Learning the ONE Thing Needed to Avoid Procrastination

If asked, most of you would admit to procrastination.  I am not making it up, either.  The Barna Group did the study for us.  Based on their research, 60% of Americans claim a temptation to procrastinate.

If you are a student, then you wait until the night before, or worst yet, the morning of test day to study.  If you are a credit card holder, then you wait until the last day of the 10 day grace period to look at the statement.  If you are in the workforce, you wait until April 15 to file your taxes.  If you are a parent, you wait until the last minute to pickup your child from school.  If you are a pastor, you wait until Saturday Night to write Sunday morning’s sermon.  If you are…then you…

Reality is:  procrastination rarely prepares you to reach big goals.

I spent three days this week at a training for church planting.  Over and over again, we were urged to dream big dreams for the Church.  “Don’t dream of planting a church you can do in your own ability.  Dream of a church greater than your capacity to create, a church that requires God’s power to pull off,” they said.

Once they felt we were convinced to dream big, then they offered tools necessary to equip us for the challenge.  One of the most helpful, invaluable tools:  a Timeline.

A Timeline is a chart with task list and deadlines to keep you on track with the myriad details that must be completed all the way through your project.  Every Timeline is inspired by a vision.  A vision is a future reality you can imagine and begin working toward.  Every vision needs a strategy.  A strategy is a plan or process designed to help you visualize the necessary steps for reaching your goal.  Which brings you back to the Timeline, because every strategy is executed through a series of tasks.  A Timeline lists the tasks and sets a deadline for accomplishing each one.

Too many great visions have gone unrealized, and too many strategies have collected dust because of procrastination.  The ONE thing needed to avoid procrastination is a Timeline.  

Seems so simple, doesn’t it?  Yet, it is the one thing most of us lack.

 

 

Learning to Stand United Against Modern Slavery

FREEDOM-SUNDAY“Human trafficking is modern day slavery….”

The church of the Nazarene is uniting to take a stand against it.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery — a system in which both children and adults are bought and sold through force, coercion, threats, deception, or abduction. Human trafficking is criminal activity that results in forced labor and sexual exploitation. It is a global problem that affects people from many backgrounds or situations. However, people from poor families are especially at risk because traffickers prey on those who are vulnerable.

The Church of the Nazarene has a presence in many countries where children and adults are vulnerable to trafficking. In these areas, NCM partners with local churches in anti-trafficking efforts that range from prevention and education to protection and rehabilitation. NCM’s strongest engagement with ending human trafficking is through prevention and providing economic and educational opportunities to lower the risk of poverty-induced trafficking.

 

As a member of the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium, the Church of the Nazarene helped to craft and has endorsed the consortium’s Declaration for Freedom, and NCM’s anti-trafficking work aligns with this declaration.

Here is one way the denomination is taking a stand together all around the world.  Nazarene Compassion Ministries is asking churches to participate in Freedom Sunday on February 22 to:

  • UNITE with thousands of other churches and organizations on this day of observation.
  • PARTICIPATE through prayer, raising awareness, and giving surrounding the problem of human trafficking.
  • CELEBRATE what God is doing to set captives free.

Your church and you can take stand, too.  To learn more, go to Freedom Sunday.

If you are wondering how taking a stand can be a part of your youth ministry, read this article Youth Ministry and Modern Slavery.

If you live in Lakeland and would like to take a stand against human trafficking in our community, please contact me via email:  coylindsey@gmail.com.

 

Learning How a Hug Confirms What Creation Already Taught You

Disclaimer:  I am not a good hugger.  I stink at giving and receiving hugs.  I have little reason to be writing about anything remotely related to hugs.  But, here I am.  I couldn’t pass an opportunity to share with you what I’ve learned.

A hug reveals the creative design of God for humanity.  It points to an essential component   for human flourishing.  You can read about it in the very first story of the Bible.

The connection came to me when listening to a TEDtalk by Kelly McGonigal with the title “How To Make Stress Your Friend.”  You can watch it HERE.  It’s a worthwhile 14 minutes and 28 seconds.  No time to view it right now?  No problem.  It’s not necessary for you to get the point of this post.

McGonigal is a health psychologist who made a discovery that turned her approach upside.  She changed her mind from thinking stress was the enemy to believing stress can actually be your friend.  Enough said.  You can learn more by watching it yourself.

