Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Principle of Yesterday

What happens today is the result of my actions yesterday. I am trying to drill that principle into my head. As simple as that principle sounds, I forget it. I especially forget it when I have a bad day of writing. I will stare at the screen and struggle to put thoughts together. I feel like I am wasting time. When I come home from work and my wife Mia asks how my day was, “I say frustrating. Or OK.” Then nine times out of ten when I go back the next day to write, things click. Suddenly, I have something to say. A good day of writing usually follows a bad day of writing or a day of struggle. If something comes easily to me, it is usually because an idea has been marinating in my mind for a while. The struggle of yesterday or past thought and reflection has become fruitful today.

The same thing happens in my spiritual life. I will pray today for something and expect God to act. Recently, I fasted for something and expected to see results from God that same day. What was I thinking? That is not how God works. We offer to him and then it usually God responds in his time, not ours, but it is rarely instant. This is why Scripture tells us over and over again to wait upon the Lord.

In an age of instant gratification and communication, we find it very difficult to remember that today was shaped yesterday. You reap what you sow. Whatever you have today is the result of yesterday’s actions. Yesterday may mean literally yesterday or a week ago or a month ago or a year ago.

Knowing that today is formed by yesterday, I offer two practical piece of advice.
One, don’t allow the feelings of struggle to defeat you. Struggle today often brings fruit tomorrow. The next time I struggle writing, I am going to remind myself that it is part of the process and that most likely my next attempt will bear fruit.

Second, develop the practice of reviewing the past day, past week, past month or past quarter. About 4 to 5 times a week as part of my prayer time, I go through the past day and go through my activities and thoughts. I ask God to help me see them in his light. Then I am aware how the events of yesterday may impact my day. I am also trying to get away four times a year to look back on my journal, so I can review what has happened and recalibrate my life.

What did you do yesterday that you are feeling the impact today?

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Delights God

Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches, but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight." - Jeremiah 9:23-24

We need God. As creatures we need our Creator. We need intimacy with God otherwise our souls will shrivel. To have intimacy with God requires we know his heart. In Jeremiah, God reveals his heart. He tells us the things that bring him delight. Whatever delights us says so much about us.

God tells us we don’t need first of all money or power or great wisdom, we need to know his heart and what delights him. So to understand the heart of God and have intimacy with him we learn that is a God of steadfast love.

We learn that he is a God of steadfast love. His love for us cannot be shaken or moved. He accepts us even when we fail. He sees us warts and all and loves us anyway. Some one once said grace is the reality that we are all bastards but God loves us anyway. We need to know God accepts us and will remain steadfast in his love, otherwise we will begin to look for approval in unhealthy ways.
God is a God who practices justice. God is practicing putting the world in right order. God delights in wrongs being righted. He delights when the poor and the disadvantaged are cared for.

God is a God of righteousness. God delights in putting us back in right relationship with him. He delights in changing and transforming us into a person that can stand before him and be reconciled to him.

We need to know these aspects of God’s heart because otherwise we will go completely off track. If we fail to know God is a God of steadfast love, we run from him when we make mistakes. If we fail to know God is a God of justice, we fail to know him through the poor. If we fail to see God as a God who practices righteous then we tend to try and change ourselves instead of relying in his power.

Monday, March 19, 2012

We Need God

I started a blog series last week called “Needy.” Human beings are creatures and as created beings we have needs. Our lives are greatly affected by how we choose to meet our most basic needs. We can go wrong in meeting our need by denying our needs and thus starving ourselves, confusing wants for needs or by meeting our needs in ways that never really satisfy us.

Our most basic need is for God. By need God, I don't mean just for him to provide for us but for relationship with him. We need to be present with him and simply allow him to speak to our hearts. CS Lewis writes that our souls have been made to run on God the way cars run on gasoline. Augustine said, “Our souls are restless until they rest in you.”

As I write that, it seems like a very Christian thing to say and yet we don’t always live our lives with an awareness of our need for God. God is so humble that he sustains us even when we live ignorant of him. Even though “in him we live and move and have our being” he will allow us to live in ignorance that he is sustaining us.

We deny and forget our need for God and wind up starving our souls. And so we turn to counterfeit gods and turn to idols when our souls desperately desire to connect with the true and living God. We turn to money or sex or pleasure or sports for what God alone can give. We try and fill our God shaped hole with anything and everything other than God. And in doing so we only find ourselves hungrier in our souls.

Personally, when I am praying and talking to God on a regular basis, I become more and more aware of my desperate need for God. Actually it is when I am praying regularly and then miss a day of prayer that my soul begins to say with David, “As a deer long for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” – (Psalm 42:1-2a)

When are you aware of your need for God? Why do we forget this basic need?

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I am starting a new topic today, which you can tell from the subject is called “Needy.” This is a concept that has been coming back to me from time to time and now is the time to write about it. Humans are creatures. We have been created and all created things have needs. We have needs if we are to simply survive and we have needs if we are to thrive.

