Missing God’s Gift (Something Misplaced?)

Yesterday a friend told me how different he is from who he was just 18 months ago. Earlier this week a group discussed how a coaching program has altered their life’s rhythms in just 7 weeks. These people were expressing how receiving a gift from God, such as leaving a successful corporate job to start all over or exiting the routine of life to enjoy Sabbath, has changed who they are. And they want more.

God’s gifts come to us in various formations. Sometimes they are clearly seen as coming straight from God. Other times, we are a little more challenged to determine if an opportunity or unforeseen blessing are indeed gifts from God. That is, unless we live from the viewpoint that God works at all times and through all things in our lives. Until we reach that viewpoint, it’s likely we will often miss God’s gifts.

Why don’t we automatically have this viewpoint? What keeps us from it? How can we move toward it? In talking with these people, I’d say they would say they had some things misplaced.

Misplaced Contentment-Yes, it’s possible to be so content that you miss noticing an offer from God. Our contentment can often lead us to settling, stubbornness, and even pride. So a God-given opportunity can appear unsettling, unnecessary, maybe even unworthy. Think rich, young ruler.

Misplaced Fear-In this case, fear of just about anything (loss of job/income, ability, identity, power/influence, health, security) or anyone (family, peers, leaders, employer, yourself) has been given higher rank than God. Think Moses’ initial bush response.

Misplaced Stewardship-Stewardship covers more in our lives than just finances. Stewarding your family, your talents, your choices, your time, your emotions, your mind, your body, for example. Think about most kings in the Old Testament.

Misplaced Allegiance-Satan is committed to leading us to misplace our allegiances. We can become more allegiant to so many earthly kingdoms that we miss God’s leading us toward his heavenly kingdom. Think about the Pharisees and Paul’s warnings about false teachers in the church.

Misplaced Commitment-Commitments lead to routines, obligations, and expectations-some short term, others long term. These can become idols causing us to be completely blind to something more aligned with God’s plans for us. Think Eli, Saul, or Martha.

We often miss God’s gifts to us because our misplacements lead us to consider way too many “what ifs.” So consider a few reverse thinking “what if” results when God’s gifts are missed:

  • What if you miss God’s gift because you ignore a burning bush?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you run toward Joppa instead of Nineveh?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you always look backward rather than forward?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you follow the crowd and declare, “Crucify him!”
  • What if you miss God’s gift because your faith is so small that your reply to God’s offer is, “No thanks.”

1st 50 years-5 things I’m Sure Of

Monday I joined the 50 ranks. Whatever that’s supposed to feel like, I’m pretty sure I don’t. By age 50, you’d think I’d feel pretty sure about just about everything. One thing I am most assured of is I’m sure I don’t.

Yet in a reflective mode, I challenged myself to list what I’m most assured of about life after living 50 years. These five things topped the list:

  1. God is Right-He’s right about himself, and he’s certainly right about me. He’s right about good and evil, love and hate, holiness and pride, the present and the future, and power and humility. The depth of my submission to his “rightness” is the depth of my contentment and peace.
  2. There’s More Than This-Although there’s a lot to enjoy about God’s earth, life is more than what I can see, taste, hear, touch, and feel. An eternal perspective reveals the “more” and keeps the visible in its proper priority.
  3. Less is More-Specifically less noise, less doing, less collecting of stuff replaced by more listening, more being, and more margin.
  4. Giving and Receiving are both important-Yes, Paul mentions in Acts that givers are more blessed. I don’t disagree with that. My caveat is that I can’t just keep on giving and giving and resist receiving. I have to receive in order to give. Both are important.
  5. A godly life results in no regrets-“I want no regrets when the horses come for me.” -Margaret Becker

What are you most assured of?

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

(Third and final entry for this post)

The first two entries talked about two ways to let God out of your box: don’t give up and stop believing lies. Read Nick’s quote again to see the third way.

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

As a long-distance runner, I often hear people say something like this after they hear about some race I’ve done or I’m preparing for: “I could never do that. You’re amazing.” If I were to bluntly respond what I’m thinking when they say that, it would be something like this: “That’s ridiculous. Of course you could. And by the way, amazing I am not.” This is a simple example of what we often do to God as well. We tell him what’s possible…so in the box he goes. The third way to let him out of your box is to do the opposite.

