You Can’t Look Back!

Kathy and I were having breakfast with a man after Street Corner Saturday morning who was recovering from a brutal beating which almost cost him his life.  He was in a coma for several weeks and the doctors were not optimistic about his recovery.  While he was in the coma, the Lord spoke to him and reassured him that He still had work on the earth for him to complete.  He told us that he remembers being separated from his body and looking down on the doctors and his family similar the common near-death experience.  He eventually recovered and has had a dramatic life change as he is convinced he has been given a second chance at life.

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This man had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and was associated with some bad people.  As he continued with his story he began to express self-doubt and a feeling of not fitting in with the other men around him.  He continued to share about his past failures and insecurities and I stopped him mid-sentence and told him-

Stop!  You can’t look back! 

We all have junk in our past.  We have all made mistakes.  You simply cannot dwell on the past.

I told him that he was a new person that has been transformed and forever changed.  The old self is gone.  The voice telling you that you about your past, your previous failures, that your not good enough …is NOT the voice of the Father.  This is the voice of the enemy.  You cannot listen to this.

The enemy uses self-doubt, shame, and guilt to take away our power.  When we turn inside of ourselves we have destroyed our ability to influence others in a positive way.  We cease in our ability to make a difference in the world.

He shook his head yes and thanked me for the reminder.  He viewed many of the other men around him as hypocrites for just “talking and not walking” in their faith.  I reminded him that he can influence them by doing the right thing and walking in the light.  The rest is up to God.  He needn’t carry that burden.

Looking back can bring you down but it can also be an encouragement.  Look how far you have come!  You are not where you used to be.  And you are moving forward.  You are making a difference.  Push that negative voice out of your head.  It is not doing you any good!

Realize that you are here for a purpose much bigger than yourself.  To change lives.  To build up.  To restore and create.  This is the voice from heaven.  Listen for it!

So what do you think?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on “leave a comment” and let me know what you think!  If you like this post press the share button and post it on your Twitter feed or Facebook page!  Yep…I can use some encouragement too! 

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Thanksgiving: Sending The Thief Away

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  It seems like it’s the complete package for me.  My busy family taking the time to gather together.  Deep family traditions.  Great food and drink.  Watch the Lions lose (former Detroiter- can’t help it).  No gifts to mess things up.  Afternoon nap.  Fall weather.  It’s just a great package- isn’t it?

Rainbow turkey for Thanksgiving decoration

Seems like we can easily reflect on how we are blessed at Thanksgiving.  Surrounded by family and friends, the love just seems to flow on this holiday. As you reflect on the previous year, you forget the struggles and the pain of the past.  The disappointments of life.  The things that really matter seem to stand out.  They just seem to get larger on Thanksgiving.  Why don’t we feel like Thanksgiving every day?  What stops us from having the grateful heart and joyful spirit that covers us in waves at Thanksgiving?

I believe that one of the major culprits is comparison.  We just can’t seem to separate ourselves from it.

Remember when you were a kid and you had to break the candy bar in half?  There was always a big effort to make it the same.  Exactly the same.  Seem like we are born with a sense that things have to be fair and equal.

We are seeing a great rebirth of the fairness principle in our world today.  There is a greater awareness of inequity, I believe, due to the fixation of this concept in the media.  The reality is that things have never been fair.  And they will never be fair.  There have and will always be people with much and people in want.  There will always be people with more than you have, and less than you have.  And much of our efforts to “level the playing field” has resulted in bad consequences- much of which are the direct opposite of what we are trying to repair.

Comparison destroys.  When you see someone else with more, and you desire what they have, it will drive you crazy.  Like a thief in the night- it will steal your joy.  What you don’t see, as you compare, is the added responsibility that comes with the package of abundance.  You miss that the folks with a lot of stuff are generally not any happier than people who have little.  You covet and the anger from the inequity burns inside of you.

What to you get from it?  You get misery.  You get discontent.  You get bitterness.

At Thanksgiving it seems like, regardless of where we are on the scale, we seem to get a pure view of what we have.  The gifts and abundance that God has blessed us with.  Family.  A spouse.  A home.  A job.  Friends.  You really can see it and we smile.  We cry.  We give thanks to the Lord for his blessing and provision.

