Who knows?

Sooner or later, all drivers are forced to make a decision. We asks the question in our minds, “Which road do I take?”

I was on a two-week trip to England many years ago. As it happens, I was given a car by some friends and was able to drive all over the location where we were staying. It was great, but two things you will learn quickly when driving a car in England: First, the driver side is on the right side of the car. You can imagine the confusion that initially grips you when you are turning left and you realize you normally would be dozing off, people watching or staring out at the scenery. And then it hits you – YOU ARE DRIVING, NOT YOUR PASSENGER! Secondly, when driving in England there are many nooks and crannies and roads, none of which look wide enough to fit a motorcycle, let alone a vehicle. And you have to get your map out and figure it all out!

If you don’t have a map, you a re in trouble. If you are male, you are even in more trouble because you will not get out of the car to ask someone for directions. But if you do, take care – if you have just arrived from American soil, you might have a hard time understanding half of what they tell you! (Contrary to what you have heard, English spoken in the “mother tongue” still qualifies as a foreign language!) When all is lost, we throw up our arms and say, “Who knows?” It is then that we have to say a prayer and hope for a miracle. Funny how we eventually get where we need to. Coincidence? Divine Providence? Hmmm.

Someone knew. They guided us all the way.

I remember the shear terror that gripped me when I graduated from High School. “What am I gonna do now?” I asked this over and over in my head that whole post-graduation summer. I had virtually ZERO aspirations, being a very talented procrastinator, party animal extraordinaire and carefree / no-thought-for-tomorrow kind of guy.

I played the fool all through high school. And the most foolish of all things – I actually thought I could live this way indefinitely. But God knew differently.

That’s the thing; God knew.

When I was at the end of my rope, my back against the proverbial wall during my first year of college, I couldn’t take the despair and fear anymore. I needed God to show me. I needed God to tell me my future.

You know what’s funny? He didn’t tell me anything about my future… except that I was going the wrong way! It was as if that RED SIGN on the Freeway Exit Ramp that says “WRONG WAY” was placed in front of my face. God called out to me and told me it was time to grow up, get up, and get going with my future – His way.

I don’t know where my path will lead me in the coming days. I would guess, if I did know, I would probably freak out anyway.

Tarot Cards? Palm Reading? Horoscope?

Really?

I think it’s much more fun to trust God and know as LITTLE AS POSSIBLE of my future. That’s me. If I was told when I and where I would meet my wife exactly, I probably would have messed it up somehow. I may have tried to speed up the process. Or worse yet, I may not have felt the necessary freedom to make the right choice in the first place.

All I can tell you is this – I STILL don’t know where I am going! I STILL don’t know my future. God knows. I guess, that’s really all we need to know.

Who knows? God does. And because of that, you can trust Him to guide you every step of the way.

Until next time,

Jeff

Photo used by permission. Flickr / Creative Commons License

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You’re So Annoying

“You’re so annoying!”

That’s exactly what my wife said to me recently after a friendly discussion about the garbage disposal. I don’t know why she said it. I wasn’t trying to be cute or snide or sarcastic. I thought the disposal was just fine. It works. Sure, it’s old and smells bad. But it works.

Another reminder to us men that women truly are from VENUS!

Seriously, I think all of us, married or single, would admit that we annoy one another at times. And if no one has ever annoyed you before, you are either a true saint in whom there is no blemish, or you have always lived alone in a cave!

Sure, we conflict with those we love the most at times. That’s part of the relationship process – known as “iron sharpening iron”. Only problem is, this reality is often a grating and conflicting experience, resulting in frustration and sometimes, exasperation.

“Does this mean that relationship is bad for me and I need to get out of it?”

No. Relax. You’re relationship is just fine.

Now if there is abuse of any kind occurring then read no further because what I have to share today is for those healthy relationships in our lives that sometimes include conflict.

If you grew up in a large household with many siblings, at least more than yourself, you already know conflict just happens automatically when you include any other human being into the equation.

