Friday, December 17, 2010

P4E.194 Happy Anniversary to Gwen and Me

33 years ago today, I married my wonderful wife, Gwen.

She was and is the most beautiful person in the world to me.

Gwen has been an incredible help to me in getting well.

I owe her an unpayable debt of gratitude for helping get and stay on track.

God Bless her for being such a wonderful wife and mother to our sons.

Happy Anniversary, Gwen!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

P4E.193 Ignorance and Want

In Dickens's classic A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Present introduces Ebenezer Scrooge to "two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable," and explains to Scrooge, "This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom..."

I've always been fascinated with these creatures. Dickens has portrayed them as pitiful, yet powerful offspring of Men. In their visible form they represent the result of Ignorance and Want, and are to be pitied. But, Dickens warns us to beware them both for the Doom that they represent.

A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, yet Dickens's warning about Ignorance and Want remains fresh. Every year, we Men beget new children named Ignorance and Want and in this case we want to exercise some population control.

To begin, let us ask, "Ignorance of what?" For, we do not know what we do not know. If we say that Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, then how do we begin to attain the knowledge that we need to dispel the wretchedness of Ignorance? We Believers have a place to turn to for answers to such questions. Proverbs 1:7 says "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction." Later Proverbs 15:33 says, "The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility."

I know that the current trend in writing is toward open-endedness and away from blatancy. Teachers are now "facilitators" and the tendency is away from receiving instruction from authorities. However, Scripture is the Supreme Authority and I will not despise its instruction.

If I am to dispel Ignorance and gain knowledge and wisdom, I must respect God by regarding others, in all humility, as more important than I. This is, in fact, the message to Scrooge from the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Secondly, let us ask, "Who's Want?" and "What do they Want?" This reminds me of the question that the lawyer asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" and also the question the Cain asks God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" I think the answer may sound cynical, but the truthful answer to "Who's Want?" is "Anybody but me." This would be in keeping with the humility demanded by dispelling Ignorance. And the answer to "What do they Want?" may come down to "Anything that I have." This answer would echo Jesus' "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also."

It may be helpful if we expand the answer to "What do they Want?" to these three simple things: Health, Security, and Dignity. By these I mean that, for their health's sake, no one should be denied food, clean water and shelter. No one should live in fear of another man or men. We should do everything in our power to shield the innocent from the harm of malicious men. As children made in the image of God, all of mankind has, for the asking, the dignity that the blood of Christ imbues. We Believers should be instrumental, as God's ambassadors, in providing these.

These are hard sayings. But, they do define the Believer's Way.

Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

P4E.192 Note to Self: IT'S THE HOLIDAYS!


A note to self: Please remember IT'S THE HOLIDAYS! You have spiritually wrecked so many of them that I think it's wise and necessary to give you some reminders:
  1. The word "holiday" is derived from the Old English word hāligdæg meaning "holy day." Please try to remember this original meaning in your attitude during the holidays. Your attitude is everything. You can make the holidays bright and cheerful or (as you've done so many times before) make them dark and unpleasant for everyone around you.
  2. Please remember to value "People Over Things." It's so easy to get caught up in the capitalism of the times (remember the signs people were holding at the Seattle Christmas tree lighting ceremony that said "BUY MORE STUFF!"?) that you need to remember what's important. The spirits of your wife and children first.
  3. Watch what you do with your eyes. The ladies are all dressed up to attract attention even more during the holidays. The mall is a particularly obvious place where both advertising and the lady shoppers themselves scream for attention. Please remember that you are a married man and also Jesus' words "that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." That is not what you want for the holidays (or any other time for that matter).
  4. You have a tendency to be angry, frustrated and impatient. Period. The stress of the holidays increases this tendency. Being in crowds of people increases this tendency. Being tired increases this tendency. Your perceived lack of money increases this tendency. Driving during the holidays increases this tendency. Being in a hurry increases this tendency. When things don't go as planned or go completely wrong increases this tendency. Remember "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly." Stay calm. Be flexible. Go with the flow. Go back to reminder #2.
  5. Slow down. Be fully present wherever you are. Don't try to multi-task (like talking on the phone, texting, or reading) when you're supposed to be having a good time with your family and friends. Give them your full attention so that they know how much you care about them. Don't be thinking about what comes next. They go by quickly, so enjoy the moment at hand.
  6. Speed up. You tend to lollygag. There's a lot to do and get done before and during the holidays. Don't dawdle! Don't procrastinate. If you want the holidays to be meaningful, then there's a lot of planning that you should have already done by now. So, get to it.
  7. Guard your heart and spirit. Guard the hearts and spirits of your family. Kim, you can be lazy and when you're lazy you stop being diligent. You get dull and callous. You need to step up your protection mode of your own spirit and that of your wife and children. As much as possible, you need to step in front of things, places, people, and circumstances that have the potential to harm the enjoyment of the holidays and shield those you hold dear from them.
  8. Be Happy! Remember the line in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." "'re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem...Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest." Well, that's you! So, focus on the positive and be happy!
  9. Stay connected with your wife. You need to keep her informed of your plans. You can get distracted by visitors and forget that you're supposed to be helping her. If you're out together stay together. Don't get pulled away by other people or things. You need to stay in contact so she knows where you are and who you're with and what you're doing. Remember, you and she are ONE.
  10. Keep the Christ in Christmas. As Dickens said, Honor Christmas in your heart throughout the holidays and beyond. Live in the Past, the Present and the Future and let the Spirits of all three strive within you. Don't shut out the lessons that they teach.
(If you get anything out of my Note to Self, so much the better. God Bless.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

P4E.191 Releasing Liz

I did not know you.
I wanted to help you and yours.
I tried to get your attention.
You ignored me.
Your disregard was purposeful.
I walked away.
You insulted me behind my back.
I turned and asked you a simple question.
You denied being who you were.
The consequences would fall on yours.
You sent a child to apologize for your offense.
It hurt my heart as it was not her place to apologize.
It turned out you were who you said you were not.
You lied.
You lied on top of your lies.
You excused yourself with more lies.
Instead, you accused me.
I only wanted to help.
I apologized if I offended you.
I shook your hand and gave you a hug.
I release you from your offense to me.
I hold no grudge.
No ill will do I bear you.
Go in peace.
When we meet again it will be for the first time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

P4E.190 Do You Think Your Wife is Stupid? Part 2

Some Christian men hang their hat on what they think Scripture says to justify their prejudice that women are inferior. I Peter 3:7 immediately comes to mind,

"You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." (NAS)

Although we men would like to think so, this is not a belittling of women. There are so many explanations for the use of this word in this context. In the Greek the word for "weaker" is "asthenes" and it is used 25 times in the New Testament. Its use is certainly not limited to women. Its definition ranges from "sick," "helpless," "strengthless," "powerless," and "deficient."

