Wednesday, December 7, 2011

P4E.223 An Open Letter to the Church at Large - Part 7

From previous parts:"First of all, I am nobody. I have no credentials. I have no theology degree. I don't claim to be a prophet of God. I do not claim this to be a "prophetic utterance." I don't claim that God "told me" to say these things. I'm just a guy who is (hopefully humbly) pursuing Christ in his own way. I do recognize that people distinguish between the "church" and the "Church," but for my purposes, they are one and the same and what I have to say goes for both. This is certainly meant to be more than a friendly nudge, more than a good natured poke. It's meant to be a hard jab in the ribs or a kick in head of the Church. Church, I know that I am you and you are me. Any accusations I have against you, are against me as well. I don't separate myself from you. Your faults are my faults. The criticisms I am making of you are meant to be an encouragement to be better, and in that sense constructive. Don't get all offended."

Dear Church,

This will be the last part of my open letter, so you can stop worrying about me after this. The bottom line is that you've lost your way and you need to get back on track.

An important place where you've gone astray is the idea of "once saved, always saved." A corollary of this is you telling your people that they aren't and never will be "perfect," so you might as well forget about it. You can take the idea of works being "filthy rags" too far, you know?

That reminds me of another place where we depart from each other. You (or a good many of you) insist that the "born again" experience is a moment in time when you are "saved." I say that it's an on-going process:

I was saved. I am being saved. I will be saved.

Contrary to what many of you believe, we can disagree about this and still be brothers and sisters. It is said that John Newton, the man who wrote "Amazing Grace" and an ardent Calvinist, was cordial, friendly and respectful towards his many Wesleyan brothers. Actually, I agree with Rob Bell's postion that we are overly concerned with a "salvation" to a future heaven. You need to focus more on "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

I get what you're trying to say, but you've overdone it so that Joe Blow Christian feels he doesn't have to change anything about his life once he's been "saved," and is "born again." I'm not advocating asceticism or anything, but we are supposed to be "little Christs" aren't we? Doesn't that mean that we should be in pursuit of being like Him? You've completely given up on insisting on a change in character (for the better) that should accompany the "born again" experience.
This is, in fact, what you should be focusing on with your people: character development. The Boy Scouts have this all over you. Every one of them can recite the Boy Scout Law, "A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent." Just think if every Church advocated and taught its men HOW to exhibit these character qualities. Forget that "you'll never be perfect, so don't even think about it" crap. As the saying goes "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time."
If you, Church, did focus on character development you would have an incredible impact on marriages between people who profess themselves to be "Christians." You would have an impact on the relationships between parents and children. You would be working at your people from the inside out and changing them from within. Then you might change the world's perception of Christians as hypocrites.

As Believers, we have our own little spiritual law to live up to. It's Galatians 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law." If you all could just concentrate on instilling these character qualities into your men, they might give up the pornography just long enough to pay attention to their wives and families. And I'm not joking here. You are ignoring probably the biggest problem facing your church-going men. Yeah, Internet pornography is taking down many of your men. And you aren't discussing or dealing with it! You are leaving us open to the criticism of hypocrisy and worse, the loss of many otherwise good men. You are not giving them any tools or motivation or incentive to leave the pornography alone. No, you want to talk about end-times theology instead.

So, come on Church. Abandon that which is not yours and reclaim that which is rightfully yours. Take back the moral high-ground by endeavoring to deserve it. Call your men to Christlikeness. Encourage them to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, to develop their character qualities, to get into the pursuit. Give your men some real tools that will help them in these pursuits. It's NOT about being perfect. It's about how we handle when we're not. It's about the pursuit of Christlikeness.

Finally, I agree with Neale Donald Walsch, author of "Conversations with God." When asked if God had only one message, his most important message to all of us, and you could put it into one paragraph, what would that be? He paused and said

"I can fit it all into five words. You've got me all wrong."

I bid you fare well. Go with God. But, GET THERE!

Monday, December 5, 2011

P4E.222 An Open Letter to the Church at Large - Part 6

From previous parts:"First of all, I am nobody. I have no credentials. I have no theology degree. I don't claim to be a prophet of God. I do not claim this to be a "prophetic utterance." I don't claim that God "told me" to say these things. I'm just a guy who is (hopefully humbly) pursuing Christ in his own way. I do recognize that people distinguish between the "church" and the "Church," but for my purposes, they are one and the same and what I have to say goes for both. This is certainly meant to be more than a friendly nudge, more than a good natured poke. It's meant to be a hard jab in the ribs or a kick in head of the Church. Church, I know that I am you and you are me. Any accusations I have against you, are against me as well. I don't separate myself from you. Your faults are my faults. The criticisms I am making of you are meant to be an encouragement to be better, and in that sense constructive. Don't get all offended."

Dear Church,

Your trend towards materialism and away from your rightful spiritual place is evident in so many ways. Come away from there!

Don't you get it? You ARE the rich, young, ruler! Divest yourself of your material possessions, give to the poor and follow the One who had no place to lay His head. The One who was born in a manger with nothing and died on a cross with less than nothing.

De-organize yourself and get back to your roots. Jesus didn't set up hierarchical institutions that perpetuated themselves as money-making machines and neither should you.

Quit judging and defending yourself (and God and His Word) against the World. Trust that He who created all has the whole World in His hands. There's this thing called "FAITH," you know?

Leave sex and politics alone. Any fundamental change in our culture will have to begin from the inside out anyway, so why don't you stick to what you should know best; spiritual matters.

Re-combine yourself. You're dividing yourself into too many little niches. You're being arrogant and pig-headed-stubborn about your little distinctions from the rest of The Body. Band together. Agree on the important (spiritual) stuff and let the rest go. For Christ's sake!

Get rid of your darn "worship team." Your worship teams have turned your "worship" into a passive, spectator friendly, participation optional, entertaining event. You DON'T need a "worship team" to worship. There was a certain charm and genuineness when you had a couple of guys up front strumming on acoustic guitars, but you have long ago gone completely crazy with your emphasis on MUSIC!

Get back to what you should know best: Spirituality. This means relationships. Focus on our relationships with our family members, especially marriage. Focus on our relationships with other Believers. Focus on our relationships with people who are not Believers. This means focusing on FEELINGS. How do we make other people FEEL? What do we do with the FEELINGS that come over us under different circumstances and through the actions of others? The FEELINGS are an indication of the condition of our spirit at any given moment. Quit ignoring the most obvious indicator of the condition of our spirit! This is MUCH more important than proving that God exists, defending the accuracy of the Bible, end times theology, creationism vs. evolution, abortion, homosexuality, post, pre or mid-tribulation rapture, sprinkling or dunking, Virgin Mary worship, once saved always saved, posting the Ten Commandments, or ANY other issue you are stupidly wasting your time on.

