Category: Sheeri Mitchell’s Journal

A pastor friend of mine once declared during a singles’ bible study that a man knows within three weeks of meeting a woman if he wants to marry her. Recently, a friend recalled this teaching and posted the quote to her Facebook page. Within minutes, the comment thread had garnered over 20+ comments, some rather lengthy, from both men and women – nearly all confirming the statement.

Thinking over my past experiences and those of my friends, both male and female, married, single, and divorced – not to mention those couples whom my husband and I have counseled, I agree. Although it may take the commitment-phobic male a bit longer to make his intentions known, a mentally healthy man definitely knows sooner rather than later if he has met his bride-to-be.

The manner in which men convey interest is through pursuit. Steve Harvey in his book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment, contends that a man who wants a long-term relationship will do several things to make his intentions known. He will:

  • Profess his intentions toward his woman; usually bestowing a “title” upon her of some sort, such as girlfriend or fiancé
  • Provide for her in one form or another, usually financially – the degree of financial provision proffered depends on the man and the woman
  • Protect her from those who would seek to offend or injure her

While Mr. Harvey’s assessment may appear archaic and chauvinistic, there is truth in it.

I have witnessed enough singles first hand, and counseled enough married folks to attest that the one constant in a relationship is a man’s lack of pursuit. Meaning, if a man doesn’t woo to win his beloved’s affections, he never will. Granted, a man may pursue his woman initially, then sometime after marrying her slack off, or cease to do pursue her altogether. Exactly when and how the slacking can start varies from husband to husband – but sadly it can and often does happen. Wives can be equally as guilty of slacking off – especially where sex is concerned (but that’s another, different blog).  On the other hand, I have never known of, or even heard of a man, who, failing to pursue his woman in the beginning stages of their relationship, suddenly upped his efforts after years of their being together as singles or as a married couple.

If a man wants to be with a woman, he pursues her. If a man wants to marry a woman, he asks her. It really is that simple. Styles of pursuit may vary according to his upbringing, cultural/ethnic background, financial means, level of education attained, understanding of women, or even his country of origin. But in the end, pursuit is identifiable. Likewise, lack of pursuit is equally identifiable. A man who doesn’t pursue initiates nothing – except perhaps sexual contact, or socializing for the sake of sexual contact (AKA “booty calls”).

Be forewarned: If you are a woman who is content with pursuing her man, or waiting around for him to “commit,” then be prepared for a lifetime of doing so – because chances are – your situation will never change.

Be blessed, Family.

Fasting is a discipline that is often overlooked and misunderstood among present-day Christ Followers. Along with prayer and giving, fasting is foundational to a fruitful, dynamic life. If you are one of those folks who crawled out of 2010 on your hands and knees, begging God for a fresh anointing, new opportunities, and a more intimate relationship with Him in 2011, then consider starting 2011 with a fast, offering God your “first fruits” as it were.

Whether you are a veteran or a novice in the area of fasting, take time to prepare yourself for the experience. Changing your nutritional intake, whether going without food entirely, or modifying your diet to exclude certain foods causes a shock to your body. Prayerfully consider the duration of your fast, whether it will be absolute or partial, whom you will ask to pray for you during the fast, and/or whom you will invite to join.

Loosing weight is often a side effect of fasting. But do not confuse a fast with a diet or with abstaining from activities, such as watching television. The biblical definition of a fast is to go without food in order to seek God. The benefits of seeking God in this manner are the quieting of the soul, drawing closer to the Lord, hearing His voice more clearly, and experiencing His power more fully. Taking out food entirely or removing certain foods from your meals, places you in a state of dependence that you cannot even begin to approach on a full (or overly full) stomach. In short, fasting humbles you, causing you to see your need for God more fully.

Although fasting is a private matter between you and the Lord, securing prayer support to see you through your fast is wisdom at work. Nevermore does it become evident how much time and attention we give to eating as when we fast. It seems that the one person in your office who is perpetually dieting, will spring for cupcakes for the entire office on the first day of your fast. Food billboards seem to jump out at you from the side of the freeway. Commercials for junk food seem to be recorded in smell-a-vision about five days or so into your fast. Temptation beckons everywhere you turn. If you ask faithful saints to pray for you throughout your fast, you are more likely to see it through.

Consider the situations in your life you’d like God to address during your fast. Any area where you find yourself consistently failing, struggling, stressing, grieving, fearing, or experiencing depression or any other negative emotion can be a starting place. Any pressing need – such as improvement in your child’s poor behavior, healing for your marriage, physical healing for yourself or a loved one, an egregious wrong you desire righted – is something you can bring before God during your fast.

Keep your bible close. Especially if you are a novice, seek out a reading plan. While there are some people who can open the bible everyday of their fast and “happen upon” a passage that “speaks” to them, I prefer a reading plan that I can stick to daily. Let me just be honest, about 8-days into a fast, all I want to do is sleep. I don’t even want to pray sometimes, let alone read scripture. Everyone and everything gets on my nerves. If, however, I have a set plan, I can maintain the habit of going to scripture when the hunger pains take their toll (usually meal times) or at certain other times of the day. If you don’t have a devotional, a workbook, or a bible with a reading plan, I recommend downloading You Version, a popular bible application to your smartphone and checking out some of theirs.

