Tag Archives: Response

When Life Throws a Wicked Curve

As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.
Daniel 2:30 (NIV)

One can’t control some circumstances. Life sometimes throws you a curve, and you stand there in the batter’s box with only a proverbial moment to decide what you’re going to do with it.

The latest curveball in our journey happened on Friday when my dad suffered a (thankfully small) stroke. In the course of a few hours, our weekend plans were scuttled and our plans for a week at the lake were placed on hold. I quickly found myself spending my nights caring for my mother who is living in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and spending my days with her and my dad at the hospital entertaining a small army of doctors who are trying make sense of my father’s puzzling mixture of medical issues. I’m glad to report that everyone is well, and it could have been much, much worse.

As doctor after doctor has come in to discuss the various tests that have been continually run over the weekend, my dad has been intent on asking them exactly when his stroke occurred. He’d had symptoms starting on Tuesday of last week and went to the hospital on Friday. I’ve watched as every doctor he asks will look at him quizzically and laugh at the question. Strokes apparently don’t leave a time and date stamp on the brain. Undaunted by this, he continues to ask.

His doctors should be happy they aren’t serving King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. In today’s chapter, King Neb asks a similar unknowable question to all of the prophets, magicians, and enchanters on his royal payroll. The mad king had a puzzling dream, and he wanted the interpretation, but he wanted to make sure the interpretation could be trusted. So, he asked them to first tell him what the dream was, and then tell him the interpretation. If no one could do it, then they’d all be killed and their homes destroyed. Talk about a major league curveball.

Daniel and his friends were, at this point, minor minions at the bottom of the King’s org chart of advisors. Nonetheless, the decree of death applied to them, as well, when Neb decided that he was cleaning house in the Advisory Department.

I find Daniel’s response fascinating. He doesn’t seem to panic. Having not been aware of any of the circumstances leading to the fateful knock on his door, he makes a bold move. He asks for an audience with King Neb. It’s possible that Daniel had not even been in the King’s presence since he and his friends were tested and made the cut to be on the King’s advisory staff. Daniel requests a night to see if he could do the impossible. Then he and his friends pray. That night, Daniel receives a vision explaining both the dream and interpretation.

When Daniel approaches the King with the answer, he is quick to let the King know that there was no magic involved and Daniel did not have some kind of ESP. He simply says that God had a message for the King and Daniel was the messenger. In the entire affair, Daniel’s thoughts, words, and actions appear humble, measured, and focused on seeking God’s purpose in the midst of it all. He stands in, keeps his eye on the ball, and knocks the curveball out of the park.

This morning as I write from my folk’s apartment and help get my mom going so we can head back to the hospital, I’m finding inspiration in Daniel’s attitude. As I wrote in my previous post, Daniel had already faced several wicked knuckleballs and curveballs in life. Perhaps he had learned from those experiences. Nonetheless, he provides a good example.

Don’t panic. Take some time. Seek God’s purpose. Be humble. Flow.

My dad was supposed to be discharged from the hospital today. He called last night to report that the doctors have found another complication. Another procedure today, and I have no idea what it will reveal or whether we’ll bring him home today or not.

Here we flow.

 

An “Eternal Question”

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

I call them the eternal questions. This is not because the questions have no answers, but rather because no matter how many times you answer them they must be answered again. Perhaps they should be called the “perpetual” questions, but the phrase “eternal questions” has a certain ring to it. The eternal questions are the boulder of Sisyphus, the mythic schlep who perpetually rolled the boulder up the hill only to have it roll back down again. In our home, the most common eternal questions are:

  • “What are we having for supper?”
  • “So, what’s the plan today?”
  • “What am I going to wear?”

I’ve learned along my life journey not to fight the eternal questions. It’s futile. It’s best to make your peace with them. For me, a step in the process of making peace was the understanding that the eternal questions come from an abundance of blessing. We are blessed to have choices. Indeed, we are blessed to have so many choices available to us from which the eternal questions spring.

In today’s chapter, I found myself intrigued by Paul’s encouragement to “clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” We don’t often think of kindness as a garment. I don’t think of myself slipping into gentleness and patience like a pair of yoga pants.

Nevertheless, as I meditated on the word picture Paul gave, it struck me that when it comes to my attitude and responses towards both circumstances and people, I have an entire wardrobe available to me. I can choose that bright rage coat, or I can choose the suede jacket lined with gentleness. I have an entire wardrobe of choices available to me. Welcome to the walk-in closet of free will.

“What should I wear today?”

Of course, if you’re anything like me there are those “go to” choices that don’t seem like a choice at all because they’re easy and require no thought. No effort needed, and the choice is oh so comfy. Passivity slips on me like a familiar old sweatshirt. I’ve worn prejudice so long I’ve worn holes in it like my ancient pair of 501 blues. And then there are those well-worn flip-flops of pessimism I can just slip into as I head out on my daily trek.

