Summer Vacation

One last picture before leaving.

One last picture before leaving.

I prepared myself as I anticipated the summer visit from my daughter and her family.  Schedules would be upside down, and so would the house. I’d be cooking up a storm some days and other days they’d be out on their own and I’d barely catch a glimpse of them.  I finished the bathroom just in time, got the beds freshly made and the rooms ready.  Stacks of towels were waiting in the closet, the refrigerator and pantry were stocked with their favorite foods.   Minutes before they were due I took a deep breath to take in all the peace and quiet and then exhaled to let it all go.

They arrived and the whirlwind ensued.  Within minutes my five-year-old granddaughter had me wrapped around her finger with her sweetness, charm and that curly ponytail that had grown several inches in the six months since Christmas. As usual, she melted my heart as she raptly listened as I read to her.  Our eight-year-old grandson with his blond crew cut and large blue eyes had joined Little League and our tradition of playing catch and Nerf gun wars wasn’t quite the same anymore.  His speed and aim have significantly improved and I could see it’s just a matter of time before he plays with me only to be polite to his dear old grandma. Sigh.

There were late night talks with my daughter and son-in-law.  Katie and I went over old recipes and I gave her some things I wanted her to have.  Josh helped my husband chop down the trees that hadn’t made it through last year’s drought.  We made s’mores with Uncle Ian and Aunt Erin around the fire before the mosquito bites made us run for the indoors.  We all ate too much and did too much and it was wonderful.

What I didn’t prepare for was how fast the two weeks would go.  They left today, in their cherry red truck, waving and beeping and shouting thank you’s.  I stood in the driveway and waved as they disappeared around the corner.  My feet seemed rooted in the spot.  Letting go.  It was harder this time.  I lingered out there, their voices still ringing in my ears.

Why is it this way, this fullness that life takes on when loved ones are around?  As mom I’m still the protector, my world is right and good when they’re around me, even though they’re older now. I know they’re safe when they’re here, that for a brief time I don’t have to wonder or worry.  I love going to sleep knowing we’re all together and we’re all where we need to be.

But, it’s temporary.  It’s vacation.  They really need to go back to their lives and their futures, as do I.  I have to let go.

As I walk inside, I smell the blueberry waffles we made for breakfast.  The house is not quite so upside down anymore but I’m in no hurry to wash sheets and straighten the few things up.  The TV is on, the silent movie my daughter was enjoying reminds me how much she is like me.  Next time I see her, Lord willing, she’ll be holding the baby she is expecting.  Time to embrace yet another love.  A love that will likely break my heart a little, too.  But there’s always room for more.

Yes, tears fill my eyes, I will miss them terribly.  I look at my hands with five blue nails and five red nails, painted last night with Tinkerbell polish by my granddaughter.  They will stay this way for a while.  I see the juice boxes I forgot to send with them.  Their bedrooms smell of them, the faint scent of their laundry soap lingers.  It was such a good visit.  I want to call them back, they’re still just miles from home, but I can’t, I have to let them go.

Now the dishes are washed, the sheets are in the laundry, the rugs are vacuumed and I’ve thrown out that awful red micro something blanket I bought for the guest room that sheds red lint all over the place.   I find a part of toy that dropped on the wrong side of the bed.  I find two pieces of wrapped bubble gum hidden in a secret spot, the can of bug spray they left behind.  I touch them all.  I chew a piece of bubble gum.  I keep willing myself to let them go, but it’s so, so hard.

I find that in all the giving I do to prepare for them, to make their vacation special and fun and as easy as possible, it is I who have been given the most.  It’s a gift to do these things, to provide this little respite for them.  To soak up the love and charm of grandchildren, to see one’s adult children so blessed and so in the middle of all that is good in this life; these are things we are not promised, some do not get.  Yet here I am, blessed beyond measure.  It is I who have received the greatest gift, the greatest satisfaction.  And I’m oh so grateful, but it has taken me by surprise.  I wasn’t prepared for that.

Called to Change

My call to change came in the middle of Walmart.  I had a white, faux wood blind for the bathroom window (I settled on 30 x 64 because I, employed for years as a decorator, had forgotten for the umpteenth time to measure the window) in my arms on its way into my cart when the very clear, distinct thought occurred.  “You’re focusing on the wrong things, Jill.”  I paused, blinked, and tilted my head.  Huh?

