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It happened to me again this morning.

I was busy working.

Providing for my family.

Being creative.

And I spontaneously thought of my children.

As I pictured them in my mind, a chain of reactions followed:

My eyes gleamed.

The corners of my mouth curled upward.

My dimples deepened.

My pulse quickened.

Warmth flooded my heart.

I thought not of their immaturity.

Or flaws.

Or my disappointment with their behavior.

(Although those things certainly exist.)

I dwelt on their beauty as people.

Their uniqueness as individuals.

Of how I love them enough to give them my all.

I longed to see them grow.

To laugh until they can’t catch their breath.

To love selflessly and deeply

To savor every moment.

To thrive.

I wanted nothing but good things for them.

If you are a parent, you’ve likely felt the same.

If not, perhaps you can imagine yourself doing so.

Then it hit me:

THIS is what happens when God thinks of US.

The same light.

Love.

And warmth.

The same affection.

And desire for our best.

Why do we imagine otherwise?

Why do we assume that God focuses instead on our flaws?

Shortcomings?

Deficiencies?

Failures?

(Although those things definitely exist.)

I believe God thinks of us often:

“How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God!

How vast in number they are!

If I try to count them,

there would be more of them than there are grains of sand.

– Psalms 139:17-18

And I’ll bet He smiles wide.

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Ever wondered:

“Is it just me?”

“Am I doing this faith thing wrong?”

“Is God real in my life?”

“Should I just give up?”

If so, you aren’t alone.

Right now our faith community is wrestling with these kinds of questions.

This past Sunday we queried, “Is it normal to fluctuate between faith and doubt?”

To have moments where we commit ourselves fully to God only to later wonder if He’s even there?

To act so courageously in faith one time, and fail in fear the next?

To be convinced one day, and conflicted another?

Good questions all.

If you’re interested in the conversation, you can listen in HERE.

When it comes to communication, are you a short and sweet kind of person?  Or do you prefer the long version of the story?

For the sake of full disclosure, I tend to be fairly verbose.  Although at times I force myself to reign it in and be succinct.  This is why I like to update my status online via Twitter instead of Facebook.  Makes me edit myself.

Last Sunday our church community spent some time talking about what we feel called by God to do.

Putting it in a nutshell, I said I think we’re about:

“Building relationships that change things.”

Capturing the essence of a church community or anything else in only five words can make it incredibly portable, but is by necessity incomplete.

So, I developed a longer version of the ethos of Connections Church as well:

“Connections church is a humble, welcoming community of average people who are trying to understand and practice what it means to unreservedly follow Jesus in the midst of everyday life while building deep, authentic relationships with other believers for mutual support, encouragement and accountability and at the same time seeking to be an incarnation of the love, presence and message of Jesus to our world (both locally and globally) with intent of allowing God to work in and through us to unfold His plans, establish His Kingdom and bring glory to Himself.”

Something tells me that this might not only be the longest run on sentence known to man, but that I- and everyone else- will be more likely to remember, repeat and embody the shorter version.

If you’d like to hear more about this, take a listen to this week’s POD CAST.

Our family had 3 birthdays over an 8 day span earlier this month.  My boy turned 3.  My father in law celebrated 70.  And I happily saw my life odometer click over to the 40’s.

As you might expect, there were some gifts involved.  And plenty of unwrapping.

But, the unwrapping didn’t stop with the family celebrations.  It carried into our Sunday teaching conversation, the last in our “For A Change” series.

In our 3rd week of studying the resurrection of Lazarus, we finally saw Him come out of the tomb.  Alive.  But still wrapped up.

Looking for parallels between Lazarus’ experience and our own, we noted that stumbling out of the grave when we hear Jesus’ voice isn’t the end of our transformation.

It’s just a beginning.  We’re alive, but still need to get unwrapped.

And that process can take lots of time and require some help.

Want to hear more?  Listen to the podcast HERE.  (Note: The actual teaching starts 8:25 into the recording.)

Ours was sweet.

And messy.

Much like our lives with God.

Hear more HERE.

Dying.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I hope you die this week.

And that I do to too.

Sound a bit crazy?  Sure.

But I believe we need to do it all the same.

Over the Easter season our church community is learning about how spiritual growth happens through the story of the resurrection of Lazarus.

Yesterday we began with this idea:

You can’t have a resurrection without a death.

