Tag Archives: christianity

You’re Not Your Shortcomings

At some point or another, we all feel unworthy. Of our job. Our friends or family. Someone else’s affection. Of God’s love.

I experience this whenever I let my shortcomings define me. I focus on my weaknesses–ignoring my God-given skills, talents, and blessings–and start to think “that’s all there is to me: flaws.”

The Bible calls those shortcomings something else: flesh (as in “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit”; Galatians 5:17). Which seems to confirm that we’re all just big wads of failure. After all, we’re made of flesh, right? So if flesh is weak and sinful, and flesh is what I’m made of, then I’m made of weaknesses, faults, shortcomings, and sin.

Except that’s not true: we’re not just flesh. We’re souls, made by Almighty God the Creator, who inhabit flesh while on this earth. Continue reading

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The Insider’s Defense

I call it The Insider’s Defense. It’s what we do when others criticize the decisions we make regarding the people we date, the careers we choose, or the purchases we make. We tell them: it may not make sense from out there, but from here on the inside everything looks just fine. (And we usually follow this up with a good ‘ol “none of your business, anyway!”)

As if our circumstances are so complex we’re the only ones smart enough to figure them out.

As if we’re the only one’s who’ve ever experienced anything like this before. Continue reading


Love and Carrots

I recently ran across a NY Times article from 2009 that I first read in grad school. It’s titled When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’ (it’s still available online if you want to read the whole thing). I’ve got two kiddos on the way, so I’m as keen as ever to learn vicariously and soak up parenting advice now before I’m too tired and overwhelmed to understand it. A quick re-read gave me not only food for thought regarding the value and risks of using attention, encouragement, and isolation as child-rearing tactics, but also a reminder of why God’s love is so much better than an earthly parent’s.

Here’s an excerpt:

… The talk show host Phil McGraw tells us in his book “Family First” (Free Press, 2004) that what children need or enjoy should be offered contingently, turned into rewards to be doled out or withheld so they “behave according to your wishes.” And “one of the most powerful currencies for a child,” he adds, “is the parents’ acceptance and approval.”

Likewise, Jo Frost of “Supernanny,” in her book of the same name (Hyperion, 2005), says, “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry,” at which point the love is turned back on.

As a parent-to-be, and (as much as I hate comparing kids to animals) a pet-owner, I can relate to this kind of thinking. It’s pretty simple, and seems to make sense. Reward good behavior so the child will repeat it. Punish or ignore bad behavior so it won’t be repeated. Except it doesn’t actually work that way at all. Continue reading


Toleration, compromise, and grace

Of the dozens – probably more like hundreds – of people I’ve met who’ve broken up with God (they don’t take His calls, they neither love Him nor accept His love, etc.), a vast majority have done so because of experiences in church. They became so appalled by the actions of Christians that they felt they could no longer call themselves one, which meant no longer following Christ.

A lot of those Christians’ actions – the ones that drove former believers to disbelief – are rooted in the best of intentions. Few followers of Christ would ever intentionally do anything to run anyone away from the church. I really believe that. But just as few are the Christians who can effectively navigate the narrow channel between judgment and grace. Our problem is that we don’t know how to deal with people who don’t see things our way.

This predicament isn’t exclusive to the church. It’s the same reason Democrats and Republicans would let the U.S. default on its debt before conceding to the other party’s approach to debt management. The same reason otherwise-rational adults get into fistfights over affiliation with a football team. The same reason employees within a department, departments within an organization, and organizations within an affiliation undermine one another and compete – rather than collaborate – for resources.  The same reason, fundamentally, people all over the world, since the beginning of civilization, have participated in wars, revolutions, riots, crusades, protests, and other conflicts. Continue reading


Answer / Ignore

When my wife calls, I answer. There are plenty of reasons – not the least of which is that I almost always feel better after talking to her than I did before.

When God calls, I answer, too, but for different reasons. I answer God because I’ve chosen to serve him. He’s my master, and answering your master’s call is what servanthood is all about.

That definition implies something else, too: whether you like/admit it or not, you serve whatever or whoever you drop everything to follow. Moreover, doing so at the expense of your relationship with God, your pursuit of His will, or the responsibilities He’s laid on you (socially, financially, spiritually, or otherwise), may be a sign of addiction and serious pain in your future. Continue reading


Vision: How to Find Yours

Do you know where you want your career to be before you turn 30? 40?  70? Do you know what you want to accomplish with your money before your next birthday? Or before your kids are born? Are there relationships you want to establish, strengthen, or heal in the next year?

If you don’t know how to answer these and similar questions, it’s probably because you lack vision.

