Thursday, December 10, 2009

P4E.123 A Time for Every Season

Gwen and I were talking the other day about the idea that there are positives and negatives about both having patience and having a sense of urgency. As I examine myself, I am more prone to think than act. In Mark 2:8, “Jesus perceived in his spirit…” It’s fascinating to me that I might become sensitive enough to be aware of those around me and “perceive in my spirit” if they are more prone to wait or act. Knowing myself and knowing them, I can then make conscious decisions about how to interact with them on different subjects. Can I understand others’ reticence to make a move? Can I know why someone just can’t wait another minute to make it happen? Should I urge caution and patience? Or, should I urge to seize the moment? I’m starting to believe that this is essential in understanding people’s spirits and my own.

That reminds me, you may have heard the saying that goes something like this:

“Some people dream about what might happen.

Some people watch things happen.

Some people make things happen.

Some people wonder what happened?”

This saying is meant (I think) to glorify the people that “make things happen,” and demean the others. As I think about it, though, I think that there are positives and negatives to each of these strategies and that there is a season for each.

When a dreamer does little besides dream, it is an area of concern. If the dreamers dreams are always nightmares, s/he may become paralyzed with fear. But, put to constructive use, dreamers are creative, planners, organizers, visionaries without whom we would stumble blindly into the future.

Watchers can have a tendency to be uninvolved. They “let” things happen around them. They might feel powerless to control events that unfold. On the other hand, their powers of observation may be acute. Their ability to accurately record an event or events may prove vital.

Wonderers have a lot in common with dreamers, only they look backwards instead of forwards. If one focuses solely on what has been with regrets, then it becomes self-destructive. On the constructive side, wonderers are those who become historians, who analyze how and why things happened the way they did. They study people. They can put forward ideas on how not to repeat the failures of the past.

Doers are the ones that most people admire. When it comes right down to it, they implement what the dreamers dream, perform the acts that the watcher observes and that the wonderers analyze. Their areas of concern are that they can be impatient with planning, don’t want to follow directions, and can look down on the other personality types.

If I can learn to value and encourage the constructive side of the strategies that people employ (myself included) and learn how to discourage them from the destructive side of their outlook on life (myself included), then I can increase my value to God and man. What a great dream!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

P4E.122 "It Might Rain" Revisited

I've just finished reading Charles Dickens' The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain. In it, the Haunted Man often broods over wrongs done to him, trouble and sorrow of the past. The Ghost offers him the "gift" of removing the sorrow, wrong and trouble he has known from his memory. The Haunted Man hesitantly agrees. The Ghost grants his wish and adds that The Haunted Man will give the gift wherever he goes. It becomes clear that The Haunted Man's sense of compassion, empathy, forbearance, pity, patience and even love were grounded in the sorrow, wrong and trouble that were a part of his memory. Everywhere he goes, the people around him become irritable, impatient, unkind, ingrateful and regretful.

This idea, that the sorrow, wrong and trouble in our lives have the potential to promote positive character qualities, was a pleasant surpise to me. There is a strange connection to James' "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials..." but I hadn't ever thought of it quite the same way. Which is why I have complained and cursed and become angry when things went "wrong." I have been a terrible example.

My son Jon has had some hard hits in the last couple of weeks. He's lost two close friends and I have the sense that he might blame God for their loss. It has not escaped me that I have played a part in creating my sons' outlook on life. That my "It might rain" attitude has caused my sons to view God as an unjust, hard, unforgiving, irrational God because that was how I represented God as their father. It gives gives me great pain and grief to think on it.

I forgot (and I'm reminding you now) that sons (and daughters) establish their perception of the Heavenly Father by their earthly father's pattern. All the times that I was unjust, hard, unforgiving, irrational and critical must have had their affect on my sons. All the times that I blamed God for the things that went "wrong," the "bad" things that happened, the dreams that went unfulfilled, gave them a pattern for how to respond when things didn't go their way. My ingratefulness to God when things went right were not a good example. I am not saying that they are ingrateful. They are better than I am. But, whatever ingrateful tendencies they may have, I accept the possibility that they got them from me.

My only hope is that the true and living God has revealed Himself to them from other, more positive, sources and that they are open to continually receiving from Him. Also, that my regenerated self can continuously work to heal the previously inflicted wounds.

My relationships with my wife and sons are immeasurably better now than they were at their worst. I recall these things to share them with you in the hope that you will learn from my bad example and won't have to suffer the same consequences that I have.

In this time of Thanksgiving, we can not only give thanks, but "consider it all joy" for having encountered various trials...

Giving Thanks, Kim

Monday, November 9, 2009

P4E.121 It Might Rain

We watched a movie the other night in which the main character establishes his outlook on life with the first words of the movie,

"It might rain."

There was a time when I could really identify with this perspective on life. "The glass is half empty" was my middle name. It embarrasses me to think of how it affected my life and the lives of my wife and children. We didn't go anywhere. We didn't do anything. I worked and they lived their lives. The boys grew up. My wife became self-sufficient. I was paralyzed much of the time thinking, "It might rain."

I'm reminded of this because of husbands/fathers that I see and hear who are in the same place I was. This is a case of "it takes one to know one."

"I don't see any other options."
"It's just the way I am."
"I can't."
"That's just the way it is."
"Something might go wrong."
"I can't afford it."
"There's no other way."
"There's no other interpretation..."

Gwen and I see so many husbands/fathers "locked" in this mindset. I know that not every man lives here. But, many do share this mindset malady. I think, in some ways, the American work ethic, taken to the extreme (which is where many men think they want to be) exacerbates the problem. We men think we know the way to success, we put our nose to the grindstone, we work long hours, we focus, we don't allow distractions, we are frugal, we conserve, we work for a future goal. In and of themselves, these are not bad intentions, per se. I did this. I followed this path to success (as I think many do) only to be disappointed in mid-life, wondering "Where did I go wrong?" And, in the mean time, my family was wondering "When are we going to live life?"

There was no creativity, no vision, no balance, no bright outlook, no self-examination, just tunnel vision. I regret it now, even though I sometimes still fall victim to my own bad attitude. I could not help but pass this mindset on to my sons. I know that I have changed. I just pray that they can overcome my bad example.

As a Believer, I should have known better. I did not know then that "it's the relationship, stupid." I did not know what sort of relationship was possible with God and my fellow man. I'm not the man I was before. I have changed. You can too. I dwell on this only long enough to pass along some words of encouragement to whoever cares to listen.

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

P4E.120 Relief

I've obviously not posted in some time. There've been many changes in my life, including a new employment situation that comes with a longer commute. My time for writing is reduced. I do not let writing intrude on family time.

I feel very fortunate and blessed to make a positive job move in times like these and there's been a couple of situations lately where I've felt something that I know not everyone is feeling right now. It's relief.

As I begin to write about the first, I realize that I need to be discreet. Although I understand that the person who gave me relief had the discretion to do so, I don't want any chance that the person would get in trouble.

