Forgiving yourself

I don’t know about you, but I am not good at giving myself a break. I’ve had very demanding people in my life. Teachers, coaches, and even more personal influences. I have let people down at times. I have made mistakes. But the hardest person to win over has always been myself.

I absolutely cannot deal with letting people down. Don’t misunderstand. I came to grips years ago that you can’t please everyone. And that’s okay. Not everyone’s opinions matter. But throughout my life, there have been people who have held a more significant role, and whose approval has been very important to me.

I found myself recently in a circumstance where I really felt like I let someone down. On the surface, it wasn’t anything big. But the circumstance caused someone important to me to think back on difficulties from their past that were unpleasant, to say the least. Though it was completely accidental, I felt so horrible. It wasn’t long before I was being assured that it wasn’t my fault, and that all was well. However, I absolutely can’t stand even inadvertently letting loved ones down.

I know it’s good to hold yourself to a higher standard. It keeps me humble. It keeps me driven to good things. But I also know that I sometimes can be unfair to myself. When I asked for forgiveness, I was repeatedly and lovingly told it was unnecessary. But I still needed to be released through their forgiveness. I was.

However, I still hadn’t released myself.

I’m so thankful for having people in my life who are mature, patient and encouraging. past-mistakes-275x300Earlier in life, I had been in situations in which any mistake, any “failure” was met with zero tolerance. To some degree, a pretty significant degree, I think, I still fear living with that monkey on my back. But I’m blessed to have a more positive influence in my life that is trying to help me live in grace. I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to get past that paralyzing fear of losing what is most dear to me when I come up short. I still have to learn that by simply not giving up, by pressing on, my greatest fears don’t have to happen just because I’m imperfect.

Wow, you have no idea how huge it is for me to even write these words. I’m pretty sure by even doing so, I’ll probably find myself in need of reminding myself of these very words in very short order. But that’s okay. Accountability is a good thing when you have people in your life who love you despite your imperfections.

Forgiving others is easy. Forgiving myself, a challenge.

Challenge accepted.

Object of affection, or distraction?

So many relationships are torn apart by distraction. It doesn’t take much to distract one from what they were focusing on. Have you ever seen Tiger Wood’s reaction when he’s lining up a putt, and all of a sudden he hears someone in the gallery snap a photo or whisper a comment to a companion? Trust me…it ain’t pretty.

It is so easy for our focus to be derailed by distraction. We are so vulnerable. Especially in this day and age. We are bombarded by distraction. As you’re reading this, your cell phone might ring or vibrate. Someone may enter the room to ask you a question or initiate a conversation. You may get an email. You may find your brain slowly wandering off to thoughts of the things you need to get done today.

The key to being faithful in a relationship boils down to one simple principle. You must love the object of your affection so much that it is impossible to be distracted. You must be so dedicated to honoring them, the mere thought of turning your face from them, even for a moment, gives you a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. This is true in human relationships, as well as your relationship with God. When you are so in love that nothing and no one can wrestle your attention away, you have victory. When you are so lost in love, there is nothing that can compare to the value and beauty found in what you have.

There is so much out there competing for your attention. Sadly, it’s clear by the statistics that outside influences are ruining relationships and families routinely. It takes great focus and character to stay true to your Love. Thus, you cannot rely on feelings alone. Emotions can ebb and flow. When emotions are low, it is easier to be seduced by distraction. In these times, it takes strength of character to choose to turn away from distraction.

driving-distractions

It requires your determination to not let something, or someone get the best of you that someone else deserves and depends on.

Today, who will you give your best to? The object of your affection, or of your distraction? One path leads to love, beauty, fulfillment and great rewards. The other leads only to disaster.

 

 

Bigger dreams than you thought

dream-quotes-images-6-f3f199deLately, I’ve been a little fixated on dreams. Not the ones that happen during the night as you sleep. The ones that you have while wide awake. The ones that God inspires in you. The ones that shape your character and your decisions.

Years ago, I shared this story of 3 trees to a large audience of kids and their families. I thought it was especially poignant in speaking to children because their whole lives were in front of them. After sharing this fictitious, yet very real interpretation of dreams often times coming to fruition in different, yet bigger ways, I shared with them a very personal story.

Since my mid-to-late 20s, my desire to get married and have a family grew very strong in my heart. I shared my heart with friends with families. I learned from them. I watched videos. I read books. I listened to audio tapes from seminars. I wanted so much to learn all I would need to be a good husband and father. I was preparing for my dream.

