Life as a headless chicken

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]M[/su_dropcap]y solid old farmhouse is more than 100 years old. That may not mean much to folks in the northeastern United States or my dear friends in England, but in Kansas, it’s a big deal. It’s the perfect sanctuary for writing. I turn on my music and hammer out words by the tens of thousands and feel good about myself. The trouble comes when somebody needs me.

My office is on the second floor at the south of the house. The only stairwell is on the north. There are several solid wood doors between us, and if it’s summer time, I also have a window air conditioner running. There’s so much noise, I can’t hear when anybody shouts up at me. I can’t even hear my cell phone ring. So if anyone wants to get my attention, they have to walk up the stairs, throw my office door open, and throw things at my head.

It’s a chore to get my attention sometimes. But that’s true even when I’m sitting in a quiet environment.

One of my favorite television shows, Longmire (based on the brilliant book series by Craig Johnson), has an episode called “An Unquiet Mind” where we get a peek inside the main character’s tumultuous thoughts. His mind is never quiet. He’s always thinking about something, and that’s how I feel most times.

Do you ever feel like that? Like your brain is so noisy that you can’t get a word in edgewise?

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Here in America, we’re expected to live busy, crowded, noisy lives. That’s what it means to be American, isn’t it?[/su_pullquote]

My mind is never silent. It’s not chaotic. Not usually. But it sure is loud in there most of the time. I’m thinking about what I have to do today, what I have to do tomorrow, what I have to do next week, next month, next quarter. I’m worrying about friends and family. I’m fretting about the dwindling decimals in my bank account. I’m thinking about bills that need paying, chores that need doing, meetings that need scheduling, manuscripts that need editing, blog posts that need writing, etc.

We weren’t meant to live like that. That’s not how God designed us to function, in spite of what those around us might say. Here in America, we’re expected to live busy, crowded, noisy lives. That’s what it means to be American, isn’t it?

But is that how we were meant to live?

We’re not supposed to be lazy. We’re not supposed to sit back on our blessed assurance and live a life only reacting to trauma and disaster. But we’re certainly not supposed to live life like headless chickens either.

So how do you prevent being dragged into the chaos of life and still manage to get things done? I’m not sure there’s an easy answer.

peachy-divider

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap] underestimate the value of silence. Silence isn’t something I’ve ever truly appreciated until recently. Silence always meant that something was wrong or someone was waiting on me. And I hate it when people are waiting on me. But it’s difficult to find an instance in the Bible where silence is considered negative.

Sure, there’s all sorts of Psalms begging God not to be silent, but most of the time, silence is a good thing. Proverbs says over and over again that even fools are called wise when they shut up (Proverbs 17:28). Fast forward to the New Testament and James encourages people to make listening the priority rather than speaking (James 1:19).

Silence is hard to find, both externally and internally. But it’s something we should strive for, because—like it or not—Someone is trying to get our attention.

God talks to us every day. He makes Himself known every moment. The whole world has no excuse for ignoring God. But for those of us who know the Bible, we who’ve been raised in it from cradle to pew, how can we possible explain ourselves? Burying our lives in chaos? Drowning ourselves in anxiety and noise?

God’s calling us. He’s shouting at us, waving His arms in desperation, trying to catch our eyes.

Pay attention! Listen to what I’m saying! I’m here, and I’ve always been here, and I’m not leaving you. Not ever. I’ve done everything to prove Myself to you. Why aren’t you listening?

[su_pullquote]God’s calling us. He’s shouting at us, waving His arms in desperation, trying to catch our eyes.[/su_pullquote]

We don’t have to succumb to the tidal waves of stress and exhaustion the world (and even the church) sends in our direction. We don’t have to fear what’s coming tomorrow or in November or in ten years. God’s in control. He knows what He’s doing. He never makes mistakes. He always keeps His promises. And all we have to do is trust Him.

Yes, easier said than done, but nothing worth having was ever easy to achieve.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20

rev3-20Is your life so noisy you can’t hear Him? Is your life so busy you can’t see Him? Then something should change. Maybe it’s the way you live. Maybe it’s the way you think. But something’s got to give, because you weren’t made for this.

Don’t let yourself get so mired in noise and the craziness of life that you can’t hear Jesus calling you. It’s easy to get there. Believe me. But you don’t have to stay there. Climb out if you can. Ask for help if you can’t. Just get out. Open your ears. Open your heart. Listen.

Jesus is knocking. Can you hear him?

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Baseball players from Baylor and K-State standing at first base, Manhattan, KS

When their priorities don’t match yours

Imagine that you have something that absolutely must get done today. If you don’t get it done, your life is going to be really difficult. Or you’ll lose someone’s respect. Or you’ll disappoint someone you shouldn’t. So you simply MUST get this item checked off your to do list.

The one problem? You can’t finish it without somebody else’s help. And it doesn’t matter to them as much as it matters to you.

Have you ever been there? Where you can’t get something done because someone else is holding up the process? Have you ever been in the situation where your work is delayed—or even canceled—because someone further up the chain of command doesn’t have time for it?

It’s hard enough to handle when it’s your peers holding up the process. What happens when it’s your boss?

