Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Resources

This past Sunday, November 27th, was the first Sunday of Advent.  Advent is the season on the Church Calendar that precedes Christmas, like Lent precedes Easter.  The focus of Advent is the eager expectation of God's intervention, of God bringing the promised Messiah to set things right.

The season leading up to Christmas can be really stressful, and many times I find myself sitting there the day after Christmas and thinking I wish I'd actually enjoyed the season.  I'd told myself that THIS YEAR would be the year I actually made Christmas about Jesus instead of parties and presents and stress.  Maybe you can relate.

In the last few years I've tried to find ways to celebrate Advent with my family, to give greater depth and meaning to Christmas.  

I wanted to pass along some resources to you, in case you want to do it too.  This is an especially great thing to do with your family - a way to come together as a family and spend some time focusing on God and the hope we have in Jesus.  Here's how we celebrate Advent:


imageAn Advent Wreath: We have a small wreath, with spots for four candles on the perimeter and space for one big candle in the middle.  Each candle represents a different theme related to Advent.  I've found different meanings for each of the candles.  I'd say you should have the candle represent whatever the theme of the week is for the Advent Devotional Resource (the next item on this list) you're using.  That way it's coherent.

Every Sunday marks the beginning of the new week of Advent.  On that Sunday we add the next candle and light it as we go through the devotional materials, pray, have dinner, etc.  The rest of the week we have the wreath as the centerpiece of the table, light the candle(s), and when we pray for dinner we keep that week's theme (love, or peace, or expectancy, for example) in mind.

The missing candles help drive home the general theme of Advent, which is expectancy, looking forward to God's intervention...the missing candles and empty spaces remind us that there is more to come.

Advent Devotional: I've found a couple of devotional resources published by other churches.  These give you help in figuring out how to sit with your family (or yourself, or your significant other, or your friends, or whoever), and worship/pray together.  They guide you through scripture passages, prayers, some have questions, songs, etc.  

Here's one from Christ the King church in South Carolina.  I can't remember how I found it but this is the one we've used the last couple years.  Or tried to use, I should say.  We haven't been the most consistent.

Today I came across this Advent Devotional Guide, from the Village Church in Texas.  This one has more interactive questions than the other one.  I haven't looked all the way through it yet.

You can download one, print it out, and use it.  Both of them are set for you to use weekly - on Sundays - with whoever you want to do it with.

Personal Devotional: There's this personal Advent Devotional you can buy for $1.99 from Amazon that is pretty nice, and has some great things to guide you through.



Don't let the fact that this past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent stop you.  You can start right now with your family, yourself, some friends, neighbors, whatever - to take the time to focus on Jesus during these next sure-to-be-crazy several weeks.

Do you have some Advent resources you've found useful?  Let me know about them.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What should Christians believe about how people get to heaven?

This summer I’ve had the pleasure of leading a small group through the Reason for God small group curriculum.  Last night was our final night of the curriculum and the topic was Hell – how could a loving God be full of wrath, and how could God send people to Hell?  It’s a question that has definitely been brought to the forefront lately with the release of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, which occasioned several book-length responses, including Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell, which I intend to read but haven’t yet purchased.

During our discussion the question came up – how can we be sure we’re saved?  Are the people who think they’re going to heaven that in fact aren’t going to heaven?  (According to Jesus in Matthew 7.21-24 there are.)  How can we be sure we’re not one of those people? 

Here are a few links I passed along to my group on the topic and I hope you will take the time to read them too.  If you’re a Christian I hope they encourage you and give you hope, that they remind you where the burden of your sins lies.  If you’re not Christian, reading them could help you understand just what it is the Bible teachers about salvation and forgiveness after all.

Michael McKinley, author of a book called "Am I Really A Christian?": How Can I Have Assurance of Salvation?, Is it wrong to look inward for Assurance?The Basis of Our Assurance, How Can I Be Sure That I'm Not a Christian?

Tim Challies: 3 Statements on Assurance of Salvation, The Basis of the Christian's Assurance

Tullian Tchvidjian's blog: Where To Look When You're in Trouble, The Subjective Power of an Objective Gospel, Christ Died for the sins of Christians too
The Gospel Coalition's Review of "Am I Really A Christian?"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Review: Enemies of the Heart

I tend not to be a fan of books that claim to tell you how to get a grip on your emotions or change how you feel about things.  I’m too cynical for stuff like that.  I do, however, like most of what I’ve heard from Andy Stanley so I was eager to read Enemies of the Heart when it showed up on my doorstep.

