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I Learned To Swim

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Swim

This summer I learned to swim. 

My girls are 9 and 7.  They have been in swimming lessons for several years now, and this year it is all beginning to pay off!  Our community pool is a great size and shape for them.  It has a deep end that challenges them to continue working on their strokes and their breathing, which has helped them turn into really good little swimmers!   I have been very impressed as I have watched them progress, and I began saying (without much exaggeration) that both girls were better swimmers than me.  I sat on the deck chair and watched them improve.

By the end of the summer, watching them improve had made me want to improve.  But there was a problem:

  • You can only improve if you practice.
  • You can only practice if you get into the pool.
  • If you get into the pool you will get wet.
  • If you get wet you get cold.
  • So, you can only improve if you get wet and cold.

Continue reading

Pruning

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PruningTitle

Jesus is a man of metaphors, analogies, and stories.  One of my favorites is His last:  The Vine, the Branches, and the Fruit.

To truly understand this, you have to understand what a vine in a vineyard looks like.  We’ll break it down into 3 parts:

  1. The Vine:  This may seem obvious, but it is the part of the grapevine that is rooted to the ground.  What was surprising to me is that it is more like a tree trunk, because it is thick and is trained to go straight up the fence.  You could call it The Stem.  This is God.
  2. The Branches:  The vine is very thick, and the branches come off of the vine at various points.  There is a very clear delineation of which is the stem and which are the branches.  This is us.
  3. The Fruit:  This is the actual point of the whole operation – vineyards were not grown for their beauty.  This is what we are here to do!

vine

 

There is so much beauty and meaning in this metaphor…one that God used throughout history to describe His relationship with His people.  But for today’s post I want to focus on just one small part of the analogy:  Pruning

John 15:2 (NLT)

He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. Continue reading

Halftime

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DesertJourney

I have been fairly open over the past few months about the process I have been going through as I pass the 35 year mark.  I have been evaluating every area of my life and trying to determine what to keep the same and what to change.  I have been readdressing assumptions I have made.  Analyzing my weaknesses and hang-ups.  And most importantly, reevaluating my relationship with God.

In my search for resources, I stumbled upon someone who wrote a book about this very topic nearly 20 years ago.  Bub Buford was a successful businessman who went on to create a non-profit organization and then wrote a book called Halftime.

The premise of his book is that life is like a football or basketball game.  You excitedly start the game with a game plan and you fight hard to put it into practice.  You learn about your opponent and how your strengths and weaknesses match up.  But then the whistle blows and you get to go back to the locker room and regroup.  You rest, drink some water, and huddle around the coach and the chalkboard to plan out the second half.  Bob’s point is that our 20’s and 30’s and maybe 40’s are like the first half.  We leave high school and plunge into college or the military or work.  We claw our way through exams and evaluations and challenges as time after time we think to ourselves, “I don’t know – this is the first time I’ve ever done this!”  And most of us over time find some areas where we have success.  We find a few plays that work and begin to get some rhythm going.  But as we reach our 30’s or 40’s or 50’s, depending on the person, we will all hit a point where, as he says itContinue reading

Shame, Validation, and Identity

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DesertJourney

Validation issues and shame are a big barrier to living a life of freedom in our 30’s and beyond.  These two issues have been lurking below the surface for a long time, and this is often a time when they bubble up in an ugly way.  Today I am going to talk about 2 reasons for issues with validation and shame, and the 2 FACTS that will set us free.  Continue reading

You Need Nathan

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DesertJourney

I have been exploring the ‘mid-life crises’ of David and Solomon.  They both started so well.  Each man experienced God in amazing and life-changing ways.  Both were exceptional.  David was ‘a man after God’s own heart.’  Solomon was literally the wisest man ever.  Ever!  God had spoken to each of them and through each of them.  And yet…

And Yet

David and Solomon give me hope.  Their brokenness encourages me, because it shows me that I am not alone.  They were both warriors in God’s kingdom, and yet when they reached their 30’s or 40’s they stumbled.  They faced a life transition, and they faltered.  To use an automotive metaphor, they didn’t make the turn.  They couldn’t shift into a different gear.  David left the battle.  He chose safety instead of adventure.  He coveted other beauty instead of being content with the beauty that God had given him. Solomon ‘exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the Creation instead of the Creator.’  When Solomon built a home for himself that was greater than the home he built for God, it was the perfect outward symbol of his inner state.  He lost sight of the adventure and battle that God had given him.  The beauty and joy that Sheba admired was not enough for Solomon.  He coveted other beauty, and that beauty turned him away from God.  And he had no one to stop him.

