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Posts Tagged ‘failure’

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I have lived in many different places. Ambition and drive are always present, but wear different masks. When I lived in DC drive looked like competition of the corporate ladder. Business suites, politics, and salary were the measure of one’s success. Nashville wears the mask of image and fame. The drive looks like the comparison of creativity and talent.

The competition of success becomes the filter through which we relate to others and view ourselves.

We live in a measurable culture. Andy Stanley calls it the “comparison Trap.” We are constantly looking to the right and left to see where we measure up against that of other people. We develop judgments through conversations to determine if we are “okay.” We are constantly drawing conclusions that sound like, “well I’m better than that person, or further ahead, but I am not that person.”

What determines success?

The easy answer is that money makes the bar of success. Maybe having a best seller is success, or a hit song. Success is whatever makes you considered the best in your field of determination. However, the issue with the false advertising of success is that the bar is unmeetable. There will always be someone who we will see has better or beneath us.

Success needs redefining. Success needs a new outlook.

Matt Chandler has opened my eyes to what success should look like – what it really is. In his book Explicit Gospel, he talks about how the prophets in the bible would not be considered successful by our culture’s standards.  Chandler states,

Now if Isaiah was a minister within today’s evangelicalism, he’d be considered and utter failure. Jeremiah would be an utter failure. Moses didn’t get to enter the promise land. John the Baptist didn’t get to see the ministry of Jesus. We would not view the ministry of these men as successful. One of the things we don’t preach well is that ministry that looks fruitless is constantly happening in the scriptures. We don’t do conferences on that. There aren’t too many books written about how you can toil away all your life and be unbelievably faithful to God and see little fruit this side of Heaven. We have to be wary of the idea that numeric growth and enthusiastic response are always signs of success.

I read about these guys and think, “Wow! They were doing something – they had audiences, and followers. They were speaking words that mattered.” However, the truth is that not many people listened to them, well at least for Isaiah and Jeremiah. Isaiah was out right rejected for his message and obedience. Do we consider them successful because they are now known and “famous?”

Chandler states that, “faithfulness is success. Obedience is success.”

There is a tension of wanting to do more to be more. Drive and passion are good, but faithfulness and character matter more. Success should be driven by how we treat people – how marriage shows commitment and loyalty. Success should look like celebrating the gifts and talents of others while being great at where you are presently.

Success and failure should not be defined by comparison. Small things matter. You gifts and your heart matters. How you are faithful and obedient to those abilities given to you is what success is. Love well. Wait well. Celebrate other people often. Be successful at who you are, not what you do.

What is frustrating to you about success?

What is your comparison trap?

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Ever have those days where you are just tired of feeling like the “other” in life? Sometimes I feel like I carry around the label of “other.”

Being the “other” is one of those things where you feel like you are so close yet so far away. The “other” could mean being the person passed over for the job, always the friend and never the interest, the cheerleader not the player, or the go-to but not the everyday. Being the “other” feels like never measuring up, or not being enough.

The “other” for me is kind of like always playing the supporting actress role. Some day’s invisibility is felt deeper than others. There is a sting to it.

One of my least favorite adjectives is being labeled as comfortable. I cringe whenever I hear anyone being described as comfortable, including myself. The word comfortable speaks to me as one being taken for granted and overlooked. Comfortable is assumed and depended on, but not necessarily considered. If I am being most honest, I fear this label.

Labels are real. We all have them. Every single one of us feels inadequate, unseen, insecure, and not enough in some area of life.

The root of labels comes from a place where we have either been told by someone else we don’t measure up, or we realize inadequacy in ourselves by way of comparison. Labels are the words we use to describe who we are NOT, and keep us paralyzed in our perceived weaknesses.

Labels shape the way we respond and the active role we play in our own lives, as well as the lives of others. Labels bear the scars of misperceptions and wounds. I hate that.

There is no freedom in comparison. The truth is that we are all wired uniquely. Everyone has gifts and talents that make them specifically great and valuable. Everyone has something incredible to offer. I believe God has wired us with passion and dreams for specific things He has for us – things only we are meant to do. Labels kill that value.

“Somewhere someone is looking for exactly what YOU have to offer.”

I want to encourage you to take a hard look at your perceived labels and wrestle through them. They will only keep you chained to fear. Choose courage to see yourself differently and add value to others. YOU have incredible things to offer.

What labels do you struggle with?

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Relationship is the place where we can most learn about ourselves. Relationships are the biggest tool for those wanted, and definitely not wanted, insights into your own issues. Relationships are the things that can bring out the best and worst side of who you are, as well as the the other person. They are definitely the most daring and risky thing you can be a part of.

I talked yesterday about how the trouble areas we have in our relationships mirror the same trouble areas we have in our relationship with the Lord. I am going to label these trouble areas as “relational weeds.” Relational weeds serve as red flags that warn you that something is stirring inside.