This book is split into four parts and is super easy to read.  Stanley writes in a very conversational style so it’s easy to understand and you don’t have to spend too much time figuring out what he’s saying.  Throughout the book he lays out why we have negative emotions and behaviors that we don’t want to have, analyzes them a bit, and then suggests habits we can develop to help us break free from their control.

Stanley’s diagnosis for why we experience these negative emotions and behaviors falls right in line with a lot of what I’ve been reading and realizing lately.  That is, we do the things we don’t want to do because deep down we do want to do them.  The problem isn’t the behavior, the problem is our heart, because our heart is the root of our actions.  Jesus himself said all kinds of vile stuff comes out of our hearts.  We can’t blame others or society or our parents for our sins.  We sin because we have sinful hearts.  So Stanley says the best thing to do is focus not so much on our specific behaviors but to aim for the root of the problem – the grip these negative emotions have on our hearts.  Only if we uproot them will we be able to experience any real freedom.

What emotions do we need to be free from?  According to Stanley, our negative emotions and sins pretty much always fall under one of these four: guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy.  These are all a problem because they create a debt-debtor dynamic in our relationships, like this:

Guilt says I owe you.

Anger says you owe me.

Greed says I owe me.

Jealousy says God owes me.

Each of these emotions gets a chapter or two of treatment and as I read through it I found myself recognizing the truth in so much of what he said.  This debt-debtor perspective is really helpful and rings true.  I don’t particularly feel like I struggle with any of these but throughout the book I realized I struggle with all of them.

Books have the great luxury of being able to be brutally honest.  There are things in this book that you probably need to hear but you won’t hear them from anybody you know.  Maybe you can hear them from Andy Stanley. 

What is exceptional about this book is that after discussing the nature and harm of each of these emotions and their implications, Stanley offers specific habits we can develop to combat them at a heart level.  These aren’t just behaviors; they’re habits we can develop that over time will effect change in our hearts.

Of course, the Biblical perspective says that we cannot change ourselves.  That is, we need the Holy Spirit to work in us to change our hearts.  All of the stuff Stanley writes about is grounded in a good, holistic understanding of Scripture and he does a great job grounding everything in the grace of God and the ultimate truth that all of our debts were paid on the cross in Jesus.

I think this is going to be a go-to book for me over the years because of its immense honesty and practicality.  When I find myself looking at my life and wondering what the heck my problem is, I think I’ll be pulling this one off the shelf.  It is so not a “just be a better person” kind of book.  It points you back to the only real solution to your heart problems – God’s grace through Jesus.  And it gives you helpful ways to avail yourself of God’s grace, the remind yourself of it, and try to live in it.  Great book.  You should read it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What God is teaching me through Belle

This summer marks the end of an era of Belle’s life.  She’s done with pre-school and in August will begin her journey through the educational system with Kindergarten.  From there on out a rhythm will be established involving school years, Christmas breaks, Spring breaks, summers, and eventually me sitting on hot bleachers waiting to see her walk across the stage at her high school graduation.

A common refrain around our house, one Janelle and I heard first from Stacie Wood and keep telling ourselves to stay sane, is that “God intends children for our character, not our comfort.”  That is to say, children are not just another avenue for us to make ourselves happy.  There have been lots of studies and articles lately to show that parents are less happy than non-parents, and many use that to justify why they don’t have kids.  Children do bring us joy but ultimately if we are seeking our own happiness through our kids we’re on the wrong track and it will end up messing them and us up.  Children are a crucible through which God can form us in a number of ways.  Here are some of the things God is using my role as Belle’s father to teach me.

I am unconditionally loved.

This is probably the biggest one and I got it right from the start.  All my life I’ve heard that I’m unconditionally loved by God but that’s pretty difficult to believe.  In the 4 1/2 years I’ve been a father I’ve come to understand on a deeper level the love God has for me.  I’m a massively flawed human being but my love for Belle will always be there, no matter what she does, because she’s my daughter.  Her actions may bring me joy or disappointment, but she will always have my love.

I am like Belle.

