Thursday, December 31, 2009

Intentional Friendship.....

I don't know what resolutions you have for this new year but one I'd like to challenge myself and others on is being intentional in our close friendships. While the old trite adage, "You need to be a friend, to make a friend" is true, nothing much is said about nurturing and cultivating our present friendships. So what does being "intentional" in a friendship look like?

I think it's about being more proactive in our time spent together and what's talked about. I think our friendships should always have laughs, inside jokes....etc, but many friendships are deficient in the area of depth of conversation and challenging one another to grow spiritually, in our relationships and achieving personal goals. If our closest friendships don't have depth then what is their value?

Friendships also take time. Setting time aside time in your schedule monthly for meaningful friendship opportunities is a must for them to be cultivated. For me I have to stop saying, "Hey, let's get together some time" and start saying, "Let's figure out right now when we can get together" and put it on the calendar. For me if it's on my calendar it's going to happen (Lord willing).

Some might say that all of this should just happen organically, but if we are still wondering why we don't have really meaningful depth in our friendships, maybe there is something that we should be doing to nurture them?

Go Grow Together,

Nathan

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just Like Riding a Bike....

Yesterday I started the adventure of teaching my youngest son (Landon) to ride his bike without training wheels. I was pumped as we got him all set up with his helmet and pads on the park grass. But what started as a Norman Rockwell "Dad Moment" quickly turned into a "How can I get my hands on some anti-depressants" moment.

Landon who is usually our resident dare devil was overcome with fear of falling off his bike. After a few trys and falls he had decided he didn't want to try any more. His mantra became I can't do it!" I tried every motivating statement, every bribe, EVERYTHING...... but he would not be moved. After an hour of "I can't".....I decided to pack it up again and try again tomorrow. Some lessons I walked away with:
  • I can't make my son succeed. I can only provide an environment where he can.
  • As a Dad I must model patience and love when my kids fail.
  • When I think about how many times I've told God "I can't" and He has met me in that place with patience and mercy. I'm incredibly grateful.

I'll keep you up to date with the bike lessons,

Nathan

Nathan

Sunday, October 25, 2009

She.....

Almost 24 hours ago I sat across from a woman at dinner that continues to captivate me without her even knowing it. There is no presumption on her part. She is only herself and has never tried to be another someone. She is the quintessential version of what I never knew I always wanted. She doesn't know that I sometimes just watch her mouth when she speaks. Her eyes, always sincere, add more to her words (which need no assistance) but assist them all the more. She makes me smile. She is the gift from God to the man I wish I always was. She sees my flaws and yet loves still. She sees my quarks and yes, laughs. She sees my pain and endures with me.

She takes my breath and heart away...and I bid them adieu for I am a better man with them in her possession.

She is my wife.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

He's Already Been There....

Have you ever felt like your life was two steps away from greatness as well as two steps away from all of the wheels coming off the train at the same time? I tend to feel this way often. Before you diagnose me as being "Manic Depressive" let me explain.

Depending on the circumstances in my marriage, family, friendships and ministry; I really can end up feeling a wide range of emotions. As the victories and losses of our lives ebb and flow we can all find ourselves overcome with the feelings of excitement and euphoria to the depths of anxiety and grief. It is vital that we make the truth of God's word our compass; a fixed "True North" for our souls. Without it our emotions can spin out of control and it can lead us to make erratic decisions as well allow us to go to some very dark places in our hearts and minds.

Quick Question: Did you know that God is not restricted by time?

"He is the Alpha and Omega, The Beginning and The End". He sees and knows all things. He knows our thoughts and words even before we speak them. He has already been to the end of your situation. He's seen the outcome. There are no surprises for God. Bottom Line: We can take comfort in knowing that our 'future' that seems at times so scary and daunting for us; is already God's present. He's already been there and got the t-shirt.

Trust Him,

Nathan

Monday, October 12, 2009

When Today isn't Enough.....

Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend and find out how his life was going. He shared with me that he was going to make another huge leap in furthering his academic studies. When I asked him why, he said, "I need an external mental and emotional push. It's either this or have an affair. I chose the least expensive option."

I can resonate with my friend's feeling of always wanting that "next big thing". I can become so forward thinking that I forget about today. And that next big thing is always elusive. It seems just as we arrive and accomplish that project, event or attain that "next ring", we find that the satisfaction disappears in our souls like cotton candy on the tongue. This constant striving left unchecked can cause us to live life like a bull in a china closet.

I have been on this roller coaster of emotions and it's not fun. I'm slowly growing in my ability to manage my emotions instead of my emotions managing me. For the sake of my marriage, my family and my ministry it is crucial that I get this right. Bottom line: I must remind myself daily that my life's pursuit is not to attain greatness for myself, but to point to Christ's greatness.

Today is Enough,

Nathan

Friday, September 11, 2009

Motives....

I'm back people!!!! Well, I'm back today. You might have noticed my last entry was Aug. 2ND. Let me explain......I had a stark realization about myself.....and it wasn't a fun one to publicize but for the sake vulnerability and transparency here goes:

I realized that somewhere along the way in my desire to influence people through writing I began to love the feedback even more than the writing itself. I would constantly check to see if someone had "thought it was good" or "insightful". I'd check to see how many people had visited my blog or became followers. Then one night I could smell it. It was the pungent.....oderous smell of pride. That's the smell of wanting people to approve of me and my effort to seek out "kudos" from people. What started out as a great tool to influence people for good, turned into something that was influencing me for the bad.

Proverbs 16:2
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the LORD weighs the motives.
NASU

The Lord weighed my motives and reminded me that HE is my supreme value.

So I'm back for now and asking Jesus to help me to continue to walk in humility so that I bring Him glory rather than be a hinderance to myself or others.

Missed you,

Nathan

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Glass of Water.....