So what are these “relational weeds?”

Weeds are those things that hinder your relationship from looking healthy. Weeds can also suffocate the growth of your relationship. Weeds can be blatant as well as subtle things. Weeds can look like distrust of the other person or the expectation that they will fail you. Weeds can be expecting, as well as demanding, someone else to meet all of your needs. When they fall short of meeting your needs, there is some sort of punishment involved. The reality is that no one will ever meet all our needs.

Weeds can also look like jealousy and envy over some aspect about the other person. This can look like success, favor, other friendships, something you want that they have, opportunities, etc.

(Allow me to sidebar for a second and say that jealousy and envy are not all together bad. They are great emotions that let you know something is stirring in you. The line, for these emotions, are crossed when we choose to respond and act out of our jealousy and envy.)

My weeds are hard on my heart when I realize them. I know I bring baggage into my relationships, but who doesn’t. I struggle in the area of trust. That stems from a mixture of past wounds and pain, but is definitely present in my current relationships. I also struggle with the fear of being replaced in my closer relationships. That fear takes on the life of a weed more than I would like to admit. Out of that fear I have treated some of my relationships like possessions that need to be protected at all costs. When my fear is threatened, I have a tendency to shut down or manipulate out of self-protection. I really don’t like manipulation. Ironic?

In other relationships that have looked more co-dependent, I have stepped up too much and played the role as the “fixer” in the relationships. As the dependent person, I have placed unnecessary demands on the other person to be my all in all. That is a recipe for disaster. No one can fulfill that role. That is a guaranteed fail.

Relationships that operate on weeds will inevitably die. These relationships are almost always conflict oriented. Conflict oriented relationships are constantly working out a problem or operate out of fight mode.

The most important part for me to realize, is that my recognized weeds are also present in my relationship with the Lord. Again, if I have distrust in my relationships, it’s because I have trouble areas of not trusting the Lord. If I place the demand on other people to meet my needs, it’s because I do not believe, or understand, that God is enough to meet my needs.

Weeds are hard and can be discouraging. Working on your weeds is so worth it. This post may feel like a downer, but stay tuned because tomorrow I’m going to talk about the flip side of what healthy, fruit producing relationships look like.

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It’s Thursday and and I feel like my heart has gone through so many ups and downs this week. It has been rough exposing my unedited thoughts and heart for all to see. It has been hard to sit in the uncomfortable feeling of choosing vulnerability. I am not a fan of feeling out of control, but who is?

It has been a hard journey in confronting the weight of my fears. However, in the midst of those heavy places, I have heard his gentle whisper repeating, “faithful.” This is a word I crave to wash over my wounded heart. My fears are founded on experiencing the opposite.

The word “unfaithful” is often used in association with relationships and marital affairs. I wish different for so many people who have experienced the depth of this word. I wish I could change the wounds inflicted by this word. Unfortunately, our world exemplifies this word too often. The power of unfaithfulness is most deeply experienced within relationships.

Unfaithfulness is also known as being faithless. Faithless is becoming the new normal of our culture. Faithless can be defined as lacking consistentancy or loyalty. We lack the value of being true to our word. It is nearly impossible to place your trust in a faithless people.

A long time ago I made a decision to place my faith in God. I am realizing just how faithless I am/have been. The story of Hosea is one of the most hopeful stories for me. God called a man named Hosea to take on a prostitute as his wife. God wanted to use a human illustration of redemption as a result of our unfaithfulness to him. So Hosea married Gomer, (I might’ve gone with my middle name if I were Gomer, but that’s just me.) With in this extreme love story, Hosea fought for Gomer’s heart the way God stands in the gap for ours every day.

I am too much like Gomer. I am a person who has a hard time believing that love is for me. I have battles raging in my heart as I try and pry off my fingers of control. I am great at being faithful to me. In those times, I turn my back on God. I am faithless when I dismiss love and crowm myself unworthy. I choose unfaithfulness when I head down the road of self-sufficiency. I challenge God’s motives for my life. Sometimes I wait to see how long he will stay.

How much? How long Lord? He stretches out his arms and says, “eternity.

I change, he does not. I walk away, and he pursues. I tantrum, he waits. I identify myself with being worthless, but he hung on a cross to crown me as worth dying for. To the faithful, and faithless, he shows himself faithful. I exhale in that.

As the mess of me surfaces and fights, I hope to know faith more than I ever have before. I desire to be a faithful person. I want my character to be associated with faithfulness. I value so much when people consider me trustworthy. I am learning that God is also saying, “I, too, desire to be those things for you.”

Faithfulness is worth fighting for, because that is how God fights for us.

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Listening is a valuable characteristic. I value listening so much. Not just for my own heart, but I love listening to the hearts of other people. I often find myself in many different areas of listening. I listen for a living as a counselor. I listen to the heart of my friends. I listen to music, nature, city life, different conversations around me, and silence.