During her TEDtalk, McGonigal discusses the dynamics of a familiar hormone in our body, called oxytocin.  It is a neuro-hormone. It brushes up your brain’s instincts.  It warms you up to the possibility of doing things that strengthen relationships.  It gives you a craving for human contact, especially with close family and friends.

Its nickname:  the cuddle-hormone.  It is released when you hug someone.  So what, right?

Well, check this out.  It’s a stress hormone.  Your body’s natural response to stress is to pump out oxytocin.  Oxytocin carries a message to your brain that says, “Surround yourself with people who care about you.”  It is begging you to seek support through human connection.

Think that’s crazy?  Listen to this.  McGonigal goes on to tell her audience that oxytocin doesn’t only act on the brain.  It also acts on your body.  It functions as a natural anti-inflammatory.  With your heart, it works to regenerate cells and heal stress induced damage.  In effect, it strengthens your heart.  Social contact and support make the physical benefits even greater.

Simply put:  A hug can literally heal your heart, both emotionally and physically.

Let me bring it back around to what you already know about creation.  You know God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in it.  After each part, God looked at what was created and said, “It is good.”  Until Genesis 1:18.  God noticed Adam was alone and said, “It is not good…I will make him a helper as his partner” (NRSV).

God knew it wasn’t enough for Adam to be alone.  God knew Adam would need human connection.  God created humanity for community.

Creation teaches us the power of human connection.  You probably already know this.  You probably didn’t know that our DNA confirms it.  You, and every other human alive, produce a hormone that begs you to surround yourself with people who love you.  To flourish under stress, you need human contact and support.  It’s no surprise, then, that oxytocin is released in one of the most intimate forms of human contact:  a hug.

A hug confirms what creation has already taught you.  Moments of great sorrow and joy aren’t meant to be experienced alone, but together in the loving embrace of friends and family.  You need others.  Others need you.

 

Learning of Our Need to Laugh More

You have enough to complain about and fret over.  If you’re not careful, these things take precedence in your thoughts and conversations.  Your emotions become consumed in negativity.  Depression settles in.

I’m learning to curb my stress with laughter.  Everyday, I need to laugh more.  Smiling and joking and kidding around must become rebuttals to my sullen attitudes.

I need more moments like the one this morning with my five year old daughter Mya.  It’s just the two of us every weekday morning from 8am-9am.  We drop “Sissy” at school by 8am, then have an hour to hang out until preschool starts at 9am. Our routine normally includes breakfast, change clothes, brush hair, brush teeth, watch Netflix, and rush to school at the last minute.

This morning, we kept all devices off.  We sat across from each other at the table while sharing a donut.  All of sudden, Mya leaves the table and goes to her bedroom.  Seconds later, she returns with a Star Wars lightsaber.  She looks me in the eye with a evil look and gives me a sinister laugh, “Wooooo ah ah ah!”  Then says, “I will get you (PAUSE)…and your dog too.

Quite the mix of movie plots and lines, I would say.  But man, it made me laugh.  My laughter made her laugh.  The moment was hilarious.

Her antics put me in the mood to elicit laughter.  I had an idea.  Mya is “special friend” in her preschool class this week.  As special friend, she is invited to bring a special snack for everyone.  We decided on donut holes.  They are easy, affordable, and everyone loves them.  Yesterday, I let her teachers know what we would bring.  They kindly asked me to bring enough holes for two per child.  Easy.  Done.

Having been put in a laughing/joking mood, an idea came to me with regard to the donut holes.  I took one donut hole from the three dozen I purchased, and put it in a bag.  The other 35 holes, I hid in Mya’s backpack.  I instructed Mya to hand the bag with the one donut hole to her teacher and say, “I’m sorry, we were hungry.  This is all we have left.”

Her teachers laughed.  Mya smiled and laughed.  I laughed.  It was a funny, happy moment.

I need more of those moments in my day, and less of the stressful ones.  I realize you can’t always control the stressors that press in on you.  But, you can control how you react to it. You can let it control your actions and emotions.  Or, you can dispel it by replacing it with a positive response.  I’m learning, laughter is a excellent curb for stress.

I imagine God laughs a lot.  How else could God manage all the stress we can cause as God’s children?  If not, then I imagine God must be extremely angry at us all the time.  That, or completely hopeless.

You don’t have to live with constant anger, worry, complaining, or hopeless.  Laugh more, and you will discover that most stress isn’t worth fretting over anyway.  It’s okay.  God laughs, too.

Learning ‘Alone We are What We are’


You have to admit, it feels good to be alone from time to time.  It feels even better to act alone.