I once had a prophet who was given a word picture for me. It was the image of Father God handing me a shirt to put on. It was a shirt I would have never picked for myself, but once I slipped it on and looked in the mirror I realized it looked so good on me.

That came to mind as I meditated on the notion of choosing what I’m going to clothe myself with today. My spiritual closet is stocked with love, kindness, patience, joy, peace, gentleness, and self-control. How often do I reach down to the dirty clothes scattered on the floor of my closet and slip into my old stand-bys of resentment, apathy, impatience, complaint, discontent, bitterness, and indulgence?

This morning I’m once again asking myself the eternal question “What am I going to wear?” This morning, however, it’s not about the clothes I put on my body. I’m on a business trip and there’s only one outfit in the suitcase for today. Today, the eternal question is about how I’m going to clothe my spirit, temperament, and attitude as I work with colleagues and clients. Father God has an outfit picked out that I might not normally choose for myself. Maybe I should try it on. I bet it’ll look fabulous.

Dress well, my friend.

Bildad’s Blunder

bildad“How long will you say such things?
Your words are a blustering wind.
Does God pervert justice?
Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
When your children sinned against him,
he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.”
Job 8:2-4 (NIV)

Bildad is the second of Job’s friends to speak, and Bildad doesn’t mince words. In fact, Bildad has all the tact of an atomic bomb. He opens his argument with an insult (“Job, you’re a blowhard”), and quickly follows with a sharp accusation of Job’s children (“They had it coming”). By the time Bildad got to all of his talk about hope and restoration I’m afraid he’d already alienated his audience.

Wise King Solomon observed that a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. I’m afraid Bildad’s harsh opening only assured an angry response from Job.

Today I’m thinking about a handful of recent situations in which harsh words were spoken. I cannot control what others say or think, but I can certainly control my reaction and response. Along the journey I’ve come to realize that conflict is like a math equation: Two negatives result in a negative. I’m not always the best at responding appropriately, but disciplining myself to keep anger in check and respond in a gentle, controlled manner leaves the door open for meaningful dialogue and hopefully, a positive resolution will eventually follow.

Rain or Shine, It’s How We Respond

English: Rainbow near Hay Head Wood Nature Res...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Psalm 126:5 (NIV)

I am reminded this morning that Jesus said the sun shines on both the good and evil, and that rain falls on both the righteous and unrighteous. No matter what path we take or where we find ourselves in our life journey upon this earth, there will be good times and there will be bad times for every one of us. I have learned along the way that the real question is not what happens to us, for we all will have our personal share of both pleasures and pain. The real question is how we respond and what we choose to do with both our blessings and our tragedies.

I want the innumerable blessings that shine on my life to create in me a trinity of tangible responses:

  • Gratitude: I wasn’t entitled to the blessing, I need to be thankful.
  • Grace: I have been shown favor I don’t deserve, I need to show favor to others.
  • Generosity: I have been given much, I need to give much away.

I want the tragedies that I experience, both great and small, to cause me to respond with:

  • Patience: Even Noah discovered that rain eventually gives way to sunshine, but I need to let patience grow in me during rainy days.
  • Perseverance: When I doggedly press on through the storm, I find maturity, wisdom, and character developing in me.
  • Purpose: It may be cliché, but dark clouds do have silver linings. I need to seek God’s purpose for me in the pain.

I have observed along the journey that when I respond appropriately to the circumstances I find myself in, laughter gives way to deeper understanding, and tears give way to joy.

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Responding to Speculation and False Accusations

Tabloids a Twitter
Tabloids a Twitter (Photo credit: noodlepie)

Let them know that it is your hand,
    that you, Lord, have done it.
While they curse, may you bless;
    may those who attack me be put to shame,
    but may your servant rejoice.
Psalm 109:27-28 (NIV)

Those who live life as public figures or in the spotlight of leadership are likely to find ourselves in the midst of a whirlwind of speculation and suspicion at some point in our lives. People are people, and whether you lived some 30 centuries ago in Jerusalem or live in rural Iowa today you will find that some experiences are common to humanity. There is a particular kind of insanity producing frustration that comes with finding yourself at the center of others’ misguided gossip and false accusations.

King David, who penned the lyrics of today’s psalm, was no stranger to the spotlight of popularity and leadership, nor was he a stranger to scandal and public ridicule. For certain, some of the public ridicule David brought on himself. Like all of us, David made his share of boneheaded mistakes. Yet, even in the tornado of gossip the truth often becomes distorted and inflated into crazy tabloid speculation.

