When Struck By a Fleet of SUVs

parking-lot-full-of-durangosLet’s first clarify what an SUV is. Sure, it’s a sport utility vehicle. But it can also be spontaneous untrained volunteers.

Now, can you relate by being struck by an SUV? Have you ever been surrounded by people who want to help, but they don’t know where to start. Maybe you’ve been among them. We’re ready and willing, but no one is taking charge and equipping you to make an impact.

It can be frustrating, but as a leader in a ministry, community, or organization, you’ll find yourself in an SUV challenge from time to time. Have a plan. You may not know the specific situation ahead of time, because SUVs often come together in response to a unforeseen crisis or need. You can be prepared in general ways even when you don’t know the specifics.

  • Plan to communicate well. You’ll often communicate well in a crisis when you communicate well in everyday relationships. Practice listening skills but know when your voice is needed. Taking charge isn’t about being bossy but being willing to bold and responsible.
  • Plan room for emotions and personalities. If you make decisions based only on tasks, you might get some things done, but you won’t establish a broad investment. People will get frustrated and burn out more quickly. You can’t get to know everyone well, and you  will have to trust what some of them say they can do, but try to put people in the right roles.
  • Plan to equip more than you force. Give encouragement, suggestions, and feedback. If you give direction without details (or focus so much on details no one can actually accomplish anything), you’ll end up with rogue, disgruntled, confused volunteers. Meeting needs aren’t just completed tasks. They involve real people working alongside real people to meet the needs of real people. Respect them for who they are.

When the Past Becomes the Process

“It took time.”

The woman was sharing the hurt of her past. She paused, then edited what she said.

“It takes time.”

We look back and think we are through something, but forgiveness, healing, and relationships are a process. We want to think we are through something when we are still in the middle of it.

Sure, we’re better off than we were during the crisis, but it doesn’t mean we’re completely over it. In fact, many times God will have us deal with something over and over again, not because we’re stuck, but because we’re trusting Him to take the healing deeper each time. He could heal us completely at once, helping us over whatever it is, but then we’d only get to ask Him, rely on Him, and trust Him once. He wants more for us. He wants a relationship. Even though we want to quickly get over something, getting through it with Him is much more important.

Be patient. God isn’t finished with you yet.

It’s less about the situation and more about your pursuit of God.

When We Get Turned Around

We get turned around for a variety of reasons.

  • We’re in a lot of pain, experiencing a crisis, and it’s all too confusing to figure out which way to turn, which way is up and which way is down.
  • We thought we were on the right track, but we got confused, and now we’ve taken enough wrong turns to not even be certain which way we’re headed and how to get to where we want to go.
  • We don’t really want to be clear on our directions. We’d rather wing it, be adventurous, and fly by the seat of our pants.
  • We don’t even know we’re turned around. Things that shouldn’t make sense seem perfectly sensible. Things that make sense seem ignorant. But we’re clueless. We don’t think we are, but we are.

Unless we know where to turn, who to cry out to, where to stand on a firm foundation, we will flounder, whether we know it or not, whether we want to admit it or not.

We can only recognize we’re off track if we know the right track. We must be able to discern the right from the wrong.

Right and wrong aren’t want we want them to be. They’re not what make us most or least comfortable. Right and wrong really aren’t about us at all.

God knows. He cares. He instructs. He corrects. He defines. He equips. He challenges.

A dear friend is struggling with some ugly, devastating health issues. Her husband regularly posts updates for a small army of us who have been loved by her over the years and continue to love her the best we can through what seems to be a downward-spiralling process. Her husband is transparent through the good and bad moments. He recently posted,

We do not see this circumstance as a reason to question God’s goodness but we see God’s goodness as a reason to question our perceptions of this circumstance.

Yes.

This family, like so many of us at some point in our lives, have been turned around and around and upside down. It feels like one of those insane amusement park rides that blurs the lines of the horizons and makes it impossible to make out anything on the ground or in the sky. Yet in the middle of the chaos, right smack in the center as the rest of the world seems to spin out of control, there is certainty. Certainty in God and His perspective, His goodness, and His will.

It doesn’t make sense, but He is still in the center of it.

No matter how turned around we feel at the moment.

The Ineffective Instrument

If you use a tool for an unintended purpose, it will likely impact its effectiveness later.

