I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. They seem more like something to talk about than things people actually intend to do. Frankly, by the time I manage to complete Christmas celebrations, I barely have enough time to think about what I want to accomplish in the next year.
So a couple of years ago, I started something different. I started making resolutions in February. By February, most people have already broken their New Year’s resolutions. There’s no more pressure to have them and no one’s asking you for them. It actually allows me time to give serious thought to anything that needs to get done. I also get time to pray so I don’t just do what I want, but can actually submit to the Lord’s leading.
What that means for me now, though, is I’m looking over what 2016 was. Most people are constantly looking forward. I’m not against that, but the seeds of the future are found in the past. I want to learn from 2016, both the successes and the failures, and chart a course with the Lord’s help that is wise and ambitious.
So, with no further ado, I present the significant events of 2016:
My Prayer Retreat With Christy
This may have been my favorite thing of my entire year. Christy and I had desperately been trying to go on a much needed trip for just the two of us (i.e., no kids). And while the desire was there, the budget and the time weren’t always. But by the end of the summer, burnout from work and ministry and parenting was getting really high. So we picked a weekend, arranged for some time with the grandparents for the kids, and took a prayer retreat at a cabin in a state park.
And we prayed. We asked the Lord about what we were committed to. We asked Him for direction. We talked to each other about what we were hearing. We sang songs to Jesus around a campfire and didn’t worry about whether it would wake up the kids (or the other campers). We came out of that time more focused and more together. This wasn’t just my favorite thing that happened this year, it was also the most strategic. We hope to make this a yearly tradition.
(Side note: If you haven’t gone away with your spouse to pray and seek the Lord, you should give it a try some time.)
My Commitment to Read More Books
The last few years before this one, my reading had tanked. I kept being given books I asked for and they sat on the shelf. Late in 2015 I decided to give Audible a try. I had time in the car and while I shaved and other random, on-the-go moments. The number of books I read this year jumped from 3 the previous year to 16 this year. Not every book was great, but there were 5 that were significantly meaningful. You can check out my thoughts on last year’s reading here.
My Work As a Missionary
This last year, we opened our home to a lot of kids from the neighborhood and the results were really surprising. I’ve written a bit about this in a blog post from last year about hospitality and the spread of the Gospel. Needless to say, we are still feeling the affects of this change to our lives. Just yesterday a gaggle of kids showed up in our house and tomorrow I’m talking to one of them about starting a discipleship group. I believe God has a church for our neighborhood made up people more ethnically and economically similar to our neighborhood. This was a first step in that direction.
On a side note, I also believe there is a greater emphasis on this coming in 2017, not just as a missionary to my neighborhood, but to others in my city as well. As I write about my intentions for 2017 and the reality that plays out, I hope you all will see that.
Our Decision to Raise Up Shepherds
Some day I’ll explain more about my hesitation with the word pastor for those of you who aren’t from the house church perspective. For now, let’s just say this: we haven’t had pastors in our house churches and were fairly adverse to the title.
In 2015, those of us who were opening our homes for churches to meet in began to realize our church network was struggling. A number of us were trying to reach out and evangelize more, but the churches still needed people to care and help those who were struggling.
Enter the shepherds. These are people with a heart and gifting to care for the body without title, privilege, or hierarchy. We finally initiated this idea towards the end of 2016 but it’s already paid tremendous dividends.
My Commitment to Blog Daily
Part of my commitment to read more books landed me in the book “The Icarus Deception.” Now Seth Godin is not a Christian by any stretch of the imagination, but I could sense the Lord challenging me when I read the phrase “There’s no such thing as talker’s block.” And thus, (mostly) daily blogging was born. Can I just say I appreciate the support each of you has shown along the way? I know a lot of you have subscribed since that point or gave comments of encouragement along the way. It’s meant a lot.
My Daughter Graduating High School
For those of you who don’t know, in 2014, I became a dad to wonderful 17 year old. Andrienne had met us through our outreach to the neighborhood several years prior, confessed Christ, and become part of our church. When things at home needed to change, she moved into our attic and became part of the family.
2016 was a big transition for her because she graduated high school! This is and was a huge deal. We had worked for hours and hours to make sure we hit this goal. I’m so proud of her for this accomplishment and there are plenty more ahead.
