Thoughts from a Call Center

               I currently work at a call center while completing my Masters degree, and looking for a ministry position. It is a job with plenty of colorful stories to say the least. I am still considered a younger guy at this point who has not quite hit 30 yet. I would fall into the generation that older folks would say are full of entitlement, disrespectful, inarticulate, directionless, and all around the cause of everything that will destroy this part of the galaxy. It’s a heavy role to live up to.

               In my job I deal primarily with individuals who claim to be born again believers with a large section of that population being from generations older than mine. On average, I have found that the older generations in their conversation with me tend to fit most of the above description compared to the younger ones. I have had countless ministers speak far worse to me than any unbeliever has. I have had my fair share of cuss outs from believers. I have heard threats of harm towards staff from older generations, and countless claims of being treated unfairly when they failed to follow any of the rules provided by the organization. I have seen some of the uglier side of humanity from older believers in this job, and that is coming from someone who has seen some pretty ugly things in ministry.

               I say all of this to point out a couple of things that require a constant reminder for me. The first one is that our problems in this world are not because of generational, gender, or race issues. They are because of sin issues. I have been called a racist, a sexist, and entitled and disrespectful youngster all because of needing to tell people they broke the rules. None of these are remotely close to accurate in full context. Is their racism in the world? Absolutely. Are there men and women who are sexist? You can count on it. Are there disrespectful and entitled younger generations? Guaranteed. However, none of this is really the issue. Noe gender, race, or age group has a monopoly on sinful behavior.

               Pastors are struggling. I am pleading you to read this if you are not a pastor. A joke at my job is that the meanest customers we have are pastors, and that is not too far from the truth. Many are cynical and angry. What most of my co-workers don’t understand first hand is that pastors see humanity at its ugliest. They face off in a war where believers who are meant to be the most caring in the world are the ones who tend to cause them the most harm. They are more susceptible to bitterness. It is not an excuse, but it is a harsh reality. Your pastor desperately needs your prayer. I don’t care if he is the jolliest person you know. He needs it.

               It’s really hard to love broken people. I make my living be yelled at by strangers a good portion of the time. They don’t know me. I don’t know them, but for that brief moment there are some who will choose to use this random stranger as the source of all their pain and grief in order to unleash their wrath upon it. Those are hard people to love.

               It is hard to not become like that person. I’ve been doing this for four years now. It is hard not to become a really bitter and angry person sometimes. While the angry people are not constant, there are some weeks where you will just have a string of bad calls. Those are the weeks where you are the most susceptible to break down by giving in and become a very angry person who just yells at others whether it may be a friend, child, or maybe a random stranger who is dealing with you in the customer service line. The other scenario is to just break down and to avoid being that bitter and angry person because at least you know you still have a healthier range of emotions at that point.

               It’s important not to place your value on how strangers treat you. There may be times where you are placed in a circumstance where you are inadequately prepared to deal with a situation through no fault of your own, and unfortunately you are the one there to take the heat when it all falls to pieces. It does not mean you have no value or skills to offer. It may mean there is a need for a readjustment to transition into a place that values you and where you can utilize your skills. It may mean needing to hang in for a while longer while waiting for that opportunity to arrive, but through that waiting it is vital to remember that no stranger can ever place your value on you. Your value is found in Christ, and on what he made you to be.

               I’ve been sitting hear typing this wondering exactly where I am going to go with it. This is after writing multiple posts on other topics that just didn’t feel like the right fit to post when trying to jump back in my blog. This one is different because it turned into being a bit more raw and personal, and that seems to be the phase I am in right now. I guess I have written all this to really end on this simple note. Whether you are the one answering the phone, or making the, call I beg of you to remember the words of Philo of Alexandria, “Be kind. Everyone is fighting a great battle.”

Teach Them Everything

I have been thinking back on the Great Commission lately. It is one of those passages where you hear it so often that everything just sort of bleeds together. Every now and then there is something that peaks your interest. A word that was always there, but you never really bothered to recognize before. Jesus tells his followers to go make disciples. He also tells them to teach these new believers. We are called to teach all that Jesus commanded. Everything. Leave nothing out. That little word “all” seems to get lost in the shuffle for me, and I genuinely believe this is a common occurrence for most people.

