Just Being Devil’s Advocate…

1375303I said it during a church staff meeting: “I’m going to be the devil’s advocate for a minute…” As soon as it was out of my mouth, I knew whatever followed really didn’t matter. I had just discounted myself. We didn’t need to listen to an advocate of the devil. That’s not our goal.

Sure, it’s an expression that means taking a look at another perspective, especially looking at an opposing viewpoint, considering “what if.” That’s not always a bad thing. In fact, sometimes it’s smart. Considering the possibilities can help prepare us for what’s ahead, but it can also paralyze us. We can get distracted and even enticed by a different perspective that was never intended to be our focus. We can end up advocating something contrary to God’s will.

Being the devil’s advocate is never God’s purpose for us. It’s helpful to know the ways of Satan, but that’s fairly simple: he is deceptive and manipulative. God never is. When we focus on God and know how to discern truth, deception and manipulation stands out and is easily identifiable.

Maybe it’s just an expression, but it can also put us in a position in which we don’t want to be and have no business being. I’m taking it out of my language in order to keep it out of my heart.

Unwanted Puffiness

Not everything is intended to be inflated. When something is inflated, it’s filled up, and when it’s filled up with nothing, it’s obviously filled with…emptiness. It’s like pride. Pride falsely “fills” someone, but the filling is nothing. Pride puffs up someone with a false security or sense of importance, ability, or entitlement. The person might float above others like a beautiful balloon, inspiring others to lightly float and soar through the sky. However, one small pin prick, and the emptiness of pride is revealed. All the nothingness is leaked, and a collapsed, misshaped person lies in a heap.

balloonsPride sometimes collapses on itself, and the person is overwhelmed into a state of humility, suddenly committed to run from pride and replace all the artificial “puffing up” with an authentic reliance on God to define self. As we yield to Him, God provides significant substance in our lives. However, we don’t necessarily blow up a balloon and tightly tie the end closed so that the only way for air to move is to escape through a slow leak or violent pop. Instead, we often inflate our lives with the old-time bellow, where we can pump air in as needed. We can pump the air quickly or slowly. We can take a rest when we get tired. However, regardless of the approach, we’re relying on ourselves. We’re attempting to inflate our own lives.

Society tells us that we get to define our lives. We decide what to focus on in our lives. We determine our destiny. It’s not true. You have choices; that’s certain. But our lives were never intended to be our own. God created us to shine for Him. He wants us to live inflated lives but only because He inflates us. He fills us. We might want the control and even believe that it’s an easier way to live life, but don’t be deceived. When we trust God to fill us, our lives take on an eternal stability and beauty we cannot duplicate or even imagine on our own.

A Single Source

double mindedPraises and curses come from the same mouth! My brothers and sisters, this should not happen. Do good and bad water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree make olives, or can a grapevine make figs? No! And a well full of salty water cannot give good water. James 3:10-12

We can’t have it both ways.

We believe one thing, but our behavior doesn’t match our belief.

We give advice to someone but don’t apply it into our own life.

We hand something over to God and then play tug-of-war.

We claim to trust God yet try to take control.

We live by God’s standards by excusing our fuzzy lines when we prefer.

We rationalize not only our own behavior but also support our friends by rationalizing those things we know will help momentarily even if they aren’t best in the long run.

We look for shortcuts of faith, certain God would prefer we not meander through what seems to be an arduous journey.

We define beauty, peace, love and so much more by our own experiences instead of seeking the truth of God’s definitions and examples.

Which of the above statements ring true to you?

The right hand can do what the left hand cannot. The left hand can do what the right hand cannot. It’s about the positioning to your body. If you pick up a cup with your right hand, you cannot pick up the cup with your left hand using the exact same hand positioning. You have to adjust. You cannot replace the right hand with the left hand and achieve the exact same results. The right hand does what the right hand is intended to do. The left hand does what the left hand is intended to do. There is no other hand.

When you’re double-minded or double-hearted, you’re trying to accomplish two things that cannot be accomplished at once. You’re trying to occupy a space – in your heart or your mind – with more than one thing. One or the other will be sacrificed. There’s only so much space, and duplicity doesn’t fit.

Live It. Invite God to examine your life today and reveal at least one area in which you are double-minded or double-hearted. Trust him to guide you to give up duplicity and focus only on him.

Deception Destroys

decptionWithout trust, you are alone. Deception doesn’t build team. It erodes trust. And deception doesn’t have to be bold-faced lies.