I’m impatient and fitful at times.  I mess up when I should know better.  I’m selfish and short-sighted.  All the crazy things a little kid does are things we adults often do, but we know how to do it in more respectable ways.  I don’t scream and cry about not getting my ice cream, but I get grumpy when I have to wait on someone who I think should have their stuff together already.  I don’t rip toys out of my little sister’s hands, but I so often spend my time and money on myself instead of others.  And my sin and selfishness has a way bigger impact than hers.

I am not as wise as I thought.

In parenting more than in any other arena I’ve experienced a feeling of helplessness and a sense that “I really have no idea what the best thing to do is.”  When you only have yourself to take care of, or it’s just you and your spouse, it’s easier to arrange life so you have most things handled and most things make sense.  Not so with kids.  I also recall making some bold proclamations before I had kids regarding what I would and would not do as a parent.  Any parent knows those bold proclamations go out the window.  As with the old adage, every battle plan survives until you meet the enemy. 

Fatherhood is leadership.

Belle really follows my example.  Juliette and Fiona will as well.  As my kids get a little older I’m realizing this more and more.  I want my girls to live incredible, gospel-drenched, love-saturated, Jesus-following lives. It is so apparent to me that unless I am showing them love, modeling a submitted life, and leading them well, the chances of that happening go way down.  Every day at work I see the results of all different kinds of parenting – and I’m reminded of the importance of a father.  It is a tremendous responsibility and one I am not up to, honestly, without God’s help.

I desperately need God.

My real-life faith in God has grown significantly since Belle joined our family.  That is, I believe more strongly than ever that God works in the every day.  I believe more strongly than ever that without God’s grace working in me I’d be a pretty awful Dad.  And if the most important thing for me to do is to be a father that raises Jesus-loving daughters, rather than nice or polite citizens of society, I absolutely need God to do it.

Those are a few of the things I’m learning through fatherhood, and Belle specifically.  She changed my life forever on October 4, 2006, and God is using her to mold me in significant ways.  I hope and pray every day that God uses me to mold her into the woman He made her to be.  I want her to grow up with the analogy of God the Father being a good one.  And I never want to make the mistake of thinking the purpose of Belle’s life is to make me happy.  What a tragic way to look at parenthood.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick–The Review I Didn’t Expect

imageI wanted to hate this book.  Okay, hate is a bit strong.  I was prepared to dislike this book.  In this Blogging for Books program, I’m allowed to pick from a list of five or six books.  The last book I got was Radical Together, which I loved, but the list after that was less appealing.  I’d heard a bit about Steven Furtick, a young pastor of an exploding church in North Carolina.  My impression of him based on what I’d seen, read, and a few videos, was that this would be another shallow, ra-ra, God-wants-to-empower-you-to-achieve-your-dreams-and-help-you-get-what-you-want-out-of-life books.  So I figured I’d order the book so I could re-whet the blades of my mind that slice up the prosperity gospel

Once I got the book and started reading, I realized I’d been wrong.  I didn’t fully admit it until I reached the end of the book.  I even sat there for a few minutes after I closed the book searching my mind for reasons to dismiss this book as vapid and shallow and a waste of paper. 

But I couldn’t.  I would actually recommend Sun Stand Still.  Let me take you through my journey with this book.

Why I thought it would be stupid

I thought this book would be stupid for a few reasons:

The cover and title.  I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but this one looks like just another “name it and claim it” book.  SUN STAND STILL is there in big bold letters.  The subtitle is “What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible.”  It sounds like empty jargon.

imageThe author – Furtick did not impress me with some of the videos of his I saw on YouTube.  He struck me as a pastor with a lot of personality and an ability to speak well but without much depth.  I’d dismissed him as yet another guy who had faith a mile wide but an inch deep.  Also, he has a faux-hawk, soul patch, and smarmy expression on his press picture. Just look at him!

The endorsements.  Without getting specific a few of the names I saw endorsing the book made me think I knew what I was getting into.  A couple names made me give it a chance – like Andy Stanley and…okay, nevermind, just one name impressed me.

I have a strong antipathy for stuff I think is jivey.  For reasons that are almost certainly explicable by my nerdy background and pride I don’t like it when people coin terms like “Sun Stand Still Prayers” or “Page 23 Vision” or whatever else. 

The described purpose of the book, as described by Furtick on the back cover and first chapter: “In short, I’m out to activate your audacious faith.  To inspire you to ask God for the impossible.  And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential.”  When I read that, all I see is “blah, blah, blah, God wants you to achieve your dreams, blah, blah, blah.”

