What does Jesus mean to me?

I struggle at times finding purpose in my life.  I have a great family with an awesome wife and 4 great children, and I feel that I’ve had a great purpose in raising them up and supporting my family. I’m involved in a lot of different areas in my local community, mostly revolving around the youth and sports and that keeps me very busy outside of work.   But there are days when I feel something missing, as if I’m missing some calling that God has given me, but I’ve not responded.  This week has been one of those weeks, where I’ve questioned what I’m doing as it seems I’ve just been going through the motions of life.

Early this morning I woke up with this heavy on my mind and the question came to me, What does Jesus mean to me?   I mean, what does he REALLY mean to me?  Is he more than just a figurehead, someone I can relate to when people ask about my beliefs?  Or is he really someone who I identify with and whom I have daily interaction with?  I think if I can figure out the answer to that question, I can find what I need to fill that void I feel at times.

So what is my plan?

First I’m on a mission to discover what Jesus really means to me and how I fit into his plan.  If I don’t learn what Jesus means to me and what I mean to him, I fear that the following steps may be in vain.

Secondly, I intend to find (or draw closer to) my purpose here.  This I think will be done largely in parallel with step 1.  I may discover that I’m already living his plan for me and I need to just embrace it or I may find that he is calling me to something quite different.  I’m not sure how I’m to do this, but I suspect as I learn some revelations in my first step, I may soon discover that step two becomes much easier.  I’ve read Rick Warren’s – The Purpose Driven Life in the past, but it’s been many years.  I’ve pulled it off the shelf and plan on working my way through that as well.

Finally, I plan on living out my purpose.  I plan on living my life with abandon, in pursuit of what God has put me here for.   I talked about this a lot at the end of last year, and while I had some plans and great motivations, I’ve stumbled in truly living this out as I hadn’t gone through step 1 and 2 yet.

So why am I telling you this?

Why indeed.  Well for a few reasons.

  1. Encouragement – I hope to encourage others that may be going through the same trials and thoughts as I am.  Perhaps seeing what I’m doing and discovering about my own life’s journey, will help others in pursuit of theirs.  So please, let me know if something I’ve discovered has made a difference to you.  This leads right into #2.
  2. Encouragement – Yes this is here twice.  I’m hoping to be encouraged to continue on.  I know that I’ll struggle through this in the long term.  I know that if I begin to be impactful in my life or in others, the enemy will mount an attack, to discourage me.  I hope to strike up some friendships through this process. so please feel free to reach out to me.
  3. Accountability – Along with encouragement, I need some accountability in this.  Not only do I want to be accountable to continue the process and to follow up when I reach step 3, but I want to be sure that what I’m sharing is building and encouraging others.  “For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am here among them.” – Matthew 19:20
  4. Validation – There is a point where the things I’ve discovered need to be validated against scripture and against other righteous people.  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16

So join me in this journey to discover what Jesus means to me and in my quest to discover my life’s purpose.  Maybe I’ll discover that I’m right where I’m meant to be, but regardless I plan on learning so much during this journey, I can’t wait to get started.

 

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You Can’t Take Prayer Out of School

A hot topic around the country is the thought that they government are taking prayer out of the schools.  Let me make a bold statement right here at the top of this post…… No one can ever take prayer out of school.

What do I mean by that?  As long as there are students in school, there can be prayer.  As long as there are parents then send their kids to school, there can be prayer.   As long as there are Christian teachers and administrators, there can be prayer.  Prayer is nothing more than praising God and lifting our thoughts, if  not our voices, up to God in praise, thanksgiving and supplication.  Nothing, not the government, not the administration, not some leftist group, no nothing can stop you from doing that.

I can’t take credit for this thought.   No, I was up until last night one of those that thought it was awful what our schools have become in many ways.  Places devoid of God, but full of worship for self.   A place where tolerance and diversity is taught and encouraged, unless it involved Christianity.  But last night, I had my eyes opened at our church service.   Our former lead pastor, Greg Nettle (now president of Stadia), came back to speak to the congregation on what Stadia has been doing and the lives they (and we) are impacting around the world.  During the talk, he mentioned three very practical things we could do to help spread the good news of Jesus.