This afternoon my doorbell rang. I answered the door with some annoyance, knowing that it was most likely a salesman. It was. His name was Rob. He was a 20 year old exchange student from the U.K. selling children's educational books. He asked if he could come in and share with me what he was selling. I told him "No thank you"as I began to shut the door. I immediately felt led by the Lord to open my door and to let him in. I said, "You know what? Why don't you come in after all." Rob grabbed his bag and came inside. I asked him to sit at my dining room table. "Can I get you some water?", I asked. He said, "Sure, That would be great." I went into the kitchen where my wife was studying. She asked who it was and I told her, I don't know, I just felt like I was supposed to invite him in.
I went back into the dining room to give Rob his water to find him crying. He said, "I don't know why I'm crying." I said, "It's OK.......Rob, I'm a pastor and I felt like I was supposed to ask you in. Can I pray for you?" For the next hour I had the wonderful privilege of sharing the gospel with Rob. He was incredibly receptive and I could feel the presence of the Lord with us as we spoke. I believe I had the opportunity to not only share my faith through verbally expressing but through practical kindness as well. There was a seed planted today that I'm praying someone else will water and reap. After a couple of glasses of water later our time together concluded. As he was leaving I encouraged him to drop me a line on Facebook and that I would be praying for him.

Bottom Line: We must allow for life interruptions so that we can embrace the joy of sharing our faith in word AND deed.

Are you Thirsty,

Nathan

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Your Local Weather Man....

The last few days have been that kind of storm that the weather man some how missed. I'm sure, like me, you've experienced circumstances and storms that catch you off guard. I'm encouraged and strengthened by the knowledge that I'm not walking this journey alone.

A few things I think are worth learning during these times:

1. There is ALWAYS TIME TO PRAY! (You'll "feel" and make things worse if you don't.)

2. No matter how much you "don't feel like it", READ YOUR BIBLE! It is our compass, our true north as it were when it feels like our life is spinning. We need more truth, not more feelings in crisis. (Psalms 46 is a good start.)

3. Don't believe that you have to be depressed because you encounter something heart breaking. Grieve....yes. Harbor it....no.

4. Make it a point to not make any major decisions when feeling overwhelmed. (Unless absolutely necessary).

5. Make sure you are eating right and getting plenty of rest.

6. Remember you can't fix people and fix every circumstance. STOP CARRYING THAT RESPONSIBILITY. THE GOD position is currently filled.

7. Get off your computer now and practice doing number 1.



I mean it....Off,

Nathan

Monday, July 13, 2009

Suffering a Good Thing?

Found myself in a beautifully tragic place in my prayer time today. Felt on the verge of tears as I was moved by the book of Hebrews in the Bible. There is a passage in the book that points to our loving God that disciplines us through suffering:
Heb 12:7-11

7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
NASU

This is not a politically correct passage even in Christian circles. I don't know how many times I have heard a preacher say, "God wants His people to be in total victory in this life: Health, finances, relationships." The irony is that Jesus lived day to day financially, had tons of strained relationships, and was murdered. It's not because Jesus didn't have a positive attitude or didn't have enough faith. If Jesus Christ suffered and we are called to follow him, why do we try so hard to avoid it in America.

That victory that Christ has given to us through his death and Resurrection is COMPLETE victory over death and gives us eternal life. Not only can we endure any tragedy or hardship through God's power but we can find ourselves more like Christ on the other side.

Embrace it,

Nathan

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Need to Wake Up

Back in 1994 in Houston, TX I was coming back from a long day at my Army Reserve Training weekend. It was late at night and I was exhausted. The drive was a 25 minute drive across town and I wasn't looking forward to it. The next thing I know I pulled into my driveway and I didn't even remember driving home. I was so tired and on auto-pilot that I wasn't even really processing the commute home. It scared me.

Something very similar causes me grave concern. Actually it made me sick to my stomach last night as I realized that my mindset had slipped into wanting more stuff instead investing more time and resources into the lives of people that are hurting physically and spiritually. I believe many us as Christians have become lulled asleep by a passionate pursuit to be comfortable and entertained. There seems to be a desire to accumulate wealth and more "stuff" instead of using that same drive to invest in the true mission of the Church. This world is temporary yet we don't seem to act like it. We are on auto-pilot pursuing this "American Dream."

Bottom Line: How is our lifestyle different from the world in regard to how we spend our time and money?

Let's Wake Up,

Nathan

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Dark Side of Facebook....

I made the leap onto the Social Networking platform this last December by creating a profile on Facebook. I know this might sound late to some of you but I was very hesitant about the idea of people knowing everything about me or the feeling that it might steal time from an already busy schedule.

While I have found a ton of great benefits in using Facebook (connecting with people and leveraging influence), I have also found a few negatives to these Social Networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter...etc.). Here are my thoughts:

1. Self-expression overload: This generation highly values self-expression. Everyone seems to desire to have some type of artistic expression and universities are reporting exponential increase in communication majors. With that being said, do you think there is such a thing as too much disclosure? Is it dysfunctional to share EVERYTHING with EVERYONE?

2. Friendships Vs. Acquaintances: Here's the deal we don't really have 657 "friends". Most of them are people we just know. A facebook friend is not always the same as an authentic relationship. Keep a good perspective on having quality relationships not so much focusing on quantity. You don't want to wake up one day and realize all your relationships are just surface depth.

3. Time Thief: When I first got on to facebook I spent a TON of time online. My family and work paid the price. Saying yes to being online means saying no to: someone else, your work, valued projects that you want to get done and much more. I think it's a great tool, but not at the cost of friends, family and your legacy paying the price.

Bottom Line: Don't let your desire to express and connect online overwhelm your desire to connect and express in person.

Still Friends?,

Nathan

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness....

The founding fathers of the United States stated that one of our unalienable rights is the "pursuit of happiness." The dictionary definition of "happiness" is: good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy. I have never met anyone that didn't desire to be "happy". Our culture plays to this common desire by trying to sell things and services that will supposedly bring one "happiness". Most people find real "happiness" elusive because they fall for this bait of "more things". They get caught in the "pursuit" instead of making sure what they are seeking can really be attained.

Let me ask you these questions: What to you would be complete happiness? How are you currently pursuing this course? Is what you are desiring God-centered?

What are you currently chasing that God is asking you to let go of?