So, how do you keep the joy flowing once Thanksgiving is over?  I say dump comparison!  It’s a thief that wants to turn your heart to stone.  Be thankful every day for what you have.  Even in the midst of the struggle.  Even when things are tough.  Remember the way you feel on Thanksgiving.  And send the thief away!

What do you think?  What are some ways that you stay focused on the blessings?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Opposites Day

When my kids were young they would often play a game called Opposites Day.  During this particular day, whatever they said was actually the opposite of what is true.  This was really just a way of trying to catch the other sibling- kind of a trap.  Really just a kid’s game.  But I think that in actuality, it is more than just a game.

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This past Saturday I headed downtown to a ministry where Kathy and I have been serving for the past five or so years.  We get up early each Saturday and pick up surplus baked goods and head downtown to distribute food to the needy.  I can attest that it is tough some Saturdays to head downtown.  Yes, sleep and comfort are issues, but the work can be frustrating and unnerving.  We see some moments that make the whole thing question what you are doing.  The need is overwhelming and you can’t be unaffected by palpable feeling of hopelessness that hangs in the air.   We have also seen some pretty ugly situations.  Tension from actions viewed as unfair.  Deep neighborhood wounds.  Indescribable family dysfunction.  Crazy stories of pain that you struggle to untangle in your mind.  One thing is for sure.  You can’t keep score here.  It will drive you crazy.  You simply give and let God take care of the rest.

Amidst all of this, is the heart.  We have made great friends and have had the privilege of living our lives with them.  Each week we share and get updates.  Victories and failures.  We have seen it all.  Stories of success and stories of death.  Sometimes the reality is just too much to carry.  We try to help but we are not in it.  No matter how we try to step into their shoes we are not really with them.  We try to get there, but cultures and lives are so different that the gap really can’t be crossed.  So we meet in the middle each Saturday.  A circle between two circles and we do what we can.  Anything more is just cultural arrogance.  The two crazy assumptions are that we can truly understand what is going in the tough areas of the city while they can understand what it’s like to have a servant’s heart in suburban America.

This Saturday, I was leading a walk that we take each week through the neighborhood.  We carry bags of groceries and hand them out as the Lord leads us and we pray for the families and the neighborhood.  The groceries have always been the minor item.  When we approach folks in the neighborhood and start conversation and ask if they would like prayer, they will open up and share what’s going on in their lives.  This has lead to relationships as we return each week and visit with the same folks regularly.  This Saturday, I suggested that we visit a lady named Vera who lives on the outskirts of our walk, yet is always a treat.  Vera is a grandmother and takes care of her family although she has very modest means.  We knocked on her door and waited.  After a few minutes, she came out and her face lit up in delight.  We hadn’t made it to her house in a while, probably several months.  She quickly caught us up on what was happening with her and her family.  She pains for her family and their struggles.  You can feel her pain as she describes her family update.  Yet, she refuses to stay there.  She immediately turns the story to the day- this day.  She thanks the Lord for the blessing that this day brings.  She is thankful that we have visited her.  She radiates real love.  It makes you tingle.  Not the polite kind of stuff.  The deep love of the Father.

Vera loves to pray.  We generally pray as we make our way through the neighborhood but at Vera’s house we want her to pray.  So she offers and we smile and nod yes.  Vera breaks into a powerful prayer- thankful and a prayer of a grateful heart and worship.  None of this is the I want- I need kind of prayer.  This was a celebration of life.  Then she shares something new.  Vera breaks into song and sings a portion of her prayer to her Father.  The Spirit is thick.  He is here.  She finishes her prayer and a bird begins to sing.  Vera shares that God loves music.   I agree with her, sharing that even the birds sing to Him.

So what happened?  It was Opposites Day!  We set out to help bless others and instead we were blessed.  We left Vera and we all were visibly uplifted.  This is what we needed.  A refill.  A reminder that He is always there and He is always faithful.  The Bible says that he sings over us.  He knows every hair on your head.

Thank you for the song of our lives.  Thank you for the birds singing each morning.  Thank you for Vera and her heart for her Father and her family.