The Life-Changing Difference

You see, Solomon created the bar graph of his priorities for everyone in the world to see, and he did not have a Nathan to ask him about his heart’s motive.  Solomon had begun to believe his own resume.  His press releases had skewed his view of himself.  Everyone in his known world worshipped him.  Every woman threw herself at him.  He was not strong enough to resist, and he had no one to tell him “You are wrong!” (2 Samuel 12) And no one was there to set him straight.

David’s life could have ended just as tragically as Solomon’s.  After all, he not only committed adultery but then tried to cover it up, even to the point of having his best friend murdered.  He could have easily kept going down the path, stubbornly refusing to admit he was wrong.  But instead, he came to his senses and repented.  Why?  Because he had a friend and ally who was brave enough and close enough to tell him the truth.  Nathan saw what David was doing and boldly told him that he needed to stop.  Because of Nathan, David’s flaws led to a confrontation, and he finished well.

David made his mistakes and wrote Psalm 51.  Solomon made his mistakes, and he wrote Ecclesiastes…many years later.  Instead of immediate repentance, Solomon’s was an end of life lament of the futility of it all.  It is tragic irony that the author of the book on romantic love (Song of Solomon) and the book of wisdom (Proverbs) ended up wasting his life on shallow, selfish love and foolishness.  Yes, he came to the correct solution:  “Fear God and keep His commandments.”  But he had to live through the futility of his poor decisions and a life half-wasted to get there.

Are You David or Solomon?

Men, you will be tempted to leave the battle.  You will be tempted to maximize safety and sacrifice adventure.  You will covet other beauty.  You will feel like going passive.  Be vigilant!  Be alert!  Make the right choice!   But as we make small shuffles down the slippery slope, do you have someone to set you straight?  Do you have a man or a team of men to urge you in the right direction?  You need a Nathan, or your future just might turn out to be meaningless.

 

Related Posts

OPL: Mid-Life Series 1 – Allies and Answers

OPL: Mid-Life 2- X Marks the Spot

OPL: Mid-Life Series 3 – From Duty to Desire and Devotion

OPL:  Mid-Life 4 – Tower of Babel or Excavation

OPL: Mid-Life 5 – Weary Warrior

OPL: Mid-Life 6 – Pleasure

 

OPL: Mid-Life 8 – Shame, Validation, and Identity

OPL: Mid-Life 9 – Halftime

Accountability – Guard Rails 

Accountability – Vulnerability 

MidLife Temptations – Pleasure

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DesertJourney

 

King David, a man after God’s own heart, ran into trouble as he passed through his late 30’s and early 40’s.  He gave in to the midlife temptation to step out of the fight.  Unfortunately, his son Solomon also had his own set of problems, but his main temptation was pleasure.

Imagine being the wisest, most popular, richest man in the entire known world.  Solomon was set up with the unprecedented ability to have everything that his heart desired.   Literally everything.  If he could dream it up, he could buy it.  He sent traders to the most distant lands to bring back the most exotic of everything.  He collected horses, chariots, gold, silver.  He even collected women as if he were trying to collect the whole set!  What do you buy the man who has everything?  More of everything!  He had it all.  Continue reading

Midlife Temptations – The Weary Warrior

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DesertJourney

Last week I explained that a lot of guys build their own Tower of Babel in their 30’s and 40’s.  Although not made of stone and mortar, this tower has the same causes and the same effects.  We do what we know how to do, we work hard in our own strength, and we build ourselves a little corner of safety, success, and self-sufficiency.   God has made us to be builders, and Noah was a recent example of how God loved for his people to build.  But there is one giant difference: the ark was built from God’s blueprint, and our Towers of Babel are not.

In the same way, here is another core areas of masculinity that can go haywire at this age. Continue reading

Tower of Babel, or Excavation?

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DesertJourney

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  (Genesis 11:4) 

Ah, the Tower of Babel.  One of the ancient Bible stories that many of us learned when we were kids.  Simple story, simple ending, but I think it perfectly illustrates the path that many men take as they finish their 30’s and 40’s.  As I’ve pointed out here and here, this is the time in a man’s life when things are really starting to get rolling.  More money, power, and success.  At this point you have figured quite a few things out and you are no longer the amateur at everything.  And so we find ourselves at a fork in the road.  Continue reading

From Duty to Desire and Devotion

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DesertJourney

I have already pointed out that my mid-thirties feels like a transitional period.  Here is one more attempt to describe why.

