Carried by God

When my daughter was young, I would often carry her in a baby wrap, snug and warm and safe. She would calm almost instantly as I pressed her close to myself. My slow and steady movements would lull her to sleep with the assurance that she was safe in my embrace.

But no child remains an infant forever. My oldest daughter is too grown up to let me carry her any longer, wanting instead to prove her capability. She insists on independence, often telling me, “I know what I’m doing, Mom.”

As you might guess, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I also often resist the help of others. I like to be in control, and being helped often means losing some control. This attitude especially emerges in times of stress and uncertainty.

This season of COVID-19 is rife with fear, worry, and anxiety for many of us. Grappling for control over each new situation, I have caught myself slipping into old mindsets that take me away from reliance on the Lord. Our resistance to receive help may seem harmless, initially, but it always attacks our relationships with God first. When we rely on ourselves too much, we fail to rely on him. If this continues, we miss out on the source of peace and comfort we need most in times of uncertainty.

Most children eventually outgrow their need for their earthly parents, but we never outgrow our need for God.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see God shepherding the nation of Israel, his chosen people. As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land after wandering the desert for forty years, Moses recounted the mistakes of the previous generation. God had brought them to the land he had provided, commanding them to take it without fear of the enemies who lived there.

Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’

Deuteronomy 1:29-31

The Israelites had seen the mighty works of God: their deliverance from Pharaoh’s slavery, the parting of the Red Sea, and his provision of manna in the desert, among other things. Moses reminded them that God carried them all the way, providing every need while they walked through the unknown, as a good Father should. But despite all they had seen, their despair over their circumstances was greater than their faith in their Father’s care. Convinced that the difficulty was just too much, that generation missed out on entering the land God had promised them. And we are just as susceptible to reliance on ourselves.

Like an infant, I become restless in uncertainty. Eyes blinded by fear. Mind clouded by a lack of understanding. Hands clenched onto any control I can grasp. Convinced of my own competence and oblivious to my need for the Father who carries me.

We’re all walking through many unknowns right now. And though we may desire to trust God, we often resist his help and rely on our own competence. When we catch ourselves falling into that mindset, let’s turn back toward God.

Even in times of great difficulty, we can trust our Good Father.

He is always near, fighting for us in our most desperate situations and carrying us through seasons of fear and uncertainty. The Israelites lived with God’s presence among them yet did not truly see him for what he was. Because of Christ’s work on our behalf, we can walk in the light of his love, set free from sin’s power and relying on his rescue.

Let’s relinquish some of our self-reliance and control. Holding the circumstances of our lives with an open hand, instead of a tight grip, enables us to relax into God’s capable arms. And when we allow ourselves to be carried by God, our eyes will be opened to the work he is doing.

Exchange your self-reliance for faith in our ever-reliable God—the only one fully capable of handling our burdens. When we lean in, our good Father presses us closer to himself.

He will carry us all the way.


 

Wednesdays at Home: Week 8 (Thursday Edition)

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

Follow us on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org
Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
Twitter – www.twitter.com/_cccc

5 Ways to Help Your Marriage Thrive During COVID-19

Over the past several weeks, most married couples have spent more time together than any time since their honeymoon. Though this constant close proximity has the potential for irritation, it also creates ample opportunity for growth and fun. Spending more time together this summer is a gift that we should embrace and utilize to grow in love for each other. 

But, how can we use this unique season to strengthen our marriage? To answer this question, we went to the experts — Clear Creek Navigators with decades of experience leading groups of married couples to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. A few of their strategies for growing your relationship together are compiled below. Which of these ideas will you implement today?

 

 

1. Plan a Date Night

We have a date night each week. We order pizza for the kids at 5 p.m., have them take showers, and then they are upstairs for the rest of the night, watching TV or playing video games. I actually put on something other than yoga pants and even some makeup. Shaun and I then order takeout or grill something, and we sit outside and relax with music on the speaker and adult conversations. We get the boys to bed at 8:30 and then watch a movie and relax with popcorn and movie theater snacks. I seriously look forward to it! 

Shaun & Elizabeth Hauser
Egret Bay

 

On Friday evenings, we order from local restaurants to have our date night dinner at home. We’ve even hung curtains near the entrance to our dining room for privacy from the kids. We listen to music while we dine together.

Scott & Tami Bishop
Clear Lake
 

Friday night dance dates! We found an online dance program that teaches us step by step. Once our daughters go to bed, we move the coffee table out of the way, throw on some socks, and try to dance the night away! It has provided some great laughs and moments of connection during this stressful season.

