Fortifying the City

By: Sarah Arend

PillarsI’ve had some thoughts rattling around in my head recently. They’re about being equipped to stand against the enemy’s attacks. I’m a senior at Concordia Academy and oftentimes I feel really safe at Concordia; I know that I have people who will support and love me, I am comfortable there, I’ve been there for four years. But the fact of the matter is, in reality I’m not that safe [5]. In fact, nowhere that I go will really be safe. Nothing is safe because we have an enemy. And this enemy is going to attack, because he seeks our destruction at all times [1]. This means that no matter how safe I may feel like I am, I must be on my guard. And when I am in a place that is protected, that is the time to spring into action to prepare for an attack. It is not the time to get lazy or complacent.

It’s the idea of fortifying the city in peace [2]. If a city waits until it is under attack to fortify itself, its efforts will be far less effective and it will weaken itself because it must divide its forces. As Christians, we are far more vulnerable if we wait until we are under attack to go to the Word and to seek God. We need to internalize the truth before the attacks come so that when they do (which they will) we will already be equipped. In times of peace, or even when things seem mundane, it is so easy to get lax. It’s easy to look at past hardships and think, “Well I’m glad that’s over so I can rest,” or even to think, “Hey, you know I deserve a break after all this hard work.” And rest is a good thing. In fact, the Lord sometimes will grant us times of rest, but we should not equate resting with doing nothing. In 2 Chronicles where it talks about the Lord granting rest to Judah (footnote 2), that is for the purpose of fortifying the city. For me, I want resting to be a time of settling Truth within me so deeply it will not be moved. I want resting to be finding verses that speak the Truth of who God is so that I know His voice and character when under siege [6].

There is always more hardship to come, and sometimes it will be worse than we think because the enemy doesn’t play nice [3]. If there is a crack in the wall, he will take the whole thing down. Open the door and he will charge right on in. This is why internalizing the Truth, knowing undeniably who God is, and fortifying the “city” (ourselves)  is paramount. If we do not internalize the Truth in times of peace, we cannot reach for it in battle [4]. If we do not know undeniably who God is when He is easily accessible, how much harder will it be to find Him when we are under attack? And if we do not fortify in peace, we will become quickly depleted when attacks come because we must both defend and strengthen ourselves. The word of God, His Truth, is our weapon, our armor. The more than we can saturate ourselves in it, the stronger that we are. It is a mighty defense so that when evil comes, we can stand our ground. And when the war is over, we will remain standing [7].



  1. 1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
  2. 2 Chronicles 14:6 He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the LORD gave him rest.
  3. John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
  4. Jeremiah 12:5 “If you have raced with men on foot
    and they have worn you out,
    how can you compete with horses?
    If you stumblea in safe country,
    how will you manage in the thickets byb the Jordan?
  1. 1 John 5:19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
  2. 1 John 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
  3. Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

The Cherith Experience

By: Maran Halverson

CherithHave you ever stuffed 12 marshmallows in your mouth at once? Or watched shooting stars at 2am? Or eaten pudding through pantyhose? Or had a food fight with week old oatmeal? Or dressed up like a clown for dinner?

At Camp Cherith, these are just everyday, “normal” activities. Campers and staff alike have the opportunity to be their goofy, authentic selves while learning new skills, making lifelong friendships, and getting pushed outside their comfort zones.

Camp Cherith has been an essential and life changing part of my life for over fourteen years. Like many other staff and campers at Cherith, this camp has impacted my spiritual life, friendships, and sense of adventure in countless ways. As a camper, I had the chance to learn fun skills such as archery, kayaking, outdoor cooking, guitar, and water skiing. Camp also created a safe space that encouraged me to try things I would have never tried at home. If you had told my nine-year-old self that someday as a camp staff member I would dress up in an 80’s business suit and charge through the camp dining hall holding a live duck as part of a skit, I would have said you were nuts. But somehow the environment and community at Camp Cherith fosters a sense of goofiness and fearlessness – all while confirming that no matter what, we are all fully and equally loved by Christ.

The staff that poured their time, energy, and love into me at camp ensured that I connected each activity back to my relationship with God. The schedule at Cherith provides a perfect balance of having tons of fun, making connections, and learning about Christ in different settings. As a camper, Cherith provided a refreshing reminder of my identity and worth. Then as a staff member, Cherith provided me with the opportunity to pour prayer and biblical truth into campers while they in turn taught me about faith and authenticity.

