Have you ever had that moment when you were sitting at your desk – or wherever you may have been – and you wondered, “How did I end up here?” Maybe you didn’t ask this question as if everything was wrong, but you at least knew that everything wasn’t quite right. You knew it could be better than it was right now. Perhaps it was related to your job, your marriage, or some other life circumstance. There you were, pondering this introspective, multi-dimensional question. You wondered when you steered off course, or why and how you got on a different track than you thought you would be on, or you were confused about where you go from here since you don’t feel your life is quite where it needs to be? Basically, you find yourself in a place that’s not totally you, where there is substantial discontentment, and where you know some adjustment needs to happen for you to find life satisfaction and greater contentment. But what is there to do?
Have you ever played the old school game called Boggle? There are letters in a box that you shake up each round and then spill out. You then have three minutes to find new words with the letters available to you (as you are competing with others trying to find more words than you). If you’re under 25, you probably haven’t heard of Boggle – unless it’s a new app I’m unaware of – because Boggle is in that category of games from the pre-technology era that was played by families who got bored and this is what they did. If you’re lost, stay with me because if you get nothing else out of this blog, you’ll at least be doused with some vintage family history of mine. Boggle is a game that challenges your mind to look at things differently than you normally do, to find words that that aren’t immediately obvious but are in fact right in front of you waiting to be discovered.
So I had a boggle moment last week. The last few months I’ve been in the shaking up process and couldn’t quite get clarity on what I needed to do, or how I needed to mix things up. And then after much internal struggle, talking it through with a few trusted and wise friends, and praying fervently for God’s wisdom and clarity, there it was right in front of me. Clarity emerged and I realized what “letters” needed to be mixed up. So I took initiative to talk with my boss and we began a conversation about rearranging some key elements of my job that would move me into a greater arena of my passion area and even my sweet spot. That seemed right.
I didn’t wait for that thing to come to me or to drop in my lap. And I didn’t rely on someone to give me what I wanted.
Instead, I chose to go create the life I desired to live, to take control of an element of my life that I had an opportunity to speak up about.
And what I say to you is this: Wherever you are, if you know things aren’t quite right, it’s time to mix things up. Stop banging on a wall hoping it will become a door, and go find a door.
For me, I asked to do something that I really would love to do. I didn’t have control of everything, but I did have control of initiating, taking a risk in conversation, asking for what it was that I think my life needed.
You may be stuck because you are still expecting something to change, but you’re waiting too passively. You may be stuck in paralyzing thoughts, but keep looking at the “letters” that are right in front of you. There is often something we don’t see at first. We have to keep looking.
There are times in life when we just need to get unstuck and create our own momentum by choosing to do something we love. We can’t control everything, but quite often, we can take control of things that may seem out of our control. So take action. Take a risk. Open your mind to think differently about your same circumstances and you never know what words you’ll begin to see.
The solution to your problems may be sitting right in front of you but you may not see it because it’s not what you thought it would be.
And finally, just remember that the changes you need may not happen tomorrow, so you may need to step back and think about how things can change in 6 months or a year. For reasons I sometimes don’t fully understand, there is something God does in the waiting too. No one likes to wait for what they want. But pay attention to the work of God when you are waiting. And don’t wait passively. Take control of your life even when things seem out of control. And while you’re living that way, surrender having to HAVE control to God. I know, it’s a paradox, but this is the journey that awaits us with God so plunge into the depths with Him, and life transformation will start to become your reality.Read More
Cheri’s most recent blog post (www.cherisaccone.wordpress.com) – a call to BE YOURSELF, a message we can all be reminded of.
How do you be yourself in a world who continually asks, no demands, you to play different roles, like a masquerade party where you are incessantly changing costumes? But this party isn’t fun. Well, it’s a little fun at first. We get to reinvent ourselves, keep some level of intrigue going on, hide behind beautiful masks leaving the less appealing parts undiscovered. The fun dies down after a while, and it just gets exhausting. At some point, we just want to throw all the costumes into a fire in protest and watch the pretense and falseness burn away into the night, never to return.
