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Unshakable Peace

Feb 25, 2017

Part II

Many years ago I spent a long ten years searching for what I thought would make me happy, wandering away from the Christian principles I had been taught, doing my own thing, as we say. And after that ten-year search, I was the most miserable, unfulfilled person you can imagine. In spite of career success and many blessings, I was not in any way at peace. That’s because I was not walking in obedience to God’s Word and I was totally self-focused and determined to run my own life. I mistakenly thought that doing it “my way” would bring the happiness and peace I so longed for.

How wrong I was. But I remember that when I finally came to the end of myself and turned back to God for forgiveness and restoration, the prayer I prayed was, “God, I’ll do anything you want me to do, I’ll be anything you want me to be, if you’ll just give me peace.” It was that peace that passes understanding which was sorely missing in my life, and I so longed to be at peace with God and with myself. I found that peace by giving it up—by letting go of the control of my life and declaring that God was God in my life from that point on.

That was many years ago, and I’ve been walking in the peace of God since then. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ve been peaceful every minute since that prayer, but it means that I began to learn how to live in the peace that Jesus gives me. There are still times when I lose it—times when I don’t practice what I know to be truth. But God graciously and gently restores me and brings me back to the basic truth that the peace I long for is found in Jesus Christ and in obedience to him.

That is unshakable peace—peace that cannot be destroyed regardless of the circumstances because it is not dependent on circumstances. It is dependent on my relationship with Jesus Christ; he is my peace and he never leaves me or forsakes me. So, that peace is mine regardless of what’s going on around me or how I feel or whether I’m in good times or bad times. That is unshakable peace.

I find it very interesting that peace is listed in Ephesians 6 as a piece of our spiritual armor. It says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Why do you suppose we are told to put peace on our feet? At first you’d think it would be better to put peace on as a breastplate to cover our heart—peace in our heart. But no, we’re told to put peace on our feet.

Here’s how I look at it. Have you ever tried to get through a day wearing shoes that hurt your feet? Is there anything more miserable? Seems like you just have to quit if your feet are hurting, if the shoes don’t fit well.

Think about the boots that people in the army wear. Those shoes are designed to be comfortable and do the job no matter what the conditions are. If you’re marching in the hot desert, those army boots keep your feet from scorching; in the snow, they keep them from freezing; on rocky, rough paths, they protect them from cuts and bruises. With those boots on, you’re prepared to keep going no matter what the circumstances are.

When we wear the shoes of peace, we can keep going regardless of our circumstances. It’s that peace of God, which is described as passing all our understanding. Have you ever experienced that kind of peace, where you knew when you looked around you that you ought to be in panic mode, but instead you’re peaceful—incredible, unreasonable peace? When we wear the shoes of peace, we have peace whether it makes sense or not.

You need to make sure you put those shoes on every day, especially when you’re under lots of pressure. Ephesians 2:14 says, “For He Himself—Jesus Christ—is our peace…” Peace is a person—it’s Jesus. You just need to focus your mind on the person of peace, Jesus Christ. It’s really important to put on the shoes of peace each day, because then you’ll know peace regardless of the circumstances.

Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:10-11 that the person who intends to love life and see good days must seek peace and pursue it. You have to go for it. It doesn’t just come like a blanket and settle upon you when all the circumstances are just right. It comes when you pursue it. Again in Romans 14:19 Paul says “Let us pursue the things which make for peace…”

It won’t just happen. You have to discipline yourself to stop at those panic points, and talk to yourself and to the Lord. Even in the midst of your workday, find a place you can get alone for one minute or five minutes for a peace break. Say out loud, “Lord, you will keep me in perfect peace if my mind is fixed on you. I choose to fix my mind on you. I put on the shoes of peace so that I can keep going, regardless of what’s going on around me.”

Jesus is the supreme example of peace in the midst of pressure. People were always crowding him, trying to talk to him, trying to touch him. He had a hard time finding any space or time for himself. He was constantly under pressure. But I notice that no matter how busy he was or how full the calendar seemed to be, he found time to be alone with God. I read something by R. A. Torrey once, which I wrote in the front of my prayer journal and to which I frequently refer. Let me read it:

“Some people are so busy that they find no time for prayer. Apparently the busier Christ’s life was, the more He prayed. Sometimes He had no time to eat, sometimes He had no time for needed rest or sleep, but He always took time to pray; and the more the work crowded the more He prayed.”