When it comes down to it I am a pretty prideful person and my natural tendency if I don’t like something is to assume it is because that thing is flawed in some major way.

What I thought the book would be about (I was wrong)

The title of the book comes from a story in the book of Joshua about God making the sun stand still, extending the day so the Israelites could win a victory.  Furtick rightly points out that to even pray such a thing is a bit ridiculous, audacious, and requires a huge amount of faith in God.  I thought the book was going to be about how God wants us to accomplish big things and we want to accomplish big things and if we just have enough faith God will bless our faith and we’ll get what we want our of life.  Typical prosperity claptrap. 

Claptrap seriously just came to my mind first when I wrote that sentence.  I need to buy a rocking chair and sit on my front porch yelling at little kids.

What the book ended up being about

As I read through the book it became clear this was not what I was expecting, or even looking for it to be.  I don’t like being wrong so I kept trying to find things not to like about the book.  I kept looking for holes in his shallow theology.  But in the end, this is not a book about God helping you fulfill your dreams. 

It’s a book meant to show us that if we really believed the things we say about God (we meaning Christians) that our prayers would sound different and our lives would look different.  If I really believed what the Bible has to say, I would be a man of much greater faith.  Not faith in God’s ability to accomplish my dreams, but God’s ability to do stuff, period.  God’s ability to do major things in the world.  And His desire to do them.  And His desire to give us a role in what He’s doing. 

This book is a part of something bigger going on in my life: a realization that too often I do not live as if the theology I teach and believe and study is true.  I teach and preach with conviction that God can do anything and loves us and is involved in our lives, but more often than not my life has been marked by a lack of action that you’d think would follow if those things were true.  When it comes down to it, the actions in my life historically demonstrate, from where I stand, a lack of real faith in God for ridiculous things.  This is another post – but in this book Furtick most certainly does not build another shallow rah-rah-God wants you to accomplish your dreams book.  Instead he tries to bridge the gap that exists for many of us between our theology and our action.

One thing I wanted to cling to

So while there’s a lot I ended up liking despite myself, there was one part of the book that I still am a bit wary of.  At one point, Furtick writes that speaking the Word “activates” faith.  This is the same terminology used by Word-Faith preachers.  Those are people who basically teach that words are “containers” of faith, and if we “speak” something enough, it will come to be.  It’s a terrible perversion of what the Bible teaches that gives people a warped perspective on God, themselves, and their role in the world.  Furtick’s use of the same terminology got my spider sense tingling a bit but really the rest of the book is so on the right page with this stuff that in and of itself I can’t find fault with what Furtick wrote.  Beneath the surface, that section of the book has more in common with Tim Keller’s call for us to preach the gospel to ourselves than it does with Word-Faith’s call to use God as our genie.  So Furtick gets a pass from me.  I’m sure he’ll be relieved to hear it. 

How Furtick really won me over

Many of the issues I thought I’d have with the book centered around the expectation I had that I’d find a name-it-and-claim-it theology.  A theology that declares God wants good things for your life, and if you have enough faith and pray big enough prayers, God will give you what you want.  The focus is on you and what God can do for you.  The focus there is not on God.  This is what I expected to find with Sun Stand Still but it wasn’t there.  Instead, I found things like…

  • A genuine focus on God.  One chapter is devoted to the idea that sacrifice is required.  God will cut away our selfish dreams and call us to give up things that we want now in order to fulfill His purposes later.  And this wasn’t lip service – Furtick really encourages people to pray prayers to pursue God, not our own selfish desires.  That’s not a small thing, that’s a big deal.
  • The foundation of faith is God’s character.  Furtick spent time pointing out that the foundation we should have for our dreams and faith and prayers is God’s faithfulness.  He discusses a quote from A.W. Tozer, that “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…”  Our faith (or lack of it) is largely about our beliefs regarding God. 
  • We don’t deserve anything. So much bad teaching is wrapped up in a belief that we really deserve awesome things!  Furtick devotes time to saying – you don’t want what you deserve.  We don’t deserve greatness; we deserve condemnation for our sins.  It is only by God’s grace that He lovingly interacts with us.
  • Bad things still happen.  Chapter 13 is probably my favorite and the one that really convinced me Furtick was on a solid, Biblical track.  He acknowledges that sometimes “you pray your best, most honest, heartfelt prayers – and there is no answer.  Or the answer is no. Sometimes, even though your motives are pure, your desire is good, and your need is urgent, the breakthrough doesn’t come. The turnaround moment doesn’t occur.  The cancer spreads.  The finances get tighter.  The marriage feels more lonely.  The kids grow more distant” (p. 137).  That kind of honesty is really refreshing and gives Furtick so much more credibility as he talks about audacious faith.
  • The process is the point.  Furtick ends the book with a few chapters pointing out the fact that we should “push while we pray” and that this faith is not about the end result of us getting what we want, it’s part of God’s process for refining us.

