The Secret Marriage Healing Agent

 

Recently I was re-wiring an outlet in our house.  I realize that for many this may seem like a simple assignment.  However, I am certainly no professional electrician.  So, this little job was more of an adventure than it was a routine task.  First step – remove the outlet cover. Simple enough.  Next I removed the screws that held the outlet inside the electric box.  Done.  At this point I was feeling pretty confident.  The next step was to pull the outlet out from the wall far enough to loosen the screws that held the electrical wires to the outlet.  So, I did the obvious – I used my index finger and my thumb to grab each side of the outlet.  Not thinking, I placed them squarely on the wires on either side of the outlet.

Zap! –a JOLT blasted through my hand!

I immediately JERKED my hand back and without thinking I jammed my fingers into my mouth to sooth the instantaneous tingling-burning sensation.

Surprise! – I forgot to flip the breaker that supplied power to the outlet.  Whoops! Lesson learned.

But, here’s the real lesson:  It is a natural response to sooth and heal wounds within our own body.  Wounds almost never heal without some intentional attention and care, especially deep wounds.  The deeper or more severe the wound, the more care it needs.

In the midst of his exposé concerning the relationship between husbands and wives Paul made an amazing statement that may be often overlooked.  He explains “Husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies. The man who loves his wife loves himself. No one ever hates his own body, but provides for and takes care of it” (Eph 5:28-29).

The reality is all of us are broken.  All of us are wounded in some way.  The way I read this passage is that it is our job to care for, attend to, and minister to, our spouse’s woundedness.  It is our responsibility to attempt to sooth and bring healing to our mate.  It might even be possible that the reason the Lord put us in their lives is to attend to their healing.

Unfortunately, many times we respond to our spouses out of our own woundedness.  We tend to react out of self-preservation rather than service.  As a result, instead of healing we often cause further damage and deepen the wound.  We know he needs affirmation but instead we criticize, further damaging his ego.  We know she needs understanding but instead we snap, further damaging her self-esteem.  But, I believe part of God’s call on my life is to recognize my wife’s woundedness and respond and react to her in a way that brings healing, not further damage.

Imagine how different our households would be if we actually did what Jesus said we should be doing, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:35).  Jesus came to “bind up the brokenhearted.”  If we are truly to love one another as Christ, then attending to one another’s healing might be a top priority.

Things to think about.

Leadership Voices

Recently I sat in two different team meetings with two different leaders. Though the content of the meetings was similar, the meetings themselves left me with distinctly different feelings about the goals and direction, the organization, and the leaders themselves.

I have wrestled over the last few days as to why these two meetings resulted in such a different set of emotions from me, and I suspect different emotions from the other team members as well.  What was unique about each meeting that garnered such different results?

After pondering this for some time I think I have boiled it down to this:

Leadership Voices.

Let me state the obvious: how each respective leader conducted the meeting made all of the difference as to how the content of the meeting was received. By “conducted” I do not mean the mechanics of the meeting.  In other words, it wasn’t that one leader had a well-planned agenda and the other didn’t. It wasn’t that one leader kept the team on task and the other didn’t.  It wasn’t starting on time, ending on time, the time of day, or whether snacks were provided. It wasn’t that one used a white board and the other a power point presentation. And by “leadership voices” I certainly don’t mean that one leader was a baritone while the other was a soprano.

No, it was something entirely different.  Something about the voice of the Leader set the tone for the meeting.

If I could narrow it down even more, the tone, the pace, and results of the meeting really boiled down to one simple phrase that the leader repeated throughout each respective meeting. One simple phrase changed everything else.

One leader said, “You need to …” or “We need to …”

The other leader asked “What do you think …?”

One was directive.  One was collaborative.

One shut others down. One opened others up.

One phrase resulted in a quick and neatly packaged meeting. One was a little sloppy, involving discussion, debate, and even disagreement.

One communicated value in team members. One de-valued the contributions of team members.

One phrase expressed confidence in the team.  One phrase expressed lack of confidence.

One phrase built trust.  One phrase undermined trust.

One phrase garnered engagement. One garnered dis-engagement.

One left people feeling encouraged. The other left them feeling discouraged.

One made the team feel important and appreciated.  The other left them feeling … merely employed.

One effected ownership of the decision by the team. One effected mere obedience.

