Archive for the ‘Keeping it Real’ Category

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14,245

In Keeping it Real,The Journey on September 25, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

ImageI’m 14,245.

Days.

Old.

I wake to that reality.

The baby has pooped- he won’t go to back to sleep.  Its not 6:30 yet.  The others will be awake soon.  I slept through my alarm and missed my morning routine of bible reading and jogging around the neighborhood.  I won’t be alone again till 9pm tonight.  This isn’t a pleasant thought.  The rain has continued through the night.  The front yard is muddy.  The bills are piling up.  There was a tough situation to deal with last night with a person in our community that left my wife and I feeling drained.

Thoreau once said, “Only that day dawns that we are truly awake” but that’s not really true, right?  Easy for Thoreau to say, in his one-man, man-cave of a cabin on the shores of Walden Pond.  He didn’t have to get 4 kids fed, lunches made, and out the door to do the morning carpool by 7:30.  No, this day is dawning, whether I’m ready or not.

And oh yeah, its my birthday.  And I’m 14,245 days old according to this link.

Birthdays don’t mean as much now as they did as a kid.  My 3 year old is ready for her birthday now-she’s planning the activity- thinking of the outfit- planning the cupcake down to the very color sprinkles she wants- and its 3 months away.  For those of us that consider ourselves as adults, we’re lucky if our birthday gets remembered with a dozen shout outs on Facebook and a birthday card hand drawn by the kids.

We were at the mall last week getting hair cuts from the brother in law and I saw a huge digital display in the front window of the Eddie Bauer store that screamed out: LIVE YOUR ADVENTURE!   In the photo the guy was skiing and it all looked so good.  I had a longing:  I need more adventure in my life.

Truth is: I love adventure.  I love standing on mountains.  I love getting away.  In what now feels like a past life, when I was younger I travelled to 6 different continents, spent a month living in Guatemala (alone), and drove around the United States and eastern Canadian provinces in a white van named Hope for 6 months.  Adventure was my middle name.  But mostly life now is about something else- living well the every day life that doesn’t feel too adventurous on most days.

The adventure is looking smaller these days.  Simpler.  Less exciting to the outside observer.  Some days I’m still plagued with my evil twin “Adventure Sund” who dares me to drive out of town and not stop, who says I should be doing more, going to more places, going crazy with activity.  But slowly, as day by day goes by in this full season of young family, growing church, youth soccer, etc., I’m slowly learning adventure isn’t as important right now.  Right now the big adventure is serving my wife lovingly and learning to listen to her and care for her as she really is.   Or training my son how to drive a boat and be a better leader with his friends.  Or teaching my daughter to believe in herself and have healthy friendships. Or patiently guiding my 3 year old and not lose it when tantrums erupt for the seemingly insignificant things that drive her nuts.   Or caring for my baby boy by putting down my phone and laying on the floor with him and play for extended periods of time.

These are good adventures- much, much smaller- but if I live the life well that God has given me in this specific time and specific place, I’ll better understand the man that God created me to be.  I’ll not dream about different adventures or bigger bank accounts or better vacations to more exotic locales.  I’ll be too busy living the adventure of the beautiful every day life God has given me right now.   Paul speaks of this good life in the letter to the Ephesians: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  These words were true for the church in Ephesus; and they are true today.  I want to live a life worthy of the calling I’ve received, the life I’m actually living now versus a false notion of a more adventurous life out there somewhere.  The grass isn’t greener, it needs watering everywhere.

I want to live that kind of life today, on my 14,245th day.  That’s the adventure I signed up for.  I want to live it well.

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This Ain’t No Instagram Life

In Keeping it Real,Relationships on April 19, 2013 by scottsund

Image

The house is clean for what feels like the first time in months.  Don’t get me wrong; we know how to make things look clean.  It normally happens in the stressful hour before company comes over.  Quick!  We’re having people over!  Everybody start cleaning as fast as possible!