By acting alone, I mean you decide what’s right and wrong.  You make the decisions without advice or guidance from anyone or anything else.  There’s no consulting or collaboration.  It’s you and your own desires.  No outside voices or influence.  Just you.

Alone, life feels less complicated.  There is less guilt.  No one is there to convolute matters with opinions or possible corrections.  What is right is up to you, and often based on what feels good.  So, you eliminate what makes you feel uncomfortable.

Alone, you may feel good, but you probably won’t be good.  Because, as John Wesley helps you see, “Alone we are what we are.”  In other words, what you have always been, you will always be.  The good and the bad.  You know we carry around enough bad.  There is no hope for anything better.

When alone as an individual, a family, a group, a religion, a church, a nation, and as a human race, you will only be as good as your best worst.  Limits will bind you.  The future is resigned to mediocrity and cycles of brokenness.  All you can expect is what you have already experienced.  Alone we are what we are.

You need others to set you free from yourself.  We need God to set us free from ourselves.

Yesterday, doesn’t need to be your best day.  Tomorrow should be.  To make such dreams possible, you can’t travel alone.  Together, with others and with God, you will become what you aren’t now.

Learning You Need More Than Yourself to Gain Self-Confidence

As a kid, I thought I could do anything.  Show me how and give me an opportunity, I was fearless.  Until…I became an adult and I realized I couldn’t.

You can’t do everything, perfectly.  There will be moments when you are not the best, or not even good at all.  You will fail.  You will look, or at least feel, stupid.  Some things will not come naturally.  It will take serious hard work for you to become average, or slightly above.

So why try, right?  It’s too embarrassing.  Or frustrating.  Or discouraging.  Or difficult.  Or painful.  Or defeating.

Such thoughts never crossed my mind as a kid.  Now, they do.  Self-confidence can feel like an old friend I once knew.  A great divide of time stands between us.  I am not sure we will ever meet again.  I wonder if we ever really knew each other.

While floating on my surfboard on the open waters of the Pacific Ocean with a good friend,  a realization washed over me like so many waves already had.  Self-confidence requires more than yourself.  You need others to help you find it. It is nearly impossible to discover alone.

Self-confidence gains strength when fostered by others (someone else) who believe in you no matter what.  This person(s) trusts in you.  They see potential in you before it is actualized.  They don’t expect you to be perfect.  They are not embarrassed or afraid to see you fall.  They actually expect it.  Then, they are present to pick you up and brush off the dirt.  They are patient with you, not in a rush to put you in position before you are ready.  They invest in you with their time, energy, resources, emotions, and love.  Your mistakes don’t become a club in their hand to beat you down.  They use it as an opportunity to teach you a better way.

If you have someone who fits this description, then you probably have a healthy sense of seIf-confidence.  If you have self-confidence, chances are you have someone who fits this description.  Either way, you need more than yourself to gain self-confidence.

I am thankful for those in my life who give me self-confidence.  You are a reflection of God’s image in our world.  I pray you have at least one person like this in your life, as well.

 

 

Learning Mistakes Don’t Need to Define You – from the National Champs OSU Buckeyes

Have you ever made a mistake and felt defined by it?  You feel like it’s all people know about and see in you.  Now, you are a liar or cheater or criminal or emotional or sick or sinner or loser.

I grew up in Ohio, so couldn’t let this moment pass.  I type these words with a huge smile on my face:  Ohio State Football won the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship last night!  

Based on mistakes alone, they shouldn’t have.  The boxscore reports:  Turnovers, Oregon 1 and Ohio State 4.  You can pretty much scratch Oregon’s turnover because it came in a last second, desperate attempt to complete a long pass.  Realistically, the turnover ratio is 0-4.

Ohio State’s third string Quaterback, Cardale Jones, was responsible for 3.  One interception and two fumbles.  In only his third game ever played collegiately, he could have let it defined him.  He could have put his head down and sulked, forcing him to make more mistakes.  He didn’t.

Based on Oregon’s previous performance against Florida State, most fans would have expected the score to be the other way around.  Oregon capitalized on several FSU turnovers, turning them into touchdowns.  But, like their teammate QB Jones, the OSU defensive wouldn’t let turnovers define their team.

Yes, Ohio State made four major offensive mistakes.  Huge mistakes for most teams playing Oregon.  The Buckeyes didn’t let it define them.  A year from now, college football fans won’t remember or care.  All that will be known is that The Ohio State University are 2015 College Playoffs National Champions.

