**New Website**

To any of you still following “the Mind of Tyler,” I apologize for the lack of new content over the past year. I kind of dropped the ball on keeping up with this blog. However, I have exciting news! I recently launched a brand-new blog/website at tylerjbrooks.com–its my newest project that is a place for personal coaching, motivation, and helpful tips for creating lasting change in your life and pursuing a life of purpose. You can expect a couple of blog posts a week, along with recommendations of books, other blogs/websites, and other helpful resources for chasing after the life you really want to live. In the near future, I intend to create ebooks, free guides, and other tools you can download. If you have found interest in any of my previous content, I hope you will at least head over to tylerjbrooks.com

Thanks,

Tyler

When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

adoptingjames

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I apologize for not posting anything for a while. I’m currently working on one of the most difficult projects of my writing career. Keep checking back in the next several days and you’ll be hearing all about it. I can almost guarantee it will affect you directly.

But even for those of us who have a deep-seated passion for writing can grow weary.

After all, we’re staring at words on a page. And in the midst of a writer’s block, that’s like staring at a wall watching the paint dry.

It can be mind-numbing!

And so come the days when we just don’t wan to write. We want to give up. We just don’t feel like jumping back in.

But we have to train ourselves to think differently. To see beyond the words on the computer screen.

There’s a scene in the movie Patch Adams where a psychiatric patient (with more wisdom…

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Long Row

Attitude and perspective makes all the difference. (This post also makes me want to plant a garden!)

Storyshucker

A friend of mine will soon move to a new house and has been consumed with the process of packing for quite some time. He lamented the fact that no matter how much he gets done he continues to see piles and stacks and shelves full of things yet to be boxed. Adding to the stress, he’s nearing the semester’s end of coursework towards a Master’s degree. This combination has him overwhelmed. He complained a bit more about the work left to do.

“I’ll never finish.” he moaned after his update.

“Well.” I said. “It’s like that row of tomatoes.”

He didn’t get it.

With no idea what I meant he stared into the distance preoccupied by stress. Then, remembering similar comments of mine in the past his head whirled back towards me. “Wait, is that another Nannie thing?” he asked.

“It’s another Nannie thing.” I nodded confirmation and began…

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Love is a Choice

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”

(1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG)

When I read what the Bible says about love, I am always lead to the same conclusion: love is a choice. After reading the four gospels recently, I did not come away with the idea that Jesus just fell in love with His followers because they were so wonderful and charming. As a matter of fact, many followers were only enchanted by His miracles and what they thought He could do for them. Most of the tremendous crowds that clamored to hear His teaching did nothing to love Him in return. Even His closest friends and most devoted followers continually doubted Him and failed to understand the important things He was trying to tell them. When He was betrayed by His friend Judas and arrested, all of His disciples deserted Him. Peter even denied knowing Him three times. Jesus was beaten, tortured, and brutally executed on a cross while His friends and followers looked on. Yet He loved them through it all. Not only did He love His followers, but He also loved His enemies. In His tremendous suffering on the cross, Jesus went as far as praying for them saying, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34 MSG). Jesus willingly died on the cross to save His friends from the power of sin and death and give them the opportunity for eternal life.

Everyone knows Jesus was (and still is) awesome at this whole sacrificial love idea. But He is Jesus, after all, so that is to be expected. What about the rest of us? Can we really love like that? Do we have the capacity to truly love others even when they don’t deserve it, don’t want it, or don’t accept it?

If we take a look at our world’s cultures, it’s not difficult to see that humans are doing a pretty terrible job at loving each other well. From family feuds and domestic violence to sex trafficking and international terrorism, people are clearly better and more practiced at hate than they are at love. Even within the Christian culture we can see many examples of selfish and destructive behaviors that obviously place “me” above all others, bringing grief to the heart of God. It seems to me that self-focus and general apathy toward others are the most pervasive and subtly destructive attributes of this love-lacking culture.

