Posts Tagged ‘Attitude’


If I’m being honest, this is not my favorite topic to deal with. However, we can’t escape the fact that we’re all going to experience loss and we are going to grieve; but there are some real choices to be made in times of grief. Those choices will determine whether our experience turns out to be bad grief or good grief. We’d better manage our grief well, because our future depends on it.

Last year I moved to a new location to start a totally new career.  Since this is the first time I’ve made a shift this drastic I was unaware that I was also strapping myself into what has amounted to a twisting, turning, climbing, and dropping emotional roller coaster ride.  The uncertainty driven fear has, at times, caused me to look back and grieve over the loss of my comfortable yet challenging ministry as a pastor.

So, what do you do when you find yourself knocked to your knees relationally, emotionally, professionally, or even physically – and it hurts? What does good grief look like? I think God has some things to say to us on this and, not surprisingly, they contradict the conventional wisdom at every point.

1. Conventional wisdom tells us to bury our feelings, but the example of the Bible is clear: EXPRESS YOUR PAIN.

Do you know what the shortest verse in the Bible is? You may know that it’s in John 11:35. Jesus wept.

Do you know what caused Jesus to weep? A very close friend died. When Jesus got word of Lazarus’ death, he traveled to their town, and met with his two sisters and as the three of them stood beside the tomb of one of His closest friends, he cried his eyes out.

Jesus wept. Those two words speak volumes about good grief management. Tears have been called the language of the soul, a cleansing river of emotional release. And God’s approach says, let the river flow.

In fact, there is an entire book of the Bible that’s called Lamentations or “The Lament” and it’s literally a book of weeping.  It recounts the exile of God’s chosen people into Babylon.

“For all these things I weep; tears flow down my cheeks. No one is here to comfort me; any who might encourage me are far away. My children have no future, for the enemy has conquered us.” Lamentations 1:16 [NLT]

By the way, expressing pain isn’t limited just to weeping and tears. Sometimes expressing pain means confronting another person with their wrongs. Sometimes it’s doing something symbolic that represents the pain you feel. I’ve heard of divorced people who burn their wedding pictures as a way of saying, “this hurts so badly.”

In the past I have expressed my pain through my songwriting.  In addition to songwriting I now write blogs and manuscripts for books I intend to write… but not always.  Sometimes I crawl up into the weak area of my Melancholy temperament and grovel around in self-pity. 

Let me ask you a question. Have you experienced a major loss in your life but you’ve gone around trying to ignore or avoid the pain of it? May I suggest that you find a positive way to express it instead?  If you need help with this, don’t let your pride keep you from getting it.  Share your struggle with a friend, your pastor, or a counselor.  Express your pain.

LIVING IN THE STORM

Posted: May 12, 2012 in Emotions, Life!, Work, Worry
Tags: , , ,

I haven’t written a blog post in some time so I decided to pick up the pen (actually laptop) again. The truth is, I have not had a clear enough head to put any thoughts together in an organized fashion, and that is a good description of my whole life right now.

In September of last year, I left the job I had and loved for 14 years.  I am fully convinced I was following God in this and I am still convinced today. What I seemed to forget is that following God will sometimes put you right in the middle of a storm!  Look at this passage from Matthew 14: Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray… Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.  Do you get the picture here?  The disciples were doing exactly what Jesus had instructed them to do and it put them right in the middle of the storm.

I thought about just listing the frustrating events that have been my life over the past 7½ months since I moved back to Mississippi but every time I would start to write them, I would hear a little kid voice in the back of my head saying, “I think I hear the whambulance.”  Just so you know, for some time now I have been working on a manuscript for a new book titled: AM I CRAZY OR WHAT?  I suppose after the disclosure that I hear kid voices in my head one might conclude that I am giving away the ending of the book. But I digress.

While sitting alone in my blue Lazyboy, I got the idea to write down a list of the areas of my life that have been wounded, some dramatically, since last September. Then I wrote down another list of the fears I have in each one of those areas, fears of what might go wrong, fears of more pain. And then, finally, I wrote down a third list of what I really hope for in those areas in the future.

And it hit me: my list of fears on the one hand and my list of hopes on the other represent two different visions for my future coming out of what has been the most painful and challenging rip in that imaginary protective membrane surrounding my life that I have lived in for the past 14 years. There are two very different destinations for which I can set my internal compass at this point. I mean, I can’t stay where I am. That’s one of the realities of pain. It always drives us somewhere. The question for me is … where will I wind up?

