Friday, December 14, 2012

P4E.251 Connecticut and The Age of Aquarius


I've been meaning to write this post for a while. Today's events in Connecticut have prompted me. People have been talking for some time now about the supposed end-of-the-world predicted by the Mayans. I've done a little research into this and have found that, as usual, the media has taken a message and corrupted it.

The Mayans did not predict the end of the world. Their calendar simply marked the end of an age. With remarkable accuracy (I still can't comprehend how they did it), they marked the date of the winter solstice of 2012 as the end of one age and the beginning of another. The age they predicted is corroborated by others and universally they are predicting a shift away from negativity, aggression, minimalism and disconnectedness and towards hopefulness, peace, abundance and oneness. An age when we begin to care more about each other and the earth. Coincidentally, the winter solstice of 2012 also marks our exit from the astrological Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. The fish into the water. Whether entering the Age of Aquarius is accompanied by any cataclysmic event is up for interpretation. But, what will be the outcome of the massacre of innocents in Connecticut? I hope for compassion, a call for peace and connectedness and trying to make sense of why we're here.

As a Christian Believer, I see nothing wrong, in fact a lot right, with a message that seems to align with what the Prince of Peace tried to convey to us. Author Eric Rankin has 10 tips about how to shift ourselves into the New Age thinking. I think they are particularly relevant on a day when so much evil has transpired.:

- Be the change you wish to see in others.
- Quiet yourself. Slow down. Breathe Deep. Set the stage for healing in your body, mind and spirit.
- Reboot yourself to un-corrupt a busy, doubtful mind. Make a promise to love, to give and be happy, to have purpose and be healthy.
- Remind yourself often of your higher principles and desires. Consciously express gratitude and love.
- STOP WATCHING THE NEWS!
- Let people do kind things for you. Stay in a place of gratitude for the things and people you appreciate.
- Drop the pretense and let others sense that it is safe to drop theirs around you, fostering trust and honesty.
- Do good things.
- Remind yourself that YOU are a minister of what you believe.
- Lastly, forgive, forgive, forgive.

Peace and Love, Kim

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

P4E.250 Feeling All Ecclesiastes - Lament of a Melancholy

Image by David Sweeney www.davidsweeneyart.com

I'm finding out what it used to be like to be my employee. I'm finding out what it used to be like to be married to me. How? Through what I'm now experiencing as an employee. Through how I'm now being treated. Why? I think there a couple of reasons. I don't exactly believe in the Buddhist theory of Karma. But, I do believe that what goes around comes around in this life. And, I also believe that God allows physical circumstances to teach us spiritual lessons.

There's part of me that wonders if God really does care about our circumstances in this life. Why do some people live long and some live short lives? Why are some healthy and some diseased? Why are some ugly and some beautiful? Rich and poor? Powerful and powerless? Upper class and lower class? Wise and ignorant? Why do the good die young? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do the evil prosper? Is there any meaning in this life? Who is John Galt?

Ultimately, I believe God does care about us, but not in the way that we traditionally have held. I don't believe that God cares that much about the physical world or our physical circumstances in it. He does not care much about our happiness. This is why I don't buy in to the prosperity ministries that are out there. These self-help, positive thinking ministries could only survive in a first world country like ours. They would have no place in a third world country and are therefore useless. Our circumstances are simply the backdrop through which God gives us opportunity to respond. In this sense, those who live uneventful, unchallenged lives are at a disadvantage, because they have less opportunity to grow. Those living charmed lives have their own set of challenges. What temptations do beauty, wealth, power and popularity bring that must overcome? We can identify with those whose lives are saddled with poverty, plain looks, mediocrity and just plain bad luck. We understand how people have the ability to grow through difficult circumstances. "Consider it all joy...when you encounter various trials..." But, the world and its circumstances are the media that God uses to refine us. To test our mettle. To provide us with chances to grow, to build character, to find out what we are made of, to figure out what is important in life and what is not.

Man truly is the cause of all that is evil in this world. His vices and greed and envy and selfishness cause violence and murder and war. We plot and scheme and cheat and steal and commit all sorts of torture and treachery. Many times it seems as though those who practice all of these evils prosper. But, the Scriptures caution the rest of us not to envy them.

