Doing Tough Stuff

There are lots of things that can be difficult: being consistent with exercise, missions trips, hostile or dicey conversations, regulating ones eating habits & lots more.  I don’t like to do tough stuff, nor did Jesus.  I say this because of His words in Gethsemane, “If possible, please take this cup from Me.”
So how do we go about doing tough stuff? Here are a few suggestions & I’d be keen to get your ideas in the comments as well!

  • Keep the end goal in mind: what is your desired outcome?
  • Be wholly present in the difficulty because often these struggles need our whole attention, energy & talents
  • Pray: divine help is always an upgrade!
  • Surrender to God’s will even when it conflicts with your desires 🙂

No Pretending

“The well is deep & you have nothing to draw with.” Little did the Samaritan woman know that her observation about the deep well would foreshadow the deep conversation she would have with Jesus in John 4. Initially, their discussion was about getting Jesus a drink of water, but in no time, Jesus went for the jugular when He told her to bring along her husband & then He read her mail about the litany of failed marriages she had. Clearly, with Jesus there was no pretending.
And I think this value rings true for us today as well. When it comes to talking wth Jesus, there’s no sense in posturing or pretending. It’s better to come to Jesus in full disclosure & entire access. This is an essential ingredient to live in the continual state of healing & redemption that Jesus has for us!! The Samaritan woman went back to her town & declared to them, “Come & see a man who told me everything I ever did!” And thus began the Jesus revolution that turned her town upside down!

No Reception :)

Have you ever been frustrated when you can’t get reception for your cell phone? Yesterday, my family & I were driving through Yellowstone WY for our family vacation & there was zero cell reception for probably more than 6hours. For a little bit, it was frustrating but the longer I went without cell phone usage, the more I liked it. Maybe these observations could be helpful to you when you think about connecting with God:

  • Not getting what we want isn’t always a bad thing
  • Distractions like phones, tend to interrupt our attention to being present in each moment
  • With the Holy Spirit, we have perpetual reception because the Holy Spirit is always with us!
  • Having a break from continual communication is probably more healthy than we often realize

God’s Provisions

This morning, I had the most wonderful breakfast with a friend I’ve known for many years. We haven’t been able to catch up & have a deep conversation so this morning afforded the time & place for us to do just that. We shared with vulnerability about our struggles & weaknesses along with how Jesus has helped us along the journey. It’s been a long time since I’ve had such a rewarding conversation & this was absolutely a gift from God. This time was all the more beautiful because it came on the heels of a very busy & demanding weekend for me.
I’m very grateful that God supplies what we need, when we need it – even in ways that we don’t expect!!

Path to Pentecost: Jesus?

Before there were planes, trains & automobiles, people used camels, donkeys & the sandal express to resolve their transportation needs.  So once upon a time there were a couple of guys walking from one town to another and a random stranger joined their pedestrian ambulation.  There ensued a heated conversation about the current events of that time: something about a very magnetic man getting brutally murdered by the key religious leaders of the region & supposedy this murdered but magnetic guy had risen from the dead, according to the rumor on the street.  The stranger seemed unaware of these current events, but somehow started a religious conversation that caused a holy heart burn in these fellow travellers.  Long story short, these guys came to understand after Jesus disappeared that He was talking with them along their journey, even though they didn’t recognize Him.  Luke 24

Just because we know about Jesus doesn’t mean that we always recognize Him in the events or journey of our daily living.  I think that part of our Path to Pentecost is letting the Holy Spirit help us recognize Jesus better in our day to day existence.

Being Honest

“How come all these awful things have happened?”  Ever ask God this kind of a question?  I think probably everyone alive has asked God some variation of this question & the Bible shows people asking God the same stuff. 

I’m reading about Gideon & I seriously appreciate his honesty with the angel at the beginning of their conversation: If God is with us, how come all this stuff has happened to us? This was in reply the the angel’s salutation, “The Lord is with you, valiant warrior” 
Gideon’s initial behavior & words didn’t really confirm that he was a valiant warrior & if we are honest, there are lots of times when our behavior & words don’t express that we are valiant.  Nevertheless, God knows our substance & potential so God speaks to our true self rather than the smokescreen insecurities we wear. Not only does God call us by our true identity but God also helps us know who He is, as Gideon acknowledges when he experiences God as the Lord our peace in Judges 6:23-24. 

