The Key to Dealing with Disappointment

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit~ Romans 15:13 NIV

 I will not lie. It’s been a chaotic couple of weeks around our house. We have been in the final throes of the moving process and experienced all the standard drama associated with moving ones worldly belongings across four states and over sixteen hundred miles.

Everything and I mean everything, has taken longer and cost more than we thought it would. The electric company called last week to let us know that our first bill was sent back (they were not amused). A few phone calls revealed that ALL our mail is being returned to sender and a trip to the post office has yet to remedy the situation.

 Our new neighborhood is a place where folks take lawn care seriously and we have not figured out how to make the sprinkler system work. As a result our lawn is turning an ominous shade of brown and the neighbors have begun to cast sideways glances at us. The dogs are troubled by the recent changes and cannot figure out on a consistent basis where they are supposed to “do their business”.

 Sadly, all that pales in comparison to the drama we have experienced with one of our kids. This kid has been what can only be described as a mammoth pain in the backside for weeks now. We have been losing our minds trying to find an explanation for this behavior.

 A long encouraging conversation resulted in no discernable change in behavior. We then attempted some coaching, when that failed we moved on to gentle correction, praying for wisdom, and finally punishing the bad behavior with increasing intensity: nothing worked. We wondered if the disobedience was perhaps a result of homesickness or missing the old school or perhaps even a weird side-effect of getting less sunshine.

 After a number of increasingly more intense discussions it was revealed that at the root of the angsty misbehavior was something more basic…

 Disappointment.

 I am not sure what the kid was hoping for, and neither do they. But it turns out that living in Washington is a lot like living in Arizona only with more rain and fewer swimming pools. They were expecting things to somehow be different, more exciting, and less humdrum. At one point in the conversation they did admit that at the very least were hoping that a change in location would result in a change of expectations. We discussed the issue at length and I am pleased to report that life in Price household has finally returned to something that more closely resembles normal.

 My immediate reaction was relief that the crisis was over; relief was followed quickly by amusement. My amusement faded when it hit me that even many grown-ups have been guilty of the same sort of wishful hoping at one time or another.

 Most of us have irrationally hoped that making an outward alteration in education level, tax bracket, marital status or zip code would somehow alter more than just our education level, marital status, zip code or tax bracket. We believe deep down inside that getting married will fix our relationship problems, moving will transform us into a more interesting person or that getting a degree will give us the sense of belonging or prestige we have always longed for. When we wake-up the day after making the big change as the same person we’ve always been, reality results in…

 Disappointment.

 Disappointment is unavoidable in a fallen world. Few things in life work out exactly as we hoped or even planned they would. If disappointment is not handled properly it can transform into anger towards God. If anger is allowed to fester it will eventually grow into a cancer that always results in either a nasty case of depression or a grown-up version of acting out. We act-out (sin) because deep down inside we feel that our disappointment has earned us the right to take pleasure where we can find it. Acting-out is an ugly thing that never ends well for anyone, regardless of age.

 For Christians the key to coping with the inevitable disappointments of life begins with a willingness to surrender our dreams and desires to God. When we let go of our dreams and desires, we are freed up to embrace the dreams God has for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

Weight and Other Creeping Things

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us~ Hebrews 12:1

 2015 will go down in history as the year that refused to go away quietly. For our family, 2015 ended with a rather brutal case of the flu. I got hit the hardest and because I am blessed with a husband who worries too much, I spent the better part of a day at the local urgent care clinic.

 I am not a fan of urgent care. Waiting is NOT my thing and urgent care is all about waiting. It’s just what you do. First you wait to speak with the receptionist. Then you are moved to a reception area to wait some more. Then the medical assistant escorts you to a sad little cubicle; and at that point the waiting really begins. They even make you wait to leave.

 The waiting aside, the thing I find most troublesome about urgent care is being packed into a room teeming with sick people. I have nothing against sick people per se, but there is something about being confined in an enclosed space with a dozen or more sneezey strangers harboring who-knows-what kind of strange sickness that I find truly unsettling.

 I was waiting in the reception area, attempting to distract myself from thinking about the number of viruses that could potentially be mutating into the next outbreak, when the medical assistant called my name. I was ushered into the back room, where she pointed to a scale and informed me that that I needed to be weighed before I could see a doctor.

