Doing Life Together

person-110303_1920“Desperate” was the word that kept rolling off the lips of the people sitting in my living room. We were an odd bunch—a former Methodist minister and president of several colleges, a former executive television producer turned academic, a leadership professor, a dance teacher, a housewife, a licensed therapist, a business owner, a speech therapist, many of whom had formerly led or been involved in a worship team at former churches. And yet here we were, still going to church but feeling a desperation for more of God. Something was missing in our corporate church attendance that we longed for—a focus on who God is, quiet and reverence for the awesomeness of God, a sense of His corporate presence in which brokenness is transformed to healing.

As we talked and tried to put words to why we gathered, it was soon apparent that all of us were desperate for more of God, more of His presence—the eminent and transcendent God whom we long to adore not only in our personal times of worship but also in corporate expression. We knew God was calling us to begin something, which is why we met on that summer’s night in July.

We talked about the larger culture luring us into complacency–About giving up on any corporate expression of authentic worship giving our experiences over the past few years. Then we repented—sorry for thinking it wasn’t important, sorry for losing our first love, sorry for thinking our time was over and God was doing a new thing and leaving us boomers behind, sorry for self-sufficiency. Confess, repent, God what do you want to do with us.

We conclude. God wants us to be satisfied in Him. Yes, we have times when our emotions are flat, when we feel grief and even broken hearted due to sin. As John Piper reminds us, being satisfied in God is not just an emotional state. Rather, it is seeing God’s glory in Christ as we worship, sing and live our lives.

Desperate? We ask God to restore the joy of our salvation.

Psalm 40 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”

Worship isn’t about the type of songs we sing, the volume of the music or the way the auditorium is lit. It is about admiration of the most-high God. It is our pleasure to worship God.  Enjoyment of Him flows into praise.  Praise and worship complete the joy we have in God.

So as a desperate group of people, we needed  a renewed focus on the God who is worthy of our praise. It is our response to Him based on what He has done and who He is. Our worship includes our words, attitudes and our actions. It is our response of thankfulness that leads to joy. Our desperation for God is a good thing. It keeps us seeking, admiring, and worshiping the one true God who satisfies our souls.

work-2005640_1920It’s easy to feel overworked and burned out. Jack came home one day, packed a bag and left his family. They were worried sick about his mental state and safety. It turned out that Jack was having a melt-down from too much pressure at work. He got on a plane and checked himself into a hotel to think. But did Jack need to act in such a dramatic way and scare his family? No, he could have clued in his wife that he was reaching a state of burn out and needed help.

If you find yourself dreading going to work and thinking it is time for a much needed vacation or change, consider making a few changes in the work place to avoid burn out.

  1. Establish a balanced workload. You may be conscientious and expect long hours to keep up with work and demands. But maybe it is time to limit those hours and find a life balance. If you don’t, feeling overlooked, exhausted and being less productive will continue to pop up periodically. Eventually, you will crash like Jack did. So think about a few options to help bring balance–adding another position, not working on your days off, use your vacation days, find resources to help you conserve your time and energy, talk to a counselor, etc. The goal is to bring balance into your life. Work, play and a spiritual life need equal attention.
  2. Where you can, take control. Sometimes burn out comes from not knowing how to delegate. So reassess all you are doing and decide if there are things you could assign to other people. And if decision-making is out of your control, then detach from it rather than allowing your powerlessness to lead to anger or despair. If policies need to be developed to help make responsibilities clear, work on those in order to be clear about expectations.
  3. Focus on the rewarding parts of your job. Do you have a good salary, bonuses, incentives, security, possibilities for advancement, etc? Express gratitude for the parts of your job you like. A focus on gratitude is shown to produce an improved mood. Too often we lock in to the problems at work and forget the positive parts of our job.
  4. Build a small community of people at your work place who can support you. Burn out often begins in isolation. A sense of belonging lessens this tendency to feel alone and unsupported. Co-workers can support your frustration while pointing out ways to better handle things. And they can hold you accountable for working too many hours and taking on too much.
  5. Find those who have values in common with you. They can share your struggles from a common ground. If you are fortunate enough to have co-workers who can pray with you, find a quiet corner and do that over lunch or a break. It is amazing how this one strategy can change a bad day to a good one.


family-515530_1920The in-laws! What came to mind when you hear those two words? Handling in-laws can be tricky for most every couple. Let’s face it, as the in-law, you are an outsider to a family system that already has established rules and dynamics. But to be fair, your spouse has the same challenge with your family.

Not everyone has the blessing of good in-laws. Many spouses still may feel like they must compete against their in-laws for the time and attention of their spouse. This is especially true during the first few years of marriage.

