Why We don’t Pee in the Dog Pool

I saw a picture the other day of a vacuum cleaner that was still going strong after 40 years. Hundreds of comments were posted, admiring the beauty of this old machine that  with general maintenance and some loving acceptance of the noise it generates has lasted even with daily use. Many comments noted that memories of visits to grandma’s house include that equipment, nostalgia trips that felt cozy and stable during current unsure times. I was left wondering what future generations will recall of visits to grandma, what will be the lasting impression when our society has accepted the concept of disposability. Our mantra:  broken? buy a new one. New model has arrived? Get in line for the first release. I can see that this is where we lost the ability to offer grace, to be humble people,  to seek forgiveness. We have internalized the disposable ideology to include relationships with spouses, children, employers, most importantly with our Creator.

Babies learn object permanence between 4-7 months old. We are designed to spend, shy of a few months, the entirety of our lives understanding that just because we cannot see something, it still exists. We are created to look for what we know is missing, to seek out what was just in front of us, to search for what we know to be true.  To learn object permanence, stability must exist, same items around the house, the table in the same room every day, constancy of environment. When something breaks and we change up, we are teaching our children that broken means bad and new is better and then wonder why they whine at the store for a toy every time. No we did that, with our new phones and better watches and nicer shoes and fancier cars, with a new toaster and blender and vacuum. What could we teach them and remind ourselves if we leaned into the space of brokenness, if we struggled to fix what has stopped working?

I see broken people all around these days, marchers who are filled with hate and friends who post about hurting with depression, parents who are struggling to pay for school supplies and marriages that are on their last breathes. What if we stuck with each other in that broken place, what would that look like? I know I have worked hard to teach Plum personal responsibility, the old “you break it, you buy it” mentality. Just yesterday he went outside with me in the early morning, straight out of bed, no stopping for a potty break. He loves to pee outside among the bushes. I know, another post, different responsibility. Still, he got some wild idea to pretend he was one of the dogs and go about  the yard marking his territory, leaving his scent. Early morning, secluded yard, cover of darkness, all good until he chose to pee in the dog pool. Yes, that is where I drew the line. The dog wading pool where our beasts go to cool off after many romps across the grass catching the ball, chasing each other or just relax during the heat of the day. HE peed in their pool. When I told him he had to empty and refill the pool, he claimed it was an accident, he said it would be too hard to empty it, he looked for any way to slip out of his responsibility for the wrong doing. No matter, even if it had been unintentional which being half an acre away from the indoor plumbing we have graciously supplied for his bodily needs, several feet away from his normal hiding places in the bushes, the guilt was his. He aimed, he peed, he must fix. “But gran, it is too hard!”  Indeed.

As I watched him pull bucket after bucket from the urine infused water, I knew he wouldn’t do that again. He would not only chose more carefully what to destroy but also appreciate that we show respect for the belongings of others, that we fix what we destroy. Much like when he was attempting to throw tantrums early on, I allowed him to do so in his own room with his toys, encouraging him to break his things which would not be replaced but setting the boundary that tantrums and destruction would not be allowed in common areas. Incredulously, he told me he didn’t want to break HIS things! Of course not, and neither did I want to sacrifice mine. Thus, no tantrums. Patience, persistence comes in that very fixing, the moments or hours devoted to nothing else but concentrating on righting a wrong. Grace meets us in those places, when we are repentant, straining muscles of our own ego, dedicating ourselves to the task of restoration of another, to the parts we broke. Rushing the task like buying a new pool or for me to clean it out for him, speeds us on through our encounter with the Holy Spirit, our opportunity to ask for forgiveness and receive it.

We have broken the backs of our brothers and sisters of color, we have broken boundaries within our marriages, we have allowed children to be hungry and parents to struggle to provide even as they work 40 hours, we have hurt each other. Until we accept responsible and stop shifting blame, looking for wiggle room that eases our conscience and lets us zoom into new relationships without fixing what has been broken within the old ones, we are continuing to miss our own encounters with God. We cannot fast forward to the good parts, we cannot have memories of grandma’s long lasting sweeper if we don’t repair the hose along the way.  Those encounters with grace, those times we have restored what is broken, when we have admitted our own broken selves to another, fessed up to our sins, well, just like anything it gets easier the more you do it. A skill practiced, a habit built. Given my own history, I cannot hide behind false pretenses, say I didn’t do it, it wasn’t me. My sin is out there, yet it makes it even easier to confess more and more when I am wrong, to admit when my own impulses led me to pee in the pool. Further, the gift of grace that I receive so lovingly pushes me to share, I want everyone to feel those sweet moments that come from a cleansed soul, the relief of restoration, coming closer again to God rather than hiding in darkness and shame. Grace is an investment God has made in me, one He urges me to make in others. But first must come confession.

