Cultivating Daily for Easter: what if this was the story of your weekend? An “imagine if” story on why Easter matters to you…

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Hope this is a special Good Friday for you as you remember the cross today.

Here is an “imagine if” story for you this week. It has actually happened in various ways over the last eight years of @WestpointChurch, but let me frame it this way as an “imagine if” just to make it challenging and accessible for us.

Imagine the chance these next few days to dialogue with someone about Easter. Probably someone with whom you have been a friend for some time. They know you care about them. They know you celebrate for more than bunnies, chocolate, and eggs, but they know you aren’t some fanatic who doesn’t participate in a fun egg hunt and enjoy a Reese’s egg. However, they may not know exactly why Easter is meaningful to you. In other words, they may not know why resurrection really matters to you.

Imagine asking them this question:

>> have I ever told you why Easter means so much to me?

Maybe you have your own variation of that question. But the topic turns there. And the dialogue includes the significance of resurrection, the hope of life again, the lack of condemnation for the selfish choices that steal life because of the love of the One who gave His life yet is still alive.

These are more than religious concepts.

What would you share with someone if you had the chance to tell them the answer to that above question? Who might you ask that question to and have that dialogue with? Are you willing to pray for that chance to come in the next three days?

This could be the story of your weekend. And the story of a friend whom you have loved believing they are forever loved by the God who came near and died and rose again.

I pray it will be.
-jason

Cultivating Daily for Easter: highlighting three specific chances to gather around here in Central Florida this weekend…

For the @WestpointChurch family, there are three specific chances to gather this Friday and Sunday I wanted to highlight. Below those three is a simple challenge for us as we are cultivating daily for Easter. Hope you will cultivate.

-jason

:: Good Friday at noon with the Church of West Orange at the Jesse Brock Community Center across from Dillard Elementary School.

:: Good Friday evening at 7:00 with Kensington Church at West Orange High School auditorium. This is going to be a very artistic and engaging expression of the story of the cross that we get to enjoy with a partnering church family.

:: Easter Sunday morning at 10:00 at Whispering Oak Elementary School (where we normally gather). Who will you invite to come with you to celebrate the resurrection on this special day?

Try to make it to two of these three if you can. And please pray about who God might want you to invite to come with you, someone with whom you have been walking and loving or someone who is a new friend or neighbor.

Don’t miss this chance to not just show the Gospel but share it, as well.

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: are we ACTUALLY making disciples? Here’s two shifts that may need to take place…

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We know that Jesus said to make disciples. But are we, as His church, actually doing it?

This is a question our local church expression has been asking the last two years. And I have seen two major shifts occur for the folks who were doing it in theory only but are now actually doing it daily.

SHIFT ONE _ from discipleship to make disciples
The New Testament does not speak of “discipleship.” In the American church, we speak of it in terms of the thing that happens after evangelism efforts bring a convert. We think of it as a study for Christians in a classroom with fluorescent lights. On the other hand, the New Testament describes it in terms of “make disciples,” which is inclusive of evangelism. It is done out in the rhythms of the daily mainly, although a study can be involved at times. It is learning and living the ways of Jesus among the lost as we love them with a near love, like Jesus loves us, in hopes that those with whom we a walking will also believe they are loved by Jesus and begin to learn and live His ways among their friends rather than retreat to a classroom and church building.

SHIFT TWO _ from my family to being family
The church is not some program or event that serves the needs of my family once we follow Jesus. The church is people following Jesus together, learning and living His ways (especially His new command – John 13:34-35). I am not saying that the church doesn’t care for my family. I am just saying that the purpose of the church isn’t just about my family. Unfortunately, many of us treat the bride of Jesus in this way. However, what if the intent of Jesus was that we might be a family? More specifically, that we might be His family who lives as family with the people of our communities like He did with us. Read John 1:12-14. This is what He did. And the church must exist out among the lost and lonely that they might believe the God Who came near loves them and desires them in His family. But how will the know if all we do is think in terms of “my family?”

Francis Chan has shared for several years now a very simple teaching on HOW NOT TO MAKE DISCIPLES. It’s worth the watch for two minutes. Check it out below.

And may we not just memorize and study about making disciples. May we ACTUALLY make disciples.
-Jason

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: will you love the nations with me on @TOMS “One Day without Shoes?”

I have done it now for two years. One day in April, I go without shoes. It is in hopes of someone asking me why and thus the opportunity to encourage them to do something about people in other parts of our world who do not have shoes.

Grant it, this is one of the best marketing ideas a company could have. It is a viral, grass-roots-driven, don’t-wear-shoes-so-people-will-buy-our-shoes-and-we-will-also-give-a-pair-away genius of an idea. And I understand that it does encourage people to buy a product, but it is a product from a company that is not perfect but is at least serious about providing a pair of shoes (and now eyeglasses, too) for people around the world who don’t have one.

Will you join me this year? 

April 10th. Don’t wear shoes.

Prepare your boss / teacher / place of business that you won’t be wearing shoes that day and tell them why. Encourage some other folks to do it with you. And don’t do it to get a pat on the back. Do it simply to encourage people to love the poor in a tangible way. It’s an easy thing to do that also raises our own awareness about how much we take for granted that we do have shoes.

Jesus mentioned something in Luke 3:11 I know is not easily lived and unfortunately is not often lived.

11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.”

May we think about how that might apply to what all is in our closet and pantry. In the meantime, may we go barefoot on for just on day.

And if you don’t own a pair of TOMS, I recommend them. I am wearing my fifth pair. But I won’t be on April 10th.

Will you join me?

CLICK HERE to read more about “One Day without Shoes.” And check out the trailer below for April 10th, 2012.

Looking forward to having to push the gas pedal in my car barefooted.
-jason

 

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: i’d like to hear from you – one organization loving the nations you have worked with and want to recommend to others???

