Day 10 ~ Keep it Simple

PIAD Front Panel“Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today” Matthew 6:34 CEV.

I attended a picnic recently and noticed how uncomplicated and free the kids were. They didn’t worry about the meat on the BBQ or who brought what for a side dish. They made fun their only concern. It was a picnic after all.

I know as adults we have responsibilities. I understand the need to plan and prepare. But does life have to be so complicated?

Let me give you six steps to keep it simple:

Remember what is and isn’t eternal. Only people live forever! That task or thing you’re stressing over may not have much (or any) eternal significance. The first step to a simpler life is remembering to focus on what matters most—people.

  • Identify and stay true to your core values. What six or seven things best define who you are, your ideals, and your purpose? For example, loving God and others is one of my core values. If an opportunity isn’t related to love at some level, I’m not interested. But if I can advance the cause of love, I’m in! Loyalty, faithfulness, and family are other core values to me.

girl with balloons  outdoor

  • Try to make a subtraction for every addition in your life. Have you noticed how easy it is to say yes and how hard it is to say no? One of the most effective ways to simplify your life is to stop something old whenever you start something new. This step is much easier when you’ve applied the previous two steps.

  • Practice sacrificial generosity. The more we have, the more we worry, and the more we worry, the more complicated our lives become. I’m not saying it’s bad to own stuff, but it’s a problem when our stuff starts to own us. The best way to guard our hearts against distracting materialism is to give generously.

Live Simply wooden sign with a beach on background

  • Determine which voices you’re going to listen to. Sometimes the multitude of other voices are nothing more than diversions. Be humble. Be a good listener. But be wise too, and listen to the voices that matter most.

  • Live fully in the moment. It’s good to plan for the future. But sometimes we are so future-minded we are of no present good. We can’t spend all our time worrying about tomorrow. The simple thing is the present thing. Do it well. Do it now.

What next?

What have you found effective for de-cluttering your life? Pick one or two of the actions above and start simplifying today.

May I pray for you?

God, our society values busyness. We feel worthwhile when we’re needed, and oftentimes add more to our plates than we can manage. Refocus our attention on the eternal. Help us simplify our lives. Amen.

{The above is an excerpt from my newest book: Perfectly Imperfect: A Devotional for Grace-Filled Living. This book is a great Christmas gift! Click HERE to order.} 

Man Watching the Sunset From a Pier

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How to save a friend from getting hit by a bus!

London Bus 1I was with a friend, Mike, many years ago, and we were checking out the sights in London, England. London is a large, busy, and fascinating city. As you may know, vehicles drive on the wrong side of the road in Great Britain. Silly Brits.

Out of habit, as I was about to step out into a crowded street, I looked left to see if anyone was coming, and all was clear. However, to my right and headed straight for me was a huge red double-decker bus. At the last moment, Mike grabbed my jacket and yanked me back to the sidewalk and safety. Just as he did, the bus went buzzing by, and I realized, I could have died!

Mike did for me what anyone who cares does for others, if we see trouble coming, we intervene to help. It’s what friends do for friends. Trust me, I wasn’t mad at him for saving my bacon. I was extremely grateful.

I recently published a book about marriage. It’s full of wise, practical, and helpful insights that I’ve learned in almost forty years of marriage and thirty-five years of pastoring. But my literary agent told me, “Marriage books don’t sell.” If she’s right, I find that sad and disturbing. Of all the types of books out there, marriage and family books should sell the best because all of us need help.

Open book.

Most of us know friends and family members who are about to get hit by the divorce bus. Even if their marriage is doing fine, everyone faces daily struggles that threaten to derail the best of marriages. We all need support.

So here’s my challenge: Read the following excerpt from my marriage book and then order the book as a gift for a friend or family member you love. You might even want to order a copy for yourself. I promise you, when you invest in your marriage the dividends are amazing and worth your time and money.

From Mr. & Mrs. ~ How to Thrive in a Perfectly Imperfect Marriage

This blog is an excerpt from Kurt's newest book!
This blog is an excerpt from Kurt’s newest book!

Marriage is hard. That being said, marriage is also a great gift from the Father used to mold and carve us into the men and women he wants us to become.

