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