I love the sound of being authentic. It sounds so poetic and liberating. Being myself is poetic in some ways. But in other ways, it’s grueling and even ugly. My true voice in one moment may be saying something very evolved and elegant, like, “It is good for the soul to be so alive and to know it is loved.” In another moment my true voice may be saying something very vulgar, like, “This life sucks. I’m so done with it all.” Instead of a poem my true voice sounds more like a scratchy record sending out songs of mixed messages.
Today, being myself looks like unhooking from the contrasting emotions that authentic living permits into one’s heart. I’m tired of the highs and the lows, the gratitude and the greediness, the trust and the anxiety, the peace and the angst, the feeling that I am loved and the feeling that I am nothing. My emotions insist on bouncing around like ping pong balls in my psyche. Trying to find stillness in the midst of unending motion seems to be futile.
Today, being myself is allowing my mind to be numb. It may not be healthy or good, but it is where I am at. If I am going to make it all the way Home without locking up the parts of me I don’t want the world to see, or Jesus to see, I am going to need breaks. Being numb is my break.
I pray through the aching tiredness of my spirit, “Lord, please don’t be disappointed with me for being numb.” I hear him say,
“Don’t worry, I am with you, even in the numbness. And I will be with you, when you are ready to feel again.”
Such a simple message, but one that carries me to a profound place. I am not perfect. I am not the poster child for emotional health and pure authentic living. I am the poster child for knowing less than I did ten years ago, and for finally realizing how many masks I wear…all the time. The further I go into this deep place with the Good Shepherd who leads me there, the more aware I am of how patient and kind He is.
In the tears, he says, “I am with you.”
In the laughter, he says, “I am with you.”
In the numbness, he says, “I am with you.”
Being myself is allowing my heart to believe that the me behind all the masks is the me that God is seeking out. As I remove the masks, I may lose value in the world’s eyes, but my worth grows ever fiercer in God’s eyes. I may be more boring than I thought I was, wearing nothing that sparkles or shines. I may be needier than I thought I was, wearing nothing that covers the shame and nakedness. I may be more afraid than I thought I was, wearing no armor around my internal world. But the one thing that will remain clear even after it is all exposed, is that God was with me the whole time, waiting for me to only believe it.Read More
When it comes to discipleship, you’d be hard-pressed to find a serious-minded Christ-follower who doesn’t believe in The Great Commission, to “Go, and make disciples of all the nations….” What if local churches around the globe got this right? What if our churches began to establish cultures of mentoring, where protégés (young and old) would be empowered and equipped to rise up to the challenges that face the Church now and in the future? We need to be reinvigorated by the compelling vision of discipleship that Jesus casts.
Protégé was designed as a six week guide to move discipleship forward—to help churches cultivate the values, processes, and conversations that are necessary to build a culture of disciple-making, and to establish a culture of intentional mentorship. We must begin by learning to embody the spirit of a protégé, adopting the values and characteristics of a protégé, and then learning how to cultivate a culture that empowers mentors and protégés to establish stronger, more intentional relationships that transform people’s lives at the deepest level.
Together, our task as a tribe of Jesus-followers is to figure out how to live out this reality in and through our churches. Just imagine the day when local churches around the globe become known for how well they invest inprotégés, how well they facilitate authentic life-change, and how well they intentionally and lovingly mentor people? This is one of the great gifts the Church has to offer the world around them. So dive into this resource on your own, with a friend or mentor, as a ministry team, or with your community group, praying that God will use it to shape you personally, as well as others in your church to become more effective disciple-makers.Read More
Have you ever thought about how you can live a life of significance and meaning? What would that life look like? What are the characteristics of an empowered journey?
These are questions that everyone seems to wrestle with. A friend of mine, Kent Ingle has written a brand new book to address these things. What follows is a guest blog from Kent. I think the topic he writes on as well as the insights he writes on are critical for every one of us who want to live in who God designed us to be. Here’s a quick blog on the book and I encourage you to check the book out – Kent is an innovator and great thinker.
I’ve wrestled with those questions time and again throughout my own life. Why do we do this? Because we all have a longing desire to live a life that is epic! We want to live a life that is filled with purpose; we want to know that we’re having an impact and changing the world.
