Why Get Frustrated?

photo-1495427773570-1b700e48c039I listened to a sermon the other day, and the man’s definition of frustration stood out to me:

Frustration is the difference between our expectations and reality. 

Basically, we get frustrated because what we experience is different than what we expected or wanted. We look forward and determine what we think will happen or what we want to happen, and when it doesn’t, we get frustrated. It can be the big things or the small things. Someone we care for doesn’t respond in the way we expect. We don’t arrive at an appointment when we wanted because of traffic.

So, what should we do? We can’t withdraw our anticipation and hope so that we never experience tension between our expectations and reality, but we can temper our expectations and reality with truth. We can adjust. We can be flexible more than frustrated. And when we are frustrated – because we will be at times – we can do so with appropriateness. We can sift aside much of the high emotion that can make frustration so volatile, so it’s more productive as we respond and try to remedy a situation. We can let God guide us in determining what to be frustrated about and how to respond and what to set aside. We can refuse to rewrite the reality of what we’re facing and let God keep our expectations in check. We can do less blaming and more coping. We can have healthy hope as we lean forward and authentic faith as we deal with reality. We can lean into God closely enough to see his perspective in order to keep our own in check.

We can live in the real world with God’s standards and coping strategies.

And The Rain, Rain, Rain

photo-1477511350923-3986459bdee1I’m a lifetime Pooh-Bear fan. So, when it rains for an extended time, I often sing the song The Rain, Rain, Rain to myself.

Recently, I sang it off and on all day. The rain had nowhere to go once it hit the ground. We had recently had a lot of snow, and it was packed down and piled up, blocking most the normal drainage routes. I watched the rain cover the roads. Mini lakes appeared where a small puddle had started.

And I thought about my tears that sometimes feel like that rain. The tears, tears, tears. With nowhere to go but down. Sometimes they simply leak out of my eyes and fall even when there’s nothing specific bothering me. But it’s okay. A few tears here and there seem to remind me of healing.

Other things can rain down and flood our emotional and spiritual roadways. Anger. Bitterness. Resentment. Jealousy. Feelings and attitudes that, if not dealt with and drained from our lives on a regular basis, cause all sorts of flooding that drench us and create roadblocks for others.

Consider what’s coming down, down, down in your life. What’s consuming you? How are you dealing with it? You might not be able to forecast your life with specific details, but there are definitely some warning signs of storms brewing at times. Pay attention.

Judge the Judgment

photo-1490383559880-5003a7baa963For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)

I used to hear this verse and assume others would judge me in the same way I would judge them. So the advice or guideline was basically to withhold any judgment by which you would not want to be judged. Don’t want to be judged for your weight? Don’t judge others’ weight. Don’t want to be judged for the way you struggle with temptations? Don’t judge others’ struggles with temptations. Don’t want to be judged for the priorities you set in your life, because you have the right to decide what’s important to you? Don’t judge others when their priorities conflict with yours. Don’t want to be judged for your poor life choices? Avoid poor life choices. Oh, wait. That’s a bit impossible to do throughout the entire span of life.

We’ve misapplied this verse a bit. First, there is rarely a direct link to being judged in return of the very thing we’re judging a person for, because sometimes the other person doesn’t even know we’re judging him or her. When they do know, they don’t always care. When they care, they might not judge us by similar standards.

The judgments we make on others comes back to us in a much more direct and dependable way. But before you commit to living life void of all judgment just to avoid being judged, know that all judgments are not bad. We all judge. Even God. Throughout Scripture, God tells us to discern his will and apply his wisdom, and that takes judgment. But there was a huge difference between God-driven and approved judgment and the action that comes along with it and our own judgment. Whether we judge for or against something in our own life or another’s, we are often motivated by the wrong things. We want comfort, and we avoid what makes us squirm. On the other hand, God wants truth and growth. He wants purpose and is willing to make judgments that drive us toward it.

Our judgments, good and bad, don’t determine how we’ll be judged. Our judgments themselves are judged. Our measurements of everything and everyone we deal with in life are measured. Of course, God also mixes in his mercy and forgiveness, but judgment is still involved. He’s not waiting for us to slip up so he can play whack-a-mole with us. That’s not who he is. And it’s not who he wants us to be. Does he want us to be judgmental? Yes, but with his standards and character. He wants us to discern. He wants us to trust him. We wants our judgments to honor him. He wants us to assess the world around us with the filters of his will.

So, as you face decisions today, know that you can’t avoid judgments. They’re an important part of life. Know on what basis you’re making judgments and trust God to guide each decision you make, including how to proceed and respond. Filter each judgment through his judgment, because he knows what he’s doing.

Midday Reset

photo-1532178968013-0acd8e5bf7c7My good friend’s daughter’s first grade class was responsible for the school chapel program on a recent Wednesday. Her dad was out of town, and while her mom planned to attend, she would be driving from a nearby town over her lunch break and might have been delayed because of weather. So I decided to go just in case. Plus, I knew I’d enjoy seeing her and the other students.

