A Prayer for Today

There was a heaviness in my heart this morning as I started my quiet time. I felt compelled to write it down. What came out is the raw cry of my heart.

“I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against You.” – Nehemiah 1:6

The Prayers of Then

As I thought about the heaviness, I immediately thought of Nehemiah’s prayer quoted above. It is like all of the prayers back then:

  • Praise to God (Nehemiah 1:5)
  • Confession of sin (Nehemiah 1:6-7)
  • Prayer for saving or favor (Nehemiah 1:8-11)

What’s striking about these prayers though, is the shared responsibility. Nehemiah, and all the rest, always confess their involvement and complicity in the sins of the people. Moses did it again and again and it is modeled throughout Scripture.

There is no “us and them” in God. There is only we.

And we need God.

A Prayer for Today

I have sinned against You Lord and justified it like Adam. I and Your people have sinned against You Lord. Please forgive us.

We have buried our talents in the ground and we have erected and supported many idols. We have elevated leisure and pleasure above service, and wants above the poor and the needy. We have allowed oppression, slavery, illness, brokenness and poverty to exist in our homes, our neighborhoods, our nation and world.

We have done this while saying we love You and serve You. We have done this while building churches and singing songs. While hiding in fear of man. While seeking and grasping comfort and peace. While justifying and scripturalizing our thoughts and behaviors with little knowledge or care for Your Word. While living small lives cursing our neighbors as ourselves.

We have brought – and allowed – destruction to fall in our lives, our homes, our churches, businesses, schools and culture, and our world. And we have questioned and blamed You for it all.

Forgive us Lord. Forgive us for serving ourselves instead of You and blaming You for our results. Forgive us for marginalizing Your will and Your Word. Forgive us for cowering on the one hand and fighting You and our neighbors, on the other.

Teach us Your ways Lord. Your 2016, right-where-we-live-and-work ways. Heal our hearts, strengthen our resolve, teach us how to love. Call us higher and empower us to climb. Hear our prayer Lord and remember Your covenant.

Amen.

Prayers for All Time

“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this Your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering Your name.” – Nehemiah 1:11

May we prayer for ourselves and each other while delighting in the revering of His name.

The Fish is Still Dead

Fish-Skeleton

There’s a story from our marriage that we tell more than any other. A story illustrating something we see again and again and again: that opposites really do attract.

I Was the Dead Fish

The story begins with Jill and I having a rather heated “discussion” about something very, very important. I was seated on our couch and Jill was – while talking – pacing back and forth across the floor.

After stating a point and asking a question, she paused for me to answer.

I sat silently thinking about my answer.

When she had enough of waiting she exclaimed, “Would you say something! I’d get more of a response from a DEAD FISH!”

We then fought about that.

You can read a detailed retelling of the story here.

I’m Not a Dead Fish

For now though, let me simply say that though we didn’t know it at the time, we had been confronted with the fact that we have opposite behavior and communication styles (like every other married couple we’ve EVER met!).

We have since learned that:

  • One of us thinks out loud and the other does not. I hear every thought Jill has with very little filtering – the good, the bad and the ugly. Jill hears only what I tell her and very little else.
  • I think, and think, and think. And think. Then I speak. Jill thinksspeaks (that’s not a typo).
  • I am quiet and reserved in my communication and expressions. Jill is well, the opposite.

So, I’m not a dead fish. Nor is Jill out of control or over the top when she says what she feels out loud.

Or better said, neither one of us is broken.

This Can’t Be Fixed

We believe this is the number one “problem” in marriages and relationships. But hear this clearly: it isn’t a problem to be solved, it is a tension to be managed (hat tip to Andy Stanley for teachings on the difference between problems and tensions).

SO, if you are the quiet, thinking, introspective one:

  • Say things like: “I’m thinking”, “Can I have a moment to think?”, “Can I be alone for a moment?”. Literally. Out loud.
  • Face issues head on instead of hiding behind thinking and hoping the issue at hand goes away.
  • Allow your spouse to think out loud without interruption or correction and don’t take every word they say literally.
  • Respect, admire and learn from their ability to dramatically and engagingly communicate.

If you are the outspoken, outward processor:

  • Say: “This won’t make sense, but let me say…”, “I don’t mean this literally, but…”, “Can I process somethings out loud with you please?” Literally. Out loud.
  • Recognize that you don’t have to share every thought you have nor solve every issue immediately on the spot.
  • Allow your spouse the time they need to think without interruption or suggestions and don’t assume they are hiding something from you.
  • Respect, admire and learn from their ability to carefully think through and communicate ideas.

Two Parts of One

Your spouse is not broken. You are not broken. You are two parts of one couple.

“…and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one,”
– Mark 10:8

Respect, admire and learn to become the strongest couple you can be.

Faith is Spelled R.I.S.K.

risk

I wish I could tell you I made up the title of this blog. I also wish I could tell you that what it says is wrong, but I cannot.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Parable of the Talents

In last week’s blog post, I admitted that I Am the Wicked and Lazy Servant – the one burying his talents in the ground out of fear. Today I’d like to talk about the other two servants.

The two who risked it all.

“The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.” – Matthew 25:16-17

Let’s be clear about this please: “went at once and put his money to work” means that they both immediately took their master’s funds and invested them into something – a business, crops, livestock, who knows. There is NO way to have “gained five more” and “gained two more” without investing. And investing of any kind is risky.

Faith Like Abraham

I know that this was a parable told by Jesus, but let’s not miss that it is in a section of Scripture devoted to teachings about faith in action and this one has a clear purpose: faith involves risk!

And I HATE this. Don’t you?

I honestly wish I could coast through life safely and peacefully knowing exactly what’s coming and how it will be overcome. I wish I knew that I would succeed. I wish I knew that I could double my money every time.

But that’s not how God works.

“The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” – Genesis 12:1

Following the Lord is exactly that: following Him.

Faith is Spelled R.I.S.K.

What can we learn:

  • God calls us up and out: Both stories communicate trust and belief in the men being called. Abram and the three servants possessed what was needed to successfully complete their assignment.
  • Faith requires appropriation: Abram and the servants had to take that trust and belief and use it as motivation to actually use what they possessed – BEFORE seeing success.
  • Faith requires risk: Abram and the servants invested all they had. Also note that Abram didn’t really know God and the Parable of the Talents never disputes that the master was “a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed” (check out verses 26 and 27).
  • Faith is its own success: God was growing and testing Abram and as I mentioned, the Parable is only one story of faith in Matthew 25. Taken together, they all point to God wooing us to Him by testing and pushing our faith.

And we can be confident that we will more than double our investment:

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

I Am the Wicked and Lazy Servant

typwriter

I don’t really want to admit what I’ll be admitting to you today. Not only is it painful, but I’m honestly still wrestling with it every day.

A Year of Building

About a month ago, as I was driving to a meeting, I was contemplating my (our) future. I believe 2016 is a year to build things – write book(s), create and deliver courses, etc. – that need to be in place for next year. I don’t know exactly what that means for 2017, but I know what it means now.

What I also know is that everything I’m being led to build are things I tried five years ago. Literally. Every. Thing.

Do I Dare to Try Again?

I lost my corporate job at the start of 2011. I knew at the time that I was being called to be an author, speaker and life/business coach. And that’s what I did.

And it didn’t go very…um, well.

We didn’t starve or lose our house, but only because of the help of our church, many friends, and favor with two mortgage companies (READ: God provided despite the lack of traditionally approved and expected life items like work, insurance, income, etc.).

I also can’t say it was a total failure. Every moment of the past five years has been a journey with the Lord. He has directed, redirected, re-redirected and led us through what I now know was a wilderness journey just like the Israelites experienced. A journey to learn absolute obedience and dependence.

I know we have grown immensely and that the failures and little successes have ultimately created the living we are making today.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s been very, very hard. I have experienced pain, frustration, loss and failure and so has Jill (which is doubly hard on me as her husband).

I have to admit I am more than scared and doubtful to try the same path again.

The Parable of the Talents

I say, ‘I have to admit’ because of what happened on the drive to that meeting.

As I contemplated the year as well as my fears and doubts I was reminded of the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30. And I quickly realized, I was the guy hiding the talents in the ground: God has given me tasks to do with the talents he’s given me and I’m hiding them out of fear.

I further realized my reasons were identical to that guy’s as well:

I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid…” – Matthew 25:24-25

I had to admit I saw God as a hard man. Whoa!

God had asked me to do many things that failed. He also blessed other things in both my life and in many other’s lives that make absolutely no sense at all. This is how God works and He always has. Consider this passage from Deuteronomy where God is talking about what He’s about to give His people:

“…great and splendid cities which you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant…” – Deut: 6:10-11

But it got worse.

The Sin of Hiding

When I got home and read the parable word for word, here’s what jumped out:

‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then…” – Matt. 25:26-27

YIKES! But I have to admit, it’s true.

I have to admit that my fear and doubt – which I rationalize as thinking, planning, wisdom, caution and more – is nothing more than believing lies about my God. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of Gideon, David and Paul.

The God of talents that wants them used for the purposes He has ordained.

We are called to three key aspects of relationship with God: obedience, dependence and appropriation. Using our gifts and talents is about all three, but mostly about appropriation.

I’ll write more about this in my upcoming book, Joshua Had to Fight, which I will complete this year.

It’s ALWAYS the Small Stuff

TalkingCouch

The following is a slightly tweaked edit of an old post because it is worth repeating: our #1 piece of advice for couples and anyone in a relationship of any kind: speak up!

Quiet Shock

We once had conversation with a divorced man. He had been married a long time before the divorce and someone asked him what happened.

He started his story by telling us about a short conversation from his honeymoon. The details don’t matter, but here’s the gist:

  • Him: “Honey, how ’bout we…..?” And no, it was not an intimate request.
  • Her: “No, I don’t want to.”
  • Him: quietly shocked and bewildered at her response.

He said that this was the beginning of realizing that they were mismatched and it never really got better.

What If?

What if he had spoken up? What if he had asked, “why not honey?”

And what if she had said:

  • “Not now, how ’bout later?” or,
  • “I’m just tired.” or,
  • “I’m sorry honey, I didn’t know it meant that much to you.” or,
  • “Why are so upset?” or,
  • “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this. I’d prefer if we…” or, or, or…

What if they had communicated that first time? That first time they were “not on the same page” or, “missing each other”?

What if they had discussed what ultimately became a HUGE division between them when it was small – maybe even nonexistent?

It’s the Small Stuff

We have seen this time and time and again. And we have also experienced it first hand in our own marriage: The big stuff that tears couples apart starts with small stuff kept inside. The kind of small stuff that we think is not worth discussing.

WRONG!

If you want to survive for the long term, speak up about the small stuff.

Great marriages are built on mutual respect that encourages – maybe even demands:

  • “I was hurt by what you said at the party”
  • “Can we be more careful when we talk about…?”
  • “I may have misunderstood, but did you mean…?”
  • “How can I help you believe I mean…when I say…?”
  • “Can we talk?”
  • Etc., etc., etc., etc…

EVERY TIME we’ve done this we’ve caught something potentially big and damaging while it was small and easily discussed.

So again, our #1 piece of advice: speak up! Always. Often. And ESPECIALLY when it seems like a small stuff.

SPEAK UP!

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