Archive for the ‘Damage Control’ Category

3 things you must do when your world crumbles

March 15, 2011

old tiresThe rats scurried away as Joseph sat up, stretching after a long night of catnaps and fitful sleep.  The lumpy mattress and prison noises had conspired to maximize his discomfort.

Joseph’s muscles cried for their usual morning activity, but with a sob rising in his chest, Joseph sunk back to the mattress and turned to the wall.

Hours later, his foggy thoughts were invaded by new sounds.

Thumping in the hall.
Someone walking.
His door opened.
The prison guard ordered him out.

Joseph drug himself off the bed, contemplating his new reality. Yesterday, he was as close to a prince as a slave in Egypt could get. Today? Today he was on the bottom, in this awful, smelly hole.

With heavy feet, Joseph shuffled – suddenly stiff like an old man. The guard marched on. Soon, a door opened. The air changed, as a soft smell emanated from the room. Joseph raised his head, sensing, more than feeling, the familiar opulence of status.

Standing up straight, Joseph followed the guard into the room.

Inside, soft light opened every corner. A rug softened the floor and incense filled the air, covering the stench of prison bodies and human waste.

The Jailer sat in a corner of the room. Weeks ago, Joseph would have sent people to the Jailer for insubordination. He saw himself a peer. Now, the Jailer held power. Power over Joseph’s life. Joseph watched the Jailer carefully, looking for a clue as to why this meeting was arranged.

The Jailer waved the guard away. The door closed behind Joseph, shutting out the prison sounds.

“Well?” the Jailer simply asked a question.

Joseph was careful to not relax. His prison could become his grave if he got on the wrong side of this man.

“I am here to serve you.” Joseph decided his best approach was honesty, thinking of the Jailer’s perspective instead of his own. Rage still burned in his stomach from his false imprisonment, but that rage would not put him in anyone’s good graces. That was for him, alone, in the privacy of his cell. Here, the Jailer needed to hear his function, not his feelings.

The Jailer gestured to a seat. Carefully, still stiff, Joseph sat on the edge of the chair. Remembering the lessons from his march to Egypt, Joseph knew that to relax was to assume, and to assume was to be punished. Subservience would be rewarded.

As Joseph sat on the edge of the chair, the pain of betrayal burned in his heart, crying for release. His mind, however, focused on the reality before him.

In that moment, he made a choice – let go of what was. Years ago, he had resigned himself to the life of a slave and released his right to the privileged child. Today, again, he resigned himself to subservience and released his right to rule.

Have you ever sat on the edge of that seat? Yesterday’s pain, choking your throat, as you try to grasp your new reality? How long did you sit on that seat?

Here are a few things you need to do in order to get off that seat and start moving forward again:

  1. Forgive. No matter whether your current situation was caused by your failings, someone else’s failings, or just circumstances, you are going to have to forgive.
  2. Release. When we sit on the edge of the seat, in the middle of transition, we have a tendency to think “someday, things will get better.”   We hold our dreams and expectations from the past, hoping that “someday” we will find all the puzzle pieces and put our picture back together again.  It is imperative that you release those expectations,  let go of “someday”, and start living today.
  3. Focus. Today is your day to live. Focus on being the best you can be today. You are still a gifted person. Your new position doesn’t mean you are a different person. It may very well mean that this new situation needs someone just like you to bring the talent and make something new. Once you have forgiven and released, you will be free to focus on those around you and find out how you can make a difference in their lives.

Joseph gained status in each of his new positions. Eventually, he rose to a position above everyone, and even saw his dreams fulfilled.

It would have been easy to let resentment and anger take over his life.  It would have been easy to carry that anger into each new position, therefore poisoning all his new relationships. Instead, Joseph thrived.  He thrived physically, and he thrived spiritually. Throughout his journey, as he forgave, released and gained new focus, he became more and more convinced of God’s presence every step of the way.

Where are you at in the process?

Do you need to forgive?
Do you need to release expectations?
Are you ready to focus on making a difference today?
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Feel like a basket case? Here’s your escape.