Actually, I think that’s the question that faces every one of us when we suffer in this life. What are we going to do with the pain of divorce or injustice or physical infirmity; the death of a dream, a betrayal, the death of a loved one or any other loss. How are we going to grieve? How are we going to react to loss? (And the word “grief” is simply a way of describing our reaction to a loss).

Beginning with my next post, I am going to look at the topic of grief.  Please feel free to send me an email if you have a story of grief recovery or if you have a question about the grief process.

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REVIEW

The goals of relational King of the Hill are:

  • To take charge of other people, and to take charge of them without their permission.
  • To order the world around you the way you want it, with little regard for the feelings of the other people in your life.
  • To seize and maintain the upper hand in relational interactions.
  • To maintain your position by pushing others away when they challenge your territory.

In other words, you come to the point where you are convinced that your way of doing things – including relationships – is superior to everyone else’s; that there isn’t a whole lot left for you to learn on the subject; and even if there was, it doesn’t really matter because you are strong enough to make everyone around you submit to your way.

HOW TO CHANGE

If we are ever going to quit playing the King of the Hill game we must ask God to help us lose our pride and self-sufficiency and to humble us. We must admit the truth about ourselves, that we are masters of the game, and then turn from it. This is the foundation of change.

Once that attitude is established, there are some things we can start to do differently.

1. Become a student of people and relationships.

2. Get to the point where these three phrases fall freely from our lips:

  • “I was wrong.”
  • “Please forgive me.”
  • “I love you.”

Why are these phrases so important? They are words of humility and dependence – exactly the opposite of the pride and self-sufficiency.

3. Use your ears more than you use your mouth.

This takes the focus off of self and puts it onto others.

4. Give the lead position to others whenever possible.

Learn that you won’t die if you aren’t the king.

5. Start relying on God more than self-effort.

Remember that the reason we play the game is because we feel insufficient, and so we overcompensate to make up for it. This root must be destroyed in us.

After Nebuchadnezzar had his sanity restored, his life was more characterized by these behaviors than by King of the Hill behaviors. And you know what happened? Buried there towards the end of the passage is this little phrase …

The hope and promise for all of us who will give up the game. Is that we will attract others instead of driving them away. It won’t happen overnight, but with God’s help, it will happen.

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GAME PLAN

Ok, let’s get more specific. How does the game actually work in relationships?

In my previous post I wrote that all you needed to play the kids version of King of the Hill was a bunch of kids and some elevated surface. To play relational King of the Hill what you need is a basic belief that the way you relate to others is the right way (and even if it’s not, it doesn’t matter).

In other words, you have to have it in your mind that your way of doing things – including relationships – is superior to everyone else’s; that there isn’t a whole lot left for you to learn on the subject; and even if there was, it doesn’t really matter because you are strong enough to make everyone around you submit to your way.

Most of us aren’t quite as in-your-face as that. We’ve learned that there are several strategies to get the upper hand and to take charge of those around us. As I hit on these you might want to place a mental check mark next to the ones that apply to you.

1. “Pull rank” verbally or non-verbally.

When your kids complain about your policies and decisions and want to know why, is your primary explanation to them “because I said so?” “I’m your father” …”I’m your mother” … That’s what it means to pull rank.

In essence, whenever we communicate, “you have to do it my way because, right now, I am higher on the hill than you are” we’re pulling rank. And if we’re not careful, we can fall into a pattern of doing that to our spouses, children, subordinates at work and even our friends.

Is there ever a time when it is valid to pull rank? Yes, but very rarely. Only when it is critical that things be done your way and only after every other option has been exhausted.

2. Take offense when someone questions you.

This communicates that you don’t like anyone thinking that they may have a better way or better idea than you do. To be King of the Hill, you need everyone to automatically assume that your way is the best way, that your ideas are the best ideas. So, you need to let people know that if they don’t do that, you are going to make things hard on them.

3. Expect others to compensate for your relational weaknesses.

Have you ever heard yourself saying to someone else, “Look, this is just who I am. This is how I roll. Take it or leave it”?

Occasionally, it may be ok to say something like that, but people who play this game say it all the time. Instead of admitting their weaknesses and trying to improve themselves, they throw the burden onto everyone else. “You learn how to deal with me,” they say, “and we’ll all get along just fine.”

4. Stick together primarily with “birds of a feather.”

It’s hard to play this game for a long time because it hurts to have people leave you or distance themselves from you. So, you need to have other people (who are also playing the game in their relationships) encourage you that your way is the right way. They understand exactly how you feel, because they, too, are surrounded by jerks who just need to get in line.

