Kill the Spider

I could just leave this post with the title. Personally I feel that all spiders should be killed. Some have accused me of being afraid of spiders. That’s not it. I just think the should all die.But, that’s not what this post is about.
As you probably know I’ve been in Atlanta this week attending the ReThink Leadership Conference and the Orange Conference. That’s where this post comes from. When I saw the title of this session, “Kill the Spider”, I simply had to attend. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was about, but I’m sure my hatred for spiders was at least part of my motivation.
Kill the Spider: How to get over the things in life that are really holding you back.
That was the full title and MAN was it good. It was lead by Carlos Whittaker and related to a book he has coming out later this year by the same title. The book, and this session, we about things that we face in life that might be holding us back, or could even completely derail us. Let me explain. Carlos defined the spiders in our lives like this:
The spider is the lie that spins the cobwebs in our lives. The cobwebs are the medicine that brings false comfort to our lives.
Spiders can be any number of things. Spiders can be different for each person. In many cases the spiders are painful moments in our lives. They are wounds that we never took the time to heal. Heck, we may not even know that they are there. Even if you know they are there, you may not know what they are or what to do about them.
The spiders are always there.
Have you ever gone away on vacation and come back to find cobwebs in places you don’t normally get them? That’s cause the spider was always there. He was just waiting for the activity to slow down enough, or go away so he could come out and spin his web. The same is true in our lives. Whatever the spiders are in your life, they don’t just go away. They are always there and they are waiting for times when our life with Jesus has become less active.
Stop cleaning the cobwebs, KILL THE SPIDER.
Carlos shared a story from his father. His father was a revival preacher. During one event he had a woman come up two or three nights in a row and ask him to pray that God would remove the cobwebs from her life. After the third or fourth time his father looked at the woman and said, “NO! I will not pray that. You need to stop asking God to clean out the cobwebs. You need to kill the spider.” Carlos’ father then looked at him and said, “I’ve watched you clean out the cobwebs in your life for years. Now it’s time for you to kill the spiders.”
The spiders are always there.
In our houses it seems like there are always cobwebs popping up in the high corners. Often it’s easy to ignore them. They’re up, out of the way, and don’t seem to effect our lives. What we fail to see is that if there are webs, there are spiders. The same is true in our lives. There are always spiders in our lives. Sometimes they are easy to ignore. They’re way up in the corner of the wall. We can kinda see the web, when we look for it, but we really don’t see the spider so it’s ok. The spiders in our lives, just like those in our homes, will not simply go away. THEY HAVE TO BE KILLED.
How can I find my spiders?
If you’re like me then identifying your spiders could be difficult. God has really blessed my life and has protected me from all sorts of pain. Yet, I have spiders. Here are some of the suggestions Carlos made for finding your spiders. With all of these Carlos warned that finding your spiders is not a one day, single session, one event kinda thing. It is a process of self exploration and discovery.
  • Counseling
  • Examine your desires: Sometime we do things to cover the pain we are feeling that is the result of the spiders.
  • Intimate conversation with the Holy Spirit: Again this is not a one and done kinda thing.
  • Ask people who love you and know you well: Make sure they are people who truly care about you being the best version of yourself, not just people who want to tell you what’s wrong with you. Sadly, in ministry and in life there are plenty of people willing and eager to do that for us.

Great, but how do I KILL IT?

Carlos gave these three simple steps for killing our spiders. Just like losing weight or getting out of debt these steps are simple. Also like these things they are a lot of work.

  • Confess the lie
  • Reject the lie
  • Replace the lie with Jesus’ truth

Confess the lie

Hopefully through the process listed above you have been able to identify the spiders in your life. For Carlos and me, one of them was that I was a fraud. That I had faked my way to and through all the successes in my ministry. This simply isn’t true. I know that God was in it because I’m just not that good. If you’ve identified the spiders in your life, face the lies connected to them and confess the lie.