March 11, 2011
Saul (Paul) snuck from the house in the dark of night.   Ahead of him, friends led the way to the house on the wall.
Just days before, he was envoy of the powerful Jerusalem Pharasees.  The Jews he’d come to support now had a hit out on his life.  His only hope lay in the hands of the men and women he’d come to imprison, and if need be, kill.
In the wall house, the Jesus-believers paused to pray.

“Lord, anoint brother Saul.  You have shown yourself to him, now use him to tell others the good news.”

“I pray in Jesus’ name that brother Saul would be safe.”

Around the room they went, each praying in turn, and privately at the same time.  Then it was time to leave.
The women of the house had a giant basket, used for storage and laundry.  The believers tied the top together after Saul sat in it.  As a single unit, they hefted him through the window and down the wall.
In the quiet of the night, amidst all the wildlife sounds, Saul’s basket thumped to the ground.  Quickly, he slipped out of the basket and watched it ascend into the night.  Alone, Saul began to walk the long road back to Jerusalem.  (See Acts 9)
Do you feel God has called you?  Are you trying to figure out what He wants you to do next?  Do you feel pressed in and pursued from all sides?  Here is what we can learn from this lesson from the Apostle Paul’s life:
  1. When you take a stand, some people won’t like it.
  2. People’s true colors come out when they disagree with you.  These same men who sought to kill Paul would have fawned over him had he rode into town with his intended purpose – to kill and imprison Christians.
  3. You aren’t alone.  Paul was not liked by the Jews, but neither were the Christians.  He found refuge and solace in their friendship.
  4. God will provide a way out.
  5. You need other people.  God didn’t call Paul and then show him how to go it alone.  First, he had him dependent on the Christians in Damascus.  Later, he would be discipled and encouraged by Barnabas.  Always, he would need the good will of other Christians to get the Message out.
  6. God’s calling is a great adventure.  Either jump in the basket and enjoy the ride, or hide and watch other people accomplish your dreams.

 

How to keep going when you can’t feel God

March 8, 2011

The disciples were in a boat.  They had been rowing for hours.

Then somebody shows up – out for a Sunday afternoon stroll (at 3am) – on a sea of raging water.  Freaky!

They were so scared.

When we are exhausted, God does show up – sometimes His presence doesn’t look right.  Sometimes it scares us.  Always it challenges us and shows us what can be.

Peter, an obvious early adapter, grasped the concept of walking on the water quickly.  “Hey Jesus, if that is you, ask me to join you!” For all his bravado, Peter realized the most important point – if you are going to get out of the boat, don’t go because you think it would be cool.  Don’t go because you hope God will call you.  Don’t get out of the boat until you have heard God’s voice.  On the flip side, when you hear God’s voice, JUMP.  Don’t think, don’t speculate, ACT.

Peter got out of the boat.  He was walking on the water.  He was following Jesus in the wild, wild world.

Now, some have a code, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” This sometimes sneaks into our theology.  It sounds something like this: “If I follow God, He will make sure I am comfortable.”  Surely Peter had the right for some expectation.  After all, Jesus had called him.  He hadn’t jumped out of the boat, he waited until he heard God’s voice, and then, as soon as he heard, he followed.

Yet, a few steps into his stroll, wave swells grew.   Pretty soon, he could no longer even see Jesus walking on the other side of the waves. (My supposition.)  Sometimes, when you follow God, as soon as you say ‘yes’, the terrain seems to morph.  Nothing looks the same.  Where is God?

Peter, full of faith, was distracted by the waves.   When you walk on a balance beam, it is important to focus.  If you loose focus, even for a millisecond, a flip can become very dangerous.  Walking in faith is equally demanding.  When you choose to follow Jesus, you have to discipline your mind, focus your thinking, feed your faith.  You have to keep your mind’s eye focused on where God called you to.  Otherwise, like Peter, you will find yourself sinking below rush of life.

If you are human, you will occasionally reach that point of overwhelm.  Peter had Jesus, in the flesh, out there on the sea with him.  Those waves seemed so high that he lost his concentration.  Then, he did what you and I need to do – he asked for help.

Jesus, help me!

When you can’t feel God, you cry out.   A good friend of mine calls this “carpet eating prayer.”

