Category Archives: Alignment

Action steps that help us move from clarity to destiny.

Ever Been in a Rut?

RutEver Been in a Rut?…a Funk?…just Down?

Who hasn’t? I’d argue that even Jesus had his doldrum days (e.g. Gethsemane) and he was God on earth so if he can fall into an emotional rut where you just don’t feel excited about life as it is or life as you see it coming, that’s normal.

So, if this is a normal part of life (and it is), let’s take a stab at trying to better understand just what a rut really is, why they come along, ways we typically respond when we’re in a rut and ways to get out and avoid so many “rut” experiences in the future.

What is a “Rut?”

Everything starts with a definition right? So, just what is a rut?

Well, the dictionary defines it as: “1. A sunken track or groove made by the passage of vehicles. 2. A fixed, usually boring routine.”

In my experience, the kind of rut I most often fall into is a type of despondency marked by a lack of energy for the things that you have to do. It’s an inner frustration that builds after a desire for a change of pace has been unsatisfied.

The action and inaction symptomatic of a rut may include a lack of drive for doing menial but necessary tasks like shaving or answering your phone or responding to email. For others, a rut may trigger mindless eating or vegging out in front of the TV when you know you have “real” stuff you need to take care of. In a phrase, most rut responses are self-destructive.

Why do “Ruts” come along?

Ultimately, sin is to blame for every evil since God is only and always good. Therefore, if I had to pin down an answer for a rut, I would say it relates to sin somehow—either sin in my life, or sin that someone has committed against me, or the effects of sin in the world that discourage us and make life hard.

Narrowing in a bit, I’d also point to failed expectations as a source of a rut.
“I never thought this would happen.”
“I didn’t think I would be in this hard place this long.”
“I thought that he would be there for me in this way and he isn’t.”
“I thought that she would be more understanding but she isn’t.”
“I thought that I would enjoy this but I don’t.”
“I thought I’d make more progress on this by now, but I haven’t.”
“I’ve tried but I keep making this same mistake.”
“I don’t know how to fix this.”
“I don’t know how this ends.”
Have you been there? What “rut” statement would you add to this list?

How to Respond to a Rut?

As we said, most responses to a rut are self-destructive—personally and/or professionally.

Personal self-destructive behaviors are those that tear down your own spiritual, emotional or physical self. For example, you stop talking with God or reading your Bible (spiritual degradation). Emotional self-destruction may be that you keep repeating doomsday scenarios in your mind and your mental conversation with yourself moves to self-hate (“You just can’t do this.” “Nobody wants to be around you.”) Physical self-destruction can range from neglecting your body’s need for exercise to actively tearing down the temple with the things you put in your body ranging from alcohol and ice cream to prescription pills and smoking.

We can all agree that these types of behaviors don’t make matters any better but sometimes, if we are not self-aware, we can get into these behaviors without even noticing it. What are your personal self-destructive behaviors that you default to in tough times?

The other form of self-destruction I see alot is professional. It feels like this—you are dissatisfied. Your patience has not only been exercised but exhausted. You are angry at your boss and/or co-workers. You wanted to change things for the better but some conversation or decision has caused you to think the chances of positive change are infinitesimally small so you give in to your frustrations and fall into your rut. That’s how it feels; this is how it looks: low/no drive for getting up and going in to work, late to work, late to meetings, not alot to say in meetings, find mindless busy tasks to avoid doing your “real” work, you stop measuring progress because the metrics seem to mock you, you don’t respond to voicemails or emails, you just don’t want to be there.

Again, we would all agree that these activities don’t help but, if we’re honest, we’ve all had seasons where we fall into them, so let’s now move to healthy responses to your rut.

flowers_valley

 

 

Get Out & Stay Out of the Rut

If you think about a physical rut, it is a sunken place, a groove without traction that deepens the longer it is used. Our rut is the same, the longer we stay in it the further down we go and the harder it is to get out of. We also have our “favorite” or “pet” ruts—those destructive activities that we kind-of enjoy and frequent when things are going our way. Those paths are deeply engrained and jumping back into those paths once you’ve come out can be like diving into a deep canal with no scuba gear—deadly.

If you want to get out of a rut, you’ve got to get some traction. Here are a few tips on gaining traction:

1. Gain Perspective – Do you see what you’re doing to yourself and those around you? Can you see that you’re on a downward trajectory ? Do you accept that things are not “ok”? The first step is to stop lying to yourself—what you’re doing is not working! It hasn’t been working. It’s not going to work. The pain you feel is a symptom that something needs to change and the first thing to change is you!

This first step does not happen apart from the grace of God. Ask Him to help you. Do it right now! Stop reading and start talking to God. Seriously.

2. Ask for Help – You may have wandered into your rut on your own but you’ll need help to get out of it. First, continue to ask God to help you out of your rut. Delight yourself in Him. Make it your business to sit before Him in worship and to study His Word. In it are wonderful declarations about His steadfast love and faithfulness to His children.

