Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving_main5minutesforfaith125-2All this month at 5 Minutes For Faith, contributors shared reasons for being thankful. So for today’s post, I’d like you to take some time to visit that site and read through the variety of reasons different people are thankful. Chances are good, you’ll come away more thankful yourself!

Also, please take a minute to list some reasons you are thankful in the comments below.

Thankfulness just feels good, doesn’t it?!

Victory through Affliction

AFFLICTIONIn Chapter 7 of The Fire of Delayed Answers, Bob Sorge points out the many ways God uses affliction in our lives.

He uses them to refine and correct us, to motivate us to know Him more, and as catalysts for spiritual growth. Afflictions in God’s hands remind us of our dependence on Him and of His love for us. They also create compassion within us and make us encouraging to others.

God also uses afflictions to restore His people and to focus our gaze on Heaven. He uses them to point out His activity and to bring about radical obedience.

God always uses affliction in our lives to reveal His glory.

When faced with affliction, we must choose whether or not we will let God use it as a great refining work in our lives or if we will be immobilized by it. For years, it immobilized me.

As I find myself beginning what our culture terms “middle age,” I find myself asking, as Sorge notes of David & Hezekiah, “Lord, you’re taking me away in the prime of my life! I’m too young for this.”

I too often feel like the best years of my life were swallowed up in affliction, that it’s all downhill from here. Yet, something in me recognizes this as a lie. Out of somewhere deep inside, resilience knows to push through, to struggle, to persevere. But that didn’t always exist. Where did it come from?

Sorge reviews Romans 5:3-4, James 1:2-4 and 2 Peter 1:5-8, outlining the pathway to spiritual maturity that each provides. In doing so, he notes that “There is no pathway to spiritual maturity apart from perseverance. And there is no perseverance without pressures. Fruitfulness is found only as we endure through crisis and hardship.”

I’m not sure about the level of fruitfulness at this point, but I know I possess a level of perseverance born out of desperation, a desperation that pushed me toward Christ. As a result of what that desperation did in my life, I also pray for people I love get desperate too. Sorge says this of desperation,sf_HeavensChampion_01

“Affliction naturally produces desperation within us. Some people respond by trying to survive. Others respond by lashing out at everything within reach. Others collapse and live in a state of depression. God purposes, however, that we channel that desperation toward a fervent pursuit of His face.”

My own story of desperation involves all of these levels seemingly moving in an upward spiral toward knowing God more. For so long, I simply survived life. I lashed out at everything – and everyone – within reach. And I collapsed & lived in a state of depression way too often.

Life certainly involves struggle, this I know for sure. Fortunately, God uses that struggle to refine us and  draw us to Him.

But life is also about victory. It’s about knowing He already won the victory. It’s about refusing to dwell on the affliction or adversity and to instead focus on the victory.

“OVERWHELMING VICTORY is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

Welcome to the book club discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge. Each blogger in the group is reading and then sharing on what inspires, encourages, or challenges them. We’ll be taking 2 weeks per chapter. Our co-facilitators are Jason and Sarah – other participants include DustyGlynn, Joell, Rick, and TC. If I missed anyone, please let me know whom in the comments below.

How to Earn Trust

Some people struggle with honesty more than others. This struggle usually results from significant feelings of instability. Even after finding consistency, the struggle often returns when routines get rattled. With these people, learning how to earn trust is essential.

A great way to understand how to earn trust comes from how we can teach it to our children. My husband and I have often told our boys that they determine how much we trust them; they get to decide the level of trust that exists.

Practical Ways to Earn Trust

After explaining that how much we trust them is up to them, we provided practical ways to earn trust.