Resist Putting Limits

Nick said we put limits on how God can work through us. And this can have tragic consequences. Case in point: the Israelite spies in Canaan (read Exodus 13-14). Twelve went in to check it out. Ten said, “No go.” Two said, “We should go.” Forty years later, the ten got want they wanted and so did the two. God showed up for the two who resisted putting limits on him. They experienced what God can do through those who allow him to work through them (read Joshua 6,14).

So how can we resist our human nature and give God all the freedom in our lives he deserves?

  • Foster a mindset of submission to daily prompts from God-“Sure, I’d be happy to ask my neighbor how I can pray for them. What else?”
  • Keep your finger on the “yes” trigger when God comes with a big ask-“Yes, I’ll take a vacation week to go on a mission trip. And I’ll stay open to even moving my family to live there permanently.”
  • Seek counsel from those we believe live submitted lives-“Can we have coffee soon? I’m needing some guidance on something God has challenged me to do.”
  • Surround yourself with other “resisters”-“God, who should be in my corner? Holy Spirit, surround me with fellow resisters.”

In what area(s) of your life is God in your limit box? What could God do through you if you’d resist putting limits on him? Tell God, “I’m sorry for not giving you my ‘yes’ more quickly. I desire to experience what it’s like to give you full access. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

(Continued from yesterday’s entry)

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

There are three phrases in Nick’s quote that explain how we put God in our box: we tell ourselves, we buy into, we consider ourselves. These actions aren’t generated by God. They are generated by ourselves and others, and they reveal the second way to let God out of our box.

Stop Believing Lies 

Have you noticed you are one of the biggest liars about you? Nick gave you some examples: “I’m not smart enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not attractive enough.” Sure, maybe someone actually said those or similar things to you one time, but who keeps repeating them more than anyone else? You do. Stop telling yourselves lies that you end up believing. 

Yes, others say things that we have a choice to buy into. A choice. In middle school, my music teacher said I wasn’t good enough to get a college degree in music. I chose not to believe that and got that degree anyway. And in my ministry career others have said I wouldn’t be able to get hired by churches because my marital status is single. For over twenty years now God has chosen otherwise.

To stop believing ours and other’s lies, we must fill our hearts and minds with God’s truths. Instead of undermining what God wants to do in our lives by considering ourselves unworthy, we should believe scriptures like Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Who in their right mind wants to believe lies and box up the God of that verse?

What lies do you need to stop believing? What God truths could replace those lies? Tell God, “I’m tired of the lies. I’m going to stop believing them and stand in your truths. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

(Blog completed tomorrow)

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

You read that title right. You may not be almighty, but you are capable of stuffing God in a box of your making. It’s so easy that most of us do it without even knowing or thinking about it. And then we marvel at those who live what seem like extraordinary lives, not knowing that they have simply let God out of their box.

Case in point: Nick Vujicic. He was born without limbs-no arms or legs. Can you imagine the box he had as a child where he stuffed God? That box must have been filled with lots of whys, hows, whens, and seriouslys. And who could blame him? Sounds perfectly natural to think God had messed up-you might say he put himself in Nick’s box.

Somewhere along the way, Nick decided to let God out of that box. Nick is now 35 years old, married, travels the world speaking, and directs an organization that helps share the message of hope in the God he let out of his box. I started reading his devotional book, Limitless, this week where in the first day’s reading entitled Free from Limitations he wrote this:

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

From Nick’s quote, we can see three ways to let God out of any box where we’ve decided he belongs.

Don’t Give Up

Giving up is another one of those easy-to-do human things. What if we looked at giving up as putting God in a box? What if we stopped exercising our finite power in such a life-sucking way resulting in squelching the infinite power of God? For some other cases in point, consider the following people who didn’t give up:

  • Noah
  • Esther
  • Joshua
  • Daniel
  • Martin Luther
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Alexander Bell
  • Winston Churchill
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Jesus

How their lives and those impacted by their decisions would have been changed had God stayed in their box!

Are you considering giving up? On your marriage? On your education? On your faith? On your passion? Tell God, “It’s all yours. I’m not giving up. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

(Blog continued tomorrow)

2018 Reading Strategy

Two weeks into the year. And I asked for a strategy. Got it.

