We Rage Because We’re Lazy

humilityI got involved in a social media “conversation” a while back that had an important discussion at stake. It was an invitation to listen to different perspectives and try to understand each other. It was an opportunity to consider solutions that might actually yield results if we could work together. But how can we expect to come together as a nation, state, community, family, church, workplace, and the list goes on, if we are only willing to toxically spew why we’re right and how everyone else is wrong? Our solutions are so easy…

If people would only raise their children right…

If people would only believe the right things…

If we could just get rid of “stupid”…(I’m not kidding. That was actually a suggestion! I refrained from giving my response to that one.)

We often rage because we’re too lazy to lament about the woes of something. We don’t want to feel the personal pain that results from a choice, situation, or act. We want to distance ourselves enough from it so we can come up with a solution that neatly fits without complications of reality. We don’t want to dip our toes into humility enough to consider–let alone admit–that we might be wrong, even if it’s just a little bit.

There’s a place for passion. There’s even a place for anger when injustices need to be confronted. But let’s use our filters and our brains. Let’s be responsible enough to engage in humble, intelligent, God-honoring, respectful conversations with people, especially people different than ourselves.

Will you join me? We can hold each other accountable.

 

Living Out Great Expectations

LiveWithGreatExpectations
©2015 PurePurpose.org

You have done amazing things we did not expect. You came down, and the mountains trembled before you. (Isaiah 64:3)

Many times, the difference between expectations and reality causes disappointment, but it can also cause surprise and celebration. Throughout the Bible, God showed up in amazing ways that people didn’t expect. Follow God’s lead.

Be understandable. If people don’t understand what you’re saying, they won’t follow, learn, and grow. They’re not going to understand everything you say – just as you sometimes won’t understand their perspective – but strive to find common ground and start there.

Be passionate. You’re not going to be excited about everything you’re doing all the time, but keep your passion level in check. People around you can sense if you’re going through the motions or if you’re seeking, learning, and growing. Passion is contagious.

Be protective. Avoid being overly protective or developing co-dependent relationships, but pay attention so that people aren’t getting left behind, lost, or hurt. Set healthy boundaries. Invite accountability. Learn lessons of responsibility and consequence.

Be attentive. Get to know the people around you – their interests, quirks, experiences, and dreams. As you get to know and care about people, they’ll trust you more. Listening might seem like it’s a small thing, but it’s one of the most inexpensive, sacrificial, generous gifts you can give.

I Want to Do What You Do!

whereyouare

“How do I do what you do?”

How many times have you asked the question, thought the question, or heard the question? Aspirations to grow into something else aren’t bad in and of themselves, but we often miss what God has for us right where we are when we focus on the “next, great thing.”

When people ask me how they can start traveling and speaking at women’s events, how they can publish a book, and so on, I can give them a few practical tips but the bottom line advice is “Do what God has planned for you today, because it’s your preparation for tomorrow.” God prepares us in ways we cannot imagine. None of us get to our today via a straight line series of our yesterdays. Of course, we know a common thread is woven through the twists and turns of our yesterdays, but we likely couldn’t have predicted where our experiences were taking us. I couldn’t have planned to do what I’m doing today. In fact, even when people ask how I got to where I am as I travel around, I can’t really give them a clear answer…except that God led me here.

And God is leading me somewhere else.

I don’t know where that somewhere else is. I don’t know what it entails. I don’t know if it will be similar to what I’m doing now or drastically different. But I’m certain that what is going on today will not be wasted. God uses it all. When I get to a tomorrow somewhere down the road, I might be able to look back at my current todays and make a bit of sense of them, but it certainly won’t all make sense.

It’s certainly okay to have goals, but if you become too focused on future goals, you will miss out on the experiences God has planned for you today. You will begin to look for those things that fit into your expectations and ignore or avoid others. Before long, your will might just eclipse God’s will in the way you approach your daily life.

If you believe God is calling you into something, doesn’t it make sense that he will provide the way, including the timing? And wouldn’t it make sense to trust his way instead of trying to make sense of it on your own?

You might look at someone else and what to do what they do, but remember her today isn’t your today. Her tomorrow isn’t your tomorrow. You can’t replicate someone’s journey. You have your own, and no one else can take your place. If you choose to focus on anything other than where you are and what you’re supposed to do right now, you’ll miss out. And when you miss out on something today, you’re not quite as prepared for tomorrow.

What is God prompting you to do where you are…today? Get started!

Should God Be First?

When I was a young mom, it was difficult for me to put God first in a practical, everyday sense. I thought putting God first meant applying myself to spiritual disciplines, such as prayer and Bible reading and study. I absolutely loved spending as much time as possible in those areas, but I felt an urgent call to help when a daughter needed her diaper changed, meals needed to be prepared, naptime needed to start immediately (or was suddenly over), and many other things that, at times, seemed to nearly crush me under the to-do list. Plus, I was trying to be a good wife, which apparently was supposed to fall somewhere between putting God first and being a good mom. Because I couldn’t handle keeping even two of those in perspective, keeping three prioritized seemed disappointedly impossible.  I felt like a failure. Even on the days I felt like an adequate wife and a decent mom, I was still failing—at least, by my perspective—as a Christ-follower.