In my experience, there are only a few things you can do when you find yourself the subject of local gossip and speculation:

  1. Plead your case in the right place. Vent your frustration to God. That’s what today’s psalm was all about for David. Psalm 109 is an ancient example of a screaming, venting, thrashing Metalcore anthem. Get it out. Express your feelings. Tell God what you’d really like to see happen to those lying gossips talking about you behind your back. It’s okay. God understands your emotion and isn’t surprised by your feelings of vengeance. It’ll be good for you.
  2. Let it go. Once you’ve vented your anger and frustration, take a deep breath and then let it go. Believe me, there is nothing you can do to chase down and confront every source of gossip and every false accusation that you hear on the streets and behind your back. You’ll ultimately fail, drive yourself crazy in the process, and your efforts will only fan the flames of speculation. Like David, don’t just plead your case to God but also relinquish your desire for justice to the only True Judge.
  3. Stay the course. When Wendy and I were married (Eight years ago this New Year’s Eve!), it created a fair amount of talk in our neck of the woods. I was recently divorced at the time and I admit that the timing of our quick courtship did not do anything to quell the rumors and idle gossip. We heard the whispers and felt the self-righteous judgment and disapproval of others. At that point in time, Wendy’s mom gave us a sage piece of advice: Make like a turtle. Toughen up the shell, let it bounce off, and keep plodding towards what you know is right. Slow and steady wins the race.
  4. Give it time. Just this past week I was told that a young adult, who has watched Wendy’s and my marriage for the past eight years, commented that they see our relationship as an example of the kind of marriage they want for themselves. Wendy and I talked about that last night and marveled at how far we’ve come from those days when it was whispered that ours was a flash-in-the-pan rebound relationship doomed to failure. If you find yourself falsely accused, remember that what is true about you will be revealed in the test of time as others observe your faith, love, life, actions, words, and relationships.

Hot Spots

Abram Journeying into the Land of Canaan (engr...
Abram Journeying into the Land of Canaan (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 13

But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds living so close together. So disputes broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. (At that time Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land.) Genesis 13:6-7 (NLT)

“Hot spot” is the term used to describe an area of international conflict. Those whose business it is to monitor and handle such crises are constantly aware of what is happening in the various hot spots around the globe. Some hot spots rise and fade with changing political, financial or environmental climate, but others are always places of heated conflict.

As I read of the conflict that arose between Abram and Lot in the land of Canaan I was amazed to think that the land over which they fought seems always to have been a hot spot. It is still a hot spot today. One wonders after many millenia of conflict whether it will ever change.

Today I’m thinking about hot spots in our own lives. Conflict in families, between spouses, or neighbors that seem to perpetuate over time. Layer after layer of conflict is laid between two parties until it is virtually impossible to disentangle the layers and find common ground on which to arrive at peaceful resolution. What a reminder of the fallen world in which we live and breath and share our journey. While the hot spots of the international variety are beyond my reach, God’s Message does tell me: Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. I can do that. I can determine how I will handle and respond to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, clients, and strangers I encounter along the way. I can choose my words and determine my attitude and actions so as to diminish and avoid relational hot spots in my own life.

On Leading and Leading Well

In questi occhi potrei perdermi / I could lose...
(Photo credit: cigno5!)

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 62

So many enemies against one man—
    all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
    or a tottering fence.
They plan to topple me from my high position.
    They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
    but curse me in their hearts.
Psalm 62:3-4 (NLT)

Since being elected captain of the Woodlawn Elementary School Safety Patrol in 6th grade, I’ve spent most of my life journey in one form of leadership or another. Student Councils, Chaplain, Youth Pastor, Pastor, Elder, Committee Chairman, Director, Producer, Board of Directors, Employer, etc., and etc.  Over the past few years I’ve been investing a good bit of soul searching, reading, quiet time and mental effort ruminating on my leadership.

The truth is, I feel less comfortable as a leader today than I ever have in my entire life. Perhaps it’s the old saying “the more you know the more you realize you don’t know.” I know I can do the job, but the further I get down life’s road the more I want to do the job well and it’s the doing it well part which I find myself pondering incessantly. My personal assessment shows more room for improvement than I care to admit.

As I read King David’s lyrics today, I instantly identified the groans and frustrations of a man who has experienced the burden of leadership in ways I never will. Still, I feel an odd sense of familiarity with the emotions he expresses in his song. Leadership at all levels can leave you feeling alone at the top with a target on your back. You see smiles and hear one thing said to your face while hearing nasty things whispered behind your back.

I appreciate David’s response. It is easy to react to criticism, negativity, and open hostility with anger, vengeance, and aggression either passive or active. I’ve learned, however, that our natural reactions tend to weaken a leader’s position. Leadership requires thoughtful response. When David chooses to respond to his critics and enemies by waiting quietly for God,  he is making the choice of a wise leader. He is avoiding the trap of emotional reaction, he is making space for his own thoughts and meditations on the situation, and as a leader he is recognizing an even higher authority to whom he is accountable.

Anyone can be elected or appointed to a position of leadership. Sometimes we just find ourselves in the position and wonder how we got there. I believe every parent knows this feeling. One minute you’re having fun in bed and the next thing you know you have these big, innocent eyes looking to you for provision, protection, and all of life’s answers. Welcome to leadership. Yet, for the sake of our children, our neighbors, our communities, our businesses, our nation and our world we need leaders who do their jobs well.