Yet, so often we seem to get caught up in the day-to-day routines that have a negative way of creating an element of confusion and disarray. We forget that we were designed to step through life’s journey with clarity, confidence and conviction. We need to grasp our true identity, our true divine design, and until we do so we’re only half living.
Life has fortunately put me through several experiences, which have taught me many lessons. I’ve learned valuable principles that I’ve intentionally implemented into my own life. These lessons have shaped my life and now I want to share those with you in my book, This Adventure Called Life: Discovering Your Divine Design.
Life is a process that does not happen by chance – however, that doesn’t mean that we’re pre-programmed cosmic robots ready to execute on order. Life was created to be a magnificent journey – an adventure filled with both highs and lows, all of which are to be experienced.
We’re offered many opportunities to embark on new adventures, which come to us in many forms. Sometimes they might interrupt your day-to-day routine in the form of a phone call or email from a significant person, or maybe you meet the love of your life, or maybe you have a revolutionary conversation with a good friend; whatever the moment is, it’s an opportunity for an adventure.
However, it is up to you to seize that window of opportunity, and once you do, your life will be transformed forever. Every new adventure will take you to a greater level of your divine design. You might discover a new talent you didn’t know you had, or maybe you decide to switch careers and go in a totally new direction. You might discover a completely new passion that never existed before. It’s God’s way of taking you into a new direction!
Above all, these adventures facilitate opportunities to reach greatness that comes through living a life of significance and meaning. We begin to understand that life is much more than money, cars, high-tech gadgets and other temporal things. It’s an opportunity to impact the world in a positive way – to leave the mark that you were designed and destined to leave.
We may not have all the answers at the start, and we don’t need them. We just need to have courage to step out and allow the Creator to shape our divine design along the way. After we become comfortable with this process, we begin to love it. We begin to grow like never before, and we’ll experience life like never before. All you have to do now is simply say yes to the call of adventure.
My hope is that this book helps people understand the process of identifying their calling and encourages people to respond to the adventure that lies before them.
We’re created uniquely – there is only one you. You were specifically designed for a mission and a precise purpose. It’s up to you to step into your divine design and apply your gifts, talents, and abilities to travel through life as the person you were truly created to be.
The greatest accomplishment I could ever achieve with this book is to help one person discover their divine design and realize everything they were created to be. If you’re ready to embrace this adventure called life or know someone struggling to find his or her true purpose, consider picking up the book. You can get a copy through Amazon or myhealthychurch. If you gained something after reading the book, I would love to know your thoughts on it. Feel free to leave a review on Amazon or shoot me a message on my blog.Read More
Over the months of October and November, I’m going to be blogging some thoughts on the Old Testament book of Job, which in essence is a story of a guy who suffered greatly. There’s much to learn from him and reflect on. Here we go:
Job 12:10 TEV says:
“It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power.”
Everyday we live as if we have the power to direct our lives, yet the Scriptures teach something altogether different. We attempt to take life into our own hands. We often ask questions like, “What do I want to do with my life? What are my dreams, my aspirations, my ambitions, and my goals? What do I want with my future? But all of these questions focus on the self. That stands in opposition to what the Scriptures teach–that God directs our lives, and that everyone’s life is in his power. That means we don’t have the power. That means our lives are not about us. That means that one of our great tasks in this life is to learn (and re-learn) how to align our lives with our Creator because He is the One who directs the lives of His creatures.
The meaning of life cannot be discovered within ourselves. We cannot make sense of the pain of life with finding the meaning of life…which again, can only be discovered in God who created life itself. Since you didn’t create yourself, you don’t get to determine what you’ve been created for. You were made by God and for God. It is only in God that we find meaning, purpose, destiny, significance, identity, and our origin. And that doesn’t mean we look to God to use us for our own purpose. Rather, it means we look to God to align our lives with His purpose. He’s in charge. He is the one who has the power to direct us, guide us, and steer us in the right direction. He is the one who helps us make sense of everything that happens to us, because He is the Creator and Sustainer of life. He’s in charge, and Job is a shining example of someone who chooses to submit to that reality.
