Thought  to Thrive:

Walking Well Through Life's Success and Failure

The Sorting Hat

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Monday, July 29, 2019 @ 9:29 AM

A couple times a week, my wife Alanna and I have the privilege of sitting together to share a cup of coffee and a conversation. Don’t get the wrong idea, we don’t have fantastically deep conversations about life, beauty, and the grand nature of things every time. But, sometimes, we do.


This morning we talked about being present with people. Especially people who aren’t like you, don’t think like you, talk like you, or value the things you value—and how more and more it feels difficult to be present with them. This is not new. There have always been differences among people. 

The challenge I feel these days is to be a person who is putting in the hard work of conversing with people with whom I have differences. 

Alanna agreed, adding “People don’t talk to each other anymore, we just shout back and forth.” Its not unlike when my dog starts barking for no reason, and I yell “hey!” and then he barks back. And then I yell “HEY!” and then he barks back matching my volume.And then I yell “HEY! KNOCK IT OFF!!”and he barks back matching my tone, volume and length! (Does he think we’re playing a game?!) 

Clearly we aren’t communicating with each other. 

The same is true in the way people “communicate." In an interview with David Letterman, author, actress and director Tina Fey, said that talking to people over the last couple years has been like playing hopscotch with landmines. It seems almost dangerous to converse with people. Especially those with whom we differ. 

Part of the difficulty, I said to Alanna, is that our English language has been booby trapped without us really realizing it. There are certain words or phrases, soundbites and half sentences, that when used, immediately land you in a particular camp. We paint with broad strokes, calling people Left or Right based on the language they use. Each broad camp has words and phrases that are associated with it. It seems as though we’ve lost the ability to communicate nuance. The minute you employ a word or phrase typically associated with a particular side is the same minute you are dropped into a bucket of people who all think, act, and live in a particular way. (We’ve apparently let our communication strategy follow Facebook’s advertising algorithm.)

Remember the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter? As the new students arrived at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they would go through a ceremony in which the Sorting Hat would be placed on the head of each new student to magically search their heart and mind for character traits and values. Each student was then, based on the findings, sorted into one of four houses, kind of like a tribe. 

We’ve all become like the Sorting Hat. 

The problem is that we don’t listen to the nuances of people’s hearts and minds to learn their character traits and values, we simply assign them to a position based on some buzz words and then let the yelling begin—trying to match tone, volume and length. Its like getting into a shouting match with my dog. We aren’t really communicating.

All of this makes it difficult to be present with people. But perhaps I shouldn’t put that on you. So let me clarify, and see if you can identify with me. All of this makes it difficult for me to be present with people. For example, here’s my own confession: I went into the city this past weekend for dinner with friends. (That sentence alone might have led some of you reading this to put me in a bucket based on the fact that I had to travel into the city.) After dinner and dessert and a stroll through some neighborhoods, I left the city feeling overwhelmed. As I tried to articulate my feelings to Alanna in the car, it came down to this: 

I felt like there were so many people shouting their values at me all the time with words, phrases or soundbites. Everything is so in your face—from smaller bumper stickers, to medium sized yard signs, to giant flags in windows or hanging from houses. Just a bunch of un-nuanced, buzzwords and phrases being silently shouted at everyone passing by. I found it overwhelming. It made me want to leave. To be clear, it wasn’t because I was opposed to all of the opinions of those stickers, signs or flags represented. It was because it was like walking through the middle of a silent yet strenuous shouting match. 

As we walked the streets I could feel my Sorting Hat heart, trying to quickly sort everyone into their houses or tribes based on what I could see, read or hear…not listening for their character and values after searching the nuances of the minds and hearts of people. 

It makes presence difficult. It makes me want to retreat to people who only use words and phrases of the tribe I’m in. It makes me want to retreat to my “holy” huddle.

And yet, as a Jesus follower, I think I’m called to be present in the shouting match. Not to offer another screaming voice. But letting Jesus’ life be on display in mine. I’m not saying its wrong to hang your flag, post a sign in your lawn, or put a sticker on your car (actually, don’t put stickers on your car, its just not good for the value of the vehicle). What I am saying is that I don’t want my life to be defined by soundbites or a silent shouting match of buzzwords and phrases. I want to live my character and values—not shout them. I want to let my life speak. 

