The Inflammation Generation

Inflammation. You’ve probably had it whether you know it or not.

It’s those things that end in “itis.”

Arthritis. Pancreatitis. Bronchitis. Tendonitis. Tonsilitis.

The “itis” tells us that a body part is swollen or inflamed. It generally causes pain, reduced function, varying immobility, negative side effects elsewhere, and many more possibilities.

The thing about inflammation is that we generally treat the symptoms and not the cause. Although, most medicine these days is aimed at that. Just look at all of the pharmaceutical commercials on television. Relief, not the root.

There are now doctors and other healthy people who are encouraging us to reduce the inflammation in our bodies, so that the pathways for everything are more clear. Antibodies, vitamins, blood, oxygen and all that we need to function properly, require smooth roads to keep us running at 100%. Heart surgeon, Dr. Dwight Lundell, has been very active in getting his research out to the American public. Cholesterol doesn’t kill you. Cholesterol is a natural additive our body uses to keep those pathways (arteries and veins) lubricated as we age. Cholesterol becomes the problem, when the walls of the pathways become inflamed and squeeze down around all of the good stuff flowing through them. There are many foods that we are consuming today that cause or encourage the inflammation of our body’s pathways. Doesn’t the saying go, “You are what you eat?”

I have personal experience with another group called Whole9 who have a program called the Whole30. It removes all of those foods which cause inflammation in the body and try to restore some more fluid pathways. The process also is designed to retrain our tastebuds to desire quality food that doesn’t cause harm and instead find new flavors and excitement for the quality foods. I have completed one Whole30 and it was amazing. Read more about it here in a previous post. I plan on doing another one very soon.

I wondered if there were other aspects of my life that had been affected by inflammation and, therefore, were preventing me from fully using all of the capacity of my brain and body. It had occurred to me that my creativity and personal learning levels hadn’t been at heights they once were. I wondered what had led to that.

I finally settled on the fact that I’m like most people in the smartphone world: I’m filled to overflowing with endless todo lists, 24-hour news, newsfeeds from multiple social networks and therefore too many things to think about or try than I could ever attempt to accomplish. For an extroverted, goal-based, passionate, idea person like myself, it’s overwhelming and I hadn’t put my finger on it.

Now, some of you could stop reading right here and say, “Yeah, good points here Seth. Eating better to prevent health issues sounds great, but my mind feels healthy. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I’d say, “Fantastic! Carry on.” For people like me, I have an idea.

Create more space by decreasing inflammation.

Well…how do I do that?

Get at the cause.

My cause seems to be an addiction to information input. It’s something I love anyway. Learning, growing, searching. The only problem is that I’ve been filling that desire and space with little bits of frivolous details. NOTE: I’m not calling Facebook and Twitter, etc bad nor am I saying I don’t like knowing what my friends and family are up to. I just use that information to fill spaces of time when my brain could be creating, playing, thinking, pondering, or just simply resting. I (and this could be the case for you too) seem to be causing inflammation of the neural channels that allow my creativity to pass freely, to be in the moment with a conversation, to think deeply about a topic for more than 2.5 seconds.

Now, again, this may not be you. If you don’t struggle with this, I am sincerely elated for you! Yet, in my interactions and conversations with a few other people, I know there may be others.

I’m going to attempt to reduce inflammation in two areas of my life and I haven’t set end dates for them. I’m going to be checking back in with myself to see how I feel mentally and physically for positives gains. I’ll post some updates on here as well.

1- Reducing physical inflammation by doing the Whole30.

2- Reducing mental inflammation by only checking my social media notifications once a week and replying then.

What do I hope to accomplish?

1- If my body is less inflamed, then I should see less body aches, pains and overall wellness. Hopefully sleep will be better and my emotions will be even more steady and positive.

2- With less mental inflammation, I hope to have more processing power to create, rather than consume. I’ll be reading and learning from one book at a time, rather than skimming 20-30 articles in the same amount time. Hopefully that will enable me to remember and apply that information more. More than anything, when in conversation with others or when I have 1-2 minutes of quiet time, I won’t immediately be tempted to pull out my phone and fill that space with snippets of information I probably won’t even remember or need to. I may even have more time to call and talk with friends and family whom I love.