It wasn’t an identity crisis. It wasn’t a confidence issue. It was a spiritual misapplication. I was setting myself up for failure by holding myself to a standard God never intended. I needed to stop seeing God at the top of everything and instead place him in the center of everything.

Perhaps it’s just semantics, but the shift worked for me. I stopped defining my efforts as failures of faith and began defining every role and responsibility as an opportunity for faith. It was the same basic concept, but a slight change significantly altered my outlook and faith journey.

When I placed God in the center of everything, I realized I wasn’t choosing my daughters over him when I played with them in the yard and walked to the library. I wasn’t choosing my husband over God when I helped him with a house project or watched football. When God is in the center, he touches everything. I consider God’s perspective no matter what I’m doing. I find significance in the most mundane tasks, because I acknowledge there is purpose in it even if I’m uncertain as to what the particular purpose is. When God is at the center of everything, I’m confident the purpose of what I’m doing is to follow and honor him. When I follow and honor him, I’m placing him in the center of everything.

It’s not simply that God is first in everything. He is the absolute foundation of everything. He is invested in everything. He is interested in everything. That is true whether I acknowledge his investment and interest or not. My distortion of God’s position in my life doesn’t change his position. He will always passionately pursue me. The different that can catapult me farther and faster in spiritual growth is my willingness to line up my life with his will. I can shift my perspective and priorities so that he seems to be off to the side, but he’s still in the center. I’ve simply distorted what I see as reality. God is the center, and when I line up my life with who he is and who he says he created me to be, I have the full assurance of him impacting the practical details of my everyday life.

No matter what I’m doing, God is in the center and emanates to reach every circumstance in the circumference of my life.

This Week’s 7: Dancing Through Life

My youngest daughter’s senior dance recital is this week. She’s been taking classes for 15 years, which means 15 recitals, several dozen costumes, hundreds of hours in the dance studio…and countless lessons learned.

For those who love dance, there’s something that wells up inside – not simply a desire to dance, but a need to dance. Many vocalists, musicians, writers and artists experience something similar. Today I’m sharing several inspiring quotes about dance. If dancing isn’t your passion, find what inspires you. Then seek and respond today.

Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.  (Rumi)

I believe that we learn by practice.  Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same.  In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit.  One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God.  Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire.  Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired. (Martha Graham)

You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive. (Merce Cunningham)

I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to to dance better than myself. (Mikhail Baryshnikov)

Never dance in a puddle when there’s a hole in your shoe (it’s always best to take your shoes off first). (Rhodes)

The good news is that Christ frees us from the need to obnoxiously focus on our goodness, our commitment, and our correctness. Religious has made us obsessive almost beyond endurance. Jesus invited us to a dance…and we’ve turned in into a march of soldiers, always checking to see if we’re doing it right and are in step and in line with the other soldiers. We know a dance would be more fun, but we believe we must go through hell to get to heaven, so we keep marching. (Steve Brown)

(My daughter’s favorite…) Those who say sunshine brings happiness have never danced in the rain. (Author Unknown)

Each Sunday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. Thanks for joining me today!

Fit Faith: Circuit: Buffet!

Circuit training doesn’t mean taking as many trips as possible to the buffet. There are similarities. People start in one place and work their way from one station to another until their plates are full. They sit down for a while and then return for another circuit. Repetition is key.

Fitness circuit training requires repetition, too, but it also requires intention and focus. There’s no meandering from station to station, browsing the possibilities and choosing only those things that look appetizing. It’s about intentionally going from station to station, taking each step at a time in sequence to get the maximum benefit from the combination. Trying to combine too many things on the fitness buffet would be disastrous!

Spiritual circuit training is a combination of the two. It’s more disciplined than dining at the food buffet. You can’t simply choose what tastes good or looks most appealing. We often find ourselves in some rather unpleasant circumstances, but we need to persevere and have patience in a wide variety of situations. We can’t skip over the bitter and sour of life any more than we can camp in the sweet spots. We enjoy or endure situations and proceed to the next.

At the same time, we must be careful not to get so regimented about the routine of spiritual training that we eliminate the “living it” process. If we’re only focused on going through the motions, we won’t get the full benefits. We can check off the boxes of Bible study, service, worship services, and tithing and think we have everything covered when, in reality, we’re not fully committed to any of it. It’s just something we feel expected and accustomed to do, so we continue to do it. We become pew-warmers, who are more consumed with a “serve us” attitude than service. Faith becomes less God-driven and more self-driven. Comfort becomes key.

