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." " 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'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