Loretta Bushlack

loving life.

Be the GOAT.

Wouldn’t it be cool to be considered the very best at something? The Greatest of All Time?

Some names are synonymous with greatness. Serena Williams. Michael Phelps. Whitney Houston. Frank Lloyd Wright. Michelangelo. Shakespeare.  

There was a little book published 33 years ago that is considered the greatest business book, maybe not of all time, but of the twentieth century. It sold over 25 million copies and launched a multimillion dollar leadership-development, personal-productivity industry.

The book? The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Even after 30 years, it still stands as a great outline for human thriving.

This is a reminder to take a long serious look at his

Rule #2: “Begin with the end in mind.”

Stephen covey, The 7 Habits of highly effective people

What end? THE END. The end of your life. 

And lest you roll your eyes and dismiss the idea as morbid or depressing, we can also consider the words of scripture from Ecclesiastes 7:2.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”

Our end is coming sometime. And instead of having it sneak up on us without a thought, wouldn’t it be better to thoughtfully consider it? To face it head on instead of head in the sand? 

Who do you hope to be when you leave Planet Earth?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And frankly it’s easier for me to name who or what I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be joyless. Demanding. Lonely. Bitter. Angry. Critical. Stingy. In other words, I don’t want to end up crotchety.

I don’t think the people who end up crotchety just woke up that way on their 75th birthday. I think they slowly drifted there. And I think most of them, maybe all of them, have darn good excuses for why they drifted. They probably started drifting when they realized their need for reading glasses was never going away, their hair was never going to grow back, their kids were never going to move home and television was never going to be good again. 

Those are realities that could make the staunchest soul begin to drift toward crotchety.

But what if they refused to drift? What if they had decided 40, 50, 60 years earlier to fight against the drift? To aim at something better and intentionally build their lives toward that end?

Because the whole of our life is being built now. Day by day. Choice by choice. Priority by priority. 

Instead of The End being a depressing thought, it could actually be empowering. What we do today truly, actually matters. Actually sets a trajectory. Actually moves us toward the life and family and future we want. Or not. 

Maybe you’ll never be the greatest athlete, author, or accountant of all time. But if you begin with the end in mind, maybe you will be the greatest you possible. The way you live today will influence how you end.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NLT).

Choose carefully.

P.S. Extra Credit:  Begin With the End in Mind, Parenting Version. Who do you want your kids to be…when they leave home? Their lives are also being built day by day. Choice by choice. Priority by priority. You get to influence that too!
P.P.S. Book Recommendation: If this topic touches a nerve, there’s an amazing little book I can not recommend highly enough. Remember Death by Matthew McCullough. It’s not depressing. It’s surprisingly hopeful!

The burden

Do you ever look at your sweet, impressionable child and then take a long, hard look at yourself and think, “Dear Lord–what were you thinking?

It’s scary. It’s scary being responsible for them. There are so many questions to answer. Do I shield them and their innocence? Or do I equip them for reality? And the most frightening of all: How badly am I gonna screw them up?

I just have a few bits of biblical perspective to hopefully help you when the burden of parenting seems unbearable.

  • Don’t be afraid.
  • He works all things out for good.
  • You can trust him with all your cares, 1. Because he cares for you, your child, and everyone (I Peter 5:7) and 2. He’s actually the one strong enough to manage it all, make a difference or change it all (Psalm 55:22).
  • He loves and knows your child better than you. She is safe with Him.
  • He gave YOU to your child as his parent. (He’s a wise father who gives good gifts to his children–and that means you are a good gift to your child).
  • There are no “good old days.” Every generation –since Adam, since Noah, since John the Baptist, since George Washington, since Abraham Lincoln and since Joe Biden –has been plagued with its own sin. There isn’t a time you could travel back to that is free from some grievous generational sin. 
  • You and your child were born “for such a time as this.” Into this precise generation, neighborhood, demographic, and school. With this particular culture and technology and brokenness. Purposefully placed here and now. “And that is an encouraging thought.”—Gandalf
  • And I say it again: Don’t be afraid.

It’s normal and healthy to feel the gravity of caring for your child’s soul. It means you understand parenting is hard work that requires intentionality and God’s amazing grace. But that burden doesn’t have to weigh you down with paralyzing fear. Let it weigh you down just enough to hit your knees.

 I know it’s scary. But God’s got you–and your kid.