Heather and I joke that we invite people over to ensure we clean once in a while.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re not dirty people.  We love a good clean house as much as the next person.  But the reality right now in our life?  With 3 jobs, 4 kids, extra projects, and just the 2 of us?  On many days we just run out of time.

So the house is clean for the first time in months.  And I have this thought cross my mind: I should take a picture.  I should take a picture of my life and post it on Instagram.  Or Facebook.  I love to post pictures on Instagram, particularly of a highlight moment on a highlighted part of my day.  These highlights, if strung together properly, give the illusion that my house is always clean.  My children always obey me.  My wife always is smitten with me.  In other words, if I take the right picture at the right moment and post it online, my life might appear perfect.

We all want to appear as if our lives are perfect.  The reality is that this ain’t no instagram life.  Not in my house anyway.  Seen my garage?  It’s a disaster.  Seriously, a disaster.  And I keep thinking “I’m going to get to it one day” but it just never happens.  Or my closet that has had piles of clothes for MONTHS.  Seriously…months.  Here is the laundry pile that MAY get folded this week- probably not.  My office is a wreck.  My cars are dirty.  Get my point?
ImageClearly, I don’t live in an Instagram world.  And my hunch is that you don’t either.  But if I take a picture of the best parts of my life, I can give you the illusion I have things under control.  Why do we do this?  Because though we crave real intimacy and authenticity, we’re also scared if the world saw all our messy and dirty and not instragram-perfect parts of our lives, people would reject us.  The fear of being alone causes us to hide.  And though we turn to social media like FB or Instacrack to make us feel connected, research shows for most people it makes them feel a little more alone.  The reasons behind this are numerous, but when we only show each other the perfect parts, the notion is that everybody else is doing better than I am.  Clearly, we would do better to stop showing each other the best parts, and instead show the real parts.

There’s a great article on the danger of Instagram’s Envy Effect found here.  The author writes, “My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don’t. That’s why it’s safer short term. And that’s why it’s much, much more dangerous long term.”

And not to sound like a prude, but I do worry about the long term impact that our cyber-virtual-social networks are playing on real friendships and real community.  The reality is that Instagram is fun.  Facebook can be a way to connect.  But these are only tools towards friendship, not real relationships.  Have you ever checked your FB live feed and felt more alone?  Or haven’t you noticed groups of friends sitting down around a restaurant table and everyone is starting at their phones?  Or husbands and wives on a date and both typing away on their phones?  I’m as guilty as the next person about staying connected, but we must ask ourselves when connectivity is actually a death sentence for real relationship with someone near you.  For me, I don’t want to over rely on social media to fill the lonely parts of my life.

Real life is messy.  Way messier than social media can communicate.  Way more ugly at times, but way more beautiful too.  Along with my messes, I can show you some of the beautiful “snapshots” of my life recently.  I can show you the picture of our cute front yard where we’ve recently planted flowers.  The picture of my date with my wife last Thursday where it felt like we were newlyweds again.  The picture of my kids playing together so happy down at the beach on Wednesday.  Boy, I could show you other snapshots to show you how blessed and fortunate I am.  Shots to break your heart.  But a snapshot won’t adequately communicate the love I have for my wife.  The way we laughed tonight when we danced to Taylor Swift.  The tears that came yesterday when I saw the sunrise hit the top of the Olympic mountains.  Real life is so much more beautiful than my iphone can ever capture.

See for all of us, we have so much to be thankful for. So many “snapshots” that really are incredible and relationships to celebrate and a roof over our head and food to be thankful for.  But perfection isn’t attainable on this planet and the sooner we give up the fantasy that someone else’s life is perfect, the sooner we can get busy with trying to see the very best in our non-instagram lives.  No marriage is perfect- they all take work.  So start working, start investing in your partner, schedule a date, make love, enjoy one another, and talk about the real issues you’d rather hide in the garage.  And your kids?  The ones that talk back once in a while and that you’re secretly worried might have serious need for therapy in the future because of your parenting skills?  Take them to the park this afternoon and instead of taking pictures of them and posting them to FB or Instagram as a statement to the world “SEE I AM A GREAT PARENT BECAUSE I TAKE MY KIDS TO A PARK”.  No instead of posting those pictures, leave your phone in the car and just enjoy them.  Tackle a house project of something that bugs you and leave the other 14 things that bug you for another night, another week, another month.  Because it’s an illusion to think you’re ever going to “do it all.”  Give up the obsession with the busy life.

