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True North: The Need for an External Point of Reference

Posted by on Oct 21, 2014 in Blog, Featured, Lost Virtues, Truth, Values | 0 comments

I grew up watching the Waltons. It was one of the shows that was in our daily diet. I think it was because of John Boy for the most part. The narrative he added to their lives and the morals they lived by from a different time were solid. Of course, you’re probably making fun of my for that admission, nevertheless, it’s was a good show.

I remember an episode of that show where Olivia was out with Elizabeth and Jim Bob (I think). One way or another, in the dense forrest of Virginia, they got lost. They encountered different trials, including one where Jim Bob had to scare away a bear by banging a couple of rocks together. As they navigated their way back to the main road, Olivia (the mom) said that moss grows on the north side of the tree, so that would help them know which way they were going. It was a point of reference. But there’s a problem with it.

Her point of reference isn’t global. That doesn’t work everywhere. For instance is the same true in the southern hemisphere? I know for a fact the same principle does not apply here in the Northwest where moss grows on all sides of the tree. So, what do we do then? Some may say you can use the sun. And while that’s true on a sunny day, we also have a lot of days where the sun isn’t visible. What do we do then? When you don’t know which way you’re going, even a map will do you no good.

The only real answer is to have an external point of reference. Like a compass. You need to have something that is outside of your current circumstance that points you in the direction you need to go. You need to have something outside of you that can lead you to safety. Your rescue is dependent on the external point of reference. You may not see the sun, but as long as you have that needle that is pointing to true north, you can navigate.

The problem we are facing in todays society is that we have removed the external point of reference. It’s not for a lack of tools and things that point to it. Those all exist and have not changed. But for some strange reason we have decided that we no longer need something outside ourselves to guide us. We believe that we are able and competent to lead from within the circumstance.

We don’t use true north anymore. Many don’t even believe that true north exists. Many believe each of us gets to decide what true north is for ourselves. And so, we are all out there in the same woods, using our own true norths to try to navigate this life.

“What’s the big deal with that?” you might be asking. One problem is that we are all sharing the same forrest. We are all on this planet sharing oxygen. Our paths cross. no one lives in true isolation. What happens when my north contradicts your north? What happens when your north gets in the way of my north? Who gets to decide which north is the right north? Who gets to win the battle of the norths?

In this scenario, one might think that everyone would just assume that everyone is right. But that’s not the case. And we can see that being played out all over media on a daily basis. It never happens that everyone is right. In fact, what most commonly happens is that everyone is wrong. What I mean by that, is we don’t hear people commending one another for being right, we hear people condemning one another for being wrong. How idiotic is it of us to claim that what’s right for me may not be right for you and yet, at the same time condemn you for not doing what I think is right?

So, when your north contradicts my north, then you must be punished. And whichever way the justice scales of public opinion are tilting that day is what will be the winning north. The scales may swing widely from contradiction to contradiction, and that doesn’t matter. All that matters is right now and how I feel in this moment.

It does not make any sense. The reason we are such a messed up people is that we have abandoned our True North. The only way for us to find that sense is to abandon the ridiculous notion that I get to decide what north is and turn back to the real source of north – God. For it is God and God alone that sits outside our circumstance, and only he knows which direction we should go.

If you are unfamiliar with Frank Peretti’s illustration called “The Chair” I strongly recommend you make yourself familiar with it. Unfortunately this is an old video and it looks old, but the point is great.

Lawrence D. Shinn – Eulogy

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014 in Family, Featured | 3 comments

Lawrence D. Shinn

May 30, 1924 ~ August 29, 2014

Grandpa-Shinn

How do you summarize a life? How do you put into words all of the various dimensions of a life that spanned 90 years? The life of Lawrence D. Shinn is one that spanned across some of the greatest time periods in American History. His life also spanned some of the greatest industrial and technological advances in Human history. And amid all that change there are a few words that stand out:

Determined. From the very beginning of his life he was faced with extraordinary circumstances  that would cause most of us to hang up our hat and call it quits. He worked on farms, picked fruit, built houses and pole buildings; he raised turkeys, chickens and cattle and operated a sawmill. And of course, he worked on the farm and logged the great forests of the Pacific Northwest. Whatever was necessary to provide for his family, he was determined to provide.

Laughter. He loved to laugh. He loved to poke fun whenever given the opportunity. He wasn’t afraid of putting on a wig, some girly glasses and a couple clip on earrings to get a reaction out of you. He probably had inside jokes with all the family members and took advantage of the opportunity to individualize his approach to best suit his audience. And of course, nobody could touch his strawberry jam without an adequate dose of overinflated, righteous indignation.

