Rejection – and His Nine Other Brothers

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Rejection. Burnout. Depression. Intimidation. Inferiority. Doubt. Apathy. Inadequacy. Fear. Failure. How many of these fun rides have you been on? At times it seems as if whenever we’re trying to accomplish something worthwhile, we get hit with one of these. Or all ten. And then come the voices . . .

“I was never meant to do this.”

“I’m just not good enough. I’ll never be good enough.”

“There’s too much competition.”

“Who even cares anyway?”

“What was I thinking??”

If we listen to these voices long enough, the only realistic option seems to be to drink the kool-aid and quit.

So – how do we overcome the demons that haunt our attempts to do that thing we were born to do? We’ve heard it all; that’s what makes it so hard. None of what we’ve heard really helps us get back on that horse and drive.

  1. “Thomas Edison failed ninety million times!” (How does that help me?)
  2. “Einstein couldn’t count simple change – and he overcame!” (Yeah, and he had an IQ of 250.)
  3. “You were born for this!” (Apparently so were 20 million other people.)
  4. “Winners never quit and quitters never win!” (Tell it to smokers.)
  5. “Just do it!” (I’m trying to do it!)
  6. “Trying is just an excuse not to do!” (I’m confused. Don’t try?)
  7. “What would Jesus do?” (A miracle?)

So – what really will help? What are the magic words that can banish rejection, inadequacy, depression and all their minions? I don’t have any idea. But I can tell you what you can do. And it’s not call up all your girls/buddies and blow up the town or call in sick for a week on a quick trip to the Bahamas or go into massive debt with shopping therapy. No. Here’s what works: stop and do something that will accomplish a goal quickly, something you’ll feel good about when it’s done, something that, whenever you look at it, will make you feel competent.

Recently, I experienced a less-than-encouraging response to something I’d written – and had spent an inordinate amount of time writing – and candidly, I was very discouraged. So after an appropriate period of mourning, I looked around the house and realized that the magic Home Improvement fairy hadn’t visited while I’d been busy at the keyboard tuning everything else out. It dawned on me that the pine tree branches hanging down way too low over the driveway weren’t going to spring up out of the way with snow piled on top of them. I also had the profound revelation that my snow plow guy and his truck might not appreciate that. At all. So I found a small electric saw, a step ladder and got up into that tree and began to cut wood. When I was finished, the tree looked great and I knew the plow guy would probably charge me less. But here’s the key thing: I felt better. And just maybe I could take another shot at writing. After all, if I can trim some branches from a tree, I can certainly write, right?

Perhaps for you it’s to clean out that closet that no one’s ventured into for a quarter century or cook a nice dinner for your family or clean up your computer files or take authority over the lawn. Whatever it is, give yourself a visual that will get your head out of the fog of depression and remind you of how capable you are.

Sometimes we just need a re-set. We need to get away from the disappointment of failed expectations and experience the success of doing something that proves we’re capable of accomplishment. Remember – oddly enough, that that validation will come as a result of work, not play. Playing at a time like that doesn’t really accomplish anything productive and so can end up just making us feel like procrastinators. And that’s not going to help. So – if you want to feel better about yourself, grab the mop or the mower and get to work.

I can’t explain it – it just works.

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Prayer Wreckers

Man in DespairWe all spend a lot of time and energy praying for all kinds of things – and some of those prayers are urgent, desperate prayers. But what if we’re sabotaging our own prayers? What if we’re doing something, even unconsciously, to negate them? Would we want to know that? Why wouldn’t we?

In my last post, “Ten Ways to Blow Up Your Destiny,” I introduced three things that will shipwreck our prayers. Today, I want to discuss the rest of the principles that we should know in order to not sideline our prayers.

Thing #1: Put God first. In other words, we cannot and should not put our dreams, visions or destinies before God. Jesus tells His followers, ‘”Your heavenly Father already knows all of your needs . . . Seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well . . .’” (Matt. 6:33). Our “needs” are not just categorized as physical needs; we need all kinds of intervention for all kinds of things. No matter – same principle applies: the big “if-then” – if we put God first, then we get whatever we might need. Period.