Bottom line: Don't let your freedom to pursue happiness be the very thing that enslaves you.

"Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added." Matt. 6:33

Pursue Christ,

Nathan

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Don't Be This Kind of Christian.....

Something I hear often from people that have left a church they've attended or from those considering leaving their church is "we just feel we're not being fed." I'm sorry "What?". What do you mean you are "not being fed"? It's almost always people that have had a relationship with God for a long time. A new believer NEVER says, "I'm just not being fed."


What they mean is that they don't feel like they are being challenged or nurtured spiritually at a church. Can the local church be failing at this sometimes? Answer: Yes. But my first question when talking to someone who makes this statement is: "What are you doing to feed yourself"? Daily reading of your Bible? Regular intimate prayer time? Are you proactive in your Christian educational growth by attending classes and reading?Are you serving the Lord by serving in your local church or are you just "consuming"?

When we attend church services with the desire to be entertained we're committing idolatry.

Realize that a pastor speaking on a Sunday is speaking to a wide spectrum of people from those just initially seeking God to those who have known Him for decades. As we grow in our maturity in our walk with God our role should be changing from just consuming at church to serving and leading.

Let's Grow Together,

Nathan

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Am I What I'm looking for?

A few days ago I was complaining to myself about a friend I felt had let me down. I can be very introspective already and I found myself thinking about what I really value in friendships. What are the qualities that I desire in friendship? As I made a mental list, I was then prompted to ask this logical question: How do I personally measure to up to these qualities? I began to get defensive and rationalize here and there about why I wasn't always this or that or how it's different for me because..." We tend to extend ourselves a lot more grace than we extend others.

I believe we're called to focus on becoming the kind of friend we desire to have. It's about taking the wood plank out of our own eye before we worry about the speck in others. Lord, help me to think more about what I can bring to a relationship instead of what I'm not getting.

Amen,

Nathan

Friday, June 19, 2009

Think the Best?

Question: Are you the type of person that thinks the best about others or the worst? Do people have to first prove themselves to you before you view them in a positive way? An outlook that thinks critically of people until they prove otherwise is a heavy load for both sides. One side is an outlook of jaded cynicism (possibly coming from a critical home background or being hurt by people along the way of life.) The other side of our critical view of others is that we ask people to jump through hoops that we wouldn't want put on us. We can be critical of others in way that we would see as unfair if done to us.
I can hear the arguments now. Nathan, you don't know what's been done to me. You don't know how I've been treated....Do you just expect me to get run over? Answer: No. Thinking the best of others doesn't mean being unwise or not being realistic. It means a balanced approach of wisdom and a love for people that always hopes. Bottom Line: Treat and view people the way you would like to be treated and viewed.

Trust Me,

Nathan

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

He's Not That Into You....

As a parent you have an innate desire to keep your children from any harm. Sometimes that's not possible. Yesterday my boys and I were walking into our neighborhood pool clubhouse. As we entered the pool area my son Ethan (5) saw a boy that looked like his age. Ethan is naturally very friendly and promptly introduced himself, "Hi, I'm Ethan. What's your name?". The boy rejected Ethan with equal effort, "I don't care what your name is." The look on my son's face was heart breaking. I wanted to bring that kid correction and tell him, "Hey, my son Rocks! You should care." The reality is in life this won't be the last time my son will make an effort in a relationship and not be met half way.

It's natural to be frustrated with people that aren't "trying" or "investing" as much as we are in a relationship. Nothing hurts more than affection that's not mutual on any level. In the past I use to think that if I just show that person how much I care, how much I'll sacrifice, they'll finally see what a great person I am. I put so much energy into winning people that didn't want to be won. Scripture states, that "in as much as it is with you, live at peace with all men." That means we are called to do all that we can do. Bottom Line: We can't change others, that's God's job. We're not Him.

Believe it,

Nathan

Back To the Future...

I just walked out of a adoption dedication ceremony for a 13 yr old girl in our church. For her it was a long time coming, and a huge milestone for the family. Along with friends and family in the room there were several hopeful kids in foster care that are waiting to be adopted. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of pain for these kids that don't have a Mom or Dad who will care for them or call them their own. As I prayed for the young lady that was being adopted I reminded her that she does not have to be solely defined by where she's come from.

Maybe the family came from wasn't the ideal family. Maybe choices you've made in the past seem to haunt your heart and mind still today. Can I tell you that your past is not bigger than God's love for you. Know that God's best for your life includes redefining who you are with His love, mercy and forgiveness. Bottom line: Where you are going is more important then where you've been.

Believe it,

Nathan

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Battery Wanted....

Let's say "hypothetically" I walked outside this morning and noticed the my drivers door was slightly open. And let's say it naturally didn't surprise me when my car wouldn't start (battery is dead right?). After grabbing some jumper cables from a neighbor (that I woke up) I opened the hood to find that my battery was not dead in fact I'm sure it was alive and well SOMEWHERE else. That's right boys and girls someone stole my car battery in the middle of the night. Ok...so it's not a hypothetical, it's reality. STINK!

With that in mind I'd like to ask a question. Are you living off of someone else's spiritual battery (experience)? Do you mooch off of other people for spiritual and emotional support all the time? If so, you need to know that Christ wants a personal relationship with you, not a religious one. He doesn't want you living vicariously through other people. Is your life compass spinning? Do you feel like you don't know where to turn? I encourage you to stop striving by calling one more person or trying that "next" book. Have your own authentic experience with God.

Get Started,

Nathan

Monday, June 15, 2009

Don't Be That Person...

Pet Peeve Alert: Those people that talk about themselves incessantly. Recently I had a chance to catch up with a friend from the past. It would have been a pleasant conversation had it not been for the fact that my friend talked the entire time and then shockingly had to go. There was a trite "how's the family?", but you could tell it was meaningless. You could tell there wasn't a genuine desire to know how I or my family really was. I've been guilty at times of dominating conversations with stories. Here is a test: Next time you are sharing a story with someone and you are interrupted by something, see if people ask you to finish your thought. If they don't, there's your sign. Bottom line: It's not just about asking the right questions in a conversation. It's about genuinely wanting to know the answers. Don't just talk to me...listen to me.

