Category Archives: Faith/Christianity

Grief. Joy. Grace.

Grief: deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.

Mourning: the expression of deep sorrow for someone who has died, typically involving following certain conventions such as wearing black clothes. 

It’s a dance. Finding joy in the grief. One moment you’re grieving a loss only to find joy in the next moment. There is no balance to be found.

“a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” Ecclesiastes 3:4  

I don’t think there is a timeline to grief. Psychology tells us there are stages of grief. But what they don’t tell us is how long each stage may last or how it will affect you. Even how it will affect you physically.

At some point, though, the mourning shifts to acceptance and eventually the grief and joy blend together. You think you are past the grief when suddenly you feel the weight of loss yet it quickly mingles with a memory that makes you smile and maybe even laugh.

In my mind it’s like an impressionist painting. Edges of one area so soft they blur into the next.

I was driving home from work thinking about something my sister-in-law said about our mother-in-law a couple of days before. My mother-in-law loved the sun. It made me think of that characteristic of my mother-in-law I see in my sister-in-law who also loves the sun. And when I started thinking about it more I could see characteristics of my mother-in-law in each of us who married her three sons. I see her in each of her three sons and her six grandchildren.

Grief and joy blending together. Grace.

No, grief isn’t linear. No date on the calendar will mark each stage or tell you when you can move on to the next stage in the grieving process. You may even find yourself falling back to a previous stage. And that’s okay. I think the grief will always be there whether fifteen months or twenty-five years after you lose someone.

Eventually though the mourning melds into melancholy and if we allow it, grace brings those moments where grief blends with joy. Moments where you see traces of your loved one. And you can smile and laugh through the tears. A time where weeping, laughing, mourning and dancing appear all at once.

Grief. Joy. Grace.

Giftings & Purpose

Can I tell you a secret? God created you with a purpose. He created you with gifts and abilities to use for His glory. These are our charises. Abilities with which He has graced us. Gifts he gives us to nourish, grow and use for His purposes and glory.

“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” -Romans 12:6-8 NASB

How do you know your gifts? They are the things that when you are doing them you know that it’s what you were made for. Even if they are sometimes hard, you still enjoy doing them. These are things that others also see in you; friends who give you godly counsel confirm these are the things you are good at doing. They are the things that you think about doing when you are doing other things. Things that come naturally. Like you were born to do them. Like you were made for doing them.

Now I know this may not really be a secret. But too often I think we walk around like it is.

 

We compare our gifts to those of others.

Here’s the thing though. God didn’t create you to be someone else.

We cower behind the fear that we will become too proud if we embrace our gifts so we paralyze ourselves. 

If we keep our focus on our Creator who created us with these gifts we can can use them for His glory and not our own, and walk confidently in the purpose He has for us, not someone else.

We allow other’s opinions of us to keep us from using our gifts. 

This is a big one. Too often these attacks on our gifts come from other Christians. Someone writes an article or post about how they think worship teams are just performers wanting the applause. Or maybe a friend speaks hurtfully about you when you are using your gifts.

Yes, many times the ones trying to keep you from using your gifts come from others within the Christian faith. How unfortunate that we cannot respect each other’s differences and encourage one another instead of tearing each other down.

 

Isn’t that exactly what the enemy wants? He wants there to be infighting among those who call themselves Christians so we aren’t focused on using the gifts God has given us to reach a hurting world or to use them for His purposes.

Perhaps someone thinks their position trumps your purpose. Maybe jealousy or pride or insecurities cause them to discourage you or even sabotage your efforts. Don’t let that deter you. When you know the gifts and purpose God created in you, you have to fight the attacks that try to push them underground.

Here’s the truth I want you to remember. I want you to burn this on your heart. People like that, people who want to stifle your gifts? They don’t get a say in how you use the gifts God has blessed you with. If someone wants to lead you well they will speak life into your spirit, and even when the difficult conversations and corrections are needed to lead you, they will do so with kindness and encouragement. (More on this in an upcoming post.)

So discover your gifts. Develop & grow your gifts. Use your gifts. Don’t be afraid to use them in different areas to find out what ignites your passion when using them. If you don’t feel like you’ve found your passion, try using your gifts in another area. Ignore anyone who tries to tell you that you shouldn’t be using them. When your passion and your gifts intersect, and they bring God glory, you will know it. It will make you feel so alive you will know THAT is exactly what God created you to do.

Home. The Long Way Around.

“Clara sometimes asks me if I dream. Of course I dream I tell her. Everybody dreams. But what do you dream about she’ll ask. Same thing everybody dreams about I tell her. I dream about where I’m going. She’ll answer that, “but you’re not going anywhere, you’re just wandering about.” That’s not true. Not anymore. I have a new destination. My journey is the same as yours. The same as anyone’s. It’s taken me so many years. So many lifetimes. But at last I know where I’m going. Where I’ve always been going. Home. The long way around.” – Doctor Who

There are days where I feel like I’m wandering. Days where my focus can’t lift itself from the ground beneath me. Frustrated with any number of situations trying to steal my joy. Isn’t that life for all of us?

It’s easy to simply wander about. And there are some days where we need to slow down and breathe. But we can not remain in a state of just aimless wandering.

It takes intention to not only shift our focus upward, but to maintain it there. Daily intention to look up.

Daily titlting the mind. Refocusing our thoughts on home. Not the home here under our feet or where we lay our heads for sleep. Daily displacing the efforts of our flesh to make room for our spirit to steady on the perspective that can shift everything. Eternal perspective.

