When You’re Stretched Too Thin

copied from Jonathan Malm’s blog. A good reminder while I consider different employment while pursuing dreams to create more art.

When I took this new job, I went from writing 4-5 blog posts each day to writing 6-7. I went from working on two projects during the day to working on four. Am I getting stretched a little bit thin? Not really.

I’m convinced people operate at about one-fifth of their actual capacity. I think we get set in a certain rhythm and believe that’s all we have to give. But think of it like a balloon. If you try to inflate it too quickly, it will pop – because the rubber hasn’t had a chance to slowly stretch. It needs to get used to a certain amount of air before it gets stretched some more. But as you inflate it slowly it can take more and more stretching.

We often get used to our old pressure points and think they’re the same later on in life. But I truly believe you can do more than you think you can. You have amazing potential.

But I want to do something bigger than myself. I want to go even beyond my capacity as an individual. How do I do that?

Call it trite. Call it obvious. But you need people on your team to go further. You’ll never accomplish anything greater than yourself if you’re the lonely creative.

Before this new job, I was working in my apartment – isolated with my cup of coffee. Everything I could create rested on my shoulders. I started relying on others when I began Sunday| Magazine and CSDI – resourcing the genius and talents of others. And soon enough those expanded beyond me.

And this new job is no different. I’m resourcing others to make something bigger than each of us could on our own. And that’s the secret to doing something incredible without stretching yourself too thin: get others involved and let them stretch with you.

Living in Spiritual Obsurity

excerpt from Oswald Chamber, May 1st – Link

Faith – Not Emotion

We walk by faith, not by sight —2 Corinthians 5:7

For a while, we are fully aware of God’s concern for us. But then, when God begins to use us in His work, we begin to take on a pitiful look and talk only of our trials and difficulties. And all the while God is trying to make us do our work as hidden people who are not in the spotlight. None of us would be hidden spiritually if we could help it. Can we do our work when it seems that God has sealed up heaven? Some of us always want to be brightly illuminated saints with golden halos and with the continual glow of inspiration, and to have other saints of God dealing with us all the time. A self-assured saint is of no value to God. He is abnormal, unfit for daily life, and completely unlike God. We are here, not as immature angels, but as men and women, to do the work of this world. And we are to do it with an infinitely greater power to withstand the struggle because we have been born from above.

If we continually try to bring back those exceptional moments of inspiration, it is a sign that it is not God we want. We are becoming obsessed with the moments when God did come and speak with us, and we are insisting that He do it again. But what God wants us to do is to “walk by faith.” How many of us have set ourselves aside as if to say, “I cannot do anything else until God appears to me”? He will never do it. We will have to get up on our own, without any inspiration and without any sudden touch from God. Then comes our surprise and we find ourselves exclaiming, “Why, He was there all the time, and I never knew it!” Never live for those exceptional moments— they are surprises. God will give us His touches of inspiration only when He sees that we are not in danger of being led away by them. We must never consider our moments of inspiration as the standard way of life— our work is our standard.

The older English version says, “None of us would be obscure spiritually if we could help it.” The part that talks about striving to recreate those rare moments of inspiration reminds me of some of the seasons in the Vineyard where God’s spirit was being poured out and Gary was trying to navigate and steer the church through the pitfalls of human nature…the addiction to spiritual infatuation and euphoria rather than faith in God shown through obedience. Anything other than obedience, no matter how dry and tasteless, only leads to spiritual death and brings no Glory to God in the end. If we are to carry any obsession it must be an unwavering desire to bring Glory to God no matter the personal cost. In order to survive the cost we must be convinced that this will result in great joy to our Father and his kingdom if we will see it through. That joy will meet us in our journey in surprising ways if we do not give up or lose hope.

The simple things that make God proud

Revelation of God’s character and the nature of His relationship to us strike me at the most unexpected times and in the most peculiar way. I was having a tender moment with Caitlyn while watching her Sunday morning (Kendra took the other three to Imago for service). Caity has been potty training of her own accord and has taken to removing her diaper and lower clothing, perhaps to make it easier to jump on the potty whenever the urge hits her…or whenever the fancy takes her which seems more the case lately.

So, she hollered out “I go poopie” and grabbed my hand to help her. We head into the bathroom, plunk her down on the big potty and wait. She takes her time, just happy to be there like the “big” people in her life. She holds on to my leg with both arms and just looks up at me with her tiny face and big eyes and just gives me one of those “I love you Daddy” looks with her eyes and smile. A little more pushing and patient waiting and she proudly announces, “see Daddy? I poopie!” She looks behind her to confirm that her two little nuggets are indeed there…and then back at me with such a happy smile.

You know what? I couldn’t have been more proud of or delighted in her than at that moment. The fact that she was sharing her proud moment with me and the love in her heart with which she included me made it all precious. perhaps even more memorable than the onstage production of the front room dance routines…although those are a great delight that send us running for our cameras. These bathroom times are more private moments held in trust but very precious.