We’ll see how it goes and I’ll give an update in a few weeks!

reframe

I can’t do that.

It’s too hard.

This will never be over.

What if they don’t like me?

What if I fail?

I certainly don’t know enough to even try.

Have you ever had any of these thoughts or similar ones? I definitely have. I still do. I used to give into them or just pretend like the weren’t there and do something else that I knew I could succeed at, which usually helped. Most people didn’t hear those inner thoughts and they only saw the successes. Those positive results produced outward appearances of happiness (and there was still honest joy present), yet the plague of the negativity would still creep up afterward or before another big project.

I started working with a coach and they put a name on them: limiting beliefs.

They’re almost like a bully in your own mind. They’re not nice and I’m not sure how they got there, but we have to deal with them. If you don’t have them, praise the Lord everyday! If you do, here’s a little help to get you started.

Reframe.

Call them what they are, take them head on and move through them.

Look the limiting belief in the face and say, “No, you’re holding me back and I’m going to turn you on your face and you’re going to work for me.”

EXAMPLE: It’s too hard. REFRAME: Yep, that is definitely going to be a challenge and I might make a few mistakes, but I’m going to get there one step at a time.

EXAMPLE: What if they don’t like me? REFRAME: Are you being honest and standing behind your values? Yes. Are there people who do like you? Yes. Can you please everyone? No. So, focus on the people who do like what you have to say and don’t worry about the rest. Press on.

This reframing is important, because limiting beliefs are powerful. Many times we shrug them off as negativity or self-doubt and just keep going along our merry way. The problem is that they can slowly become shackles around your productivity and willingness to pursue your dreams and passions. They can bring you to a standstill and prevent positive movement.

Realizing this, calling them out as they happen and reframing has been an incredibly challenging, refreshing and growing process in my life. It’s been awesome, thanks Kim. :)

Today, I was meditating on a scripture verse and reading it over and over. I realized that God was in the business of reframing and encourages us to do it while leaning on His power as well. He had this tool a long time ago, because He knows we struggle with sin and doubt, but He inserts His strength to assist us.

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I’ve heard this verse so many times, but I just skipped over the “with thanksgiving” part. He’s tells us not to be anxious, but move through it by coming to Him in prayer and spin the anxiety into thanksgiving. When we do those things (and even when we’re not good at it), His power and peace will guard our hearts as those arise in the future. Wow.

Limiting belief. Claim it and bring it to God. Reframe into positive Thanksgiving.

Receive his protection and peace. Move ahead in joy and success with Jesus.

Amen.

 

Will you be there?

I had a moment of clarity this weekend.

My 3-year-old son, Will, and I went on an afternoon hike in the Sierra Mountain foothills while the rest of my wife’s family was preparing dinner. We decided to check out what was behind the condo we were all staying in for the week.

As we got further away from the buildings, we walked up a steep hill and ended up on a huge plateau overlooking a small town way below, many rolling hills, forests and a pond. The sun was setting and the high mountain peaks were way off in the distance. It was gorgeous. We talked about everything we could see and I just wanted to capture that moment forever with my son. Enjoying that would have been enough, but the real kicker came just a few minutes later.

Will really wanted to go down the other side to check out the pond, so if we hurried I figured we’d make it back before it was too dark. As we started our trek, I realized that this side had a few more narrow/steep drops to maneuver. At one point, I was either going to have to carry him and risk dropping him, have him go in front of me or somehow guide him walking behind me. I told him that it was going to get tight and he’d have to walk slowly ahead of me while I hold his hand from behind to balance him. After only two steps he stopped and said, “It’ll be ok, because you’re my daddy and you’ll never leave me, right?”

That was it.

Ok, I’m choked up now.

A thousand feelings and thoughts rush through my brain and all I can say is, “Of course buddy. I’ll never leave you. I’ll always be here.” He answered as succinctly and confidently as you’d expect of a 3-year-old boy with, “Yep.” He didn’t even turn around. He just gripped my hand and we slowly descended the steep embankment with caution, but ease.

