Are You a Building Block or a Stumbling Block?

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxCome to the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that lives. The people of the world did not want this stone, but he was the stone God chose, and he was precious. You also are like living stones, so let yourselves be used to build a spiritual temple—to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God. He will accept those sacrifices through Jesus Christ. The Scripture says: “I will put a stone in the ground in Jerusalem. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” This stone is worth much to you who believe. But to the people who do not believe, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:4-7)

In these verses, Peter is encouraging believers to be like the stones used to build a holy temple for God. In order for the building blocks to do what they needed to do to fit together with other building blocks, they needed to be carved, molded, and placed together. In order for believers to fulfill individual and collective purpose for God, we must be willing to let God shape us and place us where he wants us to be. That means we don’t decide who we sit alongside. We don’t decide our exact shape. We don’t decide how we serve within the building. We don’t get to decide how pretty our rough edges are or how smooth is smooth enough. God does all that. It’s not about us; it’s about God’s building. It’s about unity. However, in order to come together to make what God intends to make, each piece has to be worked on and fitted together. Each has to be yielding in order for the building to be sound and holy.

We have another option other than yielding. Instead of being building blocks, we can be stumbling blocks. When we don’t allow God to shape us into the right shape for the right fit into the building, we will become displaced. We’ll fall to a place we’re not intended to be and create a stumbling hazard for those around us.

You get to choose which you’ll be, so ask yourself, “Am I a building block, or am I a stumbling block?” Avoid quickly giving the Sunday School answer. Think about specific situations you’ve been involved in recently. Of course, we all want to believe we’re building blocks. We want to believe we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do, but are we…really? Have we checked with him before we’ve proceeded, or have we moved forward in the direction that makes sense, responding first, then asking him to bless the process once we’re in motion? The popular adage “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” isn’t a biblical principle.

In order to fit well within a body of believers, you must invite God to shape you in order to fit where he intends you to fit. You don’t decide where you fit, then reason through why you’re such a good fit. You don’t decide you were made for such a time as this. God decides the time and place. He decides the process. You seek. You trust. You obey. You can certainly be stubborn about it, but when you don’t allow him to place you where you’re supposed to fit, you’re not just impacting yourself and your purpose. You’re impacting the body of Christ.

So, are you a building block or a stumbling block?

I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with each other and not be split into groups. I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Repentance

images (1)Repentance.

It’s a word we either don’t like to hear, don’t understand, or simply ignore. Repentance requires acknowledge of something being amiss, and we don’t necessarily like to admit we’re wrong. It seems to indicates weakness, and weakness is…well, a weakness!

But it’s not.

When we repent, we admit where we are, not to get stuck, settle into a place of defeat, or give up. We repent, because we’re willing to move beyond where we are. We acknowledgement where we are isn’t where we should be. It doesn’t mean everything in our lives is bad. In fact, as we grow in faith and let God consume our lives more completely, we realize he challenges us to repent of even the slightest details of our attitudes and intentions, pruning the tiny weeds before they grow into trees.

There are no limits on repentance. It includes the big and tiny, the ongoing and momentary, the obvious and well-disguised.

We often respond in faith forgetting the importance of repentance. We ask for blessings, we praise God, we expect God’s promises…but we haven’t done a heart-check first. We need to ask ourselves if there’s anything between us and God as we approach him, and since we work toward developing an ongoing connection with him, we need to be adamant about consistently asking him to identify anything that’s creating any amount of distance between us. That also means we have to be willing to listen as he reveals the distance. We need to be willing to respond.

A lack of repentance impacts personal faith, and it also impacts community. Each person is responsible for his/her own repentance. Each person is also able to ask for repentance for the community. It must be done with a pure heart. We don’t ask for repentance because “that person” did something wrong. We ask for repentance because we did something wrong whether we personally offended or not. Going to God in repentance for our community assumes our association among that community. (See Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1:1.)

Repentance isn’t a pit of guilt. It makes a way out of the pit of guilt. Get familiar with repentance. It’s a grace-filled gift from God.

God, be merciful to me because you are loving.
Because you are always ready to be merciful, wipe out all my wrongs.
Wash away all my guilt and make me clean again.

I know about my wrongs, and I can’t forget my sin.
You are the only one I have sinned against; I have done what you say is wrong.
You are right when you speak and fair when you judge.
I was brought into this world in sin. In sin my mother gave birth to me.

You want me to be completely truthful, so teach me wisdom.
Take away my sin, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;let the bones you crushed be happy again.
Turn your face from my sins and wipe out all my guilt.

Create in me a pure heart, God, and make my spirit right again.
Do not send me away from you or take your Holy Spirit away from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation. Keep me strong by giving me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:1-12)

The Mentoring Mess

lets-do-life-together-digital-hand-letteringWe all need each other, but it can be difficult to find someone who truly invests in our lives. On the other hand, it can also be difficult to set aside time to authentically invest in someone else’s life.

