step outside your comfort zone.

Some of you know I serve as a career coach. Just last week I found myself in a Panera Bread working with one of my current students on their resume.
This particular location is extremely thin on power outlets
, so while working on battery power, we pretty much stalked every person at every table near a coveted outlet until finally we scored a “Power Table” with about 17% battery power remaining on my laptop.

A few minutes later, I looked up to see a super tall and impressively muscular guy walking around the restaurant, holding his phone and a power cable, clearly looking for a free outlet. I knew he was out of luck. He went to the cashier to ask where the outlets were and then he knew he was out of luck.

I watched him go back to his seat and join a large group of his friends seated at a span of tables.

I could have dismissed him and gotten back to work. It certainly would have been easy. and safe.

and selfish.

But I could feel the Holy Spirit nudging me.

So, as I reached into my purse for my favorite shiny red high speed portable charger, I told my student I would be right back.

The entire restaurant was loud and bustling and nobody was paying any attention to me, so the walk toward him was mindless, fast and easy. But, the moment I stepped up to that particular group of tables, every. single. person. seated there abruptly stopped talking and turned toward the interruption. .

that would be me.

every single face was silently staring. at me.

I admit, I was immediately uncomfortable. When I’d reached for the charger and while I was walking toward the table, I hadn’t considered the possibility that my attempt to help might be viewed as an unwelcome intrusion, but at that moment, from my perspective, 8 people halting their conversation to openly stare at me had “intrusion” written all over it.

and I was suddenly, extremely and self-consciously aware of the fact that I am white.

Did I not mention that every single person staring at me was black?

I held out my phone charger.

“Would you like to borrow this?”

There was a noticeable pause, then a look of disbelief and confusion, followed by a “REALLY?!?!” as his friends looked back and forth from me to him like they were watching a tennis match.

Ball was back in my court.

“Sure.”

I pointed to my table and my student. “I’ll be sitting right over there when you’re done with it.”

I’d like to say that he charged his phone, returned my phone charger and that was that.

In reality, I forgot about him and my charger for about a half hour and when I looked up, he – and all of his friends – were gone.

Me: “Did he leave?”

My student and I scanned the restaurant. He was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly she said, “There he is! Outside.”

We kept working for another 20 minutes or so and then she noticed him get up and walk toward the parking lot, out of our line of sight. I stepped outside and saw him dump his drink cup in a garbage can at the edge of the parking lot, so I said, “Are you leaving?”

He immediately assured me he wasn’t and joined his friends who were now sitting at tables near the garbage can where he dumped his drink cup.

I went back inside, my student and I got engaged in a particularly challenging section of the resume and we both completely forgot about him.

Until he quietly slipped the charger on our the table, thanked me again and left.

Would I have left the building without saying something to me if I were him?
No. It was thoughtless, but not malicious or devious.

Did I think he was trying to steal my $20 rapid phone charger?
No. I thought he forgot it was in his pocket.

Did he think I thought he was trying to steal my phone charger?
I don’t think so. He didn’t seem offended.

Did I regret loaning it to him?
No. I knew when I stepped outside my comfort zone and handed over my phone charger to a complete stranger that it would be easier to keep to myself and let his phone die.

I know that reaching out to help someone is a witness for Christ even when His name isn’t spoken.

I hope and pray that by evidencing “Love God, Love Others” in that simple action, my student watched, processed and was inspired to step out of her own comfort zone and extend a helping hand when it would be easier to be quiet and stay comfortable.

Will I do it again?
Even more so.

But I also think that the next time I go back to that particular Panera, I’ll be bringing a power strip with me to share with my fellow power-needy laptop cohorts.

Lord, please help me to be aware of your presence in every moment of my life and to recognize your promptings. Please bless me with the courage and motivation to be immediately obedient when you nudge me to do or say something. Don’t let me miss an opportunity to bless and be blessed because I’m held back by fear or because I want to cling to my comfort zone. AMEN.

#memoryverse: Colossians 3:23 ~ as working for the Lord, not for men

Colossians 3 23 Work as Unto the Lord Bible text NIV#memoryverse

“Whatever you do,
work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord,
not for men”

Colossians 3:23 (NIV)


thoughts:

The first word that jumps into my head when I read this verse is: competence.

