What we have here is a failure to Communicate!

A failure to communicate is at the core of every relational problem.  Marriage problems, family difficulties, work stress and more is generally centered around or the outcome of a communication problem.  We must begin fixing our relationship problems by fixing our communication woes.  Here’s some initial steps:

1. Don’t assume.  Many, many, many of the relationship problems that I have counseled with are the result of misunderstanding.  One individual assumes what the other one really meant by something.  One made a comment and the other misunderstood what they meant or what their real intention was.  We focus on supposed intentions.  We jump to conclusions.  We are judgmental even if we don’t think we are.

2. Lead the conversation.  Leading the conversation does not mean dominating the conversation.  It does not mean doing all the talking.  Leading the conversation is done by asking the key questions or redirecting the conversation back to the topic you wish to cover.  This can be done subtly and with few words.  It is often best done with a question.

3. Listen, Listen, Listen.  A good communicator listens to what others are saying.  So often I have been in a conversation where you can tell that the person I have been attempting to talk to is distracted and focused on getting out their next sentence whenever I am talking. Listening involves turning off cell phones, putting away laptops, muting televisions and powering off radios.  Focus on what others are actually saying.  Work at listening.

4. Compliment.  Give compliments to those you are talking with.  Compliment their help, their time they have given, their understanding and their interests.

5. Keep emotions in check.  Don’t argue.  Don’t get mad.  Don’t lash out.  Don’t call names.  Bite your tongue.  Don’t let your emotions control your comments and your responses.  Stop and think before your speak.  Don’t just blurt out what is on your mind. Slow down.

My prayer for my children is that they are more than just happy.

I have heard so many parents tell me lately “I just want my kids to be happy”. Unfortunately, this has now crossed thresholds in our Christian homes that places a value on happiness over all else – even sin.  There have been a number of instances where an adult, married child has decided to leave their spouse and they end up committing adultery and beginning a new relationship with someone new.  Too often, Christian parents respond today by proclaiming: “I just want my child to be happy”.

I want and pray for more than just happiness for my Children.  My boys are both young adults now and I desire that they have a close relationship with Christ.  I pray that they are always in the midst of God’s Will.  I expect them to always place integrity and character at a high level.  I pray that they put others needs and comforts above themselves.

When Jesus had finished washing the Disciples feet He proclaimed to His hearers that if they would follow His example “happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).  So, ironically, in God’s system – when you don’t seek happiness but serve others – you end up with happiness.  Searching after our own happiness shows our selfishness and pride of life.

So I am not looking for my boys to “just be happy”.  I am looking for them to be the men that God wants them to be – and in doing that they will indeed find happiness.

 

God is my Trail-manager Part 12 ‘Hiker Hunger’

When hiking the Appalachian Trail the hiker is burning calories at a tremendous rate. When coupled with the fact that the hiker can only carry a small amount of food with him, the hiker is always looking for the next town, restaurant, hostel or anywhere else he can buy a meal.  Hikers love to find buffet’s where they can eat as much as they want.  The hiker is often surprised at how much more they can eat now at a single meal than they ever would have eaten before.  They refer to this appetite as ‘hiker hunger’.

In the Christian life we are supposed to be “hungering and thirsting after righteousness”. Too often it seems the Christian is nibbling at the Word of God or sampling at the truth. The Christian should have ‘hiker hunger’ – a strong, unabated desire for the truth of God’s Word.  There should be a deep seated hunger to learn more, hear more and study more about God.  Christians don’t have a hiker hunger for God because they have become couch potatoes for God.  We are content to nibble and snack here or there.  It’s time we get hungry for truth and righteousness!

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God is my Trail-manager – Part 11 “White Blazes”

The Appalachian Trail is famous for being a well marked trail.  The ‘White blazes’ which mark the trail are 2″ by 6″ and there are tens of thousands of these markings that show the way for both north and south bound hikers.  It may take a bit of diligence in some areas to find the blaze, but for the most part the entire 2185 miles is well marked and easy to follow.

Jesus Christ told us “If you love me; keep my commandments”.  The way of the Savior might be “straight and narrow” but it is easily marked.  We don’t have to wander around looking for the right way because the way is clearly marked.  The Lord gave us some clear markings for our walk:

1) He gave us his written Word – the precious Word of God that tells us exactly what God expects of us and how exactly He has reached out to us.