Sorry to be so harsh, but there it is.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

P4E.221 An Open Letter to the Church at Large - Part 5

From previous parts:
"First of all, I am nobody. I have no credentials. I have no theology degree. I don't claim to be a prophet of God. I do not claim this to be a "prophetic utterance." I don't claim that God "told me" to say these things. I'm just a guy who is (hopefully humbly) pursuing Christ in his own way. I do recognize that people distinguish between the "church" and the "Church," but for my purposes, they are one and the same and what I have to say goes for both. This is certainly meant to be more than a friendly nudge, more than a good natured poke. It's meant to be a hard jab in the ribs or a kick in head of the Church. Church, I know that I am you and you are me. Any accusations I have against you, are against me as well. I don't separate myself from you. Your faults are my faults. The criticisms I am making of you are meant to be an encouragement to be better, and in that sense constructive. Don't get all offended."

Dear Church,

You have railed against the idea that there is a separation of church and state in America. But, seen in a certain light, you should be thanking God and taking advantage of the possibilities. You cry foul and bitch and moan but, in fact you have allowed the government to take some of your responsibilities onto itself with disastrous effect. In fact, church and state are not separated enough! The government is doing the work of the church.

Let's do as they say and follow the money. I'm not claiming to have done any massive research, but I can't be too far off and just want to make a point. A New York Times Article states that in 2009, half of the $229 billion that Americans donated went to religious institutions. That's roughly $115 billion. Another website, called states that U.S. federal welfare spending for the poor in 2009 amounted to $191 billion.

What if...What if you, the Church, took back your rightful responsibilities of tending to the poor from the federal government?  You could, because of your spread-out grass roots nature, probably do a more efficient, effective, better job of handling the money than the federal government does. You could relieve the government of the burden that is rightfully yours and put a dent in the national debt.

Well, it's just a thought and I know it would be like turning the Titanic around. You're kind of lazy and distracted and unmotivated and unorganized, so I have little hope that something like that would happen, but it does make your imagination tingle, doesn't it?

Anyway, failing that, let's continue to follow the money. Church, if you were to open your financial books what would be the budgets listed in the line items:
Helping the poor
Feeding the hungry
Clothing the naked
Caring for widows and orphans
Visiting prisoners
And how would those budgets compare to the line items:
Church staff payroll
Mortgage (or lease or rent) on church facilities
Remodeling of church facilities
Stage lighting
Sound system
Flat screen tvs
Radio and tv time
If it looks like what I think it looks like, what does that say about your priorities and motivations?

I'm just saying....

P4E.220 An Open Letter to the Church at Large - Part 4

From previous parts:
"First of all, I am nobody. I have no credentials. I have no theology degree. I don't claim to be a prophet of God. I do not claim this to be a "prophetic utterance." I don't claim that God "told me" to say these things. I'm just a guy who is (hopefully humbly) pursuing Christ in his own way. I do recognize that people distinguish between the "church" and the "Church," but for my purposes, they are one and the same and what I have to say goes for both. This is certainly meant to be more than a friendly nudge, more than a good natured poke. It's meant to be a hard jab in the ribs or a kick in head of the Church. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. Church, I know that I am you and you are me. Any accusations I have against you, are against me as well. I don't separate myself from you. Your faults are my faults."

Dear Church,

The criticisms I am making of you are meant to be an encouragement to be better, and in that sense constructive. Don't get all offended.

Let's return to the Occupy Movement for a moment. You need to get out of the material mindset and into a spiritual one. Sure, seen in one light, the Occupiers have their faults. But, there is a reason why their protest resonates with so many people. There's a spiritual connection that many have with them. There's feelings that they represent that you and I should be sensitive to and responsive to. Feelings like frustration, abandonment, exclusion, powerlessness, of being treated unfairly. Feelings of being overlooked, of aloneness, of fed-upness, of anger and resentment and envy. I think people who are experiencing these feelings could rightly be described as "poor in spirit," and you know what Jesus said about them...

Let's paint a scenario together. What if...What if Bill Gates was your good and true friend? What if one of the wealthiest (and therefore most powerful) men in the world had your back? What if he daily communicated with you and lifted your spirits by telling you how important you are to him and that he would take care of you no matter what? What if he backed up that promise on a regular basis? Yes, I mean with money, but also with encouragement and communication and support. What if Bill Gates had people who defended you against wrong and lifted your spirits and asked about your needs and took care of them? Now, let me pose a question. Would you care if others were prospering? Would you care how other, lesser people, corporations, governments treated you?  I dare say you would not. I believe that having the wealthiest and most powerful of men on your side would make you feel confident, cared for, included, grateful for what you have. You might feel empowered and you might feel like sharing your good fortune, because any friend of yours would be a friend of Bill's.

So, let's make the leap, Church. If, in our little scenario, you played the part of Jesus' people and the Occupiers were the rest of the world? Do you think that if you represented Christ well by caring heartily for those who feel disenfranchised and un-loved that the world would care how they were treated by others? If you had their back, if you had them covered, if you cared for them in their time of need, would they be likely to feel un-cared for and resentful? And even if they did, would it be a reason to stop?

See Part 5 for a BIG idea...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

P4E.219 An Open Letter to the Church at Large - Part 3

From Part 1:
"First of all, I am nobody. I have no credentials. I have no theology degree. I don't claim to be a prophet of God. I do not claim this to be a "prophetic utterance." I don't claim that God "told me" to say these things. I'm just a guy who is (hopefully humbly) pursuing Christ in his own way. I do recognize that people distinguish between the "church" and the "Church," but for my purposes, they are one and the same and what I have to say goes for both. This is certainly meant to be more than a friendly nudge, more than a good natured poke. It's meant to be a hard jab in the ribs or a kick in head of the Church. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

Church, I know that I am you and you are me. Any accusations I have against you, are against me as well. I don't separate myself from you. Your faults are my faults.

I used a word in Part 2: "clique." You, Church, have fractured yourself into a clique away from the world and into cliques within yourself. The clique you have made against the world is like a club. You are in, and the rest of the world is out. You have turned inward and insulated yourself away from it. You are no good to it. You are deluded into thinking that you are doing some good by ministering inwardly to yourself, when it is the outside world that really needs you.