So, what spiritual lessons am I learning from my physical circumstances? I'm understanding what happens to my spirit when I'm belittled. It's demoralizing. Deflating. Demotivating. I'm learning what my spirit feels like when I don't respect my leader. It makes me feel unprotected and afraid. It makes me feel unstable and uncertain. I'm learning what happens to my spirit when I am disrespected. It makes me feel small and defensive at the same time. I'm understanding what happens to my spirit when I'm picked on and bullied. I feel like it's unfair and senseless. That since it's irrational there's no way to respond in a way that will help the situation. There is no way to change the minds of those that matter in that world. So, why try? I feel very unappreciated. In short, I feel like my employees must have felt when I was the boss! I feel like my wife must have felt when I was the angry, frustrated, impatient, irrational husband that I was. I feel like my children must have felt to have a father like I was. And it doesn't feel good.

The value of going through these physical circumstances is that it give me a mirror to look at me. To realize that I can cause great spiritual damage to those around me. To feel in the depths of my spirit, these damaging emotions and understand that I have cause these very same feelings in those close to me is a haunting jolt of reality. It makes me want to do better. To strengthen my weak mind. To ask for help in the monumental task of changing my human nature. It makes me want to be the human being I was supposed to be. I don't want to be the cause of pain and hurt and fear that I used to be. God help me not to be that person, but to be better, stronger, more humane, more spirit centered, more loving and caring. Amen.

Friday, August 24, 2012

P4E.249 Coming Out as a Non-Church Going Believer


Back in 2007, I left a comment on a blog post by Mark Galli, where I mentioned that we were no longer attending traditional church services on Sundays. As you see below, he asked for some more information and below that is my response. It has become a sort of primer on why we are not attending traditional church on Sunday. It's not just young Christians leaving church and rethinking faith. This is my "coming out" as a Believer who is no longer a church-goer.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kim,

I very much appreciate your comments here. Frankly, as a person committed to the traditional church, I've not had much sympathy for people who have chosen your path, so I'd like to understand you better.

In particular, would you be open to telling me what you mean when you say you found yourself closer to God, each other, and to those we minister to. I'd like to get a better picture of what this "church" looks like for you, week by week. The more details the better.

This would be a big service to me, and ultimately the magazine.

Grace and peace,

Mark

Mark Galli
Senior Managing Editor
Christianity Today
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Dear Mark,

I'm really amazed that an editor of Christianity Today would make this inquiry to me (of all people). Thanks! I'm grateful for the chance to respond.

In forming a response, I realize that there are so many caveats to be made. I want to be careful not to "church bash."   I want to be careful not to sound "superior" in my choice not to attend an established church. I don't want to imply that all churches suffer from the same problems. I don't want to come off as dogmatic, because what works for my family and me might not work for others. We don't "judge" others for attending traditional church. What you get here is one family's response, at this time, to its own personal interaction and history with "church" in Southern California. At the same time, any stated reasons for not attending a traditional church must reveal shortcomings that I believe have caused my family and me to stop attending.

As I mentioned, we resonate, in large part, with what George Barna's book "Revolution" describes. We resonate with the idea that "millions of believers have moved beyond the established church and chosen to be the church instead" (emphasis his). I'd really encourage you to read "Revolution."

I think there are some generalities that apply:

- Most established churches require you to buy into a whole set of "beliefs" that, many times, do not unify but separate you from other bodies of Believers.

My wife and I both grew up as Catholics. We left the Catholic Church in our twenties and began attending "Protestant, non-denominational, evangelical, Christian churches" (what a mouthful!). Each denomination (and even "non-denomination") seeks to distinguish itself from the others by some nuance of theology or tradition. These denominational differences partition the overall church and plays into (what I believe to be) the Enemy's strategy to divide and conquer.

- Put bluntly, traditional churches act as a crutch for many marginal Believers (see, that makes me sound superior, doesn't it?).

A pastor may actually joke that just because you park yourself in a pew doesn't make you a Christian any more than parking yourself in a garage makes you a car. But, the fact is that many marginal Believers do just that. This crutch causes many to think that because they "belong" to a church their relationship to Christ is established and ongoing.

- What one experiences at many churches is a façade.