Diligent. There aren’t many people on the planet who worked as hard as Lawrence did. Of course he would tell you that if you didn’t do it, it won’t get done. But as long as there was work to do, he did it.

Exploration. He loved to travel. He had a passion for the National Parks, especially the Grand Canyon, and the beauty that could be soaked in to the bone. He worked hard enough to be able to explore without feeling guilty, and he absorbed as much of God’s creation as one could aspire to see in one lifetime. This love of the sheer beauty and wonder of nature has been passed down through the generations. His passion for exploration led to him spending his retired years traveling with Maude.  They bought a motor home and traveled all over the United States.  They truly enjoyed this time together and shared many stories about their adventures.

Farm. Lawrence had an understanding of what it mean to be a steward of the land he had been blessed with. He also knew that you needed to produce things to make a living. Even when his mother grace experienced health issues related to the chickens they were raising that just meant he had to find something else to produce. So, whether it was trees, chickens, sheep, cattle, turkeys or children, his love for his farm has created another generation of children and grandchildren who have the same love.

Innovation. He wasn’t afraid to try something new to provide either. Whether that was buying the TD-9 to log on and off the farm, setting up a sawmill to sell railroad ties, flipping properties for a profit, being the first to work at the Broadmore plant in woodland, and eventually starting a construction business with his son, Larry which lasted for 26 years – he tried new things.

Tough. He went through a lot in his lifetime. As can be expected when you work hard on the farm, from time to time you get injured. But this didn’t keep him from getting back on the horse, the tractor, the roof or anything else. But he wasn’t just tough, he also wasn’t afraid to be tough. When his kids and grandkids needed to be told something, he wasn’t afraid to pull them aside and say it. He was always kind in his rebuke, and never judgemental, but he knew that being tough was what was needed and he was tough enough to be tough. And he didn’t complain – at least not much. Even in the end of his life.

Love. As much as he loved to travel, he loved his high school sweetheart incomparably more. He loved one woman until the day he died, and none of us were unaware of just how much he missed his bride. He adapted his life to meet her needs, especially as she struggled for a long time. And even then, he was motivated to care for her out of love. He showed us all how to love your spouse selflessly and unconditionally. He had and undying love for the love of his life.

Family. Lawrence had a love for his family. He had a desire for his young family to be vested in the interests of his predecessors. And he sought to raise a family that would pass on the tradition of selflessly caring for one another. If you asked him what he thought his legacy would be, I’m sure family would be at the top of the list.

We haven’t done justice to the life he lived with these few words, but they’re a start to an understanding of a life that has affected the lives of so many others. There simply aren’t words to express the influence and impact of his life, but I guess that’s kind of the point. We don’t do his life justice by mentioning a few words, we do his life justice by carrying on where he left off.

So perhaps the greatest praise we could sing of Lawrence D. Shinn will not be in the words we share on this day – though we must and we should tell the stories he would tell; but could it be that the greatest praise of his life will be in the kinds of lives we lead with the tools he gave us to lead them?

Click below to listen to the audio of the memorial service:

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Selling A Beautiful House is Hard!

Posted by on Aug 12, 2014 in Blog, Family, Featured, Values | 2 comments

We are selling our house we have called home for the last 6+ years. We have so many wonderful memories in this house. We’ve watched our kids grow up there. All of our kids but our oldest took their first steps there. We’ve had family gatherings there. Birthday parties, barbecues for friends and many other things. We’ve even kept a guest book of all the people we’ve had to that house over the years.

That makes it hard. Not just because you don’t want to leave all the memories behind, because the truth is we take all the memories with us. What makes it hard, is that at the end of the day, your house becomes a commodity.

And that’s been especially hard for me to learn to separate memory from commodity. To me the house is worth a lot because I know how awesome you can live life when you’re living in that house. I know how amazing it is at facilitating gatherings of groups large and small, and I know how great it is for families and kids. I know how well the garden produces and have spent many of my own years and dollars building into that place. I know the names of the three hummingbirds we’ve been feeding for years now.

For me, it’s worth a lot because I know how great it is once you’re in it.

But it’s hard to turn from that mindset to the mindset of selling something.

So, we’re selling out house. It’s a great house with a lot of great memories that have been made. And if you are looking or know someone who is looking for a great house, would you consider passing this along? It’s full of great life, and is just waiting for someone else to come and carry on that tradition!

Coldwell Banker Listing: http://www.cbseal.com/Homes/WA/Washougal/4537-ROLLING-MEADOWS-DR-98671/14373586

Redfin Listing: http://www.redfin.com/WA/Washougal/4537-Rolling-Meadows-Dr-98671/home/14651466

Zillow Listing: http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/4537-Rolling-Meadows-Dr-Washougal-WA-98671/23256305_zpid/

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If We’re Being Honest… #lessofme

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Featured, Humility | 0 comments

I’ve been in this place lately, and it’s hard to explain.

