Friday, December 6, 2013

Love Deeply, Eh, What's the Difference.

My Grandma, Sweet Georgia Brown, was a special lady.  There was something about being in her presence that you knew you were loved. Anyone and everyone were welcomed at her table for dinner (Note: Dinner is at noon and supper is at 5pm where I grew up. I don’t know when you people started having dinner in the evening!)  She cooked liked it too.  Sometimes there were only three of us but enough food on the table for thirty, every day.  I have heard many stories from people in Maysville where I grew up that at some point in their life they shared a memorable meal around my Grandma Georgia’s dinner table.  You knew you were loved.

(Here's a picture of my Grandma from a 60's or 70's fishing trip.  
She's the one raising the roof in the back ground!)

For a grandkid like me it could have been that if I stayed home sick from school I was guaranteed to have a pot of hot potato soup when I woke up.  She believed potato soup and cornbread cured all things.  Sometimes I knew she’d been there and sometimes I didn’t.  I would wake up and there it would be! 

Maybe I felt loved because to even mention a new breakfast cereal meant it would show up in her cabinet ready for an after school snack.  Of course if my sister Rana and I both had cereal of different brands there was a strong chance multiple boxes would get combined before we could get one finished off.  “Huh, when did Cap’n Crunch start adding raisins?” or “I don’t remember mini chocolate chip cookies making this magically delicious!”

Could it be that I felt loved by the way she made it seem okay that she just beat me for the eighth time in a row at Skip-Bo?  “Grandma, I really want to be ticked off right now, but you keep saying, “I’m sorry Sweetie look at that.” every time you lay down that last card.” 

If I needed the shop to cut lumber for a harebrained prototype coon trap or high school homecoming float then she was all in, right across from me catching the wood at the other end of the saw. 

For me and everyone who was in contact with her you knew you were loved.  But it wasn’t a fringe love, it was a deep love.

Recently I received a scripture in my inbox at work, like I do every day, but this one really made me think.

Love each other deeply with all your heart.
- 1 Peter 1:22b, NLT

“Deeply” is the first thing that caught my attention and instantly convicted me.  I thought, “I don’t.”  That’s me being honest. I have made a complete 180 in the past 10 year but that deeply part got to me.  I used to not like people from the get go, then if they “earned it” I would consider them.  That way you never get hurt or caught off guard right?  Now I can say I have let my guard down and have an honest love for people.  BUT Peter says love each other DEEPLY.  That’s different than just love.

As I often do when I’m convicted, I digress back and let my old legalistic mind see if it can find a loophole!  That way I won’t have to change or think about what the Holy Spirit is pressing on me. So I thought, let’s see what other translations say.  That NLT bunch can get a bit liberal at times. 

NIV – deeply (Jerks have been talking to the NLT people)
CEV – with all your heart (Clich├ęd)
The Message – love as if your lives depended on it (Huh, come on, that’s not even a real Bible is it?)
KJV – fervently (Ha! There we go!  Ol’ King James coming through!  A “real” translation.  What does fervently mean?) Fervently – with intensity, burning, impassioned.  (Ugh.  Step back into the boat.)

My friend and I kicked this around over a pot of coffee a couple mornings ago.  That’s how all problems and important discussion should happen you know, over coffee.  In our convo he made me think if there are those outside my “circle” that I deeply love?  My circle being, family, close friends who are like family, Lifegroup, etc.

I answered “yes” and those I revealed to him kinda surprised he and I both. He asked, “Why them?  Why do you love them DEEPLY?”  I thought for a minute and realized it was because they came to me completely unguarded, vulnerable and real.  I found an instant deep love for them because I knew them to their core and they trusted me.

So is that key?  Simply to REALLY know people?  I don’t think that is the universal world encompassing cure deep love deficiency but I think it’s a factor and apparently a significant one for me. 

If we really know people are we more apt to love deeply? 
Are we making ourselves available enough? 
Can we really know people enough to deeply love them through text, and Facebook and Twitter? 

I don’t have the answer. 
I don’t have the combination.
I don’t have the formula for what it takes to love each other deeply.

I see for me that I have a lot of work to do in this area.  I fall way short!

And I hope that today you will examine and ask yourself that question too. 
Do I love people with all my heart?
Do I love people as if my life or theirs depended on it?
Do I love people with intensity?
Do I love people fervently?
Do I love people deeply?

What’s holding you back?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Open Letter to Pastors v. 2.0 pastor appreciation!

For the second year running, or version 2.0 if you will, here is my October open letter to pastors.  It’s been tweaked, refined, added and cut where God has revealed and convicted me.  

