Archives For failure

A New Thing

January 23, 2014 — 2 Comments

sad statue

If only…

Finish that statement for yourself. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

I can think of a few things.

It’s the voice of regret. And it’s so subtle that we don’t even see how it binds us. It takes our peace and robs us of our present and future.

I just feel in my spirit that someone out there reading this really needed to hear this today.

The spirit took me to Isaiah. This chapter talks about how God will restore to His people all that they have lost. He will rebuild the ruins of their life.

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18, 19 NIV)

What’s that one thing God is asking you to leave behind today? What is that one thing that you want to beat yourself up over time and time again? You may think you have messed up beyond repair, but that’s not what God tells us.

He will make a road in the wilderness. He will bring you a drink in the middle of the desert.

He is doing a new thing, but He can’t do this new thing in you until you let go of the old things.

God, today I leave behind the mistakes of my past. Today I give you my failures and regrets. I will rest and find peace in your healing. Lead me through the wilderness to the promises which you have for me. Do a new thing in me today.

Cheryl Nifong

 

This scene from On The Waterfront is iconic, and descriptive of how I have felt off and on for years. “You don’t understand! I coulda had class – I coulda been a contender! I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am!”

Off and on for years, Satan has been busting my chops with this. “You used to be somebody. What happened? You used to be someone, now look at you. Who are you? Nobody! Just a bum!”

Off and on for years I have listened to that, and I’ve let it affect me and I’ve let it keep me from being who I really am.

I wasn’t created to be a contender. I wasn’t created to be somebody important. I wasn’t created to be well known.

The reason I listen to those lies is because I listened to the lies! I believed I was created and given the talents I have so that I could move mountains and be famous and do awesome things. I listened to those lies and worked myself to death and did big and wonderful things and moved mountains and nobody even cared. When it was all over, life went on for everybody but me. Because my whole life was built on the lie that I could be somebody important.

God is our defender, he fights for us, we are his! A wonderful person from my church just said that this moment on my television! I fought for myself for so long – I never dreamed of a life where somebody would fight for me. I never dreamed of a life where God would fight for me and call me His!

In On The Waterfront, Terry Maloy is a great boxer who took a dive at the direction of a mob boss. He is tormented the rest of his days by this – if he had won, the world would have been at his feet, he could have been somebody!

So it goes for all of us who fight our own battles. If I had just done this one thing differently, if I had just known what I know now, if, if, if.

The lie is in the if, the lie is in thinking it has anything to do with us. The lie is in thinking I can fight for myself and win! It’s not about me, not about you, not about what we accomplish, not about how awesome we think we are. Not about us – all about Him!

On my own, I am a bum! Thank God I am not on my own – thank God I am His! Thank God that through Jesus His Son I am also a son! And thank God that what I have to do consists of being still and letting Him fight for me!

I was created to be a son of God. There’s nothing else. That’s it. Anything else is from me, and will fail.

So – whatever or wherever you are in life right now, know this – Our God is a warrior God, and he will not ever stop fighting for you! You are worth that much to him – worth the blood and life of his Son, worth the risk of being rejected. You are worth fighting for! Even when you were dead, lost, adrift in this world without any hope at all, God, having a wealth of mercy, made a way to save you, to lift you up from the pit you were in, and if you’re his, you’re his forever.

The lies are exposed for what they are, God is victorious, and you can be saved!

Ask him right now – to forgive you, to save you, to make you whole and make you his child. He’s already moved heaven and earth to do it! It’s already done – all you have to do is stop fighting for yourself. All you have to do is be still, and he will finish the fight!

 

Perseverance

June 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

perseverance

If you could only know how tired I really am – tired of work, tired of church, tired of hearing the “perseverance” message. Like the (admittedly awesome) perseverance message I heard at church last night. There’s way more to it than the following, but this is what I heard:

  • Don’t quit!
  • What you’re looking for is just right past the next difficult challenge!
  • Don’t give up!
  • If you quit now, you’ll never see what’s around the next corner/over the next hill/behind the next door!

It made me want to vomit. I can’t hear this anymore. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t not quit anymore.

Ok – now that all the whining is out of the way, maybe I can move on.

I reallyreallyreallyreally want to just give up, but I can’t. No matter how hard, no matter how long, no matter how much it hurts. There’s been too much giving up in the past, too many people hurt because I lost my nerve, too many lessons learned.

What I thought was – look at all these successful people. It must have been so easy for them to get where they are. Look at them – out in front, doing what God designed them to do. God must not have had a plan for me since it’s so hard, and it’s so hard I just can’t do it anymore so I will do something else and forget about this.

Stupid. That’s what that was. And listen, taking the easy path is not so easy. Average is just as hard, in different ways.

What I mean is, if you’re not living your dream, you still have to live. You still have to work. You still have to provide for you family. And whatever job you end up in still wants quality work from you, and you have to do quality work while carrying the baggage of being a quitter – the person who ran away from their dream.