You have fractured yourself into so many denominations and splinter groups that you are no longer recognizable as a unified whole. Why should you not be combining congregations instead of dividing into new ones? Your pastors must have huge egos to believe that they have something so new to bring to the people that they must start a new church. Every time a new church opens its doors, you divide yourself further and the Enemy rejoices. Are there really that many facets to our Belief that we need to continuously divide and separate ourselves away from each other?

You go over and over the same theological ground. To what purpose? I actually heard a well known pastor in his sermon giving a litany of different approaches to proving that there is a God! We cannot have it both ways, Church! Either we have faith, which is a belief in things that cannot be proved, or we can engage in trying to prove that there is a God. I choose faith. So within our own insulated group, we console ourselves with "proofs" that there is a God, that creationism is right and evolution is wrong, that abortion is murder, that the ten commandments and the cross should be in public places, that homosexuality is the bane of our culture, that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that the country is going to hell in a handbasket. You may even acknowledge to yourself that the world needs God, but you make no real effort to represent Him well to the world.

In an ironic twist, you are of the world, but not in it. You have adopted the materialism of the world, but have had little to no spiritual effect upon it. Your worship services aspire to be like the introductions at an NBA game. Your ad campaigns rival anything on Wall Street. You've taken advantage of the media of the world, but have no substantive message for it. You are worldly in your insatiable need for money, instead of giving it away. You are worldly in your focus on self-improvement, instead of self-sacrifice. You are worldly in your desire to be entertained, instead of putting your hand to the plow and getting work done. You have exerted a patriotism and adopted a conservative politics instead of championing the Spirit of Christ to a needy world. Where is your Jesus?

There will be more...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

P4E.218 An Open Letter to the Church at Large - Part 2

From Part 1:
"First of all, I am nobody. I have no credentials. I have no theology degree. I don't claim to be a prophet of God. I do not claim this to be a "prophetic utterance." I don't claim that God "told me" to say these things. I'm just a guy who is (hopefully humbly) pursuing Christ in his own way. I do recognize that people distinguish between the "church" and the "Church," but for my purposes, they are one and the same and what I have to say goes for both. This is certainly meant to be more than a friendly nudge, more than a good-natured poke. It's meant to be a hard jab in the ribs or a kick in head of the Church. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

You, the Church, have been sidetracked. Let me give you an example. I heard a well known pastor of a church on the radio today. He was talking about children. How Jesus told his disciples that they should let the children come to him and not keep them from Him. How, in those times, children were considered insignificant, but that Jesus said that we must become like children to enter the kingdom of God. So far, so good. Then, the sermon took a 90 degree turn and became sidetracked. The pastor turned it into a rant about abortion.

Now, I am not making a case to justify abortion. I have been an admirer of, and even personally met, Francis Schaeffer before he passed. I understand and  can even agree with points of the stand he took against abortion in his book "How Shall We Then Live?" What I am saying is that the abortion issue is sidetracking the Church. More accurately, the Church is skewed in its response to the abortion issue. What right or reason does the Church have to judge the world? Even Christ Himself said that He did not come to judge the world, but to save it. Christ had every right and opportunity to judge the Samaritan woman at the well a liar, the woman dragged before Him by the Pharisees an adulteress, Matthew a turn-coat tax-gatherer, and the men who hung next to Him on the cross thieves and murderers. But, He didn't.  He didn't minimize their sins, but He didn't berate them or accuse them or condemn them. Instead, He showed them sympathy, compassion and forgiveness. He took them in and made them His own.

Why is the Church not following Christ's lead? Every reasonable reading of the Scriptures would tell us that we  should not judge. That we should show compassion to those in need. That we should feel sympathy and empathy for those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. That we should forgive. Instead, the Church cries, "Murder!" and hurls insults and accusations and judges the world.

The Church is sideways to the very world that it should be intent on saving.  It has lost its way.  Only in this way could a pastor take a lesson that could and should be about becoming innocent, vulnerable, harmless, naive, small and insignificant and turn it into an angry, hostile, confrontational, belligerent rant about how bad the world is. Wake up, Church, before it's too late! Because you must remember, Christ reserved His ire for those who claimed to represent God, but did so poorly. To those who made rules and purposefully misrepresented Him; To those who used God's Word to bludgeon each other and the world; To those who sought to create a clique to separate and lord themselves over the rest; It is they that Christ condemned most harshly.  So, wake up do not repeat the past!

More to follow...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

P4E.217 An Open Letter to The Church at Large - Part 1

Image via - "Occupy Wall Street Timeline: From Blog Post to a Movement"

First of all, I am nobody. I have no credentials. I have no theology degree. I don't claim to be a prophet of God. I do not claim this to be a "prophetic utterance." I don't claim that God "told me" to say these things. I'm just a guy who is (hopefully humbly) pursuing Christ in his own way. I do recognize that people distinguish between the "church" and the "Church," but for my purposes, they are one and the same and what I have to say goes for both. This is certainly meant to be more than a friendly nudge, more than a good natured poke. It's meant to be a hard jab in the ribs or a kick in head of the Church. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

My heart has been aching as I see the Church floundering along. I see a Church misled and misguided. I see a Church missing opportunities left and right. I see a Church that has lost its focus and has no idea which way to turn. So, the Church is collectively running down a rabbit hole, on a wild goose chase, head in the sand, thrown to the wind, chasing its tail, running in circles and spunout.

The thing that's got me going is the Occupy Movement (OM). The OM has struck a chord with many and been the object of scorn for others. They have no one champion nor do they have any particular goals. But, they are tapping into a growing sense of unease in the country and the world. No one can quite put their finger on what it is. These people have identified that they feel cheated, misused, bullied, forgotten, abandoned, maltreated, trodden upon, and beat down. They want justice. They want peace. They have identified Big Corporations as an enemy, but they might just as well have picked Big Government or Big Media or Big Entertainment or Big Religion or anyone else that force feeds them ideas, unduly influences their lives and takes money out of their pockets.  Many of the OM's Big Enemies have seized the opportunity to identify themselves with some salient aspect of the OM. The people of the OM have unwittingly made the case that they want and need to be saved. But, where is the Church? Nowhere to be seen. Nothing. Nothing at all.

The very entity that has the answers to the yearning, craving, crying need of the OM is standing on the sidelines. Worse yet, many in the Church are critical, judgmental and cynical, saying "What these people need to do is clean up, quit whining and complaining and go get a job."