Reject the lie

Eventually you can get to a point where you can identify the spiders as they come up and will be able to reject them from the beginning. For now you can start by rejecting the lies that you have identified from your past. Reject it in Jesus name. Take away it’s power over you.

Replace the lie with Jesus’ truth

Jesus once told of a person who cleans out the demons in him, but leaves himself empty and open. The result is that the demon returns and brings friends with him. The same is true with the spiders in our lives. One of the lies from my past is that obstacles I have faced define me. The truth is that God knew about them before they came. In some instanced He may even have put them there in order to teach me something. In ALL instances God is in charge, even over the obstacles I face. That’s the truth that I put in place of the lie that these obstacles define me.

It doesn’t end there

Killing spiders in your home is an ongoing, lifelong process. No matter how many you kill it seems there are always more. Your life is the same way. This does not mean that your house, or your life, is overrun with spiders. It simply means that there are always spiders out there. So, we must remain diligent to recognize the spiders, and KILL THEM.


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Do You Love The Neighbors That Aren’t Like You?

 “The Church should be on the frontline for racial reconciliation in our nation.” 

Reggie Joiner spoke these words last night and struck me to my core. I very nearly broke down in tears as I thought back on my own failure in this area. I am by no means racist. I think that the many people of color that I have worked with, worshiped with, ministered with, or just been friends with would agree with that. Still, I think back to a very specific time in my life and ministry that I was guilty of not doing all I could to unite the people in my city of different races.

I sought out people like me.

Almost two years ago now my family moved from Alabama back to our home town in Florida. This was after just a year of living and serving in Alabama. During this season I didn’t know where my ministry was going or what I was supposed to do. I knew I had much experience in children’s ministry and that I had something to offer other churches in my area because of that experience. So, I reached out to other churches in my area and offered my help. As I look back on it now I realize that I only sought out churches filled with people that looked like me.

What am I doing now? 

Sadly, it is only in looking back that I see the ways that I failed in that season. However, at that time, I did feel a strong need to connect with my community, to serve my city, and to connect with people that were different from. So, I prayed for such opportunities and ended up being part of a great organization in my town called Haines City Unity in the Community

This group started as a group of African-American pastors in our city, hoping to unite to better serve their communities. They soon realized that Unity was about much more than just them. So, they began to connect with business leaders and even local government officials. Eventually, I heard of the group and started attending their meetings. After a time, they invited me to join their board of directors as the secretary.

I felt so honored to be included in their group. I was so awesome to actually be doing ministry along side people that looked different than me. It was awesome to be serving people that looked different than me. Heck, it was even awesome to attend meetings in the churches of these other pastors. Churches that, sadly, most white people would never enter. Truth be told most white people have probably never even received an invitation into a predominately black church. Please hear me, this is not a condemnation of my African-American brothers and sisters. This is something that we are all guilty off.

It’s only natural… at least on some level.

Truth is it’s natural for people to be drawn to other people like them. This is true of all races. Men tend to hand out with other men. Women tend to hang out with other women. Musicians tend to hand out with other musicians. Artists tend to hang out with other artists. I think you get the point.

Heck, we even see this in nature. Dogs tend to be drawn to other dogs. Cat’s tend to hang out in groups. You can have a pasture of many acres and most of cows will tend to all be in one area. It’s just natural. But, that’s not an excuse. Rather, it means that we have to work even harder to move beyond this natural tendency.

It’s note a one sided thing.

The rhetoric in mains stream media and even much of what is posted on social media would lead one to think that this is a one sided thing. I have even heard some go as far as to say that this is a WHITE issue. I would push back against that. The truth is that the only way that this sort of thing gets fixed is for ALL of us to step out of our comfort zone and reach out to people that are different than us. We ALL need to invite open and honest conversation about the things that bother us. The things that we feel. Our pains and our joys.

