Monday, November 24, 2008

When a Problem Comes Along...

How do you deal with problems in life? I can remember bringing home math homework from school, opening up the book, and seeing problems that I had no clue how to begin working. I remember my usual reaction: frustration that led to irritation, then the irritation would turn to anger at the teacher for "not teaching us this." I would often spend between 10-15 minutes being angry about the predicament I was in...then, I'd finally give up and go over the lesson in the book. After spending some time, I would have it figured out and be on my way to finishing my homework...but I was still a little 'wound up' from getting angry and frustrated.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4: 6

Problems in every day life are usually a little different. There's no lesson a few pages before that can help you solve the problem you're facing, and there are no answers to the odd questions in the back of the book! So, how do we deal with problems in real life?

Usually our problems in real life are people-related. Most of our lives involve some kind of interaction with people, and every person is unique-this is what causes problems-differences in opinion. Here's a quick list of Do's and Dont's for dealing with problems:

Don't react the way I used to with my math homework. Stay calm. Getting angry will not help solve the problem- it usually just makes it worse.
Do give yourself time to think and consult others.
Don't leave God out of the situation.
Do go straight to the source (in a calm manner of course). Talking to the person improves communication and results in a better understanding of how the problem came to be.

Problems are dangerous things because they can easily create anger and resentment. Anger and resentment can tear down the lines of communication and cause divisions.
So how do you deal with problems? Do you "freak out" or stir up trouble? Here's a link to my friend Russell Martin's blog where he posts a video about "When things go wrong."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Make Like a Tree...

Fall is a great time of year. The cool, crisp air is a welcome relief from the heat of summer. The leaves begin to change in color, forming beautiful landscapes for the eye to see...the color fades quickly, the leaves turn brown and fall. New leaves will not grow on the tree until the warmth of spring comes.

I believe there's more to enjoy from these events of fall. Sure, the colors are enjoyable, but we can learn something about our lives from trees. These trees are entering a time of dormancy. Because of the indirect rays of the sun during the winter months, keeping the leaves to produce food for the tree is more trouble than it's worth for the tree. (I know biologists are probably cringing at this explanation) It seems like we never drop our leaves these days... there's always something to do, somewhere to go, someone to meet.... we never stop to focus on ourselves. We never take the time to see how we're doing and if we have enough "in the tank" to get us through this season of life. We never take time to be rejuvenated by a time of rest and inward focus. We're victims of our culture- our culture sees a day off as a waste...a lunch break as a lack of productivity, and a relaxing as a lack of motivation. It's not easy to break the cycle. Most of us have been trained well. But, if we're able to "drop our leaves" for a while, we can connect with the God that brings rest and joy.

There are always going to be things to do. There will always be those things on our list that "have to" be done. When will taking care of yourself make it to your list? How are you taking time out to care for and examine yourself and your relationship with the God that sustains?

" 'Say this: :God, you're my refuge. I trust in you and I'm safe!' That's right - he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you - under them you're perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm." Psalm 91: 1b-4

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wishing things different

Have you ever been upset with God? Maybe even angry with God? Ever said something like "How could you let this happen...?" Maybe you were going through a stressful time, or something really horrible happened... in those times, it's comforting to know that it's ok to be upset. It's ok to get angry. You weren't the first...

"Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.' " Mark 14: 35-36

This event and phrase is repeated in Matthew 26: 42, Luke 22: 42, and is alluded to in John 18:11. Obviously, this is an important moment in the life of Christ for us to be aware of. If Jesus was the Son of God and still had a hard time accepting God's will...what makes us think things are going to be any easier for us? This isn't meant to bring hopelessness, but rather to inspire hope and faith that God will work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8: 28)

Knowing that Christ hoped for things to be different should free us from feeling guilty when our will does not line up with God's will. God desires a close relationship with you. Part of having a close relationship is communicating...God wants us to say how we feel and what we want... But, the most important part of the verse above comes at the end, "yet not what I will, but what you will." It's great to tell God what we want, but it's crucial that we ultimately be willing to submit to God's will... Why? God's will is perfect, our is not...this leads me to believe that God knows better than we do.

Is there something in your life that you're struggling with God about? Have you admitted to God that you're upset? Have you prepared yourself to submit to God's will?
Spend some time in dialouge with God this week

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hypothetically speaking

I recently saw a commercial that I thought was interesting. Unlike many commercials, it wasn't pushing a product...or saying why the competition is just not as was encouraging people to vote.

The commercial asks a bunch of "What if..." questions.The commercial challenges everyone to care enough to vote. Then, to care about things every day as much as some people have cared about certain things in the months directly before an election. The commercial called for a change in our person, so that we may cause a change in our that tends to be apathetic. Apathy can kill a person's spiritual life. If a person is apathetic, there is no motivation. If there is no motivation, there is no effort. If there is no effort, there is stagnation...and stagnation is one of the most difficult things to overcome in our spiritual lives.

Numerous times in the New Testament, having faith is likened to running a race. If you're not in the habit of running (or jogging) every day, it is difficult to make yourself run...that's the effect of stagnation. But, if you make yourself run for a few days, it will become easier to be self-motivated. Then, you may even become addicted to it...many distance runners and world-class sprinters experience something called "Runner's high."You can click the link to read more about runner's high, but basically, when you work out enough to begin breaking down muscle, the body releases endorphins (a self-made pain killer comparable to morphine) that allow the individual not to feel the pain, instead they feel a bit of euphoric as endorphins act like many man-made opiates. Once the person has a chance to rest, the body stops producing these endorphins, which is why most people don't experience soreness until a few hours after they work out or run. Now, back to spirituality and such...

When we stop actively seeking a relationship with God, it can become easier and easier just "not to do" this or that...and neglect our spiritual lives. But, all it takes is a bit of initiative to break the cycle. The commercial I mentioned above was trying to encourage people to break the cycle of not caring about voting. The commercial asks numerous hypothetical (What if...) questions. Many of these would work well for challenging Christians... I've got one more for you:

What if we stopped asking hypothetical questions, and just started doing what Christ taught us?

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air." 1 Corinthians 9: 24-26