Friends, have you hurt someone? Like a crystal heirloom vase you knocked over as you raced through the day, it cannot be swept under the rug and ignored without cutting someone’s feet. Go get that sweeper, fix the mess, own up to what you have done, make restitution.  It won’t be easy, it may take time away from other fun exciting events, you may have to listen to the vase owner’s hurt and disappointment for longer than you wish. Still, stick with it. Grace will find you right there. The alternative is just more brokenness, more pools filled with pee, more cut feet, more hurting people. Shall we work on restoring, shall we remember to value what we have, can we commit to just a bit less disposing of what really matters? Lets take some tender time with each other and listen as the Holy Spirit guides toward grace. All the best memories reside right in that place.

 

Choosing to Seek Wholeness

Last night I attended a meeting of friends at church who want to do more, be more, reach out more into our community. We began, as all meetings begin, with introductions, we asked why we each were there, what drew us to become interested in this emerging prison ministry at our predominantly all white highly educated upper middle class church. As each person spoke, I waited for my turn and mustered my courage to share that I was not just a friendly observer but a participant in the prison system, I knew personally the impact of a felony record. I have come far in the last couple of years. The distance, this journey is due in large part by the healing words of one Steve Wiens. I have written  here and here and here about how my friend Janet picked me up, got me out of bed after a severe bout of depression and introduced me to this guy from Minnesota who blogs, has a podcast and was then sending out the first chapters of his first book, Beginnings. He spoke straight into my soul, he breathed the Holy Spirit into me, he told me to try again, that I was more. I now call him my friend, a great honor to be in relationship with him. Friends, he has written a new book and I want you to know and hear and see him! He brings healing to us broken people.

I cannot lie and say I am fully invested in his new book, Whole, because I am still living into Beginnings. I wish I were ready to move on to fresh words and exploring more deeper healing for all my broken places. His words bring that. I may be about a year away from that, I see the richness he offers. I know this guide book is there when I am at that place. Words like, “We actually need to be liberated from the old place to keep ourselves from bringing it along with us to the new place.”  That is scary stuff for me, this letting go and trusting. Am I ready to dive in and accept this journey of wholeness or stay in the exploration of my brokenness a while longer? I feel him pulling me, into a deeper trust relationship with this Jesus guy and I am resisting. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? Yet I trust Steve, he is laying a path out of the wilderness when I am done wandering, when I am finished whining about manna and my slavery.

Steve writes, “Seeking wholeness is always about leaving one place and going somewhere else. It requires movement. It’s almost always painful, and very often you don’t really know where you’re going until long after you leave.”  I know too from my immersion in his earlier words in Beginnings that I am choosing to be stuck there, maybe I am resting there, in the passing of seasons and the acceptance of new growth and seeds and facing my monsters. Still he offers, “One of the most courageous things you will ever do is to turn away from shame and return to the face of God, where you will find oceans of mercy.” Steve has gently beautifully held me as I have made my turn, propped me up as I courageously accepted my past and spoke my history aloud in that meeting last night, sharing that my passion for prison ministry was personal. With each step, I AM becoming WHOLE, growing into my relationship with God. It is possible his newest book is sneaking into my walk with tiny nudges and whispers of restoration in spite of me.

Friends, are you seeking a new beginning? Are you looking for a path out of the wilderness? Let me introduce you to my friend Steve. He brings wisdom and clarity and peace to these troubled times, but be prepared to have your life altered. He is not content to leave you where he finds you. Don’t we all need friends like that?

Find more about his new book at Whole, his podcasts here, and find him on Facebook, Twitter Instagram or go visit his church like I did. I am telling you, the man is accessible, real, honest and with us on this journey. Wanna get going? Let’s do this!

