The Difference Between a Burden and a Load

Every once in a while I come across an article that I love—or learn so much from—that I want to share it with E V E R Y B O D Y. Jennifer Slattery’s  post where she shares another author’s thoughts on the difference between easing someone’s burden and unnecessarily taking on another person’s load is one of these articles. According to Sherri Wilson Johnson, a burden is something that has been placed upon us without any wrongdoing on our part (like a birth defect or growing up in an abusive home). A load, on the other hand, is something you have picked up on the road of life and chosen to carry, even though it has made your way harder. 

We must never do for others what they should be doing for themselves, yet too often we fall victim to our own tendency to be overly helpful and understandably frustrated when loaded down people take advantage of our niceness. When I think of the countless times that I have rescued someone from their own insubordination, I am appalled by mine. Galatians 6:5 tells us that “each one should carry their own load” yet over and over I find myself ignoring this command, not just at my  peril, but also someone else’s.

“We’ve all made mistakes and can sympathize with people who are trapped in a sinful place.” Johnson commiserated. “It is tempting to swoop in and try to pluck this person out of the muck and mire. However, it is not always an easy thing to do nor is it the right thing to do. If this person is stuck or if he is like a stubborn mule, fighting your every effort, then sometimes you must leave him to his own devices. Turn him over to a reprobate mind. Take off your sandals and shake off the dust.”

I am tired of sweeping up after someone else’s stubborn choices. Aren’t you? Galatians 6:7 tells us that “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” so let’s stop getting in the way and take Hebrews 12:1 to heart as we throw “off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and run the race that was meant for us, NOT another sinner, by easing other people’s burdens without taking on unnecessary pain.

To read Sherri’s Article, click on the link below:

Carry their Burden but Not Their Load

Managing Others

Hollie wanted to borrow a shirt from Katie but was afraid that her sister would get mad if she came into her room.

“Send her a text,” I suggested. “That’s how I got her to bring me the towels out of your bathroom.”

“Katie has to listen to you,” Hollie replied. “She doesn’t have to answer to me.”

“Send the text from my phone,” I schemed.

My suggestion worked like a charm and the outcome got me thinking: Why does relating to other people have to be so hard?

Can’t we all just say what we mean, mean what we say and forget about managing others?

This summer, I spent a lot of time managing a difficult relationship. One where constant conflict and irrational behavior left me so emotionally drained that I was ready to give up on the person altogether—Then I read a bible study lesson that talked about how the real enemy is not the person with the maladaptive behavior, but the devil who was behind it.

Satan works through flawed characters to bring out the worst in well-intentioned ones. As soon as I realized that I was not the only one trying to gain control of the situation, I stopped trying to.

Sometimes you have to give up control to gain it. Only then can we experience the peace that the apostle Paul wrote about in Philippians 4:7.

Life shouldn’t have to be like a game a chess where we are always plotting the other person’s next move; but when it is, it helps to remember that we are all on the same team. And difficult people are not the enemy, but unwitting pawns in Satan’s plan.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,

by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Road Maps

At the end of our driveway stands a new mailbox. Its presence marks the end of a long road of frustration that began when the mail carrier drove up to our old one and opened the lid with such force that a hinge broke, causing it to fall to the pavement below.

When repeated attempts to fix the hinge failed, Bill wired the top of the lid to the box to keep it from flopping open every time the carrier forgot to treat it with care.

I read once that people will do what’s important to them at their own inconvenience. What I didn’t catch was: When? When does the pain of ‘what is’ become enough to motivate us to work toward what can be? For me, the moment came when I tried to squeeze an armload of letters out of a half-open mailbox and imagined how hard it must have been for the postal worker to slide them in there.

I’ve met a lot of people who refused to start a project until they knew exactly how it would end. The problem with this approach is that God never gives us a complete road map. Instead, He wants us to step out in faith and trust that the journey will eventually lead to the finish line.

My first step was to call a customer service representative from Frontgate, because I had seen a mailbox that looked like ours in their catalog. The person I spoke to gave me the name of the manufacturer and, after confirming that ours was made by the same company, I called them about replacing the lid. To my delight, the one that our builder purchased came with a lifetime warranty.

