Demand or Desire?

Hello, friends.  I have been incognito for a while, but I want to share a piece of my thought process with you so that you can chew on it as well.

I have been reading Inside Out, by Larry Crabb.  Crabb makes a distinction in Chapter 8 between desires and demands.

As human beings we are completely expected to have deep desires and to experience deep pain, and we are expected to be able to share that with each other.

I am grateful to have that fact validated.  I have experienced plenty of people who were uncomfortable with acknowledging pain.  I myself have been guilty of trying to push through pain and resolve it too quickly.  Learning that it is ok to hurt and have unmet desires has been a relief.

When our desires and hurts are not met or healed in the time frame we desire, however, we can easily turn to demanding that our desires be met or that our hurts be healed.  Job did this when he demanded God declare him not guilty.

Unfortunately, when we demand something of God we are not trusting him.  Job discovered this when God questioned him, and Job repented.

In my most difficult moments I know that I have demanded things of God rather than trusting in his sovereignty, and I have a feeling I will continue to learn that lesson in the coming years.

God is God and I am not, and the sooner I recognize that, the sooner I will be at peace regardless of my circumstances.

How about you?  Do you turn to demanding things of God when his answers are slow in coming or are not what you expect?

Two Essential Truths for a Fulfilling Life, Part 2

I have found that many of the relationship problems I face relate in some way to incorrect or incomplete communication. I do not say what I need to say, or when I say what I am thinking I say it unkindly. When someone else speaks to me I do not hear them clearly or I assume what they mean rather than truly understanding them.

Communication is key. As John Mayer says, “Say what you need to say.”

So why do we fall short in this area so often? If we know what the problem is, why can’t we fix it?

The Core of the Matter

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned the first time we have been born flawed. We are sinners, without hope on our own. As God says in Isaiah 53:6, “We have turned—every one—to his own way.”

We mean well. When we see a problem we dig in to fix it. We read books, talk to counselors, journal, change what we say, talk more and listen harder.

Sometimes we see improvement. If we do it is usually short lived; then we return to a version of who we were all along.

We cannot make these kinds of changes on our own. We need Gospel, good news, that only Christ can give us, but we still try to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” We are Americans. We are self-made people, or so we think.

True Change

If we cannot effectively change ourselves, how do we change?

  1. Accept Christ’s solution. Christ suffered, died and rose to break the sin-curse. The sinless Son of God died for our sin and rose to break the power of sin. You must first surrender your life to him in order to break the chokehold of sin.
  2. Accept Christ’s love. You need to realize that God loves you just as you are, in all your faults and sin. You do not need to change to be loved.
  3. Accept responsibility. Confess to God and to whomever else has been affected your failure and struggle to communicate or listen well. Own your part of the problem.
  4. Accept help. Ask God to change you, then read the books, visit the counselor, journal, and have someone keep you accountable. The difference is that you realize God has to change you at your core in order for the change to be permanent. You are doing what you know to do, but God is doing the heart work to make your work stick.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

You are still a flawed human being and you will make mistakes, so you will have to do this process repeatedly. You will sin again because you are not perfect, but you can know you are loved and that God is working in you and that God will ultimately make you perfect when he returns.

We, as believers, have hope. We can truly learn to “Say what we need to say,” with God’s help.

Are you still trying to change yourself, or have you asked Christ to change your heart?

Two Essential Truths for a Fulfilling Life, Part 1

Conflict is not fun. We all know this, because this is why we shy away from creating conflict. Sometimes creating conflict, however, is the best way to show love.

Christ and Conflict

Jesus intentionally created conflict.

  • The law of the Pharisees said healing was work and, therefore, should not be done on a Sunday. Jesus healed anyways right in front of them.
  • Any form of harvesting grain was forbidden on the Sabbath, yet Jesus allowed the disciples to pluck and eat grain as they walked.
  • The temple leaders allowed selling animals and other commerce in the temple courts. Jesus made a whip, flipped tables, and rebuked them.
  • At one point Jesus proclaimed that his followers would need to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

Why did the Prince of Peace create so much conflict?

Today we do not see creating conflict as Christ-like, but nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus created conflict often. He created a different kind of conflict, however, than we often create.

We are most familiar with un-Christ-like conflict. We argue and fight because our expectations are not met, we say unkind things because we are angry, we take what is not ours. We armchair quarterback life, proclaiming how we would do things differently and how much better life would be if everyone did things our way.

