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Posts Tagged ‘decisions’

Did you finish out your year or did your year just end?  Usually in December one can find many television programs reflecting on the past year.  I myself am a January man.  Reflection, however, comes at a cost if done properly.  It would be easy for me to look back at my major accomplishments.  It would also take less time.  The difficulty comes in recognizing the areas that were not as glamorous or even flat out mundane.

I don’t mean to say that we need to dwell on these issues.  This isn’t a time for self-flagellation.  Feeling sorry for yourself or even feeling guilty does little to remedy the issue.  Let those feelings lead you to the important part; what are you going to do about it?

I was watching ESPN, one of my new things this past year that I am fairly certain has led to more hair on my chest.  Quite frequently ESPN has these mini inspirational commercials during playoff and bowl season.  Some man with a rich baritone voice philosophizes about the connection between the battle on the field and the battle in our life.  They spout moving phrases that seem almost Shakespearean that if spoken by any other man would sound like Al Franken reading “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy”.

Recently, while watching Sports Center… again… the same day, I caught a phrase they used while showing highlights of the Auburn/Oregon game.  The announcer said, “endings are imposed, finishings are celebrated”.

Once I got over the shock that an ESPN commercial made me think deeply about something, I started reflecting on my year.  How did my year end?  What things did I celebrate finishing and what things had an imposed ending?  In reflexion I discovered that the things that simply ended, I invested little in.  They simply dissipated.  It wasn’t that they were things that did not work.  Failing or losing is not an imposed end.  Not trying, not investing, not swinging, those are examples of endings.  If you have ever watched baseball or basketball you know that there is nothing worse than watching a game end with the losing team resting a bat on their shoulder or the ball still in their hand.  That is an imposed ending.

Finishing, however, is swinging for the fences.  It is striving for that goal.  Check out this video clip of this Chinese hurdler.

He finished.  It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t graceful, not ever sure it was legal, but he didn’t quit!  When I think back at the things I am most proud of this past year, it was the things I was intentional about.  Think about the phrase, “he went out swinging”.  Swinging takes purpose.  You don’t accidentally swing a bat.  When you swing that bat, it is filled with purpose and intention.  You are invested.  What is amazing about intentionality, it has nothing to do with greatness and bigness but with purposefulness.  Did your year finish with purpose or did it end accidentally. Now that is over, how will this year proceed?

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Sunday May 17, 2010 Sermon Recording:   Small Voice

Video used (watch this brief 2 minute video before listening to sermon)  Selective Attention Test

Scripture:  1 Kings 19

The idea of God using a “small voice” can, on the surface, seem frustrating.  This is one of those thoughts I sometimes have mid sermon and wish I had time to explore more, or at least have thought of the day before.  During the second service I began thinking of that old Seinfeld episode with the quiet talker.  It was the episode that Jerry agreed to wear one of her ‘pirate shirts’ mainly because he couldn’t hear what she was saying and didn’t feel like asking again.  I wondered how many times we just nod along with what we think God wants and never seek out confirmation.  We would rather God just speak up.

On the surface I can’t blame us for wanting God to speak up.  There are times I made poor decisions on what I thought was good information, or at least good guidance.  Yea, I know,  I sound like a politician now.  That sound is what happens when we do honest self-reflection.  We can easily turn into what Shakespeare calls “the anointed sovereign of sighs and groans” (don’t let that impress you, I do like William, but I got that off my Shakespeare coffee mug of insults.  Hey, even my pottery is sarcastic! Who knew?)  Basically, as I reflect upon my times of frustration with God, I usually, if I am honest, discover the frustration is with myself.  Sure, it begin with God, but what I come to realize is that my urgency is because I have come to God a little too late with my issues or didn’t quite listen.

I used to work for a company called BMI.  A reputable company, and one that I believe their existence is important, but made of humans and all that comes with that baggage. Just like any corporation, there are VP’s, and Directors, and Managers, and cubicle people.  Being one of the cubicle people (the only time I ever really appreciated Dilbert) I remember getting directives to drop whatever we were doing and do only what the VP’s were telling their Directors to tell their managers to tell us to do. I also remember thinking, “why is your neglect turned emergency our emergency”.  Now, I know the answer to that, I’m a cubicle person and I existed for the sake of the company.  But, that always stuck in my crawl (whatever that is).  There was a break down of communication and another persons neglect became my emergency.  There were times that we had ways to fix a problem but VP couldn’t hear us because they were in a crisis and that was all they could see.