I have things I want to say to people. In other words I want to be heard.

And I know what you have to do to be heard, according to most things you read, that’s build a platform so you have an audience to hear your thoughts and musings and whatever witty banter I might have for you that day.

However, the hard part of that isn’t finding followers. Sure, that’s a challenge, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Because, I’m sure if I disciplined myself, I could find thousands of followers on twitter and gather a fairly decent following.

The hard part is, that it seems the thing we have to do in order to be heard is to be somewhat of a narcissist and talk all about how great and awesome you are. You have to talk down to the world and be able to say things about the world that make you look like Aristotle’s teacher.

In other words, it seems you have to be proud and arrogant to build a following. I’m not saying that everyone who has built a following is that way, but it seems to be important.

And that’s a big problem for me. Not because I don’t want the attention, because the truth is, I do. I’d love to have a billion followers.

But, the message I want to share is about walking humbly. Making much of Jesus instead of making much of me. Because, I don’t really have all that much to share with you apart from Jesus. Because, without the wisdom I’ve received from a life of following Him, I’m just an idiot. In fact, I’m still an idiot quite a lot of the time.

We talk about this at SixEight Church quite a bit. If this thing is built around me, we’re going to fail. Because I don’t have the eternal significance with which to sustain such a movement as that of the Bride of Jesus Christ.

We must always keep this in check. I think there is extreme danger in building things around ourselves. There are the obvious dangers of, what if you mess up and everything comes crashing down.

But, I think there’s the bigger danger of losing your soul.

“Whoah there, hang on. You thing you can lose your soul through the simple act of pride?”

That wasn’t me, that was the wisdom of Jesus:

25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matt 16:25-26)

“Really bruh, what do you think it means to gain the world?”

Well, perhaps this:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom 12:2) 

The way the world thinks is to make much of ourselves. The pattern of this world is to make everything revolve around ourselves, and to build our lives on the foundation of me. The world screams at us all the time about how we need to do this or that to be truly happy. And somehow, we never are.

But, we aren’t supposed to be like the world. We’re supposed to have transformed minds that don’t think like the world.

And it’s here that I see a grave danger. If the world is still about us, if we gain the whole world – then our minds have never been renewed and transformed. Our minds still think like the old man who’s a part of the fallen, broken and ultimately condemned to death world.

So, how’s your soul? Are you making everything about you? Or is it about Jesus? Am I doing a good job of this- on most days I probably fail miserably. It’s a process we will never be finished with. But, are we at least aware of it, and attempting, however imperfectly to make our lives about Jesus? That’s what I’m afraid of. I just don’t know how many of us are doing that today.

This is an extremely important message, and I have an intense burden for it and that’s why it’s hard to share. Maybe you’ll share it with some people you know, probably not. But, if you do, do so with the intention of making much of Jesus. Not yourself. And certainly not me. Because at the end of the day, I’m still an idiot.

Too Much Worry

Posted by on Jul 2, 2014 in Featured, Worry | 0 comments

There’s so much to worry about. Even if we just focused on our own lives, there’s a lot to worry about. But with the rapid improvements in technology, we have more to worry about now than we ever have.

We always knew there were things going on around the world, but they weren’t in our face all the time. We knew there were starving kids in Africa, we knew there were dangerous places to live in the middle east, we knew there were natural disasters, we knew there were dictators, we knew a lot of things were out there. But, we didn’t have them all thrown in our face, every single day.

I don’t know what your Facebook feed is like, but mine is constantly filled with all of these issues and more. I’m reminded on a daily, if not multiple times a day, just how messed up the world is that we live in.

And it doesn’t matter which philosophy of life you subscribe to, because there is plenty of worry to go around. There are plenty of issues that can cause you to worry, even if you don’t agree with them.

And because we don’t agree with them, we have more stuff to worry about. Stuff we would have never worried about before, because it wasn’t in our faces all the time. But, because we don’t agree, we worry that our way of life is going to be snuffed out and replaced with something we don’t believe in or agree with.

How should we deal with it all?

Worrying is like a rocking chairHere’s my point, and it’s really quite simple, stop worrying about all these things you can’t control. Like the quote in the picture, “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

You can’t control what your friends and family believe. You can’t control how your neighbor votes, the fact that they smoke on their back porch and it drifts into your bedroom, that their dogs bark and keep you awake or a thousand other things. You can’t control the ones who are in charge of you, whether they’re controlling your job or your country. There are so many things we can’t control that we worry about.

