Worth Keeping

keepTrust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

What do you need to set aside?

What do you need to keep?

How much space in your life is filled or available for God?

What does it mean to keep something? Perhaps hoarding comes to mind, people keeping what they don’t need to keep. The television shows on hoarding serve as a reminder to all of us not to keep what is unnecessary. We don’t need to keep every piece of paper, every paper sack, every piece of mail. We need to keep what is worth keeping. We shouldn’t fill our lives with the unnecessary.

We don’t define what is unnecessary or necessary. God does. He decides how to fill our lives. He decides where space should exist and how and with what it should be filled. He defines what we keep, and it comes out of our love for Him.

To keep something is to continue having or holding something, to not return, lose, sell, give away, or throw it away. Because we love God, we keep what He says in our grasps, on our minds, and in our hearts. We keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. We don’t let go. We’re singled-minded. We set aside our understanding for His.

To keep something also means to continue in a specified state, condition, or position. When we keep our relationship with God, we keep changing, keep loving, keep seeking, keep obeying, keep trusting. It’s a continual relationship. No more checkboxes that you can accomplish and move on.

 

Anytime a reminder or notification pops up on your phone today, remember your constant relationship with God. Staying in a relationship with Him is like having a notification or reminder light up your phone every single second. It’s constant. Be thankful today.

Authentic Laughter

images.jpgHe will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with a shout of joy. (Job 8:21)

When was the last time you laughed so hard your cheeks or stomach hurt? What was so funny?

How would you describe your sense of humor?

In what situations do you find yourself laughing inappropriately—thinking something is funny that is probably not?

We all need to laugh. Laughter relaxes us. We celebrate through laughter. We express ourselves through laughter. We relate to others through laughter. But laughter can also be inappropriate. Of course, if God gives us laughter, it will be authentic. When we know what laughter is authentic and which is fake, we can determine when our laughter is from God, when we laugh to be polite or included, or when we laugh because we’re nervous and don’t know what else to do. Authentic laughter will always honor God. That means if something doesn’t honor God, it’s not funny—no matter what you’ve been raised to believe, what habits you’ve developed, and what you rationalize as funny. Laughter is about fully enjoying what God has given us. He didn’t gift us with laughter so we could use it to celebrate or support anything contrary to his will. That doesn’t mean Christians have to be serious all the time. There’s plenty of joy in God’s world to fully celebrate with side-splitting laughter! When we laugh at what is not God-honoring, we’re robbing ourselves of the joy God intends for us.

When you find yourself rationalizing your laughter at a movie, television show, or real life situation, reconsider your motivation. Consider one thing when wondering whether or not you should laugh at something: “If it nailed Jesus to the cross, it’s not funny.” In other words, if it’s not God-honoring, it’s not funny.

Invite laughter into your day. Look around you and fully experience the joy God is giving you. Share laughter with others. If you find yourself laughing inappropriately, choose today to form new, more God-honoring habits.

Confrontation and Resolution Are Not The Same

cf6716efee4e4040d8133c8ebce5ec84I have a fairly strong personality. Sometimes, it means I get a lot done, can lead well, and help others move forward. Other times, it means I’m bossy.

It also means I’m fairly comfortable with confrontation. But for those who shy away from it, that quality in me can be scary. It’s not intended to be. If it is, I’m misusing it.

After all, it’s not confrontation that I like; it’s resolution.

People and relationships are too important to me to allow issues to go unresolved. People can’t grow without remaining sharp. We can’t grow without pruning. Being sharpened and pruned sound painful, and let’s be honest: sometimes they are. But they also help us to move forward, to not get stuck in our own comfortable way of doing things.

None of us are completely responsible for each other’s growth, yet we do have some responsibility. And not just in other’s growth but in our own. Being sharpened and pruned sound passive, but they are anything but. The growth process is active: planting, cultivating, nurturing, pruning, harvesting, preparing. And there are tools for each part of the process. Some tools are sharper than others. Some seem more effective or less desirable, but all are necessary.