Hear me,

Nathan

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Decision Making....

Bad Decisions many times are like bananas they come in bunches. So it's no surprise in looking back over the last 5 years of my life I can see a pattern of one bad decision after another in my relationships, my career, my spiritual life, etc. It has caused me to put some consistant measures in place to reduce their frequency. Here's what I've done:

1. Committed to pray about major decisions until I feel a secure "peace". If that peace doesn't come, it's a no-go.

2. Committed to completely hear out my wife's counsel. Her intuition is undeniable.

3. Committed to run all major decisions by a select group of men. Scripture states that we should, "Walk with the wise."

4. Committed to never make major decisions when exhausted and/or depressed.

For me these principles have already made an impact on myself and my family when making life changing choices. Bottom line: Our decisions in life don't just effect ourselves alone....why make decisions that way?

Time to Decide,

Nathan

Sunday, June 7, 2009

When it Hurts....

Nothing quite matches the feeling when someone close to us fails us. It draws out of us a myriad of emotions: anger, frustration, confusion, sadness....you get the idea. And when we feel like someone is letting us down or has failed us completely we many times immediately distance ourselves from them because we don't want to deal it out. We don't want to have to confront and call someone out on the carpet or bring correction where it's needed. We can begin to avoid and even ignore them completely. And Depending on the severity of the wound it can sometimes take a while for us to bounce back. Being hurt is normal and we should allow ourselves the right grieve that which has been lost. With our trust for them on life support however, and us wanting so badly to stay ticked off at them we can set up a scenario for a "perfect storm" of bitterness to take up residence in our heart. Don't let it. Bitterness and unforgiveness are bedfellows and do not play nice together.

Yes, own how you feel. Yes, confront the person with the offence but don't hold onto it. "Forgive as Christ has forgiven you." Surely you can think of a time when you've failed someone. A friend, a family member.....God. Forgiveness doesn't always mean reconciliation. Forgiveness means giving up your right for pay back. Leave that to God. He's much better at it.


Forgive,

Nathan

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Why....

For a second I'd like you to think about a goal you might have, a degree you might be after, a relationship you are in. Let's call that the "what". Next, I'd like you to think about why you are in that relationship or why you are chasing that goal or degree. We'll obviously call that the "why". Not knowing the whys behind the things we are doing or want to do causes the following:

1. We won't know the purpose behind all the efforts we are putting in.
2. We'll get distracted by other people or things that come along.
3. We'll give up more easily when we run into obstacles.

But if we know the "why" behind the "what" in our lives we can know exactly why we are in that relationship and exactly "why" we are in that job or chasing that goal. Take a bit and really examine why you are doing what you are doing. I think it will be worth your time.


It Matters,

Nathan

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Stressed Out

Stressed out. That's how I've felt this week. This underlying tension that is in my chest and in the pit of my stomach. It's pervasive in my thinking. When I get this stressed out I begin to get stressed about things I NEVER been worried about. It's like a cancer spreading quickly into every category of my life: personal and work. When I realize that I've been taken over by this emotion, I many times come to the understanding that I haven't spent any time in prayer and I'm trying to do it all in my own strength. I start to withdrawal from people. I become incredibly irritable and I also begin to make poor choices along the way. In the midst of a schedule and a task list that is unrelenting I must.....Stop. Do whatever it takes to stop for a moment and pray not for the sake of finding "inner strength", but to be reminded that you can't do any of this on your own. Bottom line: Stress can be regulated by prayer.

Peace,

Nathan

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rear Window....

In the spring of my junior year in college I had a blow out on a freeway in Dallas. Frustrated at the thought of having to change a tire on the side of a freeway I made my way to my trunk and whispered a prayer that someone might pull over and help me. Sure enough, at that exact moment a car stopped just in front of me on the emergency lane. I could see two kids looking back at me in the rear window as their dad walked back to me. He said, "Have a flat tire?", as I stood in front of my shredded blown out pile of rubber. "Ummm yeah", I said, not wanting to point out the stupidity of his question and just thankful that he had stopped. As I bent down to take the hub cap off, he said, "I'd love to help you, but first you're going to have to help me." I looked up and realized that from somewhere he had pulled out a revolver. I froze......He said, "Give me all the money in your wallet." Shaking, I reached to my back pocket and as I was pulling out my wallet I remembered that I only had a single dollar bill. With my thumbs I opened up the wallet for him to see and said, "That's all I got." Seeing the single dollar he got angry and I closed my eyes as he hit me in the chest with handle of the gun. He said, "You've got to be kidding me". He then proceeded to take the dollar and run back to his car. I stood there with my hands still in the air watching his kids look back at me through the rear window as they drove off.
As my knees gave way to the thought of what just happened I sat down and made sure I hadn't wet myself. Then my mind went to those kids in the rear window........It's been 12 years since that day on the freeway in Dallas and I still think about those kids in the rear window from time to time. Where are they? How did their life turn out? How do they view life now?

Bottom line: We never know the background of the people we interact with. Let's make sure our interactions with them count.

It matters,

Nathan

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Listen....

Several weeks ago I was watching T.V. when I happend to look over at my wife. The look on her face spoke volumes that only a husband of 10 years can read. The "look" said this: "I've just been talking to you and you haven't heard a word I've been saying." I proceeded to stop everything and give her my full, undivided attention.

It was a good reminder that there is a huge difference between hearing and listening. Hearing means that you are hearing the audible tones coming out of someones mouth. Listening means you are proactively giving attention to grasp the content that another person is sharing. Are you a hearer or a listener? Hearers act like they're listening when really they are placating. Hearers mentally prepare their response while the other person is talking. Listeners allow the other person to fully share and then think about their response. Listeners stay present in the moment and ask follow up questions to show that they are following along. Bottomline: Your relationships (personal and business) will only go as far as your ability to listen.

Testing 1, 2, 3,

Nathan

Monday, June 1, 2009

Do Overs....

