Have you ever woken up with the thought, “I wonder why sardines do that?” and then spent four hours on a Saturday watching videos on YouTube, tracking down the latest on sardine research, or wondering about the first people who decided sardines needed to be paired with mustard?
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
The river of God’s activity is real. You don’t know it really exists until you are there. And when you are there… you just ride the current and smile.
How do you get there? There’s no formula. Just walk humbly and boldly and it seems to find you more than you find it. Like the wandering Israelites found Kadesh, sometimes it takes some hardship to find it.
He knew that if you’d take walking with Jesus seriously, truly lead people, got past the fluff, and entered into the Christian life, trials would come. A life with Jesus isn’t the absence of trials.
Instead, James says to look at the trials in your life with a twisted little smile. We know how this ends, right? We know that while minute-by-minute life might stink we can look at our tough times from a Kingdom timeline and know we’ll be OK.
James doesn’t tell you to avoid trials. He says to put them in perspective because a trial is nothing but a workout for your perseverance muscle.
I Choose Joy
I’m not trial-less. Like James predicted trials indeed come my way. People who don’t really know me line up to ask, “Are you OK?” And secretly I think they want to see me squirm. They want to know that my faith is wavering because it might somehow give them permission to continue in their wobbly-kneed journey to the throne.
But I choose to take James’ advice. I choose joy. Even when it’s not rational I choose joy. Odds stacked against me? Things aren’t going to go my way? Joy is a choice and not a foregone conclusion.
It comes from inside of me. Joy flies in the face of despair, slaps it, and then gives despair a hug.
I choose joy because Joy chose me.
Sticks-n-Stones Can Kiss My Butt
I spent a lot of Monday licking my wounds from unkind things said to me over the weekend.
Maybe I deserved it? Maybe I’ve offended some people? I can’t know why people make the choice to say something rude/sarcastic/passive-aggressive– then smile and walk away.
I think to myself, “It was good seeing you, too. Thanks for being the mouthpiece of Satan.”
You see, James helps me know that discouragement isn’t from the Lord. (Even if it comes from a fellow believer.) He says that things like this are going to come your way… but you need to choose joy through them because if you pass the test your faith will grow.
When people say nasty things to me (or about me, which is somehow supposed to be better) I am reminded of Genesis 50:20. Joseph said to his wolf-like brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
I’m no Hebrew scholar but I’m pretty sure Jospeh was saying… “You sold me as a slave and told dad I was killed. I should have you killed or just let you starve! I know everything you’ve said about me… kiss my butt. I’m going to bless you despite what you deserve.”
A faith-filled life isn’t the absence of trials. A faith-filled life comes when you are able to choose joy when trials come your way.
For more joy, BRING IT ON!
Here’s the truly twisted thing about this passage from James. Walking with Jesus isn’t about avoiding trials. It isn’t about operating your life in such a way that people don’t have nasty things to say about you or don’t want to take you out.
As I read the Gospels and pastoral epistles I see Jesus imploring us to live a life of boldness. Paul says in Ephesians 5 to be light in dark places. We can’t be that until we pick up our lamp and go into the dark, scary places and change things!
And changing things… walking in darkness to bring light… is going to bring about drama.
Walking with Jesus in joy is telling trials to come on with it– because trials produce joy and faithfulness!
I don’t know what’s going on in your life. But in my life? I’m choosing joy.
There is a baby boy on the floor next to me, crawling around the living room, exploring. Everything in this babies life is defined by one emotion: Joy.
We hold him but his joy is something you behold. It sneaks up on you and slaps you when you least expect it. Bam! Joy, joy, joy, and more joy.
Jackson’s joy tackles you down and forces you to smile. It doesn’t matter how bad he feels or that he’s cutting a tooth or that he’s hungry or has a dirty diaper. He flashes a smile and a hug which melts you faster than a snowflake on the hood of a hot car.
There is something about Jackson, something deep inside of him that sets him apart. I can’t wait to watch him grow up so we can discover more and more why God gave him this radiant, magnetic joy.
Here’s the thing: JT is a baby. There really is something distinctive to him. But imagine how much joy radiates from the Father? In Him we find delight, which supersedes joy. (Psalm 1)
Allow joy to radiate on you today. Allow yourself to be drawn magnetically to the Lord. It’s a choice, it’s something you allow in your life, it’s a filter on your soul you consciously remove.
I woke up anxious. At 5:00 am I got up to start re-working my WordCamp talk– scheduled for 4:00 pm. I added all new slides, completely reworked the content, and I seriously considered calling the organizer and telling him I was sick. Like all fears it was completely illogical.