“Yep.” No hesitation. That trust. That confidence. Our children, more than anything, need to know we’ll be there. That we’ll forgive them. That we’ll love them through whatever mistakes they make. We may be upset and there may be consequences, but we’ll be there.

I thought about how I’ll not always be there, because I have to work, etc. But, I’m accessible. I’m present in his life. I want to know him deeply.

That clarity moment led to one of dread. I won’t always be there. It’s the truth. The truth of mortality. I didn’t drop that on my 3-year-old in a moment of need, but I couldn’t help thinking about how someday I would leave him. I think that hit me even harder. It made me, even more, want to be with him. Hold his hand. Ask him questions. Teach him and learn from him.

Be present.

This was all swooping through my brain as we walked and talked and finally a sense of joy and peace overwhelmed me.

Wait…He’ll never be alone. Even when I’m gone one day.

He has another Father. We all do. His name is Jesus.

Daily we walk with Him and when He says that He’ll always be there, we can confidently say, “Yep.” He wants the same thing as I want with my son. To know us. To be with us. To encourage us and hold our hands as we climb through the trails and trials of this life. He will never leave us.

Before ascended into heaven, He had one last thing to say, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus – Matthew 28:20 Being God, He is ever present. He will never leave you. Even if you’ve turned your back or left church for a long time, He’s waiting with open arms to welcome you back, because He’s done all the work for us. Through His death and resurrection He saved us and those that believe it will live with Him forever in Heaven. One day, I’ll leave Will for a time, but we’ll be together with our Heavenly Father forever.

Having that joy and clarity brought a huge smile to my face.

Yep.

Liturgy : The Journey of Worship (Part 2)

We’ve talked about liturgy, but what does a modern, liturgical worship flow look like? I’m going to dive into ours and explain what, why and how we do it. I’m not sure where I first heard the term, but I like to describe our worship style as Ancient Modern.

In my last post, I discussed some background to liturgy and presented an analogy for the relationship found between God and us during worship. Technically a “work of the people,” the originally secular term of liturgy actually has a lot more to do with God’s work when applied to our Christian faith and worship. We definitely take part, but it takes place in God’s house and through His amazing work of faith creation and salvation.

Our church is part of the Christian denomination known as the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod (LCMS). Many LCMS churches (including ours) have an organ-led service with hymns and a choir, which incorporate even more historically liturgical elements. I lead our band-led service, which employs current and traditional music, a liturgical flow and feels much like a modern worship service. If you’re interested in supplementing your current worship flow with liturgy, there are things here that can be easily added to any worship flow. Let’s take a closer look our Trinity Sunday service from earlier this year.

Pre-Service Song : Today is the Day (Brewster, Baloche)

We begin about 3-4 minutes before the service starts, so that we can get focused and prepared to worship. The song is sometimes thematic, and sometimes it’s just a chance to get our hearts and heads in the right direction.

Welcome

The music comes to an end and Pastor explains our theme for the day. Pastor welcomes and encourages the congregation to shake a hand and share God’s peace with each other. The Apostle Paul encouraged all believers to greet each other with a “holy kiss,” but our American culture usually prefers a handshake or hug!

Invocation, Litany, Call to Worship
Pastor: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
P : Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity;               
Congregation : Let us give glory to Him because He has shown mercy to us.
P : Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!
C : The whole earth is full of His glory!
P : The Lord be with you.
C : And also with you.

P : Let us pray… Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The band begins a background synth pad and/or the beginning chords of the next song. Pastor and the congregation exchange spoken lines (litany) which prepare our hearts for worship and what we will be learning from God. A thematic prayer is usually a part of this as well. The Invocation is spoken, which is important because it invokes (or calls on) the name of our triune God to remind us that we have been baptized into His family through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are clothed in the righteousness of His name.

A song of Invocation and/or Confession : Holy Holy Holy (traditional hymn)

The music flows directly into the next song. A powerful, trinitarian hymn proclaiming God’s 3 distinct persons, but yet fully 1 God immediately reminds the congregation of the focus for worship. It is an extension and affirmation of the Invocation.