Good Thursday to you! I wanted to take the post today for cultivating daily unto the nations to ask for some feedback from you.

What is one organization that is loving the nations in some specific way that you have worked with or supported that you would heartily recommend to others? What did you do with them? Is it an ongoing relationship or a one-time opportunity?

If anyone anywhere happens to read this and wants to chime in, please do so! I for one would like to see what you say. Please leave the name of the organization and your comments in the comment section of this post.

My friends Jamie and Zack just returned from Zambia, and I can tell you they were thoroughly impressed with Lifesong for Orphans and their work there. If you know anything about them, let me know, too, if you don’t mind.

Grateful that Jesus loves us like He does and invites us to experience His love as we love the nations together!!!

-jason

Cultivating Daily in the Marketplace: I asked @FLVSjyoung, CEO of @FLVS to share 4 ways she loves people in the marketplace…

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Julie Young is one of the most forward-thinking, discerning, innovative, encouraging, thoughtful, team-building, and wise leaders I know. She leads the Florida Virtual School, an accredited, public, online, e-learning school serving students K-12 all over the world. Almost 15 years ago, FLVS was founded. It was the country’s first state-wide, internet-based, public high school and has grown now to over 122,000 students and 1400 staff members. FLVS is part of the Florida public education system and serves students in all 67 Florida districts, 49 states, and 57 countries.

I had the privilege of coaching her two sons, and I am blessed with a friendship with her husband. I have utmost respect for them, and that’s why I asked her to share with me four suggestions regarding how she is cultivating daily in the marketplace – loving the people she encounters and leads there in hopes that they will know that they are loved unconditionally and graciously by the God who came near in Christ.

So grateful for Julie. Hope these will encourage you, too! Here are her four suggestions:

1. Share God’s love for them.
Even if you do not put the “God” label on it, you can share God’s love with others in the workplace by letting them know how special and precious they are. Even a simple note of thanks or praise can brighten someone’s day and turn off the negative thoughts and feelings that the Devil has planted in their minds. People need to know that they have a purpose. Others can usually point out someone’s strengths a lot easier than they can, and this can be linked to God’s love for them when it encourages them with the simple message, “You are the only one that can do what you do!”

I constantly try and recognize others publically for the good work they do, both with staff and students. I relish sharing the notes that come from parents who are obviously believers. It often allows me to share God’s Word as many parents will quote the Bible or thank God for their experiences and FLVS. One of my goals is for all staff to feel that I love them regardless of our distance or lack of a face to face relationship. I try to make the environment fun and relaxed and playful.

2. Give the grace you have been given.
We all get frustrated and flustered with co-workers from time to time. But no one is perfect. God gives me grace when I don’t get it right, or when I am just plain wrong. May we not neglect to give others the same. Just like the slave whose debt was forgiven and then refused to forgive other’s debts to him, you can end up in a bad situation.

I try to continually emphasize the value of mistakes and only ask that people try and not make the same mistake twice. I also look closely at whether or not a “mistake” is negligence and intentional or an honest mistake. I take those mishaps and turn them into learning lessons for all. In addition, I believe in second chances for those who have a committed heart to the organization. A person who may be unsuccessful in their role but is clearly dedicated to the organization and its leadership will have an opportunity to take a mulligan and move to another position in the organization if available and start over.

3. Create an environment with your words.
The Bible tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. You are the only one who can control what comes out of your mouth. So choose to create a positive and uplifting environment by speaking positively even if you have to give someone a correction or discipline. You will be amazed at how people’s attitudes will change when the positive words you speak start to take life as they are planted in the hearts of those around you.

Using the words, “blessed, loved, give back, be an example” etc. in notes and verbal comments often let people know where your heart is. It also gives them permission to express themselves. Using quotes from John Maxwell (some of my favorite leadership books), Andy Andrews, and others who are Christ-followers often times sends folks to those books for a good read. They get a two-for. :)

4. Set an example with integrity.
Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Jesus was the greatest example that we will ever have of that. Even when tempted after fasting 40 days and nights, where no one could see him, He did not waiver in doing what he knew was right. Remember, even if no one else is looking, God is, and our Father lifts those up who listen to Him and put Him first. He gives them favor, not only with those around them but also with authority as well.

One of the greatest ways to cultivate the Gospel is to refuse to come down to the world’s standards by maintaining your integrity everyday. My goal has always been to operate with transparency. If I make a mistake or have a gap, I share it and take public responsibility for it. I work diligently to set the example for others rather than be the exception due to my title. It’s funny, my team is always trying to give me a reserved parking spot or an exemption from a rule that others are expected to follow. I make it known in a humble fashion that I am no different; I just have a different job. I hold myself to the highest standards when it comes to budget and people management.
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Great stuff, Julie!!! Thank you so very much for sharing these suggestions with us and for your leadership example.

Give Bruce a hug from me. And tell him I said I hope UK can win the 2012 Duke Invitational Tournament, I mean the 2012 NCAA Tournament. It is after all the 20th anniversary of “THE SHOT.” :)

Much love.
-Jason

Cultivating Daily into Family: “how a 6th birth is a new experience” or “are we grateful each time?” Exciting news!!!

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Because we both have six kids, we get asked this one question a lot. It is always meant as a joke, and honestly I never get tired of being asked. Maybe it’s because I never get tired of the subject of the question, but that’s more of a Valentine’s post. Today’s post is for some breaking news celebrated from a grateful heart.

Oh yeah, the question we get asked because we both have six kids? Here you go – “You know how that happens right?”

And the antecedent of “both?” My brother Erik and I both have six kids, although my sixth isn’t due for face to face arrival until early August sometime.