I’m not sure when I first figured out that – as someone who professes faith in Christ – everything I do and say reflects on Jesus. There were probably multiple factors involved in coming to that realization:

~ I remember when I was young and first began working in the legal industry, there were multiple highly educated, wealthy people who belittled my faith and spoke condescendingly to me as they expressed that they perceived me to be idealistic and naive because I believed in God and “wasted my time” serving in church. If I listened to the root message under the messages, it was always grounded in the opinion that the only people who believed in God were less educated, less “successful” in the business world and, well…perpetually stuck in a lower socioeconomic class. Those people were sad and underprivileged and believing in God made them feel better. An “opium for the people” kind of a thing.

~ This is really going to date me, but I remember sitting in a hair salon and being simultaneously and intensely challenged by multiple women to defend Christianity in light of the sex scandal involving revivalist evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, a prostitute and a hotel room. It blew me away that, based on his bad behavior, not only was my faith suspect, but Christian faith overall was being attacked and rejected. I realized with much clarity at that moment that Christians were being watched like prey and sometimes attacked for sport.

~ When my kids were little, I remember telling them that no matter where they are or who they are with, when they wear their school uniform, they represent their school. Their words and actions are a reflection on their school. It was a short connection to realize that because the uniform was printed with the name of a Christian school, the kids were described by those watching as “those kids from the Christian school.” The tone of voice was telling as to whether the statement was an indication of approval or disapproval. When the comment expressed approval, it was often spoken with pleasant surprise, while the disapproving comments were more sarcastic and dripping in “it figures” and “what do you expect?”

I’m sure I could think of more examples, but you get the idea. Back then and today, despite the number of Christians with advanced degrees, well-paying careers and lives suffused with gracious words and actions, they are very, very often thought of as uneducated, unskilled, poor, illogical, ignorant, unreasonable, undependable…the list could go on…

Colossians 3:23 reminds me that it’s possible to challenge and even change those perceptions. It’s possible for someone who professes faith in and dependence on Jesus to be viewed as intelligent, competent and dependable. But to intentionally and consistently “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,”

I need to:

as much as I am able,
as consistently as I am able,
– grounded in an acute awareness of my dependence on the Holy Spirit
    to equip me in mind, body and spirit, and
    to bless me with determination and stamina and resilience

Steve Martin Be So Good They Cant Ignore You1. Strive for competence and – ultimately, excellence – in everything I do,

– regardless of whether the work is directly related to ministry or whether the work is within a secular field.

– by not spreading myself so thin that I can’t come close to a standard of excellence or even achieve “good enough” status in one of my commitments, much less all of them.

2. Choose to speak edifying words – affirming progress as an indication of success, encouraging hope and motivating other people to strive for excellence – instead of

– complaining.

– expending time and effort calling (repeated and/or extended) attention to someone else’s shortcomings and mistakes.

– tearing people down.

And in the process of that striving and choosing, I find that

~ I’m letting go of the white-knuckled grip I have on my right to choose and I’m allowing myself to be conformed (by the Holy Spirit – not only by my own efforts) into the image of the son of God, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29),

~ I’m being a good steward of the gifts and talents God has blessed me with, (Matthew 25:14-30) and

~ I’m tangibly expressing genuine gratitude to God, for the countless blessings in this abundant life I’m living with Him – regardless of my circumstances. (Colossians 3:17)

Erma Bombeck I Used Everything You Gave MeI know I’m not the only follower of Jesus who is striving for excellence, extending grace, being conformed, being a good steward and expressing gratitude. My prayer is that every time a Christian hunter, or even just a non-believer, encounters one of us Jesus Freaks, the “with all our hearts” serves as a strong, positive evidence for authentic faith in Jesus Christ.

doubt assumptions, ask questions, search for answers.

When I work as a computer trainer and consultant, I offer potential or new clients a free “needs analysis.” It didn’t take me long to realize that most of these clients fall into one of three categories:

1. They know exactly what they need, and they are right. They understand their situation and possibilities.
2. They know exactly what they need, and they are wrong. Their perspective is limited and/or skewed.
3. They’re not sure what they need, but they know they need help.

I’ve found a similar pattern with people who believe they are a Christian:

1. They believe they are a Christian and they are right. They have a relationship with Christ.
2. They believe they are a Christian, but they are missing a relationship with Christ.
3. They’re not sure what they believe, but they are seeking.

(And then there are those who are comfortable with where they are and aren’t seeking.)

John Wesley saw that second group of people clearly. Adam Hamilton, in his book Revival, described it this way:

“Wesley said that many who thought they were Christians seemed to be so in name only; they were almost Christians. They did not have the joy, assurance, or peace that comes from being wholly surrendered to God. They lived their lives in compromise with sin, willing to do just enough good but no more. They entertained evil, provided that it wasn’t too extreme. They did little or nothing to grow in love with God.