So, here’s my Jesus juke.

You don’t need to let your mistakes define you.  Everyone makes them.  Keep you head up. You are defined by God’s love. God forgives and redefines you.  God stands behind you.  God believes in you.  Someday, people will only remember you by your love, God’s love.

O-H_ _!

 

 

Learning the Disease Christians Should Fear Most

Humans are disease-phobic.  Religious people are no exception.  If we are completely honest, you might have to admit Christians have been among the most phobic.

In biblical language, they didn’t have the proper name “disease.”  The preferred word is unclean.  If you were sick, disabled, unhealthy, or impaired then you would be considered “unclean.”  Anyone “unclean” was relegated to live outside the city gates.  Quarantined, if you will, from the rest of society.

Seems archaic, doesn’t it?  Our practices today aren’t so different.  Now, instead of sending people outside the city gates, we place them in hospitals away from the rest of society.  With the recent Ebola outbreak, we realize quarantine is still a practice strongly believed in.  On the less obvious side, we have hand sanitizing stations everywhere we go.  If a friend’s family comes down with the flu, they are banned from your house and your children for days.  You will be sure to keep your distance until the incubation period is confirmed done.

Many of these practices are done for good reason, don’t get me wrong.  Epidemics are now under control due to precaution being taken.  Still, it’s pretty obvious we have a phobia for disease.  We don’t want disease in our house.  If we have disease in our house, we don’t want to admit it.  We hide from disease.  We hide our disease from others.

The Bible tells a similar story.  The religious elite hide from and keep hidden disease.  Jesus addresses the phobia in Mark 2:17.  The scribes of the Pharisees (religious elite) are beside themselves that Jesus is sharing a meal with tax collectors and sinners, “unclean” people.  The purity laws forbid you from associating yourself with someone(s) “unclean.”  It could make you unclean.  Stay away as far as possible.  Don’t invite them into your home. For heaven’s sake, DO NOT go into their home.

They have an extreme aversion to disease.  So, the religious elite interrogate Jesus’ disciples, “Why does  he eat with collectors and sinners?”  Jesus overhears the question, and retorts with, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”  Obviously, you are not sick, right?

Jesus diagnoses the disease.  The religious elite’s sickness is their deep-rooted aversion to “uncleanness.”  They hide the “unclean” from themselves, and they hide their own “uncleanness” from others.  They are the healthy ones.

Jesus basically says, “No, you’re not. You carry a disease, you just won’t admit.  Until you do, I can’t give you the cure.”  

The disease Christians should fear most is an aversion to sin in others and in ourselves.  It’s a disease that declares the world sinful while sweeping your (our) own under the rug.  A disease that says, “This world is a sick place,” yet forgetting there’s only ONE who is perfect.

John Wesley put it this way, “Till we are sensible of our disease, it admits of no cure.”

I’m learning that we, as Christians, don’t nee to be afraid to name our sin.  God knows what it is.  Plus, Jesus saved you already.  The penalty is removed.  You are set free.  Set free to be sensible to your (our) own “uncleanness” without a feeling of guilt.  It’s not about shame anymore.  It’s about a cure.

Till we (Christians) are sensible of our disease, we are blind to the cure.  Jesus didn’t come to the healthy, but the sick.  The scribes of the Pharisees couldn’t admit their disease.  Neither did they experience the cure.

It’s time.  It’s time for Christians to name our sin, so our world can experience the cure.

 

 

Learning Two Questions Your Spouse & You Need to Answer

Your spouse comes from a different family.  Duh!  Right?  You know this already.  You’ve lived through enough holidays to have experienced the difference.

In premarital counseling, we like to dig deep into the family of origin.  We want to uncover the context for the most formational years of your life.  The family unit is the primary location of your moral, spiritual, and relational development.  Most of the patterns you live as an adult can be traced back to a positive or negative reaction to your upbringing.  You have learned to embrace certain ways of living, while at the same time completely reject others.  For example, you’ve probably said to yourself, “I’ll never __________ like Dad (or like Mom).”

You can describe your family of origin’s closeness and flexibility.  Your family experience falls somewhere in the range of overly connected to disconnected, and overly flexible to inflexible.  You know the emotional closeness you felt growing up.  You also know your family’s ability to adjust to changes in roles, leadership, and discipline.

You may have grown up feeling deeply disconnected or emotionally distant from your family.  Your family members might have lived independent of one another, creating very separate lives.  You grew up with a family not very open to change.  Family members were rigid and resistant to finding new ways to deal with stress and other important issues.