To preface, I fully understand we are all called to be ministers to the world.  Believe me I know!  Pastors could not do their jobs to the fullest without the ministering body.  As I’ve heard said before, “a church is healthiest when it’s body is ministering to the body.”  But just for a brief blip in time, just for this post, I want to focus on pastors and my appreciation for them.  


I hope to connect with you, sympathize with you, strengthen you and honor you today.

Looking back I was a horrible church member.  I held my previous pastors to a crazy lofty standard that I now find to be embarrassing. I was such a Pharisee! I’m convinced that had I been alive when Jesus walked the earth he wouldn’t have lived up to my standard either. I would have yelled from the crowd, “crucify him” without a second thought. Maybe even worse than imposing my personal set of self-determined  standards on the pastors themselves was that I also had unreal expectation for their families as well.  I know there was nothing biblical in my rationalization at all. No, I was good enough to come up with it all on my own.  Yeah me!

It wasn’t until I was called to the ministry and started interacting with people like my cousin who has his own church, friends whose families are in the ministry and finally experiencing it for myself that I realized what a high toll pastors and their families must pay. I say “must pay” because what we endure is exactly the treatment Jesus promised to the apostles as he attempted to prepare them prior to his leaving (John 15:18-25). Make no mistake to whomever you are reading this today that, we will ALL pay an earthly price each time we answer God’s call.

Fellow pastors I want you to know, that I know.  You are not alone.

The majority of people will never know or care to know about our middle of the night phone calls, bombardment of opinionated conversations, emails and texts, impromptu counseling sessions, and the suggestion boxes that our spouses have become.

They will never know that we are not just on call Sundays, but we are always on call.  “Pastors only work on Sundays right?”
They will never know the people we cry for in the privacy of our bedrooms because when we’ve invested our hearts into lives and they fail, we feel we have failed also.

They will never know how desperately we try to balance between the church we love and family we love.  And though we do a really good job of appearing the two coexist together it’s more like a constant tug of war.  How we lie awake and wonder if our wife and kids will continue to see the church as the bride of Christ or eventually will they see Her as the mistress that stole all of their time.

They will never know the pressure we put on ourselves when we ponder the possible repercussions of the advice we give to those who see us as the last resort.

Brothers and sisters, the things above are part of the job description.  It’s what comes with being a part of this elite group and by elite I don’t mean well-to-do, but rather selected. We were called by God for this specific work!  He chose us because He knew He could entrust us with this. 

When we look back at the things above its easy to relate to what Pastor Steven Furtick said recently, “Sometimes it’s easier to believe in God than it is to believe God entrusted me.”

But in these times of doubt. 
In these times of confusion. 
In these times frustration. 
In these times of wondering if it is all worth it, remember this.

2 Corinthians 2:14…thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.

God has not chosen us to be just a specialist in our areas of lead, missions, college, youth, kids, worship or whatever it is in your given church structure. No, he chose us to be pastors.

He has chosen us to make decision that impact the spiritual welfare of those who call our local church home and often those we reach to outside our doors.

He has chosen us to bear burdens for those that no one else will.

He has chosen us to make unpopular choices because sometimes it’s what’s best for the church body.

He has chosen us to change the perception of the word “Christian” in a country where the word is becoming less and less popular because of the people who have been hurt by those claiming to be Christian but don’t act anything  like Christ.

He has chosen us to breathe life into those who are just here to mark the Sunday attendance box and on the same day give hope to those who are wondering if they are even worthy of life.

He has chosen us to lead people to be the light of the world when they are being told there is no light in this world.

He has chosen us because He sees something deep within each of us!

He has chosen us because He believes we can accomplish His mission with Him and through Him!

He could have chosen anything, anyway and anybody to do this work but he didn’t, he chose us.  So he must believe in us!

He has chosen us to be pastors!!

1 Peter 2:9-10 (MSG) But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

I appreciate the sacrifice each and every one of you and your families make! 

I love all of you!

 I apologize if I have ever judged you.  

And, do not grow weary of doing good.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I used to love it when a plan came together.

A couple weeks ago I was very humbled and fortunate to be given the opportunity to do one of our church’s four At The Movies messages.  This is something our church has produced or participated in every year on the Sundays in July.  Basically we edit a Hollywood movie into relevant short clips. Then we go out on location to record short sermon clips that reveal an inspired message from the movie story.  Finally, some extremely talented guys weave both elements into a seamless 30 minute movie-sermon.  It’s one of the most highly anticipated things we do each year! 