After all, the Bible only talks of ONE Kingdom of God. In THAT Kingdom we are all ONE PEOPLE. We are all children of the SAME Father. If unity is the goal, then none of us can sit back in our own churches, or neighborhoods and point fingers at others s

What am I going to different moving forward?

Truth is I don’t know all the opportunities God is going to give me to connect with and minister to people that are different from me. However, I know that I am going to seek out ways to connect with and serve people that are different than me.

Just like I reached out to churches that ARE like me, I’m going to reach out to churches that look different from me and see if there is some way I can help them minister to kids. AND, I want to minister to the kids in their church and in their neighborhoods.

I want to attend their churches. It’s not comfortable. That’s why so few people do it. But, God has allowed me to connect with many pastors of African-American churches. I will be visiting their churches on Sunday mornings. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. I don’t know what that’s going to feel like. I don’t know if it will make any difference, but I know that it will effect ME.

More than just the way we talk.

I hear many people talk about racism in relation to the things we say. They talk as if the key to fixing racism is to change the way we talk. Certainly we need to be sensitive, but improving race relations is so much more than about how we talk. If we change the way we talk, but we are still only talking to people that look like us then what difference does it make? If we change the way we talk, but never LISTEN to people that look different than us, who difference does it make? YES, be sensitive when you speak, but if it ends there, then what difference does it make?

What are you DOING about it?

If talking is not enough, then what needs to happen? I can’t answer that for you. YOU have to pray through it. YOU have to look around you for the opportunities. YOU have to step outside your comfort zone to connect with other people. YOU have to make a commitment to connect with, to reach, to get to know, and to serve people that look, think, and even worship differently than you do.

When you do this, I’d love to hear the stories. If you’re already doing this, please share your stories below.


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Do You REALLY See Your Neighbors?

Tonight Danielle Strickland shared an amazing message encouraging us to “Learn how to really see our neighbors.” MAN, what a message. Consider this:

Think to the last time you were at the grocery store. What was your cashier’s name? What about at the deli counter? Do you remember the name of the waiter or waitress from the last time you ate out?

Do you REALLY see your neighbors?

How about this. What color was his or her hair? What about his or her eyes? Ok, it might be strange to look so deeply at a cashier or waitress that you can remember their eye color. But, there is value in looking into their eyes.

When you look at people, what do you see?

In John chapter 9 we read where Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth. When the disciples saw this man they saw a blind man. They didn’t se a man. All they could see was the label, the disability. In fact, when they looked at this man they saw sin. They assumed that his blindness was the result of sin, even asking Jesus if it was the man’s sin or that of his parents.

Jesus sees something different.

Jesus didn’t see a handicap. Jesus didn’t see an affliction caused by sin. No, Jesus saw a PERSON. Jesus saw a chance to bring glory to God. Jesus said this about the man’s blindness, “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.”

The disciples  saw disability, affliction and sin; Jesus saw a chance to glorify God.

When you see people do you see the labels that you put on them?

When you see people do you see the labels that society puts on them?

When you see people do you see the labels that they put on themselves?

Jesus sees something different.

“Jesus sees past every single barrier, even the ones you put up, and sees who you truly are and He’s struck with your beauty.” Danielle Strickland.

Jesus sees past the barriers. He sees past the labels. He’s sees past our pain. He sees past our afflictions. He sees inside and He loves us.

Jesus sees something different.

How would your life change if you saw all people as beautiful, as Jesus sees them?

How would your ministry change if you saw all people this way?

How would your church change?

How would your community change?

Today as you see people, TRULY see them. Look at them and consider the labels that might be preventing you from seeing them as Jesus’ sees them. Think about the emotions, thoughts, history, and maybe even prejudice that prevents you from seeing the beauty and value that Jesus sees when He looks at them. Strip away these barriers so that you can SEE them. Try even to look through the barriers that they, themselves, might put up to prevent you from seeing them.

See people the way that Jesus sees them. Then treat them accordingly.


