Thursday, July 18, 2019

Dealing with Relational Death and Decay

This week we realized one of our beautiful maple trees had finally died. It has been a slow death. We tried to help the tree, but its disease was stronger than our desire for it to live. The maple stands 65 feet and is positioned at the front of our property. Last night, I sat on the stairs of our porch looking toward the tree and thought of how much I will miss it.  As much as I love the tree, it needs to be taken down. Our arborist confirmed that it was indeed dead and has now become a hazard. We have a date on the books for its removal.

Early this morning, I was sitting once again on the steps of the porch looking out at the dead tree now silhouetted against the early dawn light. It literally fills the horizon. I realized when the tree is removed I will be able to have an unrestricted panoramic view of the late afternoon sky when the light reflects off the clouds and highlights the distant ridgeline of pine trees. If left in place, the dead tree would continue to fill my field of vision with its dead limbs and crispy leaves obscuring a beautiful vista, one I have never been able to fully see and appreciate. 

We have prayed over the tree for the last two years, hoping this day would never come. We sought the advice of professionals, had its limbs and branches cared for by arborists, and now, we have to deal with the reality of the tree’s death. Without its removal, I would look out on a scene of death and decay. In the end, the dead tree will become a dangerous hazard to our home and lives when the winds begin to blow with the arrival of winter storms.

Some situations and relationships in our lives will eventually die, and in their death, they will obscure our vision. They will also become a hazard if not removed. That sounds harsh to some, but it is a sad reality of life. We all need to establish healthy and life-giving boundaries. There are times when we will have to make a decision to define that boundary with the blade of incisive clarity. 

These dead issues will someday become a hazard to our spiritual and emotional life and limb when the winds of change and challenge begin to blow.  Leaving them in a place of influence will create an unnecessary hazard to our lives and to the lives of those around us. Their removal is not a callous act without a process of love that offers redemption options while always trying to believe the best. But at some point, they will need to be lovingly removed from the landscape of our lives. When this happens, we will see something that was hidden by a scene of death and decay, something that would have remained hidden had we had not taken action.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Cost of Doing the Business of Life

Yesterday, Jan was off to meet someone for a counseling appointment, so I headed to a local market to buy some groceries for dinner. In the checkout line, I began to place items on the conveyer belt. When I picked up a bottle of Kinder BBQ sauce, my hand slipped, and the bottle fell to the floor and exploded. If I could have reduced time and let the image play out in slow motion, you would have seen the BBQ sauce splash upward in a beautiful fan-like pattern all across the front of my clean shirt finally coming to rest in a blast zone of smoky goodness on the floor of the checkout aisle.

Like all events of this kind, I stopped and stared in unbelief at the mess I made that was now dripping its luscious BBQ sauce bliss from my previously clean shirt. The first words out of my mouth were, “I am so sorry. Please charge me for the bottle.” The man checking me out said, “No problem. That’s the cost of doing business.” He went on to thank me for offering to pay for the bottle.

When the man said, “That’s the cost of doing business,” I realized how true he was. Some disasters, large and small, are simply the cost of doing the business of life. Like you, I would love to live in a disaster-free zone, but that kind of life is an illusion. The recent arrival of our new puppy, Boone, has harkened me back to the days when our babies arrived and changed our lives into something called parenthood. Boone’s teething teeth and the accompanying puncture wounds up and down my arms are evidence that blood is the cost of experiencing puppy love until they are trained to use their mouths in less destructive ways.

If perfection and a BBQ sauce-free floor or a puppy without teeth is what we are looking for in life or even demanding from God, we will become disappointed and perpetually angry with people and eventually, with God. This world can be a mess at times. That is the cost of being human. 

If you caused a mess in someone's life, confess your part in the problem, offer to pay for the damages and then help clean up the mess. Don't just walk away and ignore what happened. If someone else causes the damage, represent God’s heart regarding their failure. Step in and help them clean up their mess. Jesus modeled this for us when He stepped into our world to pay the ultimate price to clean up the mess of our unredeemed lives. That’s the only way we can live free when human failure takes place. It’s the cost of doing the business of God’s Kingdom.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Arrival of Your Good Deeds

As I read through the 14th chapter of Revelation, I came across verse 13. One part of that verse caught my attention. The text reads, “…for their good deeds follow them.” As I pondered what that phrase could mean for us today, I began to get a sense of what the Lord wanted to say to some of you reading these words.

You have had seasons in your life that were filled with trials and challenges, but you kept moving forward in faith. At times what took place was overwhelming. You felt alone even though in your heart you always knew the Lord was near. It has been a struggle trying to find meaning in all that has transpired.

The Lord wants you to know your good deeds have not disappeared. They have been following you and are about to arrive to manifest something you could not have imagined or even considered as a possibility. These good deeds that have been following you are the acts of obedience and love you did in the name of the Lord when it would have been easy for you to simply bail out on your life of faith. 