There is much more to be said about fasting than is room for here. If you would like to learn more about fasting and the rewards that come from it, I recommend reading Jentezen Franklin’s New York Times Bestseller, Fasting: Opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God.  Try to find the version that comes with the DVD. Both tools demystify fasting for the novice and strengthen the resolve of the veteran.

I encourage you to begin 2011 with a 3-, 10-, 14-, 21-,or 40-day fast. Doing so will set the tone for the rest of your year and position you to hear more clearly from the God who loves you dearly and desires your success in all areas of your life.

Be blessed Family!

Every first Tuesday, nine months out of the year, I have the privilege of going to listen to world renown motivational speaker, Lewis Timberlake. Boasting over forty years as an executive coach and corporate consultant, Timberlake has helped Fortune 500 companies and their lesser known counterparts go from good to great. If ever there was a man who knows “a little something” about cultivating habits that lead to success, Timberlake is he.

At his most recent lecture, Timberlake imparted to his eager audience strategies for overcoming stress. The lecture was riveting, entertaining, as well as thought provoking. But one portion of it in particular stood out to me above the others. It was the segment on how to control your mind. Timberlake maintains that one of the keys to conquering stress of any kind is to take control of  how you think. To that end, he gave four quick bullet points that I offer to you:

Quit Worrying About What Might Have Been

This may sound simple to do, but anyone who has experienced regret knows that its pull is a powerful one. While it is important to review our failures – deconstruct them even – in order to devise better strategies for the future, or to draw out wisdom from them, beating yourself up over them and continually mourning what might have been (and will likely never be) only results in missing out on the joy of the present. Don’t waste your time. Move on.

Carry And Read A List Of Your Victories

This was a suggestion I had never heard before. But Timberlake’s reasoning was profound. He stated simply that the world beats us up with our failures, so we may as well review our victories as often as we can. I suggest writing down or printing out your victories on a 3 x 5 inch card that you can carry in your wallet. Think of your victory card as a personal resume – both yours and God’s. Certainly every victory you’ve achieved came at His hand. Why not remind yourself of His faithfulness?  The number of items you squeeze onto your card is only limited by the font you choose. When discouragement threatens, read your mini resume to remind yourself that you have some wins under your belt and a mighty God watching over you.

Limit Time You Spend With Negative People

No one can completely avoid the emotional vampires who roam the Earth, seizing every opportunity to suck the joy from every soul in their path. It is possible, however, to cut down the amount of time you allow such people to siphon off your spirit. Evaluate your closest relationships and/or the people with whom you spend the most time in a week. Determine if your interactions with them are life-giving or not. Adjust your time accordingly. If necessary, seek out more positive company with whom to spend time – even if that means being alone for a good minute.

Plan To Have A Good Day

Good days seldom just happen. They take their cue from your mental state. Timberlake suggests training yourself to wake up grateful and happy. Instead of groaning as your alarm clock goes off, consider that God didn’t have to allow you to wake up at all. Start your day by thanking God for breath, then consciously seek out more blessings for which you can thank Him.

Timberlake maintains that the simple act of singing during your morning shower can lighten a person’s mood considerably. He doesn’t suggest that it’s a cure-all of any sort, but asserts that is a way to demonstrate enthusiasm physically and mentally, which in turn produces a positive emotional effect.

Timberlake’s last recommendation for a good-day-plan is to set aside time to read something that picks you up. Although the bible tops his list, Timberlake recommends choosing books based on the same criteria as selecting people with whom you spend your time. Limit your time with negative ones.

Timberlake’s simple suggestions for controlling your mind work because they are just good common sense. As the New Year fast approaches, instead of embarking on a one-person behavioral revolution, consider making a few small changes that you can repeat daily. Practice your small positive changes until you enjoy them enough to make them lifelong habits.

Be blessed Family! Happy New Year!

We’ve all been through it. We’ve hurt or have been hurt by a friend. Depending upon the depth of the relationship, the pain can range anywhere from moderately dull to gut wrenching. Questions and sentence fragments assault the conscious mind: “How could she?” “I can’t believe he-” “They must be kidding if they think I-” The complexities of human failure are no surprise to God; He’s been dealing with them since the garden. While neither you nor I have anything that comes close to our Father’s experience, we do have His word to help us navigate through the oft choppy waters of life, littered with friendship flotsam.

Before ditching your (potentially former) BFF, take some time to consider the following:

Ask The Holy Spirit To Show You Yourself

This might seem an odd request, since you’re perfect, and the whole mess you’re in was all your soon-to-be former friend’s fault anyway. All witnesses agree that you were wronged and that you have every right to be angry, hurt, and disappointed. While you may find your position justifiable, God may (and probably does have an entirely different view of your situation). You are incapable of examining your own heart. (Jeremiah 17:9) God, however, is not. Emulate the psalmist. Ask God to perform heart surgery on you. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Don’t Presume To Know Another’s Heart

Actions can be misleading. Your eyes can deceive you. You can guess incorrectly. You can arrive at the wrong conclusion. While you may be able to pinpoint the exact behavior that put you out with your BFF, you cannot know the intentions of the culprit. No one but God can. You can ask Him to show you. But short of any divine revelation, you will pretty much have to take your buddy’s word for why (s)he did what (s)he did. Whether you can abide by the reasoning behind the crime is a totally different matter. But refuse to connect the dots on your own. If perception is reality, then you can find yourself in a world of make believe if you insist on intuiting (or for the more spiritual among us – discerning) what confession refuses to confirm.

