Sunday, May 24, 2009

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! How do you make decisions? Are you filled with angst when faced with dilemmas? Do you analyze every aspect of your choices? Do you list the pros and cons of various scenarios? Do you consider the consequences?

In her book 10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea, Suzy Welch offers a simple to use tool for making decisions. She says that when facing a dilemma, ask yourself three questions: What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes? In 10 months? And in 10 years? Then she provides stories from her experiences and those of other 10-10-10 users that support the method. Welch cautions that before implementing the strategy, you should clarify your goals and values so that you fully understand the implications of your decisions.

Here’s how it works.
Step 1 - Every 10-10-10 process begins with a question. For example - Should I quit my job? Should I buy the house? Should I stay in my relationship?
Step 2 - Then examine the consequences of each option in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. The 10-10-10 doesn’t have to be taken literally but can stand for the short term, mid-term, and long term.
Step 3 - Finally, consider the options and consequences with your values, beliefs, goals, and dreams. Which decision helps you create the life you really long for?

Welch provides scenarios of people that successfully used the system. One parent used it to address the dilemma of attending the funeral of a relative she barely knew. Her conflict was between showing respect to her mother’s family and fulfilling some duties for her children. A young man used it to determine if he should work with his wife in a business venture.

10-10-10 is a good strategy that can bring clarity to dilemmas both at home and work. What I like about it is that it requires you to assess your values. As Christians, we should not neglect the importance of prayer, Bible study, and the counsel of wise friends in making decisions. The Bible doesn’t address every specific decision we might make in our lifetime, but it does provide us direction: ask God; seek wise counsel; do all in Jesus’ name; give thanks.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 1:17

We can employ 10-10-10 as another powerful tool to make sure we are living according to God’s principles. The key is to evaluate our life dilemmas by using biblical principles as our measuring stick. For example, we might ask such questions as, will the words I speak or the actions I take matter in 10 days, in 10 months, and 10 years? Will it matter in eternity? Welch’s strategy becomes a 10-10-10-Eternal one. That's truly life transforming!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Are there people in your world that just plain bug you? Is there someone who is your “thorn in the flesh?” Is there someone who frustrates you, rains on your parade, or tries to ruin your day? You are not alone! Almost all of us have dealt with annoying people in our personal or professional life. “Annoyers” are people who have personalities, habits, and behavior patterns that you find irritating. Unfortunately, some of us have dealt with adversaries as well. Some adversaries see you as an obstacle to getting something they want. Emotional adversaries are needy people who suck the energy out of others. They often pout, gossip, and play power games. Then there are really difficult adversaries who clearly don’t like you and can even be vengeful. The way we respond to these “annoyers” and adversaries is a measure of our patience, self-discipline, and even our spiritual maturity.

I have struggled with how to deal with both annoying people and with adversaries in my life. My dad always says, “Kill ‘em with kindness.” Some of you might say it would be easier just to implement the first two words of that adage! Then again, that’s not the Christ-like thing to do, is it! In the past week it seemed everywhere I turned someone was sharing a story with me about an adversary. During thesame week one scripture passage was presented to me three different times: twice on the radio and once in my daily devotional book.

If you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another. Galatians 5:15

The word bite means to thwart or frustrate or ruin. Think of it as “sinking your teeth into someone.” Ouch! In other words, if someone “bites” us and we “bite” back, we are in danger of being totally consumed by conflict. To further see the point Paul is making, we need to look at the scripture before and after this verse.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Galatians 5:14

Paul cites Jesus’ second commandment to us. Then he goes on to warn the Galatians in verses 16-26 not to follow the desires of the flesh but to walk by the spirit. Our flesh tells us to “bite” back, but the spirit tells us to be filled with the fruits of the spirit.

In his radio broadcast last week, Louis Palau talked about “Shalom.” This Hebrew greeting means “peace” and was said as people met or departed from one another. Palau reminds us that shalom is more than the absence of conflict. It is what we wish for our children. Shalom is the best. It is success. It is the most complete GOOD that we can imagine. It’s easy to want shalom for those we love, but wanting that for our adversaries is another story, isn’t it!

Straight from the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44 we read, ‘But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” How can we love and pray for someone who is against us? It goes against our nature!

This week …
Let’s think on the word “shalom.”
Then let’s imagine the peace that we desire for ourselves and those we love.
Let’s pray for God to grace us with shalom.
Then let’s face the biggest challenge.
Let’s pray for our enemies, our “annoyers,” our adversaries
Let’s pray shalom on their lives.
Finally, let’s pray for God to change our hearts because we can’t change others; we can only change ourselves.