After nearly forty years of marriage, lots of struggles, and a few trips through the valley of the shadow of death in our relationship, I can tell you it’s worth it.

Always fun? Nope.

Always easy? Absolutely not.

Always good for us? Yes.

Laura and I have learned the greatest secret of survival: stay the course.

  •  When you’re not sure you even like each other, let alone love each other, stay the course and make the choice to love.

  • When you’re physically and emotionally exhausted, stay the course and take your next step in God’s power. Remember, his grace is made perfect in your weakness.

  • When the obstacle in your face overwhelms you, stay the course and fix your eyes on Jesus, who is the pioneer and perfecter of your faith. You are not alone.

  • When you’re hurting and devastated by your spouse’s sin or immaturity, stay the course and trust that God is bigger than your spouse and more committed to their growth than you can imagine.

young couple with a problem at psychologist office

If you need help, please get it. Far too often, couples wait too long, and by the time they end up reaching out for help, their marriage is on its final count. Why do they wait? Pride. But as Solomon wrote, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

The stakes are high. In our culture, surviving—let alone thriving—in a long-term relationship is challenging. But in Christ all things are possible, including the healing and maturity of your marriage.

So stay the course, and you’ll never regret it. Keep going. Be a lifelong learner, commit to personal and spiritual growth, and then watch what God will do in you and your marriage.

travel America

This is an excerpt from my recently published book: Mr. & Mrs. ~ How to Thrive in a Perfectly Imperfect Marriage! Click HERE to order it on Amazon. BTW, when you order the print version, you get the digital version for free!

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What to Do When You’re Not So Cool Anymore

Tough GuyIf there’s one thing true about all humans everywhere is that we all long to be loved. I’ve never met anyone who thrives on personal rejection. We all want to be accepted. We all desire intimate connection. We might choose to be in with the out crowd (like my skater, tattooed, dreadlocked god-daughter), but we still want to be a vital part of something and linked to others in a way that matters.

A broken and wounded heart might pretend to not care and scream, “I don’t give a rat’s pituty about what others think of me,” but deep down we all care. Why? Because we’re humans, and we were made to live connected in community.

About a month ago, I was with a group of about fifteen younger people who were going to carpool to a meeting downtown. As we walked out the door to depart I said, “Hey, I have room for three people to go with me.” No one replied, in fact, the look on their faces said, “Thanks, but we’re going in the cool car!” It was awkward and certainly not what I expected. I ended up coercing one of them to go with me, but on the return trip he bailed. Hmmm . . .

A few years back (more like a decades ago), I was the guy most everyone wanted to be around. I was the cool, exciting and fun guy, and lots of people wanted to hang with me.

Cool boy

But then my hair went gray, my potbelly went global, and my Hawaiian shirts went out of style. Somehow I went from the trendy pastor who was like a hip big brother to the grandpa with hair growing in embarrassing places. I look in the mirror, and I wonder, “When did I get old? I don’t feel that old, but no one would call me eye-candy anymore.”

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what I should do now that I’m the “old guy.” If you can relate, here are some insights to consider:

  • Get over it. Things change. Life changes. And I was probably never as cool as I thought anyhow (and neither were you).

  • Embrace it. I suppose I could dye my hair, stop eating what I love to eat (like pizza), and spend an inordinate amount of time exercising with the hope of recapturing my youth. But sooner or later my wrinkly, wart-ridden and worn-out body is going to outpace my futile attempts to look good. Of course, I should do whatever I can to stay healthy, but perhaps it’s time to become comfortable in my skin (such as it is).

Old man with a big beard and a smile

  • Remember it. Honestly, I remember thinking in my younger days about some of the old folks in my life, “What do they know? They’re out of touch.” Of course, when it came to technology, music and attire, they were behind the times. But regarding the things that truly matter, like wisdom and life, I too often failed to listen and learn from these wise old saints. Remembering how I once was helps me have grace toward others who act the same way I did in my youth. It’s okay; someday they’ll understand.

  • Deliver it. The truth is, I’ve earned every one of my gray hairs! I may not be very chic, but I have learned a lot of lessons about life. My wisdom can help those in my wake to avoid some of the idiocy I experienced. Sadly, in our western culture, we tend not to revere age, but whether others want it or not, I will share what I know out of love whenever and wherever I can.