Ryan & Tasha Thomas
Egret Bay

 

2. Get Outside

We take late afternoon walks. It gives us a chance to get some fresh air, exercise, and time to chat about life. It has been good for us to take that pause in the day while getting out of the house together. We plan to keep this going long after COVID-19!

Travis & Cari Hicks
Clear Lake

We have been motivating each other to get moving! We either walk, ride our bikes, or do some other outdoor activity. As long as we are moving together, we are moving in the right direction!

Jaime & Nina Valverde
Clear Lake

 

Sarah and I go on walks almost every day with the kids. It gives us a chance to get out of the house, avoid distractions like TV and phones, and enjoy the kids on their bike or in the stroller. It also gives us time together as a family and as a couple. Being able to walk and talk to one another has been very important to our marriage during this time. 

Nathan & Sarah Southard
Egret Bay

 

3. Make Time to Talk

We make it a point to put the kids down early so that we have time and enough energy at the end of the day to talk about what went well that day, what could’ve gone better, and any changes to our plan of attack for the upcoming days. It’s also a great time to just relax and spend time together without kids interrupting.

Derek & Abby Willis
East 96

 

We take a walk most evenings so Doug can get an ICEE at Buc-ees. We use this time to catch up with each other and talk through ideas, plans, frustrations, etc.

Doug & Kara Dawson
Egret Bay

 

We both have been working since the stay-at-home orders started, but our working hours have been different so we are not rushing out the door at 6:30 each morning to get to work. We have been able to enjoy a morning cup of coffee together, with unrushed conversation and prayer before starting the day. 

Michael & Clara Springer
Clear Lake

 

4. Think about the Future

We love to travel and do projects in our backyard and around the house, so right now we enjoy talking almost daily about future trips and projects. Our talks vary from camping trips to sketches about closet shelves and garage organization. It’s fun to sit, plan, and dream a little together. 

Brad & Allison Swenson
West

 

We have started to dream together! We have been sharing with each other and our kids what we want to do post-quarantine, from planning vacations to new family norms. We aren’t dreaming out of current discontentment, but with great hope that the Lord will see us through and we will forever be changed.

Aaron & Nicole Daniel
West

 

5. Grow and Serve Together

Our small group had each person write down one thing about their spouse on each day of the week (M-F) that they like, are grateful for, are impressed by, appreciate, etc. Then on Saturday morning they would give their spouse the list. This was very well received and neat to see how something really simple could impact one of the people you love most in this world.

Dan & Danielle Mellen
Egret Bay

 

We actually have been more intentional about doing our couples devotional. It really jogs the mind to think about how we are growing spiritually through our family relationships and especially with one another. It asks hard questions and provides prayer suggestions. It is fun, but difficult at times. However, it does seem to reignite our communication with each other and relationship with God.

Darren & Alecia Whitmarsh
East 96

 

One of the things we struggled with before COVID-19 was slowing down and taking the time to get to know our neighbors. Lately, our new favorite thing to do once we put our child to bed is sit out in the driveway and eat our dinner. It’s a nice change of scenery, and we love to wave or talk to people as they walk by.

Matthew & Victoria Horne
East 96


 

Wednesdays at Home: Week 7

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

Follow us on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org
Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
Twitter – www.twitter.com/_cccc

037: Go Outside – Worshiping God in Nature

Are you experiencing cabin fever? In this season where many of us have spent more time than usual at home, you’ve probably felt the urge to go outside and enjoy the world around us. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Greg Poore about enjoying God’s creation as a way to worship him. So go outside, take a walk as you listen to this episode, and gain a greater appreciation for God’s fingerprints on everyday life.

 

RESOURCES: 

Becoming Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Finding Hope

Easter 2020 will be an Easter we never forget. For most of us, we’ll remember the Coronavirus, the stay at home orders, and church buildings being closed. But for the Larson family, Easter 2020 will be remembered for a much bigger reason.

Cameron Larson, a teenager in the student ministry at the East 96 Campus, had recently come to saving faith in Jesus and been considering baptism for some time. Easter Sunday was going to be the day. His parents Craig and Kari had planned to help celebrate Cameron’s commitment at a friend’s pool. The plan was to have a small party with Cameron’s student small group and Craig and Kari’s adult small group in attendance. But because of COVID-19, the party was no longer possible. Instead, people attended via Facetime and Zoom calls to witness this public demonstration of Cameron’s saving faith in Jesus.