Lots of times when our schedules get very full, and the pressure starts to come in on us, the first thing we sacrifice is our time with the Lord. I find that’s the biggest reason I lose my peace, when I’m too busy to spend time with Jesus. I think that’s true of lots of us who are Christ-followers. When you don’t spend time with the Prince of Peace, when you’ve failed to go to the source of peace, then you’re left to face life’s pressures on your own and that usually means you lose that peace of Christ which you desperately need, especially when life gets very hectic.

What a silly thing for us to do as Christians. Here we have available to us the fountainhead of peace. Here we have the God of all peace ready to heal our frazzled nerves and bring calm in the midst of chaos. But foolishly we don’t go to him. “We’re too busy. He’ll understand. Something has to give.”

That’s a very foolish economy. Believe me, this is a lesson I must continually re-learn. I remember one particular period of time when the pressures and deadlines were great, and so the prayer time was minimized and sacrificed for a few days. In his oh-so-gentle way, God showed me that when I sacrifice prayer time to relieve pressures, I do just the opposite—I increase my pressures. He said, “Spend time with me, draw on my strength. You need me now more than ever. And I’ll take the remaining time and make it stretch to meet the responsibilities.”

Your lack of peace may be because you’ve sacrificed time with the Prince of Peace. Sorry, but it just won’t work. Like me, you’re going at it backwards. Give God the time, and see how he stretches it for you.

Probably the best testimony you and I can have in our hectic worlds is to demonstrate peace in the midst of a hectic environment. I have a dear friend who came to know Christ as her Savior because she kept observing one coworker who was peaceful in a chaotic work situation, and she decided she wanted what he had. She wanted peace.

That’s why I think the theme for our Annual Weekend Getaway this April is so right—Unshakable Peace. When you have it and you live it, you not only bring calm and contentment to your own life, but you shed the peace of Christ to those around you. You become a light in a dark world—in a world longing for personal peace.

One person wrote this after attending last year:

God brought me to the conference after being unemployed for a year. I just got a new job last month, and the conference came just at the right time as I am in a new season and trying to be a light at this new company. I met wonderful people, great ladies in the faith, with great stories of faith. I’m so thankful to have met them! God in his infinite wisdom and perfect timing is amazing. To God be the glory.

It’s testimonies like this that convince me God uses these weekend getaways to do amazing things in the hearts of those who attend. And as this woman says, a great part of the blessing is the women you meet and their encouraging stories of faith.

Our getaway is scheduled for April 21–23, 2017, and we meet in a lovely hotel in the Chicago suburbs. Women come from across the country for this time of spiritual renewal. I’d love for you to join me and enjoy the fellowship of these special women, the inspiration of our speakers, the time of worship with our musicians, the lovely accommodations and good food—and set this weekend apart for God to speak to you and meet your particular need.

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Unshakable Peace

Feb 18, 2017

Part I

How can you find truly unshakable peace in your busy, hectic, pressurized everyday world? Everyday peace—peace when the workload is too much, when the deadlines are unrealistic, when the environment is hectic, when the people around you are losing it, when your stomach churns and your head aches—how is it possible to have unshakable peace in the midst of life’s pressures and demands?

Now, I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t have pressure in your life. Just between you and me, pressure is not always a bad guy. From my point of view, if you constantly live free of pressure, you’re probably not accomplishing very much. Anytime you start to get involved in anything, anytime you decide to contribute something, anytime you take on responsibilities, pressure becomes a part of the scene.

I know that I need some pressure to get me up to speed. Give me too much free time too often, and I’ll waste it. Pressure forces me to be organized and to prioritize my time much better. So, I think we may have given pressure a bad name it doesn’t always deserve.

And then, I really believe God uses pressure in our lives to teach us many things. Pressure teaches us to turn to him. Pressure makes us look up more often. Pressure keeps us aware of our need for him.

How many mornings I say to the Lord, “Lord, I really need you today.” Often I sing that great old hymn, “I need Thee, oh, I need Thee, every hour I need Thee.” Pressure makes me see how much I need him.