Marriages, which are intended to be life-long covenant relationships, are flippantly abandoned in the name of self-preservation. Nationally, somewhere around 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Subsequent remarriages have an even higher rate of failure. Christian marriages tend to fail just as badly as that of other non-Christian marriages. But how can this be? How can someone who has believed in Jesus as their savior and received the gift of the Holy Spirit actually break their vows and give up on their marriage? It’s not necessarily lack of faith or wrong beliefs about God that allow this to happen. Although there are numerous reasons people cite for getting divorced, I believe they all essentially come down to one common cause: choosing not to love. I know that may seem oversimplified, but if you think about it, how many broken marriages could have been saved if both partners chose to simply love each other unconditionally? I am not saying that nagging wives, unappreciative husbands, liars, and cheaters don’t deserve to be punished and alone. They do deserve the consequences of their actions. But so do you and me. Love, as Jesus gives, does not simply return to someone what their actions deserve; a husband who really loves gives when he doesn’t receive, and a wife shows appreciation when she is not appreciated. True love holds on when all others would have already let go. My point is this: love is a choice. We must all choose love every day, in every circumstance, in every argument, in every relationship. Of course we will fail at times, but we must persevere. Those of us who are married are called to love our spouses unconditionally and forever. But we are not called to do it alone; we are given God’s Holy Spirit who fills us and empowers us to live holy lives. Love is a choice that we can really only make when we first choose to surrender ourselves to God and rely on Him to sustain us. 

What are some practical ways you choose to love your spouse? To love others?

Please share your thoughts and comments on Facebook or in the Comments section below.

The Easy Life

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:13 & 14 ESV)

It’s so easy to strive after personal comfort and security. Our culture bombards us with messages, ideas, and products that promise to make our lives easier and more convenient. The obsession with getting rich feeds off the lie that more money and more stuff will make you happy—that having many nice things and being comfortable is directly correlated with living a good life. However, it is not difficult to see the evidence of the deception we have been fed. Broken marriages and families, addictions, affairs, and insecurity afflict many of the people who have the most stuff. If the “gate is wide and the way is easy,” that is, if most people are living a certain way and it seems easy, then that should be our first sign that they are headed for destruction. Often times, going with the flow of our culture also means compromising truth and character, getting washed over the waterfall with the rest of the unsuspecting swimmers. To swim upstream, against the current, is obviously the more difficult option, but also the only way to survive and find true life. I believe our modern American church is plagued with Christians who have bought our culture’s lies about the easy life and have simply mixed in some Jesus to make themselves feel better. They see Jesus as a means to an end—a way to make their lives easier by giving them a sense of spiritual security (think fire insurance) and occasional reassurance when they are faced with the realities of suffering and death. They seek what they consider blessings over and against spiritual growth and the well-being of others. They expect a supernatural ROI (return-on-investment) from their “modest” giving. When things in their life get difficult or undesirable, they not only expect, but demand that God simply fix their problems and make their life easy again.

Are you one of these people? I used to be one. In some ways I still am. It is so easy for me to get caught up in my culture’s expectations of success, wealth, and personal and family comfort. I don’t want to be uncomfortable; who does? I don’t want to be poor, or hungry, or inconvenienced. That’s normal, I know. But when I read the Bible and look at Jesus’ life and teachings, I don’t see normal. I don’t see someone who is calling people to take up their beach umbrellas and sunscreen and just relax; He calls His people to take up a cross, which is definitely not relaxing. It is a calling to be servants to others, to be humble, to love and forgive and do what God says is right even when it hurts or doesn’t make sense. Jesus calls us to lay down our pride and self-focus and take up a desire to elevate His will above our own; to work to build up His kingdom and His people over and sometimes against our own.

What are some practical ways you can elevate God’s will and desires above your own? How have you seen others do this?

Please share your response via Facebook or in the Comments below.