Through ignorance of my own, some fees I owed accumulated over the last couple of years. When I became aware of my mistake, I owed nearly $2,500 (that I didn't have). As I reviewed the paperwork associated with these fees, I saw that there were some numbers handwritten on the form. There was a way to make it look like I would only owe fees for a few months. The temptation was great to manipulate the numbers to my own advantage. Because I was not able to address the situation immediately I would vacillate, in my mind, between being tempted and dismissing the idea.

"I could save us over $2,000!"
"I could be charged with manipulating official documents."
"No one would know or care!"
"I would know."
"People must do this stuff and get away with it every day!"
"I don't."
"I don't have the money to pay this fee!"
"That doesn't make it right."

In the mean time, I had given notice at my work. When I left, I met with my boss and he paid me a compliment. He said, "The thing I really like about you, Kim, is that you're a man of integrity." On my last day, I received severance pay that gave me enough to pay the fees. I could really have used the money for some other critical necessaries, but this was the most pressing. I went to the office and waited for over two hours with hundreds of other people to pay my fees. The whole time, the forms were in my hands. I had the appropriate colored ink pen. Two little flicks of the pen and I could potentially be off the hook or charged with forgery. I prayed for strength to resist temptation. "That is just not the sort of person I am. I am a man of integrity." My number was called. I resigned myself to paying the fee. As I walked up to the clerk, I actually did pray and asked God for mercy and that somehow, I would be relieved of paying these fees.

The clerk took my paperwork and reviewed it.
"Did you know that you should have taken care of this over two years ago?"
I answered, "No, not until recently."
"Do you realize that you'll have to pay the fees for the last two years and the upcoming year and late fees?"
"I understand that, yes," I answered, dejectedly.
The clerk looked at me. Looked at the paperwork. Looked at me again.
"Well.....I'm not going to make you do it."
The clerk took a pen and made two little flicks on the form.
"You owe $307."
I thanked the clerk and wrote the check.

As I walked out of that office, I got choked up. My eyes filled and I felt like a giant load was lifted from my spirit. I felt relieved. I called Gwen and related the story. We talked about how, in the past, I might not recognize or appreciate how God was at work in my life. I do recognize and appreciate it now. What spiritual lessons were there to learn? Going for the feelings, I recognized how incredibly exhilarating it is to experience relief. To know that I was in debt and to have that debt removed was a touching experience. I'm determined to look for opportunities to help others feel relieved. It will cost me, I know. To relieve someone else, I will have to shirk some wrong done to me, will have to take on someone else's debt, will shoulder the blame that someone else should take.

Sound familiar? It will be worth it, if I can be more like Him.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

P4E.119 Old Green Eyes

The other day a monster appeared.
Surprised me at first.
I allowed him to stay.
He had green eyes.

Clung to my back, claws digging in.
We became one, he and me.
Burning emerald coals, glaring over my shoulder.
"What if..."

"I were eternally youthful?"
"I had the Midas touch?"
"I were tall and handsome and popular?"
"I knew women watched me smiling out of the corner of their eye?"
"I were a world travelling jet-setter?"

"I wore haute couture?"
"I drove an Alfa Romeo (pearl white convertible, please)?"
"I had charisma?"
"I had a Rolex and a laptop and an IPhone?"
"I were a talented artist?"

"I had a wit?"
"I could play guitar and make people cry?"
"I could write?"
"I could cook?"
"I had athletic prowess?"

"I had the mind of Einstein?"
"I had good taste?"
"I could influence people?"
"I had power?"
"I were famous?"

"I AM?"

Digging his claws in further,
he mocks
"You, don't"
"You AREN'T"

I cringe.
I get disgusted with him.
I don't believe him and he's not wanted around here anymore.
Him and his green eyes.
He loosens his grip and tries to pretend he's not there.

But, every once in a while I hear him laughing at me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

P4E.118 The Relationship, Stupid

James Carville is credited with coining the famous phrase, "The economy, stupid," to keep Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign on message. To keep myself focused, I borrowed the idea and have a sign in my office that says, "The relationship, stupid."

It embarrasses me to say that I think that I have been fairly representative of the American Christian church in that I have lost focus of what the Gospel message is and how it should be represented to the world at large. We have gone off message and become embroiled in matters that have kept us from the pursuit of Christlikeness and the preaching of the Gospel.

In my mind's eye, I imagine the recreation of the situation when the scribes and Pharisees brought the adulterous woman before Christ. It's like this:

I/the church come before Christ dragging some poor soul behind us, throwing the wretch in the dirt before our Lord and saying:

"Teacher, we found this man in the very act of homosexuality, what do You say we do with him?"
"Teacher, we found this woman arguing before the courts on behalf of abortionists, what do You say we do with her?"
"Teacher, we found this one teaching evolution, in the very act, what do You say we do?"
"Teacher, we found this man calling into question the inerrancy of Scripture, what do You say we do with him?"
"Teacher, we found this woman questioning your Deity, what do You say we do with her?"
"Teacher, we found this one passing out literature condemning capitalism and promoting liberal socialism, what do You say we do?"
"Teacher, we found this man looking at pornography on the Internet, what do You say?"

In each case, I imagine Christ's response being exactly what it was towards the scribes and Pharisees and the adulterous woman. He tells us not to judge, because we will be judged with the same judgement that we pass on others. He does not condone sin, but He does not condemn. He came to save. He tells us to love one another. He tells us to love our enemies. He tells us to forgive, because we have been forgiven. These prescriptions that Christ gave us are relational in nature. They involve emotions and feelings (i.e., "I feel judged." "I feel loved." "I feel forgiven," etc.)

The Gospel message is that we can have a relationship with a loving, forgiving and personal GOD. The manifestation of that relationship is that we'll be known by our loving, forgiving, and personal relationships with others.

I actually heard a pastor on the radio quote St. Francis of Assisi as saying, "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words," and then disagreeing with him, saying that he thought words were vital in the preaching of the Gospel. Words are only important in that they convey feelings and emotions in the relationships that we are in. As long as they are loving, forgiving, personal and not hypocritical they can convey the Gospel. But, it's our actions that either justify or condemn us.

The quintessential relationship that defines my walk with Christ is my marriage relationship with my wife. If I cannot be in a loving, forgiving, personal, self-sacrificing relationship with her, who I'm supposed to be closest to, how can I move into ministry beyond her? She then, becomes the object of my affection, the place where I practice my pursuit of Christlikeness. Christ did not come to judge or to condemn, but to save. I must follow Him.

It's the relationship, stupid.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

P4E.117 Help!

I have regularly asked for help at my workplace. They recently hired a young woman to do just that. When the help I had been asking for finally arrived, I had an unexpected reaction to it:

I was irritated!

When this young woman arrived for her first full day of work, she came into my office, plopped into a chair and asked, "what do you want me to do?" Well, I had things to do, places to go, people to see. I was irritated at having to stop and explain the policies and procedures, the hows and whys of what we do. I didn't have the time or the inclination to stop and manage this person. Quickly, I realized that I was having a warped reaction to the help.