Far from defining women as lesser human beings, in the context of I Peter 3:7, husbands are being encouraged to understand their wives. It would make no sense for Paul to demean women at the very time he is encouraging men to honor them as co-equal "heirs of the grace of life." What does he mean then? First, I think it's a nod towards the zeitgeist of 1st century Christians. In that culture, women were not considered first-class citizens and were powerless to elevate themselves in their society. Paul was actually attempting to elevate them in Christian husband's minds. I like to think that Paul is encouraging men to highly value their wives and treat them with special care, as one would a delicate, fragile, crystal wine goblet. In this verse, God is acknowledging that men can be rough and might normally handle women like a cast-iron mug. He is also acknowledging that women are more relationally, spiritually aware and this makes them appear emotionally fragile to the physically minded man. But their very fragility should cause us to "HANDLE WITH CARE."

PS -  Men are seemingly imbued with incredible power over women. The word-picture that helps me is that of one of those gigantic car-crushers with the powerful clenching fingers used with enough gentleness and finesse to pick up a crytal goblet without cracking it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

P4E.189 Do You Think Your Wife is Stupid?

The Real Reason That The Allies Won WW II! 

Recently, friends (who shall remain unnamed) came to visit. While they were there, my son Ben saw something he thought was funny and shared it with us on his Blackberry. It was the image shown above. Ben showed the husband first. He laughed and said "She won't get it," meaning his wife. She understandably bristled and said "What? Let me see." When she looked at it, she said to her husband, "Why do you think I wouldn't get that?" He said, "Well, it had Winston Churchill and Hitler and I just didn't think you'd know who they were." His wife was obviously hurt and just shook her head.

In his book "Discovering the Mind of a Woman," Ken Nair says that there are some prejudices that men carry around and one of them is that "Women are Inferior to Men." Ken describes how God used a visit with a lawyer to show him his own prejudice towards his wife, Nancy:

""Walking back to the car, I asked Nancy, "Do you remember when the lawyer talked about such and such?" She replied, "Yes." And with a desire to help, I inquired, "Do you know what he was talking about?" She answered, "Yes." Doubting, I questioned, "What was he talking about?" She proceeded to clearly explain the topic to me...God is clever. All of a sudden the thought hit me: You know what, Nair, you really think your wife is stupid.""

To my shame, I have done exactly the same thing, questioning my wife about how something is supposed to be done or how the dogs or horses are supposed to be trained. Gwen's response many times is "I think I know what I'm doing, Kim. I've only been doing this about 40 years."

So, what about you? Do you think your wife is stupid? God help us to overcome this male prejudice.

From The Honeymooners:
Ralph Kramden: "Men have done all the great things. Men! Men are the reason that the world is in the shape that it is today!"
Alice Kramden: "Well, I'm sure glad to hear one of you admit it!"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

P4E.188 Memories

I'm 9 years old. My friend, Ricardo and his family live in a small, four-room shack behind the house next to ours. He's a little older than I am, and bigger and stronger. He's handsome, dark-skinned and has oily black curly hair, white-white teeth and dimples when he smiles.  His father sometimes plays in a mariachi band and Ricardo brags that his father comes home with a literal barrel-full of money when he plays. I'm in awe. It never occurs to me that I and my family are much, much better off than Ricardo and his.

Both Ricardo's family and mine are Catholic, but somehow he takes it more seriously than I do. Ricardo indignantly barges through the screen door of his house one day as I'm standing on his rickety wood front porch. "The Beatles say they are more popular than Jesus! They are going to pay for that. God will make them into nothing!" I'm shocked at his anger and don't believe him at first. How could anyone say that? But, like many things I disbelieve at first, Ricardo turns out to be right. I distinctly remember Ricardo's curse when The Beatles break up about 4 years later and again when John Lennon (who actually said it) is murdered in New York.

Behind our house there's a two-story building with two garages below and an apartment above, where my Chinese grandparents live. Behind that is a grass-filled yard with a big shade tree. The apartment building creates a narrow dirt path between it and a chain-link fence right next to Ricardo's house. Between my grandparent's apartment building and my house there's a little yard. We play marbles in that little yard under a pomegranate tree. We run and play down the narrow path between yards. We use chalk and play hop-scotch. We play handball against the garage doors and it makes my father mad because the ball leaves marks on the doors. There's a basketball hoop and I narrate my own prowess as I shoot. I get embarrassed when Natalie, the girl from two doors down, sneaks up and watches and listens and laughs at me.

One day, Ricardo and I are playing marbles. We each have tins full of marbles and, of course, have our favorites. Being older than me, Ricardo is also better at marbles, so he has won more of mine than I have of his. Today, he decides to play with his favorite. I toss mine and miraculously hit his on the fly on the first try. I can't believe my luck and, arms high, I jump for joy! But, when I turn to Ricardo his face is dark. He rushes at me and I instinctively turn and run. I fly down the narrow path with him hard on my heels. I make it to the back yard and just to the shade tree when he catches me. He throws me to the ground and is hitting me. I've never been in a fight before in my life. I try to block his blows and struggle to get up. I don't hit back because I'm not mad at him, but I'm trying to get away from him and he won't let me. Somehow we both get up and somehow I end up on his back with my arms around his neck. He backs up and slams me into the trunk of the big shade tree. I'm so afraid, I think he's going to kill me. He's flailing me around on his back and in desperation, I bite his arm. He yells, I fall off his back and run as fast as I can into my house.

Later, it's dark inside my house. It's summer and hot and I don't have a shirt on. My mother comes home from work. She's angry at me. She's found out about the fight and about me biting Ricardo. She's really mad about the biting. In the dark, I realize she has a leather belt. I see her in silhouette as she raises her hand over her head. My arms instinctively go up and I turn away. She's yelling and hitting my bare back with the belt. I cover my head...

This was re-posted on L.L. Barkat's In, On and Around Mondays on 11.08.10.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

P4E.187 The Poor Boys and the Plunge

I'm 7 years old. I live in a suburb of Los Angeles where the Poor Boys are the Mexican gang that rule the streets. I'm just old enough to be aware of them, but I'm young enough that they don't pay any attention to me. One night, I wake up and I can see blue and red police lights dancing through the darkness across the walls and ceiling of my room. I'm too scared to get up. The next day, I find out that someone had been stabbed on our front lawn.

In the summer, my younger brother and I go to the public pool. For a dollar we get a locker and use of the pool. I climb out of the pool, dripping and shivering and run to the spot where we've thrown our towels. The lifeguard yells at me not to run. I lie face down on the wet, warm concrete with my arms to my side and lay my cheek on the concrete. I adjust the giant diaper pin that holds my locker key. I press my whole body down against the warmth of the concrete. The breeze blows over me as I lay there trembling. My eyes are closed and the sun shows bright red through my eyelids. I smell the chlorine of the pool water as it evaporates off the hot pool deck. I hear the water churning as the other children play. The lifeguard's whistle blows, followed by his yells. Kids are laughing. Wet feet run by. I feel the wet warmth under me and the gritty concrete under my cheek. My sinuses ache from water having been up my nose. My right ear suddenly turns warm and tickles and I can suddenly hear better as the water drains out of it. The sun warms my backside and it feels good.