Faith is that point of concentration and focus.  You keep your mind focused on God, and continue to walk where He told you, even when the waves are so large you can’t see two feet ahead.  If you lose that point of concentration, you do whatever it takes to get it back.  You dig deep into spiritual disciplines, and wait.  God will show up.

Saints throughout the years have taught us spiritual disciplines. The whole point is to help us walk straight – not by our power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Are you feeling swept away? Let me know – leave a comment or email me – I’d love to be in prayer with you.

How can a dead thing live again?

March 4, 2011

I found him at a garage sale.  A gangly, sad looking plant.  He was about three feet tall, and was a two leaf wonder.

No matter how many new leaves he grew, he only had  enough life to sustain two leaves.  As soon as a new leaf started growing, the oldest leaf would die.

Then, one morning, about two inches in the middle of the plant became mushy.  Some have suggested that he might have snuck too close to the heater, attempting to end his sad existence. <grin>

I was so sad to see the destruction of my plant.  I really liked him.  So, I cut off the top of the plant and stuck it in water.  I also cut off the mushy part, and threw it away.  I left the stalk in the pot, hoping it would think about growing a new leaf.

About two weeks into this new situation, my husband came home and saw the stalk standing alone in a big pot.  In his witty humor, he dubbed my plant ‘Stubby’.  I felt so sorry for the poor stalk, I pulled him up and stuck him in the water too.

Six months later, my husband started wondering when I was going to do something about the cup of plants still sitting in my sink.  Stubby had turned into two stalks with luscious, huge leaves on them.

I replanted him, and instead of a three foot, two-leaf wonder, I had an 18 inch 8 leaf plant that was beautiful.

In order to bring the dead back to life, you have to admit the thing is dead, cut out the infection, then give it a chance to grow new roots.  Eventually, with love and care, patience and good food, it will grow again.

Have you lost your focus?

February 28, 2011

Imagine you are Joseph (the guy in Genesis).  As a young boy, God spoke to you in a dream.  Then, just to make sure you had the picture, He spoke to you in a second dream – this one even bigger than the first.  God told you that you would see your siblings bow down to you.

Now Joseph wasn’t just one of 12 brothers.  He was the next to the youngest, and the first born of his mother.  His mother was the most loved wife of his father.  When every other child was born, he gave them some attention, but it was still Rachel that caught his eye.  So, when his beloved finally gave birth, it was time to party.  10 brothers came along, and no one heralded their birth – but Joseph – his father thought he was special.  His brothers thought he was a spoiled brat.

Joseph was a younger, and he was favored and pampered.

Then came the dream, and soon thereafter, destruction.  Instead of his dream coming true, he was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, and shipped off to Egypt.  Alone in Egypt, his natural confidence won him a place of honor in Potiphar’s house.  As he went about his work there, he probably reflected on his God-given dream.  Perhaps he would go on a trip with Potiphar and his family would see how he had gained favor and status.  Just as he became comfortable and hopeful that his dream was in reach, Potiphar’s wife lied about him, and he was thrown in prison.

Beaten down, Joseph again found favor.  Now, here is the remarkable part:  Years later, when two men came to the prison and had strange dreams, Joseph didn’t hesitate to believe that God would show him the meaning of the dreams.  He didn’t hesitate in his belief that God gives dreams, and fulfills them.  His dream should have been vanquished long ago.  Yet Joseph believed that God would use him … through a dream.

Where are you in your dream process?  Are you reveling at all God has shown you?  Have you been beaten down?  Has the scope of your reality changed so much that you can’t even recognize a course?

When Joseph gave up, he had to wait, but then in a matter of mere moments, his reality changed.  God fulfilled the dream He had sent.  God was fulfilling that dream the entire time Joseph was in the pit, marching to Egypt, a slave in Potiphar’s house, running from Potiphar’s wife, and destitute in prison.  No matter where you are in the process, God fulfills the dream.

Have your dreams been crushed?

February 9, 2011

Sometimes things just seem out of focus

Have you lost your momentum?  Can you remember a time when you had a vision for the future, and now, like a mist in the night, it has vanished?

