Be still and know

In Uncategorized by Caleb

“Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

Stillness is a challenge for most of us. Especially the hyperactive among us, or those of us with young kids. The moments I get to be still, I’m inclined to fall asleep.

Yet being still is not merely a suggestion. It’s essential to the good life.

When we’re still we can train ourselves to escape the tyranny of the urgent. We can quiet the part of our brain that obsesses about small things. If we sit in the stillness long enough, our deeper brain kicks in; the part of us that knows stuff—meaningful stuff; stuff like an abiding awareness that the God of the universe is present…and working with us for our good. And that seems important to remember, doesn’t it?

Further, when we are still, it’s far easier to see, know, and walk the path marked out for us. When I’m frantic, every path seems plausible. My brain is more easily influenced by the noise around me. When I’m still, the right path, or better path seems to come into focus.

“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.” Romans 12:2

Some religious people seem to act like God “transforms” their minds because they checked a box at church, or read a verse on their phone, or simply because they already believe the “right” things about God. That’s naive (and self-righteous).

What if the ever-present God already dwelling in you is wanting to transform your life day by day, moment by moment, but you’re ignoring him because you think you already understand him? What if this mysterious God with transformative power is as close as “stillness”… and you’re missing Him?

And… what if tapping into the “desires of your heart” that He already put in you is more transformative than believing “right” things or voting “right” ways?

Maybe we only find out in the difficult and dangerous moments when we abandon our shallow mind and wade into the depths of meaningful connection and awareness beneath.

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Fight on

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Football season is upon us, but this isn’t a post about that. Let’s just use college football fanatics as a jumping off point.

In downtown LA, USC Trojan students and fans will say the words, “Fight on,” upwards of a thousand times over the next 12+ weeks. It’s a unifying battle cry. It connects people around a school, a mascot, and a team who otherwise might not have anything in common. But, at least during football season, fans are united.

Why? Because, perhaps more than anything else in this life, we all need to belong.

Yes, we need our teams and tribes. We need our churches and groups. We need our friends and inner circle. Because life is lived in connection and community—with friends. I call this “small belonging.”

But there’s also a “big belonging.” Big belonging represents our macro connections. Some think that their big belonging is limited to things like, Evangelical, or Catholic, or Asian, or Trojan. It’s not.

“Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13

Big belonging is about being human. Not Christian, not Jewish, not a “none.” Human.

We are all connected as fellow humans in need of the death and rebirth of Jesus, made alive by his one Spirit. All of us. Political preference, gender, ethnicity, orientation, and moral performance aside, we are all spiritual beings having a human experience, and we are all equally dependent upon our compassionate Creator to get us through.

Enjoy football season. And as you’re chanting your fight song or holding up your foam finger, remember that you’re part of an even bigger belonging.

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Find my iPhone

In Uncategorized by Caleb

My friend just lost his iPhone, again. I won’t mention any names, but he’s tall and it’s Graeme.

After searching the space we were in, then his car, he got out his MacBook and used the “find my iPhone” feature. Sure enough, it was back at the place he’d eaten at an hour earlier. Modern technology can be a beautiful thing. I wish the search for the rest of life’s missing pieces were that easy.

“Find the intimacy in my marriage.”

“Find the right words for my struggling child.”

“Find my hope.”

“Find my connection to God.”

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Did you know that God promises to be found when we look? The problem is, what the heck does “all my heart” mean? How do I know if this is all, most, or a small fraction of my heart?

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

This promise helps bring clarity. God promises closeness when we’re hurting. It’s still a little mysterious, because God is everywhere all the time. But there’s something about being desperate in our need, in our pain, that God’s nearness becomes more obvious—more accessible… more tangible.

I still don’t know what “all your heart” means. But I know when my heart is broken, and when other things I’ve depended on have let me down—God feels closer. He feels more “found” when other things I’ve given space in my heart are now “lost.”

If you’re experiencing loss, pain, struggle… the upside is that the ever-present God just scooted in a little bit closer.

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When to fight

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When do you fight and when do you let the Author of Life fight for you?

“The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

And yet Jesus also said,

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

Shrewd is honest about the reality that you are broken and so are others. In this world, you will have trouble. Expect it. Build in margin for it. Take some precautions—for the sake of your heart, your art, and your family.

But if it’s a fight you want, it’s probably not your fight. Explore the “innocent” part first.

