Friday, May 01, 2015

Release Your Resentments

Poet, Edwin Markham, had put aside a great sum of money for his retirement. When he went to the bank to withdraw from the account, however, he discovered that a “trusted friend” had plundered his nest egg, leaving him penniless.

Edwin now needed to write again in order to survive. He sat at his desk day after day but was unable to produce anything. He could think only of his loss. Bitterness and resentment were walls, shutting out his creativity. It was destroying his life.

One day, he began to doodle on the blank page before him. As usual, he could think of nothing to write. So, he drew circles on the paper.

Suddenly, as he gazed at the circles, he knew what he must do. Bowing his head in prayer, he poured out his resentment to God and asked for the strength to forgive.

Then he picked up his pen and began to write:
He drew a circle that shut me out,
Rebel, heretic, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win,
We drew a circle that took him in!

Has someone wronged you? Have you been hurt by a harsh word, a cruelty, a betrayal, or a snub? If so, you need to let go and forgive. Forgiveness really is a choice – and it’s for your own good.

“But she owes me an apology!” might say. It doesn’t matter. You must forgive anyway.

Forgiveness means adjusting our attitude. It is dealing with the bitterness so we can smile again. It is resolving the issues rather than allowing them to fester. You don’t need “permission” from the one who offended you to do that.

The Jewish philosopher, Hannah Arendt, remarked, “Forgiveness is the only power which can stop the stream of painful memories.”

The Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Can you honestly say these words? Are you able to release your resentment and forgive the one who hurt you?

Never is a human soul so strong as when it dares to forgive an injury.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

There's Sunshine in My Soul Today

The words of this old Gospel song came to my mind this morning.  I have not heard it since childhood:

There is sunshine in my soul today, more glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky, for Jesus is my light.

Oh, there's sunshine, blessed sunshine when the peaceful happy moments roll.
When Jesus shows his smiling face, there is sunshine in the soul.

There is music in my soul today, a carol to my King,
And Jesus listening can hear the songs I cannot sing.

There is springtime in my soul today, for when the Lord is near,
The dove of peace sings in my heart, the flow'rs of grace appear.

There is gladness in my soul today, and hope and praise and love,
For blessings which he gives me now, for joys "laid up" above.

Text: Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920
Music: John R. Sweney, 1837-1899

Friday, April 24, 2015

And What Kind of Church Shall We Be?

There are three generations in the church:
  •  the "traditional" generation,
  •  the the "emerging" generation,
  •  and the "bridging" generation.
 Each generation serves an important function.

 The traditional generation keeps us rooted in our rich heritage, reminding us of our larger, historic, faith community.

The emerging generation pushes us forward into the future, bringing cutting edge vision for tomorrow's effectiveness.

The bridging generation lives between both worlds, helping both the traditionalists and the emerging types to respect, value and understand each other.

The key to effective congregational change is in the hands of the bridging generation, but that's a difficult role to play.  As Rick Warren noted, "The problem with being a bridge is that you stepped on from both sides."

Without someone bridging the gap, however, a church will either stagnate and die of traditionalism, or, rejecting it's heritage, will wander from orthodoxy in blind arrogance and consumerism.

Yesterday's emerging generation became leaders, and are now today's traditional generation.  The traditions are different -- but the spirit is the same.  It takes humility, courage and patience for these leaders to release authority to the rising generation.

Congregations are most healthy when they are intergenerational -- based on mutual respect and honor.  This calls for patience and the hard work of understanding and forbearance.

Instead of battling over preferences, we must remember that our fight is not with each other.  We're on the same side in our struggle against evil.   Perhaps we should follow Dr. Earle Wilson's sage advice, "Build a bridge and get over it!"

Monday, April 20, 2015

Assume the Best

Have you noticed how humans tend to process difficult conversations and negative interactions, giving a play-by-play post-encounter analysis?

Occasionally we process it up. Most of the time, we process it down. 

We walk away and start stewing:
"What did she MEAN by that?"
"I wonder what he was thinking!"
"Did you notice his body language?"
"It's what she DIDN'T say that bothers me!"

Cooking conversations after the fact is like overcooked spaghetti -- a tangled gob of mush with a stench.

The problem with processing conversations downhill is our inclination to make false assumptions.  An incomplete perspective, fueled by emotion and imagination blows everything out of proportion like a reflections in the carnival funny mirror.

Here's a good rule of thumb: always assume the best.