My friend Ricardo comes and asks if I've heard. No. What? Julian is dead. What? His older brother, Sammy, wouldn't join the Poor Boys. He didn't want to be in the gang. So they killed Julian to teach him a lesson. Nah ahhh. It's true! How did they kill him? They ran him over in their car when he was crossing Figueroa. Ohhh. You lie! I jump back in the pool...

This was re-posted on 11.01.10 at LL Barkat's Seedlings in Stone, In On and Around Mondays

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

P4E.186 I Get Up, I Get Down

"I get up, I get down
I get up, I get down
I get up, I get down"

I can be so consistently inconsistent. Sometimes, I'm spiritually on and sometimes not. I can be caring and understanding one day and the very next be completely absent. Yes, I know why. But, I am simply not disciplined enough to get to consistency. It's like drinking a Coke. Everything I know tells me that it's bad for me. Like drinking pure sugar. And carbonated at that. The road to diabetes and kidney stones is paved with empty Coke cans. And yet, every once in a while, I drink (a Coke!).

When confronted with my offensiveness, I get defensive. I want to be understood. I think that I'll be understood if I can just explain myself better. I don't want to give up. I want to be heard. I talk too much. I raise my voice. I feel like I can't get a word in edge-wise. I get frustrated and impatient. Of course, this just makes things worse.

Then, I get confused and non-committal. I don't want to appear weak, but I am, in fact, weak. Weakness isn't very attractive. It's repulsive. It looks...weak. Then I get angry with myself for letting myself get to this place. Self-loathing isn't attractive either. I feel like I'm living Close to the Edge. I get up. I get down. I get up. I get down. I get up. I get down.

"Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

P4E.185 Appearances, Stereotypes, Prejudice, Judgment and Bullying

Lately, my awareness has been heightened to an ugly side of us. Like me, you've probably been hearing news recently about suicides by young people who've been bullied or tormented by others who've passed judgment on them based on appearances or stereotyping. I'm currently reading Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which deals extensively with prejudice towards the hunchback, Quasimodo, and the gypsy, Esmeralda. Finally, I just watched the wonderfully made 2010 HBO production about Temple Grandin, an autistic woman played by Claire Danes, who endures intolerance because of her autism and her gender.

I find myself a little overwhelmed by the ugliness portrayed in these circumstances. I feel the need to examine myself to see if the reason I'm repulsed is that I too carry prejudices, stereotypes and a pre-disposition to judge. God help me, I hope I can minimize this natural tendency.

God knows we are a fickle people. Victor Hugo depicts the Parisians as prejudiced against Quasimodo because he is so ugly. They rumor him to cast satanic spells and generally bring bad luck. The same Parisians are quick to judge Esmeralda for her beauty and being a gypsy. Her having a pet goat assures everyone that she must be a witch. Hugo perfectly captures our prejudices.

But, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a fiction. What happened to Temple Grandin throughout her life is a terrible, yet inspiring, reality. As an autistic child, she did not speak until she was four years old. Her mother resisted the recommendations of the medical community to permanently institutionalize her. Despite the ugly discrimination she suffered due to her autism, and with her mother's encouragement, Temple graduated from Franklin Pierce College, with a bachelor's degree in psychology, earned her master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University and her doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. If her autism was not handicap enough, Temple suffered through belittlement as a woman in the man's world of cattle ranching and slaughter.

Finally, we hear the despicable stories of harassment, ostracizing and bullying of young people because of rumors and prejudice. Can we really be this horrible? Certainly, as Believers, we would say "yes!" about the world around us. But, I'm asking the question, even as Believers, can we also be this horrible? Because I believe that becoming Christlike is a process, not an event, I think we do still have the potential to be prejudiced and judgmental; bullying and applying stereotypes based on appearances.

Ken Nair, in his book, Discovering the Mind of a Woman, points out four male prejudices that he has identified among men towards women (and therefore their wives):

1. Women are impossible to understand!
2. Women are the real problem!
3. Women are inferior to men.
4. Men are supposed to be the boss.

Please read the book to get a better feel for what Ken is trying to point out. In the mean time, if any of these four male prejudices strike your heart in the least, we husbands have an opportunity to model tolerance and non-judgment right in our own homes. That's where we can affect those closest to us and the next generation by our own example.


Monday, October 4, 2010

P4E.184 Clouds

This last week has been one of unusual weather for us in Southern California. Some amazing cloud formations have presented themselves. I was walking at a ranch in Temecula and the sky was just remarkable. I took some pictures and really felt God-inspired along these lines:

Look up!
Don't let your eyes be downcast.
Look up and see the majesty of The Creator and His Creation.
Yes, you are but a vapor in time.
So are these clouds, yet look at how they reflect the Light of His Glory.
Reflect Him.

Peace, Kim

Sharing this week with Laura Boggess

Friday, October 1, 2010

P4E.183 Ecce Homo 2

The qualities that make a man a MAN vary widely depending on whether we're using a worldly value system or a spiritual one. I offer my own list (in no particular order) of character qualities of the spiritually whole man (and, since this blog is directed towards them in particular, husbands). I create this list as much to remind and encourage myself as I do you.
  • Faithful (to God and to his wife. Faithful with his body, eyes and thoughts.)
  • Honest (in his relationships as well as his business dealings.)
  • Wise (excercising discernment and seeing God in everyone and everything.)
  • Understanding (cuts through confusion between right and wrong.)
  • Truthful (in spirit as well as speech. Straight and True.)
  • Loving (in a self-sacrificial way.)
  • Humble (thinking more of others than himself.)
  • Protective (of his own, his wife's and children's spirits, time and physical needs.)
  • Peaceful and Patient (bringing a spiritual and eternal perspective to his own life and those in his care.)
  • Good, Kind and Gentle (bringing the natural tendency to be otherwise under self-control.)
  • Thoughtful and Caring (letting his wife and children know he's always thinking about them.)
  • Self-aware (being able to know when he has offended those close to him.)
  • Courageous (overcoming fear of rejection, abuse and physical harm to do the right thing.)
  • Reverent (worshipful, respectful and reliant upon God.)
  • Guiding (able to pass on knowledge to help wife and children to spiritual maturity)
  • Gracious and Merciful (overlooking the faults of others and following God's lead in forgiving them.)
  • Organized (formulates plans and makes decisions based on how they further the plan.)
  • Giving (having a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity.)
  • Encouraging (able to exhort to excel and not discourage.)
  • Teachable (not arrogant, knows that there is much to learn.)
  • Strong (in his determination to develop the character qualities that define him as a spiritual man.)
What else would you add (I'm especially interested in what wives would add)?

This post has been shared with LL Barkat's
On In Around button

Monday, September 27, 2010

P4E.182 Ecce Homo

There's been a lot of discussion recently about what makes a man a MAN. Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA was given space in The Washington Post last month for an article which he entitled "The world is filled with boys who can shave." Driscoll's article was a response to an earlier New York Times Magazine article called "What Is It About 20-Somethings?" The July issue of Esquire magazine was titled "How to Be a Man." Finally (for my purposes), in response to the Esquire article, Christianity Today ran an on-line article last month titled "How to be a man? Turn to the Bible."

