Friday, October 23, 2009

It's Not About Me

"For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake."
2 Cor. 4:5

Sometimes I forget that my work and my life isn't about me at all. I start wanting to receive honor and attention. I want people to recognize my work, even while acknowledging that the work is really for His sake. At such times I must come back to verses like this and remember who what, or rather who, it's all really about. It's not about me. It's about him.

Recently I had a sort of vision come to mind while I was meditating on the word. I saw a desert-like land, something like Arizona or many other places in the world. Where the river flowed, there was life, but outside of that there was no life. In such places humans often build irrigation canals to carry the life-giving water to new areas so that those areas can also grow and flourish. The irrigation ditch which delivers the water is important because it carries the water to the places that need it. But the ditch is not the main thing. The water is. If the ditch is doing its job, it really won't hardly be noticed at all. But as it does its job, entire regions can receive the life-giving water.

I understood that I am like one of those irrigation ditches. It's not about me. I am just a servant. May I take this message to heart and apply it daily.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dealing with Conflict

Growing up I learned to deal with conflict by avoiding it. More accurately, as I learned later in life, I learned to deal with it by running from it or denying that it exists. At the time I didn't realize that these were unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict (in most cases). I would not have articulated it in these terms at the time, but I believed that living at peace meant simply avoiding all conflict. Therefore, in my mind the more I "avoided" conflict, the more I was living a godly lifestyle.

A couple years ago I read the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande and it radically changed my thinking about conflict. I had received teaching about conflict resolution prior to this, which had helped me make some positive adjustments to dealing with conflict. Being married has also helped, not because my marriage is filled with conflict, but simply because conflict will arise when you merge two lives into one. But reading The Peacemaker helped me to understand that conflict is normal (at least in this life) and that living the life of a peacemaker does not mean avoiding conflict, but rather dealing with it in a healthy manner. I highly recommend the book.

This doesn't mean that I have come to relish conflict. I think Sande would argue that this view is also unhealthy. In fact, I still have a lot of room to grow. Although I understand and accept that conflict naturally happens and I have learned better methods for dealing with it, I still don't like it and must often fight my innate inclination to deal with it by running away. I do better when the conflict arises with a friend or my spouse, because in those situations there is already established relationship and a better ability to communicate. But even then I don't always instinctively choose a healthy response of conflict resolution. When the conflict involves someone with whom my relationship is less personal my instinct to flee becomes even stronger.

I have a lot of room to grow in this area. I find that God regularly gives me opportunity for this growth. Sometimes I succeed, in the sense of making progress in handling conflict well. At other times I fail miserably, resorting to ingrained habits. I find myself in a particular conflict situation right now that is testing me. I pray for wisdom to respond wisely and in a godly manner. One potential solution would require us to withdraw from the conflict--to resolve by removing ourselves from the conflict situation, but I want to do so because God directs us to and not simply because I want to avoid the conflict. On the other hand, if the conflict cannot be resolved I don't want to continue to live in a situation that leaves me stressed and tense on a regular basis. Thus the need for wisdom.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Personality Pattern

I took this personality pattern test that a friend recommended. Here are my results. Considering it was a simple, on-line test, I think the results are actually a decent description of me. I don't particularly care for the term "buttoned-down", but the description fits me very well! Perhaps those who know me well would express a different view on these characteristics.