What happens when you are hit hard with the reality that life has not gone the way you had planned it? The Play of your life has not played out the way you wrote it. People aren't reading their lines as you envisioned. Your friendships, your marriage, your family, your career...even you yourself have not turned out the way you wanted.

Sometimes things turn out better than we expected, but many times we find ourselves frustrated and discontent with how the cookie has crumbled. This discontent can leave marriages and families in ruins, careers in disarray and relationships struggling. I believe our life is made up of a combination of our choices, the choices of others and a sovereign God. While our circumstances can many times be a great motivation for us to move forward we can also end up spending way too much time looking at the past with regret and viewing the future as a fix. What we miss out on is the present. Don't.

Live the present,

Nathan

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pet Peeve Alert.....

Pet Peeve Alert: People that don't do what they "say" they are going to do. I know what your thinking......"I can't stand that as well." No one likes someone that's a flake (you know someone you can't really count on what they say they are going to do.) Here is a personal confession though, I didn't learn this lesson until about 7 years ago. I was so motivated by pleasing people that I couldn't say "no" and would spread myself out too thin. I'd over commit myself and could not meet deadlines. People would get frustrated and I would just give excuses. I had to learn to set real expectations. Allow yourself some wiggle room. Don't paint yourself into a corner. It's much better to say no upfront if you can't do it then to say yes and disappoint someone after the fact. Bottom Line: Under Promise and Over deliver.


Keep Your Word,

Nathan

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Getting Up from Failure

My friends, the list is long of instances when I've been an idiot and made poor choices. From the mundane to the profound, I've made some doozies. Picture this, I'm driving down the road on the way to the office and I see a Texas Longhorn sticker on the back window of a guy's truck. Being in Phoenix I don't see a ton of these so I decided let him know "I'm a Longhorn fan too!". I drive up next to him and proceed to give him the "hook'em horns" sign with my hand, but the guy is looking at me like I'm nuts. I'm thinking what's the deal, show me some love! What I then realize is that instead of the "hook'em horns" sign, I was giving him the "I LOVE YOU" sign (Thumb, forefinger, pinky). As he drives on I feel again my actions confirm that I'm an idiot.

Here's the deal, as I said before that story pales in comparison to some of the other things I've done in my life. When I look at the moments that I've fallen on my face and blow it there is always a wave of guilt and shame that rushes over me. It can be crippling and make me feel like I cannot move forward. Thankfully I've found God's grace to enough to cover those mistakes I've made. Bottom Line: Your Failure Does Not Have to Define You.

Time To Get Up,

Nathan

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Dreaded "N" Word....

I'm not a huge fan of the word "no". I don't like to hear it and even more importantly I don't like to say it. Because of my aversion to using "the word" I tend to use everything but "no": yes, maybe, we'll see, who knows, there's an idea or I just all together ignore the question, statement or cirsumstance. Recently someone asked if they could do something and they needed my approval. To not offend them and to avoid me having to say the tough thing, that they did not have the ability to do "this thing" I said "yes". I didn't want to say "no" because I felt that meant potential conflict. When I avoid saying "no" when it's called for I make myself out to be a liar because I'm saying "yes", but inside I'm screaming "no". When I placate people by putting them off and avoiding them, I let the issue become a wedge in my relationships. We need to be asking ourselves the motivation behind this: Is it my own insecurity? Am I intimidated by the person? Am I afraid of conflict?

Bottom Line: You can say no. The island will not blow up. Life moves on as will your relationships.

Say it with me........No,

Nathan

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Right Stuff

I was a solid "C" student in college. Don't ask about High School. I said don't ask. Graduate school is going much better because I see the value in what I'm learning. Recently you might have heard the educational phrase "teach to test". This is when school systems teach ultimately for kids to pass an upcoming test (State wide educational exams). The argument against this methodology is that it robs students of having a well rounded education and only focuses on a few fundamentals. The students might score well but something is lost in the process. The deeper thought behind "teaching to the test" is that the end justifies the means.

Maybe in your life you have some things that are "turning out well" but the way you are getting there is all wrong. No one else knows it, but you do. Maybe your skating by on talent and charisma or maybe you've just gotten so "tunnel visioned" on results and started caring less about "people". It's not just about doing the right thing. It's about doing the right thing for the right reasons.


Make it Right,


Nathan

Monday, May 25, 2009

Expiration Date on Relationships........

I think it's fitting that I return to the blogosphere on Memorial Day. I put my writing on hold last week after I lost a dear friend last week. He had battled a health condition for over a decade. His name was Reid and he was 24. He had a beautiful mind and a gentle spirit.

I am reminded from his loss how we never know how much time we have here on this celestial ball. I'd like you to ponder some questions I've been asking myself:

Am I making time for people that I "say" I value?

Do you call many people friends but have little depth in your friendships? We make time for what is important. If people in your life are important....make time.

What does my qaulity time look like with them?

Make sure you getting past surface conversation and on to things that matter. When they're gone we won't care that we talked about the weather.


Is there anything I need to say or do before one of us is gone?

Ask forgiveness and forgive where it's needed. Communicate to them how they've impacted your life. What have you always wanted to say or do? No more excuses...do it.


Remember,

Nathan

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Surprising Struggle....

I felt a call into ministry 15 yrs ago. While I have had the opportunity to learn and grow in my gifts for ministry there is still an area that I struggle with consistently: Prayer. Shocking I know. After 15 yrs of being a pastor....still struggling in his prayer life. Yes. Lately I've been on a great roll. Each day I've been taking time to journal my prayers and thoughts along with insights I feel the Lord gives me. Yet, I still can't get over how much "work" prayer is. Obviously not physically intensive, it takes everything within me to calm my mind and to slow my life down. My mind screams at me about all the other things I could or even "should" be doing. I many times crowd my schedule with things I tell myself are urgent and unavoidable. So I am having to make an actual appointment with myself every day to meet with God in prayer. Even my actual prayers can be a struggle. My prayers at first seem trite and redundant and just flat over all. There is something that happens though as I push through that feeling of uselessness. Something deeper happens when I wade through the clutter of my mind to talk with Him. Peace. Comfort. Real strength for a real life that is spinning around me. God, I need that today.