It may seem counter intuitive, but you are in a place of power.  In this dark, empty time, you are experiencing the power of God.

I am reading “Follow” by Floyd McClung.  This morning I read this line:  “and God crushed his dream”.

Dreams that are crushed can be powerful.  Like a seed, when planted, becomes mushy and goes through a destruction process – a crushed dream also becomes something much bigger than itself.

Martha had crushed dreams – and she was pretty sure that Jesus let her down:  “Lord, if only you had been here, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Peter and the other disciples had crushed dreams:

“Lord, when we enter your kingdom, can we each sit on your right and left?” (from the brothers)

“and they all ran away”;

“I don’t know him!”

After going through the horror of lost vision and lost dreams, Peter and the others went back to earning a living.  Then Jesus came again – then He sent the Holy Spirit.  “and Peter stood up and addressed the crowd…on that day, three thousand were added to their number”.

When we have dreams and visions, I believe God has spoken to us, and we have translated what He wants to do through the filter of our experience and understanding.  Often, our understanding of life, God and the way things are, is limited.  When we see our vision slip away, we feel like we must have been drinking the Kool-Aid, and the hard reality of real life has returned.

Don’t give up!  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  He is the *author* and *finisher* of your faith.  He gives you vision, and then, He makes it happen.  Often, the first step is for the vision to disappear from our sight, as it is buried (planted).  Soon, new sprouts will come up.  Your vision will be fulfilled and even greater – because God is making it happen.  Imagine – the disciples expected to be part of a new ruling party – God led them to be part of world transformation.  Joseph expected to be head of his family.  God put him second in command in Egypt, the leading nation at that time.

What are you expecting?

 

“God won’t give you more than you can handle”

January 28, 2011

Someone said these words to me this week:  “Well you know, God won’t give us more than we can handle.”

I think she is wrong.  If we believe those words, we have missed the point entirely.  God wants us to have more than we can handle – because He wants us to let Him work through us.

Every time I begin to identify a theological principle, I ask myself:  would a mom in the war-ravaged nations in Africa believe this – would this be true for her?  Would a man in the frozen tundra of Russia find that these words are true?

One thing that I am certain of – my theology is just thought exercise unless it is striving to know God as He is – and He is the same here, in Africa, South America, Antarctica, and Denmark.  He is the same in the palace and the garbage dump-village slums.

We will have more than we can handle from time to time, but God will always be there to give us the strength, wisdom and focus to overcome.  God calls us to relax in His hand and let Him work through us.  He is very interested in letting us be pushed to the point where we cry “God, help!” Because we only truly begin to live when we live in relationship with and dependence on Him.

Where did this thought (God won’t give me more than I can handle) come from?  My guess is that it is a perversion of

1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

God will never let you be backed in a corner where you have no way out but to break relationship with Him and sin.  He will always provide a way out.  He will always be with you, teaching, guiding and correcting you.
However, when life has you up to your eyeballs, remember that the One who made you is much more capable than you are at making your life turn out right.  You can rely on Him to write the next chapter and give you ingenuity beyond what you imagined.

You aren’t your emotions!

December 2, 2010

image

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to act kind and loving when you are mad, afraid, or just plain freaked out?

I am reading Ezekiel.  In chapter 20, God is talking to Ezekiel, telling him what to say to the Israelites.

Several times in this chapter God says ‘I acted out of who I am, not what I felt.

God got good and mad at the Israelites, but instead of wiping them out, He chose to act from His character rather than His emotions.  This means a couple of things:

1.  Our emotions don’t define us, our actions do.  You don’t have to be beat up by your failures and fears.  Your existence is much more complex than how you feel right now.

2.  If God has to choose not to act from His emotions, how can we expect to not struggle with the complexity of what is vs. what we feel?

With every act, we are becoming, yet with every act we have the opportunity to be the person we want to be- the person we were created to be.

No wonder Paul cries out ‘I do that which I don’t want to do, and that which I want to do, I don’t.’ (Kim’s paraphrase)

Here’s the awesome part:  we don’t have a God who sits outside our struggles wondering why we can’t get it right. God understands the complexity of our nature.   He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and to teach and guide us.  Who better to learn from than someone who knows the way?

