Strong Start: Friendships, Family, and the Direction of Your Life

friendship-1483251-640x455On Sunday we opened up the book of Proverbs to learn about friendships. Friendships are these things that are all around us, that I think we end up taking for granted so often. But this is something that not only do we need to change, that Solomon would argue we must change to have a full life.

So we jumped in looking at various different sayings of Solomon pulling out three key points:

  • Friendship can matter more than family
  • Friendship will determine the quality and direction of your life
  • Friendship based on deep trust is all that matters

So first we looked at how friendship can matter more than family. This is something pretty shocking to say; not only in our day but in Solomon’s day and age. Because in his day and age you had no health insurance, crop insurance, or retirement. Your insurance or safety net was your family. Family was obligated to help in a time of crisis.

And this is actually why Solomon says that friendship can matter even more than family. He writes, “there are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother”. (Proverbs 18:24). Friends can stick closer than family.

And Solomon’s point is that any relationship built on chosen love, rather than obligation will be stronger and better. And this is just true. He’s not saying family doesn’t matter, but that friendship can run deeper than just family relations. Any relationship (family based or not) built on love, and choice will always beat any relationship based on obligation. And this is why we need to invest in our friendships and why they matter because they are formed by love and not by obligation.

Secondly, we learned that friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives. Solomon writes this, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” and this is true. That the people we are close to rub off on us for good or for bad. This is another reason that we need to choose our friends carefully, and invest in them wisely. We choose our friends, but once our friends have been chosen they will choose our destiny. This is why we need to continue to see and raise the importance of the value of our friendships.

And also, but not least, Solomon reminded us that if our friendships are not based on deep trust that they aren’t really friendships. That if someone lies to us and laughs it off, they are worse than a destructive killer (Proverbs 26:18-19). That a true friend will not let us walk into difficulty but will warn us (Proverbs 27:5-6). That true friends provide heartfelt care and counsel, not just what we want to hear.

So on Sunday from these three general themes: friendships matter more than family, friendship determines the quality and direction of our lives and true friends are built on trust; we came to our main theme. Our  main idea was simple but needed: We need to choose and invest in good friendships.

We need to choose and invest in good friendships.

If we want to have a strong start we will not regret investing in good friendships, and key relationships. We will never regret strengthening our relationships, and distancing away from difficult ones.

So we gave a challenge to choose and invest in good relationships. To seek out good ones and to cultivate them. No relationship just “starts” and becomes amazing without work and effort. Friendships require cultivation to be forged. So we challenged one another to actually put the effort in. To put the time into the good relationships built on trust, and limit the ones that cause harm. To seek out good friends and invest in them with our lives.

One thing is sure if we want to have a great 2016, a strong start, it won’t happen with poor, nonexistent, or shallow relationships. A great year starts with great friendships, so start investing in them today.

The Chinese have a proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

The best time to invest in friendships was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. 

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaWe need to choose and invest in good friendships

Teaching Points:

  • Three challenges: Serve weekly, connect with God daily, journey with 2 others
  • “Is it wise” is always a better question than “is it wrong”
  • Friendships are more important than family
  • Relationships built on love beat relationships built on obligation every time
  • Friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives
  • We choose our friends, but once our friends have been chosen they will choose our destiny
  • True friends are honest and trustworthy friends
  • We need to choose good friends
  • We need to invest in good friends
  • Friendships are not “found” but forged and cultivated
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself. C.S. Lewis
  • Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. C.S. Lewis
  • The best time to invest in friendships was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Chinese Proverb

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you thought about friendship being more important than family before? What do you think of that? How have you seen it be true that friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives? Who are your closest friends? Are they trustworthy and honest? Who should you be investing in? And how can you be better investing in them?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Talk to your kids about the importance of friendship and how it determines our quality of life. Ask them who their best friends are? And ask them are they wise friends? Do they make good choices? Help them to think through making the best friends.

Challenge for the Week: Choose to invest in friendships this year.

Why Friends Matter More than Family

friendship-1309415-639x852On Sunday we are looking at a really important topic but one that’s sidelined in our world: friendship.

I know right away the word sounds a little…well my little pony with rainbows and stuff. It sounds kind of weak, or something you’d hear on a children’s show talking about the “power of friendship”.

And while I have those initial reactions and resonances I also know that they are untrue. There is power in friendship. In fact, it’s probably the one thing in our culture that we need to regain more than anything else. We have so many connections, but not that many deep friendships. We know lots of people, and know how to network, but not how to cultivate decade long journeying with others. And this is something I want to address on Sunday.

