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

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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

Rest

“Hey, you look like you could use some rest!”

How many times have I heard someone say that to me this past year? Too many to count.

Yes, 2012 was very busy for me. A lot going on for a creative person like me who always has too many good ideas. But you know, I would rather be busy than bored.

We’ve all been reminded this year I’m sure, how precious our time on earth is. We never know how long we have to live. And if we suddenly run into health issues, well then life would become quite a different experience.

Having said that, I do believe in resting. After all, God did make an entire day out of the week to remind us how important resting is.

There is a way to get rest and still be about the things God has called us to. I certainly do not have it mastered. I tried to rest over the Christmas holidays.

Have you ever had the thought that Christmas vacation is busier than any other time of the year? We all look forward to this time of “rest and relaxation” even if it is more hectic than usual.

Somehow, God wants us to expereince HIS REST by walking and living in the Spirit. Somehow there is a way to engage in Christmas activities and yet still find time for God to refresh us.

I pray that 2013 is more restful for you than u ever dreamed; even if it is your busiest ever!

Risk

Ever been to Vegas?

I have. I don’t gamble. I really don’t like casinos. The entire scene is a tad bit off-putting for me. I like some of the cheap food and the amazing shows. I wouldn’t say my dislike for Vegas has anything to do with strong moral objections. I mean, in every city in the world there are places that most folks would find morally objectionable. On the other hand, we are living in this world and sometimes we find our calling right in the midst of a sinful environment. Jesus expects us to learn how to live a pure and ethically clean life while simultaneously reaching out and being a light to a dark world.

Kind of a tricky deal.

Vegas has taught many people lessons about risk. Yet when you think about it, choices we make every day have an element of risk. When we vote, send our kids to school, apply for a job, join a church, shop for a new or used car, or purchase a home, we are putting ourselves in a position of risk. Life involves risk taking. Even simple things like drivng our car to work involve a certain amount of risk.

When it comes to our faith, we may face choices that involve risking our comfort, reputation or even friendships. Although I greatly dislike being put in a vulnerable position, I also realize that great success cannot occur without stepping out into the unknown. When Jesus told Peter to walk on the water with him, Peter was afraid. I guess I am more like Peter than I want to admit. At least Peter took that first step or two and walked for a few moments.

Maybe it’s time to walk across the neighbor’s pool.

Baby steps.

What’s Your Story?

I love a good story.

Especially do I love a good story well told.

One of my favorite memories growing up was listening to my father and his brothers telling stories about their childhood. The crazy pranks they pulled on each other growing up on a Southern Minnesota farm rank in my mind as some of the most hilarious and outlandish stories I can ever remember hearing.

One such story that I recall them telling often was when my uncle (5 uncles and 1 aunt on my father’s side) was a teenager and working shirtless in the yard under a sweltering sun, my father (2 years younger) saw a perfect opportunity to pull the daily prank. He plucked a corn cob out of the field, emptied the core, and filled it with the usual load of gun powder. Then my father attached a fairly short wick – judging his distance (as all of them had become increasingly proficient at estimating when it came to homemade explosives), he snuck behind the large hay barn, and lit the wick. Immediately he flung the corn bomb over the barn, not really knowing how close his throw was to hitting his brother.

It should be noted that this particular corn cob was not of the soft sweet corn variety. Rather, it was the hard as rock kernel kind. As luck, or fate, would have it, my father threw the most accurate corn grenade in the history of corn cob explosive tosses. It was heading point blank for the bare back of my bent-over uncle. And when it got to about five feet from his back, it exploded into a spray of hard corn kernel shrapnel. Needless to say, I shrill cry of agonizing pain went out from the family acreage and was heard fifteen miles away in every direction. Cut to – the lifeless body of my uncle laying prostrate and unconscious on the ground, with about one hundred red dots swelling at a rapid rate.

That story has been told probably over a thousand times over the years. The amazing thing is, it was just one story among dozens and dozens of equally dangerous and hilarious stories about my father’s family. Somehow they survived, I am happy to report!

The skill with which each uncle told their story is especially remarkable. After a few of these story sessions, it was clear they had learned the art of telling stories. They all seemed to have a knack for setting up each story with enough backdrop and detail, but also knew how to deliver the pay-off, or punch line depending on the story.

They were all true stories, with very little exaggerations. But what was amazing was the roar of laughter that was always produced with each story. Many times, there were twenty or thirty cousins and nephews and aunts and relatives gathered around. I dont know if I have ever laughed harder in my life.

I have always been a story-teller. I have always enjoyed hearing stories and watching or reading stories. Most likely this has to do with my upbringing.

God is the ultimate storyteller. It has been said that the story of Jesus is the ultimate story. Some of the greatest movies of all time have a messianic storyline. Many superhero storylines follow a messianic plot line. In fact, God is in the habit of making great stories out of you and I. Each one of us has a journey, a destiny, a story to fulfill. Just read the Old Testament for five minutes and you will come across some amazing stories of people in need, and trusting God as He once again comes through.

So the next time you find yourself really enjoying a good story, just think about the story you are in – your own life! Believe God for miracles in your life today. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t let others discourage you. Usually those who discourage us are too afraid to finish their own story so they spend their time foolishly tearing down other’s stories. Quite frankly, the Bible has strong words for the small people who resort to such actions. Don’t give up on your story! But even when we fall down, He will be there to complete the story He started in you! (Philippians 1:6)