Beliefs

Isolation

Some of the most profound lessons in life can only be discovered face down in a proverbial ditch.  And that’s where I found myself about 25 years ago.  My career was crumbling. My family life was devastated. Whatever influence I had was waning quickly.  My dreams were being shattered.  I was a complete failure privately, and was about to be exposed as one publicly.  And for the moment, it was right where God wanted me to be.

There as life was crashing in all around me, I asked the Lord one of the most life-changing questions I could have asked, and He was gracious enough to give me an answer.

How did I wind up here?

The Lord showed me three things – three huge, blinding, colossal choices or habits that set me up for a trip to the ditch.  The first I’ve already covered here – I allowed myself to get discouraged in one area of my life, and soon discouragement spread like spiritual cancer.

Here is the second.  I read it on the 18th of the month – I know this because it was in Proverbs 18. But reading it was like reading a lab report on the condition of my heart.

A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment (Proverbs 18:1, NKJ)

At first blush it was obvious what that meant.  I was a pastor.  I was a public figure who made my living with words and relationships and eternal truths.  I was “on” 24/7, or so I thought.  So I gave every effort to play the part.  I smiled pastor smiles. I prayed pastor prayers.  I said pastor things.  And when people asked me how I was doing, I gave pastor replies.  “Good!” I would say, smiling.

I never told anybody otherwise.

I never shared what my biggest, most challenging obstacles were.  I never shared the depths of what my dreams were, either for myself or for the church.  I never told anybody I had gotten discouraged. I never asked for wisdom or help. I was a professional problem solver. I was supposed to be the solution to other people’s problems and the complete solution to my own… all the while presenting a front and leaving an impression that all was well.

The only way to pull all this off was to isolate myself.  I even had a name for it – I called it “transparency to a point.”  I would let people see and hear enough to believe I was being open and honest, but wouldn’t tell them too much.

Why?  Pride, for sure, but that’s the third answer to the question… more on that later.  Why isolate, then?  Because I didn’t want people advising me to do what I didn’t want to do.  I didn’t want to ask for anybody else’s help to succeed.  And I didn’t want to expose my life and work to somebody else’s opinion, wisdom, or direction.

In short, I isolated myself, and I was an idiot to do so.  I would caution you against the same mistake. [click to continue…]

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Couple looking serious

(A Conversation)

Stuck.

Stuck?

Yeah, that’s probably the best word for it.

As in, you’ve hit the ditch and can’t get out?

Maybe.  Or more like I get so far and every time I hit this wall I can’t ever seem to break through.

Maybe you don’t really want to break through.

What’s that supposed to mean?

Maybe you’d rather lose a thousand pounds than 20.

I don’t follow.

Isn’t it easier to lose one pound and gain it back, then repeat the process a thousand times, than losing 20 and keeping it off?

Okay now you’ve gone to meddling!  And yeah, maybe that’s true, but humor me.  Let’s assume I really want to lose the 20 pounds.  Or I really want to pray consistently.  Or I really want to stop feeling so insecure.

But you feel stuck?

I feel stuck.

Powerless to break free?

Yeah, that.

Tired of 1 John 1:9 being your life verse?

Yeah… Hey!  Wait a minute! Are we talking about me or you?

Well, let’s just say, to quote two former presidents, “Ah feel yur pain” because I’ve been “knee-deep in doo-doo” myself.

And what did you learn?

That I was a bad liar. [click to continue…]

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Tricycle WreckHave you ever felt as though you were good – really good – at something?  I don’t mean false pride or arrogance.  I mean being a person with faith.  Faith in God.  And almost as important, faith in yourself, at least in certain circumstances.

The word for that is confidence, and without it, you’re toast.

Have you ever moved confidently into a situation and blown it?  I’m not talking about giving in to your weaknesses.  I mean digging deep into the well of your greatest talent, knowledge, or skillset and serving up what they call “gopher balls” in baseball.

All of us can shrug off those areas of weakness.  We know we won’t be perfect at everything.  (You do know that, don’t you?)

But it’s hard to know where to go or what to do when we get hammered for what we think we’re good at.

I’ve seen a lot of that lately.  I’ve had a few of those experiences myself, but I’ve also come across a variety of other people who’ve faced the same thing.  Their confidence has been rattled, and they’re not quite sure what to do next. [click to continue…]

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Chihuahua Wearing GlassesIn his book, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, Chuck Swindoll tells of two young women from Southern California who spent the day doing some last-minute Christmas shopping in Tijuana.  After a successful day of bargain hunting, they returned to their car.  One of the ladies glanced down in the gutter and noticed something squirming, as if in pain.  On closer examination, they saw what appeared to be a dog – a tiny Chihuahua – struggling for its life.  It was breathing heavily, shivering, and barely able to move.  Their hearts went out to the pathetic little animal.  Their compassion wouldn’t let them drive off and leave it there to die.

