Winning the Battle Everyone Has to Fight at Some Point

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged~ Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

It’s been a long couple of weeks and I have found myself in a nasty battle with the d-word:

Discouragement

 It wasn’t one great-big-awful-thing that had me feeling down. Rather, it was just a bunch of irksome stuff that coalesced into a brutal case of discouragement.

 Part of the problem is situational: I live in Washington state and it’s January. I have not seen even a glimpse of the sun for more than a couple of minutes at a time in months. The vitamin D tablets I’ve been munching on are simply not getting the job done anymore. I am in desperate need of some actual sunshine. Some other problems compounding that issue were a tense meeting, our beloved little dog died and I have a problem that affects me personally that I have zero control over. On top of all that a mean person said some hurtful things that hit a little too close to home and I had a hard time getting over them.

 I am keenly aware of the fact that none of my problems are truly significant. I have a roof over my head, a solid marriage, healthy children, a relationship with God and some close friends that I trust. In other words, all the truly significant stuff in is still okay in my world.

 However, knowing all that did not stop me from wallowing around in negativity like a pig in the mud. I spent the better part of a day eating my feelings and focusing endlessly on the negative.

 Just as I reached the apex of my pity-party, I had an uncomfortable but essential insight into the situation. I knew at that moment that if I didn’t find a way to get a grip on myself I was going to fall into pit of discouragement and stay there indefinitely, and the longer I stayed the harder it was going to be to get out.

 Discouragement left to fester is potentially dangerous from a spiritual perspective. Discouragement is not a sin (thank God). However, it is a reaction to circumstances that can easily mutate into something more permanent like despair or more sinister like bitterness (Hebrews 12:15). After my recent epiphany, I have come to believe that the key to dealing with discouragement effectively is to firmly grasp hold of the four following principles.

 Understand that discouragement is simply part of living in a fallen world-

 Admittedly, recognizing this reality changes exactly nothing. However, embracing the fact that EVERYONE goes through periods of discouragement does help put our feelings in perspective and it keeps us from buying into the lie that the universe is picking on us in a unique or personal way (John 16:33).

 Do not fall into the trap of focusing only on what can’t be changed-

 One of the truly dangerous things about discouragement is that it can blind us to answers that are right in front of us (Exodus 6:9). Discouragement transforms even really smart, really spiritual people into one of those annoying souls who always has a really great reason why whatever solution is offered (no matter how practical, workable or wise the solution might be) will not work in their particular situation. Unless you want to be that guy (or girl) it is essential we don’t let the emotion of discouragement drive our decision-making or willingness to apply solutions to our problems.

 Find something to be thankful for-

 Thankfulness alone will not magically transform an unpleasant situation into a pleasant one (sorry). That said, Christians are commanded to be thankful (Hebrews 12:28, Colossians 3:15, Colossians 4:2) even in less than ideal circumstances (1st Thessalonians 5:18). I think this is because the act of offering gratitude to God takes our focus off our problems and frees us up to see possibilities that we were previously blind to. Thankfulness reminds us that there is more to this life than problems and trouble, it reorders our focus and helps us to see the good in life. The ability to see something (anything) good in a bad situation really is a game-changer when we are stuck in a pit of discouragement.

 Trust that God is working on your behalf in spite of what circumstances are telling you-

This is obviously easier said than done, especially when negative circumstances look and feel insurmountable. But believing the truth of God’s word, rather than what circumstances are telling us, really is the essence of faith (Hebrews 11:1) and it is how we please God (Hebrews 11:6, Galatians 3:9).  

Another Church Peeve

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart~ Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

 I love the church.

 I believe with every fiber of my being that the local church is God’s chosen instrument for proclaiming truth to the world, training believers for works of service and transforming heathens and moral reprobates into faithful Jesus followers. For that reason, I am convinced that every Christian ought to regularly attend a local church and contribute their time, energy, and treasure into making that church a great place to worship, learn and grow.