The Blind - How Apt!

The Blind – How Apt!

“You’re focusing on the wrong things.”

Okay, this was way too clear and out of the blue. On top of that, I had this just arresting feeling.  Like everything around me stopped and I had to think about this.  Hmm.  I paced a bit back and forth in front of the shelf, pretending to peruse the sizes again, trying not to look like a weirdo.

Again, “You’re focusing on the wrong things, Jill.”  Okay, is this me or might it be the Holy Spirit nudging me?  I mean, it’s just a blind. Okay, it may be the whole bathroom thing, but really, it needed to be painted, but yes, it is turning out to entail more work, time and money than I realized.  But I’m at Walmart for Pete’s sake.  I did my homework and this blind is the best bargain out there, not like I’m spending too much. And I’m not going to paint the cabinet even though it would look much better.  I drew the line there.  But, maybe…it’s not about the money or the painting, but the focus.  The focus.  

Well, I have a gazillion things on my plate yet I’m trying to get the house ready for a two week visit with my daughter and her family.  Not that they care about the house, but I like to set goals and I set their arrival as a time frame to accomplish a bunch of stuff around the house.  I’m on a roll.  The focus.

Wherever this thought originated, it was a good one.  One I need to deal with, think about, and then resolve.  I knew all this in one simple blink of an eye.  However, and this is a really painful, honest, loaded however, I was also in the middle of my own forceful impetus forward to do.  Get this done.  I didn’t know how to stop it in that moment and switch gears.  I paced a bit more.  No, I wasn’t ready to let go of anything I was doing or delay a purchase.  There was no stopping me at that point.  I was committed to that blind and getting the house done.  I put it in my cart.  And, I continued on to Home Depot to get more switch plates that I’m slowly swapping out.

But the thought continued to grip me.  When I came home, I put the blind in the bathroom corner and left it there.  The switch plates remained in the bag.  That’s not so much to my credit, however, because life had a funny way of forcing that.  You see, I’d been to the dentist before I dashed to Walmart.  I’d had a root canal, which was not fun (and of course at Walmart I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in years when I couldn’t even talk straight – we both laughed at my attempts!) and the anesthetic was wearing off and I couldn’t do a whole lot anyway.  Except try not to think about the pain and just let my body rest because it really doesn’t like hates root canals.

So I had time to think focus more on focus.  Reality is that those gazillion things on my plate aren’t really all that many but they feel that way because the most important things on my plate require change.  More accurately, they require more change.  You see, I’ve been working on making healthy, wise changes in my life, in relationships and situations, and it’s been hard work!  I feel so drained sometimes, because of that hard work, that I look for distractions.  To some extent that can be good, but I think that wake-up call in Walmart was  about how I’ve been letting those distractions take over.  I love to decorate, fix up and make superficial changes that make me feel as if I’ve finally accomplished something.  It’s physically taxing, dents the budget a bit, but it gives a lot back.  It’s fruitful. A great way to get things done. Besides, some are really necessary.  Or so I pretend. But one project (no thanks to Pinterest!) seems to beget another project.  And pretty soon I’m kind of lost in projects.  Distracted you might say.  Uh, huh.  Total loss of focus on what’s important.

That was yesterday.  Today, I “just happened” to read Hebrews 12 – this book in the Bible is really one of my favorites – and it spoke of laying aside every weight and sin that clings so closely to us…here it is: 

…therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do Not Grow Weary

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

What was once my pleasant distraction from the demands and stress of change really did become a weight, pulling me forward into more of the same.  Not that decorating is wrong to do!  But, like any pleasant distraction, I let it shift my focus off the work at hand.

Hebrews 12 inspires me to get back into the “endurance” part of trusting in God.  I feel like I need to make a list of those things that weigh me down and those sins that cling so closely to me.  I’m going to write them down, one at a time, each on its own piece of paper.  Acknowledge their reality.  How they’re affecting me.  And then I’m going to “lay them aside”, really.  Set them to the side, maybe toss them in the garbage can, (recycling is too good for them!)  Then I want to make a short list of what I am going to focus on wholeheartedly, trusting God to help me with those things I’m avoiding.  I want to face up to where I need to be making wise choices so I don’t stumble where I’m weak.   Next I’m going to go run, even if it’s just up the stairs, but do something to visibly say, “Yes, I want to run with endurance and strengthen my feeble limbs and get back on track.  I so want to focus on what’s important.”

