Thursday, April 30, 2015

The One Thing People Need From You (And How You Are Depriving Them Of It)

We need you.

Your friends need you. Your spouse needs you. Your kids need you. Your co-workers need you. People in your community that you have yet to meet, need you. They don’t need tons of your time or money or help, although those things are nice. What they need most, is something only you can give.

They need your experience.

You have made tons of decisions in your life, some good and some not so good. You have succeeded and failed. You have loved and possibly even been hurt in a relationship. As Christians, we believe that God is wrapped up in all of those events in life. He’s in the good. He’s there for us during the bad. The story of how God has interacted with you during those times in your life is a valuable gift that can be shared with others. When Moses was encouraging the nation of Israel before they entered the land of Canaan to live, he told them to love and serve God, “For your eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord that he did.” (Deuteronomy 11:7). Some wisdom isn’t found it books, it comes from a life lived, from what our eyes have seen and our ears have heard. Sadly, most of us never pass on (or sometimes even notice) the amazing things that we have learned. If you want to give your most valuable resource to the people that need it most, here are three things you need to start doing:


Sometimes life happens to you without you even noticing. It’s easy to get so caught up in the frantic pace of our lives, looking ahead to the future, that we forget that God is up to something here and now. There is something He is wanting to show you on even the most ordinary days. If you don’t watch for it, you might miss it. The large, dramatic events of our life aren’t the only time that God shows up. He’s always with you, which means there is always something new for you to see and learn.


Setting up a time each day to look back and reflect on what happened is one of the most overlooked spiritual disciplines. Reflection is hugely important. It’s our chance to wrap our mind around our day, and to sort out all that went on, and all that it means. St. Ignatius set a time each evening to look back over his day and to talk to God about the good and the bad. Not only does setting a time of reflection sort out our own thoughts, it allows us to package the information that we hope to pass on to others.


It’s easy to believe that people don’t really care about what you have to say, and sometimes they don’t. That doesn’t change the value of what you have to offer. The ways you have seen God interact with you in your life is a valuable story for others. Some may ignore it, but others will cherish it. So, tell your story, and let others decide what they will do with it. All you can do is share, the rest is up to them.

You have a story to tell, and there are people who desperately need to hear it. So, take some time today and make a call or schedule a visit and share your heart. You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Don't Let The Things That Make Your Life Easier Make It Less Satisfying

We live at a great time in history. The technological advances that continue to come out each year make our lives more convenient and efficient. We can process and evaluate a great deal of information each day, that in the past would have taken weeks to collect. Our phones allow us to communicate in seconds. Our laptops and ipads allow us to work at home as easily as at the office sometimes. Facebook and Instagram allow us to socialize and connect with more people, faster than ever before. These innovations are incredible. Like all resources available to us, however, these new conveniences can be misused. Here are three ways to ensure that you are not misusing your ipad, email, and social media:

Create Space For Attention

Time and attention are the fuel of relationships.  It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but it has to come consistently and be undistracted. If you finally have 20 minutes to talk to your wife at night after a long day, and you check your work email 20 times, you are not really spending time with your wife. It’s not enough to hear what she is saying, she has to see you receiving and reacting to her words. If you think that doesn’t make sense, ask yourself how many times you have told your child to look at you when you are talking to him. Also, how much would you trust a co-worker who was busy sending tweets while you explained an important task to them? Create a space where you can give your full and undivided attention to those you love. Once you have created that space, protect it at all costs!

Create Space For Work

I hope you love your work. It makes life so much better if you do. If you love your work, and if you are driven to good a great job, then it’s really easy to let work thoughts and responsibilities sneak into your family or rest time. You can always do more at work. You can always give it more thought and read over things one more time. So, since no job ever feels completely or perfectly done, you have to set limits. Create a space for your work and don’t let it creep into everything else. There has to be time each day where work is not allowed into your mind at all. Your family and friends understand coming in second place to your work at times, but they will not be ok with always coming in second place.

Create Space For Relationship

I know Facebook makes it feel like you can relate to 20,000 people, but you can’t. At least not well. You have limited relational resources. You have limited time to relate. You have to make a decision about who you are going to relate to and at what depth.  Not making a decision will result in shallow relationships and the people you love the most will feel neglected. Create space in your life for the relationships that matter most, and don’t allow 20 other relationships to steal time and energy from them. Remember, cyber relationships are easier than real relationships. Real relationships are work, but real relationships satisfy. Don’t let anything distract you from the time it takes to make them work.

