Saturday, June 11, 2011

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.

I was doing some reading this morning from the Amplified Bible and came across this verse. I absolutely love the way this version translates the text.

There was one part in particular that stood out to me. Right in the middle of the text it says...

I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties

The process of "hardening" is one that I have only recently become aware of.

My wife and I have a few raised flower beds at our home where we plant flowers, plants and a few vegetables. In Alaska there is such a drastic change in seasons between winter and summer that if you just go and buy any plant, especially too early in the season, and put it in the ground, there is a good chance that it will not survive. Why? Because it hasn't been "hardened" for the elements that it is going into.

Whenever we are buying early season plants we always ask if they have been hardened. And if the answer is yes, we know there is a good chance of survival.

In the same way, this verse says that God is "hardening" us for difficulties.

One of the beautiful things about hardening plants is that it is the responsibility of the gardener (God), not the plant (us). Our only role is to yield to the work of the Gardener and grow where He plants us, knowing that when the storms of life come, we can survive them because our Gardener has already prepared us for them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Regret #4

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

We were designed for community.

We were created by a God who, in His very nature, is communal. Three in one. Not alone.

Our design by "Community" is what drives our desire for community.

We were not designed to do life alone. At the core, we all know that. And if that is the case, why do so many of us isolate? Why do we buy the lie that we can "go it alone"?

Is it because real, authentic, community, is not easy? It takes me being willing to be transparent. It takes me allowing people to see the real me; mistakes, faults and all. It takes me allowing people to speak into the rough areas of my life.

Real community involves me being honest about who I am with others who are willing to be honest about who they are.

And that can be very scary.

So what do we do? We settle for acquaintances and shallow friendships. We fill our lives with other people just like us: People who entertain us but never challenge us. People who we can spend time with but who, if we lose them, we feel no real sense of loss because they are easily replaced. And we spend years and years filling our lives with "people" but we seldom experience real "community".

And when we get to the end of our life and we look back on who we "did life with" we remember the real friends, the ones that really mattered, and we wonder why we didn't invest more time in those relationships.

Don't let this be a regret of yours. Put in the time and effort to build community with people that really matter. It's what you were created for.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Regret #3

Today we look at Regret #3 in our list of the "Top 5 Regrets" that people have on their deathbed.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Last fall my wife and I took a course at ChangePoint called “The Heart and Life of Every Follower.” It is based around Chip Dodd’s book “Voice of the Heart” and was taught by Lee Hudson (our worship pastor) and Jeff Schulte from Sage Hill Institute.

I have been through several classes and courses at church, but this one was different. I normally finish a class feeling like it was “worth it.” I am a little better husband, a little smarter with my money, a little more knowledgeable about the Bible, etc…etc…etc….

But at the end of this course I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t think that it was “worth it.” I felt like it was 100% necessary, completely crucial and totally critical that I was there. There is not a day that has gone by in the 6 months that have passed since the end of the class that I have not gone back to what I discovered there.

What did this class deal with? Well, it dealt with a lot of things. But mostly, it dealt with “feelings.”

Feelings are something that we all have, sort of our “natural reaction” to life. When a doctor does a reflex test on your knee, and he taps your knee cap, your leg kicks out. You didn’t do anything for that to happen, it just reacted. The same is true of all of us. When life happens, we react.

The problem is that we believe certain feelings are “bad,” even though we all experience them and often they seem to just “happen.”

In the class we focused on 8 key feelings: Anger, Fear, Hurt, Sad, Lonely, Guilt, Shame & Gladness.

These are feelings that every person reading this blog has experienced. A lot.

When you read that list do you feel like some of those are “bad” feelings? So did I. And what do we do with those? Well, we try and limit the “bad” feelings and “grow” the good feelings. So I try and be less angry, less fearful, less hurt, etc…. There is only one problem with that approach: LIFE.

The reality is that we will all experience Anger, Fear, Hurt, Sadness, Loneliness, Guilt, Shame and Gladness, so instead of trying to get rid of those feelings or “grow” past them, why don’t we realize that those are part of life and instead look at how we respond to those feelings?

When I am angry, does it turn into rage/depression, or passion? Those are very different things.

When I am hurt does it turn into resentment? Or do I allow healing to happen and courage to grow?

When I am sad does it turn into self-pity? Or do I accept it and allow myself to be “OK with what is not OK”?

When I feel guilty does it turn into toxic shame? Or do I experience freedom and forgiveness?

And that list goes on… and on… and on….

What I am learning is that all of these feelings are good and healthy, and we all experience them, daily.

This has been an incredibly healing and freeing process for my wife and me. If you talk to my wife she will tell you the “Adam” before the class is not the same as the “Adam” after the class.

One of the biggest ways that I am changing is that I realize that these feelings are good for us to have. So when my wife is sad, or fearful, I no longer try and rescue her. I used to see her that way and come in and try to “make everything better.” The problem is that never lets her be honest about where she is and what she is feeling. So instead of “having the answer” I let her be, knowing that there is more victory in her “feeling” than in me “rescuing.”