I so hate the word perseverance. I will find every dictionary on the earth and mark that word out with a Sharpie. It’s a bad, bad word when you’ve turned your back on your dream. If you’ve turned your back on your dream, hearing that word makes you crazy. It gets you into arguments, it makes your stomach hurt. It makes you want to go to Barnes & Noble with a Sharpie looking to do some vandalism.

I googled the word “perseverance.” Mostly to check that I was spelling it right. Did an image search, too. A bunch of pictures of cute sayings about making lemonade out of lemons came up. Here’s a few:

  • When life gives you lemons, squeeze the the juice into life’s eyes.
  • Life giving you lemons? Be glad it’s not (insert random horrible disease)
  • Unless life also gives you water and sugar, your lemonade is going to suck
  • If life gives you melons, you may be dyslexic
  • If life gives you lemons, you better blog about it
  • If life gives you lemons, keep them, because FREE LEMONS!

I like that last one. At least you’ve got something, right? Actually, I think I will make life take them back. I want a refund. Not store credit. No, I don’t want to trade them for limes. I want to trade them for something better. I want to trade up. I don’t want your stinking lemons. I demand to speak with your supervisor because these lemons are not what I want.

This is the part where you find out who you are, what you’re made of. Are you a quitter? Are you going to whine some more, then skulk back to that 9-5 and accept that this is what life has handed you, or are you going to take this life that you’ve been given and do something with it? Something only you can do – something that God dreamed up, put in your head and will take more than what you are to accomplish?

There’s a hazy future out there – that’s why it’s called a dream. When you’re in a dream it can seem so real, but when you wake up it all gets fuzzy. If you could just remember the details, maybe you could make something out of it.

Getting from A to Z sometimes takes you all the way through CDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWX&Y. And the people you meet, the challenges you face, and how you face them – those things determine how long it takes you to get there.

What I think I’m finding out, in my old age, is that perseverance is the work you do after you get tired of doing all the work you already did. Someone famous said something like that, don’t remember who. But yeah, thanks for that.

Someone else, also kinda famous, said something like this - “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, not destroyed. Renewed day by day.

How?

By not focusing on what to an eternal, powerful, loving God, are light and momentary troubles. By fixing our eyes on what is forever. By living in the Kingdom right now!

Fear is a liar – fear says “you can’t do this – it’s too hard, it will take too long, it will cost too much.” Tell fear to take it to your Dad. The enemy – and Satan is your enemy, don’t doubt it for a minute – wants you to be afraid, so that you will settle for average. God has so much more for you than average!

How long it takes you to get there is up to you -

Debt

November 25, 2012 — 1 Comment

debt

I am no stranger to debt. It started, like it does for many these days, in college. I remember the first “student loan meeting” I had to go to. They showed a film on what life would be like if you defaulted on your loan. It showed a guy (college graduate?) slaving away as a short order cook, and explained that regardless of how little you made, if you defaulted, they would still probably garnish your wages.

This really didn’t bother me. I got through college mostly on grants. Considering where I went to school, it could have been much worse.

After this, though I went to the student center where they basically had a huge stack of credit cards they were giving away to incoming freshmen. I signed a form and 10 days later I had my first credit card and it was all down hill from there.

I worked full time my first semester at OBU and my grades reflected it. I decided I needed to focus, live on campus, take 16 hours, and study.

Well, I did some of that, and still made it through. My first two years I funded my night life with that stupid credit card. Remember, I had no real income – I did take some side jobs, cash only, weekend work, and I worked every summer. But once that card was maxed out, it was not as much fun as it had been in the beginning.

Eventually I graduated, got married, and decided to move to Texas to go to seminary. My wife and I refinanced all our student loans so we’d be making one payment, and then deferred while I was in school. We were so poor back then that we could not afford the interest payments. By the time I graduated from seminary, we owed twice what the loan amount was to begin with. Our payment, to this day, is almost as much as our mortgage payment, and most of that is still interest.

I’m not whining. I was told up front how it would be. I made informed choices. I thought I’d go to school, get a great church job, Cheryl would be writing and selling music by now, and we’d live in the big house and have no worries.

What killed that? Two high risk pregnancies, bad choices on my part of what churches I would agree to work for, more credit cards – full of mostly medical debt and car repairs, although I do remember buying a plane ticket to Boston that one time. It was a great trip by the way.

I’m glad to say, all those credit cards are paid off, both our cars are paid off, and the accounts closed now. We do have a card, and it has about $300 on it. It seems that to be able to do things in the world, like buy a house or a car, you have to have a credit rating, and to do that you have to borrow money and repay it. With interest.

