You and your Like-O-Meter

“Spiritual growth requires that our life with God move from the should category to the ‘want to’ category, and the most basic assessment we have for any experience or event is what psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls our ‘like-o-meter.’ “- John Eldredge

In Chapter 7 (“Let Your Desires Lead You to God”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg introduces the “like-o-meter.”  He observes that as you grow up, experiences subconsciously register on your like – o – meter.  Thus, everything, including people, registers positively or negatively.

So, John asks, consider this thought: Do you like God?  Now, Pastor Ortberg admits, this sounds like a strange question.  However, the author stresses, you won’t be with God much if you have issues with Him.  Furthermore, it’s good to answer this question honestly.  You can’t take God out.  And “should” simply doesn’t possess the power to change your attitude.

Therefore, John states, “spiritual growth . . . means coming to want to do what I should do.”  When you come to understand the depth of God’s goodness, you want Him.  In addition, you not only love Him, you like Him (emphasis John’s).

Also, when you tell others they ought to do something, ought can be understood in one of two ways:

  1. the ought of obligation- our duty
  2. the ought of opportunity- gives us life

Specifically, Pastor Ortberg states, the main “ought” of Jesus’ message = the ought of opportunity.  That’s why the psalmist invites us to “taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8).”

The psalmist’s convinced that one taste suffices for you to want all of God.

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, where do you place God on your like-o-meter?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A God-implanted desire in us”

A greater power than simply ‘trying harder’

“But for deeper change, I need a greater power than simply ‘trying harder’ can provide.”- John Ortberg

“Faith does not need to push the river because faith is able to trust that there is a river.  The river is flowing.  We are in it.”- Richard Rohr, contemplative Franciscan priest

In Chapter 6 (“Try Softer”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg tells of the first time he attended a yoga class with his wife.  He quips that yoga won’t catch on because they don’t keep score!  Thus, you can’t tell who’s winning!

John notes that the main activity involved stretching.  However, after the class, John remembers that the instructor never urged the participants to try harder.  In contrast, one must let go and allow gravity to do its work.  You permit another force to take over.

Therefore, as a general rule, Pastor Ortberg states, “the harder you work to control things, the more you lose control.”  Sometimes, though, trying harder helps- when engaging in physical activity, for example.  But, for deeper change, simply ‘trying harder’ provides little or no help.

As a result, trying harder focuses us on our own heroic efforts.  We grow judgmental.  Thus, John urges, seek to:

  • surrender your will for just this day
  • engage in little acts of service
  • enjoy your favorite ways of experiencing God’s presence
  • try to go thirty minutes without complaining
  • say something encouraging to three people in a row

In conclusion, when simply ‘trying harder’ fails, the author suggests that you try softer- better- different. Focus more on God’s goodness, less on your own efforts.

Today’s question: Following your vocation loss, how have you tried to push the river?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Something that requires an appreciation banquet”

An intimate, conversational walk with God

“I assume that an intimate, conversational walk with God is available and is meant to be normal.”- John Eldredge

In the Prelude (“Learning to Hear the Voice of God”) section of Walking with God, John Eldredge begins with a story about a family outing to cut down their Christmas tree.  After praying and asking God for a good time to head out, John and his wife Stasi sensed God saying to go up the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

However, that message made no sense to them.  John describes “that lingering unbelief that often passes for weariness.”  In other words, the felt tired and thus objected to going that weekend.

As it turned out, the weekend they sensed God telling them to go turned out gorgeous.  The weekend they actually chose?- not so much.  That weekend consisted of a blizzard, a minus-ten wind-chill, and two flat tires.  so, stubbornly insisting on doing things their way resulted in an ordeal.

Our assumptions, John notes, easily take us down the wrong path.  For example, we assume God will bless our choices and vocation.  And when that doesn’t happen, we lose heart.  Furthermore, Mr. Eldredge states, we may not boldly voice these thoughts.  However, the author asks you to notice:

  • your shock when things don’t go well
  • your feelings of abandonment and betrayal when life doesn’t work out
  • that often you feel as though God’s not really all that close or involved
  • that you feel God’s failing to pay attention to your life

In conclusion, John observes, assumptions either help or hurt us every single day of our lives.  Because, our assumptions:

  1. control our interpretation of events
  2. supply a great deal of the momentum and direction for our lives

As a result, John emphasizes, we need an intimate, conversational walk with God.

Today’s question: What Bible Verses help you maintain an intimate, conversational walk with God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Made for intimacy with God”

He (or she) didn’t mean it

“One phrase that you should insert into your vocabulary and conversation on a daily basis: ‘He (or she) didn’t mean it.’ “- Judah Smith

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”- 1 Corinthians 13:7

As Pastor Judah Smith continues Chapter 5 of How’s Your Soul?, he cites the Apostle Paul.  In 1 Corinthians 13:7, Paul writes that all the time and in every situation, love does four things.  Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures.  Today Judah examines the first two characteristics of love.

1.  Love bears all things.  The term translated bear relates to the Greek word for roof.  Literally, the term means “put a roof on.”  Figuratively, it conveys the idea of keeping something confidential.  Another interpretation means “to put up with something.”

