We are our own worst enemies!

Who you gonna listen to?

 

“You are never going to get this finished on time.” “You are so incredibly unqualified for this.” “You are a train wreck.” “You don’t deserve to be here.” “You are a mistake waiting to happen.” “What are you going to do when they find out?” “Idiot.”

Those are not very encouraging statements, are they?  I didn’t think so either when I heard them.  If they were supposed to motivate me, they didn’t work.  In fact, they had the complete opposite effect.  They discouraged me and left me feeling unmotivated and tempted to quit.

Who would make such disempowering statements?  That guy must have been a real jerk.

Well, that jerk was me.

I didn’t say those things out loud.  Well, most of them I didn’t say out loud.  I do have a bad habit of calling myself an idiot out loud when I make a mistake. I have to be careful about that and clarify that I’m not calling the person I’m with an idiot.  I try to do that before they punch me in the nose.

No, those voices are typically heard by no one but me.  They are inside my head when I feel over my head.  I may look like I have it all together on the outside, but inside I can be a big bundle of insecurities, trying desperately to make sure no one else finds out what an imposter I am. 

And while it may motivate me to try harder to do and produce more so that I can prove my worth by achievement, it doesn’t motivate me to be all that I have been created to be.

My favorite son-in-law is a mental health professional.  He told me awhile back that he often tells his clients that the accusing voices in their heads would sound absolutely ridiculous if they were to say those things out loud.  Then he has them try it out loud to see that it’s true.

When I call myself an idiot in Mrs. Sweetie’s presence, she always intervenes. “Don’t you dare talk to my husband that way!”  I am so blessed to have a best friend and partner when my worst enemy starts mouthing off.

Here’s the thing about being our own worst enemies: we are not intended to be so.  God didn’t give us internal accusatory wiring. When we find ourselves speaking those disempowering and accusing thoughts to ourselves, we can know that they don’t originate with the God who created us in His image and sent His Son to die for us.

The God for whom our lives matter will never, ever, call us idiots, mistakes, and train wrecks.  He may allow us to fail so that we will learn to rely more on Him and less on ourselves, but His voice is not one of angry accuser.

 

The God for whom our lives matter will never, ever, call us idiots, mistakes, and train wrecks. Click To Tweet

 

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

Let the voice of your Friend speak louder than all your enemies.

I am not innocent.

But I refuse to be part of the problem.

 

I got up with a heavy heart this morning. I’m experiencing an inner compulsion to speak to the ugliness and evil of racism, in light of the weekend events in Virginia.

I want to be clear in identifying evil without being guilty of self-righteous finger-pointing and name-calling. I want to speak the truth in love and honor Christ.

I want to call the people of God to BE the Body of Christ publicly and display an accurate and mature reflection of the character of Jesus.

In my work as a coach, if someone were to tell me, “I want to say …,” I would ask that person, “So what’s preventing you from saying just that?”

So, here’s what I want to say and I’m going to say it:

Racism is evil and sinful, no matter the source. When ANYONE denigrates another person because of the color of their skin, their country of origin, their socio-economic status, their native language, their ethnic or religious heritage, or anything that makes them “different” – whether in a tense public demonstration, a quiet break room conversation, a Sunday School class, or any other place – it is evil and sinful.

 

Racism is evil and sinful, no matter the source. Click To Tweet

 

Racism on the part of one person or one group is never – I repeat, NEVER – a legitimate reason for another person or group to respond with racism.  None of us gets to excuse our own sinful behavior by claiming that it is only a response to someone else’s worse behavior.

 

Racism on the part of one person or group is NEVER a legitimate reason to respond with racism. Click To Tweet

 

People who truly believe that they are superior because of the color of their skin, their ethnic or religious heritage, or their citizenship (that one’s going to tick some people off) and that seek the advancement of their kind to the detriment of others that they truly believe are less deserving because they are different should be made to feel less welcome at the table of public discourse and more uncomfortable in the gatherings of followers of Jesus.