And the exciting news?!? Erik and Erin’s sixth little gift arrived this morning!!!!!!!!!!

Emery Elaine Dukes comes into a family of five brothers. She will likely alternate thinking about them as a bunch of Knights in Shining Armor and a bunch over-protective, insensitive, annoyances. I am biased since they are my nephews, but I bet they will be the former much, much more than the latter. What is for sure is that the atmosphere of their home just got pinker and purpler and prettier. :)

And the picture that my wife sent me of Erik holding his brand new daughter was so breath-taking.

It was Erin’s sixth child born, and Jen got to be there this time for the first time. It was Erik’s sixth child born, but it was his first girl. And as a little brother, I don’t get to experience many things first before my wonderful big brother, but I have already held three daughters and look forward with excitement, Lord willing, to holding a fourth this summer. Erik got a whole new experience this morning holding a child that belonged to him that was not of the male persuasion. And it was breath-taking to behold knowing what was racing through his mind and heart.

It was exciting news! And we all are so grateful, celebrating each birth as though it actually is a gift from God that we in no way deserve.

Thank you Lord.

So cool that my dad has eleven grandchildren and one more on the way.

-jason

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift, the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
(Psalm 127:3 MSG)

Cultivating Daily: educating myself for St. Patrick’s Day. Do you know the basic history of Patrick? Read it here…

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So, other than the really well-done cartoon Veggie Tales did regarding St. Patrick, I don’t really know much about him. After reading some history on Patrick, sounds like Phil Vischer and the gang did a great job accurately sharing his story.

One major highlight is that he highlighted the unity of the Trinity in his preaching. Catholic.org, in their section on saints, had this to share regarding Patrick. Hopefully it will equip you to do more than wear green tomorrow :-)

Here’s hoping you don’t get pinched.
-jason

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St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world’s most popular saints.

Apostle of Ireland, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387; died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 461.

Along with St. Nicholas and St. Valentine, the secular world shares our love of these saints. This is also a day when everyone’s Irish.

There are many legends and stories of St. Patrick, but this is his story.

Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britian in charge of the colonies.

As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him.

During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote

“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.” “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”

Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family.

He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.”

He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years.

Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.

Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick’s message.

Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well).

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.

He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.

Why a shamrock?
Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and has been associated with him and the Irish since that time.

In His Footsteps
Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission.

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: @AnnVoskamp shares her mother’s heart upon her oldest son’s leaving & returning from international missions.

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Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts and blogger extraordinaire on aHolyExperience.com, recently wrote her heart onto page regarding her oldest son’s first international mission service experience. He left. She prayed. Little bit of worry. He returned. She shared her reflections the whole way through.

In the context of cultivating daily unto the nations, I thought this was worth sharing. Worth sharing for anyone learning grace and love and service. Worth sharing for any mom and dad facing the notion now or later of “letting go and letting God” have your kids, and worth sharing for anyone encouraging those who serve internationally.

Hoping these three blog posts will encourage you as we cultivate the near love of Jesus by going near to the nations.
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Here is the post Ann wrote as she was preparing for her son to leave:

What a Parent Needs to Say to a Child Before They Leave

Here is the post Ann wrote as her son was gone:

When you’re worried while they’re gone: What to do in Hard Times

And here is an excerpt of her reflections upon his arrival home. She was reflecting upon the fact that he certainly was no prodigal for going away in this way, but her mind went to the heart and emotion of a parent eager for a child to return home. What if we parented like a “Prodigal Parent?”

Check this out:

I know there are no guarantees that anyone comes home again.

I know sometimes what messes our life up most — is the expectation of what our life is supposed to look like. Entitlement can leave you feeling entirely empty.

I know the He only means everything to reshape us and nothing to reduce us.

“Just…” I reach over to pick up his bag at the top of the escalator and I don’t know how to say this or why it even matters because he’s just come home from a mission’s trip and his eyes are all lit and he can’t stop smiling.

He’s hardly the prodigal but I want to kill the fattened calf and celebrate the miracle of return and how do I make sure he always knows?

“Just — no matter what story you’re carrying,” We pause at the top of the stairs and I reach over and grab his arm, the closest thing I’ve got to a bone marrow transplant. “Know you can always, always, always come home.”

Who, if you knew their whole story, wouldn’t you love?

He nods and forget wondering if maybe someday, some son will be a prodigal. Forget wondering if someday some prodigal son will come home again.

Forget that.

Because I”m the Prodigal.

I’ve been the Wayward Prodigal Parent. Prodigal in the negative sense. The wasteful one. Irresponsible in my spending.

The Prodigal Parent who’s extravagantly wasted too many gold moments, too much priceless time, too much of my spiritual inheritance on the blinking and the shiny and the fleeting. He takes his bag from my hand and I have no idea how his shoulders got so broad. We only inherit so much time.

How do you live so that when your kids think of the Grace of the Gospel, they think of you?

That’s the crux of the thing: By being the Wholehearted Prodigal Parent. Prodigal in the positive sense. The lavish one. Extravagantly, sacrificially abundant in my giving.

The Prodigal Parent who extravagantly loves, recklessly spending on sacrifice. The Prodigal Parent who wastes time waiting up, listening for, praying long.

The Prodigal Parent who lives this lavish mercy, this opulent, offensive grace.

I look over at my boy come home. Why hadn’t someone told me that parenting was less about avoiding prodigals but more about becoming a better Prodigal parent?

You can read Ann’s entire post by CLICKING HERE.

Thanks, Ann, for blessing us with your gracious heart and practical thoughts of living out a Father’s love as we cultivate daily.