We can’t control how someone we know succeeds or fails. We can’t control how people around us perceive us. We can’t control our kids to keep them from making bad choices. We can’t control our parents. We can’t control the idiots who drive slow in the passing lane. We can’t control the stop light. We can’t control the guy at emissions. We can’t control the stock market or the super market. It’s all out of our control.

Worry about stuff that you have no control over is like worrying about the person in the rocking chair next to you.

You were hoping to enjoy your afternoon on the porch with your sweet tea, but you can’t because the rocking technique of the person next to you is all wrong. And on top of that, they’re drinking unsweetened iced tea. So instead of enjoying your own rocking chair, you’re worried about something else.

Just Stop It!

If we all just focused on our own lives, and making the most of what we’ve been given and stopped worrying about each other and the myriad of things that are out of our control, don’t you think we’d be much better off?

What if, instead of spending your days worrying about all these things outside your grasp, you just spend your days worrying about how what you’re doing right now is affecting you and those closest to you? What if you started focusing your life in such a way that you became a blessing to those around you? What if you got your stuff together and were able to start helping out others who need it? There’s plenty to worry about in your own life. And if you just focus on doing the best you can with what you have, and then try to make a difference in the people around you, you’ll have far less to worry about.

Reverse the whole world

You know what would happen if we all started living this way? It would literally reverse the whole order of the world. And yes I mean literally.

If we just focused on getting our stuff together and doing what is within our control to do instead of worrying about why the world isn’t doing these things for us, we’d be much better off. So much of what we worry about are things we were designed to do for ourselves anyway.

And if we take personal responsibility for what we’re supposed to be doing, there’s no one to blame but ourselves.

If we can get our stuff together enough that we can start helping one another out, then we’ve gone from worrying about what the other person is doing, to making a difference in their lives. We’re not sitting on the outside judging and worrying, we’re gaining influence from the inside. And when you have influence you can help lead someone in a different direction.

Soon, you’ve started changing the world around you, and instead of having stuff to worry about you have results to enjoy.

I Suppose…

…it’s easier to sit outside your life and the lives of others and feign concern through the disguise of worry. That way, you never have to do any actual work. But, if you haven’t done anything to make a difference do you have a right to worry? Of course it’s easier to never do anything and blame everyone else for why your life sucks. And while I don’t want to ignore the fact that there are those who have a lot to overcome in life, there are plenty of examples of people who have a thousand reasons to complain and worry who decide to enjoy life anyway.

As long as you’re sitting on the outside of your life worrying about all the things that might go wrong, you’ll always have plenty to worry about. But, what would it take for you to live your life intentionally?

Stop letting life happen to you, and happen to your life. 

If I Could Convince You Of This One Thing…

Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We spend so much time comparing ourselves to other people. We want their houses, their cars, their families, their gifts and talents – basically all the good parts of their life without the bad.

And what time we don’t spend comparing ourselves to others, and desiring their life instead of ours, we spend doubting the person God made us to be. We think it’s humble or something to come across as unconfident in who we were made to be. Or, we’re just so insecure because our gifts are different from other people’s gifts, and their gifts are the more noticeable, flashy kind of gifts, so we assume that ours must be insignificant.

What’s the one thing I wish I could convince you of? To have faith in who God made you to be. 

have-faith-believe-in-yourselfAnd that’s the real kicker of the whole thing anyway. Let me explain. Who is responsible for making you the way that you are? Doesn’t that responsibility fall on God’s shoulders? Sure, there are things about how we were raised, the way our parents treated us, the way we made friends and the way they treated us that all affect how we live and do life. But, isn’t it God who created us on purpose for a purpose?

So, those little jabs you make at yourself, about how you’re not good enough at this or that, those aren’t just putting yourself down, but you’re putting God down too. When you belittle your gift because it isn’t as fun and in your face as someone else’s gift, you’re dissing your creator. Maybe that’s your intent. I don’t know you well enough to know.

But, what I do know and what I have seen is that every single person made in God’s image has something they can bring to the table. Every single person God makes, is someone he designed with His mission in mind. And when you put yourself and your skills and abilities and personality and other traits down, you’re putting God down too.

So, Have faith and be yourself. God made you to play a specific role that the person with the flashy gift is incapable of playing. And while they might get all the attention because they’re loud and obnoxious, you know that they couldn’t do what they do if you didn’t do what you do. There is no single person on the face of the planet capable of doing everything God needs done. So, be confident in who God made you. Because there is no one else he has made to do or be who He made you to be.

And if you don’t do it, no one else will. So there will be this big hole of stuff that’s not getting done because that’s what you were created to do. We need you. We need every single person doing what they were created to do.

That’s the only way to achieve true, world domination.

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