Now flip the chain of command.  We are in a place where we suddenly need direction, help, whatever.  We seek God.  He speaks to us, but we can’t understand because we are bombarded with the noise of our anxiety.  Does God need to speak up, or do we need to quiet down.  Sydney, my daughter, is 2 years old.  There are times I marvel that someone so small can make a noise that loud.  I have worked with children enough in my life and study their behavior enough to know that reasoning does not work.  Sometimes, we just have to let her let it out.  We don’t give in, because that only feeds the behavior, but we let her have her right to cry (or scream like a banshee… whatever that is).  Once she settles down, lets the noise out, we can then communicate and learn that she wants the plastic Buzz Light Year not the stuffed Buzz Light Year  (I know, what was I thinking).  In our desire to hear God, usually our inability has more to do with the noise we are making than the volume of the speaker.  How do we reduce the noise?  It is learning how to hear his voice.  The only way to do that is to listen daily.  The noise of the world will keep coming, but if we seek out the voice of God daily in our life, we will find we can hear his whisper above all else.  As a matter of fact, the very act of trying to listen to God starts to transform how we live.

I challenge you to try this exercise this week; take 5 to 10 minutes each day and pray this prayer. Lord, teach me to hear you through all of my senses and all I do, by what I see, hear, taste, touch, and even smell.  Once you pray this, be still for a few minutes.  After your time of meditation, reflect on what you heard, think you heard, or were being directed to do.  It may be to read more scripture, it may be to care for a friend, change how you treat a co-worker, it may be to be still.  It may be that you didn’t hear anything, but just keep doing this.  It might be good to keep a journal.  I would also encourage you to share some of this with a trusted friend.  Maybe even commit to you both doing it and sharing with each other what you discovered at the end of the week.  Above all, don’t despair if this is not easy or you hear nothing, God is not excluding you, seek guidance from those you trust who are mature in the faith.

I am not promising miracles, but the beginning or a renewal of a connection with God.  The saying is true, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

Worship Music this past week:

(for those who use this section for song ideas, we have a little retro recently, but will be adding new songs soon)

  1. Your Grace is Enough (Matt Maher)
  2. O Praise Him (David Crowder)
  3. Everlasting God (Chris Tomlin)
  4. You Are My King (Billy Foote)

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What voices are you listening for?  What voices do you listen to?  There are many different times in our life when we find ourselves listening to the voices around us and within us for direction and guidance.  Sometimes those voices steer us in the right direction and other times, not so much.  I had a “not so much” moment Thursday night.

The night started off well.  A bunch of men meeting at the ballpark to warm up for their first softball game.  As a matter of fact, it was also the first ever softball team for Fleming Island UMC.  Clayton Carter and his dad Greg helped to get us signed up.  We even have great shirts and a team name.  We are the Falcons.  We all do a little batting practice and throw the ball around and then the game begins.  The FIUMC Falcons are first at bat.  Batters one and two make the first two outs and up to the plate is yours truly.  That’s right! I’m not just a pretty face, I can also do stuff.  The first pitch comes in and, bang, I hit it somewhere.  The crowd (or small gathering… ok the group of 6 in the bleachers) cheer my name, yelling at me to run and go and maybe even expressing a little shock that I can play sports.  I put my all into that first run.  I make a mental check that my legs feel a little wobbly.  The next batter comes up and he gets a single but the fielder makes an error and I turn from second base and aim toward third.  I’m all in.  I hear the yells, so I put more in.  Now, let’s slow this down.  There are two voices going on in my head, one is the very competitive part debating if I am going to need to slide or pick up the pace.  It’s the voice that says “run Forrest,run!” It’s the voice that still sounds like a 21 year old and thinks its owner is the same.  The other voice is in the corner of my head saying, “danger Will Robinson, DANGER.  Your hammy is about to explode”.  Yea, I don’t always listen to that voice.  The external cheers and the internal over caffeinated coach in my head one the battle of advice, but the still small voice in my head got to say, “you should have listened to me”.

Today, as I was alternating between the stinging sensation of an ice pack and the lovely smell of “bengay”, I began thinking of how often in my walk with God I over rule the logic, love, and wisdom of God in favor of the shouts of the masses and my own pride.  In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is looking for a word from God.  Many big things come before him, a fire, a whirlwind, and earthquake, yet God was not in them.  God turned out to be in the stillness of the wind.

