For those of us who experienced the 90’s, you probably remember this scene from the movie “City Slickers”. The premise behind the movie was basically that these men from NY had lost their identity, so they travel out west to a cattle ranch to sort of ‘find themselves’.  In one of the most pivotal scenes in the movie, Jack Palance’s character, “Curly” the trail boss, turns to one of the men & says, “Do you know what the secret to life is? It’s this.” (and he holds up 1 finger) “Just 1 thing.” The man says, “That’s great, but what is it?” To which Curly replied, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

It’s a great question for all of us in light of a brand new year: What is your ONE THING?

As I was thinking about this, I made a note of every THING that intersects with my life in a typical week. Like most adults with kids, my schedule is pretty crowded:

  • Serve at church
  • Spend time w family
  • Get kids to school
  • Work
  • Pay bills
  • Get kids to practice
  • Physical Fitness/ Exercise
  • Social Media
  • Do stuff around the house
  • repeat

There are so many THINGS that occupy our time that if we’re not careful, we’ll allow the URGENT to replace the IMPORTANT. We’ll unintentionally CROWD OUT the most important things. We’ll get bogged down with the LITTLE things and fail to pursue our BIG dreams and GRAND adventures. Not because we don’t want to do them. They just get ‘lost’ amidst all the other things we’re doing.

Perhaps most striking: I noticed in my weekly schedule, I was doing almost nothing to realize the larger goals I had for myself. My ROUTINE wasn’t getting me any closer to my DREAMS.

This is where the book, ONE THING has been revolutionary for me. It helped me to look at my life as a series of goals I can set for myself. It coached me on how to break my large goals down into smaller steps I can take each day, each hour, etc. Here’s an example of some of the goals I have set this year:

My Personal Goals 2016

Now, I structure my week with the goal of simply ‘moving the ball forward’ in each category every day, no matter how small the progress. For example, if my goal is to save $ for a family trip to Disneyland, I may go without my morning latte and deposit that into my envelope designated for that event. Or, if it’s to run a half marathon by the end of the year, maybe I start by going on a walk around our neighborhood. In each case, I’m making progress. If I want to memorize a book of the Bible in a year, I start by memorizing two verses a month.

This gives me a sense of accomplishment each day. This gives me a series of “wins” in almost every category. It builds my confidence. It makes me happy. It gives me purpose. It is my MOTIVATION.

Even the apostle Paul knew the importance of ONE THING (singular focus) when he was writing to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

OK, I know it’s a ‘loose’ fit, but the point is that Paul wrote to the church in Philippi so that they would be reminded of their PURPOSE. So that they would not lose sight of their GOAL. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’ve got the most important part of my equation figured out. All the rest of my life’s pursuits come second to following Jesus. Now, the rest is fun.

Just finished another post. Just chalked up another ‘win’. Hope this has been helpful. 

My hope for you this year is for you to find your ONE THING.

How do you put Christ at the CENTER of Christmas? How do you keep Jesus the REASON for the season?

We love to decorate our house for Christmas. Inside & out, it’s completely transformed. Sometimes I swear we need a PODS storage unit just to hold all of our Christmas stuff.

  • Inside = snowmen, garland with lights, trees, animated fiber-optic Christmas village, etc.
  • Outside = Entire yard covered in lights. Featuress Icicle motion lights, Twinkle lights on trees, inflatables, Snowflakes, Candy Canes, etc. We even have Santa pulling reindeer skiers on a lake of lights, It is an all-LED display that we spend a couple weeks on.

Our display is so crazy, we even had to add extra outlets just to make sure we had enough ‘juice’ to power our yard. It just may be one of the FEW SITES VISIBLE from OUTER SPACE.

Well, a couple years ago, a storm came through town and the rain tripped all the breakers except one.

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Sometimes, God has a way of reminding us of what’s most important. In the light of the illuminated Nativity, we made two observations:

  1. We couldn’t believe how BRIGHT it was when NOTHING ELSE was lit.
  2. We couldn’t believe how much it STOOD OUT when we removed all the CLUTTER.

Now, we actually rig up our lights differently. Today, each dimmer is timed to turn off so that eventually, each night, only the nativity is lit two hours longer than the rest.

One of my favorite verses of the Christmas story, is when the angel appeared to Joseph and said:

Matthew 1:21 (NIV) She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

This is a simple reminder not only that Jesus came into the world, but that he gave his life for our sins. That is the reason for the season.

JOY

Posted: January 1, 2016 in Christmas Thoughts

What brings you JOY this season? I think that’s a good question for us to consider, especially in light of the Christmas season.