Of course, there is such a thing as too much pressure, and we certainly need to be careful about that. God reminds me frequently that I can’t do everything, and there is a limit to the amount of pressure I should handle. He gave us minds and will give us wisdom to know when to say “No.”

But did you ever think about this: If you don’t feel pressured, you aren’t. Pressure is a state of mind, and can only get to you through your mind. I am learning that if I don’t feel pressure, I’m not under pressure. And if I don’t think I’m under pressure, then I won’t feel pressure.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I do not have a “laid-back” personality. I tend to run in high gear and can often display signs that the pressure is getting to me. When my mind is saying to me, “Oh, boy, you’ve got so much to do. You’re never going to make these deadlines. You’re too busy; your life is out of control,” or similar things like that, then the pressure starts to mount and they become self-fulfilling prophesies.

Jesus told us “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). When you start thinking about all you have to do tomorrow and the next day and the next, your mind goes into panic mode. The pressures build and they are too much for you, because they are pressures from tomorrow. Jesus said we have enough to handle just for today.

But if you refuse to dwell on those thoughts, the pressures of tomorrow won’t get to you. Honestly, I’m learning to find that unshakable peace in the midst of pressure by changing and controlling my thought patterns—by not allowing myself to think of my life as pressurized. Rather when I start to think these kind of pressure thoughts, I try to stop myself and think instead of how miserable I would be with nothing to do, and how I appreciate being able to do things I love to do. I think of all the good things God has done for me and how blessed I am. And as soon as I do that, the pressure starts to subside immediately and peace begins to take over.

One of the most important concepts we can grasp in our Christian life is that we are what we think. Much of our pressure we bring on ourselves because we allow ourselves to think incorrectly. Everything begins with our thought life, and that includes whether or not we’re peaceful. If you’re not experiencing unshakable peace, check out your thought patterns.

The Bible teaches us to bring our thoughts into captivity and make them obedient to Christ. That just means you think about what you’re thinking about and you simply don’t allow your thoughts to take you where they should not go. Now, that’s easier said than done—believe me, I know that. It is a simple principle, but it is not always easy. That’s why we must have the power of God’s Spirit in order to truly have unshakable peace. And we have that power when we are born from above through faith in Jesus Christ, because then God’s Spirit comes to indwell us and empower us to do what otherwise would be difficult if not impossible.

If you can keep your mind peaceful, regardless of the hectic schedule that faces you, or the unhappy circumstances you find yourself in, or the difficult people you are dealing with, you will be peaceful. That’s because your peace is not dependent on anything except Jesus and the truth of his word.

If you’re wondering how you make it work, exactly what can you do to be peaceful in a hectic, hassled world; I have a sure fire, guaranteed formula for you. Ready—here it is. When you’re feeling pressure and you’re not feeling peaceful, stop and check out your thoughts. Take ten seconds and say to yourself, “I must refocus my thoughts so that I have peace.” And where do you refocus your thoughts? Here’s the secret—you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s found in God’s Word, Isaiah 26:3: “Thou wilt keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because she trusts in Thee.”

Take some peace breaks; close your eyes, focus your mind on Jesus Christ and say to yourself, or out loud if possible, “I want to be in perfect peace right now in the midst of this pressure, so I choose to focus my mind on Jesus Christ.” You may have to do it repeatedly, but that’s okay—it will teach you the important principle of replacing wrong thoughts with right thoughts.

Unshakable peace is ours through Christ, but we must learn to appropriate it—to live in it. It’s a gift, but we have to receive it. This is such an important principle for us to learn that we’re going to focus on it for our entire Annual Weekend Getaway. What is a weekend getaway, you ask? Well, it’s just that—a weekend for women to get away from their normal routines and have time to refresh and refurbish their souls.

You will recall that Jesus frequently “got away” with his disciples. They needed time away from the pressures of the crowds and the fatigue of ministry to spend time talking and resting and finding the strength that comes through fellowship. This will be Annual Weekend Getaway number 29 for us, and I continue to host these because I see how God uses them to truly give new direction, to heal wounds, to comfort hearts—so much good is accomplished. And you know, much of it is simply because we take the time to be together with other faith-minded women, to hear God’s truth taught and sung, and to worship God without having to rush off. There’s something about getting away that makes a difference.