One garnered cooperation and cohesion.  The other, though on the surface appeared unified, actually brought disunity. Even the attendees that didn’t agree quickly got behind one voice.  While, attendees of the other meeting didn’t express their opinions until they were behind closed doors and outside of the hearing of the leader, and only with members they knew would agree with them.

One voice communicated, “I think I’m the smartest guy in the room.” The other voice communicated, “We are in this together.”

The reality is that

One voice communicated humility.

The other voice communicated arrogance.

 

I know some leaders reading this are probably thinking, “this isn’t a democracy. We don’t need to take a vote.  I’m the leader, they should just do what I say.”

It’s interesting that in neither meeting was the position or authority of the leader in question.  But, the posture they took, their voice, had a definite impact on the well-being of the entire team.

I have to ask, is mere obedience the only thing you want from your team? Is that the end game?  Don’t you want their creativity? Don’t you want their innovation? Don’t you want their engagement. Don’t you want them to want to come to work?

Don’t you want their hearts?

The leader’s voice is really about posture. The leader’s voice is about their view of themselves and their view of their team.

One simple phrase can make all of the difference.

Leaders, have you listened to your own voice lately? Have you ever played back the tapes in your head of conversations you’ve had with your team? Have you ever really …listened …to yourself?  Have you considered what unintentional messages you are communicating to your team? Have you ever thought through how to really value, engage, and encourage your team? Have you ever wondered if there was a better way to get the best from your team?

Getting their best might not be a result of awards, raises, or even promotions.

Your influence might primarily be  … in your voice.

“Fools have no interest in understanding;
    they only want to air their own opinions.”

Proverbs 18:2

 

Content but not Satisfied

“It’s just a number,” they said.  Yeah, but, it’s a BIG number.

“You’re only as old as you feel,” they said.  EXACTLY!  Maybe I feel even older!

50.  I’m not gonna lie. I’m having a bit of a hard time swallowing the fact that I am now half of a century old. Why is this such an issue? Lots of people have passed this way before me. And truthfully, I’m the last in my family to do so.  Yet, somehow, they all survived. And some of all those people who have passed this way before me actually seem happy. So, what’s my issue?

It’s not the number so much. It’s the dark realization that, well, my life is nowhere near where I thought it would be. Part of the problem is, I’m not quite sure where I thought it would be at this point. I just didn’t think I’d be … here. 50. Really?

My wife asked me last Saturday if I wanted to go out to dinner to celebrate my birthday – 3 days early.  I said, unequivocally, “No. No I do not. I am not ready.”

The way I saw it, I still had 3 days left of clinging to the idea that “I’m still in my 40’s.”

I told her I had 3 days to …. Lose 30 pounds.

3 days to … get in better shape.

3 days to …. choose a career path I actually want.

3 days to … become financially stable.

3 days to … start a ministry that will impact people and have significance.

The truth is, I’m not … unhappy. In fact, most days I am quite happy.

I enjoy my life. I have a beautiful, amazing, wife of over 30 years who is full of life and joy and most days we still like each other. I have a great family that I am very proud of. I enjoy my friends. I have a good job and work with some really good people. I have a decent home. I’m not hungry, naked, or lacking shelter. In many respects, we have it really, really good. And, just for icing on the cake, every now and then I get to be involved in some directed ministry opportunities.

But, I’m not where I want to be either. And it has nothing to do with my age. It has everything to do with my choices. I just hate feeling … behind, like I’m constantly playing catch-up.

And I think that’s where the disappointment comes in. I’m a little disappointed with where life has brought me to. In truth, I’m disappointed with … myself.

But here’s the thing: Yes, I’d like to be 30 pounds lighter. But that’s not really it. Yes, I’d like to be in much better shape. But that’s not really it. Sure I’d like to have a better paying job that doesn’t make me feel …stuck. But, that’s not really it either. Yes I’d like to have more money in the bank. But that’s not really the challenge. Yes I think my kids have grown up way too fast, but that’s not the issue either.

I’ve found myself pondering the end of life a lot lately. I want my life to have meaning. I want my life to have had an impact. I don’t want to just go through the motions. I don’t want people wondering what to say at my funeral. Especially my family.

There is an innate desire for … something more.  For … significance.

There, I said it.

Some days I feel like my life has had significance. Some days I feel like my life and my influence has had an impact for good. But some days, not so much.