Today’s verses are Romans 13:1-5.

Baseball players from Baylor and K-State standing at first base, Manhattan, KS

Baseball players from Baylor and K-State standing at first base, Manhattan, KS

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

I’ve been in a lot of frustrating situations where my projects or my goals were held up because I couldn’t get the other project members to do their part. And I have to struggle with my attitude whenever it happens because usually the blame falls back on the person in charge of the project—me. And it’s really easy to get irritated because life isn’t always fair.

And that’s true with my relationship with God too. There have been so many times I’ve identified things I wanted to do, ministries I wanted to be involved in, trips I’ve wanted to take, etc. But God said no. Or He set life up so that it would never work out. Talk about not fair.

But what I’ve learned about following God is that sometimes He doesn’t let us do things because He’s protecting us. Sometimes we want to run ahead and do things our own way instead of waiting for Him, and getting ahead of God is never a good idea. No, it’s not the unforgiveable sin, but it will make more trouble for you in the long run. It’s always better to wait on God than to spend a few extra years wandering in a wilderness of your own making.

But what about with work projects? What about bosses who don’t support you? What about those situations?

Well, you do know that authority comes from God, right? All authority in our lives comes from Him, and all authority is there for a reason. Whether it’s your parents, your local legislators, your boss, all the way up to the president, God installs the leaders He wants for the times we’re in. And going against them is tantamount to going against God (unless those leaders are ordering you to go against God anyway).

So if your boss is making your project late, chill out. Maybe it’s not time yet. Maybe pushing to get it out will backfire. Maybe God is keeping that project delayed for a reason. God’s not too big to care about your everyday issues.

God has a reason for everything He does (or doesn’t do). There are no accidents in life, and God plays a role in every area of our existence. So if your project is late (even though it’s not your fault) or if you let someone down (even though it’s not your fault), God has a reason for it. God can move your boss to work on your project if He wants. God can convince the people you live with and work with and serve with to get busy. If He wants to do that, there’s nothing and no one who can stop Him.

He can do it if He wants to. Just like He doesn’t have to do it if He doesn’t.

So when you’re running late on something and you’ve done nothing to cause it, take a moment and stop to breathe and recognize that God isn’t punishing you. On the contrary, He may be saving you trouble in the future.

So don’t push and nag and make trouble. Don’t gripe and complain and whine. Don’t attack your coworkers or your boss. And don’t, don’t, don’t blame it on God. You don’t know. He might have a huge plan for that canceled project that you don’t know anything about yet.

You just be the person you’re supposed to be. You maintain your testimony. You be steady in your pursuit of God and your lifestyle as a Christ follower. Live above reproach.

That doesn’t mean you won’t have trouble. That just means when people try to find something you’ve done wrong, the only fault they’ll find in you is virtue.

***alwayspeachy***

 

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Flamingos fighting at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Ignoring conflict never makes it better

For being someone who communicates for a living, talking to people is hard work for me. I’m much more comfortable communicating in written words than I am in spoken ones, mainly because I don’t trust myself to be able to say what I want to say out loud when I want to say it.

Generally I can talk to anyone if I have to.  But it becomes extraordinarily more difficult to talk to somebody if I know they have something against me–or if I have reason to hold something against them. Conversation just falls flat. And it’s my personality to just run away from it, ignore that there’s a problem, and get on with life. Whenever I face conflict, that’s my first reaction. But that’s not healthy, and that kind of reaction doesn’t do anybody any good.

Flamingos fighting at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Flamingos fighting at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:23-24.

So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

Communication is hard work, and even if you do it well, you’ll still run into times when something goes wrong and somebody gets his or her feelings hurt. And in those instances, you have to make a decision–let it go or face it.

Now, it’s true, in some instances, it’s better to just let it go. Otherwise you’ll be making the proverbial molehill into a mountain. But sometimes communication problems start out as mountains, and they’ll only get bigger if you don’t take steps to correct what went wrong and reconcile everyone involved (as much as possible).

I think it’s really interesting that Jesus talks about this. He considers it so important that He would rather you leave your gift on the altar and go fix what’s wrong between you and the others around you first.

Let’s be honest here. It would be so much easier to just finish doing what you’re doing before you track down people to smooth out your relationship. Am I right?  But that’s not what Jesus says to do.

If you realize someone has something against you, drop what you’re doing right now–even if you’re doing it for God–and go and make it right with that person. Not from a distance. Not with an email or a text message. Go talk to them in person. Sort it out.

Do it first. Or the chances are you’ll never do it at all. You’ll keep finding reasons not to because communication in conflict is more difficult than any other sort of communication out there. And human beings are really talented at finding excuses.

But what if you can’t make it right? What if you’ve missed your chance? What if the person you need to get right with won’t listen or isn’t around anymore?

I think how Jesus phrases this is interesting: “You suddenly remember that someone has something against you.” Think about that.

He’s not saying you’re remembering something somebody did to hurt you. You’re remembering something you did that hurt somebody else, either intentionally or not. You remember what you did wrong, and you take it on yourself to go make it right.

I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about it that way before. It’s a lot easier to look at conflict as though it’s somebody else’s fault. After all, we never do anything wrong, right? We never hurt anyone else’s feelings, do we?

