The Right Question at the Right Time

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question-markBy Brian Sharpe

Have you ever been in a situation as a parent, boss, coworker, or friend where you didn’t know what to say or do when giving advice? You knew what the person should do, but you were sure they weren’t going to do what you thought they should. As a parent, as a friend, as a leader, and as a mentor, I have been in that situation so many times. My modus operandi is to just tell people what to do. The problem is, that usually ends up not going the way I think it should go.

I don’t know if you are like me, but I often think that if the world just did things the way I think they should be done, it would be a better, more functional place. I know that is arrogant, and most likely not true, but it is a thought I have.

I was recently in a situation where I was in conflict with someone that I respect. We both had different ideas of how something should be done. During this meeting, it was obvious that we weren’t seeing eye to eye. Martin was at this meeting, and he brought me and this man together to talk through and figure out what was going on. Before this meeting, I wanted to spend some time alone in prayer, seeking God and asking for understanding on why this other leader and I weren’t seeing eye to eye. As I prayed, I wasn’t getting any clarity to what was going on in this relationship. I could understand where I was coming from, and I thought I understood where the other man was coming from … but boy, was I wrong!!!

While praying, I called a mentor of mine, Jim. We usually meet once a month, but I needed his advice and his outside perspective. While on the phone with Jim, I explained the situation. I explained the reason for the meeting. Jim’s first response wasn’t to tell me what he thought I should do. His first response was to empathize, then to asking questions. He has a framework that he works though in situations like this, and the first thing is seeking to understand by asking questions. As he asked questions, he better understood the situation.

At this point, if I were Jim, I would have moved into telling me what to do. Instead, he started asking more questions about why I was responding the way I was. By the end of our conversation, it was clear to me all the ways I needed to own my improper leadership. I thought I knew what was going on, but I was blinded by my own biases. Jim was not; he was able to help me understand the blind spots in my life. He did this by asking questions, not by making statements.

I really am learning that this is the best way to help people. We need to become master question-askers. As a pastor, I see this. As a parent, I see this. As a husband, I see this. How often could an argument (I mean if Tomina and I argued . . . which of course we never do! JK) have been stopped if I would had asked a good question instead of making a statement? Asking good questions means you are seeking to understand, not make a point. This takes humility and intentionality. But in the end, I think it leads us down the path we want to go down, and that is to help others.

I have seen where someone asking good questions has helped me. I have seen where good questions have helped others. Leading through questions is hard, but worth the time it takes. In the future, when people are seeking your help or you are trying to help a family member or a friend, stop, think, and ask yourself what question needs to be asked, instead of what statement needs to be made.

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Purpose in Paper Boats

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By Nate Champneys

My five-year-old and I went down to the creek with some paper to make paper boats. In my mind I could just picture how awesome it would be to let those things go sailing down the creek. So we get down there and I fold the first one and I let it go down the creek. Kaelen was thrilled. But his excitement quickly faded into distress as the boat moved away. He waded after the boat and grabbed it.

“Kaelen, you have to let it go down the creek.” I said.

“No, I want it,” he said.

“Trust me, Kaelen. Let’s just see what happens.”

Frustrated, he slowly let it go. It went about 20 feet and got caught on a log. I waded over to it and Kaelen asked me for it. But I said, “No, dude, you have to let it go.” And I let it go and it sailed down the creek. By this point Kaelen is almost in tears and says, “But Daddy, I really want to keep the boats.”

I head back up the creek to where the stack of paper is sitting, frustrated because my beautiful plan of sailing boats down the creek with my son is not playing out the way I intended it to. But I suddenly think to myself, “Why am I so bothered by this? Who really cares if the boats go all the way down the creek or not? Isn’t the point of being here to have some quality time with my son? Instead I am driving him to tears.” Here I am, focused so hard on the end result of the boats, that I’ve forgotten that the goal of this outing was to have a date with my son. So I told Kaelen, “Okay buddy, I’m sorry. You can keep the boats.” The rest of the afternoon, I would make a boat and he would let it go ten feet or so, pick it up, and add it to his collection on the beach. (With the exception of a couple he let me send down the creek for my own enjoyment. 🙂 ) We came home with an armful of soggy paper boats, and my son was never more thrilled.