But guess what? This is a great opportunity for The Life to have a new growth spurt in your spiritual life. Those little pet peeves and creature comforts that we secretly cultivate and make room for suddenly get jostled and jilted when you live with others.

Eventually you have to let those go to an extent, or find ways to compromise so that all parties involved can each benefit. And when we are the ones being affected in some way by someone else, it requires management of our emotions, irritations and even anger.

If I can look to The Life inside me, I find there is grace and patience that I personally do not possess, and I find myself having the power to deal. And sometimes, accept, and occasionally, enjoy.

You know what? That person may be “so annoying”, but then again, without them, The Life will never get chances to grow and stretch and develop inside you.

And that may be annoying in an eternal sort of way.

Until next time!

Jeff

Don’t get offended.

“I mean this in love and in no way intend this to come across as negative or critical, but…”

Ever have someone start out a conversation this way? Not the easiest statement to hear someone else say to us. Well, don’t feel too bad, it’s only natural to put up an emotional wall, or get verbally defensive when someone we know well confronts us with an issue.

Whether they say it in love or not, or whether it is even well-intended or meant to hurt us, I think we can learn to glean value from any kind of confrontation, rebuke, even attack.

Granted, some verbal attacks are purely worthless and should be discarded immediately. In fact, I sometimes think the reason many of us get defensive when spoken to this way is actually because of a lack of GOOD DEFENSE.

Now hear me, I am not saying that it is good to “get defensive”… not at all. What I propose to you is this: If we have built healthy boundaries (read any book from the amazing series BOUNDARIES by Henry Cloud and John Townsend) in our Circle of Relationships (ask ME for a copy of this helpful tool ), we won’t have to “get defensive” when bombarded, attacked, or lovingly addressed in a proper way.

You see, if you have built healthy DEFENSES ahead of time, you don’t need to GET DEFENSIVE at the spur of the moment!

You can listen to that person, chew any meat they may have given, and spit out the bones. And if someone gives you ALL BONES, well then you can spit the entire mess out and get a good breath mint later!

Jesus didn’t need to get defensive when verbally attacked by his critics, because he already had healthy defenses built before hand.

Some of these defenses relate more to a healthy view of ourselves and a confidence of who God is in us and the fact that if He is for us, we have nothing to fear.

In fact, if you find yourself getting defensive often, that indicates you probably have not built good DEFENSES up in your inner man. And in fact, you may find inside your soul many conflicting sources pulling and pushing you to really fly off the handle emotionally, psychologically, physically.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Now I would be a hypocrite to make it sound like I am such a well-adjusted human being that I have never, ever become defensive. The exact opposite scenario is closer to the truth. You see, I found so many unhealthy emotional triggers inside of me when I first started my spiritual journey – I was one of the most defensive people on the planet. I discovered part of the reason had to do with being a very caring person – I was sensitive. But sensitivity without a healthy defense system on the inside will produce a lot of pain. I had to “toughen up” as others say.

But truthfully, it had nothing to do with getting tougher, but with getting fortified with a good set of boundaries and inner foundational truths. It took years and still I am growing in that area even to this day.

I wish I could go into greater detail with this, but if I did, this would not be a blog entry, but a book. And for more detail, you are going to have to wait for THE BOOK – “The Life” ha ha.

So all I can tell you is this – you and I need our source to be God inside of us in order to build healthy defenses on the outside. Then and only then, when the time comes for someone to “share a personal word” with us, we won’t get defensive anymore, but instead, with peace and calmness we can gently listen to the person(s) and filter the information properly with a smile, and even say, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I will take it into consideration. Have a great day!”

Sounds easy, of course it is not. But with His Life inside of us, it is more than POSSIBLE!

Until next time,

Jeff Saxton

I Got Your Back

“I got your back.”

I was listening to Jim Rome the other day on his syndicated radio sports talk show.

He was interviewing an athlete and said, “Hey bro, I got your back.” You know what he meant by that, right?

