Suffering for the Cause of Christ / A Wonderful Free Gift / A Stranger Taken In / Holding on Loosely

Suffering for the Cause of Christ
Jimmy was born among the Montangard people in the mountains of Vietnam. Through a missionary, his family came to know the Lord as Savior.

Now, Jimmy is pouring his life into reaching his people with the Gospel. And, he counts it a privilege to suffer for the cause of Christ.

A Wonderful Free Gift
What is one of the most wonderful gifts you can give another person?

You don’t have to go to the mall to buy it. It’s free, and it is one of the most powerful ways to be God’s “light” to those who are suffering. What is this wonderful gift? It is listening, really listening to another person. Hearing his or her story and helping the person tell his or her story.

Bernie Siegel says, “When someone you love has difficulties, listen. When you don’t know what to offer the people you care about, listen…listen…listen. Don’t ever forget the power of listening and the strength it takes to just be there. Not curing, but caring.”

Is the mother in the following story really listening? Is she helping the daughter express her feelings and thoughts?

Mother: “Come on, honey, tell me how you feel. I know it’s hard, but I’ll try to understand.”

Daughter: “Oh, I don’t know, Mom. You’d think it was stupid.”

Mother: “Of course I wouldn’t! You can tell me. Honey, no one cares for you as much as I do. I’m only interested in your welfare. What’s making you so unhappy?”

Daughter: “Oh, I don’t know.”

Mother: “Come on, honey. What is it?”

Daughter: “Well, to tell you the truth, I just don’t like school anymore.”

Mother (responding incredulously): “WHAT? What do you mean you don’t like school? After all the sacrifices we’ve made for your education! Education is the foundation of your future. If you’d apply yourself like your older sister does, you’d do better and then you’d like school. Time and time again, we’ve told you to settle down. You’ve got the ability, but you just don’t apply yourself. Try harder. Get a positive attitude about it.”

Was this mother really listening?

In the book, The 7Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says, “Most people listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. We have a tendency to rush in, try to fix things up with good advice.”

Again, Bernie Siegel (author, doctor, and lecturer) tells about helping his kids:

“My kids would tell me that they had a problem. I’d say, ‘Well, sit right down and tell me about it.’ Then I would proceed to share some of my problem-solving wisdom with them. After all, I had several degrees and was a doctor, lecturer and author. However, after a few minutes they would jump up and say, ‘Dad you’re no help. You don’t understand.’ Later in my life, my patients taught me the importance of listening to their pain. Now when one of my kids has a problem, I’m quiet, I listen and I ask a few questions to help them clarify. Again, after awhile they jump up, but this time they come give me a hug and thank me for helping them so much. All I did was be there. Listen. And ask a few questions so that they could clarify and tell their story.

When someone you love has difficulties, listen. When you don’t know what to offer the people you care about, listen…listen…listen. Don’t ever forget the power of listening and the strength it takes to just be there. Not curing, but caring.”

Today’s caregiving hint is:Listen to the person. Help the person tell his or her story. Resist giving advice. Put your “fix-it-mentality” on the shelf. We can’t fix another person’s struggles and suffering. What we can do is be there and listen.

This week, try giving someone the wonderful gift of just listening. Listen to his or her story and leave your advice on the shelf.

A Stranger Taken In
In Matthew 25, Jesus explains that the righteous will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God at the end of the age, because they fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the sick, and came to those in prison. Opportunities to do these very things are around us every single day.

Before service on Wednesday nights, my church has a three dollar meal for the community, and serves excellent food. It was during this meal a couple weeks ago that just such an opportunity arose in my own life when my sister showed up with a stranger. This stranger, was a middle-aged man who was wet, dirty, and sunburned. As my sister and he sat down and joined our conversation, an incredible story surfaced. Listen to this weeks broadcast to hear what happened.

Holding on Loosely
Any tennis players out there? Any golfers? These are two sports where, to be your very best, you have to learn how to hold on loosely.

I suspect this may also be true for other sports, but I know it’s definitely true for golf and tennis.

So what do you think I mean by “holding on loosely”? Is it how your grip the racket or the club? Well, yes – but, no.

Then what is it?

Welcome to The Coaches Corner: A place to grow for Christian Leaders.

One of the ways I choose topics for Coach’s Corner shows is to reflect on what has been coming up lately in my executive coaching sessions. This concept of holding on loosely has come up several times over the past few months.

About six months ago I read a very interesting book called “Holding on Loosely: Finding Life in the Beautiful Tension”. It is written by Pablo Giacopelli (Gee-ah-cho-pelli ??)

This book tells of Pablo’s personal story as a Christ follower, tennis player and coach to several touring pros. He describes in his earlier journey how badly he wanted to win, not just in tennis but also in life.