It has also caused us to look at things in our past and see ways that we have been hurt by people and see how we dealt with it… or didn’t deal with it. It was interesting how at times we are both were people who would rather bury it, not deal with our feelings and move on, hoping that the situations would get better and those feelings would just go away. However the truth is, when we sit and talk about those hurts, there are still A LOT of feelings right below the surface. They haven’t left… and they never will, unless we are willing to address the feelings, acknowledge the hurt and let healing happen.

So, what does this have to do with the regret listed above? When I saw that the regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings”, I realized that before I can truly express my feelings to others, I have to first be willing to be honest about how I am really feeling to myself. If I can’t be honest with myself, I am certainly not going to be honest with you.

I believe that this is such a common regret because we have become a culture that so often self-medicates that we have forgotten how to "feel."

That is the journey that my wife and I are on, and it is beautiful, and messy, and painful, but what we are experiencing because of it makes it all worth it.

Be willing to “feel” life, and be honest about your feelings.

It isn’t easy, it can be full of fear, but that is OK. Being honest about your feelings isn’t going to kill you, even if it feels like it is going to.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Regret #2

Today we look at Regret #2 in the list of the "Top 5 Regrets" that people have on their deathbed

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This is probably the regret that I have heard the most. We all know that at the end of life no one wishes that they had spent more time at the office.

This is going to be a shorter blog because I think this is a simple subject.

It comes down to this...what is important to you?

I have known several friends that have lost parents. I have had friends that lost parents who had very little money but invested their time and life into their children. Their kids remember them being at all of their sporting events, all of their school performances and always being present in their lives. They didn't go on big vacations, instead they went camping and that sort of thing. When their parents passed away they had amazing memories and knew that they were loved and a priority for their parents.

I have also had friends that have lost parents who spent their life working. The irony is that they spent their life working because they believed that providing a "quality" life was what was best. They wanted their kids to be able to do what they wanted, and have what they needed, and experience amazing things. And they did. However at the end of the day they would trade the inheritance and vacations for more memories of time together.

Your friends and families don't need your money and your success and your ability, they need you.

Are jobs important? Yes. Is money important? Yes. But not at the expense that we pay for it.

Your time is your most important resource, how will you spend it? Your answer to that question will determine whether this regret will be with you at the end of your life.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Regret #1

As I mentioned yesterday, I am going to be blogging through the list of the "Top 5 Regrets" that people have on their deathbed.

Today is Regret #1.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Doesn't this hit home? You are told from a young age you need to be faster, smarter, stronger, better looking, have more money, consume more, own this, listen to that, etc...etc...etc.... Most of us were all raised to believe that who we are isn't good enough. This wasn't (in most cases) done by our parents, it happened because of the world that we live in.

This belief has permeated our culture, and it is deadly. The list of regrets shows that this is such an issue that many people take this all the way to their grave.

I think that the main point behind this regret deals with our identity, and realizing who we are and what we were created to be.

Why do we feel that who we are isn't enough and that we need to become something different in order to be accepted?

Have you ever been watching TV and a commercial for cologne or soda or tires or cigarettes comes on and it says, "You don't need our product because you are great just the way you are!" No? Me either. Why? Because us not being content with who we were created to be is a billion dollar industry.

So who are we, really?

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Psalm 139:14-16

This verse tells us that we were fearfully and wonderfully made, and we were made by a Creator that knows us, and designed us, and formed us to be exactly as we are.

If I really believed that I was created to be me, exactly as I am, with no faking and no pretending, how would that change things? If every part of my personality and appearance was crafted and formed for a reason, why would I want to change that?

When we are who we were created to be, there is freedom. However trying to be someone else, or something different, is exhausting and always leaves us unfulfilled.

If I believe that I was created by a loving God, when I try and be someone or something else, isn't that like saying, "God, thanks a lot, but I think that I can do this better" or "God, I think You made a mistake with me."

My dissatisfaction with myself is less about me and more about my doubt that God is really good, and really knows what He is doing.

What if you, the real you, with your quirks and weird habits and strange thoughts are exactly what God wants.

What if God likes you? Just as you were created.

If you and I would find our identity in who we already are, and who we were created to be, rather than allowing society to define our identity, we would find that our view of our self would change greatly.

Why? Because we were fearfully and wonderfully made by a God that knew exactly what He was doing when He created us. Because of "Who" created us, we can be confident, and secure in who we are.

Pastor and Author Craig Groeschel says
“Becoming obsessed with what people think about me is the quickest way to forget what God thinks about me.”

We have a decision to make. We can choose to believe what God says about us, or we can choose to believe what our culture says. If we continue to listen to our culture, we will continue to take this regret to our graves.

Top 5 Regrets

I recently read a post from a nurse that has worked for years with people who are dying. She posted the top 5 regrets that people have on their deathbed.

As I read through each regret I had the idea to blog about each of these from a spiritual standpoint.

So, for the next several days I will be going through each of these regrets and looking at how I struggle with these same things and I will be trying to see what the Bible has to say about them.

Here are the top 5 regrets that people have on their deathbed.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Do those hit home for you? I know that they did for me.

Join me over the next several days as I try and take steps toward a life void of regret.