Solitary

How My Friend Woke Up

With every mention of the change in her apartment complex, the sly skirting of any true honest words like African-Americans or black people, choosing rather to imply that things were “just going downhill,” I had cringed and sought to find a path towards understanding. For months she had shared the concerns of many white’s with limited exposure to actual people of color and excess involvement with internet sites and biased news, societal depictions of bad guys in black so pervasive she didn’t even realize her perceptions were tainted. I wondered aloud if these kids she worried were doing drugs had shown evidence of that or were just skateboarding like the other boys? The little ones who played without supervision, how much did she watch her child outside, how much did any of the other parents? Blessedly her boy played, shared snacks and raced about the parking lot with all of the kids, regardless of skin color, more interested in Pokemon battles and squirt gun fights where he is almost always the one who gets shot because he loves to fall down dramatically.

“I was wrong,” she said to me yesterday. Huge important words that we all must be willing to say, to speak out loud to another person who will hear us and not let us go peacefully back into our ignorance but say yes, child you were and now lets go forward, one more step. The horrific events of Charlottesville and the aftermath of a leader who cannot find a unifying message of condemnation for hate to bring hope and healing has at the very least brought this young woman further along on her own journey. She told me that she worried when she let her child go outside, what could happen when he played with these children of other colors. She didn’t mean to be racist, but her own history of substance abuse was adding prejudice, coloring and distorting who the bad guys were. Missing the irony that she herself had once been the very person she now feared, she fell into the us vs. them trap. No more, she vowed. She asked for ways to gain more information, she wanted some way for a mom at home to be active yet safe. Her big steps in attitude gave me the hope the president failed to provide.

“I know now that while I feared for my son to go outside, they fear everyday. They are probably afraid of me!! They fear everywhere. I was afraid of them, they are always afraid, wondering what could happen to their children at school, on the bus, who might say something or do something. My God, that is horrible!” I listened, I cried, I offered support as she shed her own hate like the robes and shields and white hoods we have all worn to some extent. White privilege allows us to choose when to get into the battle, when to go back home to our safe neighborhoods and schools and return to our lives, until the next rally or vigil or sense that the violence might be reaching into our spaces. After all, how many of us were truly outraged when Philando Castile was killed? Was it the loss of Eric Garner? Michael Brown? Freddie Gray? Laquan McDonald? Alton Sterling? My God, wasn’t the killing of Tamir Rice enough to wake us? Yet no, it required the streets to be crawling with proud young men spewing hate, unfurling flags of bigotry and taking the life of a young white woman, threatening a synagogue, for America to grasp the horror that has permeated communities of color for decades. Still, collective awakening from comfortable illusions means we are now joining with our sisters and brothers, tagging in with sheepish faces knowing we hold guilt and our own shame and yet must act or accept more of the same, an unconscionable choice. What grace we are given, those of us who come so late to the game, and yet still we are invited in, we have to come in, we hold the power of privilege. So I listened and shared books and action steps and carried this newly woken friend along as she wept her shame into the phone.

Accepting our role in voting for a man who was supposed to bring jobs but instead has wrought divisions and fear, facing exactly what it means to be free, the responsibility required of us all to ensure that very freedom reaches everyone within our borders, regardless of color or ethnicity or gender or who we love, we are waking up, one white American at a time. Integrated apartment complexes where children of all colors swap a Jigglypuff for a Pikachu and race on bikes long into a summer evening, where the only hoods worn are those of batman and spiderman as shouts of little boys fill the air, this is how we ensure a different future.  And phone calls to someone who hears us say we were wrong, this is the first step. Many steps will follow, but we have to begin with this brave honest self-evaluation. Our future depends on it.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 MARTIN NIEMÖLLER

Unfurl

What I Have Learned from the Tooth Fairy

It has been a week since I was forcibly pulled from my routine, slowed from commitments and chores and larger responsibilities to rest my brain from another concussion in only two months, this time after being rear-ended by a bus. I am not healed fully yet, I am still supposed to avoid screens and allow my eyes to look at apparently nothing beyond flowers and butterflies. I hate not being able to read constantly, I hate not being able to write daily. I want my life back, I want my schedule returned, with maybe a few adjustments. Yet the events of the past week have made clear that taking time to see those flowers and smell them as well, to be completely present as my Plum heads into first grade with time to notice all the changes this summer has brought, this time is a gift. Much like the wand that the tooth fairy left him last night, sometimes the best gifts are tiny, filled with magic that I miss. I am often too busy to notice them. More often than not, I need a major shift in my universe to clear my thinking and sharpen my vision.