My Progress on My Book
So, I had hoped to finish the book by the end of this year. That didn’t happen. But I did make progress. I went from one chapter to three and a half. I also took a big step and committed to it openly and publicly, so I need to get it done. If only to stop this guy:
My Over Commitment
Okay, now we’re to some of the not so good parts of 2016. I was seriously over committed in 2016. I was doing so much, that eventually the shepherd that is part of my house church looked at me and told me I was doing too much. And we felt this in 2016. I have a huge list of “to do’s” from 2016 that are on my white board in my office. Many of them are still left unfinished. So the need ahead is to find ways to get those finished without taking on extra. Also, I need to make sure I spend more time nurturing my family, as sometimes they miss out due my over commitment.
Changes at Work
This wasn’t a bad thing, but it was tough on me. I was a commercial loan officer, but in October I got tapped to be part of a project management team at the Credit Union I work at. This took me from a challenging, rewarding, and fun job that I was finally starting to excel at and threw me into a new position that I had never done before. Project management is different than lending, let’s just say that! This next year and a half (the duration of this job) is going to be a big change for me. Keep me in your prayers as I figure out how to manage projects.
That was 2016! Thanks for listening. This was helpful for me as I processed out the changes that took place this year and what they mean for next year.
How about you? What’s one thing that changed in 2016 that has implications for next year for you? I’d love to hear.
This blog has gone through its fair stages of evolution. It’s currently in the midst of another one (see my post about daily blogging here).
One of those stages that I went through early on was a wrestling match over whether this blog should be about me and my life or about various thoughts/teachings/messages I felt like were important to share. I would spend whole posts agonizing about whether this blog should be about me or the ministry I felt like I was called to.
These days, with the advent of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapwhatever, that sturggle has been so much easier. This blog has largely taken on the role of me teaching about where the Lord has brought us or processing something He’s been speaking.
In an effort to let you know that Travis isn’t all work and there is some fun and games that go on from time to time, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into something our family did for the Christmas season last year and invite you to join us as we try it again this year.
About this time last year, on a whim, I grabbed a Transformer that was laying on the floor and sat it on a shelf. Then, because it was sitting looking kind of depressed, I snapped a photo of it and told the kids it was “Transformer on the Shelf.” It was kind of a riff on “Elf on the Shelf,” a goofy tradition I always thought was a little creepy. I posted the picture to Facebook as well. It took off in ways I don’t think my wife or I could have expected and the kids had a ton of fun. You can see last year’s photo archive here.
So we’re trying it again this year, but instead of Transformer on the Shelf, we’re doing “Turtles on the Shelf.” If you’re curious, you can follow along every morning here.
(P.S. This blog won’t be consumed by Turtles on the Shelf for all of December. I just thought you might want to know that following Jesus can be fun sometimes, too.)
[Editor’s Note: This post was written in December of 2009. I post it now because it set’s the stage for some of the posts that will follow. I plan on posting the full text of the dream mentioned here in a separate post. This also will give you a glimpse into what our house church meetings look like.]
We just finished with a marathon house church meeting that was unlike anything we’ve touched as a church in a long time. I think by the end of the meeting a couple of people had significant spiritual healing, a degree of physical healing took place in someone’s back, and a lot of people feeling a lot closer to Jesus than when we started! Praise the Lord!
It all started when someone in our church shared a dream that had some end-time implications. The jist of the dream was that we have to address heresy as soon as possible before it springs up and becomes something more difficult to deal with. We began to discuss and the conversation shifted to the idea of personal responsibility in our church: It’s not one person’s job to look out for heresy, it’s everyone’s job.
It was at this point Sean started talking about Acts 2 and the necessity of living the lifestyle that we find there (eating together, prayer, fellowship, devotion to the apostolic message, etc). As we began to talk about Acts 2 and meeting Jesus in powerful ways, it became obvious that the Holy Spirit was present in a tangible way, so we began to pray for one another. There was continual prayer, proclamation, and teaching for the next two hours! The most fun for me was to watch the whole church spontaneously love and serve each other without prodding from anyone. It’s how church should be.
All in all, Jesus met us. I post this to stir you up wherever you are, no matter what type of church you meet in. Jesus desires to meet you and will rock your world. Stay hungry to meet Him and He will find you.