Bow your heads with me,

Nathan

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Checking The Rear View Mirror

This morning I was almost ran off the freeway by a guy that did not look behind him before he changed lanes. I saw him look back at me through his rear view mirror to check out the reason for the screaching tires behind him. I wanted to share with him that he should have used his rear view mirror before this. It got me to thinking about the value of looking back and thinking about this question: As I move through the lives of my friends, family and coworkers do I touch their lives for the better or worse. Dr. Henry Cloud in his book, Integrity calls this our "life wake", He refers to our lives being similar to a wake that follows a boat as it moves through the water. Is there life and joy left behind as you move through life or is there a sea of drama, pain and hurt feelings. We can't live our life like a bull in a china closet thinking how we live doesn't effect others. Bottom Line: You are leaving a legacy whether you like it or not, what that will look like depends on you.

It Matters,

Nathan

Monday, May 11, 2009

Identity Theft...

When I was a kid I wanted to be everyone else but "me".......Fred Savage of The Wonder Years.....Ralph Machio From The Karate Kid.....The lead singer to the band 'Warrant'....(ummm, please keep the last one between us). We've all imagined of being someone else.....especially when we were younger. From time to time, however, I run into someone seeming to act odd. At first I might not be able to put my finger on it, but soon I realize that the person is trying to act like someone else. How they dress, walk, talk, what they do in their spare time. It really does become like identity theft. They want to be percieved as something other than who they are because either they don't really know who they are or don't like who they are. They select characteristics of someone they wish they were like and in some ways steal their identity. The rub here is that the person ends up throwing away an oppurtunity to embrace who they are and develop what makes them distinct. Bottom Line: it's great to have people to look to as mentors and and role models, but we must come to know who we are and realize our uniqueness is a God given gift.

I am Who I am,

Nathan

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Guilt Trips

I'm not a fan of guilt trips. This form of passive manipulation paves the road to hell. (OK that was a little dramatic, I'm just not a fan). We've all experienced guilt trips from people (Moms are notorious) and we've all ended up doing things we didn't want to do because of this tactic. People tend to use guilt as a motivator in relationships when they aren't getting what they want and don't have the guts to say directly what they are feeling. We must come to a place of maturity and say what we mean and realize there is a better way to get our feelings across. People in our lives are much more apt to respond to genuine communication even if that means voicing frustration and upsetting them. No more passive aggressive tactics. Own your emotions and communicate them.

After all I've done for you...,

Nathan
video

Friday, May 8, 2009

Worst Job of a Parent......

"This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you....", "Really? Because it looks like my butt is the one getting spanked." While there are varying ideas on disciplining out there, most parents agree that there is something within us that at times longs to not have to discipline our kids for several reasons:

1. Not wanting to feel rejected by our child
2. We Don't want to be bothered with stopping what we are doing
3. There is an underlying frustration that what we have been doing isn't working (not changing the behavior)
4. We'd rather the verbal threat work without having to act

The reasons are many.....but the issue is the same. When we avoid disciplining our children out of our own issues (time, annoyance, wanting to be the "Cool" parent, not knowing what to do) we deny them the basic boundaries of life. These boundaries provide the basic framework for their future behavior. After all scripture clearly says, "the Lord loves those he disciplines". Loving and discipline are not mutually exclusive. If we love them we'll make boundaries and hold them accountable. Bottom Line: Loving, direct discipline now means healthier relationships later.


Love Them Enough,

Nathan
video

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hearing the Last 10%....

Top 3 worst feelings in life....1. Throwing up 2. A Severe Sunburn 3. Being Corrected. Since this insn't a WebMD blog I'm going to address the third one. A few days ago I talked about the importance of saying the last 10% in our relationships (saying the things that are the most difficult). Tonight I want to talk about the other side of that.....hearing the last 10%. I was meeting with some friends tonight and they shared their last 10% with me. It wasn't easy for them to say and I can tell you that it wasn't easy for me to hear. As they shared I wanted in so many ways to be able to tell them that they didn't understand or they were way off base, but the truth is.....they were right on. In that moment I had a decision to make: get defensive and angry or listen and process. Thankfully, the Lord helped me to listen and own my junk. Bottom Line: God will use friendships and even people we can't stand to communicate truth. We must be mature enough to listen, process what was shared for truth and apply it.

Listen,

Nathan

Pushing Through....

Two years ago I was at Fort Jackson, SC doing some training with some chaplains. One night in the pouring rain I was on a live fire course (where they were shooting real bullets over your head). I was crawling face down in sand, in the rain, with all my gear and armor plated vest....crawling for about 200 yards. At first when I came out of the trench I was pumped and excited and the adrenaline was flowing, but after about 50 yards my body caught up with my mind. Every part of my body was hurting (did I mention I had been up 32 hrs at this point?) I continued to push on for about another 100 yards and had another 50 to go when everything within me said, "I'm done". My heart felt like it was going to explode....my muscles were cramped and I rolled over on my back and cried out to God (literally) as these loud artillery shells were going off. As I gave my situation over to God I rolled back over on my stomach and dug deep and pushed through the pain, as I did that a Sargent at the end begin to call my name and told me to keep pushing, to keep pushing through the pain, that I could make it. Bottom Line: We must push through our circumstances and emotions. Submit and Worship God despite how you "feel". Secondly, Call out to those that our struggling. Tell them they can make it...be an encourager.

You heard Me,

Nathan

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Beyond the surface....

Know those people that say they have more than one best friend? How is that possible? Doesn't "best" mean "the top" or stands alone? Anyway, in thinking about friendship last night I was thinking about how grateful I am for true accountability. I'm not talking about the people I can seem to have fun with and just really enjoy their company. I mean friendship that runs deeper. Actual Accountability. A relationship where I give them permission to ask the tough questions about my life. When they know they can call me out on something and they give me permission to do the same. It's really Proverbs 27:17 in action: "Iron Sharpens Iron. So one man sharpens another." Relationships that don't have this type of intimacy aren't wrong. We just need to know that we will not have any type of accountability in a relationship like that. What about you? Do you have someone in your life that holds you accountable on a regular basis or do you always keep people at a distance?

