Thursday, August 29, 2013

Self Talk

by Tim Howard

Do you talk to yourself? You don’t have to fib, be embarrassed or hide the fact because all of us do a fair amount of self-talk. People might think we are crazy when they see us moving our lips as if speaking to someone nearby but I don’t think we’re unhinged. At least not all of us!
Truth be told: I even argue with myself and have been guilty of berating myself to some degree when there’s a failure to live up to my standards. I’ve learned, self-talk can be very helpful but it can also cause a lot of unnecessary pain if it’s not monitored.
King David talked to himself when he experienced a season of depression. In his discouragement and despondency, his conversation went something like this:
Psa. 42:5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.
When you talk to yourself it’s wise to speak truth!
Secular psychology says the key to health is to get in touch with your feelings. If you are angry, sad, hurt, discouraged etc. then vent your feelings.  Get them out.  Unleash them. But that's not enough because feelings are not always true.  The Bible doesn’t encourage us to ignore our feelings but challenges us to get in touch with the truth.  Getting in touch with your feelings is one thing but it's the truth that sets you free. 
When feelings become our focus and are allowed to drown out the facts, our self-talk will move us in the wrong direction.
The truest thing that will ever be spoken about you is what God says. For David, his feelings said: Everything is terrible. There’s no way out, I might as well give up. Elijah had a similar experience to David and it’s recorded in 1 Kings 19. The only difference is he expressed his emotions while David spoke the truth.
Elijah said: Life is terrible, I’ve had enough, I want to die. I’m the only one left. That self-talk ensconced and catapulted him into a deeper depression.
David, however, spoke the truth to himself. I may be feeling down, it may be difficult, the darkness may seem impenetrable but if I call on God, he will help. This season will pass. I will see the sun in the near future and my face will once again exhibit a smile. Why? Because God is on my side.
The results? He built a staircase out of the cellar while Elijah dug a deeper hole. David wasn’t doing an exercise in positive thought and talk. He was speaking the truth – about God and about himself. 
Be encouraged to monitor your self-talk. Check out what is being said and see if it is fact or feeling.  Ask God to help you stop the damning, degrading and damaging talk that goes on in your mind. Ask him to help you change the way you think and talk to yourself. It will make for a path that gets brighter and brighter. Proverbs 4:18

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Time to Re-Engage

by Andrew Cromwell

The kids are starting back to school for another year. Summer is coming to an end (even if the heat isn’t done yet) and everyone is beginning to settle back into the routine of the fall. Football fans are gearing up to see who will dominate this year. Kids are heading back into their after-school sports programs. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Halloween candy is in stores already. 

Often during summer, we disconnect (and rightly so). We go on trips, we spend time around the pool and we generally have an opportunity to step out of the everyday grind. And now, as we settle back into real life again, let me encourage you not to forget that this is a great time to re-engage in the things that matter.

Don’t let the scramble for the last trip to the coast or the pressure to get to Back to School night distract you from the opportunity you have to put some life-giving routines back into your schedule. As the kids get back into the routine of homework, it may just be that mom and dad need to do the same.

This is a great time to sit down with your spouse and talk about how the summer went and what you want the fall to look like. Maybe it’s time to ask forgiveness for some mistakes made and get a fresh start in your communication. Take the time to plan to make time for the two of you to get away -- even just for a night before the year is out. If you don’t do it now, next thing you’ll know the year will be over.

It’s a great time to sit down with your kids and talk about the school year. Tell them how much you love them and how you want to see them succeed. Tell them you’re sorry for not always being the greatest parent, but that you want to be there for them. Set some healthy boundaries on their time -- how much will be given to cell phones/video games/computers, how much will be given to TV, how much will be given to schoolwork.  Do it right now when they are in programming mode for the school year.

And most importantly, sit down with your Heavenly Father. It’s a great time to re-engage with Him. Start picking up your Bible as a regular part of your routine. Start taking your cares and concerns to Him. And maybe even start going to church. Maybe you haven’t been in a while, what a great time to get back in. Maybe you’ve never been, what a great time to start.