In what ways did faith in the church of Wesley’s day resemble the faith in our churches today? Some would suggest in a great many ways.

Wesley said there is so much more to being a Christian than simple acceptance; there is a power, love, and joy that come from walking with God. And God expects more of Christians than simply trying to not be so bad as other people.”

To say this quote resonates with me would be an understatement. I can only speak from my experience and understanding, so I’ll say it this way. When I accepted Christ at 15, He became my savior. I lived my life in the context of that relationship with Him until 2007, when He revealed to me that I was holding back. He wanted to be more than my Savior. He wanted to be the Lord of my life. He wanted me to give up my will and trust Him in every aspect of my life, with no limitations. Over the last 7 years, by the grace of God and through the equipping of the Holy Spirit, I’ve taken down the boundaries between the different aspects of my life and I’ve been striving to offer up all of me to Him. I’ve been growing into an intimate, dependent, living relationship with Christ.

Live wisely make the most of every opportunityWhile I’ve spent most of my career as a computer trainer and consultant, at my core, I’m an educator. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a passion to help people grow. As I myself have grown closer to Christ, the Holy Spirit has taken that passion and set it on fire. I’m determined to encourage and challenge people to intentionally examine what they believe and why they believe it. I’m determined to encourage people to doubt their assumptions, ask questions, search for answers and make informed and intentional decisions about their beliefs.

Notice the language I just used. It’s very specific. I said “decisions about their beliefs” not “decisions about God.”

My goal within any of these conversations is not to change someone’s mind.

My goal is to leave a “spiritual stone” in the shoe of everyone with whom I interact, mostly through asking questions and listening.

I fail often.

But when I have a conversation with someone who wasn’t thinking about God, and the conversation results in them thinking about God – especially long after the conversation is over – I haven’t failed. After the conversation is over, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to soften that person’s heart and open their mind as he draws them closer to Himself.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” John 6:44a (ESV)

Relating to the three possibilities above, God has specifically planted and grown in me three distinct, compelling and persistent passions:

1. Discipleship
In addition to my own desire to be discipled, I have a passion to disciple others – to help people who have a relationship with Christ, continuously grow closer to Christ. My prayer is that God would reveal to all who know Him what he revealed to me: That He wants them to give up their will and trust Him in every aspect of their lives. That He doesn’t just want to be their Savior, He wants to be the Lord of their Life. He wants an intimate, dependent, living relationship with them.

2. Relational Evangelism
a) For the people who believe they are Christian but have never entered into a relationship with Christ, my prayer is that they would enter into that relationship. I can’t help but think of this verse:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Matthew 7:21-2321

b) For the people who know they aren’t Christian, but are willing to share with me what they think and feel about God and, more specifically, Jesus, I’m determined to be a safe person with whom they can voice their doubts, ask hard questions and search for answers. My prayer is that they come to faith in Christ. It’s not my job. It’s my prayer.

iceberg doubt assumptions ask questions search for answers3. Apologetics
For people who are apathetic about God, who don’t believe in Him or flat out hate Him and all His followers, my passion is to help them set aside the baggage that so often comes from religion and help them see that the selfish behavior of some of the people who profess to be Christian is more a reflection of flawed humanity than that of a perfect God. My prayer is that they make their own personal decision about Jesus based on Jesus, and Jesus alone, rather than on their thoughts and feelings about religion and the bad behavior and beliefs of other people.

John 10:10 tells us that Christ came that we may have life, and have it abundantly, in all its fullness. Not abundant blessings or stuff. Abundant LIFE.

That’s what Biblical discipleship leads to.

Abundant Life in Christ.

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say what you mean, but don’t be mean when you say it.

I’ve been saying that for years. To my kids, to students and to myself, whenever the situation calls for it. It’s one of my idioms.

Ephesians 429This afternoon, I read an article about a controversial subject in which the writer gave the distinct impression that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is ignorant.

Not ignorant in an uninformed or misguided way. There was no attempt to inform or guide. The writer declared “palpable and inescapable love” for God and their neighbor, but as I read, I found myself thinking of the word contempt, not love.

The examples were taken to an extreme, seemingly in an effort to evidence the stupidity and expressions of hate by anyone who believes differently.

For the purposes of this post, the issue itself is irrelevant. I personally didn’t identify with either side of the specific issue being written about. The idea that no other (more complicated) possibilities of thought or action exist is implausible.

Issues under debate are not simple. If they were simple, there wouldn’t be so much debate.

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