Finding Forgiveness

Will you forgive me?  I know I’m not perfect and I know I’ve made mistakes. I want to admit that to you so that you know I know, am sorry, and plan to do better.

As easy as that was to type, it’s hard to say that when someone is ready to rage in your face.  It’s also not easy to forgive yourself.  We’ve got some pretty deep memories; minds that can remember some things, like hurt, and not others, like names.  Most of us have thoughts in our heads that flit in at inopportune moments to crush our spirits or break our concentration.  Lewis B. Smedes said:

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

We’ve all been made prisoner by others at one point in time or another, stuck in situations we don’t like or doing a favor for a friend that puts us in a situation we’d rather skip (blind date, work holiday party etc.).  But some of us have gotten good at sticking ourselves in jail, maybe by continuing the bad relationship, eating what isn’t so good for us or not living up to our full potential.  The good news is that in just about every situation you have the get out of jail free card!

When you offer yourself forgiveness, forgive someone else, or accept forgiveness from someone else, you’re given the opportunity to free yourself, and maybe them too.  If you don’t accept the forgiveness offered, you’re throwing away the key to get out of jail.  Even if the other person doesn’t accept the forgiveness, knowing you’ve offered it can be enough to free you to continue in your life.

There are lots of ways we tie ourselves down, including guilt, hatred, dwelling, and repetition.  There are plenty of bad things going on in the world that you really don’t need to keep punishing yourself for the mistakes you’ve made.  Instead, offer yourself forgiveness and step away from those negative things.  If you want a better future, you have to learn how to live with forgiveness so you can move from the past.

Finding Strength

Life can really get to you.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been hearing an unfortunate number of bad customer experiences at what should be great businesses. I’ve been there, I know that there are lots of people who don’t understand what customer service really is, or how important it is.  But the truth is that there are some nasty customers out there too.  There are people who make it very difficult to provide good customer service.  You’re probably wondering where I am going with all this, right?

Well, let’s start with the fact that everyone has bad days.  But there are also some bad apples: these people don’t have just one bad day, they almost always have a bad day.  It’s not easy to be around those bad apples.  I usually want to start the day over when I connect with them so I can avoid them.  So what do we do when we have these bad apples in our lives?  Philippians 4:13 says:

“Christ is the one who gives me the strength I need to do whatever I must do.”

As Philippians reminds us, God gives us strength to do what we need to do.  When we need to tell a customer that we’re done working with them, He’ll be there.  When we tell a friend that we need to take a break, He’ll be there.  When we tell our boss that we’re tired of being pushed under the table and stepped on, He’ll be there.  When we choose to take the high road and not fight back with the person who just said rude things to us, He’s there.  When we choose to love our partners and our kids when they do things that aren’t so great, He’s with us.  When we choose to move on with our lives, He’s there.

There’s no situation we can go through that God won’t be there ready to support us.  God will be there to encourage us to do the best we can and be the best we can.  What encouragement do you need this week?  I invite you to share your needs and prayers in the comments.

What Really Matters

“I am convinced that material things can contribute a lot to making one’s life pleasant, but, basically, if you do not have very good friends and relatives who matter to you, life will be really empty and sad and material things cease to be important.”  David Rockefeller

You’ve heard it said tons of times that money won’t keep you warm at the end of the day, and it’s absolutely true.  An hour of TV will never take the place of spending an hour at a bar or coffeehouse with a friend, a meal cooked by a world class chef just for you will never replace a barbecue with family and friends, and there’s no number of words that can ever leave the legacy that children can.

There’s no replacement for another human being.  But I know as well as you do that money and possessions definitely have value.  It’s nice to be pampered, to not have to do everything yourself, to have options through the internet that aren’t available to you locally, it’s nicer to live in a house than a shack, and showing up in a well designed outfit will get you a better job than showing up in sweats (99% of the time).

I always encourage my clients to make sure they balance their work, their passions, with time with family and friends.  It’s not easy to run a business or have a demanding full time job in 2013, but it’s important to realize that even if you do make a great impact with your business or job, you can’t sleep with it, can’t have a snowball fight with it, can’t visit the beach and pick up shells with it, and it won’t make your meals any more enjoyable. People ultimately are what add the joy into life.

This summer I encourage you to take time and be with people.  Yes, you can hang out on social media, but also get together physically and have a BBQ, go to the beach or play Frisbee in a park.  Get out there and have fun together!

Lessons in Patience

“The Lord is not being slow in doing what He promised—the way some people understand slowness. But God is being patient with you. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He wants everyone to change their ways and stop sinning.”  2 Peter 3:9

I’m always struck by how different God’s definition of timing can be from ours.  We’ve tried so hard to make our society so regimented and scheduled that the beauty of non-defined seasons/times of life not known to many people.  With the changes in the job market over the past decade there are very few people who will remain with one company for their whole lives.  Most people change companies every couple of years, either because of family, boredom, stress, passion or money.  More people are also changing vocations too, and not staying with one type of position all their lives.  And we keep looking for ways to “hit the big one” and make enough money to be OK for a few years, maybe for our retirement account.

And we ask God why we can’t break through, why we don’t find a job we really like, why we struggle with our families and our relationships, why He doesn’t seem to help things along at a pace in line with getting food from a fast food restaurant (or even a fine dining one).

But what 2 Peter reveals is that sometimes a little time is a good thing.  God knows the right time for us to learn the lessons and have the experiences that really make life worth living.  If He rescued us every time we cried out from a little cut we would never get any experiences that can truly be impactful on our lives and the lives of those around us.

This week, rather than rushing around I encourage you to slow down and see what a difference that makes in your life.  Plan a little extra time in your traveling, actually take time to eat lunch, plan time each day/night to spend with your kids or family, and plan a little time to actually catch up on things you’ve been meaning to do at work.  And at the end of the week I invite you to stop back and share your discoveries too!

Setting a Good Example

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”  Clarence Budington Kelland

As we finish our discussion this week on fathers, I do want to encourage you that no matter what has happened in the past you can have a better future.  We’ve all met people who we wished shined a better example, and we’ve all wished we were a better example at times.  The good news is that the past doesn’t have to dictate your future. Let’s look at a few things we can all do to set a better example for the next generation.

First, decide if you’re happy with life or you want something better.  This is the first and most important step in building a better future for yourself and everyone else.  If you aren’t fully confident that something else would be better than what you have, maybe you need to take a closer look at what you’ve got.

Second, recognize if you’re a jerk (or any other kind of bad apple).  You can’t improve if you don’t recognize, and accept that you’ve got a few flaws that could be worked on.  Everyone has flaws, but that doesn’t mean they have to turn into serious relationship-damaging characteristics.

Third, apologize.  Yes, this is an important step.  You need to show that you regret the past and express your desire to change and rebuild the broken relationships.

Finally, take action!  If you don’t act on your desire to change, you’re totally missing the point.  You can’t apologize and continue on the same path; you have to take big and little steps towards improving your life, how you treat others and your attitude towards life.

What will you do to be a better father, or person, today?

God as Father

This week in our discussions we’re going to talk about fathers, since this coming Sunday in the USA is Father’s Day.  Our inspiration today comes from Genesis 26:23-24 which says:

“From there Isaac moved to Beersheba, where the Lord appeared to him on the night of his arrival. “I am the God of your father, Abraham,” he said. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant.”

Now, depending on who you had as a father, you would be very suspicious of this God, run for the hills or be thrilled He showed up.  Over the years we’ve put a lot of pressure on fathers (and men) to be these incredible role models and many seem to fail, some more spectacularly than others.  Now, I know no one is perfect, and we’ve all fallen short of the amazing people we could be.  But some of us have made some significant decisions to not live up to the potential we have.

The reality is that no one will always live up to our expectations and some people will continue to make poor decisions, even when it directly impacts others.

The good news is that that’s not the case with God.  It’s not His nature to leave you hanging, forget the child support payments, ignore you when you call, or brush off your excitement about a drawing or accomplishment.  Nope, He’ll always be thrilled when you make time for Him or reach out to Him for understanding and support.

No matter what your father was like for you, you don’t have to follow his footsteps.  Instead you can follow the footsteps of God the father and set a good example for your kids and those around you.

Love it or Change it

“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.” Chuck Palahniuk

This is one of the biggest opportunities we have in our lives: to discover the joy that’s present in our lives and relationships.  Many of us don’t recognize the joy that we have.  But joy is also a choice we have to make. We can choose to live miserably, or we can choose to look for the better in life.  Yes, there are times when life will fall to many pieces, so many that they may not seem to go back together.

As Chuck Palahniuk points out, we have a responsibility for our relationships. We’re born into some, but even in those we’ve got a responsibility to love it or change it.  We’re not helpless people, and it’s time we stop acting like it.  Yes, there are things in your life that will come against you and there’s nothing you can do about them. But you do have the choice on how you react to those situations, and how prepared you are for those situations.  You can’t know exactly how you’ll respond, but by being at least a little prepared, you have some footing when others would be swept away.

Take advantage of the less busy schedule of the summer and catch up with friends that you haven’t spoken with in a long time. Sit down with people and talk about what really bothers you and what’s on your heart.  Most importantly, sit down with yourself and be honest about the state of the relationships in your life.  If you’re not honest with yourself you can’t find the joy that’s already there or make the chances necessary to find your joy.

Will you choose joy today?