The Christianity Today article asks the questions "What does it mean to be a man today? Is it determined by what we consume, or by the clothes we wear or the gadgets and gizmos we use?" The article featured the thoughts of Nick Bogardus, Director of PR/Media Relations at Mars Hill Church. He insightfully says "The truth is, culture has ceased being able to define manhood..." and  "A man isn't going to be able to base his life on what he can buy with a credit card." as well as "...we need more men to look to Jesus and the Bible for answers to the question of what it means to be a man."

In the Washington Post article Driscoll flounders, saying things like, "The artsy, techie metrosexual types consume clothes, decaf lattes, shoes, gadgets, cars (not trucks), furniture, hair products, and underwear with the names of very important people on the waistband. For them, manhood means being in touch with one's feelings, wardrobe, and appearance." Eventually, he gets to his point: "Men, you are to be creators and cultivators. God is a creator and a cultivator and you were made to image him. Create a family and cultivate your wife and children. Create a ministry and cultivate other people. Create a business and cultivate it. Be a giver, not a taker, a producer and not just a consumer."

What I find surprisingly missing from the dialogue coming from Christian circles, is a spiritual value system. This is perhaps indicative of where the American church finds itself in relation to our culture. We have striven so hard to be "relevant" that we have begun to define ourselves in the culture's terms. Later in the Christianity Today article, Bogardus concludes that men need to know "more about who they are to protect and defend, what truth is, what righteousness is, and what justice is." Frankly, this sounds more like the definition of a comic book superhero than it does the spiritual man. As I said in P4E.008, "If you think that Christ came to fight for "truth, justice and the American way" you are confusing Him with a fictional superhero."

So what does it mean to be a Christian man? We will do well if we do as Bogardus says and look to Jesus for answers. Jesus encouraged us to use a spiritual value system. He said "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." When Driscoll encourages us to be creators and cultivators of families and ministries and businesses, he's using a worldly/fleshly value system even if he's talking about things that have value in church society. When Bogardus places emphasis on protecting and defending and truth, righteousness and justice, it sounds more like worldly politics than spiritual understanding.

What Christian men don't want to acknowledge is that, by definition, it would be a very rare event to achieve worldly success and spiritual success simultaneously. In a fleshly sense, when Pontius Pilate declared "Ecce Homo," he presented a Christ that had been stripped, scourged, and crowned with thorns. He presented a thoroughly beaten man with no prospects other than to be crucified. A dead man walking. But, in a spiritual sense, he presented an incredibly powerful man. One who was willing to die for others. A servant leader in complete self-control. A man. My man. My hero. My role model. My Savior.

As Christian men, we don't want to hear that we are called to follow Christ and die to ourselves. That we also are called to crucify our egos. That we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. That we are called to serve, not to be served. We wonder, "what good will it do if I die? Who will replace me?" The answer is a spiritually "re-born" man. A man who will produce the fruit of the Spirit. A man who will continue to die to himself every day and put other's interests before his own. It's a tough sell, but there it is. In a worldly sense, this man is a loser. He's considered a nice guy and you know what happens to them. But, in a spiritual sense this man is an incredibly powerful man. One who is willing to die to himself for others. A servant leader in complete self-control.
A man.

Friday, September 17, 2010

P4E.181 An Example

"Things are shifting.
The wreckage gets stirred up.
Beneath the surface is where I cover up.
A sense of feeling is what I want.
To be taken apart."
Head Space - We Barbarians

I have been exploring some suggestions about what might come after one has checked off the "Christian checklist." I have suggested that the pursuit of Christianity is entirely relational and that we should therefore pay more attention to our feelings and those around us. The idea of lending credence to our feelings is surprisingly controversial in Christian circles. In an effort to clarify the sort of thing I'm writing about, I have a recent example:

It was one of those days at work. Unusually frustrating in a SNAFU sort of way. In the past, I might have bulldozed right by the circumstances and not paid much heed to how my spirit was being affected. In this case I was aware enough to realize that I was getting pretty spiritually banged up.

What I did next, I would not suggest to you unless you are willing to bear the consequences without getting defensive, making excuses, getting hurt or offended. Not unless you are willing to remain open and teachable. It's an exercise that I learned through Ken Nair's Christ-Quest Institute and I didn't do it lightly or without some consideration. Ken says that God uses physical circumstances to teach us spiritual lessons. Because God foreknew that we men can be spiritually handicapped, He made for us a help. I texted my wife, Gwen:

"Have I ever made you feel like you had to work under completely irrational circumstances that made no sense at all and were a perfect setup for failure?"

Soon, came the answer:

"Yes, I am afraid so. Also, so afraid of your reaction after all is done. The dread of your anger and lack of understanding."

Ouch. It brought back memories of when our oldest sons were young. The disagreements we would have over their upbringing. In my more liberal Christian mind, I was preparing the boys for life in the world. They wouldn't be shielded from much. If Gwen openly disagreed with me, I would become angry and sulking. Resentful. Harsh. Gwen would say trying to reason with me was like trying to argue with a Philadelphia lawyer. To Gwen, it must have seemed like spiritual abuse. It must have seemed irrational. She must have thought, "How can he consider himself a Christian? It doesn't make any sense at all. He is thwarting everything I'm trying to do as a mother to raise godly young men. He's setting me up for failure."

This is what I'm saying about paying attention to my feelings: God used the physical circumstances of an unusually frustrating day. Because I was aware of my spirit, I was able to ask an important question that, when answered, let me know how Gwen felt when our boys were young. I weep just thinking about it now.

Gwen's answer gave me an opportunity to acknowledge to Gwen that I was starting to truly understand how I affected her in those times. It gave me an opportunity to confess that it was thoroughly wrong of me to have acted that way. It opened the door for me to make a heartfelt apology for how I acted and make a promise to do better in the future. It brought some element of closure when Gwen extended her grace to me. This process brings us closer almost every time we use it. I say "almost" because I don't always put it into practice as I should.

One final element in the process is for me to ask the question, "Did Jesus ever feel this way?" In most cases, the answer is "Yes, I can find times in Scripture where I'm sure He must have felt this." In the example above, I can imagine that Jesus' disciples must have made Him think twice about what He was trying to accomplish. Can you imagine how He felt when the disciples were arguing among themselves who among them was the greatest? When they couldn't figure out Jesus' parables? When Nicodemus asks the question, "How can these things be?" When the disciples couldn't stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane? When His Father had to turn away from Him on the cross because of the sin that he bore? When I ponder these things I connect with Christ in a remarkable way. He felt what I feel and remained holy. Can I follow His example? It gives me a goal. Shooting high never hurts.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

P4E.180 - Now What? - Part 10

In his book, "Cultural Literacy," E.D. Hirsch, Jr. makes the case that communication is intimately connected to what he calls "cultural literacy." He says that our ability to communicate is greatly affected by shared knowledge. Even the perception of what is shared knowledge can affect our ability to communicate well.