My Plum has held on to his first loose tooth for many months, avoiding letting go of the inevitable. He was afraid of the pain, freaked out about losing what was clearly part of his body. Even as a new tooth sprouted up behind this wobbly baby tooth, he refused to follow the wise words of all around him, he wouldn’t wiggle it. He chose to eat around it, then began to choose soft foods to ensure he didn’t bump it. Finally nature prevailed and last night his tooth was hanging on by a literal thread. Reaching for a bit of gauze, I asked once more to feel how loose it was. One tiny tug and out it came. His relief filled the room, he rushed to look in the mirror, a spontaneous hug came my way and the decision was made that I am in charge of extracting all future teeth. As he slept the tooth fairy visited, bringing delightful gifts I had purchased over a year ago from an Etsy shop in preparation. Today he is twirling the wand she left behind and reading his note again and again, glorying in his elevation to “big boy.” I realize as I often do, I can learn from him.

I know I hang on to my own “loose teeth,” those things and people and roles in my life that need to be released, even as new growth is trying to emerge. I am fearful, anxious about the pain, I want to keep it all. My own “row of shark teeth that will ensure braces” and corrective measures later, even greater pain and discomfort, yet tightly I grip. I don’t wiggle and bite hard onto life, I avoid risks. I will never find my own little wand under my pillow, no notes congratulating me on moving forward in life if I stay stuck in what is so evidently not meant to be. My Plum believes I am strong and sure enough to always remove his loose teeth, he doesn’t know how scared I really am to remove what has already separated, what is trying to move away, in my life. What if I gave one good tug and accept that freedom, that relief? Like my best boy,  I recoil at the thought and stick to soft foods and easy choices and wallow in the misery of limbo. Not quite attached, not quite gone.

I fell asleep thinking of all the firsts I have experienced with this child. I bottle broke him, taught him to sleep through the night, potty-trained him. I took him to his first day of preschool (I sat outside the room the entire time, what understanding teachers he had!). So many more, I have lost track, some terrible and some amazing, but still he trusts me when on any precipice, when he is ready to take a big jump, he knows I will catch him if he falls. My love for him is limitless, truly accepting of even his worst days and we have those. What would it feel like to be loved like that? Actually, what would it feel like to trust that love, because I do have it, I merely need to accept it. I have a parent who loves me this deeply, who wishes to help me be free of old ways and long held beliefs that no longer serve me, to be cut loose from bonds that restrict growth and offer the relief of painful grasping onto relationships that no longer fit my life. I have that love, if only I would trust as surely as my Plum trusts me. How does he do it?

Step by step, time and again he has given me opportunities to prove that I will catch him, that I will not fail him. I don’t make promises I cannot keep. I say no when his safety requires, when he needs to rest and when vegetables are a better snack than candy. I stay up late to worry and pray while he sleeps. I don’t tug on loose teeth before they are ready, really really ready to come away. I bring new ideas and experiences into his world, allowing him to choose which he wants to grab as his. I hug him when he wants and needs and scoot further off when he wants some space. I don’t take offense when he vents his anger at me, I know his sweet words of apology will soon follow and that I am his safe place for all his feelings, even the not so pretty ones. Does my God do any less?

I know intellectually this is EXACTLY how my God loves me. All that is missing is my trust. How frustrating it must be, to have proven time and again His faithfulness and still, I resist allowing Him to catch me when I fall. During some rocky months of Plum’s past, when my relationship with him was being undermined, he didn’t trust me. It was awful. It broke my heart. I try not to remember those days, the pain of tiny acts of teaching him again that I am who I am. Yet I stayed true, little by little he let me back in to his own broken heart. God has never wavered, with big promises kept and little whispers of assurance that I can go on when I doubt. He always catches me when I fall which I do often. Rather than wishing for my own magic wand, accepting the love, trusting fully the One who is teaching me to love this child, that seems a better use of my quiet time. Step-by-step, wiggling ever closer, I am truly coming into relationship with God. Just as my patience with Plum knows no limits, fortunately God has given up on me yet.

Making the Desert Bloom

My physically far away but spiritually always close pastor has lent his voice today and what a blessing. I am beginning to see that while this concussion is a burden, is forcing me to stop posting for a time, it is allowing me to LISTEN deeply to the wisdom around me.  Wise words today from Pastor Pat Sleeth. I trust you are blooming! 

Guest Post by Pastor Pat Sleeth:

I don’t claim to be much of a gardener, but I like to garden.  Maybe that comes from my being raised on a farm in West Virginia back in the day.  Maybe it’s simply that I like to see things grow.  I don’t know for sure but I’d guess it’s likely a bit of both.