But, I also need to be clear about some other things:

All racially focused discussions are not racist. When a marginalized group seeks equal treatment and respect by focusing on how their race has been treated, it is not racist, unless they are seeking advancement to the detriment of others.

A person who makes a racially insensitive statement is not a racist.  The statement should not be excused – and sometimes the legitimate consequences may be serious – but a person’s life and work is defined by character exhibited over time, not by statements in isolation.  So, let’s be very careful in painting people with incendiary labels. The true evil of racism is minimized when the labels get thrown around indiscriminately.

The church must not be a place where racism is tolerated.  I actually heard about one pastor who was fired yesterday after he preached a sermon on racism.  I know that kind of racism exists in a small minority of churches.  But keeping racism out of the church is not enough.

 

The church must not be a place where racism is tolerated. Click To Tweet

 

We, the people of God, are not simply called to comment on life’s circumstances. We are called to engage in life’s circumstances.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who was martyred in Nazi Germany) said, “Our relationship to God is a new life in ‘being there for others,’ and participation in the being of Jesus. The transcendent does not consist in infinite, unreachable tasks, but in the currently available reachable neighbor. God in human form! … The church is only the church when it is there for others.”

Knowing our lives matter to God should result in our conviction that every life matters to God and that we stand with the different, the marginalized, the immigrant, the refugee, the outcast, the broken, the wounded and say, “We are here for you and we will make the first move.”

None of us is innocent.  But let’s decide to be part of the solution.

What happens if we succeed?

The question no one asks

 

I think life is full of “what if” questions.  What if I lose my job? What if the economy tanks? What if I get sick?  What if my plans don’t work out?  What if I miss my big opportunity?

In fact, much of our culture is driven by these kinds of questions and the fears that cause them.

This is not intended as a political statement, but an observation of reality: I have yet to meet one person who voted for President Trump because they were convinced that he was the best and most qualified presidential candidate and they were excited about the possibility of what his presidency would mean for the United States.

Without fail, every person who has told me that they voted for him has indicated that they were more afraid of the alternative.  So, the question that motivated many of his supporters was, “What if Hillary Clinton becomes president?”

Again, my point is not politics, but the underlying questions that motivate our decisions. 

This is also the motivation behind things like insurance, retirement annuities, and business contracts. We want to be sure we are covered for unplanned contingencies or unforeseen setbacks.

I’m not against any of those things.  In fact, I intentionally participate in them. But what I’m pondering today is a question that rarely gets asked:

What happens if we succeed?

Think about it for a minute. (No, that wasn’t a minute; take a few more seconds). When was the last time you set a goal, made a plan, shared a desire, cast a vision, and actually spent time intentionally considering what would be next if success happened?

We simply don’t ask the question.

Is it because we are deeply convinced that the deck is stacked against us? Or that there is only so much success allowed in the world and it is obviously going to others?  Or that success only comes to those who either have resources beyond ours or who step on others to get it? Or even that God doesn’t want us to have success because we will be less likely to depend on Him?

Or is it that we are using the wrong scorecards to define success?  I certainly don’t have all this figured out, but I think I may be onto something that is worth pursuing.  What if we had some questions to use to help us in this pursuit?

Questions like …

  1. Is success in this possible? If not, maybe our efforts would be better spent elsewhere.
  2. How will we know when we have succeeded? This helps us to make plans and set goals that are specific and measurable.
  3. How will we celebrate the success?  This includes successful steps along the way as well as reaching the ultimate goal. If it’s not worth celebrating, is it worth doing?
  4. How will we reinvest what we have gained? In other words, what’s next?  We have new resources or new learning.  How will we use them as a launching pad?
  5. How does our view of success measure up against God’s view of success? This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. (Joshua 1:8)

 

If it’s not worth celebrating, is it worth doing? Click To Tweet

 

Our lives matter to God. Our successes are found in His purposes.  How does that help you make your plans?

Oh, to be young and fuzzy!

Are you longing for the good old crawler days?

 

Recently, I got to accompany my 13-month-old grandson on his first trip to the Fort Worth Zoo. A few days later, I did the same with my almost 3-year-old granddaughter. In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, this grandpa thing is a good gig!