Confession

P: Let us come before God seeking His forgiveness and turning back to Him in repentance…
C: Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all people, we admit and confess our sinfulness. We have turned away from You and others in our thinking, speaking and doing. We have treated others poorly and not done the good You command. We repent and are truly sorry for the sins we’re aware of and those we’re not. Have mercy on us, kind Father, because of the obedience of Your Son, Jesus Christ. With the power of the Holy Spirit, move us to serve You faithfully. Set our feet upon the new path of life and build Your kingdom here on earth through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Music continues quietly from the last song as Pastor leads the congregation through a time of silent, personal reflection and a corporate prayer of confession. We must remember that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. Our confession is more than stating our wrongs. We repent (turn back) to God and reaffirm our need for a restored relationship with Christ. That redemptive work leads us to sing joyfully with cleansed hearts!

Absolution/Forgiveness

Pastor: The God Who calls us is the God Who created us; the God Who formed us is the God Who forgives us. We are God’s new creation.  As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the (with hand making sign of the cross) Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Congregation: Amen.

It’s the Pastor’s responsibility to speak on behalf of God. As the music begins to grow, Pastor speaks the words that Jesus spoke to many people while He was on Earth. It’s one thing to sing about Jesus’ death and resurrection on your behalf, but when forgiveness is spoken over you in the name of Jesus, the power of His Grace is overwhelming.

Song of Forgiveness/Praise : Our God Saves (Baloche, Brown)

This is the moment to celebrate and shout for joy! It’s a cathartic moment each Sunday when you verbally state your sin, your need for forgiveness and receive undeserved salvation. How can you not sing and praise in response? This song is perfect because it praises God for His forgiveness as well as His divine Trinity.

Words of Institution :

P: Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.
C: Amen.

The flow and transition of music continues and helps guide the journey of worship throughout the liturgy. Pastor speaks the words that Jesus spoke on Maundy Thursday at the very first communion. We prepare our hearts and minds for our closest touch with Jesus this side of Heaven. Many churches celebrate communion at the end of the service as the highest point, which is difficult to deny! We also switch it around and do that at times, but I also love the imagery and experience of receiving God’s spoken forgiveness and then immediately partaking in the meal which is the sacrifice that made the forgiveness possible. It’s a powerful connection to make for the worshippers and flows well in the journey of our faith.

Communion & Song : Remembrance (The Communion Song) (Maher, Redman)

In our case, the band goes up for communion first, while the keyboard player stays and plays some instrumental music. The band returns, picks up smoothly from the keyboardist (who goes up for communion) and continues on with the song. Many of you are familiar with this process or something very close to it.

Offering & Song : Holy is the Lord (Tomlin, Giglio)

The music comes to a close as Pastor speaks a prayer of blessing over the congregation. Pastor explains that we give in response to the ultimate gift, which was His death on the cross for us. Many churches receive an offering after the message in response to the Word of God proclaimed in the sermon, but there is nothing Biblical either way. We give because He gave and He has called us to give. In Hebrews, our songs are called a “sacrifice of praise,” so I remind the congregation that as we sing, we are giving another part of ourselves to God in song.

Prayers & Song :

The music flows into either synth pads or a song of prayer. The prayer time is enriched with praise when a song is incorporated throughout. The congregation sings one verse or chorus of a song and then the band continues to play the song instrumentally while pastor prays specific prayers for the church. There are usually 3-4 cycles of this process. It’s a beautiful flow of prayer and praise.

Lord’s Prayer

There’s amazing power found in the prayer that our Lord and Savior taught us. The music ends just as the Lord’s Prayer begins. There is reverence and honor in giving Jesus’ own prayer its own space without music.

Scripture Readings

The congregation is seated and Bible passages are read which pertain to the theme and message of the day. For much of Biblical history, the Torah and other writings were read publicly in the the temple daily. They were discussed and shared for the learning and faith growth of the people. Today, we read scripture in small groups and the pastor may (depending on style) preach from the Word or read a few passages to support the message. Having a longer set of verses read publicly provides context and allows God’s Spirit to speak through the Word into the hearts of the people. Traditionally, we would have an Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel reading each Sunday. This can vary depending on the church or theme of the week.