I want the opportunity to add nuance, not be so quickly sorted.

But if I want these things, I need to follow Jesus toward being present with others, to give others the same opportunity. To search for values and character. To not sort them by soundbites, stickers, or whatever silent shouting they do. 

Its time I start wondering a little more deeply what it is that leads people to the decisions they make. And that will require being present with them.

If I can’t possibly understand why a person thinks or believes what they think or believe, then that’s my fault. It means I haven’t been present long enough, or wondered deeply enough with them. I haven’t searched the nuances of their hearts and minds to learn their values and character.

Who specifically have you avoided being present with because you’ve already “sorted” them in your heart? I’m not talking about an ambiguous people group. I’m talking about someone specific: a coworker, a neighbor, or a friend or family member? What would it look like for you to "be present" with them?

Even more than that, could you imagine how different our world would look like? How different our social media news feeds, family dinners, or communities could look?

Let's do this together. Let's be present.

You're All Caught Up

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Tuesday, June 25, 2019 @ 10:28 AM

"You're all caught up." If you’re an Instagram user, you know this phrase. Its when you’ve seen the stories, and scrolled all the new posts in your feed. You’re all caught up on the new content. Thats what my phone told me as I sat in an oddly shaped club chair alone on the lower level of a multi-hall convention center in Montpellier, France. BioEM 2019, a bio-electric magnetic conference was taking place and Alanna, my wife, would be delivering a talk soon that I wanted to be at to support. Since I was not a registered guest - I hid in the basement until it would be time to sneak into the hall where she’d be talking.

I had finished reading a book a little earlier, looked at the all the recently posted boats on craigslist, texted anyone who I could think of awake on the other side of the world, checked email - and finally scrolled through all the instagram available. I was “all caught up.” The next option: 

 

spend some time in silence and solitude

or

sneak into a lecture on the Effect of Exposure to 900MHz Radio Frequency on the MEG Alpha Band Activity at Rest and the Biophysical Plausability.

 

Why is it so hard for us to sit and do nothing? To be silent? Not listening to music, podcasts, the radio? To not view or take in any content? Why is it so difficult to simply be... alone with ourselves? 

 

Ruth Haley Barton, in Strengthening the Soul of our Leadership, says that we resist solitude at all costs “because of the anxiety that comes when we pull ourselves away from all that we have allowed to define us externally.” In other words, we resist being alone with ourselves because for many of us - we simply don’t know or have forgotten who we are apart from our external definitions. External definitions often revolve around what we do. For example, I’m a pastor. But who am I if I’m not preaching, discipling, counseling, consoling, coaching or helping and teaching others? Who am I if I'm not pastoring? If we can separate our identity from our work, it often will still locate itself externally in a relationship with someone. I’m a husband, brother, son, friend. But those aren’t necessarily who I am, they only exist in so far as the person I’m relating too exists. What does it mean to be me? Who are you, when you stop defining yourself externally?

 

Who are you internally? And, why are you so dead set on not ever being silently alone with that person? I heard a recent class of college students were challenged by their professor to leave their phones in their dorm room and go outside and walk around alone for four hours. Some students reported feeling phantom vibrations in their pockets, causing them to reach for what was not there. Others reported panic attack-like symptoms within 2 hours of being away from their phone. Now I know that sounds extreme - but there’s something tremendously important here. If you never slow down, unplug, and spend time alone with who you are - who you really are - it will cause you problems. In fact its causing us all problems. 