I bought into the lie for many years that my life should be driven by striving to “live the life of my dreams.” It’s almost embarrassing to admit that I clung to this so tightly, but it’s true. I’ll chalk it up to being in my twenties for now. I really adhered to that truth to guide my life, to drive me, to motivate me, to help me discover meaning? But at some point I was forced to ask, where exactly is that idea in the Bible? It’s not. The truth is, life is not about discovering your dreams and striving to live them out, as if there’s some grand way to live where things all fall into place, where you get into the space of always flourishing and feeling alive because of the life you’re living. No, there’s far too much sin in the world and far too much pain and struggle that await us. I know we don’t like to think about that, and especially don’t like to live in that, but let me say this for now. Life is about aligning your life with God’s dreams, his goals for you, his purpose for your life. And the reality is, to live out the life God has planned for you will involve struggle, pain, disappointment and much adversity. So as we journey through the book of Job, let’s open our hearts and minds to what God wants to show us about the life journey.Read More
Last night, I brought a small group of people together and we opened up a conversation together about what it means to share our faith in the backdrop of our current culture. No doubt there are many challenges, many nuances, and many layers to this conversation. But what there’s also no doubt about is this – the Scriptures teach every follower of Jesus to be a “witness” (i.e. share with others what you’ve seen or experienced). The Scriptures also teach us to “be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, making the most of every opportunity…always be full of grace and make your conversations seasoned with salt.” And again, we’re taught to engage those who are on the outside looking in with “gentleness and respect.”
In my experience, followers of Jesus haven’t consistently learned to approach “personal evangelism” in these ways. Either we steer away from it completely (b/c of fear, pride, or some other reason we justify), or we’re over-bearing, judgmental, and unnaturally force our way on others. This is not the goal. This is not what the Scriptures say.
One of the most important approaches I think we all must develop is how to share our faith stories, how to share how God has met us in our lives. And with that, we need to learn to share our faith in sound bytes. Often we’re too long-winded, unclear, we tell bizarre “God stories”, we act superior, or simply use language others can’t understand (religionese). I’m convinced that every follower of Jesus should have a 1-minute version of their faith story. It’s something you share naturally, succinctly, clearly, and authentically when God brings you the opportunity. In other words, for me, the main struggle that led me to consider God in my life revolved around purpose. I found myself as an adult who had group up in a religious environment empty and searching to find purpose. I looked to baseball, my future career, a girlfriend, acceptance by others, and other things to find deeper life fulfillment. It never came, and I felt it deeper. Then I opened myself to the possibility that God was the one, the only one perhaps, who could help me find purpose. There are moments in my life that I still have to be reminded of this, but my life is completely different now since I met God and learned that real purpose in life can only come through him.
That’s a pithy version of my own story, and I know you have one too. Practice it. Tell it. Refine it. And then most of all, be ready to share it with others as God leads you…This world needs more followers of Jesus sharing authentically, clearly, succinctly, and boldly, that there is a God who is working in our lives, in our world, a God who loves every human being and longs to bring life-transformation in their life. Onward.Read More
This past month, I’ve been teaching (and learning) from the story of Joseph, which we find in the first book of the Bible, Genesis (the last 14 chapters). It’s inspiring, encouraging and…intense. For 3 consecutive weeks, I talked about facing adversity, overcoming temptation, and dealing with pain and injustice in your life. In my next few blog posts, I’m going to recounting some of the highlights of what I’ve learned and what I’ve been teaching.
Joseph was dad’s favorite son, 2nd youngest of 12. He got robe one day as a sheer act of favoritism from his father Jacob. He wore it all the time, and when he wore it, he felt special. When he wore it, what also happened was…his brothers grew increasingly jealous, angry, and resentful. As a result, they determine to kill him, although they changed their mind and instead sold him off to some business people on their way to Egypt. From there, he’s sold again to Potiphar, a powerful military officer in Egypt. Over time, Joseph does the right thing, and rises to become Potiphar’s right hand guy. He’s put in charge over everything in Potiphar’s empire. But then more adversity comes. Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph. He resists. But she won’t take no for an answer. One day, she becomes increasingly aggressive, and so Joseph runs. She gets angry and decides to do the unthinkable. She cries rape. When Potiphar hears of this, he’s enraged (although he probably didn’t ultimately believe her because he would have most likely executed Joseph if he believed her). He does however throw Joseph into a dungeon.