Thing #2: Unconfessed sin. David proved that after he sinned with Bathsheba, lied about it, and then killed her husband, Uriah, to cover it up. Now, if anyone should have their prayers tuned out by God, it would be someone who’d done all of those things. But David repented of his sin (with a little persuasion from the prophet, Nathan). David pleaded to God: “’Don’t keep looking at my sin. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God, Renew a right spirit in me . . .’” (LB, Ps. 51:9-10). After David confessed his sin, God was able to interact with him again. Remember, Habakkuk says to God, “’Your eyes are too pure [even] to look on evil; you cannot tolerate sin’” (1:13). “Tolerate” is a little mild for the translation. The KJ version says, “’You cannot [even] look on sin’”.  And the word “cannot” in all translations means “cannot”. It doesn’t mean “might not” or “can-if-He-wants-to-but-just-doesn’t-want-to”. God is not able even to look at sin, much less have fellowship with someone in it (thus the reason Christ died – but that’s another post entirely). So – unconfessed sin = unanswered prayers.

Thing #3: Wrong response to authority. We see this principle in Paul’s warning to children to submit to and obey their parents and they’ll be blessed. Why? Because their parents are the authority over children. If they will submit to authority, then they will be blessed. But that warning about authority applies to all of us, not simply children.

And why does God feel so strongly about submission that He ties conditions to responses to authority? Because societies fall apart when people begin to blow off authorities.

(Watched the news lately?) So God has built into His principles the condition that if we submit to authority, then we will be blessed. And aren’t all answered prayers considered blessings? I know mine are.

Thing #4: Pride.  This is another no-no if we’d like our prayers answered. We all know pride is bad – no surprise there. For example, take Naaman who came to the prophet Elisha to petition (pray) for healing from leprosy. When Elisha told Naaman to go and dip in the Jordan River some times, Naaman thought that was ridiculous and refused. His pride got in the way. Consequently, he didn’t have his prayer for healing answered until he decided to humble himself and take a dip. Then his prayer was answered. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5-6).

Thing #5: “Evil speech.”  Our words can be another problem if you’d like your prayers answered. Gossip, slander, accusation, arguing, lying, complaining – all of these can hinder prayers. Now, thank God for his mercy because who hasn’t, at the very least, complained? But for those who continue in these things without repentance, their prayers won’t accomplish much. Isaiah warns, “’If you do away with the pointing finger [accusation] and malicious talk . . . then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday [revelation]. The Lord will guide you always [direction]; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land [provision] and will strengthen your frame [healing] . . .’” (58:9-11, interpretations mine). Peter says, “’If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and keep your lips from telling lies’” (3:9).

Thing #6: Have faith in God, not in faith itself.  It’s not up to us to manufacture our faith and moreover, “having faith” is not about how much faith we have, it’s about whether or not we trust God. Why is this important? Two reasons: first, sometimes we treat faith like heaven’s money; if we just get enough of it, we can cash it in for whatever we want. Doesn’t work that way. Second, the essence of faith is the question: “Do I trust God – whether or not He answers my prayers the way I want Him to?” That’s vastly different than “Okay, God, here’s how much faith I have so here’s how I want You to answer my prayer.” Faith is not cash, and God is not a vending machine. If we think so, I think I can predict that our prayers won’t be very effective.

Next post I’ll finish this up; there are three more principles for praying effectively and, if disregarded, will negate our prayers. In the meantime, lest we become overwhelmed with all of the ways we can shipwreck our prayers, let’s simply remember to begin our prayers with a sincere, “Lord, I’m sorry for . . .”

 

Ten Ways to Blow Up Your Dreams.

 Man PrayingSometimes we spend vast amounts of energy trying to rocket-launch our dreams and fulfill our destinies. We drive hard, we burn the midnight oil (especially as writers), and we follow the experts, trying to do everything they say. Now I’m not knocking the experts; they’re experts for a reason. But sometimes in spite of the sacrifice of time, the worry and fret (c’mon – you do), and the fervent prayers, things just don’t happen like they’re supposed to. And the frustrating part is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why. Right?