Our needs can be used for good or for bad. We have a need for food and sustenance. That need will either drive us to eat healthy food or to fill our stomachs with junk food that may satisfy our hunger pangs but not really meet our basic need. We have a need for intimacy. Either that need can drive us to healthy relationships or to unhealthy habits or to use manipulation. Using our needs against us is one of the basic tools of the devil to tempt us towards evil. The first temptation Jesus faced was to turn stones into bread. He was tempted to meet a real need in an immoral way. On the other hand, God in story after story and teaching after teaching tries to pound it into our thick skulls that if we place our trust in him, then he will meet our needs.

As tough as many people want to sound, I so often hear neediness as an excuse to do what is wrong. People will lie, cheat, steal or justify some action of that kind because they need to make a buck and they have no other choice and they are just living in reality. In order to live a Christ centered life and as true disciples, we have to come face to face with our needs. We have to acknowledge our real needs. We humbly have to acknowledge our needs and then trust in our heavenly Father to meet them. It is that simple and that difficult.

Often what happens is we either deny our needs or we try to satisfy our needs with something that really doesn’t fit. The image that comes to my mind is when a little kid tries to put a square block in a star shaped whole.

Another problem is that we fail to grasp our hierarchy of needs and make lesser needs the most important. Our most important need is really for God, but we will put other things ahead of him. We also misunderstand desires for need. Many things we think we need are really just desires or appetites we must learn to discipline.

Our neediness will either work for us or against us. God intends that our neediness drive us to him and to a greater trusting relationship with him. The devil tries to leverage our neediness away from God. So much of success in our spiritual life comes from understanding this battle going on.

What would you characterize as our most important needs?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eisenhower vs. Rommel II

In my post, last week I mentioned I was reading Stephen Ambrose’s D Day. Ambrose took a chapter to compare and contrast Dwight Eisenhower and Erwin Rommel. Although Rommel was a genius of great resolve, Eisenhower proved superior because of two skills. The first skill was his ability to lead himself and therefore lead his men emotionally. He remained positive in front of his men. His positive nature flowed down to his men. To read more about Eisenhower’s optimism read my blog from March 6.

Eisenhower was also superior to Rommel because he understood the value of delegation and team work. He pulled together the British and American forces. He was excellent at delegating and managing large egos like Patton and Montgomery. Rommel was more of a “genius with a thousand helpers” while Eisenhower knew how to bring smart and capable people around him. It was his ability to build a team that won him the position to be the supreme commander of the Allied Forces. Stephen Ambrose writes, “his never flagging instance on working together was the single most important reason for his selection.”

In looking at these two characteristics of Eisenhower, they seem very compatible. Leaders who value team and the people around them are going to pay attention to how their mood is affecting the morale of the people around them. Both of Eisenhower’s strengths show that to become a better leader, we must forget about ourselves and humbly put others first.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Eisenhower vs. Rommel

I have been working my way through D-Day by Stephen Ambrose. One of the chapters compares and contrasts Dwight Eisenhower and Erwin Rommel. Eisenhower and Rommel both shared some similar traits. Both liked dogs. Both chose very simple places for their headquarters. Each one would rather have built something rather than destroy in war. However, when it came to their approach to leadership they differed a bit. Rommel was a great genius, but Eisenhower was a superior leader for two major reasons. I’ll share the first one in this post and the second in a later post.

While Rommel was very pessimistic, Eisenhower had an incredible optimism. After a defeat in Fall of 1942, Rommel said to one of his young commanders, “That’s the end.” Eisenhower on the other hand said, “optimism and pessimism are infectious and they spread more rapidly from the head downward than in any direction.” Realizing how great his mood affected his men, he said, “With this clear realization, I firmly determined that my mannerisms and speech in public would always reflect the cheerful certainty of victory – that any pessimism and discouragement I might ever feel would be resolved for my pillow.” Eisenhower could confront the brutal facts with unwavering optimism that he would succeed.
To lead others well, we must learn how to lead our own emotions. It also requires humility to put others welfare ahead of our own need to express our emotion. I must admit I struggle to live this out. I left a meeting a few weeks ago after receiving some brutal facts and made some comments that revealed some of my frustration about those facts. As a parent, I often lose my temper with my kids when they don’t listen to me. Or I come home from a bad day at work and allow my mood to affect my home life.

So as a fellow struggler, I am learning two lessons when it comes to being a good emotional leader. First, apologize when I blow it. When my mood negatively affects my kids or volunteers, I have gone back and apologized for it. As I apologize, I am admitting my mood affects them and it reminds me that is not the person I want to be.

Second, I am learning to battle out the negativity on my knees and give it to God. Eisenhower brought his pessimism and discouragement to the pillow, David would yell at God in the Psalms. With all due respect to Eisenhower, I think David’s approach is better. I’m not as good as Eisenhower. Vent your frustrations and pessimism to God. He can handle it and somehow it seems to just make things better.

How do you handle pessimism and disappointment?