What Did You Expect When You Became a Part of a Church?

expectationsWhat did you expect when you became a part of a church?

Some believe that Christian people really have their lives together.  Some Facebook posts seem to almost suggest that marriage, family, and life in general are always wonderful.  The husband/wife is always thoughtful, amazing, awesome, etc.  The kids are always cute, adorable, angelic, etc.  Some even suggest that if one has really turned his/her life over to the Lord, everything in life will basically be smooth.

The truth is that sometimes life is very hard.  

Marriage to the best person in the world can still be difficult.  Parenting children (yes, I know you adore them) can still be very hard.

Even committed followers of Jesus still deal with temptation.  I was once in a conversation with a person who was telling me about a temptation she was facing.  In the course of the conversation she said, “I hope you don’t think I’m a bad person because I’m tempted by these things.”

Bad person?  Hardly!

She was a normal person.  Human beings – all of us – are going to be tempted by something.  It is not a sin to be tempted.  Sin occurs when we move from temptation into another realm.

There are often two negative consequences when churches believe that Christians have their lives together:

1.  Some Christians believe that they really don’t have a sin struggle anymore and consequently look down on anyone who struggles or fails in life.  Some people may even look down on some who experience certain temptations.  In their minds, real Christians would not even have the temptation.  Such people may come together on a Sunday morning and communicate in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the people in their church just don’t have problems like other people.

2.  Some Christians in such environments realize they must hide.  When they are with people from their church, they think “I can’t let people know what I really struggle with.  They would look down on me if they knew some of the thoughts that went through my mind this week.”  Consequently, they work hard to project an image that they believe will be acceptable to their peers in the congregation.  Such a person may often feel isolated and alone in a congregation because she doesn’t think she can tell anyone who she really is.   After awhile, that person may wonder, “What’s the use?”

A church was never meant to be a spotless group of people on display.  Rather, we have been called to display the One who has redeemed us in our brokenness and sin.  Not only do we discover Jesus in such a church but we discover what it means to really be human.

Held Hostage By the Least Mature (Leadership)

o-adult-pacifier-facebookPerhaps you’ve known one or more of these people.  He or she is the least mature person in the group.

  • He is the most difficult elder in the group.  Time after time, the other elders have attempted to appease their fellow elder.  Yet, no matter what they do, he remains unhappy and demands other concessions.
  • She is the drama queen in the family.   She has two other sisters and a brother but at family gatherings she clearly dominates the conversations.  She drains energy from others as she talks on and on about herself and her situation.
  • He is immature and married.  A few years ago, his wife told a friend that she felt like she had four children – her husband, their two daughters, and their son.  She loves her husband but often feels as if she is the only adult in the family.
  • She is known as a possessive friend.  She regularly loses friendships because she demands so much from them. Yet, in her mind, all of these former friends lacked commitment to the relationship.
  • This preacher has recently clashed with the elders of his congregation.  He says they need to love the community and allow him to try out his ideas.  The elders believe this isn’t really the issue.  Rather they are troubled by his behind the scenes manipulation.  They have lost some of their trust in him.

Don’t Bother Me With the Truth

no-truthI’ve seen it happen again and again in churches.  So often, we are only willing to hear what we are willing to hear. Consequently men and women go through life repeating the same mistakes again and again.

1.  A college student erupts in anger toward his parents and various other family members.  At the same time, he wonders why his dating relationships seem to to have disappointing endings.  His fiancee saw how he treated his mom and dad and wisely became very cautions about continuing their relationship.  Yet, in his eyes, he had no problem with his temper.

2.  A young mother is inconsistent with her young children.  One moment she is angry over a child’s misbehavior. Thirty minutes later she is ignoring the same behavior.  On one occasion, she and her husband laughed the very behavior that put their daughter in “time-out” the evening before .

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)The following are some links that you may find helpful and even encouraging.  Enjoy!

Productivity and Time

Essentialism may have been one of the most helpful books regarding productivity that I have read in some time.  I read it almost twelves months ago and continue to come back to the principles in the book.  Don’t miss this.  Michael Hyatt and Michele Cushatt interviews author Greg McKeown.

Work

I’ve mentioned this before but the series “How I Work” on the blog Lifehacker continues to be a series that I don’t miss.  Quite often, I discover a resource in this series that is helpful.

Encouraging

Dallas Cowboy Terrance Williams does something meaningful for a sick child.  See this news story.

Funny

Read this column by long-time Dallas News columnist Steve Blow: “‘Enjoy sinning? Join the Choir’ And other fun with church bulletin bloopers.

Inspiring

Don’t miss this very good interview with Margaret Feinberg from Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

 

What Has Helped Me With Fear

fear (2)Fear.  We have all experienced it.

Of course our fear is expressed in a variety of ways.  Yet some will declare that they have no fear.  When I hear someone desperately trying to convince another of their fearlessness, most of the time it is unconvincing.  In fact, such declarations often leave me wondering why they are so determined to convince another of their fearlessness.