-jason

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: author @HelenLeeAuthor of the book @TheMissionalMom guest blogs with insights about living sent to neighbors…

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Helen Lee guests blogs today for “Cultivating Daily” with four suggestions for cultivating the near love of Jesus daily into your neighbor. She is the author of The Missional Mom: Living with Purpose at Home and in the World, available on Amazon.com, and she blogs at TheMissionalMom.com. Both are very much worth the read.

Below are Helen’s wise suggestions and insights on how we, as followers of Jesus, can love our neighbor. Thanks so much for sharing these with us, Helen!

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1. Expand your definition of the word “neighbor.”

“Neighbor” is not just the person who lives next door to you, but the person whom God brings into your path at the time He appoints. It could be the fellow mom walking to school to pick up their child at the same time as you. It could be the person at the checkout lane in the grocery store that you see every time you are there. And certainly, it could be the lonely widower who lives next door to you. Who does God bring into your line of sight and into your life on a regular basis? Consider that person your neighbor.

2. Take intentional steps to be a light to that “neighbor.”

Once you have a greater openness to the people God is bringing into your life, the people he wants for you to see as your neighbor, start taking steps to reflect the light and love of Jesus in your interactions with that person, however brief. In all his interactions with people around him, Jesus was unforgettable; be that person who radiates God’s joy, peace, and kindness, trusting that even the shortest of those divine appointments will make an impression.

3. Pray regularly for those “neighbors.”

Pray specifically that the Holy Spirit would use your time with your neighbors in a purposeful way, revealing more of Jesus to them every single time. Cultivating the Gospel into your neighbor is not merely about transmitting words and ideas about who Jesus is; it is about introducing them to the person of Jesus as he resides in you, and as you share his love to those around you.

4. Take relational risks with those “neighbors.”

This is the hardest part: once you have made a relational connection with that neighbor, pray for an opportunity to take the relationship one step further. Perhaps it would be to ask if you could pray for them in some way; perhaps it would be an invitation to coffee or dinner. And if the person declines, continue the earlier steps and to pray that another opportunity will arise to take the relationship further. But be patient–relationships can take time to build!

Cultivating Daily into Family: awesome suggestions from author & my friend @TashaLevert on “cultivating daily with elbows on the table”…

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Great suggestions and insight from author and friend Tasha Levert. So grateful she was willing to share this with us. I will have another post from Tasha in a couple of weeks. If you want to read her awesome book that encourages moms with an engaging mix of wisdom and humor, you can get is on Amazon by CLICKING HERE.

Thanks Tasha for sharing this with us. Give your sweetheart Tim a big hug from me, too :)

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Cultivating Daily with Elbows on the Table

Suppertime has not always been the highlight of our day. Tim and I have three daughters, and when the girls were younger, the hours between 5pm and bedtime were crazy around our house.

Each night, reality would waltz into our dining room and crush my Focus on the Family inspired visions of quality time at the dinner table as peas were chucked, milk was spilled, and tantrums were thrown. I remember feeling so discouraged one evening that I wondered if chucking my own peas would make me feel better. It didn’t.

Today, our girls are 11, 9, and 7, and while their table manners are still up for debate, I can say proudly that we have made it through the pea chuckin’ phase (all of us ;)! In fact, suppertime has actually become one of the best parts of our day.

Our tradition is to eat supper at the table with the television off (gasp!), and when we gather, we ask one of two questions:

:: What was the best part of your day?
:: What has God said to you lately?

We ask the first question every night (even if we’re hosting guests). I love this question: “What was the best part of you day?” The question gives all of us a chance to see a glimpse of each others’ life. Tim and I get a snapshot of what’s going on in their world, and the girls get a picture of ours. Some of our moments are blatantly Kingdom focused. Some aren’t. Regardless, the time spent sharing connects our hearts and our lives in a way that I think makes Jesus smile.

The second question, “What has God said to you lately?” is one that we only ask every few months. Our goal is to help the girls learn to hear God’s voice and to know that a HUGE God has something beautiful to say to everyone, no matter how small. Sometimes they can answer the question. Sometimes they can’t. If they have nothing to report, we don’t freak out, nor do we jump into a 10 week family devotion on discerning the voice of God. We simply encourage them to remember to listen for His gentle whisper as we dive into our dessert.

There is something right about breaking bread together. Take time to share a distraction-free meal with your family. Whether you’re chucking peas or sharing your God moments, the Father is pleased.

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: how @TimTebow’s comeback against the Dolphins caused one couple to want to serve in Zambia…

It was all Tim Tebow’s fault.

He seems to get a lot of credit and blame lately. This is for something pretty cool, though, that hopefully in time will have as much impact as he and his family have in the Philippines.

Tebow’s first start was against the Dolphins back in October. It was the start of a winning streak that included 15 points in a little over two minutes. To be there live was amazing!!!

I am not gonna lie. I prayed hard in that 4th quarter for the Lord to give Tebow and his team the strength to pull that comeback off, trusting that Tebow would not steal the glory from the One who gave him this platform in the first place. I even cried when they scored the go-ahead 2-point conversion. You might say we were into the game! :)

My son and I had gone down to Miami for the game with some friends of ours from the church family of which we are a part, along with this guy named George. We picked him up on the way down along the Turnpike.

No, seriously, he was visiting with our family from Zambia. I had met him earlier in May, 2011 at an event I was teaching at in Philly. We really connected, and I was so grateful for his encouragement and new friendship. When he was in the states again, he was gonna come and visit with us. It happened to be last October when that happened, and it happened to be the weekend we had planned to go down to see Tebow and the Broncos face the Dolphins.

Equipped with his brand new Tebow T-Shirt, George accompanied this little section of the Westpoint family down to Miami.

The night before the game, we ate at an Outback Steakhouse. I like their croutons, but that is not important in this story. A husband and wife who were with us had been praying specifically for the Lord to show them a way that as a family they might give themselves away globally in a long-term, impactful way, impacting hopefully the folks they would serve but also understanding the impact it would have on their family. Well, who knew that the Holy Spirit wanted to have dinner with us at Outback just north of Miami. I guess he likes their croutons, too.