Remember to sing today.  No matter how hard it is.  It’s Opposites Day!

Have you ever had an Opposites Day?  Please click on comments and tell your story!              

It’s Just Messy…

We have a local group called Kaleid (short for kaleidoscope) that works to unite ministries, mission organizations and the Church (the big C church).  During our meeting on Monday night, we had an extended discussion about how to keep your ministry team together and strategies to avoid division and problems. 

  green star

I know first hand that managing people is always complicated and often messy.  No matter how homogeneous your group, it’s still comprised of individual people with unique personalities, goals and expectations.  To add to the mix is the fact that these folks are volunteers.  No money or boss to pen you in.  This can be an environment where everyone has an opinion and they are truly convinced that their way is the best way.  A leadership nightmare.  Division in a volunteer environment is a real shame.  The goal gets tarnished.  It’s a cancer that can destroy the beauty of an effort to do some real good.

So what do you do?  You can’t let division ruin your work.  You have to lead.  Inevitably, some people won’t be happy.  You need to provide order and direction.  You can’t have everyone doing their own thing- it would be chaos.

Here are six keys to help steer through these waters:

Clear Goals/Direction:  Make sure that you clearly communicate your goals for the project and the plan to get there.  One trick you can use to make sure that they “get it” is to ask them to repeat your direction.  A head nod doesn’t always equate to understanding.

Humility and Sensitivity:  Volunteers will not tolerate a leader that is full of themselves or a tyrant.  You will look around and quickly be all alone. If you are used to being “The General” at work or home, leading a group of volunteers may be challenge for you.  You must lead with a tender heart and be sensitive to the needs of your group.   

Collaborate:  Seems like the buzzword today is collaboration.  Involving others to help provide engagement to the team and join them together for a common goal.  Sounds good, right?  Yet this can also be a disaster.  You must be skilled in how you manage the collaboration meeting.  Tell the group that this is not “decision by committee”.  You will retain the final decision but you want and need their input.  Let everyone talk but do not let anyone dominate the discussion.  Cut them off, politely, if they try to take over.  Use as much reasonable input from the meeting as possible.  Manage the folks that are sore if you don’t use their ideas.  Get the group buy-in.  It‘s critical.

Skillfully Allocate:  Take great care in dividing up roles, tasks, and resources.  Key in on gifts and passions.  Be on the lookout for overload.  Some folks have a hard time saying no.  Try to level out things as best as you can.

Feedback:  Provide a mechanism for feedback.  An e-mail address is a great way- comments@…  Most people won’t complain to your face, but will unload on an anonymous site.  I have received some great criticism this way.  Also, look for the discontented person- the grumbler.  Go ahead and approach them and hear them out.  Be aware that you may not be able to make everyone happy.  Do your best and let God do the rest.  The tension that the person is having may be God working in them.  Don’t always short circuit the struggle.

Have Fun:  If you are having fun while you are serving, it will help to deflate any tension that arises.  This may be very difficult sometimes.  Some efforts are really tough or emotionally draining.  If the work is exceptionally difficult, then your focus should shift to building a strong bond between the volunteers.  If you can build strong camaraderie, you will help to bridge the difficulty of the work.  Having a fun and rewarding experience will replace the inherent need for the exchange of a payment.  Make it fun and chatter will disappear.

Leading volunteers can be tricky.  Although similar in complexity, I would argue that it is more difficult than managing paid employees.  It’s unlikely that you will be able to make everyone happy.  However, leading with your heart is the key to keeping your group cohesive and effective!

What do you think?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on comments and tell me what you think! 

Light the Path

I believe that there is a desire to make a difference in the world that is woven into us at birth.  To make your mark- to put a “dent in the universe”.  Your choice is to either follow these desires and dreams or suppress them and give up.  The choice to give up is easy when you think it’s impossible.  Our job as leaders is to illuminate the path.  Model doing the impossible or the uncomfortable.  This is a story about lighting the path.