  1. Disciple our own children.
  2. Disciple the children of our church.
  3. Disciple the children of the world.

As part of the expansion on #1, disciplining our own children, he mentioned that prayer could never be taken out of the schools and I felt led right then to write this post.

So let me throw out some specific ways that we can be sure that prayer can never be taken out of the schools?

Pray for your children.   Pray for them when the leave to get on the bus, or when you drop them off at the school doors.  Pray that they learn what is taught, but not be influenced by the unwholesome lessons that come in and out of the classroom.  Pray while they are at school throughout the day that they are healthy, that they are happy, that they can be a positive influence on others.  That other children can look at your children and see Jesus.   Pray at sporting events, band concerts or whatever activities your children participate in for the safety and health of all the participants and fans.

Pray for the teachers and administration.  Pray that the teachers can share a positive influence on the children.  Teachers have a very powerful pulpit that they are on every day, let them realize the importance of their role and that they should take it seriously.  Prayer that the children can see Jesus in the teachers.

Pray for the bus drivers.  Many of us, every day, place the most precious gifts that God has ever given us on a big yellow vehicle and send them off without another thought.  Let’s pray for the bus drivers for their safety, health and attentiveness to their jobs.  Pray for the bus mechanics that keep the buses running and for those other drivers on the roads to take extra caution around the school bus and around the school itself.

Pray for ourselves as parents.  We as parents are the most influential teachers our children will ever have as I believe that most of the education that children receive, happens right at home.  That we are the primary teachers of our children and the schools help us with that education.  When we pray for ourselves to be the best parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles or whatever the situation may be, but pray for yourself, that you can be a positive influence on your children and they can see Jesus in you.

Teach our children to pray.  When we teach our children to pray, we are teaching them to be a blessing to others.  Teach them to pray for their teachers, for their friends, for that kid that sits behind them in science class that perhaps comes from a bad home, or is always getting in trouble.  Teach them to pray for their friends who are in a bad relationship or are experimenting with drugs.  Teach them to pray for others, so that others can see Jesus in them.

Prayer is a powerful tool that we have, whether it’s spoken out loud or just lifted up silently, we have the power of the Holy Spirit at our disposal and the ear of God himself.  With that, no one can ever take prayer out of the schools.

 

When the didgeridoo sounds broken, keep playing.

Continuing on with yesterday’s post on how to take your passion and master it, we take a look at what inevitably happens, you hit a wall.  This will happen…almost guaranteed.  You practice and practice, continually making progress and getting better…..then suddenly, you hit it…that road block that keeps you from making any progress.  People who diet always talk about that plateau they hit.  They progressively lose weight, only too find that for weeks perhaps, they lose nothing, even though they’ve changed nothing.  The body builder, who lifts religiously and is gaining strength and muscle, suddenly gains neither, even though they are doing what they are supposed to.

When you reach that point in whatever you are doing, it’s easy to get discouraged and quit.  That’s what happened to me the first time I tried to learn to play the didgeridoo.  I was actually getting better, then suddenly after a few weeks, it sounded as if it was broken.  No good sound was coming of that thing and I quickly got discouraged and soon quit.

I’ve done that with other things, even stuff I’m very passionate about.  As I’ve mentioned before, I like to write.  But if the muse isn’t awake in me and nothing good is getting put down on paper, I’ve quit entirely for months on end.  This blog is a good example of that.  Sporadic posting for a couple years and then nothing until this past October.  I’m glad to say that I’ve been relatively consistent since then and I can sense my writing getting better.  I enjoy it more and want to do more of it.  I’m sure I’ll hit that block again so how can I persevere?