A few weeks later, the broken lid was a distant memory and it wasn’t just our mail carrier who noticed.

“I need to fix mine too,” a neighbor said when he saw Bill replacing ours.

After seeing the bad condition that his was in and comparing it to the flawless appearance of ours, it occurred to me that people, like mailboxes, stand side by side. Some looking more worn than others: All able to be made new with a single leap of faith and the decision to say ‘no’ to the status quo and ‘yes’ to the delivery of God’s very best in life.

“For we live by faith, not by sight.”

2 Corinthians 5:7

Flat Stanley

When my 14-year-old asked me to drive her to school a few days ago, I immediately told her: “No.”

Katie is notorious for dragging herself out of bed so late that she and her sister barely make it to the bus stop in time. This morning was no different and I was not about to rearrange my schedule to ease hers … until I walked downstairs, took one look at the food on the table that would go uneaten, and decided to show a little mercy instead.

“If you make your bed before coming down for breakfast, I’ll drive you to school.”

“Really?” Katie asked, clearly relieved.

The one person who wasn’t happy was Hollie. Having called me a pushover on several occasions for going back on my word, she couldn’t see that holding a grudge is counterproductive to demonstrating God’s grace. Life is full of trade-offs; and sometimes we have to choose between sticking to our guns and standing for others who are unable (or unwilling) to help themselves.

Never was this more clear than in the scene from last week’s episode of The Middle where Axel shut his fingers in a door and needed his brother, Brick, to free them. Axel’s on-screen predicament made me think of the time I accomplished a similar feat while living in Nebraska. I can remember like it was yesterday: The girls were playing in the front yard; Bill was working in the garage; and I had just walked outside to see how everyone was doing. For some reason, the trunk of my car was open and I decided to close it from where I stood on the passenger side of the vehicle. Without thinking about how my right hand would be impacted as it rested on the top of the car’s rear quarter-panel, I awkwardly reached over with my left to push the lid down and felt a bone-crushing pain the second it locked into place.

Feeling a lot like Flat Stanley as I looked at the tiny opening that half of my thumb had disappeared into, I called out to Bill for help. Unlike Brick—who took his time responding to Axel’s cries—my roommate was quick to free me from the grip of my latest mistake.

Whenever I think about what would have happened if he had not been there to pop the trunk, I thank God for saving me from the unbearable pain and possible loss of my thumb.

James 2:13 says that “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” I used to think that this verse was more about conviction than evangelism; but now I realize that people need love the most when they deserve it the least.  And if we want to have the mind of Christ, we first need to adopt the attitude where those who make their beds don’t have to lie in them because mercy triumphs over judgment every time.

Losing Sight of Who We Are

I watch American Idol for the moments when destiny peeks its head into reality to give us a glimpse of what it’s like to use our gifts for God’s glory. One of those moments emerged during the April 19th results show when alternative rocker Colton Dixon, after being told that he had the lowest number of votes, took center stage to belt out one last tune. Before he did, the 20-year-old from Tennessee expressed remorse over not accepting a negative critique the night before.

“I need to apologize. I wasn’t myself last night and I get it,” Colton told the judges. “And I appreciate what you told me … I’ll take that when I’m making a record.”

“You’ll make many records,” judge Jennifer Lopez corrected.

“Colton Dixon: a class act,” Ryan Seacrest added as a video showing the contestant’s Idol journey appeared onscreen.

I want to finish that well. To admit my shortcomings and send a message that life doesn’t have to be perfect … and neither do you and I. Sometimes I think we spend so much energy covering up our mistakes: there’s no time left to learn from them.

What Colton learned (and shared with viewers during a post-performance interview) was that he had forgotten where he came from. “I wanted to end tonight the way I started it,” the singer explained. “I felt like I strayed last night,and I hate that I did but I was ready to bring it back and bring my focus back.”