A friend who is a professor at Cal State Fullerton once told me that during a discussion in his classroom he happened to mention "Alice in Wonderland." By the blank looks on his students' faces he could tell that he had made a reference to a piece of literature that they were not familiar with. The analogy he was trying to draw was therefore lost on them and he was not able to accurately communicate his point. He had to resort to another reference that they could relate to before they understood his meaning.

Hirsch says that if people, "take a lot for granted, their communications can be short and efficient, subtle and complex. But if [people] share very little knowledge, their communications must be long and relatively rudimentary."

For those of us who are attempting to mature spiritually and acknowledge that our growth as Christians is linked directly to relationships, this is critical information. As a husband, I'm looking at my ability to communicate with my wife and children. My emphasis has shifted from the desire to be understood to the desire to understand my wife and children. My friend and mentor, Ken Nair, says that women speak a language that is foreign to us men. He calls it "womanese." The Urban Dictionary playfully defines "womanese" this way:

a. the mysterious language of the species 'woman', which men find extremely difficult to grasp. It's primary function is as an almost impenetrable code only fully understood within their own circle.
b. a form of female telepathy used to confound men. Involves giving impossibly subtle verbal clues which the man is expected to know before they are spoken.
c. a method of communication that involves not saying something in order to communicate something.
d. Any conversation within a circle of women; or any word that does or does not come out of a woman's mouth.

Some stereotypes are stereotypes because they accurately reflect some common characteristics of a group. When women speak to each other they use emotional/relational language because they are emotional/relational creatures. They can be subtle and complex with each other because they take for granted that each knows what the other is trying to communicate. Their conversations go to the relationships in their lives.

Men, on the other hand, rarely talk about relationships. Instead we focus on work, hobbies, sports and politics. We may talk about our children in relation to the sports they are involved in. We are short and efficient in our communication because we are mechanically minded.

Husband: "What?"
Wife: "Nothing..."
Husband: "Uh, ok..."

I am not here asking the question "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" (Speaking of shared knowledge, that is the title of a song from the 1956 Broadway musical "My Fair Lady," which in turn was based on George Bernard Shaw's play "Pygmalion" and was later made into a movie) I am however, challenging myself (and any readers up to the challenge) to learn a new language; womanese. As part of becoming a keen observer of my wife so that I'm able to take her physical/verbal cues and connect with her on a spiritual level, I need to increase my knowledge of her dialect of womanese.

As I've watched and listened, I've realized that my wife is an expert with respect to relationships and I have a lot to learn about her, my children and my relationships with others. I've learned to ask her questions and seek her advice about impending meetings or relational interactions. God gave me great help and I'm sure he did you too. It's just a matter of learning the language and taking the advice.

Peace, Kim

Monday, September 13, 2010

P4E.179 Now What? - Part 9

As part of becoming a spiritual leader, we're looking at the idea that we must understand our own spirits as well as those of others around us. We must become keen observers of people so that we are able to take their physical cues and connect with them on a spiritual level. Spiritual matters are matters of the heart and matters of the heart are matters of emotions and feelings.

One of the easiest and most obvious places to look for how another person is feeling is their eyes. Certainly, there are common things that happen to people's eyes or that people consciously do with their eyes depending on their spiritual state. Even though this idea is obvious, I have in the past been either unaware or purposefully disregarded what I was seeing in other people's eyes. This left me spiritually clueless.

The most obvious clue that a person is feeling some emotion is when they are just about to cry. I've seen this so many times since I've become aware of it, but I know I've missed it thousands of times before I became aware. When people are about to cry, they blink (or squint). They may look down and to their left (your right). People look down and to their left when thinking about their feelings. They may also look up and to their right (your left). People look up and to the right when they are accessing visual memories. They also do this to try not to let the tears fall. Their eyes brim with tears and turn red. They may move their hand to their face to cover or rub their eyes. If tears flow, people will typically wipe them with their hands. In the US (and probably many other countries) it is socially acceptable for women to cry to express a variety of emotions, from happiness to anger, from disappointment to confusion to resignation. On the other hand, it is socially unacceptable in the US (and probably many other countries) for men to cry in most situations. This is in keeping with the stoicism that is associated with "being a man" in the US. So, it is especially significant when you see a man about to cry or actually crying.

As this blog is targeted at married men, it is especially important for us to be aware of what happens to our wives when they are about to cry. When I recognize it, if I'm unaware of why my wife might be about to cry, it's time to figure it out. Many times, it may only take a moment of thought to figure it out. No matter what emotion my wife is feeling that is causing her to cry, I've found that it is NOT time to physically move away from her, but time to move towards her. In the past, I HAVE sometimes been aware of when my wife was about to cry, but I might tend to ignore or dismiss it. When we ignore or dismiss what we observe in other's spirits it hampers our ability to spiritually lead. Good spiritual leaders do not ignore or dismiss their people's spirits, hearts or emotions. More to follow...

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

P4E.178 Now What? - Part 8

The part of Christianity that we Believers participate in is entirely relational. As aspiring spiritual leaders, it is incumbent on us to be able to "perceive the spirit of another" and "understand its condition at that moment" (Ken Nair).

How do we do that? To answer the question in part, let's look at three different types of people. As strange as it sounds, and even though our motivations will be quite different, let's look at con men, business negotiators and human lie detectors.

Con men use the knowledge they obtain for personal gain, but we want to develop the same awareness to do good. Business negotiators want to benefit financially by their negotiations, but we are interested here in benefiting spiritually. The motivation of human lie detectors is to discover whether someone is being truthful or not. We are interested in understanding the spiritual condition of the people we have relationships with. So, even though we have different motivations, what do con men, business negotiators and human lie detectors look for in the people they interact with?

Interestingly, confidence men are expert in their awareness of people and their spirits. They take advantage of their ability to "read" people. They study their victim's circumstances, weaknesses, insecurities and ignorances. They know how to make people feel confidence in them and build trust.

In business negotiations, it is understood that non-verbal communication, "body language" accounts for up to 90% of the communication that actually happens between negotiators. We may lean forward or back, use our hands in gestures, make facial expressions and place our arms in different positions. We may physically move in close (even touch) or keep our distance. Our physical appearance and the way we dress send unspoken messages. We may maintain eye-contact or avoid it. We use voluntary and involuntary facial expressions that communicate our inner-feelings. Even our posture sends messages about what we are thinking and feeling.

Some people are unusually adept at detecting when others are lying to them. Human lie detectors carefully listen to what people are telling them, read body language, for example fidgeting and what a person does with their hands, and carefully watch the eyes to determine if someone is lying to them.

As you can see, all of these types of people develop keen powers of observation. They watch body language, especially the face and eyes. They listen carefully to pick up verbal cues as to how a person is feeling by their words and voice inflection. These people are also able to control their own body language, facial expressions, eye movements, voice inflection, words, hands, arms, posture and gestures to achieve their desired objectives.

