Friday, December 28, 2007

P4E.054 I Am Third

"The Lord is first; my family and friends are second; I am third."
Gale Sayers - football player, writer, entrepreneur, motivational speaker

Like many people, as the New Year approaches I'm looking at the priorities that I desire to take into 2008. I remember reading the autobiography "I Am Third," by Gale Sayers many years ago and being impressed with the priorities that he set down there.

When asked "which is the great commandment in the Law?" Jesus responded "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Focusing on the second commandment for a minute, I'd like to propose a "strategy" for myself and for you. The message of Christ is consistently one of sacrificial love. He died so that we might have eternal life. We know this. But Scripture reiterates it over and over again. Philippians 2:3-4 says it well,

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."

The strategy I propose is simply this: I put others first. Others' desires, passions, wishes, tastes, interests, priorities, values, ideas, direction come before my own. How do I know what they are? To implement the strategy and know what they are I have to show an interest in others and ask questions. Does this mean I would act unethically or immorally if others wanted it? No. Does this mean that I would ungraciously demand that others' wishes be acted upon if they in-turn deferred to my wishes? No. But these things rarely happen on a day-to-day basis. On a day-to day basis, I have a "help" that God has provided for me to practice with.

What usually happens is that I want to eat a certain thing for dinner and my spouse wants something else. I want to see a certain movie and my wife wants to see another. I have a passion for this time consuming activity and my wife has another passion that would take the same time. I value money and things and Gwen values people and relationships. Does this means that I die to myself? That I no longer exist? Yes....and no. This is the mystery of Christianity. My natural self dies. My fleshly desires and spirit die. My godly spirit is re-born....it lives. Sacrificial love lives in me....if I exercise it.

Consider the meaning of Galatians 5:24, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." and of Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..." and of John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease." These are the priorities that I want to take into 2008 and beyond. I am third. God help me...and you too!

Happy New Year! Kim

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

P4E.053 I'll Begin Again


I'm alive! Alive!
I've got a chance to change
and I will not be the man I was.
I'll begin again, I will build my life,
I will live to know that I've fulfilled my life.
I'll begin today, throw away the past,
and the future I build will be something that will last.
I will take the time I have left to live,
and I'll give it all that I have left to give.
I will live my days for my fellow men,
and I'll live in praise of that moment when
I was able to begin again.
I will start a-new, I will make amends,
and I'll make quite certain that the story ends
on a note of hope, on a strong amen,
and I'll thank the world and remember when
I was able to begin again."


Movie: "Scrooge" 1970, with Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge,
based on the book "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens
Song: "I'll Begin Again" sung by Ebenezer Scrooge
on Christmas morning after being haunted by three ghosts
Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse

I've ruined many a holiday for my family and myself. By my attitude, actions and words (or lack thereof). I was not haunted by three ghosts, but I did have some epiphanies along the way. The first of which was to realize that my wife was not my enemy, but rather, my help. I do thank God for Gwen and the help that she gives me.

Guys ask me, "How did you change?" The fact is, I know and I don't know. I do know that I have changed. They say that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. I've taken that to heart. I know now that impatience, frustration and anger did not, do not, serve me well.

When I opened up to Gwen and told her what was going on in my mind and heart, she was able to identify and label what was going on as "warped." When I would fail when faced with difficult circumstances, Gwen would tell me "Whatever you're doing obviously isn't working. Try something different! ANYTHING!" I thank God for that help. I never would have known,otherwise.

So now, I use a Life Partners shortcut to Christlikeness. Whatever "natural" response I would "normally" have to difficult circumstances, I stop and do the opposite. It does require self-awareness and discipline, but gets easier with practice. And it's a sure-fire way to do something different (better). Every time I'm faced with a difficult circumstance I get a chance to "begin again" by changing my bad (or non) responses to better, more engaged, responses. This sure helps keep the "Merry" in Christmas. God give me the strength and wisdom to continue (and you too!)

Merry Christmas!

Kim

Friday, December 14, 2007

P4E.052 Sticks and Stones

Question: Why did anyone ever come up with the rhyme "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?"
Answer: Because they do.

A basic tenet of psychology is that others can't make you feel. Here's a quote from Jason E. Johns, a "personal success coach," that sums up the psychology: "Believe it or not, each of you are in control of yourself and how you feel. You can choose to feel anyway you want. Right now, you could choose to feel happy; or I am sure you could choose to feel sad. Just by thinking about it, you could change how you feel." But, the fact is that this psychology had to arise as a rebuttal to the fact that others can, in fact, affect my feelings.

Recently, I've personally felt, or have witnessed others feel: unappreciated, unimportant, unintroduced, unacknowledged, small, insignificant, inferior and rejected. I think it's important to acknowledge that these feelings are real, not to deny them or that others may have made me feel them. It's important because I'm looking at the flip side of the coin; that I have the capacity to make others feel these same things. It's important to dwell on the feelings to see and feel how they feel. These particular feelings don't feel so good.

As a Believer, I'll take any chance I can to connect with Christ. One of the ways that I've been taught to connect with Him is to evaluate my feelings and ask myself he question, "Did Christ ever feel these same feelings?" I remember one particular event in Scripture where Christ healed ten lepers and only one returned to thank Him. His questions ring in my ears, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine--where are they?" It certainly must have made Him feel unappreciated. It's important to me that I feel what He felt and He felt what I feel. Over 2,000 years and the emotion, the feeling is the same one.

Another question that I ask myself, in the pursuit of Christlikeness, is "Have I made others feel this way (especially the one closest to me, my wife)?" The Holidays are fraught with the danger of being insensitive. One Thanksgiving not so long ago (I tell you this story to my shame) I gathered the family around in a circle for a pre-Thanksgiving feast prayer in which I completely neglected to give thanks for my wife's herculean effort to make the holiday a great one. She had cleaned, and decorated, made phone calls and invitations, made calligraphied name tags to designate where people would sit and cooked a gigantic feast (without much help from me). Well sure, she could have said to herself, "I am in control of myself and how I feel. I can chose to feel anyway I want..." But the fact is, I made her feel unappreciated, unimportant, unintroduced, unacknowledged, small, insignificant, inferior and rejected. She had every right to expect a very different response from the one who vowed to "honor and cherish" her.

Knowing what I know now, I am so sorry for this. It was very wrong of me. I know now how awful it feels to feel these feelings. How troubled I am that I can be the cause of these feelings in others, especially my wonderful wife. How different I want to be in the present and the future! God help me and strengthen me in this commitment.

Take care of yourself (and other's feelings!)
Merry Christmas
Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Men (and Women)
Kim

Thursday, December 6, 2007

P4E.051 20 Questions

There used to be a radio quiz program called "20 Questions." In the game, the questioner would ask the answerer as many as 20 "yes," "no," or "maybe" questions to determine what subject the answerer had chosen. The questioner used deductive reasoning and creativity to guess the answerer's subject within 20 questions to win the game. The show gave rise to the phrase "What is this, 20 questions?" when someone feels like they're being grilled.

The reason I bring this up is that I've had to jump start my ability to communicate. My wife has impressed on me that a major aspect to communicating is to ask questions. Not as an interrogation method, but to let her know that I'm interested and that I care. She describes conversation as like tennis; a back and forth process. A process that lets the other person know I'm engaged, listening, watching and aware.

I know how good it feels when someone really expresses an interest in me, in who I am, by asking me more than just superficial questions. I get the feeling that they care, that they are impressed by what they are hearing, interested to know me more and place value on me. Knowing how others can affect me this way, I know that I can and should develop the ability to do the same for others. Especially my wife.

As men, we are naturally mechanical and think that conversations with our wives are to be an informational exchange of facts. Conversational questions are not for the purpose of gathering facts and information. This is a place where women are quite different from men.

"Women are not always looking for answers to the questions they ask. They are looking for conversation as a means to gaining an entrance into their husband's heart. Don't just look at the words she is saying. What is going on in her heart that is making her say what she is saying? She needs understanding."

Ken Nair, founder of Life Partners (lifepartners.org)

As prospective spiritual leaders, we could learn some lessons (receive some "help") from our helpmates in this area. Asking questions for the purpose of gaining an entrance into our wife's heart. That sounds like a very good thing.

Peace, Kim

Monday, November 26, 2007

P4E.050 Communication Breakdown

"Whut we have heeyuh, is fay-eh-yuh to communikite"
The Captain - Cool Hand Luke

I don't want to give you a false impression.
On the one hand, I realize that self-deprecation is a staple in my blog. On the other hand, I don't want you to think that I'm always a failure. Every once in a while, I slip-up and do the right thing. Many times I relate past behaviors or behaviors that I'm really trying to get a handle on. The thing about the flesh is that it's such a natural inclination for me, that if I don't keep a constant vigil on
it, I will return to it in a heartbeat.

I am not naturally a relational person. This has been a revelation to me. This self-awareness has helped me to remain open and teachable. My wife and others have helped me to see patterns in my behavior when it comes to relationships.

One of the things that I've learned that I do is that I "shut down" towards my wife for any and all types of reasons. Shutting down means so many things:

- I stop talking
- I stop listening
- I stop eye contact
- I disengage
- I become inwardly focused
- I build up a callous shell that keeps me from recognizing others emotions and my own
- I become careless with my words
- I lose perspective
- I get whiny and immature
- I get dark and cold
- I get defensive when confronted about shutting down

In short, there's a failure to communicate. What I'm learning to do is to recognize when this is happening and to take steps to "reboot." Recognizing when I'm shutting down takes a certain amount of self-awareness that only comes with practice. "Rebooting" many times involves humility.

