Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Law of the Garbage Truck

      One day I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for the airport.
We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of
a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes,
skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car
whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and
waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly.

     So I asked, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined
your car and sent us to the hospital!' This is when my taxi driver taught me
what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.' He explained that many people
are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration,
full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up,
they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you.
Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, pray for them, and move on.
Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home,
or on the streets. Don't let it spill on you until you stink like it does!

The bottom line is that happy, fulfilled people do not let garbage trucks take
over their day, their thoughts, or their energy!
Life's too short to live with regrets, so ...
Love the people who treat you right.
Pray for the ones who don't.Have a blessed, garbage-free day!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Love the ones you're with...

Alright...those of you who immediately flashed back to the song title of a similar name, read on before condemning me as a leftover hippie. I am certainly not writing today to advocate communal living or multiple partners. However, I would like to get you to consider "free love".

Love is certainly a misunderstood and often flippant word. We love ice cream, the Chargers (or whoever), our pets, our families, and many others. In that sense, the languages which distinguish different kinds of love have an advantage. But in English, love not only covers a multitude of sins but a myriad of emotions and feelings. 

What is love then?  True Biblical love is not some gushy feeling that can come and go. It isn't performance-based and doesn't change or vary by others' responses. In 1 Corinthians 13 its attributes are described. You know them - patient, kind, never boastful or rude, not proud or badly behaved, never rejoices in wrong but loves all things righteous, believes, hopes...You get the idea. It is freely given and doesn't expect anything in return, so in that sense it's free.  It is something that we all must strive toward but will rarely reach this side of heaven. Biblical love is not confined to these attributes, though, because true Biblical love is expressed through action. That's where today's title "Love the ones you're with" fits in.  It's all well and good to spout mushy sentiments but acting out your love is a whole different thing, as any parent knows! Love in action means sacrificing time, energy, priorities, finances, and comfort to put the other person first. It means dropping what you're doing and rushing to a friend in need. It means giving sacrificially to help another over a rough patch. It means being there in the darkest hours of the night when a friend is in crisis. In essence, it just means being there in whatever capacity is needed whether that means taking a meal or giving a hug. Sure, we can love those who have gone on to heaven ahead of us and we can surely love those who are geographically far away. There are those whose hearts are knit with ours that will always have a special place and we take them with us wherever we are. But love in action requires that we Do something. It is the "works" part of our faith. 

Jesus loved the ones He was with. He fed them, taught them, provided healing and wholeness for them. He walked with them when they were at their worst. He died for them (and us) without thought of receiving anything back. That's free love in action. In fact, He said that those who talk a big story but don't put "feet to their faith" will be lumped in with those He never knew! Scary! (If you don't believe me, check out the parable about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25)

So go out & freely love the ones you're with - the ones God has put in your life, your workplace, your path. Reach out to them in comfort, help, friendship, & support. Show them you love them by being there for them in their worst times, hardest times, stretching times, angry times, whatever times they are in. Love them through it all and show it, not by your words, but by your actions. It will not only prove you are a true Christian (John 13:35)  but will glorify Your Father who is in Heaven! (Matthew 5:16)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Launching Your Passions

Dan did an amazing leadership lesson last night on the importance of having vision and living up to our God-given potential. We are all called, set apart, and gifted with talents and abilities that God wants us to use but in order to be effective for Him, there are some steps we need to take!

The first thing to do to accomplish that work which God has set apart for you to do (Eph. 2:10) is to make an assessment of what you believe about Who you are in Christ. Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so he is."  So many Christians focus on their pasts, their failings, their mistakes. No one is perfect and God has made provision for those things and the times that we have blown it. Confess, repent, & release.  If Paul could do it after years of murdering Christians, so can You! (Phil. 3:13-14) You are an awesome, loved, valuable person that God created and Jesus died for. You are heir to all that He has, and precious. Believe in who He says you are, rather than what you or others think about who you are! (Col.1:12-14) God's opinion matters most and He thinks you are amazing!

The second task is to take an inventory of yourself.  What do you do well? What do you love doing? What do you wish you could do & have a desire to learn? What things are hard for you to do but you enjoy doing them anyway?  Be honest. Pretend you are your best friend and evaluate your strengths with the love and perspective of that friend. Turn off the negative, critical voice in your head that's arguing and fussing with your list. Don't listen to one word of it. This is a list of possibilities and potential, not just current facts! A critical factor in determining strengths is how you feel while doing it. We all assume that if we're good at something, it's our "calling" and we're stuck with doing it forever. That's not necessarily true. Sometimes our temperment sets us up for certain tasks and we may be really good at them but they're not truly the areas that God wants us to cultivate. As you're working ask yourself "Do I feel energized or drained? Is this making me feel motivated or bored?"  Gifts are meant to be uplifting, enjoyable, & energizing.  Even if it doesn't come easily, but you LOVE doing it, you should put it in the "strengths" category. Ability isn't always the critical, determining factor. As an example, I'm good at teaching children. I've done it for years, it comes naturally, & it's easy for me. God uses that ability to do what is necessary for our ministry. In that sense it is a "gift". However writing, worship, & women's ministry are the things that Energize me at this stage of my life. I love those 3 things and would gladly do them full time if God opened that door. So while I continue to serve Him by working with the children, I make sure to allow time in my busy schedule to "indulge" in my passions. Think about it - What tasks energize you? What things do you feel passionate about?