I wonder, when that blind does get put up, years from now will I look at it and remember that moment in Walmart?  I sure hope so.

The Dare of Spring

Spring stirs memories,
Hints of things to come,
Things best not remembered
In the dead of winter.

But a day of sunshine comes,
The air turns sweet,
We feel with surprise
The warmth of sun
As we bend in the grass.

We breathe anew,
Remembering.

Pause,
If you dare,
To soak this in.
But beware
Your heart will stir,
Your soul enthralled
With potent longing
For love,
New life,
And second chances.

Dare
Embrace this spring,
The God,
Of second chances
Who makes it safe
To breathe again,
Renewed.

Dare,
If your longing
Has reached its zenith,
To be swept away
As spring bursts forth,
Holding nothing back,
As beauty spills,
Overflows and rushes,
Carrying you
To joy
Unspeakable and
Full of glory!

Yes, dare worship the Creator
Rather than the created
This spring!

Beautiful You!

Do You See Yourself as God Sees You?

Do You See Yourself as God Sees You?

Timing is everything, and three things happened in the last, rather difficult week that led me to connect the dots and realize afresh a truth I sorely needed.

First, my son Nathan shared a post on Facebook by Dove, the maker of beauty products, titled “Real Beauty Sketches” with the tagline, “You are more beautiful than you think!”  They filmed an experiment which consisted of an artist rendering two versions of a woman’s face without seeing her.  The first version was the result of a woman’s self-description; the second version came from another woman who tried to describe to the artist the first woman’s face.  The second version was more accurate, with softer, more gentle features. The faces looked happier as well, more peaceful.

I love the fact that my son (he’s 26) posted this on his timeline.  Men are so aware of how critically women perceive themselves.  This bothers him, and it bothers me, too. Especially when I hear young people criticizing themselves.  The older I get the more I see how absolutely beautiful youth itself is.  The glow of young skin, the vitality and health that radiates with or without stunning features.  It’s all in perspective – and wouldn’t my mom just love to hear me say that after all the complaining I did in my youth!

Second, Turner Classic Movies (the one channel I want on a deserted island – that happens to have cable!) had a snippet showing Sydney Guilaroff as he talked about dancing with Greta Garbo.  Curiosity led me to Google, and I learned that Sydney was the man I’ve been looking for my entire life.  And when you hear who he was, you may realize you’ve been looking for him, too.  I must tell you, however, before you get your hopes up, that Sydney died in 1997.  I’m a bit disappointed, though my chances of meeting him were nil.

Who was he?  Oh, just the genius behind the “look” of all the Hollywood Stars.  As in, Marilyn, Liz, Greta, Ava, Tyrone, Clark, Lucille, Claudette, Joan, Norma, Vivian, Hedy, Harlow, Marlene, Greer, and the list just doesn’t end.  He had the gift of studying a person’s face and creating a look just for them or for their latest role.  A snip here, a part there, a curl, a twist, a bang, a color, and the stars looked amazing and the world scrambled to recreate their looks. The best stars wouldn’t dream of doing a film without Sydney to do their hair and with good reason.  He brought out their best.  He made them unique.  He saw the hidden and brought it out for all to see.  He affirmed them.  All this because he saw their potential.  Ah yes, I’ve often wished to find a budding Sydney at a local salon that I could afford! (No offense to my amazing stylist, Heather, whom I love dearly!)

Third, I had lunch yesterday with a most delightful woman.  She’s in her early eighties, and just as smart and vital as I recalled her to be twenty years ago.  She sat down at her piano and magnificently played refrains of beloved hymns, hymns that are a healing balm over my tired, wounded soul.  Her hands are extraordinary as they play; the notes resounded with depth and layers and joy and beauty that made my heavy heart simply fly as notes soared and dipped.  But what made me weep was the beauty of this aging woman – still strong in her faith, still using her gifts and blessing me so richly with them.

You see, as I saw the beauty in her, as she put her hands on the keys and I felt the incredible beauty of her music, I realized anew that this is how God sees me when I use my humble gifts.  As I saw the fullness of her faith in God and her love for Him as she played music more to Him than to me, I felt stronger in my faith.  As I saw God using her at 83 to bless me and heal me, I felt affirmed in my desire to be useful to Him, too, despite my own weaknesses.  