If you don’t decide how you spend your time and energy, other people will decide for you, and you will never be satisfied. So say “no” to some things today that will make your life better tomorrow.

Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tears For Enemies: The One Skill The Church Needs Most

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”                                      -Philippians 3:18

Churches that treat people like enemies are missing the point.

Atheists are not our enemies. Homosexuals are not our enemies. Politicians are not our enemies, regardless of party. Muslims are not our enemies. If anything, they are exactly who we are to invest our love and care in.

There are people who don’t believe what you believe, and may never even come close to agreeing with you. There are even people who want to humiliate you for what you believe or prove you wrong if possible. You can call them enemies if you like, but you are never supposed to treat them as such. When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he talked about people who were working against him, spreading lies about him, trying to crush his reputation. Paul said that when he thought of those people it broke his heart; that he thought about them with tears. He didn’t ignore or explain away what they were doing. He just chose sorrow instead of anger when he thought of them. If the church is going to impact the world today, we need to become expert at loving people that we disagree with. Love is not an optional part of Christian life, it's mandatory. It’s not easy. It can’t be faked. It won’t be perfect, but it always has to be the goal. People may often combat your arguments, but it’s hard to explain away authentic care. When you trust the truth you know about God, you won’t need to become defensive when someone challenges it. You can hear them out and discuss it if possible, but you don’t have to hate them. You can simply choose to give them what God has given you, patience and love.  

Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How To Avoid Guilt Trips

Guilt trips are brutal.

Especially if you have a sensitive heart that genuinely cares for others.

Everyone hates to be wrong, and we really dislike feeling that we have failed or let someone down. Someone at work or in our family that is set on getting their way can use these things against us by making us feel guilty (even when we've done nothing wrong). If you have a boss, co-worker, friend, or family member that loves to send you on a guilt trip, there are 2 important things to remember, that will allow you to battle back and retain your sanity: ask and avoid.

1)Ask yourself this question: Have I done something that is morally wrong?

Guilt trips owe their power to false guilt. False guilt is the feeling of guilt that comes to us even when we haven’t done anything morally wrong.  So, even though you may feel guilty, if you haven’t done anything morally wrong, you are not guilty. Many of us have come to believe, however, that it is our job to make everyone happy, and we feel guilty when we can’t do it. We don’t tend to say this out loud, but we believe it nonetheless. Add this to our tendency to blame ourselves first when things go wrong, and you have the recipe for a crushing guilt trip. But remember this…

It's not your job to keep the people you love or work with happy.

Not only that, it’s impossible. So let it go! When feelings of guilt arise after a talk with someone, stop and ask yourself, “Have I done anything morally wrong?” If the answer is “no”, then remind yourself that these feelings of guilt are just feelings and are not actually true. Before long those feelings will fade away, as feelings often do. As an example: it’s morally wrong to steal money from your co-worker when they are out of the office, it’s not morally wrong to say no when they ask if you can work their shift for them next Saturday.

2)Avoid long, drawn-out conversations with the guilters in your life.

People who are trying to guilt you into doing something for them love to have long conversations with you about how hard their life is, and how much they need you to come to their rescue. The longer the conversation, the more chance they have to find a way to flood you with guilt. The more they can get you to talk, the better able they are to trip you up! Remember this…

When your realize that someone is not accepting your polite refusal, but is continuing to push, the conversation has stopped being relational and started being manipulative.

The best way I have found to deal with this sort of manipulation is to become a good politician (is that an oxymoron?). Good politicians are not drawn into conversations they don't want to have. They do this by having set talking points that they repeat often during their campaign that highlights their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses. It doesn’t matter what you ask, they stick to the talking points. This tactic also works when dealing with the people in your life that try to guilt you into submission. Here is an example of what one such conversation might look like, and how you can handle it:

Your supervisor: Can you please stay later today and pick up the extra work that needs to be completed, no one else is able to, and I’m not feeling well.  (you know that she probably hasn’t asked anyone else…)

You: I actually worked over some last week, but I can’t today.

Supervisor: I only ask you because I know that you are such a good worker and care so much about our clients.

You: Thank you, I really do take my job seriously, but I can’t work over today.

Supervisor: Well, I know that you wouldn’t want your co-workers to think that you aren’t carrying your weight….

