Posts Tagged ‘change’

The Subtle Smooth Slide Into Complacency

January 24, 2017

Ah, the warmth. It feels so good. Is it getting warmer? I’m not sure, but the warmth eases muscle stress. Frees the joints. And it gets warmer.Then, it’s too hot.

It could be the proverbial frog being slowly boiled. Or it could be me in the steam room.

Or it could be any of us in our church, our company, our organization.

How easily we don’t notice we’re not growing anymore. We’re not developing new services for our customer.

We just sort of gently slid into the routine.

Same people. We’re comfortable with them. No one around to upset things with new ideas.

We’re comfortable with the same surroundings. We enter and everything is familiar. We feel like we belong. We don’t notice the things that would turn off an outsider. Fatal to a church or retail business.

What was our mission again? I sort of forget. I know it’s printed somewhere. Probably posted on a wall that has just become part of the environment.

It feels so good to be comfortable.


Is that what we are placed here on Earth to experience?

Or are we supposed to push through comfort? Find that place of discomfort that impels us toward fulfilling a mission.

Was it telling people about Jesus?

Providing a valuable service to people?

Designing and making a product that will bring joy, relief, health to others?

“There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.”

Which are you?

God’s Kindness Leads to Our Changing Our Life

January 18, 2017

Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? — Paul, to the Roman church

If you judge other people as to the things they do that are wrong, you judge yourself as well.

Paul was very clear. He listed all the moral wrongs that people do. He must have realized that when people heard that list, they would immediately assume that the list applied to other people. Then he hits them, hard, by saying in essence that you also do things morally wrong. How is it then that you can sit there with righteous face on condemning others? You also are condemned.

But Paul doesn’t leave us just hanging out there condemned. He offers an alternative.

Already in the letter he hints at the theme. God’s grace.

Is repentance one of those words that triggers images of mean-spirited men or women with frowning faces, pointing fingers, shouting at you that you’re going to hell?

Actually all it means is that where once your life journey took you to places with people that you should not have gone to and with. Then you decide, with God’s help, to turn in a different direction and live life differently.

Instead of following our passions, our emotions, our “friends”, we start acting according to the many examples we can find from Jesus and Paul and others.

We put God first.

We help those in need.

Our lives reflect the fruit of the spirit–love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

(Me, I’m working on that forbearance part. What about you?)

We practice the spiritual disciplines–study, prayer, meditation, living simply, quiet, celebration, worship, and the rest.


Leaders Struggle, Too

May 20, 2016

Peter, the apostle, grew up with a fixed set of beliefs. There were beliefs about religion. Beliefs about types of people. Beliefs about interactions among different types of people.

He met Jesus who proceeded to blow away every stereotype and belief he’d grown up with.

When he became the leader, his struggles were public–at least within his group.

What am I supposed to do, he must have been continually thinking.

I’m not supposed to eat from this long list of foods. Yet, I find myself in situations where hospitality, and yes, love, require that I eat some of those foods.

I’m not supposed to associate with certain types of people–even to the point of not entering their house. But there I am associating with one of “them”, even worse healing one of “them”, even worse preaching and sharing the gospel, even worse baptising them.

These are all recorded for all of us in the book called The Acts of the Apostles.

Surely for a reason, we can still read this.

This does show us that great leaders can struggle with issues and change their minds. They can grow publicly. Imagine one of our presidential candidates doing that! The media would be highly critical. But if one actually had the courage to say, “I’ve grown. God has shown me how I was wrong and how I need to grow”? How refreshing an example that would be.

Sometimes people become leaders and have a solid view on the nature of the organization, the market, the team, themselves. The good leaders grow. They adapt to changing circumstances. They don’t make themselves into a persona that says they are God. They acknowledge that sometimes God says I’m going down the wrong path. It’s OK to change.

Take The First Step In Faith

December 18, 2015

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ve been thinking about taking that first step in faith.

There is a sense that God has taken many “first steps” trying to build a relationship with humans. Think of reaching out to Abram (Abraham). First there was a relationship. Then a son. Then asking for sacrifice of the son. Then the promise.

But people kept straying. They wrote laws to build a way to God from the bottom up instead of accepting God coming down.

Then God took a giant step–coming to Earth in the person of Jesus.

Think of the first step in faith of John and Andrew after John the Baptist pointed Jesus out to them. Think of Peter’s first step of faith. Except he kept needing to take another step until he got it right.

Sometimes we get complacent. We’re settling. We stopped reaching out to mentor and teach. We stopped serving.

When we realize we’ve reached that state, it’s time to take a step in faith.

Maybe this is the time of the year for that “annual review” of our relationship. It’s Advent. We remember God’s step of faith reaching out to us. It’s time to take that step of faith to respond.

Where will our faith lead us next year? Only by being open to God’s whisper in faith will we know what God has in store for us.

My faith journey took several weird turns during the past three years. Looks like I’m poised for some interesting new directions. I’ll take that step.

Praying For Discernment And Changed Hearts

November 24, 2015

The headline was made for clicking–“Rick Warren: Paris Happened Because We’re at War with God.” I clicked. The article really wasn’t like the headline. Watch what you click online.

But it made me think.

There is evil in the world. We read it in the Bible. We can see it if we only keep our eyes open. I don’t blame Islam. Many followers of The Prophet are offended and aghast at the atrocities supposedly done in his name but which are just pure evil.

We also know both from the Bible and from experience that the only good comes from changed hearts. We need changed hearts to guide our reaction to circumstances.

A serious  question is whether people caught up in evil can escape and have a changed heart. Our only response from a distance is to pray for those changed hearts.

As for the article, there is no explanation for the comment. It came during a prayer. That is where we need discernment. There is so much sloppy thinking, uneducated opinion, cynicism, and bait for page views (and advertising money that come with them) on the Web, we really owe it to ourselves to practice discernment.

Praying, discernment, changed hearts (especially our own). Spiritual formation. It never ceases.

Despite Gains, Women Are Still Exploited

September 9, 2015

Laws and opportunities for women have greatly improved over the course of my adult life in North America and Western Europe. As a group, they are treated better by the law and business.

They do remain virtually or actually enslaved in much of the world. At least three speakers on the TED Talks circuit have pointed out one of the major problems still facing the world is treatment of women. Some identify the situation as a major drag on economies. Jimmy Carter called it the biggest problme not discussed.

This is even among people who consider themselves Christ followers. And sometimes even women themselves are talked into excepting (and promoting) the concept that the Bible says that they are second-class church citizens incapable of participating in church leadership.

Much worse than exclusion from church leadership is the reality of human trafficking–recruiting women by one means or another into sex trade basically enslaving them in a life centered on entertaining the pleasures of men.

A group of people have begun organizing a coalition in our county to raise awareness of human trafficking occurring even in our rural area–probably due to the busy Interstate highway and heavy truck traffic. Only a few men have attended the meetings. I’m the only representative of a church.

One of my small groups is studying the gospel of John. A close reading of the last few chapters shows how important women were in the inner circle of Jesus’ followers. Even if some want to continue mis-reading Paul, Jesus message is unmistakable. 

The remarkable part of the stories recorded in the gospels and Acts is simply the fact that they were recorded at all. Given the culture of first century Mediterranian peoples, giving leading roles to women in some of the stories was actually revolutionary at the time. 

There are so many problems. We can’t solve all at once. But things begin by changing hearts. You do that one heart at a time. You meet someone in an abusive situation, you try to help strengthen the heart to leave the situation. Offering support–emotionally, financially, spiritually. 

And we need to change the hearts of men to overcome whatever basic drives and emotions compel them to be the reason for the problem in the first place.

As a friend of mine said, we can do all manner of things, but unless we work on changing the hearts of people, nothing will change.

Moral Obligation To Justice

September 2, 2015

I hate blatant misrepresentation of Scripture.

Hate is a strong word, and I am a person of few, if any, hates. But when someone twists a story told by Jesus to wring all meaning from it save some sort of self-serving, political interpretation–well, I hate it. That sort of thing makes disciples look bad all over the globe.

A friend of mine posted one of the pictures that is the dominant theme of Facebook these days (both right and left, religious and pagan). His “picture” was of Pope Francis with a saying about the moral imperative of economic justice.

Someone whom I assume is a friend of my friend ripped the thought and suggested the Pope should read Matthew 20 (OK, arrogance knows no bounds). This is a story about a vineyard owner who decided to pay the laborers who worked 1 hour the same as those who worked all day.

“This shows that I can do with my money whatever I want,” the guy proclaimed.

Unless we missed the message that God has returned to Earth physically and inhabits the body of this guy, we need to take another look at the passage.

The meaning has nothing whatsoever to do with me and my money. It is a parable about God. God is the owner of the vineyard. “For the kingdom of heaven is like….” If God wishes to save people at the very end of their lives the same as those who have been disciples their entire lives, well, God can do what God wants to do. After all, he is, er, God.

Jesus really only gave us two commandments. Unfortunately for us, they are not easy to live out every day. Love God. Love our neighbor.

Which of those two tell us that we can do whatever we wish with our money? Or even says that it is our money to begin with?

So, I’m reading Proverbs 26 this week. Which of these am I doing?

Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself.

Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes.

Confronting People The Right Way

August 31, 2015

There was a meeting at church. Suddenly one woman spoke up aggressively. She was complaining about someone who evidently was in the worship band at one of the services.

She was upset about the person’s lifestyle. “He’s living in sin, and he knows it. And he needs to stop, or else stop coming here. And he’s even on the platform.”

She had confronted the person, but he did not change.

I was thinking about confrontations such as this over the weekend. Must have been a book I’ve been reading. But the story of this meeting returned. In full color. In my mind. With the harsh judgementalism.

And I wondered, just how did that confrontation go? I’m guessing it was not done in a gently and loving manner. Given that the meeting was some time after the confrontation, I’m also guessing that the confrontation had no effect.

People do need to be confronted at times. Addicts need someone to stop enabling them and tell them no and tell them where an AA meeting is. At a smaller scale, someone you know is about to make a bad decision. Giving your point of view can be helpful.

But there are ways to do it. 

The judgemental, angry, finger-in-the-face “you’re going to hell” confrontation will seldom have a desired effect.

I’ve found on the soccer pitch that watching my tone of voice as a referee helps immensely. When I lose my cool and shout something stupid, guess what, I don’t obtain a desired change from the person.

Saturday, I had a high school boy get too aggressive on a foul. I called the foul, checked the fouled player quickly for injury, then made a public, but quiet, gesture and word to the player. He nodded. He understood that I was trying to help him curb his aggressiveness a little so he could stay in the game.

It’s all in the approach. When to be gentle, when to be tough, when to be a little of both.

But I’ve never found the in-your-face method beneficial.

Works the same for evangelism.

You Can’t Manage Change

August 6, 2015

Getting Things Done–it’s a book by David Allen and a method of organizing your thoughts, to-do lists, projects, plans. I am a GTDer.

He discusses a perennial hot topic in management circles and sometimes in personal development circles–management of change.

We are taught to “manage change.” Allen says in his recent monthly newsletter to subscribers that he always avoided that thought because he never really came to grips with it. Then he discovered his uncertainty with the concept. You can’t really manage change.

Change happens. Often you can’t anticipate it. Stuff comes at you suddenly from seemingly out of nowhere. You’re just cruising along and then something happens. The world is changing.

What we know is that we can manage albeit sometimes with great difficulty how we manage ourselves and our teams or family through the change.

This is especially important to recognize in our spiritual formation. We aren’t “unspiritual” just because change hits us. But working through change has the power to strengthen our spiritual life. There may be times when it doesn’t seem like it. But it does.

I have changed so much in my life that looking back it seems unreal. But each step was a growth. I removed myself–or got removed–from several situations that were either going nowhere or actually detrimental to my health.

Don’t get frustrated by trying to manage change. Manage yourself through the changes.

Call Me When I Care

July 20, 2015

In Memory Of

When I Cared

He needed to pass German to complete his BA and officially get the job waiting for him. The professor recommended he get me to tutor him. Why? I’ll never know.

He passed German. But that’s not the story. This was the beginning years of defining the Baby Boomers as the “Me Generation.” I remarked about having some empathy for the German professor who left Vienna and wound up in Ada, Ohio.

“I don’t care. I don’t have time to think about others,” he replied.

That conversation returns to me at times.

It does seem to mark the majority of Boomers (fortunately not all).

But the remark popped back into my consciousness when I saw a middle-aged woman entering Tim Horton’s the other day with a T-shirt with the phrase printed above.

I’m affected deeply by such lost people who don’t care—and are proud of it. How can you go through life so self-centered that caring is hard work? I have trouble understanding. When I care about spiritual formation and see such void, I’m sad.

But Jesus understood.

He told the story of four men. One man was robbed and beaten and left bleeding by the side of the road. Two religious men walked by (even worse than driving by protected by the steel shell of a car). And they kept on walking.

The fourth man walked the road. He stopped. We know nothing about his spiritual life. We do know that he was not part of the “official” religion of the area. Regardless, he stopped and helped. In a word, he cared.

I am saddened by seeing so many people who do not care. But then I meet or read about people who do and see the difference that they make in the world around them—and I still hope.