It’s Not You, It’s Me

September 21, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

There was a time in my life when I believed that every boss that I had was terrible.  One boss might be too passive.  Another might be too aggressive.  They were all less qualified than me to lead.  I often found myself wondering why I wasn’t the leader.  These guys were not good leaders.  I, on the other hand, was a great leader, and I couldn’t understand why I was always getting stuck with sub-par leaders.

It wasn’t that these guys were all the same kind of leaders.  They were very different in their personalities, leadership styles, ages, well, everything.  The one characteristic that they had in common was that they weren’t very good leaders.  I didn’t feel like that they respected me enough and were not being the kind of leader that I needed.

Then it dawned on me one day.  There is one primary factor that all of these relationships had in common that I had not really considered.  That common factor was me.  They were all different with different personalities and approaches, but I was the one constant.  Then it hit me.  What if the reason why these work relationship weren’t great wasn’t their fault at all?  What if it were me?

That seems rather obvious in hindsight.  Of course it was me.  I was selfish, prideful and immature.  It was impossible to lead me well, because I was a terrible follower.  My pride prevented me from being led.  Great men tried a lot of different ways to lead me, but no matter what they tried, I was critical and prideful.  I thought that I had it all together and they didn’t, when the reality was the exact opposite.

But what is obvious in hindsight, I was incredibly blinded to at the time.  I couldn’t see outside myself.  I was unwilling and unable to see what I was doing to make this a problem.  My eyes could only see the faults in other people and I couldn’t see the glaring faults that I had.  Hmm, there’s a verse about that somewhere:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-5

I couldn’t see them clearly because of the giant log in my own eye, but I couldn’t see or comprehend that there was a giant log in my own eye.  My thinking had gotten so crazy that I began to believe that there was some conspiracy against me, either created by God or people.  I didn’t know which.  I went to crazy lengths to justify and explain why it seemed everyone around me was wrong and I was right.

Sound familiar? I know that you don’t want it to sound familiar, but it is.  We find ourselves in situations where we believe that a large group of people are against us or failing us in some way.  We have our own conspiracy theories.  Why do I only attract jerks in dating relationships?  Why do none of my kids listen to me?  Why are all my friends so mean to me?  Why is everyone I know an idiot?  You begin to view yourself as a victim, the only sane person in a crazy world.

However, the common denominator in all your dysfunctional relationships is you.  That may sound overly harsh, but it is true.  If you always are attracting the wrong kind of person in dating relationships, there is something wrong with your sensors.  If none of your kids are listening, there’s a problem with your approach to your kids.

The last diagnosis (that it’s my fault) that we will consider in why our relationships aren’t going well needs to become our first.  What can I do differently?  Maybe I am the one who is unhealthy and needs to make some changes.  While I strongly encourage you to share this post on social media, please don’t tag anyone else.  Resist the urge to think about how someone that you love needs to read this so that they will change, but consider instead that this is for you.

So what do you need to do?  The primary action item for you is to get right with God spiritually.  Make sure that the most important relationship in your life is healthy.  When that relationship is healthy, we have the energy that we need to work on the other relationships in our lives.  When it isn’t healthy, we become demanding and prideful and began to ask more from other people than we are willing and able to give ourselves.

Then when that relationship is solid, ask God to help you become emotionally healthy.  Ask him to heal the hurts that you have and to make you whole again.  What he will do is heal you and then point out for you the areas in which you need to grow and develop.

You’ll then be pleasantly surprised how your attitude about the broken relationships in your life change and the energy that you have to love and serve people around you.  God will heal those relationships in your life, because you humbly allowed him to heal you first.  That begins with a humble admission that, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Resolution: Read Through the Bible This Year

I really don’t believe in New Years Resolutions.  I just think that the beginning of the year is a great time to start new things, make goals and try and improve yourself.  New Years Resolutions are just silly and arbitrary.

Something that we are doing as a church and family is we are going to read through the Bible this year. (Wait, you didn’t know that? Weren’t you at church on Sunday?  You weren’t? Don’t worry. We are not one of those churches that is real judgmental about people not coming…as far as you know.)

I have read through the Bible before, if you haven’t, it’s worth giving it a go.  Why you may ask?

1) The Bible has some great stories and teachings that most people haven’t read

2) You will get a better sense for the Bible as a whole

3) You will get a great sense of accomplishment (You know that you’ve always thought it would be a good idea, but never got around to it)

4) God will speak into your life every day that you are reading his word.

Here are some different options for you:

I am doing the “Every Day in the Word” option.  It has a little of the OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs each day.  A few times a week, I’ll blog about what we’re reading (Yes, I’m blogging again this year. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about what happened and why), and teach a little through the Old Testament.  If you have any questions, you can email me and I can blog about that.  I really am hoping that a lot of people will make it their goal to make it through the Bible this year, and I want to do whatever I can to help you through (Especially when Leviticus hits).

Pick a plan, make the commitment and let’s do this together.