By the end of the dinner, that couple looked at each other with that “I guess Zambia is it” look.

Fast forward to today. In fact, to exactly an hour ago at 3:30. That husband, along with another husband that walks with them as family of God together, flew out on a jet-plane to Africa. They will be there for a few days exploring possible partnerships and opportunities. PLEASE PRAY FOR THEM AND THEIR FAMILIES, FOR SAFETY, WISDOM, AND DISCERNMENT.

I can’t wait to see what comes of this!!! How cool is it that God not only put His love on display for us, but also invites and involves us in getting to give His love away into others, even around the world. And how awesome that God loves us enough to invite us to experience what it is like giving His love away, understanding that we fully live when we fully love, as He has loved us.

May we continue to listen to God and do what He says, cultivating daily both among neighbors and nations, inviting a few other folks along for the journey with us.
-jason

Cultivating Daily in the Marketplace: a few insights from an attorney friend living sent in the marketplace.

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Continuing today sharing some insights from a friend, this time about how he is cultivating daily in the marketplace. Rod is an attorney and a good friend of mine. I am very grateful not only for his friendship but also for how he encourages and challenges me to live to help others know that they are loved by the God who came near.

Below, my questions are in bold. Rod’s responses in italics. Hope they encourage you and others you know who are cultivating the near love of Jesus daily at work.
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:: why do you think it is important to cultivate the near love of Jesus daily in the marketplace?

Because He asked us to do so. Jesus wants us to love our neighbors, like the good Samaritan. In other words, love those that are on our paths. For those of us on the path daily in the market place, we need to cultivate love where we are.

:: what are two examples of how you have done this?

Being that I am a lawyer, I will give a general response to this specific question. At our firm we try to regularly engage in bible study together, to pray for each other and to allow our respective lights to shine. I think it is important for every Christian leader in the marketplace to try to encourage an environment that results in people feeling comfortable to share their Christian values, and at the same time, foster a loving environment that for those that are not Christian, they too would feel loved and encouraged. (How about that for a lawyer answer!)

:: what are three encouragements you would give to someone wanting to live sent in the marketplace, understanding the challenges that come with it.

1. Remember that you play to an audience of one. You should be less concerned with what those around you may think about you and strongly consider what He thinks about you.

2. Keep an eternal view. I think Solomon or one of those old testament guys said this life is all smoke. What we do in this life matters, but only in as much as it effects our eternity.

3. You never know what impact you could have on someone on your path, what you say and do can change someone’s life.

Thanks Rod. Much love.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Family: @GHGuthrie shares 4 suggestions for cultivating the near love of Jesus into your family…

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing some guest insights from folks whom I have asked to share four suggestions for cultivating daily into family, into neighbors, into the marketplace, unto the nations, and for the sake of unity, respectively. Today the suggestions come from husband, father, professor, Bible scholar, avid reader, and all-around great dude – Dr. George Guthrie. Make sure and check out Read the Bible for Life as well as Reading God’s Story, both works that He either authored or compiled and invaluable resources as we all continue to learn and live the ways of Jesus in the daily rhythms of life.

He was my professor and mentor in college, is my friend, and will be a blessing to you I am sure as he has always been to me. I asked him for four suggestions for cultivating the near love of Jesus into family, based upon what he and his wife lived and did with each other and their kids. Thanks Dr. Guthrie for doing that.

Here is what he shared:

1. Cultivating space for our relationships with the Father. The good news is that God wants to know us face-to-face and has paid a price to make that possible.  Among other dynamics, the new covenant involves us all knowing God.  So, we have made time with God priority for us, and we have taught our children to have such time as a normal rhythm of life.

2. Cultivating our family relationships with gospel conversation around the table. As family members we also need face-to-face time with each other, and meals tend to be a great time to communicate. For our family, we have seldom done conversation about the Bible as a program; such conversation has tended to happen naturally as an outgrowth of our individual times in the Word. Our children have consistently asked sincere (and sometimes very difficult) questions about the Bible. The conversation is in the air we breathe as a family.

3. Cultivating our hearts and minds with good media. When the children were small, they were only allowed to listen to “Jesus music” (e.g. Michael Card’s “Sleep Sound in Jesus” CD) or the Bible (either in dramatized form or just being read) as they fell asleep at night; they did watch or listen to other types of materials at other times. We really worked at only allowing age-appropriate movies as they were growing up. We placed strict limits on video games. On the other hand, we have made reading central to our home (rather than a TV).  We and our children have been exposed to lots of great theology and stimulating stories that have developed our thinking about God, the world, and ourselves.

4. Cultivating space and resources for ministry to others. Ministry in and through the church has just been a normal, consistent part of our lives. We have involved our children in giving from their earliest days. We constantly have people in our home, either to live with us for a time, or to feed and minister to them for an evening (we currently have 15-20 students over for a meal every-other week). We are not naturally great at cultivating relationships with our neighbors and still are learning how to do that more effectively, but we have tried to develop an “others focused” mentality for our family.

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Thoughts? Questions? If you do have questions for Dr. Guthrie, comment here and I will ask him to interact with you when his time allows.

Hopefully these suggestions have encouraged you as you cultivate daily into family.

-jason

Cultivating Daily for Unity: yesterday, I posted a post that included thoughts on the important of unity to Jesus. See more of what I’m thinking here…

Yesterday, I posted a post that included a lot of language about unity around mission and how important this is to Jesus. So important that He prayed for it specifically in the Garden of Gethsemene:

18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth. 20 I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. 21 May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. 22 I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. 23 I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:18-23, HCSB)

Well, I genuinely am not one to try to pimp a book I have written, but I thought it important to share with you that in case you want to read more of my thoughts about unity around mission and why this matters in the work of God among us, you can do so. I wrote beyond MY church, because I felt led to share a message that had big-time wrecked me and the local church expression I am grateful to pastor.

