The one thing I want my kids to learn.

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A few weeks ago we were away as a family in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara has some of the most incredible restaurants and shopping around. People travel from all over the world to visit this scenic beach town.  And you cannot visit Santa Barbara without taking a stroll on the main strip, State Street.

My son and I were walking up State Street passing people carrying their high end shopping bags, looking picture perfect for their day out. And all of a sudden right in the middle of the sidewalk laid a homeless man, motionless, completely sprawled out. Just a few feet away, also in the middle of the sidewalk, sat his wheelchair.

If you took a closer look you would notice he was missing one of his legs, his pants partially pulled down revealed a badly used diaper and an odor emanated from him that was revolting.

It was a jarring sight that stopped my son and I in our tracks.

As we tried to figure out what to do and how to help, I couldn’t help but notice that nobody seemed to notice this man in the middle of the sidewalk. It was as if he was invisible. People literally just walked around him, some even stepped over him to get to their shopping destination.

How does no one notice?

How could people just keep going?

Why doesn’t anybody do something?

Could it be that people were uncomfortable with what they saw and so they just walked by trying to ignore it?

Maybe they felt the way I felt, overwhelmed by the pain before them and completely unequipped to help. What did I have to offer? What I could I do to help? But even so, I can’t just stand by and do nothing.

Or is it worse than that, could it be that they were not uncomfortable at all, that they just did not care?

All I know is there in the middle of the sidewalk lay a human being that other human beings just passed by and stepped over. On the ground lay a person made in the image of God. One who is deeply loved by God, who has intrinsic worth, yet stepped over like a worthless piece of trash.

Often times when we talk about our relationship with God it is completely disconnected from the grittiness life. It remains a spiritual exercise for the soul with no earthly impact around us. This was never how it was intended to be.

You were put here on this planet for more.

You put here on this planet for more than being upwardly mobile, retiring early, or achieving the American Dream. You were put on this planet to not only know God but to express his love to a hurting and broken world around you.

You were put on this planet to love those God puts in the middle of your path.

We have a God who loves with a reckless abandonment every person on this planet.

He is about bringing healing and wholeness.

He is about bringing beauty from ashes.

He is about bringing dead things back to life.

He’s about making us new.

He’s about restoration.

God is inviting us to be about what He is about.

The problem is we often feel exactly the way I felt when I came across the man in the middle of the sidewalk. “But I’m not equipped. I’m not trained.”

We often respond like Moses did before God at the burning bush. I think you have the wrong person. Isn’t there someone else? Why would you want to use me? I’m useless. I’m average. I’m broken. I’m not good enough. Maybe one day but not today.

 I love what Mother Teresa said,

“I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

It is not so much the usefulness of the tool but it is the tool in the right hands that makes it useful. You are a Daughter or Son of the King most High. You have been given incredible gifts and talents by God to bring Him glory. You are an image bearer of the Creator of the universe. And when you give yourself fully to him he will skillfully use you in the way that He has made you.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”    

[Galatians 5v14]

The more you were made for is to love others the way Jesus loved you.

This is the one thing I want to teach my kids.  The is the one thing I want them to learn and live out.   They were put on this planet for more than they could ever imagine and God wants to use them greater than they could ever dream.  We step into the more we were made for when we love those God brings along our path.  It is as simple and as difficult as that.

What does it look like for you to love those God puts in the middle of your path today?

WHY I GAVE UP…

I have given up on ever finding balance in life.  The “balanced life” was a perpetual pursuit of mine for years.  And it was a constant source of friction in our home.  At the end of long, tough season both my wife and I would cry out, “WE NEED MORE BALANCE!”  Yet we never were able to experience the “balanced life” and honestly I don’t think we ever will. The balanced life is like the elusive carrot which is always dangling just in front yet conveniently never within reach.  And in the ever so rare moments that we did achieve balance it last for maybe a day or a week tops!  And then we would dive back into the chaos of life and the pursuit of balance.  That’s why I’ve given up on living the “balanced life.”  It simply doesn’t work.

The “balanced life” says you need to have just the perfect amount of work, family, fun, exercise, etc. It pictures life like a beautiful pie and family takes a slice, work takes a slice, and so on.   The problem was I could never quiet find the ideal combination.  And in reality, life doesn’t work that way.  In life we constantly experience seasons of life that are extremely out of balance: a family tragedy, a pressing deadline at work, or even going on vacation is completely out of balance.

So if the balanced life isn’t the answer, what is?  What if it’s less about balance and more about rhythm?

Imagine that you have to carry 100 pounds.  The “balanced life” says to hold 50 pounds in one hand and 50 pounds in the other. Which sounds good in theory.  And granted there is a need for some level of balance in life.  But rhythm says in order to carry that weight further there are times when you need to actually put it down and rest.  Rhythm understands that life isn’t so easily balanced and it doesn’t get bent out of shape by that.  Rhythm understands that there are seasons in which certain things or people need to take your full attention [i.e. your family, your work, your spouse]

I used to ask this question: how do I find or maintain balance?  It was absolutely exhausting!  Now I ask a better question:  In light of the season of life that I’m in, what rhythms do I need in my life?  It’s a powerful question that could change your life.

In asking this question, Jenny and I stumbled on an incredible rhythm for our relationship and our family that has been absolutely life-giving.  We simply call this rhythm, DATE & DETAILS.  We call it a date because that just sounds fun and special.  But we take a time to talk about three big areas almost every week.  The rhythm of DATE & DETAILS helps us identify what season of life where in, and what season of life we’re heading into.

Here are the three things we talk about in our rhythm of DATE & DETAILS:

  1. First we talk about the FUTURE.  We get our calendar out and talk specifically about the next week and what is coming up.  What events do the kids have and what’s coming up with work?  What fun stuff do we have planned?  We look generally at the next few months to see what’s coming up.  We talk about when are going to have dates together, family times, and times away.  And if we’re coming up to an intense, full season, we identify how long it’s going to be and what fun things do we have planned at the end of it.  We always need something to look forward to!
  2. Second thing we talk about is our FINANCES.  This is real practical.  We simply get out our checkbook and write our bills.  You never talk about money with out talking about what you value.  And so our conversation goes from what we are dreaming of the future, what we want our kids to experience to what needs to be taken care of around the house.  Our last date and details we talked about getting the kids in swim lessons, and what sport we want them to do.  It means budgeting accordingly now so that we can have kids that are all pool safe!
  3. The third and final thing we talk about is our FAMILY.   We connect on how we are doing, what we’re needing from one another.  We talk about our kids, how they are doing and what they’re needing from us in this next season.  We talk about each of our kids and what they need in the season of life they are in.  As you can see each of these three areas are interdependent on one another.  And so our conversation flows from one to the other and back, as we talk about what’s important in life, where we’re headed and what needs to get done.

Now here’s what I discovered about this helpful rhythm of doing DATE & DETAILS with my wife.  These times free us up on our actual date nights to simply have fun and enjoy.  We don’t need to cover all the nitty gritty stuff and just get to truly be with one another.  It also gives us the perspective to know what season we’re in and what season we’re heading into.  So if we’re heading into an intense busy season we know we need to take some extra time on the front end to recharge and some time on the back end to get refreshed.

I have yet to find balance in life.  But I discovered balance wasn’t what I really needed.  What I needed was a new rhythm for life.