The movie I ended up choosing was Lincoln and my prayer was that the message God gave me would be received by just one person.  I was extremely excited with the final product and thought it was well received by the church.  But to be truthful, I pushed away from this movie more than once in the month of preparation prior to recording.  It was the first movie that came to my mind after we ruled out Machine Gun Preacher.  (As a side note, I’m a huge fan of this true story, but too much language to work around for a church setting.  I’m still recommending you get the movie (I think it’s on Netflix), a box of Klennex, and watch it all the way to the end of the credits.  Again, it has a lot of language, which I’m not normally okay with the exception of this one because I feel it accurately reflects the way this story went down.)   But back to Lincoln, I honestly kept trying to push away.  I knew what message I wanted to get across but it appeared it would be way too hard to make that happen!  Every time I tried other movies I felt God kept leading me back to Lincoln, so I finally stopped the search and went all in with it! After visiting and praying with a couple people after church, in my opinion, it was a success. The message reached at least its one person that I had prayed for.

That isn’t what this post is about though. This post is about FAILURE!  It’s only because I felt that message went well that I remembered a time when a sermon I preached did not go so well.  Maybe a better description would be, utter failure or train wreck even.  So bad that I remember the date, February 14th 2010, and place, my living room, because we still had our home church at this time.

I had had this thought rattling around in my head, before I ever had a blog or was preaching, about what really was a Divine Romance.  My inspiration came from the Phil Wickham song after the same name. Webster’s defines divine as, coming directly from God. Romance, well you know romance.  So when I saw that Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday I immediately thought, this is it!  It was perfect timing!  So perfect I felt like Billy Graham making a guest appearance on the A-Team just so I could say, I love it when a plan comes together! 

Problem was I kinda left out one minor detail.  I didn’t run my plan by God.  You see I was in the middle of doing a series of messages I had prayed over and felt God had clearly led me too. But when I saw an opportunity to unveil Divine Romance I really thought I was on to something so I intentionally stepped away from the messages God had led me to and I knew it.  I was so proud of myself.  As I was about to find out though, anytime you are proud of yourself for what you came up with in ministry, it won’t be long until God humbles you.

There I was with high anticipation that Sunday morning in front of the loyal 20 that met in our living room every Sunday.  I started with this romantic story about Christy and I’s first meeting at ECU that so eloquently flowed into an even greater love, our Divine Romance, that comes from God.  Now, I haven’t been public speaking for very long but it does not take very many times up in front of people be it 20 or 200 to know when they have checked out!  When you are preaching your heart out and you look up to see the guy on the arm of the couch is taking one of those head fake naps, a lady is filing her nails, somebody is checking their watch and another is playing Angry Birds with the sound on, it’s pretty obvious they have checked out!  Like half the congregation pulling a song book with 10 minutes to go in the sermon.  I remember that from when I was a kid. But here in my living room they were 8 feet away from me, not out in a sea of pews.  They were on my couch!  Awesome energy, huh?  But never fail, I fought on! My mouth was moving and words were coming out, but my mind was working overtime to turn the runaway stage coach around.  This is really good why aren’t they listening? Come on people, I even copied the lyrics for Divine Romance so we could sing it in worship to really set the tone going into the message! Which didn’t work out so well either because it was ten octaves higher than most of us could sing.  I should have known something was up right then when I failed as the worship leader too. What is wrong with you guys? 

Later that day in the privacy of my bedroom, I cried, and I cried out, God what did I do wrong?  In that moment He revealed exactly what I did. He revealed what I wanted, what I thought fit, what I thought the people needed, what I thought they would like.  He revealed I had gotten too proud and I needed to be humbled.  Thank you God [sarcastic tone], mission accomplished there!  I have yet to find a humbling experience that’s enjoyable.  

But this post isn’t about being humbled either.  This is about obedience, even when it’s not all that clear and maybe doesn’t make sense at all.  If you read close earlier you saw that I said He clearly laid a series of messages on me that I was to speak back on that disastrous Valentine’s Day of 2010.  But in the middle of being obedient I chose to do what Tyson wanted. (Thought I’d try a little third person there, not liking it so much.)

There was nothing wrong with my message.  It was good.  It was biblical, had a catchy story, it even had a song that went with it for crying out loud!  That’s where God made it evident to me that just because it is good doesn’t mean that’s what he wants me doing.  What I wanted didn’t fit into his plan.  A plan that often times we don’t ever get to see even though we are a part of it. Sometimes I believe the plan is as simple as God wants us to obey just to see if we will.   He wants to know, “Will you trust me?”

Think about some of God requests throughout history.