Your good deeds have been silently following you waiting for a moment in time when at the Lord’s command, their accumulated goodness would be poured out upon your life. You will be overwhelmed when you see what has been following you.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Crumbing Credibility

Years ago, when I wrote my first book, Prayers from the Throne of God, a man paid me a compliment. He said my book was better than a well-known classic on prayer. When he spoke those words,  I had two responses, both internal. One, I knew the man was not being honest because I was familiar with the classic he referenced and my book would never be a threat to that well-deserved classic status. Secondly, I knew in that season of his life, the man was trying to gain my friendship using false flattery as a tool. It worked for him in his broken past, but now he was in an environment where that was not a value or a virtue. 

The day the man spoke the shallow flattery, his credibility crumbled in my eyes. Not a throwaway kind of crumbling, but it was a reason to weigh his future words with a grain of salt. We continued to have a relationship, but the relationship needed to be more honest and truth-telling before it could be real. The man’s crumbled credibility was eventually rebuilt. It was rebuilt through God-honoring conversations that were a two-way street of honest interaction. 

Many times we try to build our credibility by the improper use of flattery and affirmation.  These ways of communication are the equivalent of an emotional selfie with people we deem to be important. Social media is full of cheesy photos that equate proximity with a relationship. It also happens when we type a comment we know is not fully true. In those instances, we are trying to connect with someone we value to somehow salve a sense of lack we might have regarding our own identity.

I have found the best thing to do in any relationship is to simply affirm the person, not an action or accomplishment. Yes, there are some actions and accomplishments that do deserve affirming, but the deeper affirmation is always apart from what a person does – it’s an affirmation of who they are as a human being valued by God. These affirmations can travel with a person through all the seasons of life – the failures and the successes – and allow them to emerge on the other side emotionally and spiritually intact. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A Spiritual Terrorist

Self-pity is a spiritual terrorist who wants to sneak aboard your life. This destructive attitude comes with a bomb strapped to its back. Detonate it in prayer—far away from innocent bystanders. 
The problem with self-pity is that it feels so good. Like a drug, it feeds a false reality and the accompanying illusions that justify its existence. 
Somewhere in this transition, you may feel slighted. You might even feel betrayed or ignored. In these times, your emotions will be intensified. You will need to walk with wisdom so that your response to people is directed by the Spirit, not by your emotions. 
None of what’s taking place is personal. It can feel personal, but most often, what is happening is simply a manifestation of your insecurity during a time of change. 
Your best course of action is to acknowledge self- pity, confess it, and let God heal you. This is best done in private or with a trusted prayer partner before you say something publicly that could wound people who have no idea of what you are struggling with. Deal with your heart. Then, if you do need to approach anyone who hurt you, you will go with a right heart attitude. A right heart attitude makes positive change possible. 
 (An excerpt from the book, A Good Place)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Pinball Way of Living

If we are not careful, we can become like the ball in a pinball machine bouncing back and forth between the latest political controversy, moral offense or today’s news broadcast of someone’s wrongdoing. It is like dope. It keeps us spiritually stoned and out of touch with a truer reality. There is a purpose in offering us this pinball form of life. It keeps us distracted from what is really taking place. It also keeps us responding to life at the level of the soul, not the depths of the Spirit. That has always been hell’s plan from that day in Eden when we tasted the foolish fruit of human wisdom and responded emotionally to a deception.

Installing the Door to Your Future

I saw the image of a person walking into a large warehouse filled with construction material. It was Heaven’s warehouse of possibilities. On the floor were stacked pile after pile of doors. The impression I had was the doors were waiting for installation. Dust covered them because they had been there for a long time without anyone present to install them into a doorframe. 

As I came away from that image, I received both an instruction and a correction. Many of us have waited for a door to open before us to reveal a new future or the way into a Kingdom project. While this seems honorable, it has kept some believers from acting in the faith required to actually hang the door and walk through its portal.  God provides the doorways, but it is our faith that installs the door into the doorframe. The doors I saw stacked on the floor of the heavenly warehouse were already provided. They were waiting for someone to take action and install them in the doorframe of God's promise and invitation.

Review your history. Find the promises and invitations God gave you in the past but now lie dormant gathering dust. A doorway was given to you, but God intended for you to work with Him to install the door in the doorframe of His revelation. 

Go back to the doors of your past and ask the Lord if they are still to be hung and opened in this season. If so, pick up the door and, in faith, begin the installation process. If a door is no longer to be opened, another door will appear. When it arrives, pick it up and allow God to show you the place and the timing for its installation. Install door in the new doorframe and walk through it. That passage will reveal the purpose and plan for the next season of your life.