On a practical level, this means we don’t use people’s faults and failures to openly humiliate them.  Judah continues: “We publically cover them and privately restore them with the goal of bringing about health in their lives.”

As a result, we become a safe place for hurting people as we provide unconditional love and support.  In addition, love establishes us as a solid roof.

2.  Love believes all things.  Even in the worst of situations, love looks for the best.  In contrast, Judah believes the desire to defend, justify, and protect ourselves comes from a lack of God-awareness.  Hence, is God God or not?  Do we really trust Him to take care of us or not?

Therefore, we’re left with two options: (a) choose to let God be God or (b) take it upon ourselves to right every wrong and defend every injustice committed against us.

Consequently, Choice B means spending life in a holding pattern, imprisoned by bitterness.  In conclusion, Pastor Smith explains Choice A:

“You know they meant it, but you are choosing to believe the best, to believe they regret it now, to believe that’s not what they wanted for their lives, to believe they did it in ignorance or haste or pain, but they are really not that kind of people.”

Today’s question: How could you apply “He (or she) didn’t mean it” to your downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: Love knows no limits”

Building a mound of snow

“Art that loves people can be as simple as building a mound of snow and letting people slide down.”- Tom Eggebrecht

in Chapter 8 (“Love People”) of Fully and Creatively Alive, Tom Eggebrecht describes one key to pursuing your passion and chasing your dream.  That key- to love and care for people.  Hence, Pastor Eggebrecht explains the concept of loving people through your work:

“Young or old, there is a way for you to love people in the pursuing of your passion.  No matter your vocation, you can add great value to your ‘product’ through your genuine love for people.  But it must be genuine.  You can’t fake it.”

Therefore, Tom emphasizes, a fully and creatively alive person cannot exist in a bubble.  Consequently, a bubble isolates you from others.  People easily detect insincerity.  Also, special, personal service goes above and beyond to make people feel uniquely welcomed and loved.  Tom elaborates:

“We are created to be in community. . . . made to serve.  When you work with and for people you care about, there is a certain kind of fulfillment that can’t be paralleled.  Making other people feel loved and empowered goes a long way toward creating a dream that will perpetuate itself as people communicate your special passion for them.”

In conclusion , the empathy built into your soul powers a genuine love for people.  Then, Tom exhorts, “follow you heart to the place where people feel loved.”

Today’s question: How have you built a mound of snow to show your love for people?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Try again.  Fail better.”

 

Demonstrate faith

“Joseph saw what seemed to contradict God’s promise as an opportunity to demonstrate faith- not a reason to doubt or abandon it.”- Wayne Stiles

Dr. Wayne Stiles continues Chapter 6 of Waiting on God by empathizing that there will be days in life where you truly believe you can’t hold out.  As the author poignantly states, “The weight of disappointment feels far heavier and more real than the promise of God that lies beyond it.”

With the exception of an abusive situation, Dr. Stiles advises, take it one day at a time.  Then, one day you’ll wake up and realize you’ve endured a difficult situation for months or years.  While others scoff and call your faith stance crazy or a waste of life, God calls it perseverance.

Standing up to a heavy load glorifies God.  In addition, Dr. Stiles reminds us, the victorious Christian life presupposes a battle:

“The victory in the Christian life comes as a victory of choice in the midst of a life that suffers.  The quality of life rests in our attitude, not in our circumstances.  To realize something is to consider it to be real.  And when you realize endurance finds favor with God, it can bring peace and joy to any troubled situation.”

Therefore, we glorify God just as much through our waiting for Him as by serving Him in a fulfilling vocation or ministry.  These situations provide a marvelous opportunity to demonstrate faith.

Waiting on God keeps us humble.  Over the passing of time, we come to understand that it’s all about God.  In conclusion, Wayne states that we find our fulfillment in God’s glory:

“When we choose to find our fulfillment in his glory, then we can wait on him to open the doors of greater influence in his time.  That’s really his business entirely.  Ours is to live faithfully wherever he puts us now.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses enable you to demonstrate faith following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Does God have a deaf ear?”

 

Stabbing disappointment

” . . . the hardest part of dealing with any stabbing disappointment in life isn’t the pain itself as much as it is the spiritual confusion.”- Wayne Stiles

As Dr. Wayne Stiles continues Chapter 2 of Waiting on God, he observes that, between Joseph’s brothers and Jacob, there was a lot of refusing going on.  The brothers refused to yield authority to Joseph.  Jacob refused all comfort at the loss of Joseph.  In addition, Dr. Stiles states, “their roots fed the same basic desire- a demand to have one’s way, regardless of what God has said.”

Wayne reminds us that the big picture of God’s providence overshadows Joseph’s story.  Yet, God involved Himself in the details of everyone’s personal growth.  God wants us to read Joseph’s story not only because it’s about Joseph’s family.  It’s about us.  We’re all somewhere in the pages of this story.