  1. Be faithful with small things. Small things done consistently over time add up to make a big difference. For our boys, this means being responsible with their possessions and keeping their rooms clean.
  2. Do what’s right even when no one is looking. We remind them that someone (God) always sees and that while he may not get caught, they don’t get away with it. We explain that this is the basis of their character.
  3. Check your attitude. Eye rolls. Hand flings. Voice tone. All of these speak toward lack of receptiveness. Being receptive — being teachable — opens your life up to blessings rather than undesirable consequences.
  4. Don’t get defensive. Fully listen first, which earns you the right to be heard. Defensiveness only alerts to the presence of dishonesty even more.
  5. Stop excuses. Think first, then check your motives. Before giving excuses, ask yourself if you’re trying to hide something. Own up to mistakes.
  6. Be honest. Seems obvious, but simply deciding to be truthful in attitude, actions & words goes a long way in your efforts to earn trust.
  7. Think of others. Putting others first often not only keeps you out of a lot of trouble, but it shows that you’re striving to not be selfish. Unselfishness goes a long way to help earn trust because dishonestly usually has selfish motives.
  8. Be dependable. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Keep your commitments. There’s no quitting a team when the coach is mean. Young people can often serve as examples to adults in this area.
  9. Admit mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Get out how you’re feeling. Process your feelings. Deal with them before they direct you. Don’t let feelings determine actions. Don’t get hung up on the mistakes either. Move on.
  10. Stay positive. So many people are negative, mean and selfish. That doesn’t mean you have to be. Don’t let your circumstances determine your reality. Stay positive and focus on what you know is right.

This approach building trust works for any relationship, not just when teenagers want to earn trust with parents. Actually, the above habits are essential for anyone wanting a reputation of solid character.

Other posts on trust:

Seeing vs. Perceiving

2013-09-21 11.12.29“Make sure your football shoes aren’t muddy from practice before you walk around the kitchen.”

“I checked, they aren’t.”

Clearly, the shoes were still muddy. My son looked but obviously did not perceive. Not surprising for a 12-year-old boy.

Seeing means to “look at.” Perceiving means “to become aware of, know or identify, to recognize, discern, envision or understand.”

My son may have looked at his shoes, but he failed to become aware of the mud on them. He simply went through the motions of looking to be able to tell me, truthfully, that he did what I asked. Just general 12-year-old laziness and lack of maturity.

Seeing but not Understanding

My son should outgrow his tendency to see but not internalize what his eyes observe. At least, he will if he remains teachable.

Unfortunately, many people fail to stay teachable. Well, honestly, many never become teachable in the first place. For whatever reason – an unforgiving spirit, cultural influence, pride, etc. – too many people refuse to gain understanding. They may see evidence but refuse to plunge into truly perceiving what they see.

Busyness provides a great excuse to avoid seeking understanding. We can play victim to it and never have to admit that we are simply trying to do too much. We need help. We need others to teach us. We need to be willing to learn.

I’m not talking about learning how to use Twitter or set up a blog. I’m not even talking about learning how to write or speak better or in any way to become more efficient at our vocations in a way that reduces busyness. I’m talking about dealing with the things that create the atmosphere of the inner self. I’m talking about not letting feelings and circumstances dictate actions. I’m talking about a person’s character.

Jesus got at this issue in Mark 4 where he talks about those who see but don’t perceive meaning and who hear but don’t understand (v 12). What happens when a person fails to push through to understanding and true perception? They fail to turn from wrong. They fail to enter the freedom of forgiveness.

The Mud on Your Shoes

Too many people fail to see the mud on their shoes; they fail to see the need for change, for taking action to clean up a small mess by stomping out their shoes in order to prevent the bigger mess of mud tracked into the kitchen and then onto the carpet.

Keeping the kitchen and foyer floor clean is the bane of my existence at times. Maybe that’s why this muddy shoe incident got stuck in my craw. But it really reflects on a bigger issue of having to constantly clean up messes or make huge allowances because others fail to clean the mud of their shoes. Some days I get frustrated over the extra work caused by others laziness and failure to perceive a small problem they could easily correct.