 I attempted to resist. I hate to be weighed even more than I hate to wait. I don’t own a scale. In my opinion, voluntarily being weighed is a little like begging for bad news, and I like to think I’m smarter than that. But good manners eventually won out over my dread and I obediently stepped onto the scale, but only after removing my shoes and coat. A few minutes later I found myself sincerely wishing that I could have taken off more than just my shoes and coat.

 I will not tell you how much I weighed. In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that it was a large number, one I haven’t seen on a scale since my pregnancy years. After the heartbreaking weigh-in I was escorted to the cubicle where I had plenty of time to think while I waited for the doctor.

 I was shocked and horrified by the number on the scale. One of the reasons I hate scales is because they don’t lie and they have no way of softening the bad news. But it wasn’t the number that bothered me the most. It was the fact that I didn’t even notice the pounds sneaking on that really bothered me. It’s the sort of thing you would think one would notice.

 Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: weight is not the most dangerous thing we can miss sneaking up on us. Spiritual health is far more important to the big picture and even easier to neglect.

 One of the reasons spiritual health is so easy to neglect is because it cannot be measured by looking at a person or the number of spiritual activities we participate in. Spiritual health can be faked, at least on the surface. A person can look good on the outside, say all the right things, be in church every time the doors are open and even read the Bible daily and still have a sin-sick soul.

 Spiritual health is measured in attitudes and actions, rather than by appearances. One sure sign of good soul health is when we can see and celebrate the hand of God in more than just the times of ease and plenty. Our spirits are healthy when we see people the way God sees them. When we understand that people are, the end, never simply the means to an end. Our spirits are healthy when we are engaged in activities and relationships where God is at the center.

 We know our spirits are healthy when we are content with what we have but are still seeking to grow in whatever calling God has given us. The key to staying spiritually healthy is to stay close to God, to keep Him at the center of every question we have, every concern that comes our way, and every celebratory moment we are privileged to experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Games and Stupid Flirtations

A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth~ Proverbs 17:24

 Sadly, my Mother did not become a Christian until the very end of her life. Because we didn’t see eye-to-eye on issues of faith, as I entered into adulthood she and I saw eye-to-eye on very little. As a result, her advice was rarely the counsel I would give to my own children.

 However, there was one significant area of life where my Mother’s guidance was nearly always spot-on. My Mom gave me some unbelievably astute advice on dating. I frequently find myself repeating her wise words to anyone looking for insight in the area of relationships.

 She encouraged me to look for a man who treated others with respect because “a man who is not respectful to other people will never be respectful to his wife.” Mom frequently reminded me that past behavior is always the best the predictor of future behavior and to wait until trust was earned before giving it. Most importantly of all, she counseled me incessantly to never, ever waste my time on someone I didn’t see myself committing to long-term.

 I have decided that some of my politically conservative friends would do well to apply my Mother’s advice to the current crop of Presidential candidates. Political conservatives are “dating” or at least flirting with a candidate we have no business beginning a long-term relationship with.

 Most of my misgivings regarding this candidate are solidly based on verifiable facts, while others are undeniably emotional. From a strictly reflexive perspective, his bombastic rhetoric and sideshow antics are uncomfortably reminiscent of Charlie Sheen while he was apparently off his meds.

 His adolescent self-absorption gives me flashbacks to Vladimir Putin posing with his pet tiger and strutting for the cameras without his shirt on. We should all be horrified when a grown man approaches his rivals with all the charm and refinement of fourth-grade mean-girl. Rather than cheering him on, we ought to be thinking about what this sideshow will look like after the election.

 This particular candidate has flip-flopped more times than an Olympic gymnast on wide range of issues. No other political candidate could possibly get away with changing their mind on gun control, partial-birth abortion, taxes, legalizing drugs, health care and privatizing Social Security, among other issues. No rational voter of any political affiliation should be comfortable with so much “evolution” on such a wide variety of issues. Anyone who changes his or her mind that effortlessly will likely change it back the minute it’s politically expedient to do so.

 Even more alarming is this candidate’s history of offering campaign donations to politicians who will give him political courtesies in return. In the real world we call those sorts of favors bribes. Americans are weary after six years of little observable action on any significant political front. Our exhaustion makes this sort of “commerce” appear appealing and tempts us to see it as something other than what it is. It’s just more of the same political double-dealing we have become accustomed to in recent years.