Some find it hard to listen. For some, the idea of listening is planning out what their response might be to what is being said. You might find listeners who like to give their own voice and thoughts more consideration than yours. You also might find listeners who don’t listen at all.

For me, listening is something I value so highly. I love listening to what is being said, but  mostly I desire to listen to what is not being said. I treasure listening to the raw and unedited version of someone’s story. I want to hear and know what is unspoken and underneath the words. I love listening between the lines.

There is a verse in Isaiah that I am hooked on this week. Isaiah 55:3 states, “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life.”

I have been marinating on what it means to listen in a way that finds life. I love listening to others, but do I listen to God? Do I listen to and value God’s words the same way I do others? I can’t consistently answer yes to these questions.

I am great at listening and trusting myself. This is where most of my failure resides. I would say that I know myself well. I can Identify wants, desires, and needs with in me. I fail to find those in the one who offers life. I spend too much time finding life for myself. He promises that if I listen then I will find life. I want that kind of listening.

Listening comes from knowing his word and finding out what he is about. I believe the bible is truth, so what stops me from listening? My desire is to know life.

What type of listener are you?

What keeps you from listening in a way that finds life?

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Getting lost is a very frustrating thing. I can remember a time when I found myself lost driving around in the labyrinth that is downtown Washington, DC. Every road seemed to lead me further and further away from my desired destination. The longer I spent wandering around the “not so great part of town” the more I grew in anxiousness and fear. When I finally arrived at where I was supposed to be, I missed half of the party I’d been really excited about.

This illustration always reminds me of how my sin leads me in a labyrinth away from my desired relationship with the Lord. The definition of sin is – anything in our thoughts, words, or actions that create distance and separation in our relationship with the Lord. The bible states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Everyone has experienced separation from God.

The bible also describes the “wages of sin as being death.” There have been some clear times in my life where I have experienced death in my sin. I can honestly say that when I experience separation in my relationship with God, I feel a loss of life. In essence, failing is what happens when separation from God is experienced. It feels like death.

Life is meant to fail outside of him. Sin is failure to remain in him. Sometimes I am more aware of my failures. Sometimes it takes the nudging of frustration, a hunger for satisfaction, or a growing attitude of demand or entitlement to open my eyes to failure.

The weight of sin and failure can seem harsh and relentless in our lives. If you think about it, God wants to use our failures as redirection to himself. Where God is present, so is the nagging opposition of one who would love to silence the voice of redirection.

There are many lies that can accompany failure. Satan would love for you to attach yourself to words such as worthless, wounder, incompetent, unlovable, unforgivable, or damaged. He would love for us to believe that forgiveness has limits, or that the love of God has a cut off point. We grow up with a built in mentality of, “you got yourself into this, you get yourself out.

I am guilty of staying in the place where these lies carry too much weight in my life. The truth is that God has no limits. God will never stop redirecting us back to himself. We will fail. We will wander. But my hope is that you will begin to see and know that he is God. I am hoping big for the weight of failure to fall away from your life and mine. I am praying for a heart that exhales in the gift of redirection.

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It is so hard to be in a place of wanting. Wanting for me looks like being in a different place of life, doing something different, restless, craving good and deep relationships, and just wanting some peace. Wanting is also the place where I have the most potential to experience failing. Wanting is not a bad thing. These wantings are filled with dreams and hopes for a life I desire. However, I can battle with forcing these wantings to happen outside of the timing and desires of God. It’s in those times I wander out on my own, that I experience failure.

I love relationships. I love people and experiencing life with others. I love doing life with people. I value friendship more than anything else in my life. I am wired to be an extravert. The more people the better. I love new people, random encounters with people, and long lasting good friendships. I have a big smile on my face just thinking about that.

As much as I value people, I know that I have a tendency to put relationship in the place of God. I can coast on the great feelings of friendship instead just giving gratitude to the one who gave me the friends. I am so aware that my closer friendships can tell tales of a lot of failure for me.

Failure comes with red flags. When I find myself wandering off the road of what God desires for my friendships red flags surface. The red flags of potential failure in friendships can look like: placing to much weight on my friends words rather than the Lords truth, caring more about what my friends think rather than what scripture says, seeking out approval and identity from others rather than the truth in him that never changes.

Experiencing encouragement from friends is awesome. Being built up from your relationships are a breath of fresh air. But once I cross over to depending on my friendships to full fill me or satisfy me, delight turns to demand. Relationships will fail under those circumstances. I will always fail to be someone else’s all in all. Others will fail me when I put them in the place where God should be.

Failure is a gift from God. Failure is a reminder of a need for redirection. Failure is not meant to get you down or to make you feel like you are worthless. Failing is the nudge from the one who cares about your heart enough to redirect you.

I am learning to appreciate the nudge from him. I am learning to say, “oh, that didn’t work for a reason, I need some redirection.

What are your red flags that might mean redirection?

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