  1. Push through it if you can.  Most roadblocks are really minor speed bumps.  If you keep the motor running and keep moving forward, you’ll get over that speed bump soon enough and then things will run smoothly.
  2. Take a temporary detour.  Sometimes that roadblock is a bit larger and you can just plow through it.  Then perhaps take a detour and change things up a bit.  I normally write these blog posts at my desk in my home.  But if I’m not feeling it and I feel like a need a detour, I’ll take my computer and head to the coffee shop, or perhaps I’ll just take pad and paper and go sit on the porch.  But regardless of the change in scenery, I keep on writing.  The change in surroundings is often enough to get the juices flowing again.
  3. Stop, assess the situation and try a different path before coming back.  Sometimes those roadblocks are more like walls that suddenly appear across the road and you’ve just hit it head on.  These times for me are rare, but they can be the most dangerous in your pursuit of mastery.  These are the times when you’re most likely to just give up and quit.  Your didgeridoo must be broken, so you throw it away never to look back.   At these times, perhaps you do need to take a break from your practice.  You may just be burned out.  Stop, try something new for a while..this could be days or weeks or more.  But often, if you’re truly passionate about it, it won’t take long at all to come back, with a fresh perspective and suddenly the wall is gone.

Don’t assume that just because the didgeridoo sounds awful that it’s broken.  Don’t assume just because your muse is playing hooky for a day, that you writing is done.  If you’re passionate about what you are doing….keep at it, persevere and you’ll get over those humps and onward to mastery.

You have to practice your didgeridoo everyday.

160px-Australia_Aboriginal_Culture_009I once tried to learn how to play the didgeridoo.  Yes I own one.  No I never learned how to play.  Why did I fail?  What went wrong?  Practice, or lack thereof is what went wrong.  I failed to practice it everyday.   Had I practiced everyday, even for just a little while, I would have eventually, perhaps years later, but eventually would have been decent at it.

This attempt at didgeridoo mastery occurred back in around 2003 or maybe even earlier…so imagine if I had only practiced one hour three times a week since then (post date is in 2014, so we will say 11 years)…3 hours / week, 52 weeks/ year, 156 hours a year for 11 years, that would be 1716 hours of practice.  I would think that you could become quite proficient at just about anything after 1700+ hours.

Now I do have one caveat with this little discussion.  Many of you have heard the term “Practice makes perfect.”   Well that is false….incorrect….just flat out wrong.  Practice doesn’t make perfect…..Practice makes PERMANENT.   If you practice perfectly, then practice will make perfect over time….but if you practice incorrectly, bad habits will form and will  be very hard to break.

So why am I writing this post?  Not to impress you with my didgeridoo mastery….but to make a point that has become clear in my mind recently.  If you’ve got a passion, something you wish you were doing, or that dream skill that you always wanted to have…..practice it.

I’ve always wanted to write, always wanted to be a writer….I need to write….write as much as possible, write as often as I can.  I should be able to put down 500-1000 words a day minimum without too much trouble.  While this post is a little short, most of my posts here average between 500-1000 words.  What if I wrote a post every day, or every other day?  How much better at writing would I become?  What if I did that every day and churned out 300,000+ words in a year?  What’s an average novel size? 100,000 words?  Just think, if I wrote every day, I could be putting out 3 novels a year.  Of course there is much more that goes into creating a novel than just writing, however, if I practice it every day….I can’t help but get better at it.

Just think too, if we would spend just a little time in prayer each day?  Or how about be like Daniel and pray 3 times a day, every day.  How much better would we be able to talk to God and to discern his voice when he speaks to us?   What if we read our Bible every day?  Just pick a couple verses to start and read every day.  How much better would we understand God’s word and understand his will?

It only took me about 15 minutes to write about 500 words in this post.  Not much time out of my day.  Time that could have been otherwise wasted.  But those 15 minutes spent each day, whether writing, whether praying, whether reading God’s word…and yes even playing the didgeridoo, add up to mastery when repeated over and over.

The Dumbest Person in the World…

……is one who thinks they know it all and have no more need to learn.

We all have our areas of expertise whether we realize it or not (and that my friends is another area for discussion at some point as I see so many people that think they are good at nothing….blog post for another day), but we should never forget that we have more to learn.  Let me give a few examples.

Learn your profession

I’m a professional software developer by trade with 20+ years of professional experience, not to mention years before that as a teenager learning and working on projects on my own time.  I’ve worked in basically the same technology for the last 10+ years (see another blog that I maintain occasionally, lautzofdotnet.wordpress.com).  I still learn something new everyday, in fact, I strive to learn something new everyday.  In the technology industry, things change constantly, if I don’t keep up, I become stale and irrelevant.  If I don’t keep on top of technology, I get left behind.