Now, a day at the zoo is a pretty good day for any reason, especially the Fort Worth Zoo, which is one of the top 5 in the nation.  But, of course, that’s not what makes the grandpa gig special. That’s all about seeing smiles of delight and hearing squeals of wonder from these little people whom I love more than life itself—and experiencing those in the same locale where I experienced it with their parents more than two decades ago.

Most exciting of all, no matter the age, is the chance that there might be a sighting of the amazing caterpillar!

Oh, you mean you don’t get excited about a fuzzy worm exhibit? Well, apparently the zoo doesn’t either because they are not highlighting caterpillars.

In fact, I’m not aware of any place where caterpillars are the featured attraction.  I did a quick Google search to see if I could find such a place, but the only caterpillar exhibitions I could find were featuring trucks and tractors.

You can, however, find places around the country that celebrate butterflies (or those formerly known as caterpillars). I found one website where you could search for butterfly houses and gardens by state and by country.

During my personal devotional time on a recent morning, I read Isaiah chapter 43. There were several verses that I highlighted, but the passage that stuck out the most was Isaiah 43:18-19.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

This verse made me think about caterpillars. Caterpillars are not without purpose or value. But their purpose is not fully realized until they emerge from the cocoon and take flight. 

Who longs for the days of crawling?  Can you imagine a Kaleidoscope of butterflies (that’s the collective name for a group of them) sitting around reminiscing about the good old fuzzy crawler days or comparing the merits of various cocoonages? (That word I made up).

Unfortunately, too many of us are stuck in our cocoons longing for the good old caterpillar days instead of moving forward in God’s stream of ongoing creation.  I see it all the time.  We miss amazing opportunities to take flight while we crawl around bemoaning the loss of what used to be. We live from memory instead of vision.

Our lives matter to God and He is always up to something new. That is not in question. What is in question is whether we will resist it, deny it, or join in and cooperate so that we can soar.

How will you be alert and watching for what God is doing today?

Four steps to avoid becoming a slave to your technology.

These tools are supposed to serve us, not enslave us.

 

I love technology!  I love gadgets and tools and apps!  I love my iPhone and iPad and MacBook (yes, I drank the Apple kool aid a few years back)! I’m a junkie for learning and productivity and effectiveness. I’m a sucker for gadgets and apps that make it easier to complete tasks faster.

In fact, I can spend an entire day being completely unproductive while working with productivity tools.  Do you see the problem?  Can you relate?

Before there was such thing as an iPhone or iPad, I wrote in my book, Culture Wars, “You may have joined the Adrenaline Culture if you don’t own a watch or a telephone—they own you.”

Wow!  Maybe I should go back and read that book again!

It is so incredibly easy for us to become slaves to the very tools that are, theoretically, designed to assist us.  We are constantly available and interruptible, so much so that we can’t manage to finish a conversation with a flesh-and-blood person in front of us because of the intrusions of our devices.

 

It is easy to become slaves to the very tools that are, theoretically, designed to assist us. Click To Tweet

 

Not only that, we have created the expectation that we are instantly accessible – all day, every day.  Because of that, we have people in our lives who become incredibly frustrated with us if we don’t answer every phone call, instantly reply to every text message, and respond to email within 30 minutes.

Well, my friends, it is time to show our technology who’s boss! 

Wouldn’t it be great if it were that simple?  The truth is we didn’t get here overnight, and we won’t regain balance and margin overnight either.  But, if we don’t start with some positive steps in the right direction today, we won’t be where we need to be tomorrow, or next week, or next year.