Flannery O’Conner once said that “the first product of self-knowledge is humility.” I think one of the big reasons we don’t want to spend time alone with ourselves, is that we’re afraid we might not like what we find. A person who knows themselves well, spends time alone with themselves, is keenly aware of their flaws and inner darkness. Being aware of your own shortcomings produces humility. The fact that we as a society rarely spend time in silence and solitude, but rather get “all caught up,” breeds a massive lack of humility, and therefore interpersonal conflict. If I cannot imagine how people could think, speak or behave the way that they do - and I’m appalled at their actions - that’s a problem. It reveals a lack of self-awareness of my own faults, and failures, and shortcomings - a lack of awareness of my own unresolved anger, life-long wounds, and the various factors that make me who who I am (apart from what I do) - including the darkness. But if we spend honest silent time alone with ourselves,  its likely we will be confronted with ourselves. And that confrontation ought to produce humility. 

 

If you’re a Jesus follower the news is even better than that. 

If you’re a Jesus follower you don’t have to find your identity in what you do for a living or for others, but you can find it in what God says you are - and believe me He knows you. The real you. The apostle Paul puts it this way in a letter he wrote to a group of christians living in first century Ephesus. He says, 

“you were dead in your transgressions and sins” - pretty honest...

“but because of God’s great love for you shown in Christ, he saved you” - he thought you were worth dying for. 

“we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” - see, thats where we go wrong.

Thats where I go wrong. I thought God (and others) loved me for the good works I do. But that's not what he says. God doesn’t love you for your good works. God loves you because your his handiwork. His craft. His piece of art. his craftsmanship. His poem. He loves you for who you are - because he made you, and saved you. 

 

And that my friends, should humble us. It humbles me. Because I know me. I know the real me: the selfish, greedy, lusting, insecure, prideful, busy me. 

And the more time I spend alone with myself, in silence and solitude, confronted with myself - while reflecting on God’s surpassing love for myself - the more it changes the way I see people. If I’m loved and shown grace despite my brokenness, then that self-awareness should lead to a humble and gracious posture towards others. 

 

I wonder what would happen if more people sat in silence and solitude a little more often. What if Jesus’ followers, the Church, led the way in unplugging every now and then to be confronted with themselves. How might it change us? How might humble self-awareness change our families? Our schools? Our communities? Our politics? How might it change your contentious relationships?  Or your next family gathering or holiday dinner?

 

So go ahead. Unplug. Someone wise once said, “most things will work better when you unplug them for a while and plug them back in. Including us.” 

 

Find a room, a chair, a quiet place of some kind. 

Sit in silence for more than 15 minutes. 

Ask yourself “who am I when I’m not performing”

Ask yourself “What do I love?” “Loathe?" 

Invite God to open your eyes to the dead places in your life, and to bring his healing life. 

 

My guess is that when we start making this silence and solitude a regular habit - we’ll find ourselves feeling “all caught up” on what matters most: character, Spirit, and soul. 

 

Comment below, letting us know where your quiet space to practice is... or will be.

But I...

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 @ 8:54 AM

(Guest Post from Zac Toth, Worship Director at The Caledonia Gathering)

There’s this transitional phrase I like to use a lot in my life: “But I”.  

I really need to go to the gym, but I am so tired.

I need to start paying off my student loans, but I really want this thing.

I need to eat better, but I am starving.

We start seeing this pattern: expectation but reality.  Maybe these aren’t issues for you.  Maybe it’s…

I love my family, but I feel so much more desired by her.

I know it’s not good for me, but I love the pleasure it brings me.

Sometimes the reality is so strong that the expectation doesn’t even enter our minds.  Sometimes (waaaay more often than not) I come home from work so tired that the thought of going to the gym doesn’t even cross my mind.  Sometimes, around lunch, I’ll pass by a McDonalds and my hunger overwhelms me to the point where I don’t even consider a healthy option.  Sometimes the pleasure of something is so great that we don’t even realize how we are hurting others by acting on the desire.

 

We see a similar pattern throughout the bible.  We have these expectations of who we are as humans and then we have the reality of who we are as children of God.

I was lost but God found me.

I was blind but God gave me sight.

I was dead but God gave me life.

We, as humans, are expected to be lost, blind, and dead, BUT GOD love us so much that He is constantly seeking us, healing us, and giving us life.  Our natural punishment to sin is death But God provided His son to take our place.

Our reality is so much better than our expectations.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

  • Ephesians 2:1-5

Evang. Christopher W. Swen said...