I used to have a great desire for a large pulpit ministry. But as life has thrown so many curve balls my way I’ve had to adjust my definition of “success” or “ministry.” I think my definition is much healthier now.  But, sometimes it just feels like an excuse or a justification for where I’ve landed.

Some days I’m really good at focusing my heart and my attention on those He has put in front of me.  Loving them. Caring for them. And I know deep within my heart that this is what He has called me to. But …

Some days I long for something bigger. Something more.

I don’t think this is the end game. I don’t think this is all there is.

And as I ponder and pray, I think this is exactly what God has called us to.  I think this is the great tension in scripture. Let me explain.

Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be … content. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil 4:11-12).

The challenge many people have is that they are always striving for an elusive, idealistic picture. Constantly chasing after an illusion. Pushing, pressing, stretching for something that cannot be obtained. Why? Because it is human nature that every time we reach a milestone or a goal, rather than being satisfied with our achievement, we almost instantly move the goal posts. We got that raise and are making “X” amount of money.  Great! But now we need the NEXT promotion. We reached that sales goal.  Great! Well, since we can do that then we should be able to do even more. Lost “x” amount of weight. Excellent! But now we need to win the competition. In one sense there is nothing wrong with this. But, for many this is precisely why no matter how much they have or achieve, they are never truly happy. Sometimes people are surrounded by so many blessings but don’t recognize them because they are constantly focused on wanting more. They have so much but don’t see it because all they can see is what they don’t have.

And it’s even worse for many believers. Many believers wrongly assume that as soon as they decided to live their lives for Christ that everything was going to suddenly be sunshine and roses. But it’s just not true.

The problem is, when you seek after riches you end up living in the fear of lack. When you seek after beauty you end up living in the fear of being ugly.  When you seek after power, you end up living in fear of being weak. When you seek performance, you end up living in fear of being insufficient. When you seek security, you end up living your life in insecurity.

But, when you live your life pursuing GOD, you end up feeling loved and accepted.

Paul said, I have learned to be content – no matter what state I find myself in. My internal compass is not determined by external challenges. My internal joy is not determined by external circumstances. My internal peace is not determined by external issues.  I have learned to be content.

But, just a few verses earlier he said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12-14).

It is clear that Paul knew there was something more: things that still needed to be done, work that needed to be accomplished. He could have focused on all the things he had done wrong, or all the things he didn’t do that he should have. He could have let bad choices or circumstances derail him from purpose.  But he didn’t. Paul intentionally chose to let go of the past. He wasn’t going to let mistakes, failures, life’s troubles, or anything else stop him from giving his life in pursuit of what God had in store for him. Paul didn’t pull up the rocking chair of life and settle in.

Yes, he had learned to be content … but, he was not satisfied.

Paul found himself somewhere between the “already” and the “not yet.”

Here’s the truth: Life is good. I am content. I choose to not focus on regret. I choose to appreciate, to love, to enjoy what is right before me.

But, I’m not satisfied either. I know there is something more.  And even though I’m half a century old, I am not done.

I am somewhere between.  I choose contentment with the “already.”  But, I am striving toward the “not yet.”

 

 

 

A Profound Mystery

A Profound Mystery 

Many have used Ephesians 5:23-31 to expound on the roles and guidelines of marriages, and rightly so, but the Apostle Paul was actually pointing to something much deeper.  He said, Husbands, love your wives … and the wife must respect her husband.  He then concludes the passage with a surprising statement, This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Eph 5:32).

Though he was talking about marriage, he was actually illustrating Christ’s relationship with the church.  I believe that a healthy marriage can reveal the nature of Christ to the world in three distinct ways. 

One of the amazing things about a healthy marriage is that someone can know and love the REAL you.  Not the “all-together” you that you want everyone else to see.  I’m talking about the real you, that is sometimes selfish, maybe a little pig-headed, or rude, and whose breath sometimes stinks.  Yes, they know your strengths and successes, but they also know your challenges, your weaknesses, your shortcomings, your mistakes, your issues, your fears, and even your failures.  Yet through it all, they inexplicably love you anyways.  In fact, some of those very things actually cause them to love you even more.  They love the REAL you. The best marriages are built on UNCONDITIONAL LOVE! 