As I took a step back to do some self-examination, I began to ask some questions:

- Is this a "Kim" thing?
As I looked back into my own recent past, I realized that this was not the first time I had been irritated by help. Sometimes I have rejected help when it was offered. I know that I have been ingrateful for some help that I have received. I also realize that, to some extent, I am a product of my environment. Maybe I did grow up with a warped view of how to give and receive help.

- Is this a "guy thing?"
It seems stereotypical, but as I've said before, sometimes stereotypes exist because, well, they fit. Men are stereotyped as not being willing to ask for directions when they're lost, not reading the directions until all else fails, being seen as weak if they ask for help, being stubborn, being too proud to accept help. Women, on the other hand, are not known for their unwillingness to ask for or receive help. In fact, they are the ones that are bewildered and exasperated by our unwillingness.

- Is this an American "guy thing?"
On top of being a guy, the American culture that I grew up in is founded on private property, capitalism, individuality, self-sufficiency, and pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps. This compounds the difficulty that we men already have asking for help. The "do it yourself" mentality is ubiquitous here. There is no question that it is perceived as a sign of weakness to ask for help here. Any international readers are invited to weigh in on this point. Is it true in your country as well?

- Is it easier to give or receive help?
This depends, of course, on what sort of help is being asked for. Being asked for help puts me in a position of superiority and power. I have something that the person asking for help does not. I can give it or withhold it. An easy request for help is easy to give. A difficult request for help requires more thought. Asking for and receiving help are a whole different matter. When I am in need of help and have to ask for it I am in a position of inferiority and powerlessness.I expose a weakness. When I receive help, my brain fixes on the weakness that the help overcame. This causes me to be ingrateful. I begrudgingly receive the help. (Notice how even the phrase "have to ask for help" is begrudging?) I wish I didn't have to ask for it. Now I feel indebted to the one who gave me help, and that puts me right back in the inferior position. I try to minimize the help that I got. "It was really too little help, too late in arriving. "

My wife, Gwen, has told me, "You are really warped in your thinking. You should be happy that help arrived! You are really being ingrateful." When I step back and look at it, I have to agree.

So, what is the lesson I'm wringing out of this whole "help" crisis? God has given two persons to me and named them "help." He has given His Holy Spirit, the "Helper," and He has given my wife, in Hebrew "ezer," meaning "help." Christ is also the ultimate help, in that He saved me from an eternity outside of His presence. It is my natural tendency to be too proud to ask for help. To think I'm too good for all of this help. To minimize it. To reject it. To be ingrateful for it. To be irritated by it. To misunderstand it. One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome as a husband was to stop seeing my wife as "the enemy" and start understanding her as "help." This idea is not an easy sell to husbands that we minister to.

This idea is also helpful in explaining why men reject God. We are too proud. We don't think we need Him or His Help. We don't want to "give" Him that power over us. It makes us feel inferior. It's contrary to our self-sufficiency. Is it any wonder that many Christian men point back to a place in time when they were "at the end of their rope," when they accepted Christ?

I pray to God that He would help me to be more like Christ and to offer help without waiting for acceptance, without expecting repayment and without regard for my own wellbeing. I pray too that God would help me not to be ingrateful for all of the help that He has bestowed on me, because I even need His help to do that!
Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Friday, August 21, 2009

P4E.116 Sharing Victor Hugo

I've promised myself that I'm finally going to finish reading the unabridged version of Les Miserables and I'm almost done. I'm in awe of Victor Hugo and The Hunchback of Notre Dame is definitely now on the "to read" list.

I am particularly touched by the wedding toast of M. Gillenormand (Marius' grandfather) to Marius and Cosette and share bits of it with you here.

"Listen to me; I am going to give you a piece of advice: Adore one another. I don't make a heap of flourishes, I go to the end, be happy. The only sages in creation are the turtle-doves. The philosophers say: Moderate your joys. I say: Give them rein. Be enamoured like devils. Be rabid. The philosophers dote. I would like to cram their philosophy back into their throats. Can there be too many perfumes, too many open rosebuds, too many nightingales singing, too many green leaves, too much aurora in life? can you love each other too much? can you please each other too much? ... The rare absurdity! Can you enchant each other too much, pet each other too much, charm each other too much? can you be too much alive? can you be too happy? Moderate your joys. Ah pshaw! Down with the philosophers! Wisdom is jubilation. Jubilate, jubilate. Are we happy because we are good: or are we good because we are happy? ... Be happy without quibbling. Obey the sun blindly. What is the sun? It is love. Who says love, says woman. Ah, ha! There is an omnipotence; it is woman. Ask this demagogue of a Marius if he be not the slave of this little tyrant of a Cosette, and with his full consent, the coward. Woman! There is no Robespierre who holds out, woman reigns ... What is Adam? He is the realm of Eve ... At heart you must always love women. I defy you to get away from that. These devilesses are our angels. Yes, love, woman, the kiss, that is a circle which I defy you to get out of ... Which of you has seen rising into the infinite, calming all beneath her, gazing upon the waves like woman, the star Venus, the great coquette of the abyss, the Celimene of the ocean? The ocean is rude Alceste. Well, he scolds in vain; Venus appears, he is obliged to smile. That brute submits. We are all so. Wrath, tempest, thunderbolts, foam to the sky. A woman enters the scene, a star rises; flat on your face! ... Yes Marius, yes Cosette, you are right. Live boldly for one another, my-love one another, make us die with rage that we cannot do as much, idolatrise each other..."

M. Guillenormand continues like this for pages. It makes my heart ache and inspires me to love My Love with such abandon. Hope it inspires the same in you, my dears.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

P4E.115 Doomsday Scenario

I lost the key to my SUV this last weekend. It was the only key we had for the vehicle. I know, that's pretty dumb, huh? In some ways I handle situations like this very differently than I used to. It embarrasses me to say that I used to become very angry. Explode. These episodes were filled with self-loathing and made my wife and kids extremely uncomfortable. I would really beat myself up over losing something. Sometimes I would progress to accusing my wife or kids of moving things. Purposely hiding things just to irritate me! No wonder they wanted to run and hide whenever something went missing. In my better moments I no longer get so extreme.

There are several stages that I go through when I lose something. First is disbelief. Where is it? How did I misplace it? Surely it's around here somewhere. How could I lose a key between the driveway and the house? Next comes acknowledgement. OK, it really is missing. I admit, I still go through the "what an idiot I am" stage, but it is foreshortened and not so extreme. We've looked at all of the usual places that it might be, so now we have to start looking in the unusual places it might be. Finally, and this is the most difficult phase, comes resignation. It's gone. I have to let it go. I have to figure out a "Plan B" to work around the lost item.