I imagine in this experience how the simplest things we might do can bring great joy to God’s heart. It is all about the joy in our hearts as we do the little things with love for God that delight him. The big accomplishments for “His kingdom” don’t impress Him in the least if they haven’t been done out of loyal devotion to Him. Conversely, cleaning diapers can be a trophy of honor in God’s showcase of good deeds if done out of humble devotion to Him. Our passion and love for Him must infuse all of our service to Him if it is to be useful for his purposes both in us and in the world. Anything less is unworthy of being brought before him as it must be a “love” offering that we lay at his feet, not simply a gift of our talents and resources.

Caleb blows up the cream

Caleb decides to toast himself some leftover waffles for a late breakfast this morning. He goes to help himself to the whip cream dispenser assuming that he knows how it works…after all he’s seen people hold it upside down and pull the trigger lots of times. He doesn’t ask for help cause “he’s got this.” I’m doing dishes beside him and next thing I know there’s a loud hissing noise accompanied by whipped shrapnel scattering all over the kitchen. I start by shouting out “what on earth are you…” and see him with a stunned look on his face and whip cream all over the place and can’t help laughing. We have a good laugh and then I give him the rag to clean it up…the fridge, the stove, the floor, the cabinets, the counters, the fruit etc.

Can’t help but see an analogy here of how we often think we understand a situation or a person because it resembles something we’ve seen before or looks familiar. It takes maturity to understand how little we really know for sure and the need for humility as we continually ask God to show us how to do things with his wisdom, “the right way.”

Sorting throught the MK closet

How is it that we can make it so far in life as missionary kids feeling that we’ve escaped the negative baggage that seems to have plagued many of the OTHER missionary or pastors kids only to find out at 40 that there are behaviors that are rearing up that may be connected to suppressed grief coming from those very experiences that I praise for making me who I am. And then I defend to my spouse who is lovingly pointing out what she’s observing that my boarding school experience was God’s plan for us and was not something that caused any doubt in our parent’s love for us…therefore she’s not understanding or “getting the situation.”

I’ve come to realize with Kendra that if I get too caught up in the details of what Kendra is saying I can miss the forest for the trees. Often the scenario that she reads or interprets isn’t what I see and the conclusions can seem misdirected, especially about my own life, but there’s always something bang on in what she’s seeing that is revelation from God. I’m learning to feel less threatened and just join in the hunt and let God preserve what is worth keeping and cast off what needs to be let go of. She can say something like “it’s not God’s natural design for families to send their kids away at such vulnerable ages.” Then I feel an emotional scramble going on inside to defend our experience as somehow “different” than the norm.

The bottom line is that our boarding school experience was something that God lead us to as perhaps the best path available to us given the limitations of the fallen world we live in. God doesn’t seem to just override all the negative circumstances that surround the place of His calling for us and just because he called us there it doesn’t mean we will sail through without cost, even great cost. But I do believe that it is something that will result in potentially the greatest glory to his name in our lives and is something he will redeem for good. But this won’t happen if we dismiss the grief and pain to try to defend His name. I’m sure God appreciates the sentiment but he’s not that insecure about his own work in our lives, i.e.”Oh no, I overlooked those details and how much that might mess up these kids’ lives. Gee I hope no one figures this out cause it could make me look bad.” In truth we may have bad theology that makes us feel the need to defend God here. It might be our theology that needs to change and not our “coloring” of the events of our lives. Are we secure enough in the loving nature of God to tell the whole story of our lives in “truth”…to celebrate the great kindness of God and yet relate the pain that is common to all human existence. God seems to have always gotten along best with those who have learned how to come to Him in honesty and truth. There can be little integrity to our lives and our testimonies if we deal with the complex unresolved questions in our hearts by throwing a large blanket over the whole experience and label it “evidence that God loves me.” Rather, I believe the more appropriate label we should be placing there is “To The Glory of God.” Under this banner there is room to wrestle with our experience, to cry out in anguish, to question God if this is necessary, and then to take His hand in the midst of it and learn to lean on his presence for faith and emotional strength to walk faithfully. If we didn’t know how to take his hand very well back then, He’s able to take us back to that place and help us get honest and walk through our fears and pain as adults later on.

But if we don’t get real about things and give up our fear of unsettling our confidence in God then we continue to “try” to defend God in our way, with our own reasoning and end up simply trying to prove to others that “God really does love me” in order to hide the deeper insecurity about this question, something too frightening to face. We are left to build our own human defenses and adopt a defensive stance towards life and relationships…especially those close to our vulnerable “self”. When we rely on our own defenses to guard the vulnerable self we can experience nothing of the comfort of Christ that would come to the weak and the broken. He does not come to the strong and self-sufficient (even if he knows it’s just a false front) but to the weak who seek him in “truth”. The real kicker is that we can’t even see what the truth is in our own experience unless he reveals it to us. All the more reason it is pointless to come to our own defense. Rather we make our appeal to Him to show us what we need to see and redeem what can be redeemed, cast off what is broken rubble.

this is what I’m asking the Holy Spirit to do. To sift through my experiences of missions, family and boarding school and to bring to light any grief and pain that has not been healed by his hand and is still present below the waterline. I’m beginning to believe that this has indeed been there below the surface and has repeatedly surfaced to rob my joy in Christ, has brought anxiety into my relationship with God, left me with tools of criticism, comparison, deflection and pride which bring only guilt.