Want to defeat this city called Jericho? March around it seven times, blow your trumpets and yell.  Why? Because I am God. Will you trust me?  Joshua 6

Need some water while you are wandering around in the desert?  Well, hit that rock with a stick.  Why? Because I am God. Will you trust me? Exodus 17:1-7

Jesus too said, want to be healed from your lifelong blindness?  Here let me mix up some mud and spit to put on your eyes, now go take a dip in the pool downtown. Why? Because I am God. Will you trust me?  John 9:1-7

On the outside He looks like a control freak just wanting his way because he can have it.  And if he doesn’t get it, then here comes the hammer! But that’s not it at all.  He is our loving father that’s saying I know you think you know what’s best for you but if you will listen and obey I will reveal a life to you that you can’t even image.   Will you trust me?  What happened at the end of each of these obedience stories.  God poured out his blessings on them! He could have accomplished any of those tasks without the marching around, hitting rocks and wading in the water.  He is God. He could have easily accomplished his missions in these stories by speaking them into existence like he did when he created the world.  But he didn’t.  Will we trust him? 

Is the Son of Man praying in me, bringing honor to the Father, or am I dictating my demands to Him?  -Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

All wet.

I know this is going to be hard to believe but I have a deep thought I want to share.  I was recently fascinated with the thought of how water brings life and how much emphasis God puts on water.  Believe me when I say no big revelations here, I am easily fascinated, amused and entertained.  If I had a tail I would most like chase it most of the day.

These thoughts about water came this summer, as you know if you are one of us living in Oklahoma, when it becomes more of a valuable life giving commodity than other times of the year.  It’s not uncommon for us to go long stretches with days exceeding the 100 degree mark.

Some of the victims of the summer heat are always my three resilient hydrangea bushes.  Side note that may get my man card revoked is they are my second favorite flower next to the zinnia.   My hydrangeas are located next to where I park at home. They are the last thing I see when I leave for work and first thing I see when I return home.  And in the heat of the summer they droop with exhaustion in the evenings.  There have been days when I have wondered if they weren’t toast, literally.  

Now here’s the part that fascinates me!  I can drag all 75 ft of hose across the yard to their remote location and within minutes watch them spring back to life with a drink of water and touch of evening shade! See, I told you I’m easily amused.  But to see a plant go from what looks like near death to life in minutes, come on, that’s pretty cool, right??

Watching this process off and on during the summer made me imagine the power of water.  Think about us humans and how we react to water especially this time of year. We sit around massive concrete holes full of water for hours on end. My beautiful bride can attest to our three kids getting up EVERY morning during the summer and their first question is, “When can we go to the pool?”

Our family just got back from Florida where we saw thousands upon thousands of people flocking to the beach. Not just to see the beautiful white sand dunes, shells, sea turtle nesting grounds and get an insanely overpriced snow cone. They were flocking to the water.  Without the water the others cease to exist, with the exception of the snow cones.  Christy calls the beach her “happy place” and for good reason, water brings life! 

God made it this way.  Think about all the things around us that hinge on the presence of water. 

Recently this scripture blew me away with what it revealed to me. 
Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Did you catch that?  In the beginning there was water and God’s Spirit was hovering over it before he decided to form the rest of the world.  I completely missed that for 37 years!!  What was that like? Wow!

That’s the beginning now let’s go all the way to the end.

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

That verse comes fourth from the end of the entire Bible.

Water was first mentioned in the second verse of the bible and last mentioned four verses from the end.  In between, it’s used some 450 times in the NIV translation.

Just think about it for a while.  How are we expected to publicly confess of our faith in Jesus? Baptism in the water.  Jesus walked on it and offered his (figuratively speaking) to the woman at the well as the way to eternal life. How unique is our God and the fascination he also has for water?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Realities of vacation. F'real!

Ah, what a great picture of my family all together on vacation at the beach.  How sweet.  Blah, blah, blah!

Now, don’t take my "blah blah blah" the wrong way.  I loved my vacation! I wouldn't trade those seven uninterrupted days with my family for two dozen apricot fried pies!  It's exactly what we needed.

But this picture, as are most of our social media pictures, are highlight reel moments.  I mean come on; we don’t really show or tell people the reality of what’s going on in our lives most of the time. We want people to see the mountaintops of our everyday life.  If all you saw was this picture you would think we just frolicked in the white sands of Florida hand in hand for seven blissful days.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram (@tysonshanebrown) may have seen the highlights we were posting from our trip.  

So in an effort to keep with my promise a couple posts ago about being real, I want to tell you about our lowlights.  Not like the whole trip was a lowlight! I'm simply talking about being real. Opening up the door of my  life just a little farther so you can see everything that happens.  What happened behind the scenes, the tweets, pictures and the token “My vacation was so fun and relaxing…” comments.