Before we moved into our current house, we took on several remodeling projects. We did most of them on our own, but part of the wall in our dining room needed to come down. It closed in the staircase, which we wanted partially exposed (1) for air flow, (2) to be able to move our queen-sized bed upstairs, and (3) to open up our dining room. We tore the plaster off the wall, then hired a contractor to finish the job by tearing out part of the wall and adding a support beam. He left the final trim work to complete after we moved in to avoid it getting scratched.

Leaving the trim off the top of the shortened wall meant anything could fall into the wall, so I tried to keep our young girls away from the stairs. However, it wasn’t long before we had a small crisis. Roo, one of our Hundred Acre Wood stuffed animals, had somehow fallen into the wall. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if he had fallen in the short part of the wall. I could have easily reached down to grab him. He fell into the wall at about step number nine. He was far beyond my reached.

I didn’t have much in the house to use as I problem-solved, but I assembled a few supplies and went into rescue mode. I grabbed the broom and taped a cake tester to the handle. Holding the head of the broom, I lowered the homemade rescue tool into the wall, poke Roo and tried to retrieve him.

The first rescue attempt failed. The cake tester poked Roo, but it also came out as soon as I pulled back. I needed a hook. Since I didn’t use my cake tester much anyway, and the girls were getting increasingly anxious, I bent the cake tester to resemble a hook.

After several more attempts, Roo was rescued! He was reunited with the girls, and all was well. Except for my cake tester. No amount of bending it would return it to its original straightness. A bent cake tester won’t effectively test cakes. However, I didn’t get rid of it. I find it every now and then when I clean drawers. I’m not sure if I kept it as a testament to the Roo Rescue, or if I thought I’d someday find a use for a bent cake tester. Either way, I use toothpicks to test my cakes now.

What tool have you used for an unintended purpose and then discovered it was no longer effective for its original purpose?

  • If you use a flathead screwdriver when you need a Philips, you’ll either damage the screwdriver or the head of the screw.
  • If you use a spatula to pry wallpaper off the wall, you’ll likely bend the spatula (not to mention, who wants to use a kitchen utensil that’s been all over the walls).
  • If you use a wooden spoon as a hammer, you’ll probably splinter it.
  • If you use a lawn mower to mulch when it doesn’t have a special blade, it will probably cut your grass unevenly.

And the list goes on!

God gifts you with talents and skills. He gives you the tools you need to live life. Are you using what he’s given you for his purposes or for your own? Don’t assume you know how to use everything he’s placed in your hands. Ask him. He knows the intended use of each tool, skill, and talent, and he knows the damage you’ll do if you use it for unintended purposes.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

Dead Skunk Running

We were just a few miles from home, travelling the straight road my nephew once identified as “the middle of nowhere.” We were singing, laughing, telling stories…just being our goofy selves. Without warning, something was right in front of us in the road. It was waddling in a confused circle. We had no time to swerve, nowhere to go. As we drove over it, we realized what it was. I steadied the wheel. We held our breath.

For the brief moment that seemed to consume several minutes, we drove over a skunk!

I pictured it running around under the van. I waited to hear the thud of it hitting a wheel. I anticipated the stench. But there was no thud and no stench.

We looked at each other and finally exhaled.

That was a skunk!

How did we not hit that?

That was bizarre!

I  don’t remember anything from that stretch of road except for the skunk running in convoluted circles. I thought of the “could haves” and was thankful for the “didn’ts.” Crisis averted.

Years ago, driving home from a college class, I ran over a possum. When I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw the babies scurrying from their dead mama’s pouch. Crisis not averted. I was devastated.

When has something happened so quickly in life that you held your breath through the crisis? You knew there was a  potential mess coming, but you weren’t sure what would actually happen.

  • Would the relationship survive?
  • Would you choose the right response?
  • Would you be able to handle the potential mess?
  • Would you be part of the problem or part of the solution?

We can’t avoid every crisis. We don’t have that much power or control. If you’ve never heard it before, let me break the news to you: You’re not the center of the universe, and all does not revolve around you. In fact, I challenge you to find any aspect of life that revolves around you. Go ahead…

Your job? No.

Your health? No.

Your schedule? No.

Your relationships? Absolutely not!

Sure, you have influence in all these areas. You have responsibilities, but you’re not at the center. If you find something you think revolves around you, I challenge you to accept you only perceive yourself as the center of the universe in that area. God didn’t create you to be the center of anything. He fills that role just fine!

You can take driver’s education, practice safe driving, and remain alert. But a skunk (or possum, moose, deer, or bird) can quickly cross your path at anytime.

When “could have” becomes “just did,” how do you respond?

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness. 2 Peter 1:5-6