When it comes to reading, I’d say I’m slightly above the average reader as to how much and to diversity. But that’s been pretty much up to chance, outside of the structure of assigned reading by instructors or bosses. In my adult life, my content has been determined by curiosity, reference, or gifts. Nothing wrong with any of those. But for 2018 I wanted a strategy. So my coach and I walked through that this week. Here’s the result:

  • Overall goal: A well rounded, self-assigned curriculum that includes subjects I’m currently engaged with but also subjects that will widen my knowledge
  • Number goal: Not necessarily concerned about it, but landed on a total of 25-30
  • Targeted content: I will read 1-4 books that fall under the following ten headings: 
  1. Coaching
  2. Leadership
  3. Psychology
  4. Devotional
  5. Biographical
  6. Political
  7. Fiction
  8. Christian Living
  9. Audio books
  10. Miscellaneous

I really like this plan. It’s intentional. It’s accountable. It’s broadening. It’s flexible. It’s doable. It’s motivational.

If reading is a thing for you, what’s your strategy? Does it need reviewing or tweaking? Feel free to share by commenting.

If you have another thing, same idea. How can you grow in that thing in 2018?

Live How You Want to Die

Since Saturday I’ve had quite a few interactions with people giving me reason to ponder this question: How is it some people die happy and others don’t?

I say since Saturday because that’s the day some of our church family gathered to remember the life of Buna Brannon. She lived a full life. And I’m not just referring to her age of 84. Buna lived a full life because she chose to live it to its fullest.

By the time I met Mrs. Buna, she was already retired, 76 years of age. Nothing kept her down. Not illness. Not emotions. Not people. She made a choice to live life how she wanted, not how others wanted. And the foundation of that choice was her faith, how she understood God wanted her to live. And because of that faith, she lived happily, joyfully, actively, and extremely generously. And that’s also how she died. Until days before her living was done, she gave to others and thought of others which brought her joy, peace, and purpose. She had lived life in such a way that she was more than ready to leave it as she lived it.

However you live is probably how you’re going to die. It’s sad to watch people live unlike how they probably want to die. Angry. Depressed. Judging. Discontent. Proud. Buna made the choice to live with joy, with hard work, with purpose, and with love. And that’s what everyone will remember about her. She died how she lived.

If you want to die happily, live happily.

If you want to die sacrificially, live sacrificially.

If you want to die peacefully, live peacefully.

If you want to die regretless, live regretless.

The choice is clearly all yours.

The Worst Case of Being Misunderstood

Ever been misunderstood? I’m not asking have you ever had a misunderstanding. I’m talking about being mislabeled, mischarged, or mispegged to the point that trust was broken. In some cases, these events lead to years of damage and loss, such as years in prison for being accused falsely. If it’s been that bad for you, that’s rough. I can’t relate to that depth of being misunderstood. But I can tell you this, that’s not the worst case of being misunderstood. No, the worst case happened a few millienia ago.

The worst case of being misunderstood happened to God. Yes, that’s right. And just like the case usually is, it was because of a lie. The lie led to mistrust. The mistrust led to the worst decision known. And God and his creation have been suffering ever since. Yes, that’s right. You have been suffering because God was misunderstood.

You’ve probably guessed where this happened. If not, here’s a hint. The lie had to do with becoming like God. (Now that’s a whopper of a lie.) The lie caused Adam and Eve to lose trust in God’s character. The choice to believe that lie in essence said to God, “You can’t be trusted.” The first person to ever be misunderstood created those who made him feel misunderstood.

So here you are. Either being misunderstood right now or thinking about when it’s happened to you in the past. Find comfort in these thoughts:

  • God is the one person in the world who does get you, all of you.
  • God knows what it feels like to be misunderstood. It started soon after he created us and has never stopped.
  • God found a way to offer reconciliation to those who misunderstood him. You can do that too, most likely. But remember, just like his offer, yours may or may not be accepted.
  • God’s character wasn’t impacted by his being misunderstood. At his core, he is love. Strengthen your core with love.
  • God continues to do his work. So can you. Being misunderstood is not your identity. Your identity is found in your Creator. Don’t believe the lie that started this whole thing. 

3 Keys in Trying to Do it Right the First Time

My niece has a first coming. In three months, she and her husband will have another mouth to feed (pictured below). But more importantly, they will be first-time parents. She told me, “I can’t deny it. I’m a little nervous.” Yep.

We all have firsts. These come in experiences like our first day in kindergarten, our first time driving on an interstate, our first time praying in a group setting, our first time going for a job interview, or our first and hopefully only time to say, “I do.”