But there may be a reason. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to pursue the “should’s” that we don’t recognize when we’re doing the “should not’s”. In other words, there are some Biblical principles which, when violated, will shipwreck any good thing we’re trying to do. I’ve identified ten of those principles. And while I won’t get to all of them in this post without writing a book, I’ll try to do it in the next couple of posts.

It all started when I began to think about the scripture in I Peter 3:7 which admonishes husbands to treat their wives with understanding and respect “as the weaker partner . . . so that nothing will hinder your prayers”. Now forget the debate over whether wives are the “weaker partner” – not the point here. The point is a larger one: just as I was feeling relieved that God was holding husbands accountable, the Lord tapped me on the shoulder and directed my attention to the following: a “weaker” person is defined as anyone who is under the authority of another person. Furthermore, He pointed out that anyone in authority is held accountable for how they treat the “weaker” people under their authority.

Anytime we have authority over someone else, whether it be a child, a student, an employee, or a congregation member and we fail to treat that person with respect and do right by them, then our prayers are hindered.

We’ve all heard the term “brass heaven,” meaning, essentially, that our prayers are “bouncing off the ceiling” or blocked. A “brass heaven” is referred to in Deut. 28:23: “’And your heaven that is over your head shall be brass, and the earth that is under you shall be iron.’” While in context this curse for disobedience to God refers to a lack of rain, Matthew Henry makes the point that the curse affects everything pertaining to the person, not just rain. Disobedience causes God’s deafness to pleas for relief from curses and to petitions for blessings.

Now, for those who would argue that, in Christ, we’re no longer under any curses, you would be correct. However, Peter’s warning to people in authority regarding prayers being hindered is obviously given to Christians, meaning us, even after we’ve received Christ.

The warning is real: don’t abuse or even treat poorly people under your authority and then wonder why your prayers concerning your dreams and destiny are having no effect.

Another reason related to prayers being hindered is a lack of love, particularly in a practical sense. God has always had a soft spot for underdogs and vows to protect and vindicate them – and we know (or should know) that God always keeps His promises. In Isaiah 58:6-12, the Lord clearly indicates that our actions equal our consequences. The “’fast [sacrifice] that God has chosen [is to] loose the cords/chains of injustice . . . untie the cords of the yoke . . . set the oppressed free . . . share food with the hungry . . . shelter the wanderers [homeless] . . . clothe the naked . . .’” The Living Bible expands on this principle: “’Stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn.’” And the result? Then you will have revelation, healing, righteousness, protection and “’Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here I am’” (vs. 8-9).             

The lesson: we reap what we sow and if we sow mercy, then God answers our prayers.

Need an example? A Roman centurion asked Jesus to come and heal his servant and the Jewish elders “earnestly implored Him [Jesus], saying, ‘He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue’” (Luke 7:1-5). As a result of the centurion’s love-in-action, Jesus listened to the man’s petition and went to his house.

Bottom line: we are not saved by works – not disputing that in the slightest. But the success of the works that we are called to do on this earth (i.e. – our destinies) certainly depend on whether or not we obey the principles affecting answers to our prayers. If we’re feeling like we’re under that “brass ceiling,” we need to consider whether we’re doing the “if’s” so that God can do the “then’s”.

If we are, then God’s ears are attentive to our prayers (I Peter 3:12).

 

 

The Destiny Killer.

The Oath           I recently re-read a book called The Oath by Frank Peretti. It came out several years ago and it’s long, but it’s definitely worth the time.

            If you’re not familiar with Peretti, he writes spiritual warfare thrillers and in this particular book, he tackles the issue of sin and personifies it as a dragon that devours those who dabble in it. All very interesting and scriptural, but that’s not the part that struck me.

            In the story, Peretti illustrates how sin actually changes people’s hearts by causing their hearts to ooze black goo as they dabble and sink into their particular sin – whatever that might be. But captivating as that might sound, still not the part that struck me.