 That said, I also have a whole host of weird pet peeves when it comes to church and how we do church at this time in history. Basically, I have an aversion to anything weird, gimmicky or shallow. Those things include (but are not limited to) fog machines, unfriendly congregations, worship songs that remind me to breathe, Pastors that dress like homeless people and a lack of relevant teaching or opportunities to learn.

 These peeves (and many others) have been well documented in some of my previous blog posts. I just sort of assumed (until recently) that I had discovered and explored every single one of my many peeves related to church and had nothing left to write about on the subject. I was wrong.

 I have discovered a new one.

 Everywhere I turn these days I am being told that I should speak the name of Jesus over my problems and worries. If I am afraid, I should speak the name of Jesus. If I have cancer, I should speak the name of Jesus. If I need money I should speak the name of Jesus. If I have a drug or alcohol addiction, I should speak the name of Jesus. This advice is usually followed up with the instruction to “just walk in it”.

 Whatever the heck that means.

 My concerns with this trend might appear to be a bit silly and trivial on the surface, but unlike some of my other peeves this one really isn’t all that petty. This one actually has some potentially serious practical and theological ramifications.

 Christians should understand that nowhere in the Bible are we told to speak the name of Jesus over anything. We are told to believe in the name of Jesus (1 John 3:23). We are told to openly profess the name of Jesus (Hebrews 13:15). We are also told to baptize people into the name of Jesus (Acts 10:48, Acts 19:5) and we are commanded to speak the name of Jesus as we teach the truth about God and call people to repentance (Matthew 28:16-20). Not once are we told to speak the name of Jesus over our problems, anxieties or doubts.

 Speaking a word (any word) over something in an effort to change it, is a practice that has more in common with witchcraft than it does with Christianity. I am NOT suggesting that someone who tells you to speak the name of Jesus over your problems is a witch or is active in witchcraft. I am saying that simply speaking the word ‘Jesus’ over a problem, worry or concern will not solve it and might even distract you from doing the things God wants you to do in order to solve your problems.

 I promise you that God does not want you to speak the name of Jesus over your bratty two-year-old, job loss, addiction, crumbling marriage or serious medical condition. That’s just not how God works. Instead, God wants you to do these three things:

 Understand that tests and trials are simply a part of this life-

 We live in a fallen world, and sadly bad things happen in our fallen world (1st Thessalonians 3:2-4, 1st Peter 1:6). People get hurt and sick, they lose their jobs, and sometimes they turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with negative feelings and traumatic experiences. Other times people are evil and cruel and the innocent get hurt or exploited. On the positive side of all of that, God will use those trials to make you a better, wiser more compassionate person if you ask Him to (James 1:2, James 1:12, 2nd Corinthians 1:3-6).

 Seek God on a deeper level-

 More than anything God wants you to work at getting to know Him better in the midst of your trial. He wants you to become a student of the Word and someone who runs to Him in prayer with all your fears, sinful inclinations, insecurities and problems. Doing that will give you a supernatural source of strength, knowledge and wisdom that will empower you to deal with whatever trial has come into your life, in a way that pleases God and benefits you.

 Become increasingly more obedient to God-

 We solve our problems in this life by first identifying areas of sin in our lives, repenting of those sins and then doing more and more of what God instructs us to do in His word. Romans 12:1-21, 2nd Peter 1:5-8, Colossians 3:1-26 and Ephesians chapters 4-6 give believers abundant instruction on the behaviors Christians should be embracing and eliminating in their lives. However, eliminating sinful behavior is not enough. We also have to ask God to help us (sometimes repeatedly) change our hearts, hate sin and see life the way He sees it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Does and Don’ts For Living Courageously in A Scary World-

w God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord~ 2nd Timothy 1:7-8 NLT

 There is a lot to love about life in the 21st century.

 There simply are no words to express my love for the under appreciated and under celebrated miracles of indoor plumbing, air travel, Pinkberry’s frozen yogurt, antibiotics, freshly ground coffee, electricity, central air, smartphones and pizza delivered right to my front door.  