Back on the farm, the land was fairly rich but it was rocky and very little of it was flat so it was hard to plow and hard to keep free of weeds.  But, there was plenty of sunshine and rain.  My grandfather used to say that God provided the seeds and did all the hard work.  We just had to plant and nurture the plants.

Fast forward some half-century forward and you’ll find me living in the high plains desert of eastern Washington State.  Where West Virginia was hot, humid and had rich soil – eastern Washington is the extreme opposite.  The soil out here is rocky, sandy, not very nutritious and very fragile.  It IS hot, but there’s practically no humidity on this side of the state.  We’ve just “celebrated” a new weather record here; the temperatures have been 90-100 for 16 consecutive days and it hasn’t rained, well, for a LONG time.

And, guess whose house is surrounded with flowers and flowering bushes?

In West Virginia, and for the past 20+ years in Indiana, gardening was easy.  Plant, fertilize as instructed – and let God take care of the hard work.  All I had to do in West Virginia or Indiana was to get the seeds planted and keep the weeds in check and God did the rest.  God provides everything needed, here, but the expectation is for ME to figure out how to garden in the desert – when the lady who owned the house before me planted mostly eastern/southern plants that require lots of water.  I spend an enormous amount of time every day weeding dry beds to keep the weeds out (they steal water and nutrients from the flowers and strawberries) and WATERING.

It takes a LOT to make the flowers (and strawberries) bloom in the desert!

Our good friend and Chief Blogger, Lisa, bonked her noggin a few days ago and asked some of us to lend a hand.  Glad to help – but please realize I’m only “pitching an inning of relief” – don’t expect a starter’s performance! ☺

This morning, I spent nearly 3 hours tending my flower beds, weeding where needed (not much) and watering everything (a LOT).  As I said, it’s hot and dry and that’s normal here.  But, interestingly enough, as I watered, I was reminded of a favorite section of Isaiah 35 – where God says He will make the deserts bloom.

But, as I was puttering along, sweating (wishing I could water with sweat!), I was thinking about how much work it takes to make the desert bloom and was glad, and not for the first time, that it’s God’s job to do it and not mine.  And, somewhere along the morning, I stopped watering and thought how much easier it would be to just take all the flowers out and plant grass (sod)!  I looked at the dry beds ahead of me, and thought “What’s it worth to keep this growing?”

I almost instantly thought of my significant relationships.

Some of my closest relationships are pretty easy to take care of, at least from my side.  I just love them and they are pretty hardy and thrive pretty much without anything from me.  I just check in regularly and see that they are blooming right where they are planted and I rejoice in their beauty and fruit!  I’m probably talking about you. ☺

But, like you, all my relationships are not that easy.  Some are like the eastern plants placed here in the desert; they are planted in a place they aren’t thriving or they haven’t been given the right fertilizer and water to keep them healthy and they are NEEDY and take a lot of work!  A lot of work.  I’m probably talking about me now.

Frankly, sometimes I ask myself the same question I did this morning: “What’s it worth to keep this growing?”  Is it worth all the work it takes to help someone continue to bloom when conditions are not perfect?

Perhaps I’m the only person narrow or selfish enough to consider that – but I doubt it.  I’m human and so are you and some of our relationships don’t require much from us and we love those and treasure the blooms and the fruit they offer.  But some of our relationships require a LOT from us and the blooms and fruit are infrequent and we wonder is this single flower worth all the fuss to bring it about?

We are often weak and sometimes wounded and sometimes we’re in conditions that we’re not meant to be in and we just don’t thrive.  At least, not by ourselves.

It’s in these honest, but sometimes selfish moments when I realize how much I treasure these glimpses of the blooming desert God refers to in Isaiah.  It’s not easy to make the desert bloom.  He didn’t say it would be easy.  But, He said it WOULD bloom.  He provides all that is necessary to keep these fragile and sometimes infrequent blooms popping up.  All that is necessary is for someone like you and I to recognize that each of us is meant to bloom, God promised it.  Sometimes, it just takes a moment to remember that from our relationship labors, beauty often is the result.

Is it worth it to water and fertilize a plant we find in difficult conditions?  We each get to decide for ourselves.  Sometimes no matter what we do, they won’t thrive in spite of the assistance and gift of care we offer.  Sometimes, they just don’t.  But, sometimes, even after long seasons of our best efforts with nothing to show – a bloom appears – and often more follow. So, is it worth it?  Well, of course, you get to choose.

