Tag: guidance

How to Have a Crucial Conversation

Recently we met for dinner with a young couple we love whose marriage is in crisis.

Another friend’s teenage son entered rehab.

Two had to fire employees.

One needs to break up with her boyfriend.

AAAAARRRGGGHHH!  For the love of world peace!

In each of these situations a crucial conversation (or series of them) was called for.  Conversations where emotions ran high.  Sometimes there was a difference of opinion.   Perhaps there was hard truth that needed to be clearly, but gently communicated.

John and I often repeat something our friend Nancy Beach once said: “Leadership is a series of hard conversations.”  I think that might as well be “LIFE is a series of hard conversations.”

In August we took a large group from our church to the annual Leadership Summit at Willow Creek.  The most pertinent talk for many of us was called “Crucial Conversations” by Joseph Grenny.

He said, any time you find yourself stuck, there are crucial conversations you’re not having, or not having well. Continue reading

A God of Cat and Mouse Games?

This week I was able to return to a place that is holy for me.  A place where God met me in a powerful way.  It’s a dock by a lake where our friends live in Wisconsin.

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The dock is a perfect place to spend some time reading in the early morning.  One of the things I love to do as I read my Bible is to date different promises or commands that have been meaningful to me, connecting with specific circumstances in my life. It’s such an encouragement when I see how personal and alive God’s word is to me – even if it’s convicting.

Many verses are dated with the name of one of our daughters as I have prayed the verses for them. Next to Psalm 16:8 is 10/9/09 and “Katy -job”.

Other verses (like Is. 42:13 and Is. 43:18,19) have dates with notes about prayers for guidance.

Psalm 9:9 says, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Next to it is written “Haiti”.

One of the most meaningful and important notations in my Bible is next to Matthew 7: 9-11. I wrote, “Bere’s dock, August 15, 2004.”

Continue reading

Three Words to Remember When Looking for God’s Direction

It seems like everyone we know is in the midst of making big decisions these days. As John and I were talking about our own seeking of God’s will tonight, these words I wrote last year came to mind… 

I ran into a 23-year-old friend the other day and asked how she was doing. “Being in your twenties is…awkward!” she answered.  “All these questions about what you’re going to do with your life…who you’ll be, where you’ll go…what to say ‘yes’ to.”

That same day I had coffee with a friend who said her son is wrestling with some of the same unsettledness, and she herself is in a time of transition that has raised questions about God’s direction.  She said, “I thought by this age I’d have it figured out and be cruising along!”

24 hours earlier I had had dinner with a young single friend who said, “My life looks a lot different now than I thought it would.”

Each person’s situation was different, but there was a common theme. They longed for a clear plan.

Wouldn’t it be oh so nice if God always gave detailed instructions like,

“Susan, I want you to move to 673 Elm St., Provo Utah,  join the Church-of-People-on-the-Right-Track, take the job with State Farm, (not General Mills), and order the tomato soup at Panera for lunch.”

And sometimes in the Bible God does that, like when God gives Ananias specific instructions (Acts 9:11) to go to the house of Judas on the street called Straight, (Love it!). But usually it’s a bit fuzzier, like in Acts 15:28 where Paul writes, “It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit…”

ARGH!  I want a sure thing, thank you very much!

When I’m in seasons of discernment and transition, the three words that I feel like God often whispers to me are “Open your hands”

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  • Open your hands…to release your plans – your idols, your “gotta have’s”, your picture of “perfect” in favor of God’s.  Acknowledge your dreams, but don’t clutch them.  Release them to God to change, add, refine…Clearly easier to do when you know God’s character and are starting from a place of faith in His goodness.
  • Open  your hands…to receive counsel from wise advisors who know you well and love Jesus.  But don’t clutch it either.
  • Open your hands…to use what God has put in them – your gifts, your courage, your availability.  What direction is consistent with God’s love and your wiring?
  • Open your hands…to let go of fear that you’ll “get it wrong”.  I know, I know… there are consequences to bad decisions, but God wants to be known and can redeem and redirect if we get off track.

Amazingly, when we do open our hand God fills it with His own. 

Yet I am always with you;
You hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

(Psalm 73:23,24)

What has been helpful to you when making life decisions?  

Sheep and the most Important Word

My family says I’m sheep-obsessed.

I’ve always been a sheep girl.  I love the image of God as our shepherd in the Bible – patiently, gently taking care of us clumsy, clueless, grace-dependent, but usually well-meaning lumpy messes.

My family gives me a hard time because I’ve been known to chase sheep on several continents trying to get a good picture of, say “British sheep” as opposed to “Guatemalan sheep”.  Last week outside Bethlehem I got this picture of what I called “Christmas sheep”.

Although the land is all built up with Israeli settlements, as I looked over the hills surrounding Bethlehem, it was easy to picture THE real shepherds two thousand years ago on Christmas eve in the quiet night, looking up at the same stars that blanket us today.

It made me think of a sermon I heard years ago on the Twenty-third Psalm.  It really stuck with me, which is the mark of a good sermon, isn’t it?

Actually it was only on the first 5 words of the Psalm.  The speaker, Max Lucado challenged listeners to choose which one of these words was their favorite…which was most important to them.

The (not “Some”, not “A”, not “one of many” )

Lord (The word used here is a verb – ACTIVE!  The same word for Lord used with Moses – I AM)

is (present tense, not just “was” or “will be”)

my (personal!! not just “David’s” or “Paul’s” or “Billy Graham’s”)

shepherd (present, caring, and responsible for sheep 24/7.  Sheep are totally dependent)

So, this morning, jet-lagged and just home from a long, intense trip, I’m thankful for a Shepherd-God who gently carries me.

What’s the most important word for you?

Which word would you choose as your favorite today?

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