Perhaps in His mind He saw it as the best place available to us to work in our lives and knew he could perserve our faith in Him until the day many years later when He would more fully heal the areas of pain and disappointment that would result. He doesn’t seem to be afraid to lead us through pain or need to justify why He would do that if He really is a God of Love. He always IS love and cannot be anything else…it is only us people that are still trying to settle the matter in our own minds and feel the need to interpret events and circumstances in order to prove or disprove our assumption about God. “If God is good and He lead us to this boarding school, then I shouldn’t have to deal with any pain and disappointment from that experience. That would be to doubt His Sovereignty or sufficiency or, God forbid, the “goodness” of His nature.

Wess Stafford’s “Too Small to Ignore”

a deeper look into God’s heart for children in America…

“…children are not tomorrow’s church in waiting or in training. They are an important part of today’s church. In today’s selfish, “it’s all about me” mentality, we may have passed the point of no return in our ability to welcome children back into our sanctuaries to worship with us. Or to let them actually lead us in worship.”

“The real integration of children into our lives is happening all across the world-just not very much in Western society. Here we have forgotten that there really is no higher calling than to raise a child. We tend to do a lot FOR our children but not nearly enough WITH our children. In many of today’s dual-income households, parents hire others to do most of the privilege of child raising.”

note about suffering from pastor Rob

I get emails from North Langley Community Church and often stop to read short comments from pastor Rob Thiessen. This one is right on and sums up my inner conviction about suffering…not that I always accept it with the grace and joy I should:

Dear NLCC Family,

I recently had the privilege of hearing John Piper speak at Willingdon Church. My understanding of who God is and how He works in this world was definitely stretched! Piper’s message focused on how God is glorified through the suffering of Christ– that even in heaven, it is Jesus’ victory through suffering and death which is celebrated and magnified (Revelation 5:9). My orientation toward suffering is usually negative. I would like to avoid it and when I can’t, I grit my teeth and endure it. I don’t naturally ask myself the question, “How might God be glorified through my struggle?” but that might be exactly what God is up to.

This isn’t an easy subject. Real suffering brings real anguish and grief to us as it did to our Lord. But what an amazing truth to realize that even in the darkest moments of life, our Sovereign and Majestic God is bringing glory to Himself in and through us.

Are you in the middle of trial these days? Consider that God knows and will be faithful to bring Himself glory through your suffering. He may deliver you, heal you, or keep you there for a time, but in everything, He is at work for His glory and “for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose”. (Romans 8:28)

Pastor Rob

taking risks in career

a timely reminder which somehow seems more relevant at this time of transition:

While we tend to focus solely on building our skill sets or expanding our knowledge, the greatest advancement and learning most often comes from action, experience, and taking risk. And our regrets in life reflect this. According to Gilbert, studies show that “in the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did.”

link to article

Hoping for Great Things

“But, let us not settle for merely surviving, just pulling in enough to satisfy the bill collectors. Expect more. Look beyond “breaking even” to that “abundance for every good deed”. With increased expectations comes increased capacity. We have been made with more capacity than we realize, but low expectations keep us from discovering it. Remember, we are partnering with the Maker of the universe. Let’s not allow bills and employers to define our destiny!”

A friend of mine (Mark Turner) wrote this in a newsletter that i thought appropriate for our current situation of looking towards a future. For me it’s the tenuous position of reaching for hopes and allowing myself to dream without letting those dreams become too defined by circumstances lining up a certain way. Unmet expectations can be too painful and yet resisting hope and suppressing dreams leads to depression.

So the key seems to be to hope large and believe for great things while “trusting” God to affect the outcome any way He sees fit. Our hope must be grounded in a good and faithful father which allows us to retain our big hopes even when the circumstances take a reversal. It is a stubborn hope that still believes that “even though the last 5 years have been the opposite of what I thought I was signing up for, God is going to do something incredible here and i’ll get to be a part of it.”


kids portray clearly the affinities of our human nature. Karina is sitting on the couch holding 5 or 6 of her dearest stuffed animals and one doggy styled backpack on her back…oh, and her favorite blanket. Things are bursting out of her arms, she’s tangled in the blanket and starting to lose her balance. should she let go of one of her precious critters to save herself? the attachments are too strong and she can’t bear to let anything go…so she rolls off the couch right onto her head where the harsh reality of the consequences demand her attention.

How foolish and silly it all looks, and yet we are much the same with our own “hidden” attachments. The consequences don’t appear that great for a while and we appear to manage holding on to all the things we want in our lives…meanwhile God sees what we really need and what we were made for and patiently draws us towards himself.