Thunderbirds

I remember watching the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds team. It was amazing.
Of course, whether in a show or in combat, an F-16 requires one vital element to be effective: a pilot who is in complete control. Despite its technical capabilities, without a pilot in control an airborne F-16 would either fly uselessly in a straight line or spiral out of control. Either way, a devastating crash is inevitable.

Like the F-16, if you possess every gift imaginable but don’t allow God to guide you in using those gifts, you could very well become useless. Or worse, you might spiral out of control and crash. God can do amazing and remarkable things.

Imagine what might have happened if Abram had set out on his own way instead of taking the journey God had set before him. Ultimately, Abraham willingly left behind everything and everyone he knew to follow God’s will. Yet as a direct result of his obedience Abraham experienced God’s blessings and the rewards were greater than he could ever have imagined.

God desires the same for you. When you begin a relationship with him, he calls you to leave behind what’s comfortable and familiar to set out on a journey filled with wonder, blessing and the promise of a new life. On your journey to obedience you’ll leave behind old habits, old attitudes, old sins and old ways of thinking. Yet the blessing that awaits you is greater than you can begin to imagine.

Is God the Pilot of your life? When you allow him to guide you, God offers not only a full and satisfying journey through life but a home for all eternity. Like that F-16 pilot, God is ready and willing to take all of your potential into his skillful hands and use it to fulfill his ultimate mission.

Be Strong. Act Like Men.

Do you have six seconds?

Happy Monday! We found another article that was pretty good. Go kiss her!

6 Seconds to Happy Couplehood!
By Theo Pauline Nestor

These scenarios that come along with a busy lifestyle are familiar to most of us: When your date arrives at your place while you’re in the middle of an important phone call, you gesture for this person to come in and finally get around to greeting each other 10 minutes later, still feeling a bit frazzled from your conversation. Or maybe you just spent a great weekend together, but when it’s time to say goodbye, you realize that you’re running late for an appointment — so you rush out the door in a hurry, barely kissing your date goodbye.

These rushed instances are as understandable as they are commonplace, but they inevitably take a toll on relationships, because these transitional moments often set the tone for both a couple’s time together and their time spent apart. Dr. John Gottman, a leading relationship researcher and the author of What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal, asserts that our “rituals of connections are crucial,” because they serve not only to re-establish the connection with our partners, but also to protect our relationships from betrayal. “The parting and reunion [moments] turn out to be really important,” asserts Dr. Gottman. Attention spent on each other in transitional junctures communicates that “you’re important to me, and when you come back at the end of the day, it’s an event. You matter to me.”

How momentary transitions can safeguard your romance from betrayal:
Being present for each other and asserting the importance of the relationship during these transitional moments is part of how couples establish what Dr. Gottman refers to as “attunement” — i.e., a deep level of understanding that couples both possess and lovingly express to each other. In his book, What Makes Love Last, Dr. Gottman asserts that this level of attunement with each other is a way for couples to inoculate themselves against falling down the slippery slope of negative thinking about their relationship that can ultimately lead to betrayal. “One of the other important things we discovered about betrayal was not only about turning away from one another, but it’s also about this negative comparison where one partner is saying in [his/her] mind, ‘Who needs this crap? I can do better,’” Dr. Gottman explains. “And that negative comparison gets people to start detaching from the relationship.”

Six seconds to a better relationship:
The “six-second kiss” is one simple and fun activity that Dr. Gottman advocates couples incorporate into their everyday moments of transition. Described by him as “long enough to feel romantic,” the six-second kiss serves as a temporary oasis within a busy day and creates a deliberate break between the on-the-job mentality (i.e., going to or from work) and a couple’s one-on-one time together. In fact, the six-second kiss makes up just a fraction of what Dr. Gottman has dubbed the “magic five hours,” which is the amount of extra time he’s found that the most successful, happiest couples began devoting to their relationships each week after completing his workshops together. Time spent intentionally focusing on their partners during “reunions” and “partings” also comprise an important component of the “magic five hours” that these couples invest into their relationships on a weekly basis.

Reunited, and it feels so good…
We’ve all heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The same could be said for the moment when you’re reunited with your date. Those first few moments set the tone for your time spent together — either positively or negatively. Greeting your sweetheart with affection communicates this person’s importance to you while reminding your partner of the good feelings you share when you’re in each other’s company, and trigger reciprocal feelings of his or her own.