This is the beauty of the love of God.  Somehow, Christ knows everything about us, including our innermost thoughts, and LOVES us regardless.  We can’t hide anything from Him. He knows everything about us – yet loves us unconditionally!

 Also, anyone married for any length of time knows that marriage has a way providing a lot of opportunities to practice UNRESTRICTED FORGIVENESS.  A wise person once said, “Marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”  Couples in strong marriages will find themselves forgiving over and over and over again. In fact, it’s required.  Otherwise, those same couples would end up critical, bitter, and unhappy.  Forgiveness is the very essence of Christ’s message.  And because of His amazing grace He forgives us over, and over, and over again. He grants us UNRESTRICTED FORGIVENESS. 

Finally, healthy marriages are built on the foundation of UNWAVERING COMMITMENT.  My wife knows that regardless what happens, I am not leaving. I’m not walking out.  It doesn’t matter what she says.  It doesn’t matter what she does.  I am completely committed to her!  Unwavering commitment provides security and confidence.  Couples will feel comfortable to be themselves.  This is why marriage is intended to be “until death do us part,” because it represents God’s unwavering commitment to us as eternal.  Jesus said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). 

Understanding and practicing these three principles will lead to the happiest, healthiest and strongest marriages.  More importantly, it reveals the nature of Christ to our friends, our families, and the world. People will ask you, “How can you love him when he acts like that? How can you keep forgiving? Why do you stay with her?”  The answer:  “Because Christ loves me when I act like that. He forgives me when I mess up and He never leaves me no matter what I’ve done. I still see the value, the good, and the reflection of God in that person, just like Christ does with me.”  

Healthy marriages reveal Christ to the world by displaying unconditional love, unrestricted forgiveness, and unwavering commitment.  It is a profound mystery.

I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know

When I was a kid I didn’t like to read.

I barely passed high school. The way I made it through was primarily by cheating.  I’m still thankful for my friend, the teacher’s aid, who often marked in the teacher’s book that I had actually done my homework. I appreciate my girlfriend who wrote several of my papers so that I would pass a class. And I’m even grateful for that bookshelf in Government class where I could easily hide a piece of paper with all of the test answers.
So I managed to skim through and went to college, part-time, right out of high school, due only to my dad’s prompting.  The problem was, I had an even worse study ethic than before because a large portion of my time was spent partying. After failing a few classes I dropped out. So, for the next several years I focused on work and starting a family.
But something dramatic happened in the process. I became a believer in Christ. With this new relationship came a new vision for my life. I started college for the second time when I was 23, almost 24.

When I re-started college to pursue a focus on biblical education I always had this nagging sense that even though I was older than most of my college peers I was actually waaayyyy behind, both due to my previous lack of educational motivation and due to not having been raised in an overtly Christian home.  This internal sense was further exacerbated by the fact that both my older brothers were avid readers and well self-educated (there is no sibling rivalry whatsoever). My claim to fame at this point in my life was merely my work ethic. I knew how to work. And I worked a lot. And I worked hard. Truth is, to this day I almost always feel like I am playing catch-up.
So my college experience began and suddenly I was opened to the realm of possibilities. Professors instilled in me the simple idea that we should question things. I was confronted by the profound yet simple realization that there is soooo much to learn; that I know so very little; that my view of things and my ideas are so extremely limited, and that even the things I thought I knew were probably wrong, skewed, or incomplete at best. And thus was birthed a love, a drive, for learning.
The thing is, we often over-estimate the depth of own knowledge base. We assume our experiences, our background, and even our education give us the tools we need to accurately assess the world around us. We think we “know” a lot about a lot.  But, we are often blind to our own limitations and inadequacies.
I was struck by this idea one random day while I was a Youth Pastor.  I thought I knew everything there was to know about teenager-ness and about leading teenagers because after all, I had been one myself, and we had two teenagers living in our home.  So clearly, I was the man.  I thought with my newly established biblical education and my life experiences I could lead these young people and guide them into godly maturity.  After three months of being the Youth Pastor I was frustrated, stressed, and felt like I was failing.
Then this thought suddenly assaulted me, “what makes you think you know anything about youth ministry? All you’ve done so far is make assumptions.”  Ouch!  I wasn’t sure where to start so – I reached for a book.  I started inundating myself with as much information and as many tools as I could find to minister to teens.  But, as I began to grow, and learn, and stretch, I was confronted with a much deeper and more painful realization.  As I was traversing through this step of my journey I was further accosted with this thought, “Yeah, you have two teenagers and two other children, but really, what makes you think you know anything about being a good, godly parent? What makes you think you know what it really means to be a father?  Do you think the examples you grew up with were enough to prepare you for this?” Holy Smokes!  It only took me a moment to declare, “Absolutely not! The painful truth is, I don’t have a clue!” Truthfully, I wanted to go back and start over.  But we all know, that’s not an option.  At this point in my life I only knew of one place to go.  I needed to find a book.