  • Why are relationships and friendships so important?
  • What makes them unique?
  • How do we invest in them?
  • And why do we need them?

And to do that we are going to look at Solomon who says some pretty shocking things about friendships. That friendship will determine the quality of your life and the direction, more than finances, or even your family. That friendships are more important than family and are closer than family. That having good friendships is the key to a good life.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday.  I hope you can join us, to learn about the “power of friendship” even though I know that sounds lame, but it is anything but that.

“Hudson why are my arms so long?”

Today I want to talk a little bit about a picture my son Hudson drew. Because it’s really meaningful to me, but also revealing of something to me too. Here it is:


He drew this during his quiet time, came and gave it to me, and said, “Daddy that’s a picture of you and me hugging.” Melt your heart type of stuff as a dad.

But it got me thinking – when did we stop doing this?

When did we grow out of doing this?

We so often take the closest relationships to us for granted, rather than cherishing them. That’s what Hudson was doing. He was trying to show me that our relationship matters to him. He was trying to show me that he loves me. He was trying to show me that he thinks about me and appreciates  me. When did we stop doing that for others?

So often our tendency is to neglect or take for granted those closest to us. We don’t send thank you notes to our spouses, but we do to our employees. We don’t send flowers to our parents, but we do to our friends or new potential clients. What I’m saying is that somewhere along the way we maybe have lost something that kids seem to intrinsically know. That relationships are to be appreciated. Appreciated through gifts, cards, thoughts, actions, flowers, and of course, drawings with long arms and hockey stick feet.

So my challenge for all of us is this: to learn from the kids around you and appreciate your closest relationships – and here is the key – make sure they know it. Do something special today for them and appreciate them.

Because sometimes a little thing, like a drawing during quiet time, can just make your day.

I’d Rather Have Moments Not Hours or Days

10527813_10154423790180643_4129971613227994834_nI was listening to music the other day, and I heard this one line that really spoke to me. It just stopped me as so true. I’ve listened to this song multiple times, but for the first time I heard it. The line was this:

Give me moments, just give me moments, not hours or days.

And here is what I think that line means and why it matters. Life is not made up of hours or days lived, but moments experienced. Moments and memories give life depth, not just hours and days. And we have many little clichéd sayings that pick up on this theme (i.e. life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by every moment that takes your breath away) The problem with clichés is that they are actually true, but are so true and familiar that they’ve lost their meaning. We forget they are true, we skip over them even though we know they matter.

We all know a deep moment with your spouse, your kid, or with God matters deeply.  But we often settle for hours and days spent in the same space with our spouse, kids, or God rather than moments actually with them.

So here is my challenge for you just today, have a moment today.

– Have a moment with your kids.

– Have a moment with your spouse.

– Have a moment with God

– Have a moment with friends

Why not focus on finding a moment that matters today. Because that line is true, we need moments not just hours or days. Moments that matter and last.

I found this picture from the summer of me and Hudson. That’s a moment I’ll remember for a long time. So why not focus on making some of those memories and  moments today, because in the end that’s what matters and lasts.

“Silly Daddy…Jesus Isn’t in a Computer”

312555_10152322007455328_691432867_nI was reading my sermon from my computer aloud talking about Jesus when Hudson runs up to me and shuts my laptop saying, “Silly Daddy, Jesus isn’t in the computer”

And it’s funny, because it’s also sort of true.

My guess is that you would more likely discover Jesus in playing with your kids, than playing on Facebook.

My guess is that you would more likely discover Jesus in a deep conversation with a friend, than checking Instragram.

My guess is that the you’re more likely to discover Jesus while reading the gospels, than checking Twitter.

I know the irony of me reminding us to look for Jesus outside of the computer while I write on a blog, which will post this post to Twitter and Facebook. The truth is that many wonderful connections can be made, insights can be garnered, and depth gleaned from Facebook, blogs, and the Internet. Yet as I look back on this past year I realized most of my real in-depth encounters with Jesus didn’t have anything to do with a computer or twitter. They had a lot to do with friends, family, food, and fun.

So have fun on Facebook. Check Instragram if you’d like. Tweet because I will keep tweeting, and please do continue to read my blog. Let it all impact and deepen your relationship with Jesus. But here is my point, maybe it’s wise to every now and then learn from my son…to shut the laptop down and remember Jesus isn’t just found online and to invest in those relationships all around you.