Traditional church can fool one into believing that being busy with church activities equates with furthering one's relationship with Christ. Bible studies, men's groups, ushering, worship team, children's ministry, homeless outreach, etc. Who would say a bad thing about them? No one would. But, I know from my own experience that I participated in many of them while my heart was dark, empty, shut-down and downright rebellious towards God. On the inside I was dead. On the outside (at church) I looked like an engaged spiritual leader who took his walk with God seriously. Of course, this can happen whether one is attending traditional church or not. I think church can facilitate fooling others and oneself.

The façade starts from the top down. Many pastors are not willing to be transparent enough to let their congregation know that they aren't perfect. They get up on Sunday morning and deliver their sermon on the way things should be, never acknowledging where they are. This trickles down through the board, the worship team, the different ministries and the congregation at large. So we all end up looking like whitewashed tombs.

- There is little accountability in church communities.

In an effort to attract any and all potential churchgoers, many churches forgo any judgment/ discernment regarding the actions of its congregants. My wife and I minister to couples (mostly "Christian") who are in crisis in their marriages. So, for example, we come a cross a couple in which the husband is a worship leader at his church and is also verbally, spiritually and maybe even physically abusive to his wife. He may be actively involved in extra-marital affairs, which are well known in the community. When we advise the church, we are, in essence, ignored. The church will make every excuse to stand behind their "worship leader" and may even blame the wife. Pastors seem to be the most invulnerable to these (many times substantiated) allegations. Pastors also seem to be the most un-teachable people when it comes to marriage.

- Some churches serve to further traditions that have no basis in Scripture.

I don't agree with everything that the "emerging church" has to say. But, I do resonate with the idea that "liturgy" does not have its basis in Scripture and that there are infinite varieties of liturgy that can bring one closer to God. Opening prayer, announcements, worship music, sermon, alter call combined with more worship music, closing prayer, exit by more worship music, refreshments and sign-ups for ministries. It doesn't have to be that way…..

On a personal note, we came to the place where we don't attend traditional church by coming closer to divorce than I want to think about. I had been so offensive, so un-godly, so angry to my wife and family that I almost lost them. At that time, 6 years ago, I had been married 24 years. God used a "para-church" ministry called Life Partners, founded by Ken Nair, author of "Discovering the Mind of a Woman." www.lifepartners.org

Through the intervention of my wife, friends, God and Life Partners I believe that I became "born again" again. (Sounds heretical, doesn't it?) I had become a Christian when I was 16 and after a brief enthusiasm had been on a slow slide ever since. Now, at 51, I do feel closer to God, to my wife, and to those we minister to because:

- I am much more consistent in my public and private lives. I no longer feel like I'm a whitewashed tomb.
- I believe my relationship with my wife is mirror of my relationship with God. Both are now much better, each because the other is better.
- With my wife's help, I have become more transparent, confessing my sins to her and those close to us in Life Partners.
- We really are transparent with each other, confessing our sins to one another, praying for each other, and spiritually ministering to each other.

We can do this because the masks have come off. We realize that we are all in the same sinful boat and are encouraging each other towards Christlikeness. We do this without the games, the religious phoniness, the liturgy, the "worship" music, the sermons, the cliques, the programs, etc.

You asked what this looks like on a weekly basis. Life Partners begins with a weekend "Discovery Seminar." Afterwards, Life Partners initially asks for a 3-year commitment. We are in our 5th year and the leaders of our groups average, say, 10 years. Our Life Partners group meets in rented rooms at a church on Tuesday nights for 2-1/2 hours. Every other week there is either a live or taped speaker for about an hour to 1-1/2 hours. These speakers ostensibly focus on marriage issues, but in reality Life Partners is a discipleship ministry that encourages men to become the spiritual leaders that God intended them to be.

Marriages and relationships improve as the men become more aware of how their flesh is running their lives and decide to engage in the spiritual fight. The balance of the time is spent in what could be described as "group-therapy." Every other week is "all-group." We are led in discussions about what is going on in our lives, confessing our sins, and how we can respond in Christlike ways.

We pray for each other. We become entwined in each other's lives. We have friends. They are our church community. As I said, we pay for the privilege of attending. I consider it a tithe. I know that Life Partners does not encourage its participants to eschew traditional church attendance.

During the rest of the week, we find that other couples are referred to us for help in their marriages. We believe that this is an especially important niche of ministry and become close to those who are serious about improving their marriages and relationship to Christ.

