Drainer or Refresher

Lunch took an interesting turn at Chickfila on Friday. For one reason, my Fridays normally don’t involve lunch out, so there’s that. And it was a late lunch, so add that.

But I ordered my lunch and took a seat. Within minutes, two of their employees, also friends of mine, joined me to chat. So not only was my tummy getting full but my soul was also. In our chat, one of them mentioned an opportunity they have coming up that even though it may seem like work actually felt like the opposite. Exact words, “I don’t leave there drained.” When I left the restaurant, I had gotten refreshed with more than Combo #1.

That interaction led me to ask this question that I’m throwing out to you: Am I a Drainer or a Refresher? In my interactions with others, do they leave drained or refreshed? No doubt there are days I know I’m drained, so it’s seems impossible to be a refresher. But is that excusable?

One of the most draining days of Jesus’ life is recorded in Matthew 14. On this day…

  • …he found out his cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded…
  • …while trying to find seclusion, he ended up healing many people and feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fishes…
  • …and ended the day walking on the Sea to rescue his disciples and calming the storm. 

My worst day will never match that one. What Jesus models for us is even when we’re drained we can be a refresher. Does that mean we always have to ignore our drained state? Absolutely not. We are not the Son of God. It does mean that it is within our relationship with him to be something to others what only he could be through us.

When I’m drained, I need Refreshers.  When I’m drained, may I allow others to refresh me so I avoid being a Drainer.

When others are drained, I need to be a Refresher.  When I come across a drained person, may I allow the Holy Spirit to make me a Refresher.

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3 Values for Your Calling

In some circles, the term calling can make for quite a discussion. People get all wrapped up in what it means and implies or how they feel when asked any questions that include it. You could say it is a trigger word for many people for many reasons.

But not enough for us to avoid using it. For much of this year, again for various reasons by various people, the idea of our lives having a calling has sprinkled conversations in my circles. Regardless of whether it’s used to describe one’s purpose or to indicate how others view God’s unique design for someone else’s vocation, calling is considered by most to be something to be taken seriously.

So, much like choosing to marry or to procreate, how one views one’s calling determines its fulfillment. As a Christian, my values about my calling derive from my belief in the sovereignty of God. He’s in charge of all things. When that belief goes offline, life gets wacky. To keep it in check, here are three values that cannot be dismissed.

True callings are God-given.

Everything I have comes from him-that includes their purposes. My job, my friends, my talents, my time, my possessions, my money-all of it. When I allow him to reign over all areas of my life, I’m living from the value of his calling for me through them.

True callings are God-ended.

Since they come from him, then it only seems to reason that he determines when they are completed. I leave a job when he says. A friendship ends or doesn’t end when he says. My talents are to be used until he says stop. My money goes where he directs until he says, “That’s finished. Now send it here.” All my callings start and end by God. All other’s thoughts, including the enemy’s, take a backseat to his.

True callings are God-empowered.

Any calling from God in any area of life comes with the capacity to do it. When the first two values are in place, I resist the temptation to fulfill my calling in my own power. Without his empowerment, the calling has no chance of fulfilling all he intended. When tempted to doubt their calling can be accomplished, believers must yield to his power.

No matter where you are in your calling-just starting, sailing along, or wishing to be done-hear the words of Joshua:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9

What’s Really Sacred?

We don’t understand what it means for something to be “sacred.” We live in a human-centered world among people who see themselves as the highest authority. We are quick to say things like “That isn’t fair!” because we believe we deserve certain rights as humans. Yet we give little thought to the rights God deserves as God. Even in the Church we can act as though God’s actions should revolve around us. The stories in Scripture are meant to show us that there exists something of greater value than our existence and rights. There are things that belong to God. Sacred things. His ark of the covenant, His command to Moses, His offerings in the temple, His Holy Spirit, His Holy Communion, His sacred Church. In all the above situations, people rushed into something sacred and paid the price. We shouldn’t be surprised; we should be humbled. We have all done things more irreverent than those mentioned above. Let’s thank God for His mercy and tread more carefully into sacred matters.

