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52 Churches

People Make the Difference

The newer building doesn’t look like a typical church. The sanctuary is open and inviting, with a comfortable feel. But what we will soon learn is that people make the difference.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #41

1. “Hi, are you the DeHaans?” The usher’s question surprises me. Either he looked up Candy’s picture online or he assumed the new people matched the name in her email. Though this might be off-putting to some, the extra effort impresses me. 

How can you honor a visitor (without going too far)?

2. The area is in a flu epidemic. The minister gives us permission to avoid hugs and handshakes. He suggests an “elbow bump,” which I’m happy to do, but most people don’t follow his suggestion. 

How easy is it to adjust your normal practices when there’s a good reason to do so?

3. Bits of liturgy occur throughout the service. The words, printed in their oversized bulletins, also appear overhead. I so appreciate this. 

How can you help people better participate in your service?

4. Afterward we enjoy an engaging conversation with a lady as we share our faith journeys. Only later do we learn she’s visiting too. 

What does it say about you and your church when it’s visitors who connect with other visitors? What must change?

Our key memory from this church is that the people make the difference in our experience.

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

God’s Guardrails Are to Benefit Us and Not Limit Us

Running Barefoot in the Snow

In my book Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide, I tell the story of our children running barefoot in the snow. Here’s what happened.

One day I painfully realized that whenever our children asked for anything, the default answer of my wife and me was no. It mattered not how legitimate their request was; we dismissed it.

Though we would sometimes relent and grant permission, the negotiation that occurred between their question and a positive response was time-consuming and unneeded.

I gathered our two children and apologized for my error. I pledged that going forward I would tell them yes every time I could. I would only say no to keep them safe, keep them healthy, and teach them what was right.

I doubt they believed me. A couple days later they tested my promise. “Dad, can we go outside and run around barefoot in the snow?”

“Yes!”

Incredulous, they kicked off their shoes and socks. They donned their winter coats, hats, and gloves. With unbridled enthusiasm, they dashed outside.

Seconds later they returned exhilarated, overflowing with glee, and with cold feet. It was a memorable experience for all three of us. Going forward, our children heard me say yes much more often.

How Our Heavenly Father Treats Us

I suspect God is a lot like this. He tells us yes whenever he can. The only time he says no is to keep us safe, keep us healthy, and teach us what is right. He tells us no for our own good. It’s how he shows his love for us. And I try to appreciate that, even if it’s not what I want to hear.

But many people have the opposite perspective. They perceive God as mean, restrictive, and grumpy, saying no to all the things they want to do. They think he limits their life and keeps them from having any fun. They push against his restrictions, even though these are for their own good.

God gives us instructions through Scripture and the Holy Spirit. We’ll do well to obey what he says. If we don’t, we risk pursuing what is unsafe, unhealthy, and wrong. And for that, we’ll suffer with the consequences.

Guardrails for Our Life

I view this as his loving attempt to put guardrails on our life, which keep us from plunging over the cliff to our doom. Guardrails keep us on the road and direct us forward.

Yes, we can do whatever we want, and he won’t love us any less. Regardless of our actions—or inactions—our eternal standing with him remains secure.

But, oh, what heartache we endure when we ignore the loving guardrails he has erected for us on our journey through life and elect to do things our own way.

God’s instructions to us are like guardrails, which are to benefit us and not limit us. Click To Tweet

We don’t need to follow the rules he gives us to get his attention or earn our salvation. We can go through life however we please. But we’re so much better off when we do things his way and not our own.

God intends for his rules to keep us safe, keep us healthy, and teach us what is right—not to limit us or be mean.

God sometimes says no because he loves us. May we embrace his directives, follow them, and thank him for them.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Personal Posts

Daylight Saving Time and Other Temporal Nonsense

This past weekend, most of the United States switched to “Daylight Saving Time” (DST). This is a major hassle and source of many personal irritations:

First, why does our government call this charade “daylight saving time?” Do they really think that it saves daylight? Or do they just think that they can dupe enough people into buying their deception?

Regards, this makes one wonder about other more pressing matters, like the coronavirus, economic recovery, the tension in Iran, healthcare and so on.

Next, regardless of how diligent I am, I sometimes miss setting at least one clock. These non-adjusted timepieces often cause me consternation upon the first glimpse, either in the form of sheer panic or temporal disorientation.

Why do we do “daylight savings time"? Does it really save time? Click To Tweet

There are technological means to mitigate the time wasted in adjusting our timepieces so that we may save time. It would be a relatively simple matter for our utilities to embed a time signal into the power lines that enter our homes and businesses. 

Each time-device that is plugged into an electrical outlet could read that signal and adjust its time. This would help greatly after a power outage as well.

True, that would require a bit more electronic circuitry and programming, thereby slightly increasing the cost of each device, but it would definitely be worth it. 

That would leave cars and battery clocks to be dealt with, both of which could be addressed via satellite feed, as is the case with my “atomic clock” that syncs with an orbiting satellite.