Vision can be a tricky thing. There are always forces working to cloud it, many of which are within ourselves. We often confuse vision with daydreams and hopes, which can lead to frustration, wasted energy, and burnout. And there are people all around who will tell you your vision’s too big or small, silly, weird, cliche, and doomed to fail.

Without a clear vision, though, you’re selling yourself short. You’re saying, essentially, that you’re okay with whatever fate the world wants to impose on you.

Which is a shame, really, because finding your vision doesn’t have to be hard. Not if you’re willing to work for it. Plus, the creator of the universe is on your side, so you’ve got that going for you. Here are a three simple steps to clarify your vision: Continue reading


God Size Perspective (Part 3)

“And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:14 esv

Our perspective in life determines so much.  Obviously it determines how we see our circumstances.  It determines how we respond to our obstacles.  It determines the influence or lack there of we will have in the lives of those around us.  It determines how we respond to God.  Which our response to God determines everything for our lives.

As I mentioned in the previous posts of this series, Paul possessed a God Size Perspective.  He looked past his unfavorable circumstances and looked up to God to gain a healthy perspective.  He realized his problems were being leveraged for God’s purposes.  But the part I love the most is that Paul realized that his obstacles were giving others much needed confidence in their own lives.

I’m not real sure what your perspective tends to be in life.  I’m not sure if you see the glass half empty of half full.  I don’t know if you are a pessimist or an optimist.

What I do know is that God can work through your greatest burdens to give others boldness. 

Paul’s time in prison gave other believers confidence in the Lord and enabled them to speak the word boldly and fearlessly.

How can your burdens equal confidence and boldness for the Lord? Continue reading


A Simple Plan for a Rewarding Life

A sociology study asked fifty ninety-five-year-olds what they’d do differently if they could live life over again. Three themes emerged overwhelmingly from the study’s results (1). The nonagenarians said they’d:

  • Reflect more
  • Risk more
  • Leave a greater legacy

It paints a pretty simple, if challenging, plan for a rewarding life, doesn’t it? Continue reading


Except for these chains

When was the last time you thought to yourself – about some athlete or celebrity in legal trouble, an ex who wound up in a bad relationship, or a former boss or co-worker who lost their job – “serves ’em right, they got what was coming to them“?

You probably don’t have to dig too far into the ol’ memory banks, because we humans are a spiteful bunch. We forgive, but don’t forget, or we forgive conditionally, only after we’re compensated for whatever slights have been leveled against us.

In the book of Acts, Paul paints the picture of a different kind of forgiveness, though. One that evokes the kind of grace our Heavenly Father shows us.

Accused of the crime of… well, of being a Christian, Paul slyly uses the courtroom of King Agrippa to preach a sermon. Surprised, the King laughingly says that Paul’s confidence is so impressive it might actually convert him to Christianity. Paul responds: “I would wish to God that not only you, but all who hear me this day might become such as I am, except for these chains.”

Paul has been beaten, arrested, and dragged into court by these people, and still all he wants for them is their salvation. He doesn’t pray that God would visit their aggression back on them. He does wish to trade places, so they could see what it would feel like to be so persecuted. Instead, he prays that they would have all of the good that he’s experiences, but none of the bad.

I pray that I’d be big enough to wish the same for my transgressors and enemies. I pray that if I someday meet my gradeschool bullies again, or the girls that broke my heart in high school, or the guys that got the jobs I really wanted, or the lady that cut me off in traffic, I’ll be willing to share my love of God, but not the pains of the world.


What I’ve Learn From Pregnancy (So Far) Part II: God’s Got This

While PJ’s at camp, we’ve invited guest blogger April Wingfield to fill in. Here’s part two of a two-part series, which began Tuesday:

Derek and I often talk about how smooth things are in our home. Over the last six years, we have settled into a comfortable rhythm. Oh, we get outside of our comfort zones in many ways (hello, blog post), but when it comes to our home, there’s a regularity that we love. Things change, of course, but there’s not much spectacle. Our little family is predictable. We get up at the same time most days, we share our chores without too much argument, the cat lazes around, the dog sleeps and plays, and he asks to go out when he needs to. Aside from the occasional cold, we don’t get sidelined too much. There are weeks that are busier than we’d like, but there’s not much drama. I hate drama.

So don’t think we aren’t aware of what we’re doing here, bringing two babies into our lives. The potential for upheaval is endless. Things are gonna be turned upside down. We’ll control what we can – good discipline, healthy sleep habits, all the stuff the books recommend. But there’s a ton we can’t control. So then what? Continue reading


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