The story goes on, and in it there is much adversity. What’s also in the story are truths that I have clung to in my own seasons of adversity.
- On several occasions, we read that God was “with Joseph.” In Hebrew, the original context in which this story was written, the word “with” is emphatic. In this context it means, “closely associated with someone.” It also has connotations of being close to someone in a way that helps you transcend temporal circumstances. For God to be “with Joseph” (and with us in adversity), meant that God wanted to, and was, closely associated with Joseph, in a way that helped him stand above his circumstances in some way, and experience intimacy with his Creator. Whatever adversity we face, we can always know that God is with us. That is the most frequently used promise from God to us in all of Scripture. Remember, God is WITH YOU.
- Another insight I have clung to in my own seasons of adversity revolves around the idea of perspective. The Scriptures teach us to maintain an uncommon perspective. At the end of Joseph’s life, his brothers, who had deeply betrayed Joseph, come to him feeling guilty. Joseph has risen to power in Egypt and has all the power he needs to bring revenge. Instead, we read him say to his brothers in spite of all the harm, damage, and betrayal that had happened…”You intended to harm me but God intended it for good…” He goes on to speak “kind words to them.” He even says rhetorically, “Am I in the place of God?” (See Genesis 50:19-21). Joseph’s perspective when everything had gone wrong was rooted in trusting God’s goodness, trusting that God was bringing something redemptive through all the pain and adversity he had been through. Is that your perspective? Do you really trust in God’s goodness, even when everything in your life seems to have gone the wrong direction, even when your life hasn’t ended up where you hoped it would?
The Living God created human life with a physiological need to breathe. It is a clear reality that without breath, human beings will physically die. In fact, it is an impossibility to be alive and not continue breathing. More specifically, human beings cannot just breathe any substance, rather we must breathe the right substance. We all know that it is breathing that keeps a human being alive and that involves the inhalation of oxygen and the exhalation of carbon dioxide.
During the seventh grade, I vividly recall an incident that created fear in my heart. I couldn’t explain it at the time, and certainly couldn’t put my finger on it in the moment it happened. What I did realize was that some deep fear gripped my yount heart. My mind remained absent of explanation and understanding, but my heart understood something that morning, that was difficult to communicate.
A friend of mine named Michael was standing in line on this ordinary morning right in front of me. As usual seventh graders do, we were anxiously waiting for the morning bell to ring so we could go to homeroom. We were in the middle of a normal morning just like any other morning, and we were in the middle of normal conversation, just as usual. But suddenly something extremely unusual happened. Michael suddenly looked as if he was choking. His hands abruptly grasped his neck and he fell to the ground. In fact, he fell on rocks, and acted as if he did not even feel pain from landing hard on the rocks. His body stiffened and he shook violently.
Imagine this scene for a moment. There’s a long line of seventh graders standing on a sidewalk right in front of the door to their junior high school. Some of them had taken the bus that morning, while others were dropped off by their parents, and still others walked to school that day. It was an ordinary day. They were as ready to start school just like any other day, and suddenly a traumatic event was occurring before their eyes. No one knew what to do, so we all stood there paralyzed with fear. No one knew what was happening. No one had ever seen anything like this. A few of us screamed out, “Get help!!” Somebody go get help!!” But seconds ticked by slowly.
Michael was horizontally positioned on the ground, shaking violently as if he was laying in the arctic. His body became very stiff and he could not speak or communicate in any way. Several teachers came running over, while one teacher called 911. The teachers were in disbelief and they clearly did not know what to do. We all became panicking onlookers, pierced with disbelief. What was happening to Michael, and what could we do about it?
I’ll never forget what one teacher said as she panicked fearfully: “He stopped breathing, what do we do? What do we do? What do we do? He’s not breathing!!”
The reason I’ll never forget what she said that day is because she put words to the fear that was intensely gripping my heart. Even as a seventh grader, I knew what she meant. If he stopped breathing, he would die. And if someone didn’t do something quickly, death might soon appear. Though my mind didn’t understand it, my heart knew deeply that if Michael stopped breathing for any length of time, life would end for him, and he was only twelve years old.