Resignation is where I get into trouble. As a naturally "glass is half-empty" sort of person, my imagination goes wild with negative potentialities. Doomsday scenarios play havoc with my emotions. When I resigned myself that the key was lost, my mind immediately went to "It's a programmable key. It's going to be very expensive to replace. They probably won't have one in stock at the dealer. They'll have to order it. I might not be able to get it delivered before we're supposed to go on our trip. I was going to get the SUV serviced before we left. Now I won't be able to get that done. Even if I get the key back in time to leave, I won't get it serviced. We'll probably break down on the way..." and so on.

What I verbalized to my wife was, "I'm worried we won't be able to go on our trip." Even though I knew how much this trip means to her, I didn't commit to figuring out a "how I'm going to make it happen," Plan B. This caused Gwen to go into a tailspin. She ended up sitting in the living room quietly crying.

I tried my best to comfort Gwen and assure her that things were going to be alright. The next day I found out that my key was not programmable, the dealer did have it in stock, I got two keys made for much less than I thought it would cost and I got the vehicle into the shop.

Even though we've been married for 31 years, I still forget how my negativity affects my wife. I need to be so much more careful in protecting my own spirit, and consequently Gwen's spirit, from my doomsday scenarios. It's a matter of cultivating a "can do, how am I going to make it happen?" attitude.

"All things are possible for him who believes...I do believe; help my unbelief."
Mark 9:23

Thursday, July 16, 2009

P4E.114 Judge Not Redux

Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."
John 8:10-11

The distinction needs to be made between "judging" and "practicing good judgement." As a Believer, I have not always done well in making the distinction. I have not always done a good job of "hating the sin, but loving the sinner."

I do not believe that God expects me to leave myself in physical, emotional or spiritual danger. If I find myself in dangerous circumstances, I practice good judgement and remove myself from them.

In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." Jesus then tells a parable about a slave who owed his master money. "So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, `Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.'" It is clear that the slave was fearful of his debt and its consequences and made a heartfelt plea for mercy. The heartfelt plea moved the master to have compassion. These are the circumstances that Jesus is talking about when it comes to extending compassion and mercy. Heartfelt pleas for mercy provide an opportunity for heartfelt forgiveness. As many times as necessary. Christ did not advise what to do after the other cheek is slapped, but one only has two cheeks. Removing oneself from the source of offense is practicing good judgement.

When Christ sent His disciples out on their own He advised them "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet." I interpret that to mean, "You have rejected me. I am removing myself from you. I am not taking anything from you with me." The shaking the dust off the feet is not necessarily a condemnation, but an acknowledgement of a parting of ways.

So, when I'm in physical, emotional or spiritual danger, I can remove it by forgiving the perpetrator or removing myself from his presence OR BOTH. In neither case do I judge or condemn the one who puts me in danger. I'm simply removing myself from the source of danger.

In this way, I believe we can be like Christ. He did not condemn, but encouraged the adulterous woman to accept His salvation by turning away from self-destructive behavior, "...sin no more."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

P4E.113 Judge Not

"Do not judge lest you be judged."
Matthew 7:1

Ken Nair, founder of Life Partners Christian Ministries has taught me to look at Scripture in a new way. One of his methods is to ask the question "Why do you think that God put that in Scripture?" Many times the answer is because God knows what my natural predispositions are and wants to directly confront them.

My natural tendency is to judge. I'm naturally quick to condemn. I've come to realize that most of the time, when I judge, I do so in ignorance. I don't have access to all of the facts, so I'm counting on hearsay. I don't know all the circumstances. I'm relying on circumstantial evidence. I'm letting my own prejudices influence my decision to judge.

By contrast, Christ does not judge. He said, "...I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." John 12:47 (underline mine)

It has been an epiphany to me to think that if I am to pursue Christlikeness, I must do less judging and more saving. Now, don't get me wrong. I know that I have no ability to "save" the world. We are not Christ. But, we are to pursue being like Him. So, the very idea that my thoughts, words and actions should be purposefully torn from my natural tendency to judge and redirected towards saving has been life changing.

It's always interesting to describe how one puts ideas into action. When I talk about "save," I think it's important to know what I mean and can be explained partly by definitions for "save." Some synonyms for "save" include "salvage," meaning to keep from destruction or harm, "spare," meaning to refrain from harming, "economize," meaning to avoid waste. Some phrases that describe "save" include "to make unnecessary the expenditure of effort," and "accumulate for future use," and (an interesting sports reference) "to keep the opposition from scoring."

So, if I tend to my spirit in such a way that my thoughts, words and actions are concentrated on doing no spiritual harm, conserving spiritual energy and gently encouraging others to avoid self-destruction, I'm no longer prone to judge. I'm keeping the "opposition from scoring."

Who am I most prone to judge? My wife and those closest to me, my children. God help me to save them from my judgement!

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Monday, July 6, 2009

P4E.112 Goodbye, MJ 1958-2009

When celebrity figures like MJ die, it begs questions. What is the meaning of life? What have I done that compares to MJ? Would I have exchanged places with him? What did he do that endeared him to so many? Is celebrity worth the price one pays for it? Are the lives of the rich and famous to be envied? Would it be better to be rich? Why do so many identify with MJ? If my own life were laid bare, would it seem as quirky and sensational? What happens after you die? Where is MJ now? What will my own legacy be? Will it be ok if consists of other than money and fame?

When celebrities die it shocks us. Is MJ really dead? How can that be? He was 50 when he died. Was he really that old? I'm already 52. I'm snapped to the reality that all living things die. MJ "went the way of all flesh." Yes, even MJ! He is already on the other side of that veil that separates the physical from the spiritual, the living from the dead. Is he looking back? Is he saying anything to us from there? Some claim to have already seen his ghost at Neverland.

What will happen to his money? What will happen to those he cared for and called his own? Who will get his things? How will others profit from his passing? Did he really do those things he was accused of? Will he be buried with his brain?

Macabre. Sensational. Prurient.

What am I doing with my life? Will anyone care when I go? Have I done more good than harm? Please, tell me I'm a good person. That I have made a positive difference in people's lives. That I set a good example. That I'll be remembered fondly when I'm gone. I know that not all will think so. You don't have to tell me that. There are some who will always criticize, who will not forgive and will not be forgiven.

What causes might be valued more highly than entertainment and by whom? Is it more than ok to labor in obscurity? Is it more than ok to be poor? Is it more than ok to be average? Are looks only skin deep? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Is one man's ceiling another man's floor? Is one man's trash another's treasure?

What will prepare me for the other side of the veil?

Can I become more spiritual in preparation for eternity?

That's the name of the game, isn't it?
Peace, Kim

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

P4E.111 A Letter from Sullivan Ballou

We've been re-watching Ken Burn's epic "The Civil War." At the end of the first disc comes the letter of Sullivan Ballou, judge advocate of the Rhode Island militia. How I wish I could express myself as Ballou did in his wonderful, emotional, gripping letter to his wife. This is from npr's website:

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington

My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . .

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

P4E.110 Do I Make You Feel That Way?

The basic question that Twitter asks is, "What are you doing?"

A more probing and revealing question that I'm learning to ask is,
"Do I make you feel that way?"