This excerpt is from Day 1 of a @youversion devotional plan by Francis Chan entitled Letters to the Church. I agree we have lost the understanding of something being sacred according to what God calls sacred. In addition, we often make things sacred without affirming with God whether they should be.

I’m guilty of saying or agreeing “That’s not Fair” about something God didn’t label sacred. I’ve set up my own sacred pillar similar to what is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. And I’ve paid the price for rushing in to the sacred as well as exalting the unsacred.

So how does this play out for us? A pretty clear example is in our relationships. We can rush a very sacred relationship (parent/child, current/future spouse) and destroy it by dismissing God’s role in it to force our wants in it. We can also make a relationship sacred that has no place being elevated to that position, particularly if we make it more sacred than our relationship with our Creator and Savior.

Chan has made me think. Where might I have mislabeled something as sacred? What God-ordained sacred things have I selfishly lowered their value?

That Person

I have them. You have them.

I am one. You are one.

That person…

  • …you are constantly battling the thought that they can’t do anything right
  • …you are tempted to believe is unforgivable
  • …you wish they’d just move on
  • …you wonder if there’s such a thing as too much grace
  • …you’re convinced doesn’t have a clue

That person(s) that you’re thinking about right now is your that person.

As a recovering judger and teller, I’ve labeled many people as that person. The more I own and understand that I’m also that person the fewer people I label. We have to resist labeling in our minds and hearts, and we need to be aware when we’re spreading our labeling to others by talking about that person. Not easy work.

How do we do this work? I’m doing it by asking myself three questions:

  1. How am I praying for that person?
  2. How will I stay engaged with that person?
  3. When’s the last time that person…
  • …had an arm around their shoulder?
  • …heard, “I forgive you”?
  • …believed they weren’t alone?
  • …experienced grace from another human?
  • …felt safe with those who knew them well?

It’s hard relationship work. But that person needs it. And as someone else’s that person, I need it.

The Reason We Ask, Seek, and Knock

(Post from a youversion reading plan by Adam Stadtmiller)

God answers prayer, but asking prayer is not primarily about answers. Asking prayer, like all other forms of prayer, is about relationship. If you make asking prayer about answers, you’re moving into dangerous territory.

When prayer is primarily about answers, our relationship with God becomes results focused. When God says no or works outside of our time schedule, we desperately question why and are tempted to feel inadequate or unloved by God. Be assured that as you grow in the area of asking prayer, the Devil will seek to shift the focus of your prayers from relationship to results.

Christ was well aware of the relational purpose of asking prayer. In the seventh chapter of Matthew when Jesus dared His followers to ask for things – big things – like “elephants” in prayers. He immediately transferred the focus from the asking to the fatherly or paternal relationship that surrounds each request we make.

Jesus was saying that whenever you ask in prayer you open up the familial lines of communication and put yourself in a position to experience relationship with a loving and compassionate Father.

When God answers your prayers in dramatic fashion, you will grow in the knowledge of His power and care for you. When God works on His schedule instead of yours, you will come to know more about His sustaining power. And when God says no and your dreams die or perhaps you lose someone close to you, you will come to know the God of all comfort who weeps with you. If you want to know God as Father, begin to assault the throne of heaven in asking prayer.

What If, Men?

I’ve traveled to Jordan twice this year. Much could be said about traveling to that part of the world. One thing I noticed the first time and then even more the second time is this: Arab men know how to do community.

They enjoy talking to each other. They enjoy healthy disagreement. They share the good and the bad. They lean into one another. They plan time together. From my experience, they do it better than we Americans. So I’m doing what I can now to change that experience.

We have an opportunity. If the opportunity could be boiled down to one word, I believe that word is trust. Much like we have to grow our trust in God, we should pay attention to grow our trust in one another. It’s quite possible that the former is needed and necessary in order for the latter to happen. So how do we go about growing these trusts?