The bible says that “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 COR 13:12 MSG).  This is our life, all of us, and at times it feels quite foggy.  Its not till we see Jesus face to face that we’ll finally experience true perfection.  I imagine that moment, of finally seeing Jesus face to face, when we get to know him directly, and I hope I have my iphone.  Because I most certainly will be posting that picture on Instagram.

But here on earth?  No this ain’t an Instagram life.  It’s hard at times and chaotic.  But it’s also very beautiful.  Yes we have messes and piles of stuff to do and real relationships that need our care.  But the God in heaven that made all this stuff wants us to pause and stop glorifying everyone else’s life and start living our own.  He’s made us, loved us, called us, and sends us into our world to let other people know: He loves them too.

It ain’t no Instagram life.  But it’s a beautiful life.

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The Compass

In Family and Marriage,God's great love,Hurt,Keeping it Real,Questions,Struggles with faith on August 7, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

“You think you have problems?”  This is the line from my friend Jenni’s recent FB post that stopped me in my tracks:

“The joke in our house is “You think you have problems?”… because we know we don’t. We have a life full of blessings. We may have sadness and grief but it is only because of the joy and love that have blessed us. I’m so thankful that I was able to grow that little angel and then spend 25 beautiful hours with her… what an amazing gift for a simple girl like me. I wouldn’t trade one minute of the joy for less sadness, I am so grateful for each of my children.”

Yes Jenni is grateful for each of her children.  But the difference than other people with this same perspective, is Jenni has just delivered a baby girl Abby and after 25 hours, watched her pass away.  Jenni and her husband Trever have two healthy children but their third was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 halfway through their pregnancy.  Some people terminate these pregnancies; Trevor and Jenni chose to nurture her and love her and let her body develop in utero- even though they knew Abby wouldn’t survive more than a few days in the world.  You can read their journey on their blog here.  These people have such strength, not of their own, but clinging to faith in God.  A few days after baby Abby’s passing, Jenni wrote:
“[Please pray] for our continued strength is all I can think of. That we have the strength to enjoy each day, be present and patient with our children, feel the grief when it comes and generally not hide from ourselves, our pain and our joy.”

Though they are hurting- and the hurt of a lost child knows no greater pain- they cling to the hope and power of Christ to hold them together.  I’m humbled and encouraged by their example of true faith in the hardest of times.

I have another friend in our church who underwent a double mastectomy on Friday.  I ran into her at church last week and she grabbed me, with tears standing at the corners of her eyes, and said, “thank you, that was the perfect message for me.  We are clinging to Christ even though we don’t understand what’s next.”

See I had just preached on Colossians 2 and that Paul teaches us to have “hearts that are encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is Christ Himself.”  Paul’s encouragement to ‘cling to the knowledge of mystery’ seems to be a paradox- until we acknowledge that Jesus is the one thing we can seek and cling to in this life despite the great cloud of unknowing we face when struggles overwhelm us.  In the sermon, I told the story of being a new fishing guide at 13 when I took my clients 20 minutes in my boat into the fog and because of a variety of reasons, I took my eyes off of the compass.  Without radar or GPS on the boat, the one navigation tool I possessed was the boat’s compass.  But I let my eyes focus on the distractions instead of the one tool that could actually get me to where I was going.  The dense fog, my fishing customer’s apprehension, the passing cruise ship, and a huge tide moved our boat out of position and we very nearly got very, very lost.  It wasn’t until I saw a glimpse of hope in a far away shore and once again refocused on my compass, than I got to where I was going.