Don’t Fake The Funk

Jesus warns us that if we, while offering our gift at the altar, recall that our brother (or sister) has “something against” us, we are to leave our gift and go be reconciled to that person first. (Matthew 5:23-25) Translation? Don’t think you can commune with God if there’s beef between you and your buddy. God is not having it. Decide that you will make a sincere effort to resolve any existing conflict.

Extend An Invitation To Talk

Israel’s history with God is one of recurring failure. As a nation, the Israelites constantly violated God’s covenant with them. Yet God never gave up on them. In one of the most beautifully, heartbreaking passages from the bible, God lays out His charges against Israel, listing the many ways in which they have been unfaithful to Him. At the end of this biblical opening argument, instead of condemning His people to a life apart from Himself, God invites His stiff-necked, rebellious people to sit down and settle the matter. (Isaiah 1:1-18) The King James Version reads, “Come now, and let us reason together.” If the God of the universe can humble Himself to approach His own wayward creatures to request an audience, can’t you humble yourself enough to invite your offender to coffee?

Allow The Holy Spirit To Control Your Attitude, Your Discourse, Your Behavior, And The Outcome

It goes without saying that inviting someone to a “Come To Jesus Meeting” – as it were – is a waste of time if your attitude is obnoxious and your words are offensive. When approaching another with the hopes of reaching a resolution, humility is the order of the day. (Ephesians 4:2) If you view your former friend as an opponent, to whom you plan to give that proverbial “piece of your mind,” then just stay home until the Holy Spirit softens your heart. When you can allow the Holy Spirit to use you for a grace-filled encounter where the aim of your heart is gentle restoration, then perhaps you’ll be fit for human company. If you find humbling yourself too difficult, then review the first bullet point above.

Understand that even if you do everything in a manner which pleases God, you still may not get the results you desire right away (or ever). The important thing is to honor God with your attitude and your actions, and to allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, restoration, and healing in His time.

Forgive As God Has Forgiven You

I could go on and on about how toxic unforgiveness is to the body, mind, and spirit. But at the end of the day the best reason to forgive the poor slob who wounded you is because in relation to God, you are no different from him or her. (Romans 3:23) Refusing to forgive is not an option for the believer who seeks an intimate, uninterrupted connection with God. You can struggle with forgiveness. You can even confess not wanting to forgive. But to abjectly refuse to forgive another is tantamount to declaring that there indeed exists at least one sin for which Jesus’ death wasn’t good enough to atone – the one committed against you. (Hebrews 9:12)

God is a social and relational God. He exists in three Persons and has for all eternity. He is all about harmony, unity, loving and productive cooperation, love, and peace. Just as He reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ, He desires the same reconciliation and agape love between His children. So before you ditch your BFF, consider your situation from God’s perspective. In a fallen world, sometimes reconciliation is not always possible. But seeking God’s perspective on your circumstances is always an option.

Be Blessed Family!

Listening to your spouse’s suggestions is merely a formality

You custom writing paper ask what he thinks, but you’ve already decided what you’re going to do. If he disagrees, too bad. You know better because you’re the smarter of the two.

You put him down publicly and privately

You’ve got a long list of how he fails you as a man and he knows it by heart. In fact, his friends, your friends, and any person within earshot knows it, too. Sometimes you mask your venomous attacks in the form of a joke. But trust me, he’s not laughing.

You alone discipline the children

He’s too hard on them – especially on your son. You know from your own experience that strict parents yield rebellious teenagers. You’ve resolved that you would never repeat your parents’ mistakes. Therefore your children will have more freedom and less oppression than you did – no matter what your husband says.

You make crucial decisions with the intention of informing him later

An opportunity arises and a decision must be made. Hubby will understand. So what if you forged his name om the refinance papers? People do it all the time. Who cares if you went over your personal shopping budget again? The sale prices mean you’re actually saving your family money.

You hold him hostage emotionally and/or sexually

Wherever two thinking people come in contact with one another, conflict is bound to follow. This is certainly true in marriage. In your case, the proverbial two-sided story has only one outcome, the one you decide. If the conflict is to be resolved, it will be done your way, or there will be no peace (or piece for that matter).

You alone decide when and how (in)frequently sex takes place

You’ve had a rough day, week, month, season, year, decade. You’re sick, tired, sick and tired, on your period, recovering from your period, suffering from PMS, menopausal, pre-menopausal, post-menopausal, have a headache – and quite frankly, you’re not (ever) in the mood to satisfy his animal-like desires. He wants too much sex anyway. Something must be wrong with him. Besides none of your friends have sex regularly with their husbands and their marriages are fine.

You plan all dates or family outings

You are more likely to get run over by a stampede of rabid elephants at midnight on the 4th of July, during a hail storm in your back yard than to be asked out on a date by hubby. You know the score. If you want to go somewhere that doesn’t have a playscape and happy meals, you’d better do the planning.

You like things to be done “a certain way”

You’ve got a system for how to fold and put away laundry (towels in thirds, not quarters), how to load and unload the dishwasher (tall glasses on the outside of the top rack only please), and even what time to make love (no morning nookie on weekdays). It is important that things be done correctly (read: to suit your tastes). You tell yourself and others, “I’m not a perfectionist; I just have a high standard of excellence.”

You decide how the money gets spent

You pay all the bills because if you left the bill-paying up to him the lights, gas, and water would be off by now and again next month. He wants to take that trip to Vegas with the boys next year. And you just might let him go – if he’s a good boy this year.

