Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Why So Many Rules?

God gets a bad rap for all the "boring" rules found in the Old Testament. At best, we assume they are outdated laws for a undeveloped nation. At worst, we see God as a control freak that has a law governing every step we take. In truth, though, both of those assumptions are wrong. Each and every rule written in the Old Testament points to God, our loving Father, who promises to never leave us or abandon us.

The Israelites had only known slavery - they were told what to do and when to do it. They were limited in their ability to worship God and they had a limited understanding of who God was. They were like high schoolers. They sure thought they were ready for freedom in a new land, but God knew better.

Here are the words of a father's direction for his son in Proverbs 7.

Follow my advice, my son;
always treasure my commands.
Obey my commands and live!
Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes.
Tie them on your fingers as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart.
- Proverbs 7:1-3

The father knows that as his son steps into independence there will be temptation at every turn. His son will need a solid foundation, a strong sense of identity to be different than the pagan culture all around them.

Garrett and I feel the same way about our kids. That is why, from early on, we have been establishing rules and teaching them wisdom. When they were little we could get away with "dos" and "don'ts," but as they get closer to leaving our home we know that they must self-identify with God's path for their lives because we won't be able to force them to make good choices.

God was about to send the Israelites off to college. And he loved them too much to send them off unprepared. So we get a plea like this one found in Deuteronomy 11 (which sounds a lot like the concerned father in Proverbs 7).

18 “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. - Deuteronomy 11:18

God dearly loved Israel. He wanted them (and us) to thrive! But he knew college was a corrupt place that would try at every turn to get his beloved children off track, so he spent lots and lots of chapters in the Old Testament preparing them - not because they weren't sophisticated and not because he is a control freak, but because these wayward kids meant everything to him. You and I mean everything to him, so he left all those crazy rules for us read and see his real heart for us - He is a father that will never abandon us.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Stuck on a Deserted Island with YOU?

I recently read an article with a simple, but compelling piece of business advice: find a place where you can commit.

As a Millennial with an assorted career past, it got me thinking about what it means to commit. Very few people stay at jobs for decades anymore, especially younger generations. And honestly, I think older generations have stayed in their jobs for the long-haul, not because they loved it, but because it was easier that way.

So what does commitment look like?

The article I read talked about the team he joined and the companionship they developed over time.

But sticking it out with people for the long-haul requires being around people you actually like - people you respect and that respect you. It requires just as much chemistry as it does skill.

So, what if we went into job interviews asking, "Would I want to be stranded on a deserted island with all of you?"

In my early career life I was job hunting - looking for a place to pay me for some kind of work I didn't hate so I could support my family. And it left me desiring something more. I could have saved myself a ton of workplace pitfalls had I asked this question.

I would have ran from bosses that were control-freaks and avoided bland, lifeless teams that didn't know how to (or weren't allowed to) have fun - because on my deserted island we have lots of fun!

So, would you want to be stuck on a deserted island with your team? Not just some of them - ALL OF THEM?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Heart for Learning

I believe that when leaders stop learning, we stop growing.
When we stop growing, we start dying.
- Shawn Lovejoy

Learning has nothing to do with taking classes or reading books. It has everything to do with activating a curious, humble heart. My uncle frequently told me when I was growing up that people will tell you anything you need to know if you'll take the time to ask and then listen to them.

This has been true as a parent, a leader at church, a co-worker, and a wife.

I never want to get to a place that I have so many book smarts that I forget to cultivate my curious heart. God has so many things to show us when we take our eyes off of ourselves and begin humbly asking questions.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Off the Ivy

I played softball nearly all of my childhood. I wasn't an athletic kid, but I loved being on the diamond. I loved cheering in the dugout with my friends (what I lacked in physical ability, I more than made up for in raucous encouragements for my teammates). And I loved the giant pickles and double bubble you could only find at a softball concession stand!

I wasn't an exceptional batter. I wasn't a fast runner. And I didn't have a good enough arm to get the ball from Short Stop to First Base, let alone from the outfield. My one contribution, though was a snappy glove at First Base. My height gave me an advantage (in elementary and middle school anyhow) to catch nearly anything a Short Stop or Third Baseman threw my way. So I bought a first baseman's glove and owned my spot like a little league champ.

But deep down I wanted to be an Outfielder. Prior to the major league strike, I LOVED watching the Cubs play. My heroes were Sammy Sosa and Derrick May and I wanted to be like them. And I wasn't shy about saying it. I wasn't angry about playing first, I loved it there, too. It was more like a dream of mine - to be in the outfield when a ball was hit in my direction. I would leap up and catch the ball from the ivy!