It may start with my apologizing for having shut down and just having recognized it. I re-engage by making eye contact and focusing on my wife and trying to see things from her perspective. I listen to what she is saying and what she is expressing. What is she feeling? I try to stay open and teachable and not get defensive. I try to examine the reasons why I shut down. What am I feeling?

I talk, but I'm careful with my words. There's an old carpenter's motto that goes "measure twice, cut once." This is wise counsel when it comes to what comes out of my mouth. When I'm in the spirit, I think twice before I speak. I stay away from saying things that start with "Well, if you really want to know what I think..." or "Let me be brutally honest..." or "You always..." or "You never..." or "Why can't you just..."

I suppress my desire to be an "individual" and to renew my vow to "become one flesh." I consider my opportunity to put my wife's thoughts, wishes, desires and ideas before my own. That's a more spiritually mature attitude that puts others interests before my own.

Do you ever struggle with "communication breakdown?" Is my experience helpful to you?

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Friday, November 16, 2007

P4E.049 Abandoned

Dave, our leader at our Life Partners study, was helping one of the husbands in our group with a crisis in his marriage this week. He cut through so much and finally summarized what was going on in this fellow's life. When he did, I really identified with it and thought I would share it. It went like this:

+ I chose to become fearful.
+ I chose to refuse help.
+ I chose to blame the one who was risking to help (blame shifted).
+ I chose to abandon my help.
+ The recurring theme in the crises that come up in my marriage is: I fail to take responsibility.

There's so much here. This pattern has occurred many times in my marriage. At the heart of it is the fact that Scripture says that when God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, He created for him a "help." Someone who had his best interests at heart because she was flesh of his flesh and bones of his bones. So many of my problems stem from the fact that in spite of my wife's incredible insight, organizational skills, relational counsel, and plain good sense, I can't bring myself to accept (much less, actively seek out) her help. For so long, I have failed to take responsibility for so much and it has made my wife feel abandoned. It still happens when my flesh grabs control. It's taken me a long time to shift my attitude about her from "enemy" to "help." I see it now. God help me to keep that perspective, because she is good help.

Peace, Kim

Friday, November 9, 2007

P4E.048 An Understanding Way

The responses to the last few posts (which go out as an e-mail to many) cause me to pause...

I want to reiterate a point that my mentor, Ken Nair, has made. It's that each husband has the responsibility to understand his own wife. No one else's. The concept comes from I Peter 3:7

"You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."

(side note: Ken likes to characterize the word "weaker" in this verse as meaning "spiritually/emotionally fragile," which helps me.)

One of the study helps I use defines the Greek word for understanding in this verse, "gnosis," in this way:

"Knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding

1. the general knowledge of Christian religion
2. the deeper more perfect and enlarged knowledge of this religion, such as belongs to the more advanced
3. esp. of things lawful and unlawful for Christians
4. moral wisdom, such as is seen in right living "


Note that I Peter 3:7 requires me to live with my wife in such a way that demonstrates my "knowledge" of Christ and His ways.

There are so many things that go into understanding my wife. Her parents, birth order, gender, sibling, spiritual gifting, physical environment, spiritual environment, age, motherhood, friends, experience, education, interests, tastes and so on....

Will I ever completely understand her? No. Does God require something of me that is impossible? No. So, should I suspend the quest to understand her? No.

Back to my original point, Scripture encourages me to live with my wife in an understanding way. And you with yours. That said, I believe with Ken Nair, that there are many ways that God gifted women. That God made them different from us men. That God meant for the differences to glorify Him. That wives are meant to be a "help" to us. Finally, that the encouragement to live with them in an understanding way is the vehicle through which they help us.

I have a huge tendency to be overwhelmed with projects. But in the call to understand my wife, my commitment is: (to steal a quote) I will not tire, I will not falter, I will not fail. God help me in this quest. Join me if you will...

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Thursday, November 1, 2007

P4E.047 Where There's Smoke...

I can't ignore the major news that has been all around me. Living in
Southern California, fire has dominated the news over the last week
and a half.

Many of the lessons that we are learning from the fires are useful and
seem obvious:

I should keep a defensible area around my home.
I should know what my insurance coverage is and where the physical policy is.
I need a plan for evacuation if necessary.
It would be a good idea to have a list of things I would want to
gather up if I needed to evacuate quickly.
I should take pictures or video of the interior of my home to document what might be lost to my insurer.

And so on....This is where we men naturally go when faced with this
type of circumstance.

But, I come back to the idea that God puts physical circumstances in
my life to teach me spiritual lessons
. My wife has recently told me
that I've been "edgy lately." Even the fact that I felt irritated by
the remark let me know that she was right. It is ironic that I work
for a company called "EDGE," because much of my edginess finds its
roots there. So, I have been "edgy lately." That translates to
impatient, frustrated and angry. It expresses itself in scary facial
expressions, verbal outbursts and physical exhaustion.

What I've been taught is that anger, impatience and frustration are
"secondary emotions." In essence, they are the "smoke" that indicates
that a fire is burning somewhere. Other important (primary) feelings
precede anger, impatience and frustration. As I think about how the
fires have made me feel, I've come up with this list:

tense
out of control
vulnerable
ill prepared
financially unstable
unsure
powerless
scared
awed (at the power of destructive ability of fire)
stressed
questioning
fearful
relief (at the fact that fire has not come my way (yet))
wondering (about the future)
sympathy for others' losses
outrage (at the thought of arson)
inspired (by the offers by so many to help and pray)

Two questions help me to determine the spiritual lesson from the
physical circumstance of the fires:

First, did Christ ever feel any of these emotions? 2000 years have
passed, but outrage then felt as outrage feels now. And a bridge is
instantly erected that connects me to Him. He came to be one of us, to experience what we experience, to feel what we feel. And when I acknowledge that He felt what I am feeling, it honors that effort on His part.

Second, have I caused someone close to me (my wife, first) to feel any of these feelings? Being self-aware enough to know how deeply vulnerable I can be made to feel by a fire...I wonder how vulnerable I've made my wife feel when the fire of my anger flares? I don't like it...at all (Christ did not come to make people feel vulnerable, but to be strength to them)...I apologize for it...I ask forgiveness for
it...I commit to not letting myself put my wife (or others close to me) in a vulnerable position again. God, please help me in my weakness...

Peace, Kim

Monday, October 29, 2007

P4E.046 The Nature of My Game

"Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game"

Sympathy for the Devil
Rolling Stones


I have no end to the ways that I can offend people...To those who endeavored to console me at a low time, I can only say that it was not your heart that was in a bad place. It was mine! That said, if my transparency about my marriage causes you to go to self-examination about your heart and your relationship, so much the better!

It is very common for my flesh to desire to be consoled and comforted. My flesh avoids hard work and pain. My flesh would rather maintain the status quo, stay detached and develop callouses that numb my spirit to the pain that I'm causing others and myself. If my flesh can make an excuse for my actions, can minimize the consequences of my actions, it will attempt to do so. Sometimes suggestions by others, who naturally want to think the best, who want not to judge (lest they be judged), who (with a pure heart) want to represent grace and forgiveness, can help my flesh along in its attempts.

I'd like to move along, quit playing games and get to the heart of this thing. Many of us men need a kick in the pants in this area. Call it "accountability" if you will...

I think many wives would respond the way that my wife did. I think this speaks to the track record that we husbands have with our wives. TRUST is a huge issue with most wives. WHY? Because they've seen us around other women. They've seen our eyes wander. They've seen us flirt. Some wives have figured out that their husbands are looking at porn on the Internet. Some husbands have actually, physically been unfaithful in their marriages. Whatever it is, they have their reasons for not TRUSTING us.

So how do I respond? I have to examine myself. Am I attracted to women other than my wife? What do I do with that? Do I flirt? Do my eyes wander? Am I "unfaithful in my heart?" With my wife, I found that the more defensive I got, the more suspicious she got (with good reason).

Many of us view our wives in an adversarial way...she's the "enemy." This is really, really common for husbands to do. In fact, it's the hardest thing for most husbands to change...their perception of their wife as "enemy."

So, when our wives "hit" us with a million questions and "accuse" us of cheating do we think they're doing that because they hate us and wish us dead? I think what's closer to the truth is that they love us and don't want to lose us. When we are inappropriate around other women, because of our track record, our wives may not (should not) TRUST us. They probably feel threatened, at-risk, overlooked, de-valued, unwanted, even betrayed. This may inappropriately come out as jealousy and possessiveness. Jesus did not lead His church to jealousy and possessiveness. Neither should we lead our wives there.

If we were able to change our perception of our wives from "enemy" to "help" we might find that they're actually right about how we are around other women. Figuring that out, we could, with her "help", acknowledge the sin in our lives and change the way we think, act and talk around other women, changing our track record, letting her know how much we really care for her and gaining her TRUST. That way, we wouldn't have to be defensive and we could live in peace and in love with her and ourselves and GOD...