What’s His Face

“Stop it right now Jake! I mean Marissa! I mean Emily! I mean Lizzy!” Admit it parents, you’ve called your kids the wrong name before. Especially when you’re stressed. Or maybe if you’re like me, you’ve even thrown in the pets’ names as well.

I can’t imagine how often it would happen to me if my kids’ had remotely similar names. You parents who named all your kids with the same starting initial…what were you thinking? LOL.

Well, this week in NCBC Kids, we are learning about a new person from the Bible whose name is practically the same as the guy we met last week. Last week was Elijah. This week is Elisha. They both were prophets of God. They both performed miracles with water and cloaks and oil and flour. But they were also very different.  I invite you to compare and contrast Elisha and Elijah with your kids!

Aren’t you glad we have a Father in Heaven who doesn’t get us mixed up?  He knows us perfectly and uniquely. He knows what we like, what we need, what we’ve been through, and where we’re going. He sees you. He loves you. And he cares about what you’re going through this instant.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. …Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43: 1-5).

Angry Jesus

What makes Jesus angry?  

Maybe an angry Jesus is not something you’re comfortable with or that you’ve even considered. I know a lot of people think that there’s one God in the Old Testament who is full of wrath and judgment and thankfully a kinder, gentler God of the New Testament in the person of Jesus. That Jesus is meek, mild, and never angry.

Or maybe not. Maybe you are like me and you’ve got a couple of biblical instances that come quickly to mind. I know Jesus was angry at the greed and injustice of the moneychangers in the temple. He fastened whips himself and chased them out of there, for crying out loud!  And I know Jesus was angry with the hypocritical and merciless Pharisees. I mean “brood of vipers” and “sons of the devil”… that’s some pretty strong language.

But I just read another time this week when Jesus was indignant. 

For context, “indignant” is also the word that describes:

  • A pharisee, mad that Jesus healed on the Sabbath.
  • The disciples, mad that a sinful woman “wasted’ expensive perfume on Jesus.
  • The disciples, mad at James and John for asking to sit next to Jesus in the kingdom.
  • The chief priests, mad at Jesus for letting the children sing Hosanna to him.

Indignant is more than a little miffed. More than perturbed or annoyed. Indignant is angry because something is either very wrong, or perceived to be wrong.

Here’s what made Jesus indignant:

“And they were bringing children to Him that He might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:13-14).

Hindering kids from encountering Jesus. That ticks Him off.

It is essential that any follower of Jesus who has any influence in the life of a child takes these words to heart: Do not hinder children from encountering Jesus. Do not get in the way of God and His kids.

As flawed humans you and I could be a hindrance. Our own unconfessed sin could create a child’s perspective that says, “I’ve known Christians. My teacher/aunt/dad was Christian. They are a bunch of  ___________.” We should be very careful in our own life and character to not defame the name of Christ.  

Instead, can we be helpers who encourage kids to encounter Jesus? To really see Him? Because He’s awesome.

He’s powerful (Did you hear that thunder?). He’s artistic (Come here and look at this flower closely). He’s thorough (Did you know scientists used to think the appendix was useless–boy were they wrong!). He’s smart (look at all these cars on the interstate. He knows the names of every single driver, and where they are going, and…). He’s funny (have you seen a platypus, or baby kittens playing?).  He’s wise (He knows all about friendships and work and love and money). He’s merciful (When I was at my lowest, He came to me and saved me). Everything that’s good, He is.

Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life, famously said, “It is a crime to bore anyone with the gospel.”  I agree. In addition to the amazing creation all around us, there are so many incredible resources for families to use to help little ones come and see our great God. He is simply the best.

How can you help your kids encounter Jesus this week? Comment to let me know your ideas!

Personal Epiphany

I had an encouraging and deeply personal epiphany this summer. And I’d like to share it with you.

Epiphany. Noun. “an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.”
(Epiphany is also the holiday where we celebrate the Magi’s visit to Jesus, but that’s not what I’m talking about today).

Merriam webster

My illuminating discovery happened in three phases.

Phase One:  
One of my kids did or said something that annoyed me. Imagine that! Kids can still do that to a parent even once they grow up. All I know is, I was justifiably annoyed. It was something really dumb, insensitive, foolish or demanding. I don’t exactly remember which. Never mind that. I just know I felt totally justified in the moment. 