Maybe you’ve never attended this kind of conference, and you’re not sure whether it’s right for you or not. Let me share what one woman wrote after last year’s conference:

This weekend was so unique. The speakers really opened their hearts and shared their weaknesses. They allowed themselves to be vulnerable. All the other conferences have been like this, too, but this year seemed very special. Each year is even better than the previous year, and they are all special and done with such excellence.

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Fran & Jesus on the Job – Boundaries – Part II

Nov 5, 2016

Part II

Do you find it difficult to set boundaries? In this episode of Fran and Jesus on the Job, Fran keeps trying to sprout superwoman wings, thinking she can be all things to all people, and ending up with misplaced priorities which create stress and burnout for her.

The challenge of setting reasonable boundaries is almost always a relationship issue. And it frequently comes from our misplaced idea of what it means to be a good friend, or what it means to be a good team player. There’s no doubt that as Christ-followers, our standard given to us by Jesus himself is to go the extra mile, to do more than is required of us. We are called to be servants, as Jesus was, and that should always be our attitude.

But when we try to do more than we should do and we think that going the extra mile means we jump through everyone’s hoops and meet everyone’s expectations, we are then in dangerous territory. This is how we become burned out; it’s how we become enablers; it’s how we allow false guilt to drive us into exhaustion and resentment.

I would remind you that Jesus knew how to say no. Do you remember when the disciples were looking for Jesus one morning because a crowd of people had gathered to hear Jesus again, and no doubt were eager to take advantage of his gift of healing? They found him alone, praying, and they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” The disciples tried to tell Jesus that he should come back and preach to the crowd waiting for him, but Jesus knew when to say no. You’ll find that story in Mark 1.

Another time a man stopped him and asked him to settle a disagreement. He said, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But Jesus said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Basically Jesus said, “Sorry, that’s not my job.” He drew a boundary and said no, even though he could have done it but it was not what he was sent to do. You’ll find that story in Luke 12.

Jesus knew that he could not please everyone; in his human body while here on earth he had physical limitations, as we do. He became weary, as we do. He needed rest and time alone, as we do. And in order to do what God had sent him to do, he had to refuse to do other things—he had to draw boundaries. I believe his example teaches us that we must also learn to draw reasonable boundaries in order for us to be able to do what God wants us to do.

Let’s consider some other boundary issues Fran is facing. It’s Wednesday of this week in her life, and she has just barely made a deadline for her most important client, but it was at the expense of late hours last night because she allowed a coworker to talk her into helping her for “ten minutes,” which turned into three hours. This was one of the boundary issues she faced in last week’s episode. Fran is relieved that she got it done, but quite honestly, she is exhausted and sleepy.

With two hours to go before the end of the day, she is counting the minutes until she can leave, tying up a few loose ends, and dreaming of going to bed early when the kids do tonight. But in walks her manager, who says,

“Fran, if you’re not busy tonight, I’d love for you to join me for dinner with the Vice President of Marketing, who is in town this week, you know. I’ve been telling him about your success and how much you’ve contributed to the fact that we’re twenty percent ahead of our quota, and he asked if you would join us. I know you have your kids, but if you could get a sitter, I’d be glad to cover that expense for you.”

Don’t do it, Fran, the inner voice of God’s Spirit seems to say to her, but how can she say no? I mean, how often do you get this kind of opportunity to make a good impression? Well, she thinks, I can do it. Mom will keep the kids for me, I think, and it’s just one night. So she hears herself saying, “That’s very nice of him. I, uh, I think I can make that happen. Let me make a call and I’ll get back to you.”

She calls her mom, who does have plans for that evening, but Fran twists her arm and convinces her that her Dad will be glad to watch the kids while she’s away, so of course, Mom can’t say no either, and Fran has that problem solved. Then, when she gets home and explains to the kids that she has to go out to dinner with her boss, Drew complains, “But Mom, we agreed that you would help me with my science project tonight. You promised.”

Oops, that’s right. Fran did promise Drew help tonight, since she couldn’t help him last night because she had to bring work home. Now what? Well, Fran is determined to make this dinner with the Vice President. After all, it’s her job! So, she convinces Drew that Granddad will help him with the project, and after all, Granddad is much better at these things than she is. Drew is not happy about that. “You mean, I’ve got to take all this stuff over to their house? Can’t Granddad come over here?”

