Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Addition by Subtraction

For years, I played the game.  A game where legends are born. Men’s Open League Softball.

I began my career playing for my then-girlfriend’s church team. I was the “young stud” at 19 years of age, and I played a pretty amazing shortstop if I must say so myself. That season in 1993 would be the first of many.  I ultimately would put my own team together, managing and playing for nearly a decade. I was even out on the field just a few days after my first child was born. I would play through root canals and kidney stones and gout (yes – I was in my 20’s!).

But, one day, my son turned five.  And, it was his turn to play, and I would hang up my cleats.  I can remember my wife and me talking about the fact that I was not playing softball.  She thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie with the other families who attended the games, as did I. This was something that had been a part of our lives for many years, and it was tough to put it aside.

I can recall discussions about figuring out schedules so I could still coach my son, while still managing the softball team and continuing to play through the spring and summer. But, the more I considered how that would impact our schedule, the less interested I became in trying to make it work.

It was certainly the right decision for our family.  With a five year old now playing baseball, and with me coaching, along with an almost two-year old son in the picture, we didn’t need to add anything to our plate. Not without subtracting something else.

All too often, I see families who compromise themselves by continuing to pile on the activities and the commitments, while never eliminating something else.  They just pull out the proverbial shoe horn and wedge it in. At the same time, they convince themselves that the sacrifice is worth it because “it’s for the kids.” And, while little Johnny may now be on the elite travel team, and sister Jenny is now a concert pianist at age 8, the family dynamic is disjointed and chaotic.

You see, sometimes good things (like softball) need to be removed so that better things (like my son playing baseball) don’t get slighted. Perhaps for you it’s a hobby that you truly love that is causing you to miss out on quality time with your spouse or kids.  Maybe you have allowed your kids’ activities to crowd out things like participating in a small group Bible study. Or, the occasional “girls night out” has evolved into a weekly gathering that pulls you away from those who love you the most.

But, there is some great news! You hold the key to changing things and aligning your heart’s priorities with your life’s activities. It will take some adjusting and maybe some difficult conversations. But, in the end, you’ll win – and so will your family.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Humility Doesn't Need to be Humiliating

It's a quality we all want to possess, but generally we don't want to live through the circumstances that aid us in acquiring it. Humility.

Dictionary.com defines humility as a "modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc." Its most direct opposite is pride.

It's a Catch 22 with humility.  If you believe you are humble, generally you are not.  If your life is truly marked by humility, you likely are not even thinking about yourself.  You are considering others first.

But, this doesn't just happen on its own.  Many times devastating, life-altering circumstances are what lead one to become humble in nature. Perhaps a health issue. A job loss. A broken relationship. 

Sometimes, even good things can stand in the way of God's best for us.  The great Charles Swindoll once referred to these good things in our lives as "crutches" that hold us up artificially.  And, like only God can, He can kick these crutches out from under us so that the only way we can keep from falling is to lean on Him, and Him only. This brings about the humility God wants so desperately for our lives to flourish.

The Bible talks an awful lot about humility, so it must be pretty important. Here's just a small sampling of these scriptures:

  • True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life. Proverbs 22:4 (NLT)
  • Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 (NLT)
  • Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor. Proverbs 18:12 (NLT)
  • If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. James 3:13 (NLT)

Often, when bad things in life come our way, we tend to live in humiliation rather than in humility.  A close synonym for humiliation is shame.  We live in shame, punishing ourselves, rather than allowing ourselves to give it over to the Lord. This is not what God wants.  He desires humility, not humiliation. Meekness, not shame. Modesty, not degradation.

I cannot emphasize enough that humility is a process.  It will not happen in an instant...but, in an instant, our lives can certainly be transformed from a life marked by pride and selfishness to one that begins to gravitate toward living how Jesus lived.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:3-8 (NIV)

Don't set a goal of becoming more humble. It won't happen.  Instead, try to live your life in such a way that others can see God at work in and through you. 

Brokenness leads to humility, and humility leads to riches, honor, and life (Prov. 22:4). Who doesn't want that trade-off?