Church, where is your COMPASSION? Where is your EMPATHY? Where is your FORGIVENESS? Where is your LOVE? Where is your CHRISTLIKENESS?

There will be more...

Monday, October 17, 2011

P4E.216 Hoarders Revisited

If it didn't come across clearly in my last post, I can and DO identify with some of the mental disorder that the people featured on the TV show Hoarders exhibit. This was brought home to me just a few weekends ago. My wife Gwen asked me to tackle the shelves of paper and records that are sitting in the middle of the garage, where a car might easily be parked. In fact, she did not ask me to clear the whole thing out, just to work on it. One box. One hour.

I did not handle the situation very well and I talked it over with Gwen the next day. She is very patient with me, but clearly does NOT identify with the struggles I have. That is not meant to disparage her. The reason she doesn't identify will become clear.

It's hard to describe the wave of anxiety that I felt when Gwen suggested that I tackle the paperwork in the garage. Because I am so intimidated by this kind of task, my first response was to become morose about the fact that Gwen had "sprung" this honey-do task on me on an otherwise idyllic Saturday morning. I did not believe that Gwen would be satisfied with one hour or one box-worth of work in there. My mistake. The number of decisions to be made as I rummaged through the paper records was incredibly daunting to me. What to save? What to keep? The inevitable anxiety that as soon as I throw something away, I will need it (Even though it might already be ten years or more since it was last touched). How can one be sentimentally attached to an SDG&E bill from 1984? Why would that be hard to part with? These questions nagged at me even as I was tossing paper into the recycle bin. I became even gloomier, withdrawn and quiet.

I couldn't care less about college football, but the thought actually crossed my mind, "You know some guys are laying on their couch all day with chips and a Coke watching football games." Instead, I was in the hot, dusty garage reminiscing and agonizing over Tidy Didy diaper bills from when my 18 year old son was an infant.

Then, there's the identity theft issue. I've saved a lot of records that have our social security numbers on them. It's amazing how free banks and other institutions used to be in printing important personal data on statements. Now, I feel compelled to shred most everything, which is really time consuming and annoying. Part of me wonders if this is simply paranoia on my part. I mean, what are the chances of these documents getting intercepted by an identity thief in going from my trashcan to the landfill and being buried by huge tractors? It's gotta be small odds.

Much of the paper in the garage is related to my architectural practice that I closed a few years ago. My understanding is that I need to keep those records for 10 years. So, I'm slowly but surely throwing records away that are over 10 years old. I'm definitely conflicted about this. I think I'm like a lot of guys in that I have a tendency to attach my self-worth to my work. So, there's part of me that feels like I'm throwing myself away when I throw that paper-work away. It's as though that work which was so important at the time is now worthless. That's a hard pill for me to swallow.

I was self-employed for about 18 years. Wading through the records of my architectural practice is a particularly painful exercise. Although it was successful and profitable in some ways, it was NOT in other very important ways. In those years I was consumed by work. The work ATE my time, my energy, my good nature, my relationships with my wife and my sons. Although Gwen was very supportive of my being self-employed, there were many times when she encouraged me to leave private practice and "just get a job." The pain comes now in realizing how many years I ignored my "helpmate" and put my head down and the blinders on and got eaten by my work. It hurt everything in so many ways. And going through the paper brings it all to the surface.

And there was Gwen, pleased as punch to see some un-cluttering activity happening in the garage. Didn't she see the agony I was in? Well, yes she did because I was being so overt in my displeasure.

In retrospect, I'm able to see that my weaknesses were exposed by that paper pile in the garage. It seems silly to say, but I know I need to muster the "courage" to face that fire trap. The courage to push through the discomfort to get a much-needed task accomplished. A big part of what I've described above is simply laziness. An inability and un-willingness to face some hard work. A bad attitude made it even harder to be around me than usual.

This is the reason why Gwen can't relate to my struggles. She is not lazy. She is strong, courageous, undaunted by hard work and even tempered. Gwen has helped me to recognize that the way I handled the situation was anything BUT Christlike. A spiritual leader just simply does not act that way. I'm motivated and inspired by Gwen. I'm praying that God will imbue me with the strength of character to face daunting, painful (and sometimes thankless) tasks without complaint. Like He did and does. That means that I'm sure to be faced with more daunting, painful, thankless opportunities to exhibit strength, courage, hard work, and a good attitude. Bring it!

Monday, September 12, 2011

P4E.215 Observations From Hoarders

Since this blog is about what it means to be a Believer and especially what it means to be a husband who's a Believer, much of what I write here is focused on marriage. I filter a lot of what I experience through the "Christian marriage" filter.

Lately, we've been watching episodes of A&E's Hoarders. At the beginning of every episode they inform you:

"Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire and keep things, even if the items are worthless, hazardous or unsanitary."

I'm sure you may be wondering how Hoarders has anything at all to do with marriage. Let me try to explain. First, if you've never seen the show and are unfamiliar with hoarders, these people literally fill their homes with all sorts of things. Most of the time it's trash, plain and simple. They simply throw nothing away. This attracts insects and rodents. Many times these people also hoard animals. We've seen many cat hoarders, but people hoard everything from chickens to rats. These animals are allowed to run free and use the entire house as a litter box. You can imagine the smell. Many have a penchant for buying new items and bringing them home, never to even open the bag they were purchased in. It gets to the point where stuff is literally piled to the ceiling of the house. Many times the outside of the house gives no clue as to what's going on inside the house. But, what you see inside the house gives a glimpse into what's going on inside the mind and spirit of the hoarder.

And, this is where the analogy to the "Christian marriage" starts to reveal itself. It's what Jesus called a "whitewashed tomb." Many Believer's marriages look good on the outside, but are filled with rotting, insect and rodent infested, trash that reeks to high Heaven on the inside.

After watching several episodes of the show, you start to see patterns in the behavior of people who are hoarders. Many of these patterns reflect what I have done in my own marriage and what Gwen and I have seen in husbands that we've ministered to.

Not all hoarders acknowledge being hoarders. Some are in denial. Despite the filthy evidence all around them, they will deny being hoarders and will apply another term, like "collector" or "messy" to their situation. Faced with the sin of their horrible spiritual leadership, many husbands will deny that there is a problem.

Some hoarders know no other way of living. They are oblivious to their circumstances and are ignorant to the idea that there could be another, better, way of life. The same could be said of many husbands whose marriage is in crisis. I know that if someone would have asked me at certain points in time if my marriage was in crisis I would have said, "of course not!" But, if they had asked my wife at that same time, she would have given a very different answer.