Now look at your lists again. What is stopping you from doing those things you love or would love to learn? Again, be honest. Money, time, insecurities, perfectionist demands, lifestyle...what is hindering you? If you've turned off the negative voice, perhaps your next step is prioritizing. A critical step in prioritizing is to pare down the list of things you're doing that drain you & don't need to be done by you! Oh sure, there are things we Have to do & I'm not advocating irresponsibility, but most of us take on way more than necessary. Delegate, eliminate, & learn to say NO (even to things you're "good" at!) Once you're finished removing these time, energy, and money stealers you should have some room in your life for launching, learning, practicing, & growing. Don't be afraid to take a risk and try something new. It may take preparation, time, energy & perhaps even some finances, but if you love it your life will be improved. Don't settle!  Don't talk yourself out of your dreams and desires. Put your vision in front of you, evaluate the steps to move into that vision, & ask God to open all the doors you need opened in order to accomplish it (Ps. 37:4). After all, if it is truly vision that He put in you, He's ready and willing to help you achieve it!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

When friends fail...

       She was creative, joy-filled, & fun to be around. Our mutual love for worship and music created an instant bond. Before too long, our families were ministering together and spending a major part of each weekend together. We laughed and cried together, worked and played together. The absence of their blood relatives made our friendship even stronger, and when illness nearly devastated their lives we were able to step in and fill many of the financial and physical demands created by the subsequent changes. I thought it was a "forever" kind of friendship.
       Then one day, out of the blue, a letter came. I assumed it must be a thank you card, since we talked on the phone several times a day. It was far from a thank you. It was 3 handwritten pages of lies, innuendos, false assumptions, & accusations. It was the ultimate betrayal. I was crushed and reacted in my usual way - I started looking at myself for faults, inadequacies, & failures. It had to be my fault somehow - no one would hurt someone this way without reason, especially since she knew me so well! I tried to talk to her but she refused my calls. I went over to her house and she wouldn't come to the door. If I did happen to see her someplace, she literally almost Ran the other direction.She just vanished from my life.
        Devastation of soul describes my ultimate reaction; I was wounded beyond words. For a season, I closed my heart. The hurt caused me to recoil rather than reach out and I refused to allow any new relationships. I was miserable, lonely, & angry. How did this happen? Why did it happen? What did I do wrong?  The questions repeated themselves over and over, but answers evaded me. I just couldn't figure it out.
       But then one day, the pieces began to reassemble. Her marriage dissolved, their ministry disintegrated. Financial failure and continued illness caused family fracturing. They had no friends, no support system. Embarrassed and ashamed, she broke all ties with everyone she had known (hence the letter) and escaped to another state to start anew with strangers. She reinvented herself and created a new life.
     It didn't make all the pain go away, but it did give a sense of closure. Ultimately, I was able to come to grips with my own reactions, and my anger turned to understanding. There were still some lingering questions: Why didn't she feel she could tell me? She knew our relationship could go beyond "happy"! What could I have done differently to be there for her when she really needed me?
      The whole experience cemented several lessons deep in my heart. God calls us to be there for each other as much as we can, but others' choices can intervene - I can only do what others allow me to do.  Small steps can lead to restoration, where major confrontations close the door.  It's not just about me! Others have backgrounds, experiences, & reactions that may cause them to pull away, run away, hide, or cover up pain with denial, anger, or blame. Pride is also a major factor - if you haven't experienced unconditional love or at least a hefty dose of grace, you don't expect it & can't believe it, until you open your heart and God pours it in through His Spirit or His followers.
       It took a while, but I reopened my life and heart. Besides a deeper relationship with God, who is the ultimate friend, I have several "soulmate" friends. They have added so much to my life and ministry. They aren't perfect, and thankfully don't expect me to be either! They are God's gift to  me, for whatever season He allows, and I am grateful! As for my lost friend, she continues to wander the country looking for love, satisfaction, "success", and a place to call home...I pray one day she will find what she's so desperately searching for!  I know I have!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Families Ties and Tethers

       I recently spent a few days with family in Sacramento and it caused me to once again count my blessings.  It is an amazing thing to be with people who have known you all your life and love you for just who you are. I don't have to "be" anything to any of them - they just love and accept me - with my quirks, my flaws, my gifts, my history. There is a freedom in knowing that you're able to put aside all masks and pretenses. You can laugh together, cry together, talk or not talk. There is no pressure to keep up an image because they wouldn't believe it if you tried! It's fun because you can reminisce about the people and events of the past and they know them too. Memories abound!
       I have friends who don't have family. Either their families are in "disrepair" or have all passed away, or they just don't care to be around them. In some cases, it just happened through no fault of any person or event. In other cases, a family blowup caused a rift that has yet to heal. Time, distance, and busyness also take their toll. In most cases, they have learned to compensate and fill the holes with other things. Some are even happy to be relieved of the burdens family sometimes cause. Some, sadly, are better off without their family ties. There are those relationships that are just too costly to one's spiritual, physical, or mental health! (To those I would say, Make a family of your own choosing and create memories in those new relationships!) Fortunately, God blessed me with Christian heritage and relatives!! I couldn't have chosen better!
       Don't get me wrong, it's not always happy times and pure bliss. Sometimes those who know you best can hurt you the deepest. The very things that bind can be the same things that chafe. Misunderstandings can happen in the closest of relationships and emotional reactions can be blown out of all proportion. The key to it all is love and forgiveness. The Bible says that love can cover a multitude of sins & repentance with humility can heal even the deepest wounds.  It's not always easy when someone has misjudged your intentions or bailed on you when you really needed them, but since all of us struggle with our own insecurities and inadequacies, Grace becomes the healing balm that soothes the hurt feelings and removes our right to be right!  The Bible also says that as far as it is up to Me, I should live in peace. I am only responsible for myself, regardless of others' reactions or choices. I decided long ago to choose Peace... the alternative is too costly - brokenness and emptiness, or pride and self-pity will never fill the void I'd have. Life is just too short to waste time waiting for others to apologize or make the first move! I'd rather enjoy the times, seasons, & days I have to spend with my loved ones. Time wasted can't be regained, and loved ones lost are gone until eternity!