You: I can’t do it today, but I hope you are able to find someone to pick up the extra hours.

Supervisor: Well, I guess I’ll just have to do it myself, maybe my migraine won’t get much worse…..

You: Ok, I hope the rest of your afternoon goes well.

Stick to your message. Keep the conversation polite, but short and simple. Don’t get drawn into justifying yourself or talking about what other workers might be thinking or doing. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t help out and work over from time to time, it just means that you need to avoid making decisions because you feel guilty. Practice these two techniques and you will avoid the dreaded guilt trip and will be able to make decisions free of manipulation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why Your Use Of The Truth May Be Pushing People Away

Last year a recurring problem in Somalia made the world news. People throughout the world were reaching out and sending food, medicine, and other critical supplies to help starving people in that country. The supplies, however, rarely reached the people that needed them so desperately. They were often intercepted by the very warlords and militias that had contributed to the poverty stricken condition the people were in. Once this problem was exposed and studied, it would have been insane to continue to blindly send aid in the same manner as before. Aid would still be needed, but the question of how to get the aid to the people who needed it would have to be addressed.

I love wrestling with difficult questions and seeking answers to problems. I used to believe that supplying people with the correct answers to their questions (often whether they asked or not) was one of the most important things you could do in life. I still believe that honest answers to questions are important, but I’ve learned something else now as well. In the same way that simply dumping food and medicine into Somalia had stopped doing any good for the people who needed it, simply dumping answers on people who I think may need them doesn’t do any good either. It’s possible that the people you are trying to help are no longer listening to the answers that you are offering. Here are three things to remember as you seek to help others:

1)Love comes before answers, not vice versa

A major failing of the church in the past 30 years is that it has often been focused on teaching its people right answers instead of teaching them how to love. We then unleash them on their jobs, communities, and schools to go spread the right answers. It’s been like sending someone to change light bulbs with a hammer. God’s plan for people is to love first and always. Everything else comes after that. If the person you are talking to doesn’t know that they are loved, the will never care about your answers.

2)Acts of love give meaning to words of love

It’s important to tell the people you care for that you love them. You should do it as often as you can, in as many ways as you can. Just saying the words isn’t enough though. In our fast-paced, hectic world one of the most difficult challenges we face is the fact that love takes time. Quick answers won’t do the trick, even if they are the right answers. Your co-worker that you care about, who keeps wrecking her life with toxic relationships, already knows that her relationships are awful. What she needs is someone who will spend time with her and love her even when she is a mess. Over time that love will help her find the courage to make the changes she needs to make. Sometimes the answers that people need can be delivered without saying a word.

3)Don't Rush In With An Answer

A quick answer to a heartfelt question can often make someone feel dumb or lazy. When people have the courage to ask a question our first goal should be to meet them where they are and to make sure they know that we care for them. For example, let’s say your middle school son comes in and says, “I’m sick of studying, everybody else just cheats on the quizzes and they have a better grade than I do. I’m not going to study anymore.” You could answer, “Christians don’t cheat. Those kids are going to have to answer for God one day for what they did in sixth grade Civics. Now, go study.” You just offered an 8 second solution to a problem that has been stressing your son all day. No matter how good you think your answers are, that’s a lousy way to treat someone. Take some time to appreciate where your son is before you jump in. Maybe something like, “Wow, that’s got to be really stressful. I think I would be super angry if that happened to me.” Let him know that what’s he feeling makes sense before you cram an answer down his throat. Better yet, work with him to help him find an answer, rather than just dropping one on his head.

When we love people, we try to help them. We try to answer questions. We try to solve problems, which is good because people need what you have to offer. While most of our efforts are motivated by love, just like the aid sent to the Somalian people, our help doesn’t always reach its intended target. Our preoccupation with giving answers often pushes people away.  Let your friends, children, and co-workers know that you have love for them before you let them know that you have answers for them. By doing so, you may help them receive and enjoy both.

Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Why You Haven't Been Able To Let It Go: 3 Things You May Not Know About Forgiveness

If you were to skim the letters of the New Testament you would quickly surmise that the practice of forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian life. It’s a practice that all Christians are to engage in. Most people agree that forgiveness is a good idea. We become discouraged, however, when our attempts seem to fail and don’t bring the feelings we had hoped for. It’s not that forgiveness doesn’t work, it’s just that there were things you might not have been told about this life-giving Christian discipline. Here are three things you need to know to be able to forgive:

Forgiveness Is A Process

If someone bumps into you in a crowded mall or accidentally spills something in your home, forgiveness comes pretty easy. It can almost be instantaneous. We forgive them and it never really comes up again. Deep damage or more grievous wrongs might not be forgiven quite so easily. I’ve had several people confess to me that they feel guilty that they haven’t been able to fully forgive someone. They have tried, but the anger and hurt keeps coming back to their mind. I assure them that they likely have forgiven them, it’s just that they may need to continue forgiving them. Some damage has to be forgiven multiple times, even when the damaging act isn't repeated. Infidelity, betrayal, and damage to those we love are just a few of the things that may be so big that they have to be forgiven over and over. As you work through that sort of process you have to remember that you have forgiven, and you are forgiving. Stay with it. Ask God for endurance. You are doing the right thing, it’s just that some things have to be laid down several times before they stay down.

What Happened To You Matters

Some of us were taught that forgiving someone is when you tell them that what they did is no big deal. While some things are indeed small, others are not. You matter to God, and what happens to you matters as well. Forgiving isn’t saying that the wrong didn’t matter. It’s saying that the wrong mattered very much, but that you are choosing to lay it down and move on with your life. Forgiveness has to begin with an honest acknowledgment of wrong. It won’t always come from the person who has wronged you, but you have to be clear and honest about it with yourself. Only when the wrong is clear in your mind, can you choose to forgive it and set it aside.

Forgiving Isn’t Forgetting

We’ve all been told at some point to just forgive and forget. If you remember the hurt, we're told, then you haven’t forgiven it. But, that’s just not true. Some of the actions we forgive will ease from our memory, but not all, and that’s ok. We can’t make ourselves forget something. We can choose to not keep bringing it up or to not obsess over it, but we can’t choose to forget it. Memories of past hurts that have been forgiven bring less pain over time, but the memories may not go away completely. That's because the consequences of the damaging act may not go away completely. Forgiveness still has great power however,  and we can move on with our lives with more freedom and more peace, once we've chosen to let it go.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s healing and incredibly powerful. If you have something that you need to forgive, talk to God about it today. If it’s really big seek help from a counselor, minister, or close friend. It may be the best decision you have made in years.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why God's Love Matters More Than You Think

We’ve all been told at some point or another that God loves us. We’ve been told in sermons, at conferences, and in songs. It’s a great message, but like most great messages, when you hear it often, it begins to lose it’s meaning. Why is God’s love such a big deal, I mean He loves everyone right? What does God’s love have to do with you and your everyday life?

God’s love isn’t just sentimental feelings of affection for you. God’s love doesn’t mean that He thinks you are great. It means that He values you whether you are acting great or not. His love is not just a fact that you should know in your head. It starts there, but it’s much more.

God’s love is an active, aggressive process. God’s valuing of you means that He wants the best for you. That’s good news for two important reasons; number one, God knows everything, so He actually knows what it best for you. How many times have you made a bad decision or failed at a task simply because you didn’t know enough about it? I’ve done it millions of times. It's impossible to know every possible aspect of every thing. With God, we don't have to.  The second part is also reassuring. God has unlimited power, so He has the ability to help you accomplish what is best for you. Sadly however, while God is good on His side, our side is less than reliable. Our lack of knowledge and lack of power often leads us to battle against God and against what’s best for us. We don’t know and we don’t have as much control as we think we do. That
brings us to a crossroads with two possible answers.

There are only two options in our relationship with God. We either trust God’s love for us even though we don’t understand it and can’t predict it, or we trust ourselves and our efforts. Trusting God, rather than proving yourself to God is the key to life. Rather than seeking to understand or control His love, simply accept it. The song I was taught to sing when I was young wasn’t joking when it taught that God’s love is like “a fountain flowing deep and wide”. Being loved by God is a lot like being carried along a rapidly flowing river. It’s deep so my feet can’t reach the ground and control it. It’s wide, so I can’t reach to the side and escape it. It bruises me, frustrates me, cleans me, and calms me. It’s constantly changing and at the end, I will be in a very different place because of it. 