Creed : Athanasian Creed

A creed is a statement of faith. It’s something that is used to unite the Christian Church and state publicly what we believe as Christians. Stating these weekly keep the clarity of our faith firmly on our lips and in our minds. The Athanasian Creed uses human words to attempt to explain the Holy Trinity, which is a concept that only God fully understands. Other creeds used regularly are the Nicene and Apostles.

Message Song : Praise the Father, Praise the Son (Tomlin, Cash)

Our message song is the most thematically accurate of the morning, because it’s used to focus the congregation toward the topic of the day.

Message

Announcements

Benediction

There are a number of blessings/benedictions in the Bible. Some pastors reword them into their own language and others speak them as biblical leaders did. Here is a good list and short explanation of their use.

Sending Song : Not to Us (Tomlin, Reeves) + Doxology (Praise God from who all blessings flow…)

Many times this song is thematic, but other times it speaks to what we are to do as we leave the church building. We are to be active in faith, living it, being sent out by God into the world, sharing love and being Christ to our neighbors. Let’s not let this wonderful experience of worship end at the pew, but let it live through us all week long.

_________

We should never stop challenging ourselves to create worship services that lead people to see, hear and receive God’s love in powerful ways. Liturgical elements remind us of the relationship we have with our Savior and provide opportunities to participate even more fully. This example above is definitely one of the longer services of the year, but it includes all the liturgical elements (except for a Baptism or special celebration) you’d find throughout the year. Let me know if you have any questions about this and I’d love to chat about ways you could incorporate aspects into your current liturgy. Let the journey of worship be always on our minds!

Worship: Preparing for the future

Originally posted on Seth Gehrke:

Every 3 years the LCMS puts on a Worship Conference focusing on preaching, worship, singing, and music primarily.  What I can gather from mailings and online info, is that it focuses extremely heavily on the new hymnal, traditional liturgy, hymnody, chanting, handbells, choirs, and formal instrumental ensembles.  Is there anything wrong with that??  NO!  I love all of those things and I feel they are an essential part to praising our Lord.  They should be done well in order to heighten the congregation’s ability to worship our Lord fully in a service.  A conference is a great idea!  I want that to be said before I make my next point:  what are we doing to prepare our (LCMS) church body for alternative styles of worship beyond the hymnal?  Some people may call this style contemporary, but I’ll blog about my issues with that word some other time.  Yet, despite my…

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Liturgy : The Journey of Worship (Part 1)

I’ve noticed a lot of talk about liturgy lately. The only problem is that it’s become very philosophical and some people are just dancing around what it is. You can read some excellent books on the historical and theological background for liturgy, but it becomes too much for quick blog snippets, worship magazine articles and our short attention spans today. Just being honest. I’m right there with you. It’s easy to then get defensive for your style of worship and prove which one is right. I’m not going to go there either, because many forms of worship and flow are leading people to Christ everyday.

Here’s the thing I’m realizing… some people like the idea of throwing in some old chants, songs, rewritten hymns or scripture to liturgicalize (new word alert) their worship. Then others are looking to understand why we use a liturgy and how they could practically apply it to their worship services for the faith strengthening and growth of their congregation.

There is nothing wrong with the first group, because adding into your worship service tried-and-true music and lyrics that the church has sung for generations doesn’t ever hurt. They’re beautiful and scriptural. But, I have to ask. If you’re going to do it, shouldn’t you know why?

If that’s you, let’s dig a little deeper and look at two things in this blog:

  1. A quick background on liturgy and how it began.
  2. An analogy for liturgy: a journey or relationship of worship.

History

The English term liturgy comes from the Greek word leitourgia. Its roots are leos (people) and ergon (work). Basically, it means public work or public service. The Greeks who translated the Hebrew Old Testament began using the term to describe sacrificial rites in the Temple of Jerusalem. It was a service of the people to God. Over time, it became common use in both the secular and religious sectors.

After Constantine opened up Christianity to the Roman Empire, Christians were free to bring their liturgy to the streets. This “work of the people” became a journey of worship through their loving relationship with The Creator. They literally walked from place to place based on that location’s reminder of what God has done in their lives. It may have been a sacred place, a statue which reminded them of God’s grace, a baptismal font, a painting that reminds them of their need for mercy, etc. Later, those works (which symbolized many scriptures telling the history of God’s relationship with His followers) became songs, hymns, spoken creeds, prayers and portions of our common liturgy. NOTE: Despite being a secular term, some Christian theologians have also translated liturgy to mean “work FOR the people,” because of God’s work of salvation and affecting the lives of the worshippers through His Word and sacraments in worship.