Whenever we suspect and impute motives onto people, we end up going down a dark trail of negativity, breeding mistrust. Most of the time, we assume things are worse than they really are. We "fill in the blanks" with monsters of our own imaginings.

If you're going to read between the lines, how about doing this? Read good into it! Read the silent blessings! Assume the very best! Process it up!

If they meant you well, they will be encouraged.
If they meant you harm, they will be astounded.

Either way, you both win!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Grow For It

Personal growth is the secret to organizational growth. Self leadership is a valuable and necessary art. If you can't lead yourself, you won't be able to lead anybody else.

If you want things to improve in your business, your family, your church or community, the first thing to start improving is yourself!

How can we begin the personal growth journey?

1. Learn something every day. 
Every experience of life is a learning lab. How sad it is for people to have difficult experiences and fail to learn from them. You can learn from anybody and anything. Keep your thinking cap on at all times. Wisdom is the process of gleaning insight from our daily experiences.

2. Be a reader. 
Reading is one of the best methods I know for personal growth. If you want to deepen your understanding, read widely and deeply. Don't just read "fluff" - -but find books that challenge you to become a better person.

3. Share new insights with others. 
As you share what you've been learning, you grasp it better. The best way to learn something is to teach it.

4. Plan for personal growth. 
If you don't do it intentionally, it won't happen. List the improvements you want to make, the books you want to read, the experiences you want to have, and the people you want to meet. Start planning! What are the first steps to accomplish these wishes?

5. Rise above the crowd. 
If you commit yourself to personal growth, you will have to step out of the crowd. Most folks are content with going through the motions of life -- work, eat, watch t.v., and go to bed. You can't let yourself get sucked into that negative cycle. Others may not understand, but you can't let small people hold you back.

6. Surrender to self-discipline. 
Growth is never easy. As John Maxwell said, "You can tell you are on the path to success -- it's uphill all the way." If you wait until you feel like it, you will never start moving forward. The time is now -- whether you feel like it or not! You have to get up and get going to make a difference.

7. Keep the vision alive. 
Don't stop growing, regardless of how old you are or what you've accomplished. I once asked a famous author what books he's been reading. He replied, "I don't read books anymore -- I just write them!" He may be famous but the poor fellow is heading downhill fast. After a while, he won't have anything good to write. We're either growing or shriveling.   Coasting goes only one direction.

The architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, at age 83 was asked to select his greatest masterpiece. His reply, "My next one!" That's called keeping the vision alive!

George Fisher said, "I don't know if you will like this or not, but he who stops being better, stops being good."

Listening to Your Life

“You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you’ve never seen before. A pair of somebody’s old shoes can do it…. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.”  
-- Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove

Blessed this morning to ponder this beautiful consecration hymn by Isaac Watts, Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove: 

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning powers;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.

Look how we grovel here below,
Fond of these trifling toys;
Our souls can neither fly nor go
To reach eternal joys.

In vain we tune our formal songs,
In vain we strive to rise;
Hosannas languish on our tongues,
And our devotion dies.

Dear Lord! and shall we ever live
At this poor dying rate?
Our love so faint, so cold to Thee,
And Thine to us so great?

Come, Holy Spirit, heav’nly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning powers;
Come, shed abroad the Savior’s love
And that shall kindle ours.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Much Having Does a Person Need?

How much "having" does a person need?

“How much money would it take to make you happy?” someone asked business tycoon, John D. Rockefeller.  The business magnate replied, “Just a little bit more!”

But then, again. . . maybe not.

Contentment, after all, isn’t having what you want. It’s wanting what you have.

Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian author, told of Parkham, a poor peasant who dreamed of having a "break" in life. Much to his good fortune, he heard about a tremendous opportunity in a distant place. The government said that he could have all of the land he could encircle by foot in a day.  Excited about this wonderful possibility, Parkham sold all of his possessions and journeyed to the place where he could pursue his dream of becoming a landowner.

At the first crack of dawn, Parkham took off to claim his land! He ran at top speed all day long. Nothing was going to deter him! He wanted to cover as much territory as possible before the sun went down. Without stopping for food, water, or rest, he continued his relentless pace through the heat of the day.

Just as the sun began to set, Parkham completed the circle! He was the proud owner of a huge estate! His lifelong dream had been fulfilled. Oh, the sweetness of victory!

Then, the exhausted Parkham suddenly dropped dead. All he needed now was about six feet of earth.

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self?"