Check Your Bearings

Ships do not sail in a straight line. Wise captains are constantly adjusting their course to counter the effects of the winds and currents.

Cars do not travel in a straight line. Good drivers are constantly making small steering adjustments to counter the pull of the road and yes, even the wind. Notice your hands the next time you drive. Your hands are constantly reacting to the outside forces that try to push or pull your car off its course.

We do not live in straight lines. Our lives are constantly pushed and pulled by family demands, professional expectations, and cultural norms. If we are wise, we’ll be aware of this and be prepared to make the subtle, but crucial, course corrections necessary to keep our lives on track.

How do we do this?

Through worship and prayer. Worship is the moment we lift our eyes to remind ourselves of our destiny. We do not travel to a place. We journey toward a Person. Our goal is to move ever closer to God and ever deeper into the mystery of Who He is. Without the frequent reminder of worship, we’ll wander hopelessly off course regardless of how well intentioned we might be.

Prayer is the moment where we make the required course adjustments to our lives by confessing our failures and committing again to the love we have for Christ. While each moment may be small and seemingly insignificant in and of itself, left uncorrected, these small drifts will take us years away from our desired destination—the heart of God.

So, stop a minute and check the bearings of your soul. Are you headed in the right direction? What has to change to get you back on course? Make them now before a minor course correction becomes a major changing of direction.

A ship doesn’t sail in a straight line…and we don’t live in straight lines either. Check your bearings.

The Dirty Work of Life

When you’re a kid, you grow up thinking when you’re older, you won’t ever do chores again. As you get older, of course, you realize that you’ll be doing chores for the rest of your life. Garbage doesn’t empty itself. Clothes don’t wash themselves and how often you clean the bathroom depends on just how much dirty you can stand.

It’s bad enough having to clean up your own mess, but when you get married, there are two of you making the mess. Now, who cleans up?

You would think this would be an easy discussion. It’s not. One of the reasons it’s not easy is that each person has grown up in a different family. When you grow up in a family, you consider your family “normal” and any variance from your family’s habits and traditions as “abnormal.” What’s more, we bring these unspoken assumptions and expectations into the relationship.

For instance, if the husband grew up in a family where the mother didn’t work outside the home, he’ll unconsciously expect his wife to fulfill the same roles whether she works outside the home or not. When she doesn’t, he’ll find himself getting angry and he may not even know why.

That’s why it’s important for a married couple to sit down and talk about how they’re going to do things in their house. Who’s going to cook? Do the grocery shopping? Keep the budget and pay the bills? If there are children, what is each parent’s role with them? Who will maintain the house and the cars? If you aren’t making conscious choices about these matters, you’ll end reverting to old habits and assumptions that may or may not work. The result can be a lot of useless arguing.

There are no right or wrong answers. There are not “guy things” or “girl things.” The choices only have to work for you and your family. Is one of you more gifted in an area than the other? Then take that chore. Are there things you really can’t stand to do? Then negotiate a trade. This stuff has to get done. There are always chores, but if you work as a team, these moments can actually bring you closer together. There is something about seeing your spouse do something better than you could that makes you appreciate them in a deeper and different way.

For instance, my wife is very detail oriented and I’m not. We’ve recently been dealing with a project where her persistence and determination saved us money—a lot of money. Yep, I love her in a whole new way now.

Sit down together, make a list of what needs to get done and work out the assignments that work best for you and your family. The things you just can’t get done as individuals can be done and done well as a team. Chores don’t have to be a pain. They can be opportunities to find ways to love each other a little deeper. So, work it out…together. It’s one of the reasons you got married in the first place—so you wouldn’t have to do life alone.

Preaching Your Own Funeral

Elizabeth Bridges was the church musician in the little church I grew up in. She taught me piano. Well, she gave me a few lessons and then politely suggested I find another endeavor for my life. She played the organ in our worship services, accompanied the choir on the piano, and sang with a very mellow alto voice.

Elizabeth died two weeks ago and my mom and I attended her funeral. Over the years, my family has become very close to Elizabeth and her husband, Bill. When we walked in, we heard music being played on a piano. My mother turned to me and said, “That’s Elizabeth playing.” And it was. Elizabeth had recorded some of her favorite hymns and they were being played as friends came into the sanctuary.

When the service was over, those who attended the funeral walked up to Bill, expressed their condolences and then, asked for a copy of Elizabeth’s CD.

The old preachers have a saying, “You preach your own funeral.” That is, the pastor who preaches your funeral service is limited to the reality of your life.

Elizabeth certainly proved that. She and Bill were some of the first people I knew who really took their discipleship seriously. They were one of the first couples I knew that didn’t have a television in their home. When asked what they do at home, they answered, “We talk, we read, we take walks, we play music.” (They really played music, not just putting CDs in the player).

They taught me how to pray. I learned a lot about worship from them. I also learned about grace, faith, and beauty. Not the superficial beauty that our culture rages about, but a deep, soulful beauty that brings you near the heart of God.

Elizabeth played at her own funeral. It was beautiful. Just like her life. I’m praying I’ll live in such a way that my funeral will be a celebration of life and beauty. And I pray that my friends will leave humming the great songs of faith just like I did when I left her funeral.

It’s About Priorities, Not the Plan

Like most of us, I have a hard time trying to keep my work/life balance in order. I have a lot that needs to be done and a lot of people that depend on me getting my work done in a timely fashion. And like most of us, I do my best to keep my time managed and well planned.

But sometimes, life doesn’t work with my plan. Take this week for instance. This is budget time for our church and we’re involved in strategic planning for the coming year. There are a lot of moving parts to this process and if something isn’t in place on time, the whole machine comes to a stop. I know this and I try to have my work to the people who need to see it…

Then, life happens. For a variety of reasons, I brought my mom to Nashville for a few days. Now, there’s nothing in my planning that mentioned taking care of mom. I’ve had to juggle and re-juggle a lot of things, but Mom is my priority. (I’m grateful for patient friends.)

Mom trumps the plan…period. Yes, I’m frustrated my plans aren’t working out. But I’m not angry with myself for missing something that was important. Plans are great, but they’re not set in stone. Plans can be changed. Priorities rarely do.

Priorities are those things that matter. The things that aren’t just important, but most important. We have this list of priorities so that when life makes us choose, we know what (or rather, whom) to choose.

When it’s all said and done, it’s our priorities that will have made the difference in our lives. Our plans will have been scratched through, rewritten, rearranged, and finally shredded into the dumpster. Our priorities are those things that make us smile at the end of the day.

So, check your plans. Are they about your priorities? If not, change them. After all, life is about our priorities, not our plans.