Here’s the rest of the story:

What a beautiful sun setting over Seaside, FL. 

Gorgeous!  Beautiful!  And that was the last time we saw the sun.  That was on Tuesday.  This was what Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday were like…

Me and my beautiful bride Christy.  So happy.  So in love. Surround by our adoring offspring that I’ve conveniently cropped out of the picture to enhance our glow.  Reality is that hours before this was taken we were having a heated argument in the upstairs bedroom of the beach house over a very controversial family subject.  Donuts. This is no lie!  Heated argument.

The Big, Winston.  Looking like a million bucks, but feeling like a penny that just fell onto the floor of a truck stop restroom and rolled behind the toilet and came to rest in that spot in back near the wall that they always miss in the biannual mopping. Yeah, that's how bad he felt.  He put on a happy face for this picture but only because we had him on so many decongestants and antihistamines he thought he was posing in front of the Magic Kingdom with Goofy and Mickey.  He was sick for entire week and when we came home and took him to the doctor we found out he had bronchitis.  In retrospect we should have taken him to the doctor while we were there but, “Broncitis!  Ain't nobody got time for that!” we’re at the beach.

The Middle, Wyatt.  Rockin’ the beach hair and looking like he loves his sister.  Literally moments after this picture, in this very location, I was leading him with upper forearm firmly in my grasp. Lecturing him on what a “DUMB move” it was for him to throw sand in his sister’s hair.  Part of my talk contained, “Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to get sand out of that African hair? Any idea??”  Then I came back for round 2 of questioning.  You know this part parents where you ask, “What were you thinking?”  He looked up from the criss cross applesauce sitting location I planted him in, and said as he cried, “Dad, I didn’t mean to throw it in her hair.  I was aiming for that hole over there and I missed.”  Uhhh…not on the list of my finest moments as a Dad.  To my delight he gracefully and mercifully accepted Dad’s apology, though I did not deserve it.  I later bought him a $17 snowcone as a peace offering.

The Little, Zoey Love.  A party looking for a place to happen! The "first time to be on the beach party" was planned months in advance.  That was before she figured out, “Dis water is salty!  Get dis salt out.”  She didn't let a little salty sea water stop the party train, no no!  Guys you know it’s not a party until someone vomits.      [Inserting long pause as I relive this moment in my head.  Hot flash is gone - now I can continue.]         On the trip home, in the middle of Nowhere, Louisiana rocket fueled projectile vomit erupted covering a swath from back seat to the radio including 25%  of the right side of my body.  Thank you Nana for packing Lysol!  Note to self:  Self, African girl whose body never had dairy the first 6 years of her life may not be able to hold down a Wendy’s Frosty during a 14 hour car ride. P.S. Self, the Kangaroo Stop at Exit 126 in Louisiana does not sell baby wipes but there are some lady’s that live nearby who will buy stuffed animals from the back of your parked car.

And finally to close out the trip, but unfortunately not pictured here, were the pretty blue lights of the Oklahoma Highway Patrolman who stopped me for speeding with 20 miles remaining of our 1,900 mile round trip voyage.  

Thank you sir for being conscious of the weariness in my eyes and not offended by the aroma of vomit that permeated from the car. I needed mercy not judgment on this day.

This isn't just the reality of our vacation, but much of our life and I love it!  I’d do the vacation all over again (minus the vomit) in a heartbeat and wouldn't trade for my messed up family.  Because think about it, when I say my "messed up family" all I'm actually saying is my "real family".  I'm only telling you some things that a lot of us hide.

P.S. I don't feel like I can close this out without a bit of props to my sister and brother in-law who went on their first vacation with us.  Hopefully it's not their last!   Love you Jared and Rana!

This is my brother in law serving us up some coffee on the beach.  And the reality of this was, It Was Awesome!!  No candy coating on that, this stuff is f'real!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vomit, cheese graters, whiskey, ninjas and hearing from God.

In the wee hours of July 4th, 2001 I vomited down the freshly painted khaki flat finished wall of our bedroom.  Did you know flat paint is not known for its vomit resistance? Actually just the opposite!  Sopped it up like biscuit. 

This was right after I first tried clawing my way through the blinds on our window thinking it was the bathroom door.

Which was right after we arrived home and I fell into bed leaving one foot on the floor to keep the room from spinning.  Which by the way, had never worked before, but hey, it’s what “they” say to do.  You’re always hoping this is time!

Which was right after we left the 4th of July party where I continued to put off my wife as she beaconed me to leave.  She didn’t understand that I had no choice but to settle a dispute about the inferiority of Southeastern University and the superiority of East Central University. “Baby, our honor and integrity must be maintained!” Which now looking back seems kinda odd since we were 200 miles away either one of those schools.  And somewhere along the way I think there were some derogatory Larry Bird references thrown in so I’m positive I had other reasons for staying.