As I think about that day, I understand my mistake. I was focusing on what I viewed to be the end result: floating boats. I forgot about the process. I got focused on the “doing” and lost track of the “being,” the “doing” of sailing boats instead of the “being” of being a father to my son. This way of thinking is visible throughout my life and is something I fight daily. In another blog post I wrote about how God’s purposes are wrapped up inside the process of life. We tend to view things as “the end justifies the means” and focus on doing whatever we have to in order to accomplish a specific project. But from God’s perspective, I think that often the means ARE the end.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Sometimes we hear this verse and we think, “See, God is going to make everything I do prosper.” But that is not what this verse says, nor is it what the surrounding verses are trying to communicate. God is about His purposes. Not ours. In verse 35 Paul asks the question, “Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” This question implies that we will face these things. We may face trouble. We may face hunger or destitution. We may face persecution. How is that things working together for good? Well, according to my purposes, it isn’t. But it is good because all those bad things work together to accomplish the good thing: His purpose.

God is at work in us, with purposes all throughout the process of life, with the ultimate destination being greater than our immediate happiness, but more so, our holiness. Our job is not focus on the fact that we haven’t arrived at this destination but to be with him in the process, and trust him with it, knowing that we are deeply loved and leave the results up to Him.

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Pondering “Poopiness”

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By Nate Champneys

Poop. It seems when you are a father of three small children that your life revolves around this topic. I find our conversations range from how frequently a child has had one to the consistency of it to what needs to be done with a diaper filled with it. If you’ve ever had kids, I am sure you can relate. During the most recent “poopy” incident at our house, a valuable lesson was brought to mind, so I thought I would share. 🙂

Shortly after my five-year-old had just gone into the bathroom, my wife and I heard him calling for help. I walked into the room to find quite a scene: Kaelen was standing in front of the toilet, facing away from it, with his pants at his knees, and there was poop EVERYWHERE. It was all over the floor. It was all over the rim. It was smeared on the outside of the bowl. It was on the inside and outside of his pants. My wife asked him, “Oh, Kaelen what happened?” Sheepishly he said, “I wanted to turn the fan on.” Well the good news is, he did indeed get the fan on. He just didn’t make it back across the bathroom in time.

My wife looked at me. I looked at her. She said, “Don’t look at me, I already cleaned up throw-up this morning.” I had nothing. I realized that I was not getting out of this one. It was definitely my job at this point. I looked at the horror smeared out before me. Jokingly, I followed my wife out of the bathroom and closed the door behind me. “There,” I said. “Problem solved.” My wife and I laughed together. Then I headed in and began to clean up the mess.

Obviously, I could never really expect to close the bathroom door and expect my five-year-old to clean up after himself. And of course it’s not going to clean itself. But many times this is exactly how we view our brokenness. Each of us has dirty, nasty, stinky, rooms in the house of our hearts. Deep, dark places from our childhood, or painful times in our lives. We just try to ignore our problems and expect that they will just eventually take care of themselves. Or we think, “If I just try harder I will be able to get over my broken past.” Here’s the thing: Thinking we can just try harder is like my five-year-old trying really hard to clean up his mess. Even if he tried to clean it up, because of the fact that he is only five years old, he actually would make it worse! Instead, he called for help.

The reality is that God is the only one who can truly clean and heal our hearts and make us whole. He stands at the door and wants to help us clean up the mess of our hearts, but at the same time He doesn’t force Himself into our dirty rooms. When we intentionally give Him access to our hearts, He will begin to bring things to the surface and start to clean house. It’s very humbling and can even be painful, but who wants to live with brokenness for their entire lives? So we have a choice. We can continue to ignore the filth in our hearts, or we can choose to give God full access to begin making us new.