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Thursday, October 18, 2007

P4E.045 Sympathy for the Devil

"So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste"

Rolling Stones


Confession engenders sympathy. After my last post (which I send out as an e-mail to many), I got several sympathetic responses:

Empathy for my situation:
"Believe me, I understand what you are saying. If I were to go home and apologize to my wife for going to lunch with a female co-worker, she would say it is my guilty conscience talking and then accuse me of cheating. She then would hit me with a million questions about the situation in an attempt to prove (to herself) that I'm lying. I have lived this way for most of my married life."

Minimizing the offense:
"I don't see that one time as a big deal, though I know that one thing can lead to another."

Lamenting the expectations for men:
"It sucks that we as men have to think more about certain situations (i.e. you going out with your co-worker for a bite) but that's what we're called to do I guess, especially in a married situation."

It's an interesting phenomenon. Have you experienced it? While I appreciate the care that each one expresses in their sympathy, I have to wonder at my own response to it. My flesh desires to be consoled, to have my offense minimized, to have the pain removed. But, my spirit is concerned about how the offended (my wife, my co-worker, the LORD) would perceive the consolation and my acceptance of it. In my spirit I know that as I allow the sympathy in, it hinders my learning from my own offense.

Sometimes we rush to console, empathize, sympathize and minimize an offense, to try to assuage the resulting pain, when in reality the offender may benefit from, learn from, the offense and the resulting pain.

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
C.S. Lewis


Any thoughts?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

P4E.044 2 Steps Back

I've told you before that this blog is not about me having arrived and telling you how it should be. They are at least part confessional. For all of my high-falutin', philosophical writing, I can really blow it when the rubber meets the road, in the "real world." Sometimes the process of becoming Christlike seems like 1 step forward and 2 steps back. I took about 10 steps back last week. Here's how it happened:

A single, female, co-worker asked me for help because her car was in the shop. She said she would pay for my lunch if I would take her to get hers. So, we went to a sandwich shop together and had lunch. This was a profound lapse in my judgement. I potentially could have compromised her reputation, my reputation and most of all, Christ's reputation. I did not adequately consider my wife's opinion and feelings about the situation. I did not consider the past track record I have with my wife and that I do not (and might never) have her complete trust. Sure, I know that my intentions and her intentions were innocent, but the appearance of it could be misinterpreted. I did not consider my position as a married man and role-model/counsellor to many and how it could be damaged by the appearance of going to lunch with an single, female co-worker. And, it must be true that every extra-marital affair starts with a "first step." The fact is, I rushed to be "helpful" and to look like a "good guy," when in reality I could have figured out a bunch of ways to help which would leave intact my wife's feelings, my co-worker's reputation, my reputation and Christ's reputation.

I have heard the stories about how Billy Graham would never even be alone in an elevator with a woman, to keep his reputation (and Christ's) unvarnished. He would not close the door to his office if there was a woman inside. I guess I've never considered myself in Billy Graham's league, but I am married and I am a role-model/counsellor to others. Thinking about it now, I would never counsel another husband that it would be a good idea to go to lunch alone with a female co-worker.

So, it's 2 (10?) steps back....I've apologized to my wife and asked for her forgiveness, which she's given. But the new track record I was trying to create has been de-railed and it's going to take some time to get it re-aligned and re-connected. Some "mistakes" (this one in judgement) have greater consequences than others. Hope we can all learn by my mistakes. I'm sure that there's more to this story than I have talked about here. I'm not trying to trivialize it by being brief. More to follow...

Peace, Kim

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

P4E.043 Unpacking 3

Grace is just one of the attributes of God that I strive to imitate. There's also patience, non-judgement, forgiveness, strength and peace just to name a few. I know in the past I have encouraged people to "go to church" in the hopes that they might meet God there. Some churches even advertise that they are a place where people can "meet God."

The big flaw in the idea of sending people off to church to meet God is that it let's me off the hook. I have to ask myself these questions: "Why would I send anyone somewhere else to meet God? Isn't the idea that I'm supposed to represent Him by being Christlike myself? To be His ambassador? To be a light on a hill, drawing people to Him? Isn't that exactly the model of God made man in Christ? (No, I'm not implying that I become God, only Christ-like!) The difference between Christ and me is that I'm imperfect. Striving, but imperfect. But, that's the hope that someone like me can give to others. That one doesn't have to be perfect to approach God (impossible anyway). Can I represent Him well and not be perfect? I say yes...

I have to face the fact that the reason I would tell people to go to church to meet God is that I'm not willing to do the WORK required to represent Him well. What work? Well, it's partially just manifesting those attributes which I find it so hard to imitate....patience, non-judgement, forgiveness, strength, peace, grace....you get the idea...

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

P4E.042 Unpacking 2

I've wondered what the "treasures in heaven" that Jesus spoke of in the Book of Matthew were. It seems clear that He was contrasting them to "earthly" treasures, that is, MONEY (and all that money brings).

Heavenly treasures are SPIRITUAL treasures. I struggle to hold "spiritual treasures" in high regard because my values are largely material (money based) ones.

Scripture defines the "fruit" of the spirit to be "love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control." Whenever I can think, act or speak in such a way that demonstrates these emotions or elicits these emotions in others, I believe that I am storing up treasures in heaven. That is, God, being Spirit, sees/feels my heart and interprets my thoughts, actions and speech as worshipping Him in the spirit. That is my treasure in heaven.

Peace, Kim

Thursday, September 27, 2007

P4E.041 Unpacking 1

I crammed a lot into the last two posts. Gauging by the response, I've been confusing. At the risk of repeating myself (which my wife, Gwen, tells me I do too often) I'll attempt to "unpack" the last couple of posts into bite-sized pieces that are more clear.

First, my quotes from We Barbarians' song "Yesmen and Bumsuckers" were meant to be an ironic contrast to the topic of grace. What I meant by including them was to ask the question, "How do I perceive others and how do they perceive me?" Do I naturally perceive others as a treacherous threat? Do they perceive me as un-forgiving and wishing them harm? Is it true? Am I graceless and malicious? Hopefully not, but I actually live somewhere between treacherous and Christlike. Ken Nair calls that status "semi-Christlike." My goal is to constantly be moving towards Christlikeness. Like all of us married men, I get to practice on my wife. That's how she "helps" me. Hope that brings some clarity. More to follow.

All the best, Kim

Monday, September 24, 2007

P4E.040 A Parallel Universe

"If I was haunted by my past, would you turn back the clock?
If I came to you in peace, would you be armed to the teeth?
If I was drowning in the sea, would you let it swallow me?
If I was mourning the dead, would you dig my grave too?
I think you would.
I think you would."

We Barbarians


Simply put, our natural values are at odds with God's. Scripture stresses this repeatedly. Whether it's "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways declares the LORD," or "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding..." or "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other," it is clear that we naturally value that which is contrary to what God values.

It can be considered a "parallel universe" of value systems. They can co-exist because one is based on the material and the other on the spiritual. Yes, they can overlap to some small extent, but in their essentials they are polarized.

Think about what we, as men, naturally value: Money, appearances, time (is money), speed (a subset of time), fame, power, work, education, pleasure (has many subsets). Did I miss anything? You see, it's a set of values that can be defined in short fashion.

Scripture reveals a different, Godly value system. God has no beginning or end, so time is of little consequence to Him. "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." "You cannot serve God and money." "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong."

As an example, the visual arts, performing arts, music, poetry, the written word are all expressions of the spirit. As such, they are of less value in a "materialist/earthly/fleshly/mechanical" value system. Of course there is some cross over value to the material value system, but they are much more highly valued as expressions of the spirit in a "spiritual" value system.

Here's a word/thought I want to share with you: romance. It implies improbability, excitement, heroism, chivalry, adventure, idealism, transcendence, heightened emotions, amour.

Grace is such a notion. Graceful, gracious, elegance, seemliness, propriety, consideration, charm... BEAUTY. To extend forgiveness, to sanctify that which is undeserving, to do and be more than what is expected are romantic, beautiful notions that we may not naturally value as men.

"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised."

But there's hope...We need not resign ourselves to our natural state...We can be "born again." As Christ said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

Peace, Kim

Monday, September 17, 2007

P4E.039 Treasures in Heaven

"If I came up to meet you, would you be smug with me?
If I was lying in the road, would you step over me?
If I were just bare bones, would you leave me skinned alive?
If I were drifting into space, would you let me be erased?
I think you would.
I think you would."

We Barbarians


I just finished reading Brennan Manning's "The Ragamuffin Gospel." I'm sure people may find him controversial, but his writing on the grace of God is consistent and emphatic.

Reading Manning made me realize that I have no problem identifying God's grace in Scripture. I can recognize and can be appreciative (but not always) when others extend grace towards me. There have been many times when I've deserved to be "called on the carpet," blamed, put down, scolded, charged, held to account and punished. Instead I've been given "a pass," "some slack," a pardon, forgiveness...Grace!!

Where I realize I have a problem is extending grace to others. I think it's only fair to expect to be treated with honesty, fairness and truthfulness. It's fair to expect others to work as hard as I do and to perform to my all too reasonable expectations. When they don't, I think it's fair that they suffer some consequence for letting me down that way. This is true both in the workplace and at home! Men like me are referred to in the world as "principled," fair-minded," and "discerning." We are driven by the "bottom-line" of pocketbook in the workplace and public perception at home. I truly am like the servant in the parable who is forgiven his debt by the king, yet holds his debtors, who owe him much less, to account.