The Analogy

(The specific part of the liturgy is listed under each section of the analogy story.)

You go over to a friend’s house (God’s house), but you don’t just walk in. You greet each other by name and embrace your friend. Then you discuss what you’re excited about doing together that day. (Welcome, Invocation  and Collect)

There are times when you and your friend may have had a disagreement or there’s tension. We’ve all been there before. You want to work it out before really getting comfortable to avoid having to keep your distance throughout the night. You share your concerns humbly and your friend forgives you. That relationship is restored.  (Confession and Absolution)

With the air cleared, your heart feels lighter and you can kick on some tunes and really enjoy yourself! (Praise and Thanksgiving Songs)

Conversation begins to grow and you start sharing more about yourselves: your life, your joys, your fears and your stories. (Scripture readings for the day, Congregational Prayers from the Pastor, Responsive Prayers and the Lord’s Prayer)

If your friend has shared something important with you, that relationship is strengthened when you publicly affirm your acceptance and support of your friend. There’s a commitment to the relationship and others witness it. That’s a powerful thing.  (Historic Christian creeds/statements of faith: Athanasian, Nicene and Apostles.)

You may bond over a meal. We know that food always brings us together. (Communion – the ultimate meal)

You get into deeper conversations and truths about your lives. Now you can wrestle with these ideas and speak love and wisdom into each other. This is where the analogy falls apart. God is the one speaking through the Pastor. We are listening. (Sermon/Message)

With a relationship so rich as this, how could you not be moved to give gifts to your friend? You’ve shared so much, the desire just pours out from your thankful heart. (Offering)

You leave feeling filled, forgiven, encouraged, warmed and with the inspiration to share the same so that others can know what we have experienced. So you thank your wonderful friend, who sends you on your way with their love. (Benediction)

There is so much more to say about liturgy, it’s use, history and more specific parts, but hopefully this gives a good overview of its power in our worship lives. Liturgy helps us live out our redeemed relationship and journey with God each week in a beautiful way.

I’m planning to explain the background and use of many of these liturgical pieces in following blogs, as well as practical ways you can include them in your services right now. I will also be outlining our modern/liturgical style of worship flow.

NOTE: You can also find this post at The Church Collective, which is a wonderful collaboration of worship leaders who are sharing their love, passion, wisdom and experience with the church at large.

A new song for Em.

I thought I would make a quick recording of the song I wrote for Emily on Valentine’s Day. I hadn’t written her a song since the one I used to propose over 7 years ago, so I figured it was time! Enjoy.

You’re the One
copyright 2013 Seth W. Gehrke

Verse 1
You’re the one I always longed for
You’re the one I dreamed about
And right after that first call
My heart had no doubt

verse 2
Our family has sure grown
We’ve got a puppy and a boy
From the cold to California
With you there’s always joy!

Chorus
You’re the one who will forever
Share in my deepest dreams
I couldn’t ask more than that babe
You’re the one that mends my seams
And I’m still trying to figure out while it spins inside my mind.
How could God bless me so much, with a woman who’s so kind.

Bridge
We’ve had our ups and our downs
But never have we fallen
Through moldy walls and traffic laws
Our team goes on and on
We laugh about our sleep walking
And are together when we cry
I never could imagine when
The day comes to say goodbye

Verse 3
I’m not quite sure what’s next Love
Put it all in God’s strong hands
I know there will be adventure
I can’t wait to see what’s planned!

Chorus 2x

Reckless.

This morning I heard a song on the radio (which I’ve probably heard a dozen times) for the “first” time. You know that moment when a thought or line or moment makes an – impact. on your heart.

The line is sings: “His (Jesus) kind of love is reckless for us.” (by Group 1 Crew)

I had never thought of God’s love as reckless, but in the eyes of the world, it definitely is.

Webster defines reckless: marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences.