A number of small gestures can be combined in order to ensure that your reunion goes well:
• Make sure to set aside your phone and any other distractions first, and then give your partner your full attention as you exchange greetings.
• Share a six-second kiss.
• Say that you’re happy to see your partner again.

If you’re used to a more casual way of saying “hello” and “goodbye,” these seemingly simple gestures of affection might feel awkward at first, but letting your partner know that you’re happy to see him or her creates an important, positive transition between your time apart and the time you spend together.

In a long-term relationship, Dr. Gottman says that having a “stress-reducing conversation” is a great way to kick off a couple’s reunion time together. “The one thing research has discovered,” says Dr. Gottman, “is that if they take 15 minutes apiece to talk about what’s stressful about the day, and their partner is an ally in listening — without giving advice or problem-solving — that can be very important. You have to have a time when you really have your partner’s ears; it’s a time when you really can connect.”

How to make saying “goodbye” even sweeter:
Setting a few minutes aside to properly say “goodbye” to each other can make a dramatic difference in a couple’s thoughts about the relationship during the time they spend apart. So before you zoom off into the world going different directions, take a minute to communicate how much you enjoyed your time together — and maybe touch base about when you’ll be getting together again in the near future. If you don’t have a plan for your next date, just establishing when you’ll be talking to each other next (“I’ll call you tomorrow”) can help a couple maintain their feelings of connection with each other.

You should also make a point of asking what’s ahead for your sweetie so you can provide the right kind of support later on. “One of the most important things to do in parting is to find out what your partner’s day is going to be like,” Dr. Gottman says. “Find out about anything that is important that’s going to happen to your partner that day. If she’s going to have lunch with a friend or he has a critical phone call or important meeting scheduled, know about that and what it means to her or him.”

Love is an action

The Bible invites us to strive to understand the measurements of God’s limitless love for us:

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” (Ephesians 3:18)

Do you find this hard to comprehend?

We’ve come to see love as nothing more than an immeasurable feeling or an emotion.  It’s that euphoric feeling that we first feel or see in the movies.  It can be selfish and centric.

Love is first and foremost a commitment.

Feelings and emotions are often involved, but they’re secondary to the commitment. When I’m talking about “measuring love,” I’m not suggesting we can accurately sum up all the nuances of love with something as simple as a quiz you might read in magazine or on a blog.

Real love isn’t about emotion; it’s about action. It’s not just about “connection”; it’s about commitment.

The world’s definition of love seems to be self-centered, but God’s definition of love is selfless. The Bible reminds us that “love does not demand its own way.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) We are often compelled to sacrifice our selfish agendas upon the altar of love, but what we ultimately receive in return is something far more profound than anything we could have concocted on our own. God, as the author of love, has given us a gift of love and the ability to give love.

Forgiveness 

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” – Luke 23:24

Christ said these words while hanging on the cross.  Is that sinking in?

No?

Let’s try it this way…..having been nailed to a cross, hung there, spit on, stabbed, dehydrated and in horrible pain…Christ asked His Father to forgive those that were killing him.  

And yet…here we sit in our lives unable or refusing to forgive those that have wronged us.  I’m not talking about the worst of the worst.  I’m simply looking at being cutoff in traffic or having my breakfast order served wrong.  I’m looking at my kids saying hurtful things or my wife being rude.  What are you refusing to forgive?

Why do we gladly accept the forgiveness that Jesus died to give us but we struggle to give the same for far far less infractions?  In Jesus…we recieve grace upon grace.  Shouldn’t we be giving the same?

Anne Lamott said: “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die”

Forgive.  Forgive like you’ve been forgiven.  Set yourself free.  

Sunrise 

We escaped.  We headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  We needed to make a little time for us to build a little togetherness.

And yet…I’ve realized this morning that togetherness includes time spent not together.

I woke up early this morning to watch the sunrise on the beach….by myself.   It could have been one of those wildly romantic moments together.  My wife has been working hard and not sleeping well.  She decided to sleep in.  I’ve been taking pictures to share with her over breakfast together.

Why am I sharing this?   Yes…it would have been nice to share the sunrise with her.  It isn’t about me.  It was about her.  She needed her rest this morning.  We will share plenty of moments and have memories from our trip together…and one of them won’t be arguing about getting up early for the sunrise.