Many hoarders blame others in their lives for their situation. There have been times where I thought my wife was just plain nuts, when it was I who was mixed up. This blame shifting is very common among husbands who are supposed to be exhibiting the kind of leadership that would normally preclude passing the buck.

Many times there are traumatic incidents that push a person who is predisposed to hoarding over the edge. There are so many times that we yell at the TV screen and say, "But, that was years ago!  You're living in the middle of a huge pile of trash because of something that happened years ago? You need to grow up and take responsibility for your life!" And so it is with us men and our bad marriages. We know it's not that simplistic, but again, when the "Christian" model of husbands as spiritual leaders is superimposed on marriage, you have to expect that men rise above their circumstances to lead.

A common pattern that we see is that hoarders will initially agree to get help and can even be enthusiastic. As the real work of getting rid of stuff begins, many hoarders get overwhelmed. They can turn dark, become uncooperative and even combative in refusing to get rid of their hoard. They sometimes want to physically touch every item and make individual decisions on each and every item before it gets thrown out. Frequently, a hoarder will dig stuff back out of the trash bin that it has just been thrown into. These patterns are very similar to myself and husbands that we see entering marriage counselling. Some husbands enter marriage counselling with a smile, because they think that their marriage is sound and that they'll have little or no work to do on it. When they get into it and realize that their wife really is troubled, they turn ugly.

Hoarders has helped reinforce my belief that we all, each and every one of us, in some measure, must suffer from some form of mental disorder. Otherwise, we would all be whole, well adjusted, emotionally healthy, rational people, which we are not! I have found myself identifying with some aspect of the reasoning of hoarders. I suppose this is the first step towards emotional health; acknowledging that there is a problem. Ultimately, hoarders have to make the decision to choose people and relationships over things. Because selfishness is at the heart of many hoarders, they can't make the right decision. As husbands, we also must make the decision to let go of our baggage. In the same way that the garbage a hoarder collects engulfs him, so do our values, our opinions, our addictions, our set ways, our sins, engulf us.

An important aspect of the show Hoarders is that professional counsellors, organizers and trash removal experts are called in to help. In our marriages, we have to make the conscious decision to acknowledge that we are troubled. To decide to acknowledge that we are encumbered by mounds of unsafe, worthless, unsanitary values, opinions, addictions, obsessions and sins. To decide to rid ourselves of them and, as is many times necessary, to get professional help to make healthy decisions.

Somtimes it's amazing what you can learn watching TV.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

P4E.214 Que Viva!

Jon and Dana (pronounced "Donna") married on an unusually warm and clear Seattle Saturday in July. Jon and Dana are prototypical Seattleites (in the best sense). He is a bicycle messenger, studying to be a physician's assistant. She is a ballerina bio-geneticist working on a cure for hepatitis C. He's got a sleeve tattoo of a Gandalf-like figure warding off wolves. She's got a sleeve tattoo with the Virgin Mary. They're vegetarians bordering on vegans. They highly value the environment, lean left politically and don't lean any way when it comes to religion. They have a husky-mix dog named Remy and a fat cat named Cilantro who share their Capitol Hill apartment.

Dana and Jon didn't have, nor did they need a wedding planner. They took charge of every detail of the wedding and the surrounding events. The wedding motif was a mash-up of Fiesta Fancy and Dia de los Muertos. They oversaw the design of the unique handmade invitation. A cartoonist friend helped with the invitation insert. Jon made what must have been well over a hundred paper flowers that decorated the wedding gazebo and the reception hall. The rehearsal dinner was at an Italian restaurant that imports all of its ingredients from Sicily.

The manager of the wedding reception hall remarked that she had never witnessed an all-male decorating team. When I looked around, I realized that she was right. Not one woman was present. Only about a dozen men hanging strings of the multi-colored paper flowers that Jon had made, blue paper stars, strands of lights, and papel picado. We arranged the tables with colorful runners and candles and sunflowers in milk bottles. We placed jars of Dana and Jon's homemade jalapeno jelly as favors at each place.

The wedding guest list included an amazing array of interesting and creative people. Bicycle messengers, scientists, artists, musicians, X-Box game programmers, tattoo artists and tattoo canvases. Friends old and new.

They were married under a gazebo in a pretty little green park. A friend named Santos, with shoulder length brown hair, became an ordained minister specifically to marry Jon and Dana. The bridesmaids wore colorful fiesta fancy dresses and the groomsmen wore khaki pants, white shirts, skinny turquoise suspenders and bolo ties. Jon choked up while reciting his vows, and so did we all. The ceremony ended with a shout of "Que Viva!"

My wife, Gwen, had offered to bake the wedding cake. She had spent the previous two days baking in the little Mt. Baker apartment that we had rented. Before the wedding we brought the cake to the reception hall and for a few anxious minutes we were locked out in the hot summer afternoon. After the wedding, we went back and made the final cake assembly, sharing precious space in the tiny kitchenette with the catering staff. I felt like we were re-enacting the final scene of a Cake Boss episode when we carried the finished product into the reception hall to cheers and applause.

There were some of the usual wedding reception moments. The tossing of the bride's bouquet, the toasts of the best man and maid of honor, the cutting of the wedding cake, the first dances. There was loud music and dancing. But thankfully, there was no cheesy DJ emceeing the proceedings. There was a booth where you could take a picture and it would be projected on the wall of the reception hall. That was fun. There was, I thought, an unusual number of people who took the microphone after the normal toasts to say a few personal words about the bride and groom. There were embarrassing and touching stories. I resisted the urge, but if I had been brave enough, I would have related one of the stories that I wrote about here: A Young Man's Tale. It seemed as though friends were talking of Jon and Dana in the past tense. And, in a way, they were. The Dana and Jon that had stepped up onto the gazebo in that pretty little green park, came back down those same steps as one. The same, but different. Individuals united by vows of love.

I won't deny there was some melancholy on my part. My oldest son. Married. I replay the song, "Sunrise, Sunset" from the movie Fiddler on the Roof in my mind:

"Wasn't it yesterday
When they were small?

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze"

My blessing is upon them. Jon, may you be a better husband and father than I have been and may the generations that follow also be better and better souls. Peace. Peace. Que Viva!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

P4E.213 Fourth of July Tradition

For at least 25 years my wife, Gwen, has prepared a special breakfast for our family on the Fourth of July. All those years ago, Gwen was trying to think of a creative way to mark the day for our young sons. She found a recipe and modified it to suit our needs for the day. It consists of waffles topped with butter, vanilla ice cream, strawberries, syrup, whipped cream, blueberries and some powdered sugar. It makes a sort of spectacular patriotic fireworks display of cool, tasty fun. Our son, Benjamin lives with us in California and enjoyed the tradition with us.