I bump into several Scriptures that contradict my natural attitude about grace: "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." "do not resist him who is evil...(that whole turn the other cheek thing, you know?)" "if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also." "...love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you..." "Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?"

I've come to believe that every time I (accidentally mess up and do the right thing, that is) extend grace to others, I'm laying up what Jesus calls "treasures in heaven." It's part of a parallel universe value system. But that's for the next post. In the mean time, cut someone who needs it some slack and so will I. (Watch for the reaction when you do extend grace...it's clearly unexpected and really catches people by surprise.)

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

P4E.038 Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall

"The mirror on my wall
Casts an image dark and small
But I'm not sure at all it's my reflection.
I am blinded by the light
Of God and truth and right
And I wander in the night without direction.

So I'll continue to continue to pretend
My life will never end,
And Flowers Never Bend
With The Rainfall."


Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall
Paul Simon

I've been encouraged by Dave DuFour, a friend and counsellor, not to view my shortcomings as "weaknesses," but as evidence of how strong my "flesh" really is. I agree and will do my best to change my frame of reference on this. One of the areas where my flesh is strong is its tendency to protect itself so that I don't deal with it. Here's an example:

I lie to myself. I like to think I have all the time in the world to effect the changes that I want to in my life. The reality is, I'm 50 years old now. It seems like just yesterday I was 30. But, 70 seems light years away (if I ever make it)! With so many of my commitments, re-commitments and resolutions, the critical question is "When, When.....WHEN!!!!" If my quest is to change the way I think act and talk to be more Christlike...the critical question is..."WHEN?" My pattern is to procrastinate, overthink, hem and haw, make excuses, postpone, dilly dally, get overwhelmed, and just plain waste a bunch of time. In my weaker moments (when my reflection is "dark and small"), I refuse to believe these things about myself. Everyone around me suffers for my lack of sense of urgency about my un-Christlikeness.

For me, the answer to the critical question is "Now, Now...NOW!!!"

"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers." John 4:23

Peace, Kim

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

P4E.037 - Sound Effects 2 - Defiled!

"Hear and understand. Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man....the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man." Jesus

I realize that I have skipped over the whole area of cursing when things go wrong. Knowing that I'm coming from a Believer's perspective and that I believe that most of you are Believers, I expect that we can rightly assume that my flesh is completely in control if I'm cursing when things go wrong. That's not where I want to be at all. I would hate to be like one of those pilots whose last recorded words are "_ _ _ _" before their plane crashes. So, I'm talking about another, higher level of personal accountability and credibility here....One that we should rightly be held to as Believers in Christ.

It may be urban legend, but I've heard that doctors and surgeons are trained not to say things like "oops," or "uh-ohhh," or any other utterances that might give their patients cause to become concerned. Instead, I've heard they are trained to say "therrrrrrrre," with confidence when things go wrong. I like this. I don't look at it as though the doctor is trying to cover anything up, but that they don't want to unduly concern their patients. I look at it as though they are confident that whatever mistake they've made can be remedied and there's no reason to fuss and fume over it and distress their patient's spirits. If a doctor can be trained thus, then so can I!

I have a close friend who once described going to the refrigerator, looking for mustard. Instead of finding the old stand-by mustard, he found a different brand. His response was "awwwwwwwwww." Unbeknownst to him, his wife was in the kitchen. She asked him "what?" So he told her that it was just that there wasn't his old favorite mustard in the 'fridge. This opened up a whole area of conversation where my friend learned that these verbal outbursts were a "drain" on his wife's spirit. Her spirit would sink when these utterances would escape his mouth because it caused her to worry "what now?"

I know that I do exactly this same thing to Gwen. I'm not supposed to be a drain on her spirit, but rather I'm supposed to be strength. This has really been a revelation to me. My attitude, personality, words, actions, thoughts, even the sounds that I make have a real physical effect on those around me, especially my wife and children. I can be a drain or I can be a source of strength. I choose. With some self-discipline, I choose wisely. How about you?

Peace, Kim

Monday, August 20, 2007

P4E.036 Sound Effects - The Voice of the Flesh

Last time I wrote about how many wives see their husbands as "wimps." This is nothing new. Gwen and I recently watched an old episode of I Love Lucy (1952) where Ricky gets a sore throat and acts as if he's going to die. Lucy and Ethel discuss how men are such babies when it comes to getting sick. And Ethel brings up what a double standard men have in that Fred has told her to get up and make him lunch the second day after she broke her ankle, telling her that walking on it would help it to heal. These things are funny because they ring so true in real life.

Gwen has helped me to see an area where I am "wimpy." I'm still working on it. I make sounds when I get exasperated or frustrated or upset or agitated or edgy. Gwen refers to the sounds as the "flesh leaking through." It goes like this:

I'm pouring something to drink and I spill some..."exploding exhale" (this is accomplished by constricting the throat at the base and letting it go quickly while breathily exhaling)

I can't get the printer to print..."tsk" (placing the tongue against the back of the top teeth, gritting teeth and sucking the tongue away sharply)

Something I'm looking for is not where I think it should be and I have to go looking for it..."grrrrrr" (constricting the base of the throat and exhaling while keeping the throat partially constricted...makes a growling dog sound)

These sound effects have a similar effect on Gwen and my son, Ben, as my previous rantings and ravings (which have reduced greatly, but still occur occasionally). That is, the sounds make them uncomfortable and on the defensive. They don't know if I'm directing the sounds towards them or not. It's never comfortable to be around someone who is fuming. I know that myself and yet I still fume......So, Gwen has a rule: "NO SOUND EFFECTS." I break it when I'm in the flesh.

I guess these sound effects of mine expose the fact that at the moment I have no self-control (a fruit of the spirit). That I'm giving in to circumstances and letting them get to me ( a sign of weakness or "wimpiness"). Usually, it's also a sign that I'm not in a good place to begin with. I'm not at peace (another fruit of the spirit) because I'm letting circumstances and the feelings they generate build up; I haven't discussed them with a friend or with my help (Gwen) or with God. Again, I'm reminded of the Scripture that says "...the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart."

There's more to come on this...Do you struggle in the same way?

Peace, Kim

Monday, August 13, 2007

P4E.035 Tough

Here's the lyrics to a song sung by Craig Morgan currently #20 on the Country charts:

Tough
Monty Criswell/Joe Leathers

She's in the kitchen at the crack of dawn
Bacon's on, coffee's strong
Kids running wild, taking off their clothes
If she's a nervous wreck, well it never shows
Takes one to football and one to dance
Hits the Y for aerobics class
Drops by the bank, stops at the store
Has on a smile when I walk through the door
The last to go to bed, she'll be the first one up
And I thought I was tough

Chorus
She's strong, pushes on, can't slow her down
She can take anything life dishes out
There was a time
Back before she was mine
When I thought I was tough

We sat there five years ago
The doctors let us know, the test showed
She'd have to fight to live, I broke down and cried
She held me and said it's gonna be alright
She wore that wig to church
Pink ribbon pinned there on her shirt
No room for fear, full of faith
Hands held high singing Amazing Grace
Never once complained, refusing to give up
And I thought I was tough

Chorus
She's strong, pushes on, can't slow her down
She can take anything life dishes out
There was a time
Back before she was mine
When I thought I was tough

She's a gentle word, the sweetest kiss
A velvet touch against my skin
I've seen her cry, I've seen her break
But in my eyes, she'll always be strong

There was a time
Back before she was mine
When I thought I was tough


I wonder how many of us husbands can relate? I know I can. Because Gwen and I minister to married couples in crisis, I can't tell you how many times I've heard the wife express that she sees her husband as a "wimp." Gwen has said the same thing about me and I acknowledge that I have been. "Wimpiness" takes the form of whining, complaining, shirking responsibilities, weakness, giving up, not facing up to difficult relational tasks. In short, all the excuses for not exercising leadership. We recently heard about an exhibition of horsemanship where three people were in the ring doing an intricately choreographed routine with their horses. Not unusual except that one rider had no legs, one had no arms and one was blind....What was my excuse again?

Our role-model as husbands to our wives is Jesus to His people when He said,

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Can I be that for my wife? That's my goal... Peace, Kim

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

P4E.034 Flesh and Blood

"THE MALE BODY Build it, Feed it, Show it off!"
Cover headline of July/August issue of Men's Health Magazine

I know that you have to expect this sort of headline in a men's health magazine. Even still, it is indicative of the overall culture's (I should say of humankind's) emphasis on the "flesh." Our attraction to things of the flesh has always been. We simply have more immediate ways to gratify the attraction at our disposal now. The encouragement to "build it, feed it and show it off" really should be at odds with a Believer's perspective.

I've been told more than a few times recently that I'm being too hard on myself (and vicariously, all husbands) in this Blog. I may have to ask my wife, Gwen, to weigh in on how hard she thinks I'm being on myself in comparison to how hard I have been on her and my sons over the last 30 years. I truly believe that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present, loving, Creator. I would rather be hard on myself now than have Him be hard on me later (know whutta mean?). Yes, I may be hard on my self, but I believe that my pursuit of Christlikeness demands it. Scripture is pretty clear about this.

Matthew reports, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.""

