Archive for the ‘Living Responsibly’ Category

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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The Lame Game

No, I didn’t misspell my title.  This post is not about the Blame Game, but rather the Lame Game.  What is the Lame Game, you ask?  It is when you don’t take responsibility for your wrong actions.  You make excuses and run from responsibility.

You might think that it would be very difficult to find an example of the Lame Game in the Bible.  But, I must say, I’m quite proficient at sniffing lame-itude out from miles away.  Usually I find it running amuck in the lives of my teenagers, but this time I was surprised to find it in the book of Exodus chapter 32.

Allow me to set the stage:  Moses, the leader of the Israelites, was a very busy guy in a power meeting with God up on Mt. Sinai.  Meanwhile, the Israelites were down below in the valley wondering what in the world their fearless leader could possibly be doing that was keeping him busy for so long.  I think they looked around and saw nothing but sand dunes and endless horizons, and figured that the God who had brought them there had now decided to ditch them and run off with their missing Moses.  In other words, they were in the market for a new and improved god who they could polish so shiny that they could see themselves in its . . . buttocks? Enter one golden calf and the great lame one, Aaron!

Meanwhile, God informed Moses of the rebellion brewing below, so he headed back down to confront the leader of the hacks.  And this is where Aaron jumped into the perfect Lame Game position:

“‘Don’t get so upset, my lord, . . . You yourself know how evil these people are.  They said to me, Make us gods who will lead us . . . So I told them, Whoever has gold jewelry, take it off.  When they brought it to me, I simply threw it into the fire—and out came this calf!’” vv. 22-24 (NLT)

I laughed out loud when I read that quote.  And my lame-o-meter registered off the charts!  Now I could sound all high and mighty and say that I’ve never said or done anything as lame as Aaron, but then I would not only be lame, but also a liar.  In fact, the reason I’m so adept at identifying lameness is because I’m the queen of lame-itude.

If you’ve followed my posts for any length of time you know that I struggle with fear, and the mantra of most cowards is the ever-elusive excuse.  I don’t want to live that way anymore.  I don’t want to run from responsibility or pain or, even worse, looking foolish.  I want to put the Lame Game back in the box and never open it back up again!

So . . . what excuses are you making today?

  • Need to read your Bible, but think you’re just too busy?
  • Need to look at your part of the problem instead of blaming your spouse, but you think he or she needs to change first?
  • Need to confess that you’ve hurt someone, but you think it will only give him or her ammunition to hurt you back?
  • Need to set a boundary with someone, but you fear his or her rejection?

My advice?  Remember . . .

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

Blind Spots

I don’t worry about what the back of my head looks like.  Ironically, I tend to obsess about what the front looks like.  I primp and spray and do all the things that would help it to look its best, but the back—not so much.  I think that’s because I can’t see the back of my head.  Sure, I know that others see it.  But for some reason, because I can’t or don’t see it, it doesn’t matter as much to me.

I think that is the way humans operate.  If we cannot see a problem in our lives, then we tend to think that there’s not a problem.  We know on some level that others may see a problem we cannot see, but because we cannot see it or choose not to see it, we act as if it doesn’t matter.

Have you ever gone out in public with your fly down?  Or what about having a piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe?  Or have you ever had an icky piece of spinach stuck between your two front teeth?  Let’s ramp the scenario up a bit.  What if you just happen to be with a friend who makes you laugh out loud, allowing your eyesore (or should that be “toothsore”) to be displayed for all to see, but you! If that laugh inducing friend tells you about your dangling doohickey, you might be grateful and laugh a little more about your faux pas.  But you might also be embarrassed, uncomfortable, and begin to frantically forage for your floss.

These are minor examples of blind spots in our lives.  It’s no big deal if we don’t do anything about them.  But there are major blind spots that we need to open our eyes to on a daily basis.  And unfortunately, what we don’t see very often matters more than what we do see. Allow me to point out some of those areas that are hidden in plain sight.

What we see in ourselves What we don’t see
That we are right That we may be pushing others away with our arrogance
That we are living a morally good Christian life That we have shut God out and are only doing religious rituals to please others
Our efforts to bite our tongue or to be kind when we are not treated so well The resentments we’ve built up because we don’t feel respected
The unfairness of our life compared to our friend’s life The fear that God does not love us or have good purposes for our pain
Our need to protect ourselves and keep pain at bay The disconnect and stagnation that occurs because we keep others at arms length
What we see in our lives and world What we don’t see
The person diagnosed with a terminal disease The many times God encourages, strengthens and comforts the terminally ill person
The struggle to make ends meet The many times God provides the money we need in the nick of time
The countless tragic accidents that kill millions every day The many times God prevents or lessens what would have been a tragic accident from happening
The many terrorist attacks our nation has suffered The many times God has protected our nation from terrorist attacks
The many times a co-worker has taken advantage of us or hurt us The many times God softens and redirects the heart of an angry and abusive co-worker
The disease we’ve been diagnosed with or have lived with for several years The many days, months and years God prevented that disease or other diseases from occurring in our lives
The fact that we are stuck in a situation that seems to have no answers The many times God brings the right Bible passage or person across our path at just the right time to say exactly what we needed to hear

If you are feeling discouraged in a relationship or in life in general, then ask God to reveal to you where you may have a blind spot.  If you are persistent in prayer, He will bring to light what is in darkness.  And you’ll be amazed at how the new view will change your perspective, attitude and life.

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

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If your day was worth $100, how would you spend it?

We’ve all heard the saying, “time is money.”  Since most people in our present day culture value their time over their money, the saying rings truer now than ever before.  We’ve become a nation that is willing to pay huge sums of money to make life easier, less hectic—trying desperately to save time.  Who would have thought a century ago that restaurants would focus more on “fast food” than “good food”—and that it would sell! But that’s the fast-paced world we live in.
As I’ve looked ahead to this upcoming year I’ve thought about how well I’ve been spending my time.  If my day was worth $100 (which I know is miniscule to many, but it makes for a simple metaphor of the brevity of each day), how much would I spend on selfish pursuits, or tasks that have no eternal value?  Would I feel satisfied at the end of each day?  Would I feel satisfied at the end of each week, month, or year?
If one daily activity takes up as much time as another or, for our purposes, costs the same amount of money, would I be spending each block of time wisely and responsibly?  Many days I spend way too much time or money on surfing the internet, or watching television.  I’m not saying those activities are wrong, but I know I spend too much time (money) on them.  What if I’m spending fifty or more dollars on that and/or other meaningless pursuits in a day when I could be spending that time on more important matters?  Does God ever look at me like He did the fool who buried his one talent and want to toss me out into the “darkness, where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth”?* Okay, okay, I’m overstating the situation just a little.  But the bottom line (and budgets always have “bottom lines”) is that I need to tighten my time budget.
Since I am in my forties, I find myself doing a lot of reflecting on my life.  I want my life to matter.  I want to fill my time with meaningful and eternal pursuits.  So my New Year’s resolution includes cutting out some meaningless activities and adding some that I want to do but often forget or neglect to do.  Specifically, here are some of my resolutions: I’m reading through the Bible in a year, I’m going to set aside at least an hour each day to write, I’m going to write some articles and try to get them published, I’m going to read several books that are waiting near my bedside right now, and I’m going to only watch television when I have a program that I’ve already preapproved (no more mindless television watching for me).
What about you?  Do you want to start 2010 spending your time in better ways?  Tell me about it and what you plan to include and what you plan to cut out in this New Year.  I’m counting on you to help give me some ideas for budgeting and using my time better.  And, if you share with me, certainly you’ll also help give time-wise ideas to those who read this blog!  In fact, that just might be a good way to spend your time!
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15, 16 (NIV)
*Matt. 25:30

How Proactive are You?

Answer the following questions by thinking about what your spouse or significant other person might say about you. Or, if you’re especially brave, ask that particular person to answer the questions in reference to you. (If you are having difficulty in one or more of your relationships you may not be as objective as you think. So in that case, you should definitely ask someone who knows you well to help you answer the questions.) Then total your score to find the range you fall into located below the inventory.

2 – true          1 – sometimes true          0 – not true

Others would say of me that . . .
1. I regularly seek out the counsel of those who challenge
me in every area of my life.
2. I recognize that I am not always right or perfect and
regularly admit this to others.
3. After a failure or mistake, I try to learn from it in order
to avoid the problem next time.
4. I respect and am sensitive to the time constraints
others have in their lives.
5. I make a point to read my Bible and pray—connecting
with God every day.
6. I listen and consider the criticisms others have of me,
even if it I don’t like or agree with it.
7. I try to look at both perspectives in a conflict.
8. I contribute and give back substantially to those with
whom I rely or share financially.
9. My life and relationships are, for the most part, in
balance.
10. If I am working on a project, I give my best and
commit to completing it.
11. I don’t give up easily—I try new approaches to my
problems until I find a solution.
12. I don’t get discouraged or feel hopeless very often.
13. I am open about my feelings, but when I do so I try to
be respectful.
14. I regularly seek and find support from friends who are
growing in their faith.
15. I am consistent in my church and small group Bible
study attendance.
16. I am committed to working hard on my relationships,
as well as, resolving any conflicts that arise.
17. I try to focus more on how I can change myself than
how to change others.
18. I do not wait on others to apologize before
acknowledging my part.
19. I do not waste any time blaming others for the problems
in my life.
20. When I feel angry I focus on the problem—not taking it
out on the other person.

40 – 36
You are very proactive and do not face many relational, spiritual or emotional set-backs. You probably feel generally content with your life and do not see yourself as a victim in any circumstance you’re facing.
35 – 32
You are proactive in many circumstances, but you struggle at times. Your life probably has its challenges from time to time, but you generally bounce back.
31 – 28
You struggle to be proactive. You probably experience a certain amount of dissatisfaction in your life. You can’t put your finger on why because you seem to function fairly well in some areas of your life, but in other areas you really seem to struggle.
27 – Below
You are not proactive. You probably feel as if you are a victim of other’s bad attitudes and behaviors. You have noticed that others in your life do not see the hard work that you do, and this frustrates you. Your life is, for the most part, out of balance and you feel helpless to fix it.

You may be thinking, Okay, so how do I become proactive? If you look back at the answers to the inventory you will catch a glimpse. For further reading on the subject, check out the book, It’s Not My Fault by John Townsend and Henry Cloud, and/or 9 Things You Simply Must Do by Henry Cloud.