Second, talk to a trusted friend who is spiritually anchored in Christ. If you are married, I hope you can talk with your spouse. Let this person know that you have been feeling down and ask them to pray for you and check in on you. If there is a specific thing that has you down, talk through the options with someone who can help you make a sound decision.

3. Take Action – Don’t go into information overload and don’t delay. Prayerfully take action with the information you’ve been given. You may be afraid but as a mentor told me, “I’ve done alot of things scared.” The point is, your fear must not be allowed to paralyze you—instead, you have to acknowledge your fears but still choose to move forward with what you know is right.

4. Stay in Community – Men in particular go “off the radar” when tough times hit. We go into the cave, only coming out to eat and watch the game :-). Life becomes a predictable routine of unfulfilling moments and superficial conversations. Life becomes drudgery instead of delight. Days are survived rather than savored. And this can go on for weeks, months or years.

I believe that being in a genuine community of close relationships helps to keep “rut” seasons at bay and when they do come, they don’t last as long because there is someone who knows you and has your permission to lovingly provoke and pry you out of the rut back onto the road to your destiny.

Do you have a group of friends that you meet with regularly with whom you can discuss the joys and sorrows of your life? Is there intentionality to your times together or do you just get together every now and then with no particular agenda besides enjoying one another’s company?

I’ve found that if we don’t direct our relationships, they will drift and become less relevant. This has been a painful lesson that I hope to have learned from and not have to repeat.

If you have a “small group” ministry at your church, try that? If you have family members or close friends in your city, invite them over to talk. Share with them that   you’ve been thinking about getting together on a regular basis to talk through what’s going on in one another’s lives and to look together to God’s Word for direction. Ask them if they’d be interested in being a part of something like that.

Almost without exception, they will be so relieved that you took the initiative to meet a need that we all have.

Today, I pray for you. I pray for the rut that you’re in today to be turned into a place of prayer and reflection. I pray that your valley of tears will bloom into a garden of joyful remembrance at the faithfulness of your God who pulls you out of your rut and establishes your feet on the rock.

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What Does It Take to Get Things Done?

Most of us are ok with disappointing ourselves. We do it all the time. We say we’ll be dressed by 7:30 am but the bed just feels too warm and comfortable so we reason, “Well, 7:45 will be ok…” Or, we say, “I’m going to exercise three times a week!” but then we only see the gym occasionally at best.

At some level, most of us are ok with disappointing others. This one is a little more difficult depending on whom we are disappointing and what we are or are not doing. For example, are we talking about not showing up for a doctor’s appointment until 5 minutes late or are we talking about missing an important deadline at the office or are we talking about cheating on a spouse. As the degree of relationship and covenant increases, the tension and disappointment of breaking that promise becomes increasingly difficult but, as we can all attest, such infractions are not uncommon.

to-do-listUltimately, the highest and best form of accountability comes from love. When you love, fulfilling your duties becomes an act of devotion. Exercising is not longer drudgery and being on time is not an inconvenience—rather, they are sacrifices you willingly make because of your love/devotion to the person/idea that you are sacrificing to please.

For the Believer, accountability begins and ends with our love for God and His call on our lives. What is it that you know God has called you to do? How are you giving yourself to His cause? Do you fear that you will stand before Him with excuses having wasted the gifts of energy, influence, relationships, money and time that He has blessed you with? If not, you should. That kind of fear is very healthy and warranted. Perfect love casts out the fear of  condemnation and introduces us to the fear of disappointing the One we love. Ultimately, accountability comes back to love.

Today, what is the thing you’ve been procrastinating about? What is the thing you’re dreading applying yourself too? What is the thing you know that is coming but keep failing to prepare for because you are “petrified” — literally, frozen, moved into non-action, by fear?

Friend, I encourage you to embrace true accountability by following these simple steps:

1. Ask God for greater love and reverential fear for Him. Acknowledge His “worthiness” to receive everything you can give Him.

2. Identify those things that God Himself has called you to do and write them down. For example, journal something like this:
“God, I genuinely believe that you want me to…”

3. Write down a plan of how to get from where you are to where you need to go.

4. Align your conversations, schedule and budget with the plan of God for your life.

5. Set times to measure progress and adjust your plan for greater fruitfulness.

When it’s all said and done, you are ok with disappointing yourself and others but when we cultivate a reverential love for God, that will put us on the path to getting the right things done.

“In A Pinch”: Things to Consider When You Have More Needs than Resources

Have you ever been “in a pinch?” 

You know, a situation where you needed to get something done and didn’t have the time, resources or money to get it done like you’d like? I think we all have and I really don’t think you can promise yourself that you’ll never be in a pinch again because things are not always in your control, however, there is something to be said for how you bounce back from being in a pinch. Let’s talk about what we do when we’re in a pinch and how we can re-structure some things to avoid being in the same pinch again.

When we’re in a pinch we usually make one of a few choices:
1. Give Up – This is the easiest way to deal with more work than time, money or resources. You just give up! Before we come down too hard on this option, it is important to understand when to quit and when to press.