As parents, we have hoped to pass along our values and traditions to our sons. We hope the things that are important to us become important to them. It's a way we hope to be remembered and honored by them.  We hope and pray for the best for them.

Our son, Jon, lives in Seattle and will be married to his fiance, Dana, at the end of the month. This Fourth of July he messaged this picture:

Our son, David, lives in New York with his wife, Donia. This Fourth of July he messaged this picture:

It brought tears to our eyes to think that in at least one small way we have created a tradition that will carry on even after we are gone. I know that our sons have been normally influenced by us in both positive and negative ways. Mostly positive from my wife and, I regret to say, much of what they learned from me early on was negative. I'm on a better path now, bless God. We're proud of our sons, not because they are a product of our upbringing, but for their own sake. We do feel honored not only by their carrying on this little tradition, but by who they are and who they are becoming. They are a blessing to us and, we pray, to God.

Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days...

Friday, June 10, 2011

P4E.212 NOTW? Really?

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but here in Southern California a "Christian" car sticker has been around for a few years now. As you see, above, it simply states "NOTW," an abbreviation for Not of this World. The "O" looks like a halo and the "T" looks like a cross. I don't want to make any assumptions about the motivation of the company that created this logo. What I want to talk about is my perception of those who apply this sticker and concept to their cars and lives and how it might be perceived by others.

I feel qualified to comment , because I have held the NOTW beliefs I'm describing myself. I'm commenting solely for the purpose of discussion. Not to judge. I would really like to hear some discussion about my take on the NOTW phenomenon.

The NOTW sticker implies some sort of exclusive club. The subtext is, "I'm in. You're not." While this might be true for the Believer on some level, is it the message that we want to convey? Or, is it truly only an identifier to others who are NOTW, like the Christian fish? Is the fact that we're NOTW something to be proclaimed, touted, some would say "lorded over," those who ARE of this world? Because, you see, that's what it feels like to me. Is that the "good news?" That we are in and they are out?

When Jesus said that His kingdom was "not of this world," He meant simply that His kingdom was spiritual in nature, not physical. When He spoke of us as being "not of this world," He meant that we are God's and, because God is spirit, that we are most importantly spiritual beings. Our emphasis should not be on the material, but on the spiritual. So, seeing these NOTW stickers on bright, shiny, new, big, expensive, status vehicles is ironic.

What might be construed by others, when we proclaim that we're "not of this world," is that since we are not of this world we don't care much about it. This, ironically, opens the door for others to criticize us for not caring about people or the world itself. There is a conservative element of the church that is so adamant and militant in its criticism of our culture that, by association, we are all perceived as not caring for: the poor, the homeless, the disadvantaged, the minority, the pregnant woman, the homosexual, or the environment. I'm not saying it's true. I'm saying the perception is there and the NOTW sticker perpetuates the perception. And, to many, perception is reality.

So the question is, what is our response when we are confronted with this criticism? Do we adamantly deny it? Do we run from it? Do we ignore it? Do we counter-criticise? Or do we consider the seed of truth that might be there and keep ourselves above reproach?

"Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation." I Peter 2:12

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

P4E:211 More Horse Sense

I have previously posted about how the natural horsemanship that my wife practices influences our human interactions and in particular how husband/wife and father/child relationships might be positively affected.

Recently, Gwen and I attended the Lighthands Horsemanship Workshop in Santa Ynez, California. We shared the weekend with an intimately small group of people who enjoyed listening to and watching several clinicians who practice natural horsemanship. There were also other very interesting and some famous people (within that community) who shared their experiences.

I'm continually struck by how the spirit necessary to truly practice natural horsemanship is the same spirit that's necessary to be a true Believer and a caring husband. The presenters would say something about their approach or relationship to their horse and I would think, "Wow, if a husband approached his wife or a father approached his child in that way, the world would truly be a better place." Here are a few quotes from the weekend that I found memorable in that way.

"You have your brains...most people don't use 'em enough." Jack Brainard

"If you want to learn something bad enough, sneak around and watch." Ernie Morris

"What's best for the horse? Start riding for what's good for the horse. From the point of view of the horse." Lester Buckley

"Horses never get over being scared or intimidated. Don't be abrupt." Jon Ensign

"Do just what it takes to get the job done. No more and NO LESS. Not enough is just as bad as too much." Jon Ensign

"The horse is experimenting. Don't punish him for that. He's searching." Jon Ensign

"When I want something from my horse, I ask...and wait. I'm not particular about how he responds at first. I reward any movement toward what I want. I pay him for a positive response with an immediate reward. Getting patience in my self and with my horse is valuable. Waiting time is precious time. Build it. Build poise and confidence. Be particular, but not critical. Take the time to slow down and be safe." Lester Buckley

"Think about what the horse thinks about. What does he see? He sees with his ears." Ernie Morris

"After a success, rest. Wait. Savor the moment." Lester Buckley

"It's what happened before what happened happened that got me into trouble." Lester Buckley quoting Ray Hunt

"Because of the sensory perceptors in the human fingertips and the horses mouth, the ultimate communication between a human and a horse happens between the reins in a human's hands and the bit in a horse's mouth." Dr. Robert Miller

"I will never violate the relationship between my hands and the mouth of my horse. The bit is sacred." Lester Buckley

"Follow what your heart says is truly and inherently right. When you're violating your conscience, stop." Lester Buckley

"Bill Dorrance made you feel you could do anything because he was so encouraging." Lester Buckley

"Give me my spankin' now and let's get it over with. Don't just pick on me all day!" Richard Winters

"The biggest hurdle in horsemanship is...anthropomorphizing, or assigning human-like qualities onto non-humans." Rick Lamb
(I think this is relevant because I believe one of the biggest problems husbands have in their marriages is projecting their male thoughts, values, perceptions, attitudes, opinions onto their female wives. Why can't a woman be more like a man?)

"Observe. Remember. Compare." Rick Lamb quoting Tom Dorrance

"Horses take the deal that's best for them. The one that's the least work and easiest. So, make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult." Rick Lamb

"Horses see differently than humans. Their eyes are on the side of their head. Temple Grandin says that they see in pictures and categories. They have a greater field of vision, but cannot perceive depth the way humans do. Their blind spots are different from humans. They see better in low light and their peripheral vision is better than humans." Rick Lamb
(Again, in relation to husbands and wives and fathers and children, I think the idea here is to acknowledge that my wife and children see things from a different perspective than I do.)