 

So, here are some suggested baby steps:

  1. Deliberately take some time every day to be unavailable.  Start with 15 minutes a day that you are actually not in the same room with your technology.  Take a walk. Take a nap.  Do something unconnected and unplugged.  No excuses (I might miss an important message … I might need to take a picture … What if there is an emergency …).
  2. Set boundaries and expectations. Plan in advance how you will respond to and process phone calls, texts, and emails.  Voice mail is a wonderful tool.  My outgoing voicemail message actually tells people that I only check it a couple of times per day and asks them for specific information so I can be prepared when I return the call.  Because I have set that expectation, I can truly check messages on my schedule instead of someone else’s. 
  3. Schedule the technology interactions that you can.  Determine in advance the 2 or 3 times a day that you will check and respond to email.  Try this: 30 minutes mid-morning, 30 minutes mid-afternoon, 30 minutes at the end of the work day.  If you can’t manage a complete day’s worth of email in 90 minutes, your problem is bigger than technology.
  4. Wherever you are, be all there.  Don’t let technology rob you of real, human interaction.  Always choose your family over your technology.  Always choose conversation with your lunch companion over the call that comes in during lunch.

 

Always choose conversation with your lunch companion over the call that comes in during lunch. Click To Tweet

 

There is so much more I could say on this matter.  But for now, let me remind you that your life matters to God.  If your technology doesn’t support that as your assistant, you may need to fire it as your boss.

Please give me a rating (unless you don’t think I’m perfect)

The uselessness of fake feedback

 

You’ll be receiving a customer feedback survey on the service you received from me.  I will be in trouble with my manager if I don’t get all 10’s.

Yes, that is what she told me.  I won’t tell you which company because it doesn’t matter.  The not-so-subtle message is, “Tell everyone we’re great or keep your opinion to yourself.

“Fake news” is a big thing currently,  but it’s not new.  Neither is fake feedback. As far back as I can remember, people have asked for my opinion.  They really want it.  It really matters.  Unless I don’t agree with them or have a suggestion about how they might think about it from another perspective.  In that case, my opinion is not so valued.

 

Don’t try this at home, boys and girls:

She: Does this shirt make me look fat?

He: Does this shirt make me look stupid?

She: Wrong answer.

Me: The above scenario was entirely invented out of my warped imagination.

 

Now, in fairness, I understand the pressure of getting good ratings in our very public, social media-driven world.  Get enough 1 or 2-star Yelp reviews and you start to lose potential customers.  Get enough 1 or 2-star Amazon reviews and nobody but your friends and family will buy your book or other product (and they will only buy it if it’s on sale).

A friend told me that back in the day before online reviews, his company had a training about customer service.  They said that, on average, the person who has a positive experience will tell three people.  A person who has a negative experience will tell seventeen!

Now, make that as simple a clicking stars online and you’re messing with someone’s livelihood.  After all, who takes the time to go and read the reason for those low ratings? 

So, I get it.  The pressure is there.

Is there any lesson for us beyond, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”

 

Here are some possible lessons:

  1. If you are going to give feedback, start directly with the person whose service, product, or interaction you are “rating.”  Talk to people!  Allow for questions and conversation.  Anyone who is truly interested in your feedback wants to know how they can get even better.
  2. Unless you have been hired by someone as a critic, it is not your job to protect the world from someone who offered you less than you expected.  I would go on with this explanation, but those who find the need to publicly point out every shortcoming have already dismissed me.
  3. If you are going to give a rating, make sure you are rating the right thing.  I actually got a 1-star review of one of my books on Amazon from a person who didn’t read it.  She gave a 1-star rating because she ordered the electronic version instead of the paperback and she doesn’t read eBooks!
  4. Give more praise than criticism.  Poor service/products and bad attitudes will eventually be weeded out by actual experience. Help people find the hidden treasures and the roses among the thorns, rather than the thorns on the rose bushes and the dirt under the treasure chest.

As those who understand that our lives matter to God, we understand there is a better way: “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15)

Truth spoken in love trumps online clicks every time.

Eat this book!

A review and recommendation of "5Q"

Photo credit: 5qcentral.com

 

Why do we read books?  I mean, seriously, have you ever thought about that?  Sometimes the answer for me is, “Because I can.”  It is one of the great joys of life.  I can get caught up in a great story.  I can learn something new.  I can be mad, glad, and sad — sometimes all within the same book. I can go places I’ve never been and perhaps never will go.  I can identify places I must go.