My point?  For many of us, we take our eyes off our compass.  We don’t mean to do this and believe me, it happens to us all.  We allow our faith to become a Sunday ritual; our times of prayer and bible reading get laid aside for more important tasks like checking email, doing housework, or checking Facebook.  But slowly, our eyes drift off the one source of life:  Jesus.  The bible tells us Jesus is the one compass that can lead us through life.   Need to be reminded of this?  Re-read Luke 7 and watch how Jesus heals people, takes pity on people misjudged in society, and is the one true source of real life.  Jesus ends Luke 7 with these simple words: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Is your life one marked by Jesus’ peace right now?  Are you putting faith in Him as the compass to lead you somewhere?  Or are you clinging to the changing currents of hard situations or less than perfect circumstances?  I know 2 women right now who are a true inspiration to me- teaching me that Jesus can still be the compass in the darkest of times.  I hope their story is an encouragement to you as well.

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Praying is learning to say “Help!”

In God's great love,Keeping it Real on June 1, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

This has been a week to forget.

Over the last 7 days, we moved from a rental into an unfinished home.  Our move was something out of a comedy with Adam Sandler.  4 guys showed up and literally started pouring contents of drawers into bags and loading a 26′ UHAUL (twice) with stuff in total chaos.  By Friday night we were “moved in” which merely meant we had piles and piles of stuff stacked around our new house.  But the challenge was that the house wasn’t finished yet… so we spent the last week meeting with contractors, running to Home Depot, sanding wood floors and coating the house and new carpet with dust, back to Home Depot…well you get the point.  In the midst of that we discovered a possum was living in our house (yes, living in our house) and we spent the next few days trying to trap the possum before it maimed our wiener dog.  Luckily on Tuesday night we caught the possum- a stirring success meant for another post.  During the week in the chaos of the house, I lost my keys for the first time in probably 15 years.  I borrowed a friend’s mower only to run over a rock and have to take it into the repair shop where it is now getting fixed.  And all the while, I was doing  a very poor job continuing to run the church, run a business, run my family, or even run my life.  I was too busy, too stressed out, and too distracted to spend time in prayer or with the Lord.  Heck, for a good 4 days I couldn’t even find my bible.  How do I quiet down with God?  I’ve got too many problems to deal with!?!?!

And then in the hurricane of the week, my wife texts me this reminder from Matthew:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.
With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.
Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

In my week of failure on almost every front, I had failed to draw near the source of comfort and strength that I most want to cling to: GOD.  And then for a moment I started feeling even worse because not only had I done a poor job in every facet of my life, but I’d also been a bad Christian all week!  But before the despair can even take root, before my self-loathing and self-deception pulls me even further from the God who loves me, I get this word from the Lord: “Be quiet.  And be near me.” So I grab my coffee and despite the literal piles of stuff to do all around me, I spend some time with the Lord.  I read in Ezekiel.  I read in Matthew.  I read a Psalm.  I pray. “Lord, your strength today…I need you Lord.”  And I pray.  Often times praying is simply asking God for help.  Yesterday morning, my prayer was for God to help me gain His peace again.

After some time with the Lord, I step back into my life again.  And though piles of work still exist, though my week was still brutal and my fatigue and frustration are high, I now have perspective on things.  “We’ll get through this.”  God is still in control, a house is just a place to live.  A mess is just a way of asking for help from others.  A project incomplete is just a little more work ahead.  A deadline passed is just an opportunity to ask for grace and resubmit.  The work will get done.  All will be well.  God needs me to keep my eyes on Him so that I can still be His light, even on my darkest days.  And though I fail time and time again, I’m grateful for small reminders and days like yesterday to pull me back.

In the midst of your chaos and your storms and your busyness, may you take some time to call out for “Help” to the God who made you.  He’s waiting to hear from you.