As I work with ministry teams, I often find people talking about growing their teams by bringing more people on board without realizing the potential they have in growing the existing team them have. Without facing issues of team unity, bringing additional people on board will only spread to more people. In the excitement of growth, the issues might be temporarily masked, but when trust isn’t intentionally built, relationships deteriorate.

If you make promises you can’t keep, you erode trust. That’s not to say you are always going to be able to fulfill every commitment you make, but when you can’t do something you said you’d do, you need to reach out and ask for help. That means, if someone on your team respectfully reaches out for help, you need to refrain from (often behind-the-back) chastisements of “Why can’t she just do what she said she’d do? What if we all dropped the ball?” Reaching out for help is not dropping the ball. When you say you can get something done, get it done…and involving additional people can actually be beneficial, because more people get to share ownership. Cultivate a team that trusts each other enough to be able to fully rely on each other to get it all done…together.

If you don’t give recognition and commendation, you erode trust. It’s easy to keep pushing forward to continue working on the next thing. Take a breath and savor what someone’s done. Show appreciation. A word of encouragement goes a long way. Chronic lack of appreciation goes a long way, too, but it’s not the direction healthy teams grow. A smile, a nod, and a simple “thank you” invites people to take a breath of affirmation, encouraging them to take the next steps with renewed purpose. Recognition also comes in the form of acknowledging others’ ideas. It doesn’t mean accepting every single idea, but building trust certainly involves respecting the person who shares ideas. When the idea is tossed aside with a smirk, the person who shared is less likely to share in the future. People also don’t feel valued when all ideas are included without discernment of what fits and what doesn’t. After all, if all ideas are valued the same, there really is no value to them.

If you aren’t trustworthy, you erode trust. It’s not just what you say but also what you do. Passive-aggressiveness erodes relationships. If something is wrong but you’re unwilling to face it, the anger, frustration, and irritation is felt under the table. Team members know something is going on but may feel pressure not to bring up the elephant in the room. Many people believe they are being honest with everyone when they say nothing is wrong, because they’re not being honest with themselves. They believe they’re being transparent, because they won’t admit what’s wrong even to themselves. In the process, they can make it seem as if the very thing that they believe is wrong with others is actually what is stirring up within themselves. Even though the anger and frustration they seem to feel for others may not actually be related to the people they seem to target, it feels as if it is, and it can quickly damage the health of a team.

Building trust takes time and effort.

Many want to assume it’s a default setting, but it’s not. Be sacrificial and build–or rebuild–trust. We’re called to do life with others, and that requires self-sacrifice, difficult conversations, and uncomfortable confrontation at times. Focus on God. You can trust him. His way never involves deception of any kind. Let’s strive to fully reflect him as we serve and work alongside others.

When I Was a Little Girl…

…I walked to school uphill – both ways – in ten feet of snow. We know it’s an exaggeration, but surely we’ve all shared details of our childhood that aren’t exactly accurate. Even if we’re not intentionally being deceptive…I think our perspective changes as we get older. We misremember things.

Like my daughter who is convinced she fed French fries to the seals at SeaWorld because she has a photo of herself holding a container (of small fish) which looks like a red and white checkered French fry container. Or her memory of walking in the house ahead of her sister, who would have picked up a dead rat that was on the floor but avoided the catastrophe because her big sister saved the day. In reality, Courtney couldn’t even walk, so I was carrying her. We’d put out mouse poison before leaving on vacation, and there was a (small) dead mouse next to the stairs when we returned.

I was recently together with my family, and Mom had been sorting through the attic and set aside my sister Angie’s Barbie camper along with some other items. We decided to sift through everything. My other sister, Deb, began bemoaning the fact that she didn’t have a Barbie camper…or any other Barbie accessories for that matter. Then I remembered I had some type of Barbie home. I remembered the way the bunk beds folded down when the case was opened. Angie remembered it was a Barbie Snow Cabin. That’s right! I wondered aloud where it could have gone.

Tada! My nephew pulled it out of the box – Angie’s box! Chaos erupted. We each wanted to make sure no one else was wrongly getting our childhood stuff. We started tearing through Barbie clothes. All the while, Deb just stood there, saying over and over, “It can’t be mine, because I didn’t have any good Barbie stuff.” A flood of stories, memories and (light-hearted) accusations continued for quite some time. We laughed until we cried…and our husbands wisely kept their distance, probably thinking we’d lost our minds.

We hadn’t lost our minds, but I’m sure each of us were remembering with a bit of an individual slant!

What’s one of your favorite childhood memories?

How do you think you’ll remember today or this period of your life?

Remember, God is the One who makes you and us strong in Christ. God made us his chosen people. 1 Corinthians 1:21