Then I suddenly realized (translation, the Lord convicted me in my spirit): Me getting annoyed and critical of my kids (or anybody) is more about my sin than theirs.

Let me repeat. Getting annoyed or overly critical or easily angered is MY SIN. My fault. Not theirs. Itt says more about me being a bad parent and a bad friend than anything it says about the other person.

I admit, Phase One was a little bit harsh and painful, but it led me to the next part.

Phase Two:
Another day I was praying for and wanting greater devotion and affection for Jesus. I love him and I’m devoted to Him, but I was hungering for more. I had recently had a large party at my house and I flat out told Jesus, “I want to know for sure you’d be the first person I’d invite to a party, and if I’m honest, I’m not sure right now you would. And that’s a problem with ME, not you Jesus, so show me what that’s all about.”

He showed me exactly why I said that. I confessed that I was afraid that if Jesus was at my party, he would be constantly giving me, “the look.” Following me around with a disappointed look of disapproval for something I did or said. Repeatedly giving me a condescending shake of the head for my wrong, sinful, or selfish motives. Like some killjoy chaperone–not an ideal party guest.

I like people who like me. People who find me funny, smart or wise. Those are naturally my favorite people to hang with!  My friends know I’m not perfect. They like me and love me anyway.  I guess deep down I was sort of wondering if Jesus actually likes me or just loves me–-because he has to.

Phase Three:
I re-realized something.

I re-realized that being critical, easily angered, impatient or annoyed isn’t godly. God isn’t a bad parent. And Jesus isn’t a bad friend.

Oh that I would trust the heart of my good friend Jesus. To love me and like me. To trust that He isn’t surprised by or disappointed with me or even with my spiritual progress. 

Because after all I think that He is comfortable trusting my sanctification to the timeline of the perfect Holy Spirit.

But that’s a thought for another time.

What we think

We hear phrases like this every day:

  • It’s so scary, the latest news about…
  • It just makes me so angry when I think about…
  • It’s unfortunate, but did you hear about…
  • I don’t know why but I’m so worried about…

We read them in text messages and on our news feed. Hear them in meetings. We discuss them at dinner. We saturate our minds with negativity online, at work, and at home.

Is it any wonder then that we describe our default emotional state in primarily gloomy terms? How long have you been in a season of fear, anger, discouragement, or anxiety? When was the last time you described yourself as “super joyful” or “overflowing with hope?” 

Is it possible there’s a link between the things we think about and the state of our souls?

The Bible seems to think so. And it has the audacity to tell us to stop it. Stop the constant absorption of bad. We aren’t supposed to be passive sponges, soaking up every festering thought and foul feeling we encounter.

By contrast, we’re supposed to control what we let into our minds. We’re told to take every thought captive (2 Co 10:5). To set our minds on the Spirit (Ro 8:5-6). To be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Ro 12:1). To let the mind of Christ be our mind (Ph 2:5). To be sober-minded (1 Ti 3:2, 4:5, Ti 2:2, 1 Pe 1:13, 4:7, 5:8).

I don’t think this passively happens to us. I think there’s serious exertion required to have renewed minds. It’s easy to get caught in the current of our cynical culture. Floating downstream is normal. But as Christians, we are called to be different. To swim upstream. And that is not easy.

I’m not advocating for fake positivity. Sometimes life is truly, excruciatingly difficult. The Bible teaches us how to lament. And sometimes we need specialized, professional help to manage inner anguish. But for many of us, we just need a firm kick in the tailfin.

So here’s the challenge. Pay attention to yourself. Pay attention to your words, your conversations, your thoughts, and your feelings. Honestly evaluate–is this the mind of Christ? Or am I just floating down a stream of fear-mongering, gossip, or outrage?

There’s a final tip from Scripture to sort out whether or not we should continue thinking the way we are. If you find yourself fretting, moping, or ranting, read Philippians 4:8 and ask yourself:

  • Is this true or noble?
  • Is this right or pure?
  • Is this lovely or admirable?
  • Is this excellent or praiseworthy?

If the answer is YES, then, by all means, keep reading, talking, thinking, sharing, musing, and texting. But if not, take your thoughts captive. Find something good and think about that. Fight the tide, and swim upstream.

Take some time today to post some counter-cultural positivity. There are blessings to count. There’s gratitude to express. There’s beauty to behold. There’s good news to share. 