And the apostle Paul (whom I greatly admire) says "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me ." It has been pointed out that the word "I" in this passage is translated from the Greek, "Ego." So, my egotism, my conceit, my self-importance must be sacrificed in favor of Christ.

John the Baptist, upon hearing of Christ's work said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." I maintain the same: Christ must increase and I must decrease.

As my physical, fleshly, perspective decreases, my goal is to replace it with a spiritual, Godly paradigm. So, instead of building, feeding and showing off my flesh, the goal is to build, feed and display Christ's spirit within me. Why? Because Scripture is also clear about this: "...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God..." Only the "imperishable" spirit can enter God's kingdom.

God help me (and you!)

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

P4E.033 Dead Men's Bones

"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

Recently, a husband told me that he feels like every word that comes out of his mouth about his wife is "under a microscope." I told him, "Yes, they are under a microscope!" So many times I find myself being casual, flippant and sloppy with my words. Sometimes I communicate something that I really didn't mean to communicate. And, sometimes I accidentally communicate what is truly on my heart. By my fleshly nature, I can really be critical. Even when I try to mask it, the words that come out of my mouth can (usually do) reveal what is truly in my heart.

As an example, I recently heard a husband describe his wife as a "neat freak." The phrase and the way he said it conveyed that:

a) he struggled to understand why she would have to be that neat
b) he resented how she imposed her neatness standards onto him
c) he did not value her organizational abilities
d) he felt competition between himself and his wife
e) he did not appreciate her

When pressed he would probably change his tune and say "no, no, I do appreciate her!" But, the fact is that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Mt 12:34)

So, you might ask, "what's a fellow to do?" I've come to believe about myself that the answer lies in me changing my heart. I need to get to the place where I truly believe in my heart that my wife is a great planner/organizer who's abilities I am not threatened by, but truly appreciate, value and understand. Then my mouth will not characterize her as a "neat freak," but praise her positive character qualities to her face and in front of other people. When I get to that place I can be truly inspired by those positive character qualities to be better organized myself.

Jesus compared the religious leaders of the time to "whitewashed tombs, which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness." That's why He said we must be "born again" so that our appearance and our heart would be aligned, alive, righteous and pure.

God help us! Kim

Thursday, July 19, 2007

P4E.032 One Vs. Rent

One:
1. being or amounting to a single unit or individual or entire thing, item, or object rather than two or more.
2. of the same or having a single kind, nature, or condition: We belong to one team; We are of one resolve.
3. in a state of agreement; of one opinion.
4. united in thought or feeling; attuned: He felt at one with his Creator.

Rent:
1. to separate into parts with force or violence.
2. to harrow or distress (the heart) with painful feelings.

In a way, it would be easy to lie to you and tell you that everything's going great. To put on a facade and let you think what a great guy I am. But, you should know that my wife, Gwen, views these posts. So, I would not be able to stand before her or God if I tried to deceive you that way.

The fact is, that I haven't been doing well in my relationship with Gwen. Last week she wanted to sit down and make a list of things that we needed to get done around the house and in our lives. "Brainstorm." We have done this before without any problem. It shouldn't have been a big deal. For reasons I'm still trying to examine, I was balking about the whole process. It got to the place where I accused Gwen of being judgemental about my lack of ability to embrace making the list with enthusiasm.

In our Tuesday evening group we discussed this situation and one of the ladies there spoke some truth to me: "This was not about making the list. This was about Gwen wanting to plan out your lives together, to be one with you, to share her heart with you. Basically, what you did was throw her heart in the trash...." My eyes are welling up even as I type those words. That is NOT what I want to convey to my wife. That is NOT what I truly feel in my heart towards her. And yet, that is what I told her by my attitude.

I have to be careful not to either let myself off too easy or to be so hard on myself that I focus on me and not Gwen. I want to be one with Gwen, as I vowed almost 30 years ago and not rent from her. I want to be strong enough to have some self-control when it comes to my attitudes, actions and words. I'm looking to God for His strength and not my own.

As I've said before, if you can avoid making the same mistakes I do by my relating them to you, so much the better for you. My testing won't be in vain.

God help me and you, Kim

Thursday, July 12, 2007

P4E.031 Just Do It

"Just Do It"
Nike Ad Campaign

After the last post, I know some of you might be asking yourselves, "Well, just what does it mean to "immerse" yourself in the Holy Spirit? It sounds like more Christian mumbo jumbo, lingo, platitudes." "What does that look like?"

For me, it looks like exercising my spirit muscle over my flesh muscle. One is always going to be stronger than the other and will win out in the ongoing battle. Leaders in Life Partners talk about a "shortcut to Christlikeness." The shortcut is doing exactly the opposite of what feels like a natural response in any given challenging situation. This is nearly impossible if I'm "in the flesh." My flesh muscle being so much stronger than my spirit muscle. But, every time I'm able to choose a spiritual response over a fleshly one, my spirit muscle is strengthened. It becomes imprinted with a more Christlike response.

To be more precise I'm making efforts, with God's help, to change the way I think, act and talk. So when I want to get angry and yell, I remain calm and stay quiet. When I want to withdraw and sulk, I must push myself to remain connected and communicative. When I feel tired and overwhelmed, I look to God for strength and stay strong for those around me. When I want to defend myself, I take my share of responsibility. When I want to hoard, I give. When my flesh wants me to look at something I know I shouldn't be looking at, I look the other way. When I want to accuse, I withhold judgement. When I want to procrastinate, I just do it. Get the idea?

Of course, I'm not always successful in these efforts. But having found a way that I know is true...that is denying the flesh...I am better able to gauge my own connectedness to the spirits' of God, my family and those I come in contact with. It's getting easier to recognize when I'm "in the flesh" and my wife, Gwen, is always so much more willing to forgive me when I'm able to acknowledge that I was wrong, ask for forgiveness and "repent" of that wrongdoing. There's always challenging physical circumstances that God uses to teach me spiritual lessons. I feel most like I've passed the test when I respond with my spirit and not with my flesh.

Dave Dufour, a Life Partners Leader, spoke briefly last week about fasting and I was blown away by his words. He was talking about what starts happening in the first, fourth, seventh day and beyond of fasting. Honestly, I've never fasted that long. But, the idea of saying no to my flesh's desire for food for the purpose of focusing on my spirit and what God's Holy Spirit has to teach me is sounding ever better. I know, I know....I need to Just Do It!!

Peace, Kim

Friday, July 6, 2007

P4E.030 Zombie Flesh Redux

When I put my flesh to death, I realize that my flesh is a zombie! It keeps getting back up! I need to put it to death again..."
Ken Nair, Founder Life Partners

In the last post I paraphrased Ken on the flesh being like a zombie. Above is the exact quote.

"You can't put the flesh to death with the flesh."
Dave Dufour, Life Partners

I've heard that you "can't fight fire with fire." This is the same idea. The fact is, that many times I do try to put my flesh to death with fleshly ways, ideas and values. Example: I use my intellect/reason or I exercise my own willpower to try to make myself change an un-Christlike thought, word or action pattern. Most of the time it's worse. Not only does my flesh not put my flesh to death, my flesh actually ends up rationalizing what my flesh wants to do. Arrrrgh!

When I fail, I'm immersed in my thoughts, my comfort , my possessions, my time, my desires, my values...me, my, mine. Inevitably, I become impatient, frustrated and angry when I do this. I do it often. I did it last night.....This way of living and thinking is a useless tool in killing the zombie flesh.

What has started to work for me is actualizing Scripture, "for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

Scripture says "...but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses...to the remotest part of the earth." I think this verse has been misused over time. This Holy Spirit power was meant as a help for us to be in the continuous process of killing our flesh so that we can be a good example for Christ's sake.

So, the idea is that I get my own spirit into the zombie flesh killing action by immersing myself in God's Holy Spirit. "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God...and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

God help me to be immersed in your Spirit (and my spirit and my wife's spirit and my sons' spirits and my friends' spirits) so that I can be more like you and more prepared for eternity!

Blessings, Kim

PS: I've quoted Scripture, but purposely not given you the references. If you are interested, your quest will involve finding them yourself. Hint: Try Acts and Romans.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

P4E.029 Zombie Flesh

"My flesh is like a zombie, I kill it and it keeps getting up and I have to kill it again and again!"
Ken Nair, Life Partners

I don't know about you, but when I blow it, I tend to blow it big time. This last weekend, to make a long story short, I blew it big time. Through my misunderstanding my wife, I became offended and defensive. I told Gwen that I didn't want her to disrespect me by thinking that I wouldn't stand up for myself. She told me I knew better than that. She said she couldn't believe I "would fall for that!" It hit me when she said it and I knew she was right.

What I realized was that I didn't want to disrespect myself. But, what I was thinking and feeling was worthy of disrespect. I have to keep killing my zombie flesh and reminding myself that Christ's values are diametrically opposed to my natural values. My values are self-preservation and self-defense. His values are others-oriented. He simply did not defend Himself. This comes through Scripture in so many ways. Everything from loving your enemies to turning the other cheek to being led like a lamb to slaughter.

Gwen is not my enemy and the flaw that she was pointing out in my character was true, but I defended myself just the same. I have apologized, but I know that I've set myself back quite a bit. God help me to go on creating a new track record, caring for her and understanding her more and more... Here's hoping you can learn from my mistakes.