You overrule/undermine his decisions

He makes a declaration about how a trip, a discussion, or any given matter will go down and you second guess him or argue with him until he abandons his point of view. You call it “helping him to see things your way.” He calls it bullying.

It’s an ugly truth, but one worth examining. Some wives dominate their husbands. Some do so by choice, others by habit, and some out of necessity. Whatever the case, many times we wives don’t realize how far out of hand we are until someone (not our husband) gets our attention. If the Holy Spirit convicts you upon reading the list above, please do not resist Him. If you need a second opinion – ask someone who has observed your relationship and who will tell you the truth – instead of just co-signing your mess.

Be Blessed Family!

She Craves Independence And/Or Needs Salvation

Any woman who has known the freedom of taking care of herself, minding her own affairs, and experiencing any modicum of success in doing either, will buck against the very notion of having to surrender her self determination to another. In truth, submission in marriage does not exactly require such a surrender or at least not to a husband;  however, a relationship with Christ does. If your wife is not saved, she may never be able to see the need or recognize the advantage of biblical submission.

She’s Never Had Covering In The Past

Many American women over the age of 20 have grown up in homes without any father figure present. I’d be willing to bet you that whatever the national statistic is for single parent households led by women, for African Americans the statistics are even higher. Therefore it is very likely that your bride grew up having to fend for herself, or was taught that she is the only person she could ever really count on. That type of indoctrination does not disappear at the altar. Your wife may have to learn to lay down her arms before she can allow herself the comfort of your embrace.

Your Track Record Sucks

It is likely that from the minute your woman met you, she was observing your character. You may have ruined your credibility, if you have developed a habit of deception, namely: shading or putting your spin on the truth, omitting pertinent information, allowing misperceptions to stand, or out and out lying. Failing to keep your commitments or obligations to her or to others doesn’t help your case either. Examine the example you have set and adjust your behavior accordingly.

She Doesn’t Understand The Concept

Due to bad teaching on the subject, many women think that to submit to a husband is to become his doormat – leaving themselves open to abuse and neglect of all kinds. This is simply not true. God never requires any human being to take part in their own abuse. He affirms and protects our dignity and holds accountable any person, including a husband, who does not.

You Don’t Understand The Concept

Submission does not mean that your wife does whatever you say. If you have married a woman with half a brain and any self respect, you have likely figured this out already. What submission does mean is that positionally your wife undergirds you and supports you much the way players on a football team take to their positions to support the calls made by the QB.

You Don’t Appreciate The Difficulty

Biblical submission can be really hard – especially when your husband is behaving like an idiot. Let’s face it – men fail at being their best all the time. Women can see things that are often invisible to our husbands. We usually think in an entirely different manner and on several levels all at once. Our potential for greatness is unlimited. And we are often smarter than you are in so many areas. To take all that we are and have the potential to become and bring that under a husband’s headship can be painfully humbling. The wise husband recognizes that his wife does not need him in order to be great herself. She chose to align herself with him so that he could be. The even wiser man chooses to honor his wife for having made the choice to add her glory to his gusto.

She Doesn’t Respect Your Leadership

You may have blown it. You may have done everything right. She may be the oldest of six children and you the youngest of twelve. You may have advanced degrees to spare. She may have barely graduated high school. Whatever the scenario, whether justifiable or not, the wife who does not respect her husband’s leadership cannot submit to him.

She’s Endured Bad Past Experiences With Other Men

Whether it was Daddy, her first boyfriend, or her ex-husband, the guy who came before you did a number on her and wrecked it for everybody who would come after. Don’t trip. There is likely at least one woman out there who is recovering from Hurricane You. Be patient with your wife. Pray for her healing. Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance on how to love her toward wholeness.

She Lacks Successful Examples Of Submitted Women

Everybody’s got that one friend (or mom, God mom, or aunt) who was the ideal wife – submitted, left the work force to stay at home with the kids, kept her home neat, kept hubby fed – and who despite her best efforts was dumped for the triflin’ mistress. Some ridicule her for her blind faith. Others grieve for her lost youth – after all “she gave him the best years of her life.” All empathize with her. It wasn’t supposed to work out like that for her. Although all can agree that the problem does not reside with her. She did her part to honor her marriage vows. No woman wants to risk becoming her, so we stash mad money in the secret separate account (for when you freeze the joint ones), we refuse to quit our jobs (how else will we manage when you abandon us?), we keep our flirting skills up to date (for the day you decide to upgrade). Since so many of our parents and peers end up divorced, who can we look to see marriage done right?

She Lacks The Influence Of Godly Women

Your wife must surround herself with women who love God, who desire for her marriage to work, and who will hold her accountable for living God’s way. If she has no woman in her life who can at least point her toward Jesus Christ, submission to you is not likely to happen ever.

She’s In Rebellion

Your wife may fully understand biblical submission, agree that God’s way is best and still refuse to obey God. There is really nothing you can do to make her get on board. The Holy Spirit is the only One who can convict her heart and lead her to obedience to Himself. Your prayers are the most effective. God will not override her will. But he can soften her heart. Commit to praying for her as long as you have breath.

She Believes She Can Do A Better Job Leading Than You

There’s hubris inherent in this sentiment – especially if she’s correct in this belief. Yet and still, God’s order is such that he places the husband as the head of the wife. My husband often tells people that I am Condoleezza Rice to his George Bush. He respects my abilities, seeks out my counsel, and values my opinions. In the end, however, the final decision for the direction this family takes rests with him.