In the episode from Dr. Who above the good doctor realizes a fact so significant that it shifts his perspective drastically. He realizes he is no longer just the last of his kind wandering aimlessly about trying to save the world. He now has a goal. He may get there the long way around, but he now knows where he is going.

Home.

How difficult is it for us to do the same. Because this long way around can be discouraging. We may still be wanderers but we no longer wander without purpose.

If we can keep our perspective on the eternal our purpose shifts. It shifts toward home.

Excellence Does Not Equal Perfection

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about excellence versus perfection.

Have you ever had such a good experience that you walked away incredibly impressed with the business, company or organization?

We all walk away from these types of experiences for the better.

Excellence is a great goal to strive towards.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,” – Colossians 3:23

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might;” – Ecclesiastes 9:10a

Not long ago I was buying a few groceries in my favorite grocery store. One of the items I buy regularly was no longer on the shelf. It wasn’t simply out of stock. There was no longer a shelf label or place for it. One of the reasons I love this store is their attention to excellence and customer service. There is almost always an employee on every other aisle that will ask you if you need any help. The employee that happened to be on this aisle was the manager. I asked him about it and was informed they had changed some products the previous week and he offered to check the marked-down table up front for the item. When he couldn’t find it, he offered to order it for me. Now I’m not sure if they will be able to order it again or if the company is no longer making it, but this store went out of the way to help me.

Was it perfect? No. They did not have the product I wanted and may not be able to get it again.

Did the store strive for excellence in their interaction with me the customer? Absolutely.

There is a fine line between excellence and perfection. One that all too often becomes blurred.

There is a difference in striving for excellence and expecting perfection.

I’m a recovering perfectionist. It’s easy for me to slip into that mindset of wanting things to be perfect. I’ve learned over the years how stifling perfectionism can be though. I am constantly reminding myself to give grace when things do not go perfectly. I constantly remind myself that doing things to the best of my ability and with excellence does not equal perfection. And that’s okay. It’s not something I always do well, but I am trying and giving myself grace when I fail.

Striving for excellence is a good thing. As leaders we should encourage excellence in all we and our teams do. But expecting, even demanding, perfection slams the door on grace. It stifles growth.

Demanding perfection cultivates fear. It ignores the truth that we are all imperfect creatures, and it creates a hopelessness that what we are doing is futile. We must encourage those we lead and help them discover their potential with grace while aiming for excellence.

Don’t Blink

Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. Don’t blink. – from Doctor Who
The enemy would like nothing more than for us to turn our backs for a moment, to look away for a time or to blink, when it comes to our faith. I don’t meant turning our backs away from our faith. It could mean simply becoming comfortable. Forgetting to pray or spend time in worship. Even a situation that moves us away from our normal routine can cause us to blink and before we know it the enemy begins to plant doubts.
I’ve experienced this. Especially when it comes to situations that arise that keep me from a normal routine. I would doubt many people are immune to this either.
I have learned what I need to do to find my focus again. What I need to do to keep from blinking.

Shift Your Perspective

We always have a choice in how we look at a situation. Oh it’s not always easy to change our perspective. I totally get it, but it is often vital that we do. Vital to our spiritual, mental and physical health.  We can look at an experience and allow it to turn our hearts bitter or we can choose to look at it through a different set of lenses. Lenses that can give us peace and life.

Gratitude

Just do a search for articles about the effects of gratitude and you will find overwhelming studies that show being thankful can change your entire mindset.
I had to take a couple of packages to the post office recently. Let’s be honest. Going to the post office is not one of the most enjoyable errands in life. The line is always far too long and we’re in a hurry plus there is always that one worker who is just grumpy. I know God is not worried about how frustrated I get when the line at the post office is ridiculously long. I mean children are starving in Africa, but it does not keep me from asking him when I’m on my way to make it a short line. So when I get to the post office there aren’t too many cars there. Then I get inside and I barely have to wait five seconds for an available worker. That alone makes it worthy of thanks, but the normally grumpy worker was in such a pleasant mood also! It gets better, too. A kind older gentleman walking from the PO boxes stops to open the door for me as I am leaving. I say thank you and then look back to see he wasn’t even following me out! He just stopped to open the door for me before he went inside to the postal workers! As I’m looking back I also notice the sun is beginning to break through the clouds. Clouds we can’t seem to be rid of this winter.
If I had not taken a deep breath and placed my focus away from my task for the day I would have walked right past each of these incidents without giving thanks.
Personally, I need to record these gratitudes. Maybe it’s how my brain works; like being able to remember names and information better when I put pen to paper whether digitally or traditionally. But putting the things for which I am grateful in writing works the gratitude deeper into my spirit. If I look at every experience through a day and count even small aspects of the day as gifts, as little graces from God, my heart is much less likely to turn away.

Notice

I am task driven. I love seeing something crossed off a list. I feel like I’ve accomplished something in my day if I have a list and can check them off.
But there is a downside to being task oriented. One I have to consciously make an effort to overcome. I don’t pay attention. I don’t notice the little things I should see. I miss things I should count as gifts. I miss the mother with young children in the grocery store who simply need a small word of encouragement or simply just a smile. If I get so focused on crossing off my to-do list I won’t notice the opportunities God wants to use me so He can bless others.

 

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (‭1 Peter‬ ‭5‬:‭8-9‬ NASB) 

Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. Don’t blink. – The Doctor