We are selfish, prideful people. Jesus was not.

Jesus never argued selfishly, snapped angrily at someone, or felt like he was entitled to anything. He never got upset because one of his expectations was not met, and he never said, “I told you so.”

Jesus used conflict as a tool to initiate healthy change in people’s lives and to open people’s eyes to truth.

  • Jesus healed on the Sabbath because the Pharisees had turned a day of rest into a burden.
  • Jesus allowed his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath because the Pharisees were more focused on outward obedience than on inward surrender.
  • Jesus drove the money changers and business people out of the temple because the leaders were more concerned about making money than they were on prayer and the health of people’s hearts.
  • Jesus told his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood because he knew that many of his followers were only there for the show.

Creating Conflict Correctly

Proverbs 27:6 (AMP) says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are lavish and deceitful.”

Sometimes the only way forward in life requires conflict. That conflict may be difficult, but it is the only way to resolve an issue. According to this proverb we prove ourselves to be true friends when we are not afraid to wound our friends. An enemy will try to cover over an issue and brush it under the rug in order to keep things pleasant and enjoyable.

I have to admit that many times I have been more of an enemy than a friend because I was too afraid to bring up a difficult issue. I valued my own comfort more than the health of a situation.

  • When we are offended and we are not able to resolve it internally within a short period of time, God calls us to speak up about how we were offended. The discussion may be hard and uncomfortable, but if the conflict is handled with grace and humility the result will be a healthier relationship.
  • When a co-worker does not follow through on an assignment, we love them best and we are better businesspeople when we go directly to them and speak about it.
  • When we are leading a rehearsal and someone messes up a part, everyone needs us to step up and kindly correct the mistake.

Conflict is necessary for growth, and when we avoid conflict we are impeding our growth and the growth of everyone involved.

Two notes are in order.

  1. Do not create conflict with a person who has proven to react in an abusive way physically, verbally, or emotionally. Get counsel and help in those situations before engaging the person at fault.
  2. Remember that a problem usually has two parts, which means that we must always remain humble and willing to own our part of the problem, no matter how small.

Where do you need to demonstrate love by being willing to create necessary conflict?

Two Essential Truths for a Fulfilling Life, Prologue

What are the key truths you live by?  Have you ever thought about what principles guide your life?

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We all have them.

We all have core beliefs that shape how we live.  Some of us have intentionally chosen those beliefs, and some of us are riding on the coattails of others.  We are trying to be like (insert name here), so our values mirror our idol.  We often do not think twice about the values of the person we are following.

In the next several weeks I want to share what I believe are two Essential Truths for a Fulfilling Life.  These two truths are only a drop in the bucket, but they are two of the principles I value.

In presenting these truths I run the risk of someone thinking I “have it all together.”  Well, let’s put that one to rest.  I do not.

My life is fulfilling in many ways, but there are many areas of my life that need work, just like yours.

I invite you to comment and join in the journey with me.  Part 1 coming next week.

5 Obstacles Between You and the Work You Love

Many of us know what we love to do but do something else with our time.  Why?  What obstacles are standing between us and what we love?

horse and jockey jumping gate

Recently my blogging has waned, and part of that change was planned.  I have much on my plate and I decided not long ago that writing three times a week is unreasonable for my stage in life.

The part that was not planned is not blogging at all.

I have always enjoyed writing, but particularly so in the past two years.  I have enjoyed connecting with people through ideas I share, but writing has also stretched my mind and helped me to process my own heart issues.

Recently, though, I have found myself not writing at all, and I have begun wondering why that is the case.  What obstacles have been keeping me from writing, which I love?

Here are the obstacles I found.  Some of these obstacles are not within my control, but some are.  Perhaps you can relate.