 Many conservative Christians are flirting with the Trump vote. Some believe that the current sideshow is just good clean political fun. They think that when the party is over we will get serious and pick a more suitable candidate. The problem with that logic is that while we waste our time on someone we know we will never get serious with, the decent candidates are all going to move on.

 This is a dangerous game that could very well get us saddled with a candidate who is telling us what we want to hear and making promises that cannot be delivered without producing a whole host of really weird unintended consequences. Trump’s popularity is a reflection of a people desperately clamoring for change. We forget that it was the childish longing for hope and change without faith and hard work that got us into this mess.

 It’s time for Christians to stop flirting and start praying. We need to pray for for a candidate with a gracious spirit who has the wisdom to lead a deeply divided people to a healthier, less contentious place. If we don’t get that man or woman this time around, we will all lose, and so will our country.

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with a Creep Problem

For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been~ 1st Kings 11:4

 Our home is currently on the market. Having a house up for sale is a little like being in the final weeks of pregnancy. Each morning dawns with optimism and hope, and the sense that today could be the day. Every evening ends in despondency as you wonder if anything is ever going to actually happen.

 Daily despair aside, by far the toughest thing about having a house on the market is the level of vigilance that must be maintained regarding cleanliness. Realtors will tell you that items a family uses on a regular basis should be kept out of sight and every surface should be tidy and dust-free at all times. The whole idea is to create the illusion that nobody actually lives in your house so that buyers can envision themselves living there.

Maintaining this absurd illusion is even more challenging than it sounds.

 As the process has dragged on, I have learned a few sanity-saving tricks. I keep the ceiling fans running so buyers won’t notice any dirt on the blades. I hide items I don’t want people to see in my husband’s workbench in the garage. I have also cut back on the time I spend doing laundry. I stash our dirty laundry in the trunks of our cars before showings.

 My lack of attention to the laundry has resulted in a rather foreseeable consequence. We are all running a bit low on clean clothes. This has got me searching the darkest regions of my closet for clothing I quit wearing and should have donated ages ago.

 Recently, I pulled out a pair of shorts I hadn’t even looked at in at least two years. They were clean, not horrible looking and all I had left, so they met all the essential criteria. It didn’t take me long for to recognize there was going to be a problem.

 The shorts were, well, a bit snug. However, at that point I was running critically low on options and feeling desperate. So I persevered. I tugged and yanked and sucked in my gut and held my breath and finally managed to get them zipped. After some more effort I even succeeded in getting the button fastened.

 I stood in front of the mirror for a good while debating whether or not I should put on a long shirt to cover my hind-end or go back to my closet for a more suitable option. Just as I concluded that a long shirt would do the job, the button I had labored to fasten popped off with such force that it ricocheted off the bathroom wall.

 I was not a happy woman. And not just because I was faced with needing to do laundry; I also realized I needed to lose weight. Fast.  

 As I pondered my new eating plan (fewer greasy carbs, no more late night nibbles with the dog) I realized that sin and weight gain have more than a few things in common.

No one wakes up fat; weight gain is a process.

 It starts with choosing fries instead of salad. Next you throw caution to the wind and order deep-fried everything and a big messy dessert with one fork every time you go out. The routine of sharing a little nibble with the dog before bed slowly devolves into a carbo-loading frenzy for both of you every night of the week. Before long, your adorable little dog is wearing a jumbo size harness and your buttons are ricocheting off the bathroom wall.

 Sin works much the same way.

Nobody wakes up one morning blindsided by an addiction or just decides to begin an affair. It all starts fairly innocently with a seemingly inconsequential moral compromise here and a teensy little concession to sin there. Before you know it, you are stuck in a shame-spiral due to a deep-rooted habit you can’t break or a relationship that is clearly not God’s best for you.

 Thankfully, issues with sin and weight gain are solved in much the same way. Begin with acknowledging that there really is a problem. Denial is the enemy. Owning the problem is the next step; don’t pretend sin isn’t wrong or fool yourself into believing it won’t eventually kill you.

 Confess it, first to God, then to a friend who cares enough to hold you accountable. Then change as quickly as possible. Cut ties to toxic relationships, go to church this week, sign-up for a Bible study, and reach out to people who want to help you.

