Friday, September 30, 2011

Fight or Flight

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 MSG)

My definition of the “fight or flight syndrome” is what a person's reaction is to stressful circumstances, even in the ordinary course of his life. A person can either face the stress and “fight” back, or retreat and take flight. Sometimes it is so easy to just walk away and avoid trials that cross our paths and/or conversations with people during an uncomfortable circumstance. Or what about approaching a brother in love and helping him to get right with God? Some people have the gift of confrontation, while others try to dodge it.

When it comes to confronting a person, my first response to anger, hurt feelings, or administering discipline is to use confrontation as my very last resort rather than as my first approach, even though  I know that by addressing big issues when they are still small, can greatly enhance a more positive influence, reaction, and result. There are many fears I have about confrontation such as; I may lose my temper, I may upset or make the other person angry, I am just being too sensitive, or what if they completely take it the wrong way and stop talking to me? But God’s desire is to make us mature and complete, and we’ll never know the extent of our character until we see how we react under pressure. As long as we maintain control of our emotions and try to be a peacemaker we are more likely to have a productive and loving conversation that will (hopefully!) produce a resolution.

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.” (Galatians 6:1 NLT)

We should approach each person and situation with the fruit of the spirit, with a patient and gentle manner willing to do whatever God is speaking in our hearts and directing us to do. The bible tells us that when we communicate to others it is important to value their viewpoints and ideas and listen before we make a reply.  How a person handles confrontation is critical to the outcome of the relationship. When I do have to confront a situation or individual I try to follow certain guidelines and steps listed below.

·         Plan how to approach the situation-pray for God’s wisdom and be prepared for what you are going to say before the confrontation takes place

·         Focus on the problem and the desired outcome-Vow to not back down on the limits you have set when meeting the person or situation face to face.

·         Be empathetic and know when to compromise-Do I care about the emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing of the one I feel led to confront?

·         Have confidence-Know what God has put on your heart, and with confidence follow through with what you believe is the right solution to the problem.

As Proverbs 15:31-32 teaches us, giving and receiving constructive criticism is a major development of our Christian development and maturity. It can refine our lives!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Open Door Policy

“An open door invites callers.”

I love an open door; it is always so inviting and feels like a welcome pathway into someone’s home and heart.  I am a pretty open door kind of person; I always try to leave my door open (although at times it turns into a revolving door!) because an open door can go a long way towards helping to maintain a positive, upbeat feeling throughout the day for not only those I spend time with at work, but also for my family and friends too. The lines of communication should be as open and as free-flowing as possible to cultivate a smooth work environment and a happy home. Isn’t it nice to have someone you trust completely with all your thoughts and feelings without being judged and/or criticized? There are times when it is a real challenge to walk through that door, but the rewards can be more valuable than you can imagine if you have the courage to open that door and step outside your comfort zone.

“I see what you’ve done. Now see what I’ve done. I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don’t have much strength, I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn’t deny me when times were rough.” (Revelation 3:8 MSG)

God has that same wonderful open door policy; it’s such a blessing to be able to talk to Him the same as if you were talking to your best friend! You should tell him your thoughts, desires, hurts, and problems, as well as giving him your thanks and praise. It comforts me to talk to God daily, in a normal everyday type of conversation. Even though I know He can read my mind and that he is constantly observing my inner most thoughts at all times, it’s important to talk to Him in order to constantly build and strengthen my relationship with him.  He knocks at the door of our heart because He wants us to share everything with Him us and have fellowship with us.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20 NIV)

Do you ever hear God knocking on your door? Do you open the door and invite Him in regardless of the situation? Our wonderful Father is so approachable! J He wants us to confide in Him and hear everything that is going on in our lives. We don’t have to worry what we are bringing to Him, we just need to trust Him because He is capable and His motives are pure and true; He always listens and will never deceive us.   We must always leave our doors open to Him, and enter through His open door whenever we just want some good fatherly conversation and/or direction in our lives.
"Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing, that we see too late the one that is open." Alexander Graham Bell

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Humble Strength

“Humility is nothing else but a true knowledge and awareness of oneself as one really is.” (Unknown)

