Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Cash is the Cash

I preached Wednesday evening on “The Courage to Choose Your Response to Life Circumstances” as part of the “Living Courageously” series I am presenting this summer. I want to reprise part of that message in this space because I feel it is so important (preachers always feel that their messages are “so important”). Herewith, the condensed version in a few hundred words:

There is a difference between “reacting” and “responding.” We react out of our animal instinct, we respond out of our higher self -- the part that makes us distinct from the animals; let’s call it the “image-of-God part” of us. Responding instead of reacting is a choice, albeit a challenging one. But it is a defining choice. Reaction is a partner of anger, fear and self-pity. Response is a partner of freedom and maturity.

Responding to our circumstances has four primary elements.

1. Assessing the situation: You have to face reality. Call it what it is. Stop living in denial or delusion. For example, “We are spending more than we are earning and this will lead to financial disaster if it continues.” “My spouse and I are spending more and more time angry at one another and this will lead to marital misery if it continues.” “We are spoiling our kids and raising them to be disrespectful, lazy and surly. If we continue this way they will become lousy adults.” There is something powerful about facing reality. At a previous church, due to some financial software glitches there was a question about how much money the church actually had. In the midst of a discussion suggesting various ways to know, one elder pointed to the bank balance and said, “The cash is the cash.” In other words, this is the situation. So many people choose to live in denial or delusion instead of assessing the situation. You must face it.

2. Accepting appropriate blame: If your situation is due to your own choices and actions, accept the blame. If it is due primarily to outside influences, you still must accept part of the blame, even if it is only 5%. This is absolutely vital. You must acknowledge that somehow you have played a role in creating your current situation.

3. Taking responsibility: This began when you assessed the situation and accepted part or all of the blame. Now it becomes the engine of your response. And, oh, what an engine it is! To take responsibility means to be “response-able.” You are capable of responding. You are not a squirrel or a squid. You are a child of God, with imagination, energy, will, character, hopes, and dreams. You serve a God who, by the power at work within us, is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20), who is able in all things to work for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28). Ask God, “How would you like to help me grow me as we respond to these circumstances together?” Ask him, “How would you like to redeem this situation?”

4. Envisioning the Future: With the previous resolve and prayer in mind, imagine how you can use the situation to create a better future. Don’t run away from the situation; embrace it as the catalyst for needed change. Instead of wallowing in self-pity or anger, find a way to be thankful because without the situation there might have been no catalyst for you to envision this better future.

It is a beautiful way to live.


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