Making Allowances

“Make allowances for one another’s faults, and in so doing obey the law of Christ because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

Does this mean I say nothing when the mud on their shoes gets all over the kitchen floor requiring extra sweeping and mopping before it gets on someone else’s feet and gets tracked onto the carpet?

Yeah, sometimes it does. Sometimes, it means they don’t see it yet, it’s a fault maybe I need to overlook until they have the maturity to see the mud on their shoes.

So when others traipse mud into my life causing extra work for me, I love them anyway knowing there’s maturity yet to come that will allow them to see and handle the mud. Just like when my son has muddy shoes, I will gently ask him to go outside and clean them off instead of lecturing about how much work he’s caused me by walking around the house in muddy shoes (at least, my intention is the former rather than the latter… I’m working on it).

Until he can perceive the mud and clean it off of his own volition, hand me the broom and the mop!

Stop the Beeping!

beep 2The beeping started at 4AM. Where is it coming from? Get the ladder & a new battery. Who put a dead battery with the new ones? Get another battery. Seriously, that one is dead too? Stop the beeping!

Not exactly proud of this, but I’ve watched every episode of Friends. Twice. It makes me laugh. (There’s one aspect of it that I wish was different, but that’s another topic for another discussion.) So, when the beeping started at 4AM and continued every minute for a half hour (seeming like an eternity), I kept thinking about the episode where Phoebe couldn’t stop her fire alarm from going off.

She took the battery out. She ripped the alarm off the ceiling. She smashed it with a shoe. Then, she wrapped it in a blanket and sent it down the garbage shoot only to have it returned to her by a fireman, the alarm still beeping.

So glad my husband handled the situation when the beeping began at 4AM, and he did so with patience even as I lay in bed chuckling every time a “new” battery failed to work. (It seems appropriate at this point to acknowledge that my husband is an insanely and frustratingly patient person. I would have went Phoebe if it was just me.)

As I lay there between bouts of chuckling & frustration, all I knew is that I just wanted the beeping to stop. And in my desperation, I was willing to do almost anything for that to happen. Where was my shoe anyway?

Then I realized how often in life I just wanted something to stop – pain, disappointment, fear, etc. – and was willing to do just about anything to make that happen. That never turns out well.

Stop the pain through substance abuse or self-mutilation. Stop the loneliness with inappropriate physical contact. Stop the chaos by finding comfort in food. Do anything and everything to stop the pain and discomfort. (These aren’t all mine. I just wanted to share the space a bit.)

A Better Way

beep 3I don’t fully understand how it works, but I can tell you that the love of God stops the beeping.

His love stopped depression from ruining my relationships. It stopped my self-hatred. His love gives me hope for a future and joy right now, yes, today. Focusing on His love removes guilt and brings new beginnings.

No, it doesn’t make sense. What the Bible says may seem crazy at times, and perhaps other paths seem more plausible. At least from a human point of view (Proverbs 21:2)

I simply can’t deny that my life was miserable and Jesus brought me out of the pit. Nothing else worked. Self-help and material gain only dug the pit deeper thus creating a harder fall when I got back around to jumping in again. The beeping only got louder.

Desperation

Out of desperation to just stop the beeping, we rush to temporary fixes, to Band-Aids that gush red. We just rip the alarm off the wall, forgetting that it’s there for our safety. Instead of patiently assessing and properly addressing the problem, we do whatever we can to quickly stop the beeping.

But our problems just keep returning. Until we have full batteries, the beeping won’t stop. We must address the source of the problem. And the only way I’ve found for that to happen in a lasting way is through the love of Jesus that covers all my mistakes on the cross.

DISCUSSION: How has the love of God stopped the beeping in your life?

Delayed Lessons

trafficOn our way to Gatlinburg, TN for vacation one year, we planned on spending the night in Cincinnati just beyond the Ohio River. A 1/2 hour before reaching our hotel, we met a traffic jam and quickly exited the highway to find an alternate route.