The friends decided to take it home with them and do their best to nurse it back to health.  Afraid of being stopped and having the little creature detected by border patrol officers, they carefully placed it on some papers among their packages in the trunk of their car.  Within minutes they were back in California and only a couple of hours from home.  One of the women held the sick little Chihuahua the rest of the way. [click to continue…]

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(Sort-of-random thoughts at 30,000 feet with a lot of free time on my hands…)

It takes minutes to make paper fly; to build something capable of carrying you long distances takes months, and a lot of helpful, smart people.  The same is true with your important dreams – and your character.

You were created with the language of Forever in your heart, and nothing else will satisfy.

“I will” spoken with resolve has power, but your resolve will be tested and the limits of your willpower will be exposed.

You were not born with the wisdom and capacity to wait, but wisdom and reward waits for those who learn to.

God created the world for you, not you for the world – but He does hold you accountable for leaving it better than you found it.

A thousand opportunities dance before those whose eyes are open to see them.  Ten thousand chances pass by those too lost in fear or consuming to notice them.

Summers are God’s way of showing that you don’t have to be in a classroom to learn.

I just saw a man express his gratitude by giving up his first class seat to a woman… who happened to be wearing a United States Army uniform.  I wonder how I can say thank-you to somebody today.

I will always respect the one who can wait (there’s that word again) with discipline, but then decisively act with courage.

I’m not so sure that God has a plan for you so much as God has a plan period and invites you to participate joyfully in it… Or bruise yourself on it. [click to continue…]

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Your Most Important Test

by Andy Wood on October 3, 2011

in Five LV Laws, Principle of Increase

It’s a simple and harmless enough word, but it often conjures up images of sweaty palms, sleepless nights, or other versions of brace-for-impact.  It can be the harbinger of terrible news to come – a signal that Lucy’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.  It can be a predictor (and a revealer) of a whole lotta’ work.

The word?

Test.

“We’ll have to run a few tests to see how advanced it is.”

“Close your books and clear your desks.  You’ll have one hour to complete this test.”

“This test will let us know whether we move forward or start completely over with our design.”

“God is taking me through some pretty tough tests these days.”

Have you ever thought “test” should be spelled “ugh?”  Nobody would argue that they’re stressful and in some circumstances a waste of time and money.  But tests also save lives, reveal needs for future growth, or protect us from more painful consequences down the road.  Tests are designed to provide information that will guide decision makers (including you) in future choices.

Tests range from the vital to the trivial to the bizarre.  But the most significant test you can take doesn’t come from a teacher or a doctor, or psychologist or an engineer.  The most significant test you take may well be the one you give yourself.  [click to continue…]

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Think fast!  What’s the difference between a test and a temptation?

Fast answer:  Nothing.

Slower answer:   One comes from the devil and one comes from the Lord.  But did you know that the same Greek word is used for both?  Check out these familiar words: [click to continue…]

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Life Shapers

by Andy Wood on February 5, 2011

in Ability, Life Currency, Love

I have a friend who makes me funny.  Not makes me laugh.  He makes me funny. As in Night-at-the-Improv, bust-a-gut hilarious.  I hear myself say things to him I wish I could remember later and somehow capture the moment.  

There are plenty of times when I do OK by a crowd and generate a smile or two.  But this guy takes me to a whole other place.

How does he do it?  For starters, he has a very rewarding laugh – one that boldly proclaims, “I think you’re funny.”  He also anticipates the fact that I’m going to make him laugh.  He’s always on the edge of another crack-up when we talk.  On top of that, he tells other people how funny I am.  The laughter we have shared has forged a unique identity I step into whenever we talk or get together.

I have another friend who makes me wise.  As in Child-of-Solomon, guru-deep profound.  [click to continue…]

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Imagine for a minute that you’re five years old.  You have taken your crayons and, on your own initiative, made a card for your grandparents.  No special occasion… just an “I love you” message of your own design. 

Hopefully you are motivated by a simple desire to express love to your grandparents.  At the same time, even at age five, you probably also assume that your parents, teacher(s) or somebody will also be proud of you. 

Praise you.

Approve of you.

The big word for that:  validated.  And it feels good.

But what if you got something else in return?  [click to continue…]

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Where’d You Get that Image of God?

by Andy Wood on March 15, 2010

in Turning Points

This is not a picture of God.  It’s a picture of a Nanga Sadhu, or naked Hundu holy man.  His face and body are smeared with ashes and he’s breathing out marijuana, not brimstone.

But look again.

I think in a lot of people’s minds, when they think of God, an image sort of like this emerges.

Angry.

Ashen.

Fire-breathing.

Other people imagine the opposite extreme [click to continue…]

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