"When I'm light with my hands, I give my horse the opportunity to listen and respond to suggestions." Richard Winters

"When I want my horse to do something, I only put as much pressure as needed to get him to do it. I suggest, I ask, I TELL!" Jon Ensign

"There's a difference between being firm and being abusive. Being firm is knowing the timing of when to release pressure. Being abusive is not knowing when to quit." Jon Ensign

"The most important thing is the timing of cuing your horse what you want him to do." Eitan Beth-Halachmy

"He needed support from me to do the right thing." Lester Buckley

"Discipline yourself to move through distractions. When things aren't going your way, don't get bothered. It's an opportunity to train." Lester Buckley

"There's three things you need to advance: qualified instruction, the desire to learn and time to practice." Lester Buckley

"A 'broken' horse, one that's been ridden beyond its emotional, physical, spiritual limits, can't be repaired." Lester Buckley

"Let the horse keep its sense of self-preservation. A horse trusts the rider to keep him out of trouble. Never violate that trust." Lester Buckley

"I keep my goals in alignment and in parallel with my principles. Keep your principles ahead of your goals." Richard Winters

"The lighthands horseman is after the unattainable goal: 100% respect with 0% fear. It takes observation, patience persistence, courage and empathy. To do it you must gain control of your emotions. If you have impatience, anger and fear you won't be able to communicate with your horse." Dr. Robert Miller

"I had to teach and discipline myself to act differently; to change myself." Dr. Robert Miller

"Know your horse." Lester Buckley

Enough said! Now to practice what they preached.
Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

P4E.210 Rob Bell Fared Well

I've just finished reading Rob Bell's Love Wins - A Book About Heaven and Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. The book was panned and Rob Bell's fate sealed in many people's minds before it was ever released; before most had ever read the book. It caused a firestorm in Twitterdom after pastor and author John Piper famously tweeted "Farewell Rob Bell."

The irony is that the controversy about the book in the "Christian" community proves many of the points that I believe Bell is trying to make. In fact, Bell's writing is less about making points and more about asking questions. His writing makes me want to ask: What do we know, for sure? Does Scripture embody the entirety of the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite God? Can Scripture be interpreted in more than one way and, if so, is discussion about the differences of interpretation to be tolerated or squelched? What is the nature of the Good News? Is it open or closed-minded? Can the meaning of words change over time?

Bell rightly points out that he is not the first to bring controversy to the Christian community. More questions (some Biblical): Circumcision or no? Pigs and crustaceans or no? Pelagius or Augustine? Ptolemaic geocentric or Copernican heliocentric? Catholic or Protestant? Apocrypha? Purgatory? Wesley or Calvin? Methodist or Presbyterian? Arminian or Calvinist? Baptism or no? Submerge or sprinkle? Saturday or Sunday? Pre or Post Trib? King James only? Tongues? Cremation or burial? Slavery? Assisted suicide? Death penalty? Global warming? Cloning? Stem cell research? Wine? Beer? Smoking? (These last two remind me that our sainted C.S. Lewis was known to frequent a pub and have a pint and smoke a pipe with his contemporaries, The Inklings. I love him no less for it. In fact, I love him more.) Then again, you may think there are no questions here; that they're all answered. But, do these questions and controversies help or harm Christ? Or is it really true that they have no effect on Him? Is the universe anthropocentric or theocentric? Does God exist to save man? Is that the central message of the Bible? What is the central message of the Bible? What constitutes "belief"?

Is it all about personal salvation or Christlikeness?

I have always believed that Christianity had to (and is completely able to) hold its own in the marketplace of ideas. The Christian community seems to me to be having a fit of paranoia and is lashing out in fear at anything that it doesn't understand or disagrees with. The irony is that the arrogance, the smugness, the inflexibility, the dogma, the closed mindedness that the Christian community has exhibited towards Bell (or anyone else that has a different idea) would seem to be exactly the same attitudes that Jesus found fault with in the Pharisees and Sadducees of His time.

Is the hidden, mysterious wisdom of God hidden and mysterious because God wants to remain hidden and mysterious or because He wants to be sought and found?

Will God punish us for pursuing His mysteries by posing questions and answers?

Do I ultimately agree with Bell on heaven and hell and the fate of every person who ever lived? Maybe. Maybe not. But, I do not fear questions. I do not fear being "born again" over and over and over again into a different and emerging understanding of God and His people and His world and His universe. I do not fear change because God and Christ are always working and work means change. If I am to work the works of God, I must believe in Christ and the evidence of that belief, Christ said, would be love. So let it be.

"The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit." John 3:8 (NLT)

Rob Bell starts his book with a reference to Gandhi. So, I will end this post with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

I pray that we can erase Gandhi's perception and be more Christlike to those closest to us and the world.

Monday, April 11, 2011

P4E.209 Blaue Blume Moments

Every time I think I'm over my cloud fascination another incredible cloud-filled day comes along...and I'm pursuing the Blue Flower again!

They're water vapor...

Reflecting the sun...

Filtering light...

Changing and moving...

Creating shade and shadow...


And providing a glimpse into the Heart of God...

Capturing that fleeting feeling of connecting with Him...
The one you wish would stay forever...
And someday will...

(These pictures were all taken with my Droid Incredible phone!)
This post is shared with L.L Barkat's
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and Laura Boggess'

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

P4E.208 Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh at Yourself...

We have a couple of rabbits that live in hutches in our backyard. (We have a couple more that live inside, too. Don't ask me why two live outside and two live inside. I don't really know myself!) On Saturday morning, before leaving to do some errands, I was going to feed the backyard rabbits. I usually fill a large tumbler with water to re-fill the water bottles and gather the parsley for the rabbits. I had bird food for our Australian Zebra Finches that are in the outdoor aviary as well. I was in my socks and as I set it all by the back door before I went to get my shoes, I spilled a bunch of the water on the floor and immediately stepped into it with my stockinged feet. I was in a hurry and I groaned, knowing this would set me back a couple of minutes.

I tried to figure out what to do first. Should I take my socks off? Should I get a paper towel and mop up the floor? If I walk more I'll get water everywhere. Did I have any other socks I could wear? Should I go ahead and finish feeding the rabbits and birds first? I know it sounds silly, but I just froze in indecision and heaved a big sigh.

