Living by a better script

Living by a better script

You’re a lousy father!

I wish I had married someone else.

You’re a worthless friend.

You are just an addict and will always be one.

Perhaps you have had these words or similar ones directed towards you.  Perhaps you have said them.   Words are powerful, aren’t they?  They have the power to build us up or tear us down.  James 3 speaks of the tongue as a small thing but one with great power, able to set an entire forest on fire with a spark.   I’m sure all of us could testify to this truth.  How many times have the sharp, hot words of another set us ablaze with anger, fear, shame, guilt or feelings of worthlessness?

There are times in my life where the words of others have more power over me than other times.  When I reflect back on those seasons – seasons where my world can be set on fire by the words of others – I recognize something that is true 100% of the time: I’ve taken my eyes and ears off of the One who speaks words of life 100% of the time.

I am listening to the wrong script.

The other day the Lord made this clear to me.  I had heard some words that were hurtful.   My response was to live into those words.  To accept them as true and be that person.  Have you ever done that?   Someone tells you that you are an inattentive father, for example, or that you are a lazy worker, or a boring wife, or a miserable friend, and you take that inside you and choose to live down to that script.

When that happens to me I usually retreat.  I will feel sorry for myself and shut myself off from others because I feel ashamed of what others think of me.  Maybe you do the same. Maybe you lash out in anger or get defensive.  Maybe you say to yourself something like, “Fine! You think I’m a terrible wife?!  I’ll show you how terrible I can be!”

Well the other day I was having a moment where I was closing myself off and wanting to hide because of the words of another.  It’s then that I heard the Lord say to me,

Son, why are you so willing to live into the ideas that others have of you rather than Mine? Why do their words about you matter to you more than My words?

As is often the case when the Spirit speaks to me I didn’t have a good answer.   It was true.  I was living by the wrong script.

I’m learning that when someone’s words cut me down I have a choice in that moment.  I can choose to live into their assessment of me or God’s.  I can choose to live down to their low expectations of me or I can live into Christ who lives through me.

I’m also learning that as Christ lives through me, my words to others ought to be words that build up and encourage rather than tear down and belittle.   God’s words to others are not only those written on the page, but can sometimes be those words we who are His ambassadors speak.   So speak life, not death.

Which script do you live by most of the time?  If you are not in God’s word daily you will not know the truth about you, nor be able to resist the temptation to live down to the words of others.  If you are a slave to shame and self-pity, to living into the self-fulfilling prophecies of others who don’t know any better, then maybe it’s time to feast on God’s words to you.  His words are pure and true, and will lead you to life, not death.

Here are just a few of the things God thinks about you. The next time someone’s words threaten to spark a fire in you, allow these words to speak louder.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. (Psalm 139:17-18)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he browses among the lilies. (Song of Solomon 6:3).

Sweet Jesus, give me the will to live into Your thoughts and words about me rather than those of this world.  Enable me by your grace to live deeply into the script You are writing for my life.  Amen.

Unmet Expectations: How to thrive instead of dive

Unmet Expectations:  How to thrive instead of dive

I JUST WANT YOU TO DO WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO!!!

Ever find yourself saying, or thinking that?  I have.   It happens when my expectations of others aren’t being met.  It happens when people forget that this is my world and they are just living in it.

The other night it happened.   With my four year old daughter.  She disobeyed and her punishment was to sit in time out and keep quiet.  This was going to work out well for me because I was trying to read a new book.  Quiet, even for a short spell, is a premium in my house.

But my daughter wasn’t on board with my world.  She got it in her head that it’s impossible for her to remain quiet and she wanted everyone to know.  Endless chants of, “But I don’t know how to be quiet!” over and over and over again took me over the edge.  For nearly two hours me and my four year old daughter battled it out.  No one was being quiet.  I eventually went to my room, shut the door and crashed on the bed.  I was upset, frustrated, angry.  The book I was wanting to read was not going to get touched that night.   Ironically, and this is no joke, this is the book:

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Has this ever happened to you?  I’m sure it has.  It happens to all of us.  People and events will never live up to our expectations all of the time.  And when they don’t, when someone or something doesn’t live up to our expectations, we are presented with a golden opportunity.  

It is here, in this moment of unmet expectations, that we will either dive or thrive.  Think about it. Think about the times you most often act out in your compulsion of choice – sex, drugs, drink, food, porn, gossip, or any number of other things.  Is it not because someone or something did not live up to our expectations?  Is it not because someone or something has hurt our feelings and we now feel compelled to medicate the fact that the world is not revolving around us?

It happens all the time.  You spend all day planning and preparing dinner and your husband or kids don’t like it, or don’t say thank you.  You work hard on a presentation and nobody or not enough people tell you it was awesome.   You wake up in the morning and have a flat tire.  Your friends don’t invite you to a party.  Your boss looks you over for a promotion you thought you deserved.  Your kid won’t be quiet when you want to read.  And the list goes on…

Each of these can either shipwreck us or increase the strength of our sails.  When people or events do not live up to our expectations we can either turn to our compulsion of choice and therefore continue participating in our own death, or we can turn our attention to Someone else and participate in our own rescue.  It all depends on how we respond.  Consider these three responses by Jesus:

At the end of John’s gospel there is a fascinating exchange between Jesus and Peter.  Peter wants to know what will become of John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples.  Peter has some expectations about what should happen to himself and how that compares with the others.  “What about him?” Peter asks Jesus.   Jesus rebukes him on the spot and tells Peter not to concern himself with what others do or don’t do.   Jesus tells Peter to take his eyes off of others and follow him.  Fix your eyes on Jesus.