Which was right after I consumed my weight in bourbon whiskey…my weakness.

Which was right after I was standing in the living room of our home promising my beautiful wife Christy, all 7 months pregnant of her with our first child Winston, that we wouldn’t stay at this party long and I would behave myself.  I convinced her that I fully understood she was way pregnant, it was July in Oklahoma hot and that the two did not mix well.

There you go! Me being real, open and as transparent as possible.  Just like I promised in my last post.

So, now that you've rewound, lets fast forward all the way to sometime in 2006 when I found myself over the kitchen sink pouring out a very expensive bottle of Gentleman Jack bourbon and saying, “God what are you having me do?? Do you know expensive this stuff is?” I kind of threw that out there to him hoping to get an Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac kind of miracle.  Like at any minute God would realize the cost of what he was having me do and stop my hand.  Then I’d look over and see one of my AC/DC concert t-shirts entangled in a bush that I could offer as a sacrifice instead.  Did not happen, but God did ask for the t-shirts later that same year though.

This is not an anti drinking post!  I want to get that straight. This is about responding.  This is a post about me dealing with my “demon” and the sin in my life and what God was asking me to give up.  Yours may be to stop gossiping or neglecting family and church for a hobby or cheating on your spouse or gossiping.  Oh, did I mention gossip twice?  Huh, for some reason we overlook that one as being on the same playing field as “the big sins” as if there is a big sin list anyway.   But this isn’t an anti gossip post either. If you want to check out all the things Paul included gossip with you can; it’s in Romans 1:26-31 NIV , you might be surprised.

When I talk about God “speaking to me” I’m not referring to an audible voice.  That would be cool but I’ve never had that happen though I’ve asked for it plenty.  What I meant was I knew that something or someone rather was telling me to dump out that bottle every time I opened up the cabinet to get the cheese grater out.  I just felt it, that’s the only way I can describe it.  This was pretty often too. We eat a lot of cheese at our house.  So one day that’s what I did.

I’m serious when I say it was unexplainable.  I just reacted like I had done in the past in training on way to becoming modern day ninja.  But I can’t talk about that…it’s still classified.  P.S. Hello NSA, I’m pretty sure using the words “ninja” and “it’s classified” will get me some face time in your system.  Just kidding. Ha ha!  Good luck with that whole Congressional hearing gig you have going on. It’s a joke. Get it?

Seriously, I was standing next to the sink and unexplainably dumping what I was using to create a sin I was hiding from my family.  Notice how I said, I was using this to create the sin in MY life? You see the product itself wasn’t sinful it was my abuse of it that was.  It was my sedative after a stressful day at work and before Christy and kids were home.  I could get a few drinks down in that hour, then conveniently pour one when everyone got home because one was acceptable with the fam and it would mask the others I had already downed. 

I wasn’t facedown puking on the wall much anymore so I felt like I was doing a better job and that was good enough; even though I was in a comfortably numb state a lot of days.  But to be honest I wasn’t even thinking about any of that.  My self-justified sinfulness was far from my mind at the time of the dumping.  I was only thinking, “something is telling me to pour this out.”  At times that’s just how God works.  What I am learning now is there are times when he just wants us to act out of simple obedience especially when it doesn’t make sense. I mean look what he did with Isaiah in the Old Testament Isaiah 20:1-4 MSG .

God, he’s known for messing up a perfectly good human plan.  Now looking back it was just one of many little things God has urged me to do to get me where he wants me.  He had to mess up my plan so I could get started on his.  God wouldn’t have entrusted me with the family and ministry I have today had I not stood over that sink years ago.  Why would he?  If he can’t trust me with the little things then why in the world would I expect him to trust me with bigger things? In Luke 16:10a (NIV) Jesus says in a parable, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much…”  He’s talking about money here but it so aptly applies to many areas of our lives.  Finances, family, ministry, hobbies, business, church…the list is endless and like a fingerprint is different for everyone.

What is God calling you to react to?  Many of you will be thinking about something right now you know you have been pushing away.  You’ve been closing the door on the cheese grater but it’s time to react like a ninja.  God wants to do more with you and through you! He has greater plans for you but you gotta take care of this first!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Extraordinary average guy.