So far this week, I've experienced these feelings:

unjustly attacked
bewildered by another's anger
unable to rationalize with another's anger
like I'm a bother
like I don't have what it takes

I have no end to the ways that I can offend people. I'm trying to acknowledge that there is some seed of truth in the criticisms I've gotten this week, but that's the practical lesson.

On the other hand is the spiritual lesson. What is the reason for this particular set of circumstances that brought on these feelings? Is it so that I can understand how it feels to feel them? When I do recognize how awful it is to feel these feelings, I ask myself, "Have I ever made anyone else feel this way?" Many times the answer is "Yes, I have." And, more often than not, it's my wife and children that I've offended. It gives me the opportunity to acknowledge how wrong I have been, to apologize for it, to ask forgiveness and to promise to do my best not to repeat.

I feel like a broken record , but this approach also gives me the opportunity to connect with Christ by asking the question "Did He ever feel that way?" In many instances, I'm sure that He did experience the feelings that I do. That was the point wasn't it? To experience what we experience and remain sinless? When I think of my own reaction to the relatively mild circumstances that brought about my feeling "unjustly attacked," I can hardly imagine what Christ felt at His trial, flogging, mocking and crucifixion. But, it's a start.

So my question for those of you who know me is "Do I make you feel that way?"

Peace, Kim

Thursday, June 4, 2009

P4E.109 Question Authority Redux

Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989

In 1616, the Roman Catholic Church suspended the work done by Nicolaus Copernicus that asserted that the earth revolves around the sun and labelled the idea as "false and altogether opposed to Holy Scripture."

I wanted to quickly follow up on the Question Authority post. I think it is important to ask questions and I want to explain my interest in a more direct way.

I'm interested in questioning the "authorities" who have defined Christianity, what it means to be a Christian and especially those who have defined husband's and wive's roles in a Christian marriage.

In particular, I question how and why, as American Christians, we find ourselves reduced to being defined by the issues of abortion, homosexuality, and evolution. I question how and why we got consigned to the conservative right wing of the Republican party. I question how and why we willingly relinquished our roles as defenders of the defenseless and the caregivers to the poor.

I question those who've defined the roles of husbands and wives in the Christian community. The definitions of "head" for husband and "submissive" for wives that the Christian community have created are particularly onerous.

I question those who would have us believe that we are not part of a community of Believers if we do not attend services at a formal church facility on Sunday.

I question those who tell us that, as Believers, we need to be culturally relevant to attract non-believers to the Faith.

I question those who distilled our entire religious belief system into "Four Spiritual Laws," and relegated Feelings to the caboose of the train pulled by the engine of Fact and the coal car of Faith.

I question those who would unwaveringly claim to have a lock on the truth and the only true interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.

After Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door (1517) he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and branded an "outlaw."

Peace, Kim

Monday, June 1, 2009

P4E.108 Question Authority

"The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know..."
John Adams


A mother ran away with her son to keep him from receiving court-ordered chemotherapy treatments for his cancer.

I saw the movie "Flash of Genius" which tells the story of Bob Kearns who fights for years to have the Ford Motor Company acknowledge that he was, in fact, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper. He is portrayed as a "man of principle."

I saw a documentary on John Adams, 2nd president of the United States and one of the founders of the country. In a very unpopular stance, he refused to enter into war with France.

The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor and the objections to her nomination.

The political rancoring over the Bush/Cheney war in Iraq and the torture of prisoners.

I saw the movie "A Man for All Seasons" based on the true story of Sir Thomas More who, under enormous pressure to do so, would not consent to give his blessing on the divorce of King Henry VIII from his wife, Catherine so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. Eventually, he was executed (beheaded) for his refusal.

A man shot a prominent doctor, presumably because he performed late-term abortions.


When is having a deeply held conviction no longer admirable?

When do principles cross over to fanaticism?

When does the "man of conscience's" deeply held conviction begin to "smack of pride," arrogance and stubbornness?

What if that deeply held conviction is "wrong"?

Who gets to decide what is right and wrong?

How do we decide right vs. wrong?

Is every "right" position held by one person "wrong" in someone else's view?

Are there universally right positions to hold?

What about majority rule?

Does the majority decide what is right?

Does "might make right"?

Can we (should we) avoid selfish motivation?

How do we act based on what we believe?

Does "money talk"?

Does everyone have a price?

Is it right that the strong prevail?

Do we naturally favor the strong/rich/handsome/beautiful when we decide?

How do we account for other's opinions/positions?

How do I handle new information in my decision-making process?

What about "the Law"?

Does every circumstance have a moral/spiritual interpretation?

Is the world black and white or a million shades of grey?

How do I decide which hill to die on, dig my heels in, set my jaw, stand firm, hold fast?

How do we balance deference and backbone?

Where do I fall between spineless and principled?

Am I wavering, waffling, flip-flopping, ambivalent, unprincipled, non-committal, unsure, lack of confidence, confused, uninformed, undecided, swayed by polls, indecisive, blowing in the wind?

Am I uncompromising, dogmatic, stiff-backed, judgmental, prejudiced?

Am I confident, principled, self-assured, committed, sure, well thought-out, willing to listen to both sides, disciplined, balanced, open-minded, compromising, fair, non-judgmental, well informed, unprejudiced, unbiased, deferent?

Am I a leader or follower?

Am I afraid of making a mistake?

Am I overthinking, brooding melancholy?

Am I unable to make a decision and make a commitment?

Where do I fall between dogmatic - moderate - spineless?

"Don't be evil." Google Corporate Motto

"Primum non nocere."

Friday, May 22, 2009

P4E.107 Memorial

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us and it's a sad societal comment that we must be reminded what it is we're memorializing. The news leading up to Memorial Day has been saturated with Gitmo, Guantanomo what did she know and when did she know it? Enhanced interrogation techniques, high value military detainees and Dick Cheney.

What is worth fighting for? What is worth dying for? What is war good for? Do we know what our values are? Should we wage war to gain peace?

The noble war is waged to gain freedom from tyrrany, oppression, taxation without representation. The ignoble war is an offensive war. The ignoble war is waged to gain power, land, wealth, resources, slaves, dominion, a woman. The ignoble war forces religion, culture, laws, political constructs, language, borders on an unwilling people. The noble war is a defensive war. Defending life, property, culture, borders, a way of life. War is subjective. War is hell.

We memorialize those who fought and died defending our Country, peace, justice and the American Way. Democracy. The Constitution. Our rights. God rest their souls.

In a way, I think that it is right that we should agonize over all of it. We should question all of it. We avoid arrogance when we ask ourselves questions. But, when we distill issues down to their essence and we find an incontrovertable truth, we must courageously and undeniably stand by it.

For myself, I'd rather stick to spiritual than political issues. I feel more comfortable letting others slog through the muck and mire of american and world politics.

In the spirit of asking ourselves questions:

"You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
You may find yourself in another part of the world
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house,
with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself;
Well...How did I get here?