Strength in the Lord

Isaiah 40 says, “he gives power to the faint and to him who has no might he increases strength” (ESV). Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven after His resurrection, He told His disciples “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV). Judges 7 tells the story of Gideon who defeated the numerous Midianites with only 300 men so that Israel would attribute the victory to God, not their own strength (see verse 2). Again in Judges 16 we read about Samson, who was a judge over Israel known for his incredible, God-given strength and brute force. 1 Samuel 17 gives the well-known account of David, a young shepherd boy, who kills the Philistine giant Goliath and propels God’s people to victory over their enemies.

These are just a few pieces of the Bible that I read this morning. The interesting thing is, I didn’t plan to just read passages about people who had strength and power through the Lord. The first two (Isaiah 40 & Acts 1) came from a daily devotional reading about strengthening your marriage spiritually. The others were from a reading plan (The Story) that gives three chapters or so each day that highlight some of the most notable people and events throughout the entire Bible. However, I quickly saw the connections between theses passages when I read the questions at the end of the marriage devotional: Do you lean on the Holy Spirit to strengthen you and your marriage? What is a specific situation where you lacked ability, but were strengthened by the Holy Spirit? Obviously, Gideon, Samson, and David could answer those questions with several examples. Jesus tells His disciples before He leaves them that they will receive power in the form of the Holy Spirit and they will be His witnesses (see above). You see, God never asks people to do incredible things alone; He always offers us strength and courage to do things that seem too difficult or even impossible. God’s purposes for our lives are much bigger than we can imagine, but our God is also much bigger than we know. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His dreams are more grand than our dreams. When He calls us into relationship with Him, He calls us to turn our lives upside down. He asks us to live lives that look crazy to those who don’t know Him, to love and sacrifice more than we think we can, and to surrender our will to His. All of this change and breaking away from being self-centered takes tremendous courage and strength; God provides everything we need to follow Him faithfully through His Holy Spirit. A common thread that runs through many of the stories throughout the Bible is simple, average (or even pretty bad) people doing incredible things for the Lord by genuinely trusting and obeying Him. They were often under-qualified, outnumbered, too young, too old or just not good or smart enough, but they believed God and walked in obedience to Him.

Do you lean on the Holy Spirit to strengthen you and your marriage? What is a specific situation where you lacked ability, but were strengthened by the Holy Spirit? 

When I look back to three years ago when my son and first child was born, I am reminded of the strength and courage that God gave me during that time. Being our first child, my wife and me were both nervous before we even arrived at the hospital. But I kept reassuring her that things would be fine. Although it worked out well in the end, things were not “fine.” She was induced because her blood pressure was elevated, then she spent 42 hrs in labor followed by an emergency C-section. Afterward, both she and our new baby had infections, several issues with IVs not staying put, and sleep issues. We were in the hospital 10 days in all, followed by months of follow-up visits to the pediatrician and an orthopedic surgeon in the city due to some minor underdevelopment issues my son had with his hips. I know our experience pales in comparison to that of many other young parents who have lived much more serious, and even tragic stories. However, it was still the most nerve-wracking and exhausting experience of my life (not to mention my sweet wife). Through this experience, I wrestled with fear, doubt, anger, confusion, frustration, and an overall feeling of dread during some of the most difficult times. But in that hospital I had my parents and my wife’s parents to encourage me. We had friends visit us in the hospital and at home, and we had a lot of people praying for us. I don’t think I have ever prayed more seriously and earnestly in my life than I did in that hospital. The Lord brought me (and my wife and son) through that difficult and stressful experience, and gave me courage that I know I didn’t have before. I was able to encourage my wife, talk calmly with the doctor and nurses, and make difficult decisions without letting my fear paralyze me. This boost of courage continued after we went home from the hospital and has continued to influence the person that I am. While expecting another baby in just a few months, I have been praying for trust and obedience to God no matter what issues may arise. I have also asked to be given more courage and wisdom to raise my children faithfully in the ways of the Lord.