I walked away from our time together renewed, strengthened and encouraged in many, many ways, none of which she did intentionally.  How she would have described herself and her actions and how I’ve described them would create two completely different pictures. Funny thing is, she told me that I significantly encouraged and blessed her – in ways I didn’t even realize.  True story.  I was floored. Two women, who God brought together, blessed each other at just the right time in just the right ways just by being who God has already created us to be.

And so I connect the dots…when I’m discouraged I become so much like the women in the Dove experiment, only I’m minimizing, critiquing and creating a distorted image of who I am on the inside.  God – God! –  has studied not just my face but my very heart and soul.  He snips discouragement, parts my path from hurtful people, adds curls of encouragement just when I need them, twists that bad into good, adds some bangs and surprises, colors my vision with hope and faith and I realize I am affirmed and loved by my Creator.  He placed that potential in me, He does all He can to bring it about, and all I need to do is be faithful to Him and to who He’s called me to be.  As I do that, He brings about the healing and joy and relationships I need.

I thought I would pass this encouragement on to you, just in case you struggle with your inner image sometimes, too.  You are so beautiful in His eyes!  He studies your face, your heart, your hopes and your disappointments.  He wants to heal you, too. He has placed potential in you and He alone knows how to bring it out more fully and more beautifully than you have ever dared to hope.

Who needs a marvelous hairstylist, or even Dove beauty products and their affirmation, when our very souls are crying out for affirmation?  Only the One who created our souls can truly affirm us.  And that is only done through the powerful work Jesus did on the cross, so that our souls can be cleansed from our sins and made beautiful, white as snow, righteous and lovely, complete in Him.  And that is just the beginning of our transformation – for He who began a good work in you and in me will be faithful to complete it – which means He’s actively at work in us and through us always.  The ultimate makeover is ongoing.  Who you are is a beautiful work in progress!  He looks at you and sees you with all that potential, and yet loves you just as you are today.  Trust Him when He says He loves you so…..much!  

One last thing – go bless someone with who you are – you may be exactly the encouragement they need today, because you are beautiful indeed!

The Mentor Me Series – Step Four – The Action Plan

MentorMeKickOffThe Mentor Me Series – Step Four – The Action Plan 

Today we go deep, to where the rubber hits the road.  I love this part!  So, let’s open in prayer, follow up on what resources you’ve chosen and then get to work.

“God, thank you so much for the heart of_______.  They’re here, looking for answers and willing to do the necessary work.  Direct the process, every step of the way.  Give us wisdom to know what to do and the ability to go deep and follow through even when it might be difficult.  You, as our Shepherd, promise to guide us.  We trust you to do that now. In Jesus name, amen.”

Now, to follow up on last time, tell me about the resources available to help you.  Did you chose one?  Why that one?  How did it help you?

Okay, now let’s focus on setting up your Action Plan!  Remember when you knew what you wanted – and you simple went after it until you got it?  That time when nothing held you back?  Sigh.  I know, I remember when I did that, too.  How I wish I could bottle that determination and pull it out when needed.  Theories abound on what flips that switch in us, and frankly, they’re pretty good.  Psychologists have boiled it down to something like this:  if you really want it, you’ll do the hard work to get it.  If you fall short, it’s because you only think you really want it but there’s a deeper motive you’re not willing to face that keeps you from attaining it.

Sometimes life is so full of difficulties that going deep is simply not an option.  For example, your loved one is diagnosed with cancer and needs you more than ever. You delay your goal to get a promotion at work until they’re better.  No wrong motive there.

But let’s go even deeper.  What if you’re willing to delay it because you know the real reason you haven’t been promoted is because you often arrive late to work? You resent your boss and being late is your way of letting her know you’re not happy. Emotionally, it will take a toll on you to face your motives and deal with the difficulties with your boss.  I get that.  However, consider the benefits of being honest about your real motive and addressing it.  In the light of truth and honesty, you may see how the energy you’re spending on an unhealthy work situation can be freed up so you’re there 100% for your loved one.  Plus, deal with the issue with your boss now and you’re in a better position for that promotion later.

Motives.  I keep using that word – have you noticed?  Why?  Because motives motivate.  Merriam-Webster defines motive as ” “something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act”.

Please take a few moments and let that sink in.  Motives motivate us to take action.  