Lastly, adjusting the time, especially in the spring, throws me off my biological sleep balance. This usually lasts for up to a week and is much more disconcerting than jet lag.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Personal Posts

Checkmate

Years ago my son Dan was on spring break from college and challenged me to a game of chess. Although I hadn’t played in several years, I readily accepted. It had been a while for Dan, too, so I figured we would be equally rusty.

After making a series of errors in the first game, I realized two things: I was not as patient a player as I used to be and Dan was much more thorough and thoughtful; he was making excellent moves. I lost the first game—and then two more. I didn’t ever recall losing three games in a row.

With increased resolve and a commitment to focus, I started the fourth game strong. But after establishing a superior position, my play became haphazard and I dug myself into a hole.

Its conclusion would have produced exciting commentary for chess aficionados, but I will spare you the details.

In short, Dan offered an intriguing gambit and I went for it. Though he played his endgame without fault, somehow I emerged victoriously. Garnering one win out of four, however, was not the outcome I expected.

Though I hate to lose, I am proud of how well Dan played. His academic focus on his engineering studies had served him well, developing his mental acuity and increasing his logical thinking. I am so pleased.

I, on the other hand, was dismayed at my difficulty in concentrating and propensity for the quick versus quality moves. The culprit, I fear, is years of trying to multitask (which is really only an illusion). Now, when I try to stop multitasking, I can’t.

Rarely can I concentrate on a single chore without spurious thoughts impeding my focus.

And my chess game is among the victims.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Personal Posts

Do You Lie to Your Doctor?

At work I received a shocking press release. In part of it said, “It’s an open secret in healthcare communities: patients lie.”

The reasons were many. Some lie because they don’t want to admit unhealthy behaviors to their doctors. For others, by not voicing a concern they subconsciously deny its existence.

Still, others make their own determinations as to what’s important and what’s not, lying to keep from revealing what they deem to be irrelevant.

Yet I think I understood this. I’ve made casual comments to doctors and the next thing I know they would want to schedule me for a series of tests unrelated to my visit or they would prescribe a medicine for a minor issue and the drug’s side-effects were worse than my minor ailment.

Sometimes when we lie to doctors, it’s simply to keep them from reaching a wrong conclusion and subjecting us to needless pain. Click To Tweet

Sometimes these trivialities were verbally regurgitated visit after visit, long after I’ve forgotten them. As in, “Are you still suffering from blurred vision?” I respond, “That was three years ago and I haven’t accidentally poked myself in the eye since then.”

Too often doctors only half listen. Once they hear a certain keyword, they tune out the details that surround it. They leap to diagnosis or treatment for a problem that isn’t there.

Sometimes when we lie to doctors, it’s simply to keep them from reaching a wrong conclusion and subjecting us to needless pain.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Personal Posts

Do You Need to Find Time to Slow Down?

Recently I had a birthday. Don’t feel bad if you missed it—I have everything I need and most of what I want—so it’s all good!

For a birthday, it is the time spent with family and friends—be it directly or indirectly—that are the most significant and the best remembered.

Not to be dismissed are the cards from service providers, such as insurance agents and financial advisers. This reminds me, from ten years ago, I was amused and then taken aback by the generic message in one such card that read:

"I now often say ‘no’ to good things so that I may have time for the best things Click To Tweet

“Wishing you time to slow down and enjoy your special day.

What does that say about the pace at which we move in today’s society? Is being too busy so common that a wish to slow down has become a universal sentiment? I hope not, but I fear it is so.

Take Time to Slow Down

That’s not to imply that at times I don’t need to slow down, because sometimes I do. Sometimes my workload overwhelms me; sometimes I get frustrated by the commitments I have thoughtlessly made; and sometimes I say, “I’m too busy”—but not too often.

It took a while, but I’ve learned the freedom of saying “no”. I now often say “no” to good things so that I may have time for the best things. And when I consistently do that, I don’t need to take time to slow down to enjoy the day—I’m already moving at the right pace, which allows me to enjoy just about every day that comes along.

Regardless of the speed of your day, I hope the same for you.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Personal Posts

Breaking Needless Habits

Several years ago, I realized that a ritual had crept into my morning hair-combing routine. This added activity was inconsequential, not contributing in any way to my final appearance, yet morning after morning, I persisted in this needless habit.

It took only a few seconds and eliminating it did not substantially increase my free time each day—I calculated that time I freed up through the elimination of this habit garnered me an extra 30 minutes per year.

Break each needless habit. We need to identify needless habits and eliminate them from our routine. Click To Tweet

Another Needless Habit

Recently, I noticed another time-wasting habit relating to brushing my teeth. For some reason, I would wet my toothbrush, apply the toothpaste, and then wet the paste, before brushing. Why? I don’t know.  It’s not in the instructions—-in fact, the instructions don’t even say to use a toothbrush.

I eliminated the initial application of water on the brush with no discernible change in the teeth-cleaning experience. Removing the second hydration only slightly changed the initial feel of toothpaste in my mouth, but likewise did not detract from the final outcome.