Wise old Solomon once wrote, “The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old” Proverbs 20:29 (NLT). If you’re young, revel in your strength and vitality. We need your energy and adventuresome spirit. But maybe the next time you have the opportunity, you can hit the pause button for a moment and ask the old guy or gal in your life a few questions. Questions like, “What have you learned about life that might help me?” They’ll probably smile and say, “I’m honored that you asked.”

By the way, cool or not, I’m not giving up my Hawaiian shirts. Sooner or later they’ll be back in style and trendy. I’m old enough now to realize that just about everything returns eventually.

Tahitian short sleeved shirts

 

Check out my recently published book: Mr. & Mrs. ~ How to Thrive in a Perfectly Imperfect Marriage! Click HERE to order it on Amazon. BTW, when you order the print version, you get the digital version for free!

16 Responses to What to Do When You’re Not So Cool Anymore

  1. I’m at the point where my doctor’s most common expression is, “Well, as we get older…” Old guys may be uncool but think of the wisdom, know-how, and life experience we possess. I am thankful for you, brother.

  2. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom, Kurt. I needed to hear, “…share what [you] know out of love whenever and wherever [you] can.” I also needed the reminder not to take myself too seriously — to “get over it” and “embrace it.” Great advice!

  3. Turning 37 this month….. That awkward stage where the 20-somethings are pretty sure I have one foot in the grave, and the 50s=plus still call me a whippersnapper. I often feel like I need to impress BOTH groups. Thanks for the reminder that I have stuff to offer– even as a “tween.”

  4. Much as I may hate to admit it, I relate 100% to everything you wrote Kurt. I get reminded of how “out of it” I seem to young folks just about every time I talk to my 15 year old.

    Sometimes I think that if I hear “you just don’t get it, Dad” ONE MORE TIME…

    Thanks for reminding me that I used to think the same way and that someday he’ll understand.

  5. Ah, the age old question….AGE!!! I have decided not to have any more “birthdays”. I am just going to celebrate the 9 anniversary of my 60th birthday!!!! Old, well, sort of. But I still golf every day (in the WARM months) and I am the “baby” in my steady group of golfers!!! I do the yard work, and the “heavy” housework, and basically keep my mind working (sort of)!!! Things don’t quite work as good as they used to, but I am still upright and breathing!!! I was never “cool”, but I decided that since I can fulfill a need when someone needs something “fixed”, I just accept that and get on with life. Love to help, and that is a feeling no one can take from me. Adrian Rogers said that “A man has not yet begun to live till he is prepared to die” and since accepting Jesus into my life, and trusting His promises, I am prepared and I just love to LIVE!!! We all age, and Kurt, you have so much wisdom, and I am so happy you share it with such verve!!! Love you, Brother!!!

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How to Repair, Rebuild and Restore a Damaged Relationship

This blog is an excerpt from Kurt's newest book!
This blog is an excerpt from Kurt’s newest book!

“I’ll get to it tomorrow.”

Sarah cast a doubting glance at her husband. She’d heard that line before. She was pretty sure she’d heard it every day for the last month. Every time they crossed the bridge over the rushing creek in their backyard, she was sure it was going to give way. And every time they successfully made it to the other side, she’d start to say something to David, only for him to cut her off with, “I’ll get to it tomorrow.” If she wasn’t so worried about actually getting hurt during one of their daily walks, she’d think their interactions were almost funny. But she knew that if the bridge didn’t get fixed soon, both of them might get injured, a real danger that her husband was either ignorant of or just didn’t care about.

I relate that simple story to say this: Marriage relationships are like bridges. They carry a lot of weight, are weakened by stress, and break down by neglect. Too often, we treat our marriages like David treated that bridge, putting off the hard work of restoration because everything seems to be working well enough for the moment. But such neglect exponentially multiplies future problems.

The good news is that there is a way to repair the breach, rebuild the bridge, and restore relationships that are broken.

Bridge

The Dumbest Time of My Life

“I want a divorce.”

Yes, those words once escaped my lips. Five years and innumerable stupid decisions into my marriage, I uttered what should have never been said. I was twenty-three, angry and bitter at God for the many hurtful situations and disappointments that I felt he had caused in my life. I gave up on God and moved far away from him, resulting in serious spiritual, emotional, and relational trouble. Such colossal failures in my life couldn’t help but to negatively affect my young marriage.