What motivates you?  Your desire to be loved, your desire to be a certain way, to be perceived a certain way, to do this, to not do that, to obey God, to defy God, to gain something?  Consider both internal and external factors that determine your motives.  Ask yourself if you’re motivated by someone else, either in being like them or in making sure you’re not like them.  How do societal values affect you, or the values of your friends, or enemies, or family?

1.  Make a complete and honest list of what motivates you in life.  Make this list for your eyes only so you’re able to be as thorough and as honest as possible.

2.  As you look over your list, take it one step further.  After each motive, ask yourself “Why does this motivate me?”  Keep asking why until you’ve identified as many of your personal motives as possible.

3.  When you’ve run out of answers,  look over your list.  Read it through several times.  Make truthful adjustments, and then consider that this is who you are.  

Now that you’re clear about who you are, what do you think of yourself when you see this on paper?  Is this who you want to be?  Your motives and attitudes shape your responses to life and your choices in life.  Change them, and you change yourself.  Make different choices, have different responses, and your personal history is altered forever.

Our motives and the consequences of our motives strongly affect us and those around us.  Prisoners of war are clear examples of the freedom men and women have to chose their motives and attitudes when every other freedom has been denied. Amidst inhumane suffering, many prisoners chose to be motivated by the hope of seeing their loved ones again.  They see the bitterness and evil in their captors, so they’re motivated to be the opposite of that.  They chose to trust in God’s love for them despite the terrible things happening.  Their endurance motivates their fellow prisoners to endure.  How prisoners cope in the future, upon release, is often determined by their motives and attitudes during their imprisonment.   They are a powerful example of how our motives shape both our present and our future.

4.  Identify the motive behind your one clear objective in being mentored.   If by any chance you’re still not clear on your motives behind your objective, write a list of pros and cons.  In your list of pros you’ll see the benefits – which come from your motivators.  Go ahead and name them.  Are you happy with your motive?  Is it enough to move you forward?  If yes, go on to the next step.  If not, you either need a new objective or a new motive.  Which will you choose?  

5. Brainstorm:  Create a list of actions you believe will bring you closer to your goal.  Get them all out on paper.

6. Now, put them in order.  You’re creating a step by step Action Plan to reach your objective.  

7. Put a realistic time frame around your Action Plan.  Make it challenging but not disheartening (not too long or too short).  Each time you accomplish a step, tell yourself what a good job you’re doing.  If the step isn’t successful, but you gave it your all, tell yourself you at least tried – that’s a “little win”.  

8.  If you find yourself stalling out, this last step is for you.  a) Give a copy of your Action Plan to someone who will hold you accountable. Follow up with them regularly.  If they fall through, you’re still responsible for your plan, not them.  Be honest about the motive that’s holding you back.   b) Identify that one thing you really don’t want to do. Now, go do it.  Don’t think about it, just do it.  Get that monkey off your back!  Your sense of accomplishment will be off the charts!    

Step 4 – Action Plan – My Contribution:

The rubber’s hitting the road.   I’m stepping up my prayers for you because in many ways, this is make it or break it time.  You’re either going to do the work, or revise your objective or motive, or delay the work.  Or, worst case, you’ll walk away altogether.  I don’t want you living with regrets or unfinished business. You’ve done a lot of work to get to this point and I’m committed to hitting the road with you, running shoulder to shoulder in spirit, with my head up to face the changes that come so I can encourage you when it gets tough and rejoice with you as you accomplish your goals.  

I’m also hoping that by seeing yourself honestly and clearly, you’ll become more intentional about the choices you make in all areas of your life.  If you’re having a hard time admitting your motives, I’ll be praying that you’re open to asking God to help you with this.  He knows where you’re motivated by wounds from  painful experiences.  He knows the choices you make that keep those wounds concealed and the consequences on you and those around you.  He also knows the motives that are just plain not good.  We all have them at times, and we all need forgiveness for them and the hurtful behavior that comes from them.  I’m hoping you don’t go hide in shame, but rather bring them to the light so they don’t run your life anymore.   God’s in this with you for the long term, at a deeper level than I can possibly go, and I hope you see the incredible love and forgiveness He has for you through Jesus, and how I represent in just a small, small way, the fact that He wants the best for you and is cheering you on, always!

The Finish Line – our final and very special step – is coming next. Meanwhile, run well, my good friend, run well.  

The Mentor Me Series – Step Three – Resources #4

MentorMeKickOffHello!  It’s great to see you again. Did you choose a book to read? Why or why not?  How’s that going?