 Most importantly of all, remember that the situation, whatever it might be, does not need to define you. You are so much more than a series of bad choices to God. He is ready to forgive and give you the new beginning you so desperately need; all you have to do is repent.

 If only weight loss were that easy.

 

 

 

 

Pride and the Fall

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice~ Proverbs 13:10

 This month marks the anniversary of an event that has transformed our family drastically in more ways than I can count. This time last year a nine-year-old girl came to our home for a visit and has since became a permanent member of our family.

We have not experienced a dull moment since.

 Integrating a new member into our family has not been easy or stress-free. There has been a great deal of joy but there have also been more than a few tough adjustments on both sides. It is not easy for a kid to adapt to a new family, nor is it easy for a family of (mostly) adults to adjust to the changes and loss of freedom that inevitably comes with a young child.

 All the challenges aside, I can truthfully say that the good has far outweighed the bad. At this point we cannot imagine our family without her. Zoey has brought a whole new depth of joy and laughter to our home. She is a kind, clever, imaginative girl with many gifts and talents.

 Sadly, organization and analytical thinking are not among them.

 In all my years on this Earth I have never seen anything quite like her unique brand of disorder and chaos. In the span of a few hours her bedroom can easily devolve into a weekend cleaning project. She pays zero attention to detail, which causes her to lose as much stuff as she hangs on to and she has been known to brush her teeth before breakfast to save time.

 Her chronic lack of common sense has led the older kids to refer to her as a “Dufflepud” after the sweet but ridiculous creatures in The Chronicles of Narnia books. Dufflepuds boiled their potatoes before planting them so they could harvest cooked potatoes and washed their plates before eating to save time after dinner.

 Thankfully, there have been major improvements in these areas. That said, we still have a ways to go before she becomes the paragon of organization and logical thought that I am praying and believing she will one day become.

 So you can imagine my skepticism when she informed me that I had failed to fill out a permission slip for a field trip properly. To my shame, I didn’t even have the good sense to look at the thing before I launched into a calm but condescending little lecture. I smugly informed her that there was no way I had made an error on something as basic as a permission slip for a 5th grade field trip.

 To her credit, Zoey nodded politely and obediently put the slip into her backpack. As she was heading out the door I decided to give it a second look and discovered that she was indeed correct. I quickly apologized and corrected my error, but not before I made a fool out of myself and hurt the feelings of a sweet little girl.

 Such is the sin of pride.

 It happens to the best of people. It could be argued that the better a person becomes, the more likely they are to become prideful about it. The list of things that causes pride to dominate our interactions is as long as it is varied. Our skills, business connections, education and track record can all become sources of pride. The danger in this type of pride is that we begin seeing our selves as infallible and we resist taking input and advice from others and no one is clever enough to do life all alone.

 Perhaps the most foolish and dangerous type of pride is pride over the things that are outside our control. Pride over physical appearance, material blessings, race and background can lead to every kind of prejudice and social evil none of which has any place in life of a Jesus follower.

 The deceptive nature of pride requires constant prayer and frequent self-assessment. Prayer is indispensable because without God’s help and guidance we may never become self aware enough to want change or empowered enough to make it happen.  

 And change, as difficult as it can be, is essential. Without it, we will never become the people God calls us to be—and we might just drive away the very ones He has called us to reach.

 

 

 

 

 

The Original Gateway Sin

When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him~ Acts 13:45

 A few years ago, I was at a seminar with some other women from our church when a woman about my age walked into the conference room. I observed immediately that was that she was pretty and well put together. She was tall and thin, with cute clothes, shiny hair, smooth skin and a warm smile. She confidently approached our group and introduced herself. Within minutes it became apparent that she was not only gorgeous with great taste in clothes, but bright and articulate as well.

 She was well spoken but did not dominate the discussion. She asked everyone in our group questions about themselves and then listened intently to the answers. One of the woman in our group inquired about her husband and kids and she graciously showed us some photos of her extraordinarily attractive husband and perfect little boy and girl.

 She talked about her ministry activities and her reasons for attending the seminar. She went on to share how she planned to use what she was learning to start a ministry in her local church that would bless the community. All in all, the woman I met that day was gracious, attractive, thoughtful and engaged in the world around her.

 And for one brief moment that I am not proud of at all, I loathed her. I mean I really loathed her. Not only did I loathe her, I brutally judged her.

