Archive for August, 2009

Forgiving…Me

August 31, 2009

Just about 18 years ago, someone said something to me that really set me back.  I had been going through a rough time, was making mental progress, and then they said something that made me feel like a nothing again.

All these years I’ve felt two things about that event –

1. Regret –  I just wished the event hadn’t happened.

2. Frustration – I have always been frustrated that I didn’t have the skills to do better.  When that bomb exploded in my head, a mental block happened and I didn’t follow through on a promise.

Today I found out that someone is dead – like, not here anymore, but long since in heaven – dead.

It suddenly occurs to me that all the regret and frustration won’t help anyone and I’ll never be able to relive or fix that moment.

I have long-since forgiven that poor woman with the misspoken words, but I now need to forgive the immature, hurt person that I was.

Why am I still carrying all this stuff around anyway?

Release, Renew, Rejoice.

Communication 101

August 31, 2009

The subtitle for this post is “Can you hear me now?”

Not long ago, I asked my youngest child to take her sisters’ folded clothes to their room.  Instead, somehow, she marshaled the troops, and within two minutes, had them both in my room, picking up their own laundry to put away.

Now I know very well that if I had hollered “come pick up your clothes,” they would have sat.  In fact, if I had asked her to ask them to come get their clothes, they would have sat.  However, since it had become her chore, she was now motivated to make sure it got done, and she motivated them.

Communication is a funny thing.  There are parts of the world where if  daughter has bad news, she never tells father, she tells some other family member, who tells father, and the details of how to solve the problem are all figured out without the daughter and father ever having to talk.

There are family systems where everyday communication uses meaner language than I would use with my worst enemy…and they are being loving!

However, across the board, there is a basic.  It is called the communication cycle.  The communication cycle looks like this:

  • Picture in my head
  • Goes through my brain matter and translators
  • Comes out my mouth
  • Goes through the air (and can get garbled via outside noise)
  • Goes in your ear
  • Goes through your brain matter and translators
  • Makes a picture in your head

The communication cycle isn’t complete until the picture in my head is the same as the picture in your head.  Here are some of the common places things go wrong:

  1. Never actually saying what is going on in your head (people can’t read your mind) – this is my most common fault btw.
  2. Only describing the picture in your head and not taking into account your audience’s translators (there is a reason that elementary school teachers teach every subject five different ways).
  3. Distractions – if you have your discussion in a place where there are too many distractions, others won’t hear you.
  4. Leaving the discussion “up in the air” and not trying to reassemble the picture in your listener’s head
  5. Not finishing the loop by providing a process of feedback to make sure the loop was complete.

Well, that’s my thing to work on for the week.  Gotta run!

I Don’t Like Them!

August 25, 2009
cat and mouse copy

(picture borrowed from somewhere on the net - it's been in my computer for years)

What happens when social rules clash?

If you brought a dynamic leader from 200BC forward to today, there would be a huge clash of culture.  Charisma draws its own audience, but the people of that era lived by entirely different social rules.  Some of the things that were loving and right for them are really wrong and down right evil to us.

Things aren’t always this traumatic.  They show up in much milder forms.  When my kids were little, I discovered that it was easy for them to break other families’ social rules.

Once, while at a friend’s house, one of my kids asked an adult they didn’t know what authority they had to tell them what to do.  In our house, that is a valid question.   We had taught our kids to assess the person giving directions before following them because not all the adults in their lives were, well, adult.  In the house where they were spending the night, children always obeyed every adult.

When people marry, they bring their love, hopes, dreams and two completely different sets of societal expectations.  The farther apart the societal expectations, the more work the relationship takes to form solidity.

You know, God knew all this to begin with.  Time travel is out, but in our world that is now so small, it is easy to see present-day cultures collide from differences in societal norms.

In Genesis 11, God confused the language of the people.  Why?  Because they had become obsessed with themselves and forgot to make Him part of the equation.

Along with different languages came different cultures, different interpretations of the right ‘rules’ to follow.  The only way to find sanity is to make Him the center.

Do you need help finding common ground in your relationships?  Do you have people in your life that just rub you the wrong way?

God is the answer.  If you put Him in the center and look to Him for answers, He will work on the other side of the equation.  You can’t change other people.  They have spent a lot of time and energy becoming who they are.  However, God knows them from the inside out.   He is inside their head and inside yours.  He can bridge that gap and make the communication work where it hasn’t before.

Relationships aren’t easy. In fact, they take a lot of work.  Sometimes, those that are closest to us take the most work.  Thankfully, God sent His Holy Spirit to help us, teach us and guide us.  We can count on Him to give us good answers and bridge those relationships.