Like it or not, the in-laws are part of your life. So having a good relationship with them is vital. First, you’re married to their child, who most likely is still important to them. And secondly, they will most likely be a part of the important people who instill values in your children.

On one extreme, there is the intrusiveness and meddling in-laws. Complicating this dynamic is often the feeling of the in-laws that their intrusiveness is a demonstration of love and care, sometimes it doesn’t come across this way. They may have trouble letting go of their parenting role, and the adult child (your spouse) may have trouble establishing independence.

The other extreme is too much distance. Some parents may emotionally and even physically cut off their adult child when they marry. Too much distance can create problems as well. There is a loss of support, a lack of caregiving, and limited family participation.

So here are a few tips to  make dealing with the in-laws a positive experience:

  1. Recognize the culture. Our culture and upbringing play a major role in how we do marriage. Recognize the cultural aspects of your spouse’s upbringing. One client I’ve worked with handled it this way: In her upbringing, the women did all the cooking and cleaning up at mealtimes. So when they shared a meal with her parents, he stayed out of the way. However, when her parents weren’t around, he stepped up and helped out or took care of it himself. Being culturally sensitive helps the family system.
  2. Develop code words. My husband and I  have a good relationship with each other’s parents. Even so, there are still times when both sets of parents challenge us.  When those times occur, we have code words or certain glances that cue us to a strategy. We remain respectful but we also know when we need to change the conversation, stay quiet or assert ourselves. The point is to have those conversations as a couple in order to know ahead of time what the hot buttons are and how you will handle them.
  3. Don’t criticize your spouse’s relationship with his or her parents. If you do you will raise your spouse’s defenses. Try to understand more about the family system and why people behave the way they do. Dig into their backgrounds and life experiences. Those usually tell you a lot about the issues you see.
  4. Establish ground rules. Don’t wait for a problem. Ahead of time talk about how you as a couple will handle extended family: For example, should your marital issues be private and not discussed with parents? How much time do you spend with in-laws? If there is a problem, will your spouse confront it?
  5. Spend time with your in-laws. There is no better to really get to know someone than spending time with them. Do activities together and ask what they enjoy. Make an effort to join them in fun things. In the end, you could discover areas of common ground.

business-19156_1920“I’m stressed out, tired, exhausted.” From moms to executives, these words reflect a growing state in which many people feel they live. Stress is a byproduct of our postmodern life. We feel we have too little time, too few resources and a lack of control over most things in our lives. Stress can be generated by an event such as death, illness or even a board decision. Some events, like the birth of a baby, are predictable. Others, as in the case of natural disaster, are not.

Stressful events can be ongoing or resolved quickly. They can be related to life transitions, the environment, our individual growth, need for healing and/or our perceptions of things. Stressful events may be avoided or unavoidable, and rated mild to severe.

Stress can also be a response to events. Things happen. We react. How we react is the key to keeping stress in check. If we carry stress in our bodies, in our minds and worry about the lack of control we feel over certain things, this disrupts our sense of well being and the rest that God promises. To be “anxious about nothing” becomes an unreachable ideal rather than a directive. Unmanaged stress can lead to the development of anxiety disorders, depression and physical symptoms.

Because stress is inevitable, pause and take inventory because your ability to cope with stress is related to the resources you have. We typically think of money, education, power and support as necessary resources to accomplish what we need. However, the most important resource we possess is our standing with Christ. Here’s why.

Resources can be depleted over time. People let us down, control is elusive and time moves forward. For example, maybe you began with an adequate volunteer staff for your fund raising banquet, but eventually people dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Or maybe the board support you thought you had for an upcoming women’s conference didn’t materialize. The point is resources are usually limited. But God is an unlimited resource that can be continuously accessed. His promises never run out. And His faithfulness will never fail.

Because we are joint heirs with Christ, we have all He has. Best of all, we have Him. So in times of stress, remember where your help really comes from—who it is that is dependable and present. God is not only our present help in times of trouble but the God of more than enough, El Shaddai. Call on Him. Ask Him to supply the need. In our culture of self-sufficiency, we often forget to access the endless supply of provision we have through Christ. Instead, we rely on ourselves and eventually feel exhausted.

If you are tired and stressed, make an appointment. Schedule your God spa time of refreshment and relaxation. It begins with the one who nourishes us as the Living Water and the Bread of Life. Intimate time with God is our greatest resource to managing stress. The promise is that if we dwell in the shelter of the Most High, we will rest in His shadow. And right now, a little rest is what is needed to move us from stressed to refreshed!