Dating Your Honey

I went on a date last night.  Actually it was more like yesterday afternoon, evening, and night.  We ate together and then enjoyed the Astros game at Minute Maid Park – and yes my wonderful bride enjoys the game too.  We had a great time.  It was an investment.  Not only in regards to cash, because we splurged with a trip to the ballpark, but in our relationship.

Our story consists of three wonderful kiddos…  but don’t relegate dating your spouse to something you only need to do when you have kids.  All of us are constantly giving away our time.  We all make commitments every single day that demand not just our time but our emotional energy as well.

We are especially guilty of this as suburban dwellers.  When we commit to an opportunity it isn’t just about the time it takes to complete the opportunity but we must also consider the amount of time we are thinking, day-dreaming, or researching this new opportunity.  Every facet of that takes a piece of us away from our marriage and gives it to that new opportunity.  As you know, we have no shortage of good opportunities to give our time to here in suburbia.

I know that you are involved in some really good things – even some great things.  I also know that you have to work so that your family can eat and keep the electricity bill paid.  I KNOW that amidst all the commitments and great opportunities filling your days, you still have time to invest in your marriage.  Your marriage deserves your attention.

I still love all of my old High School friends.  I wish I was able to see them and spend time with them on a regular basis.  The farther I get from those late night, junk food filled conversations, the farther I drift from those friendships.  I would still do anything for them but life’s commitments have pulled me in other directions.  We have all given our time to other people, other things, and have moved on to other places.

I’ve heard people talk about their marriage in the same way.  It isn’t anything that a spouse has done to hurt them, but the more time that passes between the relationship investments the more distant the relationship becomes.

Making time investments in our marriage must be a priority for all of us.  Every time my bride and I put in the effort to spend some intentional time together our relationship reaps the rewards.  Take some time and plan a date for you and your honey.  RIGHT NOW!  It doesn’t matter a bit if you are the husband or the wife.  Take the time to let your spouse know that he/she is important to you.  What are some creative ways that you can put action to this in your home?

 

Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.

Redefining Christianity in Suburbia

I remember in college, being in my last year of study, and being thrown a huge curve ball.  In all of our music classes everything had revolved around a baseline system.  That system was called “Movable Do.”  It is that aged old system you are at least remotely familiar with – Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do.  I know how you feel… you are suppressing the urge to sing the song from the Sound of Music.  Anyway, we reached a point where they removed that system and altered the foundation that everything else had been based.  This new system was like walking into a class finding a teacher who was suddenly speaking an entirely new language.  Everything we had thought previously… our entire frame of reference was now pulled out from under us completely.  It was a shocking and overwhelming moment.

Many people who grow up around our western church, and maybe most specifically our suburban church, have been raised with a definition of Christianity.  This definition has been imposed and formed by the culture at large.  Often we are raised equating the idea of Christianity with either being a good person or, for those of us who grew up inside the church, we have defined it by a prayer that is repeated in a sacramental fashion.

There is a passage in Matthew’s gospel that is particular hard for me to think about –

“Not everyone who says to me, Lord Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

This means it is very important how we approach this idea of being a Christian.  We have to fight against the cultural definitions and see a journey that begins with putting authentic faith in Jesus.  This authentic faith is authentic because it touches every nook and cranny of who we are as individuals.  This means that where we go to church, how often we attend, or whether our name is on a membership list isn’t the crux of the conversation.  This cannot be overstated because the #1 answer I get during any spiritual conversation with someone in the community is a reference to what denomination they belong to or what church they attend.  Too many times ‘attend’ just refers to walking in the doors of a building once a year, twice a year, or at best once per month.

We are called to follow Jesus, abide in Jesus, and trust in Jesus.  This journey (the ups, downs, struggles, and victories) is what it means to be a Christian.  It is a daily adventure which forever changes the story of our life.  We are individuals who are called to follow, abide, and trust.  Then, the church is called to navigate this journey as an authentic community being transformed by the love and grace of Jesus Christ.  Not only is correctly defining Christianity hugely important to you and me but it radically changes the conversation we have with others.  Have you ever experienced a spiritual conversation that was quickly met by the credentials of someone’s denominational affiliation?  Have you ever heard the, “we go to *name-a-local-church* and we really enjoy it”?  How can you participate in reclaiming the biblical definition of Christianity amidst your everyday conversations?

 

Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.

Suburban Parenting: Memory Investments

Monday is my day off as usually my work week is Tuesday through Sunday.  Today I took my son to the movies and we saw Cars 2.  He ate a carton of popcorn and drank a cup of Sprite.  Every few minutes during the movie he would turn to me and say, ‘Daddy, can I ask you a question?’  He would follow that with various random questions about the movie.  It was obvious that he just wanted to connect with me every few minutes.

