Materialism- [the small pox of today]

MaterialismIt’s hard for me to look at a Range Rover and not want one. Their lines are smooth, they look Uber comfortable, and I  feel like I can take on a mountain with it and win. The other morning a Range Rover cut me off on my way to a meeting with a good buddy of mine. I felt everything inside of me tense up. Maybe that was because I was running 10 minutes late to my meeting or maybe it was because he had something that I wanted. It was hunter green, and it was new. The windows were tinted out, and the rims were classy. The only thing that my car and his car have in common is the color of the paint. My rims are not so classy, my windows are not so tinted, and I most certainly could not take on a mountain and win.

Welcome to my internal struggle with materialism. Materialism is the virus that grows inside of you convincing your mind that you need more and more and more.  Materialism not only affects your mind, It affects your eyes too.  They begin looking around at the things that you already have and it causes you to see them as old and out dated.  It’s like a set of contact lenses that magnifies every ding, imperfection, tear, or sign that your stuff hasen’t been unwrapped from their cellophane covering in a long time.  

I’m pretty convinced that materialism has been fed to us by the mass market like small pox blankets were to the Native American’s.  The more we watch and believe the commercials, the more we itch with the need to buy the latest and the greatest.  Be careful my friends!  You don’t need to drive what turns you on.  You need to drive what gets you there.  There is a big difference between need and want.  We get those two things mixed up very easily.  That’s part of the game of the materialism virus- it makes it harder to keep your head on straight.  

Richard Foster writes about the materialism virus.  He says this,

This psychosis permeates even our mythology.  The modern hero is the poor boy who purposefully becomes rich rather than the rich boy who voluntarily becomes poor.  Covetousness we call ambition.  Hoarding we call prudence.  Greed we call industry.

It is time to set possessions in their proper place.  It is time to find joy in the abundant gifts that God has given us.  After all Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  The writer of Hebrews says, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you'” (Heb. 13:5)

I’m praying that God shows me that it is more about the people around me than the possessions in my home.  I bet I’m not alone in this struggle… Where are you at with it? 

~Peter

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Changing Seasons and an Unchanging God

God never changesWhere I live in northeastern New Jersey, the leaves are all starting to change colors. The signs that fall is upon us are so evident. In some ways I really enjoy this. I found that I love the change of the seasons.

I am a summer guy, there is no question about that. I love almost any activity that has to do with the summer except for sweating. So the change from it being 96 degrees out with the humidity being something you can taste to a cool 70° is welcome to me right about now. As you drive around the neighborhoods, more and more pumpkins are showing up on people’s doorsteps and I’m starting to notice more cornstalks popping up around too. That one never really made sense to me, I’m just going to be honest. I get why people put up pumpkins they’re cute and decorative, I’m just not to sure about the cornstalks.

One of the things I love about the changing of the seasons is that it reminds me of what I love about the season before it. Right now I am missing sitting and soaking in the sun on a sandy beach. I am missing hearing the sound of seagulls cackle about my head. In the middle of the summer oddly enough I find myself missing a rainy spring day. And in the dead of winter, I long to be outside in a flannel shirt and a vest. Then in the spring I miss sitting under our favorite blanket on the couch with a cup of hot coffee.  Every season reminds me of the beauty and joy of the season before it.

In the midst of all of this change, I am reminded of one thing that doesn’t change–God.  Whether there are leaves on the trees or leaves on the ground, or they are somewhere in the in between stage, God is still in control.  In fact, God is the one who causes leaves to bud out, grow, and then one day fall to the ground.  God is holding that together right now.

For some of you it isn’t the natural seasons that you’re concerned about. Right now you’re in the midst of changing seasons of life. Some of you have lost a job, gotten a divorce, or found out you have cancer.  Or maybe you’ve recently become a parent, or that precious baby you used to hold in your arms is now breaking free and headed off to college.  These changing seasons can be incredibly difficult.

No matter what season of life you’re in remember that God is one who doesn’t change, even if you do.  I love the words from Lamentations 3:21-23

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

What is one thing you need to hope in God for today?  

~Peter

4 Ways to Reboot Your Spiritual Life

StillnessHave you ever felt like life is just flying by you?  Work is cranking out endless tasks and responsibilities… The kids have countless events that they need chauffeuring to…  There are multiple required social events on your calendar filling up your weekends… And some how you need to find time to just simply go to the bathroom in all that mess of a schedule.

This happened to me the other day.  I was in a rush to get as many things into one 24 hour day as possible.  I was running from one event to another and found that it was making me grouchy, irritable, and just down right testy.

I had to hit pause.

For about 40 minutes I simply sat still and watched life around me.  Instead of watching life go by I did my best to be fully present in the midst of it.  I sat and journaled and prayed and listened to some music.  In those 40 minutes I felt more refreshed and rejuvenated than before.