If we are to be effective spiritual leaders we must also develop keen powers of observation (the ability to perceive the spirit of another and understand its condition) and we must increase our ability to exhibit "self-control" (a fruit of the Spirit) not only of our emotions, but of our physical communication, to achieve our desired objective of Christlikeness. Examples to follow...

Peace, Kim

Monday, September 6, 2010

P4E.177 Now What? - Part 7

I had the Christianity list checked off. The only thing I hadn't succumbed to was the obligatory Christian sticker on the rear window of the car. Being a mechanically minded man, I went through a Christianity checklist and since nothing appeared to be broken, I didn't mess with it. I "left well-enough alone" and I didn't try to fix what wasn't broken. But, I simply wasn't experiencing what Scripture calls the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. My marriage was nearly at the breaking point. I'm very blessed that it did not break. Through the ministry of Life Partners and Ken Nair (author, speaker and marriage counsellor) and the help of my wife and wonderful, Godly friends, I came to an understanding of what it means to pursue Christlikeness.

When I look at Scripture from God's Ten Commandments, to Jesus' condensation of the Law, to Jesus final command I've come to realize that the "Now What?" part of Christianity is entirely relational. Relationship with God (Have no gods before me, make no idols, don't use My name in vain, etc., etc.), relationship with others (Love your neighbor as yourself) and relationship with myself (If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.)

I had some sense that I had to move forward in my relationship with Christ and others, but I simply wasn't clear on how to do it. My definition of what made a spiritual leader had become seriously flawed. A breakthrough came when I heard Ken Nair's definition of what a spiritual leader is:

"A man who has the ability to perceive the spirit of another, understand its condition at that moment, and know what is required by God to care for that person's spirit in a manner that will increase that person's spiritual maturity."

Ken's encouragement to understand my own spirit as a prerequisite to perceiving the spirit of another was key. This is not a selfish pursuit, if the goal is ultimately to relate to others in a more spiritually sensitive and caring way. Jesus' phrase "Physician heal thyself" is relevant here. It carries with it the idea that I must attend to my own defects before I point out and criticize the defects of others (especially my wife and children). Also, the understanding that emotions are a gauge of my own spirit and other's spirits has been so helpful in terms of being able to perceive my own condition and how to care for it and other's spirits.

I honestly had no idea how barren, numb, and detached my spirit had become. As I mentioned before, the only emotions I could name were "angry, impatient and frustrated." There was no way I could be the Romans 12 Believer. I had no vehicle by which I could "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." I simply could not empathize with others, because I had no point of emotional connection that I could draw on. Hopefully, I've come a long way from there and a long way towards understanding the pursuit of Christlikeness.

I'm going to keep pressing on. It's definitely not easy. It's a narrow way. A less traveled way. A way that invites ridicule and scorn. A way that will ultimately end in there being no more me and only Christ left.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

P4E.176 Now What? - Part 6

In Part 5 of Now What? I said that "I pay attention to other's spirits to see what I can discern in them and I pay attention to the physical circumstances that come into my life and how they make me feel and affect my spirit." and you may wonder what that looks like on a daily basis.

The physical circumstances that make me stop and take notice fall into two categories:

1. The same %^&*#! thing keeps happening over and over again.
2. Something that's never or rarely ever happened before.

These two types of circumstances get my attention because they cause my spirit to be affected and me to feel things that I know I need to take notice of. I'll be honest and tell you that this was not always the case. Gwen used to wonder at my lack of response to both of these types of circumstances. I was the type that would minimize when God would work a miracle in my life and take it for granted that the same old #@!*&* was going to happen again and again. I was that numb man that I described previously. I didn't even know that I had a spirit that was being affected. Before, I couldn't name any emotions other that angry, frustrated and impatient.

I'll give you a couple of recent examples of things that have never or rarely happened before. First, we have planted some ivys in our garden. In a matter of a week, one of them went from looking great to the leaves looking like lace. It was infested by a caterpillar-like bug that quickly ate the leaves and made the ivy look dead. Second, someone came into our home, while my son was still sleeping and my wife was out walking her dog, and went to the master bedroom closet and stole most of Gwen's jewelry. Both of these circumstances caused me to feel "robbed," "threatened," "concerned," "violated," "loss," on some level "inconvenienced," "worried," about my wife and son and then "relief" that no permanent damage had occurred, no lives threatened.

You might still be wondering why it's important to identify and express these feelings. Two reasons:

1. To identify with Christ. Two millennia ago, He walked the earth and lived among us. He was a spiritual leader and felt what we felt and experienced what we experience. If I can identify in Scripture times when He might have felt the way I'm feeling I can connect with Him and Him with me in an amazing way.

2. To empathize with others. Scripture tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. This means that I have to pay attention to my feelings so that I can empathize with others and understand their spirits. So when you tell me that you feel "robbed," I REALLY DO know what you mean and can "go there" with you. Then, hopefully, I can encourage you to a better place than "robbed."

Next time we talk more about paying attention to other people's spirits.

Peace, Kim

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

P4E.175 Now What? - Part 5

AS (Ante-Script): Please be reminded that the target audience of this blog is married men who consider themselves "Christians." Of course, women are most welcome as well as singles, but just know that my writing is specifically aimed at Christian husbands. With that in mind, read on!

I recently heard a pastor give his definition of a spiritually mature man as one who reads his Bible, prays, makes sure to take his family to church every Sunday, and is going to a mid-week men's study. This is the man he considers ready to advance from getting the milky fundamentals of The Faith to eat the solid food that a more spiritually mature man needs. I know from personal experience that you can do all of those things and much more without being more than a babe in Christ. See the first part of "Now What?" for the checklist.

Having been in a spiritually barren place myself, my wife would describe me using certain words and phrases that we have since heard other wives describe their husbands with:

Distant, disconnected, disengaged,
callous, numb, disinterested,
far-away, there but not there, uncommunicative,
vacant, unaware, ignorant,
out of it, missing, empty,
distracted, numb, oblivious.

When we are in a spiritually barren place, we men can also be inconsistent and can come out of our spiritual slumber long enough to be explosively angry, impatient and frustrated. This can make our wives and children feel mostly ignored and then really want to be invisible, or want us to just go away. I know this because I lived it.

I went to the dentist recently and had the right side of my face numbed. The dental assistant warned me that since I couldn't feel my lips I needed to be extra cautious because I could damage them without knowing it, because I couldn't feel them. Within a day the numbness wore off and I could feel again. If my spirit is numb I can cause it damage and I won't know if I'm causing damage to others, either.

So, on a day-to-day basis, the practice of my re-born spirit is to become more and more aware of and sensitive to my own spirit and the spirits of those close to me. That means I pay attention to other's spirits to see what I can discern in them and I pay attention to the physical circumstances that come into my life and how they make me feel and affect my spirit. If I make a study of spiritual things, I will become familiar with them, comfortable with them, knowledgeable about them and sensitive enough to become a "spiritual leader."