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I COULDN’T GET ON THE PLANE

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. For the past several years during this week I travel to Atlanta for an amazing conference. As a children’s pastor it was the Orange Conference. Conveniently, as I changed roles to that of a senior pastor/church planter, the people that put on the Orange Conference started the ReThink Leadership Conference. It happens the same week and they even share some of the sessions. In doing this, they took something that I already loved and made it EVEN BETTER.

It was going to be great… until it wasn’t.

For most of my trips to Atlanta I have driven. It’s only about 7 hours or so from my home in Central Florida to the ATL. Besides if flew I would have to rent a car anyway. By time you add all that up, it’s just cheaper to drive. The plan this year was the same. Then a coworker told me about the great deals a certain airline was offering. That night I booked my flight. I was already excited to be doing to the conference, but now I was even more excited to be flying for the first time in several years.

It was going to be great… until it wasn’t.

As the day approached I became more and more excited. This was the first time I had flown since starting my struggles with anxiety. When that battle started the thought of flying was completely off limits. But, this time I was excited. Even as the days ticked by I was still excited. When I booked, I was good. When I talked with my roommate about it, I was good. Whenever I thought about it, I was good.

It was going to be great… until it wasn’t.

That changed the afternoon before my trip. I was doing good and was still excited. As I followed the many social media posts from people heading to the conference and arriving in Atlanta, I become more and more excited. Then someone posted a picture of the sky through the plane window. Just like that the anxiety that I had avoided all that time came rushing in. It nearly crushed me.

It was going to be great… until it wasn’t.

I can see myself sitting there on the love seat next to my wife. I’m certain she had no idea, but I was suddenly freaking out on the inside… and it didn’t end there. Throughout the rest of that evening, off and on I would feel anxious, then I would be ok. As I went to bed the anxiety built. For an hour or more I lay there thinking of the plane, as my anxiety grew.

It was supposed to be great… but now it wasn’t.

I prayed. I took deep breaths. I told myself that God was sending me to this conference and He would keep me safe. I thought back to how excited I was when I booked the flight. I thought back to previous flights that I had actually enjoyed. An hour passed, and even with all this going on, my anxiety grew.

It was supposed to be great…. but now it wasn’t.

After an hour of this I got out of bed and started to pace. My family was asleep.My wonderful wife, such a great source of strength for me, had no idea I was suffering so. I began to think back to the time I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. In this moment I was beginning to feel that same way. I could feel myself escalating towards that. I simply couldn’t allow myself to go there.

It was supposed to be great… but now it wasn’t.

I kept seeing myself strapped into the seat on the plane, unable to get up, unable to move around, and worse of all… unable to leave.

I felt so STUPID.

This ticket was paid for.

What were people going to think.

What was my wife going to think.

What was my friend and roommate going to think.

It was supposed to be great… but now it wasn’t.

I couldn’t get on the plane.

After all this, that was the bottom line. I COULDN’T GET ON THE PLANE.

Finally, I woke my wife. Times like this she is so much stronger than me. She would probably deny it, but it’s true. She wrapped her arms around me and I nearly lost control. How I wanted to just cry.

I felt so STUPID.

What was my wife thinking about me?

What were other people going to think.

It was supposed to be great… but now it wasn’t.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter what people might think. I COULDN’T GET ON THE PLANE. So I decided to drive. Yup. By this time it’s after 10:00 at night. I’ve been up since 5:00 that morning and I’m going to drive to Atlanta, by myself. My wife cried, afraid for my safety. I needed to go to this conference, but I COULDN’T GET ON THE PLANE.

It was supposed to be great… and I think it’s going to be.

As I type this I sit at a table outside the conference site. I’m enjoying some great and FREE coffee. I made it to Atlanta safely. I arrived around 6:00 this morning. Took a quick nap and a shower and got to the conference site a little after 8:00. Guess what:

It was supposed to be great… so far it has been.