But one person who was able to be physically present was Cameron’s grandfather, Frank.

Frank hadn’t grown up with faith in Jesus. He attended church on occasion, mainly holidays. Five years ago, after his son Craig was baptized, Frank began to explore faith in Jesus at his own pace, asking Craig and Kari questions.

In September of 2019, Frank was diagnosed with prostate cancer. This February, he got news that the cancer had spread… the prognosis was not good.

Frank struggled to have hope in the midst of his battle with cancer, but in God’s grace, Frank began to find glimmers of hope in Jesus. Frank believed Jesus was the only one who could save him and rescue him – not just physically, but spiritually. Since that realization, Frank said, “peace has washed over me.”

So, on Easter Sunday 2020, as the family was preparing to celebrate Cameron’s baptism and proclamation of his faith in Jesus, Frank turned to his son Craig at the kitchen table and said, “I’m ready to have the Lord in my life.”

Craig waded into the pool that afternoon with his teenage son Cameron, and his cancer-fighting father. Craig dipped Cameron below the surface of the water and brought him up again, and then did the same to his dad.

Now, Frank continues to hope for his body in his battle against cancer, but he rests in the eternal hope he has for his soul.

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17

Who to Trust

I remember the way I felt some years ago, the first time I watched our teenage son drive away on his own. Part of me was jumping for joy at getting out of the transportation business, but part of me wanted to scream, “I’m sorry world! Everyone look out!” It was a clarifying moment because as I watched him drive away I realized I had zero control of how he was going to do as a driver. Maybe even worse was the realization that I would still be responsible for how well he drove because I was paying for the auto insurance. It was a helpless feeling. The butterflies in my stomach were fluttering because I knew I had to give up control and I had to trust.

But, who to trust?

Trust Josh or trust God?

It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I was going to trust Josh, which I had no real choice but to do, I had to first and foremost trust God. That’s the way life always has to work, if it is going to work. We live our lives with people. All day, every day. And so, our trust in God is inescapably reflected in how we relate to the people around us. If we are not very careful to trust God first then our only option is to pin our hopes on other people, and the only way we can get other people to do what we (think we) need them to do is to control them. Running around trying to control others is a bad way to live.

The need to control is a one-way road with two lanes. One lane is filled with fear, the other is filled with selfishness. I’m going to control people to keep them from taking something from me I am afraid to lose. Or, I am going to control people to try and get what I want from them. The lane of fear is filled with the potholes of shame and guilt that come from treating other people as threats. The lane of selfishness is riddled with the potholes of frustration and despair because people are hopelessly unreliable when it comes to satisfying your soul.

The only way to exit the one-way road of fear and selfishness is to trust God first. When you do, you release yourself from the need to depend on people or protect yourself from people, you actually free yourself to serve other people. This truth is at the heart of texts like “Blessed are the meek…” “Blessed are the pure in heart…” “Blessed are the peacemakers…” (Matthew 5:1-11). People who trust God first can be the kind of people Jesus calls leaders, “But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave…” (Matthew 20:25-27).

Jesus proclaims those who trust God first don’t have to dominate, don’t need ulterior motives, and are willing to endure some injustice to restore relationships. Jesus said people who trust God first are the kind of people who are his followers and the kind of people his followers follow.

This is always an essential truth for us, but particularly so right now, because this virus is like one of those watching your teenager drive away moments. It’s a flashing traffic light telling you “you are NOT in control!”

You are not in control of the measures government agencies and employers take to control the spread. You’re not in control of how responsible the people who pick and deliver your groceries are. You’re not in control of the people who bought up every roll of toilet paper in the universe.

I know you know all that.

But, whether you trust God first or trust people first is determining how you respond to it all.

If you are first depending on people to protect your job, your health, your savings, your vacation plans then you should be afraid. You need those people to protect what is most important to you. If you are depending first on people to address the specific impacts on your first, the way you want them to, you are going to be frustrated to the point of despair.

It isn’t that those things don’t matter. And, it is true that all of us have endured some degree of loss. For many it’s been mostly inconvenience, but for some it has been truly catastrophic. The question is, who are you looking to for restoration? Who do you believe knows what is in everyone’s best interest and has the power to bring it about? Whose goodness will allow your heart to rest enough that you can humbly obey those who administer our government and our employment? Whose power and presence can sustain you through grief and financial strain?

God first, or people first?

Who will present themselves as a servant to their neighbor? Who will rejoice in and redeem unprecedented time to be present with spouse and children? Who will regularly offer prayer for healing, wisdom, relief? The one who trusts God first, or people first?