To us, this is "church." We believe that ours is a robust relationship with Christ. (Have you noticed that "robust " is a new buzzword, as well as "resonate?") That's probably more than you ever wanted to know. I would be glad to go into this further or answer more questions, if you have any.

Kim

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

P4E.248 What Lasts?


My wife, Gwen, has a way of getting to the heart of matters. She has always advocated people over things. She has always valued relationships over stuff. It has not always been so clear for me. But, with her help, my mind and values have become more and more clear.

From time to time, you hear people say things like, "When men die, they don't wish that they had spent more time at work." Meaning, that dying men usually wish they'd spent more time with their family. But, it doesn't seem to bother us living men too much. We still act as though we value work more than family.

So, what should we value? What has lasting value? What should we be devoting our time, energy, and resources to? I'm not going to dismiss work out of hand. If you have a job that you are truly passionate about, that produces something of lasting value that impacts many lives, then your work does count. But, this is a very relative and subjective discussion. For instance, a person could be very passionate about counterfeiting money. That could affect a lot of people's lives!

Relationships have lasting value, because they are spiritual.  Every physical thing that we can sense around us will pass away. Everything. But, our spirits are eternal. Memories have lasting value. Impressions about character, or lack thereof, have lasting value. Traditions, and stories and anecdotes and quotes and music and art and poetry have lasting value. The things that affect our senses and our spirits stick with us. I can remember that Gwen used to wear a strawberry lip gloss when we were young. The fragrance of that strawberry lip gloss has left an indelible mark in my memory. Every time I smell something like it, I'm transported back to those days.

Since this blog is directed towards men who are interested in bettering their marriages, I'll be plain. The way that we handle ourselves around our wives and children leaves a lasting impression on them. When we have explosive, emotional, interactions with them damage occurs. Brains cells are rearranged. Memories are made. Character is established. Spirits are crushed. Stories will be told. I have an acquaintance who's abusive step-father lived in a trailer and kept an electric coffeemaker on continuously. To this day, the smell of burned coffee makes her physically ill. She wishes she could forget.

But, kindnesses are also remembered. Acts of love, acts of help, acts of compassion all create lasting memories. A patient, joyful, kind, gentle, helpful, faithful man will be long remembered. His memory will be passed on in a verbal tradition by his wife and children, co-workers and friends. His spirit will live.

The choice really is ours. Our words will last. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." How will we be remembered? What verbal traditions will be passed on about us? What will be the lasting impression that we leave? What stories will be told? Will those close to us be haunted by or cherish the memories that we create with them? We choose.

Monday, July 23, 2012

P4E.247 Enrique Says...


There was a lull in our garage sale. It was already warm that mid-morning and all of the serious pickers had come and gone. A car pulled up and a small, Hispanic, man got out and walked up into our driveway. He was dressed in khaki beige hat, shirt and shorts with sandals. We said, "Good Morning" and he began to look over our remaining treasures.

To make conversation, I said "It's going to be a hot day today!" The man nodded and was silent for a minute as he continued to browse. Then, he said, " Jyou know...so many people...they complain...eets too hot...eets too cold. Een the morning...eef I open my eyes...eef I breathe the air in...I so happy! I jess glad to be alive...jyou know?" He was gesturing with his hands, exploding his fingers away from his eyes and gathering the air into his lungs. I agreed with him. I was surprised and touched by this little man's  bit of driveway philosophy. "What is your name?", I  asked. "Enrique."

Enrique continued, "Why should I complain? Everyone's in so much of a hurry, jyou know? Eef I see someone come behind me in the car...I move over...I get out of the way..I let them go by!" He steps aside and gestures to pass. Then he throws his hands in the air and tilts his head as if trying to understand the mentality of the impatient motorist. "I jess glad to be alive, jyou know?" "Sometimes life eets hard...I hurt my back and my knee workeen, so I'm on disability right now." I hadn't noticed the brace on his knee until he pointed it out. "I use to own a house over here, but I lost it. Now, I rent an apartment. But, I have my wife...I have my jyoung sons...I have enough to eat...I open my eyes in the morning...I breathe the air in...Why should I complain?"

