Prayers are not our last resort. They are our first line of defense. I recently encountered a spiritual battle that kicked me in the gut. Most of the battles we face, by the way, are spiritual. We tend to think of things in the natural, but spiritual battles are going on all around us.
One of the dilemmas I faced recently had to do with people who listen, but don’t really hear you. I explained something critical several times to a couple of people and they nodded like they were tuned in. Then they did something incredible. They totally ignored what I said and did what THEY wanted (even though I was crystal clear on my expectations).
This created a huge problem for me personally and while I vented to a few close friends about the pickle I was in, I realized who had the solution. I prayed about it and God gave me a clear vision of what to do.
I did not explode on the people for what they did (although I could have and I literally could have sued them and won a ton of money and cost them their jobs). I calmly laid out the facts as they listened. They knew they were in the deep end of the pool with no life jacket unless I decided to give them one.
I did toss them a life jacket and asked them to help me get through the predicament that they had caused. I am not sure how all of it will play out yet, but I offered them a peaceful solution to a serious problem. All they have to do is give up some time on my behalf.
The funny thing is that God knew this was going to happen all along. While I got blindsided, God didn’t, and He has the perfect road map to get all of us through it. I believe God let this happen for me to show them mercy. Trust me when I say that mercy was not my first thought! I think God let this happen to them to teach them a lesson as well. Next time, I bet dollars to donuts they listen to who is talking to them and check for clarity.
This is not about the border wall that has been talked about so much in political circles. It is much more intimate than that. This has to do with walls and bridges that we put up between us and other people: our spouse, our family, our friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers (the people closest to us).
Even a fortress has a drawbridge. Back in medieval times when a castle was built, if they really wanted to make it secure they built a moat around it. I don’t know if it had alligators or not, but just the fact that it was surrounded by water made it harder for someone to get in. The only way to get into the castle was over the drawbridge.
People have a way of putting up walls between themselves and others. Sometimes it is necessary because of abuse or neglect, but often it is just due to hurt feelings and lack of forgiveness. If it is abuse or neglect, be very careful about letting that bridge down. You should never allow anyone to abuse you.
If it is hurt feelings or lack of forgiveness that has caused you to build a wall, consider lowering the drawbridge and allowing the other person into your life again. Forgiving them is the first step in restoring a relationship. Open dialog can only happen if you are willing to talk to them about how your feel and try to understand how they feel.
I realize that it is an impossible dream to fully love everyone, but we can at least do our part, right? We can’t control what others do, but we can control what we do. If we do the right thing and lower the drawbridge to allow others in, good things can happen. Don’t allow the fear of getting hurt keep you from having meaningful relationships. Fear and love won’t live in the same room. One of them has to go, and it might as well be fear that you let go of.
You can’t live a life of isolation and expect to reap anything close to peace, happiness, and contentment. Let go of the fear, lower the bridge, and learn to live fully and freely. Love is the bridge.
If you live long enough, you will ask yourself “Why me?” We all wonder why bad things are happening to us. It is not an easy answer because there are many possible reasons why we are in the dilemma that we are facing:
We made a bad choice and now we have to face the consequences.
We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We were hanging out with the wrong crowd.
We are human beings and it goes with the territory.
We have a tendency to go into the self-pity mode when things go wrong. Have you not said things like this:
Why do things like this always happen to me?
When am I going to get a break?
Somebody call the waaaaambulance. LOL. Waaaa waaaa waaaa. Some people seem to wallow in it. Life is not fair. That is the bottom line. We are raised with this sense of entitlement that we deserve fair treatment. I get that, and trust me, I want it too. However, life does not turn out the way we think it should. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. Sometimes it makes you just scratch your head and say, “What is up with THAT, God?”
I think that we have to expect unfair treatment. We have to be prepared for it and not blindsided by it. We have to anticipate it so that we can roll with the punches. Watch a great boxer. They bob and weave. They try to avoid the direct punches and especially the sucker-punches (the ones you don’t see coming). They have their guard up as well to deflect the blows.
The problem most of us have is that we let our guard down and then we get smacked in the face. Like a boxer, we have to be ready, we have to train, and we have to fight. There is a war going on for our minds, our hearts, and our souls. Don’t let the enemy catch you napping. Treat others fairly, but don’t be surprised if you don’t always get it in return.
This is not to paint a picture of despair nor give you indigestion. Life is great. It is beautiful and I am excited about what tomorrow holds. I just know that I need to be prepared, come what may.
We have this conversation with kids at school on a daily basis. It is always about choices we make. We try to encourage them to think about their choices and the consequences of their behavior before they make them.
Results of doing the right thing:
The consequences are generally favorable for you.
You have a clear conscience regardless of the outcome.
What goes around comes around. It may take some time, but good will return to you in unexpected ways.
Other people are blessed.
You sleep better knowing you did the right thing.
You develop a reputation of integrity.
You show good judgement and maturity.
You will have peace.