However.

Life in the 21st century has done some damage to my ongoing love affair with living in the 21st century. There are situations common to modern life so far outside of human control that they are literally the stuff of nightmares. Things like earthquakes, church shootings, terrorist attacks, school shootings, superbugs, and random acid attacks. Further complicating issues there is a seemingly endless supply of punk dictators hell-bent on destroying everyone else’s peace and quiet in this world.  

 Sigh.

 For Christians times are even scarier. On top of all the weird junk everyone else has to deal with, we have the added pressure of living in a culture that no longer respects Christians or Christianity. Many otherwise nice people are openly hostile not only to the truth claims of the Bible but also to individual Christians. Christian bakers, printers, photographers and florists have lost thriving businesses because they refused to cave to the ever-expanding demands of the LGBTQ culture. Even within the church there have been challenges to traditional biblical views and attacks on biblical authority have become routine. Christians who hold to traditional views on marriage, gender and sexuality are openly ridiculed and regularly scolded for being close-minded, hateful and hopelessly behind the times, no matter how gently and lovingly they state their opinions.

 Sigh.

 The never-ending stream of strange and scary news often leads to a sense of powerlessness and confusion. God has called His people to better things than powerlessness and confusion (1st Corinthians 14:33). Those better things begin with following some basic do’s and don’ts for living courageously in scary times.

Do…

 Know stuff so you can pray-

 There is a growing number of Christians who will not watch the news or read up on current events because they feel current events are simply too terrifying to face on a daily basis. Sorry, but fear is a wretched excuse for ignorance. Knowledge empowers us to pray for people and circumstances that urgently need God’s supernatural involvement. We are incapable of changing anything we choose to remain deliberately ignorant of.

Be a problem solver-

 Christians are commanded to go out into the world and let their light shine before people (Matthew 5:16, Mark 4:21). Getting out there looks different for different people. For some it might be as simple as repeatedly engaging in awkward conversations about what Christians believe with an unsaved neighbor or coworker who routinely spouts really weird ideas and strange philosophies. For others it might be as complicated as opening their home to an unwed mother or adopting a kid out of foster care. No one can solve every problem but everyone can make a difference in someone’s life.

 Rejoice that God has chosen you to live right now-

 Seriously. It really is an honor. The God of the universe has selected you to represent Him in the world at one of the most complicated and bizarre moments in human history. It is a high and holy calling no one should shy away from for any reason (Esther 4:14).    

 Don’t…

 Live in fear-

 Believers are commanded to fear no one but God (Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 27:3, Psalm 34:9). I am convinced that the key to managing fear and anxiety is prayer (Philippians 4:6). When feelings of fear for the future take over, take those feelings to God. When we take our worries to God consistently (consistency, really, is the key) He empowers us to experience hardship and difficulty with courage and hope rather than fear.

 Be a jerk-

 I get that it’s tempting to be a jerk back to people, but the world has enough jerks already. Find a nice way to say hard things and commit yourself to loving people even if they don’t deserve it.

 Forget God has a plan-

God is not caught off guard by all the crazy stuff going on in the world right now. Rather, He is using it to get the attention of distracted and disobedient people who have drifted away from Him and His truth in every way imaginable. Right now God is calling Christians to show His love, speak His truth, and be His hands and feet to those people.

 I repeat it’s a high and holy calling.

 Embrace it.

When Life Hits You With A Curveball

My days have passed, my plans are shattered. Yet the desires of my heart turn night into day; in the face of the darkness light is near~ Job 17:11-12 NIV

 Regular readers of this blog know that I typically write out of my own personal experience and only very rarely tell the stories of others. There are numerous reasons for my reluctance to tell other people’s stories.

 First, I feel really weird telling other people’s stories and I hate feeling weird. I also worry excessively (probably neurotically) about violating the privacy of others. Moreover, I only know what I know, not what other people know, so I am reluctant to assign motives to others and it’s hard to tell some stories without assigning motives. And finally, I avoid offending others unnecessarily and there is no quicker route to provoking an offense than to tell someone else’s story and get it wrong or to assign the wrong motives.