 

Do you lean on the Holy Spirit to strengthen you and your marriage? What is a specific situation where you lacked ability, but were strengthened by the Holy Spirit? 

I would love to hear your response to one or both of these questions. Please respond in the comments section or on Facebook.

Are you rich?

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But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20 (ESV)

On Sunday, the pastor at my church spoke about being “rich.” He asked several rhetorical questions to the congregation to prove that we were all rich compared to most of the world. Have you ever looked in your closet full of clothes and said, ‘I have nothing to wear’? Do you have a house just for your cars? Have you ever traded in a working car, plus a pile of money, to get a slightly newer working car? Of course, I answered yes to most of his questions (and so did he). He also pointed out that a small family could live in my walk-in closet. This was a passing comment, but it is still very true. Much of the world has living quarters only a fraction of the size and quality that most Americans enjoy. If we ever feel guilty about this, the solution is not to simply get poor and live in a storage shed. It is to become good at being rich (the pastor’s words, not mine). In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul says:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:17-18 NIV)

It is an epidemic in our culture; most people place their hope in their bank account, the stock market, and their ability to provide stuff for themselves and their own family. People easily become arrogant when they make a lot of money (a lot is a very subjective amount, by the way) and seem to forget that it can all disappear in the blink of an eye. Paul reminds us of this truth and wants us instead to “put [our] hope in God, who richly provides us everything…” Did you catch that? God provides for us richly and He provides us everything. Every good thing that we have comes from Him. We are responsible to work and labor for our paychecks, but it is God who provides the job, brings the rain and sunshine, who created and sustains the entire universe in which we live and work and play. If we gather buckets full of water to drink it is only because God’s fountain has overflowed and He has allowed us to drink.

In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan gives a brief “profile of the lukewarm,” citing several characteristics of the half-hearted Christian. One of the questions they ask is “how much do I have to give?’ instead of ‘how much can I give?’ (pg 76). “Lukewarm people,” says Chan, “are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God” (pg 77). When we think that we have everything under control, it is easy to trust in ourselves and the possessions and status that we have acquired. It is difficult, likely impossible, to trust in God when we do not recognize His sovereign control in our lives. We want to keep ourselves, our families, our money and our stuff safe, but we truly lack the positional authority to do so. (For more on this topic, see my previous post “Safety is our Top Priority” http://wp.me/p42Xa5-C). As Chan so clearly points out, this overemphasis we place on our safe living is often disastrous to our spiritual lives. We don’t sacrifice ourselves, our time, or our money. We don’t take risks for God’s sake. We may give some small percentage of our income to our local church, maybe even a few other non-profits, but do we really ever go above and beyond what we feel is “safe”? Recently, I’ve been giving consistently to my church even when money is tight. I have been developing a more generous heart and I’ve felt pretty good about it. However, when I realize that my “generous giving” only means that I cannot double up on my car payments every month, it seems pretty pathetic. I’m not missing any meals to make sure others don’t go hungry. I’m not giving until it hurts. Well, maybe it does hurt a little. But I think what God wants, and what the world needs, is for us to give generously with our money, well beyond what the average Christian gives (3-5% of income is what I’ve heard) and even more so to give of our time and talents. We can always get more money in this life, but we can never get more time. None of us even know how many days, hours, and minutes are in our “time account,” so we ought to spend today wisely. It’s good to give away money to keep in mind who is really in control, but I challenge you to also give your precious time to serving and loving others in your life. Serve your spouse, your kids, and your friends, but also go beyond the familiar and serve those who cannot likely serve you in return. Remember that God sees even what is done in secret and He truly knows the condition and motives of your heart.

How can you serve others and be generous in your daily life? What creative ways have you found to love others amid the busyness of life?

 

For more on the book “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, see crazylovebook.com 

To hear what my pastor said straight from the source, see tricountychurch.net