“What you think about, you will care about. What you care about, you will chase.” –Ben Stuart, Rest & War.

Chase the good,

Purple Presence

You guys remember Venn diagrams right? Little-known fact: my husband  proposed to me with a Venn diagram! You can ask me about that later.

This week at overnight camp our camp speaker Marissa used the Venn diagram to teach the kids about God‘s presence.

In the beginning, in the beautiful perfect garden of Eden, God‘s space and human’s space were not separated at all. They were one. It’s as if God space were represented by the color red, and human space were represented by the color blue, in the garden it was all one glorious purple presence.

Then of course when sin entered the world, God’s space could no longer dwell with human space. God’s holiness would kill human’s unholiness. Can somebody say ouch? Our access to God was broken.

But does everybody know that God still loves his kids? And God is a great planner! So God made a plan and he said I still wanna move back into your neighborhood but it can’t be the same way it was in Eden.

There’ had to be an extensive system of substitutionary sacrifice at the temple and even then,  God would only show His presence to one guy, one day of the year, in one room of the temple.

It was no longer the full glorious purple presence of the Lord, just a teeny tiny little overlap of his holiness here on earth. Can you feel the sadness of that? There was access to God, but it was certainly not free or confident.

So when Jesus came to move into our neighborhood, he was truly and perfectly God’s perfect purple presence on earth. He was God’s temple. He got to have God’s very holiness walking around with him everywhere he went.

But it still wasn’t like Eden where all the space was God space and human space completely overlapped. It was still only God‘s presence in one person at one place at a time.

Remember when Jesus said it’s better that he goes away so the Holy Spirit can come?

That is because it means every believer in Jesus gets God’s space inside their human space. Every believer in Jesus is now a walking, talking temple. Every believer in Jesus is now the walking purple presence of God: in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, and in our homes.

God‘s perfect purple presence is in you and it’s in me and it’s in the kids who are now new believers in Jesus as a result of responding to this good news at camp.

I hope you’ll never forget the Venn diagram of the gospel that says that through Jesus, God‘s perfect presence is now all over the earth and it’s with you forever! And that is fabulous news.

“In Him and through faith in Him, we can approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12.

Comfy Cozy

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend about some discouraging trends we notice in parenting and the potential long-term implications of those trends on the child, the family and the Church.

Those trends included things like:

  • Avoiding telling a child no
  • Not expecting obedience or demanding respect
  • Excusing rebellion
  • Avoiding the inconvenience of discipline
  • Protecting a child from all pain or frustration

He said, “Parents need to raise their kids–-not for comfort, but for war!”

Comfort vs. War. The contrast stuck with me.

Now I’m sure the above list made some of you uncomfortable. That’s okay. That’s the theme of the day. It is a calculated risk for me to make you feel uncomfortable for a bit.  

We all crave comfort. I assert it’s the primary idol in our lives. More than money or sex or power or prestige or health or beauty or food or drink or relationships.  I believe it is from the worship of comfort that other idolatry grows.

And this desire to keep ourselves and our kids comfortable also leads to a hundred poor parenting strategies.

It’s way easier to tie your child’s shoes than to teach them how. It’s much easier to roll your eyes and chuckle when you call for your child to stop yet they keep running on ahead. It’s easier to lie to your child and say they can have ice cream later (hoping they’ll forget) than to simply say, “No.”  It’s much easier to pretend you didn’t see your child get down from the table without asking permission than it is to make them obey the rule.  

Easy is comfortable. We say things like, “I’m picking my battles” but if we’re brutally honest, maybe we’re waving a white flag of surrender.

I don’t know your story, your struggles, or your reasons. Nor do I have a customized parenting plan for you. Your approach and your family are unique. But I do have a warning. If you are preferring constant comfort for yourself or your child, neither of you will be equipped for real life. You won’t be ready for war.

There’s a war between the world and the things of God. Entertainment, news, politics, education or business–-wherever you look you will find an attack on the values and the Word and the people of God. We are, as C.S. Lewis said, “in Enemy-occupied territory.” Open war is upon us, whether we like it or not.

It’s an all-out battle to courageously stand up for Christ. Not to mention the never-ending internal war we all fight against sin. And I haven’t even mentioned the devil yet!  

So, if you’re chasing comfort, perhaps you’re running the wrong way. And if you are always basically comfortable, I’m afraid you’re not at war.  