So let’s make it a premium value to be honest with God so that we can honestly know God 🙂

God awareness

I really like to study languages.  Thus far, I’ve studied probably half a dozen & it always fascinates me when I get to explore a language and how a culture communicates through it’s language.  It also fascinates me to consider that anywhere from 40%-80% of the way we communicate is non-verbal.  Furthermore, I would suggest that the better you know someone, the fewer words you need to communicate with them.

With these ideas in mind, it’s been my experience that God communicates with me in lots of different ways:

  • Bible:  ground zero, full stop
  • a soft whisper or witness in my heart that’s difficult for me to ignore (1Kings 19)
  • desires (Ps 37:4) – I ask God to guide me by giving me desires that affirm God’s plan, will and kingdom
  • conversations – there are many times that God will speak to me through someone in some kind of seemingly common discussion, but something very uncommon stands out to me in that chat (Emmaus Road – Luke)
  •  very often, I don’t sense God speaking to me in words or verbally, but rather I sense God’s presence and I just enjoy keeping company with God

How do you sense and hear God?  Please share with us! 🙂

God talk

unnamed Today, I was driving and having a God chat.  We talked about some of my concerns and frustrations and I tried to not do all of the talking, but this is a tricky balance.  Conversations that facilitate a deepening relationship go both ways – both parties listen and both talk, hopefully not at the same time.  To get to know the other person in a relationship, we need to be present, attentive and available.  In the same way, for the other person to get to know us, we need to be present, sincere and forthcoming.

We all have relationships where we play our cards really close to the vest – we don’t openly share about painful areas, hotspots or vulnerabilities.  But if we are going to have a deepening relationship with God, then we need to put our cards on the table and equally listen, pay attention and value the feedback and input that God gives us, not only to solve problems but moreso for the purpose of connecting and attaching.  God talk is a two-way street 🙂

 

Love me some tech! ,)

I’m a big tech fan – I like being able to do things with greater efficiency & sometimes effectiveness, with the use of technology. Its also interesting to chat w my kids about life before the cell phone, personal computers, wifi & all of these wonderful inventions.
With that being said, lets be mindful that technology is a tool & not always the solution. For example, even though we can text, Facebook, FaceTime, tweet, etc, there’s nothing that will ever replace the experience of a real face to face conversation. The same holds true in our chats with God – lets not rely on methods, systems or anything that would substitute for the real face to face presence & fellowship that we can have with God! 🙂

be picky ,)

I like to have lots of different kinds of friends.  I have friends with whom I talk sports, some that we talk about good books that we’re reading, others that we talk about spiritual issues, some that we discuss our kids and what’s happening in their lives, etc.  It seems to me that we each friend, there are some distinct conversational “sweet spots” and I’ve learned that there are various topics that are limited to certain friends.  For example, I don’t talk about sports with my friend who is my book buddy and I don’t talk about fashion with my “spiritual issues” friend.  Everyone definitely has their unique strengths and I love this!!

There is, however, one person with whom I I love talking about almost everything & that’s God.  But I think it’s unfortunate that even with God I find myself occasionly trying to limit the conversation because I don’t like the topic.  But  here’s the truth:  God is the only truly “safe” person with whom you can talk about literally anything and He will ALWAYS have constructive things to say to you, regardless of the topic.  Don’t limit your conversations with God 🙂

Eavesdropping

I just started reading Job & I was reading the part where God & Satan were chatting about Job. What an interesting conversation! Makes me consider that maybe they chat about us as well, from time to time. If you would be curious to know what might be said between them about you, don’t get nervous. I’m quite confident, based on Jesus’ atoning work, that God is looking on you w great favor, maybe even bragging about you!! You can also trust that the devil’s efforts haven’t changed throughout history – he’s still looking for some way to bring you down, talking smack.
Based on this dialogue, we just need to continuously decide that our ears are tuned into God’s voice – He affirms you, believes in you & most importantly, loves you. The other voice is nothing but deception, smack & destruction.
Sure, we all need to grow, improve & do better, but Gods voice always applauds while the devil always jeers & discourages. You’re not a loser!!

another courageous conversation: concern

 I know I worte yesterday about Joseph having a courageous conversation related to his boss’s wife trying to hit on him, but Joseph had other courageous conversations as well.  Another example of his courageous conversation is his discussion with some servants of Pharoah who had been thrown in prison w Joseph – the cupbearer & baker.  In this conversation with these men, Joseph interpreted their dreams.  One would live & be restored to his position under Pharoah & the other would die. 