I’ve been trying to figure out what my actions and emotions in response to the virus and its affects are teaching me about who I trust first. I’m trying to capture the moments of frustration and self-pity and figure out why I expect some other person to provide what no person can provide for me. Then figure out how I should respond that those people differently when I get my trusts in order.

I want to refuse to be gripped by fear, selfishness, or COVID-19 angst. I refuse to be a victim or a wet rag waiting for the next negative shoe to drop. I want God to make me pure in heart, to use me to be a peacemaker, to be someone Jesus would call a leader.

If nothing else, I know this much: I need to trust God first.


 

Wednesdays at Home: Week 6

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

Follow us on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org
Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
Twitter – www.twitter.com/_cccc

Wednesdays at Home: Week 5

This is our mid-week opportunity to stay connected online with our pastors to receive mid-week scriptural encouragement, prayer, and updates on how we are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

To find out more information about our church, go to www.clearcreek.org.

Follow us on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org
Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
Twitter – www.twitter.com/_cccc

It’s Viral

Kay and I, like many other people, have been taking a lot of walks the last few weeks. It’s been fun and it’s been a bit strange because there are times when so many people are strolling it almost looks like a parade. Everyone walking in the street – keeping a polite distance – walking along with their dogs, children, bikes, and wagons. It’s hard not to think the world would be a better place if evening walks in the neighborhood became our collective norm.

Still, there is something unsatisfying about it.

The parade has the appearance of being quaint and beneficial, until you look closely enough to see what’s really going on. If you stop and just watch the “parade” through the neighborhood you notice people are together, but separate. They can get close to each other, but not too close. Some are obviously afraid of everyone and some groups are brazen in their disregard for the whole “distancing” idea.

I want to remember the picture because it so aptly illustrates what sin does.

Think about it. Like a virus, sin is unseen. It is present all around you, and even in you, and it makes you sick and it makes the people you interact with sick.

Sin is the greatest producer of “social distancing” in the history of people. Sin separates us from one another. Sin is like the unseen virus that produces conversations without hugs, presence without intimacy. Sin is the unseen virus that keeps some people bound in fear of others while some people flaunt their indifference to how they might injure other people. Sin is the virus that makes us mistrust the person approaching us, and even mistrust ourselves. So we keep safe space, we keep secrets, we erect defenses, we chase urban myths seeking cures and comforts.

Maybe the best thing that could come out of the unprecedented response to a physical virus would be if each of us would take some strong action against our spiritual virus, sin. Instead of using the current circumstances as an excuse to look outwardly and act against a physical threat, now would be a great time to look intently inward and deal with a more dangerous threat.

Here is a really good place to look for the virus: if in the midst of spending more time at home you find yourself getting irritable and impatient with your spouse, why is that? Why is it that the person you joyfully became one with is now somehow an inconvenience? What is it that is more important to you than they are? Or, what have you been thinking and doing over the years of your marriage to give your spouse reason to mistrust you or protect themselves from how you respond to life?

If there is tension between the two of you, you can “social distance,” or you can wear masks to cover up and protect what you’ve chosen to love more. You can make your focus the harm you fear they might cause you. You can prioritize your work and personal space and just adapt to the tension. That is what is happening in some hearts and homes in the midst of this forced presence at home. And so, like the evening parade in the neighborhood it looks kind of cool, until you look closely. But if you stop and watch you notice the masks, the fear, and the mistrust.

The better response would be to kill the virus that is living in you and making you the center of your own little universe. The better response would be to hold your heart and its desires up to the truth of Scripture and face up to the ways you choose to serve you, over and against choosing to practically love and serve the person you married. The better response would be to use this unprecedented opportunity to trust God in the simplest, most mundane interactions in your home to serve your spouse. You aren’t going to fix everything in a week, but you can change the trajectory of your marriage starting today, starting with you. As a beginning how about picking just one short verse of Scripture and commit to living it out at home, something like:

 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Ephesians 4:29

 

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Colossians 3:8

 

You pick a verse that will attack the worst symptom of the virus in you. You probably already have one ringing in your ears. If so, do that one.

This strange sort of national “time out” period could be the best thing that ever happened to you, your spouse, your family. But only if you look inside and only if you have the faith and courage to ask God to forgive you, heal you, remake you in his image. God will do that if you let him. He has the power and the will to kill the virus in you.

I hope and pray you will respond to the spiritual virus that’s in you with more energy and enthusiasm than the world is responding to a physical virus.