It was a busy day, but since the school is only a couple blocks from work, it was easy to slip away at the last minute. My friend’s daughter saw me as soon as I walked in. It sure is nice to be greeted with a huge smile and wave from across the room! My friend slipped in a few minutes later.

I savored the next half hour, filled with friendship, praise, and joy. It was a reprieve in a busy day, a good reminder of priorities. I was already having a good day, but it was as if God pushed a reset button. I felt as if I had a bit of a spring in my step as I walked back into the office to wrap up the afternoon. My soul was content.

That’s what doing life authentically and fully with others can do. When we yield our schedules and invest in others, God affirms the purpose he has for us. We sometimes see purpose as the big banner of life, the slogan that runs everything we do. But purpose is in the small decisions and sacrifices. It seeps into every choice and consequence – if we trust God through it all.

Snowman

photo-1546393073-5652afffaf23My mom and I text every morning, and one particularly snowy morning, she sent me a smiling snowman. I responded that I thought the snowman was way too happy for how cold it was that morning. She reminded me the snowman likes the cold, because without it, he wouldn’t survive.

Good point.

Sometimes our circumstances are essential to our survival and growth. Sometimes we see someone struggling through something and want to help them into other circumstances, but they need to be where they are right now in order to take the next step somewhere down the road. Perhaps even more difficult to see is someone not struggling through something and finding comfort where there should be none. In both cases, people can either choose to grow through the situation or choose to stunt their growth.

That smiling snowman didn’t actually feel happiness just as he didn’t feel pain or sadness when he melted. But we’re different. We complain in the heat and in the cold. We want to stay where we’re comfortable. We don’t want to struggle or see others we love struggle, or we wish they’d struggle through something instead of getting stuck or distracted by the wrong type of contentment or striving.

Today, wherever you find yourself and others, choose well. Love well. Grow well.

Work Out Hard

photo-1520774779505-a7782b3fb733Sometimes I need a hard workout. I am typically more of a “settle in with a good pace and relax” workout person. I get many benefits from the length and pace of my workout. I typically push in duration and stamina more than power and speed.

But there are days I simply need to work something out, not just just physically but spiritually. There are times the most motivating sound piping through my earbuds is a sermon or worship music. Sometimes a wholehearted worship pours out of me with an intensity that spurs me forward. Other times, I’m wrestling with God with an intensity that prompts bursts of power.

It amazes me at times how worship can be powerful in such different ways. Sometimes it is a settling into, calming and reassuring me. Other times it is a leaning forward in anticipation and readiness. Still other times, worship is full of power that can push me in uncomfortable but all the right strength and directions. I feel sore and bruised for days but thankful for the preparation I know is happening.

Working out can be worship, and worship often involves a working out of something. And that working out can be hard at times.

Lace up those shoes and lean into the wind as it tries to blow you back. Push a little bit more than your comfort zone allows. Fill your lungs and sweat it out. You might be sore the next morning, but being spiritually sore is better than being spiritually lazy.

A Night of Worship

photo-1542338102-6fdde209ec31My home church planned a night of worship – only it wasn’t just a night of worship. It was so much more. I anticipated it and helped with preparation in small ways. Mainly, God prepared me in the days leading up to it. I began to lean forward. I anticipated serving. I prayed for those involved in leadership as well as those who would be in the room. I also prayed for people who might need an attitude check about the evening, whether they experienced it personally or not. (Because, you know, even we church people can get judgy and temperamental and throw little fits when things aren’t the way we expect or prefer. )

I peeked into practice. I ordered food to help people volunteering their time feel cared for. I greeted people as they arrived and chatted as I hung up their coats. I got to see people I hadn’t seen in months and met others who had come with friends.

And that was all before the evening technically began.

But the night of worship wasn’t about a night; it was about worship. And worship seeps outside of the expected time frame. It becomes its own time frame. As I stood in the dimly lit room that night, I felt cleansing tears roll down my cheeks, purging me of stuff inside me that I needed to release. I felt a heaviness fill the room – a wonderful, freeing heaviness as if God was soaking into every space. I felt connected to people in the room, prompted by compassion, burdens, and joy even when I had no idea what someone might be thinking about or processing at the time.

There are moments I experienced through singing, teaching, prayer, and communion that I can’t capture with words, but “abundant” seems to capture it all best.

Following the service, worship continued. I tried to connect with several people God seemed to be placing in my foreground. I expressed gratitude to several people who had sacrificed significant time to lead and serve. I asked several people to help rearrange some things in preparation for the upcoming Sunday. And I stood back for a moment and watched. People were connecting with each other, hanging out just a bit longer than usual, soaking in the experience of spending the evening together with God. A small group of us closed the door of the prayer room to support a friend. And worship continued. It continued as three of us turned off the lights and left the building. God had coated everything in a sparkling, soft snow. It was as if every glimmer of snow danced in worship. And more flakes added to the dance.

The man who had coordinated the night of worship cleaned off our remaining three cars before we all drove away that night. Yet another act of worship.

A drove home with a deep sigh in my soul.