One of my intents when I started this Ordinary Man blog, now almost 4 years ago, was to show how God had completely changed the person I used to be and leading me to do extraordinary things, me, just your ordinary average guy. [Insert Joe Walsh 1990’s lyrics here] 
Why is the “me” before important? Because if you knew me, I mean REALLY knew me!  Like, I’m in no condition to walk so make sure you drag me into the house and leave me asleep in the bathroom floor close to a toilet knew me!  Yes, you all know who you are from my past and I thank you for that care...I think.  Then you fully understand that it’s only by the grace of a loving, forgiving and powerful God that I am able to speak his truths on this blog and get to be called pastor today.  I am product of His ridiculously scandalous grace! 

Thinking back for a bit I’m not sure that I have been as transparent as I originally intended over the last four years.  I haven’t hidden anything at all but rather I feel like I’ve held back a bit.  My hope in some upcoming posts is to share with you some of my major failures and lifestyle changes.  I’m still praying through this and need to speak to some people to get some blessings but I do believe God is nudging me in this direction.  

Why would I want to do this?  It’s simple. My hope is that someone out there that hasn’t been able to relate to me before will be able to and in the process I can glorify God by showing his faithfulness, forgiveness and how he uses ordinary people as his megaphones.  He doesn’t have to use us jacked up humans to fulfill his mission, but he chooses to.

But for today I’ve been pondering this thought of ordinary and extraordinary.  How God uses the former to produce the latter.

Honestly, I came up with Ordinary Man title after I read this piece of scripture that inspires me still today.  Acts 4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

The word ordinary gets defined by a lot of people in a lot ways.  I know several amazing people that believe they are just ordinary.  So for now I’m going to leave what you think of yourself up to you.

For most of my life I saw myself subordinary. I don’t even know if that’s a word but it should be. Seriously!  To this day my awesome wife dresses me for crying out loud!  I’m colorblind and have no sense of style...those are two perfect ingredients for a subordinary recipe.  A few years ago I finally said, “Okay, I give up!  You buy it I’ll wear it, except for sweater vests.”  Eventually I even gave into the sweater vest on odd year religious holidays.  It’s only because of her that I’m not still wearing the same shirts I had when we met in college some 18ish years ago.  If there are no holes generated in the clothing from year to year I see no reason to discard.  Ordinary.

Now, extraordinary, that’s a word I want us to get excited about.  That’s a hard word for me to use to describe myself, even with everything God has done in me.  I mean that seems really arrogant to claim doesn’t it?    But to not claim it also cheats God out the glory and praise that he is due.  Lets take a sec to define that word extraordinary! 

Webster’s says it’s, “going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary.” I actually like that definition.

I want you to embrace the extraordinary that is right in front of you but I’m afraid some of you can’t see it.  You know like be bopping along at night in a 1974 International Scout with bad headlights and missing by inches a black angus cow standing in the middle of a country road and not realizing it until you have already blown by at a semi-high rate of speed at which time you FREAK out!  That kind of right in front of you that you can’t see! 

Heck, you may already be living an extraordinary life and don’t even realize it! If you are I don’t want you to sell yourself short. But if you aren’t I want to point out just a few simple thing that can flingo you out of the ordinary. 

Remember extraordinary is going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary.

Ordinary is accepting its okay not being the one-in-ten men who can say they have a close friend. An accountability partner if you will. This stat holds true even among Christian men. Patrick Morley once said, "Most men could recruit six pallbearers for their funeral, but hardly anyone has a friend he can call at 2 a.m." (Want to know more about accountability partners? Check out my previous post Howdy Partner! )

Extraordinary is having someone you confide in, meet with regularly and allow to ask you tough questions about what you are doing in your spiritual, married and work life.  Extraordinary is you won’t even lie to them.

Ordinary is being a part of the only 47% of families eating together two or more nights a week and knowing that teens in these families are twice as likely to take drugs, be "high stress," say they are often bored, and less likely to perform well in school than teens who eat with their families 5 to 7 times a week. (This stat from the Barna Group)

Extraordinary is sitting around the table with your family even if it’s over a bag of Sonic burgers and sharing your highs and lows for the day.  And for those sneaky kids that eat fast or try to cop out with “I’m not hungry”, well, they have to sit at the table too until everyone is done.

Ordinary is living 5-6 days a week at work one way and then changing the way you talk and act for Sunday’s morning church.  Your coworkers would fall out of their cubicles or down a flight of break room stairs if they knew you were a Christian because you don’t act any different than anyone else much less talk about your faith.  You fear being tagged as “weird”.

Extraordinary is embracing weird!  Sure, peeps will make fun of you publically but privately they know who they can come to when they need guidance, advice, or prayer when times get tough.  And times will get tough.