Year after year God has spoken to me at this conference. I can’t wait to see what He has to say to me this year. I never would have thought that I would have started by week of blogging from the conference with a post like this, but here it is.

Stay tuned as I share my thoughts the great things that I’m trusting God to speak to me this week.

 

This post is one part of an ongoing conversation about my battle with anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety, would like to better understand a loved one who does, or just want to travel this journey with me click on the ANXIETY category to see a full list of all those posts.


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“Out of the abundance of the heart, the thumbs tweet.”

“Out of the abundance of the heart the thumbs tweet.” Steven Furtick

I’d love to take credit for this quote, but I got it from pastor Steven Furtick. I remember when I heard it how it struck me as so true. Pastor Steven can’t take full credit for this quote. The truth is he’s referring to something that Jesus said. In Luke chapter 6 Jesus says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” In other words if your heart is filled with evil, then evil is what will come out and if it is filled with good, then good is what will come out.

This is true of how we handle social media. When we post on social media it reflects what is in our heart, or does it?

What do your posts say about your heart? Jesus said that what comes out of our math will represent what is in our heart. In this day and age this is also true of what we post on social media. When someone that does not know us reads something we post, they have no choice but to assume that that post represents who we are. This is not unreasonable. After all, if it did not represent us, then why would we post it?

As we post stuff on social media we need to keep this in mind. What do our most recent posts say about what’s in our heart? Take a look back at your most recent posts. What do they say about you? What do they say about your heart? I’m not talking about what they say about your head. I’m not talking about what they say about what you THINK. I’m talking about what they say about how you FEEL. Go ahead. Do it. Read your most recent posts and evaluate them as if you were reading a stranger’s posts. What do they say.

Do they really represent you, or just a moment of frustration or anger? One of the problems with the Internet and social media is that it is too easy to respond without thinking. All to often we read something and instantly type a response. Usually this happens without thinking about how it might affect the person it is addressed to or other people reading it. In a moment of frustration or anger we reply or post something that might not truly represent our heart. Then it’s too late. For the people that might read this reply or post, it is our heart. For the reader it is not something said in a moment of anger or frustration, it is a reflection of who we are.

The truth is our replies and posts may be, as Jesus said, an overflow of what is in our heart. But, that’s not always true. Take another moment and consider your most recent posts or replies. Where they done in a moment of anger or frustration, but don’t really reflect your heart? I think we are all guilty of this at times.

What do your posts say to the heart of the reader? Sadly when it comes to written communication how it is received says much more about the heart, or feelings of the reader than that of the writer. Many times I’ve written an email, message or social media post that I intended one way, but was received differently by the person or people reading it. When we read things, we almost always do so with the filter of our feelings.

It’s extremely difficult to separate our feelings from what we are reading. For this reason, things that we write, that we might intend to be harmless or even funny or uplifting, can become negative. I’m certainly not suggesting that you filter every post in hopes of never offering anyone. That’s never been possible, but even less so these days. The truth is that some people go around looking for reasons to be offended. They look for ways to twist everything into something offensive. You can’t make those people happy. Still I think it’s worth taking the time to consider how what you post or how you reply might be viewed by the people reading it.

Be quick to listen and slow to reply. “Everyone should be read to listen and slow to reply and slow to become angry.” This quote I can take credit for… sort of. Actually, like Pastor Steven, this is an adaptation of a passage from the Bible. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Clearly James is referring to actual speech, but this can also be applied to social media, the Internet and all other forms of communication. We are way to quick to click into reply box and tell people just how stupid they are, or to show them just how smart we are. We are quick to tell people how wrong they are and how right we are. How could the conversations on the Internet change if each person applied the words of James to our online communications?

So, I leave you with these questions:

1.) What do your recent posts say about what’s in your heart?

2.) Do your posts reflect how you REALLY feel or think?

3.) What do your posts say to the people reading them?

4.) Are you quick to listen and slow to speak, or quick to speak and slow to listen?


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