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