When I hear a person candidly tell another that she or he is sometimes afraid, terrified, nervous, worried or scared, I know I am dealing with someone who is being real and transparent about their lives.

I know fear.  I have been afraid and at times I still deal with fear.  Most of my fears occur in the middle of the night.  I will awaken after sleeping for several hours and then think of something unpleasant that could happen later in the week.  I can sometimes imagine the worst possible outcome.

The resurrection of Jesus can give us great security and confidence for the future (Matthew 28:20). Resurrection gives us power to live in the future. We live in the power of his living presence.

“I am with you always.”

  • How do I make it through this cancer? “I am with you always.”
  • How do I deal with such a difficult marriage? “I am with you always.”
  • How do I go to that high school and live the way God wants me to live instead of lowering my standards?       “I am with you always.”
  • How can I be a person who has the courage to reach out to others who are not Christ-followers? “I am with you always.”
  • How do we rear our children in such a godless world? “I am with you always.”
  • How do we pray believing that things will be different as the result of prayer? “I am with you always.”
  • How can we be a church that is dead? Dead to sin. Dead to self-centeredness. “I am with you always.”
  • How can we be a church where we build up, encourage, and commit instead of give up, cave in, and live in fear? “ I am with you always.”

This promise from the living Jesus really has helped me.  His presence in my life is greater than whatever fear I might experience.

10 Ways Parents Can Make a Difference

PinkLogoOne of the most difficult things I’ve ever done was attempt to be a good parent.  One of the most joyful experiences I’ve ever had was being a daddy.

Many men father children.  Many women bear children.

Some men seem to be only interested in playing with their children.  Yet, some of these same men want no part of the really hard work involved in rearing children.

Some women seem to get their ego needs met from their children.  Yet, being a parent is not about getting ones own needs met.

Parents need to be intentional about making a difference!

1.  Parents who make a difference practice what they claim to believe.  Our kids see right through us.  They see who we really are, not what we are attempting to project.

2.  Parents who make a difference know that their children may often hear more than we intend for them to hear. These kids also hear whatever I might utter under my breath, whether it be a pray or a comment regarding them.

Enough is Enough

tumblr_static_enoughThis morning I began reading a life of being, having, and doing by Wayne Muller.  I never got beyond the opening chapter.  The chapter “A Life of Enough” made me think.

…the bar keeps rising, nothing is ever finished, nothing is ever good enough.  So we work and add and never stop, never back away, never feel complete, and  we despair of ever finding comfort, relief, or sanctuary.

So many good-hearted people I know are exhausted.  (p. 3)

Whether they are parents or teachers, business people or community volunteers, doctors, clergy, nurses, or civil servants, they each in their own way feel victim to a relentless assault of increasing expectations, activities, demands, and accomplishments that overwhelm any spaciousness or ease in their daily lives.  (p. 4)

What then is our work on the earth?  In a world gone mad with speed, potential, and choice, we continually overestimate what we can do, build, fix, care for, or make happen in one day.  (p. 5)

With some people, “enough” is never quite satisfactory.

  • They boast about how long they worked at the office the night before.
  • They imply that unless one works weekends, they really aren’t making a sacrifice.
  • They challenge by comparing you to others suggesting that you could be doing more or doing better.

Yet, perhaps there is something to be said for working hard and then stopping at the end of the day knowing that for today, this is enough.  Recognizing the place of “enough” may allow you to work many years with joy and energy.

 

Beware of the Self-Proclaimed Expert

ExpertYou probably know a person like this.  He is a self-proclaimed expert on most any subject.

  • You mention a car that you are thinking about buying.  The self-proclaimed expert will tell you all about it.
  • You talk about wanting to vacation on the Gulf Coast.  The self-proclaimed expert will tell you where you must go.
  • You speak of a problem in your work.  The self-proclaimed expert knows what you must do.
  • You speak of difficulty in your marriage or with your children.  The self-proclaimed expert can tell you exactly what you must do.

Such “experts” can be amusing or even irritating depending on the situation.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start2Learning

See “Why You Should Commit 30 Minutes to Daily Learning (Without Fail).”  Maybe I enjoyed this because I believe it in this so strongly.  I try to learn something every day.  I may read a book, listen to a podcast, or read a periodical.  In a very short period of time, one can learn something.

Work

From The New York Times, see Tony Schwartz’s article “When Employee Engagement Turns into Employee Burnout.”

Organizational Culture and Productivity

See “Toyota’s Jamie Bonini on Organizational Culture.”  See what Manoush Zomorodi has done with these ideas in this post on her blog New Tech City.  I find this helpful.

Reading and Podcasts

Right now I am reading A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry.  This past week I also read a few short stories by Flannery O’Connor.  One of the periodicals that I look forward to skimming is Books & Culture: A Christian Review. Excellent articles.  I also become aware of a number of significant books through this journal.

Note that I am selective about what I include in this post each week.  More than anything, I want to include links and resources that I think might be helpful to you in some way.