 Sigh.

 All that being said, this week I feel inclined to share what I gleaned from watching someone else live out a really unpleasant chapter of their story with honesty and grace.

 I have a close friend who has been through more tough stuff in the course of the last two weeks than one could reasonably expect to experience in a decade of living. In the interest of protecting my friend’s privacy, I will spare you the nitty-gritty details of her private hell. I will tell you that the situation manifested itself suddenly and with no warning. Within days it morphed into the kind of nightmare we all secretly fear will happen to us and pray never does.

 Life has hit my sweet friend with some nasty curveballs in recent days.

 I define a curveball as any situation we were not expecting that abruptly alters our life in an unpleasant and unanticipated way. Curveballs are frustratingly common in this life. No one, no matter how well they manage their personal affairs, makes it through this life without experiencing at least one season of curveballs.

 Curveballs come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they come in the form of an unforeseen job loss, a financial or health crisis, divorce, affair, or the death of a loved one. In truth, the details of said situation matter less than how we handle them.

 Today I am going to share four strategies for managing the curveballs of life I picked-up from observing my friend this week. First….

 Run to God rather than away from Him-

 Alas, the first instinct many of us have when trouble strikes is to get mad at God. We do this because logic tells us that God is the omnipotent maker of the universe and if anyone is capable of preventing trouble, it’s God. While that may be true, it ignores a couple of vital truths. First and foremost, trouble and hardship are a sad but inescapable consequence of living in a fallen world (John 16:33). Even Jesus experienced hardship and trouble in this life (Hebrews 2:10). Secondly, God wants to be there for us and give us comfort in the midst of our trials. And finally, God sometimes uses hardship and trouble to shape us into the people He has called us to be and to prepare us to minister effectively to others. God cannot do any of the things He wants to do in us or for us if we push Him away in anger.

 Accept help-

 God does His best work through His people. Anytime someone offers to help in a crisis we should view that person as the hand of God reaching out to offer practical support in our time of need. It’s essential we take the help that’s offered.

 Own what you need to own-

 With a few notable exceptions, curveballs rarely just appear out of nowhere. Typically there’s a history of reckless/sinful/unwise choices that led up to the life-altering mess. It’s crucial we take responsibility for any part we may have played in creating the situation that led up to the curveball. Taking ownership of mistakes and failings keeps us from blaming God and will ultimately set the stage for us to make better and wiser choices in the future.  

 Find someone you trust and be as real as you need to be about how you feel-

 Talking is the ONLY way to stay sane in a curveball situation. Sadly, we simply cannot be honest with everyone because not everyone is worthy of trust or equipped to deal with the negative emotions that accompany a curveball. So find the one or two people who will listen, pray, and offer wise counsel without judging and share what you need to share to preserve your sanity.

 

 

  

 

 

 

Breaking Free From Regret


Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death~ 2nd 7:10

 Regret is a tough topic.

 Mostly because there are so many different levels of regret. Some regrets are minor in the grand scheme of things. Missed opportunities to do good or an occasional overindulgence (AKA taco night at my house) are lamentable for entirely different reasons. However, none of those scenarios leads to the kind of grief that steals our joy and keeps us stuck in destructive emotional and spiritual patterns.

 Other regrets are tougher to reconcile because some regrets are by their very nature trickier to overcome. A missed opportunity to do good can typically be made-up at another time and the consequences of most indulgences can be remedied with a little extra exercise. Other choices are less easily overcome. We might deeply regret getting married and/or divorced, our chosen career path, the choice to have (or not have) children, or a great big sinful decision that simply cannot be undone.

 Whatever the cause, regret can quickly become psychologically and spiritually debilitating. This is especially true if we allow ourselves to get stuck in the quagmire of “what if” and “if only” thinking. When this happens, we spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what life would look like if only we had made another decision or wishing we had taken another route in life.