This morning, a bush that has never thrived in the two+ years we’ve been here has one gorgeous yellow flower on it!  Three weeks ago I tried a different fertilizer on it as a last effort.  If it didn’t green up and at least look healthy, I was going to chop it down.

Now, if you’ll forgive me, I’ve got some few plants and bushes to finish watering and then I’m going to call an old friend that hasn’t been thriving in awhile and I’m a long way away from him.  It’s time to check in, maybe suggest a fertilizer change. ☺  Yeah, it’s worth the effort.

Isn’t it? ☺

Blessing upon you this day as you face what you need to face.  May you remember that God says that the desert WILL bloom AND that it’s the rarest of blooms or those not seen in awhile that are the most precious.

In Christ;

Pat

Why Nobody Wants You to Have Limits

Friends,  if you know me at all you know I love love love the words of Steve Wiens. Today we are blessed to have his words RIGHT HERE!! Can you tell I am excited? Maybe this concussion stuff isn’t so bad 😉  Healing and resting, back soon, Lisa 

Guest Post: Steve Wiens

Recently I had to tell my sister Lisa that I couldn’t come to a party celebrating her recent graduation from seminary. I had been out of town for a week, and it was scheduled for the same day as my son Isaac’s birthday. Saying yes to Lisa’s party would have been saying no to Isaac. I really wanted to say yes to Isaac and Lisa, but it was impossible.

So I told Lisa I was really sorry, but I wouldn’t be able to go to her party. Her response was so gracious. “Steve – I am 100% in favor of having good boundaries around family and self care.” We are scheduling a different time when just the two of us will celebrate this big milestone.

How aware are you of your limits? You can’t do everything. You can’t attend everything – even all the good things that you really want to attend. And you can’t do everything – even the things you really want to do. Most likely, you attempt to squeeze more onto your to-do list than is possible to actually get done, which makes you feel like a defective human being.

Anybody with me?

Several years ago, when I was painfully aware of some of the ways that I was failing at tasks and people, my friend Becky looked me in the eyes and told me, “You’re feeling your edges. And that is a very good thing.”

Are you in a season right now where you are feeling your edges? Are your limits are making themselves painfully obvious? How does that show up for you?

  • Do you get really irritable with those you live with?
  • Are you more aware than ever of your exhaustion?
  • Are you indulging more than normal in your numbing behavior/addiction of choice?
  • Is there a simmering anger just below the surface that feels dangerous and explosive?

The worst part about it is that we keep waiting for someone else to give us permission to have limits. We get irrationally angry at emails that demand responses. We load passive aggressive comments into the chamber and squeeze the trigger, aiming at those closest to us. We sigh and stomp around with heavy heel strikes, while our kids wonder if we are chasing something, or if we are being chased.

You’re not defective. You’re just trying to run your life at a pace which is incompatible with being healthy.

Here’s the thing: Only you are responsible for setting your limits. Nobody is going to set them for you, because it will inconvenience them. And when you set your limits, you are not responsible for how people respond to you. I know very few people who will thank you for setting limits. Almost everybody will expect you to keep giving them what they want. But if you do not set limits, you are building a prison of resentment for yourself, and locking yourself in.

Here’s what I’m learning about setting limits:

  1. Be Kind. It’s okay for people to be disappointed when you say no. Lisa was disappointed when I told her I couldn’t go to her party. When people are disappointed, don’t try to fix it. Be kind, say you’re sorry, and reach out to that person when you have some space and time for relationship.
  2. Be Honest. It’s tempting to make up an excuse for why you can’t get that thing done, or attend that event. But when we do that, we are simply propping up the lie that we can do everything. Wouldn’t it be a gift for some of us to shatter the myth that everything can be done? “I’d love to go to your party, but I just can’t.” “I really want to hang out with you tonight, but I’m exhausted and I need to get a good night’s sleep.” Once when I was in a conflict with someone, I offered to take him to a baseball game. He simply said “No thanks.” That wasn’t his jam. It stung a little, but I respected him for not trying to make an excuse, and also for not pretending that the conflict would get better by watching nine innings of boring baseball.
  3. Be Consistent. I am a pastor, which means that there is always someone to meet with. But I’m also an introvert. So my limits include never setting meetings with anyone in the mornings on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays. I need those mornings to write messages, read books that nourish my soul, and get work done that only I can do alone. When I started Genesis (the beautiful church plant that is now two years old), I decided that I would give one night a week for church meetings. I have three young boys, and being home with them for dinner and when they go to bed is very important to me. And with a very few exceptions, I have held to that for two years. This may change when my kids get older, but for now, one night a week is a good limit for me. I also never, ever work on my sermon on Saturday. Saturday is the one day of the week that our family can work together and play together all day. Sometimes that means I get up very early on Sunday to finish it. But I’d rather cheat my sermon than cheat my family.
  4. Be Reciprocal. When you set your own limits, it encourages others to set some for themselves, which will sometimes inconvenience you. Give them the same grace you hope they will give you.