That’s how dudes tell each other they are loyal to them. I think it probably comes from the military idea of watching out for the other guy. You know, you are clad in your soldier garb, helmet, rifle and all – sitting in the foxhole in the jungle with the enemy firing all around. Your fellow soldier buddies are on all sides, shooting. It’s your turn to jump out of the foxhole and run over to the bullet-ridden army jeep that has extra ammo cases and retrieve them.

While you are literally running for your life, your fellow soldiers are supposed to “give you cover” or shoot at any and all possible enemy locations. In this way, they “got your back.”

I love this notion.

There is something ethical, moral and even spiritual about friends who “got your back.” That’s really what a true friend is – someone who has your back; in the midst of negative or critical comments or gossip, your friend is somehow able to say, “Yeah well I love that guy anyway. And I got their back.”

How do you feel when you find out a supposed “close friend” does not have your back? What do you do when a friend has perhaps turned against you in some way, or betrayed you in some manner?

Julius Caesar was totally shocked when his closest friend, Brutus, stabbed him in the back along with the Roman Senate. For some reason, in my mind it is easier to forgive Brutus for a political betrayal – after all, it wasn’t personal – just business! 🙂 I find most upsetting are the betrayals in which the motive is centered in jealousy, greed or fear.

When I see someone act like they are a close friend to someone, and then when not in their presence they clearly do not have their back, I really have a hard time with that. There are those who use friends like tools – they have their back for as long as they are useful to them in some way, but the minute they are no longer needed, suddenly they no longer have their back and they are dropped like a hot potato – put right back in the box of “I don’t have your back anymore”.

This is messed up. Right?

People who cannot keep any close friends often do this kind of thing – I think its a personality disorder. There are many “wolves” who stalk lonely women looking for someone to “have their back.” These guys come along and treat these women like they are queens, and then they drop them in the “I no longer have your back” box. Some men can juggle several women all at the same time in this way.

If you have a problem with this, I would take a good hard look inside – is it possible that you see others, including close friends, as a means to attain some kind of personal gain? If so, you know this is really a selfish way to operate. You don’t have anyone’s back.

Someday you will be in the foxhole and the crossfire will be more than you can bear. You will look back at your buddies and to your shock, you will be all alone with dead bodies. And guess what? They weren’t all just shot by the enemy – some you turned on and shot in the back when they were busy trying to protect your back.

And when the ammo runs out, you’re gonna have to get up and run. Good luck making it out of there alive.

Something to think about.

As always. 🙂

Jeff

Image

So that…

“Wanna hear the most annoying
sound in the world? Aaaaahhhhhnnaaeeeeyyyyyaaank!”

That’s a direct quote from the blockbuster comedy film “Dumb and Dumber” starring Jim Carrey as Lloyd Christmas. It was a very funny moment but I recommend the edited version.

I must admit I laughed out of my chair during that movie. But I think it illustrates a point – sometimes we think we are connecting and communicating positively and effectively with others when we might be making the most annoying sound in the world.

We live in a world of “so that…”

Most people today do what they do, so that:

~ their spouse does something in return.
~ they can get promoted.
~ others are impressed with them.
~ they can get a tax write-off

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with doing something positive to get something in return.

But I Corinthians 13:5 really sets the bar high when it says, “Love is not self-seeking.” And then at the beginning of the “Love Chapter” it says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I’m like a… clashing cymbal.”

Can you imagine walking into a group of people who are clashing their cymbals as loud as they can in your direction?

That might just be the most annoying sound in the world – people who speak God’s truth to others but they have no love.

What is love? Well for one thing it is not self-seeking. When you love another, you seek to help them with no “so that” whatsoever. Also it is totally focused on the other person. Don’t you hate it when well-intended know-it-alls talk AT you or ABOUT you rather than TO you, or WITH you?

If we truly love our neighbor we will lift them off the side of the road, bind up their brokenness, bring the healing oil of compassion and grace and hang in there with them through their pain.

Why? Because love does without any “so that”. We don’t think about how our service might impress others, or how a good deed might benefit our reputation or political or vocational goals. We do simply because Love Does.