Simply put, there was no alternate route across the river. So we went back to the highway to wait, but traffic had already cleared. We got to our hotel 15 minutes later.

Our culture seems averse to waiting. From small to big events in life, we live in an delay-avoidance culture. Unfortunately, this leads to underdeveloped faith & character because we attempt to force progress instead of going through the learning process.

Chapter 6 of Bob Sorge’s book, The Fire of Delayed Answers, focuses on  Jesus’ Teachings on Delays. This seemingly unimportant travel event in my life took on significance as I read this chapter because I realized that if I am unable to handle a small traffic delay, I probably need to look at how I am handling (or more accurately, avoiding) larger delays.

waitRecalling this event in light of Jesus’ teachings on delay, I realized that…

  1. Attempting to avoid delay often causes longer delays. We lost a 1/2 hour searching for an alternate route, by rushing to find a solution when waiting was actually best.
  2. Knowing why a delay takes place isn’t necessary. In many cases, traffic just suddenly disappears without a clear cause. Can’t we ever accept that delays just happen, and we won’t and don’t always need to know why?
  3. Growing tired is often a sign to wait. We just wanted to get to our hotel and should have known that fatigue compromised our decision-making abilities.  Waiting is often the best choice when you’re tired.
  4. Expecting delays should be automatic in our thinking. We’ve all driven enough to know that delays happen, and we should focus on being thankful to get through them safely and then definitely thankful when travel goes smoothly.
  5. Desiring instant gratification often overrides good decision making. Wanting to get somewhere “Now!” often skews our ability to make good decisions. How many times have you waited before making a decision and then been so thankful that you waited? How many times did you make a hasty decision only to learn later that waiting would have made the decision unnecessary?

The inability to wait leads to a host of issues. We know that being faithful in the small things leads to being trusted with bigger responsibility, so if we’re unable to wait in some slow traffic who are we to expect to be trusted to wait out the maturation process needed in bigger events of life? A process that requires delays & waiting.

The following quote from Sorge illustrates the over-arching lesson well and makes even more significant application.

“In the face of delayed answers, it takes great faith to persevere in seeking only the face of God – to “cry out day and night to Him” Because your mind will imagine all kinds of other possible sources of relief you could conceivably pursue. Your creativity will spring to life, and it will in fact militate against your faith. There are many who give up the pursuit of God at this point, their faith collapses, and they seek out another source of help.”

DISCUSSION: What lessons have you learned through the delays of life?

Welcome to the book club discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge. Each blogger in the group is reading and then sharing on what inspires, encourages, or challenges them. We’ll be taking 2 weeks per chapter. Our co-facilitators are Jason and Sarah – other active participants include Dusty, Glynn, Joell, TC and Rick.  If you know of others, please leave a link for their post in the comments.

“Do what you say you’re going to do…

… when you say you’re going to do it.”Moon Hung with Star

Reliability. Consistency. Dependability. All result from fulfilling the above statement.

While I made a lot of mistakes when working in business & education (I really didn’t know what I was doing so much of the time), this one “rule” gave me a reputation that led to many beneficial connections.

Toward the end of my days in this arena, when I began failing to keep this rule, I knew it was time to get out. My mental and physical state interfered with my ability to be dependable, consistent & reliable. And if I couldn’t be those things, I had no business being there any longer.

Under-Promise & Over-Deliver

A phrase I often heard others say while working in business & education was “under-promise and over-deliver.” This meant, make a commitment but promise the minimum you’ll do. Then, if you can, deliver more than you promise. This could mean beating a deadline rather than just meeting it. It could mean making an introduction rather than just providing contact information. And it definitely meant setting lower goals when projecting outcomes.

But I could never fully get on board with this idea. I always felt like under-promising was holding back and selling myself short, maybe not challenging myself enough. It went against the notion of “if you shoot for the moon, you’ll at least land among the stars.”