We are called to love our wives like Christ loved the church….selflessly.

A List of Step for Setting God-Ordained Goals

Lists?  We like them.  My wife sent me this article today.  I like the premise and thought I’d share.    It’s written by Mark Batterson from the Circle Maker.

Ten Steps for Setting God-Ordained Goals

Goals are as unique as we are. They should reflect our unique personality and passions. And we arrive at them via different avenues. But these ten steps to goal setting can guide us as we circle our life goals.

1. Start with Prayer

Prayer is the best way to jump-start the process of goal setting. I highly recommend a personal retreat or season of fasting. I came up with my original life goal list during a two-day retreat at Rocky Gap Lodge in Cumberland, Maryland. The relaxed schedule gave me the margin I needed to dream big, pray hard, and think long.

If you set goals in the context of prayer, there is a much higher likelihood that your goals will glorify God, and if they don’t glorify God, then they aren’t worth setting in the first place.

So start with prayer.

2. Check Your Motives

If you set selfish goals, you would be better off spiritually if you didn’t accomplish them. That’s why you need to check your motives. You need to take a long, honest look in the mirror and make sure you’re going after your goals for the right reasons.

One of our goals — to create a family foundation — was inspired by my role as a trustee for a charitable foundation. The man who created the trust was tragically struck and killed by an automobile while visiting London, but he had written the trust into his will. It’s been almost two decades since his death, but his legacy is the hundreds of ministries that have received seed money in the form of a grant. No matter how much or how little money we make, that legacy of generosity is inspiring us to do something similar as a family.

More than a decade ago, I had a paradigm shift when it comes to finances. I stopped setting “getting goals” and started setting “giving goals.” All of our financial goals are giving goals because that is our focus. Our motivation for making more is giving more. After all, you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.

3. Think in Categories

It is hard to pull life goals out of thin air, so I recommend looking at the life goal lists of others. Don’t cut and paste someone else’s goals, but it’s a great way of getting your own ideas.

Another trick that has helped me is thinking in categories. My goals are divided into five categories: (1) family, (2) influential, (3) experiential, (4) physical, and (5) travel. The obvious omission is a category for spiritual goals, but that is by intention. All of my goals have a spiritual dimension to them. Some of them are obviously spiritual, like taking each of my children on a mission trip or reading the Bible from cover to cover in seven different translations, but running a triathlon with my son was a spiritual experience as well.

Any goal that cultivates physical discipline will cultivate spiritual disciplines too.

4. Be Specific

Just like our prayers, our goals need to be specific.

If a goal isn’t measurable, we have no way of knowing whether we’ve accomplished it. Losing weight isn’t a goal if we don’t have a target weight within a target timeline.

One of the ways I’ve increased the specificity of my goals is by attaching ages to them. I want to complete a triathlon in my fifties and sixties. Those are two separate goals that are time-stamped. I’ve also added nuances that make my goals more meaningful. I don’t just want to see the Eiffel Tower; I want to kiss Lora on top of the Eiffel Tower. It was extremely difficult to attach numbers to some of my giving goals and writing goals, but I decided it was better to aim high and fall short than to aim low and hit the target.

And it’s OK to make revisions to our visions.

5. Write It Down

I have a saying that I repeat to our family and our staff all the time: “The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.” If you haven’t written down your goals, you haven’t really set them. Something powerful happens when you verbalize a goal, whether in a conversation or in a journal. And it’s more than a good idea; it’s a God idea: “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets.”

On more than one occasion, I’ve been able to achieve a goal almost immediately after setting it. A few years ago, I blogged about a new goal that I had just added to my list: visiting the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses and sparked the Protestant Reformation. The very next day I got an invitation to be part of a gathering of leaders and thinkers to discuss what the next Reformation might look like. The place? Wittenberg, Germany. And our gathering took place on Reformation Day!

At some point in the process of goal setting, you need to muster the courage to verbalize it.

That act of verbalization is an act of faith.

When you write down a goal, it holds you accountable. The same goes for a prayer journal. I used to think that written prayers were less spiritual because they were less spontaneous. I now think the opposite. A written prayer requires more faith simply because it’s harder to write it than to say it. But the beautiful thing about written prayers in particular and prayer journals in general is that you have a written record of your prayer. Too often we fail to celebrate an answer to prayer simply because we forget what we asked for before God answers!