            The striking part struck me because it was real – unlike a dragon flying around eating people or hearts oozing black goo. The part that impacted me was what happens to people after the goo appears and before the goo signals the dragon to come and eat the people.

            What happens between those two very allegorical things is that the people stop caring that they’re sinning.

            Somewhere between the time a person’s skin begins to exhibit a rash-type of stain over the heart and the time that the heart actually begins to gush black goo, the person becomes aware of his or her sin; often before that happens, they aren’t even aware that they’re doing anything wrong. Or, if they are aware, they’re content to have rationalized their sin for a long period of time. Regardless, once they become aware, they can then either confess their sin (spoiler alert: most don’t) or they can cease to care that they’re sinning and begin to blame anyone who dares to try to warn them that serious peril is about to ensue.

          Back to the dragon. We’re all familiar with scriptural references to the devil as a dragon and we know, again from scripture, that his goal is “to devour” anyone he can. But we don’t often think of the actual sin itself as the dragon which devours. We are told that sin can destroy us, but sometimes we have the idea that that destruction is defined by spending an eternity in hell. But what if it means something more?

What if the actual destruction is in going from caring to not caring?

          You’ve heard the warning “don’t pet that sin”. The implication is that we can dabble in sin until we think we’re in danger of being trapped and then pull back in time – no harm, no foul. But what if the trap is not the addiction itself, or the anger problem, or the gossiping, or the fill-in-the-blank? What if the death trap is the actual lack of caring anymore whether we get caught in the sin or not?

            How terrifying is that?

            Why am I going on about sin today? I don’t know – just a book I read that made me think. And what does this have to do with a blog that primarily expounds on principles of success to help in achieving dreams and visions? Not much – if you don’t think that whatever can shipwreck a soul can also shipwreck a destiny.

            Not to worry. Just a thought.

In God We Trust. Or Do We . . . ?

In God We Trust            Have you ever asked God to do something and He came back with some very odd instructions for you? For example, you need money and the Lord tells you to give away what you do have? Unusual, right?

            Not so much. Twenty years ago next month, the Lord gave us our house. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Big deal. He gives lots of people houses.” True that. However, if you really understood how impossible it was for us to get a house – ever – you’d realize the miracle that it was. We had no money, bad credit, and my husband’s business was not a money maker. And that wasn’t just a temporary situation – we were poor, and we’d lived in the same apartment in a not-great part of the city for ten years. (Did I mention that I was pregnant – again?) The bottom line is that I was beginning to lose hope that we’d ever get out, much less own a home.

            But – enter God.

            It all started about eight years in when I’d begun trying to save money for a house, scrimping and saving for two long years. Even so, after all that time, I didn’t have much – not in down-payment terms, anyway – maybe $2000 (almost). But then the car had to go and die. So – there went that.

            Nevertheless, I began saving again and by my birthday, I had about $100 – gifts from parents, in-laws, etc. At the same time, my church began fund raising for a building extension and guess what the Lord asked me to do? Correct. Give it to the building fund. I pretended I didn’t hear Him for awhile, because, well – then I wouldn’t have any money. And how much sense would that make? It couldn’t be God.

            But I knew it was.

            Finally, I said, “Okay, I’ll give you half the money.” And I was feeling pretty generous about it, too. But no. The Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I want all of it.”

            What could I say? No? It was the God of all the universe asking.

            So I sighed and said, “Okay, I’ll help You build Your house and You help me build mine. Besides, who am I kidding? I need way more cash than I could ever dream of saving. Take it all.”

            And the really funny thing was, when I thought about all of the people who might potentially get to heaven because they would have a church to attend, I felt good about it.

            Six months later, September 9th, 1996, we moved into a home of our very own. (Long story.) But it gets better: we had two little boys, 1½ and 3½ and they each had a bedroom. Their bedrooms had been painted and decorated before we ever saw the house; one bedroom was pale green with a teddy-bear border and the other was blue with Sesame Street characters on the walls – Big Bird and Cookie Monster. And (drum roll) – there was a deck, a pool, and a big, fenced-in backyard. (Not to mention a new kitchen, new wall-to-wall carpeting and all appliances!) And all of it located in a really good school district.

