CK Short: Crushed!

Season 3 of The Connected Kingdom gets underway with a new format. While we’ll continue to do the usual CK stuff from time to time – interviews, Q&A’s, debates, etc., – we’re going to be releasing a weekly “CK Short” every Tuesday. These will be 10-15 minute episodes in which Tim or I will deliver a short monologue on a subject followed by a few minutes of comment and discussion. This week, I challenged Tim to speak on the subject “Crushed.”

Listen to the first few minutes of this episode to hear about more changes including how you can suggest monologue topics for us, and even star in a “CK Short” of your own!

Oh, yes, and as you’ll see below, we’ll be posting a [partial] transcript of the monologue with the podcast. Of course, if you don’t listen, you’ll miss out on the highly intelligent and entertaining interaction, but I suppose reading is better than missing out completely!

Download here

Crushed: by Tim Challies.

Horatio Spafford was a man who knew pain and a man whose pain has left a powerful and lasting legacy to the church. A wealthy Chicago businessman, Spafford invested heavily in real estate and saw almost his entire fortune consumed in the Great Chicago Fire that swept the city in 1871. Far greater pain awaited him. In 1873 he decided that he and his family should enjoy a vacation. They decided to go to England since their dear friend D.L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall. Though business delayed his own departure, he sent his family on ahead. His wife Anna and their four daughters boarded the steamship Ville du Havre and set out for England. On November 22 another ship collided with that one and two hundred and twenty six people lost their lives, including all four of the Spafford girls. Upon arriving in England, Anna sent her husband a tragic telegram: “Saved alone.”

Spafford set out to England to be with his wife and during that crossing penned the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” a powerful declaration of trust in the midst of tragedy.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

“When sorrows like sea billows roll.” It is a poignant metaphor, a simile really, that speaks of sorrow coming upon us like waves on a storm-tossed sea. The same sea billows that poured over the heads of his daughters, the waves that stole their lives, are now pressing hard against him, threatening to drown him in despair, to steal his soul. They are rising up above him, they are cresting and crashing down upon him, they are pulling him under and tossing him in the undertow. Yet he has more hope for his soul than his girls did for their lives. The Lord has taught him that all will be well. Whatever his lot, whatever the Lord decrees for him, he is able to say, “It is well with my soul.” What was the source of such comfort in trial? It was this: “Christ hath regarded my helpless estate / And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”

I am a stranger to this kind of sorrow. Though my life has not been completely free from pain and disappointment and sad farewells, I have never known sorrow to come against me like the waves of the ocean; I have never known it to threaten to drown me in despair. But discouragement, now there is something that too often crashes upon me like waves crash against the hull of a ship. There is something that often threatens to crush me.

Discouragement comes in different forms. There is discouragement that comes when I am left grappling with failure, when I have not succeeded at the things I’ve attempted to do well. There are the sermons that never take shape the way I had wanted them to, the ones that never seemed to yield to time and patience and brute force. There are the dreams that never grow into anything more than a rough and untenable plan, the relationships that never lead to friendship, the chapters that have to be left out of books, the opportunities wasted, the holiness lost and neglected. This life is one of so much failure and there in failure’s wake is discouragement, towed along behind it.

Discouragement can come in a very different form—the form of other people’s success. Here is the excruciating pain of seeing others do well in those areas where I have failed, of hearing of the sermons that went in all the directions my own never did or the books that sold a hundred copies for every one of mine. There is the discouragement of coming up to the edge of my own talent and seeing others with greater talent and greater gifts excel all the more. And there is the discouragement of seeing people with equal talents and equal gifts be offered all kinds of opportunity not open to me. Mixed up with sin and pride and envy, this kind brings with it a peculiar and poignant kind of agony.

And then there’s the form of discouragement that comes with trying to do too much and be too much and exceed and excel at too much. Pride can push me here, to make me want to do more so I can be noticed by more people, and so I work too many hours and go in too many directions. I get away from the few things I’ve been called to, ignoring the gifts I’ve been given and trying to convince myself that I need to be someone I’m not. Instead of being me I try to be that guy or that guy or that one. I take my eyes off the great prize of bringing glory to God and instead put so much effort into bringing glory to myself.

And then there is the despair that seems to just come without reason and without source. It is the despair that feels almost physical, the despair that must have some kind of spiritual or supernatural source, the kind that offers no explanation, just the sense of being crushed under foot.

And there is discouragement, washing over me, and I am sinking under it, fighting desperately to manufacture some kind of joy to keep me from drowning in despair.

This is what it is to be crushed. Or nearly crushed. But there’s hope when discouragement is pressing down. The Apostle Paul could say, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed. Perplexed but not driven to despair. Persecuted but not abandoned. Struck down but not destroyed.” Where do you find that kind of hope when discouragement is thick, when it is tangible, when it surrounds you like water surrounds a man drowning in the ocean? You go where Spafford went when sorrow threatened to destroy him. You go to the day that all purposes will be revealed, that all sorrow will cease, that all discouragement will be destroyed.