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Letter to a Latte Lady

In Christian Ethics,God's calling,Keeping it Real on March 23, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: ,

There is a weird trend in the county where I now live of having half-naked women serving coffee in the drive through coffee stands.  Perhaps where you live there is a criminal code preventing this or perhaps common sense prevents this near you, but in my zip code, half-naked baristas are all the rage.  How do you differentiate your otherwise commonplace drive through coffee stand?  Have women in lingerie serving the lattes!  I can only imagine the first genius to make this observation.  Want to know the sad thing?  It works.  Drive past the lingerie ladies coffee stand most mornings and there is a line of idling cars.  Want to know the even sadder thing?  Worse than the actual customers lined up are the passers-by on the street like myself that take the occasional glance at the barely clad barista.

I was having a conversation with someone close to me recently who was telling me how upset he is about sex trafficking.  “Its horrible” –he almost shouted “and it happens right here!”  The person was fired up- and I agreed.  Yes, its horrible.  And yes it happens right here.  Sex trafficking is perhaps one of the biggest sins and crimes happening every single day perhaps not even a few miles from where you live.  To be sure, we should be concerned with this, bring awareness to the issue, help fight for justice to bring the perpetrators to arrest and set the captives free.

But then I thought of my passing glances at the Lingerie Latte Barista…aren’t I part of the problem too?  Does that girl serving coffee really want to be standing there in her underwear?  Or is she a victim of a bunch of “over-hormoned” men needing both their caffeine and their lust fix in one convenient stop?

We are all part of the problem.  If I am concerned with sex trafficking, and I am, I need to do more than send a $50 check to International Justice Mission once in a while and change my FB status.  I need to change my life.  I need to be concerned with all of my sexuality and the way in which women and children are imprisoned by lust and greed and misplaced sexuality.  And I need to change my gaze.

See, I have 2 daughters.  I hope they grow up in a world where they aren’t concerned with sex trafficking.  But I also don’t want them serving coffee in their underwear.  Why?  Because they are CHILDREN OF GOD and VALUABLE for whom they are, for their connection with their Father God and their service in HIS NAME to the world around them.  They will do things with their lives based on their interests and passions and their calling.  And I hope they have healthy and beautiful relationships with men who love and respect them for who they are, not what they look like when they are in their birthday suits.

Girls, you deserve so much more than being objectified for what your body looks like.  You are valuable and cherished for your character, your soul, and your beliefs. Remember this.  Your God sees you as beautiful for your interior- this is how He created you.

Boys, protect your hearts.  Refrain from the glance at the half-clad barista, the internet nudity, or worse.  Your eyes are a pathway- so feed your soul with good food.  Seek purity and follow God.

Women– raise your children to seek purity and be honored for their real worth- how God created them.  Model this in your homes.  Tell your children they matter for who they are to God- not just how society judges them.

Men– partner with your women to raise your kids in this way- but also set an example.  It isn’t just what we say we value, it is how we actually live our lives.  Guard your eyes- which the bible says are a gateway to our hearts.  Your personal purity will prevent your mind from committing mental or emotional adultery.  And the women and children in your life are listening- but they’re also watching your eyes.  They’re watching what you see on TV, what you look at on the internet, how you look at the body of a passing by woman.  These things matter.  Bono wrote that “I don’t believe in forced entry, I don’t believe in rape, but every time she passes by wild thoughts escape.”  Our minds are as important as our actions.

We start being Christ’s witnesses as we seek purity.  It is a hard journey.  One that I’ve failed at, at times in my life…but it is a journey we must walk.  To set the set the captives free- both from sexual slavery and cultural values that say women are only what they look like.  We can change things…but it takes one glance at a time.  And we can confess when we fall short of our values and aim to start again.  We can confess and change.  We are called to confess and change!  Psalm 32:5 states,
“I acknowledged my sin to You,
and my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin!”

So I have written an apology letter.   And I apologized to my wife.  And I asked for forgiveness from God.  And I am changing…one glance at a time.