Tonight we took a family outing to Mission Burrito.  I drove the kids around the parking lot while Momma was inside ordering the food.  We passed the music store in the parking lot and we took a moment, stopped, and all looked at the guitars and drums in the window.  My son asked me if we could go to that music store sometime and I let him know that we definitely could… sometime.  My oldest child quickly piped up in the car by letting everyone know that her and I had gone there one time on a date night.  That was probably at least 2 years ago when we did, in fact, go to that music store together on a date night.

It amazes me that all of my kids have those moments seared so deeply into their memory.  It does not appear that they will ever forget a moment that we have spent together.  This is convicting and inspiring all at the same time.  It is convicting because I realize that I need to invest in more of those times with each of them (all THREE of them).  It is inspiring to realize that each of those times are truly investments into their memories which will always be filed away as ‘time with Dad.’

What things are you investing your time in that will have zero significance tomorrow or next week?  Parents, how can you make more of these memory investments in your children?  Last week while Mom was at Bible Study we loaded up in the van, wearing our pajamas, and went to a friend’s movie/media room to watch Toy Story 3.  For the small investment of watching a movie together plus 3 bags of M&Ms, they have brought that evening up in conversation countless times over the past week.  I’m convinced they will never forget those moments.  Will you commit with me in making more of those kind of memory investments into the lives of our children?

Suburban Isolation

If we are constantly trying to be someone else – or trying to project an image that is less than honest – no one will ever truly know us. If no one truly knows us then we are living in isolation. You may be surrounded by people all day long yet still be emotionally and relationally isolated. Moms can be surrounded by kids and even other moms and still be relationally isolated. Men and women can work amidst a sea of people for 40-60 hours per week and remain relationally isolated.  It can easily happen to any of us. How do you know if you have crept into relational isolation?

  1. Is someone asking about your well-being?
  2. Is there someone who can see through your staple responses? (friend, “how are things going?” – you, “everything is going well” – friend, “liar.”)
  3. Is someone asking about your marriage?
  4. Does someone know your unique struggles and ask regularly about them?
  5. Is someone available and welcoming of your phone call anytime of the day or night?

Isolation creates a petri dish where all sorts of problems take shape. To the surprise of many, pastoral leadership can create a very isolated environment. I have to be incredibly intentional to foster these kinds of relationships. So, I would be the first to say that it is much easier said than done. However, the struggle pays unspeakable blessings.

If you cannot answer a resounding “YES” to those five questions then I challenge you to seek deeper relationships – at least one. Fight the suburban isolationism that can easily breed all types of unhealthy thoughts and emotions.

Pastoral Inspiration

Being called to pastoral ministry is a blessing.  Period.  I am blessed to see God move in so many ways.  Just as with any job/career/calling, there are difficulties.  There are some days that are fantastic and others that can be more difficult.  I’ve been digging around within my own head a bit and asking myself what inspires me to pastor.

There are so many different ways to answer this question.  There are so many things that God can use and does use for inspiration.  As the thoughts have settled in my head, I keep coming back to the same thing.  The most inspiring thing for me as a pastor is to hear God stories… grace stories… transformation stories.  The most inspiring thing for me is when I get to see how an individual or family is being led by the Spirit of God in their home.

Here in suburbia we default to the most comfortable, and often times prosperous, decisions in life.  It seems that we are all compelled to choose comfort.  This isn’t surprising.  When you read back over what happened in the first three chapters of Genesis it all makes sense.  This only magnifies the appreciation for a truly counter-cultural, nature-defying, Jesus-following story.

To hear that someone is hearing the Spirit of God in their life and faithfully moving with that direction of the Spirit is inspiring. I would encourage you to tell your story openly and freely.  I understand that it can feel prideful when we talk about ourselves – but you’re NOT.  You are talking about God and what he is doing in you.  You are not mustering the strength to accomplish great things through your own brilliance and good nature. God is moving on your heart and then by his grace you are following faithfully. That is a story that needs to be told.  Tell it today and tell it often.  Don’t wait on the dramatic ending or hopeful deliverance to come.  Tell of the journey… tell of the story… tell of the struggle… tell your story… TODAY.  You are a tool of the Father in more ways than you can imagine.

What is God doing in your life right now?  What areas of struggle is he taking you through?  How are you hearing him and how are you following him? This is your story and it must be told.  I know I will be inspired by it.