Volunteering at Camp Cherith to prepare it for the summer is a wonderful ministry opportunity because it gives you the chance to invest in and serve its many staff and campers. Cherith is truly an incredible place, and I think that investing your time, energy, and prayer into this camp will reap incredible rewards this summer. AKA if you haven’t signed up to volunteer over Memorial Day Weekend, GO DO IT! I can guarantee you’ll have a blast and that your efforts will make a huge difference!

Mind Mountains

By: Ben Behnen

Mind Mountains PicAbout a week ago, I had a conversation with my parents over the phone. I was recently accepted into the marriage and family therapy program at St. Mary’s University, and I wanted to settle with my mom and dad that this was the right choice. The conversation began delightfully because my parents are the sweetest and silliest. Soon enough, however, we got down to business. They started asking questions about what my schedule would look like, when I would have to start making payments, how much those payments would be etc.

My head started to ache and race as I realized that I had no idea the answer to most of these crucial questions. I became defensive and shut down inside, to no fault of my parents. They were just looking out for my best interest. However, I felt really inadequate, really small and incapable.

After I hung up, my thoughts started to race faster and I could feel anxiety building up inside me. It got to a point where I knew I had to go for a walk and get some air. I talked to God about it and that helped some. But for the rest of the week these thoughts loomed large, like mountains I’m trying to climb over or push away.

Recently I have been learning just how prominent these “mind mountains” have been in my thought life. For a long while it seems like I’ve been surrounded by them – whether it’s worries about grad school, or if I’m doing this Christianity thing right, or if I’ll ever find that special someone. These formidable, scary thoughts form this mountain range in my head, and it always seems like I have to tackle at least one (usually multiple) of them right now. And I can’t. I just don’t have all the answers or even know where to start. But I still feel like I have to do something about them, so I’ll ruminate over and over about them.

After a long week of this worrying cycle, the glorious weekend showed up with beautiful weather. I thought it might be nice to watch the sunset, so I stuffed my hammock and a blanket in a backpack and drove to the superb lakeside view on campus. I found a friendly pair of evergreens, strung up my hammock, and sunk in. I probably got there about an hour before the sun would fully set, and felt a little restless. I checked my phone a couple times but thankfully it died on me. Eventually I decided to just sit and watch.

I sat and watched for that full hour. I saw muskrats swim calmly on by the shore. I heard birds cut through the cool evening air. I smelled the damp freshness of the lake. And when the heart of the night emerged, when the soft, heavenly pink toward the west mingled with the deep blue of the north, a thought slipped into my mind: maybe all of this is good?

And with that thought, it was as if my soul heaved a deep sigh.

I don’t know how to handle these mountains of mine. I don’t have the strength to move them or the know-how to scale them. Regardless of what I’m capable of, though, these are good. These mountains – scary and daunting and insurmountable as they may be – they are good.

I think they are good because God formed them. And I think they are good because God led me up the one I’m standing on now. I look back and realize the mountain range is only in front of me. Behind me is this rich view of a million miles travelled with my God. Sometimes I forget we’ve been going at this for quite some time now. Nevertheless, he’s sure to remind me and he’s sure to point out all the little good things he’s done.

So if all that has been is good, why not all that will be? I may get scared and confused and lost, but I’d like to think at the end, when I’ve worried my last, God will look me in the eye and point behind me. And there we’ll just sit and watch. For an hour, maybe two. Maybe the time won’t matter at that point. And we’ll look over this great mountain range and everything will seem so small, so good.

Rise Above

By: Kevin Thomas, Lead Pastor

Rise AboveRancor. Distrust. Prejudice. Irritation. Antagonism. Fear.

Seem slightly familiar? Our present era of political rancor, racial distrust, and prejudiced religion leaves us weary and confused.  I believe we’re all pretty tired of the irritation, antagonism, and fear we see and feel each day.

Our collective experience, however, is nothing new. Humanity’s seen it all before. In fact, as we embark on our Christian Holy Week, it’s strikingly similar to the situation Jesus faced as he stepped into Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s religious and political climate was a tinderbox of tension. The Roman authorities were exasperated trying to the keep the Jews from upsetting the peace.  The Religious Elites (known as the Sanhedrin, Sadducees, and Pharisees) played a continual cat-and-mouse game to protect their national, religious and personal interests. The Zealots were hoping to ignite a civil war that could create enough chaos to reestablish their long-lost political and theological power.