I hope you get the point.  Reading for me is like eating.  And as someone who has recently had to focus on a heart-healthy diet, I’m often asked about my diet restrictions.  I tell people, “I can eat anything I want.  I just have to want to eat better things.”  

A couple of days ago I completed a feast of a book. It contained some of my favorite tastes, but also some flavors that were unfamiliar. There were bites that were tender, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, but also some chewy pieces that required some effort. 

If you were to ask me whether it falls into the “tastes good” or “good for you” category, I’d have to say, “Yes!

Alan Hirsch’s book, “5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ,” is tender and chewy, nutritious and delicious, strange and familiar—and it has made me hungry for more.

This year marks 40 years in church ministry for me, but I’ve been a little late to the party when it comes to concepts of “the fivefold, APEST, and 5Q” (used interchangeably within the book). My tradition, education, and experience — while not falling completely into the charismatic or cessationist camps — have not made much room for those concepts.

The Ephesians 4 listing of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds (Pastors), and Teachers was typically presented alongside the other “spiritual gift” passages (primarily Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12) as indications of how God has equipped certain members of the Body of Christ with certain ministry capacities.  The main difference in the Ephesians passage was usually presented as specific roles entrusted to leaders for the sake of equipping and empowering all the members for ministry.

The idea that these capacities are actually ALL essential for a healthy Body, made about as much sense as suggesting that any other individual spiritual gift was necessary. “Your church isn’t a healthy church if you don’t have someone with the gift of giving.  Ok, maybe that’s true, but we have who we have, right?  We can’t make people gifted in ways they are not.  You see the dilemma?

But I’ve heard enough about APEST and missional — and the name of Alan Hirsch — in recent years that I was intrigued when I heard about the book.  So I came to it, as he says in the introduction, “with soft eyes” and an open heart. 

Can I just say that it makes sense? He spent enough time laying the theological and Biblical framework that I was prepared for some practical teaching and explanation. I was not disappointed.  The unfamiliar tastes began to meld together in such a way that they simply tasted right and I wanted more.

I refuse to blame any of my teachers or mentors for the gap in my understanding.  I take full responsibility and recognize that I may have just missed it.  But I’m not finished learning and I came away from this book with: (1) a fuller — and I believe more Biblical — understanding of God’s intent for the Body of Christ, (2) a reference guide to continue growing in my understanding and practice, and (3) access to an online toolkit to help me turn knowledge into ministry.

I can’t recommend “5Q” highly enough for anyone who is truly interested in seeing the Body of Christ visibly manifest in the world in all its fullness.

 

For More Information

Order the book from Amazon

Order the book directly from 5Q Central (iBook, Kindle, Paperback)

Find out more about 5Q Resources

 

Stop putting God first in your life!

In search of God-centeredness

 

What are your priorities in life? Let’s not even talk yet about the order of your priorities.  Let’s just identify the priorities themselves.

Let’s see … there’s work (gotta pay the bills, right?), family (they are the reason we have bills),  hobbies (“me” time), friends (we don’t want to get isolated), church (don’t want to get in trouble with God), education (we don’t want our kids being “ignernt), work (yes, we’ve already listed that one, but the bills were a little more than we anticipated), and God (church is not the only place we think about Him … hopefully).

Maybe we better throw in some community service (if it helps us look good and make some “connections,” makes us feel better about ourselves, makes our communities safer for our kids, or supports the causes that are important to us).

I hope that doesn’t sound cynical.  That’s not my intent.  I do think, however, that we tend to identify priorities based on a self-centered approach to life.  By self-centered, I don’t mean selfish or self-absorbed.  A person can be self-centered and generous towards others at the same time.

I think of self-centered this way: every decision is determined by my preferences, my values, my passions, my beliefs, my needs, my desires, my goals, my vision, my energy, my time, my priorities, my calling, my ministry …

So, if I am a person of faith and I start to order my priorities according to the way I have likely been taught in church, it looks a lot like this: God first, then family, then work, then self.  So, how does that work?