I stumbled onto the Batterson Blog a few months ago thanks to the recommendation of Randy Bohlender of Stuff I Think fame. As I’ve read the posts I’ve come to enjoy Mark Batterson’s unique perspective on life and ministry which is both transparent and biblical all at the same time. In true Web 2.0 form I became aware of Mark’s new book through his blog and I was intrigued because the theme of Mark’s book, restoring the lost soul of Christianity, and signed up to join the blog tour.
Mark’s book reads like an extended version of his blog, which in my opinion is a compliment. It’s personal, a good mix of experience and biblical thought, and well-written. Mark contends that we must return to what made Christianity great in the first few centuries and in order to do that, we must return to what made our Christianity great in the first days after we came to know Christ. This is the primal place, the place, according to Mark, “where loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all that matters…[where] the place for the lost soul of Christianity begins…”
I have to stop here and say that while I believe that loving God with all of our being is essential to restoring the lost soul of Christianity, I do not believe that you can just start there. I believe that loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is the result of a revelation of Jesus to the human heart, both initially and continually over the life of a believer.
The way forward in each of these areas (heart, soul, mind, and strength) seems somewhat like a maintenance prescription for a car that neglects filling the tank with gasoline. And while I’m sure that Mark believes in the necessity of encountering Jesus regularly, the book seems to convey the idea that simply attempting to grow in love in these four areas will cause Christianity to be revitalized. So, yes, these are essential, but they have to flow out of a revelation of God to the human heart. And when they do, we will see the recovery Mark is talking about.
That said, if you are encountering Jesus in a continual and regular basis and are looking to be pushed in some practical ways, this a good book and will be helpful for you. Mark splits it up into four sections focusing in on how we can grow in our heart, soul, mind, and spirit. I’ve never seen someone take quite the same amount of time on each of these sections individually. Each one would be great to focus on devotionally for a season of time and I think the book can be read that way. For the purpose of brevity, lets look at each of these sections and sum up Mark’s take on them.
The first section of the book is about loving with our heart and Mark does a good job of showing us how we’ve stopped living (and loving) from our hearts. He then points to the fact that much of our Christianity is detached from feeling what God feels and he calls the reader back to the place of feeling the things that God feels very deeply.
Mark’s description of what happens when we touch God’s heart focuses primarily on how it affects our pocket book. People who feel what God feels are compelled to lives of extravagant giving and generosity toward the lost and the poor. I whole-heartedly agree. My only complaint is we don’t see much on how loving with our whole heart affects other areas of our lives, such as prayer, how we spend our time, or live out our testimony before unbelievers.
The next section focuses on loving God with our soul. This was probably the section that challenged me the most. Mark links the growth of our soul in love to our ability to wonder at things around us. God, he says, wondered at His creation and we stunt our spiritual growth into His image if we loose our capacity to wonder at the things around us. I know for me, it’s easy to get caught in routine and lose a wonder for God and the things He has created.
The primary place of wonder Mark spends time calling us to rediscover is our wonder over the record of God found in the Bible. I found myself whole-heartedly agreeing with him about our tendency to expect to be fed by a local church leader and not feeding ourselves on the truth in the Bible. Mark shines in this section as both a teacher and a confronter.
After looking at our ability to love God with our soul, Mark spends time exploring what it means to love God with our mind. One thing I’ve learned by reading Mark’s blog and the book is that Mark has never been fond of boundaries and it shines through in this chapter. Because of that, Mark believes that there are new, God-inspired thoughts that can change the world and change lives, and it’s the believer’s duty to tap into them.
The challenge then is to receive these thoughts and act on them. The only way to put these thoughts into action is to change our approach to risk and failure, because a fear of failure will cause us only to replicate already existing patterns. Again this was solid food for thought and prayer and I would recommend it to those who haven’t thought about what it means to love God with their mind.
I have to be honest, I haven’t read this section yet, which saddens me. But the blog tour must take place and I can’t leave a book unfinished, so at some point stop back and I’ll give you my thoughts. I do have to say, however, that I think this is shaping up to be the strongest part of the book. Just by way of looking at the chapter titles, this is the part of the book I was most excited about and I believe most tangibly relates to movements. I’ll be interested also to see how Mark ties all four sections together into the “Primal Movement” he’s been describing since the beginning of the book.