It took Jesus less than a week to light this tinderbox on fire.  Never one to be a “people pleaser,” he openly mocked the pride of the religious elites, ignored the power-play of the Zealots, and expressed his personal superiority over the power of Rome.

We know how the story ends. In choosing not to choose sides, he opted instead for his own demise. As he willingly, thoughtfully and compassionately laid down his life, Jesus publicly exposed the deep darkness lurking inside human nature.  He was lifted up on the cross to show humanity that he is the only one who can rise above the hatred, hypocrisy and selfishness of our egocentric ways.

Intriguingly, only one man seemed able to grasp what was happening in real time. As Jesus exhaled his final breath, a gristled military Captain gasped in astonishment,

“Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)

For this one week, let’s put aside our smug sense of moral superiority and marvel at the only man in human history that truly rose above it all. Join us on Friday evening at 7pm as we contemplate the depth of Jesus’ love. Come back again at 9am on Easter Sunday for a joy-filled breakfast and then engage in heart-felt worship at 10am as we celebrate the only man who can truly save us from our sins.

Rancor, distrust and prejudice will not soon go away. Yet through Jesus, we can learn how to rise above it all and live with greater love, hope and faith.

I Am Enough

By: Amber Harder, Communications Specialist

I am enoughIn case you missed church on Sunday, it’s worth a listen and you can find it here. Dr. David Clark spoke in our current series, Heaven on Earth: Learning to Live in God’s Kingdom, and preached specifically on “A New Personal Mission.” One of my main take-aways from the sermon was that whatever I am doing, whatever my “work” is day in and day out, God can use me as a Kingdom Ambassador in that role.

From Colossians 3:17 –

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Dr. Clark even mentioned we can honor God by changing diapers. This hit home because these days I am changing a lot of diapers between my two littlest ones! I don’t often consider it important work, but God can use me here at home in some very big ways. I don’t have to try and be someone else or do what I deem to be “great” things for the Kingdom – I am enough and the work I am doing is enough when I give every effort to glorify God through my work.

Sunday’s sermon gave me a lot to chew on, but then a funny thing happened. I heard a similar message again on Monday…

This time it was at the U of M while watching a self-reflective documentary, “The Diaspora Journal” by Nathan Araya, a first-generation American whose parents were Ethiopian. In it he mentioned that one of his struggles growing up was that to Americans, he wasn’t “American enough,” and to Africans, he wasn’t “African enough.” He didn’t know where he fit.

In a follow-up Q & A, one attendee asked what Mr. Araya would say to his 8-year-old self if he could go back in time. He said “I would tell my 8-year-old self, ‘You are enough.’ You are American enough, you are African enough, you are good enough, you are smart enough. You are enough.” God has a specific purpose and place for each of us, and we need to live that out. By sharing his own story and struggle, he reminded me that I am enough.

What I am doing and not doing is enough.

Who I am and who I am not is enough.

I am enough. And God has a plan and purpose for me.

And then I came home from the screening and needed to hold a crying baby. I turned on “Last Man Standing,” a show I’ve been watching on Netflix intermittently. In this particular episode, Kyle, one of the employees of the outdoor store, was unwittingly promoted to a boat salesman. Kyle had no skill selling boats and it didn’t make him happy. Once this came to the surface, his supervisors wanted to switch him to another role. In a conversation with this employer, it became evident that Kyle had a knack for knowing the personalities and talents of the other employees in the store and understanding where those individuals would be most effective on the sales floor. Once moved into a position where he could use this skill, Kyle thrived.

Huh. Another instance of someone doing great things when using their unique personality and skill set in the right role. Though it was a sitcom, the truth of the lesson resonated with what I heard in the previous 36 hours.

Because of these 3 encounters, all so close together, I began to sense God reminding me that I am unique; I have a skill set unlike anyone else, and I can glorify Him and be a Kingdom Ambassador right where I am.

Who I am and what I can give right now – it’s enough. It’s enough and more than enough when I seek to do everything for Him.

