Equipping the Called

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but, when I go for weeks without posting to my blog, the only thing I feel more of is fear.

Fear that the craft I spent years developing will slowly slip away until I wonder if writing was ever one of my gifts at all.

Experience has taught me that confidence, like a muscle, develops with use. And the longer we go between workouts, the less useful we become.

All of us, at one point or another, have watched someone accomplish an amazing feat and said to ourselves: “I could never do that.” What we should have been saying in these instances is: “I have no intention of trying.”

As I type this, I am watching the movie The King’s Speech with my daughters. In the scene that just transpired, speech therapist Lionel Logue was talking to his wife about an argument he’d had with a patient.

“This fellow could be great, but he’s fighting me,” Logue explained.

Without realizing that her husband was talking about the son of a king who suffered from a severe case of stuttering, she replied: “Perhaps he doesn’t want to be great.”

I have to wonder if God feels as frustrated as this therapist when people say they want to do His will, but never take the time to find out what it is.

Luke 12:48 states that to “everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Why then do so many of us know what our gifts are and fail to develop them? Could it be that we fear success more than we do failure?

Every time I think that what God is calling me to do is more than I can handle, I tell myself the same thing that I say to my daughters when they don’t want to take their medicine: Don’t think, just drink.

God is challenging all of us to do the same by drinking more and worrying less about the cup He has placed before us. Those who do will find that if we don’t think we can do something, it’s probably because we’ve been thinking about things too much.

Colin Firth’s character in “The King’s Speech” definitely thought too much when he doubted his ability to assume the role of king. To allay his fears, the therapist said: “Every stammerer fears going back to square one. I won’t let that happen.”

Our king feels the same way about us so don’t let your dreams die for lack of trying. Instead, remember that God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. And the best way to gain confidence, is to do.

Too Much of a Good Thing …

I believe that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. And for every questionable action there is the risk of an equally adverse reaction. It is in this spirit of avoiding undesirable outcomes that I got after my oldest daughter for slicing a hole in the top of her water bottle.

“Why can’t you unscrew the cap like everyone else?” I asked.

“Because it’s easier to drink out of this way,” Katie said as she stabbed the lid again.

“Not if I have to take you to the hospital for stitches,” I warned.

My words fell on deaf ears as Katie twisted the knife to make the hole bigger and then pulled it out to examine her handiwork. I should have been more stern with her but the truth is that I admired my daughter’s determination and understood her action. All of us, at one time or another, have dismissed direction and taken a stab at finding our own solution to a problem. Sometimes it works to our advantage and other times it works us over to the point where we’re so afraid of getting hurt that we refuse to even try.

I want my kids to realize the dreams that God has planted in their hearts, not hide from them.

Too much of a good thing (even avoiding negative consequences) is definitely a bad thing if it holds us back or hinders our progress. And although I intend to keep poking holes in Katie’s water bottle theory until she finds a safer way to quench her thirst for efficiency, I never want her to stop trying to make the world a better place. Instead I want my oldest—and all of us—to take responsible chances and view mistakes, not as road blocks to avoid, but as guard rails to keep us moving in the right direction. Only then will we reach the place where God’s plan meets our productivity as we put a lid on our fear of failure and say goodbye to the status quo.

Put every system to the test until the good is better and the better is best.


Someday

While waiting at my youngest daughter’s bus stop, I decided to catch up on some reading and turned my attention to a chapter of The Law of Happiness by Dr. Henry Cloud. In it, the author told this story about a fellow graduate student who suffered from what he called a “future” mind-set of happiness: Several times, when a group of us was going to do something fun, like take a ski weekend or go on a weekend trip to Mexico, we would invite him … And he would say, “I want to, but …”

Cloud went on to say that he eventually stopped asking because he realized “that it was not the paper that had to be finished or the degree or the dissertation or the internship or the license” that was standing in the way of his friend’s happiness. It was his friend. He was standing in the way of his happiness.