 In the span of about three minutes, I became smugly certain that there was absolutely no way that woman could possibly be the real deal. She must have a raging eating disorder, be a horrible Mother, a gossip, a liar, or a terrible friend. There had to be SOMETHING wrong with her. There was simply no way anyone could possibly be that beautiful, that thin, that kind and be blessed with that cute of a husband without having some sort of loathsome dark side.

 Just as I was preparing to share my opinion with the others in our group, the ugly truth and a giant load of conviction hit me like a ton bricks. Pious, Jesus loving, church-going, Bible-study leading, me was firmly in the grip of the foulest and most treacherous of all emotions.

 I was jealous.

 Proverbs 27:4 makes this observation concerning jealousy:

 Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood. But who can stand before jealousy?

 The self-deceptive nature of jealousy makes it infinitely more dangerous than anger or wrath. Jealousy is the original gateway sin. If left unchecked, it becomes a frontrunner to all sorts of other sins because jealousy convinces us that the anger and wrath we feel are justified. Jealousy dupes us into believing that the innocent person on the receiving end of our bad behavior is somehow deserving of our actions.

 Jealousy gains a foothold in our hearts because we focus far too much of our attention on what other people have rather than what God has blessed us with.Our misdirected attention inevitably leads to resentment and lack of gratitude as well as jealousy. Such was my experience at the conference. I became so fixated on what that other woman looked like and what God had blessed her with that I forgot all about all about the abundance of good things in my own life. My willful amnesia was followed by a shocking lack of gratitude for everything God has done for me.

 At the root of jealousy is lack of faith and belief in God’s goodness. Jealousy overcomes us when we doubt God’s ability to work with what He has given us. We forget that God gifted each one of us our own set of abilities, or we decide that that those gifts are not good enough to do anything significant with. Either way, it’s a terrible sin and the birth of a jealous spirit.

 No one in the history of forever has ever done anything out of jealousy they felt proud of. For that reason alone jealousy should be avoided at all cost. The key to avoiding jealousy is to take our focus off ourselves and other people and keep focus on God and the good things He’s given us. When our eyes are on God and our focus is on our own unique set of blessings, we cannot help but be a blessing to the rest of the world.

The One Skill Every Child Must Have to Survive

 Last week marked the beginning of winter semester at the university where my son Alex attends college. He and I caught up after his first day of classes and chatted about his day.

 Just when I thought our little talk was drawing to a close, Alex said something that promptly reinvigorated the conversation. He casually mentioned that he’d had a tough time getting around school that day. Apparently the campus was swarming with parents who were hanging out, introducing themselves to the professors, looking for things, and even attending classes with their children.

 I was suddenly intrigued and bursting with questions…

 Really?

Was it parents’ day? (If so, why wasn’t I invited???)

Was there a problem at the airport, forcing parents to stay in Tucson?

Were the parents actually sitting in on the classes?

Were the kids embarrassed, sitting with their parents in college classes?

Were the professors annoyed?

 My son explained that it was not parent’s day, nor were there any issues at the airport that he was aware of. Some of his younger friends had informed him that not only did parents introduce themselves to the professors and sit in on the classes, but a few raised their hands to ask questions on behalf of their children. Surprisingly, the kids seemed to be perfectly okay with the unofficial “bring your parents to college day” but there was some serious eye-rolling going on among the professors.

 At first I thought the whole thing was a little weird and kind of funny. It simply never occurred to me to attend college classes with my kids. I just presumed that if they were old enough to enroll in college, they were capable of introducing themselves to the professors, finding nourishment, and locating their classrooms without my assistance.

 Later, I was struck by how unfunny the whole thing actually was. This sort of thing is a symptom of a problem that cripples many middle-class kids. Well-meaning parents have become so fearful regarding their kids’ safety, comfort level, and overall happiness that they have gone to extremes to shield their kids from harm or distress. In the process, some have missed the entire point of parenting and failed to teach the one skill everyone needs to survive in this world: Self-management

 Self-managers know when they are hungry, tired, cranky or sick and they understand how to deal with those issues appropriately. Self-mangers are not afraid to participate in life because they know how to recognize and protect themselves from dangerous people and situations. Self-managers take care of their own needs, treat people the way they wish to be treated, problem solve, have common sense and self-discipline, and are capable of healthy communication with other human beings. A child should be adept at the basics of self-management by the time they reach puberty. Sadly, most are not.