So the next time you’re with friends and are tempted to play angry birds on your phone, when you’re with your kids and want to check Facebook for the 17th time, or you’re with your wife and want to fiddle on Twitter – Maybe you can picture Hudson running up to me shutting my computer and reminding me that he’s right in front of me…and just maybe Jesus is too…

Prayer Thoughts, and Tips

Today I want to share a short post on prayer; a few things I’ve learned that have helped me grow closer with God. Here are a few suggestions in no particular order:

1)    Give God Space:  At one point in my life my relationship with God seemed to slide but I couldn’t discern why. It just seemed as if we weren’t close anymore. As I reflected, I realized that while I hadn’t done anything overt to distance myself from God, I didn’t give him any space in my life. I listened to my iPod in the shower. Listened to the radio in the car. Had music playing while working, and cleaned the house with the TV on. I was asking God to speak to me, but I realized I hadn’t given him any space to speak. My entire life was filled with noise, with stuff, with things happening. What I’ve started to realize is that for God to speak I have to leave space in my life and day for him. I need to give him my attention and that has changed our whole relationship.

2)    Pray in the Morning:   I really don’t believe there is one time in the day to pray, but I have found, for me, that prayer in the morning is crucial. Brother Andrew said, “If we do not actively seek God early in the morning, it will be very unlikely that we meet him later in the day.” I have simply found this to be true in my life. If I rush past God in the morning the chances of me slowing down in the day aren’t great. So even though I have a thousand other things I’d like to do in the morning, I know the most important thing is to connect with God.

3)    Pray all the Time, Not Just the Mornings: I know this sort of contradicts my last suggestion, but well…life is complex. Here is though what I noticed in my own life a few years ago. What I noticed was that I prayed to get it done, to get it over with, or to put in my time. I prayed in the morning so I could get on with the business at hand and forgot about God the rest of the day. It was as if being present for a moment in the morning was enough for the whole day. Now I know better. I need God all throughout the day. Now my morning prayer is often a prayer to help me discover where God is acting throughout the day. And this has made all the difference.

4)    Don’t Give Up:  Ready for a confession? Not every conversation I have with my wife is scintillating and life changing. But she has had a tremendous influence in my life and changed me in so many ways. I think something similar happens with God. Not every prayer time is amazing, deep, and energizing, but I know it does change me. The point is to not give up, and to keep in the rhythm of prayer. Prayer is often called a spiritual discipline and this is true. It does take some discipline. So now, when after I’ve prayed and I feel a little frustrated, I remind myself it’s not about how I feel but continually being in the relationship that brings about change. That’s true in my relationship with Krista and even more true in my relationship with God.

So I hope those help you. But what have you learned? What would you add?

Path’s that Lead to God: Awareness

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere”                                             – Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 19

On Sunday we discovered how embedded in Psalm 84 is the idea of creating and walking paths that lead to God’s presence.

So today I want to share a few ways “paths” that lead me to God’s presence in my life. These are rhythms I seek to practice to help me connect with God.

The first is awareness. Jesus says in Matthew 24:23 “Pay attention” I just want to take that seriously.

The fact is that God is all around me. His presence is something I can’t escape from as the Psalmist says, “If I go to the heights of heaven, God is there. If I go to the bottom of the depths, God is there.”  So the point then is to become aware of his presence, that He is a part of my life. The point is to pay attention. I just need to walk around my life with eyes wide open to discover God.

To help this I’ve done this through a few simple but concrete rhythms. The first is when I start talking with someone I often pray: “God be with me.” I seek to remember that God is present in the conversation, so I look to him, seek his guidance, and hope to be found by God in the midst of that dialogue with another.

Other ways I try to develop awareness is I have random text messages sent to me throughout the day from reminding me of God’s presence. I seek to see intrusions in my day as chances to get a glimpse of God. I remind myself that God has created the day, is a part of it, and wants to find me ~ so I need to look for him.

The point is we pray “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”. So are we looking for God’s Kingdom all around us? Are we open to discovering him in conversations, connections, creations, and communities?

So one path that leads me to God is simply paying attention. Not rushing through conversations, seeing intrusions as possible connections, and believing God is around me to be discovered. What about you though? How do you pay attention and seek out God in your daily life?

To end, Iris Murdoch wrote:

“Prayer is properly not petition, but simply an attention to God which is a form of love”

So pay attention to God today…

How do you find God?

How do you find God?

This seems to be a very important question if you are a Christian. Or maybe it’s better put “How do you let God find you?”

This is what we are going to be looking at on Sunday. The point is that the Bible is very clear, Christ is in you, the Spirit is in you, and the Father loves you. So how do we live in light of these realities? How do we experience the presence and connection with God that I think many of us desire?

