So That …

On March 17th, I attended the 2012 Hearts at Home Conference in Normal, Illinois. The fist speakers of the day were reality TV stars Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. As I listened to the famous couple talk about the circumstances that led up to their series, “19 Kids and Counting,” two words came up so frequently in their conversation that I felt compelled to make them the cornerstone—and title—of mine as I learned how:

  • God told Jim Bob to run for a seat on the US Senate so that …
  • a photographer could take his family’s picture when they showed up at the polls so that
  • the New York Times would buy the photo and write about the large family from Arkansas who supported their father on election day.

Sometimes you have to let go of something good to make room for something great. Jim Bob had to lose his race for US Senate so that he could say “yes” to a documentary and the television series that followed. It’s a lesson that inspired me to create my latest (and shortest) parenting rhyme as I concluded that every “drat” has a “so that.”

It’s hard to understand in our darkest moments that God’s hand will one day be removed to let in the light, but it does happen when we lean on verses like Romans 8:28 and Isaiah 43:19.

I’ve had a lot of “so that’s” in my life. One of the most memorable occurred in 2010 when:

  • my ovaries stopped producing estrogen so that …
  • my digestive system would slow to a crawl so that
  • the doctor would schedule a colonoscopy ten years before my first one would normally be due so that
  • the silent killer known as colon cancer could be discovered before it had time to spread.

Hind sight is not just 20/20. It’s a 10-4 that God is at work in our lives. The disciples realized this first hand when:

  • God sent his son to die on a cross for our sins so that …
  • all who believe in him will have eternal life so that …
  • we are free to serve God, not out of obligation, but in celebration of what Jesus did to save our lives.

This wasn’t what the apostles had asked for. They were looking for someone to save them from the Romans, not themselves.

I read once that the purpose of prayer is not to tell God what we want from Him, but to teach us about what He requires of us. Jim Bob knew this when, on the heels of defeat, He prayed for insight into what God would have him do next with his life. Our challenge is the same as we ask, not for our will to be done, but to understand His and trust that when things don’t turn out the way we hoped they would, God can use bad for good.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

(Isaiah 43:19)

Favorite Fifteen Quotes of 2011

In addition to lessons learned, I also like to share quotes on Twitter as I come across them. Here are my favorite fifteen out of all of the ones I posted in 2011. Because I can’t help but improve upon everything I touch (and tweet), the conclusions I reached after reading them are printed in italics.

  1. Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. Make time for others. – Helen Keller
  2. We need to exchange whispers with God before we exchange words with somebody else. Pray. – Lysa Terkeurst
  3. The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it. Grow. – John Ruskin
  4. The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with. Take risks. – Tony Robbins
  5. The best way to make someone interested in you is to be interested in yourself. Take care of yourself. – Rachel Ray
  6. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Think of others. – Maya Angelou
  7. When people show you who they are, believe them. Be discerning. – Oprah
  8. We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Change is good. – Albert Einstein
  9. Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. Be who you are, not who people want you to be. – Cyril Connolly
  10. A person who has flatlined has stopped growing. Breathe new life into your day. – Dr Henry Cloud
  11. He who looks outside himself dreams. He who looks inside awakens. Learn from what you live through. – Carl Jung
  12. If I made it in this country, the road is there guys. You really are the only shadow standing in your sunshine. Get out of your own way. – Fabio Viviani
  13. Boredom is not another mealtime. Be productive. – Valerie Bertinelli
  14. The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you. Have faith. – Paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 10:13
  15. He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. Know Christ.– Unknown

If you have a favorite quote to share, feel free to add a comment to this post and remember to …

Top Twenty Tweets of 2011

I started using Twitter in 2009. At first I treated this social networking site as a mini version of Facebook, sharing status updates and personal musings in 140 characters or less. Over time my posts evolved to become a reflection of, not what I’d been up to, but how God was working through circumstances to teach me about life. As we move into a new year, I share my top twenty tweets of 2011 in the hope that they will inspire you to create your own record of lessons learned.

Living with Purpose:

1.  When you can’t do anything about it, do something with it.

2.  Find a way, not an excuse.

3.  Better to fumble around looking for open doors than to grumble about the ones that are closed.

4.   If the person who’s standing in your way is you, maybe it’s time to move.

5.  Be the change you wish to see in the world and, one day, it will.

6.   More important than encouraging kids to pursue their dreams, is showing what it’s like to reach for ours.

7.   The danger of watching too much tv is not the bad habit it produces, but the behavior it prevents. Lack of discipline limits potential.

Relating to Others:

8.   You teach people how to treat you. Create a lesson plan.

9.   Looking good means nothing if you live ugly.

10.  The high road would be a lot easier to take of it wasn’t so uphill.

11.  If the high road is an uphill climb then the low one is a slippery slope. Tread lightly.

12.  If you think that it’s all about you, you’ve thought about it too much.

13.  Getting ahead should never be done by holding others back.

14. When kids won’t do for themselves what they want you to do for them, it’s time for the kids to do without.

Questions to Grow By:

15.  Why is it so easy to let ourselves down if we wouldn’t think of doing it to others? Luke 6:31 applies to us, too.

16.  When you are in an argument, the question is not “Are you right?” but “Do you want to be?” Everything comes at a price, even winning.