I believe most people would like to do what they do well.  I think many Christians would like direction from God.  In our hopes to do both we often seek out big signs and busy ourselves with “muchness”, and the fantastical, to find God’s voice, when in reality God sometimes speaks to us very plainly.  We can begin to think that with all the clatter and clutter in our lives, that God needs to speak louder when the truth of the matter is we need to be quieter.  When we still ourselves, become honest with ourselves, then we can begin to hear those words that God is speaking to us.

If I had taken the time to listen to my body before and after the game, reflected on previous times I had torn my hamstring, I could have heard that voice a little better and not been grunting as much to day.  As we prepare for worship on Sunday, perhaps it is a good time for us to begin to remove some clutter that keeps us from hearing God.  If you are not sure what that clutter is, begin asking God… or if you are real brave ask a friend who knows you well, I’m sure God would be glad to speak to and through them as well.  Also, as usual pray for one another and those leading your worship services this weekend that God might move through us all and we may all become the people we’ve been called to be.

oh, we did not win, but we looked good and had fun losing.

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I am a well balanced person.  I know you must be thinking, “we know how brilliant you are, there is no need to broadcast it”.  But seriously, if there is one thing I have going for me it is balance.  Ok, maybe not complete balance in all things, but there is one area of my life I hold good balance.  Decision making.  I have made great decisions; such as learning to play the guitar, traveling in a band, joining the gym.  I have made equally poor decisions; such as doing a flip out of a tall tree into cold water only to land on my face, jumping off a 75 ft cliff into cold water landing on the opposite of my face, purchasing the ab roller and slider.  These are just the minor decisions in my life.  What I have noticed while reflecting on the history of my decision making are the number of times I have attempted to bring God into the decision making process.  There is the, ‘Lord, help me decide” prayers, the “Lord, help me now that I have messed up” prayers, and the ever popular “Lord if it is your will then send me a sign” prayer, just to name a few.

Reflecting on many of my prayers, I realized that my relationship with God was not nearly as balanced as the results of my decisions.  I mentioned in last weeks sermon that how we communicate with God says a lot about our relationship with God.  Is God just my benefactor, simply someone to supply my needs and make my decisions, or am I in a relationship with him?  What do we mean when we want to hear from God.  I can’t tell you how many times I prayed the “if it’s your will prayer” for things as little as a date.  Was I really listening for God’s will or just willing that person to say yes?  I wonder how many times I was attempting to hear from God only to justify my own decision, or to get off the hook for making the decision.  The problem, often times, is not with our desire to know God’s will for our life but in what we mean by it.

Hearing from God is something that God offers to us in the very nature of how he made us, but in that make up, our hearing doesn’t exclude our freedoms nor God’s.  Many times what we mean by listening to God is that we want God to justify what we already want, or to relieve us from responsibility of an action, or to give credibility to a future move.  It is much easier to say, “God wants us to build this gym” than it is to say, “based upon our mission to make disciples for Christ and be in community with all kinds of people and the recognized need in the community for an affordable recreation center, we think building a ‘life center’ would be a great way for us to accomplish all of this.”  Sometimes people think it diminishes our faith and relationship when we start to use ‘reason’ in our decisions.  But I think both ways of working have potential to diminish our faith if they are not coupled with daily relationship with God.  Hearing God is just that, relationship with God.  A relationship that does not restrict the freewill of God nor his desire for us to be in a free relationship with him.

What we will explore this Sunday is some of what hearing God is and isn’t and how hearing God is connected with our relationship with Him.  There is a freedom God has to offer us, even in how we pray, that draws us deeper into his love which in turns frees us to live a deeper life.

The Scripture we will be looking at is Romans 8:35-39.  The question posed by Paul in this passage is “who can keep us separate from God”.  How does this fit in with “Hearing God”?  Let that be something for you to explore over the next day or two before Sunday, or Tuesday if you listen to the sermons.  How does hearing God keeps us embracing God?

To prepare for our worship this Sunday meditate and pray on the following;

  1. What do I expect to receive from God this weekend?
  2. What can He expect from me?
  3. What are ways I have refused his grace and offers of Life this past week? (how have I ignored God)
  4. What are ways I have embraced them? (how have I seen God)
  5. Ask God to prepare your life (heart) for renewal and the courage to live out that life.
  6. Ask God to soften your spirit so that you might receive and respond to the work he desire to do in your life and those around you.
  7. Pray for me and those who serve on Sunday morning that we might be examples of Christ’s presence.

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