Light for my path

I was sitting beside a small fire on NewYears eve enjoying the company of some good friends and some outrageously large oysters.  Sitting at the fire was a girl named Rebecca who is the daughter of some good friends from church.  Rebecca was home for the holidays and was sharing some ministry stories that occurred while she was away at college in North Carolina.  Rebecca was able to seek out and find an inner-city ministry near her campus where she served on weekends.  She also shared that she had located a street church where service takes place outside in the yard of an abandoned church.  She shared some amazing stories of how she was able to serve and develop relationships with the poor in the community near her campus and also serve a church that tragically lost it’s pastor and continues because of a great effort by the surviving family.  She was beaming as she shared several truly amazing stories of restoration and God’s infinite grace.  This was my highlight of the evening.
 
While she was sharing, I began to connect the dots.  Rebecca had served throughout her high school years nearly every Saturday at an inner-city street ministry that we have at our church.  Rebecca was a regular.  She made a strong connection with the folks in the neighborhood.  When she left for college I was regularly asked where she was.  See- Rebecca made an impact!  Not by giving out surplus food, but through her amazing smile and her way of being genuinely interested in their lives.  Rebecca went deeper.  Yes- Rebecca is special- but there is more.
 
As I considered her impact, it occurred to me that the beginning of the trail actually started with her parents willingness to serve.  If her parents hadn’t modeled this behavior, it is very unlikely that Rebecca would be serving the poor in North Carolina.  It can be a tough decision to take your child downtown to serve in a dangerous neighborhood.  You can easily talk yourself out of it.  Also, to model the behavior, you actually have to get out of bed early each Saturday and drive to the ministry.  I have experienced this one first hand.  Your pillow is a hard thing to give up on the only day each week that you have to sleep in!  Yet, over both of these, they were faithful.  And their faithfulness was rewarded with a daughter that truly “gets it”.
 
Many folks work hard their entire lives trying to make that “dent in the universe”.  They store up money and build empires.  They seek to get their name on a building somewhere.  They work really hard to make their children wealthy, comfortable and self-sufficient.
 
All of these are fleeting.  Wealth will eventually be lost or squandered away.  Buildings will eventually crumble and fall.  And the pursuit of comfort and independence ends unfullfilled.

The secret is often right next to you.  You have to choose to light the path for others.  You can show them how to truly influence lives.  And when you do, it’s contagious.  They will continue on modeling for others and then the multiplication factor kicks in.
 
This is how you can truly change the world!  So, what is your plan?  Will you continue to build an empire based on things that will eventually crumble or will you invest in things that will march on for generations.  Maybe a quick look at your planner might reveal where your heart truly is?  It starts with taking a risk and putting yourself out there.  Are you ready?  Can you break the power of your pillow and the pursuit of comfort to light the path for others? 

What are some easy things that you have done that you have seen repeated by others?  Is success and comfort what your children really need?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

The White Knight

“The opposite of pride is not humility as being humble often contains a measure of pride. The opposite of pride is actually gratitude”!   Mary New

Mary shared this to a group of friends recently.  I think there is a lot of truth in this statement.  We often think being humble or meek is admirable, yet there is often a thread of pride that is woven in to our humility.  Pride is incredibly insidious.  It is often completely unrecognizable to us.  We think we are acting under the motivation of doing a good thing- but is the good thing REALLY our motivation?

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The servant heart is especially prone to this.  You may feel like the “white knight” coming in for the rescue when you serve others- however…. 

Do you ever consider what would happen if you did nothing?  Would they really perish?  Maybe it would actually do them some good to remain in a state of want.   

Do you they really need what you have to offer or are you simply enabling and feeding your ego?

Here are a couple of checks to see if the white knight drug is mixed in:

Measure the Sacrifice:  Are you putting aside things that are truly important to you in order to serve?  Are you neglecting your spouse, you family or friends to accomplish this “good thing”?  Be objective about this.  You may need to get advice from a friend on this as you may not be able to see it.  Your family, spouse, and close friends should come first, right?  If you are choosing to serve in front of these, you are likely receiving a good strong dose.

The End Game:  Where are you going with this?  What is your ultimate goal?  Before you make the investment (even properly measured as discussed above), you need to consider what the final outcome looks like.  This may seem elementary, yet the servant heart will look past this important step and charge into situations and really muck it up.  Why would you do this?  Again, you are likely taking another hit from the pride pipe.