Why was I nervous? I was nervous because I knew that this was a big moment for my fledgling business, McLane Creative. The last thing I wanted was for the Southern California WordPress community to think I was lame or didn’t know what the heck I was talking about.
It was a risk. And the closer my time got the more it felt like a stupid risk to take. I’d never even been to a WordCamp… much less spoke at one. What the heck was I thinking?
After lunch I went to my car and went through the talk 2 times all the way through. After the first time I actually started the car to drive home. I had sat in on a couple other sessions and I knew my talk was drastically different from the style of everyone else’s. This compounded the risk. And it felt like a dumb risk to take. My instinct was saying, BAIL, BAIL, BAIL!!! But my integrity would never allow that. That’s not the Adam McLane I want to be.
4:00 pm arrived. Feeling completely unconfident I stood there and realized that it was time to fake it. My last thought before my talk began was, “Just shut up and deliver.”
And it went great. The audience was engaged. They asked great questions. And I think that for a few people, those who I was targeting with the talk, were really equipped.
Last week I talked about jumping out and starting my own thing. And how glorious and scary it was at the same time. Yesterday I felt the amazing joy of free fall! And it was beautiful.
I walked off that stage proud of myself. I looked a scary moment in the face. Risked it all. And it paid off.
3 Tips for fellow jumpers
Being afraid – There’s no shame in having fear. Fear is natural. But if you allow fear to drive your decision making you’ll live a life of regret. Learn to look at fear, recognize it for what it is, and push through it.
Being myself– There were elements of my talk that referenced being a youth pastor and even the defining question of my blogging life. I was open about the role of my faith in Christ in my life, the positives and the negatives, and the audience was appreciative of that. (And not shy about affirming my decision to go there.)
Being welcomed- As someone who “is known” within my niche` it was very scary to walk onto a stage as a complete unknown. The organizers knew that and welcomed me into their tribe, my fellow speakers were very gracious, and the audience was amazing in making me feel welcome on their stage.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9
“The reason I hate church is that you pay attention to everyone else there but us.” ~ Megan, age 7
Those words rattled my soul. I’d rather have gotten cold-cocked by Mike Tyson in a bar fight than heard those words. That’s when I knew that things had to drastically change in how both how I related to my family and serving the church.
Every time I volunteered somewhere or went to a meeting it lead to fights with the kids. “You don’t love us you only love stuff at church!”
Yesterday, I sat in the car with a child who refused to participate. Not all Sunday’s are like that. But sometimes the feet literally stop moving and the tears start flowing. It’s hard to look in your child’s eyes and see them tearfully say “please don’t make me go,” and then force them to go.
I can’t stomach it. That is, clearly, not the type of relational connection I want my children to have with Jesus.
That post lead to an impossible number of conversations with friends in ministry. By sharing my pain and acknowledging that one of my darkest fears had become my reality I connected with others who serve in full-time ministry and find themselves in similar situations.
Of all of those conversations I had a single phrase spoken stuck out to me. Paraphrasing what she said, I’ve probably added to it: (not accusing just thinking out loud)
“I wonder if you’ve laid your children on the alter of your own ideals and put them into impossible situations? They go to a school you have chosen for them which meets all of your ideals for living in the city, they go to a church you have chosen for them meeting the ideals for you living in the city. They walk a mile in your shoes every day and never get a break.”
Dear Jesus, this was true. It cut past the niceties right to the bone.
So we made some changes. Kristen and I have worked on it. And, on our road to recovery, we have seen some moments when our kids love Jesus and His church. Last night was one of those moments as Paul brought his Bible and a little devotional thing from church to do as a bedtime activity with mom. That totally made me cry!
Some other waypoints on this path have included…
Praying with and for our kids.
Inviting them in to freely sit in on stuff we are doing and to ask questions. Usually, this has been Megan.
Putting our family as the priority over our beloved community group when Jackson was born. (We’ll rejoin them this Fall)
Being joyful as we made a transition from one congregation to another, in part, based on their feedback.
Experiencing Lent together seemed like a turning point. (Kinesthetic learning is perfect for them)
Awana, as much as I’ve lamented about it for years as a leader, has been a gift to them as they’ve gotten more familiar with the Bible and how to use it. (A free date night each week for mom/dad has been good for our marriage as a bi-product!)
Moments with each kid when they said, “Daddy, remember when you were in charge of that stuff at church? I liked it when you did that. It would be fun for you to do that again. You were good at it. I miss that.“
Eagerly signing up and bugging us about details of summer fun camp.
Like any hurt or injury it’s a long process. The quote above is from 2008– we’ve been at this for 1/3 of her life. We haven’t arrived and we still have some very difficult things to work through. And I don’t know if they will ever love the Bride of Christ like I do. But I’m happy to see progress.