And they keep coming. Life is a journey of firsts. Last year my firsts included planning a sabbatical, running two half marathons in one weekend, researching for a book, and stepping up to the mic in a studio. These were firsts I chose to do. Not all firsts are chosen, though. Remember Noah? Chosen or not, all firsts come with moments of, “I’m a little nervous.”

I was more than a little nervous for my senior recital in college. You can say I chose it because I chose that field of study, but a 30-minute recital singing in various languages wasn’t shared in the catalog description. But I was buoyed by two things: my accompanist was the best on campus and my commitment to doing this right. My goal was to walk off stage thinking, “This is what I wanted to feel and experience.”

So how does one walk away from a first experience believing they did everything they could to get it right? Sounds audacious. Maybe even too lofty. But what’s that saying your probably heard from some mentor along the way, “If it’s worth doing, its worth doing right”? So from my efforts in trying to get firsts right, here are three keys to grasp:

  • Embrace your Emotions

    Your first could bring a myriad of emotions. Fear. Elation. Anxiety. Excitement. Doubt. Drive. I encourage you to deal with it all. Why? When someone deals with all their emotions, they grow in dealing with the negative and the positive. You learn your personal lane of balance. Some people are fearless and therefore are going to crash sooner or later; they need to find a balance of embracing healthy fear. Some people are born doubters and are constantly stunting their chance to go further; they need to find a balance of embracing healthy courage. Rather than falsely believing in the futility of balance seeking, we give ourselves a better chance of doing things right the first time when we embrace our emotions.

    • Stand in Your Why

      Convictions, purpose, values, vision: whatever your call them, they give you the stability to go after something for the first time. You must know them and ferociously guard them. Is your why clear? Do your methods live out your why? If you could state your why in five words, what would it be? Yes, your marriage should have a why. Yes, your parenting should have a why. Yes, your first 90 days on the job should have a why. We give ourselves a better chance of getting it right the first time when we stand in our why.

      • Be Fully Present

        Are you a “what-ifer”? Or a “if only-er”? Too much living in the past or for the future can stunt doing things right in the present. Using the example of parenting, research says that the core of who we are is established by age five. If that’s true, the parent concentrating on getting that child into Harvard while they’re in the pottytraining stage may miss some key elements in doing the parenting thing right. Live in the moment. Yes, plan for the future and learn from the past. But give yourself the best chance of doing this thing right the first time by being fully present now.

        Here’s to my niece, the first-time business owners, the first-time writers, and all first-timers! May God bless your efforts in trying to do it right the first time.

        2017 Library

        Throughout 2017 you’ve read posts referencing books I’ve read. Below is the library, in order which I read them. You’ll notice several books about coaching, which was required reading for classes I took during the year. Something else I noted this year on the list for the first time-whether I read the book on kindle (13) or hard copy (10). Something for the curious to know and chew on.

        God is in the Manger, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (hard copy)

        The Salvation of Souls, Jonathan Edwards (hard copy)

        Christian Coaching, Gary Collins (hard copy)

        Co-Active Coaching, Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, Laura Whitworth (hard copy)

        Becoming a Professional Life Coach, Patick Williams, Diane S. Menendez (hard copy)

        The Next Level, Scott Wilson (hard copy)

        The God-Shaped Brain, Timothy Jennings (kindle)

        The Critical Journey, Janet Hagberg, Robert Guelich (kindle)

        Brain Savvy Leaders, Charles Stone (kindle)

        The Phenomenon, Rick Ankiel and Tim Brown (hard copy)

        The Myth of Equality, Ken Wytsma (hard copy)

        Business for the Glory of God, Wayne Grudem (kindle)

        Business by the Book, Larry Burkett (kindle)

        The E myth Revisited, Michael Gerber (kindle)

        1,000 Churches, Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im (hard copy)

        How to Become a Rainmaker, Jeffrey J. Fox (kindle)

        This Is Your Brain on Sports, L. Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers (hard copy)

        Awe, Paul David Tripp (kindle)

        Law and Ethics in Coaching, Patrick Williams and Sharon K. Anderson (kindle)

        Ethics & Risk Management for Christian Coaches, Michael J. Marx (kindle)

        Effective Group Coaching, Jennifer J. Britton (kindle)

        Rhythms of Rest, Shelly Miller (kindle)

        The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan (kindle)