Remember friends; the world wants you to remain ordinary. It embraces the usual, regular, or customary.  That’s what the world is and it doesn’t want to be changed.  And as long as you are ordinary you are not a threat to change it.  Sure, make some changes and family and old friends will call you a phony…”I knew who he was” or “What she did”,  but don’t be swayed!  Remember those words of Acts… When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Take note of those first and last few words…saw the courage and these men had been with Jesus.  That my friend is the key to getting from ordinary to extraordinary, courage and Jesus.  If these few things I listed seem insurmountable then maybe you aren’t seeking Jesus first.  He will give you the courage to breakout.  The actions don’t do the transforming, he does.  I believe it was Pastor Perry Noble who said you have to change the heart before you can change the habit.  Seek him first!

I hope today you will decide to make one change to step out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.  Once God can trust you with these simply extraordinary things, then HANG ON for the ride he’s about to take you on!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This is not perfect and I'm okay with that.

Hi I’m Tyson and I have a problem.  I have a fear of failure.  That’s why those first two sentences have sat on a blank page for over a week now with nothing in the body of this blog post.  I couldn’t figure how to tell “this story” and tie in “that scripture” and make this flowing into that and blah, blah, blah…  I couldn't come up with the perfect post.

This fear has crippled me in many areas of my life including the things closest to me including my relationship with God, my marriage (over and over again), kids and ministry.

So I’m about to post a very rough, unpolished blog post for the entire world to see, or at least to the small following of readers I have.  When I’m done typing this I am not going to check it for grammatical errors, I’m not going to check for flow.  When I’m done typing I’m going to hit the button that says “Publish”.  And I won’t go back in and edit this post once I read it live from the blog!! Done that before too. 

I’m going to heed the words of my beautiful wife from last night, “Babe, your writing doesn’t have to be perfect!  You just need to write.”

I’m going to break free of this! Two things are helping me through it.  One is this card that my counselor gave me a couple years ago and he asked me to commit to memory.

The other are the words of Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly whom I had the privilege to hear speak at a conference I recently attended.  Her advise (speaking about critics), “If you aren’t in the arena getting your “butt” kicked with me then I’m not interested in your opinion.  It’s not in the service of my work!”
Those words and the title of her book were derived from this quote from Theodore Roosevelt.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Teddy Roosevelt


Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Dearest Christy...

My Dearest Christy,

I’ve always reserved these notes as something to be shared between the privacy of us.  But just this once I thought why not let the world know how you’ve captured my vote for Greatest Bestest Superest Mom Of The Year Award or GBSMOTYA as the panel of judges knows it.

15 years ago when I knew you were the one it went way deeper than just me and you.  I also saw that you were the one for our kids at some point down the road.  I had no idea when, where or how…well, I knew how, but I didn’t know when or where and sure never foresaw the path we would take to bring the third into our family.

Standing back, but not too far back, I get to see you as a teacher to the oldest Winston, a cheerleader to the middle Wyatt, a female role model to the youngest Zoey but mother to all. 

Here’s the unique thing I see in you.  Each of those positions is not separate from you being a mother, but rather, you see all those things as part of being a mother.  You’ve always heard me say that God wired “mommas” different than everyone else, especially us dads.  You’ve got skills I can’t even begin to obtain.  There’s something inside you that just knows…

When they are daydreaming or when they are struggling with something they don’t want to talk about.

When they need prayed with and when they need prayed for.

How much crying it too much crying before they need                                            held regardless of age.

When I need to walk away or when I have walked away when it’s okay for you laugh at me.

When to be whimsy and when it’s time to buckle down.
Where the dirty underwear are hidden! (You know it was hard for me to type that right?)
When they need just a little bit of time in our bed between us.

When it’s time for a family movie night at home but first swinging by the movie theatre just for their popcorn and a free small cup to take the butter home in too.
When they are sick before they are sick.
How to make them feel better that has nothing to do with medicine.

When it’s time for new clothes.  Cause if it has no holes and will still button I think it will make it another school year even if the pant legs don’t cover up the socks.

When they need protected and when they need to be allowed to stumble.

When they are tired of PBJ in the lunch box and it’s time to switch to Lunchables.

When an encouraging note in the lunchbox is needed.

When it’s time to parent in a way God has led us to and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

Solomon said it best in Proverbs 31…

Proverbs 31:10-12, 25-30 "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of again.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life...Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.  She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.  She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 'Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.' Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised."

I don’t know how you do it and my respect for you grows daily.

Your children will rise up and bless you.  No, let me rephrase that.  You are raising three beautiful kids that are already rising up, blessing you now and will all the days of your life.

My dearest Christy, you have far surpassed the dreams I had 15 years ago when I envisioned you as the mother of my children!