Wednesday, January 30, 2013


This computer that just isn't working right.  The person you're talking to that just doesn't get it.  The toddler that keeps doing what you tell them not to.  What causes us to be frustrated, really?  When we want to change things but feel like we can't.

There's 2 ways to change that.  Accept the fact that we can't change things, or realize we can indeed change things - we just need more patience.

"Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity."  I like that definition.  It gives us some hints.  You have to endure.  You have to keep on going even when you don't want to anymore.  But we already knew that.  "Before negativity".  That's a bit more useful.  The key is to stay positive and productive even when you don't feel like it inside.

Here's a common scenario we've all been in:  you're talking to someone and they just don't understand things the way you do.  You're trying to correct them but it's not going well.  After a while you might lose your patience if you're not careful.  What can you do?  Here's the steps that go on in my head, it seems to work well enough:

Step 1 - Stay calm.  Be fully aware that lashing out doesn't help anything at all.  Ever.  Bite your tongue. 
Step 2 - Swallow your pride.  They just don't know what you do.  That doesn't make you any better than they are, there are plenty of things you don't understand yet either.  Be humble.  Muster up some compassion.  Or pity, if that's what it takes.
Step 3 -  Pause for a minute.  Take a deep breath.  Accept the reality of the situation.  This will be difficult and it might take awhile.
Step 4 - Analyze the situation.  Take the emotion out of it and look at it logically.  Try to look at things from their point of view.  Are they at least trying to get to the same page as you are, or are you just at odds?  Is there a different tactic you can try to communicate your ideas to them? 

Step 5 - Reach deep down inside yourself and grab some more strength to press on.  If you have none left, pray for more.  You'll get enough.
Step 6 - Know when to stop.  Sometimes it's just a lost cause.  Nothing you can do or say will help, so just let it go. 

In the end, it's really the same old thing:  just love them.  Be wise and think about your actions before you do anything rash.  Do your best to help, but realize sometimes there's nothing you can do.  It's a common theme throughout life. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Trust is Emotional

I was having a tough time at work.  Some things weren't going well.  I had been talking to someone to try to figure it out and maybe get some help. 

One day I make some offhand comment about things to this person.  They tell me to come over and talk to them.  The way they said it didn't sound good.  I'm a bit apprehensive walking over.  Out of nowhere they start asking me all kinds of pointed questions, giving me the third degree.  Suddenly I felt forced to really be careful with my answers.  What happened?

A little while later they sort of mentioned they were just having a bad day and all that.  But it wasn't enough.  Something fundamental was broken here.  I couldn't trust them anymore.  And I didn't like that at all.

I remember spending the rest of the day just in shock.  In a daze.  Intellectually I knew they didn't mean it, and it was not a big deal really.  But, somehow that wasn't enough.  That day was a Friday.

The following day we went on a long drive to visit some family.  The whole way there and back, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  Why did that happen?  And more importantly, how do I make it stop hurting?  Why am I so obsessed with this?  I know they are a friend and on my side.  This one act shouldn't change my feelings on all that.  I analyzed it a hundred different ways.  Nothing changed.  I waited, figured time would help soften things.  Nope.  That did nothing.  I needed to talk to them about this.

I remember debating calling them on the weekend just so I could get it over with, get some sort of resolution to make myself feel better.  That seemed selfish somehow.  Maybe I should have called.  I don't know.  Anyway I resolved to talk to them Monday.  That made me feel slightly better.

Monday finally came.  I told them I felt something was broken between us.  They responded by wanting to make things better.  They talked to me about what was going on Friday that led up to it and how it had nothing to do with me.  I remember while listening to the story realizing that nothing they said really was new information.  I still felt better though.  It almost didn't even matter what they were saying.  Just the very act of truly wanting to fix the broken trust and acting on it did indeed start to fix it.

