ability to bounce back

The Ability to Bounce Back

I received a brochure some time ago from a company specializing in resilient furniture: simple, sturdy, water resistant tables and chairs. Not fancy in any way, but built to last.

They’re not cheap either; a plain white folding chair is about $90.

They’re not nearly as pretty as the leatherette office chairs I buy at the discount store for much less money — but those chairs, as I am reminded every time I have to replace one, don’t have a long life-span.

There’s something to be said for basic, unadorned resiliency: the ability to get through, get over, and get past life’s many trials and tribulations. In this sense, sturdy beats stylish every time.

A popular magazine did a cover story several years ago on the subject of resiliency, asking the question, “Why do some people bounce and others break?” The article noted how some who experience trauma withdraw into a shell, while others facing the same crisis not only bounce back, but bounce back stronger than ever before. It talked about how resiliency is being studied in universities and taught in corporate seminars.

Resiliency, the article said, could become the most important skill of the 21st century.

Why do some people break down while others bounce back? Unlike furniture, I don’t think it has to do with our design. A chair can only be as strong as it was made to be. It can’t decide to grow stronger; neither can it decide to give up.

We, on the other hand, have access to support beyond ourselves. The flaws in our design (so to speak) can be overcome. For example, a person who is, by nature, prone to be discouraged and give up too soon doesn’t have to stay that way.

There’s a verse in Philippians that is so often quoted its meaning is sometimes overlooked. Paul is talking about being able to face hard times as well as good times, and he states confidently, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Resilience — the ability to bounce back — often comes down to a single decision: from whose strength will I draw: my own, or God’s? The promise of Scripture is that if you will look to God for strength, he will give it to you.

I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

Today’s memo was updated from a previous post.

finding rest

Finding Rest

Author and journalist Iving Kristol said, “Being frustrated is disagreeable, but the real disasters of life begin when you get what you want.”

This is because what we want — or what we think we want — is so often not what we really need in order to live a fulfilled, meaningful life.

There comes a time when we realize that the trinket we worked so hard to acquire, or even the goal we sacrificed so much to reach, doesn’t bring the satisfaction we expected it would. We then find ourselves asking, as so many have, “Is that all there is? Is this as good as it gets?”

Goals will always have a place in our lives, and accumulating possessions will always be part of the human experience, but we do ourselves a disservice when we fail to understand that these things will never be enough.

On the other hand, we serve ourselves best when we learn to say, as Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in thee.”

Where are you seeking your rest today? In a paycheck? In a relationship? In a status symbol? In a measure of success? These things may not be the enemy — they’re not bad in and of themselves — but it’s important that we understand that they’re not the finish line, either.

If your heart is restless today, take a moment to re-evaluate what you really want. Strive to say, as David said, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” (Psalm 62:1)

Today’s memo was updated from a previous post.

Today's Most Important Decision

Today’s Most Important Decision

Marcus Aurelius said, “The most important things in life are the thoughts you to choose to think.” If this is true, then today’s most important decision will be what to think about.

You can think thoughts of faith or thoughts of doubt, thoughts of hope or thoughts of despair, thoughts of love or thoughts of hate. These thoughts will find their way into your words and your actions as the day wears on.

“Thoughts should be tested before they’re transmitted,” said William Arthur Ward. “If our thoughts taste unkind, critical or unfair, we should refuse to release them into the dangerous world of words.”

Every temptation begins with a thought. So does every act of goodness. That’s why Paul said…

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans 12:2)

Today, let thoughts of faith, hope and love fill your mind.

• Decide to believe the best about the future God has planned for you. That’s faith.

• Decide to expect the best in each situation, because God is at work in the details. That’s hope.

• Decide to give the best to those around you, because this is what he has called you to. That’s love.

Your life will move in the direction that your thoughts take it.

Today’s most important decision, then, is to allow yourself to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

On the Horizon

Robert Louis Stevenson spent much of his life struggling with serious health issues. In spite of this, he remained eternally optimistic.

One day, when his fever was running high and he couldn’t control his coughing attacks, his wife said, somewhat cynically, “I suppose you still believe it’s a wonderful day.”

Stevenson replied, “Yes, I do. I will never permit a row of medicine bottles to block my horizon.”