            But God.

            Remember Naaman, the army captain who had leprosy? He was told to go find the prophet Elisha to be healed; Elisha told him to go and dip in the Jordan River seven times. However, Naaman was insulted because he’d expected Elisha to heal him in some – less unusual – way (2 Kings 5:8-14). Now, you might put that down to “just another crazy Old Testament thing” but probably not. Imagine going to a church service for healing and being told to go dip in the Seneca River (or Mississippi or Rio Grande). Would you? No?

Sometimes God does some pretty peculiar things. And He expects us to go along with them.

Imagine asking two very old folks who could never have children even when they were young to believe they’d be the father and mother of an entire nation. Imagine asking a boy to pick up a slingshot and stone and kill a Philistine giant. Imagine walking around stark naked for three years as an object lesson to the nations of Egypt and Cush. (If you aspire to be a prophet, realize that living a prophetic life is often not fun. Ask Isaiah.) Imagine asking a poor, unmarried, 14-year-old girl to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary’s response?

            “’I am the servant of the Lord. May it happen to me according to your word’” (Luke 1:38). And so said all the others as well.

            What strange, bizarre, it-makes-absolutely-no-sense thing is God asking you to do? When the Lord asked Queen Esther to risk her life going before the King without being summoned, Mordecai reminded her, “’If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place’” (Esther 4:14). In other words, if you don’t do it, God will find someone who will. Esther’s response? “’If I perish, I perish.’” But notice she didn’t. She did become a heroine. David became king. Abraham and Sarah became parents of an entire nation. Naaman became whole. And Mary became the mother of God.   

           What could you become?

To Quit or Not to Quit? That is the Question.

Grandfather Clock           Ever feel like you just want to throw in the towel? You’ve worked, labored, toiled at some particular thing for a long time – weeks, months, even years – and suddenly, you come to the realization that it was all a waste of time. Or you think it was. Isaiah thought so. Isaiah knew that the Lord had called him to speak for Him and yet still, he doubted the impact of his calling and labor: “’I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing . . .’” (49:4a).

            Isaiah felt like many of us when we give years of our lives to some dream and then it all falls apart. It’s devastating. It could be sowing into a career, a ministry, a business; it could be something we’ve been striving to create or to build – it could be any dream or vision fused with our hearts.

           And the emotional train wreck is not the only problem. After we hit the Big Wall, we find ourselves stuck on the question: “Is this just a temporary setback in the will of God or have I been on the wrong track the entire time?”

Because if it’s the “wrong track,” that means we’ve wasted the only real commodity we’ve got in this life: time.

            The problem is – which is it? The distinction is huge. The difference makes all the difference.

            As Christians, we put a great deal of stock into “seeking the will of God” – as well we should. However, when things don’t pan out, then we’re often in doubt: Was it ever God’s will that I pursue this dream? Or was it not? (Of course the assumption is that we did ask first.) Nevertheless, whether it was the will of God or not, we have the same two choices: We can persevere – or we can quit. However, if we know that pursuing that thing is the will of God, then quitting is not an option. We’re going to push through because the encouragement we have is that we’re not on the wrong track – we’ve just hit a temporary obstacle. But if it’s not the will of God, it would be stupid to persevere with something that God was never in to begin with. So then the fundamental question remains: was it God or was it not God?

            What if we really just don’t know?

            Back to Isaiah. Granted, Isaiah had the advantage of having heard from the Lord in the first place that what he was doing was what he was called to do. So knowing that, he was able to say, “’Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward’” (41:4b). But when we haven’t heard directly from the Lord about what we’re doing – and let’s say we did sincerely ask – then what? Do we fight through or do we back up?  Fascinating question.

            There’s always the option of putting “the dream” on the shelf. If it’s God’s will that we get back to it, then we won’t have to dig through the trash to find it. If it’s not God’s will that we ever pick it up again – well, then, it dies on the shelf.