Get to Sharpening,

Nathan

Monday, May 4, 2009

Don't Change a Thing....

I've often thought about what hell is going to be like......if it is as bad as I think it is, there will be infomercials. I continue to be amazed at the amount junk that is sold on television. One that I just got through watching was for a "fat burning" drug called Lipozene. It said that "fat accumulates on the body because of: having kids, stress, lack of exercise and poor diet. What makes this drug so great said the host is that, "You don't have to change any part of your lifestyle." This is crazy! But it hits home on key flaw of mankind that we want the benefits without the work. We desire the payoff without actual investment. If we truly desire change in any part of our life we must be willing to pay the price. Short cuts only produce temporary results and not those that are long lasting. Don't buy into an infomerical lifestyle. See the need, make a plan, execute the plan and stick with it.

Changing The Channel,

Nathan

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Last Words....

This last week I went to the funeral of a 19 year old. It was a tragic end to an incredibly short life. While his death was unexpected the grief at his funeral was not. The emotion in the room was palpable. As his father and brothers got up one by one to share things about him they loved. Thoughts they had never shared with him what they appreciated about him, memories that brought them laughter and joy. The undescribable pain they spoke out of was from not just his death but the fact they had never spoken the words to him while he was alive. It was another reminder that we are all mortal and not permanent on this earth. Here's my thought: Why not share those things with those that we care about now? Why wait? Don't let their death be the catalyst for expression. Go in the next room, pick up the phone, write a note..........say it.


No Regrets,

Nathan

Friday, May 1, 2009

Need to Love them Too....

I have a friend that I recently caught up with after circumstances had taken us different directions. He's one of those friends where conversation comes easy, we have the same humor, and we are in the exact same season of life. Friendship with him is EASY. There are others however that life propels me into their journey and it is not so easy. If I were to be honest there are some that I would rather not be around at all. But, there I am.....with them......torn between a lack of chemistry and the knowledge that God longs for me to push past my preferences and genuinely love them. Not the "I love you because God says I have to" but a love that comes from a reservoir that only Christ can provide. I don't have to skip through the fields with everyone (picture it in slow motion), but I do need to ask God to help me love them genuinely and practically. Someone might be thinking this about me.

Love,

Nathan

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

I've often heard in conversations someone referring to a person as an "old soul". Now I get what they are saying.....the person seems to be farther along the timeline in life then their age would suggest. This may be evident in how they interact socially, their cultural taste, maybe they're more reflective. But it got me to thinking what if someone gave you a magic mirror to show you your "age" on the inside in the following areas: Relationship building, leadership development, your walk with God. What would that mirror show? A thriving, healthy, growing adult or a withered Benjimin Button type with stunted growth that's dysfunctional? Bottom line: We are responsible for our own spiritual, social and emotional development. It falls on no one else.


Own It,

Nathan

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Not Going Away.....

You are not going to want to do this. I promise you. If you can stop reading now, I'd encourage you to.

Ok....you asked for it.

What is the thing in the back of your mind that's really nagging you? The thing you don't want to think about or deal with.

Let's look at it on two levels: relationships and career/tasks.

For instance in that relationship....the thing you need to address, but haven't. Maybe there is an issue you need to bring up that you've tried to ignore. Maybe a flaw in your character that needs to be dealt with. Or something that's been bothering you and just hasn't seemed right but you haven't wanted to rock the boat.

Maybe for you it has to do with your career or ministry. The thing that isn't going well, but you continue to turn a blind eye to it. An underperforming teammate, a failing idea, something that is just not working.

Dr. Henry Cloud, author of the book Integrity, talks about the need for people to "embrace the negative". The worst thing we can do is bury our head in the sand and hope for a change.

We live in a world where thinking positive is in vogue, but embracing the negative is not about thinking negatively. It is about being able to look the negative in the eye and face it head on to deal with proactively.

I've found that when I ignore the negative issues in my life whether they are in my relationships or ministry (workplace) that it doesn't go well. At best I eventually look like an idiot and at worst I end up hurting myself and others deeply.

You will not move forward until you learn to deal with the negative.

I'm positive,

Nathan

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saying the last 10%....

Yeah I'm that guy....I'm that guy who when I know I have something tough to say to someone I'm saying the conversation out loud in the car before I get there. I actually have the conversation out loud with myself. I think about their possible responses and I think through how I'm going to communicate how I really feel. The problem is there is no way I can think of every response I might get. Recently, this happened and I was stunned.......regardless, I had to come to a place where I could say EVERYTHING that needed to be said.

Many of us when faced with a conversation that we would rather not have tend to shrink back in the moment and not say the hard statement that may need to be said. This tends to create in us an underlying frustration of not being able to say what we really want to say, whether that's with a friend, spouse, a leader and so on. Bill Hybels (Pastor of Willow Creek) called that in a recent interview "not saying the last 10 percent". We instead to desire to say as much as we can without having to feel awkward, hurt the other person's feelings or put strain on the relationship. It is essentially communicating out of fear. Fear of people thinking we're over reacting, them not liking us anymore....rocking the boat essentially. When we reserve what truly needs to be said we are doing ourselves and the other person a disservice. Now hear me with balance: Saying the last 10 % doesn't mean ripping someone a part. It means communicating succinct truth with love, regardless of how they may or may not receive it. This will change how you communicate in your relationships, workplace and life in general.


Say it,

Nathan

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What Matters to God?

Recently I was in a conversation with a young adult that was making a run at "coming back to church". He stated that he had been coming to church only on holidays (Easter and Christmas) but felt like God would be alot more happier with Him if he started coming back to church.

I shared with him that I thought it was great that he was here, but I also shared with him that God is really more concerned about some other priorities instead of checking off on his clip board that he had gone to church or not. Mark chapter `12 qoutes Jesus stating the two greatest commandments, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no cmmandment greater than these. A man replied to Jesus agreeing with him saying, "To love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifces."