Posted on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 @ 2:02 PM -
We often learn a lot from our fellow Christians when we put in more time... I do admire your skill of winning souls through poetry writing. All these things (...our individual talents) work together for the glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ ❤

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Confession is Key

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Monday, May 20, 2019 @ 2:45 PM

I’ll never forget being in the 5th grade, 11 years old or so, laying awake one night. I was tortured by a dreadful sense of guilt that kept me up. The guilt was sourced by a boldfaced lie that I told to my teacher earlier that day. What had happened was my teacher Ms. Timmerman, had left the room to go get supplies for our class, and a few students, young Corey included, began ripping up our erasers into little bits and throwing them at one another. I’m not sure when it escalated - but at some point things got out of hand and erupted into what can only be described as the great enigmatic eraser epoch of 1998

When our teacher walked back into the room she interrogated culprits, and somehow I was busted.

But when she asked me if I had thrown eraser bits - I lied. I looked her straight in the eye and said I hadn’t thrown them. 

 

Unconvinced by my lie, she reported the incident to my parents, and when they asked - I lied to them too.

Why? To avoid the consequences and maintain the perception of perfection - or at least so I thought. 

That night I laid awake. Unable to sleep. 

 

I remember the horrible, tortured feeling: “Is this who I am now?” So I got out of bed, walked down the stairs to my parents and humbly came clean. It cost me some detention time and clean up time, picking eraser bits out of the carpet for what felt like eternity - but then it was over. My teacher never brought it up again, nor did she hold it over my head. I was free.

 

Solomon was right when he wrote in Proverbs 28, “he who conceals his transgressions can never prosper.” And yet we do it all the time. 

 

In Psalm 32 the song writer outlines how to live what he called the “blessed life” or the happy life. This is helpful because there’s a sense in which we’re all looking for that! If you’ve never read it before - it starts like this:

 

Blessed is the one

    whose transgressions are forgiven,

    whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the one

    whose sin the Lord does not count against them

    and in whose spirit is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2)

 

Notice that its not blessed are the perfect, those who never mess up, sin or commit transgression. Its not blessed are the morally pure - for they never make mistakes or have regrets. Its blessed is the one whose transgressions and sins and guilt are forgiven, covered and not held against them - and who doesn’t lie about it! (No deceit). 

In other words, happy is the one who is honest about their shortcomings, failings, and mistakes. 

 

Its more blessed to confess - not better to conceal for the appearance of perfection. 

The author would say the blessed life, the happy life, is lived by those who are honest with, and about, themselves. Which, believe it or not, is exactly what our modern science tells us about guilt! Psychologists would say that silence about our unresolved guilt is killing us. Unresolved guilt can lead to a tremendous amount of pain and suffering: difficulty maintaining attention, destroys creativity, hampers one’s ability to enjoy life, entices self-punishment, breaks down relationships, can make you feel physically heavier, and shape your core identity in negative ways. Makes sense that the song writer would say in verse 10 that “many are the pains” of those who choose to conceal unresolved guilt rather than confess it. 

 

And so the advice of the Psalm is simple and straight forward, almost crass: Don’t be stupid. Confession, not concealing, is the key to the happy life. Which is in fact what we’re all looking for. 

 

So, what about you? Are you carrying unresolved guilt? Perhaps its time to confess and apologize. Here’s some important components to a good apology, aside from simply saying “sorry.”

 

+Make sure to express regret.

+Acknowledge how your actions may have hurt the offended, or disappointed their expectations.

+Empathize with them on the full impact of their feelings due to your offence. 

+Ask for forgiveness. 

 

The good news that this song offers?

God’s not expecting perfection and disappointed when you fail. 

God’s expecting honesty, and his love will surround those who are. 

 

Of course its not as simple as apologizing. Sometimes there’s the fallout. Sometimes confession means having to spend sometime cleaning up after the enigmatic eraser epoch of whatever is going on in your world. But its always worth it. 

Its always better to confess than to conceal.

Its the key to the good life! 

 

Mixtape: Giving Expression to Experience

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 @ 9:50 AM

Before spotify playlists, I was downloading songs using iTunes onto my iPod.

Before iTunes, I was downloading songs using illegal websites like Kazaa and Napster.

Before Napster, I was burning cd’s. 

Before burning CD’s, 

I was recording mixtapes.

 

I remember listening to the radio in my room waiting for my favourite songs to come on. As soon as they did, I would run over and push the button with a little red circle on it: The record button. Then my Sony boombox stereo system would then record the song onto the tape, and at the end of the song I would push stop, capturing the song on the tape forever! Then I’d wait for another song I loved, run over and hit the button, record, then stop. Cassette tapes were not unlimited storage devices, so once the tape was filled up, you could remove it, flip it over, put it back in and fill the other side. We called these cassette tapes filled with our favorite songs mixtapes.

 

Believe me, I understand that there’s a whole group of you reading this who have not recognized a single sentence since the word iTunes. So let me admit upfront, Its me who is out of touch here. Not you. But please keep reading, this is worth it. 

 

Creating a mix tape took time and patience, an ardent attentiveness that I’m not sure I possess anymore. So why did we do it? Why create mixtapes? Because of a truth that has not changed for centuries: Music can give expression to our experience. We chose the songs that resonated with our souls, that put words and feeling to our thoughts, that lifted our spirits or expressed our pain. Some songs have a way of capturing the range and repertoire of the human experience so well. 

 

If you pick up a Bible and open it to somewhere in the middle, you’ll find a historical mixtape called the Psalms. This book is filled with 150 songs that give expression to the human experience. Whatever you’re experience, there’s a Psalm that gives expression to it. 

From being broken hearted to wanting to break someone’s neck - its in there. 

From suffering debilitating illness to dealing with difficult people - its in there.

The spiritual frustration of God’s absence - its in there.

The celebration of personal progress,

the confession of dark desires, 

the gratitude for all life’s goodness - its in there. 

Lament, joy, regret, praise, battling, thanksgiving, weariness, anxiety, depression, victory - its all in there giving expression to the range of human experience. 

 

Why do I bring this up? Because this ancient mixtape that gives expression to your experience can do something for you that perhaps you’re missing in your life - it can soothe and strengthen your soul. 

 

Soothing

We live in a day and age when our  difficult experiences are often dealt with in unhealthy ways. The two biggest ways I see folks deal with suffering are hopelessness and glossing. When we experience trouble, many today are tempted to face it with a defeated hopelessness, “well thats just the way the world is - life’s rough, its not going to get any better, so just grit your teeth, shut up and deal with it.” Not exactly soothing to the soul.

The second way I see people deal with suffering is simply to gloss over it, to ignore it - pretend like its not happening or not that bad. There’s no need to talk about it - just focus on something more positive. Not exactly soothing to the soul. The ancient biblical mixtape, on the other hand, gives expression to our experience. Even the painful ones. Its important to express how you feel, especially when things aren’t going well. When you talk about your suffering with another person rather than bottling it up inside, there is a release that is soothing to the soul. The Psalms give us permission to express the wide array of human emotions to God and remind us that He wants to know you’re whole story, wants to hear from you from you - even if its anger, pain or frustration. 

 

Strengthening

The other thing this ancient mixtape does is strengthens our souls. The authors, in their expressions, also teach us something about God and what a relationship with Him can do in our lives. Over and over and over again, in the face of their struggle, pain, and challenges, no matter how dark things get - the authors honestly express themselves and always lean on God’s activity in the past to strengthen them and give them hope for the future. The current reality does not define their cumulative relationship. The strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow is based on the loving kindness, the faithfulness of God, throughout all generations to his people. In other words, I know that God loves me and is for me, not because of our current events but because of his character displayed. 

 

As a Christian, this is an incredibly important point. My strength for today and hope for tomorrow is not based in my current circumstance but its based on the cross. I know that God loves me and is for me, because he put on flesh and came to show me what life can look like, and he did not avoid suffering, but embraced it, to pay for my sin, to make me right with God. And in the resurrection of Jesus, I have the hope that some day will be better than this day! That someday God will fix everything. And until then, even if I suffer - I can express it to God, and find soothing for my soul in his love displayed in Jesus. And I can have the strength to keep going in life - knowing that day is coming when he returns to make all things new. 

 

Give it a Listen

So go ahead and give the Psalms, that ancient mixtape, a listen (read). Not every single one of them will resonate with you. But I’m confident that whatever you’re facing there’s a psalm that will give expression to your experience. And when you read it, reflect on it, meditate on it, talk with others about it, I think that you will find a soothing and a strengthening from your Father in Heaven that you’ve been longing for. 

Blinders and The Light

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Thursday, April 18, 2019 @ 10:14 AM

Horses have eyes on the sides of their heads. Biologists see this as a helpful adaptation to allow horses, like other hunted animals, to be more aware of their surroundings. With eyes on the sides of your head you can see whats behind you, whats around you, and ahead. But when entering a race, trotting in a parade, or pulling carriage - horses have blinders put on. Blinders limit their field of vision, keeping them from seeing whats around or behind. When horses stay blind 

to whats going on around or behind they can be focused only on whats ahead. 

 

Our suffering acts like a set of blinders sometimes. When you are in the midst of some struggle, pain, devastation, disaster, discomfort - you can become blind to the things going on behind and around you. Pain focuses are attention on one thing - whats right in front of us. 

 

What’s Behind?

Pain can cause us to forget that life is filled with ups and downs, and while we may be in a painful down right now - things will turn up again. Pain can cause us to forget that even in the middle of disappointment life has been filled with wonderful experiences in our past. This is not a call to ignore our pain and escape to memories of a better time. This is simply an urging to remember that our lives are like old-school movie film, made of many frames, and even if your current frame is painful - that does not mean every frame has been or always will be painful. More than likely if you look back on your life, there have probably been other painful moments that you have found your way through. And you will again. Don’t let your current defeats destroy you by blinding you to past victories. 

 

What’s Around?

Pain is also one heck of a focusing mechanism, keeping us zeroed in on whats going on right in front of us. A few weeks ago, I stubbed my toe real hard on the base of the counter in our kitchen which is exactly the moment my dog Denver, decided he needed to whine then bark in the kind of high pitched bark that makes your ears reverberate, all because he wanted to go outside - I lost it. Couldn’t he see that I was in pain at the moment!? Pain keeps us focused on whats going on directly in front of us, blinding us to the needs of others. I’m not suggesting you ignore taking care of yourself or that you try to avoid dealing with your pain by focusing all your attention on others. But, don’t let your current ailments keep you from aiding others. It gives us important perspective when we look around and see the needs of others. Its also a powerful bonding and healing experience to meet those needs, even out of our own pain and poverty. 

 

What about God?

One of the biggest mistakes we make in the midst of pain is to confuse God and Life. When Life is good, God is good. But when life sucks, God sucks. When life is Good to us we take it as God being good to us. But when life is hates us - we think God hates us. 

Here’s what makes this Easter weekend so important. On Easter weekend we get to look back, and remember that God’s Love for us is not proved by our current circumstance but by the cross and empty grave. On this weekend we take the blinders off, to remember that! Look back at God’s proof of love for you.

But not just for you and me. Take the blinders off to look around - each person you see at weekend worship services, or at restaurants, or at grocery stores- look around, God proved his love for all of them too. And maybe, just maybe, he’d like to use you to share that love with them.

Take Off Your Blinders

Easter is not going to fix everything for you that is right in front of you this weekend. But it will give you the perspective your blinders are keeping from you:

proof that God has, does, and will love you,

that he does want to use you even in your pain,

and that there is hope that one day he will fix everything. 

Judy said...

Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2019 @ 4:23 PM -
Pastor Corey this post is so good & timely for us all. I’m thanking God for it & you❣️

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Cultivating Curiosity

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 @ 3:31 PM

Here’s the thing about expectations - they kill curiosity. 

On Sunday I mentioned that often

our expectations of people 

color our experience of them 

causing us to miss the exceptional in them. 

Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, once said in an interview that “people are far more unique and interesting than you think, once you take the time to get to know them… the problem is most of us don’t.” We don’t take the time to get to know people. We all too often take the bits of information that we have of people and build our expectation of what they’ll be like based on that. We build our expectations on things like race, creed, political leaning, posts on instagram, retweets, articles or news channels they watch - the list could go on. The trouble with building our expectations of people based on the sound bites we have from them is that

those expectations

will color our experience

and cause us to miss the exceptional within them! 

 

But the heart of the Christian faith is that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever would believe in him would not perish,” (John 3:16). That means God thought your neighbor, your co-worker, your employee, your boss, your teammate, your suitemate, your ______ you fill in the blank - was worth dying for. The person you’re not looking at because your reading this right now - God thought they were worth dying for. The cashier, the server, the bar tender, the stylist - God thought they were worth dying for. 

 

What would it take for you to honestly and truly give your life for someone - It would make me curious about that person you thought was worth dying for. Doesn’t it make you a little curious to know that your Father in Heaven valued them enough to give his own son for them? Aren’t you at all curious as to what God saw in them?

 

So my challenge during this series of Giving things Up to Get Better in life is to give up some of our expectations of what people will be like. Instead of trying to give up expectations what if instead you started cultivating curiosity. In his book Didn’t See it Coming, Carey Nieuwhof offers some suggestions for how to cultivate curiosity that I would apply to this idea and share with you.

  1. Schedule time thinking. We only have small bits of information from people often because we don’t take the time to wonder or be curious about others. Carey suggests scheduling time to think into your life. Give your brain space: no phones, computers, tvs, music, just give yourself some time to ponder and process and wonder. 
  2. Ask open ended questions. When you spend time with people don’t ask them questions that lead to whatever it is you want to talk about next - ask open ended questions. Be curious about others and how they think.
  3. Give fewer answers. When discussing a topic, be less interested in what you think and ask people what they think. Give brief answers and volley back conversationally, asking “but what do you think?”
  4. Ask the most pivotal question: Why? Actually, don’t ask people why they think something or do something - instead ask people what led them to that conclusion. “Why” can often feel judgmental, as though you are evaluating their thoughts or choices. Instead, asking what led a person to their conclusions or actions can keep us curious without being judgmental. 

 

Cultivating curiosity is practice that can help you give up your expectations of people and enjoy the exceptional within them, and that will make your life better. #GUGB

Giving Up Expectations - Guest Post from Johanna TCG KidsMin Director

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Thursday, March 14, 2019 @ 2:05 PM

Giving up Expectations

“I thought you were going to take out the garbage?” Those words along with many others along those same lines were used a lot when my husband, Tyler, and I first got married. We should have listened to the wise words someone told us before we got married: make a chore list of who would do what. We thought about it and then said, “nah, we got it, everything will get done.” Shortly into the first few months of marriage we realized that things were not getting done because we expected each other to do things based on our own thoughts and expectations. Finally after months of having little arguments about something silly like chores, we made a list.

As I reflect on my life, my expectations of relationships, marriage, motherhood, living in different places, church, family, and faith have all shifted and are continually shifting. I did’t expect to enjoy being home with my kids as much as I do (even though sometimes my attitude says otherwise), I didn’t expect to live in different places, I didn’t expect to move back to Michigan from California as soon as we did, and I didn’t expect my thoughts of what it means to follow Jesus to evolve. 

Something I am continually learning in my relationship with Jesus is that he always knows what is best, even when it doesn’t seem that way at times. I can almost guarantee that he fulfills our hopes, desires, and dreams differently than what we thought and as always, on a different time table. 

Friends, this Lent season, I would like to encourage you to think about and maybe write down the ways in which the areas of your life have gone differently than expected. As you reflect on them, look for the ways that you can see Jesus through each circumstance and life event. Then, moving forward and looking towards the present, I want to challenge you to reflect on your current expectations, give them up to Jesus and let him work.

Giving Up Through Addition - Zac Toth

Posted by Michelle Dieleman on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 @ 11:58 AM

When I was in middle school, two of my friends and I were signed up for track and field - with competition coming up we figured we should start training. We went for a jog and about a mile down the road decided to take a break and walk around in a local grocery store. While we were in there we saw free samples of donut holes so that’s where we headed. We each shoved probably three or four into our mouths and immediately one of my friends walked over to the trash can and spat his donut holes out. It was in the middle of Lent and apparently, he had given up sweets. Lent is the season in the Christian faith leading up to Easter. For about 7 weeks its common for people to abstain from certain foods, drinks or practices to remind them of the sacrifice of Jesus for humanity.

My friends dedication blew me away, even now, I’m still impressed by it. I’ve tried giving things up before: pop, social media, and fast food just to name a few. Each time I caved and cheated before Easter, but I never really cared too much. To me, giving up something for Lent was nothing more than a fad, just something that people did for the sake of doing it.

About 3 or 4 years ago another buddy of mine started talking about what he was doing for Lent: Instead of giving up something he was adding something. He always struggled in his prayer life, so he decided to set ten minutes aside each day to spend in conversation with God. I loved this idea. We give things up for Lent so that we can better focus on Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf but often we forget about that second part.

This Lenten season I want to encourage you to give up through addition. If you’re going to give something up, try adding something in its place. If you give up social media, try spending the time you’d usually be on Facebook reading the bible or in prayer. If you give up fast food, try giving the money that you’d usually spend on McDonalds to a charity. Maybe you don’t want to give anything up but want to add a daily devotional. That’s awesome too! Try making Jesus the focus of this season.

Trying something different for Lent?

Let us know in the comment section below!

Mary Ann said...

Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2019 @ 5:01 PM -
Adding is perfect- Christ gave everything for all - adding love beyond measure!

Miss you Zak - Blessings

Norma said...

Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2019 @ 4:15 PM -
Thank you Zac, you have an idea that I would not have thought of.
Great read

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Happy Birthday!

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Saturday, March 2, 2019 @ 9:09 PM

Happy Birthday TCG Family!

 

One Year ago today we launched out of the back room of Caledonia Christian Reformed Church and began meeting on Sunday mornings at EB Coffee & Pub. What a year its been!

We have seen God draw more and more people to himself and his family at our little church, which is exactly why we exist. 

 

Over the last year we’ve been excited to move from 1 service to 2 services on a Sunday morning. We have added a worship director named Zac and a KidsMin director named Johanna - these two are a blast to work with! Both of them care deeply for the mission of this church - to tell people about the life and love of Jesus and to learn to live and love like him.

We planted a new house gathering under the leadership of Joe and Julie Pettinga which has created more space for others to find a family here at TCG - which is why we exist. 

 

Many of you who attend now may not realize it, but TCG is not actually 1 year old today - its almost 3 and half! TCG actually started with only a handful of families back in January of 2016. A few families beginning to worship together, pray together, eat together. We experimented with various worship times and spaces. We met in homes during the week to serve our communities, grow in relationship, and learn to follow Jesus together - always with the same goal in mind: to teach people about the life and love of Jesus and learn to live and love like him.

 

Thats still the goal, to see people come to know Jesus and reconnect with their Father in Heaven. Sure we are going to be starting new house gatherings this year, filling out 2 worship gatherings, and even looking at some other exciting things down the road (stay tuned) - but its still all about people learning to follow Jesus. I am convinced now more than ever of the love and the grace of Jesus and that following him will lead you to the kind of life you’ve always wanted. 

 

So here’s to the next year! Here’s to continuing to invite others, continuing to serve, continuing to grow spiritually - and ultimately continuing to follow Jesus together!! 

 

Happy Birthday!

Mike-big brother said...

Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2019 @ 2:47 PM -
Congrats Corey and Alanna, we are excited to how this has worked out for you guys. Very cool to see the progress that has been made. Reminds me of a phrase we've been hearing in our church when you listen to Jesus, " if Jesus says to do it, then we probably should do it." Continue to grow and worship him. Sounds like your church has been a true blessing to many people already.

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