Okay, so now Fran has another issue to resolve. Can she talk her Dad into coming to her house, which will make things much easier for Drew? It’s worth a try—so she calls her dad, who is on his way home from work, and plays on his Granddad heart. “Dad, Drew really wants your help with his science project tonight—you’re so much better at this than I am, and I was wondering if you’d mind coming over here. It would be kind of difficult to move all his stuff over to your house and then back here. Is that possible?” So, a tired Granddad agrees to change his plans and fill in for Fran.

This is just an example of the unintended consequences that can happen when you refuse to set some boundaries. Of course, once in a while these things happen and people have to step up to the plate and help out—especially with single moms. I was a single mom for many years, so I get that. But much of this particular situation is a result of Fran’s inability to set some boundaries.

You see, not only does Fran have difficult saying no to the irritating and unnecessary requests that are made of her, she also has trouble turning down an offer that she sees as positive. That’s understandable—most of us have that same problem. But if she keeps living outside the margins of her life, overriding reasonable boundaries, the day will come when she’ll have to deal with some serious not-so-nice consequences.

Can you identify with Fran? I can think of times in my life, when my daughter was young and still at home, when I didn’t set boundaries on myself. I took a job that required a great deal of travel and kept me away from home too much. But it was a somewhat glamorous job that I really wanted so I convinced myself that I had no choice. That was not true; I could have refused that promotion in order to stay home, but I didn’t want to do that. So, I exceeded reasonable boundaries that should have been in place in my life at that stage of my daughter’s life.

The dinner with the boss and the Vice President wasn’t as productive as Fran had imagined it would be. It turned into a much later night than she expected, and the conversation didn’t always stay within business boundaries. After a few drinks, this Vice President told some inappropriate stories, make some remarks that verged on sexual overtures, and it became a pretty uncomfortable situation. Fran used the excuse of getting home to her kids to exit the dinner as early as possible, but it was still ten o’clock by the time she got home. With apologies to her Dad, she tried to clean up some of the mess from the science project, get her house in decent condition, and fall into bed at midnight.

Now, it’s Friday and she is running on fumes. “Thank God it’s Friday,” she says to herself. “There’s nothing on the calendar for the weekend. So, I can sleep late, get stuff done at home and take it easy. And I promised the kids we’d do something fun tomorrow, whatever they would like to do.”

Then, at about 3:00 she sees a text from her Pastor asking that she help with a special event at church tomorrow. He writes,

Fran, I know this is a late request, but did you know that Courtney Trent’s mother died suddenly—heart attack, I think—and so she’s not able to do the registration for our equipping class tomorrow. We’ve got over 200 people registered, and I need someone who knows the program and the software, and can handle the registration process calmly and efficiently. That, of course, is you. Again, sorry for the late request, but I’m sure hoping and praying you can do it. Let me know as soon as possible. Thanks, Pastor Paul.

“Well,” Fran says to herself, “how do you say no to that? I’m so sorry for Courtney. It’s certainly not Pastor’s fault that this request is so late—and for sure he needs help. It is church work, after all, so I just think I have to buck up and do it. Some weeks are just like this and you just need to get through them. Of course I’ll help him.” And so she sends a response that assures Pastor Paul she’ll be there.

Now she has to break the news to her kids and disappoint them, work late on Friday to get her Saturday chores done, and try to get a few hours’ sleep before heading off to church. What a week!

Have you found yourself in some similar tough weeks? They happen and are sometimes unavoidable, but if you find that far too many of your weeks are exceeding reasonable boundaries, it might be helpful to take a look at the underlying causes for this dilemma.

For Fran, it’s a combination of trying to please everyone, enjoying the recognition she gets from being the go-to person who can do lots of things well and feeling guilty when she has to say no.

And another reason is that she thrives on activity. She loves challenges. She enjoys winning and hates losing. And therefore that competitive spirit often gets her in trouble.

So, what does she do? That’s how God has made her, she reasons. True, but God has given her a good mind, has promised to give her wisdom, and has a list of good deeds for her to do that will not bring her to continual burnout. Hard work? Yes, of course. Weariness at times? Certainly. But not a continual habit of crossing reasonable boundaries and thereby depleting her energies, which often causes her to neglect more important responsibilities.

