Instead of responding in anger maybe we need to listen.

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I don’t know what to say. I really don’t know what to say to my kids or to the youth and families that I work with. For those of you who know me, know I am not normally at a loss for words. Today as I watched the events unfold at the capitol I was saddened, shocked and disturbed. What was more shocking to me was the number of posts on facebook about sticking it to people we disagree with politically. Comments like you didn’t speak out this summer when their were riots or you spoke out then and aren’t speaking out now or some other forms of attack on people we disagree with politically. It was ugly and hurtful all around. So how do I talk with my kids and families about what is happening? How should I as a Christian leader respond to this crisis in our world?

I still don’t know for sure? I don’t know if responding to every hateful or angry person on my feed is helpful. My guess it that it isn’t. In fact I think today we need stop and listen not respond. Listen to what God would have us do. Listen to how God is speaking in our lives. Most importantly listen to those around us and have empathy and compassion to those who are hurting on both side. Yes speak against violence in the streets or in the capitol but listen to people.

Today as I went through my day I had the opportunity to sit a listen to a few different people about different situations in their lives. People who in different simple conversations shared their lives. They shared about how they are feeling or how they are doing. Listening allowed me to hear them. So often we are quick to speak and share our thoughts but are we slow to listen. Too often we want to have answers or we want to speak up, but today I was reminded we need to listen more and talk less.

So what I am sharing with my kids and what I sharing with you that are reading this, we live in a world that is angry. In a nation that wants to speak and be heard, maybe we as Christians should stop and listen. Stop and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Let us be peace makers and people of hope. Today is Epiphany. The day we remember that God wants all people to know of his love for the world. Maybe today we can share Jesus with people just by listening and offering peace.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:19-27

Why Would a Wise Guy Steal the Wise Men?

I have a confession to make. I know many of you will be shocked by this, but I am a thief. Every year around this time, I go around my house and take all the Wise Men. I also take them from church if I see them and they can be removed. You might be thinking, “How can you do this? Steve, why would you do such a thing?” Well, let me tell you it is something I have done for the last 25 years and it has a purpose.

Many people don’t know or don’t remember that at the Nativity the Wise Men weren’t there that night. In fact, they did not arrive until Jesus was at least a year old. (Matthew 2:1-12) The only people who visited the young couple that night were the shepherds – the lowly people who were outside of town in the fields, watching their sheep. The Magi were important, but they didn’t come until later. So why steal them?

Well, I actually don’t steal them. I just move them. I move them around my house or around the church. I do it for two reasons.  First, I want it to be more biblically accurate. Too often I think Christians may not fully know the story of Jesus. We take it for granted and teach our kids the wrong story. This can be a challenge for kids as they grow up, when they think they were lied to or tricked. Second and more importantly, the Wise Men came during Epiphany. The story of the Wise Men is about a group of people outside the promise of Abraham receiving the promise of Jesus. It is a story worth telling. We celebrate it in the Church 12 days after Christmas. So this year if you come to church and find the Wise Men missing, just know that I or someone else may be trying to teach a lesson.

(P.S. – This year at church, I convinced the pastors that I should be able to move the outside Wise Men around the campus before Epiphany. So if you are around St. John, drive by and see if you can find them. They will travel during all of Advent and make their way to the house on Epiphany.)

A tough year…So lets read through Isaiah this Advent

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I will be honest. I am ready for Jesus to come back. This has been a rough year. This has been a year of anger, and hate. It has been a year of broken promises, divorces and all sorts of pain for many of us. It has been a year with very few moments of joy, and lots of moments as a parent trying to move our family forward. Sometimes it feels like we just have to ignore all the things we missed or weren’t the same. Even as we approach Thanksgiving, and plans change, I am looking at the one thing that helps me deal with all of this. I want to look at the promise of Jesus. Advent is a time to remember Jesus coming the first time, while also looking for His future coming.

I don’t know about you but I have really struggled to stay in the Word this past number of months. With School starting and the new rhythms of life being just as busy, I have found myself struggling to read through the scriptures this year. So as I get ready for Advent this year I decided I am going to read through Isaiah. It is 66 chapters about God’s people, judgement, and the promise of a Savior. I need that reminder.

God’s people waited for generations for his coming the first time. They went through trials, and tribulations during those times. God always provided a time for when he would come and be with them. We also wait for Jesus to come again. If you want to join me in reading through I Isaiah i made a reading plan for myself. I pray this may help us all find hope in His promises.

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.

Dear Parents, Participation trophies are a frustration for many parents when it comes to sports and activities. We live in a day when people often frown on just giving out trophies to everyone. We want people to earn what they get. We want trophies for people who actually won something. I don’t necessarily disagree with this mentality. We should strive for excellence. We should reward people when they do an excellent job. But sometime excellence gets in the way of doing things. “Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly.”

My wife said this to me and it caught my attention. Now you might think, “How does that work? He just said we should strive for excellence.” And although that is true, we shouldn’t let excellence get in the way of doing something. Sometimes we think that in order to do something, we have to do it the best. We have to be a semi-pro in order to lead this or that with our family. When we think about exercise in our life, I don’t have to start by running a marathon, or lifting heavy weights on day one. In fact I might only lift 10 lbs for 10 reps and want to take a nap. I might only be able to run just a few feet and then have to walk the rest of the time. All of this is better for me and my health than not doing it at all. Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly.

We can all look at our lives and have parental guilt about how we are doing as parents. We can struggle with being present in our kids’ lives and not on our cell phone. We can struggle with bringing our stress home from work and putting it on our kids. We can struggle with not taking time to read God’s Word, or not knowing how to pray. I could go on but you get the point. We will always have hard things in our life that we don’t do well with our kids. I know I am not an excellent parent, really none of us are. My prayer for all of us is that we are willing to do anything, even if it is done poorly, because our poorest attempts, when done with Jesus by our side, are so much better than not doing anything at all.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:16-17 ESV

You may not know how to pray like Daniel, or preach like Paul, you may not be loving like Mary or strong like David. But you have something you can offer your kids. You have Jesus. You can share Him with them every day. You can pray even if you don’t do it perfectly. You can be present by putting down your phone more, you can open that Bible and read to them even if you don’t have all the answers to the questions they have. Start with something. Don’t wait to know it all or do it perfectly. Do it all in the name of the Lord, because “Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly!”