Guard Your Heart

Image

20130924-131754.jpg

Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23 NKJV)

Lately the pressures of family, ministry, work, and school have caused my emotions to spill outward. The interesting thing is most of what’s coming out isn’t new. It’s all old feelings that I’ve tried to bury in my heart through the years. As I’m going through these experiences, I’ve resolved to do my best to express my feelings rather than suppress them. Honestly, this decision has made my mind clearer and my heart lighter. Here’s how you can do it too. 

Keep or guard your heart. It means to be aware of your heart and feelings. It means to pay attention to your emotional state. To guard your heart well, you’ll need a healthy and accurate emotional vocabulary. You need to know the subtle differences between anger, frustration, and disappointment for example and know when you’re feeling each one. This will give you the ability to address your feelings correctly rather than waiting for them to fade and take up residence in your heart. 

Guard your heart with diligence. The word used for diligence here in the scripture literally means to imprison or jail. Years ago I directed a ministry to a juvenile detention facility. One of the first things you learn is security seeks to keep inmates from going out but they’re just as diligent about monitoring what’s brought inside. Everyday items like paper clips, staples, and even plastic cutlery could be used by detainees to harm themselves or harm the officers. There was always a strong officer on duty ready to search any bags if needed.

We must have the same diligence when it comes to our hearts. The baggage of everyday life has to be checked at the door by a strong dose of truth from God’s word and consistent prayer. Discouragement, depression, anger, hatred, unforgiveness, and any thing else you can think of just walks right into our hearts when there is no truth with which to compare it. When these emotional challenges get a foothold in our hearts, they eventually become our issues in life. Under the right circumstances with the right pressure, they flow out of us in ways that hurt others and ourselves. 

When we guard our hearts, keeping damaging emotions out by accepting the truth of God’s word, we will find the issues of life are easier to deal with. Instead of our hearts being a source of negative issues, we will become a source of healthy, positive attitudes and emotions.

Awesome Kids

Image

20130912-141449.jpg

I recently took our daughter, Faith to the dentist. Everyone in the office, the dentist, assistants, and clerk all commented on how great Faith was during the visit. The clerk told me “she’s an awesome kid”. I replied with “both my kids are awesome.” The clerk said “I never hear parents say that about their kids anymore.” So I shared with her four things Melissa and I tried to do with our kids that I believe God used to make them awesome. Let me share them with you.

We gave them the gift of our presence.
“The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” Proverbs 29:15

Parenting is a contact sport. You can’t mold kids from a distance. You can’t just be a spectator watching the TV raise them. Children left to themselves bring their parents shame (out of control, poor character, lack of values, unsupervised activities and vices, etc.) So we tried to always be there for our kids and be there with our kids. We made a sacrifice to always have one of us parents at home. Many families can’t afford to do this in today’s economy but when you’re at home, be available and engaged. Watch movies with your kids, play games with them, talk with them. Even if you won’t play the game, sit with them while they play and watch them. We did this just last night when DeVonti came home to visit. He and Faith played video games while Melissa and I watched and engaged with them.

We kept an opened door.
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

We never tried to provoke our kids or put them their place. Everyone knew their roles in the family. It was never us against them. So everyone has a voice that should be heard. We may not have always agreed but they never really felt they needed to hide anything from us because they knew they would be heard. Because of this, our kids know they can talk to us about anything. We’ve talked about mistakes, victories, likes and dislikes, dating, sex, social life, finances, and just about any other topic. The door swings both ways. When we make mistakes we swallow our pride, go to our kids and apologize to them. Seeing our example, they too come to us to apologize for their mistakes.

We welcomed their friends.
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Hebrews 13:2

DeVonti was always bringing home “strays”. These were kids who needed a ride home, or needed a place to hang after football practice, or guys who just wanted to spend the weekend at our house. As parents we were happy with this because we never had to wonder what trouble he was getting into. He was at home with his friends which gave us the opportunity to examine the character of his friends and converse with him later about how to choose friends wisely. Yes, it was expensive trying to feed his friends. Yes, they stayed up super late making all kinds of noise, making a good night’s sleep impossible. Yes, our schedules were inconvenienced. But they were safe in our home, abiding by our rules, being impacted by Godly values.

We set up memorial.
“Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:7

Anytime God blessed our family in any way, we paused to make a memory. Any time we faced a challenge, we paused to point it out so once we overcame the challenge we could acknowledge God and make a memory. Our lives are filled with “remember when God did…”. We were also quick to point out positive values and character mistakes that occurred around us. We didn’t just assume they knew better when they saw an athlete or celebrity do things that weren’t positive. We took time to compare it to godly values. This allowed our kids to have a healthy framework for discerning right and wrong.

What are some principles you’ve used to help raise awesome kids?

More Than Enough

Image

20130905-124727.jpg

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT)

I have a hero complex brought on by watching movies and reading comics as a kid. Even when I dream at night I carry a light saber, I can fly, and I’ve got my own bat cave. When I’m awake I secretly seek to reach some epic victory in life or arrive at some great destiny as I fade into happily ever after. I’m a winner and that’s how super hero winners think sometimes.

All delusions aside; here’s the truth. I may never be the “save the universe” guy but I’m just enough for whatever God needs me to do. I’m not the smartest, strongest, best looking, or most respected in my sphere of influence. If we’re honest, none of us have it all together. We’re just normal, natural people who are happy to know The Lord chose us personally.

It’s God who gives us significance. It’s his standard of righteousness that makes us look so good. His holiness in our lives makes us special compared to the rest of the world. His grace gives us strength in our weaknesses. His favor swings doors open wide so we can seize opportunities. Alone, we’re just enough but when God adds his super to our natural, together, we’re more than enough.

A Prayer for Leaders

Image

20130903-113622.jpg

Lord,

Empower your leaders with personal integrity. Let their authenticity cause others to trust in their leadership. Give them a desire to become leaders worth following. Give them the energy and physical wellness necessary to carry out their daily responsibilities. Grant them healthy habits in life and work. Help them find positive techniques for dealing with stress. Teach them to embrace seasons of rest.

Help them to nurture their families. Surround them with genuine, dependable, and honest friends. Bring balance in their lives. Remove blemishes in their character and vices in their lifestyles. Grant them passionate tenacity for their leadership coupled with sincere personal humility.

Remind them of their humanity even as they work with their teams to complete projects that are greater than themselves. Instill in them the necessity of personal development. Put people, resources, and opportunities in their path to build their leadership abilities. Inspire them to be life long learners as leaders.

Give them genuine care and concern for the people they lead. Give them versatility to lead unique personalities across cultural barriers and multiple generations of workers. Give them the courage to develop other leaders without fear of losing their positions. Help them to not be intimidated by those who appear to be more competent or talented than themselves. Let then acknowledge and face their insecurities while trusting in you, Lord.

Help them be moldable like children when faced with changes in their industries. Help them face challenges within their teams with hopeful resolve. Help them make their calling and purpose sure. Lord, lead your leaders to fulfill the visions you’ve purposed in their vocations. Make their organizations better because of their influence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.