Check for Fanfare:  Are you flying under the radar or are you acting in a very noticeable way.  If you truly want to serve you will do it without notice.  The best gift is an anonymous gift.  If you need your name on it, you are likely looking to get something back.  Another puff on the pipe.

Is Good Enough:  If you are taking things to the extreme, then it’s likely that you are doing it for yourself.  Do what you can with what you have and move on.  Yes, we should do things with excellence, yet, there is a limit to this.  If it has to be picture perfect you are probably looking for another fix.

It’s My Religion:  Playing the God card can really cloud your thinking.  Often a good work in a religious setting can be a great disguise for a personal motivation based on pride.  History is full of crazy acts that did little to honor God.  So who do you think got the glory?   

Check Out:  Are you able to leave project?  There is always a time to end it.  Are you able to do it?  It’s OK to fail or move on.  It’s very rare that leaving will cause catastrophic damage.  We can actually fool ourselves into thinking that they will die and be helpless without us.  Crazy isn’t it?  This is almost always not the case.  They will find others to help them.  You are not the only person in the entire world.  If you are convinced that only you can do it, it’s likely another surge in the veins.

I am not absent of these tendencies.  I am a perfectionist and I have a servant’s heart so this is as much a manifesto to me.  However, I am learning to recognize when pride begins to appear.  Pride isn’t necessarily a bad thing- in measure.  We should be proud of our accomplishments.  The key is recognition and staying objective. 

What is my actual motivating factor? 

Why am I doing this? 

These are important questions to ask you.  Don’t get frozen in analysis but go into situations with your eyes wide open.  Like you tell your kids- Just say no to the white knight!

What do you think?  Am I off base on this?  Am I just being heartless?  Click on comments and tell me what you think!   

Christmas Aftermath: Sifting Through the Rubble

I have to admit: I get pretty frustrated with the Christmas season as it has become. 

The commercialization and extreme excess of the holiday is overwhelming to me.  I want a quiet day in which we can just relax and reflect on the importance and meaning of Christmas.  The true meaning of the season- the birth of our Savior and the indescribable and outrageous gift that Jesus is to believers.  What I experience is generally far from quiet and spiritual.  The gift giving and preparation for Christmas is overwhelming.  It seems like an abomination of a religious holiday.  And it is.  But the key word here is religious.

christmas paint

My friend Brian shared a Christmas revelation with me this morning.  He was also a bit frustrated with the events of the day.  He felt like he was not giving the Lord the focus that He deserved.  Then the Lord spoke to him and reassured him:  It’s OK to celebrate.  It’s OK to have fun.  It’s OK to exchange gifts.  Go ahead- have a day of celebration.  I am still God and I still love you!

My experience Christmas day was also the typical day of gift giving and excess, yet there were sweet times with family and friends.  In the midst of the chaos of the day, I was able to connect with them  in a deeper way.  And through the time together and the gift giving, I was able to receive the feeling of being truly loved by them.  So, like Brian, I was given a glimpse of the Father’s love for me.

My take away from this years Christmas is this:  Christmas is a bit out of control, yet it’s good to celebrate, to appreciate others and enjoy the sweetness of the season.  I must be intentional to connect with family and friends and enjoy the opportunities of the Christmas season.  Rather than getting frustrated and trying to change things, I need to embrace the good of the Christmas season and let God take care of the rest.  The correct response is gratitude and worship, not frustration and guilt!

So going forward, I must focus less on the excess and commercialization and focus more on the amazing opportunities of the Holiday season.  Opportunities to reconnect, mend or deepen relationships.  Opportunities to show my love for my wife, family and friends.  Opportunities to appreciate the incredible and amazing blessings that the Lord has provided to me and my family.  For me, this revelation is my greatest gift this year.  And my response must be like the shepherds in the Christmas story:  To bow and worship the Savior King!

Merry Christmas!  

So what do you think?  Click on comments and share your experiences and thoughts on the Christmas season!