My wife, Gwen, had ignored the first groan. With the sigh she turned and asked "What's the matter?" Exasperated, I replied "Well, I spilled the water and stepped in it and now my socks are wet and I just don't know what to do first!" Gwen turned back to washing the dishes and said, "You know Kim, sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself..."

I involuntarily laughed. Not at myself, mind you. I was laughing at the very idea that I should laugh at myself in these circumstances. I know that my father did the best he knew how in raising me and I do my best to hold no grudges. But, he did not set an example of laughing at himself or at circumstances when things went wrong. Things got very serious and explosive around my house when things went wrong. There was a lot of yelling and exploding eyeballs and exasperation and sarcasm and fuming. There could be humor, but it usually had its roots in cynicism, in sarcasm, and in mocking. Failure was not tolerated well.

In any case, that is the past and I am responsible for my own behavior now. I have done (and even excelled in) what was modelled for me, but it doesn't have to continue. So, now I seriously consider the value of having a sense of humor (LOL!).

Many studies show (and we know by our own experience) that women are attracted to men with a sense of humor. Not the crude kind of humor. Not the kind that belittles or mocks others. Not cynical or sarcastic humor. Not the kind of humor that deflects or defers the seriousness of a serious situation. But, women value the kind of humor that can lighten a burdensome situation. The kind of humor that allows a man to laugh at himself. Women appreciate the kind of good humor that minimizes or overlooks their mistakes, missteps, errors and failures (Indeed, I think everyone does).

A good sense of humor is not something I can generate overnight. Even without taking my upbringing into account, I am a pretty serious guy by nature. I don't like making mistakes. I don't like looking like a fool. I'm easily embarrassed and don't naturally see the humor in situations that cause me inconvenience or cost me time and/or money. But, I think just becoming self-aware of this about myself is a start (To be truthful, I did not become self-aware, I needed my "help"). Letting go of pride and replacing it with a sense of humor is something I want and can have...if I can just laugh at myself. A laugh will beat a frown every time.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

P4E.207 Things Are Shifting...

My middle son, David, is a musician in an indie rock band, called We Barbarians. He's at SXSW in Austin, Texas right now and moving to New York after his shows there. I miss you already, Dave!

My purpose here isn't to promote the band, but to resonate with some of the song lyrics that he's writing. I'm heartened by the journey that David is on. He married Donia a little over two years ago and that new relationship has encouraged him to self-examination. This look inward is critical in the spiritual life of a Believer. I'm not going to elaborate on what we learn when we go to the spiritual mirror. I think each one of us will see a unique reflection. Here's some of what one young man is finding as he looks inside:

I've watched myself fall apart
I've quietly hid things from the start
Disintegrated pieces
I am scattered and can't be gathered
I can't let go
What I know now
What I know now

I'll peel back what is left
It seemed like nothin', but it's somethin'
I'll sit and wait for what's next
I'll shed my layers and feel lighter
Will I go back?
God, I hope not
God, I hope not

I've been shouting for growth
I'm cool and warm all at the same time
Re-hollowed and blotted out
Take hold now, don't stay down, don't stay down
I can't let go
What I forgot
What I forgot

Will I go back?
God, I hope not
From "Chambray" by We Barbarians

And then there's this:

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

I sit in hallways
Head buried in hands
I see myself there
I don't know who I am
A sense of feeling
Is what I want
To be taken apart

I need to get some movement
Get out of my headspace
Get into a good place
A place where I can wake up

Taking it all in stride
The phases, they realign
Everything in its time
Taking it all in stride
From "Headspace" by We Barbarians

I sense that there are, and should be, some common spiritual attributes of Believers. I'm resonating with what David is discovering and grateful to my Creator for His patience, understanding, love and grace to me and my family. God has blessed me and I exalt Him.

Here are links to the two songs, if you'd like to hear:

This has been re-posted at LL Barkat's On, In and Around Mondays
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

P4E.206 The Flesh Out List Revisited

"The serious Christian man diligently searches out God's ways!"
Ken Nair - Life Partners

Every year, around late fall or early spring, I hope to republish "The Flesh Out List," as a reminder to myself and anyone else who would be helped by it. God Bless and Bless God!

As a part of my search, I am compiling a list of the times when I feel weakest to falling to my flesh. What I mean is that there are physical circumstances when I fall prey to being angry, impatient, frustrated and/or other temptations that lead to sin (the flesh). The reason it's important to identify these times is that they cause me to hurt the ones closest to me. If I'm to conquer my flesh, I need to pinpoint my own areas of weakness so that I can go to God for His strength at the very moment when I am weakest. I'd be interested to hear if yours matches mine and/or if you have others that you would add from your own experience. So, here goes: 

I am prone to fall to my fleshly ways when I:

- am hot
- am cold
- am hungry
- am thirsty
- am tired
- am stressed out
- am sick
- am pressed for time (running late) 
- am short on money 
- have to wait
- have lost something
- am in pain
- make a mistake
- feel unprepared
- have to depend on someone else
- feel ignored 
- feel like things aren't going my way
- am doing something that takes longer than I thought it would 
- have an idea that's challenged
- experience unusual circumstances
- experience the same darn thing happen over and over again
- am wrongly accused
- am rightly accused
- am confused

Remember, the list is not the end. It is simply the means to identify moments when I'm weak and need to count on God's strength so that I don't do spiritual damage to those around me (or myself). Here's more: 

I am prone to fall to my fleshly ways when I:

- am alone (they even have a saying for this one: 'you can gauge the character of a man by what he does when he's alone')
- have nothing to do (this one has a saying too: 'an idle mind is the devil's workshop') 
- believe there is no hope
- have to take the blame when it's not my fault
- have to take the blame when it is my fault
- see (what appears to me to be) incompetence in others
- my directions are misunderstood or not followed (I thought my instructions were brilliant!) 
- am driving (this is (or should be) on every guy's list)
- am driving and lost (I wouldn't think of asking for directions!)
- forget something (as in, I'm driving two blocks away from home and remember I left it at the house)
- am in a crowd of people (the last time I really 'fleshed out' was (ironically) at a Billy Graham Crusade)
- am inconvenienced
- see (what appears to me to be) an injustice
- am treated unfairly
- am at Holiday functions (I can't tell you how many I've ruined!) 

What's on your list?

Peace, Kim

This post is linked at L.L. Barkat's Seedlings In Stone, On, In and Around Mondays:
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