She Doesn’t Trust God

Do husbands “miss” God? Of course they do! And often – I might add. No matter. There is not one datum of knowledge unknown to God. A husband’s error may come as a surprise to him or to his wife, but never to God. God protects those who trust in him. Where a husband makes a poor, irresponsible, or just stupid decision, God shows himself strong on behalf of the wife who does her best to submit. As a wife discovers the depth and richness of God’s character (which is infinitely better than even the best husband’s), submission to her earthly husband becomes more natural and less stressful, because no matter how bad hubby blows it – she can count on the God who refuses to let her or her children fall through the cracks.

Whatever reason your wife has for not submitting – the choice to do so is hers alone. Keep your end of the covenant; love her as Christ loved the church. You may have a long, difficult road ahead of you before you experience a more blissful marriage, but is anything too hard for God?

Be Blessed Family!

November 14th 2010 saw me “lined up” along with nearly 30,000 other people at 7:00 AM in 40 degree weather awaiting the sound of a gunshot. Participating in the San Antonio Rock N’ Roll Marathon & A Half was one of the most uniquely, inspiring, life-changing events I have survived to date. Walking 13.1 miles in roughly three and a half hours provided me with a significant amount of time to think and to pray. As my numb body perfunctorily repeated the motions I had been training it to perform for the last five months, I made a few observations about the similarities between my Christian walk and completing a half marathon bubbled up to the surface of my consciousness. I humbly share a few of them below.

Decide on the front end that you will finish.

Staring down 13.1 miles of anything can be daunting. Since the finish line is not visible for the first 13 miles of the race, you are literally walking by faith that it is there. As you go, your enthusiasm will wane, but your determination must not.

Measure your progress by a reliable, absolute standard.

A mile is a mile is a mile. There is no way around that fact. Even if you are from a country that uses the metric system, a mile is still a mile. Along the route there were many times when I thought I was farther along than I actually was. “Surely mile 5 must be coming up,” I thought once. Nope, the marker confirmed I had just come up on mile 3. It didn’t matter that I thought I had 8 miles to go at that point, I had 10 and that was that. The only thing relative about the distance left to cover is how the marathoner feels about it. Hmmm.

Celebrate every victory along the way.

Every mile marker along the way reminded me that I was that much closer to finishing the race. I raised my arms in joy or hissed out a “Yes!” every time I passed one.

Be aware of the people around you, but not distracted by them.

There are some outrageously dressed folks who run half marathons. Enough said.

Take advantage of the encouragement you find along the way.

Thousands of people attend marathons – just to cheer! As the route took me through one neighborhood, I was moved by the sight of entire families standing in their front yards, early on that very cold morning, holding signs and yelling words of encouragement to everyone who passed their homes. The sight moved me to joyful tears.

Tend to small problems before they become big problems.

A  full bladder and cramping muscles do not just go away if you ignore them.

Don’t measure your success by the progress of others.

Did I mention that I walked the half marathon? As a walker, I keep a decent pace. I walk a mile in about 16 minutes. But I am in no way considered fast. The fastest people in the race I never saw – except in pictures after the race. Runners and faster walkers literally passed me left and right the entire course. It made no difference as far as my progress was concerned. God bless ‘em!

The medal commemorates the journey, but the journey itself is the reward.

This is just another instance where the non-tangible trumps the material. This is not to say I did not enjoy receiving my medal or that I did not sleep in it Sunday night and wear it all day that following Monday.

A little encouragement goes a long way.

There is nothing like having an entire high school cheer squad yell out your name while jumping and leaping, or seeing your family clapping for and frantically waving to you as you pass by, having a fellow walker yell out, “Go girl!” or receiving the thumbs up sign in passing from a singer belting out Pat Benatar lyrics. All of these things happened to me on the route. Each one fueled my determination to finish. It was equally as invigorating to encourage those I passed or who passed me with a timely word. In my case, “Good job!” always garnered an positive response.

Although everyone doesn’t start and end at the same time, or run in the same manner, we all have the same destination.

In a marathon with tens of thousands of participants, allowing everyone to run out at the same moment would be dangerously irresponsible. Therefore officials ordered the participants into groups called “corrals.” Each corral was released one at a time to start the journey, each with the same destination. As believers in Christ, we know that many have come before us and many will come after, but every human being stands before Creator God in the end.

If you can’t keep up, get out of the way.

You will only weather the trial in as much as you have prepared for it.

Medically speaking, completing a marathon or a half marathon is trauma to the body. Few people complete one without training for it. The better your training, the more smoothly the marathon is likely to go. In other words, smaller trials prepare you to triumph in the larger ones.

The mile before the finish line is the hardest.

Whether the cause is psychological or physical in nature, whether training or during the actual race, once I get to mile 12, everything starts hurting – my knees in particular. If I have chaffed, cultivated a blister, or knotted a muscle, at mile 12 I feel them all keenly. Thank God for the thousands of people who gather along that final mile to cheer and shout out words of encouragement! They remind me that on the other side of the pain is victory.

Stay the course.

Marathon routes are mapped out electronically and each participant is given a chip to record his or her progress. To go off course is to risk disqualification. To stop too long is to risk not finishing. On the eve of another race, my coach made a profoundly simple statement. She reminded us, “As long as you are moving forward, you will finish.” Words to live by.

Victory is sweet!