Your spouse may have grown up feeling very connected to his/her family.  She felt very close to her family members.  The family enjoyed being together, yet still provided space for independence.  Your spouse may have also grown up in a family who could be described as somewhat flexible.  Her family maintained a high level of structure and organization.  Leadership, decision-making, and roles were clearly defined with little room for flexibility.  They had a few struggles with adjusting to stress and dealing with challenges in new ways.

You know these things about your family.  Your spouse knows these things about her family.  To use this knowledge for the benefit of your marriage, your spouse and you need to answer these 2 questions together:

  1. What do I want to bring from my family into my marriage?
  2. What do I want to leave behind?

If you don’t know these answers, then neither does your spouse.  And, chances are, the greatest struggles in your relationship stem from issues related to these two questions.  You are living in reaction to the past in ways that control the present.  Sadly, the person closest to you (your spouse) is unable to help, because you haven’t let them in.

The beauty of marriage is the potential it carries for writing a new family story.  Your spouse is the one person who can help you leave behind what you never asked for in the first place.  Your spouse can stand beside you at the gravesite of past hurts, providing the support you need to say your final goodbye.  When the remorse of your loss grips your heart, your spouse is the one who offers peace that calms your soul.

Your spouse is the the one person who can help you bring into the now what you cherished most once before.  Your spouse can stand behind and have your back, as you do your best to build upon already strong foundations.  Knowing what brings you life and joy, your spouse can nurture those qualities in you and the life of your family.  Together, you can grow what’s healthy and vibrant and beautiful.

So, whether you are currently married or expect to be some day, I strongly encourage you to ask your partner and yourself:  What do I want to bring from my family into this relationship?  What do I want to leave behind?  Then, I dare you to make those dreams come true.

 

 

 

Learning How Walking a Dog Led to a Christmas Miracle

As soon as he was introduced to me, I knew exactly who he was.

I had heard about him from our sweet, retired friends from church.  Actually, I think of them more as family.  I park at their house every morning and afternoon when taking Kirra to and from school.  They lavish my daughters with extravagant love.  Surrogate grandparents is what we call them.

They have a dog unlike any I’ve experienced.  She resembles a cross between Toto from the Wizard of Oz and a pug.  More than her appearance, I am most impressed with her obedience.  Her behavior is impeccable.  She doesn’t require a leash.  She puts herself in the shower when asked.  She doesn’t bark.  She lets anyone pick her up, including my 7 and 5 year old daughters.  She rides in a backpack on her owners back for 20-30 mile bike rides.

They take her on walks across the street in a condo/apartment neighborhood.  Most residents know who they are, or at least recognize them.  Who can resist a retired gentleman running at a slow pace with his little dog trotting alongside?

One person couldn’t resist.  It only seemed natural to introduce himself and his dog to my friend and his dog.  Ambling past his house everyday was this older man and his dog, why not get to know them?  A friendship was struck.

A few short months later, bad news came.  Our surrogate grandparents received word from their newfound friend, his wife was diagnosed with cancer.  Her battle wasn’t long.  In too little time, she was gone.  This lethal disease stole this young man’s wife.

My friends surrounded him with love.  They visited  him often.  They called to checkin.  They offered him dog sitting.  They prayed for him.  Oh, they prayed for him.  They prayed he would be okay.  They prayed he would find hope in God.

As soon as he was introduced to me on Christmas Eve, I knew who he was.  I had not met him before.  I had no idea what he looks like.  I had only heard much about him from my friends.  They loved him deeply.

A church member approached me in the lobby, saying, “Coy, I would like you to meet ____________.  This is his first time.  He works Sunday mornings, so can only attend church on Saturday nights.  I was telling him about our Saturday Night worship service, and wanted to introduce him to you.”

I shook his hand and looked into his bloodshot, tear filled eyes.  He said, “I didn’t know what to do or where to go. (stopping to cry)  I came here so I don’t end up doing what I don’t want to do.”  The following Sunday, he was sitting on the front row.

To my friends, this was a miracle.  It all began with walking a dog.

When giving a presentation about art, Erik Johansson said, “So all the tools are out there, and the only thing that limits us is our imagination.”

My friends are teaching me:  When sharing God’s love with the world, all you need is out there, and the only thing we lack is God’s imagination.

God imagined how walking a dog could lead a retired couple to influence a neighbor with love.  God imagines amazing possibilities for your life, too.  You already have all you need.  Don’t limit yourself.