A similar experience happened about fifteen years into my marriage.  “What makes you think you know how to be a good husband?  Do you really think the examples you had prepared you for this?” And again I say, “Absolutely not!”  Since that time I have read one book after another about marriage.
So this journey really began for me in 1991. But here’s the crazy thing: the more I read, the more I learn, the more I grow … the more I realize how much I do not know. It often feels like the more I read, the more I learn, the further behind I get. I’m not a speed reader. I don’t dedicate nearly enough time to reading. I’m a little bit lazy. I like t.v. a little bit too much. And most of the time reading still feels a lot like work. But, I place so much value on the learning process, on being challenged, and changed, and confronted, and encouraged, that I intentionally engage in it.
 
A few years back a staff member asked me, “David, how did you get this way? I mean, how did you learn to be such a good leader?” (For clarity, those were his words, not mine. I’m not claiming to be a good leader. I’m claiming to be nothing more than a student).
I was both humbled and honored by his statement and question. As I pondered for a moment how to respond I realized, I am who I am today first because of the astounding grace of God. Second, the tremendous love, care, and forgiveness of my bride. And finally, because of the books I’ve read. The authors have become some of the most defining mentors in my life. By reading both the word of God and these books I have been confronted with … myself, with new ideas, and a new way of thinking.
This whole thought came to mind because I just finished my 16th book for this year.  I’m not bragging. As I said, I’m no speed reader.  I have a friend who claims to read 75 books a year. Though I feel some satisfaction at this accomplishment (my goal for this year is 20), to me it is more a sign of my desperation. 

I’m at a place where I can’t quit. I can’t get enough. Because, I’m further behind than when I started.

Blessings!

Fruitful Marriages

Fruitful Marriages

Fruit Bowl, Shell, Fruit, Fruits

Many times I have been asked, “What is the real secret to a long-lasting, happy marriage?”  Usually I give some pithy, poorly attempted humorous response like, “for us, I think it has been that we were just too stupid to quit” (there might actually be some serious truth in there somewhere).

However, I have discovered that regardless of a couple’s particular belief about matters of faith, applying biblical principles to the relationship always leads to improvement (can everyone say a big collective “duh!”), regardless of whether they are believers or not.  I realize this may seem elementary to some.  However, sometimes even the most devout Christians can forget their Christian graces when they walk into their own homes, with the most important relationships they have, that is – their spouses and children.

For example, men are often patient, understanding, and forgiving with business partners or employees.  But those same men can be inconsiderate, unforgiving, and outright rude with their families. Although they listen intently during strategy meetings at the office, they often don’t take the time to listen to their wives or children. Conversely, the same women who are caring and compassionate with their friends can become demanding and insensitive at home.

There are hundreds of passages of Scripture to draw relationship principles from.  For today I would like to focus on just two verses – two verses containing nine simple words.  Words so profound that I am convinced if they were properly applied, could heal every single broken marriage, struggling marriages could be put on a firm foundation, stagnant marriages could be revitalized, and happy marriages could go to an even higher level with deeper intimacy.  In fact, applying these nine words could revolutionize homes and families!  It may seem like a tall order but, I am convinced it is true.  Follow along with me.

The Apostle Paul said, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).  Wait a minute.  Read that again, ruminate for a moment and let those words sink in … (pause).  Love … Joy … Peace … Patience … Kindness … Goodness … Faithfulness … gentleness … Self-Control.  Now, try putting your name at the beginning of that verse and read it again, asking yourself where you stand:

“David is loving in his relationships.” Am I?

“David is joyful with those around him.” Am I?

“David is peaceful, patient, kind, full of goodness, faithful, gentle and David operates in self-control (that one hurt!).”