Upon crossing the finish line I was handed a medal. I felt very satisfied and quite frankly, extremely relieved. I had completed my task. The best part was knowing that I would get to see my family, who had left their cheering spot to meet me, and the folks I had trained with all season, who had already crossed over.

You’ll be surprised by who you see on the other side.

What I didn’t expect was to bump into my favorite Starbucks barista! After posing for my commemorative photo, getting some food, and limping over to retrieve my post race bag, which contained my warm, dry clothes, I heard a familiar voice addressing me. “Not many people from our neck of the woods here today.” I turned to see Troy, one of the most pleasant Starbucks employees I know. The first time I met Troy on a raining weekday morning, he informed me with a straight face, that water aerobics class would be starting in five minutes on the patio. He has been my favorite barista ever since. As we greeted and congratulated each other on finishing the race, I learned that Troy also had been training for the half marathon. Though we had covered the same route, roughly around the same time, we never saw each other until the end. It was a pleasant surprise for us both. I’m sure heaven will be full of such surprises, too.

Be blessed Family!

I close this three-part series on Blunders That Adults Make When Engaging Teens with blunders numbers 11 through 15. Naturally there are many, many more that I have personally made. In the area of mentoring and parenting, it is no secret to anyone who knows me that my failures are frequent and seldom as private as I’d prefer. I share them here because despite my many blunders, God has shown a grace that eludes description. Be encouraged. If you have a heart for young people and are willing to submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, God will work even through your failures to shape and mold His children into the likeness of Christ.  Offer your best, understanding that God alone transforms lives.

Blunder #11 Overstating The Problem

Getting a “D” in Language Arts does not mean that a student won’t ever get into a decent college. Forgetting to take out the trash doesn’t mean that a son is irresponsible and won’t be able to hold down a job. Getting pregnant in high school does not mean that the young woman’s life is over. People of every age fail in all manner of ways everyday. Mentors have the wonderful privilege of offering hope in every circumstance. This does not mean that mentors gloss over problems or minimize disasters. It does mean, however, that not every failure is tantamount to disaster. Sometimes a bad choice, a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, or a bad season was just that. Your mentee may need someone to point this out to him – why not you? Don’t add unnecessary pressure to your mentee by making his situation appear far worse than it really is. Use your position as an observer to offer much needed encouragement.

Blunder #12 Betraying Confidences Unnecessarily

This is a tricky one. Obviously if you gain information about physical or sexual abuse or imminent death, such as murder or suicide, you must speak to the appropriate authorities. Apart from these clear cases, it gets really sticky. When I led a discipleship group, one of my teen girls confessed to me that she had begun seeing a young man of whom her parents did not approve. I had never met the young man, but from her description of their interactions, I could tell he did not respect her. I did not know her parents well, but the people I reported to did. My bosses were split. My immediate boss believed I should tell the young woman’s parents that she was defying them, but his boss bade me to wait a week or two. Her concern was that the young ladies in the group would not feel safe confiding in me if they felt as though I was really a mole for their parents.

We all committed to watch and pray. Then an amazing thing happened. Before our next meeting, the young woman found me to tell me that she’d felt so guilty about keeping the secret from her parents, that she broke up with “dude,” as she called him. By the following week, she had confessed to her parents what she had done, and shared her story at school chapel the following month. In her speech she credited the Holy Spirit with convicting her heart and urged her peers to obey Him when He speaks to their hearts. How impressed was I with God? In this instance my boss’s boss had been right. She understood what it meant to leave room for the Holy Spirit to do His work. I am glad she did.

Blunder #13 Refusing To Respect Choices

As in the example above, I have been very disappointed with the choices made by the girls and women I have discipled or mentored. It is really difficult to watch someone you love make a mistake that you know has the potential to lead her further away from God.  Nonetheless, when you have explained the dangers of, provided alternatives to, and warned a person against a bad choice, you must allow the individual to choose for himself and face the consequences of those actions.

As mere human beings, we don’t always know exactly how God will use a person’s bad choices. We are not called to agree with our mentees decisions. We don’t have to approve of them. But as we walk with young men and women into adulthood, we must respect the fact that their choice, whatever it is, is theirs to make. It is this aspect of mentoring, and parenting for that matter, which keeps me face down in prayer before God. As my stomach churns over the poor choices my spiritual and physical children make daily, I intercede on their behalf before a Holy God, who promises to work in all things for their good.

Blunder #14 Confusing Behavior With Character

Some mentors and parents consent to, or refuse to address poor behavior because they worry about damaging the esteem of their charge. On the other hand, some mentors and parents  simply condemn a teen for poor behavior. I believe we’re prone to do this because blanket approval, even if it is tacit, and blanket condemnation are simply easier to give than well-contemplated correction and effectual discipline.

As a mother, I am finally learning to make a point to separate, for my sake as much as for that of my children, the difference between their behavior and their character. I must see that people are not merely the sum of their behavior. A person who steals is not necessarily a thief. A kid who struggles with telling the truth is not necessarily a liar. Separating character from behavior allows me to address poor behavior, without tearing down the soul of the person responsible for the bad behavior.

If you think about it, God does this for us all the time. When we sin, God never tells us that we’re hopeless, stupid, worthless, or pieces of excrement.  Yes, I have witnessed Christian parents level such insults at their own children. Instead He affirms our worth. In fact, the Lord takes pains to point out that it is because we are behaving beneath our station,that He must discipline us. His discipline is born out of his perfect love for us. His goal is to make us better; discipline is the tool he uses to accomplish this. (Hebrews 12:7-11, Proverbs 3:11) Shouldn’t this be the same attitude we possess toward our spiritual and physical seed?