God loves for you matters very much and it's yours if you will have it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

3 Ways To Ruin Your Apology

You are wrong. Dead wrong and you know it. Those words you said or that thing you did has gotten you in trouble yet again. Fortunately, most people are pretty generous with their forgiveness. Everyone realizes that they aren’t perfect, and most people will show the grace that they hope they will receive when they blow it. But you will never know how great people can be if you don’t apologize. Also, you will likely never learn anything. Most of the great lessons of life we pick up in our failures. Being really bad at apologizing will make your relationships weaker and your life less enjoyable. Not sure if you are a bad apologizer? Take a look at the following ways that you may be ruining your apology:

1)Don’t Admit What You Did Wrong

For an apology to work, you have to be specific. You did something wrong, and you need to own it clearly. How many times have you been on the receiving end of this apology:

                Your friend: I’m sorry.
                You: Sorry for what?
                Your friend: I don’t know, I’m just sorry you are mad.
                You: I hope you get hit by a bus.

Ok, you are probably not that aggressive in your response, but it makes you crazy doesn’t it? If you have messed up, own it clearly. Don’t make excuses. Your friend will trust you again more quickly when they know exactly what it is that you apologizing for.

2)Admit What Everyone Else Did Wrong

The quickest way to ruin an apology is to list off all the wrong doings of others as you stumble around trying to take ownership for what you did. It’s relationally toxic to blame your words or actions on other people. It doesn’t matter what she said first, you shouldn’t have said what you said. It feels better to hide our mistakes in a pile of other mistakes made by other people. But the purpose of an apology isn’t to make you feel better. It’s to be honest, and to own the brokenness that you have caused.

3)Apologize Even When You Aren’t Wrong

If you want to make your words meaningless, start apologizing even when you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s so tempting to try to keep the peace, and sometimes, saying I’m sorry even though you didn’t say or do anything wrong, will get your spouse, parent, or friend off of your back. Owning everything that goes wrong in a relationship is a good way to create a monster. If you apologize for things that others have done, they will eventually start blaming you for all of their other problems as well.

Honestly owning and admitting things that you have done wrong can be incredibly powerful. Many relationships that seemed past the breaking point have recovered thanks to that sort of courage and honesty. If you have something to apologize for, do it today, and do it well. Your relationships will be better off for it. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Why Knowing God Is Better Than Knowing About God

Easter is a reminder that we were created to know God, not just know about God.

Those words are painful for me, because I love to know about stuff. I love attending interesting conferences, listening to new podcasts, and reading good books. I love learning. Every year I try to include some biographies in my reading. The lives of great people are fascinating and often inspiring.  As well written and informative as some biographies can be however, they only help me know about the person.  Reading Jon Meacham’s incredible book on Andrew Jackson, American Lion, doesn’t cause me to know Andrew Jackson. I know more about him, and my life may even be impacted by that knowledge, but I have no relationship with the man, Andrew Jackson.  We live in a society obsessed with knowing about, yet we have a frightening lack of the sort of courage that allows us to attempt authentic relational knowing.

Knowing about God allows me to have more well-informed conversations and teachings. Knowing God causes me to give money to others that I really want to spend on me.

Knowing about God can make you appear intelligent or even holy. Knowing God will often make you appear odd.

Knowing about God is like reading a book on dance or perhaps even taking a dance class, where you practice movements on your own over and over. Knowing God is like a dance on your wedding day. You take your spouse in your arms and slowly you find ways to move together, matching each other stride for stride. Finding a pace and rhythm that’s all your own and differs from everyone else on the dance floor.

Knowing about God can often make us arrogant, judging those who don’t agree with what we know. Knowing God always makes me more humble, loving others with the love of the God I know.

Knowing about God is safe and predicable. Knowing God can lead anywhere, often to places that make me uncomfortable.  The discomfort doesn’t matter though, because God is there as well.  

Knowing about God can lead to heated debates on Facebook and Twitter where we offer jabs and churchy one-liners. Knowing God can lead you to make phone calls and write cards filled with encouragement for people who are hurting. The goal of knowing about God is to be right and point out those who are wrong. The goal of knowing God is to get used to the fact that God loves us even though we are often wrong.

Knowing about God can often lead to knowing God, but it doesn’t always.  Knowing about God without knowing God is worthless.  Our souls crave to be in relationship with God. Our fear demands we know everything about Him first (as if that is remotely possible). When we give in to our fear, we give in to a life of knowing about God from a distance, which will never satisfy us.

I hope this Easter finds you falling more in love with God and less obsessed with facts about Him.