Crash The Chatterbox

My favorite author is Mitch Albom. He’s a brilliant sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press. He’s an even more brilliant storyteller. As a writer, he’s my idol.

Albom’s books have touched me in a way few others have. He’s endearing and wise, but in a way that is comfortable and unassuming. He’s never preachy although his stories, both fiction and non-fiction, carry wonderful and positive messages. He is an artist with words, and with them he weaves a masterpiece of narrative that captivates the mind and touches the heart. He’s great at what he does, and he makes me want to strive for greatness in what I do.

There’s is something to be said about inspirational people like Mitch Albom. They are true role models, and they make the world a better place by fostering in others a sense of positivity and optimism. As much as I aspire to write like Mitch Albom, that doesn’t compare to the inspiration and spiritual uplift I get from Steven Furtick.

Furtick is the founder and lead Pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition to being a dynamic speaker – his sermons are simply amazing – Furtick is also a New York Times Best Selling author. His first two books, Sun Stand Still and Greater, have played a significant role in changing my life for the better, and helping me to better understand and appreciate my faith journey.

So you can only imagine how I feel about receiving Furtick’s latest book Crash the Chatterbox. It released today (February 11) and I am so excited about diving into it. The book’s tagline says it all: Overpowering lies of insecurity, fear, condemnation, and discouragement with the promises of God.

I know I’ve been guilty of letting negative thoughts in my head divert me from where I’m meant to be, and the message of the book holds true to my belief that we’re all on a quest to walk both with God and toward God. Along the way, the devil makes every attempt to steer us away from our true direction. “You’re not good enough. No one will want to read your blog. Do you really think you can make a difference?” Those are lies and misconceptions we allow to seep into our thought processes and distract us from what His will is for us.

Walking in faith and obedience is a lot easier said than done. Uncertainty can be dizzying. Fear, if we let it, can be crippling.  It’s only when we tune out the noise and focus on His voice that we receive the clarity we need to move forward. I anticipate pouring over the pages of Furtick’s new book will bring greater clarity in my life and on my faith journey.

If you feel stuck in neutral and need some encouragement in terms of overcoming the negative thoughts you may have, I invite you to pick up a copy of Crash the Chatterbox. God wants you to be filled with joy, and the only thing keeping you from experiencing that is any doubt you possess that you can.

Crash the Chatterbox

XL Commitment

I still get a kick out of going into Starbucks and ordering coffee with their crazy names for sizes. Venti this and Grande that. I just recently found out they have a new, even bigger size called Trenta. It’s pretentious and awesome all at the same time.

So when I title this post ‘XL Commitment’, I wish I could say it had something to do with and extra-large sense of dedication. I guess in a way it does, but the real meaning behind the XL is not linguistic but, rather, numerical.

The number 40 is mentioned 146 times in the Bible, and it is of significant importance with regards to its association with a period of probation, trial, and chastisement. Having just turned 40 myself, I feel there is a spiritual symbolism that’s calling me to make a change.

I’ve written before about my vocation and how I feel I am called to be the best dad I can possibly be. I’ve even done so while patting myself on the back. Even though I still take pride in my kids and my parental abilities, I also feel there’s not a whole lot for me to celebrate about myself.

My high school English teacher loved to break down literature, and he’d challenge us to determine the tragic flaw of the main character. The idea that everyone has a tragic flaw fascinated me, and it has me thinking of what mine may be. Upon reflection and introspection, I believe my tragic flaw is complacency. It’s a laziness that has rationalized the comfort of ‘good enough’ as success.

What I’ve come to realize is that in surrendering to my complacency, I am failing God in terms of what He has destined for me. Much like the book by Steven Furtick I am currently studying through my growth group at church, I believe God wants greater things for my life. I heard once that good is the opposite of great, and as I keep embracing the safety of good enough, I won’t be able to achieve great things in my life.

So the real question is do I have what it takes to let go of good enough? This translates to do I have the discipline to allow myself to become greater? Can I be faithful in my destiny?

It’s no surprise then both the words discipline and disciple share the same Latin root, one that refers to instruction given, teaching, learning, and knowledge. The disciples followed Jesus to learn from his teachings and model their lives after His. Similarly, being disciplined, to me, means not so much having to sacrifice as it does learning ways to be better and more effective. In short, being disciplined leads to becoming greater.

I’ve struggled with a lot of behavioral traits that result in negative consequences in my relationship with my wife and kids. Particularly, managing my anger and frustration has been quite the challenge. I am sometimes left feeling like Dr. Bruce Banner in the Avengers, except I don’t have the luxury of being able to smash alien life forms that are attacking Earth.