Have you given God full access and permission to do work through your brokenness?

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God Still Speaks … Through Laminate Flooring

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By Nate Champneys

“Dad, I want to bring in the flooring,” my 5-year-old son Kaelen asked me for the tenth time today. My wife and I are living in a fixer-upper duplex we bought a few months ago. I bought some flooring a couple days ago for my kitchen, and it’s still sitting in my minivan. I have not had the time or the drive to move it inside. My son, it seems, has both of these. This time I finally give in and we head outside and begin unloading the 20+ boxes in the van. I open the door and grab three boxes. The boxes are about four feet long and weigh about fifteen pounds each. My son walks up and grabs a single box and muscles it out of the van with all his might. He nearly falls over as he struggles to carry the awkward package by himself. I walk my three boxes into the house and return to see that my son has only made it a few feet farther and is now dragging his box.

I am so tempted to let him continue to struggle while I finish quickly unloading the van, but I pause. My son has been so excited to unload this flooring; I can’t possibly rob him of that. So, almost annoyed, I ask him, “Kaelen, do you want to get one side while Daddy gets the other side?” He grins from ear to ear and says one word: “Yeah.” So, box by box, we carry the flooring inside the house, him on one end and me on the other. He is so happy to be doing this with me, but I can’t help but think of how I could complete this whole task myself in one-tenth the time it is taking us to complete it together.

All of a sudden, a huge “ah-ha” moment hits me like a ton of bricks (or laminate!). A few weeks earlier I had been thinking about how strange it is that God uses people like me to accomplish His purposes. It really isn’t very efficient. Really, when you look at the Church in general, we are not very efficient. The disciples were given one command when Jesus left them: Go, and make disciples. It has occurred to me that the church really is not efficient at this task. While I had been thinking about this I had a conversation with God. “God, why do you do it this way? It sure seems like you could do a much better job without using broken humanity.”

So, as I am moving this flooring with my son, God turns on the lights of understanding. I get the answer to my question: Because He is not only about the end result. Don’t get me wrong, He ALWAYS accomplishes His end goal, but, at the same time, he has purposes wrapped up inside the process itself. Yes, I could finish the task of unloading the flooring ten times faster if I just excluded my son. But, at the same time, I would not be allowing my son the joy of helping. I really don’t need my son’s help; but that’s not the point. God does not need us to accomplish his purposes. He simply doesn’t. He could accomplish the task one bazillion times faster and better all by Himself. He is God, and we are not. But that is not the point. It really is His joy to include us in HIS work and, in the process, our sanctification is also part of that work accomplished.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)

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Back to School

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By Stan Peterson

Psalm 46

Fall is upon us. Trees, flowers, and shrubs are all changing. The smells of autumn are wafting in the air, bringing back a flood of memories both good and bad of heading back to school. New friends, old friends, new shoes, adventures to be had, football to be watched, and homework to be done. All this and more can be overwhelming for parents and for students. It can feel as though the earth is moving, the mountains are being tossed into the sea, and the waters are foaming and lapping at our feet, ready to swallow us alive.

As a parent, I can easily be overwhelmed by all the worry and anxiety of sending our children off to school. I can also remember quite vividly the anxieties and fear I had as a child going back to school. I peer out into the world and know that there is much good and beauty to be reveled in, but there is also much evil and brokenness.

When I am overwhelmed by the latter, I remember one of God’s most precious promises, found in Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.”

I am reminded of this promise as I send my little ones off to school. I remind them of this same truth, that they can call upon the name of our Lord, that He is present and will help them in their time of trouble, that He hears each one of them, and that He is ready to come to our aid as our Helper and Comforter only can. Therefore we will not fear.

“There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the most high. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be MOVED.

Little children, let us not be moved, for His presence is enough. The Lord of hosts is with us!