5 Reasons to Give Up

August 24, 2009

rock, pinecone and water

  1. It was a bad idea to begin with.  Sometimes we just mess up and start wrong.  Do your best to ascertain bad decisions early because false starts can be discouraging.
  2. God tells you to.  Sometimes He sends you in another direction and it rarely makes any sense in the short run.
  3. You are too much into yourself.  If your priorities have been messed up, hopefully God has given you a mirror to show you the flaw.  Let Him fix it.
  4. You are exhausted.  Consider Elijah in 1 Kings 19.  His head was going in circles and he couldn’t figure out which way was up.  He was mentally and spiritually exhausted.  He needed to be refilled and he was too exhausted to even realize it.  He just ran toward the Mountain of God and God met him on the way.
  5. You want to stop growing.

Okay – I’m not sure there’s ever really a good reason to give up, but sometimes we really do need to back up and wait for another angle of approach to show itself.  Often we need to take a break, crawl into God’s lap and ask for His perspective.

Life isn’t easy.  You will have times that you hit a wall.  If you quit, you will never find the answer. If you back up and wait, you will find new solutions.

Elijah waited in a cave and God showed up. Join me in 1 Kings 19

11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Elijah was seriously dejected.  God showed up (in Spirit, presumably).  He says – ‘come outside, I’m coming to visit in person.’  The the world shook apart, blew like a tornado and swarmed with a fire storm – but God wasn’t in it.

If you are in an earthquake, don’t give up.

If you are in a tornado, don’t give up.

If you are in a fire storm, don’t give up!

Can you see what’s next?  God comes in person.  In a sweet, small whisper.

Elijah got the directions for the next phase of his life.  Earthquakes, tornadoes, firestorms – they all feel like reasons to give up.  But if you stick it out, you get the refreshment and direction you need for what comes next.

Did the Dream Die?

August 24, 2009

central OR3Have you ever felt disillusioned and felt like giving up?  There is a story in Genesis 37-40 that I want to look at with you.  Joseph really amazes me.

First, we find Joseph having a dream.  Two of them, actually.  Here’s the first one:

“Listen to this dream I had:  We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

Here’s the second one:  “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”  (Gen. 37:6-7, 9)

God gave him amazing dreams.  The next thing we see is Joseph, in the bottom of a well, being sold by his brothers into slavery.  Can you imagine his thoughts on that long walk to Egypt with the slavery traders?

“Man, the wrong person is bowing here.  My sheave seems to have been burned.”

“What was I thinking?  I must have drank waaay too much of dad’s secret stash the night before those dreams.”

Or maybe he was more hopeful. “I don’t know how God is going to fix this one, but the sun, moon and stars are in Egypt too.”

Well, it wasn’t long before things started looking up.  He was a servant in Potiphar’s home and rose to the top of the ladder.  Maybe he would find a way to go home.

Just when hope was about to really take root in his heart, Potiphar’s wife accused him of rape, and he ended up in prison.  There is really no way out of prison.

Now, here is really amazing part.  Joseph had been sitting in prison just about long enough to lose heart when two people come in and have dreams that need interpretation.

Now, let’s review Joseph’s position:

  • his dreams he believed to be from God had proven themselves bankrupt – not once, but repeatedly.
  • every time things started to look up for him, they got worse.

Yet, when he comes across two dejected men, he immediately believes that God will give him the interpretation of their dreams.  He kept hope against all hope for all those years.  Not just that God would show up someday, but that God would use him now.

In fact, over about 12 years, he kept enough hope to be able to stand before Pharaoh, in boldness, without warning.  You can’t stand as a leader if you are riddled with doubt and fear.

When life is piled against you, follow Joseph’s example:

  1. Do what you can.  Joseph always put his hands to work.
  2. Look to help others.
  3. Believe that God will show up – probably when you least expect Him.

How Does It Do That?

August 23, 2009

101_0079Jesus says, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 6:63

He also said that although God prunes those that bear fruit, the words Jesus spoke to the disciples made it so that they were already pruned. (John 15:3)

Jesus’ words are powerful.  We need them for spirit, life, growth and fruitfulness.

We need to listen to Jesus.   What are three things you can do this week to spend time listening to Jesus.  Better yet, what are one or two of your biggest obstacles to hearing His voice?

My last question:  Jesus’ Word brings us life, pruning (and therefore) growth and fruitfulness.  How does it do that?

Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace

August 22, 2009

blog1The only thing worse than not writing at all is having a stack of your books sitting in the garage – unsold, taking up space, taunting you.

After all, sitting in the garage is just one step above sitting in the computer; which is only a half-a-step above the ideas rolling around, trapped inside your head, right? 

Will anybody ever read my stuff?

Sarah Bolme has the answer.  Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is just the book to help get those books out of the garage, onto shelves, and into the hands of happy readers.

I’ve seen a ton of books on how to write.  Sally Stuart has a book on getting your book into the hands of publishers.  Sarah will get your book into the hands of readers.