If you’re like me, reading this book might be a good thing.

So in the end – I think this could be a good book.  It’s not the best book in the world.  But I liked it much more than I thought it would, and it really was a message I needed it hear.  First, because it helped me realize that I need to be careful about dismissing people as shallow (or deep) based on my impressions of them or their ministry or whatever.  I need to really see what they say.  Second, the experience of reading the book and liking it anyway revealed there are depths to my pride I haven’t begun to plumb.  And finally, it is a Biblically sound book that encourages big faith for the right reasons.  I need more of that in my life.  You probably do too.

I was provided with an advance copy of this book by Multnomah Press in order to review it.  But everything I just said is still true.  The book is like nine bucks.  My integrity costs at least triple that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

4 Reasons Why Being a One-Upper is Bad for You

You know what a one-upper is.  It’s the guy who’s already done what you had so much fun doing yesterday.  It’s the girl who got three hours of sleep to your four hours of sleep.  It’s the person you’ve never surprised because they already knew that.  It’s the kid from elementary school who always told you about awesome things his parents did.  It’s the guy with stories of his amazing exploits that put yours to shame.  It’s the obnoxious twerp who criticizes your love of the salsa at a restaurant because he’s had real salsa.

We all know one-uppers.  Truth be told, we all catch ourselves doing it sometimes.

Penelope from SNL is the perfect example of a one-upper.  See her at traffic school, a dinner party with Peyton Manning, or at a tenant meeting

imageOne of my favorite TV characters of all time – who is in fact not a character – is Ben “Coach” Wade from recent Survivor seasons, who dubbed himself “The Dragon Slayer.”  The dude was a classic one-upper.  He told all kinds of stories about how awesome he was.  He claimed to know “Chong-Ra,” a martial art so mysterious and rare you can’t Google it and you can only learn it straight from the practitioners in their secret location.  The best story was about the time he got caught in the Amazon by a tribe of murderous pygmies.  Every part of the story is awesome.  It begins with him being dropped off by a military helicopter and it gets better from there.  Just when you think it’s as outrageous as it’s going to get, he takes it up a notch.  You owe it to yourself to watch it.  Really, watch it.  You won’t be sorry.

Right now I’m tempted to make this an entire post about why Coach is awesome but I can’t get lost here. 

I’m teaching a communication class this summer and am currently working on a communication unit with my sophomores.  One of the first series of lessons has to do with being a good listener.  As I put together a list of listening tips, it occurred to me that aside from the things we usually associate with good listening, not one-upping is important.  In fact, I’ve come up with a few reasons why being a one-upper is bad for you.

1. Nobody will want to talk to you.

If, every time somebody says something, you’ve got something better or more important to say, they’re going to stop talking to you.  Or they’ll just tolerate talking to you because they don’t want to be a jerk.  If you always bring the topic of conversation back to you – whether it’s something you know, something you’ve done, how you feel – people will stop wanting to involve you in their conversations.  And if there’s one thing a one-upper wants, it’s the attention of others.  One-upping is a sure way to minimize the good attention you get.

2.  Nobody will believe you.

When you do get attention, people will have to wonder if what you’re saying is true.  Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that all the one-ups you have are legitimately true.  That is, every time you claim you knew something, or that you got less sleep, or that you’ve been there and done that – it’s true.  That doesn’t matter.  Nobody will believe you.  Consider it your burden to carry.  You have to live one of the most amazing lives ever, a life so simultaneously terrible and amazing, that nobody will believe it.  You’re like a real-life Cassandra, cursed to know the future but never believed.