It brings me deep joy to begin to see how Jesus is bridging the gap and building a relationship with my children in a way that isn’t forced, coerced, or built on expectations from mom or dad.
It’s hard to remember what our family was like without him.
The fun part about Jackson, to us, is how much of an unexpected miracle he is to our family. With both Megan and Paul we carefully planned their arrival. I remember sitting down with Kristen and doing the math with the calendar about a year before she was born– “If Megan is born on May 12th, that will be the day after my last final. That will give us the best opportunity to spend the most time with her before classes begin.” With Jackson, the element of surprise changed everything. Even today we laugh thinking about having a 3rd baby. He wasn’t in the plan. He just showed up!
One thing I’ve noticed with Jackson that I didn’t notice with the other two is that a new baby isn’t just a joy for its parents and immediate family, he brings joy to every corner of our community. You see it on the faces of people everywhere we go with him! His arrival literally makes people smile.
Our extended family loves seeing him.
Our neighbors love seeing him.
People in our neighborhood who saw Kristen walking while she was pregnant stop her now to see him and smile.
People at church love seeing him.
People at both of our jobs love seeing him.
Long time friends from all over the world love seeing his pictures on Facebook.
The kids classmates and other random people at the kids school love seeing him.
The guy at our favorite smoothie shop loves seeing him.
Random people whom we barely know, stop us in public, because they love seeing him.
People we’ve never met but are our Facebook friends and Twitter followers love seeing him.
He is a joy machine!
One little baby has brought joy, spontaneous joy, to any entire group of people. I’m thankful to God for allowing me to observe it this time.
You are a joy machine, too
I’ve started to think about this observation in light of other people in my life. At one point you brought Jackson-like joy to your community. People oogled over you at the grocery store. Your parents neighbors counted down the days until you were born. People your parents barely knew smiled when they pushed a stroller around your block.
The same is likely true of you today. Even if you don’t see it– you bring joy to your community. People look forward to seeing you. Your impact isn’t just in your work or in the people you think it is, it’s so much deeper and wider than you can imagine. The guy at the smoothie shop (or coffee shop) you go to regularly looks forward to seeing you every day.
A few weeks ago we hung this little hummingbird feeder. We were amazed to discover that the hummingbirds (who nest in a tree in our backyard) discovered it within hours.
Maybe it makes me sound old or stupid? But I don’t care. I love watching these amazing creatures in my backyard. And I love watching them up close when they are at the feeder.
So every few days we take it down and clean out the little bottle of sugar water, then mix up some more for them. It’s really fun! We can’t believe how tame they are. (You can get like 6 inches from them.) And it’s really cool when they come close or “buzz the tower.”
This morning, I thought it would be fun to set up my camera to take time lapse pictures while we went to the farmers market. All told, we captured about 2 hours of pictures… one every 10 seconds. 665 frames.
I’m still amazed at how much fun we can have in a weekend. It’s been since high school that I’ve had weekends off so consistently. Love it!
Friday night, we stayed home and rested. With temperatures in the 100s most of last week, the kids had been stuck in the house a lot. I’d even say that by Friday night they had a bit of cabin fever. Saturday morning, I got up early, did a little reading and writing, then took Megan and Stoney to dog beach. It’s amazing how much fun we can have there. Stoney loves to play with his ball, but really he loves to socialize with other beasts. You forget that dogs are a pack animal until you let them hang out with other dogs. Stoney would like to be a dominant male… which basically means that he spends his time at the beach trying to get other dogs to submit to him. On Saturday, the funniest part was when two springer spaniel puppies spent 10 minutes messing with him. These 7 month old pups knew some of the rules of being submissive/dominant, but like adolescents, were playing with the rules. Stoney would chase one down and he would roll over to submit to some sniffs. While Stoney sniffed his belly, his brother would jump on Stoney’s back. Stoney would snap at the other and chase the other puppy. It was a riot. In the meantime, Megan and I enjoyed wading in the San Diego River. The crystal blue warm water was perfect. We could have stayed there all day… if Stoney didn’t want to chase and play with every dog on the beach we could have.
After a couple hours of beach time with Stoney, Megan and I took him home. We rested for a little while, had some lunch, then packed up the truck to go to the beach as a family. It was hot at our house when we left. Close to 100 in San Diego is twenty degrees warmer than normal. As we headed west towards the Pacific anticipation built up. To be honest, it was a tense drive! Megan and Paul were snippy with one another the whole way to the beach. Mom and dad were in that “head down, focus” mode! When we finally got to Torrey Pines State Beach we were ready to pour our energy into the waves.