Letting the days go by
let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by
water flowing underground
Into the blue again
after the money's gone

Once in a lifetime
water flowing underground

You may ask yourself
How do I work this?
You may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
You may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
You may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...

Water dissolving...and water removing
There is water at the bottom of the ocean
Remove the water Carry the water
Remove the water from the bottom of the ocean

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again, into the silent water

You may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
You may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
You may say to yourself
MY GOD!...WHAT HAVE I DONE?" Talking Heads

Can we ever be sure? Peace, Kim

Friday, May 1, 2009

P4E.106 A Fond Memory Foretells the Future(?)

I'm sitting on a small grassy slope next to a quarter-mile oval dirt track. The grassy infield is guarded by a worn, wood-rail fence. The moist, earthy smell of the dirt track mixes with the grass and is pleasant and somehow comforts me. The sky is clear and crystal blue this early morning, with just the tiniest bit of haze. The sun is warm, but the air is cool. Beyond the track, spectacular green hills spread away to the left and right as far as my eye can see.

Above the backround twittering of countless birds, the meadowlarks sing their melodies to each other from the wooden posts of the horse paddocks behind me. I hear the beating wings of a crow as he flies by and I have to shield my eyes from the piercing early sun rays to look up to see him. His "caw-caws" fill the air. A few big ants are crawling around the base of the giant eucalyptus tree on my right. I breathe deep and exhale slowly.

A rhythmic thudding sound comes from my left, and as I look up, my son, Ben, trots by me on his grey Percheron-thoroughbred horse, Brice. He grins. He's doing what's called a "posting trot," where he comes out of the saddle and puts his weight on his feet in the stirrups and then sits back in the saddle in rhythm with his horse's trot. The metronome of Brice's hoof beats and Ben's posting trot have a calming effect on my spirit.

As Ben and Brice round the far turn of the track, a Mexican man pulls up in a dingy-brown pick-up truck on the dirt road behind me. "Tamales, senor?" I say "no, thank you" but as soon as he drives away, I wish I'd said "yes." No matter. I lay back on the grass, put my hands behind my head and close my eyes. The sun illuminates the red on the inside of my eyelids and I feel the warmth of it on my face. I hear Ben and Brice trot by again. A horse whinnies from the barn nearby.

I open my eyes and see a hawk gliding through the blue, high, high above me.
He screeches.
It's a good morning.
Is Heaven going to be any better than this?

This post was linked on 10.25.10 to
Seedlings in Stone: On in and Around Mondays

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

P4E.105 Dreams

Susan Boyle has received a lot of well-earned attention for her courageous singing on "Britain's Got Talent." When I heard her sing, it reminded me of seeing Les Miserables in Los Angeles and the lyrics of the song that Susan Boyle sang, "I Dreamed a Dream." I found the lyrics by Alain Boublil and post them here for you:

[Fantine is left alone, unemployed and destitute]
"There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed."

These heartbreaking lyrics remind me of the verse in Malachi, "...the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously..."

I know that not all men treat women treacherously, but enough do that these lyrics strike a chord in many women's hearts. I pray that we are not among those who tear women's hopes apart, make their lives hell and kill their dreams.
Peace, Kim

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

P4E.104 CURSES!!!

"D#@n" It!!" "D**n It!!" "D##n It!!"

My own shouted words rang in my ears. I was in the backyard. It was early. Maybe the neighbors didn't hear. We were in a hurry to leave. Ben's first big horse show. The screen on the back sliding door had become jammed. I had removed it and stood it up by the storage unit. The wind had come up and blown it over onto a fence. The fence tore a hole in the screen. That made me angry. It's a tall screen so I was sure it would be expensive to fix. I don't need that right now. It seemed like just another thing that had gone wrong that morning to slow me down, distract me and get me more agitated on an important day.

"D#@n" It!!" "D**n It!!" "D##n It!!"

Inside, Gwen and Ben did hear me. When I came back in, Ben averted his eyes and Gwen gave me a "what the heck was that about?" look. I told her the story, but she didn't look convinced. She reminded me that this was a big day for Ben and that he didn't need my drama to upset or distract him. "Oh yeah," I thought, "I have a track record of doing this on big days, don't I?." "Why do I do that?" I started to get really upset with myself, but I caught myself. That would be the next step in a bad track record. It would start to be all about me. So, I stopped and apologized to Gwen and Ben and told Ben that I was wrong to do anything that would get him down or distracted on his big day.

Later, Gwen tried to get me to see the damage that I do when I have these outbursts. "When the screen falls and gets torn, you can see that damage." (When I looked at it again, it turned out to be a relatively small tear. Something that I easily blew out of proportion.) "The thing that you don't see the emotional/spiritual damage that you do to Ben." "You also set an incredibly bad example for him that he WILL follow."

All true. I do wonder what it would be like if the emotional/spiritual wounds that we give and receive left visible scars on our bodies? Gwen reminded me that this goes back to the idea that "people are more important than things!" If I value the stupid screen door so much that I curse and swear when it gets torn at the same time I am under-valuing Ben's and Gwen's spirits. How many times do I have to learn that lesson?

It pains me to drag all of this out into the light. To expose it. I'm embarrassed by it. But, if you can learn by my mistakes, so much the better. Sometimes, I read my own previous blog postings. I can't believe that I'm the guy that wrote those things... How did I forget so quickly? Who do I think I am to write this stuff? If I can reason and write it out, why can't I follow my own advice?

Vowing to do better! Kim

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

P4E.103 Where Angels Fear to Tread

"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Alexander Pope

(First, please know that I write, not because I've arrived, but to journal my journey. None of these thoughts are "finished" just like Paul said that he had not "arrived." I'm not in a position to "teach" anybody anything. I write to acknowledge my shortcomings, encourage myself, remind myself, urge myself on. I know that not everyone is like me, but if whoever reads is encouraged, reminded, urged on, so much the better.)

One night recently, I was pretty rough on my son, Ben. I needed information that I thought he had to fill out some forms. He didn't have it and was questioning Gwen about where it was. I thought he was being disrespectful towards Gwen. I thought I was trying to protect her from his disrespect, but Gwen didn't feel protected or that she needed protection. I also felt that I was being misunderstood and was trying to clarify what I meant. But I was getting flustered and frustrated with the whole discussion. I felt like I was rushing in where I shouldn't be going, and it showed in my voice and posture and face. I made the situation very tense. The conversation ended up with Gwen calling me "anal" (as in anal retentive personality traits, namely: stubbornness and a compulsion for control) and Ben telling me, "this isn't where you work."

I acknowledged that I was out of line and apologized to them both later. But, the apology isn't enough, really. I need to change my behavior. I'm re-re-reminding myself of this strategy:

That whenever I feel flustered and frustrated, whenever I feel misunderstood and that I need to defend and clarify my position, I immediately stop and be quiet. I back up, retreat, flee. I swallow my pride (or whatever it is that makes me feel I need to defend myself), I swallow my warped sense of justice. I swallow my desire to argue, debate, analyze (Gwen says I'm like a Philadelphia lawyer). I swallow my flustration. I stop and be quiet until all of those feelings go away and I can behave like...well, like Christ.