How do you KNOW if it is the right thing to do? If you have to ask yourself that question, don’t do it. Don’t confuse doing something good with doing the right thing. Your kid may want you to give them a new Play Station, but they are not doing well in school. What is the right thing to do? Depends on who you ask. Your kid would say, “If you really love me, you will buy it today!” A parent who is wise might say, “You bring your grades up at least one grade level and I will get it for you, and for every A that you get I will buy you a new game.” That is a win-win.
Generally, if you have a gut check about doing something it is a sign you should wait. More times than I can remember I have gone against that gut check and lived to regret it. If you are really struggling about what is the right thing to do, get counsel from someone who is mature and well-grounded emotionally and spiritually.
I recently asked a lady who was dating a guy if she was going to marry him. She said, “Probably not. He has issues with my work which requires me to travel and sometimes entertain clients over lunch or dinner.” The problem is that sometimes our hearts confuse our brains. Better to make the right decision even if it is a hard one than to suffer the consequences of a poor decision for the rest of your life. Do the right thing.
“To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.” – Joel Rosenberg
Many years ago I had the opportunity to go to Germany and one of the things I wanted to do was visit one of the concentration camps from WW2. I was in Munich, and found out that the first concentration camp was in a suburb of Munich…literally just a few miles away.
Dachau was the first of many concentration camps to house Jews in WW2. When I walked on the grounds of the camp, it was surreal to say the least. When I got off the tour bus, nobody spoke a word. It was as it we knew that this was a place where we needed to show respect for the thousands of Jews who died there.
When I questioned the young tour bus driver about that atrocity, he quickly pointed out, “That was not my generation.” Of course I did not blame him or Germany in general, but I was curious as to how they felt about what happened there. He did not want to talk about it, so we didn’t.
Evil has no particular name or face. It just shows up and you know it is evil. It steals, kills, and destroys all that is in its way. The question then becomes: how do we stop it?
Obviously ignoring it does not work. Pearl Harbor is a perfect example. If the US had not chosen an isolationist position in world politics, I doubt Pearl Harbor would ever have happened.
The only way that makes evil back down is when it is confronted. You can take that to the bank and cash it. When you see evil, don’t ignore it. Face it. Confront it. Challenge it. Do whatever you have to do because if you don’t, you and everyone you know will lose.
It takes great courage to confront evil. It has a way of paralyzing people through fear. If you fear what will happen if you act, you are most likely not going to do anything. That is what the enemy is counting on. That is why Hitler was able to literally transform a nation into people who believed a lie. They were willing to die for him because they became convinced that HE was the truth. Tragically, it was all a lie. We all have to stand up for truth and what is right. If we don’t, evil wins.
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ― Albert Einstein
“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – Winston Churchill
There was a Men’s meeting that I attended yesterday that turned out to be memorable. It wasn’t so much the speaker…although he was awesome. It was the encounter I had with a first time visitor to the group. He was sitting at a table with a buddy of his when I asked if I could join them. They said, “Of course.”
We engaged in the typical small talk like men do. One of the first questions out of man’s mouth is, “So what do you do?” When I told this one fellow that I was a teacher he just opened up to me about his daughter and what she was going through as a teacher.
Megan, his daughter is teaching 7th Grade English. She has this one gifted student that just won’t participate and in fact is disruptive. When she asked the kid about his behavior one day, he said something strange. “I don’t like you. Stay away from me!” She tried to get him to open up as to why but all he said was, “Stay away from me and don’t read my journal!”
Well, this is an English class and the writing journal is something that has to be read, so she read it. She found that he had written twelve times in the book that he wanted to kill her! That would send chills down the spine of anyone. She immediately took the book to her Principal and asked for help and advice on what to do.
In the interim, she had called her Dad who lived in another city and told him the story. He immediately called the police in that town and they dispatched a couple of officers to the school. When the Mother was summoned to the school, she immediately began cursing the staff and the police and asked, “Why did I have to come down here?” When they handed her the book, she read it then turned and punched her kid in the face!
Is it any wonder this kid has issues with female authority? CPS stepped in and took the kid and the school suspended the boy, but three days later he was BACK at school. By this time my jaw must have been on the floor as this father was wondering what to do. He called the police again, but they said that the kid was in another class now (like that is a viable solution). The Dad pleaded with them to post someone there outside her class, but that was not going to happen.
I suggested that they take the story to a news reporter and let them run with it, but Megan did not want to do that for fear of losing her job and being blackballed as a troublemaker. After all, this is her first year of teaching.
I told the Dad that I was at this meeting apparently for him and his daughter. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a magnet that I had made called “The Teacher’s Prayer.” I told him to just read it to her and it would bless her. Tears welled up in the eyes of this hulk of a man and he thanked me. We marveled at how God puts people in our lives when we least expect it to encourage us and remind us that He is with us.
I did encourage him to have her quit that school district. No teaching job is worth losing your life. They apparently are more worried about what the parent thinks than the safety of their staff. He told me that Megan still loved the boy and wanted to help him, and I told him that I would be praying for them through the days to come.