In summary, Mark offers us a good book on returning to an all-encompassing relationship with Jesus. Because (at least in my estimation) Mark seems to be a boundary pusher, anyone who needs a jolt in their walk with Jesus or just a different perspective on loving God would benefit from the book. Again, I believe it would have been helpful to explore more of the vertical aspects of this love that Mark calls us to pursue. Things like encountering Jesus in prayer, fasting, and meditation might have been helpful. But to the person who is, this book will definitely push your boundaries in each of these four areas and bring us closer to the primal movement we all long to see.
*In the interest of full disclosure, Multinomah offered a free copy of this book in exchange for a review posted here as well as on a merchant site.
I’ve been busy for the last few days so I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like. However I did want to catch you all up on an event that we’re going to be attending in the Kansas City, Missouri area this weekend. House of Friends, the missions organization I run with, is hosting a night of ministry with Russ and Kim Kline. Russ and Kim are a prophetic couple that have heavily influenced my friend John Gross in the things of the Spirit, who is no slouch in that department himself. All of that to say it should be a good event in and of itself.
On top of that, I just found out that my wife will actually be leading worship for the event. I have to say I’m very excited about this. I’m not going to gush and say that Christy should have some national platform leading worship or anything, but I do believe that because we meet in a house church and she normally leads worship for 10 people, she doesn’t get the credit for being the really stellar worship leader that she is. In fact, there are many times I would prefer my wife leading worship over some of the people who lead worship for hundreds of others on a regular basis. (Ahhh…the secret place…isn’t it wonderful?)
Anyways, pray for her that this goes well. Pray that God would give House of Friends direction as we gather, report, and strategize. And if you’re in the Kansas City or Concordia area, check out this event. More information is on the flier below.
While we were in Ethiopia (and, yes, I will post on that soon) a funny thing happened. One of the people on the trip (who shall remain nameless) reminded us of someone from back home (who also shall remain nameless). The only difference was that the person on the trip (Nameless Guy #1) seemed like an older version of the guy from back home (Nameless Guy #2). The running joke of the entire trip was that Nameless Guy #1 was reallya future version of Nameless Guy #2 who had traveled back in time to go to Ethiopia with us. I have to admit, I was a late convert on that joke, but by the end of the trip the evidence was pretty compelling.
That said, today has been kind of a time-travel-sort-of-day for me. The whole day had traces of the late 90’s and the early 2000’s part of this decade. In no particular order, we were part of a worship time with Darrell Evans at River of Life, I got a message (in response to my Tweet about Darrell) from my good friend Brent Owen, and I met a guy who was part of a camp I counseled at one time in the late 90’s. All of this has got me thinking about life back then…how I knew basically nothing, how immature I was, and how the Lord still used me in spite of all of my fraility.
I’ve been trying to get back there lately, to that state of living. Christy and I talk a lot about how those years were some of the most fruitful times of our lives. I’m trying to crack the code of what changed and how to change it back. Up until today I felt like remembering those days was just me trying to get back to “the good ole days” but after tonight, I’m not so sure. Maybe, just perhaps, the Lord is actually the one trying to get me to remember the early days. After all, he’s done it before, right?
If you haven’t caught the twittering going on lately, I’ve been back from Ethiopia now for about one week. There’s been a lot of catching up and transitioning going on, so I’ve been pretty silent here.
Ethiopia was amazing. I will try and post some stories and photos soon, but I want to tell the stories in a way that’s fair for those who have been supporting me in prayer and through finances first. Fairly shortly I will be writing an article for the House of Friends July (or August) newsletter, so I may post that here as well. Thank you to everyone who encouraged, prayed, and gave to make this last trip possible. It was definitely not in vain.
In the Lord, I need to get back into the secret place in a major way. I’m realizing that I rely on the relationships around me as a primary conduit for revelation, insight, and motivation. And while I wholeheartedly believe that the Lord uses relationships for that very purpose I’m realizing I have grown lazy in actually hearing from Him on things that are important. I’ll probably have to confess that to my group of guys in the morning.
Lastly, I’m going to try and post here more in the future. I won’t say how often my goal is lest I fail to make it and look like a fool, but I will tell you I want to post here more than I am. It’s good to be back!