Archive for January, 2008

I’l bet many of you know Jeremiah 17:7-8. It’s an often quoted passage. I love to read it.

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. (NIV)

Did you know that it follows Jeremiah 17:5-6? I’m guessing maybe you didn’t. Or at least you don’t know verses 5 and 6 as well as you know verses 7 and 8.

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. (NIV)

This is not the only place in Scripture where God clearly lays out the basis for blessings and curses. I’m so thankful He does that. He doesn’t make me wonder what it takes to gain His approval. And He doesn’t bury His instructions in the middle of complicated discussions I can’t understand. He says simply “This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man…But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord…”

Such a simple statement…sometimes so hard to implement. I’m afraid that I put my trust in mere humans more often than I think. I may not consciously turn my heart from the Lord, but there is a subtleness to turning our hearts away from God and toward humans or things humans have made that creeps into my daily life.

When I need to finish a work project before the end of the day am I trusting in my own strength or am I trusting in the Lord? When I have to see a doctor, am I trusting in the doctor or in the Lord? Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not suggesting that I don’t work hard to finish the project or that I don’t see a doctor when I’m sick. But even doing those things, I can have an attitude of trusting God or trusting in man.

What keeps this attitude alive in you from day to day, moment to moment? Here’s 7 ideas. Pick one or two and begin to practice or work on improving in that area:

  1. Start every day by greeting the Lord and acknowledging Him as sovereign over all that will happen that day.
  2. Train yourself to pray often — when things are going well and when things are falling apart. Quick sentence prayers connect you to God on an ongoing basis.
  3. Put things in front of you that will remind you to look to God. That might be a note in your DayTimer or on your bathroom mirror, a screensaver on your computer, or a bracelet around your wrist. Use anything that will remind you to seek God.
  4. Learn to see God at work and in nature. Learning to see Him requires looking for him, so train yourself to look for Him by pausing several times to look around and ask God to reveal Himself to you in your surroundings. (Yes, that means pausing from your busy-ness.)
  5. Read about spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines. Try any of these books: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. There’s an updated version in modern English. The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg Celebration of Disciplines: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
  6. Stop reading and practice what you’re learning!
  7. Be grateful. I think grateful goes beyond thankful. It’s easy to be thankful but grateful goes all the way to the heart. The difference in the definition of these two words in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (www.m-w.com/dictionary/) is interesting. Here’s an example:
  • thankful: conscious of benefit received
  • grateful: appreciative of benefits received b: expressing gratitude
  • Additional definitions carry the same theme — thankful is a consciousness of benefits while grateful is an appreciation of benefits. I want to not only be thankful for what God has done, is doing and will do; I want also to be grateful.

I love the illustration God uses earlier in Jeremiah: “As a belt clings to a person’s waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me,” says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 13:11a, NLT).

Lord, we were created to cling to You. Help me to cling to You every minute of every day!

Let me know if there are things you’d add to my list of 7. Which of the 7 is easiest for you? Which is most difficult?

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I don’t make New Year’s resolutions…especially when I don’t get around to blogging about them until January 24. Oops!

New Year’s resolutions just seem like things that are destined to make me feel bad about myself because I can pretty much assure you that whatever I resolve to do or not do, I’m going to weaken at some point. And then I’m going to feel like a failure. So why set myself up for that?
That doesn’t mean I don’t pursue growing and improving. It’s just that I don’t consider them to be resolutions. Resolutions always seem to be something I’m going to “try” to do. I prefer to approach growing and improving through training not trying.

Here’s what I mean: I could try to run a marathon tomorrow. There is a 100% probability that I’d fail! A better approach would be to begin training tomorrow for a marathon that is sometime this summer. If I train consistently and well, I reduce my probability of failure considerably…perhaps down to zero! Resolutions feel a lot like trying.

Instead there are two areas in which I hope to train myself this coming year. Both involve my language, but I know the words I use also impact on how I think and how I influence others.

1) I frequently say “I’m so stupid.” That’s not a true statement. I am not stupid. Sometimes I do something stupid, but not nearly as often as I accuse myself of it. I usually use the phrase when I’ve made a bad play in a game, forgotten how to accomplish something on the computer, or done something equally as inoccuous. That’s not stupid, it’s just not being perfect. And guess what!? I’m not perfect! I’m not even close. I know that…so why do I beat myself up for it?

2) I frequently say that “I have to” do something when referring to something that I am privileged to do. When I use the phrase, it often sounds like I’m complaining about it. That’s wrong. For example, I’ll often say “I have to prepare for a Bible study” or “Saturday I have to prepare for the nursing home service on Sunday.” Instead, I’m going to say “I’ve set aside Saturday to prepare for our church service on Sunday.” or “I’m studying tonight to prepare for our Bible study on Wednesday.” It’s the difference between conveying that I’m upholding my end of an obligation and conveying that I am preparing for something I’m blessed to be a part of.

Words mean things and they impact how we think about what’s happening around (and inside) us. I know that my “have to’s” sometimes impacted my attitude toward things that I am really blessed to participate in. I want my words to have a positive impact on me and those around me.
So I’ve put myself in training to no longer use either phrase. I’ve asked the people around me to correct me and when I do slip up I’m correcting myself by reiterating that I’m not stupid, I’m actually quite intelligent or reminding myself how blessed I am to have opportunities to participate in the things I’m involved in. If you catch me mumbling that I’m stupid or talking about things I “have to” do, please correct me.

How’s your language? Are there phrases you use that subtly (or not so subtly) change how you view yourself, others or activities in your life? If so, I invite you to join me “in training!”

Want to read more about training vs. trying? Authors John Ortberg, Laurie Pederson and Judson Poling give a great discussion of it in their book aptly titled Growth: Training vs. Trying (Pursuing Spiritual Transformation) (copyright 2000 by The Willow Creek Association, published by Zondervan).

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