God help me.

Blessings, Kim

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

P4E.174 Now What? - Part 4

In Now What? - Part 3, I said that I have a problem with the current church/Christian culture because of its instruction to ignore feelings. The Fact Faith Feeling train illustration is the graphic equivalent. What I think the church culture is trying to convey with the Fact Faith Feeling train is that we mustn't allow our feelings to shape or shake our faith. The feelings brought about by our circumstances are trumped by the fact of God's sovereignty and His Word.

I really have a hard time with this train of thought (pun intended). It is counterproductive and dismissive of a whole area of our lives that is so important to our spiritual walk. This type of thinking is what hinders so many Christians from moving forward in their relationship with Christ, with others, and with themselves. Yes, I can robotically say to myself, "I will not pay any attention to my feelings" and will "choose to run to the cross" and "believe by faith in God's word" or I can try to examine why I'm feeling what I'm feeling and get to the root of my doubts and fears and CHANGE to become the person that God wants me to be.

If you lump all feelings together and dismiss them, then what do you do with positive feelings? You can't dismiss the negative ones and embrace the positive ones. Can't every one of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 be considered an emotion or feeling? God made us to feel and all of our feelings, positive and negative, give us an indication of where we're at in relation to God.

I recently heard a pastor tell his Believing congregation that their hearts were "wicked, deceitful and not to be trusted." If my Believing heart feels and shares love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is it wicked, deceitful and not to be trusted?

We get in trouble when we just "pretend" we don't feel the way we do. The church culture would tell us that we have little control over feelings that circumstances bring about, as though we cannot exhibit self-control (a fruit of the Spirit) over our own feelings. Some say "what we feel is not who we are." This is dismissive of our feelings. The same people also say "our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life." It's counterproductive to disconnect our feelings and emotions from our spiritual state. Our feelings/emotions are a good, reliable gauge as to where we are spiritually. We should not dismiss them. Ken Nair, author, lecturer and marriage counselor says that "emotions are the voice of the human spirit." Scripture says that "God is Spirit" and those who would worship Him must worship Him "in spirit and in truth."

On a day-to-day basis, then, we have to overcome our fear of feelings, to embrace them as an indication of where we are in relationship to God, others and ourselves. If we find ourselves in a bad place, our feelings will let us know that we need to move from there. If we have "fruit of the Spirit" feelings, then we know we're in a good place and can stay. Ken Nair says that if we become more aware of our own spirits, then we can ask ourselves if Jesus ever felt what we are feeling (and thereby connect with Him in a remarkable way). We can empathize with others when they tell us how they are feeling. We can ask if we've ever made another person feel what we're feeling. More to come...

Monday, August 23, 2010

P4E.173 Now What? - Part 3

Love, love, love...

In Part 1 of "Now What?" I laid down the premise of a man who considers himself "saved" and has the conventional checklist for Christianity dutifully checked off (I acknowledge that women are reading this blog (and are most welcome), but I repeat that my target audience is men, and especially Christian husbands). In Part 2, I reminded that, as Believers, we must exhibit evidence of salvation in our daily lives and asked the question "What does that evidence look like?" I said we could look to I Corinthians 13 and Matthew 22 for answers.

Once we have established our Belief, Christianity continues to be simple and complex. Simply put, our Belief can be reduced to relationships. A relationship with the Creator, relationships with others and a relationship with yourself (this last relationship is easily overlooked). According to Christ, these relationships are to be characterized by "love." This is complex, and my complaint against the Christian church culture is that it glosses over what "love" looks like on a day-to-day basis.

I am firmly convinced that men (myself included) naturally do not want to hear or live out what "love" is. Why? Because at its root, love is self-sacrificial and we don't want to die. In fact, our nature is self-preservation, not self-sacrifice. But love is not self-seeking. This means that I must die to my own motives, desires, dreams, opinions, talents, goals and objectives and, because I love God, replace mine with His. This means that I must die to my own motives, desires, dreams, opinions, talents, goals and objectives and, because I love others, replace mine with theirs (For those of us who are married, our wife comes first). It's not an easy sell, is it?

The tests (Scripture calls them "trials") of this type of love come in physical circumstances and how I handle them gives me an indication of how much I'm producing evidence of my salvation. By their nature, the trials tempt me to avoid self-denial and towards self-preservation.

So, on a day-to-day basis, I experience physical circumstances that result in temptations to lust, to lie, take advantage of, to compromise, to conceal, to withhold, to dishonor, to envy, to be angry and so many other un-Godly attitudes and behaviors. If I fall to these temptations, I harm my relationship with God, others and myself. These trials cause all sorts of feelings to well up inside me and others around me (husbands, read "wives"). But, if I'm not aware of my spirit, I am caught unprepared and will fall. I say that because relationships are interactions that produce feelings. This is another reason why men do not want to hear about or live out what "love" is. Because it has to do with "feelings." It's another point of conflict I have with current church culture: The instruction to ignore feelings. More to follow...

Peace, Kim

Thursday, August 19, 2010

P4E.172 Now What? - Part 2

In my last post, Now what?, I set the premise of a person becoming a Christian. Let's say he believes his salvation is secure. He believes he is going to Heaven. Now what? Here, and on Facebook, I received answers that ranged from "If you've checked off the list, your done!" to referrals to I Corinthians 13.

First, our churches seem stuck in evangelism mode. The distinction between "saved" and "un-saved" seems lost on many churches. I hear so many sermons on the radio where the pastor is "preaching to the choir." Who is caring for, educating, encouraging, holding accountable those millions who are already "saved?" I want to make the distinction between "Faith by Works" and the "Works of Faith."

Christianity is simple, but complex. The ideas contained in Scripture are really simple. Living them out is complex. The church over-emphasizes the idea that we are not saved by our works to the point that, after we've accepted Christ, we excuse our bad behavior, believing that Christ has "got our back." Let me put it this way: A Calvinist, believing "once saved always saved" must exhibit evidence of salvation or else he wasn't ever truly saved. An Armenian, believing that one can lose his salvation, must exhibit evidence of salvation or else he will lose it. Either way, a Believer must exhibit evidence of salvation in his day-to-day life. He must "bear fruit."

The question is what does that evidence look like? What does the fruit look like? Again, the answer is simple and complex. Yes, we can look at I Corinthians 13. And we can also point to Matthew 22: 35-40. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Simple! But digging deeper, what does it look like to love God and love my neighbor as myself on a day-to-day basis? Let's find out!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

P4E.171 Now What?