Confrontation isn’t intended to just shake someone into shape and get them on the right path. It’s about a relationship of preparation and resolution, and that includes questions, doubts, disagreements, discussions, patience, reconnections, and more.

It’s worth the effort. It’s worth the humility. It’s worth the boldness.

Resolution is often not attained, but it can always be the goal. We can work toward it. It can define the process. It can be part of the foundation of our relationships. It might not always feel steady, but when it’s our goal, it provides firm footing to move forward and grow.

 

Communication and Talking Aren’t The Same

blah-blah-blahSometimes I talk without communicating well.

I know I don’t control someone else’s attention or response, but I can pay attention and respond as I’m talking. After all, talking isn’t the point. Communication is.

I’ve often used the phrase, “But I already told you…” or “I said…,” as if the simple fact that words came out of my mouth secured successful communication.

It doesn’t.

The weight doesn’t completely rest on me, but I need to take communication seriously enough to know that I have some responsibility. I know my motives and my style, so I may think that just saying something to someone or sending an email or text gets the job done. But communication is often less about the content and more about the relationships involved. If I don’t respect the other person through the communication process (and my attitude), what have I gained? What could someone else possibly gained?

The goal of communication is rarely isolated to information.

Communication involves people, so respect, patience, forgiveness, and humility must be a part of it…perhaps even the goal.

 

I told you so.

imagesSaying “I told you so” might get your point across. It might prove you were right and someone else was wrong. It might give you some status…for a moment.

You might feel like you win (and someone else loses, and you’re okay with both). But in reality, “I told you so” is boasting. It drives a wedge between people.

So what if you told someone something and they have now learned the hard way? Isn’t learning the hard way enough? What if, instead of kicking them while they’re down, you reached out a hand of encouragement, helped them dust off, then offered to walk the next few steps together as they limp?

Of course, sometimes staying alongside someone isn’t the most healthy option for either you or the other person. You need to walk separate paths for a while. And if you’re walking separate paths, there’s still no need to say, “I told you so.”

Let them realize it in their own timing. It will stick longer, and you’ll maintain some respect for yourself, and potentially from the other person. After all, would you continually go to someone for advice and help if they constantly remind you how smart they are?

You don’t have all the answers. None of us do. Let’s be humble with what we do know, be willing to grow and change as we discover our misunderstandings, and respect others every step of the way.

Praying Beyond My Ability

8442a97f5e87ffab001111e8f7b1068bI’m not an artist, so I relate to the comparison between what I see in my head and what ends up on paper. We can all relate in one area or another: writing, running, makeup or hair, decorating, or crafts of just about any variety. Our very best attempt seems like a huge flop. Our best just isn’t enough.

Then there is prayer.

It is this same concept but in reverse. When we start with our best, even though it might feel messy and awkward and insufficient to us, God takes the best we have to offer and makes it grand. When we take our pure heart to Him, revealing our trust, He creates a masterpiece. The result is more beautiful and complete than we can imagine.

It is only possible in our humble, vulnerable obedience.

Barbed-Wire Christians

12i-Barbed wireAre you a barbed-wire wrapped Christian? Even if it’s not you, I’m sure you know “that one person” who fits the description. Unless you completely agree with absolutely everything the person has to say (which I doubt is even possible), you watch them poke and wound others. Fighting takes precedent over kindness, arguing over listening, being right over engaging in a relationship to reach out to others. They are “come,” not “go” people, who focus on getting everyone to agree to and adopt their own perspectives instead of engaging people where they are and doing the messy life with them while living truth out loud.

How can you avoid being a barbed-wire Christian?

Laugh at yourself more than others. Live with high hopes and standards of civility. Instead of chronically fighting back, fight how and when God intends. Pursue and follow Jesus well, because when you do, you won’t be retaliatory. Instead, everything you do and who you are becoming will be motivated and prompted by God alone.