 “What if” and “if only” thinking is a pointless waste of energy because it keeps us stuck in the past and focuses our energy in an introspective, navel gaze-y kind of way that will never actually change anything. To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge even God cannot change the past. Consequently, there is nothing to be gained by wishing we could do something that even the Omnipotent Maker of the Universe cannot (or chooses not) do.

 That said.

 Dealing with regret is about more than simply “getting over it” or “moving on”. I am convinced that God wants us to do more than just “get over” stuff. He wants to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ and sometimes God uses our deepest and most profound regrets in life to shape us into the people He wants us to be (Romans 8:28).

 There are four things we need to do anytime we are struggling with regret.

 The first is…

 Own what you need to own-

 Wise people own their mistakes because they know they will never grow past anything they refuse to take responsibility for (Psalm 32:5). If you have regrets concerning your marriage or how your kids turned out, do enough soul searching to figure out your part in the mess and own it. Don’t blame God, your parents, your spouse, society, or the church for the choices you made. No one can change what they refuse to acknowledge. Taking ownership is the first step to solving problems and living at peace with the past.

 Change what you can change-

 Taking responsibility frees us up to see what can and cannot be changed in any given situation. Sometimes even small changes in how we deal with people or circumstances can dramatically affect the outcome of the situation or the health of the relationship. If you don’t know what to do, read some Christian books, seek the advice of someone who has their life together or spend some time with a Christian counselor or pastor. Whatever you do, don’t give-up.  

Make right what needs to be made right-

 This means seeking forgiveness (Psalm 38:18, Hebrews 8:12). Every sin is ultimately a sin against God, so go to Him first and ask him to forgive you (He will). Then talk to the people you have hurt or wronged. If you were a crummy parent, spouse or friend be honest about your shortcomings and don’t blame others for your failures (Psalm 37:37, Hebrews 12:14). Seeking forgiveness from the people we hurt may or may not change how they feel about us but it does create an environment where God can bless and heal us.    

 Trust in the resurrection power of Jesus to do what we cannot do-

 Sadly, there are times in life when situations or relationships are simply broken beyond our ability to fix them. Once we’ve done what we can do, we need to trust God to do the impossible. The Bible is clear; if you are a believer in Jesus then the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is living in you and working on your behalf (Romans 8:11). The resurrection power of Jesus is not only about salvation. Over time (if we let it) God’s power infiltrates our lives and that power allows Him to do the impossible and fix the things that broken beyond fixing.

 

 

 

 

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Be strong and have strength of heart. Do not be afraid or shake with fear because of them. For the Lord your God is the One Who goes with you. He will be faithful to you. He will not leave you alone~ Deuteronomy 31:6-7 NLV

 I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about life.

 I freely admit that there is more I don’t know than there is that I do know. Moreover I am well aware that even after more decades on this planet than I like to talk about I probably still don’t know what I don’t know.

 Sigh.

 That said, there are some things I am convinced are true. The first is that God is a good God, and He always has our best interests at heart, even when our feelings or circumstances tell us something different. The second is that spiritual truth simply does not change or become untrue because the culture in which we live tells us otherwise. God’s opinions do not “evolve”. If something was true from a spiritual perspective two thousand years ago then it is still true today. Notwithstanding all the reports you have likely heard to the contrary.

 And lastly, I am persuaded that every human being who walks through life on this silly, sin-sick planet has or will experience the frustration and confusion that comes with not knowing what to do or how to respond to a particular situation or problem. Sadly, there are times in this life when education, wisdom or extensive personal experiences still leave us thoroughly ill equipped to handle the junk life throws at us.

 An unpleasant sense of defeat generally accompanies these times. The muddle is further compounded by the fact that the stuff that vexes us most in life is generally profoundly personal and often deeply painful. This ends up leaving even the best of us feeling bewildered, vulnerable and peeved with God.

 Which leads to doing a whole lot of nothing.