#15 Belittling Emotions

I have heard Bishop Kenneth Ulmer of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, California, warn his flock to be careful of making fun of so-called puppy love, “because it’s love to the puppy.” As hardened and sometimes wiser adults, we have learned not to put too much stock into our emotions on any given day. After all emotions are fallen, like every other aspect of our make-up. They are not to be the arbiter of our fate. Hopefully mature Christian mentors practice submitting their wills to the Holy Spirit and moving forward in obedience while their feelings catch up. The same cannot always be said of teens and young adults. If you have spent any time with the emotionally immature, you know that what is love today can be hatred tomorrow and cold indifference by the end of the week. Knowing this possibility does not mean that you should minimize the emotions of your charge. Sure, the gut-wrenching pain Brittany experiences after today’s break-up may evaporate into the euphoria of next week’s brand new romance, but this does not invalidate the pain she feels today.

As a mentor to middle school and high school girls, I have listened to some of the most mind-numbing “crises,” and have mediated some of the stupidest arguments. My opinion of the reasoning behind the conflicts, however, has been irrelevant to the pain, turmoil, trauma, frustration, and/or depression experienced by the young women involved. Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. You either have something you don’t want forced upon you, or you lack something that you genuinely desire. It is a simple as that.

Again, going to God as my example, how He must shake His head over some of the foolishness that consumes us. Yet time and time again He invites us to bring our burdens to Him. (1 Peter 5:7, Matthew 7:7, Ephesians 3:12, 1 John 5:14, John 14:14, Psalm 55:22) If a matter is important to us, then it is important to God because He loves us.

So the next time you are tempted to dismiss the feelings/disposition of a child or a mentee, remember, it really is love to the puppy.

Be Blessed Family!

Last time,  I shared a portion of the list of blunders that I have made as a mentor, parent, friend, and aunt when talking to, mentoring, or discipling teens and young adults. This time, my list of blunders continues with numbers  six through ten.  I often say “If you can’t be a good example, take comfort in being a horrible warning.” In the area of relating to younger people (and peers for that matter), I have made nearly every conceivable error in the book.  If you have young people in your life, please pay attention to my horrible warnings. I hope you find my personal blunders  helpful in nurturing the spiritual and physical seed God has placed in your care.

Blunder #6  Making Assumptions

Remember that old adage about the word “assume?” If not, go ask a friend. Making assumptions is the preferred short cut of the novice or the willfully inept. I don’t care how reliable the person is who explains a given situation to you, there are ALWAYS two sides to the story, and at least two possible interpretations of the events at hand. It is well worth your while when entering into another’s life – especially if you’re engaging over an ongoing conflict –  to get not only the facts, but the significance of those facts to all parties involved.

Blunder #7  Starting Any Sentence With “When I was your age…” or “Back in the day…”

Unless your listener is extremely mature and profoundly patient (which if they’re under 80 years of age – they probably are neither), they’re already plotting how to escape your canned speech about how you walked to school uphill both ways in the snow. Nobody cares. Save it for your gripe sessions with fellow old farts who also remember high top fades, acid-wash denim jackets with rhinestones, asymmetrical bobs, biker shorts, and hammer pants. Speaking of which, have you seen the Wanye Brady version of Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step,” featuring Mike Tyson – in biker shorts? Hilariously tragic does not begin to describe it. If you get why that video is sad and funny all at the same time, then you definitely qualify as an old fart.

Blunder #8 Forgetting To Follow Up

Nothing screams “I was lying. I really don’t care about you after all,” louder than forgetting to follow-up. Yes, you probably will get voicemail if you call. No, you probably won’t get a response through any medium – except perhaps through texting. And just so we’re clear – everybody is busy. Following up is not about your feelings. It’s about the other person’s feelings. If you promise to attend something, look into something, find out something, do it. Most young people have enough loser adults in their lives who neglect to keep their word, violate their promises, and forget their obligations. Don’t be one of them. If you think it’s hard to break new ground with a cynical teenager or young adult, try re-breaking that same ground once you’ve been written off.

Blunder #9 Failing To Educate Yourself On The Issue At Hand

Boldly sharing your ignorance on any given subject makes you look like an idiot. So don’t do it. If you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, don’t attempt to fake knowledge you don’t have. If you have never been the victim of bullying, read up on the topic – watch old episodes of Oprah. If you have never heard of your “mentee’s” favorite book, favorite movie, favorite new tech toy or MMO; read, watch, or play it. I find that the best source of education on current-but-not-on-my-personal-radar topics is the person I’m mentoring and/or their peers. If you’re privileged enough to get a group of them talking around you, listen much and talk little. You’ll be amazed at how much you can glean by simply smiling, nodding, and keeping your mouth shut.

Blunder #10 Avoiding Giving An Answer or Lying In Response To A Direct Question

Did you smoke weed in high school? Did you drink in college? Were you a virgin when you got married? Are you celibate? Have you had or paid for an abortion? These are all straight forward questions with only one answer. Don’t lie. Sidestep them and miss an opportunity to impact a life. Tell the truth, but make it count. Own your mess and share what you learned from it. If you wouldn’t encourage a young person to follow your failures, respect her by providing an explanation as to why. In answer to a question about pre-marital sex, “Yes, Veronica, I was sexually active, and it was fun for a time – but I don’t think it was worth the spiritual brokenness or the pain of contracting herpes that followed,” is a much more effective answer than “That’s my business.” Your mess can be your message. After all, who better than a recovering alcoholic or an ex-prostitute, to authoritatively explain the evils of alcohol abuse or sexual promiscuity?