Thank God for his patience and my wife’s endurance. We’re still together because God rescued me from my idiocy and healed my relationship both with him and my wife. What He’s done for me I know he can do for you. He can heal broken hearts, broken lives, and broken marriages. I know this to be true from my own life, from those I’ve counseled, and from what I read in the Bible.

God heals, and it’s a miraculous thing to witness when a marriage shattered like broken pottery is slowly remade into something stronger and more beautiful than it ever was before.

Broken vase

The Starting Point for Forgiveness and Healing

Forgiveness is not always a one-time event. It is a process that people often have to work through multiple times for the same issue. Forgiveness involves both the mind and the heart. Many people fool themselves into thinking they’ve forgiven someone else since they’ve verbally said, “I forgive you.” Sometimes this is done to quickly move past a troubling problem without addressing its root cause. At other times, the words are spoken in order to elicit a desired response from the one who’s inflicted pain. While it is important to vocalize forgiveness, this should happen after particular changes within the heart have occurred. “What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45b, NLT).

I relate that warning to say this: the starting point for forgiveness begins with you and what you choose to hold on to in your heart.

If there’s one central word we should focus on when it comes to forgiveness, I believe it’s surrender. In our culture, we consider surrendering as an act of giving up or giving in. In other words, we don’t value surrendering, but I think that’s because we have a low view of what it really means, especially in relation to our Christian walk. To surrender to God is to embrace his path and yield to his way. Surrendering means letting go of our way as we accept and follow his plans. To surrender is to trust. Nowhere does Jesus make this more clear than in Mark 8:34b-36: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

In my New Revised Bubna Translation, I’d rephrase Jesus’s last question to fit this book: “What good is it for a spouse to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his or her marriage?” But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Surrendering is central to the Christian faith. It’s what we do when we accept Christ into our lives. We surrender our lives to him, trusting him to guide us much better than we can guide ourselves.

So what does this broad concept of surrendering have to do with forgiveness in marriage? Everything. When we surrender to God’s way, we’ll discover and experience his power to heal, and every marriage can benefit from that.

Innocent Man

What must you surrender?

1.    Surrender your past mistakes and learn to forgive.

First, learn to see yourself the way God sees you. Often, seeking forgiveness from someone else means first forgiving yourself. Remind yourself of the Bible’s most well-known sentence in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world.” That “world” includes you. Meditate on the truth of God’s great forgiveness of every single one of your shortcomings, past, present, and future.

2.    Surrender your present realities and learn to hope.

When I talk about surrendering your present realities, I’m not talking about ignoring reality. Pretending that no problems exist just makes your problems that much worse. Rather, you should learn how not to fixate on your present realities and focus on God. It’s so easy for us to become consumed by how we’ve been hurt, or how we think the other person ought to respond to us, but these are cul-de-sac streets on the road to forgiveness that just make us go in circles. When we choose to focus on God and see our circumstances in light of his ways, we’re surrendering our vain efforts to be our spouse’s Holy Spirit. (Read that again!)

3.    Surrender your future fears and learn to trust.

When we’re hurt, whether physically or emotionally, we fear being hurt the same way again. This is especially true in marriages, where the kinds of hurt spouses can inflict on each other open gaping wounds. When trust has been broken—or shattered as in most affairs—the victimized spouse faces a near insurmountable obstacle in learning to trust their spouse ever again. When married couples do the hard work of reconciliation, they must learn to deal with fear. Surrendering our fears is an integral part of forgiveness. Seldom do we actually want to face our fears, but it’s a necessary step toward whole forgiveness.

The consequences of unforgiveness are catastrophic. When we refuse to untie the relational knot of bitterness, we end up bound and broken. But trust and surrender lead to freedom, and God wants us to live free, forgiving others as he has forgiven us.

Forgiveness is not just important—it’s everything.

console

[This is an excerpt from my recently published book: Mr. & Mrs. ~ How to Thrive in a Perfectly Imperfect Marriage! Click HERE to order it on Amazon. BTW, when you order the print version, you get the digital version for free!]

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Day 10 ~ Keep it Simple
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