Joseph’s circumstances, his stabbing disappointment, directly challenged the promises God revealed in Joseph’s dreams.  Joseph’s brothers had scoffed, “Then let us see what will become of his dreams.”  Hence, Dr. Stiles notes how the brothers’ words reveal the tension for our entire lives:

“It’s the same struggle we face when the promises God gives us are challenged by the life God gives us.  They seem to contradict.  We read Scripture, and God’s Word seems clear.  But as we face challenges we never imagined possible, suddenly the verses feel as unreliable as last night’s crazy dream . . .”

Although we hesitate to say it, ultimately our problem is with God.  Instead, we point to people as the cause of the pain lurking in our lives.  Everything would be hunky-dory, if only God intervened to solve our problem.  Therefore, we experience a crisis of faith, not circumstance.

Today’s question: Following your vocation loss, what spiritual confusion resulted from your stabbing disappointment?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “How long, O Lord?”

A lot of waiting

“We do a lot of waiting.  But the most difficult kind of waiting?  Waiting on God.”- Wayne Stiles

In the Introduction to Waiting on God: What to do when God does nothing, author and pastor Wayne Stiles describes how it feels to wait on God.  Usually, Dr. Stiles states, waiting on God involves hanging on until God changes our circumstances.  However, from our perspective, God seldom seems in a hurry.

Dr. Stiles observes that often God allows our circumstances to stay the same- or even worsen- while He waits on us to change.  Wayne likens this waiting game to playing Ping-Pong or tug-of-war.  The author explains:

“So . . . both God and we are in a waiting game, idling in neutral until someone moves first.  We want God to change situations.  God wants us to change in them.  We want relief.  God wants repentance.  We want happiness.  God wants holiness.  We want pleasure.  God wants piety.”

The bottom line- God always wins the waiting game.  Yet, we see scant evidence that God is helping us to move forward.  As a result, we attempt to speed up or sidestep the waiting process.  In other words, Dr. Stiles quips, “we can’t microwave God’s plans for us.”

Even though we can’t understand the purpose of the red light, we surely know what that red light means.  Wait.  Since we are going to wait anyway, the question then becomes: “How will we wait?”  We might as well wait well.

Today’s question: How have you experiences a lot of waiting following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The big picture

 

Our anger toward God

“The problem with our anger toward God is not the anger itself but how we handle the anger.”- Dr. Gary Chapman

As Dr. Gary Chapman concludes Chapter 11 of Anger, he analyzes our anger with God as distorted anger.  Even though no wrongdoing occurs on God’s part, we still experience real anger.  In addition, Gary states, we don’t choose anger.  Rather, we respond in anger.  We believe God could have averted the situation that brought us great pain.

Although God made us with the capacity for anger, we carry the responsibility for handling that anger.  Dr. Chapman ends the chapter with a detailed description of three steps for responsibly handling anger.  Gary discusses the first step today.

STEP ONE: Take the anger to God. Feel free to express your perception of things to God.  Unlike human beings, God doesn’t experience hurt feelings.  He’s neither disturbed nor surprised by your anger.  God desires that you share your thoughts and feelings with Him.  As our compassionate Father, God wants to hear our complaints.  As our sovereign God, however, He does no wrong.

Both the prophet Elijah and God’s servant Job expressed anger toward God.  Their stories illustrate the value of talking to God about our anger, as Dr. Chapman summarizes:

“He [God] will either help us understand His perspective on our present situation as He did with Elijah; or He may, without explanation, simply ask us to trust Him as He did with His servant Job.”

Today’s question: In the aftermath of your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how have you expressed your anger toward God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Cain or Elijah?”

 

 

 

Definitive and distorted anger

“Two kinds of anger exist: definitive and distorted.”- Gary Chapman

” ‘Anger’ is one letter short of ‘danger’.”- Author unknown

In Chapter 4 (“When Anger is Wrong”) of Anger, Dr. Gary Chapman states that, due to original sin, we  have the “tendency to take every good gift of God and distort it into something perverse.”  Specifically, Satan loves to pervert the divine purpose of anger.  Consequently, Satan considers this tactic one of his most successful.

One of Satan’s most powerful strategies functions to convince us that all of our anger is of equal value.  As a result, this deception leads us to conclude that we always have the right to feel angry.  However, the fact remains that much of our anger is distorted.  Dr. Chapman differentiates between definitive and distorted anger.

Definitive anger is:

  • born of wrongdoing
  • the only kind of anger God ever experiences
  • valid anger

Distorted anger is:

  • triggered by any number of things that have nothing to do with any moral transgression
  • a response to inconvenience, irritation of an emotional hot-spot, or a reaction to exhaustion or stress
  • not valid anger

The biblical account of Naaman illustrates that people can recognize distorted anger and make positive responses.  Most noteworthy, Naaman experienced strong but distorted anger.  When confronted by his servants, Naaman stopped his rage and listened to reason.

Naaman’s positive response to his servants’ admonition raises two questions.  First of all, how do we identify when our anger is distorted?  In addition, how do we process distorted anger?  This chapter addresses the first question.  Gary answers the second and more challenging question in the following chapter.

Today’s question: How would you characterize your responses to your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Did youexhibit definitive or distorted anger?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “God’s recreation”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Identifying distorted anger”