We see it most clearly in the love vs, truth debate. Jesus tells us to love sinners. Some focus so heavily on this aspect that they only use their own definition of love. Love in these situations apparently means we should never risk offending, changing, and preaching to the person.

Then you have the truth side to the argument. Some can fall so far on this side of the spectrum that they become like Paul writes about love. If we preach but have no love we are a clanging symbol. It is just noise. Noise without soul. Noise without purpose. It is just words without any effect on the person.

Christ says to follow all of it. It is this strange balance that Christ always represented in his ministry. A clear example is of the adulterous woman. To the Biblical scholars in the room, please hang in there with me despite the questions of whether or not this story was written in the original text. Too often we use that argument to try and take away the love focused crowds favorite passage when there is clearly no real reason to. All that needs to be done is point out that they stop the story short. We fail to see the big picture.

We have all heard the story. There is a woman caught in adultery. The men gathered around tell Jesus it is time to stone her. Jesus gives the famous line. “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” Everyone except Jesus leaves. He is left standing there in front of this woman. What a powerful message of love and tolerance some will say. What beauty to not condemn the woman in her vulnerability. Jesus then says these words after pointing out to the woman that her executioners are gone “Go and sin no more.” Truth. Jesus spoke truth in those moments.

This begs the question, why tell her to stop sinning? Jesus also taught about judgment. We see this tenderness, patience, and mercy in his ministry, but he acknowledges that there will come a point where judgment takes place. Take hold of the mercy provided to you now, and use it to follow me. Deny yourself. Deny your sin. Deny everything that is holding you back from being what I have created you to be, and follow me completely.

The problem with the accusers in the story is not that they acknowledged the woman was sinful. The problem was that they were prepared to cast out the sentencing on their own terms. Jesus says wait. Show love. Show compassion. Use this as an opportunity to change her life. She doesn’t have to live in adultery anymore. Yes, judgment will come. The tie is limited, but I pick and choose the time.

Here is the neat thing about love the way Jesus teaches it. It calls out to people to change their lives. It demands action. That is why it is so hard for some people to take. They know when they are experiencing genuine love from God’s people that it shows what is missing in their own life. Love taught by Christ will inherently demand there is truth spoken as well. It will require pointing out that there is sin out there. There are people who are rebelling against God, but it is not for the purpose to call out judgment. The purpose is to avoid receiving that judgment.

We rob ourselves and others of only teaching specific elements of what Christ taught. It is all well and good to love someone for who they are, but imagine how much more impactful you can be if you love them in a way that points them to the opportunity for change. God tends to use passionate people. He uses people who have been broken by their own sin. He uses people who are damaged. He uses people who have a past. This is because those passionate for themselves can be equally as passionate for him when they change. The broken can relate to the broken. Those with a past can be a testimony to God’s grace.

We teach them everything. All of it. We don’t leave any of it out. This isn’t a choose your own adventure. It is a packaged deal. It is all or nothing.

Why Are You Choosing Strife?

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” – Proverbs 10:12.

For a long time I have dealt with some issues on bitterness. Bitterness towards others requires a lot of effort. It is draining, aggravating, and develops some pretty vicious cycles. Letting go of it requires more than just saying you won’t do it anymore. For me it required some pretty active confession on my sin. My bitterness was a sin.

It was hard to confront. I wanted be justified in my feelings. I wanted to hold my grudges. I wanted to live in my negative thoughts, because it seemed to give me a sense of control. Something peculiar happened though, as my bitterness grew, so did my guilt. I began to fear how the same individuals viewed me. I was suddenly caught in this horrible cycle of holding bitterness towards others, and at the same time craving approval from them.

A few weeks ago after wrestling over this for months I went to the prayer team at our church and asked for prayer over this issue. The gentleman told me exactly what I needed to hear. He told me he wants ti pray for me, but I need to take the first step and confess my sin to God. Very blunt, and it stung. I wanted to react negatively at first. Why should I confess sin? I am justified in my feelings. I just wanted God to give me peace. It doesn’t work that way though. I confessed right there. All of the pain and weight of that sins was lifted off of me.