6. Include Others

I used to have a lot of personal goals, but I have replaced most of them with shared goals. Nothing cements a relationship like a shared goal. Goals are relational glue. And God set the standard with the Great Commission. If you want to grow closer to God, go after the God-sized goal He set nearly two thousand years ago. I’ve also discovered that when you go after a goal with another person, it doubles your joy.

Many of my goals revolve around my family. They are tailored to the unique personality and passions of my wife and children. Josiah is the biggest football fan, so he got in on the goal of going to the Super Bowl. My daughter, Summer, is a gifted swimmer, so I thought swimming the Escape from Alcatraz, a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco, would be a great goal for us to go after. And Parker has my adventure gene, so he went with me to Peru last year to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

One of the most important life goals on my list is creating a discipleship covenant for my sons. I think I’ve made more mistakes than the average father, but I knew I needed to get this right. When Parker turned twelve, I had circled his birthday in prayer. I spent months praying and planning a discipleship covenant with three components: spiritual, intellectual, and physical. The physical challenge was training for and completing a sprint triathlon. The intellectual challenge was reading a dozen books together. The spiritual challenge included reading through the New Testament, identifying our core values, and putting together his first life goal list.

At the end of that year, we celebrated the completion of the covenant by going after a life goal on both of our lists: hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. Those two days will forever rank as two of the most challenging and fulfilling days of my life. We made the 23.6- mile hike in July as temperatures climbed above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

I lost thirteen pounds in two days! It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but that is what made it so memorable. I’ll never forget the feeling as my son and I ascended the Bright Angel Trail and made it to the top of the South Rim. The first thing we did was get a vanilla ice cream cone at the concession stand. Then we just stood on the rim looking back at the trail we had traversed. No one can take that moment or that memory from us.

7. Celebrate Along the Way

When you accomplish a goal, celebrate it. When God answers a prayer, throw a party. We should celebrate with the same intensity with which we pray. One of my favorite Hebrew words is ebenezer. It means “thus far the Lord has helped us.” When you accomplish a God-ordained goal, it is an ebenezer moment. You need to find a unique way to celebrate it and commemorate it. Whenever I write a new book, for example, our family celebrates with a special meal on the day the book is released. And I get to choose the restaurant!

Setting goals is the way you turn imaginations into memories, and once you do, you need to celebrate them.

8. Dream Big

Your life goal list will include goals that are big and small. It will include goals that are short-term and long-term. But I have one piece of advice: Make sure you have a few BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) on the list. You need some God-sized goals that qualify as crazy. Here’s why: big goals turn us into big people.

One of my crazy goals is to make a movie. I have no idea how this goal will be accomplished. If I had to guess, it’s more likely I’ll write a screenplay than land a role as a stunt double. But who knows? I have no idea how it will happen, but this motivation traces all the way back to one of my earliest memories. When I was five years old, I put my faith in Christ after watching a movie called The Hiding Place. Somehow God used the medium of a movie to save my soul. I’d like to make a movie that does the same for someone else.

9. Think Long

Most of us overestimate what we can accomplish in two years, but we underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years. If we want to dream big, we need to think long. Big dreams often translate into long goals. My goal of leading National Community Church to give $25 million to missions won’t happen next year, but if we give faithfully and sacrificially over the next twenty-five years, we’ll get there. And Lora and I want to lead the way with one of our long goals: giving away $10 million over our lifetime.

If you want to dream until the day you die, you need to set goals that take a lifetime to achieve.

And it’s never too late to start.

10. Pray Hard

Goal setting begins and ends with prayer. God-ordained goals are conceived in the context of prayer, and prayer is what brings them to full term. You need to keep circling your goals in prayer, like the Israelites circled Jericho. As you circle your goals, it not only creates God-ordained opportunities; it also helps us recognize God-ordained opportunities by sanctifying our reticular activating system.

Gardening Advice

It’s spring time. It’s time to start planning the garden. Planting beds need to be prepared. Seed needs to be purchased. It takes purpose and preparation to grow a successful garden.

I love growing a garden. I always enjoy taking a simple seed, planting it and nurturing it. It is amazing to have a single seed produce so many vegetables. Your wife’s heart is like soil in a garden. Nurture it every day with loving words and actions, or it will not produce very much in return.

PS – if you want to reap tomatoes, then you don’t plant corn.