When life is flying by you and feeling out of control try these four things…

1. Pause

As difficult as this may be, there are times when you need to simply just unplug.  This might mean the dishes in the sink pile up for a little bit.  Or the lawn doesn’t get mowed today.  These things need to get done, but not necessarily right now.   Your pause could be 30 minutes, 2 hours, or even a full day.  It all depends on what you are willing to carve out of your schedule.

2.  Reflect

Our minds are moving a million miles an hour, thinking about thousands of different things.  It is a gift to stop and process what has been happening in your life the past few days, or weeks.  It could be as simple as answering two questions: Where have I seen God lately, and What has God been showing me through these past few days or weeks?

3. Pray

Prayer is our intimate connection with our Creator, our Heavenly Father, and our God.  Prayer is an act of depending on God in all things.  When I am running my life and going a million miles an hour, my greatest temptation is to believe that I can do it all on my own.  Prayer reminds me that I can’t.  I am desperately in need of God’s help and presence in my life.

4. Journal

There is something life giving about writing in a journal.  It has been a habit that I have added to my life for the past 8 years.  I have filled a few moleskin’s with the thoughts, prayers, and tears of what’s going on around me.  Writing is slow.  It causes you to think, and process.  Writing things out quite possibly can also help you figure things out.

What would you add to the list?  Leave a comment below.

~Peter

Quit Playing the Comparison Game

Romans 12:2Have you ever felt like you just weren’t enough?  I’ll be honest, there are times when I struggle feeling like I am enough.  I wonder am I good enough, am I strong enough, am I smart enough, am I thin enough, am I ______________ enough.  You fill in the adjective, I’ve wondered about it.  Jon Acuff said recently, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”  That’s tough for me.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”.  How true is that?

I was reading through Romans 12 the other morning when I came across verse 2 and it struck me in a whole new way.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (the Message)

What a great reminder!  When I begin to play the comparison game and wonder where I am not measuring up I need to remember these few things…

1. Be Unique

Our world loves to put people into little boxes and categories.  If you dress a certain way, that means you are hipster, nerdy, sporty, or chic.  If you like to recycle you are a green tree hugger.  If you are a hunter you clearly don’t love animals.  Come on!  There are so many different pressures that we face.  The media, our peers, and the world around us want to desperately form us into their mold.  You don’t have to fit in that mold.

2. Be Flexible

God wants to transform you into a different person.  You don’t have to be like everyone else because God is in the business of making you, you.  The old me is exactly that- old.  It’s time to bring on the new.  This will happen over time and it will happen because He begins to change your thought process.  There are times when you need to be willing to not always be right, or change the way that you think about things.

3. Be Teachable

When you step back and see what God has been doing in you, the ways that He has been molding and shaping you, all of the experiences that you have had, and all of the pain that you have gone through, it is a little easier to see what God may want to do through you.  The last part of that verse says that you will begin to see what God wants to do through you, in you, and with you.  It will require you to be teachable.

I can easily get caught up in the comparison trap.  It is not a fun place to be.  I’m thankful that God doesn’t want us to stay there and provides a way out of it!

~Peter

Listening to Your Pain

The other day I wrote on the value of pain.  And since then I have had so many conversations with some of you about all of the painful situations that you are currently going through, or already have gone through.  It can be so incredibly overwhelming right?  It is never easy to talk about cancer, and how that is taking the life of your dad.  Or listening to someone share how mental illness is transforming their sister who was once brilliant and vibrant and is now fading away.  Pain comes in all shapes and sizes and pain knows very few boundaries.

In the midst of pain we can respond or we can ignore it.

I’ll never forget that Saturday morning men’s breakfast that we were sitting around a table enjoying bagel egg and cheese sandwiches when someone got a call that Shelly had passed away the night before.  Shelly attended our little church and was known and loved by everyone.  She was happily married and loved on her beautiful 6 year old daughter.  Shelly was a paraplegic.  She was not only unable to move her legs, she couldn’t feel them either.  The nerve endings in her legs that were supposed to communicate to her telling her that she was in pain did not work.  So that Friday night Shelly cozied up to a gas flame heater and fell asleep.  She never realized that her legs were burning and suffering excruciating pain.  Eventually a clot formed and went straight to her heart.  Unfortunately, the nerve endings that were designed to tell her that something hurt and that she needed to do something about it were not working.  She never got the message.

Pain communicates!hurt, pain, disappointment

What is your pain saying to you?  What is the next step that you need to take to move away from the source of pain and move towards the place of healing?

There is an old Jewish proverb that I love so much.  It says, “What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.”  When I am in the midst of pain, I no longer apologize for my tears.  Those tears are as much a part of my communication process as the initial pain is.  I value the times when I have what we call in my family “a good cry”.  Don’t mask your emotions, don’t apologize for your tears.  God has given us each and every emotion so that we can properly relate to Him, and to one another.

Take a breath.  Pause for a minute.  What is your pain trying to tell you?

~Peter