"...many false witnesses came forward...the high priest stood up and said to Him, "Do You make no answer?...But Jesus kept silent." Matt 26:60-63

No, it doesn't mean I become inward and withdraw into a cocoon. It means I "bite my tongue." "Think twice before I speak." "Get my act together." "Get an attitude adjustment." "Chill." I slow down to gain understanding....

"It is better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

Beyond all of that, is my own need for a heart check. Christ said, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." It is so difficult to stay consistently in a good place. But, that is what being Christ-like means. I'm keeping up the struggle...

Friday, March 13, 2009

P4E.102 Broken Record

the flesh
the flesh
the flesh
the mind set on the flesh is death

there is a way which seems right to a man
but its end is the way of death
we walk in darkness
in darkness and in the shadow of death

men loved the darkness
loved the darkness
rather than the light
in darkness and in the shadow of death

we lie
we lie
we lie
we do not practice the truth

help! I need somebody
help! not just anybody
help! you know I need someone

it is not good for the man to be alone
I will make
I will make for him
I will make for him a help

the natural man
does not accept
the things of the Spirit of God
for they are foolishness to him

she is not the enemy
she is not the enemy
love your enemy
she is help

when I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
but now those days are gone I'm not so self-assured
now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors

behold, I stand at the door and knock
if anyone hears My voice
and opens the door
I will come in to him

help me if you can I'm feeling down
and I do appreciate you being round
help me get my feet back on the ground
won't you please, please help me?

I will ask the father
and He will give you another Helper
the Spirit of truth
the Spirit of truth

what is truth?
what is truth?
what is truth?
the truth is not in us

the truth is not in us
the truth is not in us
we lie
we do not practice the truth

I am
I am the way
I am the way the truth
I am the way the truth and the life

and now my life has changed in oh so many ways
my independence seems to vanish in the haze
but every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I've never done before

husbands love your wives
like Christ loved the church
and laid down His life for her
and laid down His life for her

It is not good for the man to be alone
I will make
I will make for him
I will make for him a help

won't you please
please help me
help me
help me oooooh?*

Peace, Kim
*Help! The Beatles

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

P4E.101 What "the Flesh" Looks Like and What to Do About It

This is the third, and last, post in a series about being "disconnected."

My son, Ben, and I were driving and listening to a pastor on the radio talk about the flesh and the spirit. The pastor talked a lot about the flesh and seemed to focus in on vices like sexual immorality, smoking, drinking, etc. It got me to thinking...

Later, while munching In-N-Out cheeseburgers, I asked Ben if he understood what we meant when we talked about the 'flesh' and the 'spirit.' Like many 15 year-olds, he shrugged his shoulders and said "I don't knowwwwww." So, I asked him, "When mom says to me, 'Kim, you're being fleshy,' what do you think she means?" He thought while chewing, "Grouchy?" "Mmmhmmm, what else?" "Irritable. Impatient." "Wow. That's good. Good job, Ben!" He smiled, while swirling his french fry in the extra spread sauce. I stopped asking questions while I was ahead.

Scripture talks about the flesh and the spirit being in "opposition" to each other. It also says,

"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

I think most "Christian" men are clear about and wouldn't defend anything at the beginning or the end of the "deeds of the flesh" list. They'd feel guilty about practicing anything at the beginning or end of the list. It's the middle of the list that gets me. There's some gray area there...

Ken Nair describes marriage as the "rubber meets the road" place where we men get to practice our Christianity. It shames me to admit that the deeds of the flesh were abundantly evident in my marriage. I especially had trouble with enmity, strife, OUTBURSTS OF ANGER, disputes, dissensions, and factions. I have been "grouchy, irritable and impatient" for much of my marriage. I also justified my flesh by insisting that "This IS who I am. I can't change me."

So, what can be done about "the flesh?" When I'm in a good place, here are some of my strategies:

1. I no longer accept the idea that I can't change. In fact, I believe that becoming a "Believer" means I must change as part of overcoming my "flesh" nature.

2. I elevate my regard for the "spirit." My own and others'. I'm studying about the spirit. I don't ignore it.

3. I elevate my regard for my wife, who IS more spiritually oriented than I am and who God gave to me as a "help." I am no longer at enmity with her. This lessens strife, disputes, dissensions, and factions. "So they are no longer two, but one flesh."

4. I ASK for help from my wife when it comes to relational/spiritual matters, whether it has to do with her or my children, my friends, my relatives, my co-workers or my bosses. I ASK GOD and trustworthy, spiritually minded men for their help too.

5. I ACT upon the help that my wife, God and godly men give to me.

6. I commit to becoming more self-aware, so that I can recognize when the "flesh" is controlling my spirit. When I'm self-aware, I feel less disconnected.

7. I elevate my FEAR of the LORD. Some people like to translate this "fear" as "respect," or "reverence." It has actually helped me to think of it more as "terror" or "dread." This perspective was born out of my asking the question, "Do I really believe what I say I believe? Am I a "Believer?" So, when I look at Scripture and see things like,

"the deeds of the flesh...will not inherit the kingdom of God." and

"For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace..." and

"...those who are in the flesh cannot please God." and

"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." and

"For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

I begin to get the idea that I might die an eternal death if I keep allowing my flesh to rule me. That has struck terror into my heart. I've been scared straight.

But, this fear has another side-effect: It brings wisdom and understanding. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

8. Instead of getting angry, I take a deep breath and wait for understanding. As long as it takes. "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly." I'm not as grouchy, irritable and impatient.

9. I limit my "news of the world" intake and increase my "good news" intake. We don't have regular television. I limit the amount of news and information I take in from the radio and Internet. As they say, it's "garbage in, garbage out." As trite as it sounds, I've got to read my Scripture or I get disconnected from God and those around me.

10. When I do mess up (as I many times do), I'm quicker to acknowledge that I have, apologize, ask forgiveness and make a strong commitment to get better.

The bottom line is that the more fleshy I am, the more disconnected I am. And, the more spiritually minded I am, the more connected I am.

Praying for our "connectedness", Kim

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

P4E.100 The Difference Between Men and Women That Really Matters

This is the second of three posts on being "disconnected."

Put simply, women are more spiritually connected and relationship oriented than men. Period. Of course, you'll find the exception to the rule, here and there, but by and large this "stereotype" holds true. When women get together they talk about each other, their children, their parents, siblings and their boyfriends or husbands. In other words, relationships. Emotions. Spiritual matters.