When I read it that way I am confronted with a huge personal challenge and tremendous goals for me to strive toward. Because, these nine simple words all address my own behaviors and attitudes.

Let me caution you, this is not an opportunity to start pointing the finger of blame at your spouse.  Taking responsibility for how I act, regardless of what my spouse does, can radically impact our home for the better.  I believe that when we pursue and practice these nine simple concepts, when we address our own attitudes and behaviors, the Holy Spirit will come alongside and help us along the way.

Spirit-led people do not throw fits of rage, they practice self-control.

Spirit-led people are concerned for the good of others.

Spirit-led people are patient and kind, and forgiving.

Spirit-led people carry the essence of joy.

When we begin to act in a way that is consistent with what we say we believe, I promise you – the Lord will bless it. Imagine what would happen in your home and marriage if you applied and practiced these nine simple words.  I think you will find your marriage is better than ever.

Enjoy the Fruit!

When God Needs Your Help

One Saturday several years ago I exited the house and quickly discovered that my car had a flat tire. I wasn’t in a hurry that particular day so the frustration that would normally accompany this unexpected deviation from my proposed schedule wasn’t present. Instead, I decided to take advantage of this moment. I went inside to look for my 10 yr old son, Samuel.

I found him exactly where I had anticipated, deeply engrossed in some highly intellectual Saturday morning television programming. Though I hated to interrupt his extra-curricular education, I asked him to come help me. After the usual pre-adolescent protests, he begrudgingly joined me outside.

First, I showed him where to find the necessary tools for this job in the back of the vehicle. Second, I taught him how to release the spare tire from underneath the car. During this phase I remember him saying,

“Dad, I don’t understand why you need my help. I’m just a little kid.”

To which I responded, “Just trust me buddy, I need your help.”

I taught him all of the tips and minor details of how to make this a safe and quick job. The first thing we did was put the emergency brake on. I taught him to loosen the lug-nuts before jacking up the car. After I started loosening one lug nut I let him try the rest. Of course, his ten year old arms didn’t have quite the strength that mine did, so after he attempted each one I would finish that portion of the job. I showed him how to find the appropriate spot to put the jack and allowed him to place it there. We then started jacking up the vehicle as I explained to him why we do it this way during the whole process.

As we were jacking up the car he experienced several missteps, including: cranking the wrong direction (several times), wrench slips, tired arms – to the point where I had to do the last several turns myself because he wasn’t able, and even a scraped knuckle on the pavement with a little blood as evidence. After quite some time, we finally jacked the car up enough to remove the tire.

Removing the old tire and replacing it with the spare, we then did the whole process in reverse.

During our tire-changing adventure there were plenty of giggles and laughter, conversation, and just plain old having a good time together. Finally, we finished the job – which took 2 to 3 times longer than it would have had I simply done it myself.

Tired, greasy, dirty, and a little bloody – we went inside to wash off the grime from our hands and arms as a result of handling this highly mechanical job. As he was cleaning himself up Samuel had a slight grin on his face. I said to my son, “Thanks, Samuel, I really appreciated having your help changing the tire.” To which he replied, “No problem.” He paused for a moment then continued, “Ya know dad, I still don’t really see why you needed my help but – I was glad to do it.”

The End.

Today I am reminded of the reality of God’s call.

The Stuff

Sometimes we struggle with a lot of …. Stuff.

The truth is – everybody faces … stuff.  No one is exempt.  It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how great your job is, how fantastic your family is, how often you go to church, or even how much you pray – stuff is going to happen.

The challenge for the believer is, even when we are struggling through our stuff, we are called, maybe even obligated, to represent Christ well.

I think the world is looking for something different.  Or better yet, some-one different.

I don’t think they are looking for someone to always be upbeat or continually happy.  That seems … fake.

No, I think they are looking for someone to simply be … real.  But real in this way: Someone who acknowledges the “stuff” but is not controlled by it.  Someone who is not derailed by the “stuff” but rather sees the stuff for what it is, just … stuff.  Someone who can see through the stuff to something greater.  Someone who wrestles with the idea that sometimes purpose can be found in the midst of … the stuff.  Someone who can face the “stuff” but still have peace … and hope.

Is it possible that the “stuff” is actually an opportunity? Is it possible that going through “stuff” with faith, hope and peace actually provides the best possible way for us to represent Christ well? Could it be that this is the call of God for us?