A few weeks later I noticed something else. My fear and anxiety on how people viewed me was different. Because I let go of my bitterness I was no long trapped in a negative outlook.

You see, as long as I only looked at the flaws of others it was impossible for me to assume that they were doing anything, but the same to me. Often we think hatred and bitterness bring up strife in confrontation, but it does a lot more than that. It affect our outlook of the rest of the world. We are often only capable to imagine what other think based off of the way we think. Freeing up my own views and capability for forgiveness outwardly extended my thoughts on what others are capable of as well.

Maybe it is time to let that anger go. Maybe it is time to take a step into the light, and realize not every thought is covered in darkness. Perhaps people will change just by the fact that you change. What if the shackles you have others place on you could be broken if you just unlocked your chains on them. What if you could end the strife right now?

I waited way too long to deal with it. What are you waiting for?

Trust

Trust in God has been a topic that has come up for me a lot lately. It is has been in devotionals, sermons, and is even playing a prominent part of a sermon I will be preaching next week. Its emphasis has been so pronounced lately that it seemed only right to briefly share about it on this blog.

The name of this blog is utterly dependent. It has always been the name since starting this thing a ways back. When I thought of this name it just fit. It fit because it was what I always wished to strive for. I wanted to have complete dependency on God. I want to rely on Him, because I wanted that level of relationship. Have that kind of dependence requires a powerful dose of trust.

There is a question that has been presented to me in the midst of all this topic of trust. Do you believe that God is good? In all seriousness. Do you really believe that? I’m not talking about the kind of belief where you saw you believe it because you are pretty certain you know what the right answer is supposed to be. I am talking about in your heart of hearts, in the core of who you are, do you truly believe that God is good? We can trust a God that we do not truly believe is good, because sooner or later we just expect to get left in the dust if we do not really believe He is good.

An elder at our church gave the sermon today, and he made a really profound statement. Loving God is not the belief that God loves you. Isn’t that interesting to think about? When we are asked if we love God our answers often wraps around the idea that we believe God loves us, so yes we do love God. There is a problem with that mindset though. There will be times where our circumstances may make things appear different than what they actually are. There are moments where we do not feel loved by God because of whatever is happening to us.

The sooner we acknowledge that problem, and get past our embarrassment of feeling that way the sooner we can actually do something about it. Trust comes easier with experience, but it needs to start with a lack of it. I often hear people say how they wish someone would just give them a chance even though they do not have the experience for it. “I wish someone would give me a chance at this job.” “I wish that girl would just give me a chance and go to coffee with me.” Why are we so hesitant to give God a chance? Is it because we have not had enough experience of him pulling through in times of great need?

Here is the problem. That trust can only be developed by allowing there to be opportunities in your life for God to come through. We always talk about how God turns our weakness into strength, but we never actually talk about what that means. What if Trust in God, loving him, and weakness become strength were all intricately connected? What if strength simply meant trust?

By refusing there to be an opportunity for trust to go we are stopping an opportunity for God to strengthen us and subsequently expand our trust in Him, and grow our love for Him. It means taking that leap of faith everyone always talks about. It means placing that dependence on Him even if you may not quite have that experience with it yet. It means you have a choice. Refuse those first few moments of trust and thus remain stagnant, or open up your trust little by little until its borders disappear on the horizon.

Paradigm Shifts on Modesty.

I have debated on this post for a little while now. I was skeptical to write it because it would be easy to misunderstand what I am trying to say. It also can get complicated for a male to talk about this kind of a topic of dressing modestly. Considering the nature of the topic I am required to give a disclaimer. Modesty is an important issue to me. I will raise any of my daughters to understand the importance of dressing modestly. I also realize that I am a guy taking this topic from a guy’s perspective. I do not understand what it means to be a girl. I do not live in the difficulties of that world. I admit that.

I think there are many people who look at the modesty issue incorrectly. Perhaps it is because Christianity one day woke up to a world where looks became a bigger focus, and “sexy” became the goal of clothes. Perhaps it is out of some sense of changing course direction to an extreme. No matter the reason, I think the following statement needs to be made. For any girls out there who have been bullied, embarrassed, and treated cruelly for dressing immodestly, I apologize.