But, like I said, I wasn't fast or athletic. It was a pipe dream - practically a joke. So, you can imagine my surprise when one night near the end of our game my coach said, 'Sandhagen. You're at Center!'

I picked up my (now-illegal) first baseman's glove and trotted out to center field with a new found leap in my step. This was going to be EPIC!!

As the first pitch went out, I dropped down in an infielder's ready stance and grinned from ear to ear. I had to look like a lost duck without a clue! You can imagine my surprise when one of those first pitches rang off the bat and headed MY WAY!! This was my big moment.

I started running toward the ball, watching it's trajectory with absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had never practiced catching a fly ball - not one with any arch.  Now, you give me a popup and you might as well go sit back down because this girl was quick. But as the fly ball came directly at me, I quickly realized I had really crappy depth perception. Had I stood in place, it would have hit me in the head, but instead as I ran in, it fell behind me and I was in trouble! 

Luckily, the Right and Left Fielders were there to cover me and kept the girl at second, but I spent the rest of the inning DEEP in center field praying earnestly for nothing else to come my way.

It wasn't that I didn't know what an outfielder was supposed to do - I had watched Derrick and Sammy (and to some degree, my teammates) catch nearly a million fly balls. The problem was, I had never actually caught one myself. For all the "want to" in the world, I had no skills to back up my dream.

How often do we fall into that trap in life! We want to take a great vacation, but we don't want to sacrifice to save up for it. We want to find a great husband/wife, but we aren't willing to do the work to be content with who we are alone first. We want to become a great speaker or writer or boss, but we don't develop our skills, our character, to match the dream we have in our hearts.

As a little girl I remember spending hours looking at and eventually reading my Precious Moments bible. There was just something about that book (and subsequent bibles that weren't in King James) that I just loved. I knew there was something amazing in there - if I could just figure it out.

Since then, I have taken some classes, read some book, and have been an avid learner of great bible teachers around me, but I've never really taken it seriously. It was a hobby, like watching Sammy and Derrick.

When some circumstances in my life shifted, I started to do some actual study of the bible (a process I had been taught, but put on the back shelf) and as I systematically worked through 2 Timothy 1:1-2, I felt my heart come to life! I couldn't stop thinking about it and talking about it. Who knew 2 short introductory sentences could pack so much punch! It was like getting a glimpse of the outfield again.

So, a couple months ago, I decided to step (back) into the equivalent of Spring Training for bible geeks - Seminary. Classes started last week and I can't believe how much I am loving it. It's not my dream coming instantly to life - metaphorically, I'm still playing First Base - but I'm spending real practice time, getting real reps, that help me get ready to step into my dream.

And there has been some real risk and some real cost in doing that. It would have been much easier to just toss the ball around in the backyard rather than step out and declare, "I'm going to be an Outfielder!" Because honestly, I don't feel like a Seminarian. I read about biblical scholars who dedicated their entire life to rectifying dates in 1/2 Kings and 1/2 Chronicles and I think, "what a bore!"

But, the truth is, that was THEIR Outfield! And they dedicated their life to practicing and perfecting their skills. And, regardless of what we think about their work, we have to admire their dedication. There is something magnetic about a person who knows their dream and pursues it with all their heart - despite personal cost and risk.

So, I'm done with "safe" infield practice. I may drop every fly ball that comes my way, but I will eventually get good enough to catch one off the ivy at Wrigley - or whatever that equivalent is for a bible geek like me!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Eyes

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT)

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NLT)

I recently accepted the fact that my primary spiritual gift is that of Shepherd. In the past I discounted it mostly because I didn't understand it. I assumed Shepherds were soft and sweet and full of mercy. They can be, but mostly, they see God's followers with different eyes than most and they work to bring unity and love to the followers entrusted to them. 

I have spent the last 5 years developing gifts that I perceived as more important or gifts that brought me more 'importance,' but in 2015 I am spending time developing my actual gifts. 

To no surprise, as I opened myself up to the Holy Spirit's teaching, God is faithful to reveal today an area of growth - not in one verse, but in two. 

He's challenged me to remember that I was a nothing when he rescued me and he has shown his glory in my life in amazing ways. And there are people all around me that I may dismiss, but he wants to do glorious things in their life that will draw thousands to him. If I will look at them with His eyes and plead with them on his behalf, He will do exceedingly more than I could ever ask or imagine!