Perhaps the Apostle Peter meant something like this when he said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

So today I pray that the “stuff” would be an opportunity for the calling, rather than the stuff derailing or pulling against the calling.  I pray that we won’t be overwhelmed nor dismayed by … the stuff.  Rather, that the “stuff” would be a launching pad for the calling. I pray that peace, hope and even joy, would be found in the midst of the stuff because recognition of the temporal nature and the true purposes of the “stuff” resides in our hearts. I recognize that it is difficult, maybe even impossible, to walk in the calling when we’re being suffocated by …. The stuff.  And THAT my friend and my God, is why we need Your Spirit, Your strength, Your Presence, Your Reality … today.  So that’s what I’m asking for Lord: Help us to walk in the Calling in the midst of the Stuff. For Your glory and honor may we represent You well today, by the power of Your Spirit – Amen.

I’ve Fallen – But I’m Getting Back Up!

Many times when we look at our history, the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the mistakes and successes, it can be easy to beat ourselves up.  And truthfully, maybe we should beat ourselves up from time to time.  But, the wisest man who ever lived once made this astounding statement, He said “The godly (good or righteous) may fall seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked” (Proverbs 24:16).

There are two things I want to say about this verse …and about you.  First, it seems clear that the real issue is NOT about never falling. Never falling only makes one self-righteous, not godly-righteous.  Never falling makes one arrogant and haughty, not humble and meek.  Never falling can make a person self-centered, and prideful rather than others-centered. Never falling does not make one good, righteous, or godly.

Surprised?

No, the truth is, for the good man, stuff happens. Stuff knocks him down. Stuff knocks the wind out of him. Stuff catches him by surprise. Stuff causes him or her to get discouraged, depressed or at the very least, off-track.

(Click here for Practical Steps when “Life” catches you by surprise)

Yes, sometimes a good person gets knocked down. But sometimes, he just falls down of his own volition.  Nobody pushed him there.  Nothing caught him by surprise.  No, sometimes decisions are made, intentional choices, mistakes, and as a result failure arrives.  Sometimes, a good man just … falls down.

Here’s the interesting thing, Solomon never told us how or why the good man falls.  He never discussed what caused it.  He simply said, “a good or righteous or godly man falls down seven times.” It appears that the source of the falling is irrelevant to the author.  Falling down because he was caught by surprise or falling down by bad choices.  The issue simply isn’t the falling down.

Possibly the most important piece of this verse is …

“HE GETS BACK UP AGAIN!”

It seems clear that Solomon was saying the thing that makes a person godly, righteous or good is the fact that they get back up. This is the piece that separates the men from the boys, as they say.  Getting back up.  Knocked down, but getting back up.  Falling down, getting back up.  Good people – drop the ball … and get back up.  Make bad decisions … and get back up.  Don’t plan appropriately … and get back up.  Get disappointed but … get back up. Question God … and get back up. Fail …and get back up.

knocked down2

Let’s be clear: this is Solomon’s description of a good person, a …Righteous person … a godly even. Seriously?

This roller coaster ride, this up and down, this battle, is not what I picture when I think of a righteous, godly man.  No, not at all.  I think of Moses, face glowing, holding the newly etched Ten Commandments.  I picture David slaying the giant Goliath.  I think of Elijah calling down fire from heaven.  These are depictions of righteous men …right?

The truth is that when you study the scriptures you will find every single man or woman that was greatly used by God fits the description found in Proverbs. Every single one of them dropped the ball, made mistakes, reacted poorly, made bad decisions, questioned God, or even defied God.  Every single one … Falling … and getting back up again.

This is what I know about you.  I know there have been times you have declared, “I just don’t really get it, I don’t know the next step or where to go or what to do.”  But, the key is …getting back up.  Yeah, I know you’ve been down. I know you’ve made mistakes. I know you’ve even experienced failure.  But, those things really aren’t the core issue.  The issue is, figuring out how important it is to simply … get back up again.

Sometimes when stuff happens and a person is knocked down it can bring them to a point of questioning their purpose, their abilities, and their hope. And sometimes falling, whether by our own volition or by the surprises of life, can cause us to even question God. Can I trust God?  Has God forgotten me?  Have I blown it so bad that I am permanently derailed?

