Saturday, October 31, 2009

Impossible Is Not A Word

I am an optimist when it comes to other people. While I wish it wasn't so, I tend toward negative thinking when it comes to myself. This is what I tell myself:

  • "Things are never going to get better."
  • "I am always going to struggle."
  • "I can't do _________"
  • "Why can't I do __________ right?"

Everything is impossible for me. I recently heard What Faith Can Do by Kutless. One of the lines says, "It doesn't matter what you've heard, impossible is not a word. It's just a reason for someone not to try."

Jesus proves the validity of this statement. From man's point of view it was

  • impossible for a virgin to conceive a child
  • impossible for the dead to rise
  • impossible for a sinful man to find a find a way back to God.

Yes, all of that is impossible without God and a number of other documented things in the Bible.

Matthew 19:26 states "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

So when I look at myself and say that something is impossible, I am in some aspects correct. But it also means that my vision has gotten near sighted because it is so far from true when I turn my gaze upon God.

What seems impossible to you today? Where are you looking?


Friday, October 9, 2009

The Customer Is Always Right

I deal with the public in both of my jobs. Generally, I enjoy it. I like hearing their concern or want and figuring out a way to fix the problem or make them happy. Most of the time it is a good thing. But I am learning that customers can be a bit demanding. Okay, VERY demanding. They have bought into the idea that the "customer is always right." Why shouldn't they? That's what we've all been told over the years.

Even if we face a zillion self doubts a day, when we are in consumer mode, we are more than happy to believe that we are always right. It sounds great to automatically be in the "winner's" chair.

But it isn't really that the customer (myself included) is always right. It's more that the store doesn't want to lose our business because in most places there is always some place else we can shop. And, yes, customers sometimes point that out.

While the idea may wrangle customer loyalty, "the customer is always right" idea probably hurts us more than it helps us. It spills over into relationships. It spills over into the church. In the good ole' USA, if the pastor offends us one week or the worship leader's hair is too long or they expect us to volunteer in the nursery or whatever, we can go down two blocks and over one and find another church where we can stay until . . . .

And I am coming to the conclusion that maybe the "customer is always right" idea even comes into play with God. Maybe God says, "No" or "Wait" or whatever. I cajole and remind Him that I am waiting patiently. Yes, sometimes I even remind Him that I am waiting when He says "No" because surely He will change His mind. (Taking neither in context, I focus on the story in Matthew 7 about the man knocking on his neighbors door until the neighbor gives him bread rather than the verse in Numbers 23:19 that says, "Is God a man, that he should lie? Nor a son of man that he should change his mind?")

Sometimes, especially at my day job, there really is nothing I can do. Customers do not like this. Often their volume starts creeping up. Sadly, sometimes my volume sometimes creeps up with God. Maybe shouting might get His attention. But then there is the fact that I have never lost His attention. So, maybe a pique of anger and stamping feet might work.

Sometimes, I have to accept that the customer or God's beloved child is not always right. While God can do anything, it may not always be best for me. Fits of anger take me two steps away from God, while saying "I still want it, but I want You more" puts me right on the lap of a Father who loves me.

But it is hard to do. Father, help me trust you to know what is best for me.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Elephant That Followed Me Home

Some people have cats and dogs follow them home. While I have cats and a dog, I picked each of them out and invited them home. They were not strays that followed me home.

Recently, I've come to the conclusion that a stray has followed me home. That might not be completely right. She's followed me not just home but from home to home. She's even followed me across state lines, to camp when I was in college, into graduate school, and on and on.

My stray is an elephant. After all these years, I should probably have a name for her. But I don't. Perhaps I should keep it that way. Like the proverbial elephant in the room, no matter how big she has gotten, I've tried to ignore her, pretend that she wasn't there. Largely, I haven't wanted to admit that she was there.

At least on one hand I have. On the other hand, I think I may have snuck her extra peanuts when the keeper wasn't looking. I've gone back and forth. The problem with that is that it has resulted in intermittent reinforcement. It's when an animal or even a person gets use to being rewarded for a certain behavior. Then, the behavior is asked for but no reward is forthcoming. It happens that way several times. Then, BOOM! The coveted reward is given. Psychologically, intermittent reinforcement is actually stronger than continuous reinforcement. The behavior can be elicited on the hope that a reward is forthcoming.

Many years ago, I heard a story about elephants. Evidently, when circus elephants are very young, a chain is put on their leg. They learn that they cannot break it. As they grow, the chain actually remains the same. As an adult, they could easily break it. But there is the catch. Because they have been conditioned from such a young age, they never realize that they are capable of breaking that chain. They unwittingly stay captive.

That elephant followed me home as early as grade school. I was a shy and socially awkward child. I was aware enough that I didn't have a clue as to how to relate to my peers that at the bus stop, on the bus, and every spare moment in class my nose was buried in a book. That continued into junior high and high school. But it grew.

In grade school, everyone went to lunch as a group. While I might have sat at the end of a table alone, you had to sit and eat. Tables were dismissed from the lunch room to that terrifying playground where I made occasional forays into hop scotch and four square or tag but more often than not, I found a spot to sit and read. In junior high and high school, the social pressure grew. Despite my mother's effort to provide a lunch (and she even asked what kind of sandwich we each wanted), I tossed that brown paper bag lunch rather than face the hostile lunch room territory. I retreated into an ever present book.

The elephant was that I was hopelessly inept at all things social, that no one would ever like me, that I was a loser.

Today, I can go into a restaurant and sit and eat alone. Though, I am typically armed with a book. I don't prefer it, but if I cannot find someone to go with me, I will even brave movies alone. (Too dark for a book there.) Put me in a purely social situation, even something as seemingly benign as church, and I may panic. Sometimes I hide it better than others. Sometimes I don't.

So, this elephant comes into play in two ways. She's followed me home, dogged me through life. (Sorry to mix metaphors or animals words on you, but it fits.) I've kept her fed with things like:

  • What a stupid thing to say.
  • You will never get this.
  • I cannot believe you messed up again.
  • Run, it simply isn't safe!
But maybe even more than that, I've believed that those chains are still there. Sometimes I try to look at truth, the things that God says about me. I am dearly loved child. But I think sometimes I put the emphasis on child rather than dearly loved. And child can offer up a connotation of helpless.

I'm not sure how, but the elephant needs to go. She needs to find a new home. Better yet, send her back from where she came. While she is comforting in her predictability, we would all be better off with her back there.

Not sure how you send an elephant packing, but maybe admitting the elephant is there, is the first step.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I totally understand the concept of forgiveness. I really do. However, I still find it a struggle. Do you?

Recently there was (what in my opinion) was a major mix up. I do understand that it really was a misunderstanding. But, it still hurt my feelings in a major way. I've forgiven, but I find that it still hurts. I've prayed about it and it still hurts. It still makes me want to cry.

Maybe it is like a physical wound. It may have been accidental, but it may still physically hurt. I'm not angry. Just hurt. I'm not quite sure what to do with that hurt. But maybe like a physically injury it will go away with time.

Any thoughts?


Monday, October 5, 2009

Contentment -- Priceless

I know you've seen them -- those commercials for Visa.
  • New shoes -- $20
  • New dress -- $75
  • New hairstyle with highlights -- $100
  • Memories to last a lifetime -- Priceless.

Visa has our number. If $200 can promise something that is priceless, and will last a lifetime, of course we are going to buy.

I'm posting today at the Internet Cafe. Click here to finish reading this post.