I wonder sometimes if we make it more difficult than it needs to be.

Are we too particular? Using wisdom in guiding us to the right people is important, but I wonder sometimes if we get too picky. Do we overlook people as possible mentors (or mentees) because of the differences between us? Or perhaps our self-doubt or insecurities get in the way. We don’t want to make the first move in case it’s the wrong move, or the first time we meet doesn’t work out well, and we give up too soon.

Are we too programmed? Do we feel the need for someone to set up mentoring for us? Perhaps we experienced mentoring done really well through a particular program or ministry, and we simply want someone to duplicate the same experience for us. Is that too much to ask? Well, yes, it just might be. Programs and ministries can help with connections, but it takes personal sacrifice and effort to keep them going. That’s up to you.

Are we too unwilling? We can try to justify our unwillingness by claiming we’re super busy, not the right fit, or a myriad of other excuses, but perhaps we’re simply not willing to give what is needed to establish and maintain mentoring relationships.

Mentoring puts us in a vulnerable position, whether we are giving or receiving. We have to expose our lives to others. That’s easy for some of us and incredibly difficult for others. Mentoring seems so elusive for some yet seems to come naturally to others. That’s frustrating or exhilarating, depending on the side you fall.

No matter what, mentoring is not easy. It’s messy, because it involves people sharing life with each other. That includes everyday situations, crises, and celebrations. Sometimes it feels as if we’re coasting down a hill as we ride bikes on a beautiful day. It is almost effortless. Other times, we get worn out as we struggle to make it up a steep hill of challenges. Both are part of the journey.

Both make mentoring worthwhile.

Truth be told, mentoring is really much simpler than we make it. We want it to be well-defined, because that makes sense to us. We think mentoring is a relationship between two women (or men), usually one older and one younger, where the older woman imparts wisdom into the younger woman. It is so much more than that. Often, the women are close in age. They both feel they get benefits out of the relationship; in fact, you will hear many say they get the best end of the relationship, that they feel as if they receive way more than they give.

We all need others. We need to find partners to help us through the relational, spiritual, emotional, and practical ups and downs of life. Of course, Jesus is our ultimate mentor, but God gifts us with community, people who surround us to cheer us on and challenge us. And we surround others. If we’re honest, at all times, we are being mentored and are mentoring. We need to be intentional about both. We need to recognize that others are not perfect, just as we aren’t. Other will let us down, just as we do to them. Relationships require sacrifice of time and energy, but God is the one who gives both, so it’s best to spend them His way anyway.

How can you find and maintain mentoring relationships?

  • Pay attention. Set aside your assumptions and open your eyes and heart to the opportunities God is placing in front of you. Relationships often begin with eye contact and a brief exchange of words. You don’t have to instantly decide how deep the relationship will go or how long it will last.
  • Persevere. Just because you hit a bump in the road doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. Be patient and diligent. Put in effort and be humble through the process.
  • Stay healthy. The best thing you can do for any relationship is to be the healthiest you can be. Determine to grow spiritually each step of the way. You might find you need to move on from a relationship. Yet you might find God sharpens you through one you’d rather set aside. Trust Him to lead the way.
  • Transition through seasons. Just because a relationship works well for a while doesn’t mean it will remain in your life forever. Growth requires changes. Saying goodbye (and saying hello) takes courage. It’s difficult. Yet it’s essential to healthy spiritual growth. Again, let God lead.
  • Accept the mess, but don’t be content to stay in it. Set aside your idealism about relationships. Know they will be messy. Be willing to work through the mess, admitting everything won’t ever be completely neat and tidy, yet as you work through issues, you can choose to rely on and get closer to God.

Mentoring might be more mess than magic, but when you invite others into your life and authentically invest in each other, the experience will help you grow in unrivaled ways. Give it a try!

Live a Translucent Life

imagesWe need to live with translucency, letting light shine through ourselves to reveal our struggles, messiness, and strengths and weaknesses. When we live with translucency, we set aside the inauthenticity, the masks, the distortions. We let others see messiness through which we all journey. We let God reveal the truth about our lives. Sometimes we don’t want to own up to falling short, and many times, we can’t see or admit to how we’re doing well in God’s eyes. When we live with translucency, we let His light reveal the truth in our lives for ourselves and others to see. It’s only His light that can filter truth from distortions. It’s only His light that honestly connects us to Him and each other.

(Almost) Out of Control

The only thing you can truly control is your attitude.