As I stood before that audience that night, I was about 40 years old. Still never married, and still no children. In preparing my message for that audience, I sensed the Lord was speaking to me probably more than He would speak to those children and their families. What God had given me wasn’t one or more children of my own, but hundreds of children, even thousands I could inspire and influence in some way.

I am now 48 years old. Still never married. Still no children of my own. Yet, I’ve been able to develop wonderful relationships with kids throughout the years. Many of whom are now adults, and even parents themselves. Some of them have mild to severe disabilities. Some have endured devastating heartbreaks in losing parents to cancer. Many are living full lives as they build a strong foundation for their futures.

Just like these kids, my story isn’t yet complete. My dream is still alive and well. It won’t turn out as I had envisioned it all those years ago.

It will be even better.

Surface streets

As my car is now within 100 miles of the magical number of 200,000 errr, mile-stone, lots of  “little” maladies are beginning to make themselves known. Yesterday, while driving in the left lane and transitioning from one freeway to another, my car began to sputter, then konked out. Thankfully, it started right up again, and I was able to resume my journey.

However, my confidence in my ride was shaken.

It, then, seemed prudent to avoid the freeways, and use surface streets as an alternative. While being slower and indirect, I felt safer in the event of another breakdown.

Then God tapped me on the heart and said it was life lesson time. Little did I know at the time, within hours I would be getting an object lesson on this very topic.

I find myself in a situation where I have a beautiful and wonderful goal. Like a little puppy running downhill, my nature is to run just as fast as I can with my (metaphorical) ears and tongue flapping happily in the wind of my own speedy creation. However, doing so also puts me on the brink of losing control and experiencing an epic wipeout.

Surface streets. Slow and steady wins the race.

As I navigated through the surface streets yesterday, I actually drove through some beautiful neighborhoods. I saw people out enjoying a beautiful summer day. I couldn’t rush through it if I had wanted to.

More importantly, I reached each and every destination without further breakdown.

IMG_1562

Oh, how I need to apply this principle to my life. I am trying. I must see the joy, beauty and safety of the surface streets that lead to my destination. In steaming through it on the autobahn of life, not only do I run the risk of a devastating collision of failure, but I’ll miss the beautiful views out my window.

I’m trying, Lord.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 3:12-14

The little within the big

It’s amazing what and who can inspire you, and how quickly it can happen. As you can tell by looking over the very long periods between my most recent posts, my inspiration to write has been scarce. But today, I find myself inspired. For the purpose of this post, how I was inspired is not for public consumption. My muse, God and I know, and that’s good enough for now.

In art, there is a technique known as pointillist. This is the method of creating an entire i-430d212eb0ceb232194fa91bc64ca991-monnier1-1 i-5f7c6bc4cf59a6abb3d959f40281919b-monnier2painting by way of using only dots. Probably the most famous example of this is seen in these photos.

In life, I have found that it can be so much easier and exciting to obey God in the big picture things. Whether it’s taking a new job, getting involved in ministry, moving to a new town, and so on. But what is more difficult, and less glamorous, are the little “dots” that make the bigger picture possible and discernible. These are typically little decisions. Tiny choices. Things that seem inconsequential as compared to the big goals. Yet, in reality, they can make or break the delicate balance required in having things work out with the desired results.

For several months now, I have found myself at an unexpected, and unwanted crossroads.  I, for one, am not wild about situations like that. I am a nester. I tend to resist change. I certainly don’t go looking for it. But sometimes, like it or not, ready or not, it’s unavoidable.

I find myself looking at the potential of a big picture that is very much to my liking. Perhaps something for which I’ve waited and persevered for years. But in order for it to be possible, a series of “dots” must happen first. God is pleased and honored when we are faithful and obedient in the “small” things.

I have found in my life, that some of the biggest decisions I have ever made have not necessarily looked wise on paper. However, those have been the times I’ve been the most at peace. I am not Mr. Super Spiritual. It has nothing to do with my maturity. I cannot take credit for it. It’s simply the presence of God.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  ~1 Corinthians 1:25

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  ~Philippians 4:7

If you’re facing a situation which makes no sense, yet it brings the most peace…don’t fight it. Just keep with the dots. Every now and then, take a step back and see how your picture is developing. But then, get back to the dots. God’s is guarding you as you and He develop your masterpiece.