Now, here’s why I think Joseph’s conversation with these men was courageous – he was concerned.  The reason I think Joseph’s concern was courageous is because the opposite of concern, apathy & selfishness, are the coward’s reply to the needs of others.  When these men told Joseph their dreams, there wasn’t much that Joseph could do to help them, but he could use his God-given talents with interpreting dreams to express his concern. 

In a similar way, there are probably some people in our lives with whom we need to have a courageous conversation to express our concern & care – maybe concern about their choices, relationship w God, etc. 

Apathy is for cowards, but concern is for the courageous

courageous conversations

 Wow!  This is certainly a theme in my life right now!  A courageous conversation is a discussion that requires courage – it can require courage for a variety of reasons.  As such, let’s look at Joseph (in Genesis 37-42) to look at 1 of his courageous conversations:

Maybe Joseph’s first courageous conversation required bravery because of his convictions.  Consider his dialogue with Potipher’s wife, who wanted to make out w Joseph.  When you read what Joseph said in Gen 39:8-9, you can see that he needed courage to say what he said:   “But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge.  There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?'”

Convictions require courage & when we are asked to do something that violates our convictions, we must draw on God’s strength & wisdom to share with diplomacy & bravery that we will not violate those convictions.  Let’s be brave & gracious in our conversations, with God’s wisdom, strength & love 🙂

growing part 1: light exposes lies

I had an interesting experience in a conversation with a friend a few days ago as we were talking about various challenges in our lives.  In the discussion,  I opened up and shared some frustrations & struggles that have been on my heart, which may seem fairly harmless.  After the conversation as I was walking to my car, I felt a bit of a gentle scolding in my heart from God.  Some of His loving rebuke challenged me that sometimes I can be whiney: complaining about what isn’t going well, “venting” with my frustrations, etc.  Even worse, I can get into a pity party & swallow the lie that I’m a loser.  I think we can all fall into this trap from time to time.

I’m extremely confident that God was confronting & challenging me to change in His loving rebuke because the next morning, my Bible reading time just happened to be in Josh 1, where God commands Joshua 3 times to be strong & courageous.  Furthermore, I also read Ps 103:1-5 where David beautifully magnifies the work of God in our individual lives. 

So here are my take-aways (and perhaps they will encourage you as well): 

  • just because the evil one serves me a plate of discouragement doesn’t mean that I automatically pick up a fork & start ingesting his poisonous delicacies masquerading as a chummy conversation;
  • be strong & courageous:  may my ears & eyes be sensitive to hear & see God moving in my life (vertical focus) more than how I feel or what I see & hear on the horizontal plane; 
  • Be strong & courageous is a command from God & it obliterates my self-pity dribble

Perhaps on this Resurrection Weekend it would be constructive to celebrate the death of the “loser lie”.  Indeed, when they crucified Jesus, many thought He was one of the world’s biggest losers, but He came back & annhilated the “loser lie.”  So my friend, let me invite you to join me in receiving His lluminating imperative to be strong & courageous to evaporate any discouragement, deceptions & lies in our lives 🙂

walking on broken glass

broken_glassEver been in a situation where things are really dicey?  Have you been around people or in settings where the weather conversation was over & then there was the awkward silence because no one could think of things to discuss that weren’t volatile or hurtful?  I’ve been in some situations where i knew that people were testing me with the topics they brought up to see if i’d “take the bait.”  i hate these awkward times, situations & interactions. 

Here’s a possible solution – a few weeks ago i was reading 1 Corinthians 2 & in verse 2 it says, “I determined to know nothing among you except Christ & Him crucified.”  This verse has really helped me because if i’m around other believers w a tricky conversation, i decide in my brain that i’m not going to be part of any gossip or negative discussions, but rather that I’m going to steer the dialogue to talking about Jesus & what He’s doing.  This strategy has really helped keep my priorities & conversations to be godly!  In the event that you’re around non-Christians, i think you can still make this determination by steering conversations to constructive topics (a quote from Mother Teresa, something positive you heard on the news, something good you’ve heard about a company or a positive way of looking at life). 

I understand that from time to time, you’ve got to make confrontations & address problems, situations, communication strategies, etc.  Nevertheless, i still think that making the decision to aim at knowing Christ & making Him known through various conversations is always a safe way to keep from walking on broken glass!! 🙂