Let’s try to remove the “so thats” in our lives and start discovering what real love is all about.

Hey, you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?

Until next time,

Jeff

On The Air

Many of you probably don’t know this but I was a cohost of a weekly talk show for three years on Omaha’s #1 talk station KKAR in the 1990’s called “Straight Talk”.

It was a call-in show hosted by Ty Schenzel and his beautiful and über-talented wife Terri (ok Ty , if you are out there you are über-talented as well of course!) and me – and we literally had the time of our lives!

We must have had fifty young people and adults on our creative teams (Straight Talk Brain Trust and Straight Talk Spinal Cord) and they came up with the most amazing ideas for our shows.

One of my roles beyond cohosting was often opening the show – we would have the count down from our amazing KKAR producer CJ, and then the “live on the air” light would come on and I welcomed everyone to the show.

It was always nerve racking because the countdown would begin and we were tweaking and strategizing right up to the time limit.

I think the most memorable thing about the show was touching such a wide audience – and just getting an idea of how many hurting people there are in our world. Being on a show like that can go to one’s head if not careful. But I’m thankful that instead, it made me more convicted that I want to be in the transformation business for the rest of my life regardless of my vocation. I want my life to make a difference in the lives of others.

I hope you can take a look around you today and see the needy people everywhere, and instead of thinking “how can these people serve me?” Think rather, “how can I help be a transformational agent in my world and help others become successful socially, physically, spiritually and economically?”

Are you ready to go out there today and make a difference in someone’s life? Even a kind smile has been known to re-route the courses of some of the most desperate and hopeless.

Get ready! Pretty soon you will walk out the door and have many opportunities!

“Three… Two… One, and …

We are Live, ladies and gentlemen!”

The Two Paths

You know how you are walking or biking down a new trail that you have never been on before and you come to that literal “fork in the road”?

If you are an adventurer like me, this is an exciting moment! “Two choices instead of one! My little adventure just got twice as exciting!”

I remember last year my wife and I were driving around some back roads of a national park, and we kinda got lost.

It was exciting however because we were in the mood to get “lost” even though we had a map and we knew we could find our way back if we needed.

It was fun.

Either path was about the same and generally took you back to the main public roads at a similar point.

Life also has paths. People today say, “There are many paths and they’re all good, they all generally get you to the same location – so what’s the big deal?”

Jesus said there were ultimately only two paths – two ways. With two gates. And he said they couldn’t be more different. (Matthew 7:13-14)

One way is wide and many take that path and it leads to destruction. Then Jesus said the other path is narrow, few take it, and it leads to life.

This Sunday I will be speaking in church at Rochester Assembly about these two paths and how in high school and just after graduation, I underestimated the seducing power of the path of destruction. I also realized some of my friends were going down with me.

I had been spared certain death twice. Also I was literally rescued out of a river as I floated face down in the water after passing out from over-intoxication – and I was selected to drive us home!

Nice!

Home was an hour drive. I got home finally after dropping off my drunk friends and laid in my bed, and squeezed on to the sides for fear I would fly off because my room was spinning about 100 mph! I have yet to find a ride at Disney that can equal the speed of that spinning bed!

I knew I was in trouble. I was depressed and unfulfilled and addicted.

Ultimately God spared me miraculously and in a moment my life was transformed as God met me in the middle of my hopelessness.

Soon after, I found a small group of people who had chosen the narrow path to life as well. For the next several years we were to walk that journey together and see amazing and wonderful things beyond my wildest imaginations.

But I never forget the power and addictive connection that the path of destruction had on my life.

I do not judge those who are caught in that path. It is wide, most people are on it, and it takes a miracle to be set free from it’s grasp!

Until next time!
Jeff

Earning Not to be Heard

Someone mentioned this common Christian cliche’ the other day to a friend as I overheard them discuss how to talk to people who have chosen to live a sinful lifestyle – “Well you know, we got to earn the right to be heard. We can’t just go up to people and bombard them with our opinions about the sins of other people.”

It may be a cliche’ but I like it nonetheless.