All the way through life he had learned to hold on TIGHTLY to the things that mattered most. This holding on with white knuckles would cause him to be tense and to have a short fuse when things didn’t go just right. And we all know there will be many times when things don’t go just right.

As a Christ follower he would get very disappointed in himself for failing to live into the fruits of the spirit. He failed to exhibit outwardly – and experience inwardly – things like love, joy, peace, kindness, and self control. If you’re a devoted Christian you know the list… and you might even know the feeling of this kind of disappointment.

Pablo tells how his propensity for holding on tightly – for trying to force an outcome – was being passed on those he was coaching and this led to them also becoming tight.

Then a good friend helped Pablo understand that he didn’t need to hold on so tight. He reminded Pablo who God is and that there is nothing Pablo could do to make God love him more. AND there was also nothing Pablo could do that would make God love him less.

Pablo discovered the real freedom that Christ is offering to each of us. He describes this as “finding life in the beautiful tension”, which is the sub-title of his book.

I don’t know about in your world, but in mine the word “tension” is seldom called beautiful. And the term “holding on”, when you’re trying to accomplish something very important, is seldom followed by the term “loosely”.

Holding on loosely.

Beautiful tension.

Pablo has named something I’ve been aware of and have wrestled with for a long time.

I too am a tennis player and I very clearly remember a match from about 30 years ago where this lesson was revealed to me. In this match I was playing someone that I was convinced I should beat… there was no doubt in my mind.

Now if you’re not a tennis fan, I apologize because I’m about to use that scoring system that seems so crazy. Hang in there with me for a bit.

Even though I knew I should be winning, I was getting waxed. I lost the first set 1-6 and was down 1-4, love forty in the second set. I was so upset and frustrated that I finally just gave up… well sort of gave up. I decided as long as I was going to lose to this guy that I knew I should beat, I was going to at least stop trying to beat him and just start trying to play good tennis… error free tennis. This seemed to calm down my spirit. I stopped trying so hard to beat him. I stopped making silly mistakes. I started to experience the wonderful game of tennis again. I was starting to hold on loosely… maybe even too loosely as my attitude wasn’t exactly in the right place quite yet..

Even in my “I don’t care anymore” attitude, I came back to tie the second set at 5-5 and then had a clear decision to make. Do I keep holding on loosely, which felt very dangerous because now I had something to lose as I was becoming convinced again that I could beat this guy – or should I start to force the issue again and take control of the outcome?

Well, as it turned out I did a little of both… but mostly I tried to let go of the result and just stay in the moment of each shot. It was hard to let go as completely as I had several games earlier when I surely felt I was going to lose – and therefore had nothing to lose. Momentum had swung my way and I was playing much better. I wanted to take control again, but I also couldn’t turn my back on how much better I played when I wasn’t trying to force my will on the outcome. I went on to win the second set 7-5 and then the third set 6-0.

This was a huge lesson for me. This was the first time I remember experiencing this dance of giving it my best but also being willing to let go at the same time. This experience has stayed with me for 30 years… and Pablo captured it well in his book. This concept which started for me 30 years back has changed the way I approach the important things in life.

Whether it’s winning a big tennis match, or making that presentation that could greatly impact your career – or even dealing with a teenage daughter, that despite your best efforts, seems to be going in the wrong direction – I think it’s all the same. You need to give it your absolute best and also be at peace with the fact that the outcome is in God’s hands, not yours.

I believe Pablo is right. We need to hold on loosely. I also believe this aligns very closely with a deep truth that Jesus taught us. If we want to live the abundant life that God designed for us, we need to do something that relates to holding on loosely.

Do you remember what Jesus said we had to do first to experience life, and life in abundance? “WHAT FOR IT” Yes, that’s right. We FIRST have to die to ourselves. Matthew 16:25 says, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

It’s a bit of a silly example, but early in that match I couldn’t let go of my deep need to win, but once I got to my wits-end I did let go of that need out of pure and total frustration. Then I just started playing tennis again and I experienced the way I am supposed to play tennis, which led to me winning.

It’s a weird irony. The thing I want the most, I’m likely to lose if I’m not able or willing to let go of it. Yet if I’m willing to let go of it, I’m likely to gain it. Wow. This is the wonderful and mysterious nature of the Gospel.

I have a lot more to share with you about how this concept of holding on loosely relates to Christian leadership so I’m going to speak about it again next week.

In the meantime, think about experiences you’ve had when maybe you had to let go to gain the very thing you were holding on to. Ask yourself if there is a situation right now that would benefit from going after it with all you have and then allowing the outcome to be God’s.

I’d love to hear from you if you have some good examples. My email is

Next week I’ll talk about how to do this ‘letting go’ and why it’s important for Christian leadership. I hope you’ll join me.

Until then I pray that you experience God’s amazing grace AND rich blessings.

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