And if Jesus wants to give us a new life that is radically different from our old one- perhaps we’ll have to die to get it.

What does that look like?  How does it happen?

Those were the kinds of questions we kicked around yesterday.

If you are interested, you can listen in HERE.  (Note: The actual teaching starts about 7 mins in.)

So, this week’s teaching conversation starts (actually it’s 6:47 into the podcast) with an explanation of the one mantra I’ve taught my kids about public bathrooms.

That’s probably all the intrigue you need to make you listen, right?

Oh- AND we talk about how Jesus welcomes screw ups like me.

And you.

LISTEN IN.

We’ve all 86’d stuff- even if we didn’t know to call it that.

For those who think I’m speaking in code, to “86” means to cut, get rid of or throw out something.  Webster suggests that this phrase began as slang because it rhymed with “nix”.

Whatever the etymology, I’ll bet you’ve done your fair share of deleting things- an item from a recipe, an expense from your budget, a commitment in your calendar, junk from your garage, stuff from your hard drive, etc.

But have you ever considered 86-ing Jesus?

A while back, a friend of mine said they were doing just that, moving away from Jesus to more of a deistic understanding of God.  In one sense, I wasn’t surprised.  I knew my friend- like many others- had been struggling with Christianity and church for quite a while.  And while I certainly affirm their right to seek God and make their own decisions about faith, there was something about their admission that gnawed at me.  I wondered if my friend really knew what they’d be missing if they took Jesus out of the story between God and man.

While I’m admittedly biased as a follower of Jesus, in my opinion He brings so many beautiful and unique things to the table that you just don’t find in other faiths and religions.  I found myself speculating as to whether or not my friend would not only stop using the name Jesus, but also abandon what He provided (like the invitation to approach God as a loving parent for example).

Then the conversation turned to me.  Do I really appreciate all that happened when Jesus entered our story?  Am I grateful for- and do I take advantage of- all He did for and offers to me?

And since I often get to explore my questions about Jesus with my faith community– a new series of teaching conversations was born.

If you are on the front end of discovering what makes Jesus unique, could use a fresh appreciation for what He did for you, or have even been thinking about 86-ing Jesus- feel free to LISTEN IN.

Lately I’ve been chewing on the idea that gratitude comes from perspective.  We often don’t appreciate how good things are in our lives until we zoom out a bit and see what others are dealing with.  We may feel dissatisfied with our career path until we hear from a buddy who got laid off unexpectedly and suddenly our job seems OK.  We may feel under the weather with the latest bug, and then we hear about a loved one who has cancer and the flu virus isn’t quite so overwhelming anymore.  We may bemoan not being able to do all the things for our family that we’d like to do.  Then we find out our neighbor is facing foreclosure and we’re grateful that we can pay the house payment each month.  The more we see beyond ourselves, the more grateful we are likely to become.

This Sunday our church community tried to take that to another level.  Instead of simply trying to adopt a more global perspective, we tried to think universally.  (And I’m not talking about health care.)  We wanted to gain some perspective on just how big and glorious this God of ours is.  And we got some help from both the scripture and astronomy.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky displays what his hands have made.

2 One day tells a story to the next.

One night shares knowledge with the next

3 without talking,

without words,

without their voices being heard.

4 {Yet,} their sound has gone out into the entire world,

their message to the ends of the earth.

Psalm 19:1-4a

We also got a great assist from Louie Giglio’s “Indescribable” video.   You can watch part 1 here and find the other parts in related videos if you are interested.

While we tend to see ourselves as the center of the planet and our planet as the center of the universe- this video contains some thoughts that are perspective changers- about how big God is, how small we are and how Jesus’ love bridges the distance between us.

So if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all that is going on in your life or think your picture of God might be too small, take the time to check out this teaching.  I think you’ll be encouraged and have your perspective stretched in an astronomical way.


Sync logo 4x3Ever wish you could find ways to stay close to God in the midst of your busy life?

Our church community is currently discussing some practical, spiritual habits that people of faith have been using to connect with God for thousands of years, like:

  • Confession
  • Unplugging
  • Prayer
  • Engaging the Scripture
  • Reflecting
  • Resting
  • Feasting & Fasting
  • Worshiping
  • Finding a Rhythm of Life

Interested?

You can check out the series preview video below, listen to weekly teachings via our PODCAST, and find notes and follow up ideas on our TEACHING BLOG.