 There are three ways parents can teach self-management.

 Encourage children to take controlled risks-

 There is a lot of debate over how many and what type of risks children should be permitted to take. Some believe kids should be insulated from even the most remote danger. These are the people who want to hand out bulletproof blankets to kindergarteners and put helmets on children before recess. Others think kids should be permitted to wander completely unsupervised. Wisdom lies between the two extremes. Children cannot learn to manage risk without taking risks, and they learn by doing. Kids should be coached about safety and then given age-appropriate opportunities to walk to the park alone, pay for things, ride their bikes unsupervised and walk around a store or mall without Mom and Dad by their side.

 Limit the use of technology-

 Good communication skills are essential to self-management. Technology (especially texting) keeps kids from developing the skills necessary to actually talk with other human beings. Kids need face-to-face communication to learn to read non-verbal cues and to understand how their words affect others. If kids are allowed a cell phone before puberty, parents should insist it’s used for phone calls only.

 Do not eliminate negative consequences-

 Consequences are the fruit of choices. We do kids a disservice when we cushion them from negative consequences. If a child is inconsiderate, irresponsible, rude or careless they should be made to deal with the fallout of their choices even if it’s inconvenient or embarrassing for Mom and Dad.

 In the early years, parenting is all about protection and provision. Loving parents do everything within their power to provide for and guarantee that no harm befalls their young child. As kids mature, parenting priorities must shift. If they don’t kids will grow up with all of the passions and aspirations of adults while missing the maturity and wisdom to manage and make the most of those passions and aspirations. The skills gained through the teaching of self-management lay the groundwork for a life of productivity, happiness and holiness. Without the capacity to self-manage, no one—no matter how loved they were in the early years—will ever reach his or her God-given potential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Purpose

 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose~ Romans 8:28 NASB

 

This week I learned that the word purpose is one of the most loaded words in the English language. It came to light following a conversation with one of our kids. The exchange started innocently enough when I vetoed chocolate cake after dinner. I defended my use of veto power by patiently explaining that candy and cookies at church, followed by ice cream at lunch and peanut butter cups for an afternoon snack, was more than enough nutritionally deficient “food” for any one person in a single day.

 The child was clearly not persuaded by my insight so I launched into a discourse concerning the long-term health risks of consuming excessive sugar. I was on a roll so I went on to expound (rather eloquently I thought) on the hazards of developing bad habits early in life and the differences between an empty calorie and a healthy calorie. I was feeling pretty smug about my communication skills until I noted the blank expression in her eyes and realized that I was not having the impact I had hoped for.

 The death spiral of doubt came the next morning while I was reading a devotional of all things. The author warned against allowing anything to pull you away from the purpose that God has for your life. Rather than being encouraged to persevere in my God given purpose I was suddenly filled with uncertainty and doubt.

 My mind immediately traveled back to the conversation I’d had the night before with my child. It got me thinking about purpose and whether or not I somehow missed mine.

I cannot explain why that particular situation struck me with what can only be described as an existential crisis of confidence. It could be that recent changes in my life have rocked my confidence. Some would say it was the devil. It’s also possible that I am simply an over-privileged first-world Christian with too much time on my hands to ponder such things.

 Once I got my emotions in check I did a search of the Scriptures looking for some wisdom. I think I was hoping to find an example of a man or woman seeking their purpose. To my surprise, I could not find a single example. I concluded that there are only three possible explanations for this:

 We are the first generation of humans to be concerned with our purpose.  

Prior generations had the subject of purpose all figured out and did not feel the need to ask.

They understood some truths we have forgotten.

 The first two possibilities are highly unlikely. People are people. The fundamentals of what make us human do not change. And people everywhere, in every time, and in every place have cared a great deal about living lives that are both meaningful and significant. We are not the first generation to ponder our purpose in life. Nor will we be the last.

 I do believe that the men and women of the past may have understood a significant truth that I briefly forgot in the midst of my angst the other day. They understood that God’s purpose for each individual is less about doing and more about being.