My (latest) Wow Moment

raised hands.jpgBy: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

There are many points in ministry where I have to step back and just say, ‘wow’…times when I’m just blown away by the generosity and diligence of people who, even though they’re not ‘professionals’ when it comes to church-y stuff, jump right in to give, serve, etc., simply because it’s something they’re passionate about. I’ve had this happen more times than I can count with service projects, fundraising, and the general tasks that need to happen in the week-to-week details of ministry.

As the enCompass staff worked through responses to our February teaching series, I believe we all ended up at another one of those ‘wow’ moments. Actually, let me correct that…it was more of an “AHHHHHHWOOOOHOOOOOUmmmm…” moment. I’ll explain:

Back in September, the staff started working through what it would mean to invite the enCompass community into a deeper understanding and practice of being the body of Christ. This meant taking a hard look at everything that happens at enCompass – from changing diapers to preaching sermons, Sunday mornings to the rare times that things happen on Saturday nights. We did as much as we could think of to prepare for this invitation, including writing up job descriptions and figuring out how to best support volunteers in different areas. It was exhausting and at times arduous, so understandably we could let out a sigh of relief when the series wrapped up.

After 5ish months of work, we still didn’t really know what to expect. When 75 people expressed at least interest in learning more about where they might be able to serve, there was much celebration. People actually want to learn more about showing up at 7:30am on a Sunday to push carts and set up chairs? Someone’s ready right now to help with student ministries? WONDERFUL!!!! It’s a lot of fun to see hard work pay off in tangible ways. But then…

Not long after the celebration died down, we had to reign things in with the reality that now we have the responsibility to follow through with people, supporting them as they work to see how they fit in as part of the body of Christ. We talked about what it would look like, but not knowing what sort of response we would get, it was difficult to fully prepare for what was ahead. Fortunately, the staff had a good team of volunteers to help with the follow-up and discernment process. It’s translated to a lot of phone calls, e-mails, coffee dates, and eventually training, mentoring, and further discerning.

I’ve studied Ephesians 4 (our passage from the February series) quite a bit in the past 20 years. But as we worked through it this time, verses 11 & 12 held particular depth:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”

My responsibility as someone in vocational ministry is to be a conduit for God’s work in peoples’ lives. I’m called to teach, support, equip, and encourage so that others can more fully use their gifts for the sake of God’s kingdom. It can be overwhelming at times, but it’s these ‘wow’ moments that bring more and more confirmation of my own calling to be in ministry, to be doing all I can for the sake of the Body of Christ.

Thank you for the part you played in our ‘AHHHHHHWOOOOHOOOOUmmmmm’ moment. enCompass wouldn’t be the church it is without each and every one of you.



Photo credit: blondinrikard via / CC BY


My Vision for enCompass Youth

By: Alex Blackwell, Student Ministry Pastor

Alex Blackwell.JPGMany have asked me why I decided to come to enCompass. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it back in September. Just scroll down to the last section to see my thoughts. My answer has always been the same to anyone who asks: relationships and authenticity. This is great news in light of what can seem like daunting and concerning statistics about how many students lose their faith when they go off to college. Why is this good news? Consider two fictional stories that represent what a lot of college students experience.

Jenna went to college a few hours away from her Christian home. This was just far enough that it meant she wouldn’t be going home very often to visit family. College for her was her first opportunity for independence. Despite her parents’ attempts at guiding her through some of her collegiate decisions, everything else was up to her. Jenna knew one or two people who came to the same college from her hometown, but for the most part, she was on her own in navigating the new vast waters of independence. When faced with new decisions and their consequences – both short and long term – she felt alone in figuring it all out. Hungry for relationships, she said “yes” to the first invitation she got – which was to a party a few blocks off campus. This provided a place to meet a lot of people who had the mindset, “we’re in college, let’s have fun.” It wasn’t too long before Jenna’s decisions brought her into a lifestyle of hedonism that didn’t correlate well with her faith. She set her faith aside so that she could continue with her new lifestyle and friends thinking, “maybe I’ll pick it back up later.”

Mike had a lot of fun at his youth group in High School. They had a weekly gathering where they played fun games and heard short talks on Christian morals, like not gossiping, not lying, and consistently praying. When Mike got to college, it was the first time he heard questions about Christianity that he couldn’t answer. He thought about e-mailing his high-school youth pastor, but never really had a strong friendship with him. He reached out to others from his church, but their answers were, “because the Bible says so.” Now Mike had to wrestle with questions like “why is there pain and suffering in the world if God loves us?” and “why are there contradictions in the Bible?” on his own and with his questioning friends. Over time their questions wore him down, and he didn’t feel like he could maintain intellectual integrity and be a Christian at the same time. His growing doubts led him to leave his Christian faith.