TRUST BY SHARING YOUR FEARS

Yesterday one of my friends did this with me during a breakfast conversation. He shared a fear he’s dealing with, and I’m the first male that knows. He seemed to feel better just because he had a brother to share his fear with. Scripture tells us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Imagine how lighter the community of men would be if we shared our fears rather than bearing them all alone. What if we started by sharing our fears with God and asking him to give us the courage to share them with a brother?

TRUST BY BEING HONEST

We have the habit of not being real, not being completely honest and transparent. Guys, you are not going to be weak by being real. You are going to be stronger because you are not denying the truth. The truth can only set you free when you speak it and live in it. Earlier this year I watched a brother go through a trying season, life threatening, because he refused to be honest. Imagine how stronger the community of men would be if we embraced honesty. What if we started by being honest with God and humbling ourselves to be honest with a brother?

TRUST BY TAKING THE CHANCE

As I’m writing this, the news is reporting the murder/suicide of a deputy sheriff’s family in a nearby county. Familiar story-no one knows why, no one suspected it, no one saw it coming. We can grow our trust in numerous ways of taking chances. What if we took a personal chance by considering a mental health check up as much as a physical one? What if we took a chance by pointing out odd behavior to our brothers? What if we took a chance by asking how to pray for one another? What if we took a chance to follow through on a Holy Spirit nudge to reach out to a brother? Imagine the impact to the community of men if we took more chances. What if we started by asking God to give us a chance to take today?

Safe People (book review)

I finished another great read from Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

One of the marks of a truly safe person: they are confrontable.

Safe people know that they are subject to change. They want to mature and grow over time.

Safe relationships are not just about trust, support, and sharing. They are also about truth, righteousness, and honesty.

To best deal with unsafe people, we first need to understand what causes us to be unsafe.

And that’s just from chapters two and three.

I came across this book while searching for a resource for developing a coaching program about relationships. Pretty sure this book is worthy. Here’s why:

  • Clear definitions, illustrations, and suggested tools for implementation.
  • Complete and thorough look on the subject.
  • You are not given the idea that you are perfect and others aren’t. It’s a look at yourself, if you choose to accept the opportunity.

Anyone would find this book helpful. Keep your ears open for a group coaching program on this subject, most likely coming this fall.

Fruity Fridays: Slow, Soft, Seeing Gentleness

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Eric Vorhies 

When I think of gentleness, the first image that comes to mind is a new parent holding their child. Or maybe, gentleness is the appropriate amount of pressure to a car’s gas pedal when a teen is behind the wheel. It’s the spy in the movie handling the bomb, it’s a team of nurses in the hospital transferring a patient from a stretcher to a bed, and it’s the way one picks up the pieces of broken glass. Gentleness is slow in the way it moves. It understands the importance of a situation and is aware of the consequences of hurriedness. Gentleness is soft in the way it touches. It is reserved for handling the most delicate and fragile of all items. Gentleness sees in the way eyes cannot. Gentleness is guided, not by the present situation, but by the possibilities of many situations that are yet to come. 

Everyone understands the consequences of not being gentle when holding a baby. You could drop them… which apparently isn’t funny to even joke about. But what about the consequences of handling a relationship? Like luggage at an airport — most of the damage is on the inside and goes unseen by the person who handled it poorly. How messed up will someone be on the inside if they are not handled with gentleness? 

I need you to understand something — I haven’t been able to write this post because I have been distracted with life. Work has been unpleasantly slow, and I have been primarily a stay-at-home parent (which I am not good at) of three boys under 5yo (who I love dearly) that are, by default, very dependent on me. Then today, I learned that some very expensive equipment of mine can’t be fixed, I ordered the wrong rental to use this weekend in place of my broken equipment, and everything was frustratingly avoidable. I haven’t wanted to write this because gentleness has been absent from my life. 