 Like most folks, I tend to think of purpose in terms of things that I do. For most people, finding purpose tends to all about getting a degree, doing a job, making money, starting a ministry, raising a family. While it’s true that God wants people to be industrious and hardworking (2nd Thessalonians 3:10). I’m discovering that God is far more concerned with whom we are becoming rather than what we are achieving. If a man or woman is in the process of becoming holy, righteous, and fully submitted to God, the details of the doing tend take care of themselves.

 According to Scripture, people fulfill their purpose in the mundane things of life as much, if not more so, than in the things we see as big. God cares little about our net worth, how many degrees we have earned, the awards and honors that adorn our office walls, or even how many people we preach to every week. However, He is keenly interested in how we use our money, do our jobs, use our words, raise our families, treat our spouses, who we gossiped about and how forgiving we are.

 We find our purpose in this life when we take whatever it is we are doing, no matter how mundane and seemingly insignificant and commit to doing it in a way that reflects the goodness and glory of God to the world around us.

 

 

 

      

 

 

The Folly of Forsaking Wisdom

 For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it~ Proverbs 8:11 KJV

 I have been tutoring a seven-year-old boy twice a week for a little over a year now. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I help him with his homework and then we work to improve his reading and writing skills. I will not lie-I have a soft spot for Chandler. I think it’s at least partly because he’s a bit eccentric for a second grader. 

 Chandler’s favorite food is Cheez-Its and he dreams of becoming a fighter pilot someday. Chandler knows everything there is to know about airplanes, dolphins and warships. He is convinced that America was the instigator in World War II and is extremely proud of that “fact.” He is unfailingly patriotic, has an offbeat sense of humor, and a uniquely quirky way of viewing the world.

 He also has a tenacious stubborn streak. Because he can be stubborn, motivating him can be a bit of an issue, especially when it comes to handwriting.

 Chandler would rather eat bees than write neatly.

 One afternoon last spring I became desperate. We had ninety minutes and three pages of homework to complete. We also needed to do his reading for the week. Every page of homework was handwriting intensive and Chandler was in no mood to cooperate. I attempted to inspire him with kindness and encouraging words, and he dawdled.  I tried being stern, but that only intensified his level of stubbornness.

 Finally, I made him an offer he would have been a fool to refuse. I offered to give him one piece of candy for every neatly written word. The results were truly miraculous.  The only real downside was that by the time he got half way through the second page he had eaten so much candy I was really scared he would throw-up all over my kitchen table. I gathered my wits enough to have him put the rest of the candy in a bag to eat later. He went home that afternoon with three pages of neatly completed homework and a sandwich baggie stuffed with candy.

 The next week, sweet little Chandler transformed into a greedy overlord. He expected to be rewarded with candy for every single word he wrote. He went home with huge bags of candy after our tutoring sessions. His handwriting improved dramatically, but only when he was with me and only when I paid the little punk off with candy.

 It wasn’t until Chandler suggested that he should get a piece of candy for every properly written letter that I acknowledged my stupidity.  That day I began the painful process of ending the madness. Because I had allowed the insanity to continue for so long, it took almost a month to get things back on track.

 No one would guess from reading this story, but I am not an idiot. I know better than to bribe a child with refined sugar. I know better than to bribe a child with anything. I have better sense than to allow an obstinate, eccentric seven-year-old-boy to run the show. I am well aware of the dangers of allowing bad behavior to persist unchallenged, and yet to my everlasting shame I did all of those things.

Repeatedly.  

 I have decided that this whole silly episode was not really about smart or stupid. It was about wisdom, or in my case an appalling lack of wisdom. My error was in supposing that the problem needed to be solved immediately by any means necessary.

 As I mulled this over, I concluded that many of the missteps we make in life are rooted in the desire to take a short cut to solve a problem or make life easier. Drugs and alcohol are a faster and more comfortable way of dealing with pain than self-examination and change. Bribing a child will get the job done without the effort necessary to build character and self-discipline. Alleviating loneliness with sex does not require the work needed to build healthy lifelong relationships. Cheating takes less effort than learning and yelling is easier than discussing. Casually dismissing God as a myth appears to make life easier and less complicated, but like every short cut it comes with a hefty price-tag.

 The differences between wisdom and reasoning are subtle. Worldly thinking is all about results and so the end always justifies the means. Wisdom understands there is more to a successful outcome than desirable results. Worldly thinking is all about getting the task accomplished. Wisdom is about getting the job done with integrity and in a way that will produce lasting change. Wisdom is the gift that enables us to look down the road and see the consequences of our actions and—if need be—correct our course before we reap an unpleasant harvest.