            I have to believe that somewhere along the way, God will show us which it is. And really, isn’t that what Isaiah did?

            Sometimes it’s time to leave a dream behind, to move on, to begin a new thing. And sometimes it’s time to persevere, to fight forward, and to keep that thing alive. In the meantime, dealing with the devastation of loss is excruciating – whether it’s temporary or permanent.

           “’Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand . . .’”

           The critical thing is this: do not quit moving forward. If you’re not be able to move forward with that vision, then seek God for a new one and move forward with that. Just do not let the loss take you completely out. Because then, guess who wins?

           It’s not you.

Coincidence?

           Open Doors One of the great things about God is that He’s always in control; He has our destinies in His hands and, with our permission, will guide and direct them. Now, we always say that, but every now and then, it’s good to prove that claim. So – let me introduce proof: my friend, Wendy Dunham.

            Wendy is an author and has, to date, written two books. The third is, as they say, in the oven. (She’s writing it.) Wendy writes for middle-grade girls, Christian books – and both of her books contain very inspiring messages. Her first book is called My Name Is River and the second, Hope Girl.

            Wendy’s story is evidence that God is the one who both opens and closes doors. And in doing so, He loves to do things that really shouldn’t happen.

            As everybody probably knows – and writers certainly know – it’s not easy to get a literary agent or a publisher. Some folks work on that longer than on writing their books. However, Wendy walked right into hers – almost literally (which proves God has a sense of humor, too).

            A couple of years ago, Wendy attended the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers’ Conference (GPCWC) – the kinds of conferences writers go to in order to meet agents, publishers, other authors and workshop instructors. Now usually at these conferences, aHope-Girl-cover writer can choose who they’d like to meet with and set up appointments with those people. And that’s what Wendy attempted to do – except that she wasn’t able to get in to see one agent whom she really wanted to meet.

            Fast forward to lunchtime a day or two into the conference. Wendy was waiting in the lunch line and happened to be standing next to a woman who commented that she liked Wendy’s water bottle. Apparently the feeling was mutual – Wendy admired hers as well – and so the two got into a conversation. It turns out that the woman was the agent Wendy had wanted to meet.

            Coincidence?

            But it gets better. So the agent invited Wendy to sit with her at lunch, at which time she asked Wendy what kind of writing she does. Wendy explained that she writes children’s novels and described the book, My Name Is River. The agent then commented that although she doesn’t represent children’s books, she’d like to see Wendy’s work anyway and invited her to send along her manuscript. Wendy did. River-book-cover

            Fast forward again: the agent liked Wendy’s book so much that she began to shop it for a publisher. Long story short: Wendy was published by Harvest House. Now that’s a very reputable publisher – which is a big deal because big publishing houses rarely sign first-time authors.

            Coincidence?

            For the impossible to happen, God has to coordinate the opportunity – which, by the way, He’s very good at doing. The Word tells us that Jesus “opens doors, and no one can shut them; he shuts doors, and no one can open them” (Rev. 3:7).

            The point: don’t stress, sweat or fret over your destiny; God is in control – even when the circumstances look impossible. As God asks Abraham after revealing to him that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age: “’Is anything too hard for God?’”          

            It was impossible for Wendy to get an appointment with a woman who was booked or to sign an agent who doesn’t normally represent her type of book or to get a publishing contract with a major player in the publishing world. But, as Jesus assured His disciples, “’What is impossible with men is possible with God’” (Luke 18:27).

            What impossible roadblocks are in the way of your dream? Ask the Lord to remove them and to open doors for you that only He can open. And then watch what happens.

            It’s no coincidence.

 

Let the Race Begin.

horse-herd-fog-nature-52500Would it make any sense to give a six-year old an algebra problem? Perhaps not. Learning to count would probably be a prerequisite. How about scheduling a med student to do brain surgery? What if it were just a small brain op? Or what if couples skipped all the long years it takes to have kids and just went and picked out a whole litter at once? Say, maybe a baby, a couple of two-years old – oh, and they wouldn’t want to miss the whole teenage experience – maybe a fourteen-year old? (Fourteen is such a wonderfully expressive age.)