Trust is an odd, fragile thing.  Oftentimes we try to rationalize it with logic, but in the end it's simply a leap of faith that this person won't hurt you.  It's a feeling of security and comfort.  Unfortunately all too easy to break.  Fortunately not too difficult to repair either, if both people want to.  You just need to feel like they care about you again.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

No Regrets

So I meet this girl in college.  I am attracted, but I'm just not sure.  I hear some things about her that are... unsettling.  I'm not sure just how authentic she is about her faith or if she's just going through the motions for me.  What should I do?

Finally (rightfully) she pushes the issue.  To be together or not?  I still have no idea what to do.  I'm praying desperately for an answer.  After many hours of talking with her, she goes to the bathroom and I'm left standing outside her door.  Something odd happens, some trick of the light seems to point towards her door.  I suddenly know for sure that God wants me to be with her.

Much later when the issue of marriage came up, I was all prepared to spend a weekend just thinking about it and seeking God's will on the matter.  When the time came, I was headed over to my room to start praying, and before I even got started I realized I didn't need to.  I already had a peace about it.  He had told me what to do.

A lot of the benefits of waiting for God to make this life changing decision we didn't even realize until later.  There was a point where she wasn't sure she could handle certain aspects of being with me.  I told her even if she didn't trust herself, that we can trust God and what he said.  He would give us the strength to overcome anything.

More recently, we see some good friends of ours being rocked by divorce.  Naturally we start looking at our own relationship and the question comes up, did we make the right choice?  Pick the right person to be with?  Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like to be with someone else.  Maybe some things would be different, and better in some ways.  But those thoughts can never go anywhere.  I answer with great confidence: Yes, I am with the best person for me.

It's not something I ever question.  I can't, since it wasn't my decision.  It's a beautiful thing.  Some things are just too important to be left up to me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Caring Too Much

There's something odd that happens when you really care about someone and you really get to know them well.  At times you can get into a battle of wills, except you each are fighting for the other.  "You should do it."  "But you don't really want me to do it, so I won't."  "But you want to do it, so I want you to."  That's not really a bad place to be.  It gets trickier though.

Sometimes what happens is you can get stuck.  Let's say I want to play this game with you, and I have it in my head that you don't want to play this game with me, based on previous experience or whatever.  It's very difficult for you to change that view, because if you say you want to do it I think you're just being nice.  Even if you really have had a change of heart, or I am just flat out mistaken, it will take a lot of convincing for me to believe it. 

But wait, it gets even more twisted. 

So I want to play this game, and let's say you don't want to.  I ask if you want to play.  Now you are in the unfortunate position of having these choices:  play the game that you don't want to play, or upsetting me a bit by saying no.  That's a no-win situation.

Let's take it a step further.  So if I know that you don't want to play the game, I will start to question things when I get the desire to play it with you, because I don't want to put you in that situation.  Eventually I start to resent the desire itself, because I know it will just bring conflict.  I could just ignore it entirely and never bring it up, yet that is by default a loss for me. 

There's some sort of balance to be found there.  I can't be completely focused on you to the total exclusion of my own desires.  That will just breed resentment. 

So what do you do?  How can you break free?  I haven't completely figured this out yet but here's some things that have helped.

-Compromise.  Shutting things down completely hurts way worse than having at least something to look forward to now and then.
-Talk things out ahead of time.  I have realized that I really don't like surprises much.  If I plan things out I can be somehow mentally prepared for it and it's not as big of a deal.
-Sacrifice.  Go along with it anyway.  They wouldn't keep asking if it wasn't important to them.  Just count it as time well spent because it makes them happy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Responding to Insults

Everyone's been there.  Someone cuts in front of you.  A co-worker does something mean.  Someone insults you out of the blue.  How should you respond?

The first instinct of course is to snap back at them.  You want to assert your dominance over the situation.  You want to "teach them a lesson", so they won't do that again.  Let's be honest, does that ever work?  At best they already know they made a mistake and are sorry.  Alternately they will get angry back at you, and thus begins a cycle of increasing pain.  You want to "pay them back", and then they feel they have to get you back worse, and it goes on.  Not good.

"Vengeance is mine" says the Lord.  In any case, it's not your job to teach them a lesson.