As always, let’s open in prayer. “God, we invite You into this time together.  The Bible teaches that where two or more are gathered in Your name, You’re right there with them.  So, please guide us today as we consider which resources to use. Amen.”

Resources #4 – Your Contribution:    

1.  Classes – Is it worth your while to consider adding more knowledge to your skill set?  It’s never too late to get more schooling.  Check out a traditional college, a local junior college, online college courses, churches, clubs, libraries or the workplace. Education is often key to moving ahead in many areas.

2.  Conferences – Does your field of interest hold conferences throughout the year? Take every opportunity to learn from leaders and even peers in your area of interest.  Conferences for parents and couples are often held through local churches. A favorite author or leader you know may be sharing information on a speaking tour. Dr. Henry Cloud, whose books and teachings are quite helpful, recently invited followers on Facebook to join him on a free teleconference call as he spoke about his latest book.  Ask your library if they’re aware of any free classes or conferences.

3.  Volunteering – Offering up your time and skills may benefit you in establishing new relationships and gaining new experiences.  Helping others is a way to open our eyes to new situations and opportunities we may not have considered before. It’s often sacrificial and yet rewarding at the same time.  Volunteering for an organization is a great way to get to know if you’d like to work there, too.

4.  Counseling – Difficult circumstances take a heavy emotional toll.  A good counselor may be able to give the needed impetus for change if hope is draining. I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking Godly counsel when we’re at the end of our ability to cope.  Please don’t let shame or the mistaken belief that you should be able to figure everything out on your own hold you back from seeking help. Ask your local church for their recommendations for vetted counselors (their credentials are sound and they have good, current reviews), and check them out yourself.  At least give them a fair try.

There are many other resources available, such as magazines, online websites, TED videos, YouTube, churches, libraries, etc. The monetary cost of some may be quite high, while others cost little or nothing. Please keep in mind that some resources may be far from what we hoped they would be.  In fact, we may walk away from resources knowing for certain what NOT to do!  There is one verse, however, that comforts and encourages me a great deal.  In Psalm 16:7-8  King David wrote: I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  I keep my eyes always on the LORD.  With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  With God in our heart, at the most difficult moments He will indeed counsel us, for free, and ensure that we will not be shaken.

Resources #4 – My Contribution:  

As we wrap up our focus on resources, there are two important points I hope you really get:

1.  As you focus on your one clear objective, you need what I refer to as the “little wins”.  Little wins come by making small but positive steps forward.  Realistically, even the perfect book, class, conference or counselor will only take you so far. What’s critical is your attitude about it.  Too often we evaluate each resource as either a success or a failure.  That mindset will quickly depress even the most stalwart among us!  I chose instead to view each resource as a step made with the right intention – with hope – forward.  That is what counts – thus a small win.  Did you make the step for the right reasons?  I only consider a resource a failure if I chose it with the wrong motive.  An example might be, “Did I read that book or take that class, hoping to get rich quick?”  “Did I expect that counselor to point out how wrong my spouse is?”  These are not good motives!  Examining our motives and lining them up with wise, loving, Godly values will enable us to have an inner peace knowing we really did try our best, even if the resource didn’t live up to our expectations.  That inner peace is a benefit and a definite win.  If the resource was helpful, then it’s an even bigger win!

2.  Looking at resources this way puts the responsibility for our choices, even the choices of the resources we choose to utilize, back on our own shoulders. In this way we take control of our lives.  It’s not someone else’s fault that we’re not where we need to be or we don’t have what we want.  And, if God doesn’t supply a resource when we think it’s needed most, it’s up to us to figure out the best way to move forward.  Is God using this to build patience in me?  Is my ability to endure growing?  Is my faith being stretched?  Is God disciplining me?  (He disciplines those He loves!)  What is a good lesson from this situation?  What is it I need to see?  Please see this as an opportunity to learn!  Each time you learn a true and sound lesson, it’s another tool in your toolbox readily available for your future.  And that’s another win!  I’m hoping you’re saying, “Ah, yes.  I get it!”

Join me next time for Step 4 – Reaching My Objective.  Until then, may God help you have the right motives and see the true small wins in your life.   God bless!

The Mentor Me Series – Step Three – Resources #3

MentorMeKickOffHello!  How are you and how are you doing with your homework?  Are you taking time to pray and read your Bible – daily?  What have you learned so far in this process?