Of course, I needed to be aware of what I could do before making commitments and to be realistic in what I promised, but I also felt like stepping out in faith by promising excellence above and beyond average was also important.

In all of this, I learned the hard lesson that plans change. Life happens. Circumstances flip. An emergency arises requiring a rearranging of priorities. Maybe resources change or disappear (worked in education, remember). For whatever reason, you can’t do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it, and you can’t deliver on your promises.

Change of Plans

Paul talks about changing his plans in 2 Corinthians 1:15-24. He also addresses making and keeping commitments in light of deciding to change his plans. Here’s the short of it:

  • He initially wanted to bless the Corinthians by stopping to see them twice, both to and from Macedonia.
  • He changes his mind because the Corinthians apparently failed to follow his 1 Corinthians advice.

Paul said he changed his plans out of consideration for the Corinthians to spare them a rebuke and give them a second chance to follow his advice. But he prefaces this by stressing the importance of not being “like people of the world who say yes when they really mean no” (v 18).

Instead, says Paul, follow Jesus’ example as He “never waivers between yes and no” (v 19). In other words, make commitments – promises – and keep them. Let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no. (Matthew 5:37)

Paul’s example shows that others not keeping commitments or making needed changes sometimes alters our plans. Oh do I hate that reality! The idea that I can’t stick to my original plan because others failed to even have a plan. Yes, it’s part of the reality – the struggle – of being human.

But regardless of what others do or don’t do, my focus still lies with “doing what I say I’m going to do when I say I’m going to do it” if at all possible as well as with promising to always do whatever I’m doing to the best of my ability.

Four lessons immediately emerge from my experience in approaching making & keeping commitments:

  1. The Holy Spirit’s leading is essential in successfully making & keeping commitments.
  2. Others lack of commitment should not stop me from making them.
  3. Making allowances for others shows love.
  4. Lack of planning on the part of other people sometimes does mean an emergency on my part.

DISCUSSION: What other lessons do you see in this?

“Just being real!”

sf_Words_0001_Group 2“Just being real!” seems to be a license allowing people to say whatever they want when they want, regardless of its negative impact on others.

Authenticity involves open, honest, forthright and genuine communication. An authentic person is not counterfeit and is free from pretense (false show of something), affect action (effort to appear to have a quality not actually possessed) or hypocrisy (false showing of a virtuous character or morals that aren’t really possessed). Authenticity is sincerity (free of deceit, hypocrisy or falseness).

So, in the strict and very literal sense of the word, authenticity does allow for a carte blanche approach to saying what you want, when you want, and how you want.

But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

In the past, I used to say pretty much whatever I thought under the guise of sarcasm and joking. At some point, I implemented an 80/20 rule that allowed me to only say 20% of what I thought. Since I had to filter my words, I became more choosy of them. Plus, I just felt uncomfortable with the way I talked to other people.

Also, and more important than my feelings, Scriptures say to encourage one another. They say to be careful with our words and tell us why doing so is important.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. (Matthew 12:36)

Applying the 80/20 Rulesf_Words_0000_Group 2 copy 9

So what does authenticity look like through the filters of love and kindness?

Authenticity guided by love and kindness involves vulnerability and a willingness to risk being hurt. As we bear our honest thoughts to others in love, we risk rejection. We’re no longer trying to control others, and we open ourselves up to the words and thoughts of many who may not apply scripture to authenticity.

Authenticity in what we say includes an availability, which happens through the avenue of Godly conversations and a listening ear. It involve deliberately choosing words that fit the occasion as well as choosing to say nothing when appropriate. In that, authenticity also involves an awareness of what to say and when.

When authenticity revolves around building others up instead of trying to control them with our words, it changes not just what we say but what we want to say. It makes us intentionally filter our words and choose where to allow thoughts to dwell.

Authenticity based on scripture creates an atmosphere of healing and life. Choose the atmosphere you create with you words very carefully.

DISCUSSION: How else do you see authenticity playing out in our words or any other area of life?