Patient with God

Today is the last day of another month of 2014. We’re another 30 days closer to 2015. How are you doing on your goals and plans for this year? Are you making progress or do you feel like you’re getting more lost day by day? This month we’ve talk about the topic of patience. If you’ve struggled with accomplishing your goals and plans you may be struggling to be patient and wait for God’s direction. It’s hard to remain confident in God when it seems like we’ve been waiting forever (even if it hasn’t really been very long). Yet that’s exactly what God asks of us. He asks us to wait in Him for our futures and trust as Psalm 138:8a says that: “The Lord will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.”

It doesn’t say that the Lord might work out His plans, but that He will work out His plans. So if you’re waiting today for the other shoe to drop on things don’t give up, because this is only one of many verses that reminds us that God will complete His promises.   This is probably a good indication of why there are so many verses in the Bible about God fulfilling His promises: because He knew that not everything gets instantly resolved and we would need lots of encouragement and confirmation to stay on the straight and narrow as things slowly progress to their conclusion.

So this week as you are challenged by your patience or faced with the instruction from God that the time is not right yet, know that all in good time it will work out. Release your requirements and intentions about how things are resolved, and focus instead on developing your relationship with God. Sometimes the best things need time to develop, and there’s no point in rushing God, unless you like mistakes and less-than-right results.

Who Impacts You?

We’re really all control freaks.  We like things in certain ways on certain days with certain people.  When other things and people come into our lives and mess up our structures and plans we get all flustered, or worse.  Our ability to go with the flow and deal with the punches has gotten worse with the advances in technology, transportation and high society.  Yet we’re dealing with more uncertainty than ever before with the extreme weather, threats of war, differences of cultures and new health challenges that can strike at any time.

So I’ve gotten to the point that I’ve accepted my need to control things.  We all need structure and order in our lives to stay sane.  However, we do have to accept that we can’t control every aspect or every minute.  This is often harder than finding things to structure in our lives.  So we end up with little structure and lots of frustration.

The other point of agreement we have to reach with ourselves is that we can’t control what others do.  I can encourage or recommend one thing or another, create a list of instructions, or write up a job description and hand it to you, but short of putting a gun to your head you’re under little requirement to follow my instructions.  You also don’t have much control of how much I drink each night, if I choose to follow a certain religion, or whether I choose to marry and divorce lots of people.  But the choices we each make individually whether we realize or accept it or not affect others.

However, while the choices you make do affect me, we each must determine how much they affect us personally.  You can choose to decide if the drunk driver that put you in a wheelchair will ruin your life or if you’ll be a survivor.  You can choose if someone spilled coffee on you will ruin your day or more because they ruined your favorite fancy outfit.  You can choose whether to let someone’s rant on stupid people become your rant, or not.  It’s up to each of us to choose what impact the actions, thoughts, beliefs and words of another will have in our lives.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Maya Angelou

Day By Day

This month as you know our topic is patience.  We’re at the last Wednesday of the month, and I wanted to make sure we didn’t get out of this month before we talked about being patient with ourselves.  One lesson I’ve learned over my years is that things usually take time.  Some things happen rather quickly in the scheme of things, like the amount of time it takes to make a really good cup of tea or coffee, other things take longer, like having a baby, and still other things take longer like becoming a giant sequoia tree.

If we’ve chatted about business or work or making money before you’ve probably heard my dislike of get rich quick schemes like MLM’s, buying likes for Facebook pages, or spamming people.  The interesting thing is that each of these concepts at large do have value, just not as people think they do.  MLM’s are really like joint ventures which are valid business opportunties, Facebook is a way to make money and promote your business and if you want to be successful you do have to be in contact with people.  How this second set of concepts is presented and followed through on make all the difference.  They may not seem as easy to do as the first, but the first set creates results that are only a shade of what they could be if real effort was put into it, like those in the second set.

So where does this bring us?  Simply that we can’t turn into Richard Branson, Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou, The Pope or any really big leader over night.  We have lots of lessons to learn, issues to work through and dreams to dream before we can become like them.  That’s not to say that we can’t get there, because each of us have incredible untapped potential. It just means that we have to be patient with ourselves as we put in the time and effort to develop the skills, knowledge, resources, relationships, life lessons and drive necessary to get there.

Superman may be able to leap from here to the top of Mt. Everest in one bound, but most of us can’t, and that’s OK.  Do one or two things each day, little or big, that will bring you closer to your goal.  Don’t give up because it is taking time, keep working and you will get there.

“Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.” Heraclitus

Encourage One Another

We all have insecurities.  We’ve been lied to, cheated on, exposed to false advertising and people we’ve trusted have broken that trust.  Sometimes it seems like the world is out to get us, and it even laughs when we fall down under the weight of our struggles.  Sometimes people’s questioning “you really love me?” “you really think I’m beautiful?” “you really want me to have the job?” isn’t because we have bad hearing or because we’re so full of ourselves, it’s because we’ve been hurt so many times before. Sure that’s true some of the time, but all too often people just don’t realize the truth.

Jesus dealt with insecure people during his years of ministry.  People questioned if he really could heal them, or really understood what they were going through.  And Jesus certainly did his share of miracles so that they would realize he could.  Jesus knew that people have been hurt so many times in the past and were promised things that didn’t happen that it was hard to believe that there was someone else who was saying these things but really actually could follow through.

The first thing to realize is that we’re all insecure.  We all need to hear the confirmation from others around us that we did good, or we are going to be OK, or that we matter.  No one wants to be forgotten or ignored, no matter how much they like peace and quiet.  But we do a really good job of cutting people down when we say that their clothes are not the best when they actually look fine, that they screwed up in ways that can’t be fixed when they can, or that they deserve the beating they got even though they don’t.

Let’s face it: we can be nasty with too little effort.  But that’s not what God wants of us.  He wants us working together to make the world a better place when we leave than when we got here.  He wants us encouraging one another and taking the time to tell each other that we matter, not that we’re dirt.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace.”  2 Corinthians 13:11a

Finding Hope in Balance

It’s been kind of hushed up over the last few years but every so often someone will bring up the concept of balance.  Many people roll their eyes, others feel frustrated and a few are thankful for the reminder.  I’ve personally learned that balance is essential to life.  Maybe not the zen-like balance some people try for, but the balance that means you know more to life exists than one thing or person.

A few years ago the big word being thrown around was balance, now it seems engagement, social, and culture are.  Just because it’s super popular doesn’t mean it’s wrong or right, and in the case of these watchwords, there are some truths to both sides.

The thing that the concept of balance recognizes is that there are ups and downs, highs and lows, ins and outs, strengths and weaknesses.  We’ve never been very good at accepting that the bad has to come with the good, but without the bad would there be good?

Balance doesn’t mean that things are boring, lazy, uninvolved or status-quo, rather it indicates that there has to be an accounting/feedback for the things that do happen.  As I’ve said before, if we think that we can get away with working 24/7 for a long period of time without damaging our relationships or health, we’re wrong.  Balance doesn’t mean that we can’t work 24/7 on a project or our relationship or our health for a short period of time, it just means we have to recognize that that can’t be all we do forever.

It’s kind of like seeing yourself as just a father, mother, sister, wife, husband, employee or boss.  These things are part of who you are, but they can’t be the only things that define you.  You are much more than the label most people see you as.

Don’t be afraid of the bad stuff or fear the good stuff because it means the opposite has to happen as well.  Instead, let it remind you that you are more than just this minute, more than your last conversation, and more than your best/worst day.

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”  Carl Jung

Defeat Stress with Humor and Patience

This month, as you know, we’ve been talking about patience.  By now you may realize that patience not only requires you to have a “plan b” at all times and an open mind and perspective about your life, it also necessitates a sense of humor.  Why?  Because most of the time when patience comes up it comes up because of other people who are stressing us out and we need patience to deal with them, and if we’re so busy working on stopping the stress we’ll never get to the patience part.  So rather than working up a stress reaction we can handle the situation recognizing how ridiculous that person is being or acting and laugh it off.

But having a sense of humor about patience is really about knowing how you react to and interact with people.  I know that driving is a stressor for me, so I usually leave extra travel time in my schedule so that I know I’m not in a rush and can deal with the impatient drivers on the road without becoming equally impatient or stressed out.  If you don’t know what stresses you out, you’re either stressed out all the time or spending too much time with all the wrong people.

So while I can get a chuckle out of someone’s freak out over their upset plans, that doesn’t mean that things don’t go wrong in my life or stress me out.  It just means that I’ve accepted that there will be things that go on in my life that will upset things as I have them.  I’ve got plans and support systems in place to help me deal with those situations.  And if I’m thrown a really big curve ball I don’t freak out too much because I know that I’m a capable, teachable, adaptable human who can and will get through it.

Because I know that I’m more than whatever comes my way I can handle the rough spots in the road with a bit more grace and patience than most, and so can you.  It will take work, a great attitude, flexibility and, of course, lots of patience.

“Because paper has more patience than people.” Anne Frank

Taking Time to Celebrate

Sometimes we get so focused on the future that we forget the now.  I know because I’m guilty of it too.  But God doesn’t forget to see what goes on now or forget, like we do, that life isn’t one big victory, it’s made up of lots of little ones too.  I always make a point of celebrating the little victories with my clients because all those little ones lead up to the big one. But more than that, I know that we can’t keep going focused only on the big victory, we have to see the progress along the way.

And God knows this.  God knows that we can’t keep going without encouragement or a pat on the back because we get distracted, discouraged and tired; after all we’re only human.

So we need to let go of the stranglehold we’ve got on our goals and learn to live a little.  I’m not advocating living the party life all day every day, but rather taking time at least weekly to meditate on, recognize and celebrate the victories we were able to accomplish that week, or the victories that others who are important to us reached.

Celebrating what happens isn’t just about celebrating what goes right in our lives, it’s about recognizing that the world goes ’round a little better when we’re all celebrating victories.  There’s a lot of negativity in the world, and the best way to get past or through it is with taking time to celebrate and focus on the good.

I encourage you this week to take the time to recognize and celebrate the things in your life you’ve achieved, as well as the treasures God has sent your way recently.

“Not only will we be saved, but we also rejoice right now in what God has done for us through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 5:11

Lessons from Dad

Sunday in the USA is Father’s Day.  It’s a day I’m glad to celebrate because I am thankful for my dad and the man he is.  However, I do know that not everyone has a good experience with their dad.  You may not know him, he may not have stuck around, or you may have wished he didn’t stick around.  Unfortunately there are a lot of dads who have failed at being a father.  They’ve done things like commit crimes, had affairs, been violent, and been absentee for longer than they’ve been involved.  This isn’t just a father thing, mothers aren’t perfect either.

It’s a big responsibility to know that little lives are completely dependent on you and will learn from what you say and do.  As the song “Watching You” by Rodney Atkins goes “Well then my four year old said a four letter word That started with “s” and I was concerned So I said son now now where did you learn to talk like that He said I’ve been watching you dad, ain’t that cool.”  Sometimes all that responsibility is just too much for us.

But the fact is that they’re human just like we are and will make mistakes too.  So instead of closing the book on them and cutting them permanently out of our lives I recommend we leave a little room open for forgiveness and connection if they show that they’re willing to do things differently.

If you are in contact with your dad I encourage you to have a chat with him in the next few days, adult to adult, and talk about some of the things that bother you, what he wishes you knew and what advice he wants to pass on to his grandkids.  Take advantage of the time you do have with him, like many I’ve learned that the years we have with people who really matter to us can be all too short.  Make this a Father’s Day you’ll always remember and treasure.

While We Wait

This month we’re talking about patience.  Many people have trouble being patient because they think that it means they have to do nothing while they are being patient.  This is just about as far from the truth as you can go.  Being patient doesn’t mean you can’t do anything, it just means that you may not be able to continue with your particular goals or tasks for a period of time until things line up again.  However in our overbooked, over-scheduled, over-committed world doing a little bit of nothing is probably a good thing for most of us.  When you’re given the signal to wait or be patient, stop for once!  Let yourself take a break and just be for 5 minutes or an hour.  If you’re waiting for your car to get an oil change or waiting for your customer service call to be answered, take a load off for a bit.  Let your mind release all the stress it’s been dealing with and just relax.

If you’re given a bit longer to wait, maybe a few days or a season, it’s best to find something else constructive to do with your time rather than wasting away, for example if you’re dealing with an illness or job loss.  My personal favorite patience fillers are taking regular walks, picking up a book, or learning a new skill.  If you know you have downtime rather than banging your head against the wall or annoying everyone in your life, choose to do something productive with your time.

But don’t just choose anything, choose activities that aren’t in line with the thing you’re being patient with.  For example, constantly surfing for jobs isn’t doing something else while you’re waiting to get a job.  Learning a new skill that can help you in your chosen field, or any aspect of life is OK though.  The point is that if you continue in the vein of what you’re waiting on it will make the wait seem even longer and more challenging.  Instead, choose to do things that will empower you and support you when your waiting is over.  You may even find out that what you were waiting for wasn’t exactly right or there was something better to be found on the way.

“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.” Robert H. Schuller

Let’s Encourage

Being together and being part of a community is about more than just being around other people, it’s about the quality of interactions too.  Talk with many leaders and you’ll discover that there’s an epidemic that is being fought against, and has been for quite some time: an epidemic of negative.  There’s lots of bad stuff in the world, so much that you can pretty much go anywhere and find examples of decay, damage or disease.  But it’s about more than slapping on a fresh coat of paint or finding a cure for AIDS or other “incurables”.  It’s about supporting each other emotionally and mentally.

When Jesus was on earth doing His ministry there are countless examples of how He took care of people physically: from healing illnesses to feeding people.  But Jesus also took the time to care for people emotionally.  What He knew that we sometimes ignore is that some of our physical illnesses and handicaps are just as much mental and emotional as they are physical.

A key part of who we are is how we feel about ourselves and the world around us, as well as the mental and emotional feedback we get from the people in our lives.  When they treat us like dirt we tend to see the world through dirty eyes. How people treat us definitely colors our opinions and the choices we make.

Throughout the Bible though God’s wisdom and command was not to spread the evil in the world or share rumors or lies, but to encourage one another.  God didn’t say this so we would all have absolutely huge egos or think that no one else is valuable but ourselves, but because he knows that we all need reassurance that we do have value, we’re not alone and someone else knows we’re there.

Who will you choose to encourage and support this week?

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11