Dear Latte Lady:

I’m sorry for casually stealing glances from the street through the barista window when I have driven by.  I will confess that I don’t want to gawk at you only to steal glances of whatever suggestive outfit you are wearing.  I don’t think you are valuable for how you look half clothed.  I think you are valuable for how God made you, full of dreams and relationships and ideals.  Maybe you already know God and know this to be true.  Perhaps you do not.  Either way, by glancing when I drive past, I realize I am part of the problem that has you serving coffee in your underwear.  Today I have resolved not to glance again.  Please don’t take my stony face resolve as anger or distaste for you.  On the contrary, I’m trying to show my kids that my actions matter, that my eyes won’t indulge in women other than their mother.  I want my daughters to know they don’t need to be objectified…they deserve better.  I want my son to know the things he looks at are as important (or more) than what he says he believes.  And I want you to know that when the time is right, you can leave that coffee stand and not look back.  You are worth so much more.  Come to church sometime.  I’d like to meet you, fully clothed, and hear your story. 

Blessings on your journey,

Scott

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Cisterns

In Keeping it Real,Spiritual Practices,Struggles with faith,The Journey,Uncategorized on March 3, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , , ,

cis·tern [sis-tern]  noun

1.a reservoir, tank, or container for storing or holding water or other liquid.

I was meeting with a friend in Portland a while back when he quoted Jeremiah on me.  Keep in mind, not many people are prone to quote Jeremiah.  But this man, my mentor and one of my best friends, has a way of challenging me to my core.  He said:

Jeremiah 2:13

13“My people have done two things wrong.
They have abandoned me,
the fountain of life-giving water.
They have also dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that can’t hold water.

In the context of the moment, he was addressing one of my other friends who has been having a hard time connecting with God lately.  My buddy, the one being quoted to, opened the conversation by saying that because of the challenges in his life lately, he was having a very hard time remembering that God loves him, and thus, a very hard time remembering that God is real and alive in the world.  That’s when my mentor dropped Jeremiah on him, challenging the situation of distance from God with the talk of cisterns.

I’ve reflected a lot over the last month on this notion of “cisterns”, things that collect water.  The prophet Jeremiah (above) looks at the situation in Israel when people were far from God and labels “two things wrong” whereas I normally just see one.  I look at my own life at times of distance and realize I have had moments where I abandon God, who the prophet calls “the fountain of life-giving water.”  I do this.  Many other people do this.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to abandon God.  I just stop hanging out with Him.  I stop searching for Him in the world.  And then like a relationship once the dating and romance has ended, all that is left is the formal ties of allegiance.  In our daily lives, we can abandon the fountain of real life and then wonder why our life feels devoid of God’s life-giving and life-altering power.  We feel as dry as an ancient riverbed and so we stop going to God, the fountain of this life-giving water.  Those things we seek define us and ultimately fill us.

The second part of Jeremiah’s lament here struck me as convicting.  The Lord says, “They have also dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that can’t hold water.”  In a place like ancient Israel, without literal water you will literally die.  This isn’t just a metaphor.  And because of the arid climate, you either found a way to live near the source of water or you developed containers and reservoirs to contain water for the dryer days and weeks of your life.

Spiritually, how often do we do the same thing?  We go out to “build cisterns” to contain God in and do the good things of our Christian faith.  We get busy in church or in service or get busy trying to do good things for the Kingdom or get busy in a small group or just plain get busy in life.  All the while, if we’re not careful, we’re building cisterns that can’t hold water.  Because at the end of the day, it is the substance of our spiritual life that counts, and not the things we do for God.  What is our life actually “full of”?  What do we actually contain?  What are we spilling out in our actions and deeds?  If we don’t live near the source, our lives will become arid in no time at all.  But if we seek God and fill our life with a fullness of spirit of Jesus, I’m inclined to think it is Him that our lives will speak of.

Paul speaks in Corinthians about our life becoming so full of Christ that like an aroma, we will reek of God to the world around us.  Like the sweet perfume of a blooming jasmine or the robust and flavorful whiff of an Italian kitchen, our very lives will start to smell like Jesus when we drink of Him daily.  Paul writes, “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent (or odorous) with life.”

