How to Be a Life Source

In John 6 many disciples were leaving Jesus because he had said some hard things, so Jesus turned to his disciples and asked them if they wanted to go, too.  Hearing that, Peter asked, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

What a profound statement.

“Why would we go to anything other than a life source?”  Pastor Vince of Lakeshore Community Church posed this question last fall, and the question has continued to intrigue me.

Why would I give my time and attention to anything or anyone other than a life source?

Life sources give life and energy to everyone around them.  The opposite, black holes of negativity, suck life from everyone who comes in contact with them.  People and even organizations (dare I say churches?) can be either life sources or black holes.

It’s a choice.

My dad has always been an encourager, both personally and as a pastor, but several years ago he decided he was going to give life wherever he goes.  As a result he does not listen to negative talk without trying to turn it around to a positive perspective.  As an elder at his church he challenges people who are resisting authority because those people are sucking life from the pastor.  And he is always encouraging me and helping me to dream about what my future could hold.

I want to hang out with him just reading what I am writing.  I love my dad.  And so does everyone else.  The world is his pulpit, and in his wake are people smiling and encouraged by stories, laughs, and prayers.

I am already a bit like my dad in personality, but I have really tried to be more life giving in the past while, and I have noticed how people respond.  It’s addictive.  I love seeing people light up.  People desperately want to be loved, encouraged, and recognized.

Here are a few ways you can become a life source in your world.

1.  Always use a person’s name.  In the checkout line, grab the person’s name and use it like you have known them all your life.  “Hi, Nancy, how’s your day going?”  will change you from another customer into the person who took a personal interest.  9 times out of 10 they will brighten up.

2.  Ask them what their name means.  Only once have I had a person say, “Well, people ask me this a lot.  I was born as a result of an affair.”  And even then it was an opportunity to encourage her and love on her in a difficult place of her life by talking about how beautiful her name was.

3.  Eat chocolate.  What??  That’s right.  If a person has a tray of candies or something on their desk, if your diet will allow it, take one.  That is their way of lightening things up, so you will make them happy by taking one.  When I left my job at Lakeshore, the front desk person said, “But who will eat my chocolate?”  It made both of us smile.

4.  Don’t vomit.  When someone asks you, “How are you doing?” don’t vomit your life all over them.  They walk away stinking and messy.  You don’t have to lie, and you shouldn’t.  Have someone else you can talk to about the hard things, and then remind yourself that God is working on your future.  As a Christian you can know that “everything works together for good,” even when life is screaming something else.

5.  Fill your life with positive input.  Refuse to give prominence to black holes.  Turn off the gangsta rap (the radio, I mean; if that’s your spouse then you have a different problem) and find something else.  No, you don’t have to turn on John Tesh (ugh!).  John Ortberg talks about balcony people.  Get people in your life who are going to cheer you on and dream for you.

6.  Listen, look them in the eye, and ask questions.  Be present when another person is talking.  One of my biggest challenges over the years has been to bring myself fully into every conversation and not be day dreaming or scheming my cool response.  Just be and experience the conversation with your whole being, and the other person will feel validated.

If you are reading this and realizing that you are more of a black hole than a life source, get a trusted friend or counselor and talk it over with them.  Get some perspective so that you can begin to change.  Your life can be so much better.

How are you going to be a life source today?

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One Step to a Better Attitude

I have been reminded in the past few months of how difficult it can be to maintain a proper attitude in life.  Our own experiences and the news provide plenty of opportunities to be negative and down in the mouth.

Yesterday I was laying stone and another worker taking a few minutes’ break came up to watch.  He began to complain about how the owners had asked him to do some completely unrealistic things simply because they have too much money.

To his credit, what they asked was a bit loony.  They wanted to put air conditioning ducts in the porch outside. You know how your mom always told you to shut the door because she did not want to be air conditioning the neighborhood?  These people wanted to have that set up permanently installed in their porch outdoor kitchen.  Rightly so the company refused to do it because the cool and warm air together would create condensation leading eventually to mold and liability for the air company.

Stepping back from the crazy nature of it all, however, I have to ask, “What did it matter?”  My dad has a saying.  “Maurice, it all pays the same.”  If the owners want us to tear down what we built because they don’t like it after all and we get paid to put in the replacement, what does it matter?

The final analysis has to do with attitude.  In masonry, as in ministry, we are in a service industry, and people are going to do unusual things.

The man watching me had a negative attitude because he had to remove what he had installed and place it somewhere else.  The truth is that he was getting paid to install the same equipment twice in the same home.  isn’t that like the double bonus zone or something?

Gratitude.  We need gratitude.  Your attitude is up to you and no one else.

And so today I am going to practice my own form of gratitude, because I constantly need to adjust my attitude in the positive direction.

My divorce.  Here is my best opportunity to be negative, but I am going to be positive about it.

1.  Because of my divorce I have learned to know myself again.  Five years ago I had a much harder time expressing my emotions; now I am much more in tune with myself.

2.  Because of my divorce my relationship with God has gone to heights I never experienced before.  When you hit rock bottom you can either wallow in the seeming absence of God or cry out like never before.  God answers.

3.  Because of my divorce I can relate to people better than ever before.  The world is broken, and 50% of people inside and outside of the church are divorced, and most of the rest have experienced some other kind of brokenness.  Leading out of my brokenness has enabled me to connect much more effectively with people from the platform and throughout the week.

4.  Because of my divorce I have been forced to think creatively about my future, and the results have been unpredictable and refreshing all at the same time.  This blog, writing poetry, pursuing my doctorate this fall, private teaching and mentoring have all come to fruition because I have been forced to think differently.

5.  Because of my divorce I have been learning how to watch for God to open doors rather than trying to make things happen.  Everything I am now is a result of God opening doors.  I’m excited about what he is going to do next.

6.  Because of my divorce I understand more completely what it means to be a partner in a marriage.  The hours of counseling opened my eyes to the false ideas I believed about being a spouse and made room for the right ideas and beliefs to grow.

7.  Because of my divorce I am learning more clearly how to forgive.

I could go on for a while here.

Divorce is not God’s plan.  Period.  But we are fallen people, and when we sin and make bad choices or simply are oblivious God shakes us up so we see things clearly.  Then he takes us right where we are and walks through it with us, still loving and caring for us, and makes us better people than we were before, if we allow him.

At first I was choosing to be grateful.  Now I truly am.

Where do you need to improve your attitude by choosing to be grateful?