Are there rows of problems and and rows of fears attempting to block your horizon today? Can you look past them and see the goodness of God?

But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. (Psalm 52:8)

Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Blest Be the Tie

Centuries ago, John Fawcett was the pastor of a small, struggling church in Wainsgate, England. Since he was a talented and dynamic preacher, he soon received an offer to be the pastor of a large, affluent church in London.

It was a great opportunity, but it presented a problem: He dearly loved the congregation in Wainsgate, and it was killing him to leave.

After he and his wife had packed away all their belongings, members of the church came to see them off. During their good-byes, Mary Fawcett said to her husband, “John, I cannot bear to leave!”

He thought for a moment and said, “Neither can I. And so we won’t. This is our home and these are our people and here is where we’ll stay.”

John Fawcett spent his entire fifty-four-year ministry serving this one church.

Shortly after making this decision to stay, he wrote these words…

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

That’s the verse everyone knows. Here’s one of the other verses.

We share each other’s woes
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
T he sympathizing tear.

There’s a reason why old-fashioned things like Sunday School classes and Home Bible Studies are still such a great idea. It’s not just about what we learn from the lesson. It’s about what we experience in community with others.

It’s much more than just an advertising slogan: Life is better when we’re connected.

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:46-47)

Today’s memo was updated from a previous post. It is taken from Steve’s series Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs.

potter's hand

Clay in the Potter’s Hand

Several years ago at Silver Dollar City, our group saw a demonstration of clay in the potter’s hand, as we watched an artist craft, with great skill, a small vase out of a mere lump.

When he asked if anyone would like to give it a try, one man stepped up. He then sat at the wheel, and as the clay began to spin round and round, he grabbed hold with both hands … and made a big mess.

Being a potter is not nearly as easy as it looks. For a lump of clay to become a lovely decoration, someone who knows what they’re doing needs to be sitting at the wheel.

The Bible compares our lives to this same kind of clay, needing to be shaped.

The question is: Who, if anyone, will do the shaping?

I’m guessing no one really wants their outcomes to be determined by the random spinning of an unattended wheel. Nor do we want to be left in the hands of an unskilled volunteer.

Neither scenario is likely to end well.

However, if you will allow God his rightful place at the potter’s table, the words of Jeremiah will be yours…

“O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” (Jeremiah 18:6)

This day, as in every day, you get to choose who sits at the potter’s wheel, and whose clay you will be.

Today’s memo was taken from Steve’s series: Shaping Things to Come.

God is frowning

When It Feels Like God is Frowning

A while back I came across a quote from William Carey, taken from his journal, April 1794, during his first year in India.

“This day was tumultuous in its beginning, but was afterwards more calm. Yet a burden of guilt is not easily removed: nothing short of infinite power, and infinite goodness, can remove such a load as mine.

“O that I had but a smiling God, or an earthly friend to whom I could unbosom my soul! But my friend is at a great distance, and God frowns upon my soul. O may his countenance be lifted upon me again.”

Carey was expressing his feelings here, not writing a theological treatise. His words reflect a servant’s struggle with sin and the struggle with loneliness.

It’s a struggle everyone in ministry knows. And you need not travel to another continent to meet these enemies face-to-face. They’ll come to you, where you are.

Carey won the battle, ultimately. He stayed in India, translated the New Testament into several languages, planted churches and missionary training centers, and became known as the Father of Modern Missions.

The battle he won, we can win, too. When burdens seem too great to bear, when friends are nowhere to be found, when it feels like God is frowning, remember William Carey — not just what he accomplished, but what he overcame in April 1794.

And the redeemed of the LORD will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee. (Isaiah 51:11)

Today’s memo was updated from a previous post.

God is all you need

God Is All You Need

Rita SpringerIn a worship conference several years back I heard Rita Springer say…

“You’ll never know that God is all you need until you reach a point where God is all you have.”

Actually, you don’t have to lose everything to learn this. It just takes one sudden storm.

You can have a multitude of friends and piles of money and a great big stack of success … and then one unexpected event brings you face to face with the realization that none of it matters.

In these times you learn that in spite of all your accumulated accoutrements, God is really all you have.