There are many times when we calculate our risk in forgiving or helping or assisting someone based on our time, relationships, money, health, safety and just overall willingness.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not God and we need to be safe, but we forget that even though He is God, He still feels, hurts, loves, creates.

When He loves He goes all-in. He bets everything. He uses no caution, no temporary words or smalltalk to sidestep a confrontation or relationship. That’s reckless.

He sent His only Son to live a human life full of temptation, rejection and foreseeable death. That’s definitely careless of the consequences. That’s reckless. To us.

Not to Him. It was worth it. It’s still worth it. We’re worth it. Not because of what we’ve done, but because we are HIS creation. HIS love. HIS.

It may be difficult at times to imagine loving others fully with reckless abandon. It makes sense, we’re sinful people. But, with the Holy Spirit’s power, we can do our best to love HIM with reckless abandon and through that process let Him challenge us to love others beyond where we are today.

Because He’s worth it.

The obligatory greeting paragraph and…prayer?

You know that friend or co-worker who gets so into their “stuff” or “work mode” that they remove all personal connection and interaction from their communication?

Hypothetical example… Subject line: copies   Body of text: Can you make those copies of page 17 by 2pm?

I mean, not even a “Hey There!” or something like that. Just slam into the request. It’s even worse when it’s on the phone. But, many of us have gotten used to the lack of personal touch and implied focus on being efficient. I catch myself doing it very often when I’m running to class and have a question to pose to a co-worker as I dash off. You can’t always take the time. I understand that.

We all probably have been in this situation though… You’re writing a private Facebook message to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while, or have to make a phone call to someone that you know has the answer, but you just haven’t had the opportunity to connect in a while. There is the obligatory “catch up” paragraph or 5min update. Come on, admit it, you’ve written it thinking, “I just need the information, but I don’t want to be a jerk.” It’s because we care. We really DO want to catch up, but at that minute, you’re focused on the task at hand. Maybe the short tidbit can tide us over until we have more time. I think that’s courtesy and we all appreciate it. I know I do.

But should we do it with prayer? I just had a prayer request sent to me a few minutes before this post and I just stopped my work at my computer, jumped right in with the request with God and spilled my guts about it.

Then I paused.

I imagined myself standing in the presence of my almighty, powerful, creator-of-the-universe, loving God and I just jumped in without at least saying, “Hey God…” I felt like I should’ve at least adored Him for His GREATNESS and kindness for even listening to me. Or maybe I should catch up a bit on the things I’ve forgotten to tell Him lately…

Then I remembered a poster that I asked Emily to create for me a couple years ago. It says, “Pray Continually: God is Faithful” and it’s based on 2 verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  |   Isaiah 62:6 O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the LORD.

I realized that God wants our prayer life to be a continuous conversation. It’s not just at specific times, but it’s at ANY TIME. He’s always there and waiting. Sadly, He may become the friend we haven’t talked to in weeks or even months, but He’s unlike all the other friends who haven’t been keeping up with you. He’s been with you the whole time knowing every thought, worry, joy, experience and wanting to hear about it all.

When you imagine prayer as a time with an amazing friend, then you want to catch up and spend some time talking about life. I wouldn’t call it obligatory, but it’s definitely worth your time! Any time with God is, because He just wants to hear from us. If prayer is a continuous, daily, hourly occurrence, we’re sharing our life and God’s experiencing it all with us, so we can just jump right back into the conversation with anything at anytime. What an wonderful relationship that is.

Learning between the lines.

I found myself in an interesting situation in the first 2 weeks of school with a young student.

I’m going to call this student Buddy (B).

I guess Buddy decided to start this year off on the wrong foot. I teach preschool-8th grade music and Buddy thought that from day 1, music was a good place to do whatever he wanted. The first day B tested me at least 4 times within the first 10 minutes, but decided he needed to go full out. My kind re-directions and patient day-1 requests were not being followed, so B received the first consequence of the 2012 music classroom. We talked after class about it, but there wasn’t a lot of remorse or willingness to listen. After a very similar experience with the bigger group in choir class the next day, I was sure that I was in for it this year…or B was.