Don’t miss the opportunity that every new season presents. Now, it’s time to re-engage. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What Do You Really Want?

by Jeff Acton

My wife and I dream of going to French Polynesia.  It’s the place you see in magazines, on Pinterest and the Travel Channel where wooden huts dangle over crystal clear water and the sun is ever shining.  I want to go there.  I want to enjoy the beauty and swim in the blue water.  I want to go with my wife while someone else watches our three kids.  I want a break in a beautiful place. And while I’m on the subject, I want to go after losing 30 pounds.  And I want someone else to pay.  And first class seats.  Maybe a private jet.

Want.  There are different types of want.  My desire to go to French Polynesia is in the “wouldn’t it be nice” category.  I dream of it occasionally when I’m stirred by the pictures of the idyllic beach setting, but realize that it is largely a fantasy.  Especially the 30 pounds and private jet.  Other wants are more immediate and pressing.  I want a new car because mine clunks and clanks.  I want a mattress that is comfortable.   I want a cheaper electrical bill and affordable health care.  I want my kids to obey my every word. I want the next cool gadget.  And I want a cheeseburger, which might work against the whole 30 pound thing.  

Want is a ubiquitous feeling among the human species.  We all want something.  Probably more accurately, we all want some things.  And even as I contemplate the wants of my life, I encounter ancient words from the Hebrew scriptures, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  Think about that for a moment.  I-shall-not-want.  They are stirring and profound words that seem foreign to me.  And yet there they are, in Psalm 23, one of the most treasured passages in the human language.  

It is hard for me to imagine what the world would look like without want.  Moreover, it is difficult to imagine what my life would look like without want.  Want is pervasive.  It too frequently rules our lives.  And maybe that is the point of these words.  Want shouldn’t rule our life.  We shouldn’t be driven by want.  It shouldn’t be our master.  But so often it is.  

David, the writer of Psalm 23, understood that the antidote to a life mastered by want is one that is mastered by another.  That is why he begins the Psalm with “The Lord is my shepherd.”   A life without want can only be achieved by the shelter and care of a shepherd that can care for our needs.  It is found in understanding who God is and nurturing a relationship with Him.  It comes from a response to an invitation to live life with God. 

Our notion of want changes as we are lead by one who can take care of all of our needs.  French Polynesia sounds great, but a life without want sounds even better.  As paradoxical as it sounds, I want that kind of life. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Living at the Margins

by Andrew Cromwell

Talk to almost anyone today and they will tell you they have no time.  Ask them why and they begin to list off all the things on their schedule — work, school, extracurricular activities (theirs and their kids’), church, extended family, service opportunities and more.  Schedules are a constant juggle and we just keep adding more.

Try to get together with someone for dinner and you’ll find yourself comparing notes and searching for an opening in an already overcrowded schedule.  Gone are the days of spur-of-the-moment activities...there is just no time. 

With a young family of my own, the time crunch is an ever-present reality.  My wife and I find ourselves fighting to protect our time and have decided that we must maintain a significant margin in our schedule. 

Why Margin is Key
Margin is space.  In a book, it is that white space on the edges of the page that surrounds the text.  On the road, we call it “the shoulder.”  Without margin, reading and driving are possible, but they become exhausting and anything but enjoyable.

Our schedules need margin too.  Sure, it is possible to live life without it, but it becomes exhausting and even dangerous.  Without strong boundaries around our schedules the joy of life begins to be lost in the race to get to the next event on the calendar.

Most importantly, margin is where the good stuff happens!  It is in the margin that we get to hear about our kids’ day at school as we sit around the dinner table, unhurried.  In the margin, we can enjoy a leisurely walk down the block with our spouse.  And it is in the margin where we are able to just hang-out with friends.

More is Not Better
Some have bought into the lie that more is better.  Others believe that saying “no” will damage their career or, even worse, disappoint their kids.  Either way, we push our schedules to the limit.  I have watched parents push their schedules and strain their marriage because they didn’t want their kids to miss out on something.  And I have watched marriages at the breaking point because someone failed to put limits on their work schedule.

Psalms 46:10 says, “be still and know that I am God.”  In this crazy, over stimulated insanely busy world we live in, we are rarely still.  We don’t have the time.  And we don’t have the time because we have forgotten the importance of margin. 

How’s Your Margin?
So, how’s your margin?  The next time you jump into the car to go to the next thing on your calendar, pause for a moment and ask God how important it really is.  Ask Him, what He thinks about your schedule and then ask yourself if you have left yourself time to actually listen to what He has to say.