And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Tim Challies


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Why appreciation matters so much

Last week the Harvard Business Review reported that although the single highest driver of employee engagement is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their wellbeing, less than 40 percent of workers felt so engaged.

It’s obvious why an employer’s interest in and gratitude to an employee elevates performance – the feeling that we matter, that we are valuable, and the energizing sense of security. Why then is appreciation such a rare experience for employees? Tony Schwartz answers:

The obvious answer is that we’re not fluent in the language of positive emotions in the workplace. We’re so unaccustomed to sharing them that we don’t feel comfortable doing so. Heartfelt appreciation is a muscle we’ve not spent much time building, or felt encouraged to build. Oddly, we’re often more experienced at expressing negative emotions — reactively and defensively, and often without recognizing their corrosive impact on others until much later, if we do at all.

One study showed that workers who felt unfairly criticized by a boss or felt they had a boss who didn’t listen to their concerns had a 30 percent higher rate of coronary disease than those who felt treated fairly and with care!

In high-performing teams, the expression of positive feedback outweighs that of negative feedback by a ratio of 5.6 to 1. By contrast, low-performing teams have a ratio of 0.36 to 1. And the stats are not much better in everyday life outside the workplace. On Saturday, while reading Digital Leader by Eric Qualman, two stats hit me hard between the eyes (and in the heart):

  • As a baseline, the average person complains 15-30 times per day.
  • Across all conversations there is a ratio of 6 to 1 in terms of criticism to encouragement.

Does that sound like your workplace? Or maybe your family? Or even your church? Schwartz’ proposes a four part prescription to remedy this ingratituditis (you can read the exposition of his points here).

  1. “Above all else, do no (or much less) harm.” The costs of devaluing others are so great that we need to spend far more time thinking than we do now about how to hold people’s value
  2. Practice appreciation by starting with yourself.
  3. Make it a priority to notice what others are doing right.
  4. The more specific you can be about what you value — and the more you notice what’s most meaningful to that person — the more positive your impact on that person is likely to be.

Qualman’s plan involves elastic bands on your wrist (you’ll need to read the book!).  I’d add:

  1. Get some sleep and exercise. There’s nothing more energizing to a critical spirit than a lack of sleep and exercise.
  2. Start building the muscle of heartfelt appreciation by exercising it as often as possible – may hurt a bit at first.
  3. Learn the language of positive emotions – again, like all new languages, it may initially feel very awkward, embarrassing, and uncomfortable.
  4. Raise awareness of this problem in your team, church, family. Why not explain the stats to your family next time you sit down for a meal and then everyone keep a count of positive to negative comments during the meal. It might surprise you.
  5. Apologize for past failures, ask for forgiveness, and start over.
  6. Love your neighbor as yourself. How would you like to be treated in this situation?
  7. Remember he/she is handcrafted by God in the image of God.
  8. Remember he/she is a sinner with a corrupt human nature (and so are you).
  9. Ask yourself: “What will their impression of God be if you are the only representative of God they know?” Loving, appreciative, generous, kind? Or hard, legalistic, critical, unforgiving, etc?
  10. Try energizing your family, church, and workplace with grace rather than law.

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“…and forgive my sins. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Within seconds the wicked whispers start.

“Too short.”

“Too shallow.”

“Too distracted…again.”

“Missed out her, and him, and them…”

“Yawn. Nothing new to say?”

“You call that a prayer?”

“Not enough faith…not enough passion…not enough anything.”

“You don’t actually believe that made a difference, do you?”

“You’ll probably not even think about prayer for the rest of the day”

And on, and on, and on it goes.

Relentless, cruel, malicious Satanic whispers that begin the second I end my morning prayer with, “Amen.”

Anyone else get that? It’s so discouraging, isn’t it. I mean, why pray if all you get at the end of it is an even heavier feeling of guilt and failure? Prayer should be a delight not a dread.

I’d really welcome your own input on this, but here’s how I try to fight back, silence the whispers, and turn prayer into a soul-refreshing delight again.

  1. God has forgiven me all my sins – even my sinful prayers.
  2. Jesus is perfecting my prayers and presenting them absolutely flawless to my Heavenly Father.
  3. My salvation does not depend on my prayers but on Jesus’ prayers.
  4. My Heavenly Father listens even to the raven’s ugly grating squawks (Ps. 147:9) and gives it food; how much more will he hear and answer the ugly grating squawks of one of His children?
  5. God delights in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy (Ps 147:9).
  6. God knows I’m a limited creature who cannot possibly pray for everyone everyday.
  7. Surely the Devil would simply leave me alone if my prayers were really so pathetic and useless.
  8. Just because my children don’t (can’t) tell me everything about their lives doesn’t make me love them less, nor does it reflect a lack of love on their part.
  9. But maybe best of all, “You, Satan, are going to be crushed under my feet shortly” (Rom. 16:2o).

Anyone got any more armor or weapons to fight this battle with? Any effective rebuttals or even prebuttals?