You are in touch with your emotions, and sometimes you react before you think. The good news: you don't tamp down your feelings. The bad news: you sometimes say or do things that you later wish you could take back.
You do not live your life on an even keel; you do not go for long periods without experiencing some mood swings.
You very rarely make a move without first considering the pros and cons and, therefore, rarely do anything foolish or extravagant.
You are not rash; you almost never act before you think and, therefore, rarely end up doing things you later regret.
You have a knack for knowing what's going on in the hearts and minds of those around you, without their having to tell you explicitly. People tend to turn to you with their problems because they know you care, and that you will likely offer good advice and a helping hand.
You do not feel that people with sad stories are just looking for attention, or have brought their problems upon themselves.
You like to know that everything is in its place; it's somehow empowering to know that the world around you is neat and organized. For you, schedules and timelines are great ways to stay on track, and mowing down the items on your "to do" list is a source of happiness.
You do not believe that a clean, orderly desk is the sign of a person who doesn't have enough to do; you don't thrive on a sense of personal anarchy.
You are an honest, fair person. You don't lie or cheat to get ahead. You treat others with respect and hope for the same in return.
You do not feel that you are above the rules that everyone else follows; you are definitely not willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead.
You fulfill your obligations and responsibilities, are true to your word, and generally obey the rules. While the majority of those who have a high score on the "responsible" trait enjoy traveling, they are usually very happy to return home — and don’t mind staying put for a while.
You're opposed to making hasty decisions, you don't insist that you're above the rules, nor do you feel compelled to color outside the lines.
You like to think a task through before you embark on it. If it's the slightest bit complicated, you make a list (even if it's only in your mind) and methodically work your way through it. When you have a goal in mind, you're not satisfied until you reach it.
You are not one of those people who ignore the details, and you don't understand how anyone can get anything accomplished without thoughtful planning ahead of time.
You appreciate art, beauty, and design; you know that they are not superficial but absolutely crucial to living the good life. You have good taste, and you're proud of it. Those with a high score on the "aesthetic" trait are often employed in literary or artistic professions, enjoy domestic activities — doing things around the house — and are enthusiastic about the arts, reading, and travel.
You don't think it's pretentious to be moved by art and beauty. You're not one of those who believe it doesn't matter what something looks like as long as it does its job.
You strive to master everything you undertake. You tend to learn quickly and do not shy away from challenges.
You are not a "que sera sera" type of person, nor do you go easy on yourself when attempting to master a new skill or get a job done.
You are thoughtful, rational, and comfortable in the world of ideas. People find you interesting to talk to. You're the living embodiment of the saying "You learn something new every day." In general, those with a high score on the "intellectual" trait are employed in such fields as teaching and research, and are enthusiastic about reading, foreign films, and classical music.
You do not avoid abstract conversation, experimenting with new ideas, or studying new things. It bores you to stick to the straight and narrow of what you already know.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Virtual Reality or Real Reality?

Drop by our house some afternoon or evening and you'll likely find several of us engaged in some type of electronic entertainment. In our family of four we have three computers, one Wii, two Nintendo DS and one Nintendo Gameboy. Wow. When I was my son's age we were thrilled to play my brother's Atari 2600. We spend a lot of our recreational time engaged in digital, virtual activities. I think we are not unusual in this regard. I wrote some time ago about the effort I had to exert to avoid seeing all my time absorbed by Facebook.

I don't think that playing video or computer games is inherently sinful. At times it provides a good way to relax, though like any activity this can become excessive and even addictive. But a recent message from a friend of ours who lives and works in one of the world's poorest countries caught my attention. She wrote:

"What [we] were discussing at the table tonight was that it makes me sad to realize how much effort, time and creative energy get sucked into virtual realities and video games when perhaps what people are really longing for is to come somewhere like [here], to be part of something that takes more than they can give, to sap all their brain cells trying to absorb a new language, to engage with reality . . . if only more of all that creativity and resources could be channeled into quests like disaster relief, education, peace-building, or providing basic sanitation and health care. Easy to say, harder to get off my chair or leave my laptop and go out..."

This statement resonated strongly with me. In the developed world we invest huge amounts of time, energy and money into entertainment, particularly into virtual entertainment--activities that accomplish nothing at all but which sap resources that could be used to accomplish good in a needy world. In light of what I recently wrote about responding to poverty, this contradiction really struck me. How much easier it is for us to sit in front of our computers and "exercise" our brain cells on virtual activities than to go out make a difference in the world. The latter requires much more creativity, energy, resourcefulness and dedication, but the rewards are also significantly greater. So many people are looking for that "great adventure" in cyberspace (and, I think in a similar vein, in extreme sports) when it is waiting for them already, if only they will get up off the chair and go out...

How can I make a difference in the world today?