So instead I’ll start with a simple premise: K.I.S.S. >> “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

And one way I know I can simplify my life is by unplugging from the medium that I feel helps contribute to my inner rage. So as Lent arrives and we begin another 40 day period of probation and atonement, I have decided to take a hiatus from Facebook. I know that most people may see this as a small sacrifice, but for this self-proclaimed social media junkie, stepping away from Facebook is an extra-large leap for me. It is something I do with painful trepidation, yet it’s something I know I must do in order to quiet my mind and better prepare myself to hear what God is asking me to do.

Steven Furtick’s first book, Sun Stand Still, calls for us to live with audacious faith. It is centered around the story of Joshua asking God to stop the sun from setting so he could complete his battle against the Amorites. It was an audacious prayer and God delivered Joshua’s request. The key, however, is not so much the audacious faith Joshua displayed at that moment in battle. Rather, it was the work Joshua did before hand, marching his troops all night long to be in position to fight. To borrow a quote from the book, “If you’re going to pray for God to make the sun stand still, you’d better be ready to march all night!”

Over the next forty days, I hope to be “marching all night long” in preparation for whatever God has in store for me. It’s my own little sabbatical, and I know that through it all, the experience will be great(er).

discipline

Simple Surrender

Wednesdays are my God day. Actually, every day is a God day, but Wednesdays are the days I truly get to be active in my faith.

I have the privilege of being able to telecommute with my job. Normally, that means being able to work from home in the comfort of my PJ’s and with my cats to keep me company (and no, it’s not abnormal to have full length conversations with a cat). On Wednesdays, it means I am able to work from the confines of Relevant Church in Ybor City in Tampa. I come in, log on to work, and in the afternoon I take an hour and a half to go tutor at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. This is my second year as a tutor, and being there for my kid at BTW has been such a rewarding experience.

The logistics of being on-site at church on Wednesdays lead to my wife and I leading a growth group for our church i the evenings. So, every Wednesday, I drop off Lee at work – it is 25 miles door to door – and then I double back just a bit and come into Relevant to start my work day. In the afternoons I go pick her up and we proceed to our growth group. Yes, it makes for a busy day.

Now, I am not a commuter. I think if I had Lee’s daily commute, I’d last a week before I was jailed for very un-Christian behavior. So I relish my ability to work from home, and I openly acknowledge my personal weakness when it comes to being patient in traffic.

This morning, as we do every Wednesday morning, Lee and I turned on the audio version of the book we’re studying in our growth group. It’s our way of prepping for the evening’s session. It was also a way to get my mind off the horrible traffic we faced as we got on the interstate. Normally, my seeing the stream of red break lights would have prompted an expletive or two from escaping my mouth. But this morning, I felt a sense of ease and comfort. In retrospect, it realize it was a sense of surrender.

Perhaps it was the young and playful voice of the book’s author Steven Furtick. Perhaps it was the message of the chapters to which we were listening. Perhaps it was because the caffeine of my morning coffee had yet to kicked in. Whatever the reason, I felt God calling me to surrender to Him. In return, he would take away the anxiety and impatience I normally feel when sitting in bumper to bumper traffic.

I dropped off my wife and made my way to church. Normally, when I arrive early enough, there is on-street parking available directly in front of the church building. This is nice because it saves me a couple of bucks by not having to park in the garage, and it’s also really convenient. However, knowing I was running later than usual, there was no way I was going to find a spot on the street. After 8:00 AM, those limited on-street spots are very much taken.

I made up my mind to turn one block early and go directly to the parking garage. No point in fishing for a spot I was certain wouldn’t be there. But just as I reached up to turn on my blinker, I heard Him say to me, “Keep going forward.” I smirked at the idea because I know God is cool, but He’d already provided for me by making the nightmarish traffic bearable. Still, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose since I can easily access the parking garage from the other street as well. So forward I went.

I can’t begin to describe the rush and the goose-bumps I felt as I turned onto the street in front of my church and saw an open spot. It was like God giving me a playful nudge in the back as He said, “I told you.” Overall, it was simply delightful.

Now, I know this is no earth-stopping nor sea-splitting moment. It’s not any kind of miraculous and skeptics will dismiss it all as overactive imagination meeting sheer dumb luck. But in my heart, it was a reminder of how God moves us and calls to us every day. And in relaying the story to my friends here at church, I was reminded that it is in delighting in God that He delights in us.

There is something very true in the cliché “Let Go and Let God”, and this morning I was reminded just how delightful it can be to surrender yourself to Him.

204/365 Audacious Expectations

Today we had a meeting at church in preparation for our upcoming growth group semester. Lee and I are so excited we’ll be covering Steven Furtick’s Sun Stand Still in our group. The book is about having audacious faith in God. Here’s a description of the book from the author.

This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I’m not writing to calm or coddle you. With God’s help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers and turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity and fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God’s truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years. In short, I’m out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential.