Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Confessions of a Control Freak

I come from a long line of control freaks. My mother was a control freak with anger issues. My grandmother was a control freak who used sugary sweet manipulation to entangle her victims. And my grandfather was nothing short of a force to be reckoned with. They say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, and that has never been more evident than in my life.

At first, I thought that I was simply a people-pleaser who was being controlled by more than my share of control freaks. That might have been true at times.

But like Clark Kent, I could easily transform—without the help of a phone booth—into a super control freak if put in the right situation.

So the thought that I could be a control freak seemed unimaginable. I even hated the sound of the words. I wanted to say that I’m just conscientious, hard-working, and meticulous—but never a control freak!

“I” opening moment

It took years for God to finally open my heart to the fact that “I” was the worst control freak in my life. And then it was just a matter of time before the horrible truth about control freaks came spilling out . . .

The truth that control freaks lack faith in God.

They question if God is really as good as He says He is and worry that He might not rescue them from their troubles.

So all good control freaks must keep their cape tucked neatly in their backpacks for just such an occasion—the time when God wouldn’t come through for them and save the day!

Once I finally accepted the ugly truth, I felt afraid that people would find out and reject me and my control freaky ways. However, at some point, I realized that I couldn’t “control” that.

So here’s I a couple of ways I use to curb my control-freaky ways . . . (yes, it’s a work in progress)

 1. Make myself accountable

I share my weaknesses with certain people I trust in my life and give them permission to speak truth into my life. I don’t always like what I hear—especially at first. But I’ve come to realize that God uses these people to chisel away the rough spots in my life—one of which is my need for control.

2. Surrender my illusion of control to God

This is a daily, even moment by moment battle. But when my anxiety is on the rise, I take notice and immediately turn my problem over to Jesus before my control freaky ways kick into high gear.

If you can relate, then take the humble first step of admitting the fact that you are a control freak . . . at least once in a while.

If I hadn’t come clean with God and others, I would’ve continued to wall people out, offend some, destroy God-given opportunities, and make royal messes in my life and relationships (check out messymarriage.com for a few chronicled examples).

I’ve put away “my cape” and changed from management to God-agement! After all . . .

 God truly is the only One who can save the day!

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters
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Growing Pains

The subject of growth and change has come up in many of my conversations and thoughts lately. Sadly, it isn’t always in the context of anticipation or excitement. But there’s a story that I’ve heard from don’t-know-where that has come to my mind as I think about this elusive pursuit . . .

There once was a little boy who told his mother,

“Mommy, I want to marry you.”

So the mother explained to her little boy that she was flattered, but she was already married to his daddy. And that one day he would grow up and want to marry someone that he loved too.

The little boy said, “Well, okay, but then my wife and I will live with you and daddy forever!”

The mother, once again, had to explain that someday he would not want to live with her or his father, but would want to buy a house of his own to live in with his wife.

By this time the boy was becoming frustrated. He didn’t like the sound of all of this. It meant changing from the cozy, loving home he had always known to some far away place with a stranger.

Little did he realize that as he grew older, he would want these changes. He would grow into them.

I think this story illustrates how we all feel when it comes to growth and change. We like our comfort zone. We like things the way they are. And even if we don’t, we’re afraid of where growth and change might take us—to the unknown. And who knows whether the “unknown” is better than what we already know and are accustomed to?

However, when we compare our resistance to that of the little boy who could not fathom life as an adult, perhaps we can catch a glimpse of the amazing journey that God wants to take us on . . . if we will let Him.

Is there an area in your life where you’re afraid to grow or change?

Are you resisting God or godly friends because they want to challenge you to go to the next level?

Remember that there’s so much more you can and could be experiencing, if you will only surrender to God’s refining power in your life. He loves you and doesn’t want to leave you where you are, because there are so many bigger and better things to do and to be in this life. So don’t let discouragement, insecurity or unbelief keep you from being the man or woman God knows you can be with His help!

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

5 Ways to Make Your Resolution Stick

It’s easy to make a New Years resolution. The tough part is being able to make it last. So I thought I’d offer a few suggestions that have worked for me.

1.  Commit your resolution to God to help you stay on track

Willpower, shm-illpower! There’s no human way to persevere in our own strength.  And I hate to disrupt the enthusiastic flow of your January juices, but no one is the Energizer Bunny either. Just remember:

“But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.” –Romans 7:17-19 (MSG)

And . . .

“No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” –Matthew 19:26 (MSG)

2.  Put your commitment in writing

Write up a contract and sign it. Or make up a chart and post it where you are reminded daily of your goals. It may seem silly, but it really helps.

3.  Make your resolution measurable

This simply means you can’t say, “I want to lose ten pounds” without spelling out specific, concrete goals that help you reach your ultimate goal.

For example, you might want to eat healthier foods like lots of veggies and whole grains. You might want to cut out any sweets, fried foods and soft drinks from your diet. You might also include a specific exercise plan. All of these mini-concrete goals can help you to get to your ultimate goal. (So sorry for the food imagery in that last sentence. I hope I haven’t sent any of you dieters rushing out to Dairy Queen!)

4.  Seek accountability

This is simply another way to establish your commitment. You might commit to giving a daily update of your Facebook or Twitter status by posting your latest efforts. Or even better, you might enlist the help of a friend to ask you each day how you’re doing on your goals. I promise, if and when you do, you’ll be much more inclined to fend off any temptation to go rogue.

5.  If at first you don’t succeed . . .

Yes, we all blow it from time to time. Often this is when most resolutions go in the slush pile until the following January. But if you set out with the expectation that when you fail, you will “try, try again,” you’ll find that success is not far behind. After all, perseverance isn’t the absence of failures, it is the using of failures as stepping stones on your way to success!

Three Level’s of New Year’s Resolutions

Many of us are making New Year’s resolutions. Basically, all we’re doing is making a choice to do something different in 2011 than what we’ve been doing 2010. Many times we find ourselves reverting back to our 2010 ways before the end of the first week of 2011! Sometimes that’s not a big deal. But other times, it makes all the difference in the world—this one and the next!

I believe, there are three levels of choices or resolutions that we make. The first level is made up of simple and, for the most part, neutral preferences or options. It’s called:

Insignificant Choices

  1. To quit drinking coffee and only drink green tea
  2. To finally schedule time to paint that spare bedroom
  3. To join a book club

The second level of choices/resolutions that we make goes a bit deeper. These involve more important choices and tasks, but they only reap physical rewards. This level is called:

Significant Choices

  1. To work-out regularly instead of using that time to catch some extra zzz’s
  2. To commit to moderating or improving our diets instead of indulging
  3. To improve the organization of our houses instead of burying our heads in a massive pile of laundry

The third and final level is the most important and has lasting, even eternal, implications. It is called:

Eternal or Missional Choices

  1. To make ourselves accountable to trusted friends instead of keeping things only between us and God
  2. To control our negative thoughts instead of being controlled by our greed, lust, jealousy, anger, and/or fear
  3. To practice patience in the mundane challenges of each day instead of feeling entitled to let our anger boil
  4. To make time to listen actively to our spouses/kids instead of listening like a couch potato to the television
  5. To face our fear by sharing our faith instead of wasting our days stuck in our “comfort zone”

Although this list is not all inclusive, I believe that these “Eternal or Missional Choices” either draw us closer to God’s mission for our lives or further away. There is no middle ground—no happy medium. We must be either choosing to do them or we will be missing our calling as Christ-followers.

Not convinced? Here’s some of what Jesus has to say on the subject:

“No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” Luke 9:62 (MSG)

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Rev. 3:15-16 (NIV)

Okay, okay, I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty as charged!

I want to accept Jesus’ challenge to pursue a higher calling every single day of the year–not just in January! Are you with me?

For those who are interested in learning more about the eternal impact of our choices, check out this past weekend’s message at Metro Community Church.

Who Ya Gonna Call? Boundary-Busters!

Have you ever had someone in your life who continued to hurt you over and over? Let’s say you clearly communicated your concerns, perhaps gave chance after chance, but after awhile it just kept blowing up in your face. Did you ever wish that you could find someone who could wave a magic wand over your offender and change his hurtful ways?

Allow me to rewind to the old 1984 hit movie, Ghostbusters. Do you remember it? It all began with a pesky spirit haunting your abode. According to the premise of this movie “Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!” And in a flash the Ghostbusters team would capture your Casper and send him directly to their “ectoplasmic containment box.” The only risk you might run would be getting in the way of the fleeing phantom and unfortunately—getting slimed! Yuck!

Yeah, it was a funny and crazy plot, but it seems to me that very often what haunts us is not a ghost, but a “Boundary-Buster.” Yes, a Boundary Buster is that person who continually steps over any line you may draw. So how do you know if you’re being haunted by a B-B?

Signs you have a Boundary-Buster in your life:

  • They give you excuses, excuses, excuses!
  • They avoid responsibility at all costs
  • They control your every move
  • They have extremely unrealistic expectations
  • They procrastinate like a pro
  • They argue for the sake of getting you off track
  • They use intimidation and threats
  • They manipulate you with guilt—“This is all your fault!” and “If you’d just change . . .”
  • When all else fails-–they lie

So what do you do if this person is your spouse, close family member, friend or your boss? Short of divorcing your spouse, quitting your job or living a day to day game of hide-and-please-don’t-seek with the B-B whenever you step out the door, you really can’t escape.

And unlike the comical Ghostbusters, there isn’t a Boundary-Busters . . . “Buster”—no one to trap the Boundary Buster in your life. In other words, you cannot change anyone but yourself.

However, there is someone who can not only soften and convict the heart of your Boundary-Buster, but also strengthen you as you deal with your B-B. That person is God. Turn to him and let him transform your B-B, but keep in mind that even God will not force a person to change. Your best option for change is allowing God to change you and your ability to deal with your B-B.

Suggestions for dealing with your B-B:

  • Surrender your B-B to God daily
  • Pray specifically for your B-B daily
  • Pray that God would give you guidance and patience with your B-B daily
  • Seek godly counsel and support
  • Read good books on setting boundaries*
  • Join a good support group (codependency, Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, etc.)
  • If you don’t already go, find and attend a Bible-believing church

* Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, or Boundaries in Marriage, or How to Have that Difficult Conversation You’ve been Avoiding, or Safe People

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Little Critters that Grow into Monster Problems

There’s a verse in Song of Solomon, “Our vineyards are in blossom; we must catch the little foxes that destroy the vineyards” (2:15, CEV), that reminds me of a principle that we need to remember. Little things don’t stay little.  If they are negative, they grow into “monsters” that can wreak havoc in our lives. I’ve compiled a list of potential negative consequences of a “little critter” on a child, and then later as it grows into a “monster” attitude in adulthood. Of course, I’m not saying that every “little critter” becomes a “monster.” I simply want to point out the progression that can occur if we are not vigilant to identify and deal with the “little critters” in our own lives and in the lives of those we influence or raise.

Little Critter –

A dad who doesn’t like conflict with his child, let’s the child play loudly and recklessly in all private and/or public settings

Monster in Training –

  • A child who never learns socially acceptable behavior
  • A child who cannot tolerate healthy boundaries
  • A child who feels insecure and unsure in social situations
  • A child who ends up physically hurting herself or others
  • A child who irritates those she is around—even her peers

Snaggletooth, Fire-Breathing Monster –

  • A teen or adult who cannot respect authority
  • A teen or adult who avoids conflict at the cost of healthy relationships
  • A teen or adult who cannot figure out why she never fits in
  • An adult who hops from marriage to marriage when trouble strikes
  • An adult who eventually gets fired from almost every job

Little Critter –

An angry mom and dad who have extreme fights that never get resolved

Monster in Training –

  • A child who is afraid of conflict
  • A child who is argumentative
  • A child who is insecure and fearful of relationships
  • A child who is full of self-hatred
  • A child who doesn’t know how to communicate effectively
  • A child who is a bully or is often picked on by bullies

Snaggletooth, Fire-Breathing Monster –

  • A teen or adult who fears intimacy
  • A teen or adult who is emotionally volatile
  • A teen or adult who is insecure and tries to find illegitimate ways to escape pain
  • A teen or adult who is drawn to the wrong crowd or people
  • An adult who has constant and extreme marriage problems
  • An adult who is angry with people
  • An adult who is angry with God

Little Critter –

Parents who do not make God their priority

Monster in Training –

  • A child who doesn’t value church, the Bible, or God
  • A child who doesn’t hunger for God’s truth
  • A child who develops his own subjective, and often faulty, moral compass
  • A child who feels insecure
  • A child who has no sense of hope or direction

Snaggletooth, Fire-Breathing Monster –

  • A teen or adult who finds God boring
  • A teen or adult who allows circumstances to dictate his actions and feelings
  • A teen or adult who looks to the world or money to fill the void
  • A teen or adult who grows hard-hearted toward God
  • An adult who feels like something is always missing in his life
  • An adult who faces eternity without God

Bottom Line –

Think through the consequences of everything you are about to do or not do, because it can make a MONSTER-SIZE difference in your life and the lives of others.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

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2 Types of Change

As a counselor, I consider myself something of a “Change Agent.” That’s because when clients come to me they are seeking either to change themselves or change someone they know. Unfortunately, the latter part of that pursuit ends only in frustration—since we cannot change anyone but ourselves. (But that doesn’t stop people from wishing that they could!)

One of the main frustrations my clients face and complain about is just how slow change happens. And usually they are much more impatient with the progress of their partners than they are with their own progress!—funny how that works. Typically, my clients come to me today wanting their marriage relationship to change yesterday! I try to remind them that 99% of the time change doesn’t happen quickly. This leads me to the first type of change:

1. Quick Change

And no, I’m not talking about “Jiffy Lube.” “Quick Change” is change that happens like it sounds—quickly! The problem is, this type of change happens only about 1% of the time. However, most people expect it to happen 100% of the time! I consider this type of change to be in the miracle category, because I believe God has intervened in the usual order of things whenever someone has changed overnight.

The second type of change is:

2. Slowpoke Change

No one wants to accept this fact, but the truth is that change is painstakingly slow. Did I mention, change is slow?! Okay, just in case you didn’t get it—change is slow!! Most of the time when we make a change for the better, we can only maintain that new change briefly before we lapse back into the old pattern. That doesn’t mean we are doomed to stay in that old pattern, but it does mean that in order to change we will need to recommit to that new change repeatedly before the new change is established.

The truth is, the only real “Change Agent” is Jesus. And only He can give you the power to make lasting changes in your life. Remember, God works not only in the “Quick Changes,” but also in the “Slowpoke Changes.” In fact, I’m convinced that God does more in me in those slowpoke changes than He ever does in the overnight variety.

Bottom line –
• Be patient with yourself and others since change happens SLOWLY
• Look to Jesus to help you change

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

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