What does your life smell like right now?  What is it full of?  I am challenged in this season to dwell on the power of Jesus to fill me up, so that I would be full of His spirit, and not rely on my own cisterns.  From my Lenten journal this week I have written it over and over, “Come and fill me up Lord.  Come and fill me up.”

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Sun Cho, 14 Spinning Plates, and Sno-Maggedon

In Family and Marriage,Keeping it Real,The Journey on January 19, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: ,

Recently I was watching Sesame Street with my 2 year old to learn of an amazing acrobat from China named Sun Cho.  Sun Cho, who is only around 6 years old, is a master of spinning plates.  He can keep 14 plates spinning at one time.  Want to see a plate spinner in action?  Click here.

Spinning plates is one of my favorite metaphors these days.  Between different roles as father and husband, running the fishing business and Bethany North, still in the midst of studying for a Masters of Divinity and studying for upcoming preaching topics…at the end of the day I can feel like I’m feverishly running around trying to keep plates from falling over.  The plate spinner can never rest, because they are responsible for a bunch of equally important things, and Sun Cho’s job is to monitor the plate about to fall and put energy into keeping that plate moving.  As a result, Sun Cho, or any plate spinner, is giving maximum effort to his weakest spinning plate.  All things are equal, never really getting anywhere; the plate spinner has succeeded only when nothing has crashed.  In many ways, I’ve been spinning plates this month.

I’ll confess to some bland days and a bit of melancholy over the last week.  I’ve been letting the spinning plates control me and I’ve felt a constant push to keep rushing to the falling plate.  It all manifested a few days back in a headache that lasted for about 3 days.  I’m laboring under a heavy load; I’m rushing around for too many plates.

And then the snow starts to fall.  Slowly at first on Saturday night and then more steadily Sunday morning.  On and on, Monday into Tuesday and yesterday, the big blast.  And in many ways, the storm literally shut down parts of Snohomish and King Counties.  Kids were home, businesses closes, and people everywhere were out enjoying the snow.  A few degrees turned a heavy rainstorm into a winter wonderland.  Just a few degrees turned the everyday routine of rush rush and plate spinning and brought everything to a grinding halt.  And people were okay with it because in most cases, the decision had been made for them to slow down.  And then they enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it.

Though I admire Sun Cho and his comrades, I’m really no good at being a plate spinner.  With too many priorities all given equal footing in my mind, I’ll lose perspective and lose my cool.  I’m working on a different model- one of priority for those closest to me- my God and my family.  And then priority for my calling and passion in life- building our local church into a place of authentic relationships and vibrant service.  And then the more mundane chores and to-dos of life and other job related tasks.  What’s that?  You hear crashing sounds?  Well maybe that is okay for a while- letting some of the lesser important things in my life crash down as I focus on the few that I feel called to.  As Pastor Richard preached last week, saying yes to your calling means saying no to other things.  Or as Dr. Swenson wrote in his book Margin, getting control on our life comes when we learn to say no and establish control on our priorities.  He writes, “We must respond with grace, with sensitivity, yet with firmness.  ‘I’m sorry- but I can’t.’  To be able to say no without guilt is to be freed from one of the biggest monsters in our overburdened lives.  If we decline, not out of self-serving laziness but for God honoring balance and health, then this level of control will not only protect our emotional margin but will actually increase it.”

Increased health, decreased plates.  That is my goal.  Shutting down the computer at night to pray and connect with my wife.  Starting each day by the fireplace with a bible in my hand.  Exercising and eating better.  Time with my children, abandoned to the wishes of their whimsy.  Time spent praying for our church and the people of our congregation.  This is what increased health looks like to me.  Less email, more study.  More prayer, less TV and Facebook.

Can I confess something?  Even as I write this I know I will often fail in this goal of better living.  But the hope of intentional living, focusing on building a lifestyle centered around my relationships and my calling, is what must keep driving me towards making changes.  Even as I fail, I show myself grace, I learn from the situation, and I seek to live differently into the future.  Failure will be my guide.  It’s not perfection I’m after, but a more holistic way of living.  Wish me luck…I’m leaving the plates behind.