Sayin' Grace

Monday, May 11, 2009

On a recent visit to Charleston, South Carolina, I was given The Ultimate Gullah Cookbook. The Gullah are African Americans who live in the Low Country of South Carolina. They speak an English-based creole language and are known for preserving their African linguistic and cultural heritage. One of the highlights to a visit to Charleston is seeing Gullah women weaving the beautiful sweetgrass baskets at the Charleston Market.

Sayin’ grace is an important part of the Gullah heritage. The authors says its purpose it “establish a spiritual connection between the food and its consumers. It is a call for the bless’uh da hans’ whut mek da food.”

It is safe to say that almost all spiritual practices have some form of ritual blessing as an integral part of food preparation and eating. Blessings on food are prayers to thank God for providing sustenance and to ask his blessings both on the food, those who prepared it, and those who share it. The duty of saying grace after the meal is derived from Deuteronomy 8:10: "And thou shalt eat and be satisfied and shalt bless the Lord thy God for the goodly land which he has given thee." The Jewish Talmud says, "One who derives benefit from this world without first making a blessing is guilty of sinfully stealing from God.” Therefore, it says every Jew needs to make a proper blessing before eating any food and after finishing his food. One Jewish author commented that there were 100s of opportunities every day to say grace. That sounds like a lot of eating and a lot of blessing!

Saying grace continues in the New Testament. When feeding the multitudes, Christ gave thanks for sustenance (Matt. 15:35-36) and blessed it (Matt. 14:19). Paul taught that food was to be received with prayer and thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5). The most well known example of saying grace was at the Last Supper when Jesus said, “This is my body which is given for you. This do you in remembrance of me.” And he took bread and gave thanks.” (Luke 22:19-20)

Let’s remember to pause at every meal in thanks for our food. You might try the Gullah version of sayin' grace:

Gawd beena great and e beena good
En we da tank e for we food
By e hand we be fed
Gi us Gawd we daily bread

You can enjoy sayin’ grace before savoring this delicious ...
Gullah Corn Pudding
1 can cream corn or 1 pint corn scraped from cob
1 can whole kernel corn
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 cup evaporated milk
1 stick butter (melted)
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp sugar

Prepare oven 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together well. Taste. Add additional seasonings and sugar if desired. (Gullah feel that dishes must have a certain taste to be considered praise worthy and always sample before cooking or serving so they can add a dash or dollop.) Place in casserole dish and bake in oven until brown and firm. About 30 minutes. Do not overcook. Serve hot. Serves 6.


Monday, May 4, 2009

When my sons were younger, we had a beautiful golden retriever that had the run of our fenced in back yard. Scout seemed to live with constant temptation. He found interesting ways to leave the boundaries of the fence. He would find a spot to dig and crawl under it and run lose violating the rules of the neighborhood and risking getting hit by a car. We even installed an invisible fence, but Scout just dug deeper and managed an escape anyway. Each time he’d break free, we’d chase him around the neighborhood and literally drag him back to the safe confines of the back yard. Scout had trouble staying in his yard. Scout had trouble with boundaries.

I am leading two groups right now through a study of Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The book is generating some thought-provoking discussions about living in boundaries. The authors tell us boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. It seems we all have some issue when it comes to living in boundaries with friends, family, co-workers, God, or ourselves. It is reassuring to know that the concept of boundaries actually comes from God. Through his Word, God defines himself and tells us his expectations for living in relationship with him and others.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5 & 6

Cloud and Townsend remind us that God sets the boundaries of his “yard.” We know what he permits in the “yard.” He tells us what he allows and doesn’t allow, what he likes and doesn’t like. He opens the gate and invites us into his house and shares his unending love with us. At the same time, God guards his house and doesn’t allow evil inside it. When we sin, he confronts us and allows us to suffer the consequences. When we move beyond his limits, the gates of his boundaries close and we lose fellowship with him. Then when we face our sins and ask forgiveness, the gates open once again and we are restored to fellowship with him.

We were created in God’s own image. God wants us to develop our own boundaries so that we can live in peace and fellowship with him and with others. Boundaries are our property lines in all areas of our life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Setting boundaries brings health to our relationships. When we have mature boundaries, we can move steadily and peacefully in our faith walk.

What do you allow in your “yard?”
Are you like Scout and move beyond the boundaries of God’s yard?
Let’s follow God’s boundaries and then develop boundaries like his.
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