So that’s what we’re going to be looking at on Sunday from Psalm 84. But before we get there, what about you? What do you do in your life that helps to connect you with God? What is it in your life that allows you to be found by God?

This is not about creating new rules or laws to connect with God; it’s about creating some healthy rhythms that cultivate relationships. For example, with my wife,we have rhythms of eating, sitting outside together, and cooking together that sustain our relationship. None of these are rules, but when this rhythm fades because of busyness or a lack of priority our relationship suffers. If I miss one meal with my wife, our relationship won’t suffer. If I don’t make it a priority to eat any meals with her, our relationship will quickly fade. I think the same thing can happen with God. The point is that if you miss your “quiet time” one morning with God you’re relationship with him isn’t in danger. If though, you never put any time or effort into it – how can you expect it to grow?

So, for you, what rhythms help to develop your relationship with him? Is it music, dancing, conversation, creation, or something else? For me I often find God in conversations, in regular moments with a cup of coffee, a stolen moment of silence at work, or when I’m creating something. But what about you? What brings you closer to God? What rhythms or practices have helped you to cultivate a relationship with him?

And lastly, and most importantly, are you practicing them? Because when we seek God, as we’ll find out on Sunday, the promise is we will be found by him.

Rabbi Jason Shulman writes, “There are many books that tell us how to find God. But the truth is that God is not lost or hiding. In fact, it is the actual continuous, omnipresence of God that is so hard for the human mind to fathom.”

So today why not create some space to be found by God, and realize he’s already with you…

Top 10 Places To Connect With God…

Realizing that I like to do Top 10 lists here is another one for us. The top ten places I connect with God, which aren’t in any real particular order.

Place #10: Wherever Hudson – My Son – Is

Jesus says that we can learn a lot from children about his Kingdom and I’ve found this to be so true in and through Hudson.

Place #9: Mountains

Krista and I in Banff

I want to live on a mountain. I just feel close to God.  I have wonder and awe all-over. Connecting and mountains go hand-in-hand for me.

Place #8: Around the Dinner Table

Top 10 Meals I've Had: Eating at an Outdoor Seafood Cafe, in Dubrovnik with Krista

Its no surprise that Jesus instituted a meal to remember him. Meals are times of connection, fun, discussion, and dialogue. And for me I often feel closest to God with friends, food, and drinks around a table.

Place #7: Church Buildings

The church isn’t a building, it’s people. But even still I often feel like I can connect with God in a space that is regularly used for prayer and worship. Any place where people continually invite God’s presence to rest, is a place where I find God.

Place #6: Sunrises – Anywhere…

If I’m up for a sunrise it also means I have coffee, and there is something about having some stillness, seeing God’s creation, and listening that makes me feel close to God. Maybe you’ve felt the same thing.

Place #5: Around Art

Being around things of depth and beauty helps me to connect with God. I love good art whether photographs, pictures, or anything else. Has this ever happened to you? Seeing a picture of beauty that draws you closer to God? Here’s one of my favorites by Rembrandt. What’s yours?

Place #4: Serving

Somehow when you serve, volunteer, or give I feel connected to God. It’s simple why that is. Because when I do that, I’m acting like Jesus and so connecting with him.

Place #3: The Bible

The Bible isn’t a place so much as a conversation. But that’s where I connect with God in his conversation with me, often started whenever I read his word.

Place #2: In Silence

In the beginning God spoke and brought everything into existence, except us. We were brought into being in silence. And in deep silence I connect with God.

Place #1: In Everyday Life

I most often connect with God in everyday life. For me God isn’t removed but active. And it’s amazing how often he shows up when you’re looking for him in your day. Maybe in a conversation, an interruption, a brief moment. But he is there.

So what about you? What would you add or change in my list?

Finding God in a Blanket Fort…

Today I did something amazing. I made a blanket fort with my almost 2 year old son Hudson. He loved the fort, we sat in it forever. He would run in and out, bring in books, his ball popper, and anything else he could fit in there. He would snuggle in towards me and we’d read together.

It was probably one of the best days of my life.

It got me to thinking of a odd verse in the Bible, where it says, God will “cover you with his feathers; he will shelter you with his wings”.

But in all honesty I don’t know much about birds, wings, or feathers. I do know though an awful lot about blanket forts. So in my version of the Bible that verse would read: “And God will cover you with best blanket fort ever made, where you can feel safe, secure, and protected. Under those pillows and blankets you will find youself cared for, and close to the one who loves you”.

It might not be as poetic, but for me it might be just as meaningful.

So today I found God in a blanket fort. And I have a feeling that if Jesus were here in the flesh with me. He’d want to make a blanket fort with me for Hudson…