Someone down the line we put the focus of dressing modestly on looks. It is ironic really. We get so offended about immodest dress because of how it is intended to draw attention to a girl that we require for them to dress modestly in order that they will look the right way.

The latest incident that reminded me of the need to write this post was ramblings I saw and Facebook. Men complaining about women dressing immodestly. The general gist to the ramblings revolved around how the men were going to withhold showing any respect to these girls until they had a little more respect for themselves by dressing in a more appropriate way.

So we withhold respect and care for girls until they dress a certain way? We have suddenly put the emphasis on how they look. We fail to ask about the deeper heart issues. We fail to consider that they dress the way they do because they hunger for love and affection, and feel the closest thing they can get to that is attention by the wrong kind of crowd. We fail to actually consider the heart issue.

So our solution is to withhold compassion and genuine love for as long as they attempt to seek the cheap knockoff? This goes beyond just guys though. How about you girls who know better? Are you telling your fellow women to dress modestly because that is how they are supposed to look, or are you getting to the root issue? Maybe we need to stop trying to teach girls to earn our respect by the way they dress, and starts teaching them that what they are seeking can be found in Christ first. Dressing modestly is not about simply looking the part. It is about having compassion and love for men who have been built by the same creator who made you. Dressing modestly is actually a way to show incredible love to others. How can we expect girls to consider that love when we withhold it until they dress a certain way?

I mentioned in the beginning that I consider modesty to be an important issue. I will teach any of my daughters of the importance of dressing modestly, but it will be doing with already showing them love and respect, something that they will already have so they know they do not need to earn it by looking a certain way. Hopefully the modesty will develop out of that love and respect. Hopefully they will find a way to have a little respect for themselves, because they have already experienced it from someone else.

I’m not assuming this will suddenly solve all of our cultures issues with over sexualizing women. There are plenty of parts that go into that problem. However, this method of withholding love or respect is making the problem worse. It does nothing to resolve the issue. It is still giving the same message that the secular culture is, “You need to look a certain way to be loved”.

Here is the thing guys. We should seek a godly woman to marry. We should find a girls who can respect herself enough to know that she does not need to dress provocatively. However, we also are called to show love to everyone. Since when were we given the responsibility of deciding who to withhold love and respect for based off of the way they dress? Dressing modestly is a big deal. Teaching girls they need to dress modestly because how they are treated is based off of how they look is also a big deal.

Girls, you don’t need to dress immodestly to get a cheap version of love. You are already loved by your creator, and he wants what is best for you and the rest of His children. You can be a part of what is best for his children by helping out the men with how you dress, but more importantly you can be a part of what is best for you by seeking a guy who wants a meaningful relationship that encompasses your mind, body and spirit rather than just your body.

Happy Anniversary

Five years ago today, my wife and I started dating. Life was a lot simpler back then. I was working on my bachelors degree to prepare for ministry. She was finishing her education degree. As our dating relationship developed we had slowly begun to develop a five year plan in our minds. We seemed to have things figured out pretty well. Everything made a good deal of sense. We were quite happy.

It’s been five years since then. Much has changed within those five years. Plans have been reevaluated. Directions have been shifted. Dreams have taken on different form. There has been laughter. There have been tears. There has been love. There has been pain. It’s been a struggle. During these last five years there are some things I have come to learn.

1. Life is hard. It just is. It’s something you think you understand until you realize it with firsthand experience. When people tell you life is hard they can’t place the emotions they have experienced from that statement onto you. You cannot understand what they mean by that phrase until you personally go through the emotional rollercoaster that this truth brings.

2. Life is wonderful, too. There is so much of it to live and experience. I have seen souls saved, my child born, and exciting new adventures taking place for me and my wife. Life is full of excitement. The excitement requires there to be the hardship, but it is worth it. It’s a powerful experience. I would take the hardship for the joy that I experience any day.