Innocent isn’t naive. Innocent is innocent. When I’m innocent, I’m childlike—trusting the Father of Heaven has my best interests in mind. Trusting that He—and only He—specializes in working for my good. Even when the whole situation seems stacked against me.

When I’m innocent I’m childlike—getting in touch with my true, inner self. Not the projection of me. Not the image of me who needs to perform and the look the part. Not the insecure me who needs to prove himself and promote himself.

The real me. The soul of me. “The face I had before I was born,” as some have said. That me. That you.

That’s the version of us that is innocent because of our trust in God. We still understand that people will betray us and let us down. We’re not naive to darkness in others, or the reality that hurt people will hurt us and insecure people will fail us. We account for that. It hurts, but it doesn’t ruin us. It drives us deeper—past our projections, and into our real self… where the Spirit nourishes our weary souls.

So be shrewd and take the proper precautions because wolves want to destroy you. Don’t put your trust in organizations or institutions; they will let you down. Love your enemies, even though they pretend they aren’t.

Take heart. There is a death and there is new life. And both are the mercy and grace and goodness of God.

It might feel like you’re dying, but you’re actually being reborn—and the new version of you is better still.

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Death and growth

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“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” -Jesus

In the spirit life, the path toward fullness, abundance, and richer experience of life is paved with death. As with the kernel of wheat, death is a prerequisite for new life. Pain is in the recipe for progress. Devastation opens the door to doing things differently.

Westerners don’t much like this truth. We’re uncomfortable at funerals, we inject botox, we hate our birthdays, and lie about our age. But cycles in life are real, no matter our preferences. Birth… growth… struggle… success… death… new life… and on it goes.

So it is with you. If there’s a death you’re facing, face it. Embrace it. This death will lead to some kind of new or better living. It’s how God designed the universe.

If there’s a closed door, look for the open window. If there’s a broken heart, stay open to new (healthier) connections. If there’s a bankruptcy, pay attention for a new path of opportunity. If there’s a betrayal, the God who never lets you down is closer than your breath. Keep breathing.

God’s got this. He’s the only One who specializes in bringing good from bad… and life from death.

Keep growing.

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Locker room awkwardness

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I’m writing this on my phone in the locker room. I wanted to get it down quickly before I talked myself out of it.

The locker room is a funny place. People are vulnerable, by definition, because you change clothes, get naked, take showers… and, all of this, around perfect strangers. It’s weird… or totally normal… depending on your culture and personality.

But in American locker rooms—at least mine—our awkward vulnerability is on full display. For instance, the guys across from me just had the most amazing interaction:

Macho guy in towel: “You doing anything cool this weekend?”

Naked guy still wet from shower, avoiding eye contact: “Nope. Just working and catching up on sleep. You?” He also had a thick European accent.

Macho guy went on to explain the multiple girls he was dating, the car he would be driving, and the places he’d be staying. It was over the top. He had something he felt he needed to prove—or compensate for—but naked guy just nervously engaged with seeming admiration/jealousy. I had to laugh… and write.

It makes me wonder… When do I feel vulnerable and what do I do in response? Where am I boasting and proving? When am I jealous of the guy with a lambo?

And what if I could get to the place in my life where I was content and comfortable just being me? In public, or in the awkward locker room? On a stage or alone at night?

We arrive naked… we’ll leave naked… and yet we try and “clothe” ourselves with all sorts of insecure compensation solutions in between.

Today, let’s just enjoy the humble reality of who we really are. It’s enough.

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“It’s okay; don’t worry about it”

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I was sitting at a stoplight yesterday in the left turn lane. While the light was still a confident RED, the car at the front of the lane to my right started backing up… with pace. I had no idea why. No pedestrians or penguins crossing; no police clearing space. The driver just mysteriously threw it in reverse. And ten feet later backed into the Volkswagen bug behind it.

The woman in the bug was directly across from me, both our windows down. I could hear her commentary, despite the cigarette between her weathered lips.

“What are you doing? Are you serious? Stop!”

Crunch.

A small, elderly, woman got out of the offending car. She was startled and shaking. She muttered, “I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry.”

But that’s all she said. The cigarette-smoking bug driver had promptly leaped from her car to evaluate the damage. I thought I might have to intervene. But I didn’t.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Cigarette-smoking-bug-driver assured. Pointing to her bumper, “That was already there. You’re okay. It’s okay, don’t worry about it.” She put her hand on the anxious, elderly woman’s shoulder, smiled, took another puff of the cigarette, and got back in her car. That was the end of the incident.