3.  You won’t learn much.

When you one-up, you forego the opportunity to learn from others.  You either shut them down with your one-up so they stop talking, or you are so focused on yourself you can’t listen to what they have to say.  You may be wrong.  You may not have heard what they’re going to say.  You certainly haven’t heard it from their perspective.  You can learn so much from listening to what others have to say, even if you think you don’t need to.  One-upping lets your pride get in the way of learning.

4.  You’ll be miserable (or completely out of touch with reality).

When I think about the times I’ve one-upped (and there are plenty of examples in my life), it’s always been in an attempt to get approval or admiration.  It’s a prideful thing.  I want people to respect and admire me so I want to appear “in the know” or like I’m some kind of fount of knowledge.  So I one-up.  The problem is, one-upping has the opposite effect one-uppers intend.  Their goal is increased respect and admiration but all they get is eye-rolls and people distancing themselves.  This will either make the one-upper miserable because nobody respects them, or they will be out of touch with reality and believe people really do respect them.  Either way it’s a loss.

Think you have a one-upping problem?

You may be convinced that one-upping is bad but aren’t sure how to stop.  The key is to just pay attention to what you’re saying.  When you speak up and share something about yourself, or you compare your bad/good experiences to someone else’s – ask yourself “why did I just say that?”  Consider where your comment puts the focus on the conversation.  If it puts the focus on you chances are your contribution to the conversation was not appreciated. 

For most of my life I earned a reputation as a one-upper with regards to grammar and spelling. Whenever someone made an error in my presence they would know about it.  Of course I felt I was being gracious and saving them from embarrassing themselves – but in reality, nobody cared but pedantic nitpickers like me.  I finally realized it had earned me a reputation I didn’t want, and started to correct it by catching myself before I said things.  I now think before I speak.  Sometimes I don’t catch myself until it’s too late, and I still one-up in other ways, but I’m working on it.   

Where do you one-up?

If you want to consider the ways you might be a one-upper, consider the things you find vital to your identity.  Do you think you’re the funny one?  The smart one?  The adventurous one?  The technical one?  Whatever you base your identity on you will defend, and one-upping is one way to defend that. 

We all one-up at times because we all share the human condition of wanting to be loved and accepted.  If you try to find the things you base your sense of self-worth on, chances are you’ll find your area of greatest one-ups-manship and you can start to work on it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

How much do I need to be happy?

imageI’m sure this is a question we all ask ourselves.  How much money, how much stuff, do we need to be happy?  How nice does my car need to be?  My house?  How many extracurriculars do I need to be able to pay for?  How new does my phone need to be?  How nice do my clothes need to be?   In my case – how good can my computer be?  What kind of lifestyle do I need to live in order to be happy?

You may have heard that the answer of most of us is “a little bit more.”  That is, wherever we find ourselves we think that just a little bit more would make us happy.  If I just had a little more I could do X, Y, or Z that would enable me to get what I really want out of life.  X, Y, and Z could be good things – they could even be things you get for other people, or your kids.  But if I don’t get them, can I still be content?

The last time I read through Proverbs I noticed a couple verses I never had before.  They resonated with me and I honestly prayed they would be my own prayer:

“Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.”  - Prov. 30.7-9 (ESV)

I think I rather recklessly prayed that prayer a few months ago.  I read that and it sounded great.  The greatest tragedy in my life would not be having a crappy car.  It would be forgetting my Creator, forgetting why I’m here, living for myself and my satisfaction instead of spending my life for God’s kingdom. 

I want my daughters to grow up having more than I did as a kid.  That’s everyone’s dream.  I want them to grow up and not worry about whether or not Mommy and Daddy can pay the bills, to not think “I’d like to play that sport but we can’t afford it.”  But maybe there are worse things.

Those were the kinds of thoughts running through my head as I prayed the prayer found in these verses.  I’m finding the affirmative answer to that prayer more frightening and unsettling than I’d expected.  I’m not sure why – it’s pretty plain right there – just give me what I need for the day.  But as I consider my little girls who count on me to put food on the table, a roof over their head, clothes on their backs…it’s a much more unsettling proposition. 

How much do I need to be happy?  The answer must be “I only need God.”  The journey to getting there from where we are – or at least where I am – is a scary journey.  But it’s also the journey I must take.  The grip of consumerism and materialism is strong and they will not easily let us go.  And we will not easily let them go.  Our hearts need to change and that is a painful process.