3. Ministry hurts. I once had someone tell me that they were prejudiced towards any pastor who did not also have a job in “the real world.” They didn’t know what they were talking about. Anyone in ministry sees and experiences just as much real world as anyone else. Even during my years of college ministry, I experienced the very real aspects of life. Ministry just hurts. It hurts seeing people you care for and help go through difficult circumstances and even major moments of crisis in their faith. It hurts seeing people you minister to lash out and try to cause pain towards you. It is a lonely experience at times.

4. Ministry is powerful. Powerful when put into God’s hands, that is. It is incredible to be a part of a process that God is orchestrating. Being a tool used to help others in the capacity that ministry allows is an absolutely incredible experience. It can be easy when you experience the negative of the ministry to be fooled into thinking it outweighs the good, but that is just not the case. I have experienced plenty of hurt in the last five years of ministry, but if I could go back to the beginning I would still have chosen ministry because God made some good happen from it, and He loved me enough to give me a front row seat in that process.

5. Not everyone will like you. There are just too many personalities with too many different philosophies for every single person to like you. That’s ok. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything against you. Sometimes it is on them if they are unable to set aside their petty differences with you. You don’t need to be loved by everyone. If you speak what you think then people will disagree with you sometimes.

6. Close friendships are worth keeping. Even distance has not kept me from some of my closest friendships. Many times they were the friendships that supported me and my family during times of difficult and strife. Having them has been crucial to our sanity at times.

7. Plans change. We didn’t expect to be back where we are now. We didn’t expect me to be going back to school so soon. There was a lot of guilt that went into much of our decision making because it wasn’t part of “The Plan.” We’ve learned more now that our plan is for whatever God leads us to do. Sometimes that means going down a path we did not originally anticipate.

8. God is the first priority. It sounds cliché, but it is true. Nothing else will match up right if this is not taken care of first. I have heard it said that God should be your only priority, and if that is accomplished then everything else will fall into place. I can understand where people are coming from when they say that. Seriously, don’t place your relationship with God in second place. It won’t get you anywhere.

9. Family comes first (after God). Even in college, ministry was a crazy balancing act. It was complicated to balance ministry and time with this girl that I was falling in love with. As we moved towards marriage I found myself asking some of my professors that I was closest with how to manage this balancing act. The answer was similar. They all said that it was a constant struggle, but if they could go back and do it over again they would have put the greater focus on their family every time. I always heard the horror stories of those in ministry who would be divorced just a few years in because family was never the priority. People won’t always like this. People will think your first duty is to ministry. People will have trouble with the fact that you put an emphasis on your own family at times rather than them. If you aren’t ministering to your own family, then you are doing something wrong. Understand that it will be a balancing act. Most of the time neither side will feel like they have enough of your attention. Be patient with yourself and realize that you will make mistakes on it.

10. Marriage is tough. As I said before, the balancing act is tough. Marriage is complicated, and when you throw parenting into the mix it becomes even more complicated. It requires constant time and attention. It requires pushing towards growth. You need to learn how to suddenly live your whole life with another person. It’s weird. It’s awkward. There will be times where nothing will seem to make any sense. Find comfort in knowing your spouse feels the same way sometimes.

11. Marriage is beastly wonderful. It is just fun. For as tough as it is it is just lots of fun. Parenting has somehow managed to make it even more fun. These relationships in my family are the ones I spend my most time cultivating because they are the ones that matter to me the most. It will require sacrifice at times. You will give up a lot for your family, but it has been worth it every step of the way. They are just worth it.

12. Love has played a role bigger than I ever would have imagined. I love my wife now more than I thought I could have five years ago. I love my son more than I could have imagined. I love those I minister to. I have learned to love those who cause me grief and heartache. I have learned to love the good and the bad. I have learned that love carries me through.

Five years ago today…. Happy anniversary, sweetheart. What an adventure it has been.

Men love your wives

I have felt the need to star writing more about marriage on my blog for a while. As my readership expands I find the variety of readers continues to be more and more diverse and young couples married or soon to be married continue to be a large demographic of that. While I have known marriage is a good thing to write on I have always developed some hesitancy over it. I’m not an expert in marriage. I have only been married for a little over two years and I still have a lot to learn. Some of my views on the big topics of marriage aren’t always very well liked. That shouldn’t shut me out though. So with that I wish to proceed in trying to tackle a very delicate and sensitive topic in marriage.