4 Tips To Avoid A Freeze-Up

It’s funny how you can look back at decisions and be amazed at your choices.  When you look back it always seems crystal clear.  You think to yourself- “How could I have made such a bad decision?”  It can be downright frightening.  You realize that at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.  You had reasonably good information.  You are not really much smarter now, than when you made the decision.   You think- “How could my judgment be so clouded?”      

 

English: Silver snowflake

 Bad decisions generally require added work and risk.  If you make a bad decision you are often thrust into the clean-up mode.  You must straighten it out and make it right.  This is usually painful- at least on some level. I’ve made some bad decisions and paid the consequences and picked up the mess.   It’s not fun and it can shake your confidence.  You have a difficult time finalizing a decision and you freeze-up!  You just can’t decide.  Here are some tips to avoid the freeze-up in decision making:

  1. Learn from your mistakes!  Have you ever watched a dog with one of those invisible fences in the yard?  They first will get a shock when they reach the barrier and generally that is enough.  They will learn the exact location of the fence and stop abruptly before hitting the mark.  Sometimes we just think it will be different this time and we charge straight for the fence!  Why do we do it?  Even a dog is smart enough to learn.  Somehow we think it will be difference this time.  Don’t kid yourself.  Learn and avoid the pain!
  2. Do your homework!  You must be ready when you are confronted with a similar decision.  If you take the time to really think through the dynamics and results you will likely make a quality decision next time.  Often in the heat of the battle you will not have time to think objectively.  Your vision gets clouded.  Analyze what went wrong and what you could have done differently.  Next time you will be prepared and ready!
  3. Get advice!  I have shared some of my failures with friends and have received amazing advice.  We are all prone to a particular viewpoint and this perspective is not easy to change.  When you share your story you are also inviting someone in to help you unload your burden and help you heal from the damage of a bad decision.  Find a trusted friend and talk it out.  Don’t argue with them even if you do not fully agree.  Take some time and ponder the advice.  It may not be exactly on target, but I can guarantee that there will be nuggets of truth that will lead to reconciliation and healing.
  4. Jump!  Eventually you will confronted with a similar situation and you must be ready to risk again.  Regardless of how much preparation and learning that has occurred, there will still be an element of risk in moving forward.  However, you must move forward.  Avoiding, postponing or failing to act will only hurt you.  Risk is part of life.  You must be ready. 

We all freeze-up sometimes.  It’s a built in defense system to keep us safe.  The key is to recognize the freeze-up and to deal with it.  If you find yourself hesitating, you are likely to be confronting something that you have not completely dealt with.  Being cautious is good- but getting stuck is no good.  You must move forward and get back in the game.  You are needed.  There are folks that are counting on you!   

Do you have any hints to help in decision making?  Click on comment and tell us your story!    

Stuck in the Mud?

My son and I love offshore fishing.  We have had some really memorable fishing trips that will always be special to me.  One of the components to bottom fishing offshore is dealing with the anchor.  At the end of a long day fishing, there is a real tendency to get to the wheel first so that you didn’t have to pull up the anchor.  Pulling up the anchor in 150 feet of water is a real job, and at the end of a long day of fishing it was not something that you really feel like doing.

I can’t pull any more.  I have tried so many times and I just can’t make any progress.  I am so tired.  I just can’t do it…

A fluke-style anchor

While fishing with a friend, my son discovered a great little device to get the anchor up with ease.  The anchor ball is an inflated ball about the size of a volleyball with a small section of rope and a ring that attaches to the anchor line and helps pull up the anchor.  So, you attach the ring to the anchor line and slowly drive the boat in the opposite direction of your drift.  The anchor ball is really not very big, so it’s not brute force, but constant pressure.  Just like magic- up comes the anchor and all you need to do is pull in the line with the anchor floating below the anchor ball.  I can tell you that at the end of a long day the anchor ball is the greatest thing in the boat!

I’ve tried everything.  There just seems to be no end to this.  There has to be something I am missing…

The problem with pulling up the anchor by hand is that the harder you pull, the deeper it digs in.  Don’t you feel like that sometimes?  Stuck in the mud and the harder you try the more stuck you get!