Men are more physically/mechanically oriented than women. When I use the word "mechanically" I don't mean a propensity to understand the way machines work. I mean that we men use Boolean (true-false) logic and conditional (if-then) reasoning in our relationships. Again, you may find the rare exception in men, but that's what they are: rare exceptions.When men get together they talk about work, politics, sports, money and hobbies. We care most about what we can touch, taste, smell, hear and (especially) see. Example: Gwen calls me in tears to tell me that her horse is lame. My immediate natural response is: "How did that happen?" "Why did that have to happen?" "How bad is it?" "Well, call the vet." "I wonder how much that's going to cost me?" I have to make a conscious effort to suppress the natural response and to let her know that I truly am worried about her horse, how she's feeling about him being lame, how the horse is feeling and how I can help.

So, the difference between men and women that really matters is that women's orientation is spiritual/relational and men's is physical/mechanical. As Believers, there is one particular aspect to this that we men should take into account. That is, that God is spirit and everyone who worships Him must worship in spirit and in truth. He highly values spiritual matters. Knowing that He created men whose orientation would be physical/mechanical, He knew that we would need help. Would He be so uncomplicated as to call the help He has for us men, "help?" As in, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make for him a help..."?

A confirmation of the heightened spiritual orientation of women can be tested right now, as you read (which is sad, in a way). In your own family, while you were growing up, who would you say was the spiritual leader of your home? For the vast majority, it was "Mom." Try this: Think of all the families you know now, as an adult, from church and other related para-church ministries. In those families, how many would you identify the father/husband as the spiritual leader? The trick here is that church appearances may be deceiving. But if you ask the children of those families, you'll get a pretty consistent answer: "Mom is". Maybe even in the pastor's family!

Knowing this basic difference between men and women should really help men understand their wives. But our own predisposition hinders us from making good use of the information. In our mechanical way, we tend to think, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

My friend Jackie, puts it this way:

"I sometimes wonder about the "disconnect" and how it happens in men. For example, when women are disconnected or feel out place they (for the most part) react. They will verbally or physically act different-sometimes short or indifferent. But men on the other hand, always think everything is fine. Is this a chemical imbalance or a lack of understanding of yourself as man, or your partner? "

I said the second and third posts of this series would focus more on "what can be done about it and how to do it." The biggest hurdle we men have to overcome is to view our wives as God-given "help" and not the enemy. Especially when it comes to relationships. What I try to do (when I'm in a good place) is engage Gwen in conversations about spiritual matters. To a lot of men, this would be like praying for patience. Just looking for trouble. But, I've found it to be truly helpful.

For instance, if the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, what does that look like to Gwen? How can I display these character qualities so that she feels that I'm loving, joyful...etc. If she's the one I care about displaying these qualities to, why shouldn't I ask her how I can affect her that way? Who better to ask? Many times, to my shame, I affect her in the opposite way. More about that in the next post: "What 'the Flesh' Looks Like and What to Do About It"

Peace, Kim

(P.S.- Being a man, I have a fascination with numbers. Note that this is P4E.100. No big deal. I watch as I speed by the mile marker. It's taken a little over two years to get to P4E.100. That's about one post a week. At this rate, I'll be nearly 70 before I run out of 3-digit numbers. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

P4E.099 Disconnected Redux: Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Over the next three posts, I'll try to pull 3 different ideas together in relation to being disconnected.

The first idea is that "Familiarity Breeds Contempt."
The second is "The Difference Between Men and Women That Really Matters."
The third is "What 'The Flesh' Looks Like and What to Do About It."

There's a saying that goes "Familiarity Breeds Contempt."

In the case of relationships, the word "contempt" could be replaced with "presumption." What I mean is, we take for granted that with which we are familiar. Taking relationships (especially marriage) for granted can put a husband in a very bad way. When I'm in a bad way, I liken myself to water in several ways:

- I "run downhill" and settle in a low spot.
- I seek a level, stationary state and if I find one, I'll stay there until I stagnate or evaporate.
- Like water, I can be "inert," that is, I can have a limited ability to react and I can be slow and apathetic.

What this translates to is that when I think everything's OK, it's not. I presume that as long as things aren't blowing up, I'm OK. But, the fact is that, if I am not consciously making every effort to improve and move forward in my spirit and relationships, I'm falling backwards.

It's easy for me to disconnect spiritually because I don't value my spiritual nature enough to pay it much attention. Another way of saying "familiarity breeds contempt" is that when I think I've got my relationship with my wife figured out, when I take it for granted, I naturally devalue it. This is one reason why Scripture says, "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials..." The trials are put there by God so that I won't just float along thinking everything's OK.

Gwen says that many times people get hurt around horses because they let their guard down doing something they've done a million times. They've disconnected and become complacent enough to forget about the inherent danger in what they are doing...

Everybody say "Hmmmmm."

I've described something in this first part. In the next two parts I'll write more about what can be done about it and how to do it.

Peace, Kim

Next: The Difference Between Men and Women that Really Matters

Monday, February 2, 2009

P4E.098 Disconnected

It's definitely easier to write when things are going well. I feel like a hypocrite when I write during the times when things are not going well. By writing at those times I seem to imply that I'm learning something worth sharing. That's not always the case.

Last week the computer networking system went down at work. There was a little pop-up on my screen that said:


My spirit resonated with that little pop-up.

Ken Nair uses a big, 3-foot long, rubber band in a demonstration to illustrate what our spiritual awareness is like. When I'm aware, in-tune, connected, I'm like a rubber band that's stretched taut. When I'm insensitive, distracted and disconnected I'm like a rubber band with a lot of slack in it. Gwen's been pointing out that for the last six months she's felt that I've been disconnecting. I'm sure I'm not the first guy to be surprised by the fact that his wife feels he's out of touch. But, it doesn't lessen the frustration and defensiveness that I immediately felt when she told me. I naturally want to defend myself and my actions (or inactions). That's what lets me know I probably am disconnected. If I were in a better place, my first thoughts would be towards her and how and why she feels out of touch with me. As her husband, if I were fulfilling my role as spiritual leader, I would be aware, in-tune and connected.

My counselors are encouraging me to journal my emotions. I'm afraid to. When I take a hard look at who I am and what I'm feeling it's never very pretty. It's ugly and it frightens and discourages Gwen (and me!). I don't want to do it. I know I don't have to show it to anyone, but what if it's found and read? I really don't want anyone to know, or even acknowledge to myself, how ugly I can be inside. I guess all of those things point to the idea that I SHOULD journal my emotions. Part of my original motivation in writing this blog was to share with you HOW I'm making it in my marriage. To confess my shortcomings, share and rejoice in successes, jointly search for answers and stay connected. This is not an exercise in self-humiliation, but it does keep me humble.

I know that if I have "friends" who never share the difficulties in their lives and only let me in on the good things that are happening it seems like they are trying to portray that they are better than me. When they remain opaque, I feel like I know them less and less. I start to resent that there isn't a mutual exchange of confidences. Are we really "friends"? When they're more transparent, I feel like we're on mutual ground. That they can empathize with me and I with them. This connects us.

So, I'm always hoping that when you read this blog, I'm letting you know that you're not alone. I'm hoping that I'm not alone. Maybe I'm expressing some things that you feel too. No, they're not always "good" feelings or thoughts. But, at least we can share them and search for answers together.

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim