Thought  to Thrive:

Walking Well Through Life's Success and Failure

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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Focus to Finish

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Monday, February 25, 2019 @ 2:39 PM

Rarely do we ever drift to our desired destination in life. Its the places you focus on that you end up succeeding at. This is true in relationships, exercise, family life, work - you name the sphere! Focusing helps you finish well. 

This has been true for Alanna and I in our life over the last 11 months. We decided that it was time to focus on paying off all of our non-mortgage debt. Finances is another one of those areas that goes better if you give it attention. We were only paying minimum payments on all of our debts and watching money slip away, stressfully feeling like we never had enough. So we cut our lifestyle, used the debt-snowball method, and knocked it out. 

We focused on it. It was a regular topic of conversation; where to spend, when to spend, how much to spend. We talked about it daily. 

Last week Tuesday we paid off the last payment. With no debt, we have more margin. With more margin, we’re less concerned about getting what we need and the result… less stress. But it took focus. Here’s the truth: what you focus on, you finish well. 

The reason for this is actually imbedded deep in your biology. Your brain is actually only able to focus on one task at a time. Multi tasking is a myth. The more distraction, the more difficulty in finishing anything. 

This is why the unknown author of the New Testament letter Hebrews can call readers to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” - Hebrews 12:1–2.

The race they’re talking about is life. There are no illusions here about life being simple, straightforward or easy. Life is like a long distance race. It is filled with challenges, distractions, bumps and bruises, muscle strains and fatigue. You know this. And you have experienced this at various points in your life. It can be difficult to run well in your marriage, money, exercise or vocation or schooling. 

So throw off the distractions. Cut your cable, limit your phone, say ‘no’ to some activity if you must - because you are focusing. When the writer says - “throw off that which hinders” - its neutral. The things that “hinder” us in life are not necessarily bad things or good things - they’re just distracting. Sin, on the other hand, by definition will trip you up in your life. So throw that off too. You’re focusing.

 

So the wisdom of the writer is simply this: fix your eyes on Jesus. 

 

In other words focus. 

 

Pick one area of your life that needs work and focus on Jesus instruction or example on how to live there. Relationship problems? Maybe its time to focus on Jesus’ teaching about how to be in relationship with others (Philippians 2John 13:34.) Financial problems? Focus on Jesus’ musings on money (Acts 20:34-45, Matthew 6).  Suffering, pain and disappointment - focus on Jesus instruction on enduring difficulty (John 16:33, Matthew 5:10-12). 

And don’t just focus on his teaching, but follow his example. 

You rarely drift to your desired destination. Where you focus you finish well. 

So what about you?

What area of your life requires your focus? Is it a relationship? Is it your physical health? Is it your spiritual life? How might fixing your eyes on Jesus bring health, meaning, satisfaction, or value there? 

Posted by Corey Van Huizen on Thursday, February 21, 2019 @ 10:57 AM

The Importance of an Invite

A wise person once said, "Its not experience that is the great teacher, but its experience reflected on."

As I look back at my life, the twists and turns, roadblocks, speed adjustments and lane changes that have taken place over the years, I have come to realize an important truth. There is a tremendous amount of importance on invitations. Invitations to apply for jobs, invitations to tryout for a sport, invitations to childhood birthday parties, invitations to breakfast or dinner, on dates. A proposal is really an invitation to a marriage, or business relationship. We make and receive invitations all the time... often without a thought as to how they'll impact the course of our lives.

After a coffeehouse performance with my singer/songwriter band in college - I got an invitation that, as I have reflected on it, completely changed the direction of my life. 

It was an invitation to play some music with some new friends. Which led to attending church. Which led to getting involved in a mission that was way bigger than myself. Which led to a passion, a skill set, a ministry, a relationship, a new job, a marriage, a new country to call home - a life following Jesus I never knew I had actually always wanted. You never know what hangs in the balance of your small invitations. Invite someone to Sunday morning. Invite someone to your house gathering. Invite someone to your life - it might just change theirs - or yours.

MD said...

Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2019 @ 12:04 PM -
thanks for this.

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