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
On In Around button

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:
On In Around button

Friday, March 4, 2011

P4E.205 The 10

The other day, I heard a pastor on the radio talking about The 10 Commandments. It was obviously an old broadcast, because it's been several years since the Alabama Chief Justice was removed from office for not doing away with a monument of The 10 Commandments from the State Supreme Court Building.

Following the pastor's lead, I found myself feeling a sort of righteous indignation towards the zeitgeist of our society, culture and government. I started to get a little hot under the collar. That's when a little red light went off in my spirit. I have a past that includes being consumed by things political and cultural. I regularly wrote letters to the editor of local newspapers. I would engage other Christian men in conservative conversations about the hell-in-a-hand-basket state of affairs we found ourselves in. I listened to my share of conservative talk radio. I think it would be fair to say that I was the stereotype that people conjure when they think "right-wing Christian conservative." Although I have not wholly abandoned the values that go along with that moniker, I have definitely taken a few steps back to take a broader look at who I am in Christ and what difference it makes in my life that I am His.

"Do not say, 'Why is it that the former days were better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this." Ec 7:10

I started to think about all of the churches I had been to in my life. How many of them had The 10 posted anywhere in public view? None, that I could recall. I thought about all of the homes of Christians that I had been to. How many of them had The 10 posted anywhere in public view? Again, none that I could recall. For that matter, I do not have them displayed in my own home.

More disturbingly, I could not remember all of The 10, and I'm not alone. A UPI article in February, 1997 said that, "A survey of Anglican vicars in Britain found that...only 68 of the 200 surveyed could name all 10 of the Bible's Ten Commandments." You might find yourself in the same boat.

Causing even more alarm, if I don't even know what The 10 are, how can I have them written on my heart? How can I claim to be close to The Author if I don't know His Word? How can I criticize others who claim no relationship with Him for removing His Word when I can make no claim on It myself? The upshot is, that although I understand the ramifications of losing our country's Christian heritage, I temper my judgment knowing that the thing I want to be harsh and critical of in others is the very thing I need to examine in my own life. If we Believers were all living our lives as The Living Word, there would be no need for a cold, 2-ton stone monument in a state capitol.

I realize that I need to be careful not to judge those who hold these matters dear to their hearts too harshly, either. I have a sense that the closer I get to Him and His Word, the less I will be inclined to be harsh, critical and judgmental of others at all. God is a BIG God. I think He can take care of Himself without my 2-cents. His Word says that ALL things work together for good. I will rest in this knowledge, but continually be at His spiritual work.

If you need your memory jogged, an edited version of The 10 would be:

1. I am the LORD thy God, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make any graven image (false idol), bow down to them nor serve them.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet...anything that is thy neighbor's.

God Bless and Bless God

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

P4E.204 P4Evolution

As evidenced by my last post, P4E.203 A Prescient View Into Heaven and other posts, this blog has begun to evolve. It was originally intended for the Christian husband whose marriage was in crisis. In some very important ways, that still is why I'm writing P4E. For a more detailed explanation of the genesis of P4E, see P4E.000 Christian Marriage Problems and Answers.

While I still ardently believe that, for a husband, marriage is a direct reflection of his relationship with God, I am going to make a slight shift that more accurately represents the idea that ALL of life is preparation for eternity.

What I mean here is that P4E is going to become a more personal account of my journey into understanding my own human spirit and building spiritual maturity in myself and people around me. It will attempt to document how I'm recognizing my fleshly nature and put it to death so that I can grow spiritually.

I want to be aware of when, where and how I'm NOT acting in a Christ-like way and discover how to discipline myself so that I CAN be conformed to Jesus' image and represent Christ to everyone around me.

I'm hoping to become more aware of my own life's physical circumstances and learning how to interpret them as God does, i.e. that they all work together for good.

In this process, I will encourage myself, confess my own shortcomings, ask for forgiveness and log what I'm learning in the pursuit of Christ-likeness.

So, this is a journey to explore what should be the basic questions of every Believer:

Who am I in Christ?
What difference does it make in my life that I am His? 

All of this journey will be relevant to becoming a better marriage partner, because the more Christ-like I become the better husband I am.

If you experience any benefit or insight from my journey of struggles, failures and successes, then God Bless You and You Bless God!