So what should we do here?  What would help things?  Take a giant step back.  Realize that if they are lashing out, they are already hurting inside.  The answer is clear.

You need to love them. 

But, they just hurt you!  How do you strive forward and do the right things while your own pain is healing?  Refocus on God's grace.  God's love for you.  Realize that you have been forgiven for doing hurtful things.  You must now extend that same forgiveness to them.  Take yourself out of the equation and ask: what can I do to help them?

Showing love instead of hate will completely diffuse the situation.  Let them know you care about them.  You may even make a new friend.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Real Love

When I was growing up I remember my dad sitting us down and sometimes before talking to us he just said "I love you."  That was that.  It was just a statement of fact, and it felt like it.  It was great, I knew I could rely on that.

Looking around at people and the media now, I see so many different flavors of "love", if you will.  Underlying most of these is the presumption that love is a feeling.  I disagree.

To me love is simply a commitment to put this other person before yourself.  
I will do my best to help build you up and give you in my limited wisdom what I think you need, even at the expense of myself, no matter what happens
That's it.  Any feelings that come along for the ride are a bonus, they have nothing to do with love itself.

Think of it!  If 2 people are totally committed to outdoing each other in giving and helping and building up the other, that is a marvelous thing.  That is a strong relationship.

There is another aspect of this.  Conditional love vs Unconditional love.  Unfortunately a lot of relationships now seem to have an underlying unspoken condition:

I will love you as long as this good feeling lasts 
I will love you unless you do something that hurts me
I will love you while it's convenient
I will love you until you no longer love me

There's an underlying selfishness in there that needs to be squashed in order for real love to happen at all. Real love is unconditional - no matter what you do or what happens, I still love you anyway.

When real love happens it's all about them and not about you.  Making other people the priority in your life is very difficult sometimes.  The good thing is this is when real growth happens.  When it does hurt some.  When you have to sacrifice

And for the most difficult aspect of love of all:  as a Christian, I am called to love everyone.  Even people that don't like me, or that I don't like.  Especially those people!  How can I do that?  Hey you, I love your soul by Skillet is a song that has the most beautiful lyrics about love that I know of and hints at an answer:
Am I a man who knows how to love
When you hate what you fear the most
I'll wash your feet as you spit in my face
Hey you, I love your soul
I'm gonna love when you hate
You can't outrun or escape this liquid
My life poured out like water
I'm gonna drown you with maddening forgiveness
Hey you, I love your soul
I can't depend on your hate to define my love
Am I strong enough to love your soul
Love doesn't care to receive what it gives
Bleeding compassion to the extreme
Love stretches out to die for its enemies
Hey you, I love your soul
Love doesn't care to receive what it givesLove stretches out to die for its enemies.  How awesome is that!

Putting someone else before us and practicing real love is one of the most difficult things to do in this life.  Especially with someone that doesn't respond in kind.  It is also the most important thing we can do.  Thankfully we have a mighty ally on our side that will give us all the strength and comfort we need.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Judge Not

Have you ever had a friend that did something terrible?  Not just something dumb, but something really painful.  It makes you recoil that you even know a person that could do that.  Something that even made you question if you wanted to associate with them anymore.

That happened to me once.

Of course I was shocked initially, and did my part as a good friend of making it very clear that I was not happy with them.  But where do you go from there?  What do you do after that?  This one cut deep.

I didn't want to lose them, yet I wasn't sure I could stand to be with them either.  The tension quickly wound up in me.  I could feel it physically.  The day grated onward.  The fateful decision is in my hands.  Even that itself is destroying me.  I can't make it.  Help!

Yes, I have judged the terrible thing done to be wrong.  Rightfully so.  But can I take that as an example and judge them as a whole person?  Do they have any redeeming qualities?

Am I even supposed to be judging people like that?  

Finally, finally, less than a day later, God tells me what I need to do:  just be a good friend to them now.  The pressure evaporates.  Thank you!

God is the ultimate judge of the heart.  That is out of our hands.  We must not judge other people.  Though we can, and indeed must, judge people's individual actions, and at times let them know what we think of what they did.

Monday, January 7, 2013


It all started at work one day.  There was this project I was on and we were running up against a deadline far too fast.  Probably not going to make it but we were going to try anyway.  Then, crash!  Out of the blue - we are getting a new project manager.  Clearly there is no possible way we are finishing now.  What happened?  Why would they do this?

I'm going in circles thinking about this.  Very upset.  I go home and bang on drums for awhile in Rock Band.  That doesn't really help.  I talk to some people.  That doesn't help either.  I have this furious energy that won't go away.  I need some big help

Eventually I get around to where I should have started:  Prayer.  I even take the step of actually kneeling down, getting on my knees to pray.  "More."  I don't even get all the way situated before I get a response.  "More".  I'm already on my knees, what more is there? 

Oh.  I guess I could actually lay down on my face. 

I laid down.  I don't want to deal with this anymore.  The words just come to me.  "I surrender....I surrender."  That's all I did.  The weight... was not totally gone.  But it was somehow more bearable now.  I knew I would be ok. 

Soon after, I found out the terrible news that a good friend of mine was thinking of getting a divorce.  Things were not going well.  I tried to help out as best as I could, to both of them.  I did my best to let go and let God lead me.  I was still in the surrender frame of mind.  There were times when they were asking for my help and I had no clue what to do.  I just prayed.  Waited.  Responded when He gave me the words to respond.  Was led through some minefields.  I don't know how much I helped, but I knew I was doing what I was supposed to.

The final amazement came a little while later.  My wife was pregnant again (yay!) and was getting pretty sick.  Couldn't do much to help out around the house or with our 2 yr old son.  Weekends became very tough for me.  I had to do pretty much all the housework myself, plus take care of both of them.  Sometimes I just wanted a break.

I started to resent it.  Why was all this on me?  It wasn't fair. 

One weekend I decided that this was enough.  I had it planned out.  The second I got tired I was going to tell her that it was her turn for awhile.  I was looking forward to it.  Just waiting until my energy faltered a bit.  Waiting until I got a bit tired.  Waiting.... and then I realized.  I wasn't getting tired.  I had energy to spare.  What happened?  I knew.  God was saying "I've got this.  I will give you more than enough to get by.  Just keep on going."  I learned yet again how to surrender a bit more. 

The refiner's fire is painful.  Yet down in the valleys are where the most growth happens.  With His help, I can slowly learn to be thankful for this.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Frozen Inside

The song Frozen Inside by the phenomenal band HB has been resonating with me lately.  It seems to capture the feeling that I get at times:  I do feel frozen.  I want to do more for God, for others, but I can't bring myself to do it.  I just don't feel led to do anything at all, even when I'm trying to search for it.  The chorus of the song really nails it:
I am frozen inside, let me praise and love!
Though I want to know you,
I cannot force my heart to thaw.
The props built by me, they'll collapse with time,
And then it will be seen that
a homemade faith, it fails in front of God.
I want to praise and love!  But I cannot do it on my own.  Something needs to change inside of me.  I do realize there's a problem and try so many ways to fix it on my own, but I can't fix it.  Not really.  I can possibly build some things into my life that make me feel like they are working, sometimes. 

In the end, they all fall down before God.

Before we go on - I am not talking about the case where you know that you are supposed to do something and don't want to do it, or you know you are sinning and you just don't want to give it up.  The answer for that is obvious, though it doesn't make it any easier to do.

This is different.  This is when you honestly feel that everything is ok, God just seems to be missing in your life.  You want Him back, you want to feel his presence, your life seems right, but nothing you do seems to get a response at all.  Why does that happen?  I don't think we will ever know the answer for sure.  There is hope though.  Later in the song:
If you're frozen inside
Cannot praise or love
He wants you to be you
No need to earn his love cause
Every moment he says:
I love you, I care.
This road I made just for you
To be together now and forever more.
When you do get into that spot, no need to fret.  No need to worry.  Everything really is fine.  Look back on the great things He has done in your life and smile.  Continue to look for opportunities to grow, but if they don't come right now, that's ok too.  Sometimes the lesson is just that - I'll be back with you soon.  Handle yourself well until then.   He knows what you are going through and it is exactly right to build you up to that next level. 

Sometimes parents will leave their children alone for a little while.  That's great, it just means they are growing up!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

People are Eternal

Quick – what's the most important thing in this world? That's right. People. People are. Not work, not play, not your house, not all your stuff. People are. Why is that? What makes people so important?

I'm a Christian. According to that, and most other religions, people are eternal. They are the only thing that is eternal. Everything on this Earth will pass away, even the very Earth itself will pass away one day.

Think about that for a second. Everything we do, every project we take on, all the stuff we are trying to gather up, all that housework - all that effort is ultimately worth nothing. Except for any changes it makes in us.

I do not know of a more sobering look at my own list of things I want to do than that. It really helps me focus in on what's important. There's nothing particularly wrong with playing through Final Fantasy 1 for the 14th time, but possibly I should be doing something more important that involves other people.

Unless of course I just need a break, and playing Final Fantasy helps me relax and think about things.  Then that's ok.  

Yes I'm good at excuses too.

All Work and No Play

If you ask anyone what their priorities are in life they will look something like this:


So you would think that when a big project comes up at work with some looming deadline that's completely unrealistic, and worse – arbitrary, people would resist.  Revolt even.  Instead they seem to want to rise to the challenge, and inevitably end up sacrificing the things they say are most important – time with God, Family, Friends, etc.  Instead they spend all their time at work, doing work at home, or when they are not actually doing work they are so exhausted and stressed out from work then they have little energy to do anything else.

One time I was talking to a co-worker as I was getting ready to leave for the day and they said something like “Oh yeah, you don't care if the project gets done”.  Ouch.  Harsh.  True though?  Possibly.  My goal at work is to do a great job while I'm there, put in a solid 8 hour work day, and go home.  If I don't think something will get done, I will try to re-estimate and let people know when it will actually be done.  A little overtime now and then is acceptable as long as it gets recognized and I get some additional pay or benefits from it somehow.

Often though I see the opposite.  People will just start to work overtime - even for free! - just to meet that deadline.  I hear people saying yeah I “donated” 5 hours this week.  Why on earth would you do that? Donate your time to work for free at your place of employment?  5-10 minutes, ok, yeah, whatever.  I don't want to mess with the paperwork.  Any more than that - I don't know about you, but I have far better things to spend my time on.

Possibly it's an appeal to pride.  What kind of a worker am I if I can't even get this done on time? I can do it!  I'm better than that!  To that I would say: you are worth more than that.  Your precious time here is worth more than that.

Possibly it's out of fear.  If I don't get this done, it will reflect badly on me and... whatever.  So suddenly work becomes your priority in life.  Nobody would ever admit to it, but it's very true.  That is what happens. Stop this madness! Just set some realistic expectations and go home.

I know of one person that said they feel that taking sick time off is a sign of weakness.  Now, let's break this down.  Let's assume that they are doing this the smart way and not actually coming in to work while sick. That means that when they are feeling better, they will be coming in to work lots of overtime to “catch up”. They are in effect saying that not using sick days is more important than the equivalent time off of work doing something with family or friends.  But of course if you ask, the most important thing in their life is their family. Hmmm.  Really?  And then occasionally they talk about not having enough time to spend with their family. Because work somehow became the priority in life.

A wise person once said “No complaining unless you are willing to do something about it”.  I agree with that wholeheartedly.  No more complaining about long work hours and no time for anything else... unless you are going to do something about it.

But the saddest part of all, is that most people don't even complain.  They just accept it as part of life.  If you prod you can clearly see it is hurting them, but they feel like they can't change it, or don't want to change it for whatever reason.  Mere logic may not be enough.  They need to be changed from the inside.  I don't really have an answer.  Maybe the best we can do is just pray for them.