No cursing. No accusing. No police or insurance exchange. No suggestion to cut up the drivers license and take the Leisure World bus. Just a kind, forgiving gesture of peace.

I cried a little.

It was a moment of grace—undeserved kindness and compassion. It was beautiful.

Maybe bumpers aren’t really that important, anyway. Maybe compassion and grace win the day—bringing calm where there was chaos; peace where there was worry.

Let’s put a hand on a shoulder today and bring peace.

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Rest and reminders

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These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever. Joshua 4:7b

There is a famous Hebrew story about the Jewish nation walking out of Egypt—slavery and oppression—and following Moses to the shores of the Red Sea. The people panicked, the Pharaoh’s army pursued, but the water parted and the Jewish nation walked across on dry ground. It was epic—inspiring modern day movies.

A generation later, after 40 years of wandering in the desert, there was another parting of water. This time, the Jordan River. Joshua was leading the people, Moses was dead, but God was still God… and God did another miracle.

As the water stood up at attention and the people crossed on dry land to the other side of the river, they took big river rocks with them. Not because they like carrying heavy things, but because they wanted to build a memorial… a reminder. Something that when you see it you pause, reflect, and remember.

“That’s the place God did that thing!”

“That’s the spot that miracle happened!”

“That was the day life changed for us!”

Pause. Reflect. Remember. Let the truth of the past inform your confidence in the present.

Labor Day is like that. It’s a day our country set aside to pause, reflect, remember… and rest. But when you and I rest, we can have confidence in a God who is always “laboring” for our good. Working everything from human disaster into divine beauty.

Pause. Reflect. Remember. Rest… And enjoy your Labor Day Weekend.

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Cheers to birthdays

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Cheers – where everybody knows your name. I never actually watched the television show, Cheers, but it’s still a cultural reference point for so many. It’s the bar, the coffee shop, the water cooler, the church lobby—where people know you and notice when you’re not around.

Where is your Cheers? You might have to buy coffee a couple days a week for a year or two, but eventually, it pays off relationally.

Mine is a coffee shop. I know the baristas by name and one just asked me to officiate their wedding. What an honor! What validation that my “Cheers” place is working.

Birthday parties – where you invite the inner circle. Whether it’s your birthday, your boyfriend’s, your kid’s… it’s important to celebrate together.

We just had some friends over for my daughter’s one-year-birthday. She can’t talk or send out her own invitations, so we invited our life group. I looked around the backyard and I was more grateful than ever for those friends. They are a huge part of the support system. They are dependable, and they are fun. We’ve logged a lot of time with those friends, and as long as we all live in the same area, we’ll stay committed to being together.

Who are your birthday party friends? If you don’t have any, you might have to ask yourself some hard questions about how good of friend YOU are.

And if you need to be a better friend, try this: host a party for someone else. Make it about them. And invest in the guests while they’re there. Pray that something would spark and follow up without being weird.

People who take good care of their friends have more friends than they can handle.

For me, having a “Cheers” place and “birthday party friends” is critical. God wired us for relationship. Emotional health and spiritual health are forever connected. I’m trying to nourish my heart and soul by investing in a place and the people. I’ve found it’s better this way.

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Sitting is the new smoking

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Sitting is the new smoking. Have you heard that?

Smoking used to be a cultural norm—everyone did it. Then, we realized how bad it is for us and the habit has lost its luster.

Now, health and well-being enthusiasts are talking about sitting in similar ways. In our knowledge-worker society, most of us sit at computers all day… then we sit in cars to get where we’re going. I’m guilty. I’m sitting now, typing, editing, thinking…. still sitting.

I’ve used a standing desk in the past, and that’s worthy of consideration. Some of us have a watch that pings us and tells us to stand up. But let’s go a step further. Let’s build at least an hour into everyday where we stand continually. Whether it’s a walk, a workout, or a sport, standing up to move that body will pay dividends.

The benefits go without saying, but let’s say them anyway:

Physical health promotes mental health, which increases emotional well-being… and all of it is SPIRITUAL. You were designed with a physical body that integrates with the rest of who you are. You’re not JUST a body. But you have a body, and this body needs caring for!

So let’s stand up. And perhaps even consider what activities can be done the  rest of the day while NOT sitting.

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