17.  Do you ever wonder if the people who exasperate you also frustrate God? Before you answer, ask yourself: Are you one of those people?

18.  Ever feel like everyone has an agenda and God’s not on any one of them?

19.  It’s easy to criticize what happened before us, but are we willing to make the changes necessary to affect those who come after us?

20.  Some people try to use God to get ahead. Others allow God to use them for His glory. Which one are you?

Feel free to post your own life lessons as comments and have a blessed new year.

Three Book Ideas for your Small Group

The church small group that Bill and I belong to asked me to look over the books in my home library to see if I had any that might appeal to both the men and women in our group. I came up with three and am posting them in case you, also, are looking for something to work through in 2012.

Who You Are When No One’s Looking by Bill Hybels

Topic: Character development.

Format: This book is comprised of 11 chapters with a  20-question discussion guide at the end.

Sample quotes from the book are listed below:

If you haven’t noticed by now, it’s extremely difficult to learn to love unless we also have other character traits: the courage to do what needs doing; the discipline to make decisions and carry them out; the vision to see far into the future and deep into others’ hearts and our own; and the endurance to keep going in spite of the ridicule, discomfort or boredom that can accompany this thing called life. p. 14

Every single day we make choices that show whether we are courageous or cowardly. We choose between the right thing and the convenient thing, sticking to a conviction or caving to our desires for comfort, approval, and success. p. 19

I have discovered three things that I must do if my spiritual life is going to flourish. I remember them with the initials I.R.A.–which stands for input, reflection and abstinence. p. 37

Vision is not only for problem-solving, of course. A second definition of vision is this: Vision is the ability to see beneath the surface of people’s lives. … To look beyond the obvious to understand what makes others—and themselves—tick. p. 31

Sample Study Guide Questions:

What recent examples (positive or negative) have you seen of the importance of character?

One aspect of vision is being able to see possible solutions to everyday problems. Would you say you usually focus on problems or solutions? Why?

What’s the difference between “enduring” and “putting up with” something?

On pages 106-111, Hybels talks about filling your love tank. What fills your love tank so you can love others sacrificially?

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies

Topic: Spiritual Discernment

Format: This book is comprised of 10 chapters with a  study guide at the end that contains six-to-ten questions for each chapter.

Sample quotes from the book are listed below:

“Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong. It is a task in which we attempt to see things as God sees them.” p. 71

“the closer our thoughts are to the reality of who God is and what he is like, the more our lives will be a reflection of him.” p. 97

“Our spontaneous thoughts and actions are a sure measure of our spiritual growth, our spiritual maturity, and our spiritual discernment.” p. 120

“One of the greatest dangers of discernment is that we will become so interested in what is evil and ungodly that we allow ourselves to become immerse in it … Sooner or later, Christians who spend their days seeking out and responding to the transgression of other people can quickly become insufferable.” pp. 144-146

Sample Study Guide Questions:

Summarize the three marks of discernment and the three marks of a lack of discernment. Can you think of a time that your own sinfulness kept you from exercising discernment? What does the Bible mean when it says we are to “be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil?” Would your friends and family say this admonition is true of you? How do you feel you have been gifted by the Spirit? How do you practice this gifting?

Fool-Proofing Your Life by Jan Silvious

Topic: Dealing with Difficult People

Format: This book is divided into three sections. Each section contains 3-to-4 chapters. A separate study guide is available but the questions at the end of each chapter would also be sufficient.

Sample quotes from the book are listed below:

Have you ever been caught in the undertow of a relationship that seems to pull you down? …Each time there is a lull in the tension, you tell yourself, “This time everything is going to be all right.” Yet in a few hours or a few days, you are thrust into confusion again. Often you are blamed for whatever negative circumstances occur, and yet for the life of you you can’t figure out why. pp. 3-4 There are several indicators–“red flags,” if you will—that pop up when you encounter a person who qualifies as a fool:

  1. He believes that his thoughts are true and his actions are acceptable because they are his (see Proverbs 12:15)
  2. Fools hide their true natures until they can get what they want … they venture out of their self-protective world just far enough to dangle the hook—and usually they “catch” compassionate people who think they can “help.”
  3. Since fools are their own judge and jury, they are confident in declaring themselves innocent. They are perfectly content with themselves. They are who they are. pp. 49-56

“part of the tragedy of continuing to engage a fool is that, despite all of your protestations and efforts to alter him, you are the one who will be altered—and not for the better” p. 124 It’s the wildest thing: You know you are right, and you believe you should say something. But the minute you do, it all gets turned around, and somehow you have become the troublemaker. p. 57 “the role of the Savior … has been played once on the stage of history, and there has been no curtain call. The part need never be played again. Yet what have you done for your fool by trying to “save” him from his own foolishness? p. 187

Sample End-of-Chapter Study Questions:

Think about specific ways you have tried to untangle your difficult relationship or change the painful dynamic. … Have any of them worked—even in the short-term? Why or why not? Does it appear that your fool learns for a while and then “forgets” what he has learned? Think through what you might do differently in responding to your fool. How could you show more wisdom than King David did? In what specific ways has your childish speech or reasoning added to the chaos of the situation with your fool?

I like all of the above studies and have no preference so, when choosing one, remember this rhyme: The book to read is the one you need.