Once again, let’s open in prayer. “God, today I ask for discernment for both________and myself.  We need to be able to discern truth and wisdom from safe resources.  I pray you’ll protect our hearts and keep us always aware that You and Your Word are the true source of life and answers we need.  Help us to chose carefully what books to read and what advice to act on.  May we remember to always filter everything through the truth of Your Word.  In Jesus name, amen.”

Step Three – Resources #3 – Your Contribution -Reading  Resources

Before I share my recommended resources, this is my attitude towards all resources other than the Bible summed up in three words – “Trust No One.”  And “Guard Your Heart.”  Why?   John 2: 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Yes, we are all fallible.  We should not follow the teachings of any man or woman, but rather follow Jesus.  Many great leaders and teachers have proven to be hypocrites, with appalling motives that throw doubt and confusion on all who’ve  followed them. This leads me to the next verse I keep in mind all the time:  James 3:1 says,”Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”  I’m shaking in my boots, believe me!  I don’t want to point you or anyone else in the wrong direction – because I know someday God will be holding me accountable for what I’ve taught!  That’s why I’m leaving off my list several great books whose authors I’ve found to be hypocritical or off base theologically in one way or another.

Therefore, I give my recommendations with a caution to read them, well, cautiously. Always filter advice  from any source through the Bible’s teachings before applying it to your life. Let the Bible be the basis for your decision making and then take responsibility for your own decisions.

That said, below are important categories and my “go-to” books that to date have proved to have good teachings.

Spiritual Growth

For the new Christian – Now That I Believe by Robert A. Cook.  For the maturing Christian – Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Chambers.   For Christians seeking to understand the role of the Holy Spirit – Charles C. Ryrie’s book, The Holy Spirit, is a classic.   Who are You to Judge by Dr. Irwin Lutzer is also insightful.

Also, as you grow spiritually it’s important to understand how God has gifted you to impact the body of believers.  There is controversy over which particular book or test about spiritual gifts is most helpful.  Because of this, I recommend you simply go online and google/search “spiritual gifts test” and chose one to take, online, for free. This will give you at least an awareness of your gifts.  Please also read over the lists directly from the Bible in I Corinthians 12 and in Ephesians 4.  (You can google those two books that are in the Bible to find the list, too.)  Ask God to give you insights into how He’s wired you.  Begin to put them to use.  For example, if you’re gifted at serving, begin to test out ways in which you find the most pleasure and are most effective at serving others.

Personal Growth

Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud,  Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud are both excellent. (I have found most of his books helpful.)  Now, Discover Your Strengths, and Go Put Your Strengths to Work – both by Marcus Buckingham, will help you focus in on your talents and how to use them fully.  If you’re looking to grow in your work environment, read John Maxwell’s books on leadership as well as Robert Heller’s books in the Essential Managers Series.  These classics give a broad understanding of workplace dynamics, problems and solutions.  They are not “Christian” books.

Relational Issues:  Love is a Choice by Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Safe People by Henry Cloud, Love Must Be Tough by Dr. James Dobson, and The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman are excellent resources.  Shaunti Feldhahn’s books are newer and quite helpful in understanding the needs of women and men, particularly her books, For Women Only and For Men Only.

So, which book sounds most helpful to you?  If I knew you personally, I’d hand pick one and go over it with you the next time we meet.  Will you consider choosing one and reading it?

Step Three – Resources #3- My Contribution -Reading  Resources

I’m aware that books may not be the best way you learn.  However, they do give insights and if you’re serious about learning, disciplining yourself to read carefully selected materials will pay off.

This is the stage where I begin to see how serious you are about learning and growing to achieve your one clear objective.  I’m looking to see actual steps you’re taking towards growth.  Are you doing hard work and still open to being held accountable? As for my part, I’ve been listening carefully and will make the best recommendations possible.   I’ll ask you the tough questions and follow up on the steps you’re taking.  The biggest mistake I can make here is to not hold you accountable.  I’m hoping that even if you’ve read the books already, or detest reading, that you’ll begin to see you need to take action steps towards growth.

Next up is Step Four- Resources #4 and then we’re almost done!  Hang in there, and please know that I’m continuing to pray for you with both joy and tenacity – for I know that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” (Philippians 1:6)   It’s a privilege to cheer you on!