As a life coach, I want everyone to live with purpose and love their lives. We do neither when we say that our heart is in one place and spend all of our time in another. Colton learned this lesson the hard way when he lost part of his fan base after performing a Lady Gaga song onstage despite professing a desire to be a Christian singer. The contradiction reminds me of something that one of my daughters said the other day while we were playing ping-pong.

“Mom, will you still love me if I decide to be an atheist?”

“My love for you is unconditional,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I don’t like it when hypocrite Christians act like God only loves them.”

How easy it is for us, like Colton, to forget who we are and where we come from. The problem with believing one way and behaving another is that we run the risk of alienating the very people God has called us to serve. I don’t want to be the reason someone loses faith in me or my creator. Colton wasn’t going to be either when he dropped to his knees on stage to give his final performance to God.

“I wasn’t singing for [the judges]. I wasn’t singing for my family or anyone in the audience. I wasn’t singing for anyone at home.” Colton explained after he had finished. “That song was between me and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. … I wanted to end it the way I started it and the way I told myself I would do this competition, and I’m glad I got the opportunity.”^1

I have to believe that God was, too, because, although we may lose sight of who we are, He never does. And even the lowest of lows can be turned into a high when we resolve to finish well.

Colton Dixon Singing “Everything”

^1 http://blog.zap2it.com

Five of My Favorite iPhone Apps

I’m always on the lookout for ways to put my iPhone to better use. Below are five applications that I downloaded from the App Store and use regularly, if not every day:

  1. Evernote – This is my most used and favorite free app. It’s almost like a mini-filing system that I can access from an iPad, Mac, or any PC.
  2. TurboScan – I blogged about this software in my other March 4th post and, like Evernote, use it several times a day.
  3. Flixster – This is my favorite app to check movie showtimes, read reviews, and watch trailers. It has saved me on countless occasions from going to mediocre movies that I would otherwise regret paying to see.
  4. Twitter – I use this micro-blog to store my favorite quotes. It’s almost like a mini-journal that my daughters can look back on one day.
  5. Beat the Traffic – If you live in a high traffic area, this app is great because it allows you to see which roads are congested and take an alternate route. In many areas, there are cameras posted which allows users to look at the roads themselves and make real-time decisions. How cool is that?

Although I am a techie at heart, these apps are so easy to learn that even a novice could use them. I know because more times than I can count, that novice has been me. And with every mastered experience, I reached the same conclusion: When the person who is standing in the way of progress is you (or me), maybe it’s time to move; because when we step outside our comfort zone for long enough, we’ll see that we belong there.

Keeping Track of Receipts and Other Documents

Organizing your paper files is the type of project that goes better with a little help from friends … and a lot of user-friendly technology. For years, we used a product called NeatReceipts to create and file a digital copy of receipts and other important documents. When I migrated from my PC to a Mac computer, I decided that it was time to re-look at our options and see if a better solution existed. What I found was an iPhone application called TurboScan that scans receipts and multiple-page documents.

The software is much easier to use than our old solution and just $1.99 to download from the App Store on iTunes. My favorite feature is the ability to e-mail a PDF or JPG version of receipts directly to a folder in Evernote, which is a free web application that seamlessly synchronizes medical records, class notes, travel information and anything else I need access to. Because it works across all the devices and platforms—including Evernote for Mac, Evernote Web, and Evernote for Windows—Bill can see my scanned receipts seconds after I upload them and record the amounts in Quicken (which is another program that has worked well for our family for years).

I’ve said many times that when we make the most of what we have, God blesses us with more. In the case of putting technology to use, the gift is less clutter and more time to do the things we really want to do. What I want is to share what I know so that others can grow because your progress is my passion. And one of the best investments I will ever make is the time that I spend serving you.

Equipping the Called

A friend recently learned that her car was equipped with a remote starter—on the day she went to trade it in. I can relate: I’ve had my iPhone for eight months and just realized that I can print from it.

I often say that when we make the most of what we have, God blesses us with more. But what if we don’t know what we have? What then? Does a lack of knowledge let us off the hook for all consequences?

Ignorance is not bliss if it keeps us from enjoying the blessings that are ours for the taking. … Like a warm vehicle in the winter. … And a phone that lives up to its potential.