2) He walked Himself as an example for us.  Christ came to this earth and was ‘tempted in all ways as we are’.  He endured this life and lived a perfect example.

3) They Holy Spirit.  God has given us the Holy Spirit of God to reside within us as the temple of the living God to direct us, remind us, correct us and comfort us.

4) Those that have gone on before.  God has given us Godly examples, both the examples within the Word of God and those who are more contemporary in order to give us a guide and an example of how to live for Him.

We may not have ‘White blazes’ to follow – in fact – we have so much more.  We are therefore – Without Excuse!

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God is my Trail-manager – Part 10 ‘Keep Walking’

The Appalachian Trail is 2185 miles long and it is a footpath.  The only way to cover the distance is by walking.  One foot in front of the other one step at a time.  If you are going to cover the entire distance you must keep walking.

Is it raining? You have to keep walking.  Cold today? The best way to warm up is to keep walking.  Trail too muddy?  Still have to walk.  Knee hurt?  Walk through the pain.  Bored? That’s a shame but you have to keep walking.  If you stop everyone else will keep passing you by.  They do not deliver pizza out there.  The warmth of a hotel or a soft bed in town is only possible if you keep walking.

The Christian life is not easy – it is not supposed to be easy.  God promised us that He would direct out paths if we acknowledge Him in all of our ways (Proverbs 3:6)   God directs the paths of the person who is moving – not the one who is standing still.  Psalm 23 reminds us that we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  When we walk – because we will walk through that valley at times.  God will guide us.  God will lead us. God will walk with us.  However, we must keep walking.  Never give up.  Keep walking!

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God is my Trail-Manager – Part 9 ‘Zero Days’

Most hikers will take a day off from time to time along their hike in order to rest or avoid some bad weather.  Hikers refer to these days off as ‘Zero Days’ – a day when they register zero miles.  Zero Days are important because they give the through hiker a much needed day off the trail.  Zero Days help blisters to heal and joints to find relief.  Zero Days also allow the hiker a day to do laundry, eat food they don’t have to cook, and catch up on news from the outside world.  Zero days are almost always done in town.

God implores the Christian to Be still and I know that I am God.  Jesus would often spend time up in the mountain or out on the lake.  Matthew 11:28  tells us Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

While there is much work to be done in the Christian life – it is also very important that we take ‘zero days’.  Time for vacation, rest and special time with the family.  Rest allows us time to recharge for the work ahead.  Rest also allows us quiet time with our Lord.

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God is my Trail-manager – Part 8 ‘Just Finish’

The Appalachian Trail is 2185.4 miles officially as of this writing (it changes from time to time as portions are re-routed).  The goal of a Through-Hiker is, of course, to finish.  To hike all 2185 miles from one end to the other.  Most through-hikers attempt to accomplish the entire trail in one year.  The average hiker needs between five and six months to walk it entirely.  Some through-hikers don’t have the time necessary to hike the entire trail at one time – so they hike it in sections – thus completing their through-hike over a number of years.  Either way – the end result is the same – the goal is just to complete the entire trail.

Most through hikers begin in the south at Springer Mountain in Georgia and head northward to Mount Katahdin in Maine.  This direction works best with the weather. Therefore, for most hikers, the goal is the summit on MT. Katahdin

God does not give us points for artistic style in our spiritual walk.  There is no medal for speed, no trophy for performance, no competition and no competitors.  Like the trail – the goal is just to finish.  Paul declared “I have finished my course; I have kept the faith”.  Our goal is just to stand before God and here Him say “Well done thou good and faithful Servant”.  Just finish!

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God is my Trail-manager – Part 7 ‘Slack-packing’

This week my son, Philip, passed the 1000 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail.  I have been able to walk with him on two occasions now and have walked about 50 miles with him over four days.  Three of those days I hiked consecutively with a 30 pound pack on my back.  One day I was able to walk with him in southern Virginia without a pack.  Needless to say – I would much rather walk 15 miles without a pack than with it.