Spiritual circuit training isn’t comfortable. It’s growth-producing. God has organized life. There are some things that are consistent and reliable. We can always trust God to provide what we need when we yield to him.

“The sun rises, the sun sets, and then it hurries back to where it rises again.” (Ecclesiastes 1:5)

“I am sad and tired. Make me strong again as you have promised.” (Psalm 119:28)

Consider everything you’re involved in that impacts your spiritual growth. How are you being intentional in your relationship with God?

Now take an honest look at the reasons you do each of those things. What are the benefits?

If your evaluation reveals some areas in which you’re going through the motions, doing what you’re “supposed to,” ask God to freshen your perspective, stirring within you a renewed passion to find purpose in the journey. If you find there are some areas lacking altogether, ask God to show you the first steps you’re supposed to take. Sometimes he’ll have you casually dip your toes into a new area, but sometimes he’ll have you jump in with both feet. Trust his guidance. His timing will always be better than yours. You’ve been trying life your way. Now it’s time to try it his way.

Perhaps you have some areas in which you’re doing fairly well. You’re disciplined and committed for the right reasons. Great! Celebrate and thank God for his faithful guidance. Be sure to intentionally check back into the same area of your life in the near future. It’s often the areas of life that seem most stable that start to deteriorate, causing a ripple effect. Ask God how you can stay committed in those areas and invite him to reveal ways you need to tweak your approach and commitment to insure regular rejuvenation. Take nothing for granted.

Invite God to invade every area of your life. When he does, your spiritual muscles will tone and your stamina and focus will continue to improve.

Mama Bear Claws

You can mess with me, but don’t mess with my daughters!

I have Mama Bear claws. I don’t like to be threatened, but threaten or harm my girls, and I’m ready to attack. I can restrain myself (most of the time), because I don’t want to fight my girls’ battles. Well, I might want to fight them, but I know it’s better for them to exercise their own skills in confrontation, problem-solving and personality conflicts. I know they have to learn how to deal with demanding teachers, territorial friends, unreasonable employers, and well-intentioned but sometimes misguided family members.

My Mama Bear claws came out when a daughter was unjustly treated by a teacher who seemingly wanted to flex her authority muscles.

My Mama Bear claws came out when a friend consistently talked to my daughter with disrespect.

My Mama Bear claws came out when I felt my daughter’s employers were taking advantage of her work ethic.

Few people have seen my Mama Bear claws, because I don’t call the teacher, friend, or employer and intervene. I want to equip my daughters to discern what the best course of action is. It’s not easy, because it’s not about retaliation (which is what my Mama Claws often seem to be all about). We have to balance respect for authority with the timing, reasons behind the confrontation, and future of the relationship. I don’t want to bad-mouth those in authority in my daughters’ lives, because they have to learn the balance, and they (usually) have to continue the relationship in some way.

My Mama Bear claws pop out quickly on the inside but (thankfully) rarely show their ugly, unmanicured daggers on the outside. Ironically, my daughters see them the most often and not in the way you might expect. In talking them through the possible solutions of dealing with the issues, my passion to protect my daughters often comes out in a bossiness to instruct my daughters (in loud tones of frustration). I’m not frustrated with my daughters, but that’s how my Mama Bear claws often show.

I’ve even scratched my husband with them. While discussing an important issue about our now nearly-grown daughters, he needs only to make one brief statement, suggesting something I think wouldn’t be beneficial to one of the girls in a critical area, and – I growl and swat (figuratively, of course). It’s not his fault. He’s simply trying to interact with me, which might not be a great idea when I’m in protect-my-cubs mode.

It’s not my intention to growl at and attack the ones I love. They’re the ones I’m trying to protect. My intentions and my actions don’t always match. I’m not trying to be hypocritical. I’m doing life the best I can, but sometimes I’m caught offguard. And in some of those offguard moments, my reaction might be to attack.

The times of crises are rarely times we can learn new coping strategies. We need to establish our habits in everyday life in preparation for times of crises. We know they’ll come – rarely when or in the way we expect them.

I’ve tried to using my Mama Bear claw moments as teaching times for my daughters as they wade through conflict, but also I’ve learned a lot about myself. It hasn’t always been pretty. God gave me my Mama Bear claws. They’re a gift for those times I, as the mama caregiver, need them for serious protection. But I can’t rationalize when I should (or shouldn’t) use them. That’s up to God.

It’s the same with everything God has given me. He created me uniquely…and in his image. In return, my responsibility is to steward everything he’s given me with intent purpose of fulfilling his will, not mine. That means I need to be familiar with his will. I need to know enough about God and draw close to him so in those times of quick response, I will stand up, sit down, speak up, or shut up…whatever he’s requiring of me for that moment.

Are you using what God gave you for his intended purpose?

Are you rationalizing or miscontruing any behaviors or relationships in your life?

We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. James 3:3-5