If however you feel like you’re in a firefight every day, that’s a good sign.  It means you are intentionally training, “not for comfort, but for war.”   

It takes intention to fight the lure of comfort in your life and parenting. To avoid the trap of easy trends. To do what is important, difficult, and time-consuming. To do what is helpful, necessary, and challenging. To raise your kids, not for comfort, but for war.

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, 
who trains my hands for war, 
and my fingers for battle;” 

Psalm 144:1

Keep fighting the good fight,

P.S. I read an excellent book this week. It’s called Rest and War by Ben Stuart.  It’s so good I’m re-reading it already. It’s like a field guide for the battle– super practical and helpful. I highly recommend it.

Once and For All

A sink full of dirty dishes

You know that satisfying feeling you get when you do the dishes? I don’t just mean loading the dishwasher and pressing start. I mean the kind of cleaning that involves scrubbing the pans, wiping off the counters and drying the wine glasses by hand. It’s a very personally rewarding feeling. 

And then someone in your household walks over with yesterday’s coffee cup, or tonight’s ice cream bowl, and thoughtlessly drops it in the once-sparkling sink. And just like that, the spotless feeling is gone.

That’s the thing about cleaning: You have to do it over and over and over again.

This week at Day Camp, kids as young as four years old are learning that very lesson. They are learning how it relates to sin and forgiveness. They are learning all about the tabernacle, the high priest, the curtain, and Jesus.

Imagine walking to Jerusalem each year with your own pet lamb. Imagine confessing a year’s worth of your sins and the sins of your family to the priest at the tabernacle. You give your lamb to be sacrificed. Its blood is sprinkled on the altar for your forgiveness. 

As you turn toward home, you see your neighbor driving up in a tricked-out chariot, and you think, “What I wouldn’t give for a ride like that.”  And just like that, you are guilty of the sin of coveting. And just like that, the spotless feeling is gone. That’s the thing with sacrifices: You have to do it over and over again.

Thanks be to God, In Christ we no longer have to live that way. We don’t have to sacrifice a perfect lamb over and over again! Let’s join with our little children and learn to never take for granted the beautiful truth that the blood of Jesus, our high priest and perfect Lamb of God, has cleansed us once and for all. 

“For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” Hebrews 7:26-27.

You’re important.

planting seeds is important

Do you know how important you are?

Okay, I know we need to be careful to not stroke our already-inflated egos. This is not that.

But you are important. Significant. Powerful, even.

Let me tell you two stories from this week to illustrate what I mean.

Firstly, my husband and I had a stay-at-home date night this week. And if you know my husband, you know he is the king of starting big conversations with a big question. This one was, “Who has God put in our path and how can we intentionally invest in those relationships?”

In the process of answering that question we began listing out the people we feel God calling us to pursue for His sake. We thought of a dear couple who I knew would be driving through Iowa this week. I obeyed the Holy Spirit, texted them, and we were able to meet them for dinner. I thought they were maybe just beginning to pursue God. But actually they have developed a serious faith in Christ with a passion to see the gospel spread through their lives. 

Guys, this is literally an answer to decades of prayer. Prayers I honestly thought were hopeless because I’ve been praying them for so long and seeing no effect. Turns out God has been working for years and I just hadn’t been aware.

Prayer is important. Significant. Powerful, even.

Secondly, I received a text this week from a young mom. Her 7-year-old son saw a homeless man and in his compassion he declared, “I want to give him my Bible so that he knows that Jesus loves him. I can buy myself another Bible with my own money. I want him to have my Bible.” So their family prayed over the Bible and gave it to the man, letting him know that Jesus loves him.

There is literally nothing better on the planet than seeing your children loving and looking like Jesus. 

In one brief encounter, we see so much of Christ’s beauty on display: compassion, generosity, courage, faith, trust, love.

That small child has come to know Jesus through the discipleship and example of his parents. It can sometimes seem like years of following Christ or teaching your kids has little effect. Turns out they’ve been watching you all along, even if you weren’t aware.

Example is important. Significant. Powerful, even.

So wherever you are today, be encouraged, even excited. God is alive and well and actively accomplishing His work through you! Prayer and a faithful example are simple seeds that, when faithfully sown, do eventually bear fruit! Don’t lose heart and definitely don’t give up. You’re so important!

“…let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Ephesians 6:9.

Happy Summertime,

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