From Duty to Devotion and Desire

For some people, this 30’s to 40’s phase marks a transition from a life of vague belief to a life of taking action on those beliefs.  You know, deciding that instead of just sitting in church for a couple hours per week maybe they should put their faith into action in every element of their life.  This may be you.  The Bible says that faith without works is dead, and it is time to get to work!  Time to stop living as a prodigal son and come back home.

But for me, I have been acting dutifully for a long time.  And that is the key word: Duty.  A slave serves dutifully.  A son is different.  A son works hard, but he works from a different motivation.  A son loves his father.  A son is in on the big picture…knows the plan.  Living and working like a son is less selfish in some ways, because the service is out of love and devotion to his dad.  But it is more rewarding too, because the son gets a share of the kingdom.  We are actually working for ourselves, in a paradoxical way.  It is refreshing to know that we aren’t simply martyrs, laying down our lives like sheep.  We are important leaders and co-heirs in this great Kingdom.  Let’s not get out of balance; duty is the place where we are to begin.  Duty is good.  But if we do not mature beyond duty our hearts will be stunted.

I have noticed it in my prayer life.  One of my rote prayers I pray frequently is “Lord, help me to serve you today with my whole heart.”  And that is a good thing.  But now I pray, “Lord, help me to love you and serve You today with my whole heart.”  I have been devouring The Sacred Romance, by John Eldredge.  I’ve been reading and enjoying the Psalms in all of David’s emo mushiness.  I’m digging into what it means to love God the Father and be loved by Him as a son.  (If you have good resources or can describe it for me, please leave a comment below or message me!)  As Bob Buford said in his book, “Halftime is the perfect opportunity to shift from trying to understand God to learning to know Him.”

Worldly Arenas

I’ve also felt the pull in my marriage.  I don’t want to just serve Dana because it’s ‘the right thing to do.’  (And vice versa.)  I want the passion back that we had in our honeymoon years.  I need my marriage to move from duty to desire.

Last, I’ve felt this shift in my career as well.  I have less internal pressure now to make the career move “I ought to make,” and less satisfaction with simply making progress or succeeding.  I am starting to feel the beginnings of the question:  “What do I actually want to be doing?”  In other words, desire.

This Is THE Defining Question!

Have you lived the last decade or two as the dutiful son, more or less a slave in your own Father’s house?   Or as a prodigal, knowing who you are but not acting like it?  This is the time in our life where we evaluate our current status and make the necessary changes.  Be careful guys – this is a crucial transition to make!  The path of duty starts out beautiful, but it ends up ugly. Passionate young Jews turned into wizened old Pharisees because they never made this transition.  We would be wise to learn from their mistakes.  Do not spend the rest of your married life, spiritual life, and work life locked into the dutiful drudgery of a slave.  Continue to do what is right, but do it from a heart of devotion and desire.

I’m interested – what advice do you have for me?  What resources can help me with this journey?  

Other Resources:

OPL: Mid-Life 1 – Allies and Answers

OPL: Mid-Life 2- X Marks the Spot

OPL:  Mid-Life 4 – Tower of Babel or Excavation

OPL: Mid-Life 5 – Weary Warrior

OPL: Mid-Life 6 – Pleasure

OPL: Mid-Life 7 – You Need Nathan

OPL: Mid-Life 8 – Shame, Validation, and Identity

OPL: Mid-Life 9 – Halftime

Bob Buford’s Halftime

 

X Marks The Spot

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XMarksTheSpot

“You Are Here”

I have spent quite a bit of time in reflection over the last 6 months.  Not because I particularly want to, but because I have needed to.  A couple weeks ago I introduced you to the questions that I’m wrestling with here in my 35th year.  I told you that I feel as if what got me here won’t get me where I need to go.  I am planning to write several posts about this idea, but the first question I want to answer is:  “How did I get here?”

One of the answers to this question came to me when I was at a Wild at Heart retreat in early March.  After one of the sessions I was sitting in the spring sun, thinking, praying, and reflecting.  We had 45 minutes of free time to spend in reflection, and I wondered when was the last time that I had sat quietly for 45 minutes listening to God.  It certainly has been a while, maybe years.

That’s not good.

I really enjoyed the 4 day retreat – it was amazingly refreshing, and it reminded me of the InterVarsity week-long camps we attended during college at the end of each school year.  They were a chance to refocus and refresh my spirit, soul, and body.  A time to rekindle my passion and purpose.  When is the last time I have taken 4 consecutive days to do that?  Again, it had been years since I have been so purposeful in taking time to seek God, refocus, and refresh.

That’s not good. Continue reading