Maybe that’s why God works through His spirit to give us a hand—or a timely whisper. I read once that the brain can’t help but answer a question once it’s been asked. Having repeatedly found this to be true, I have to wonder if God does this as a reminder that He can be trusted to do the same.

Even when we don’t know it, God is at work behind the scenes to meet our deepest needs. The Beatles weren’t kidding when they sang that all we need is love. God’s love—and a little initiative on our part—is all we need to find answers to even the most perplexing problems. Like today when Katie asked me to help her get the wireless printer to work with our home computer. After I searched the internet for solutions, attempted to reload the printer driver, and called Apple for support, my oldest said: “That’s one thing I love about being in this family: You know how to fix things when they stop working.”

“I don’t know what to do,” I confessed.

“You sure look like you do.”

What Katie saw as confidence was really a reliance on the One that all of us should be turning to. Matthew 7:7 promises that when we take the first step, God will lead us to the next one and the next until everything we need to do gets done. And although the pace is rarely as fast as we would like, those who keep following. … and trusting. … will eventually see every wrong made right.

That’s what happened to me when, as a last resort, I reset the cable router and our printer sprang to life. To her excitement and my surprise, Katie’s e-reader also started working for the first time in over a week.

The saying is true. God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. And when we do our best and trust Him with the rest, He will exceed our expectations every time.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7b

Trying Too Hard to Please People

Ever since I migrated my newsletter to a blog format, I have been trying to find a rhythm that allows me to share what’s on my heart without overcrowding your inboxes. I have also been struggling with what to write: thinking that my readers will be confused or disappointed if I publish anything other than the carefully crafted life lessons they have become accustomed to.

The problem with this approach is that a lot of the information I want to pass along goes unrecorded because I don’t have time to edit my thoughts into a well-polished piece or enough time hasn’t passed since my last post.

Experience has taught me that, by trying too hard to please people, I actually annoy them. With this in mind, I’m going to post with reckless abandon (make that mild restraint) and give this blog a chance to become everything it has the potential to be. As Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend once said: Sometimes on the road of life, getting lost is how we find our way.

Going forward, look for an e-mail once a week with links to my latest posts. If you wish to receive them more frequently, or if you find that you are still getting e-mails as I post them and want to change your preferences to the publication’s default schedule of once a week, scroll to the bottom of your latest feedblitz-generated e-mail from me and click on the link to change your delivery schedule preferences.

Until my next post, I leave you with these reminders:

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

- and -

By trying too hard to please people,  you actually annoy them.


To Conquer Or Consider

My daughters just finished a summer session of ice skating lessons. Watching them on the rink reminded me of the last time I laced up a pair of skates. We were at a school sponsored event where parents were invited to participate. Having just fallen off a ladder (and torn a ligament in my knee) the year before, I was nervous about joining Katie and Hollie on the ice. Not wanting to disappoint them, my plan was to take a few cautious laps around the rink before sitting down in the stands to watch.

Thirty seconds and one near-fall later, I was reminded of the scene from The Princess Diaries where Mia Thermopolis struggled to decide whether to accept or reject her title as heir to the Genovian throne. In the end, the words that made her face her fears are the same ones that convinced me to honor mine.

“Courage is not the absence of fear,” Mia read in a letter from her father, “but the judgment that something is more important.”

Is this more important than my health? I asked myself as I steered clear of an approaching skater.

The answer came when I looked at my daughters and realized that they were doing just fine without me. With their approval, I inched my way off the ice and turned in my skates.

A few minutes later I knew I had made the right decision when I walked by a man who was holding a bloody towel and a bag of ice to the back of his head.

“Did he just fall on the ice?” a woman in front of me asked the employee who was kneeling in front of the injured man.

Nodding in agreement, the employee said: “He’s waiting for a neighbor to take him to the hospital for stitches.”

Her words affirmed my conclusion that some fears are not meant to be conquered, but carefully considered. And those who do will spare themselves a considerable amount of pain.

“Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.” – Proverbs 4:26