I’m not complaining about that either. It just is. What I’m saying is, our choices messed up the first 10 years of our lives together. We were in debt to our debt. It crushed us in every way you can imagine. That is mostly over now – although we do still owe the student loan. I don’t see a good way out of that one. It’s at the tail end of a long list of debt that we couldn’t pay.

So how did we get the other credit issues resolved? One word – bankruptcy. That’s right, we paid a fee in cash to a lawyer, he wrote up some papers, we went to a judge, and he dismissed our debt. He saw what we were up against, and he forgave that debt.

I know a lot of people do this, and I tend to disagree with it for a variety of reasons. People go out and buy cars and houses and run up credit cards to furnish those houses and they have all the toys. When we filed, we didn’t have any of that. What we both did have was great jobs that pay well, and a mountain falling on us. We needed help, and we did not go into it lightly.

We had been paying for years, and we were not making a dent. We tried consolidation, snowball, Dave Ramsey, Crown Financial and about 12 other things and we were still not going to be able to pay off what we owed. So we filed bankruptcy. And it went away.

So, who pays for all that? And believe me when I say, it wasn’t all that much money. But who pays for it? Well, the company writes it off, they increase their costs, which you, the consumer, end up paying. So – you pay for it. And so do I.

Now that this little episode is several years behind us, I’m beginning to rethink all of it. Did we do the right thing? I don’t know…one thing I do know is that we were extremely uncomfortable, and being out of debt helped. We can actually function now, and we have no interest in being in debt anymore. As soon as the student loans are gone, that’ll be it. No more debt.

What brings all this on is something I heard in church this morning – We define comfort as having what we want, but God defines comfort as giving us what we need.

I think for us what it came down to was, we didn’t trust God. That is why this failure stings so much every time I think about it. We trusted ourselves, our jobs, our talents, and when those failed us we trusted the system. Did we ever once pray about it? Not that I remember. I do remember wallowing in self pity and whining a lot. But I didn’t share any of this with God, and as a result, we’re still kind of in the same place, even though the debt is gone.

Today, the pastor talked about how on the city walls, people would nail up for all to see the names of those people who could not or would not pay their debts. From time to time, someone else would take pity and pay the debt off. In that case, the paper was removed, folded over, the name of the person who paid the debt was written on the paper.

Regardless of my mistakes, regardless of how much I screw up my life, regardless of what I owe to whom, the name Jesus is written across my heart. God doesn’t see a failure. He sees a son. Beloved and worthy. Now my task it to learn to trust him, so that what he sees in his heart and mind can become real.

See how bad I messed everything up? And still God loves me. No matter what you’ve done, or not done, God still loves you all the same. He can’t love you any less, because he is love! If he did love you less, he would not be God! Learn to trust him, as I am learning. Your life will change.

Tonight, I’m going to write on paper how much we owe on our student loan, and I’m going to nail it to the wall. I’m going to pray every night that God would provide a way to get that stupid thing paid. And when he does, I’m going to fold that paper over and write his name on it in red ink. I may have it laminated at that point so that I never forget – where I’ve been, and just how much God has provided for me.

Now!

November 11, 2012 — 1 Comment

jesus-statue

For a lot of people the future is unclear. It’s like we get a glimpse of what could or should be, but it’s only that – just a glimpse.

Sometimes we have a good couple of weeks – the car doesn’t break down, things on the job are smooth and you don’t hit every red light in rush hour.

Most of the time though we need help and we need it now.

Sometimes it’s a relationship issue, sometimes it’s a bill that came due that there’s no way to pay. Maybe it’s a call from the doctor that you don’t even want to take.

Sometimes life and the future can seem so foggy. Who can you trust? Who can you call on? Who has the answers you need – not next week, not a year from now, not even tomorrow, but right now?

We need a God that’s bigger than all that. We need a God that stands outside and above everything. We need a God that’s in control.

That’s the kind of God we have! The question is do you trust him? We all have the right amount of faith – it’s just that we misplace it. We trust ourselves to provide the unprovidable. We can’t be our own source of anything – except disappointment.

I’ve spent so many years disappointed in God and that disappointment was misplaced. I was upset at myself for not being good enough or strong enough or talented enough. My faith was in me, in my abilities, in the people around me and again and again I was let down and again and again I blamed God.

I blamed God for my shortcomings, and the hole I was digging for myself got deeper and deeper, until I couldn’t see any light at all.

What changed that? I learned the truth. Over a period of three years, I learned to see God for who he really is, and me for who I really am. I am strong, smart, stubborn – which is why it took so long. God is love, he gives grace and peace and he forgives and chooses not to remember.

The peace I have – right now – is what keeps me going. That little nugget of faith that I have – it’s moving mountains because I have it focused on God now. The result of that is blessings and peace.

Peace – that’s what you need too! In all those situations that pop up in life. When the unexpected happens, you can have peace, regardless of the situation. That’s what God wants – and he wants to give it to you now! The question is, will you place your faith in him?

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16