Why are you doing this anyway? What’s your motive? Who does it benefit? Who told you that you had to do this? Ask God whether this is something you should be doing in the first place?

Should you determine that this is something you should do, you’ll probably move to one of the next 2 options:

2. Make-Do – Sometimes, we sacrifice “best” for “best at the time.” For instance, a recipe calls for “buttermilk” but we don’t have any and mix up a little lemon juice and milk or there should be 8 steps to this process but “in a pinch” you can get by with doing just 5 of the steps.

The thing with making do is that quality is usually the thing on the chopping block when you are making do. This should be measured carefully because your “brand” is your promise of quality to your customers. If you go to McDonald’s in Tacoma, Washington or Springfield, Illinois, you expect the Big Mac and Fries to taste the same. If you buy a Coke in Atlanta, Ga. or Juneau, Alaska, it ought to taste like a Coke!

Still, there are those times when “making do” is alright as a short term measure. Consider 2 Chronicles 30 – this is the story of Hezekiah’s rededication of the temple. Short-staffed on consecrated priests, check out what King Hezekiah did:

17 Since many of the people had not purified themselves, the Levites had to slaughter their Passover lamb for them, to set them apart for the LORD.18 Most of those who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves. But King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the requirements of the Law. For Hezekiah said, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon those19 who decide to follow the LORD, the God of their ancestors, even though they are not properly cleansed for the ceremony.” 20 And the LORD listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people.

Hezekiah was actually in violation of the strict letter of the law but God heard his prayer and allowed him to make do this time (although we’ll see later that this wasn’t Hezekiah’s long term plan).

3. Get Reinforcements – Sometimes when you’re in a pinch, the thing to do is to get reinforcements. The thing to look out for here is that you don’t rush to bring in whoever is “available” without regard to whether they are “able” or not. Sometimes when we’re in a pinch we reach for the first person breathing which is usually a mistake.

Think about it…when we rush to bring in people despite obvious incongruences as it relates to competence, chemistry and character, we are sure to run into bigger problems later. Worse, it is a sign of independence from God—it’s like us telling God that we don’t trust that He’ll help us so we needed to go find some “real” help. It’s a mistake that we’re prone to make so, how can we avoid getting to this point?

Let’s look at 3 responses to being in a pinch that can help us:

  • Restructure – Maybe something is wrong with how you’ve got things set up? If you’re running into the same problem over and over, ask, “Is it the system?” or “Is it the people?” Commit to fix the problem no matter what that means because if “it” is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
  • Reform – Maybe you’ll find that the way you thought things had to be done is not the only way after all. Sometimes you have to step back from your own way of doing things to get wisdom and perspective from someone else who can get you to the goal using a better method.
  • Repent – Maybe the problem is you? Do you continue to be in a pinch because of procrastination or poor work ethic? Do you keep making the same mistake? If so, repent—change the way you think—by renewing your mind! You’ve got to get new data in so you can get a new perspective and then have the courage to follow your convictions.

Thanks for reading today. I pray these thoughts will be an encouragement and a blessing for you.

Today’s Scripture to Consider: 2 Chronicles 30

Is it more important to be RIGHT or just “right”?

Recently, I’ve had several instances where I thought I was right–that is, correct. I felt that what I was saying was more accurate than the other person. I just knew that they were “wrong” and weren’t seeing things correctly. In conversations like this, it is important to consider the words and pattern we have in Jesus and the Scriptures which teach us to speak the truth in love and that knowledge alone puffs up while love builds up.

More and more, I don’t want to be “right” as in winning a theological argument or having the best-reasoned premise. I really want to be right—with God, my wife, my kids and the communities I serve and am served by.

I’m not talking about dummying down the truth or avoiding differences of opinion. I’m not talking about avoiding conflict. I’m talking about speaking to a person in a way that they can understand. After all, the tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable.

I must admit, sometimes, I press ahead trying to make my point because I know I’m “right” while neglecting to love my brother or sister (see Proverbs 12:18). Surely, this is not the heart of God and that’s why I’m committed to taking seriously being RIGHT, not just “right”

What do you think? Have you ever been “right” but not RIGHT?

Your Staircase to Success

Imagine a great staircase with hundreds of steps–a staircase that ascends high into the skies. Now imagine that you’ve been given the task of climbing from the bottom of this staircase all the way to the top where a grand and glorious prize awaits you. You start up the stairs but you stub your toe. You climb a little further but exhaustion takes hold and you start to slow down. You continue a little further until you stop and notice that your legs are aching, your feet hurt and you’re sweating like a pig. Finally, you decide you’ll just quit climbing altogether–but just then a friend comes by to remind you of the prize atop the stairs and to celebrate all the progress you’ve made thus far! That’s accountability!

Accountability has been often misspoken of as the stick hitting you when you don’t do something right. More and more, I’m coming to view it as the staircase that supports and celebrates you as you ascend to your destiny!