 I am convinced that the nuts and bolts story of how we got to this place in life matters a whole lot less than what we do with the circumstances we are faced with. Don’t get me wrong; there is value in self-examination. Self-examination and an honest assessment of our actions and reactions is the only thing that will keep us from replicating the same stupid mistakes over and over again.

 However, it’s what we do when we don’t know what to do that determines our character and ultimately it’s our character that determines our destiny (please pardon the trite platitude).

 Again, I do not know everything there is to know about this or any other subject. However, I do have more experience than I care to admit with not knowing what to do in a particular situation (don’t ask). So today I want to share a few tips for maneuvering through the morass of what to do when you don’t know what to do.

 First…

 Don’t get stuck in a muddle of misery and self-pity.

 Personal blows such as a job loss, relational rejection, business failure, or a divorce are horrendous, life-altering, episodes that really do warrant a legitimate grieving process. It’s crucial that we allow ourselves be sad or angry when we experience a big hurt or loss, it’s also crucial we don’t get stuck in feelings of sadness or self-pity. At some point we have to heal from the hurt, take risks again and find a new normal.  

 Do something good

 Anytime we make a big mistake or suffer through a hurtful situation it’s tempting to isolate ourselves and wait for good things to come our way. Sadly, good things rarely just happen. Good things typically transpire because we are doing good things for other people (Galatians 6:7). So turn off the electronic devices and and go interact with humanity. Volunteer in a soup kitchen, get to know a lonely neighbor, or help out at your church. It may not change your circumstances but it will make you feel better about life.

 Don’t blame God.

 Trust me, it’s not His fault.

 Forgive the jerks that hurt you

 Lack of forgiveness keeps us trapped in a never-ending cycle of bitterness that makes it almost impossible to see a way out of our current circumstances. The only way to break the cycle is to let go of resentments and forgive. It frees us up to see the future that God has prepared for us.

 There is one other thing I am staunchly persuaded is true. I am sure God never allows anything, no matter how painful or futile it may feel to us, into our life without a greater purpose. Sometimes when we don’t know what to do, God wants us to get to know Him better. When that task is accomplished, then He will show us what to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Five Words we all Need to Hear Sometimes

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him~ Nahum 1:7

 It’s been a long week.

 Every single time I turned on the television or radio I was deeply discouraged by the folly and cruelty of the human race. A stomach virus that can only be described as malevolent has wrecked havoc on our household. School starts in a few days and that means at least one shopping trip.

 Under normal conditions shopping is an activity I enjoy. However, school shopping with a seventh-grade girl is not “normal conditions”. School shopping with a seventh-grade girl is a grueling and brutal business that ought to be declared an act of torture by civilized people everywhere.

 I miss my oldest daughter (who lives in another state) and on the other end of the life spectrum it has become painfully apparent that my Dad is aging rapidly. To top it all off I have a couple of long-standing personal problems that are vexing me to no end. The outcome of those issues is for the most part, firmly outside of my control and I (like control freaks everywhere) despise any outcome firmly outside of my control.

I totally get that all these issues are first-world problems that don’t amount too all that much in the grand scheme of life and eternity. However, they are my first-world problems and most of them are here to stay.

 This morning I did what Christians are called to do when confronted with problems we cannot solve on our own. I prayed about the problems. Admittedly, it was not the most inspiring or poignant prayer I have ever prayed. It probably sounded more like a low-level pity party than a proper prayer to the Almighty. The substance was essentially just “God show me how to deal with all this without losing my mind”.

God did what God typically does whenever I start whining. He took me to His word where I found this verse:

 They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism~ Acts 6:5 NIV

 It wasn’t the entire verse that caught my attention and shook me back to a less self-indulgent reality. Rather it was a few words tucked in the heart of the verse, the five words that pulled me out of my funk this morning were “ faith and the Holy Spirit”. God showed me those two things are all we need to endure through any trouble (big or small) life throws our way.

 The Bible calls faith the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). But I believe faith is more than that, faith is that still, small voice that speaks to our spirits in times of trouble and reminds us that God IS. Because God IS the thing or things that test us are not the giants that they appear to be on the surface.

 They are just circumstances.

 Circumstances are simply pesky little moments in time that will someday feel inconsequential in the vast expanse of eternity. Circumstances that feel problematic and intractable are sometimes just God setting us up for something infinitely better. Circumstances are sometimes just lessons we have to learn in order to move on to those better things. Perhaps most comforting of all is the fact that circumstances will change over the course of time. The reality we see today is likely very different from the reality we will see a year from now.

 Faith reminds us in times of trouble that God—not circumstances—is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and keeping that truth at the forefront of our minds can keep us sane in the midst of circumstances that threaten to steal our peace.

 Despite my bellyaching I am entirely convinced that God cares about our problems— no matter how big, small or neurotic they may be.

 I believe that because God gave us the Holy Spirit.

 The Holy Spirit is the comforter and helper of Christians in times of trouble or confusion. However He is more than just comfort and help. He is also our guide and a source of supernatural wisdom and strength. If we seek Him and ask He has promised to give us the wisdom we need to navigate the tough stuff of life, and that really is all we need.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

The Lesson We all Have to Learn at Least Once

 Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.  Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do~ Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT

 The whole thing started with a promising, albeit peculiar occurrence. It was late last June and par for the course in Tucson, it was freakishly hot outside. I was in the garage rooting around in the refrigerator for a cold bottle of water. When (and this is weird) I was overcome with an almost overwhelming sense that our family would soon be moving back to Spokane.

 It appeared at the time that the feeling was little more than wishful hoping coupled with possible heatstroke. I wanted that feeling to be a word from the Lord or a sign, or whatever, as long as it was also a fact. Rationally it didn’t look like it would be.

We were in the initial stages of planning a move to Texas. The job that would have taken us there appeared to be a done deal. To our knowledge there were zero employment options for us in Spokane.

 Two weeks later everything changed.

 The deal driving the move to Texas abruptly fell apart and, as a result so did the job offer. One week after that, a job in Spokane appeared out of nowhere. Three weeks after that. We were going home.

 It would be reasonable to assume that any situation that came together as easily as that one did would be nothing but smooth sailing all the way to the finish line.

 As if.

 The ten months that followed were anything but smooth and easy. They were in fact some of the most challenging of my life. It wasn’t the first time I had to deal with the frustration of a move that seemed to be stuck in second gear but it was unquestionably the most difficult.

 I won’t bore you with the stupid details. It’s enough to say that the house didn’t sell quickly, effortlessly, or for anywhere near the price we listed it at. My husband and I lived in different cities and as a result the situation rapidly became emotionally and financially draining. Complicating matters further were some dynamics that are unique to our family situation. Including an eleven-year-old girl with some serious trust issues who has only been a part of our family for two short years.

 However, in recent weeks things have been looking up. The house sold. We bought another one and for the first time in nearly a year our family was living in the same zip code. Things were far from settled, but it was looking like they would be soon.  

 Until last weekend when I had to sit the eleven-year-old down and tell her that it was looking like the house deal in Tucson was going to fall through (it didn’t). If that happened we would also lose the house in Spokane. On the surface she was the image of calm serenity. However, within hours that image was shattered. She had regressed to some behaviors and attitudes we hoped and prayed were gone forever.

 Under normal circumstances, I would have attempted to finesse the situation a bit. I would draw her out, talk to her about her feelings and then gently attempt to get her back on the right track. At that moment I lacked the emotional bandwidth for sensitivity, so instead I simply informed her she was acting out.

 I explained that acting out is a common reaction even for adults. Plenty of folks choose to do all sorts of stupid stuff when they are angry or sad. I went on to explain that acting out always makes things worse and is never the wise thing to do.

 Then I told her that I would be there for her If she wanted to talk or cry, but acting out was unproductive waste of time and she needed to be done with it. Thankfully, her attitude improved immediately and we went on with our weekend. The next day I was thinking about our little talk and it occurred to me that I had been making a lot of things about me that were probably not about me at all.

 The struggles I selfishly felt were mine were at least partly about God and a little girl and what He was teaching her about life through our trials. It was about a kid who desperately needed to see that there is a different way to do life. It was probably about a kid who needed to see people running to God (no matter how imperfectly) with their disillusionment rather than looking for a thing or a substance to fix their feelings.

 It hit me that we are all prone to forget the truth that smooth and easy might feel good but it’s not always best. Tough times can be an opportunity for God shine through us, if we let Him.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Happens When we Take Offense

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense~ Proverbs 19:11 NIV

It’s official.

Sometime in the recent past America morphed into a population of whiners, wimps and politically correct crybabies.

 College students at Harvard University have reported feeling “ threatened” by the possibility of the presence of students whose views on abortion might differ from their own. Students were not actually exposed to opposing ideas on the topic. Nonetheless, the mere notion they might be exposed to a view they didn’t agree with was simply more than the little snow flakes could endure.

 These attitudes are not limited to the young. Full-grown adult and committed atheist, Patrick Greene is suing the senior Pastor of Abundant Life Fellowship in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mr. Greene asserts that a 230-foot cross being erected on church property is “offensive” and “tacky as he__ __”, and should therefore be removed. Greene is also suing two city officials for attending the crosses groundbreaking ceremony as private citizens.

It seems that everyone these days is “demanding an apology” from someone for something. At this writing various Muslim groups are demanding apologies from the makers of Lego, Chick-fil-A restaurants, Clint Eastwood and a bunch of cities in Texas. Bernie Sanders is demanding an apology from Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton is demanding one from Bernie Sanders. Everybody thinks Trump should apologize for something he said or did. 

Sadly, Christian people are not immune from the madness engulfing the greater culture. Wounded Christians were out in droves this past week. They were diligently monitoring and scolding others for what they believed to be “insensitive” and “callous” April Fools day jokes.

 It’s not just silly hoaxes that God’s people find offensive these days. It is not unusual for Christians to leave or cease supporting their local church financially because they’ve determined that the Pastor’s preaching is not “sensitive” enough. Lifelong alliances and friendships are frequently tossed aside because one person hurt another’s feelings and they refuse to forgive or even discuss the subject with the other party. Discussions of doctrinal particulars are frequently forbidden at Bible studies because the subject of doctrine is considered too divisive.

Many  Pastors and Bible study leaders have simply given up teaching and preaching about “harsh” subjects such as abortion, homosexuality, adultery and divorce out of fear of offending or driving away church members. The doctrinal illiteracy that has infiltrated churches as a result of this silliness has caused many Bible studies to become little more than pools of collective ignorance.

Some Churches have scrapped doctrinal declarations of faith altogether. Embracing “Who We Are” statements in their place. These statements avoid making any pronouncements that might be considered unequivocal or offensive. One denomination dropped all references to the Bible in their Who We Are Statement and instead quote Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

 Many Christians admit to isolating themselves from other believers, because they have been hurt or felt offended by the words, actions or the “sensed” motives of others. Some have stopped attending weekly services altogether because they felt ignored or were offended by a Pastor or staff member. 

 This is simply not what Jesus envisioned for His people when He prayed that we would be one (John 17:11).

I fear we have lost our way and become a lot like the young adults we all love to mock on college campuses: a bunch of oversensitive, easily wounded, crybabies.

 This nonsense has eternal consequences. Church is no longer a place people go to find truth or get answers to life’s toughest questions. As a result unbelievers are often left to figure out life and eternity on their own. Typically,with less than spectacular results. It is noble to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others but not at the expense of tackling heaven and hell issues.

 We can stop the madness by making a habit of stepping back and praying for wisdom when we feel offended or hurt by others. We must understand that contrary to popular belief, our perceptions are not always reality.  We need the Holy Spirit, not our emotions to show us what is true in these situations. Even when our perceptions are correct and people have behaved in a way that is insensitive or callous, forgiveness, not offendedness is the God-honoring, life-giving answer.