CLICK HERE to go to the book’s website. CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from one of the chapters. CLICK HERE to download chapter one for free.

Hopefully this will share more insight on why I am so burdened to see Southern Baptists along with all followers of Jesus come together around the mission of God so that the work of God will come alive among us.

Or like my friend @JonTyson says, to see “on earth as it is in heaven.”

May we follow Jesus, listen to Him, and cultivate whatever He leads us to cultivate so that “on earth as it is in heaven” may come in our cities.

Hopeful.
-jason

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: a comment about the #SBC name-change thing, a group whom I believe definitely cares about the nations…

This past year, a team was formed to research alternatives and make recommendations for a new name for the Southern Baptist Convention (the SBC). The announcement from this team’s findings were released Monday night. The recommendation was NOT to change the legal name of the the SBC, but rather to offer an alternative name for churches and leaders to use along with the legal name. That alternative name recommended is “Great Commission Baptists.”

Now, some of you may not have even known that my background is Southern Baptist. I grew up in the home of a very gracious, authentic, loving, wise Southern Baptist pastor. He has served with the New Orleans Baptist Seminary since the mid-70s. His humble and authentic following of Jesus alongside his faithful commitment to serve and train Baptist leaders is probably a very significant reason why I still associate in Southern Baptist networks and even pastor a local church expression that participates with our local Baptist association.

And if you know anything about the SBC, you know that historically we have emphasized three things: the Bible, the Great Commission, and the autonomy of the local church. We assert that the Bible is the living, inspired Word of God to be held sacred and taken seriously as God’s story of His everlasting love displayed for us through Jesus and a cross. We assert that the Great Commission is a call on every follower of Jesus to make disciples among neighbors and nations, baptizing and teaching in the ways of Jesus. We assert that the local church is autonomous, held accountable because of relational association with other local church expressions. In its purity, the SBC is not really a denomination. It is simply a very intentionally focused and cooperative group of local churches unified around the mission of God to love as Jesus has loved us. At least ideally.

The two main reasons, at least as I saw them, that the SBC was even looking to change our name were very understandable:

  1. the founding of the “Convention” was in the context of affinity around slavery, something the “South” historically is remembered for.
  2. 21st century partnerships and ministries throughout North America and around the world that are not in the Southern USA have had difficulty communicating with locals in their contexts why they are connected with the SBC, and it has even been a hindrance at times (according to what I have heard over the years).

These are good reasons. Might I add another that is important to me.

We also need a name change because our current name does not speak to our purpose.

Our current name does speak to our geography. It does speak to our baptist affinity. And it does speak to our convening. But it does not speak to our purpose.

Our current name also says several things without stating them directly. Our current name reminds us of our founding past, for which we officially apologized in a recent summer convention. Our current name declares our distinctiveness, often unfortunately exclusiveness, because we are more apt to work only with Baptists and give Baptist stats for the needs we perceive rather than cultivating for “on earth as it is in heaven” in the cities where we live. Our current name implies our convening and cooperation, but most leaders if you asked them would assert that we cooperate less in unity than promotion would indicate.

Thus, the team was formed to research options and make recommendations. And they did.

Here’s the concern I have with what was recommended. It was not bold, clear, and intentional, in my opinion.

First, it was not bold because the reason given for offering the alternative name while keeping the legal name was that it was a safe approach to a very risky proposal. I cringed when I read that. Safe? Not risky? This is not the stuff of movement and mission and transformation. Furthermore, I am concerned that disunity and territorialism could potentially increase from some local churches calling themselves GCB and others SBC. This is detrimental to the cooperation that we promotionally declare as a value. The indecision of this alternative name is especially unfortunate during a year when Fred Luter, a black pastor from New Orleans and someone I respect greatly, will likely be elected President of the SBC. This will be the first time a black pastor has walked in this leadership role. This is a bold move that declares hearts of reconciliation and cooperation and a new day in the life of the SBC. The media will have something of cooperation and reconciliation to report. Hopefully, the potential disunity and bickering that follows over a nickname will not diminish this historic event.

Next, even though the words “Great Commission” are in the alternative name, it concerns me that this new suggested name will not be a clear description of our purpose. Why? Because there are so many different labels and definitions given to the Matthew 28:18-20 verses commonly titled “the Great Commission.” Some say the Great Commission is evangelism. Some say it is missions. Others assert that it is discipleship. Might I suggest that all of these alone are wrong. It is very clearly a call to MAKE DISCIPLES, as this is the only subject (an understood imperative “you”) and verb (make) and direct object (disciples) in the three verses. Three modifiers go along with this directive. “As you are going” is commonly translated into English as “Go.” “Teaching” is commonly translated into English as “teach.” And “baptizing” is commonly translated into English as “baptize.”

The implication is that we are to go and live out the ways of Jesus together among the lost. Jesus will go with us there. We are to with Him and together with one another (John 13:34-35) love people so that they might see the near love of God in and through us and thus desire to become a learner of His ways along with us. We are to MAKE new followers then learn His ways as they also make disciples among the lost of our culture. Our togetherness in love and unity around mission brings growth in our own loves as we love the lost and lonely. This is not evangelism alone. It is not missions alone. And it is certainly this intellectual, self-development mechanism that we have labeled “discipleship.” It is simply making disciples.