5. Rely on logic to control people.

“Knowledge is power”, they say, and so people who play this game strive to become masters of knowledge – or at least enough knowledge to have control over others. (Very rarely does their knowledge ever apply to them personally). They know it all and they know how to present it in a way that makes everyone else look stupid or foolish.

So, that’s the strategy, But how do you win?

A win (and I use that word somewhat sarcastically, because nobody really wins in this game) amounts to successfully covering up your personal insecurity through pride.

That’s the real goal of people who play this game. On the outside, they appear totally self-sufficient. But, on the inside, they are full of self-doubt. “Do people really care what I think? Will they listen to me? Am I valuable? Am I capable?” … and the list of questions goes on and on. So, to compensate, they put on a front that says, in essence, “I’m better than you”, which is the definition of PRIDE.

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God did not put you on earth just so you could be a self-centered clod.  In fact the Bible teaches that one day we will be evaluated on how we did in two areas: Did we learn to love God with all our heart?  And did we learn to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Life is not about achievements, it is not about accomplishments.  It is not about acquisition.  It is about relationships.  It’s why God put you on this planet.  Love is the main thing.

This year the 40 day spiritual renewal emphasis at Wahoo Church (the church that calls me pastor and probably a few other things from time to time) is love.  Our goal is for each of us to become great lovers.  We want to learn how to develop loving relationships.  Each week during this campaign I will post at least one article on the topic of love.

1. A great lover is committed to growth. 

You don’t become a great lover accidentally.  It is intentional.  You’re going to have to make a commitment to growth.  When Larke and I first got married I was the world’s worst gift giver in the history of mankind.  I would wait till the last minute, run out and find something girlish looking, purchase it home and give it to her… usually in the purchase bag!  While I am still not in the top percentile of gift givers, I did make a commitment to growth in this area of our relationship. 

I begin in the summer of each year praying that God would lead me to a special Christmas present for the woman who most think is a saint just for putting up with me on a daily basis.  I started listening to her and making notes when she says, “Oh, that is cute.”  If I am going to be able to wear the title, Dr. Love, it starts with a commitment to grow.

2.  A great lover has great role models.  

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love my dad and I treasure every lesson I learned from him in life (Even though I can’t use most of them in mixed company).  However, he did very little modeling when it came to this Christmas present issue.  He had a lady sales clerk at one of the department stores in our town be a personal shopper for him before personal shoppers were in vogue.  He would contact her about three weeks before Christmas and she would pick out a gift for my mom, wrap it and set it aside for my dad to pick up the week prior to Christmas.  He saw it when mom saw it.  Now as far as I know my mom was cool with this set up because the lady sales clerk did a good job.  This does not work in all situations. 

Some people see the love that goes into the thoughtful planning, shopping, and preparation of the gift for presentation just as important as the gift.  On one level, I see their point.  Now my dad was a great role model in work ethic and the fine art of a dry sense of humor but Christmas shopping, not so much. (Sorry for throwing you under the bus dad.)

Jesus is the model of perfection in relationships.  He was the Son of God.  He was perfect.  He was the only one who knew how to handle relationships perfectly.  As in all areas of life, he makes a great role model.

If we want become a great lover we would do well to listen to others like Jesus did, look at others like he did, give to others like he did and go to others like he did.   

Our theme Bible verse for the 40 Days of Love is 1 Corinthians 16:14 Everything you do must be done with love.”  One of the key words in this verse is the little word “do.”  There’s a difference between information and transformation.  If all you do is press the “Like” button on this article you are never going to become more loving.  You must move from your commitment to growth and observing your role model to actually practicing your love skills.  You must develop the habits of a great lover.  I will be exploring those skills and habits in future blog posts.

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Nouthetic counselor Jay E. Adams writes that under the roof in his backyard hangs a hummingbird feeder that he keeps filled with sugar water. There are four openings in it from which birds may suck the nectar. Yet, day after day, from early morning until after dusk, the feeder is the source of the birds’ war – one bird chases all the others away. “As I said,” Adams writes, “there is room for four birds at a time, and fully that number attempt to feed. But the stronger one, who now ‘owns’ the feeder, will not let them. All day long he sits on the branch of a nearby tree guarding ’his’ feeder and defying others to transgress on what he has established as ‘his’ territory.

“This ongoing slice of life confronts us throughout the day as the war rages on – the hummers streak across the yard, the king hummer in hot pursuit of an intruder; and while the chase is on, others sneak a sip or two, only to be driven off when he returns. This is the lesson we learn: “I bought the feeder; I supply the sugar water. The birds do not earn it; they receive it all by grace. Yet, day after day, they fight over who may enjoy it.