Hikers call this ‘slack-packing’.  There are ample opportunities for them to call for a shuttle to pick them up and allow them to walk certain areas without taking their pack with them. For example: they will come to a road and call a hostel/shuttle service that is about 15 or 20 miles ahead.  That shuttle will pick them up and bring them to their hostel to sleep for the night.  The next morning the hikers will leave their pack at the hostel and the driver will shuttle them back to the pickup area where they will be able to hike back to the hostel without the extra weight.  Then, the next day, they will again hike 15 or 20 miles away from the hostel without their pack and call the shuttle to once again drive them back to the hostel and their gear.  The third morning, they will have themselves and their gear shuttled back to the previous pickup area where they will begin to hike as normal – but having been able to cover an easier 30 to 40 miles without the extra weight.

As a Christian, we often carry too much “weight” with us in the form of stress, burdens, sin, anxiety, fear, etc.  Our Christian journey is much more difficult that it is supposed to be because we are not leaving our burdens at the foot of the cross but are carrying our burdens with us. The journey is not any easier – just like the trail is no easier without the hikers packs – but walking it is easier without carrying the weight that God wants us to leave with Him.  After all – He is our Trail-manager and He wants to walk with us and help us along. This very thought is captured in the great hymn God Leads Us Along:

In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.

Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.

Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose, God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes, God leads His dear children along.

Away from the mire, and away from the clay, God leads His dear children along;         Away up in glory, eternity’s day, God leads His dear children along.

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God is my Trail-manager – Part 6 ‘Trail Magic’

All along the Appalachian Trail people from the local communities will reach out to the traveling hikers and help them in a variety of ways.  They’ll leave food along the trail, they’ll offer rides for hikers, they’ll pay for their meals at a restaurant or offer them some other assistance as needed.  The hikers refer to these unexpected moments of help as “Trail Magic”.

Isn’t is amazing when God allows unexpected help to come our way.  The card of encouragement, the word of wisdom, the Bible verse just when we need it.  It’s not magic of course – it’s the help we need, just when we need it.

This walk of life would be all the more difficult if it were not for the people that God sends our way just as we need it.  Scripture reminds us that we are “one body, fitly joined together”.  We need each other.  The importance of church fellowship cannot be overstated.

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God is my Trail-manger – Part 5 ‘Walking Wisely’

I have enjoyed being the trail manager for my son as he has experienced the Appalachian Trail this year.  I have sent him care packages at designated post offices.  I have kept him advised of weather conditions.  I have met him a few times along the way to encourage him, clean his clothes and restock his supplies.  I keep him abreast of current events and sports scores.

The one thing I cannot do for him is actually walk for him.  He, obviously, has to do that himself.  I help and assist from afar, but he’s the one actually putting one foot in front of the other each day covering hundreds and hundreds of miles.  Here are a few thoughts on his walking:

1) It is his responsibility to head the right direction.  That may sound obvious, but no matter how many guide books I get him, compasses he looks at, or advice he secures – he is the one that will get up in the morning, pack his belongings and head off in the right direction. That is often a problem for some people.  The shelter’s along the way may be off a side trail and the trail itself is not always straight.  Even if you are heading ‘northbound’ the trail may be circling a mountain and may be headed east or west at that moment. There are some instances where the northbound direction actually heads south momentarily.  You must get your bearings and head the right way.

God is my Trail-manger.  He has given me His book, His precious Word.  He has given me the Holy Spirit for direction.  He has given me good counsel to surround myself with.  But, God will still require me to stand at the Judgement Seat of Christ because he expects me to walk  wisely.

2) He needs to be mindful of where he is stepping.  There are many pitfalls along the trail. Rocks get slippery, sticks may roll and snakes may slither underfoot.  He who hikes must be mindful of where he is putting his foot.

The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.  We must be mindful of where we are walking.

3)  He must take care of himself physically.  The hikers along the trail quickly discover the wear and tear upon their physical well-being.  They must be mindful of their knees, ankles, and especially their feet.  It is easy to slip and break an arm or wrist.  It is easy to forget how much you are exerting yourself and not properly hydrate yourself.  Hikers must make sure they are eating enough protein and nutrition to keep up their muscle strength.

The Christian in his daily walk must be feasting upon the Word.  He must be mindful of the wear and tear that sin and this world can have upon their character and upon their spiritual walk with God.

4) The Hiker must get his rest.  Too many hikers over exert themselves.  They walk too far or push themselves too hard.  They must “walk their own walk” as they say.

The Word of God reminds us to Be still, and know that I am God!

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