Jesus is alot more concerned with our relationship with God than he is on our attendance @ church. Now I believe that going to church and being in community with other believers can be one of the things that strengthens our relationship with God, but I know A TON of people that think that alone does it for them. It's about intimacy. A person could be in church every sunday of the year and never have an intimate moment with God. Intimacy equals vulnerablity. When was the last time you were vulnerbale before God? It's the heart that Christ is interested in. You love God? Then you'll want to hang out with Him and His people.

Let's equate these "burnt offerings and sacrifices" that this man talking to Jesus brings up as doing anything of a religious nature to please God. Jesus agrees with the man's assessment. God cares more about us loving others then us checking the box on a religous to do list. David said it this way in the Psalm 51: 16-17, "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacfrices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." NASV God wants your heart. If he has your heart he has your life. If we aren't willing to make others a priority by loving them as Christ asks us to, then how does sacrificing to God our time, resources and energy make any sense? Love God, Love people. Let's get busy checking those boxes.

He's Watching,

Nathan

25 Hours a Day......

We hear these words often. "There aren't enough hours in the day." "I wish I could clone myself to get everything done." "I'm a woman trapped in a man's body." OK, maybe not that last one but the two before it. Time Management. It is the achilles heel for many. Bottom line: If we don't plan our time, it ends up planning us.

Here is a few principles that have helped me wrestle this to the ground:


1. Determine what you value most. This might sound trite, but much of our frustration with there not being enough time is that we feel we can't spend time doing what we value most. Make a list of your top 5 priorites.

2. Reality Check: How are you really spending your time? Over the next 7 days keep a detailed account of how you are spending your time. Don't record how you planned to spend your time. Write down how you actually spend your time. You can use a hand held device to accomplish that or go retro with a small pad and pencil. Be as detailed as you can. Avoid generalizations like, "3-4pm worked on stuff" you need to be able to look at your recorded days and categorize your time spent.

3. Compare reality with your priorities. Lay these side by side and categorize how you are you really spending your time compared to your priorities.

4. Plan your week a week out. First put in non-negotiables (devotional time, work hours, picking up kids, going to class, worship services) Once all of these have been put in you are left with your discretionary time (free time). Now begin to put those priorities into your discretionary time. These need to be like gold. Keep these appointments with yourself. Many times we view "optional" items as appointments we can throw away. DON'T DO IT! Barring a 911 situation or Jack Bauer himself calling and asking you to help him save the nation AGAIN. DON'T DO IT!

You might need to make adjustments as you go, but try to make your priorities the priority in your time. You just might start to feel that 25th hour in the day.

Tick Tock,

Nathan

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Letter "D" is for.....

It would be an understatement to say that from time to time I get tunnel vision. This is where I can only see that which I am seeking and nothing else matters. My life ends up being like a kid that only is consumed with the next ring on the monkey bars. This is nothing new when it comes to men and even more so those in leadership.

Jesus himself is recorded during His earthly ministry in the book of Mark traveling with a group of followers to do ministry in Jericho. Along the way a blind beggar begins to cry out to Jesus, "Son of David, have mercy on me." Those followers that were with Jesus began to scold the beggar, telling him to shut up. But, he began to yell all the louder. Jesus stops the entire love train and tells those with him to bring the man to Him. Jesus asks the beggar, "what do you want me to do for you?" The man answered, "I want to see." Jesus tells the man, "Your faith has made you whole." The Bible says that, "immediately the man regained his sight and rejoiced and begin to follow Jesus."

What might look like just another extraordinary healing in the ministry of Jesus actually is a reminder of what matters in ministry. Those that are in ministry are always on the way to "Jericho" by that I mean their God breathed Dream, their next leadership Destination, their Godly Destiny. I can't really scold the followers of Jesus that tell the man on the side of the rode to shut it, because I've been just like them. Maybe not in the literal since, but I know what it's like to be consumed with doing good work that I'm blind to the priorities of God.

Allot of things can get ignored when we get tunnel visioned on "our next big thing". Here are a few of the victims that I've hurt with this disease: my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my staff, my church family, and people along the journey that didn't seem in my mind to fit in with my next big goal. Jesus puts the brakes on this leadership conference to remind those that are following Him what he really values: the rejected, the refuse of society, those on the fringe. It's not about hanging out with Jesus and being associated with him so that we can exalt our Kingdom. It is about being his disciple and being like him. Maybe being like Him means putting down the habit of feverishly reading every leadership book that comes out for a while and picking up people that matter to Christ.

My life is not about the next destination, it is about the journey. If I stay consumed with making Christ priorities mine, my steps will be ordered to my God dream, that God destiny, or hoped for destination. There always be another Jericho in the distance. Let's maybe think about the destitute.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Faith on Cruise Control.....

Cruise Control......other than beef jerky and Journey thumping on your ipod, there is no better gift to road trips. Not only does it help those that have the tendency to have a "heavy foot", but many drivers have been able to change clothes because of this beautiful invention. Maybe you've heard about the guy who purchased a giant brand new RV, who on his first road trip decided to put the traveling whale on cruise control at 70 miles per hour and headed to the back for some much needed lunch. After three bites of a turkey sandwich and 5 crushed vehicles later our gentleman found himself with a new understanding of the limits of modern technology. (I wonder if "Jesus take the Wheel" was playing in the background?) The owner was under the misguided idea that cruise control meant "auto-pilot".



As funny as this urban legend sounds.....I found myself not laughing at all when thinking of the parallels I see in this story when it comes to my walk with God. The list is long and detailed of the times I've been in a great place in my relationship with Christ, but I've allowed that great momentum to convince me that I can compromise my time with Him in reading His word and meaningful prayer. Each time I say yes to that thing that can't seem to wait or that which is incredibly urgent, I'm also saying no to the very thing that I cannot do without.....Jesus. Walking away from the wheel of my faith...thinking I can coast on a experiance from a worship service, camp, conference or season of life is a disaster waiting to happen. What about you? Are you at the wheel or in the back eating a turkey sandwich?