The tragic part of this story is that this is played out daily in schools all around our country; then we wonder why bad things happen at our schools. I believe we are at a tipping point. We either need to change our education system radically or it is going to literally explode on us. More than that, we need to get grounded spiritually. We have so many kids raised in dysfunctional homes. It is no wonder they act out their hostility at school.
Pray for our country, our families, and for Megan. Her story needs to be told. I just hope I don’t read about it after a kid goes crazy on her and the school. Pray that we as a country find the way to rectify this collision course we are on before it is too late.
“People Love Unselfish Service” Brad C. Engle. Right? Who does not want someone to serve them unselfishly? We all want to be served. That is a given. It is part of our nature.
Here is my point: we all need to be PLUS people, but in a giving way. We need to give to others unselfishly and not expect anything in return. That is tough…because at the very least most of us want a thank you! When you do something nice for someone, shouldn’t you at least get that? The simple answer is, “Yes.” The real answer is, “That depends.”
People always have motives for what they do or don’t do. If someone does something for you and is expecting a thank you and does not get it, that is a problem, right? Chances are, there is going to be some tension and possibly some words exchanged about the issue.
The real problem is not seeing things from someone else’s viewpoint. That can be hard, no matter who you are. It seems that we all can have the best of intentions and still have things misunderstood. That is life. The bottom line is, what are you going to do now? Don’t settle for “It is what it is.” Think: “It is what we make it.”
You can be mad, pout, blame the other person, and point the finger, but the reality is: we all have to look in the mirror and accept responsibility for our part. If someone tried to do their best for you and it came off wrong, just thank them for what they intended even if you don’t understand it. If what you gave was not accepted for how you meant it, explain yourself and ask them to accept your gift for how you meant it: with love.
Be an unselfish giver and a thankful receiver. The two go hand in hand. Relationships that thrive are those that understand the cycle of give and take. If all you do is take you will run over people. If all you do is give you become a doormat that people step on to get what they want.
When we learn to give without expecting anything in return and give thanks for whatever we receive, that is true peace for all. That is Shalom!
How many languages do you speak? You may be thinking that you only speak one language, but I will show you that you can easily speak more than one language. You just have to think outside the linguistic box.
Back in 2014 I had a Spanish Pastor friend that was encouraging me to go to Guatemala to help out a Mayan village. I really wanted to go, but there was just one problem, I only speak English. When I pointed this out to him, he said, “Don’t worry about it. God will work that out.” LOL. I forgot about Him.
I went on the trip and had a great interpreter. The man that was interpreting for me told me, “I have been working with these people for a year and a half and they are just now accepting me. You come down and in two days they are treating you like family.” How does that happen? I spoke a universal language they understood: Love.
I served them by bringing food to the homes of those that were poor. I bought clothes for kids that needed shoes. I bought school supplies and back packs for the kids who otherwise would not have what they needed to go to school. I did these things because I truly loved these people. They were so gracious. I never left one of their homes where they did not want to give me something to eat.
The other language that is universal is music. Most people love music in one form or another. When I first got there I was introduced to a couple of young girls. I am guessing that they were around 5 years old. When one of them told me her name was Maria, I stood up and in a deep baritone voice sang: ”Maria. I just met a girl named Maria!” It is a line from the musical West Side Story. The little girls loved it! Every day after that they came up to me and begged me to sing Maria, which of course, I was obliged to do. LOL.
Music and love are two ways to connect with everyone in the world, regardless of what language you speak. Now you can proudly say you are trilingual at the very least.
On the way to great you’re going to make a lot of goofs. Expect it. Nobody is perfect. Teachers, parents, bosses, and even spouses are guilty of expecting others to be perfect. They put these expectations on themselves as well. It is like a virus that we keep breeding. Left unchecked it causes damage that can lead to death.
Just because you make a mistake does not make you one. We all make mistakes. That is what we did, not who we are. Unfortunately for too many people what they do becomes their identity and thus when they don’t succeed, THEY are a failure.
We have to learn to celebrate the baby steps made in ourselves and others rather than point out the failures. I know it is difficult to do, but it is necessary if you expect to have any sense of normalcy in your life and in the lives of those around you.
I groan when I watch a parent yelling at their kid on the field for dropping a ball, striking out, or missing the shot. I know the wounds they are inflicting on their child will last a lifetime. They will remember the cruel comments above the occasional “I love you.”
Let’s start cutting people a little slack. Let’s begin by celebrating the victories…no matter how small they are. Let’s begin by letting the mistakes go. You don’t need to remind them of it. They know what they did or did not do.
I don’t think anyone grows up wanting to be cruel to others or to themselves. This is learned behavior but it can be changed. In order to be changed, it has to be challenged, and there is the rub. Many people are afraid of the consequences of speaking up: getting fired, taking a beating, being humiliated again, getting divorced, etc. This is just bullying disguised. Bullies don’t stop until someone steps up to them.
Do you want to stop bullying? Start with stepping up next time you see it done to you, one of your co-workers, your spouse, your kid, or even a stranger. Model for them how it could be done. Cut them some slack too because they are not perfect either…but at least now they see it through other people’s eyes.