And it makes me think…

The level of gentleness that God must possess…It seems unfathomable. Think about it — I am broken with sin, you are broken with sin…everyone is broken. We are metaphorically like fractured and cracked pieces of glass or jars of clay, and God is carrying us to our destination, slowly, softly, and seeing everything that could go wrong. My eyes well up thinking about how differently He has Fathered me than I would have fathered myself. 

The thing that has been weighing heavily on me is the thought that I might somehow be contributing to the brokenness of those around me because I am not being gentle. Is my sin damaging the fragile parts of the people I care most about? I have been short when I should have been patient. I have projected frustration when I should have projected insightfulness. I have been rash when I should have been calming. I have shaken the relational foundations with others to cope with my own feelings.

Maybe you are like me in some way…not applying gentleness to situations that resemble a bomb that is about to explode or to relationships that so are damaged they need to be treated like an ER patient.

Well, that’s why James writes, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

Be Slow when you react to people. It will give you time to find the right words to say, if anything needs to be said at all.

Be Soft in the way you deal with them. It is not about the amount of pressure that is applied, but how and where and when that pressure is applied that can break something…or someone.

And See the potential consequences of how not being gentle will play out. Because deep down, we are vulnerable and susceptible to being damaged because of the baggage we carry.

What’s God Missing?

Seasons. Life has them. That includes nature. That also includes humans.

God doesn’t have seasons. He is constant, the same yesterday, today, forever. So when we go through a season that doesn’t include him or creates distance between us, what does that mean for him?

What brings us into such a season? 

  • It may be a season where time management is a challenge, and one of the things that suffers is our alone time with God. 
  • It may be a season where you are transitioning into a new job, a new city, a new family dynamic, and it hasn’t dawned on you to figure out where your time with God fits into the new. 
  • It may be a season where you are simply dry, and time alone with God feels even more dry. 

Whatever brought on this season, all you know is that you miss your time with God. You know what you miss, and you’re trying to recapture it. To recapture it, maybe even enter a season yet to be experienced, what if you answered this question: What is God missing?

If you’re missing whatever you used to get out of the relationship, what is he missing that he used to get out of it? Is he missing…

  • …the opportunity to embrace you?
  • …the chance to guide you?
  • …the time to refresh you?
  • …the avenue to encourage you?
  • …the method to challenge you?
  • …the space for you to worship?
  • …the channel to inspire you?

One thing I’ve experienced is the truth to the promise God made that if we seek him we will find him. Give seeking him a shot by asking him this question. I’m guessing he can’t wait to tell you what he’s been missing.

Leaving the Circus Well

Maybe you’ve heard this saying, “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” If not, you probably get the meaning. Basically, I know what and where my circus is, and that, right there, isn’t part of it.

The circus reference could apply to many areas of life: business, family, neighborhood, church, relationships. Some of these we choose to join, and some we don’t get that choice. But we all get the same choice about how long we stay in the circus.

What is interesting to watch is how people react after they’ve chosen to leave a certain circus of life. Some leave quite well; others seem to not really understand what they actually chose when they decided to leave the circus. Reality takes time to set in, and unfortunately, for some, it never does. These thoughts are for those who haven’t left well, who are struggling with their new circus.

When you choose to leave a circus…

  • …accept that the next circus is going to have monkeys also.
  • …you no longer get the popcorn and cotton candy from that circus.
  • …the acts of your new circus aren’t interested in how things ran in your last circus.
  • …over time, the acts of the old circus won’t call to see how you’re doing…and they don’t owe you that unless you actually mutually committed to it.
  • …you have to own your choice. Odds are, you made it, so own it.
  • …respect your old ringmaster’s commitment to the acts still with him. You’re not his monkey any more.
  • …embrace your new ringmaster and the other acts, monkeys and all.

Choose wisely. When it’s time to leave, leave. And leave well.