Let's suppose you've checked off all of the pre-requisites of Christianity:

aAccepted Christ as your personal lord and savior.
aMade decision about baptism.
aAttend church every weekend and a demographically appropriate mid-week study.
aPray before meals and read Bible.
aAdopted appropriate views on the authorship, accuracy and infallibility of Scripture.
aAdopted appropriate views of Christ's deity.
aAdopted appropriate views on evolution/creation.
aAdopted appropriate views on homosexuality.
aAdopted appropriate views on abortion.
aAdopted appropriate views on capital punishment.
aAdopted all other appropriate political views and vehemently defend them.
aAdopt the appropriate patriotic stance and defend the Constitution (for US Christians).
aMade decision about speaking in tongues.
aPay tithe and thereby support evangelistic missions.
aLearn everything there is to know about "end times" and decide for pre, post or a-millenial rapture.
aUnilaterally condemn all "cults" who do not share the above views with you or your church.
aVolunteer at church as usher, in nursery, Sunday school, Bible study or home group leader.

Now what?

The reason I'm asking is that as I listen to the mainstream Christian media and culture it seems that this checklist encompasses the whole of Christianity as practiced here in the US. Forgive me for believing and contending that there must be more.

My reasons for saying so are that I used to be the person who had the list all checked off and was still a miserable, horrible, wicked, husband, father and human being. And, that since I've been made well, I know others who have the list dutifully checked and are the same. I'm hoping to explore the answer to "Now what?" If you have any suggestions I'd certainly like to hear them.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

P4E.170 My Dad Always Said: "Attitude is Everything"

I'm writing not what my own father always said, but ideas that I'm hoping my own sons will remember me for holding dear. The next is "Attitude is Everything." If you look at definitions of "attitude," they break down into mental, posture and position.

Mental: "a complex mental state involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways."

Posture: "the arrangement of the body and its limbs."

Position: "relative to a frame of reference (i.e. the horizon or direction of motion)"

The mental aspect affects the posture and position. The mental definition is also spiritual. Many people (especially women and children) are sensitive to other's attitudes. We give off all sorts of communication about our attitudes by our facial expressions, voice volume and inflection, hand gestures, arm placement and body language in general.

On a day-to-day basis, what I'm talking about is "heart attitude." Scripture says "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." I would say, not only the mouth, but the face, the body and the spirit also speak. If my heart is dark, detached, numb, melancholy, mysterious, contemptuous, selfish, cynical, impatient, frustrated, and angry, my mouth, face, body and spirit will exude those attitudes. On the other hand, if my heart is positive, pure, giving, engaged, communicative, uplifted, open, patient and joyful, my mouth, face, body and spirit will exude those attitudes. I know this: The people close to me, especially my wife and children would much rather have the latter than the former.

So, my sons, remember, Dad always said, "Attitude is everything."
Love, Dad

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

P4E.169 My Dad Always Said: "People Over Things"

Actually, I never heard "People over things," until my wife, Gwen, introduced me to the idea. So, it's a saying I've co-opted, but that I've been hypocritical about. Nevertheless, It's a concept I hold dear, that I aspire to and want to pass on to my sons.

"People over things" means that I value relationships and people's feelings over objects. The world places a high value on money and the things that money can buy. God, on the other hand, places little value on money and high value on people. I naturally have a worldly outlook on life and when I go with what comes naturally I get in trouble and act like a hypocrite. So what does this look like on a day-to-day basis?

I did not have this concept modelled for me earlier in life. I remember when I was about 17 years old I drove my younger brother to work in the family car. I got in an accident on the way home, which caused quite a traffic jam. And who would be stuck in that traffic jam on the way home from a long day at work? My father. By the time he was through, I was quite convinced that he cared a lot more about the car (and the consequences of the accident) than he did about me.

It shames me to tell you that years later, I would repeat this scenario as a father with my own son, David. I tell the story here. Again, at a certain point, I'm sure David was convinced that I cared more about the car than I did about him. Even more recently, I unfairly blamed my youngest son, Ben, for making me spill cranberry juice on our beige carpet. A little later I apologized, but I could still see the damage I had done by that one incident in Ben's eyes.

So, on a day-to-day basis part of what I mean by "people over things" is that I forgive, overlook, minimize when people misuse, damage or break my things. The thing is NOT as important as my relationship with the person, especially if that person is my dear wife or child. It's more difficult to put into practice than it sounds and I think men have a more difficult time with the idea than women do.

So, given that I have only sons, I encourage you boys all the more to value "people over things."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

P4E.168 My Dad Always Said: Ask Questions

When I'm gone, I want my sons to remember that I always said, "Ask questions."

In the area of communication and relationships, asking questions is key. Asking questions lets the person you're talking to know that you are interested, that you care about them, that you're engaged and aware. When you don't ask questions you lose the opportunity to gain information and understanding.

Asking questions can be a tricky thing. If I ask questions insincerely or sarcastically or in an interrogative manner I will get insincere, sarcastic or curt answers. The outcome of asking questions many times is not only getting the answer to the question. Many times I also gain insight into how the person is feeling, what emotions the questions evoke. If I watch, I see facial expressions and body language that clue me in to the emotions that are stirred by the question and the answer. If I listen closely, I sometimes hear a quiver of painful sorrow, a clearing of the throat that precedes a lie, exasperation, impatience, but also joy and relief.

Of course, the corollary to "ask questions" is "listen to the answers." If I ask and listen in a disinterested fashion, I'm sure to betray that I really don't care.
As a husband, I know that the question that my wife likes very much is,
"What can I do to help?"
That's a question that I'm sure a lot of people would like to hear.
So remember boys, "Ask questions"
Love, Dad

Monday, August 9, 2010

P4E.167 Others First Follow Up

In my last post, I quoted Jesus out of Mark 9:

"If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."

I used to think that Jesus was warning against thinking too highly of one's self. Looking at it again in context, I think Jesus was actually encouraging His disciples (and us) with a roadmap to spiritual leadership and success.

We hear a lot of Bible teaching at church, but very little in the way of day-by-day application of how it would look to live out what we read there. I hear a lot of expository teaching on who Christ is as opposed to what the "cults" believe. A lot of distinguishing between what "we" believe and what "they" believe. About what "saves" you and what leaves you going to Hell. We hear preaching against abortion and evolution and homosexuality. But, in the end, we hear very little in the way of practical advice and encouragement to be "little Christs."

But, in Mark 9, I believe Jesus was telling the way. He was saying,

"If you want to be the greatest follower of Me, die to yourself. Make yourself last. Serve."

And for us husbands, we have a perfect proving ground. A perfect testing ground for me to gauge how able I am to love in a self-sacrificial way. My marriage. My wife. The question always gets asked, "What if my wife rejects my attempts at Christlikeness?" My response is, "Well, I guess I just found out how Christ feels when His people reject Him."


Did He give up on His people?
Did He express self-sacrifical love conditionally?
Did He withdraw His servanthood and sulk?
Is there such a thing as "Christlike enough" or "too Christlike?"

But, did (does) it hurt Him when He was (is) rejected? It hurt Him enough that He wept over Jerusalem. It hurt Him enough for Him to tell parables about losing a treasure, having a son take his inheritance and leave home, having a son killed by tenants.

We can use the rejection of a wife as an excuse to stop trying or we can feel deeply and continue to serve. My personal experience is that few women do reject their husband's sincere pursuit of Christlikeness.

Peace, Kim