Blessings, Kim

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

P4E.028 Horse Sense 6 (the last)

"He was going to make a mistake and then he corrected himself..."
Clinton Anderson about the horse he is training

Clinton Anderson defines horse counter conditioning as "The horse trains himself not to do the thing you don't want him to do." Casting us men in the role of horse again, I see the correlation with some Scripture in this idea.

In Romans 7:15, Paul says, "For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate." Later, Paul acknowledges that he needs help and asks for it and thanks God for providing it.

I'm looking at the idea that I must change, I must correct myself (as in fleeing immorality, following the 10 commandments, abandoning Un-Christlikeness, etc...) When I change my thinking I CAN be victorious in Christ even and ESPECIALLY when I am ALONE. I will be tempted. It's in that moment of temptation that I have the opportunity to say to myself, "I'm going to make a mistake, I need to correct myself..." It can be done! God help me.

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Thursday, June 14, 2007

P4E.027 Horse Sense 5

"I want two eyes, not two heels. Two eyes equals respect. Two heels shows disrespect."
Clinton Anderson about the horse he is training

So, I've caught some flack about drawing lessons about women/wives through horse training. This time it's the men's turn to play the horse part.

I have been known to not give eye contact when my wife is talking to me. Sometimes it was intentional, many times not. Gwen would even move her body and face into my line of sight to emphasize the fact that I was not looking at her when she was talking to me. This would, of course, make me embarrassed, defensive and upset. What was the big deal? So what, I'm not looking at you! I can hear you and talk to you without seeing you!

Well, in the first place, I've come to see and believe that it was just plain bad manners. In the second place, I realize that by not looking at Gwen when she was talking to me I was sending the message that I did not value, agree with or respect whatever it was she was saying to me. Many times, I actually would not remember her saying things to me, in part, because I truly hadn't been paying attention.

When I think about it, I don't want to send that message to her. I do value and respect the things Gwen wants to say to me. I do want to pay attention to the things she wants to say to me. So I'm making every effort to look at her face and her eyes when she's talking. Even when she's not talking to me, but to someone else in my presence. It lets her and others know that I care about her and what she's saying. This has even gone to my phone etiquette. Gwen can actually feel through the phone whether I'm listening to her or distracted. She can hear when I'm tapping away at the computer while she's talking to me. So, now I make every effort to stop whatever it is I'm doing to BE THERE when I'm talking to Gwen on the phone.

One added benefit is that I'm better able to read Gwen's spirit when I have eye contact with her. I've always heard that the "eyes are the window to the soul." Eyes can be "wide- open," "shifty," "beady," "averted," "downcast," "sparkling," "rolled," "riveted," "teary," "shut tight," "squinted," "hardened," "baleful," "sad," "happy," etc. Notice that any emotion you can think of can be attributed to or expressed in the eyes. To be an effective spiritual leader, I must be able to read my wife's spirit so that I can know how to minister to her and represent Christ well. Looking at her eyes is my window into her spirit. And my eyes are her window into mine. We become one. That's what it's all about.

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

P4E.026 Horse Sense 4

"I'm analyzing her. I'm reading things she wants to tell me."
Clinton Anderson about the horse he is training

I've come to the realization that I don't know my wife well enough. I want to write a book about her. Not for publishing purposes, but for my own. So that I can research her. Study her. Analyze her. Become an expert about her. She's the most important person in my life. I bound my destiny to hers when I married her. We are "one" in that sense. But, I don't know her like I know myself. And this is after what will be 30 years of marriage in December.

We have a friend who told us that after over 20 years of marriage she realized that her husband did not know what her favorite donut is. (Quick, do you know your wife's favorite?) I don't want to be in that boat. Obviously, there are other, even more important things to know about my wife.

You see, Clinton Anderson is analyzing the horse, is reading the thing that she wants to tell him because:
he's interested.
he's motivated.
he wants to know how she thinks.
he wants to know what she's trying to tell him.
he wants to be an effective leader.
he wants to become one with her.
he wants to gain her respect.
All are good reasons why we should analyze our wives and read the thing she's trying to tell us.

In his "Discovery Seminar" Ken Nair describes a language that is foreign to us men. We don't naturally understand it, but we must if we are to communicate effectively with our wives and other women in our lives. It's called "Womanese." It's vocabulary is emotional/spiritual. When we get to know Womanese, our wives are more understandable and their ways less mysterious. I always knew understanding a foreign language would be useful!

Peace, Kim

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

P4E.025 Horse Sense 3

"Consistency is your greatest ally.
Inconsistency is your greatest enemy."
Clinton Anderson

It's amazing how much horse training crosses over to human training! A character quality that I'm working on is "trustworthiness." My wife, Gwen, does not feel safe when I act, speak or think erratically. She doesn't feel safe when she cannot trust me to have the same Christlike character qualities on a consistent basis. She can't relax and be herself when she doesn't know who her husband is going to be day to day. Is he going to be gentle and mild mannered or is he going to be hot-headed and controlling? Loving or selfish? Caring or distracted?

I know the age old issue always comes up: "I'm human, I'll never be perfect." Even though Christ calls us to be perfect, this isn't about being perfect. It's about the sincerity of my pursuit of Christlikeness. What happens when I mess up? Can I consistently recognize my sins, feel genuine sorrow over them, ask for forgiveness and repent from them? Am I creating a track record of being Christlike that is occasionally broken or vice-versa? If I can be consistent in the honorable way that I handle my occasional inconsistencies, even that ministers to my wife. When I am consistent and trustworthy, Gwen is able to feel safe, honored, valued....loved. God help me to be consistently Christlike and trustworthy for her sake!

Peace, Kim

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

P4E.024 Horse Sense 2 Redux

My wife has helped me to see that my previous post might leave you with the impression that she was disrespectful in an un-Godly way. That is, that she was a raving lunatic. This was not the case at all. My apologies for any confusion there. My wife was always careful to maintain her integrity and never dropped to my level. What I meant was that I could not blame her if, inside, she had no respect for me because I really had not earned it.

In fact, this brings to mind the equation that I laid out before:

Christlike husband = Holy wife

This equation does not necessarily work in reverse, that is:

Holy wife does not necessarily = Christlike husband

We know of many holy wives who have bought into the idea that if they simply pray, be patient, be submissive, be quiet, be the Proverbs 31 wife, that their husbands will turn around and bless them and will treat them better and will become more Christlike. The problem is that, in general, it does not seem to be working. Here is an e-mail that we recently received (names are changed) that illustrates what I mean:

"Well, it has been a long time since we last spoke and
I know you have heard some things about the "state" in
which my marriage is in, so I figured in an attempt to
help other's who may really be searching, seeking and
persuing what it takes to make a marriage really work,
I would like to share my heart for a moment if I may.

Last May, a year ago, we relocated to (another state). I came
with the kids and my husband of almost 20 years stayed
behind to finish up on his work committments and to
continue seeing (a Life Partners counsellor) as he promised. Well, he
finished working but never went back to his weekly
visits with (a Life Partners counsellor) and when questioned about this and
the sincerity of his promise, he got mad!

I began to pray hard in May that God would show me
what to do here. I have tried "everything" I know how
to do for the entire duration of my marriage to make
it work. Counseling, seminars, marriage encounters,
therapists, medication, pastor intervention, group
Bible studys, in home couples groups, self help books,
PRAYER, intervention with family.....the list goes
on...all to the same sad end! No change that has ever
been lasting.

I got a clear sign from God last May that I was to
step out of God's way and let Him deal with my husband
as he saw fit! I decided to give it a try, to remove
myself emotionally, and see what happened. We became
more separated, with even less communication and
really never saw each other. When I gave a June 1st
deadline for divorce unless I saw some HUGE heart
changes, I got the same old, "He was busy, when he was
not working so much we could go talk with someone"
speech. I became mad, he was emotionless as usual.

Since I have been here I have met a lot of nice men,
some of which I have become friends with. I have taken
a lot of slack for speaking with them, and will not
justify my action there at all, as it was exactly what
I needed at the time. I have been ignored, rejected,
forgotten.....discarded like a piece of trash my
entire marriage, and the fact that gothers were able
to point out in my some good qualities I could not see
otherwise, due to the horrible things my husband has
made me feel over the years from his words and lack of
concern for me has helped me to see that I do not need
to suffer in a relationship as this anymore. I am a
good person and God does have a plan for me and my
life, and maybe it is without him as my husband.

I was scared to do anything for many years, and would
always find myself justifying or rationalizing why so
many situations in my marriage such as affairs,
pornography, etc. would creep up, and I always made it
my fault and just stayed for the next dose of hell.

Well, I have taken control of my life, I am filing for
divorce, and after telling him this repeatadly, have
gotten really no response or any type of action to
tell me to do otherwise.

I feel like we have been playing a Chess game for
years, and I am literally backed into the last
remaining corner on the board with two
choices......stay there and never complain about where
my marriage has ended up, as that is where I will
always be, or jump over him and continue to move from
square to square alone, and live for a change without
the fear of rejection, isolation, abandonment, and
neglet that I have felt my entire marriage from the
one that I have loved more than anyone else. I have
boarded up my heart, taken back control and have made
a descision "good or Bad" to never allow myself to
enter a relationshiop such as this again. I love him
as a friend, and the father of my children, but will
never trust him with my heart again, as he has shown
me that I am not worth fighting for, not even in the
least bit! I feel sad, but hopeful for my future, I
feel free for the first time ever, and I fell
empowered to walk where my feet take me and to make
something of myself, and my children's life before I
spend the next twenty chasing a dream that will never
come true.