In 2015, I had the privilege of spending my Thanksgiving leading Christ’s Church of the Valley’s mission trip to Costa Rica. For me it was a great reminder that life’s pleasure has nothing to do with possessions. There were several highlights of our trip, but here was the stovetop where most of our meals were cooked. The propane was pretty expensive, so they used it sparingly and cooked many of our meals over an open flame.

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I also met a little boy named Jefferson. He blew out his only pair of shoes playing soccer with us, but he made sure to keep the shoelace because he knew his mother could put it to good use.

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Yet despite what they lacked in some of the comforts and conveniences that we enjoy here in our country, I never heard any complaining. In fact, they were some of the happiest people I’ve met.

What is it that brings you JOY? I was reminded of a passage from the very first Christmas…

Luke 2:8-11 (NIV) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

I don’t want us to miss the words from the angel in vs. 10 = “GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY.” It’s not hard to look around and see plenty of BAD NEWS.

  • Look around at what happened this year in San Bernadino (mass shooting).
  • Look around and compare what you have (or what you don’t have) in relation to others.
  • Look around your table and notice someone who’ll be missing from your holiday celebration. My dad passed away Nov. 20th, so my family and I are wrestling with this even as I type these words.

Today, I think we need a constant reminder…of the GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY the angel talked about.

Jesus has been born to US!  He is our SAVIOR. His PRESENCE gives us PEACE. His PROMISE gives us CONFIDENCE. His sacrifice gave us ETERNAL LIFE. His FORGIVENESS gives us FREEDOM (from guilt, shame, fear).

He really IS the GOOD NEWS. He really does bring JOY.

It’s my hope this year that you’ll experience the JOY of knowing Jesus.

Among my most prized possessions is a picture that sits in my office. It hasn’t always been there. In fact, I’ve only had it on my shelf for a few weeks.  In that short amount of time, the visitors and staff who swing by will almost always ask, “Who is this?” or “What is this a picture of?” Inevitably, the comparison is made, “This looks like a scene from the Andy Griffith Show”.  Well, close. The Andy Griffith show stopped airing in 1968. This picture was actually taken in 1975. I was 4 years old.

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It’s a picture of Dad taking me down to the fishin’ hole in Payson, AZ. It’s where I caught my first fish. It’s where we enjoyed some camping, rock collecting, hiking and exploring. We had campfires and smores and walked to natural springs of water where we drank straight from the stream.  There’s a lot of memories captured in that image. There’s a lot of emotions harnessed in that frame.

What’s most special to me about this picture, is that dad kept this in his office from 1975 to 2015–40 years!  I found it when we were cleaning out his workspace.  F-O-R-T-Y years?

I’d like to think it was dad’s way of remembering. I’d like to believe it was his way of unwinding. I would sometimes see him pondering while typing at his computer. He’d be facing his wall of shelves opposite his computer screen. I’d like to think he was looking at the picture. As if he was taking a mental break. As if the therapist was taking some therapy for himself. (he was our staff ‘counselor’) It was his way of being ‘out’ even while he was ‘in’.

My dad loved his job, but his greatest joy wasn’t in his WORK. It was in who he was OUTSIDE the office. He made great effort and took great joy in being a great husband, father, and grandfather. He recharged by continuously ‘reinventing’ himself through various interests over the years: photography, quad-riding, camping, hunting, astronomy, rocket building, shooting & reloading, etc. He even taught himself Spanish!  And…to top it all off…he even bought a boat two months before he passed away. To do more fishing!

As a transplant, dad always knew he was living on borrowed time. He was prepared to die. But he never waited for it. He was too busy living.

That’s how I want to live.  James S. Stewart said it best, “Let us live as people prepared to die, and die as people prepared to live.”

Since losing dad, I’ve found myself.  At least I’ve learned a little bit more about myself, what makes me tick & what matters most. I appreciate LIFE more. I value deeper RELATIONSHIPS. I seek out ADVENTURES and look for life’s STORIES to tell, no matter how big or small they are. I hoard MEMORIES and cherish RICH CONVERSATION. I know true FAITH is contagious. That most ‘ministry’ has nothing to do with what people see ‘on stage’.  I now trade QUANTITY for QUALITY. I’ve learned my FAMILY is my first MINISTRY and that being a pastor isn’t something you ever really ‘retire’ from.  And I’ve discovered that EVANGELISM isn’t something you DO. As a Christ follower, being an EVANGELIST is who you are.

And while I love my JOB, I understand my IDENTITY needs to be more about who I am OUTSIDE the office.

And speaking of the office, I now put more pictures of the kids on my shelves.  So they can remember. So they can discover. So they can find themselves.

I learned all of this…by finding dad.