  1. Life Chaos.  Some life events are beyond our control.  Three times this summer I have had the boys by myself for a week at a time.  I love my boys and I want this special, focused time as a family, but managing a full time job and having the boys with me 24/7 ups the chaos in my life.
  2. Exhaustion.  I have been very tired this summer.  Some of this is due to obstacle number 1, but much of this is due to the fact that I am a night owl with morning responsibilities.  I can change the second one.
  3. Changing Priorities.  Sometimes being drawn away from things we love signals a change in our priorities, as it has with me.  This summer I have not been as diligent at protecting time for me, thus my writing and other things have suffered.  Priorities can also change for good reasons, such as the fact that I have not written as much in order to focus on other projects and relationships.
  4. Difficulty.  Doing what you love can be hard.  Now that I have been writing steadily for two years I have to work a little harder at finding fresh topics.  I am very human; I like easy things, not hard ones.  I tend to think what I love should be easy, which is rarely the case.  We value the things we earn more than the things we take.
  5. Laziness.  I will admit it.  I like to do nothing.  At all.  Sometimes this takes the form of much needed and healthy spiritual retreat time.  Other times, however, I want to do nothing because it means I can, well, do nothing.

Those are my obstacles.  What are yours?

Is God Enough for You?

When life hits us hard we question everything, including ourselves.

  • Why did you let this happen, God?
  • If you are good, why am I going through so much pain?
  • Why didn’t I get out when I could?
  • Why did I say that?

What we are really asking, though, is this:

God, are you enough for me?

When your marriage gets difficult, when your work situation takes an unexpected turn, or when your children disrespect you, is God enough for you?  When a friend speaks badly about you behind your back, or when someone takes advantage of you, is God enough for you?

Much of my life I unwittingly placed my value in what others thought of me.  When they spoke or thought poorly of me, I was devastated.  When they questioned my integrity, I was crushed.

I was feeling beat up because I was viewing myself through the eyes of others rather than through the eyes of God.

I still find myself slipping into that same trap from time to time, but when I am able to see myself as God sees me, I have strong, enduring peace.

God knows you and me more intimately than any one person will ever be able to know us. He made us.  Psalm 139:13 says God knits us together in our mother’s womb.

He knows why you are hurting better than you do, and he knows how to heal you better than any self-help book or counselor.  (Counselors are invaluable, by the way; I am not knocking them.  You need a counselor who is a believer, though, for you to really find healing.)

God is enough for me and for you, and he will always be enough.

Where in your life do you need to remember that God is enough for you?

The Benefit of Writing Psalms as a Devotional Practice

From time to time I have written on various devotional techniques, and today I want to share one that has become a favorite of mine: psalm writing.

notebook and pencil

Why Write Psalms

A psalm is simply a sacred song or hymn, particularly modeled after the psalms of David.  While many psalms are laments, and sometime I will write one of those, many psalms are pure adoration and praise.

I find my attitude and spiritual perspective improve greatly when I spend concentrated time praising God. Praising God means focusing completely on who God is and what he has done. During this time I do not confess my sins, thank God for personal blessings, or ask him to answer my requests. This time is devoted to recognizing God for who he is and what he has done.

I can begin writing a psalm of praise in a spiritual dull and ambivalent mood, and by the time I am done my spirit has been lifted, encouraged, and strengthened simply because I have been reminding myself who God is. This is why God told his people to always be talking about God and his works; we are encouraged through who he is.

How to Write a Psalm

Begin by choosing an attribute of God, and then start writing down the ways God shows himself in your life as that attribute.

That’s all.

This is not a time to be grammatically perfect, but to be perfect in spirit.

An Example

Here is a psalm of praise I wrote earlier this month. On this particular day I decided to focus on God as my Provider. Here is what I wrote, with only one name edited out for privacy.

God, you are my Provider
on my left hand and on my right;
in difficulty and ease
you fill my heart and life with good things.
I will meditate on all your wondrous deeds.

When I was depressed and overwhelmed
by my guilt and shame
you sent encouraging angels
and friends to comfort me.
When I was struggling under poisonous stares,
you were my shelter,
my umbrella in the rain of accusations.
When I needed nothing material
you were the satisfaction of my heart
and the source of all my good.
When I was desperate and without hope
you became my hope and assurance.
You showed me a way when I could not see
and gave me a hope I did not know.
I was rejected, and you welcomed me
and said, “I was rejected, too.”
I was distraught, and you encouraged me,
for you wrestled with God at Gethsemane.
I was poor and you made me rich;
your people brought me money out of their abundance
and paid my bills.
I was tired from weeping and despair,
and you revived my spirit.

All my life you have been my good;
and nothing good have you withheld.
Your grace and mercy are greater than I know
and more integral than I can express.
You are the blood in my veins and the breath in my mouth,
O God, my Strength and my Provider.

What attribute of God would be most beneficial for you to meditate on?