I thanks you for your prayers over the years, your
support, your words of wisdom, they are forever in my
heart and will remain there as the ground work for any
future relationships I may have.

You may share this with your group if you wish, as it
serves to prove just what happens when a man "forgets"
what comes between him and God....PRIDE!! Pride and
the inability to humble the heart to the point that
God can really allow my husband to feel something and
then share it with me, has caused our marriage to end
here and now.

Take care,
Jane (not her real name)"

I know this couple well and can vouch for her portrayal of her efforts and her marriage. It broke my heart as I read it. I wonder how it affects you?

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

P4E.023 Horse Sense 2

"Horses won't want to respect you unless you show them that you're a
worthy leader."
Clinton Anderson

And neither will a wife. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not comparing wives to horses. But, I am saying that wives will want to respect a worthy leader. When I was not getting any respect from my wife, I naturally thought that it was her shortcoming that she was not respecting (submitting to) her husband. That was not very Christian of her! It did not immediately occur to me that her lack of respect was due to my unworthy leadership. In fact, it took a very long time for that idea to sink in.

A concept that I've come to believe is an oxymoron is the concept of "demanding respect." Respect is earned; gained through consistent worthy leadership. Respect cannot be demanded any more than forgiveness or love or grace or friendship. Respect by definition is given freely, without coercion of any sort.

Ken Nair has shown me a startling equation based on Ephesians 5:25-26 "Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,"

That equation goes like this: Christlike husband = Holy wife
Its corollary is frightening. It goes like this:
Un-Christlike husband = ?? (you fill in the blank)

This is where I understood that pointing the finger of blame did me no good, but self-examination was very helpful.

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

P4E.022 Horse Sense

Last weekend we went to a clinic held by a well-known horsetrainer named Clinton Anderson. So much of what we were taught about horses and their trainers seemed to transfer to human relationships that I thought I would dwell on it for a bit.

"Frustration begins when knowledge ends"
Clinton Anderson

Whether Clinton knew it or not, this is a very Scriptural concept as in Proverbs 14:29 "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly." Frustration and anger are two emotions that we men CAN name and do recognize. I can't tell you how many times I have been frustrated in my relationships with my wife and children. How angry I have been towards them, because I felt that they misunderstood me, mistook me, disobeyed me, disappointed me, had different opinions from mine, couldn't understand that my way was the right way.

I have learned a lot since those times and what that knowledge has meant is that I make every effort not to terrorize my wife and children anymore. When I'm slower to frustration and anger I gain greater understanding to the point that I don't get angry and frustrated. I know you may be saying to yourself, "Sure, Kim..." but, I am telling you that with God's help I have really changed directions in this area of my life. Sure, I still get angry, frustrated, impatient at times but much less frequently and that is not the track record I am making now. And, the biggest thing is that I now recognize when I get angry, frustrated and impatient and have the tools to acknowledge, apologize and repent from blowing up my home. God help me to continue.

So, what knowledge am I talking about that will ward off frustration and anger? It's the knowledge of my own spirit, of my wife's spirit and my children's spirit and all of the others who look to me for spiritual leadership. It's the knowledge of assessing their spiritual condition and knowing how God would have me minister to where they're at. It is the knowledge of God's Word to help me know what He requires of me. It's the knowledge of what spiritual fruit I will need to evidence to let God, others and myself know I'm operating in His will (See Galatians 5:22).

I haven't asked before, but, do you have anything to add to (or contradict) what I'm saying?

Peace, Kim

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

P4E.021 I'm on Your Side

In the past, I have viewed my wife like many Christian men do, as "support." This was fostered by my understanding that my wife was to be my "help." So, I went to "work" and she took care of all the rest. That was her role. I did not see it as my responsibility to help around the house or to do many things that would let her know that we were "one" or that I appreciated her at all. I was not on her side. My role was "breadwinner." In fact, I was insensitive enough to criticise my wife's handling of affairs on the home front. This was all very draining to her. It also forced her to become very independent of me. She could not count on me. I was busy with "work."

That did not work well. It was not Christlike. In Life Partners ministry, I was reminded that Christ was/is a source of strength, not a draining influence. Jesus said, "Come unto me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest...I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls." I want to be more like Him.

The last couple of weeks have been stressful at work. I have not been a source of strength for my wife, but have been rather weak. "Edgy." My old impatient self has been leaking out here and there. I've always gotten inspiration from music and song lyrics. So, this is dedicated to my wife, Gwen. This is my re commitment to you, dear:

When you're weary
feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I'm on your side
when times get rough
like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
when you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I'll take your part
when darkness comes
and pain is all around
like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
I will lay me down

like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
I will ease your mind

Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Song: Bridge Over Troubled Water
Album: Bridge Over Troubled Water

I love you Gwen!

And peace to all who read this blog! Kim

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

P4E.020 Empty


Sometimes an artist/musician says things in such a way that it just resonates....

"I never learned to count my blessings
I choose instead to dwell in my disasters…
Will I always feel this way?
So empty, so estranged?

Of these cutthroat, busted, sunsets
these cold and damp, white, mornings
I have grown weary.
If through my cracked and dusty, dime-store lips
I spoke these words out loud
would no one hear me?
Will I always feel this way?
So empty, so estranged?

Well, I looked my demons in the eyes,
laid bare my chest, said "Do your best. Destroy me.
You see, I've been to hell and back so many times,
I must admit you kinda bore me."
There's a lot of things that can kill a man,
there's a lot of ways to die.
Yes and some already did and walk beside me.
There's a lot of things I don't understand.
Why so many people lie?
It's the hurt I hide that fuels the fire inside me.
Will I always feel this way?
So empty, so estranged?"


Artist: Ray LaMontagne
Song: Empty
Album: Till the Sun Turns Black

People have been asking "Why the melancholy?" It really does revolve around my remorse over having been such a poor husband to my wife and father to my 3 sons. Don't get me wrong, things are definitely on the mend between all of us. But, in my relationships, I am reaping what I sowed for about 20 years. And it makes me sad. I try not to be overwhelmed and to receive the grace that they and God extend my way. It is a lot of work to repair such things and sometimes I am overwhelmed.

This is why I write. To sort all of these things out. To sound the warning to all who will listen to an older and (now) wiser man. Because I see the old me mirrored back in so many men that I come in contact with. And I want so desperately to make a difference. But, like the old me, they turn away. "I'm OK, I'm working on it, it's a process you know? This is just the way I am. There's lots of time to deal with my relationships. They're not going anywhere. They've got problems too, you know? If they were nicer, I would be too." That old attitude that I see mirrored back to me makes me melancholy too.

I believe that the hope of post-modern man is that we would move past the detachedness, the subfusion. Away from arrogance and towards humility. Valuing understanding others more than being understood. Being less judgmental and extending more grace.

The problem is that post-modern man is really in no better position to implement these values than was modern man. I am in no better position to implement these values because of my (limited) understanding of what it means to be "modern" or "post-modern." I'm still involved in that age-old conflict between the flesh and the spirit. Will I always feel this way? So empty, so estranged?

I scream with all the intensity that Paul did in his letter to the Romans, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?"

And without denying the gut-wrenching circumstances that are cropped up in my life, without denying the feelings of inadequacy, without denying the process that I must go through to get there...I end up acknowledging the same salvation that Paul did....Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the pattern that I will strive to mold myself to. His compassion, His grace, His empathy, His understanding, His strength, His humility, His sacrifice are my goals.

God help me (and you too!).

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

P4E.019 Subfusion

Yesterday's awful events at Virginia Tech did nothing to relieve my melancholy of late. As horrible as those events are, they congealed for me some thoughts that had been coming together over the last couple of weeks. My struggle continues….

A recent post in LL Barkat's blog, Seedlings in Stone was entitled "Subfused." I'm going to co-opt the term and redefine it for my purposes. Let's define "sub" as a prefix indicating "under" as an attribute or indicating that an element is present in a relatively small proportion. Let's also define "fuse" as to become united or blended, as if by melting together. So, the word "subfuse" would be a verb indicating the reduced ability to unite or blend. Near synonyms would include "detach," "disconnect," "estrange" and "separate." Other forms of the word would be "subfused," "subfuser," "subfusing" and "subfusion."

The "modern" movement has been a subfusing period for man. Following World War I and right up to World War II (a period that loosely coincides with the rise of "modernity") the United States was isolationist ("isolate": another great synonym for "subfuse"!) minded. But, as an architect, I often see time periods (movements) with an architectural frame of mind. The architecture reflects the philosophy underlying the movement. In architecture, modernity was characterized by stripping "ornament" from buildings. The phrase "form follows function" was materialized by exposed structure, exposed infrastructure, straight lines transferring loads in an efficient fashion and intellectual "honesty," "integrity" and "transparency" (read lack of mystery) in how buildings worked. Modernity was the architectural culmination of reason and logic. The steel framed, sparsely furnished, glass box seems to epitomize the modern movement. The seamless glass skin, while fragile, seems impenetrable. Although glass is transparent by its nature, you are rarely able to view what is going on inside during the daylight. Only in darkness is what's going on inside revealed and then only if the inside is illuminated. This architectural movement (style) was interpreted by many as "cold," "utilitarian," "pragmatic" and "Spartan." It is telling that the modernist movement spawned a sub-movement from the 1950's to the 1970's called "Brutalism." In hindsight, some perceive the modern movement as "dehumanizing." To many (read many women) it could only have been generated by the "masculine" mind.

