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