“How like the people of God! All we have or are that is worthwhile is the gift of God’s pure grace. And yet we are proud, self-centered, envious, and quarrelsome. Often we fight over God’s good gifts rather than expressing our gratitude in humility and sharing what we have been given with others.” 

There are some things we can do to develop an attitude of gratitude in our lives.  These steps, if embraced and practiced will move us in the direction of having a thankful heart:

1. Learn to celebrate life.  I can’t remember the year but I do remember the teams that were playing, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos.  It was the fourth quarter and things were not looking particularly good for the Chiefs.  This was during the John Elway quarterbacking era for the Broncos.  80,000 Chief fans probably were thinking, “I’m sitting here freezing, and Elway’s gonna do it to us again.  Somebody remind me again why I do this to myself.”   As time clicked down to the last seconds the Chief fans (that were left in the stadium) held their breath as their kicker booted the ball through the crossbars to win the game.  The place went crazy. People were high-fiving and hugging and kissing. Every single Chief’s fan was thankful they had come, in spite of the cold, in spite of Elway.

Here’s the point: everyday, find something, anything – no matter how trivial – that resembles a last-minute, game-winning kick – and celebrate it.

2. Count your blessings often.  Set aside some time every day, or at least one day a week to brainstorm a list of what you are thankful for.  Each time add to the previous list.  Reflect on this list regularly.

3. Just say it – “thanks.”  Say it for everything you can think of. The more you do it, the more you’ll develop an attitude of gratitude. Of course you want to thank God, but also thank the people who have made positive contributions in your life.  Tell them face to face; if this is not possible send them a note.  Too often we feel grateful to others for what they have done but never return to those people who have helped us to say thanks. 

There is a story in the Bible about ten men who had the disease of leprosy.  One day Jesus passed through the area where these men lived and they called out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  They were well aware of the reputation of this healing rabbi.  Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests, and as they were going, a wonderful thing happened. Their skin became clean and free from leprosy! We can just imagine the joy they felt. 

Nine of the men continued on to go see the priest, but one man turned back and came to Jesus. He was praising God with a loud voice, and he fell at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. 

Jesus asked the haunting question, “Where are other nine men?”  Ten were healed, but only one came back to say “Thank you.” The obvious question that fits right here is, “Which of the ten men are you more like, the nine ungrateful or the one who returned to say thanks.    

4. Start today! Don’t be guilty of reading this, giving it a nod of affirmation and then quickly getting busy with your life.  Take one of these steps today.  With that in mind let me thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

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A poverty-stricken woman was found on Christmas Day eating a dinner that consisted of a piece of bread and a small fish. A visiting friend was pitying her because of her poverty.  The old woman with face aglow, replied, “Poverty? Dear heart, don’t you see that the Lord has created the land and sea to feed me this blessed Christmas Day?” This woman owned the earth, though she ate only bread and herring for Christmas dinner.

So where does that type of gratitude come from? Like any other attitude this one comes from what’s on the inside of a person.  So, what is on the inside of a person who has an attitude of gratitude? What’s in the heart and mind of a person that keeps overflowing in “thank-you’s” to people and to God for the gift of life? I know there are more but let me suggest a few that I’ve observed.

#1 There is an understanding that the doorway to gratitude does not hang on the hinge of good circumstances.

People with this attitude believe that it’s possible to do exactly what the Bible says: Give thanks in all circumstances [good, bad or ugly], for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

They don’t believe the lie that life has to be on the upswing before they can be satisfied. Even in the middle of the most difficult situations they truly believe they can find something to rejoice over.

I have a friend on Facebook named Kebo.  I kind of hope he doesn’t read this blog because I didn’t get permission to use him as an illustration.  Kebo is one of the most upbeat people I’ve ever met.  You never see him writing things like, “Ugh, it’s Monday again.”  He never uses one of those frowny colon-slash-opening parentheses icons.

I really look forward to reading Kebo’s posts on Facebook because they are always uplifting.  I want to be like him when I grow up. He seems to live with the attitude that he has everything he needs to be joyful regardless of the circumstances.

 Do you believe that about your life? That you have everything you need – right now – to be joyful? That’s the key to an attitude of gratitude.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about a Pollyanna approach that says “well, let’s just close our eyes and pretend that everything is ok even when it’s not.” I’m talking about a realistic approach that freely admits that “the situation is not good right now, but I can find something to appreciate about it, and I choose to make that my focus.”  I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do but it is the healthiest way to live.

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