Swimming in the Deep End

September 12, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Lauren was just a little over a year and a half (turned 11 today) when her mom took her and her 4 year old sister to the neighborhood pool in Twin Chimneys where we had just moved.  She set Lauren down to get Maylee’s floaties set on her when she heard the big splash.  She turned around and Lauren had run and jumped in.  Now with her arms and legs flailing as fast as they could go, she is “swimming.”  Heidi quickly jumps in after her and pulls her out.  As she is pulling her out, Lauren is excitedly (Let’s not get confused here.  She was neither scared nor nervous this entire time.  Mom was.  Lauren was not.) repeating, “I swim. I swim. I swim.”

And so it was with Lauren Loften her entire life to date.  She always wanted to be able to swim, by herself, no life jacket, no floaties, nothing (Ultimately, Heidi had to make the decision to put the lifejacket on Lauren at the house, before we even got into the van to drive to the pool.  No chances.  She would have done it again.).  She also wanted to swim in the deep end.  She didn’t understand that rope and why other people got to swim on the other side of it and she didn’t.  Her goal, as with a lot of kids, was to swim in the deep end.

And why not?  It’s where everything is just a little bit better.  You can do more stuff.  You can dive, you can swim down to the bottom, it’s just better.

(Sudden shift) But what if everyone who was capable of  swimming in the deep end, exclusively swam in the deep end?  No one ever left and went to the shallow end.  What would happen?  No one new would ever learn to swim.  Experts could get better, but no one else would learn.  Who teaches new people to swim?  People who already know how.  (Wow, that is deep.  Is this going somewhere?  Yes.)

In part 3 of our vision series, we talked about how God wants us to grow.  He wants us to become more like his son, Jesus.  We want God to change what we believe and our character.  Ultimately, he wants to do this so that, like Jesus, we can lay our lives down for other people.  We are “blessed to be a blessing.”  We grow to help others grow.  We learn so we can teach.

I believe that God does want us to enjoy the “deep end.”  He wants us to have and enjoy all the benefits of being close to him.  He wants us to be strong swimmers so we can navigate the waves of life.  But in addition to all of that, he very much wants us to give our lives away to those who need help–physical, spiritual, emotional help.

There is something inherently selfish in the hearts of those of us who believe that we grow and draw close to God simply for our own benefit. He wants to GROW you so he can SEND (next week) you into the world, because he wants to change the world through you.

Philippians 2

Imitating Christ’s Humility

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Mowing Into the Empty Lot Next Door (A Metaphor for Growth)

June 2, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

On one side of our house there are three empty lots.  We have lived here for four years and there hasn’t been any change.  To some degree it feels like the lot backs (I guess sides) to a small woodland area.  It’s been nice.  You want to buy our house?

Also, for the last four years, just about every time that I mow, I have mowed about 2 inches into that empty lot.  For a little while it was grass.  Then it became small bushes and giant weeds.  Most recently it has been stuff that a reasonable person would not run over with his cheap push mower.  (Un)fortunately, I am not that reasonable.  Why would I do this, especially since I hate mowing?  Well, it makes our side yard look bigger.  (For the record, I have not moved the property stakes.)

What difference can a couple of inches make in the way your yard looks?  Well, not much really.  Except that I have been doing this for 4 years now.  We now, no exaggeration have about 8 feet of additional yard.  We have seeded grass over there, treated weeds, filled in dirt.  (Pretty silly for property we don’t own, I know)  But it looks great and we love it. 

What does this have to do with anything?  Great question.  Two inches is not that much, but over time makes a huge difference in the appearance of our yard.  So often, this is also how we grow in our relationship with God and in our character–two inches at a time.  Sometimes we wonder if we really are becoming more like Jesus, becoming the men and women that he has called us to be.  We don’t see it.  Perhaps you’re an anxious person and have been for some time, and it frustrates you that you still struggle with anxiety.  Maybe you get angry.  Maybe you have a judgmental spirit.

When we struggle with sin like this, often we just want it to go away, and it doesn’t seem to.  We can wonder if God is really working in our lives.  We grow impatient that we don’t see radical change in our lives, immediately.  If I can pop popcorn in the microwave in two minutes, shouldn’t God be able to root out my worst sins in less time than that?  Sure, he could, but how God often deals with us is one day at a time, one circumstance at a time, “two inches” at a time. 

Look back six months, a year, four years.  How has God grown you, changed you, matured you?  Are you the same person you were or are you slowly becoming more and more like His Son.  How much has God taught you in the journey?  He is not simply and suddenly removing all sin from your life, but buidling a relationship with you every day and you are building more trust in him every day.

Sometimes we will experience radical overnight change, but that is rarely the norm.  Also, there are some of us that aren’t walking with God at all, who are still the same person, if not worse, that we were 4 years ago.  (There may be a harsher blog post in your future).  However, I want this to be encouragement to the bulk of us who daily are trying to walk with God, please him, be genuine Christ followers, and experience the ups and downs and life.  God is working in your life.

Know that day by day God is reclaiming the yard of the empty lot of sin in your life two inches at a time.  (Cheesy and took the metaphor one step too far.  Success!!)