The ambulances came, rushed him to the hospital, and you may be glad to know, they saved his life, they rescued a young boy who almost died because he had stopped breathing. I do not know all the details of what went wrong, but was reminded that day how critical breathing was to living life as a human being.
There are too many disciples of Jesus who are standing in line waiting for the bell to ring. We assume the air we need to breathe will float right over to us. We take for granted this air and mostly, we do not ever think about it. When my friend Michael woke up that day, he never thought about how he would breathe and live that day. When what he took for granted was absent, he felt the desperate gasp for air. Those in line around him saw even more clearly how desperately he needed air.
I believe disciples of Jesus Christ first rarely even acknowledge the air they breathe – they take it for granted.
Just as every human being is desperate for air physiologically, every human being is also desperate for another kind of air – spiritual air. Our souls are gasping for air, heading toward a path of death because we are failing to breathe spiritual breathe.
Human beings need oxygen to breathe. No other substance can give us the ability to breathe. We cannot breathe in hydrogen, carbon dioxide, or any other vapor or gas to help us breathe and live. In the same way, we can only breathe one substance to give us spiritual breath. The one, true God is the only substance that our souls can live on. Without the breathing of God Himself, our souls die.
The sad reality is that too many of Jesus’ disciples have allowed their souls to die. An even sadder reality is that all of us who have stood in line around those dying, breathless disciples have become passive onlookers, not knowing quite what to do. A few of us call for help, but no one really knows what to do. The reality is clear to many of the onlookers, but there is very little done to change this reality.
Day after day, disciples wake up and go to school like seventh graders. Do you know how seventh graders act? They attend class, most of them behave at least well enough to stay out of trouble because in seventh grade, parents still call kids’ parents when they are misbehaving. We call ourselves Christians, we go to class doing what we are supposed to do to get a good grade, building some friendships along the way, but continuing to live on a surface level with one another.
Each day they wake up to an ordinary day, a day when they will experience conversations, friendships, work, and everyday things. But the problem is that church leaders often do not breathe the right substance. As a result, churches do not become the right substances. People are not transformed into the right substance. Communities fail to become redemptive pockets on the planet we know as earth. We must learn to breathe spiritual oxygen.
Jesus Christ once said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matt. 5:6). Think about something with me for a moment. When you are hungry, what do you desire? Food, of course. When you are thirsty, what do you desire? A drink of water, or some type of fluid to satisfy your thirst. When we are hungry, we usually eat food, and then we are “full” (in essence, our stomachs are filled with food, therefore, we do not want anymore. It is the same thing when we are thirsty. After having a drink, we are not thirsty anymore, mostly because we have “had our fill.” What I just said probably doesn’t surprise you, but when we think in terms of spirituality, we often miss a reality that is desperately problematic.
What happens when you go under water for about one minute? Your body tells you that you desperately need air, so you go up for breath. If you did not listen to what your body was telling you, we all know that we would die. In a similar way, if we do not eat food or drink water when we are hungry or thirsty, eventually, we’ll die. But the reality for most of us on the spiritual front is that we don’t eat the right food, don’t drink water that satisfies, and we don’t go up for breath when we need it. The result? We are slowing dying, and in some cases, we are dead spiritually already.
Every one of you reading this knows the realities of your body concerning hunger, thirst, and going up for breath when you need it. Concerning spirituality, we too often do not operate on the very things that supply life to us. The oxygen of spiritual life. What are we inhaling anyway? What are we eating and drinking? Are these things filling us, supplying life and breath to us? Are they satisfying us and giving us our fill?
To be the kind of follower Jesus intends for his disciples, we must learn to inhale the right stuff. We must become aware of what we are breathing in, and most often we can tell what we are inhaling by what we are exhaling. Disciples of Jesus Christ inhale spiritual oxygen, and exhale spiritual carbon dioxide.
We must inhale the goodness, truth, and beauty of God. We must inhale God Himself. We take in godly things, thinkg godly thoughts, and above all else guard our hearts, for it is the wellspring of life. When we do, we will then exhale the breath of God to this world.Read More