As we gathered our stuff out of the truck to take to the beach Megan and I decided to lose our sandals. This is pretty normal and isn’t usually a big deal. But about 200 yards from the truck we were really in pain. It was so hot that I could feel the bottom of my feet burning, literally. Mom was able to swoop up Megan and carry her the rest of the way to the beach while I tried to trot there. It felt like I was walking on glass the whole way. When I finally made it to the beach the pads of my feet were covered in first degree burns. It’s hot! (They are now blistered up, yuck!)
We spent the next four hours playing hard in the surf. The water temperature was refreshing! And the waves were awesome by the shore and a bit scary at the break line. I had fun getting Megan and Paul on the boogie board by the shore. They caught little 2 footers and would ride effortlessly to the beach… like 50-75 feet in total. It was awesome! When they tired of that I’d head out towards the break line where the waves varied from 5-10 feet. With surf that big I got plenty of practice ducking the big ones. It felt so good to be in the water! I was able to watch the surfers from close up, chat with fellow boogie boarders, and catch the occassional big wave. It’s hard to describe the joy of catching a wave. It’s a lot scary as the wave is way more powerful than you… but completely exhilarating when you catch it just right and zoom along with the wave breaking behind you while you dodge tourists.
Exhausted, we left the beach about 4:30 and went out for pizza. It’s taken us a while to settle on a favorite pizza joint. Truth be told, San Diego has a lot of good cuisine but pizza is not their thing. When we go to Pizza Port, the pizza is good enough, the surf feel is awesome, and the kids love that they have machines to dump quarters into. While enjoying our pie we watched the local Chula Vista Little League team pound the Texas team to take home the U.S. Championship, it was good fun. We drove home, full and tired. Everyone was sound asleep by 9 o’clock!
Sunday morning, our small group decided to bring a little rejoicing to the church by hosting a surprise tailgate party. That was a great lead in to worship. I’m still lost in the idea that we celebrate sports figures but not religious leaders… it was fun to mix those two things up intentionally for a morning. I think it was a success.
After church, we went home and chilled for a while. We watched Chula Vista win the Little League World Series (woot!) and then went to Maddie’s 3rd birthday party. All of the church staff has kids about the same age, so it was a blast to see all the little kids party and dance together. Megan and Paul… were awesome in playing along with a “little kid party.” They really did have a good time. And it warms my heart to see that they feel like they fit in. The whining about leaving Michigan… finally dissapating.
From there, we went home and embraced the quiet. The kids convinced mom to allow them to camp out in the living room. They were in bed early and mom and dad retired to read and go to bed early.
I think it takes someone who never really got weekends off to really appreciate the simplicity and joy of a weekend off. Then again, I think everyone loves weekends and I’m just finally getting to join in!
Next weekend, college football. That makes me super happy.
“I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.” That’s a bunch of crap, isn’t it? The truth is that sometimes words said to you hurt way more than any of us would like to admit.
There’s something in my personality that remembers these words, embeds them as self-talk, and run through my brain like a broken record… and they serve as a powerful motivator for me. The negative ones, I desire to shove them back into the face of the person— long since forgotten– who spoke them. The positive ones, I try to live up to in all that I do.
Here are some negative examples:
– “Adam is a spiritual orphan.” — my first “real pastor” in Indiana. This implied that my parents didn’t care about me and always made me mad.
– “You’ll never finish college. You’re destined to be a community college drop-out.” — my stepmother said this my senior year of high school.
– “You’re not cut out for pastoral ministry. You’re too much of a maverick.” — a co-worker at my first church said this… repeatedly.
– “You are a legacy hire, I wouldn’t have hired you.” — a former boss said this all the time.
Here are some positive examples:
– “Your work ethic makes up for a lack of talent and money.” — a high school golf coach
– “There’s something special about you. God is going to use you in big ways.” — a favorite camp counselor
– “Adam is one of the most organized/driven students I’ve ever had.” — an undergrad professor
– “You made a big impact on my kid. Thank you for letting him in to your family” — a parent
So what’s the point?
First, I’m convinced that the self-talk that we all have can be either a severe motivator or a severe motivator. If you’re finding that you beat yourself up endlessly, there’s no weakness in going to see someone to help you. I’m not going to claim that I’m the most healthy emotional person in the world. But I’m here to tell you that good self-talk has gotten me through some tough stuff.
Second, be really aware of the words you speak into people. Of the eight examples I gave above I’m convinced none of them felt like they were saying something prophetic. Some of them were even just little side comments that stuck. Words have weight… things we say to and about others can impact them for years!