 

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Happy Child = Easy Life

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It is every well-intentioned parent’s desire to give his/her child the best life they can. They want to give them the best opportunities and do their best to protect them from pain and disappointment. I know I do! However, what role does disappointment and pain play in a child’s development and character?

A few weeks ago, I ran across a blog written by Dr. Paul Tripp that is worth sharing. I hope that all parents will glean the important truths and the encouragement from this article!

God’s blessings…

Martin

Happy Child = Easy Life, by Dr. Paul Tripp

I love the Bible. Well, that’s a silly thing to say – of course I love the Bible! But one of the (many) reasons I love the Bible is because of the specific detail that’s woven through each verse. Today we’re going to look at what seems like a “side comment” in 1 Kings 1.

1 Kings 1:6 – “His [Adonijah] father [David] had never at any time displeased him by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?’”

I don’t have space in this article to give you the context of this story – if you want it, you can listen to my sermon on this passage or download the PDF transcript.

Let me first talk about Biblical “side comments.” All of these minute details are preserved for us by a wise God who knows our hearts. You don’t have a comprehensive history in Scripture; you have a redemptively selective history. These “asides” are more than just an aside. Each one provides us with tremendous insight. So when you read, don’t rush through in a spiritual monotone.

Back to the passage. Talking of David, it says, “His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?’” What an interesting parenting comment. Adonijah was a happy child because his father never got in the way.

Parents, I think we need to reflect once more on the children that God has placed in our care. We need to reflect once more on the fact that we’re agents of the authority of God. We’re, by our exercise of authority, not only called to define the nature of God’s world, but the nature of God Himself. We, in our parenting, must picture His law and His grace, His faithfulness, His patience, and His perseverant commitment to our welfare.

We must also reflect on the deep and abiding spiritual struggle in our children. You’ve given birth to a child who has the DNA of sin in him and in her, and the DNA of sin is selfishness.

Think about the first sin ever committed. What was it about? Autonomy and self-sufficiency.Adam and Eve were on a quest to be in the position that God and God alone should be in. In the very same way, your children (and you, too) have god-like intentions. They want to rule. They want to set their own agenda. They want to be indulged. They will carry with them shocking entitlement.

Seldom will your child say when he’s been told no, “Thank you, dear parent of mine. How much I need your authority. I’m a shockingly idolatrous child.” It’s amazing to be in a mall or grocery store and watch a four-year-old child, with hands on hips and jaw set, argue with somebody who’s lived 40 years longer and who’s three times their size.

What’s going through the heart of that child in that moment? What’s that child thinking? I’ll tell you what they’re thinking – “I am the lord.”

In this verse, we see a grown child who was never told “no.” Adonjiah had been given what he wanted, when he wanted. He was allowed to indulge as he grew, and his pleasures were always satisfied. His heart was never challenged, his motives never questioned, and his selfishness never confronted. Isn’t it interesting that the treason of Adonijah against his father is connected to the way he was raised?

Parents, God the Father is our example. Hebrews 12 says that the one the Father doesn’t discipline is not His son. He’s faithful to discipline us because He knows it will produce a harvest of righteousness.

Parents, your discipline isn’t meant to be punitive. You don’t discipline your child because they’ve messed up your day and you have the right to meet out your anger against him. No, you discipline your child because you want that child to begin to embrace the depth of their sin, and therefore, the depth of their need, and therefore, hunger for the Lord Jesus Christ. In hungering for Christ, your prayer is for that child to commit to a righteous life that’s lived for the glory of the God that they once wanted to replace with selfish indulgence.

Now don’t get me wrong – you’ll get weary. You’ll want to throw in the towel. It’s not easy to say no to a self-sovereign child. In many ways, the easiest life as a parent comes when you give your child whatever they want. It’s going to be very tempting to make your day easier by making your child happier by withdrawing your authority.

But this little side comment in Scripture is a warning to us – persevere! Are you committed? Are you devoted to the heart of your child, or would you rather make life comfortable? Remember, your Lord won’t call you to do a task without enabling you to do it.

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