Setting limits also means being OK with certain things just not getting done, and not working on getting better at everything all at once. If you know me, you know I’m terrible at returning phone calls. This may change someday, but for now, I’m just deciding that’s one of the things I’m not going to work on getting better at.

I’m convinced we’ll be better at loving ourselves, God, and others when we honor the limits of our humanity. We’ll allow others to set limits, and we’ll enjoy each other that much more when we’re together with an honest and resourced yes.


Steve Wiens is the Senior Pastor at Genesis Covenant Church, and is the author of two books: Beginnings: The First Seven Days of the Rest of Your Life, and Whole: Restoring What is Broken in Me, You, and the Entire World. He’s also the host of a weekly podcast called This Good Word. You can find out more about Steve’s work at www.stevewiens.com

Patient or Patient

Dear readers… I am excited to introduce some sweet friends who are lending their voices for the next couple of weeks as I rest my brain from another concussion. God may just be forcing a recovery period, some slow down time that I have been resisting. Not that I think that bus that hit me was directed by a holy hand but you know what I mean. Still, this gives me a chance to show off what wonderful people I am surrounded by, the writers I interact with on a regular basis. Show them some love, will ya?

Guest post by Kevin Parish

Have you ever found yourself questioning why you react or reacted certain ways to situations or persons?  Of course you have!  We all have.  It’s a great part of what makes us who we are and how others see us.  On one hand it can be considered as a badge of honor, good character, admirable…   This is the feel-good, sticky sweet side of ourselves we attempt and strive to achieve…Yes?  Yes!  On the other hand you may find yourself questioning every action, feeling judged, as well as self-judging, not only by the actions of today but all the actions of yesterday.  How do we find release and solace from those events that mold us into misshaped clay?  How do we remodel ourselves into a new shape before our pliability succumbs to hardening?  Lamentations 3:40 tells us “Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.”   Well, that seems simple enough and straight forward.  Oh my friend… It’s easier said than done!  This brings me to the point and title of this expose`.  Are we being patient and letting the Lord guide our ways, or are we a patient in need of healing and spiritual guidance?  It’s a study in self…

The waters that have traversed beneath the bridge of my life have seen beauty, love and kindness, and the miracle of being a parent and grandparent all with God at the center.  The exalted times of being a healer and trusting that God is in charge makes for smooth sailing… most of the time.  Let’s not forget we are often tested during these times too ¹(James 1:12).  Then there are those times, more than I care to recall, where the waters were turbulent and seemingly drowning in their passing.  Those times where I let go of God and made the meager attempt to be in control.  Though I made it through, by His grace, I still flinch at the thought of some of those actions.  I was neither patient nor a patient.  I was simply lost in the world and part of the world.  I was living in the world as a man, and not living in the world as a man with God in his heart.  Material things made me into someone I cringe to reflect upon even now ²(Mark 4:19).  But there is light…

The time came when I simply gave up and gave in.  Upon my knees with reverence to Him in whom I was to ask forgiveness and pour out my deepest, heartfelt apology and beg for Him to take over I found solace.  I found that is okay to be scarred and scared.  I discovered a healthy way to be self-judging without being judgmental.  I found that giving my whole self to God, not just a small piece but all of me, I could move beyond the sucking abyss that had trapped me in the past and lead me into deeper waters.  Here, now, I can stand and be proud of who I am and who is responsible.  It isn’t me… It never was… It is in Jesus Christ my Lord and savior who endowed me with strength to ask for forgiveness and provide forgiveness when I slip into the snare of reaction without His guidance.  I can be patient, and I can be a patient.  “It is well with my soul!”

¹James 1:12 – Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

² Mark 4:19 – …but the worries of the world and the delight of being rich and all the other passions come in to choke the word; so it proves unfruitful.