Well, God first means that I pray and read my Bible every day and go to church as much as possible. Perhaps community service falls under the “God first” category and I’ll support an organization that is consistent with my faith perspective.

Family second means that I will give as much time and attention to them as possible. I’ll put education under this and try to provide for their current and future needs.  I’ll also make sure that they are in church so that their faith journey is nurtured.

In my work life, I’ll work hard and long and give the very best to my employer so that I can advance, earn a good living for my family, support my church, and set aside something for retirement.

And then whatever is left, I can think about hobbies and personal needs, since self is last.

Sounds good, right?  Except God doesn’t want to be in first place in your life. 

What?  Heresy!  Blasphemy!

I’m not suggesting that anything other than God belongs in first place.  I’m suggesting that putting God in any place in your list is still self-centered.  Our lives matter too much to God for us to live by a list. I’m suggesting that our lives need less prioritizing and more centering.  And what belongs at the center is not a what, but a Who.

 

Our lives need less prioritizing and more centering. #godcenteredliving Click To Tweet

 

God wants to be the center of your life.  God wants to be your life and live His life through you.

“And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” (Colossians 3:4) [emphasis mine]

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) [emphasis mine]

So, what does a God-centered life look like?  I’ll talk about that next week.

When is it time to quit?

Debunking the myth of "Winners never quit!"

“Quitters never win and winners never quit!”  (Vince Lombardi)

“… never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in … “ (Winston Churchill)

“Never give up! Never surrender!” (Galaxy Quest)

I could speculate that more people are familiar with Tim Allen’s character in Galaxy Quest than with Lombardi or Churchill, but that is a whole different speech.

The point is that endurance, effort, determination, stick-to-it-ive-ness — TRY HARDER — is the secret to greatness and significance.

Try harder!  Give 110%!

May I offer another quote?  Thanks for your permission.

“When the horse is dead, dismount.” (Various)

You see, my friends, the real secret to greatness is not determined effort; it is wise and focused effort.  It is not giving 110% to every task; it is giving precisely the right effort to the right task at the right time.  It is not simply doing things right; it is doing the right things.

And sometimes the very best thing to do is quit. 

Quitting something doesn’t mean you are a “quitter.”  Putting “er” on the end of a verb and changing it to a noun indicates that the nature of the noun is to habitually do the verb. You can take the time to re-read that sentence if you need to.  The point is that if you are a quitter it means that you habitually quit.  That’s the part of the Lombardi quote that is absolutely true.  If all you ever do is quit, you won’t ever win.

Quitting something doesn't make you a quitter. It may be a display of wisdom. Click To Tweet

The little-known part of the Churchill quote continues, “never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”  Sometimes continuing forward is dishonorable and foolish. (Click here for an audio recording of the entire speech)

Four suggestions to know when to quit

So how do you know when to quit? I certainly couldn’t give every scenario, but here are four suggestions (along with some hard questions):

  1. Quit when the only reason you can think of for doing this is that you have always done it this way and you don’t know another way. (So, you’ve decided to quit learning?)
  2. Quit when it is taking more and more effort and resources to achieve diminishing results. (So, you’ve decided that working harder is more valuable than working smarter?)
  3. Quit when you are more worried about what people will think if you change it than you are about what God will think if you don’t. (So, you’ve decided to be insecurely driven by the whims of self-centered people rather than confidently trusting in the faithfulness of the Eternal Father?)
  4. Quit when you know it is not working, but you are concerned that you will have wasted the resources you have already invested in it. (So you’ve decided to waste some more?)

Maybe the most important thing to quit is worrying. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Your life matters to God.  He knows how where your effort would be best spent.  He knows what you should quit.  Spend some time listening to Him.

How about joining me for a cup each morning?

Membership open through June 30

Hey, Friends! During the month of June, I am opening membership in my private Facebook group, Dr. G’s Morning Cup of Encouragement. I post a brief and encouraging devotional each Monday – Thursday morning (most of the time). No whining or politics; just encouragement drawn from my own time with the Lord each morning. I’d love to have you join me at https://www.facebook.com/groups/DrG.cupofencouragement/