be faithful to provide the timely word or revelation we’re looking for. All we have to do is stand at the door and knock (Revelation 3:20).

Stay tuned next time, when we’ll conclude this mini-series by talking about how ministers can tangibly model quiet time and how they can keep it from becoming a “grey area” in the church.