The point is, we can’t just be thrown into the middle of challenges – especially big ones.

Consider the prophet Jeremiah, aka “the weeping prophet” (because he was always weeping for the people): the day came when Jeremiah had just had enough. He was tired of people sinning against God and refusing to repent; he was fed up with the unrighteousness and idol worship that had so completely polluted the nation; and he was done with people plotting to kill him. (Who wouldn’t be?) So he went to the Lord with a complaint:

“’Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy? You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered. Your name is on their lips, but in their hearts they give you no credit at all. But as for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts. Drag these people away like helpless sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered! How long must this land weep [from sin]? Even the grass in the fields has withered. The wild animals and birds have disappeared because of the evil in the land. Yet the people say, “The Lord won’t do anything!”’” (Jer. 12:1-4)

Now Jeremiah had a point: the people were evil – and they were good at being evil. In addition, they were mocking God and saying, essentially, “We can sin as much as we want and God won’t do a thing about it!” Jeremiah didn’t like that. One bit.

God’s response? “’If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?’” (Jer. 12:5)

Point? If the job training is more than you can handle, then how will you handle the job?

But – here’s what we say: “Lord, when is my destiny going to happen? Why is everyone else living the dream and I’m still struggling? You know my heart! You see how sincere I am! Why do they get to be happy and prosperous and not me?? They don’t even give You the credit for their success!”

Now, here’s what the Lord might say: “If you can’t balance a checkbook or stick to a budget, how will you manage great wealth? If you can’t give when you have a little, how will you give proportionately when you have much? If you can’t discipline yourself at your job when you aren’t solely responsible for everything that happens, how do you expect to be able to discipline yourself when you’re the boss or self-employed? If you can’t honor your mother and father now, how do you expect to honor a husband or wife later? If you can’t handle the ordinary spiritual warfare and attacks of the enemy in your own life, how do you expect to fend off the enemy if your destiny makes you visible to the community or to the nation or to the world?”

Here’s what the Lord has said: “’Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given’” (Luke 12:48).

This means that the greater your destiny, the more that will be required of you. Pick any Bible character who ever did anything worth mentioning and that will be their story. However, that’s always a choice; never does God force the “more required” part on anyone.

Remember: if you don’t cave in the prep “racing against mere men”, then you’ll win in the battle “racing against horses”.

So then – let the race begin.

Thriller Anyone…?

Dead Forest 2

Black smoke from the forest filtered out the first rays of pink light creeping up from the eastern horizon, and one by one, as the light grew brighter, trees and stumps of trees emerged from their hiding places in the black of night. The trees glimmered like spirits, slowly materializing from an unseen world.

Once up, the sun revealed, not a forest, but the remains of a forest. For fifty yards in any direction, splintered tree trunks, amputated branches, and masses of twigs and leaves littered the crater that had been the forest floor. When the smoke finally cleared, whole trees had been obliterated while tiny bits of debris, pieces of bark and clumps of dirt continued to rain down from the sky. Snowflakes of ash floated from nowhere, lightly coating the forest ruins and the dead birds lying in the dirt.

From seventy-five yards away, a man held a remote. The devastation was, actually, much more extensive than he’d hoped. That meant one of two things: either he could use less dynamite or – he could blow a bigger hole.

He smiled.

 

Communication: The Lost Art. And Maybe the Lost Job.

InterviewingRecently, I was talking with someone who does a lot of hiring at Duke University hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. We ended up getting into a conversation about the skills that many of today’s job seekers have – or don’t have – which is the sad point. We noticed that many necessary communication skills seem to be sorely lacking in some in the millennial generation. Granted, millennials are fabulous techies but that expertise seems to have led to a deficit in interpersonal communication skills. This lack is, from her perspective, a deal-breaker in terms of getting a job. And, may I add, an absence of interpersonal communication skills is a problem in any situation which requires dealing with people – which, when lacking, could be a dream-breaker in general.       