The story reminds me of my own experience with a college friend who regularly declined my invitations to come to Chicago because he and his wife were too busy to get away. “I have three jobs right now and we’re not taking any vacations except for an occasional weekend away to Omaha or Kansas City,” he explained. “Our plan is to work until we have paid off our house and saved enough to retire when we’re fifty-five. Then we’ll have time to visit all the places we’ve been wanting to see and really enjoy ourselves.”

Immediately upon hearing this, I thought about all the opportunities our family has seized over the past fifteen years. There were the business trips that the girls and I tagged along on. And the long weekends when we would set out in a new direction to explore sites that were within driving distance from our home. We too were saving for tomorrow, just not at a rate that would sacrifice today.

There’s nothing wrong with saying “yes” when circumstances allow. Jesus actually encouraged it in Luke 16:10 when he said that when we make the most of the small opportunities that come our way, we will be trusted with even bigger ones. My friend did not share this attitude of abundance. Instead, his either-or mindset was convinced that any fun he had now would be at the expense of his future; and current prospects paled in comparison to the promise of tomorrow.

I wish Dr. Cloud would have been there to challenge this person’s long-term plan. To convince him to see my invitation as an opportunity. If he had, he could have shared truths like this one from pages 45 and 46 of The Law of Happiness where he said: some people feel that happiness is on some sort of timeline and depends on a later event. It cannot happen now, because there is a missing piece that has not occurred yet. But in reality, people who think this way do not magically become happy “when” the “whatever” it is happens. They just transfer that mind-set to the next “when.”

Happiness is not a destination. It’s a state of mind. And as much as I wanted my friend to stop planning for long enough to start living, I knew that nothing was going to change his mind.

Not cheap airfare between Omaha and Chicago.

Not having a free place to stay.

And definitely not having a person with my driving record as his personal chauffer.

After hearing him respond to my offer with the promise that he would try to visit some day, I thought about calling out the same words that Apollo Creed screamed in the movie Rocky III after Rocky refused to engage him in the ring.

“I’ll train harder tomorrow,” Rocky said.

“There is no tomorrow!” Apollo screamed.

Creed was right. Someday is not a day of the week and tomorrow never comes. What will come is the moment when we see God in heaven and He holds us accountable by asking: What have you done with today?

Letting Go Of What Is

Although it’s been five years since I met with my manager to tell her that I would be leaving the company, I remember it like it was yesterday. I’d been wanting to quit for more than a year to pursue a new career as a writer and speaker. What finally gave me the motivation I needed was our family’s upcoming move to Chicago.

I remember feeling on top of the world as I returned home after giving my notice. My joy was short-lived, however, when I turned too sharply while pulling into the garage.

“Oh no!” I said somberly when I heard what  sounded like an aluminum can collapse under pressure.

“What is it, Mom?” Katie asked from where she sat in her booster seat.

Unsure of how to answer, I climbed out of the van to inspect the damage. As I suspected, the passenger side was wedged against the entrance to the garage.

“Don’t get out,” I warned the girls as I got back into the vehicle. “I need to back out of the garage and drive in again.”

Using knowledge gained from prior accidents—yes, there have been others, I turned the wheel in the opposite direction and backed up. Although this minimized the damage, the scrape on the fender was still noticeable; and I wondered how my husband, Bill, would react when he got home. To my surprise, there was not a hint of irritation in his voice as he inspected the damage and said casually, “It’s just a van.”

I’ve gotten upset at my daughters for doing much less damage than what Bill saw when he came home. How could he stay so calm?

Perhaps his reaction was a reminder that possessions are nothing compared to the people who own them. Or maybe it set the tone for how I was to view, not just my resignation, but our family’s relocation. By letting go of what was (a newly-dented vehicle), Bill realized what could be (a peaceful night together with his family). Through his example, God was urging me to do the same.

Sometimes you have to let go of something good to make room for something great and if God brings us to it, he’ll see us through even the worst mistakes that are made along the way.