Are you tired of blowing it?  God sees you as you really are, and as you can be.  If you ask Him, He will teach you how to overcome and be the person you were created to be.

How to Thrive in Stress

November 30, 2010

I talked to a friend today – she described her life to me.  She has pressure from every side – work and home, yet she still manages to give extravagantly to others.

She leans heavily on Jesus, but also knows how to let others inside her space enough to hold up her arms.

Once, the nation of Israel was at battle.  Joshua and his troops were down on the field engaged in hand-to-hand warfare.  Moses and the seniors, were up on the hilltop where they could watch the proceedings.  Moses discovered that if he held up his arms (signifying that he was giving glory to God, and that God was in charge), then the battle went in Israel’s favor.  When he rested his arms, then Israel started losing.   This seems minor, but when his arms went down, Israelites started dying.  Thus,  Moses found that exhaustion caused the battle to go backwards.  To fix this problem, Hur and Aaron came alongside Moses to lift up his arms.

When you are going through a rough time, you need someone to help you stay focused on the big picture – not just the pain you are in, but on the fact that God IS.

During all the stress that my family has gone through lately (a death in the family, moving, transitioning parents into skilled care – all in the same month), I have found a few arm lifters:

  1. My daughter Caitlyn, home from bible college and full of God’s zeal.
  2. Friends who came alongside us and told us that we are doing a good job.
  3. Friends who pointed out specifics when engaging in #2.
  4. Those who told us ‘I wouldn’t be anywhere else’ when we thanked them for coming to Jean’s memorial.
  5. A friend who brought a care package to the hospital one night. (The same friend who is having so much pressure herself.)
  6. Many who provided meals, etc.

We also found that we stayed focused on the big picture better when we:

  1. dealt with the details instead of hoping they would go away
  2. took time to enjoy each other – even making sure we had a family game night
  3. laughing.  I didn’t realize before these last two weeks that laughter is a choice.
  4. looked for opportunities to be an encouragement/arm lifter for others.

God is mighty to save – and life can sometimes be a tumultuous.  In the midst of the waves of opposition, the only way to win is to keep your focus on the One who delivers.  God carries the result, and will show you every step of the process.

Dealing with Death

November 26, 2010

There are seasons in life.   In spring, we have new life.  Everything has new energy, growth is abundant.

Spring begins to slow as the weather heats up.  In the summer, we enjoy the effects of spring.  The sun comes out, and even the most reticent turtle can be found sunning himself on the logs among the lilly pads.

Fall seems to hit without warning.  The temperature takes a sudden drop, and we are warned of impending storms.  Just as we get ourselves braced for brisk weather, an Indian Summer raises up and lulls us.  Indian summer is my favorite two weeks of the year.  You can wear sweatshirts morning and night, and shorts in the afternoon – the best of all seasons.  But the ground cools from longer nights, and soon the sun doesn’t heat things up so well.

Fall is a time of death.  Leaves begin to turn – but they stay on the trees – until a big storm.  It is the storms of fall that cause the trees to release past successes that have now turned.  Even then, we will find trees holding onto a single leaf clear through winter.

Winter is cold – but it forces companionship.  Winter is stark, but it reflects great beauty.

The interesting thing about life is that it is the first buds of spring that push off the final dead leaves.  New life begins again with renewed energy.

It is tempting, when people we love die, to curl up like a fall leaf.  A part of us dies.  We lose an important part of what makes us unique.  As we acknowledge what we have lost, we define who we are without those old leaves.  Just as a tree digs deeper in winter, building new strength for spring, this time of loss is also a time of depth and meaning.  As we define our new selves, we then find new direction, new energy.

Some seasons seem interminably long.  Every once in a while, we have a winter that seems unending.  Yet, the hard winter that stocks up snow in the mountains that give us lush, rich spring and summer without drought.  We survive these winters by looking at the positive – things go slower, so we have more time to enjoy relationships – we have time to reflect and learn new skills.  Spring will come again, but you can’t have spring until you have let go of the past and stored up through the depths of winter.

In loving memory of my mother in law, Jean Martinez.  1926 – 2010