Making disciples among the lost would indicate a more Christ-centered approach to what is normally called “discipleship.” Indicative in this understanding of the Great Commission are three crucial elements of mission: (1) that Jesus spent the bulk of His time living out the rhythms of the Kingdom among the lost, (2) that discipling happened for Jesus in 100-plus week relationships, not just 10-week studies, and (3) that the church must move beyond being LEARNED in a classroom to being LEARNERS in the daily.

Could this be the Great Commission. Until we as the SBC become clearer about this, we will not be a unified around mission kind of people. Fortunately, however, God does this really cool thing called sanctification and makes use of our love for Him and for others in gracious, miraculous ways anyway :)

Finally, this alternative name is not intentional, in my opinion. When I talk with young leaders, there is a more and more common sentiment and more and more impassioned desire for what Jesus prayed in John 17 – maturity of oneness around the mission Jesus gave to us. Unity. I was really hoping that this new name suggestion would not only call us to a unified purpose, as it did with the words “Great Commission” (but again that needs to be clarified), but that it would also rally us as Great Commission Churches rather than Great Commission Baptists.

Prioritizing unity would be evidenced by ministry strategies that included a vision for “on earth as it is in heaven” in a city rather than success for one local church, an effort that included all Christ-centered leaders and ministries of a city rather than Baptists only, and a result that decentralized strategy-making beyond clergy into the daily rhythms of followers of Jesus together in homes, schools, offices, and communities.

Just yesterday, I was reminded of limitations that “Baptist money” creates for our churches and organizations who are funded by Cooperative Program giving. There may be a non-Baptist leader who is loving the lost and seeing amazing transformation in a context, but because he or she is not baptist, we can partner with them in significant ways to cultivate the Gospel and see new local church expressions blossom. Why? Because we say that we have to stay distinctive as Baptists to honor the “baptist money” given. Well. we may want to reconsider, and remember that it is God’s money, not Baptist’s.

And Jesus prayed for “on earth as it is in heaven.” And it goes without saying that Baptists will not be the only ones in heaven.

So, why this long diatribe about something on which I normally avoid even making comment? Because I genuinely felt like this name change was an opportunity to rally us all together, remind us of our roots, and call us into the future to grow in unity around the mission of the God who became Emmanuel.

Isn’t that what the Bible teaches as Jesus’ intent for His church? Isn’t that what the Great Commission demands, if I take the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30-31) along with the “New Command” (John 13:34-35) along with the Great Commission along with the story of “on earth as it is in heaven” (Acts) coming alive among a very disunified world (Jews and Gentiles) brought together by the transforming love of Jesus (Ephesians 2)? Wouldn’t that turn heads – otherwise self-absorbed local churches uniting together in a city to love the people of the city together in hopes of seeing new followers of Jesus?

Bible. Great Commission. Associational, unified autonomous local churches.

Sounds pretty baptist to me. More importantly, sounds like what Jesus might want.

May we be willing to lay down all that is SBC in order to take up all that Jesus intended. May we be committed as unified followers to this mission that to me is very clear. May we be catalysts as Baptists for the work of God in our respective contexts, not just preservationists of Baptist ways.

After all, if we are honest, we have been talking about being Great Commission Baptists since those founding days in that southern city of Augusta.

We shall see. But we shall not see if leaders like you and me spend all of our time in blog dialogue and not enough time cultivating the Gospel together with all its implications among neighbors and nations.

So I’ll stop here…

Much love.
-jason

Cultivating Daily in the Marketplace: Would like to hear from u – what makes living sent in the marketplace difficult?

Enough of my writing for a change :) I want to hear from you if you have the time to share a few thoughts. Here are the questions:

  • What makes living sent in the marketplace so difficult?
  • What do you notice to be some of the hindrances and fears? 
  • And can you share a story that might encourage others?

May we persevere as we cultivate daily the near love of Jesus in the marketplace, loving others as He has loved us.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: @RayOrtlund suggests that “Gospel. Safety. Time.” are essential for healthy, functioning church families. Being neighborly matters…

When I read the following article, I had many interesting reflections. One of them was simply how essential these three vital rhythms are for church families to actually love our neighbors. It is a post by Ray Ortlund on the GCM site, neither of which I know much about, but I do know that this article is worth the read.

Enjoy. Be challenged. Be encouraged as we cultivate daily…

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GOSPEL. SAFETY. TIME.
It’s what everyone needs.  Everyone.  Gospel + safety + time.  A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time.

Gospel: good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the present power of the Holy Spirit.  Multiple exposures.  Constant immersion.  Wave upon wave of grace and truth, according to the Bible.

Safety: a non-accusing environment.  No finger-pointing.  No embarrassing anyone.  No manipulation.  No oppression.  No condescension.  But respect and sympathy and understanding, where sinners can confess and unburden their souls.

Time: no pressure.  Not even self-imposed pressure.  No deadlines on growth.  No rush.  No hurry.  But a lot of space for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level.  If we relax, trusting in God’s patience, we actually get going.

This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time.  It’s the only way anyone can ever change.

Who doesn’t need that?

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Dr. Ortlund is Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. You can click here to read the article at its original site.

May we live the Gospel with one another, live loved and secure offering a safe environment for grace to abound. May we be patient as Jesus is making us all to become His church as He intended.

Grateful.
-jason

Cultivating Daily Valentine’s Week: are you unmarried but wish you were? wish Valentine’s Day would fall into the abyss of hurtful, lonely days? You are not alone…

Maybe you are unmarried or not even in a relationship that indicates you are at least a baby step closer to marriage, but you really wish you were. Then all this Valentine’s Day stuff happens, and the loneliness that you endure is highlighted with every email and e-card and cheesy Valentine you see. Facebook posts about undying love sting. Flowers smell less sweet. And even those color-dyed, sugar candies with messages like “kiss me” become annoying rather than cute.

If that’s you, you are not alone.