We like to think we’re in control in some ways. We like results. We like influence. We want to be able to manage well. We want to stick with a schedule or routine…or not. We want a certain standard…or not. We want someone to respond to us in a certain way. We think we know the best way to comfort or motivate someone. We just want to fix something in order to help someone we love.

It’s good to be responsible. But we can’t do so with the illusion that we are in control. Our responsibility comes out of obedience, not out of authority.

But you can control your attitude and your perspective. You can think you’re bigger, wiser, and more powerful than you are and, even though you might feel and appear to have control at times, it’s a mirage of pride. (We mask pride as responsibility, but when we’re not open to look at the world and ourselves through the lens of truth, it is still selfishness not matter how we disguise or rationalize it.) Or you can humbly seek truth, direction, provision, wisdom, and power from a source that actually has authority.

I often chuckle as I claim to be a recovering control freak, but in reality, it’s not all that funny. I want to believe and trust that my perspective is right (and trustworthy) but the only perspective I can truly trust happens when I set all my preferences aside–whether they seem good or bad to me–and ask God what His perspective is. Then, I follow…as best as I can, even when I don’t understand, even when I don’t see all the pieces, even when something seems counter-intuitive to me. And as I’ve followed Him, I’ve come to realize that He guides out of wisdom and power with authority and perspective that is unparalleled. Yet He is willing to share. He won’t let you down. Ever. Even when things don’t turn out the way you expect or want them to…if you were in control.

Take control by giving it up. After all, it’s really not yours to begin with.

Failing Forward

index“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Henry Ford

How do you respond when you fail?

  • I feel paralyzed. I don’t know how to move forward.
  • I struggle to learn lessons to apply to the future.
  • I don’t consider anything a failure.

The way we each define failure differs, but let’s agree that it’s an unsuccessful attempt at something. You have failed at something in your lifetime. We all have. However, that doesn’t mean we’re failures. God created you, and He makes no mistakes. He knew how you would succeed and fail before you did. In fact, He likely doesn’t see success and failure with the same perspective as you do. He sees the big picture of your life and how the details fit together. He wants you to grow throughout life, and the learning process includes failures and the lessons we learn from them.

How you respond to failure impacts your life as well as those who look to you for leadership and example.

Failing is unavoidable, but you can choice in what direction to fall. You can fall backward, sitting in the messy mud puddle until you are miserable, or you can fall forward, perhaps stubbing a toe or scraping a knee but ready for the next steps of your journey.

In order to fail forward, you must…

Deal with disappointment. Failing forward doesn’t mean you ignore the frustration and pain. In order to move forward, you must learn from past experiences. Otherwise, you’ll repeat the same errors. Evaluate the factors contributing to failure, but only look back long enough to gather strength to move forward.

Prepare to plan. Apply what you learn. You don’t need to have everything in life alphabetized and color-coded, but a failure to prepare usually prepares you for failure. Look to the horizon and anticipate growth, but be intentional in the steps you’re taking toward your goals.

Celebrate. Broaden your focus beyond your failures. You will find whatever you look for most consistently. Pay attention to the progress you’re making. Celebrate when you’ve met a goal, fostered a relationship, or maneuvered through a difficult conflict. Your celebration doesn’t need to be over-the-top. Treat yourself to a favorite coffee drink, long walk, or soothing bubble bath.

Find contentment. God wants to be the center of our lives. Life on earth isn’t going to be perfect or easy. He knows it, but it seems to be a realization that takes more time for us to accept. When our gaze is intently on God, we can find contentment even in the chaos. We can find peace among the mayhem. Focus on God. He will give you what you need even when you’re not sure what it is.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Walk the Talk

image_gallery“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 gives us guidance of what to give our children in order to equip them to live faith-filled lives, but what happens if we don’t start well?

I’m the baby of my family by several years. When my sisters and I were little, I was often left out of situations and experiences, but I was a witness to much. One pushed the other and broke a window. (It wasn’t as violent as it sounds.) One took the farm truck and got stuck in a field road. They had friends at the house even though our parents had said no visitors. Chores didn’t get done. The list goes on.

They knew things I did wrong, too. To tattle or not to tattle? To follow the example or follow instruction?

I didn’t tattle often – because I got bribes. The funny thing is my parents found out most everything anyway. When there’s a broken window or a truck out of place, it doesn’t take long to discover.

Fast forward a generation. I don’t think I’ve ever told my daughters “do what I say, not what I do,” but I know there have been many contradictions between what I said and did. Despite all their good qualities and habits, there have been times I’ve thought, “Of all things, did they have to pick up that from me?!”

Our lives will be contradictory. We don’t realize every contradiction, but what do we do with the ones we notice? Consider what hypocrisies annoy or pain you in others. What contradictions are in your own life? You don’t have to be perfect, but in order to teach your children (and others), you have to be willing to be taught. Start today.