If you have trouble holding to reasonable boundaries, and you know it, perhaps you’ll consider what causes you to do that, ask God for wisdom, and then pray for his strength to stick to your boundaries. It really is the best way to live out your faith.

This is necessary in order for our lives to glorify Christ. Out-of-balance lives aren’t good testimonies. I find when I’m overstepping my boundaries, that’s when I’m most likely to develop a rotten attitude, say things I regret, hurt people I love. It’s a never-ending challenge for me, as I’m sure it is for all of us, but we have the power of God’s Spirit to enable us to set and keep reasonable boundaries.

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Fran & Jesus on the Job – Boundaries – Part I

Oct 29, 2016

Part I

As much as we have heard about boundaries, as many books that have written about it, there are lots of us that still struggle with setting reasonable boundaries in our lives. And I have to confess that I continue to find it a challenge to set and keep boundaries. Sometimes it seems like a conflict of interest—don’t you think? I mean Jesus taught us to go the extra mile, but how many extra miles do we go before we’ve exceeded our boundaries?

This is one of the issues we face as followers of Jesus Christ—how do we balance the principles of servanthood and putting others’ interest ahead of our own with the need for boundaries? And that’s exactly what Fran is facing in this episode.

As we look at Fran’s struggle with establishing appropriate boundaries for her life, part of the problem is that she has the somewhat misplaced idea that as a Christ-follower, she should try to do what anyone asks of her. After all, she thinks, isn’t that what Jesus meant when he told us in the Sermon on the Mount that we should go the extra mile? Well, no it isn’t. One mile, yes, but not unending extra miles.

In this episode of Fran and Jesus on the Job, Fran faces various people in her life who are pushing her boundaries. They are each different but they represent the various ways that boundaries can become a real issue. The first one deals with a friend who continually exceeds normal and acceptable boundaries when it comes to requiring a lot of Fran’s time.

It’s Sunday afternoon and Fran has planned to spend a quiet day at home with her two children, just enjoying an afternoon to play games with Drew and Alice, and maybe even do some good reading, one of her favorite pastimes that she doesn’t get to do very often. Just as she is in the midst of a game of Crazy 8, having fun with her kids, the phone rings and Jane is on the other end.

Jane is a friend from church who calls Fran quite often and talks for long periods of time about all her issues. You might say she is a high-maintenance friend, but Fran has tried to listen and help her, thinking that this is the right thing to do. Admittedly it has become a bit out-of-balance and as Fran sees Jane’s number on caller ID, she is really tempted to just let it go—but she’s supposed to be there for her friends, right? So, she answers and sure enough Jane begins her typical long and detailed complaining and whining. Jane is the type who tells you how to build a clock when all you want to know is what time it is.

At first, Fran tries to encourage her and offer some suggestions, but everything she says is resisted by Jane, and it seems Fran can do nothing but listen. Whatever advice Fran may have is immediately discounted by Jane. “That wouldn’t work” is her familiar retort, or “You just don’t understand” is another.

After twenty minutes, Drew says, “Mom, aren’t we gonna finish our game?” No doubt Jane heard Drew, but she completely ignores it and continues her tirade. After another ten minutes and several pleas from Drew and Alice, Fran realizes that Jane is not going to stop anytime soon, so when Jane takes a breath, she says, “Hey, Jane, the kids and I were playing a game and I promised them we’d finish, so if you don’t mind, I need to get back to them. I’ll be praying for you. In fact, why don’t I pray for you now before we hang up?”

Jane says, “Well, I know you’re always busy and don’t have time to talk—I guess games are more important to you than friends.” And with that she hangs up, totally ignoring Fran’s offer to pray.

“Wow,” Fran says to herself, “I guess I should have let her keep talking—but honestly, it doesn’t do any good to listen to her. She simply isn’t interested in solutions or advice; all she wants is to bend my ear and get my sympathy. I don’t know, Lord, what am I supposed to do?”

Was Fran right to finally bring this conversation to a close? She feels a bit guilty, but then she feels guilty about her commitment to the kids as well. If it were a one-time event, the answer might be different. But Jane has been doing this to Fran for several weeks, and this is the first time Fran has assertively brought a conversation to the close, which obviously has not set well with Jane. Did she have a better option?