 

 

The Biggest Lie of Them All

 

At seven years of age, I learned a painful truth about life.

It all started the day I found an advertisement for a super spy periscope on a box of Froot Loops. The ad promised that for only sixty cents and couple of box tops, I could be the proud owner of a Batman periscope that would enable me to see around corners and over walls. The advertisement promised in no uncertain terms to turn me into a super spy.

 I pestered my poor Mother into purchasing the necessary boxes of cereal, saved my money religiously and sent away for the device that was guaranteed to transform me into a super spy.

Six weeks later I learned that people tell lies on the back of cereal boxes.

The periscope was small, only about four inches high, and built out of cheap blue plastic. The people I spied on could easily see my hand as I peered around corners. The “spy glass” was clear plastic that was impossible to see through without straining my eyes. The third time I used it, the plastic pieces literally fell apart in my hand, and the “glass” shattered on the sidewalk. I was devastated. My career as a super spy was over before it began.  

 I have since learned that people lie about all sorts of things. Some lies are innocuous and even amusing—like the time my then-two-year-old daughter Abigail told her Dad that her brother Alex was the one that made the smelly mess in her diaper.

Sadly, the vast majority of lies are less humorous and far more damaging. Political lies are destructive because they mislead the public and pave the way for politicians to create laws and policies that lead us down a path of economic and social destruction.

 The lies we tell ourselves are amongst the most damaging because they keep us from seeing the truth about ourselves and keep us stuck in harmful patterns of behavior. The damage caused by self-deception is enormous, but its destruction pales in comparison to the devastation created by spiritual lies.

 Spiritual lies are becoming increasingly more common. Christians and non-Christians buy into them in equal numbers. Some of the most pernicious spiritual lies of our time include…

 God has loosened up His standards of right and wrong since the New Testament was written.

Asking for forgiveness and repenting are the same thing.

 Running away from hurt and pain is holier than dealing with it.

 God just wants me to be happy.

 By far the biggest, ugliest, most malevolent, fresh-from-the-pit-of-hell spiritual lie of our time is…. (Drumroll please)

 God accepts people just the way they are.

 Every spiritual lie is uniquely harmful and all lies produce their own brand of spiritual chaos. But I believe the “God accepts people just the way they are” lie is exceptionally dangerous—partly because it brushes right up against the truth and then bypasses it entirely.

 The message that God accepts people as they are is one that has been circulating for decades. It started with good intentions: Christians wanted people to understand they didn’t have to be perfect to get right with God. So with the best of intentions we changed our message from…

“You are a sinner and you need to change.  Get your life right with God so that you will have the power to change.

 To…

 “You are awesome just the way you are. However, you would be even better if you had God in your life.”

 The message was well intentioned, but because there is a subtle deception embedded within, it has produced a sad and lifeless shadow of saving faith.

 The truth is that God loves people just the way they are. Loving and accepting are not the same thing. When my kids were born I loved them. I was over the moon with love and affection for my kids. I loved each of them so much that I would have gladly taken a bullet for any one of them. That said, I would not have accepted their remaining infants indefinitely. They were normal, healthy newborns and I fully expected them to mature into more productive people.

 God loves all people—regardless of past choices—with such a passion that He did take a bullet for the entire human race (metaphorically speaking). But God knows us all well enough to recognize that we are not awesome just the way we are.

We see this demonstrated in Jesus’ attitude toward the woman caught in adultery in John chapter eight. Jesus loved the woman enough to rescue her from a perilous situation (she was about to be killed). He loved her enough to forgive her for her sinful lifestyle (she was cheating on her husband). However, Jesus loved her too much to leave her the way she was. His parting words to her were a powerful call to transformation and life change: 

 Go now and leave your life of sin~ John 8:11 NIV

 The call to transformation is not just for new believers and people caught up in sinful lifestyles; it’s for all of us. Christianity is more than a religion, and it’s more than a just a relationship.

Christianity is a journey of transformation.

 It is a priceless opportunity to be molded into the image of the Maker of the universe. In order for this to happen, we have to stop fearing what we will lose through obedience. We must accept the fact that God wants something better for each and every one of us, no matter where we are in the journey.