The good news, however, is that God is all you need. He comes to us in our weakest moments. He comforts us and reminds us of his never-ending love. Where we have failed him, he is quick to forgive.

And he remains near to us through it all.

This is why the psalmist could say…

“I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psalm 57:1)

As you begin your week, keep this in mind: All you truly need you already have.

Today’s memo was updated from a previous post.

Mike Flynt Football

Dreams That Never Age

Mike FlyntOn October 13, 2007 — a  perfect day for football — 59-year-old Mike Flynt took the field for the Sul Ross State Lobos … not as a coach or trainer, but as a player. He was their starting linebacker.

Flynt had played for this Division III team back in 1970, but was forced to quit before his senior year. He never quite got over the regret of not getting to play, so 37 years later, when he discovered he still had one more semester of eligibility, he sold his house, moved back to Texas, enrolled in school, and tried out for the team.

Sports Illustrated called him “the ultimate college senior.” A grandfather, an AARP member, eight years older than his head coach … and capable of playing against guys one-third his age. Mike Flynt earned his spot on the roster like all the other players.

He said, “This opportunity is just a testament to what you can do at any stage of your life if you’ll just take a few minutes every day to prioritize your health and take better care of yourself.”

Maybe the most amazing detail of Mike’s story is that, as a 59 year collegiate linebacker, he didn’t set the record. There have been a couple of others even older than him.

We need to remember that many of our limitations in life are self-imposed. God never says you’re too young, too old, too weak, too broken, or too anything to be used by him. One qualification eclipses them all: a willingness to jump in and try.

God promised through the prophet Joel that the old would continue to dream dreams. I encourage you to claim that promise. Decide today that you’ll never let the number of candles on your cake prevent you from dreaming new dreams … and pursuing them.

Fear and Faith

George Muller said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”

We have a choice between worry and belief, between fear and faith.

That’s why Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” (Luke 8:50)

Fear and faith are incompatible. One always works to crowd out the other.

We don’t always call it fear. Sometimes it’s just a little worry, a little anxiety. But these are only fear diluted.

So, what are you worried about today? Which anxious thoughts are chipping away at your confidence in God’s ability to provide?

You have a choice between fear and faith. The direction you take eventually eliminates the other, so choose your path carefully.

schedule your priorities

Schedule Your Priorities

Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) said …

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Effective leaders make that which matters most the top priority, each and every day.

No doubt you already have a long list of items today that must get done. But what about those things that merely need to get done? When and where will they fit in?

When Jesus visited his friends in Bethany, Martha spent the morning doing what had to be done: cooking and cleaning (and then complaining).

Mary, however, did what matters most: she spent the morning sitting at the feet of Jesus.

When Martha objected, Jesus said, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

We all have Martha-type chores to do. They can’t be ignored forever, or even for long. Eventually, they must get done.

But don’t forget that which is needed. Today (and then tomorrow) before you get to what must be done, get to what needs to be done.

Consider doing first that which matters most. Schedule your priorities. You do so with a promise: it will never be taken away from you.

Spiritual Depth

Directed by the Deep

In the frigid waters surrounding the island of Greenland there are countless icebergs, some tiny, some gigantic. If you watched them closely you would see that the smaller chunks sometimes move in one direction, while the larger ones move in another direction.

Why is that?

Small icebergs are driven by surface winds; the large are directed by deep ocean currents.

Of course, you can’t see the currents, but they’re there. If an iceberg has sufficient depth, it can be carried by the current, in spite of which way the wind is blowing.

It’s the same for people like you and me. Those with sufficient spiritual depth aren’t swayed by the breeze of public opinion or ideological fashion. Neither are they driven by any gust of random circumstance.

Instead, they’re directed by the deeper current of God’s Word … by faith in his promise: “I am with you always.”

For this reason, the goal of the believer is to become firm in their knowledge of Jesus Christ …

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. (Ephesians 4:14)

This means that job one each day is to take steps in knowing him more: Spending time in his Word, spending time with him in prayer. This is where spiritual depth begins.

This daily routine, more than any other, establishes the believer in the Christian life, enabling them to be directed by the deeper current of faith, not the ever-changing winds of chance.

Today’s post was updated from a previous post.