Returning to subfusion: Modern man is subfused. That is, we can be cold and pragmatic. The subfused man is detached and utilitarian. We can be "intellectually honest" but brutal in our reason and logic. There is little in the way of ornament in our life. It is sparsely furnished. We are fragile, yet impenetrable. Our inner self is only revealed in darkness and only if we allow it to be illuminated. Our ability to connect with others is severely reduced. We are isolated. We are subfused.

This subfusion is manifested in many ways. Some possible characteristics of the subfused man are that he:

- watches TV (does NOT keep us connected with life)
- spends time on the internet ("internet connection" is an oxymoron)
- is engrossed in sports (not participation in, but with analysis, history and statistics of)
- has a hobby that does not include much interaction with other people
- hides behind intellectual "honesty"
- does not help with everyday tasks around the house
- is consumed by some ( many times "noble") cause
- can be vehement, dogmatic, unyielding and arrogant (even violent?) in the defense of the cause
- uses reason and logic to defend his detachedness
- avoids interaction with others
- can become so detached that he does not connect his actions, words and thoughts with reality, therefore can be callous and violent in his thoughts, words and actions
- can be consumed with pornography and may fall into outright immorality
- can play violent video games and may become so disconnected that the line between games and reality blurs
- sees women as objects for sexual gratification

I am confident that Cho Seung Hui (the Virginia Tech shooter) will fit this profile, but he is only the extreme case. As modern men, we all fit the bill to some extent.

Why am I outlining all of this in a blog with the heading Preparation 4 Eternity and aimed at men's relationships with their wives and children? If you can't put the pieces together for yourself, you might be more subfused than you thought…..We'll talk about "post-modernism" next time.

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

P4E.018 I'm Dying

A friend recently challenged me. He said he sensed no struggle in me. He wants to see my struggle. I seem arrogant to him, like I have all the answers. He wants to know that I'm vulnerable. This really had an effect on me and led to a bout of soul-searching, introspection and self-examination which caused me to write down some things I was feeling a few days ago:

I'm dying. I'm 50 and the realization of my mortality is setting in. Melancholy, gray clouds hover above. I'm realizing how I truly do love some of the things of this world. My wife, my sons, beauty, music, nature, art, languages, animals, architecture. Somehow, I'm just now understanding why people write poetry. I ache. I hope and pray that the things I love in this world are just a glimmer of what the world beyond is like. That they are a shade of what that true reality is.

I focus on the heart of God. My surroundings are dissolving. I see their relative importance fade, dissolve in the light of the heart of God. There is truth. I cower and despair at the magnitude of it. Awestruck.

I'm dying and it makes me sad. People talk about "having no regrets." I have regrets. All of the unfulfilled dreams. The time wasted on trivialities. The spiritual damage and destruction that I've wrought. I wish I'd been more gentle and kind to my wife and children. Less arrogant and judgmental. I wish I'd been more compassionate and empathetic to those around me. I wish I had tried harder to understand others than to be understood. I'm scared. I question my own beliefs. Is what I "know" truth? What is "truth?"

I'm comforted knowing that God is God. Sovereign. His will be done. I feel like I'm falling into the heart of God. Being subsumed into Him. Becoming one with Him. Is this what it means to die to myself? It's exciting, but scary. I cling to what I know; to my senses, to the world. It occurs to me that what I see is not a true reflection of what is, unless I look with spiritual eyes. I know I will be better losing myself and becoming part of Him.

I feel torn apart. I long for God and to be godly. It's an inconsolable longing because I'll never be like Him. I fall. I get up. I fall. I get up....

It's been a few days since I wrote the above. I've overcome some of the melancholy expressed, but I'm still a little exhausted by it. And probably better for it. Who knows what lies ahead?

Thanks for being there...Kim

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

P4E.017 The Humble Improve

Starbucks has an ad campaign of quotes from people (some famous, some not) on their paper cups called "The Way I See It." The Way I See It #12 is by Wynton Marsalis, Jazz Musician. His quote is "The humble improve."

Humility is an elusive character quality. As soon as you think you have it, you've lost it. The more you believe you are, the less you truly are humble.

The larger issue for me is that humility is not a character quality that I value highly enough to pursue diligently. Of course, I can blame some of it on the culture. Our culture doesn't value being humble either. Anything but humble. But hey, if Starbucks can quote Wynton Marsalis about being humble, then I can't even blame it entirely on the culture. No, in the end, it's me.

Marsalis' quote rings true because one opposite of "humble" is "arrogant." If I feign that I know it all (because obviously, I don't) then I leave no room for improvement. Another opposite of "humble" is "invulnerable." If I have and wield power in such a way that I let everyone around me know that I can't be hurt, but I have every capability to hurt you and I can and I will, that is the opposite of humble. Jesus brought little children before His disciples and told the disciples to be like them. Why? I think one of the reasons was that the children truly were vulnerable and they knew it. The children knew that they held no power in the company of adults and were at their mercy.

It's difficult for me to consider others more important than myself. No place else does this manifest itself more clearly than when I drive. "My car is better than yours. What a piece of junk!" "I have more power than you do" "What, are you special?" "My destination is more important than yours." "My time is more valuable than yours." "Where did you learn to drive? Of course, I'm an excellent driver." "Get out of MY lane!" "OUTTA MY WAY, MAN!!!!" These are all thoughts that go through my mind or come out of my mouth when I'm driving.

I need some way to consistently present itself so that I can practice considering someone else better than myself. To consider their needs before my own. Someone to become vulnerable to. I need help. Hmmmm, let's see. My spiritual mentor, Ken Nair, says "Could God be so uncomplicated as to call the help we need, "help"?" You mean my wife? Really? Really. Well, my wife can help me be humble if I allow God to use her to help me that way. Most of the time I'm pretty defensive, though. And, my wife is always there and she provides a constant opportunity to consider her needs before my own. It's worth a shot to improve and become a more Christ-like man. What do you think?

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

P4E.016 More of God and Less of Me

"Often, we don't feel the need to be involved unless there is a crisis."
Mark Hamilton, Life Partners

"Trauma opens your eyes to what is going on around you."
Marianne Hamilton, Life Partners
www.lifepartners.org

My natural emotional/relational state is one of detachment. Trials force me out of that detachment. When faced with obstacles or trials, my natural (ungodly) response is to get angry, impatient and frustrated. I always wondered why I should 'consider it all joy' when I encountered 'various trials' (James 1).

As I search Scripture I'm realizing that the trials offer me an opportunity to be slooooowwww to anger and thereby gain wisdom (Proverbs 14). The trials provide me with a chance to resist the temptation to sin. (Another word for 'trial' is 'test.') When I respond in my natural way, I build my flesh, I detach, I get callous and worldly. It hurts. If I pass the trial successfully, I build my spirit. I become more aware of my emotions and relationships. I become more involved.

I see that anger, impatience, frustration and detachment are my natural, ungodly state. They harm my own spirit, other's spirits and my relationships with others. In contrast, patience, wisdom and involvement don't come easily, but are an indication that I am drawing closer to God. This is a good thing for me and those closest to me, because we experience more of God and less of me.

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

P4E.015 Bombproof

"Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest."
Jesus (Matthew 11:28)

My wife and son are horseback riders. They've recently been watching a DVD by a horse trainer named Clinton Anderson. In one of the beginning exercises, Anderson stands by the horse he's training and begins to throw the long lead line over the horses back. This (like almost everything) startles the horse a bit. Anderson pulls the lead back and throws it again...and again. He throws the lead around the horses legs. As the horse moves away from him, Anderson follows it. As the horse might move towards him, he puts his hand in the horse's face and wards him away. Anderson keeps at this until (to me, amazingly) the horse stands calm and un-flustered by the lead line being thrown over his back, around his neck around his legs. When Clinton Anderson is training a horse in this manner, he makes the horse look at him. He doesn't allow the horse to "disrespect" him by looking away while he's training the horse. Throughout the training, Anderson is gaining the horse's respect, through the knowledge that no harm will come to him while his trainer is around.

After watching, my wife and I were talking about the demonstration. She said "It makes sense. If you're going to take a horse out on the trail, he should be bombproof."

By "bombproof," my wife meant unshakable, doesn't react when unexpected things arise, steady, stable, trustworthy, strong. You get the idea?

I'm interested in all of this because I think it has a corollary in my spiritual life. How many times have you heard someone (even a pastor) say, "Don't pray for patience because you'll just be asking for trouble..." I'm getting to the point where I think maybe we should be praying and expecting to be tested.

Sometimes I feel like God might be throwing a lead line all over me. Testing me. Trying to get me to be "bombproof." It's when I realize that He's doing it for my own good, that no harm can come to me while He's near, that I can calm down and be like Christ to those around me. Strong, stable and trustworthy when other's are weary and heavy-laden.

Peace, Kim