But listen, there is something deep within you telling you, “I’ve just got to get back up …again.” I can picture God standing by your side right now, whispering in your ear, “you’re gonna make, you’re gonna be alright. You’re gonna get through.  I know because … I’ve seen this before.  I have watched you before.  I KNOW, yes I know, you will … pick yourself back up again!”

Here’s the second thing.  I am convinced that Solomon came to the conclusion that a person can’t really be “good” in the sense he is talking about unless they have fallen down a few times.  How can someone truly have compassion, understanding, forgiveness, grace, or mercy for others unless they have “been there?”  How can a person truly understand someone’s pain unless they’ve experienced some of their own?  How can someone empathize with another’s failure unless they have failed a few times themselves? A person who has fallen and has received the grace to get back up knows how to reach down and help others who have fallen.

This, my friend, is part of your great calling on this earth.  Embrace people.  Love people.  Give them compassion.  Feel their pain.  Where ever they are at that moment in life.  And help them … get back up.  You know what it means to battle, to struggle, to fail.  But, you also know what it means to get back up – sometimes out of your own strength, sometimes through a measure of faith, and sometimes by the sheer grace of God. So help them … help them get back up.

From my view, your gifts, your abilities, and your talents, though important and part of the call of God on your life, are not the most important thing.  There is no denying those are real and significant gifts.  You really are talented.  But, my friend, in my humble opinion, they are not what make you who you are.  What makes you a good person, a righteous person, a godly person is this: a good man falls down a few times, but he always gets back up.

The New Testament reiterates this concept.  In my opinion, the great call of God on your life embraces this verse, “He comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the same comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:4).

So, get back up, righteous man or woman.  Get back up … and help others do the same.  Amen.

Click here for Practical Steps when “Life” catches you by surprise

Do’s & Don’ts When Life Hits You Hard.

Here is a quick list of some Do’s and Don’ts for you when multiple things hit you all at once like they just did a for “a friend”:

(1) Don’t fuss and complain. It helps nothing. In fact, it usually just raises your level of anxiety, frustration, pain, or whatever (BTW – sharing with a trusted friend or loved one who can encourage, guide, pray, etc. is different to me than fussing and complaining).

(2) Don’t play the victim. Everybody has junk that happens. Look around. Sure there are folks a lot better off but, there are tons of folks worse off. Both issues are irrelevant. They’re not running your race. You are. And, you’re not running their race.  Let it go.

(3) Don’t compare and especially don’t use Facebook as the measure of people’s lives or happiness.  Neither should you use their social media produced life to measure your own happiness. It should more appropriately be called “faux-book” because it’s not real life. You only see what others want you to see. Some folks only put positive out there. Some folks do nothing but point fingers, gripe and complain. IN either case – it’s fake, folks. It’s only one small part of the story. Doesn’t matter – what they have and do has nothing to do with you. [#2 & #3 really go together].

(4) Don’t overreact.

(5) Don’t get overwhelmed. Slow down – look at your situation. Break it down into bite sized pieces if needed. Handle what you can. Look and ask for help if needed.

(6) Do pick yourself up, brush yourself off and face reality. Yes,I know it can be overwhelming at times, especially when it all comes at once but, all you can do is … deal with it.

(Click for some Good News When You Fall)

(7) Do – learn from your mistakes. You have to evaluate. How did I get here? What part did I play that brought me to this current situation – or all of these situations? Sometimes you did nothing. But, you can still learn from your current situation by asking questions like: how do I avoid landing here again?

(8) Do make the necessary adjustments to handle your junk – maybe focus on one issue and challenge at a time.

(9) Move on with life. Your life wasn’t all sunshine and roses before, and it probably wasn’t all misery either (hopefully). Nor will it be either of those things going forward. Some things will get better and you’ll have reasons to rejoice. Other junk will happen and you’ll have reasons to be frustrated, discouraged, whatever. welcome to ….life. Deal with it. Embrace it. Live it. Love it.

(10) Embrace the positive! It is there. You might have to look for it but, it’s worth it. This is what brings life, hope, and joy.

I just starting writing and it came out as 10 nicely packaged points off the top of my head.  So, there it is. This is how my “friend” deals with it when multiple “life” things hit all at once.

Finally, you all should know that for me, trusting, believing and praying to God is my greatest asset, source of strength, and peace.

Hope this helps.

(Check out why Falling might be Good News)