Although this book is primarily for the self-published, it has tidbits that will help the pre-published and those who are going through publishing houses.  From a birds-eye view to the fine details, Sarah walks us through the world of retail and helps us learn how to get our books sold.

Seriously – this book is incredibly helpful.  It is really practical, with easy to implement steps and tips.

Want to learn more?  Here is the author’s website.

Ready to dive in and get those books out of the garage and into the hands of eager buyers?  Buy the book here:  On Amazon.

Meltdown

August 21, 2009

meltdownI just finished a really good book – Meltdown.   This is the third book in the series.  I missed the first two books – now I need to go hunt them down.

In this book, you’ll meet (or re-meet if you’ve read the earlier books) Task Force Valor.  Mary, John, Sweeney and Rip travel the globe to save the world.

Meltdown says it is a suspense novel, but it will get your adrenaline pumping at about the level of a good mystery novel, with plot twists to match.

I have read books that wove the gospel in so naturally you didn’t even notice.  This one wasn’t quite so subtle, but had the beginnings of real potential as it described a pastor’s son’s struggle with Christianity.

My favorite part was the realism – you travel the world with Task Force Valor (as well as the bad guys), and you can tell that the author has actually been there.  His writing bears marks of realism in culture and visual details that makes the story come alive.

Anyway, this was a great book.  It gave me several days of relaxation.  You can buy it here:  on Amazon.

5 Steps For Balance

August 20, 2009

kayaker

There is a creative floor on my building.  I can tell because of the people who work there.  They wear really cool clothes, they carry cool artsy things.  Every time I’m on the elevator with them I feel…cool, like their artistry will rub off on me somehow.

Interestingly, without the rest of us (who are just as cool, btw), these artsy, beautiful people wouldn’t have a job.

In every company, there needs to be detail people so that there can be conceptual people.

In every life, there needs to be detail and conceptual – balance.  One can’t exist without the other.  Well, they can exist, but they begin to look lopsided and yucky.

Yet, we want to live life to the fullest, live it with gusto – how do you put everything you have into life and still keep balance?

  1. Don’t try to balance God.  If you make God something you are trying to balance, you’ve missed the point.  God is the only one who can bring balance to your life.  Ask Him to bring everything into balance and you will be amazed!
  2. Know which floor you belong on.  Acknowledge what comes easily to you – this is where you will be tempted to spend all of your time.  This is also where you should spend most of your time if you are to go with your strengths.
  3. Get help for the other floors.  Really – you can’t be the best at everything, so find out what you can do, and look for assistance in other things.
  4. Lists!!!  I’m really working with this one.  Especially with school starting soon, trying to go on vacation soon, soccer season in full swing and wanting to make jelly this weekend.  Make lists and start checking things off!
  5. Once a month, take a big picture look.  What does your life look like from a bird’s eye view?  Sit down with God and prayerfully look through your life for balance and imbalance.  What has God said to you lately?  Where is He challenging you?  Encouraging you?

I believe there is an artist in all of us.  We need art.  We need leaders, we need accountant, truckers, builders, housekeepers and (put your occupation in here).  When we put all the floors together, we have a very successful organization, and a very successful life.

Inflight Emergency Procedures

August 19, 2009

plane leavingYou are in a plane, cruising at altitude.  Suddenly, something happens and the plane loses a 3×4 piece of siding right by your seat.  What happens?

Well, as previously established, science isn’t my strong suit.  However, in the movies, everything goes flying out the hole due to the pressure differential. 

There you are, flapping in the breeze.  Everything is flying around you.  Your carry-on with your checkbook, phone and laptop hook onto your foot, your kids are in the row in front of you – you can hear their shrieks. 

Your spouse is on this plane somewhere – they were last seen headed to the rest room.   How do you keep from flying out into space? What do you grab on to?  How do you save what is important?

In the movies, the hero or heroine holds onto something solid *before* the big blowout.  OR they claw their way to something solid and hold on for dear life afterward.

Does life ever feel this way to you?  Are you tempted to try to grab for control of all the areas, hoping to salvage something?  What would happen if you grabbed for the bag, or the kids right now, as you flap in the breeze?  Fly away Betty!

What are you holding onto?

Listen to what David said in Psalm 27:

4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
       this is what I seek:
       that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
       all the days of my life,
       to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
       and to seek him in his temple.

 5 For in the day of trouble
       he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
       he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
       and set me high upon a rock.

 6 Then my head will be exalted
       above the enemies who surround me;
       at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
       I will sing and make music to the LORD.

 7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
       be merciful to me and answer me.

 8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
       Your face, LORD, I will seek.

 14 Wait for the LORD;
       be strong and take heart
       and wait for the LORD.

God is your solid.  If you hold onto God, and ask Him to take care of everything else, you will find that He has it all under control. 

Put first things first, and the rest will fall in line.