I have many more blunders than these to share. Sadly neither time nor space permit my doing so at present. Blunders 11-15 will follow. What blunders have you made or have been perpetrated against you? As Walking Faithfully is a forum where we can all share from each other’s failures as well as successes, we welcome any and all insights you are willing to share.

Until time, be blessed Family!

Of all the age groups I have ever had the privilege of mentoring, by far my favorite group is teenagers. Babies and toddlers give unconditional love and believe nearly everything you tell them, but they often cannot articulate their feelings beyond whining and crying. Grade-school-aged children and most middle schoolers are hilariously goofy, but one can only take so many fart and booger jokes.

Although high school students and beginning college students are often full of themselves – convinced they have all the answers – they are closer to having to stand on and defend their developing faith. Faced with choices that will determine their life’s trajectory, many begin to understand – perhaps for the first time – the significance of the habits they have developed or of the skills they have neglected to hone. In that moment where they realize they must leave behind the childishness of their early years and begin to think and act like the men and women God has called them to be, when they find themselves on the cusp of adulthood, full of promise and unlimited potential, poised to take command of the rest of their lives, it is here that they are most likely to be open to a mentor or a parent who will share and model authentic faith.

Over the years that I have mentored, listened to, and laughed with the teenagers in my life, I have also learned a great deal from each one of them – both what I should do and what I should never do if I desire to maintain a healthy relationship, based on mutual respect with the potential to last a lifetime. I humbly share my list of blunders with you. I hope it blesses you and the teenagers in your life.

Blunder #1: Lecturing

No one enjoys a one-sided conversation in which they’ve been relegated to the role of non-stop listener. For the mature adult patiently listening to some know-it-all bluster on and on without reprieve is next to impossible. For most teenagers, who characteristically have shorter attention spans, it is impossible. Polite teenagers will silently tune out while remaining bodily present. The less than polite will simply get up and leave. And who can blame them?

Before you launch into your next great speech, try asking open-ended questions that will require a thoughtful response. My rule of thumb is if I find myself speaking more than three sentences without interruption, then I’m probably talking too much.

Blunder #2: Offering Unwelcome Advice

When was the last time you asked a teenager (or anyone for that matter), “I have an opinion about that. Would you like to hear it?” When was the last time you waited to be asked for your thoughts before you offered them?

Even though the exact right advice might be on the tip of your tongue, exercise self-control. Wait to be asked for your opinion, or ask permission to offer it first. Teenagers’ biggest complaint is adults’ lack of respect for their personhood. Nothing shouts “I don’t respect you!” like clobbering someone over the head with your unsolicited opinion.

Blunder #3 Proposing Pat Answers

I remember confiding in a relative about a problem I was facing as a young woman of 20. Her entire answer to me was, “Let go and let God.” It was the single most useless piece of solicited advice I believe I have ever received. She might as well have said, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” I was emotionally and physically exhausted from having just poured out my soul to her. And all she had to offer was some non-sequiter platitude. Fail.

If you find what you hear to be overwhelming, tragic, or simply ridiculous, take your cues from the emotional state of the person talking. Again, open-ended questions can’t go wrong here (unless of course they’ve already been answered and you weren’t listening). Sometimes restating to the person what they’ve said can help you to better understand the significance of the problem, as well as how to pray for that person.

Blunder #4 Trying To Sound “Cool” Or “Hip”

Here’s a hint: If “Cool” or “Hip” is in your vocabulary, you’re probably neither. Teenagers are experts at spotting fakes. If you don’t instinctively listen to the same music they listen to, dress the way they dress, or use the same slang they do, then don’t pretend that you do. You won’t fool anyone. And you’ll embarrass everyone. How does the saying go? There’s no fool like an old fool? Just make sure it’s not you.

Be yourself. Or as my husband likes to say, “Do you.” Rock your Jesus the way you do. If folks find your brand appealing, great. If not, great. Authenticity speaks louder and more convincingly than any falsehood.

Blunder #5 Neglecting To Pray And Fast

Incest, rape, divorce, infidelity, fornication, homosexuality, physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, witchcraft, cutting, bullying, pornography – today’s teens are exposed to much more at younger ages than their counterparts from decades past. Don’t be foolish enough to think you can walk into their lives with all the remedies to their life-long dramas as though you’re Ward Cleaver in an episode of “Leave It To Beaver.” The enemy will not only beat you down, but send you home bloody and naked.

In these last days, the enemy has become bolder. We believers must be equally as bold for the Kingdom. If you have not adopted the spiritual discipline of studying God’s word, praying and fasting, do so now. Our Lord came to set the captives free. If you are going to serve in the conquering army, if you’re going to venture into enemy territory and take back prized possessions, you had better be disciplined enough to stay the course and empowered to outlast the battle.

Even once this series is complete, this list will never be comprehensive. If you have blunders to share, in Our Forums or comment section, please tell us about them as well as what you learned from them. We look forward to hearing from you. Blunders #6 through #10 to follow.

Be blessed Family!

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