In all seriousness, conflict always takes at least two sides–at least two people disagreeing about something. Conflict isn’t inherently bad. Sometimes conflict can be good, and we certainly do grow as a result of it. Many times the strongest friendships we have in our lives have experienced some kind of conflict and have overcome it together.

So what’s the point? Don’t run away from conflict. Don’t be afraid of it either. Conflict is a natural part of living on Earth, and if we treat it right, we can learn from it and grow stronger as individuals, families, friends, and teams.

But we always have to remember that conflict is never just one person. If you have a problem with somebody, communicate with them. If you come to a realization that your actions have hurt someone, don’t shrug it off. Don’t ignore it. Don’t pass it off. Own up to your actions. Take responsibility for your choices. And make it right with the people you’ve hurt.

If you don’t, you’re going to be distracted. If you continue to muddle your way through life, leaving a trail of conflict behind you, even if you’re serving God, you’ll be so distracted by all your unfinished relationships that you may not hear God speaking to you.

It’s time to clean house, Christians. Be honest with yourselves. Who have you hurt? And are you courageous enough to face that person and try to reconcile?

Cannon Street Underground Station, London, England

Worry and stress are like bread and butter

Do you ever feel like your life is spinning out of control? Like there’s so much happening around you and to you (good and bad) that there’s no way you can keep track of it all? It feels like rush hour in the tube in London. You’re there with a purpose, but you can’t make any headway because there are too many people in the way, not enough room, and too much noise–so much noise. And you can’t control any of it. You can control yourself. You can control your reactions. But you can’t control other people, and you can’t control when the train gets there, and you can’t control how much space is left on the cars.

It’s so easy to worry about the stuff we can’t control. It’s so easy for me to sit here and let my mind wander about everything that could go wrong, and even though I may have the best of intentions, even though I may just be wanting to plan for those eventualities, it’s just one step further to let myself start worrying.

Cannon Street Underground Station, London, England

Cannon Street Underground Station, London, England

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:31-33.

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

This is from one of Jesus’ more famous messages, usually called The Sermon on the Mount. If you’ve ever heard of the Beatitudes, this is the same message that includes them.

It’s not a new message. Jesus talked a lot about not worrying, about trusting God, about moving forward with confidence and hope. The rest of the Bible is full of examples and stories about how worrying isn’t useful.

Worry is a waste of time. Going back to the tube illustration, you can stand in the station and worry about whether or not you’ll be able to get a spot on the train, but you only have two options–either there’s a space for you or there isn’t. If there’s a space, you’ll get on. If there’s not, you just have to wait till the next train. Maybe you won’t get to your destination when you thought you would. But worrying about it won’t accomplish anything–other than to wear you out.

Haven’t you noticed? Worry is exhausting. It’s an emotional roller coaster. We wear ourselves out worrying about things we can’t control anyway and by the time we reach our destination, we’re too tired to accomplish anything meaningful. What good does that do? What is the point? We have a culture that thrives on anxiety. Worry and stress are two of the mainstays of the American emotional diet, and there’s a concept out there (especially in the corporate world) that if you aren’t worried or stressed out about something, you’re not doing something right.

And that’s ridiculous.

I don’t want to worry anymore. I don’t want to be worn out and stressed out and anxious about things I can’t control anyway. I don’t want to waste my precious, limited time worrying about whether people like me or like what I have to say, although as a performance-driven people pleaser those two things are the bread and butter of my emotional diet.

I work and worry and stress myself out to accomplish the things I think I need to accomplish, and most of my stress and anxiety comes from those self-inflicted deadlines. But are those the things I need? I think I need them. But God is the one who knows for sure.

In the verses previous to this passage, Jesus is talking about the birds and about how they don’t worry about what they wear or what they eat and God provides for them. And if God cares for the birds, doesn’t He care for us more? God will take care of us. And the thing is I know that. I’ve seen it. He’s provided for me in so many ways that I can’t keep track, and it’s complete and utter foolishness to forget it or to doubt Him simply because I don’t know what’s around the corner.

All I need to do is seek Him. I need to live my life the way the Bible says. And He will take care of the rest. I need to trust my dreams and wants and goals to Him. I mean, He gave those things to me anyway, and they’re better off in His hands because He can truly make them happen, whereas I will just flail around like a turtle stuck on its back and wear myself out getting nowhere.

God knows what I need, and He’s a good God. He won’t withhold something out of spite. He won’t refuse me just because He can. He doesn’t abuse power like that. If I think I need something and He hasn’t given it to me, maybe I don’t need it at all. Or maybe I need something else first. That’s between me and Him–and Him and you. But either way, worrying gets you nowhere. And it accomplishes nothing.

So don’t waste time with it. It’s hard. Trust me, I know how hard it is to choose not to worry when it’s so much easier to hold on. But once you learn how to let go, it’s addicting. And it’s such a relief.

Do what God wants. Live for Him. Let the rest go. You’ll enjoy life more, and by the grace of God, you’ll accomplish great things because God will intervene and do more through you than you ever could have on your own, even if you prepared for it.