However, this has been a hard habit to break.

First, I would catch myself after it was too late. Within a week, I would stop myself after turning on the water, but before inserting the toothbrush into the water. The next phase was catching myself as my hand moved towards the faucet.

Now after a month of effort, the first application of water has been successfully stopped. However, avoiding the second time still requires some effort.

It is well worth it, however, because once I have successfully broken this habit, I will gain an extra two hours of free time a year.

Now, if I could just identify a bigger needless habit, then I would really gain some free time.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Personal Posts

Is it Time For a Checkup?

In my newsletter a four years ago, I recommended we periodically check our credit reports. This is a wise move in order to correct reporting errors and catch possible identity theft.

Other finance-related initiatives include making an annual budget, having life insurance, establishing an emergency fund, and planning for the future.

On the health front is scheduling appointments with the doctor and dentist. In addition, some people regularly check their pulse or take their blood pressure. Even stepping on the scale is a form of a medical checkup.

We take control of our finances, watch our health, care for our possessions, and protect our time, all by preforming regular checkups. But what about relationships? Click To Tweet

Aside from health issues, we regularly have the oil in our car changed and follow recommended maintenance to keep it running great. Many take similar steps with their homes.

I also do periodic checkups on my schedule to avoid over-commitment and guard against under-involvement.

So we take control of our finances, watch our health, care for our possessions, and protect our time, all by preforming regular checkups.

What about Relationships?

I too often take relationships for granted. Either they work or they don’t. But I should be intentional about them, too. I need to do a relationship checkup. Maybe you do, too. In my checkup, I ask these questions:

  • Am I investing in the relationships that are important to me? Do I seek to make our interactions significant? Do people anticipate spending time with me?
  • Conversely, am I protecting myself from toxic relationships that demand much, give little, and drag me down?
  • Am I looking to build relationships with others?
  • Do I need to remove myself from some relationships?
  • Am I in any enabling relationships?

Even more important is my relationship with family. They, too, deserve a thorough checkup.

On the spiritual front, is God, the most important relationship of all. Maybe we should do this checkup first.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Personal Posts

Time Lag

We’ve all heard about jet lag, that messed up, a disconcerting thing that happens to our bodies after flying across time zones. It’s been said that each time zone crossed equates to one day of recovery.  For my constitution, that may be a bit generous.

Though thinking back to when I frequently flew, I suspect that the more regularly one travels, the less the effect. Interestingly, flying west (“gaining” time) doesn’t phase me as much; but the return trip (“losing” time) really sets me back.

A similar disturbance happens to me each time we switch from “normal” time to daylight-savings time (DST) and visa versa. I call this phenomenon “time lag.”

Time Lag’—happens to me each time we switch from ‘normal’ time to daylight-savings time (DST) and visa versa. Click To Tweet

Just as in flying west, the fall DST switch causes a relatively minor disruption to my sleep equilibrium. However, the ‘spring forward’ time change throws me off for several days, just as does a flight east that crosses several time zones.

When we lived in Wisconsin (which is on the eastern part of the Central time zone), DST made sense—it was an appropriate shift of the clock to better match the rising and setting of the sun.

However, Michigan is on the far western part of the Eastern Time Zone, and it’s never made sense. For the majority of the year, my reasonable 6 am rising is in the dark.

On the summer solstice, dusk doesn’t occur until after 10:30 pm. And a scant two weeks later, we have to wait well after 11 pm just to watch fireworks. What nonsense!

I’d just as soon forget the whole daylight-savings time thing and lose the time lag along with it.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Personal Posts

Age Is Not a Number but an Attitude

Many of my friends are younger than me, often by quite a bit. In fact, I’d rather spend time with people half my age, than my own demographic. I don’t know what they think about hanging out with me, but I think it’s great to be around them.

Too many people my age have settled. They’ve accepted the status quo and are coasting the last half of their life toward nothingness, but they don’t even know it. How sad.

Age isn’t a number; it’s an attitude. Click To Tweet

Many younger people, however, have a zest for living. Life is an adventure. They are learning, dreaming, growing—they are alive. And so am I, especially when I’m around them.

Yes, experience may have tempered my zest, but I’m still learning, dreaming, and growing. That’s life. The alternative is death. And I’m too young to think about that.

I Identify as Millennial

Once I was on a committee with people mostly my age and older. (For the record, they haven’t settled.) We discussed who to invite to join us.

Our leader makes an astute observation: “There are no Millennials on our committee.”

I’m offended. Wait, I am a Millennial!

Then I correct my silent words before embarrassing myself aloud. No, you’re not; you just think you are.

Ah, the joy of delusion.

Yes, I identify more with Gen-X and especially Millennials than I do the Baby Boomer I should be. Though I do embrace absolution truth, I skew more towards the postmodern worldview of youth than I embrace the modern perspective people my age are supposed to hold.

Maybe I was born too soon. Or maybe I just have a young heart.

Either way, it doesn’t matter, because age isn’t a number; it’s an attitude.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.