Believe it or not, I know some folks who are married and feel the same way. Having a mate close to you who is not close at all can be very lonely, too.

I don’t pretend to know how you feel or understand your current pain. It has been over 13 years since Jen and I tied the knot, and I am so grateful for her. But I do hurt for you. I have thought about you this week. I have hoped that you will remember that you are loved, even worth dying for, to a God who has come near.

Now, I am not throwing that out there in a cold, Christian-cliche kind of way. I promise. That’s not intended to be some cure-all salve for your heart, or some “suck-it-up cause you are supposed to be more spiritual than that” kind of message. I sincerely mean it. I pray that you actually believe that, because I have found in the different seasons of my own personal loneliness that remembering that Jesus actually does love me and thinks I am worth dying for is about all that I had to help me endure.

Enduring loneliness is so hard. Hope remains only when hope is believed. Perseverance is strengthened only when a persevering love is present. And focusing your thoughts on what i true is about the only thing that reorients the abstract reality of profound loneliness toward the Emmanuel-reality resurrected unto us in Christ.

The verses that I memorized and quotes over and over and prayed over and over in my own personal loneliness were Philippians 4:4-9. I wanted to share them with you here hoping they will offer encouragement to you.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

May our minds dwell on what is true and real and beautiful, not on the lies and abstractions and ugliness and fears that we tend to imagine for our future when we are walking in the darkness of loneliness.

It will not be any easier, but it will likely lead you down a destructive path unless you let your mind dwell on His imagined future for you rather than on your imagined future.

I hope your future will include a beautiful, difficult, worthwhile marriage. But even if it doesn’t, I pray that you and I both will never, ever, ever forget that to Jesus we are worth dying for.

That’s the Valentine’s Card otherwise known as the cross.

You are loved. I know, I know. You are lonely. But you are not alone. Again, this is just a reminder. A compassionate one.

I pray that somehow in some specific way that this weekend will include a significant reminder of that truth and a near embrace from the God who put on skin to come near.

Much love.
-jason

Cultivating Daily Valentine’s Week Edition: the real story of Valentine’s as shared by @MarkMerrill of @AllProDad…

Hope you had a Happy Valentine’s Day!!! I took a break from blogging yesterday, because I was in meetings all day and with my kids and sweetheart at night. It was a special day.

I understand that with Valentine’s Day comes a wide spectrum emotions for people. Tomorrow I will be sharing some thoughts for those without a Valentine. Some may not have been bothered by the day. Others may have been very saddened. I hope that what will be posted will encourage you either way.

For today, though, I came across a post from Mark Merrill of All Pro Dad that I thought was more than worth sharing. You can read it on his blog by clicking here. Or, you can keep scrolling down and read it on this post. Most people don’t even know the real story of the real Valentine. Hopefully this will encourage you as you keep cultivating daily the near love of Jesus into your pathway relationships.

-jason

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THE REAL STORY OF VALENTINE’S

This Valentine’s Day you will probably either send or receive a Valentine from someone. More than a billion are expected to be given away in the United States alone.  But just like many of our holidays, there’s a lot more behind it than just cards and gifts.  There’s a true life story. It’s a story that teaches us a lot about the true meaning of love, sacrifice and commitment.

In the third century, the Roman Empire was ruled by Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. He was nicknamed Claudius the Cruel because of his harsh leadership and his tendency for getting into wars and abusing his people. In fact, he was getting into so many wars during the third century that he was having a difficult time recruiting enough soldiers.

Claudius believed that recruitment for the army was down because Roman men did not want to leave their loves or families behind, so he canceled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Thousands of couples saw their hopes of matrimony dashed by the single act of a tyrant. And no one seemed interested in standing up to the emperor.

But a simple Christian priest named Valentine did come forward and stood up for love. He began to secretly marry soldiers before they went off to war, despite the emperor’s orders. In 269 AD Emperor Claudius found out about the secret ceremonies. He had Valentine thrown into prison and deemed that he would be put to death.

As Valentine was awaiting execution, he fell in love with a blind girl, who happened to be the jailer’s daughter. On the eve of his execution, with no writing instruments available, Valentine is said to have written her a sonnet in ink that he squeezed from violets. Legend has it that his words made the blind woman see again. It was a brief romance because the next day Valentine was clubbed to death by Roman executioners.

St. Valentine gave his life so that young couples could be bonded together in holy matrimony. They may have killed the man, but not his spirit. Even centuries after his death, the story of Valentine’s self-sacrificing commitment to love was legendary in Rome. Eventually he was granted Sainthood and the Catholic Church decided to create a feast in his honor. They picked February 14 as the day of celebration because of the ancient belief that birds (particularly lovebirds, but also owls and doves) began to mate on that very day.

It’s surprising to know that Valentine’s Day is really founded on the concept of love in marriage. On This Valentine’s Day, what are you doing to keep the love in your marriage burning? While giving a gift and card, having a candlelight dinner, and sharing special words of love are all important, the true spirit of Valentine’s Day needs to last throughout the year.

Here are some ways to bring more love into your marriage:

  • Schedule priority time together. Pull out your calendars and set a date night every week or two—just to spend time together and talk. (Note: movies don’t count.)
  • Laugh together. When was the last time you shared a funny story and chuckled with each other? Loosen up and laugh freely. Live lightheartedly!
  • Play together. Find a hobby or activity you both enjoy—fishing, bowling, tennis, hiking, or biking.
  • Be romantic together. Send your spouse a note of encouragement in the mail every once in a while just to say “I love you.” Spend one or two weekends away each year, just with your wife. (No buddies allowed.)

While Valentine’s Day is a good time to put a spark back into your relationship, the only way to fan the flame of a good relationship is for every day to be a Hallmark moment.

What are you doing to fan the flame of love in your marriage?