I’m not going to waste your time or mine to get into details of what was meant by the comment “sinful lifestyle” because that could include the pastor down the street that lives an honest life in certain areas of his personal life yet extorts money from his flock.

A person struggling with sin in any area is technically living a “sinful lifestyle”. I’m so glad no one from church came up to me in high school and confronted me in a judgmental manner about my sinful lifestyle.

The thing is, I certainly was living a sinful lifestyle. I was convicted every Sunday about my alcoholic partying and wild adventures that involved trouble with the law. But in order to tell me about my sinful lifestyle, you need to earn that access. That’s a social rule – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Another cliche’ that I like.

So next time you see that sinner on the street or in the office or on the bus, take those stones you hold in your hand and drop them on the ground. When you have that sinner’s attention, ask them how their day is going, and really listen to their answer. then, if you must speak about sin, tell them about the worst sinner you ever met – you!

I’m joking – a little bit. Sort of.

When people see we have let go of the angry stones and picked up a wooden cross, they will be drawn to the love of Jesus and finally, want to hear what we have to say- which should mostly be about God’s amazing love and grace who saved a wretch like you and me!

Until next time!

Jeff

Forgive and Forget?

You grow up hearing this in elementary school, right?

“Oh, just forgive and forget.” Okay, I’ll get right on that. My problem is, I have a fairly detailed memory and very good recall and retention level. And my mother and my wife have an even greater memory than I do!

Maybe you are like me – you forgive and then remember forever.

One could say that if we have vivid memory of past offenses, it means we really haven’t truly forgiven. I think that is the case with many people today – they kind of “forget” the offense for the time being, but have not truly forgiven the trespasser from the heart. And when the occasion suits itself to think about that offense, we relive it and pick the offense back up, perhaps with more bitterness and anger than ever before.

So we first need to really GET THERE in terms of forgiving others from the heart. We literally let go of the offense, and choose to let God deal with the heavenly justice of the issue.

There are actually many people who are so afraid to be offended that they convince themselves that the offense never happened; yep – a little defense mechanism called DENIAL.

You need to admit the truth of the situation and accept the reality of it no matter how painful. Once you get there emotionally, you should struggle with some initial feelings of bitterness or anger. Immediately following this, you are ready to begin forgiving.

And when you forgive, of course the truth is you need to let the offender OFF THE HOOK. You need to release the offender. You need to give it to the Lord and let go of it. Just let go. That’s hard for us sometimes, right?

But will this mean we actually forget the offense ever happened? Don’t count on it.

Jesus said to forgive 70 times 7. That’s a lot of forgiving the same person for the same offense. But it makes sense with those of us who have vivid memories. Whenever you remember the offense, forgive. If it means forgiving every day, or every week, or every month the same person of the same issue, so be it.

That’s hard. It would be much easier if we could actually forget painful memories altogether.

Next time you think you have forgiven your neighbor and you recall their offense, forgive them again from your heart.

Who knows, you may eventually forget it ever happened.

Until next time,

Jeff

Tomorrow

“I’ll get to it tomorrow…”

Famous last words.

Some of you out there are habitual go-getters – you are always over-prepared, you were the first one to finish each homework assignment in high school, you always finish everything you start…

Hmm. On second thought, I don’t think I know anybody like that. Oh, there are people I know who come pretty close to the aforementioned description. But alas, none of us are perfect.

I personally think it’s a miracle when any project is completed. Of course, the scope of the assignment makes all the difference.

Your project might be to clean your storage room – but can you imagine Noah having to stay focused on building the ark? This was a century-long process! What patience Noah must have had to must each day as his detractors mocked him.

“Hey Noah! How’s that boat working out for ya?” “Noah I hope your planning to put three-story wheels on that thing!”

They laughed and laughed at him, until it rained. And tomorrow finally became today and it was too late to get on the boat.

I hope you have the patience to stick with whatever God-given promise you may be waiting on. But don’t get complacent – tomorrow becomes today a lot sooner than you think!

Until next time,

Jeff