I acknowledge that these stories are concerning and sad. In my mind, there is hope for our students. Jenna was left alone to figure out her new world of independence and settled for shallow relationships. Remedy: Relationship. Mike’s story is marked by shallow answers of faith confronting deep empirical, intellectual doubts. Remedy: Authenticity.

My vision for enCompass youth is for us to create space for our students to build deep relationships with their peers, mentors, and church community that they can lean on while they are in Junior High and High School, but also when they move on to whatever is next for them. The second part of my vision is for those relationships to be marked by authenticity that (1) says more than just, “because the Bible says so,” when our students wrestle with hard questions, (2) acknowledges that there are hard questions to think through, and (3) understands that Christian minds have been thinking through these things since the beginning of the church – some of them before that! Relationships and authenticity and every combination of the two are exactly, in my mind, what our students need. I hope and pray that enCompass continues to hold as tight to these two things as it did when Alli and I first came to love it here.

That Tingly Feeling

By: Nicole Quast

photo-for-nicoles-blogThere are some things in life that just give you that feel good tingly feeling or a high you just can’t explain.  It might be a baby’s laugh, a child saying I love you, a hug or kiss from your spouse.  For me it is all of those things but it is also serving others.

A few years back, my New Year’s resolution was to serve more.  I tried multiple times to corral my friends and family and have them commit to dates to do larger events.  I would always get responses like, “well I think I can make it” or “I will try to make it”.  It was so challenging to get a firm commitment and I was starting to feel defeated.  This is when I stumbled upon enCompass church.  I was overjoyed to find out they had a Community Service Team and felt it was an answer to my prayers.  I was so nervous to join the team but I am so glad I did!   I enjoy being part of the Community Service Team.  I enjoy the planning phase, the collection phase, the conversations etc.  I think it is a wonderful group who are giving, loving, and serving people.  Some of our most recent service activities have focused on filling the needs within the backyard of enCompass – at Central Park Elementary School.  Through our service ministry, we have developed a relationship with this school and have been able to support them in many areas.  Some of these are Bucks for Backpacks, Warm and Wooly Winter Wear, Sheridan Story weekend packs, and a few other things.

After joining the Community Service Team, I continued to have a strong desire to serve! So, last spring, I organized a Mom’s Night Out at Sheridan Story to do a packing event.  A group of enCompass moms and church goers showed up at their warehouse and packed weekend food packs.  We worked hard and filled so many weekend packs!  Before leaving, we discussed with the staff how much fun we had and our desire to do it again.  They told us that they were full for the rest of the school year.  We were bummed, but realized that this was a good thing! I left that night a little more tired than when I got there but with a tingly heart filled feeling!

So this fall, I decided to plan 4 Sheridan Story meal packing events for our church.  So far, we have completed two of the events.  At both of the events, we have had a great turnout!  I have enjoyed each one and have gotten the chance to get to know some enCompass goers better.  Each time I leave exhausted but with a tingly heart filled feeling.  Our next packing events will be April 6th and May 4th.  Please consider joining us and getting your heart filled! You can learn more here.

These past few years, I have been working hard to fill my heart, but this year I also really wanted my children to learn about giving and serving.  It is my desire to teach them about serving and helping them to develop a sense of pride when they do things for others and ultimately get that tingly heart filled feeling when they do!  This Christmas at our house I wanted my children to understand that Christmas is about giving and not receiving.  I decided to have them do an advent basket for the food shelf.  Each day we added an item to the basket of something they used or ate that day to try to make it relevant.  A few days before Christmas we delivered it to the local food shelf.  I wasn’t sure my kids truly understood what or why we were doing it, but when my youngest son said to the volunteer who helped us with our food, “Merry Christmas,” with the proudest smile on his face, I didn’t care if he totally understood, I thought it was enough because I had tears in my eyes and that tingly feeling in my heart!