We wrestle over the issue of the roles of a man and wife in a marriage. Preachers quote passages that state wives are meant to be consistently obedient to their husbands. They speak on how the husband is the head of the household. The husband is the main authority in the family unit. At a first glance I tend to agree with those views, but I also grasp the need to peel the layers of the onion often mistaken for an apple.

I am speaking directly to men in this post. My fellow men, much of the church is failing you on this topic. We have told you the role you must have, but have failed to spend equally time emphasizing what that role means and looks like for you on a daily basis in the home. We have have failed to put equal emphasis on the husbands responsibility to be gentle with his life. We have failed to put equal emphasis on a husbands responsibility to overwhelm her with his love.

We say those things are important, but when we look out so many preachers out there it is hard to iss why wives in the church are getting frustrate. Church sermons on marriage often end up feeling like a guilt trip. Many sermons we here tend to sway more on the responsibilities of the wife rather than the roles of the husband outside of just being the provider.. Not all preachers are this way, but there are enough to see where the frustration is coming from.

There is a popular passage that focuses on this tension filled issue. “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” Colossians 3:18-19. There are a lot of opinions on interpretation with this passage. Ironically all the controversy of interpretation is placed on verse 18 while it seems we often end up ignoring the implications of verse 19. Verse 18 certainly is an interesting verse though. There are three main school of thought all focusing on the phrase “as is fitting in the Lord” There is one side who states that this phrase means there are no bounds to which the wife should submit. She should submit to her husband as though he is God himself. I have to be honest and say I do not have a clue where folks get this one form out of this verse. The second view is that this scripture is putting a limitation on the responsibility of wives submitting to their husbands. In other words, submit to your husbands so long as what they are having you submit to is fitting and pleasing to the Lord. The third view is that this is referring to the motivation of the wives submission. She submits to her husband because that is indeed fitting in the Lord. I am inclined to say it is a mixture of both two and three. Let me explain.

Of course it is fitting in the Lord. God wrote it in His word so when we obey God’s word we are pleasing him. The exact same thing could be said about the husband’s responsibilities. This leads me to believe there is a mixture to the second view intended in this passage as well. I can hesitantly say that there is a limitation to a wife’s submission. I say hesitantly because unfortunately just as there are husbands who have abused their authority there have been women who have abused this “loophole” and force their own interpretation of what God wants based on what is in their personal comfort zone.

Here is the thing. A wife is not meant to submit to a husband who makes her sin. She is not meant to submit to the husband who beats her night after night and let him do it because it is submission. She is not meant to equate submitting to husband as being treated like dirt by her husband. There is an element of submission there though. Scripture does intend for the husband to be the head. What does this mean for the husband though.

Husbands, I have some bad news. There is zero limitation on your responsibility.There is no loophole. Scripture tells us to love our wives. n Ephesians Paul tells us to love our wives as Christ loves His church. It means we are to be gentle and understanding with our wives. It means we use our authority in order to serve them. Did you catch that? A husbands authority in the family is to be used to serve his family. As the leader in the family he is to be the biggest servant in the family.

Husbands, this means we do not hold our authority over our wife’s head. We do not tel her to follow what we say because we have authority in the family. A husband who needs to speak of his authority is not using his authority very well. Husbands need to start being taught again that God does in fact speak to our wives as well. When God is leading us in a direction we need to be understanding when it is taking a little longer for our wives to catch that same vision.

Marriage is a lifetime of servanthood to each other. For the wife it is based out of submission and for the husband it is based out of sacrificial love. People have spent a lot of time studying why Scripture takes it form that angle. Some folks say it is because men more naturally focus on things from a respect level and must be reminded to love while the opposite is true for women. Perhaps that is true. What I can say for certain is that men need to bend over backwards to being a servant to their family. It means having patience and a gentle heart. It means we don’t flaunt our authority in the marriage. Take a stand men. Take a stand and love your wives as Scripture tells you to do. Your authority is nothing when compared to the authority of Christ over his whole church. His authority is telling you to love, be patient, be understanding, and be willing to let Him speak to your wife’s heart as well.