 

One of my favorite Christmas films of all time is “A Christmas Story”. You know the one I’m talking about, with Ralphie & his Red Rider BB Gun. Apparently, I’m not alone. According to the web, it has been ranked as the 3rd most-watched Christmas film of all-time, and has been seen by millions of people around the world.

This past week, I learned that a man in Cleveland bought the house the movie was filmed in, and had it completely restored to it’s original appearance in the film. He also turned it into a museum, complete with several props used in the movie. But that’s not all…each year, a person can  bid on a 2 night stay in the house on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.

Package (4 people) included:

  • Two night stay in the Christmas Story House
  • Bunny suits for your entire group
  • Secret Santa Decoder pens
  • A keepsake leglamp delivered in it’s trademark FRAGILE crate.
  • And a picture of you holding the Red Rider BB gun prop used in the film.

Interesting, huh? What was most interesting to me was that this year, the winning bid closed out at $8,700!!–and that did NOT include the airfare to/from Cleveland.

Some people will literally go to great lengths to insert themselves into the Christmas Story.

But God went to great lengths to insert himself into OUR STORY.

Over 1000 years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah foretold:

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (which means “GOD WITH US”)

God would fulfill his long-held promise to live with us when Jesus was born.  But Jesus was born with a PURPOSE…

John 3:16,17 (NIV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son. That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send his son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

This season, we remember not only HOW he came, but WHY he came. That is the real story of Christmas.

The film that everyone is talking about this weekend is the new STAR WARS movie: “The Force Awakens.” The hype around this movie has been unprecedented. I’m sure you’ve noticed this in your Christmas shopping—there’s seemingly a STAR WARS everything! From toilet paper to toothpaste, it’s an all-out marketing blitz. On facebook, many of our self respecting adult friends probably have their profile pics featuring a costume or a lightsaber. Even the AZ Dept. of Transportation has joined the hype through their creative signs posted all over the Valley.  The movie has easily eclipsed the biggest opening weekend of any movie in history, topping $100million dollars in the US alone.

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Yet over 2000 years ago, the most significant event in human history took place without hardly any fanfare.

In fact, the prophet Isaiah foretold…

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 

The Bible tells us that on that night Jesus was born, the town of Bethlehem was packed with people. Because of the census, the town swelled with 5x it’s normal population. The streets were crowded with people hustling about. While just outside the city, in a quiet manger–Jesus, the Savior of the world was born.

Isaiah 53:5,6 (NIV) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Yet on that night in Bethlehem, no one realized that an event with ETERNAL IMPLICATIONS was taking place. No one stopped. No one paid attention. They were AROUND this great story of God unfolding at their doorstep, but they were caught UNAWARE. They missed Christmas.

I wonder sometimes if we don’t suffer the same tendency. Amidst our the hustling about, if we’re not careful, we’ll MISS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT in human history.

Our hope is that through Christmas, we will AWAKEN to God’s redemptive story being played out through his son Jesus Christ.  May we become AWARE of the love and forgiveness we experience through his sacrifice for us on the cross. And may the hope offered through Jesus allow us to COME ALIVE in the way that we live, serve, and give.

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This year, we officially added two new members to our family. Meet Emanuel James and Juan Matthew Bloodworth.

Our journey through Foster Care and Adoption began when I was born.  My eternal family changed through the love of my earthly family and God has laid it on our hearts to help as many kids as we can.  We are strong advocates of Foster Care and Adoption.

 

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(Pictured L to R = Manny, Zeke & Juan–Taken just after placement in Dec. 2013. NOTE: They’re each missing their two front teeth!) The boys each have “lofty” Biblical names.  Emanuel James = Manny was born on Christmas Day. He was born premature and will have some health issues for the rest of his life. Ezekiel Josiah = Zeke was adopted at birth. He was named after the prophet Ezekiel in the Bible who was called the “watchman of Israel”. And his biological mother chose his middle name, Josiah who was the “youngest king in all Israel.” The Bible says, “he turned neither to the right nor to the left and walked in the ways of his father David.”  Juan Matthew = Juan was named after the disciple.

For those of you who know my story, names are significant in our family. I was named after my dad’s best friend (Dennis) who was a missionary to the Philippines.

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We love having a large family.  It’s awesome to see how the kids all just “fit” together.  The cool part about being a family is working through life’s adventures together.

IMG_6492This was taken at the Adoption Hearing at the courthouse. At the time this photo was taken, the boys were 6,7,8 and the girls were 16,17,18.

IMG_9036_editChristy and I continue to take life “one day at a time” as parents. We’re not sure how long we will continue to be foster/adoptive parents, however we know that we’re making an impact ONE CHILD AT A TIME.  Please continue to pray for all the kids “in the system”. Pray that God will one day raise up families who will commit to raise them in a godly home.

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