Have you got some “Janes” in your life—people who continually bend your ear and take up your time, but nothing good ever seems to come from it? Maybe it’s time to do something about it. Perhaps instead of putting up with Jane’s time-consuming litany of complaints, Fran needs to consider what she might to do help Jane, while at the same time setting some boundaries for these frequent one-sided conversations. It’s obvious that they aren’t accomplishing anything good for either woman.

So, I would advise Fran to find the right time—maybe over a meal—where she could try to help Jane, perhaps by advising her to seek some spiritual or professional counsel, while explaining that Fran doesn’t feel qualified to offer that kind of counsel, nor does she have time for lengthy discussions due to being a single mom. That’s a little risky, admittedly, and it may bring an end to their friendship, but at least it offers some hope for Jane if she would listen.

You see, setting boundaries is often very uncomfortable and false guilt is one of our enemies. Fran needs to recognize that the guilt she feels is totally inappropriate, refuse to accept it, and take that hard step of setting some boundaries, for her sake as well as Jane’s.

Have you learned to distinguish false guilt from true guilt? They feel about the same, but one is legitimate and the other isn’t. In this case, false guilt says to Fran: I should be a better friend. Jane is unhappy with me so I must have done something wrong. False guilt is usually vague non-specific feelings that you’ve failed but you can’t put your finger on exactly what you’ve done wrong.

I’ve written a book entitled Why Do I Always Feel Guilty?—which you may find helpful if you are struggling with lots of guilt. I understand because I finally recognized my tendency to take on guilt at the drop of a hat, and that’s when I began to seriously confront and pray about it, which eventually led to writing the book.

Here’s another boundary issue for Fran, this time involving a co-worker.

It’s Tuesday and Fran has a plate full of things to get done for one of her most important clients before a deadline on Wednesday. As she digs in with a plan to make it happen, a co-worker walks into her office. “Hey, Fran, how’s it going?”

It’s Amy, a nice gal who is a project manager like Fran, but who somehow always seems to need help from others—especially Fran! “Hi, Amy. Well, it’s going good, but I’m under the gun to meet a deadline by tomorrow. How are things going for you?”

Uh-oh, Fran thinks, that was probably not the best question to ask. So, Amy begins to slowly talk about a presentation she is preparing for a new prospect tomorrow, but she is stumped. As she explains her dilemma, Fran feels it coming—Amy is going to ask for her help. And sure enough, she does.

“Fran, I know you’re busy, but you’re so smart and so fast, if you could just look over my presentation and give me your opinion, I would be so grateful. I really need to get this account; my manager says if my sales don’t pick up, my job could be at risk—well, at least he implied that. It won’t take you ten minutes. How about it?”

The voice in her head says, “Don’t go there, Fran. This is a time to say no.” But her exaggerated idea of what it means to “go the extra mile” overcomes her better sense, and she agrees that she can give Amy ten minutes.

What happens? Ten minutes turns into three hours, where basically Fran completely redesigns her presentation, makes it much stronger, and Amy is thrilled. “Sorry it took so long, Fran, but I know you’ll do a great job on your project. Thanks so much,” and off she goes. Now Fran has to take her work home, take time away from her family and her sleep in order to meet her own deadline.

Here’s a situation where Fran has trouble saying no. You see, Fran is a very capable person who truly can get a lot done in a short amount of time—and done well—and so she has a well-earned reputation for being a go-to person. And guess what—she likes that image. She likes to be the superwoman who amazes people with her abilities. So pride is one reason she keeps trying to do more than she should.

But another reason is that she truly wants to be a servant, and she prays regularly that God will give her a servant heart. She believes that no one is in her life by accident, but somehow that good motivation has at times caused her to take on more than she should, not only for her sake, but it has caused her to become an enabler of others at times without realizing it. Fran should have listened to that quiet voice which told her to say no, but she just finds that so hard to do.

How do you come to the place where you know when to say no, when to go the extra mile, and when to draw the line in the sand and stick to your boundaries? Truthfully, there are no hard and fast rules here, but one thing to consider is whether or not you are becoming an enabler by refusing to say no. In this case, Amy takes the easy way out and gets Fran to do her work under the guise of needing “a little help.”

What should Fran have done? Well, she should have refused to do Amy’s work for her. If it were possible to look at her presentation for a short ten minutes, offer her some suggestions, and be done, that would have been appropriate. She could have said, “Amy, I can give you exactly ten minutes but no more. If you think that will help, I’m glad to do that, but otherwise, I just can’t do more today.” But Fran would have to stick to that ten-minute boundary and not allow herself to exceed it.