Gosh, don’t I know this!  The harder I work at it, the deeper it seems to get.  There’s just no way to get freedom…

The real key to the anchor ball is direction.  By changing direction opposite of the boat drift you simply need to apply a small but constant pressure.  Change direction and it becomes pretty easy.  The ball will lift the anchor up to the surface.

A little change in direction and gentle pressure.  Really?  That’s all it takes?  Why didn’t I try this years ago.  It seems so simple…

We are really brainwashed that it always takes brawn to get something done.  The anchor ball is a great example of this.  Sometimes it’s not about work.  I have so many friends who struggle with thinking that they don’t measure up.  They aren’t good enough. They continue to work at problems in their lives and can’t seem to make any progress.  They are stuck- and the harder they work, the deeper the anchor digs in.

I make it harder than it really is.  I seem to make it bigger than it really is.  I seem to complicate it.  Why do I do this?

Not only does it seem to dig you in deeper, but when you are tired you can get paralyzed.  You feel inadequate.  Unable to make a difference.  You marginalize your impact  You feel like this will be with you forever.  You will never shake this.  You become resolved to continue to fail.

I know that there must be an answer here.  I know that there must be more…

I know Believers who really think of themselves as despicable sinners.  They feel like they will never measure up.  They say that they understand grace and what Jesus did on the cross, yet they work so hard at trying to measure up.  And they fail- as we all do.  So they become stuck in the mud.  Unable to be used.  I feel like they are stuck in a works based pursuit.  They don’t feel good enough to do Kingdom work.  So, as they try harder at their vision of holiness- the more frustrated they get.

I get it now.  Change direction away from working harder towards a real relationship.  Fill up my life with Him and everything else gets pushed out.  I need to get over myself!  It’s not about me…

The Bible is full of knuckleheads like all of us.  God uses the weak to be the strong- He gets the glory.  Once we believe what He did is final and complete and we believe the amazing depth of His love for us, we can enter a new world of really being used by Him.  Being stuck in the mud is no good.  God has an amazing plan for you- a plan that only you can do.  The anchor ball is His love.  Let His love lift you out of bondage so you can step into a new and exciting life.  You have nothing to prove.  He wants your heart.  Go to Him!

K-LOVE: Girls Give Up Their Dreams

I listened to a discussion this morning on the radio that was really troubling.  The K-LOVE morning show was discussing a statistic regarding young women.  According to a newpaper article that they referenced, 6 out of 10 girls give up the thing they love to do because of the way they look.  Really, not the way they look, but how they think they look.  Young women don’t feel that they look good enough to accomplish their dream.  They will actually just give it up.  I was really saddened by this statistic.  Honestly, I don’t question the numbers.  In fact, I wonder if they may even be low.  What a tragedy.  This really hurt me.

English: Two young women.

We all want to feel desirable and wanted.  With women it is generally much more important than with men.  A major part of their identity is centered on how they feel about themselves and how they think they look to others.

The world is giving young women impossible expectations.  They see the runway filled with emaciated models.  They are bullied by their peers and called hateful names.  Clothes are getting smaller, tighter, more revealing.  Images of supermodels pasted everywhere you look.  Eating disorders abound.  What can we do?

Men:  Encourage the women around you.  Complement them on the way they dress, their new haircut, or their outfit.  Tell them that they are not fat.  They yearn for this.

Dads and Moms:  Encourage your daughters.  Talk to them about the truth.  They are wonderfully and perfectly made by their Father in heaven.  Tell them that the message that the world delivers is not true.  It’s stinking garbage.  Tell them the real truth:  They are beautiful.  They are special.  They are loved.

I have a friend named Courtenay Bowser who struggled with these issues and she wrote a book that describes her journey to freedom.  The book is called “Beautiful”.  If you click on the title it will take you to her website.  This would be a helpful read for you or someone you know that is struggling with self-image issues or trying to meet the world’s warped expectations for women. 

Don’t let your girls give up their dreams.  Fight for them by encouraging them.  You may think your girl is well adjusted yet- you are probably getting fooled.  Give them what they need.  Tell them.  Do it now!

Do you know of any resources or strategies that can help young women fight this battle?  Let me know by clicking on comments and providing your input!