Creating a Mindset of Gratitude

It is December. It is the Christmas season. As the song says, it is the most wonderful time of the year! But, it is also the busiest. It can be the most stressful. The most expensive. And the most disappointing. If this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, should we be feeling more gratitude? At Christmas we celebrate the Gift that God gave to the world. Out of His love, God gave everything He had. That seems to be cause for thankfulness. Busyness, debt,  disappointment, and much of our stress comes from trying to gain a sense of worth from things apart from God: Saying yes to all the commitments. Buying impressive presents. Portraying the happy image. (For the church leader, having more people at this year’s church service than last year’s.) Gratitude takes discipline. One of the ways our brains have be designed to function is the more you look for something, the more you will find it. For example, if you believe people will ultimately disappoint you, then you will process everything though that lens. Another example, if you perceive that people disrespect you, then you will see your interactions through that lens. Thus, the more your mind is set on being grateful, the more things to be grateful for you will see. Growing in your identity in Christ enables more gratitude. When you are not dependent upon roles, relationships, or results for a sense of self, you can be grateful for what God has placed in your life – not what you feel is missing. When your lens is no longer clouded by...

I’ll Be Happy When…

I will admit to you that for a long time I had a problem being present in my life. What I mean is that I was always looking to the next thing, feeling like I would be fully satisfied at the next milestone. For example, when I knew I wanted to pursue vocational ministry, my mindset became “I’ll be happy when I work in a church.” Then I worked part-time, so the mindset became “I’ll be happy when I can work in the church full time.” When that happened, the mindset changed to “I’ll be satisfied when I’m a top tier leader.” On and on it goes. Always hoping for the next thing. Not celebrating, not being grateful, but continually longing. I see this all around me: The church leader that will feel settled when their church crosses that elusive attendance barrier. The woman who will feel content when she has her first (or another child). The person who claims satisfaction will be found in earning just a few thousand dollars more per year. Continually looking to the horizon for a sense of significance and identity will cause you to stray from the narrow path. When you are not present, you will… suffer from insecurity (what if the next milestone never happens?) live in scarcity (what happens if I lose what I do have?) create division (why did someone else get what I deserve?) After I burned out and subsequently began to develop my identity in Christ, I began to understand that the inability to be present – to be always longing for something else – was a symptom...

Seeing Jesus

It is election season. From things I’ve read, if Jesus were alive today, He would support every political candidate. Or at least that is the case people make. There is a proliferation of bumper stickers saying that “Jesus is an environmentalist” or “Jesus is a capitalist” or some other such identification. Many churches teach their opinions as if they were doctrines of Jesus. Things like kids must be home-schooled or that some standards of discipleship are old-fashioned. Here is the truth: we view Jesus through the lens of what builds up our false sense of self. We want Jesus to affirm the things from which we are seeking value. Thus, we don’t see Jesus as He actually is, we see a Jesus created in our own image. Jesus did not come to affirm our broken philosophies, He came to show the world the love of the Father. When we make Jesus in our image, that leads to division rather than unity, condemnation rather than acceptance, and judgment rather than forgiveness. Jesus was concerned that we do two things: love God and love people. Loving God is about rooting our full sense of identity in Him. Loving people is a fruit of the freedom that source of identity provides. Where loving God and people conflicts with our desires we are to abandon our self. In what ways does Jesus look more like you rather than you looking more like Jesus? ————————————————— I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and...

Why Big Things?

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ – Matthew 25:21 All of us have a desire for significance. It has been implanted within us by the God who created us. In our lives, problems result when we seek that significance apart from our Creator. One of the ways that we attempt to prove our worth is by doing big things; having a big impact. The larger the impact, the thinking goes, the better our work for God. We want results to prove our closeness to God. But the verse above from Matthew says that our faithfulness is actually demonstrated in the little things. If we can stay rooted in Christ and believe the truth of who we are in the circumstances that seem insignificant to us, then we can be trusted with much. There is a temptation in the big things: we will look to them for our significance instead of God. So the pastor only feels effective if church attendance it big. An author only feels successful if they sell a lot of books. A parent determines their effectiveness by the career path of their child. A business owner gains significance from making more money. The list can go on and on. The false self seeks big things for a sense of value. God gives big things when we are secure and rooted in Him. Today at the Igniting Souls Conference that I am attending, I was reminded that impact is magnified when someone I...

Thinking Good Thoughts

Not too long ago, I was watching my daughter play in a volleyball tournament. Her team is fairly capable and manage to stay competitive in most matches. During their matches, I noticed an interesting phenomena that was true of all the teams I watched. There was a time when one bad shot led to another. As a couple lost points were strung together, heads started to go down and shoulders slumped forward. Regardless of record or score, it would become contagious. It is so easy to dwell on the negative. Mistakes are easier to keep in the front of our minds than successes. In volleyball, this caused the players to lose energy and have trouble moving forward. And I thought that this is so true in our spiritual lives as well. It is so easy to get captured by our lies. When we make a mistake or do not meet an expectation or experience a failure then what were once distant echos can become louder. I am a failure. I am ugly. I am a disappointment. I am unforgivable. I am unwanted. And the list of the limiting beliefs and false narratives that we believe about our selves could go on and on. Ultimately, these lies are the result of your focus not being on the source of your true self, the identity you have in Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian believers and told them: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8...

How Are You Addressing Your Root?

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. – Luke 13:8 All of us tend to classify people into categories. Good or bad. Saved or lost. Successful or lazy. Jesus was talking to a group of people that had assumed they were better, or more righteous, because something bad had not happened to them. In reply, Jesus confronted this belief by asking if the people who had died suddenly were more guilty or bigger sinners than others living in the same place. Then Jesus went on with a parable about a tree that was not producing any fruit. When the man who owned the vineyard asked that the tree be cut down, the caretaker made the reply that is quoted above. “I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.” Notice what the first impulse was – to address the root of the tree. In response to the lack of fruit, the caretaker did not look to the branches and leaves. The same principle can be repeated for unhealthy fruit. A problem with the fruit is the result of a problem with the root. Repentance requires that we address our root. Becoming more aware that we realize the depth to which we look to the world for significance. Authentic fruit is the result of being rooted in Christ. Having an identity that is defined by God’s love for you is an intentional process of knowing your lies and when you are prone to shame and applying truth. What areas are you tempted to root your identity apart from God? In...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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