My coworkers whom I manage, are very good developers themselves.  I may have more experience than they do, and while I am able to assist them in their learning, I learn from them all the time.    In fact that is one of my favorite things about my job;  I get to learn each day and am surrounded by people that can help me along.

I also get to educate.  My range of experiences has helped others I’ve worked with grow themselves.   That is something I’m passionate about; helping others learn.  That doesn’t always mean standing up in front of a class and teaching, it may not even mean interacting with people directly.  People watch you every day and learn from your example…..pray that it’s a good one.

Learn and grow in life

I was humbled a few weeks back when a person that I’ve known for years as your children have played sports together since they were young approached me at a sporting event and out of the blue let me know what a great marriage my wife and I have and what a great example we are to her and others.

At first I was surprised.  I know I have a good marriage, my wife and I love each other intensely.  But I didn’t realize that anyone knew that besides her and I and I didn’t think that we were that exceptional that others would need to comment on it.

My next thought was one of pride.  I think we work hard at our marriage and it felt good to be recognized.  I could have stopped there and walked away feeling all puffed and happy about how good we were doing.

But alas, and this is actually a good thing I think, I suddenly became aware that “Gee, others are watching and using us as an example.”   They are learning from what we do, good or bad.  I realized the burden and responsibility we had to make sure we actually HAVE a good marriage.  Others are watching.  They are watching us in our good times and they are watching us in our bad times.  If we aren’t reacting positively when things go bad or we are in a difficult season in our marriage, people see that and are influenced by that.

And finally I realized, “Wow, I still have a lot to learn about being a good husband and partner to my wife,” and we’ve been married for over 20 years.  I realized I don’t know it all, I can learn so much more yet.  I’m not finished in my growth as a husband and I never shall be.

Grow in faith

Well you probably knew I would be going here.  How could I not?  Your faith, your walk with God (or lack thereof), influences every part of your life… personal, relational, professionally…..everything.  I grew up in a Christian home and while I was versed in Christianity, I haven’t always been a strong follower.  But regardless of where I was in my walk, I had read the Bible many times, I knew the stories, I had heard many commentaries from different preachers over the years and thought I knew it all.

A few years back when I came stronger in my faith and began a more deliberate walk with God my wife and I were part of a small group.  A small group of couples of similar age and interests.  We met every couple weeks in one of our homes for fellowship and Bible study.  One meeting as we were deciding what to study next, we came upon the idea that each of guys (there were four couples at the time) would pick a man of influence in the Bible and present a little study on him to the rest of the group (and the women would pick a woman of influence to do the same).

I chose Jonah, I don’t really recall why.  I think it may have been just out of laziness.  It’s a relatively short book in the Bible and everyone knows the story of Jonah….I thought it would be easy.  I had read the story of Jonah and heard it taught so many times that I figured I could recite it from memory and my work would be done.

It’s funny how God works sometimes, but God used that moment and that study of Jonah to teach me a valuable lesson.  One that I hadn’t heard in all those years of hearing and reading that story.  That lesson could be a good topic for a series of posts themselves, which perhaps I’ll do someday.  But in a nutshell, I learned that no matter how much we try to run and hide from God, he is there with us.  He is in control always, even if we deny him and wish to walk the other way.  But the other side of the story, and perhaps my true lesson, was that no matter how far we walk from God, nor the punishment that we may endure…..God will not be diverted from His plan.  And if God wishes to use us in some powerful way, we can still go on and be a powerful force for God as Jonah was after he left the belly of the fish (Note: the last part of the book of Jonah where he finally does God’s work is usually the part we skip over)

Had I thought I had learned everything I needed to know about Jonah, I would have missed out on a great truth that God gave me at that moment in time.

Final thoughts

Never sit idle regardless of what you do for a living, or where you are in your life.  Always be learning, it keeps your mind active and engaged when it otherwise may become weak.  Never accept that you have nothing left to learn in an area that you are an “expert” in.  God gave us these wonderful brains and gave us such a beautiful and complex world that learning opportunities are endless.  Take advantage of them.