I don’t want my children to just think that we give at Christmas time, so I have been thinking about other ways to get them involved in serving.  My oldest son and I participated in a Feed My Starving Children event right after Thanksgiving.  We had so much fun and he wants to do it again.  So, I am interested in setting up a Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) event.  This allows families with younger children to participate; children 5 and over are welcomed to pack bags at FMSC.  I am also interested in setting up an event to make sandwiches for the homeless.  This event would allow children even younger to help out.  Please send me a message if you would be interested in having your families participate in events such as these or if you know of other service activities that allow children to participate.

With this I will leave you with a Bible verse I came across when thinking about writing this:

1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms,” (NIV)

There are so many ways we can serve; I encourage you to find yours and I bet you will receive a tingly heart filled response in return, for God will know you are doing good works through Him!

Nachos & Oatmeal

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

pic-for-derons-blogI always feel bad writing a blog about my interactions with my kids. There truly is more to my life than being a dad, but I learn so much from my boys…

Dinner can be challenging for a little one, especially when they’re sick, teething, and want nothing to do with one (or more) of their parents. After a few minutes of fussily picking away at the delicious assortment of food on his tray, we decided it wasn’t worth the fight and took the sick teething child out of his seat so he could go somewhere else and we could perhaps eat a bit of our dinner in peace.

That of course failed to pan out. More fussiness and frustration (from parents and child) and an overall feeling that the day was going to end on a hopeless note. To her (somewhat) delight, mom had an obligation outside the house, so I was left to handle the bedtime routine with the perturbed little one. Still more frustration, but then some glimmers of hope. And then the weirdest thing started to happen. Angry sick child started making his way around to the table. And showing interest in what might be available for his sustenance. Never mind that the warm succulent options were now tepid and unappetizing. Or that his eventual meal looked more like what you’d find at an early morning tailgate party. His attitude was gone, his tummy was full, and bedtime was solid.

The whole experience got me thinking…What do we miss out on when we reject God’s wonderful gifts because of our own pride? What more can we hope to experience by trusting God even through frustrations? I don’t necessarily have great answers to those questions just yet, but I pray for the awareness to be able to trust in God’s goodness even when I see very little of it in myself.

Matthew 7:9-11

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!


Want Less, Live More

By: Steve Lynch

house-in-shopping-cartLike the rest of America, I get caught up in the desire to add stuff to my life.  For some people, it’s stuff for their closet.  For others, it’s stuff for the garage.  We’re in this constant race to acquire stuff.  My weakness is houses.  I’ve developed a bad habit of spending my precious free time on real estate websites, looking for the perfect cabin, home or lot.  I can easily spend an hour looking for that next great house for my family to live in — one that’s in a better neighborhood or in a better school district or one that’s on a lake or has a bigger garage or more entertaining space or whatever I deem to be the needed improvement to our lives on a particular day.  It’s a constant pursuit until I inevitably find the house we “need” to have.  At that moment, the time investment grows exponentially.  From an open house visit or a scheduled showing to discussions about remodeling plans or finances, I get myself (and my wife) caught up in the serious pursuit of something we didn’t need a day or two earlier.  The real estate opportunity consumes my mind over the course of the hours/days/weeks that follow and dominates conversations with my wife.  Rather than discussing us and our boys, our conversations turn to things like “what if we blew out that wall and…” or “imagine if we took down the old garage and…”  I run through scenarios in my mind at all hours of the day/night.  I eventually come to my senses and I’m reminded that we already live in a great house, in a great location—a house where everyone has what they need to be safe, happy and healthy—and I let it go.

This is not a great pastime for me.  The pursuit has me focused on the wrong things.  It fails to acknowledge and appreciate all that God has given us.  Instead of appreciating what we have, I’m focused on what we don’t have, with no real proof that adding this stuff would tangibly improve our lives.  Taking it a step further: while this pursuit is supposedly about making our lives better, the unintended consequence is that my fixation on it is actually taking time away from enjoying what I already have, and giving thanks to God for all of my blessings.  It’s taking time, energy and focus away from what truly matters, which is our love for each other, the experiences we share and the presence of God in all of it.  Romans 8:5-6 says living with this sort of misdirected focus is actually not living at all.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

With that, my resolution is to want less and live more in 2017.  Rather than dreaming about lake moments and entertaining moments, I want to be more present in the moment—seeing God’s presence and expressing gratitude for all that we already have.


Photo Credit: © Kts | – House Shopping Cart Photo