It took some genuine acts of humility last week for her to set aside her pride and conform to the penalty and discipline that was forthcoming. Standing by her side with words of comfort and encouragement, I was absorbed in her ability to stand tall and face the consequences. It was a perfect lesson for me that our failures and mistakes are damaging enough on their own without compounding them by holding on to them in denial. It is hard to move forward past our own petty egos, but being humble means letting go of our own self-sufficiency and leaning on God’s sufficiency. I don’t remember where I read this; I copied it down for a daily humble reminder: “True humility is a recognition that I can't do it by myself. I need the grace of God and I need other Christians. The focus of true humility is God, not self. True humility has no hint of self-effort, but admits a total dependence on God. It is the one condition that God requires for grace to continue in our lives.”

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”  (Proverbs 11:2  ESV)
So often we feel scared, inadequate, or inferior and react with pride and self-importance, rather than obeying and submitting to God and trusting that He has a greater plan. That’s when someone enters our lives and bursts our balloon of self-importance and brings us back to reality! How do we react to these trials of anger and despair? Do we turn to God in faith and seek His help? Our pride can sometimes be a desperate and pathetic expression of inner weakness. But on the other hand, if we’re humble it is a sure sign of real, abiding strength and confidence.  I certainly have a tendency to yield to my own self-will instead of surrendering to God’s will. However, I’m really not in control as much as I’d like to think! I make plans, but it is God who controls the outcome. J When I release my pride and submit to humility I am moved to a place where I can truly live with meaning, purpose, integrity, and real joy!

 “Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Jesus showed us what true humility is. He was a humble and obedient man; a servant. While here on earth, He didn't just submit, He surrendered. He handed Himself over to others, He emptied Himself completely. If we want to express the kind of humility that pleases God, we must learn from Jesus and remember His example. Prayer: May our attitude be like the Lord Jesus Christ and may we follow His example of humility, as followers of Christ.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Free Us From Fear

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
It has been a week of fear and emotion; a week of hugs, prayers, tears, and comforting words. There was fear and pain in my co-worker’s eyes; fear of losing her job. There was fear in my friend’s eyes; fear of losing her boyfriend and being alone again. I heard fear and worry in my daughter’s voice when she discovered that her roommate was moving out at the end of the month.

“Fear loves a good stampede. Fear’s payday is blind panic, unfounded disquiet, and sleepless nights. Fear’s been making a good living lately.” (Max  Lucado)

Why do we give in to fear? We seem to all have worries on the job, in our relationships, and in our home. Deep down, all of us are either now, or have been, afraid.  Imagine never worrying about anything! What do we do with our fear? God wants us to give our burdens to Him, but too often we carry them ourselves even when we say that we are trusting in Him. But carrying our daily struggles by ourselves shows that we have not fully trusted God with our lives. I have often fallen into a trap of self-sufficiency when I worry or when I am anxious about something or someone. I get caught up into my own thoughts, and let anxiety wrap me up in myself.  When I am faithful and turn my worries into heartfelt prayer, I begin to experience peace knowing that God is truly in control, then I realize that I have just spent valuable time worrying and letting obstacles get in my way rather than letting God take charge!

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

We cannot allow fear to become our ruler. We are told to walk by faith, not by fear. We can’t submit to fear…but to the Lord. Today I cry out for my dear friends and family who are at this very moment struggling with their own individual fears. These fears are holding them back from having an open heart of faith and trust in God. I dedicate the following song to them by “Casting Crowns”…..

Lord I lift my friend to You.
I've done all that I know to do.
I lift my friend, to You.
Complicated circumstances
have clouded his view.
Lord I lift my friend up to You.

I fear that I won't have the words
that he needs to hear.
I pray for Your wisdom , oh God.
And a heart that's sincere.
And Lord I lift my friend up
to You.

Lord I lift my friend to You.
My best friend in the
world, I know he means much
more to You.
I want so much to help him, but
this is something he has to do.
Lord I lift my friend up to You.

There's a way that seems so right to him.
But You know where that leads.
He's becoming a puppet of the world.
Too blind to see the strings.
And Lord I lift my friend up to You.

Lord I lift my friend to You.
I've done all that I know to do.
I lift my friend, to You.