Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Photo: How full is your bucket?

Northern Oak Hairstreak, San Angelo, Texas - Photo taken May 21, 2016 by Taylor Sandlin.
In his book, Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul, Bill Hybels uses the metaphor of a bucket to describe the state of our lives. We all have practices in our lives that drain our bucket. We also have practices that fill our buckets up. Life includes both kinds of activities. It is not noble or good to do only those things that drain us. We must also do those things that fill us up.

One of the activities that fills me up is nature photography. I came to this activity unexpectedly. When Alyson and I purchased our present house, we were delighted to discover that the previous owner had planted a wide variety of butterfly-friendly plants in the back yard. At times in the summer, we will have as many as fifty butterflies flying around the backyard at once. It is an amazing experience to sit out there and watch them. Somewhere along the way, I started taking pictures of them. I had more fun doing this than is easily explained. I had stumbled upon an activity that fills my bucket.

Now, on my day off, you will often find me in one of my cities' many gardens, snapping pictures of butterflies, birds, or whatever else comes across my path. I take the pictures for the sake of my own soul, but I also have fun sharing them with folks who enjoy looking at nature photos, hence the new weekly post, "Friday Photos." If you like the photos, you can follow me on instagram @revtexag.

What is something that fills your bucket?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Is it summer yet?

Is it summer yet? Alyson and I need it to be summer. Between the baseball games and ballet recitals, the school parties and the awards assemblies, we need summer. We need summer because we need life to be simpler. In our minds, summer equals simple. My guess is that we are not the only ones who long for life to be a little less hectic.

Everywhere you look people are overscheduled, overwhelmed, and downright exhausted. No one I know likes living this way, and yet, few of us seem to know how to get off the hamster wheel. It is notable that God did not set up life this way. He did make us for work, but God’s aim was never for us to work ourselves silly. God made us to work and rest. Six days you’ll work, he said, on the seventh day you will do no work. As a kid it seemed strange to me that God would have to command people not to work. Now, as an adult, I get it. Sometimes we have to be told, “Stop. Put the hammer down. Close the laptop. Turn off your phone. Stop working. Rest.”

Sabbath rest sounds so good, but how do we practice it in our lives? We are so bad at resting, so bad at saying no to lesser things for the purpose of saying yes to the best things. Such disciplined living doesn’t happen by accident. We have to consciously work at living simpler lives. We’re going to explore how to do just that this summer during our summer book study. Stating June 1, we will work our way through Bill Hybels book, Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul. You don’t have to have a book to participate in the study, but we have them available for purchase if you want one.

Summer Book Study: Simplify by Bill Hybels
  •  Wednesdays, 12:10-12:50 in the Multipurpose Room. Starts June 1.  
  • Bring your own lunch. Tea is provided.
  • Books are only $10 if you get them from the church. The paperback is $9.54 on Amazon, $9.06 on Kindle. You don’t have to have a book to participate in the study.
  • If you want to come and need childcare, please let the church office know (949-9633).

 My prayer is that this won’t be one more thing on your to-do list, but will be a helpful step in finding God through simplified living.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him – Psalm 62:1


Related Links
  • Worst End of School Year Mom Ever – The Today Show has reposted a Jen Hatmaker essay from a few years ago about her end of the schoolyear struggles. Super funny. Read, laugh, and enjoy. My kids are past the learning to read phase and all I can say is, “Praise God.”
  • Simplify by Bill Hybels – Preview the book on the book’s website.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Get Dressed Up

When you woke up this morning, how long did you spend getting ready to head out the door? Did
you take a while trying to pick out what to wear? Are you one of those people who picks out their clothes the night before? Did it need ironing? How long did you spend on your hair? Makeup? Shaving?  Making oneself presentable can take a little while, can’t it? That’s especially true if you’re trying to make a good impression. Who of us hasn’t agonized over which shirt or dress to wear on a date? I admit that I spend a little more time getting ready on Sunday mornings than I do on Saturday mornings. 

For all the effort we put into our physical appearances, the apostle Paul writes we should put even more effort into our spiritual appearances. He writes to the Christians in Colossae that we are to “clothe [ourselves] with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience . . . and over all these virtues put on love.” What a beautiful image. Every morning, just as we put on our physical clothes, we are to clothe ourselves with those virtues that make us look like Jesus. Paul’s words remind us that wearing this clothing is often a conscious effort. If I don’t choose to wear kindness today, I’ll likely be mean spirited. If I forget to consciously choose to put on humility, I run the risk of being caught in public wearing only my pride – far worse than being caught in your bathrobe if you ask me!

But how do we choose such things? Well, just like it takes time to get physically ready in the morning, it also takes time to get spiritually ready. James reminds us that God’s Word acts as a mirror for our souls (James 1:22-25). Spending time reading our Bibles helps us to be ready for the day. Spending time in prayer asking God to dress us up for the day can have the same effect. You can even do both at once. You could memorize Colossians 3:12-14 by writing it on a note card and putting it on your bathroom mirror. Then use it as a centering prayer as you get ready every morning. That is, repeat the verse in the form of a prayer over and over as you comb your hair and brush your teeth and take a shower as a way of getting dressed up in these virtues.  And as you head out the door, don’t forget the most important part of all, throw on that coat of love which binds up the whole Christian life in one beautiful ensemble.

Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature – Romans 13:14.

Online resources
  • – This is a free Bible program for your phone, tablet, or computer. It allows you to sign up for daily Bible readings and will help you develop the holy habit of staying in God’s word.
  • – This is another app / website that offers free access to many versions of the Bible. It also has several reading plans you can sign up for.
  • – This is an online devotional that’s simple, well done, and helpful for starting the day well. They have an app for your mobile device as well.
  • – This is the web version of Our Daily Bread, a devotional resource that has been around for ages. You can even download the devotionals as a podcast to listen to in the car or on the go.