I vented with my wife (also an education major turned graphic designer) about the situation and we talked about some things I could possibly do before or during class to redirect or include him more. I thought about it and had a few ideas, but I couldn’t have planned for the opportunity that would present itself a few days later.

It was during a recess period where I saw Buddy sitting alone in the middle of the playground grass as far as possible from any other student. It was a beautiful day for a little stroll across the playground, so I decided to pull up some lawn next to Buddy. I sat down without saying anything, stretched out my legs, leaned back on my hands and let out a relaxed sigh. This is when I would normally ask something like, “So, how’s it going?” or “I see you’re sitting alone, what’s up?” or even better … “Tell me about how you’re feeling today.” All great psychological/educational questions, right? Get inside that kid’s head! However, I decided to go at it from a different angle, so I said, “Wow. Isn’t it a beautiful day? I love how just about every day in California has blue skies and lots of sunshine. Isn’t it awesome?” B agreed with a slight smile and nod. I continued, “I used to live in Minnesota and it would rain a whole lot more and make things muddy or wet, plus it’d be grey and cloudy for a bunch of days.” B asked if it’d snow too. I said it did and it was really fun for a while, but it got really cold too, which you got used to … most of the time. A younger student came over (“Hank”). I asked Buddy if they had met so I introduced them, but pointed out that B was a really cool guy and they should definitely get to know each other. Hank ran off. Then “Sally” came over to say hi to me. I introduced Buddy to Sally by telling her that Buddy very fun, so maybe they could play a recess game together sometime. She ran off as well. Buddy was just looking at me with this confused/interested look on his face and said, “Do you know what I’m really good at?” At this point, if Buddy had said training Zebras to jump over the moon, I was going to run with it. Buddy said, “Kicking a ball.” I said, “I’d really love to see you boot that ball over there.” Buddy ran over, grabbed it and (I thought – please, please make it a good kick …) sent it sailing! He got a big cheer and of course had to do it a few more times.

This is where it really got cool …

Sally and Hank returned and kind of just hung around us. Kids are still learning how to join in. Buddy jumped right on it and said, “Do you think Hank and Sally want to play?” I said that maybe he should ask them. Buddy went over and invited them to kick the ball around with us and even helped get the ball when they sent it in the wrong direction. The transformation was incredible.

So how did choir go later that afternoon? Buddy was following all requested directions, listening, participating and having a good time. I almost forgot B was there, because my eyes and attention could be used elsewhere and therefore focused on teaching the class. It was great!

This was just another reminder that people are lifelong projects. They aren’t tasks to be checked off a to-do list. Sometimes I feel like one-off consequences for kids are like giving up on a piece of a major project. If you a project at work and this one piece of it kept giving you trouble, but it had to be a part of the plan, would you push it aside for later when it might not fit with the rest of what you’d accomplished? No, you’d have to develop it, strategize, pivot, get creative and maybe mold it a bit to work where it should.

If teaching had an even bigger relationship component (especially in our education and training), then I think we’d have less behavior issues and the time we have for academics may be slightly less, but much more fruitful, because there will be more attentiveness, engagement and willingness to learn. You’d probably see future payoff in the workplace when people’s team projects succeed because they know how to encourage, be honest without using sarcasm, take criticism constructively while still knowing their self-worth, and be willing to try again without crumbling because of failure. All of these things are developed through intentional relational interaction, before, during and after the instruction of the actual material like math/reading/science/history. There are so many skills learned between, under and around the lines.

As a side note: I can attest to observing and knowing many teachers who are fantastic at this and have made it a core principle in their teaching, because they inherently know it is necessary.

Some teachers may say it’s not their personality, responsibility or that they don’t have the time to add another subject. I would reply that all people desire encouragement, a personal connection and intentionality. Why don’t we weave that into every subject and interaction? We can all do it authentically with our own personal style. And yes, if we’re truly educating future citizens and leaders, it is definitely our responsibility.

Let’s all teach between the lines and help shape all of our children into empathetic, creative, confident, thinking people.

A little related news: check out a new app being developed that can help us as adults encourage and strengthen each other to be even better selves than we already are. http://blog.lift.do/post/25435255834/everything-there-is-to-know-about-lift