Then, because this has become a habit with Amy, she probably needs to find another time to carefully explain that her own workload is all she can handle, and at the same time, share some things she’s learned that have helped her put good presentations together. Amy is probably just lazy, and as long as Fran is willing to do her work for her, why should she go to the trouble of learning how to do it herself? Bailing Amy out is a form of enabling her, and in the long run she is not doing her a favor.

Boundary-setting is challenging for Fran, but her attempts at being superwoman will not benefit her or her friends. So, she needs to address this issue in her life. Maybe you do as well.

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Balancing Our Energy Checkbooks

Oct 28, 2016

PROGRAM D-7695

What is it that uses up your energy and leaves you living in “overdrawn” mode too much of the time?

We are looking at how we often waste our energy unnecessarily. For example,

  • Our strength is used up when we have money problems.

When your finances are a constant problem, it unquestionably drains your strength. Credit cards can be your downfall. Maybe you need to get on a budget and stop this drain on your life.

  • Our strength is used up when we fill our minds with junk.

What are you allowing into your mind? If it’s lots of junk, maybe not evil but just junk, then you need to put a screen on your mind. That includes television, music, reading material, conversations—any input into your mind. The more you clean it up and get rid of the junk, the more emotional and spiritual energy you’ll have for things that are important.

  • Our strength is used up when our lives are not disciplined.

Proverbs says that we die from lack of discipline, and I believe that many of us are drained of energy because we refuse needed discipline in our lives. When you get the discipline going the way the Lord wants you to, it’s amazing how energized you start to feel. The good feelings that come from accomplishment energize us for more accomplishments.

What I’d like to suggest is that you take a few minutes to list where your energy comes from and where it goes. Make a balance sheet, if you will, showing the assets and liabilities. Then take a look and see where you are out of balance. Just list on one side what you do to pour inner strength into your life, and on the other, what are the things that drain your energy. You may well discover that you’re out of balance.

And that could be because you don’t put enough in or you take too much out. It could be you put the wrong things in and spend your energy in the wrong ways.

It may mean you have to disappoint some people, or make some changes in your life-style in order to use your energy more wisely. We are called to be servants, but we can’t serve very effectively if we’re out of balance.

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Balancing Our Energy Checkbooks

Oct 27, 2016

PROGRAM D-7694

Where do we get the strength we need to give to others as we want to, to keep from being burned out and frayed around the edges all too often? We’ve looked at what we need to put into our energy bank accounts so that we aren’t living in overdrawn mode.

4.  Our Strength Comes from Physical Well-Being

Shakespeare said something to the effect that no man could be a philosopher when he had a toothache! A. W. Tozer puts it: “While it is possible to be a weary saint, it is scarcely possible to be weary and feel saintly.”

When our bodies are not in the best condition, either from sickness or fatigue, our strength can fail us. That’s why we must be good stewards of the bodies we have, doing everything we can to preserve them and keep them vital.

Now, what about the things which drain our energy. First, there are the inescapable drains on our energy, such as getting up in the morning! Children, mates, family, housework, jobs. But many times we expend energy, even in these areas, unnecessarily. Let’s identify a few of the foolish things that often drain our strength:

  • Our strength is used up when we try to do more than we can do.

God has not called us to be all things to all people. Jesus was careful where he went to minister. He didn’t try to go to every city; he didn’t heal every sick person; he didn’t preach to everyone on the face of the earth. Yet he could say at the end of a very short three-year ministry that he had accomplished what his Father had sent him to do.

Have you got too many irons in the fire? Are you trying to prove something to yourself by being all things to all people? Or perhaps, like me, you just have so much you want to do that you can’t resist. Maybe you have a hard time saying “No.” Whatever it is that causes you and me to over-commit, we need to get this area under control.

  • Our strength is used up when we have too much “stuff.”

Did you know that the more you have, the more energy it takes out of you? Have you cleaned your closet out lately? A home or apartment full of valued “treasures” is a real drain on your energy. Now I’m not suggesting we can’t have things that we enjoy, but the question is, do you enjoy them or are they just sapping your time and energy?

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