In Matthew 18 an argument breaks out over who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Everyone has high expectations.  Everyone wants to be noticed.  Jesus cuts through it all by bringing  a child forward and teaching us that unless we humble ourselves we are nothing in the kingdom. 

In John 13, Jesus, who has high expectations of us all (be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect), showed the ultimate act of service by washing his disciples’ feet.  He did this even as he knew that one of them would betray him and one of them would deny him and all of them would abandon him.   Not one would live up to his expectations and yet he served them.  How?  Because he “knew that the Father had given him all things and that he had come from God and was going back to God” (John 13:3).

Jesus knew who he was following.  Not the crowd or his feelings about how they treated him.  Jesus had his eyes on his Father and the promise that was his if he remained faithful, he humbled himself and he served others, even those who failed him.

What if everyone’s  and everything’s failures to live up to our expectations were seen as opportunities to strengthen our faith and deepen the roots of our recovery?

I’m always amazed when I do as Jesus says and discover the grace and the peace that comes through obedience.  As I laid in my bed that night after the battle of expectations with my daughter I heard the Holy Spirit say to me that the times I am most frustrated with my children or with others are the times I am being the most selfish.  As I absorbed this truth I repented of my selfishness and how I had gotten my eyes off of Jesus and placed them on my expectations.  Suddenly peace invaded my entire being. It was the most natural thing in the world to then go and hold my daughter and apologize to her and tell her how much Daddy loves her and how sorry I am for being selfish.   In that moment she learned so much more about God and about living life than she would have ever learned in time out for one minute of silence.   And God’s word proved true, that if we would repent and turn again to Jesus, our sins will be blotted out and times of refreshing will come upon us from the Lord (Acts 3:19-20).

So the next time your expectations are not met be aware of the great opportunity before you.  The answer is not to cease having expectations, nor is it to necessarily lower our expectations of others (although that may be a healthy, and welcomed, thing for you to do).   The answer is to start living up to God’s expectations.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, humble yourself, and serve. 

What Vampires teach me about my recovery…

What Vampires teach me about my recovery…

I finally watched the Twilight series.  My wife had watched it through three or four times and I figured I might as well find out who this Edward guy is she keeps talking about.   For those of you who are late to the vampire party, like myself, I promise I won’t spoil anything important if you continue reading.   I didn’t fall in love with anyone in this series but I did learn a few things about recovery.   So my apologies in advance if you are looking for something fawning over Edward or Jacob, but I trust you’ll find some helpful recovery information that has nothing to do with Jacob’s inability to keep a shirt on.

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What I found fascinating about this series was how much it described the struggle between our new life in Christ and our old life in the flesh.   The main family, or coven, in the films is the Collins family.  They are radically different from other vampires in that they have determined they would not feed on human blood but only animals.

This is not easy for them.  Their nature as vampires longs for human blood.  It’s an intoxicating desire.  Even the scent of a human will “trigger” them and make them yearn for what their bodies naturally crave.

And yet they resist.  They restrain themselves.   As the movies progress, we learn that this restraint gets easier with time.  Initially, when someone first becomes a vampire, the desire is the strongest.   The desire to feed on human blood is overwhelming and it requires the other family members to intervene and protect both the hunted and the hunter.

What does all this have to do with recovery?  A few things seem obvious to me…

  • The desire is real.   Our flesh wants what it wants, and it’s rarely if ever good for us.  Paul writes in Romans, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom. 7:18).   A vampire, by nature, wants human blood.   How would any of them ever know that this desire was misdirected, or, to say it another way, sinful?   They wouldn’t know it without revelation (someone pointing this out to them) and they wouldn’t be able to beat it without submission to that revelation.   The same is true in our recovery.    We believe that God has revealed truth to us, leading us away from misdirected desires and sinful, broken patterns of life and towards something whole and right and pleasing before God.   Admitting that we have this desire in us, that it is not right, and that we are powerless against it on our own is the first step to being free.
  • The first few months are a killer.   For a new vampire the first few months the desire is the strongest.   It requires extra vigilance to get through this period without taking human life.   In our recovery, those first 90 days are brutal.  You need to recognize that you are in a war and it’s going to be difficult.   But not impossible.  So how do you get through it?
  • Get help.  You can’t do it alone and you need the support of others traveling the same direction as you.  In the Collins Coven, they looked out for each other.  Those who were further along in their “recovery” from desiring human blood were able to help the newbies understand their strong urges and give them tools to help them through their trigger points.   These first 90 days you should be in a meeting every day whether that be in person, on the phone, online or something.   Get around others who are pursuing wholeness and freedom.
  • It gets easier….but never drop your guard.   The more mature vampires were not totally immune to the scent or the desire, but over time it was easier to resist.  If you are early in your recovery you no doubt feel like your skin is crawling and everything within you must have your drug of choice.  Please know that if you feed that urge, it only extends the amount of time that the desire stays so strong.  As you starve it, you will find over time it gets easier.  A day will come when you will wake up and realize many weeks or months have gone by and you haven’t even had the urge.   You’ll know you are free!   But be wise.  Remember that the enemy is always lurking, looking for those of us with years of recovery who might let our guard down (1 Cor. 10:12)

These are just some of the recovery themes I found in the Twilight saga.    I’m sure there are more.  If you seen the movies, what would you add?

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16)