     Here are some of her tips.

     Number 1:  When you’re talking with people, look at them. This seemed, as we talked, to be her number one complaint. And while this skill should be self-evident, it’s apparently not. She reports that when interviewing, many people – especially young folks – simply don’t know how to look her in the eye. We’re guessing that that’s because much of the interaction millennials have is with their own peers and the majority of those interactions are electronic; therefore, they simply have not had much practice interfacing directly with others so they feel uncomfortable when someone else is looking (or attempting to look) them in the eye.

     I’ve noticed a couple of things with millennials as well. First of all, I’ve often marveled at how, when they’re with one friend, they’re texting or messaging another. And guess what? When they’re with that friend, they’re messaging the first one. Or I’ll see them chatting with each other while they’re playing video games or texting and neither is, of course, looking at the other. Sometimes I hear them chatting with someone in who knows what state or nation while playing a video game, meaning they haven’t ever seen the other’s face. And many times in the classroom when I’m speaking directly to a student, I’ll have to stop and ask him (or her) to look at me so I know I have his attention.

     Which is the point: when you’re talking with someone and they’re looking down or anywhere but at you, the message is that they’re not paying attention. And that can be inferred to mean that what you’re saying is not that important.

     Is that the message you want to send to a prospective employer? Or to anyone else?

     Number 2:  When you’re talking with someone, slow down and speak up.  Evidently, mumbling is an issue. Granted, it can be unnerving to have to talk with someone you don’t know, but as I tell students when they’re public speaking, if people can’t hear you, then their focus is off your message and on you. And that’s bad. The same thing applies to the speed of your speech; the faster you talk, the more nervous you’ll appear. People who speak slowly are perceived as more confident plus, it’s easier for a listener to process what they’re saying. So, again, if you’re speaking too quickly, people are off message and on you. As I tell students, we don’t pay any attention to the radio unless it’s not working and it’s the same with a speaker.

     The irony is that people get nervous speaking with or to folks they don’t know because they’re afraid of looking foolish and yet it’s that nervousness that causes them to do (or not do) the things that do make them look foolish.

     Which leads me to the next point . . .

     Number 3: Prepare. And then practice. You know what situation you’re going into, whether it’s a job interview, a meeting with a client, or simply a social meeting with a new person. It’s not like you’re going to be beamed over somewhere with no notice and you’re standing there in your underwear. So practice what you’re going to say.    

     Sometimes when a friend is going to a job interview, I’ll offer to let them rehearse the worst case scenario – a really mean interviewer. I’ll ask them hard questions and do my best to put them on the spot. I’ll say things like, “What’s your greatest weakness – and don’t tell me it’s that you work too hard!” (Don’t ever say that!!) Research interview questions, Google the best and worst answers, and get someone to practice with.

     Number 4: Pay attention to what you look like. Now you might be thinking that a job interview is not a beauty contest – and you’d be correct. However, it is a contest of how professional you are, whether you know how to dress for a work environment and, believe it or not, whether you’re a clean, neat person. My Duke friend entertained me with stories about how some people dress coming to job interviews – and some are not pretty. For example, one woman came dressed in scrubs. Now granted, she was looking for a job in the medical profession, but one doesn’t dress down for an interview; one dresses up. That means, as a general rule, always dress one step higher than the job requires. For instance, if you’re meeting the manager at a fast-food restaurant where you’ll be wearing a company uniform, nice slacks and a shirt or blouse are all that’s necessary. (And decent shoes – don’t wear sneakers!) If you’re applying for a professional job, a sales job, or an “out front” position like a receptionist, dress up. A suit for men and a suit or nice dress for women. And ladies, be modest: watch how short the skirt is or how low-cut the dress. (Sadly that has to be pointed out . . .)

     Number 5: And for crying out loud, smile!!  It’s not that difficult. Enough said?

     If you’re a person for whom any or all of these things do not come naturally, prepare!  Your competition will.

     Now – don’t be nervous. You got this!

DRIVE YOUR VISION.