Gwen had been listening, and said "You should be a pastor!" Enrique blushed, spread his hands, and said, "But, you see, I don't have the religion!" Gwen and I both protested, "But, you do!" Trying to reassure Enrique, I confessed to him, "We don't go to church either, Enrique. We don't think that you have to go to church to "have the religion."" Enrique nodded. He said, "Let me tell you somesing. I used to live in L.A. and you know they built that church there for 200 millions of dollars! Think what could be done with that money! There are peoples, children in Africa..." Here, Enrique put his fingertips together and motioned to his mouth. "They have nothing to eat! And, the church spends 200 millions on a building! Well, you don't have to go so far as Africa. You only have to go to Mexico. This is why I don't have the religion."

Well, we exchanged phone numbers and I intend to stay in touch with Enrique. I want to hear more of what Enrique says. If he doesn't have the religion, then neither do I.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

P4E.246 What If?



What if church were a different kind of place? The landscape of "church" could be a very different place if the premises of "church" were changed.

For instance, why does there need to be a charismatic "pastor," who represents himself as all-knowing and teaches from an "on-high" pulpit? Why can't there be a group of humble men and women, who never imagined that they would be leaders who lead by example?

What if church were interactive, instead of a monologue? It's a very paternal configuration, because let's face it, most pastors are MEN who deliver a monologue that makes them appear to be teaching from a position of authority, when in fact, they are just as fallible as the rest of us.

What if, instead of badgering, cajoling, browbeating or tricking you into "accepting Christ into your heart" a church simply said, "We love you. What can we do for you?"

What if the church moved away from the "worship music" that dominates its formulaic service? When it was a couple of guys on acoustic guitars you used to be able to actually hear and "commune" with God and those worshipping in song around you. And, does it have to be singing, anyway?

Every church seems to be a glorified self-help ministry, trying desperately to make sure that their congregation's egos are intact, their men are wild at heart and that their lives are "purpose driven."

What if, instead of buying into the world's idea of what a man should be (ie, brash, bold, haughty, stoic, arrogant, loud, aggressive, strong, selfish, materialistic, predatory), churches taught their men to be mild, gentle, kind, meek, thoughtful, patient, peaceful, joyful and loving?

What if, instead of a "What We Believe" section in every website or bulletin there were a "How Can We Make a Positive Difference in Your Life?" section?

And then there's the money. The money, the money, the money.

What if the donations made by congregations went to a third-party administered trust? Say, a reputable accounting firm. The money could be accounted for and distributed where it was truly needed without the temptation of mis-spending it.

Why does something of a spiritual nature, something that most acknowledge is made up of people, need to be constructed of brick and mortar? Shouldn't churches be going the way of the book and record stores?

What if the church existed "in the cloud?" Then there would be no need for rent or lease or mortgage payments. There would be no need to provide a huge sanctuary with lighting and sound systems and flat screens. There's staff salaries and landscaping and irrigation and building maintenance and telephones, etc. All of these costs misdirect the money away from reaching out to the community in more tangible ways.

What if, instead of harping on theological differences between denominations and non-denominations, the church dropped the arguing and focused on the BASICS.

What if the church simply focused on loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves? What if it came down to caring for widows and orphans, visiting people in prison, tending to the sick, feeding the poor and caring for the less fortunate among us? What if we were Good Samaritans?

What if the church stayed out of politics and conservatism and simply reached out to a needy world?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

P4E.245 A Word to the Wise

"I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." 
A word to the wise:

Don't judge the world.

Don't judge President Obama...or Governor Romney.
Don't judge movie stars who get divorces.
Don't judge the young...or the old.
Don't judge Democrats...or Republicans.
Don't judge the poor...or the rich.
Don't judge people who aren't like you.
Don't judge homosexuals.
Don't judge liberals...or conservatives.
Don't judge women who get abortions.
Don't judge evolutionists.
Don't judge the overweight...or the bulimic.
Don't judge illegal aliens.
Don't judge other religions.
Don't judge the famous.
Don't judge animal rights activists or vegetarians or environmentalists.
Don't judge other races.
Don't judge politicians.
Don't judge Catholics, or Presbyterians, or Lutherans, or Methodists, or Episcopalians, or Baptists.
Don't judge other countries.
Don't judge the wicked.

Don't judge the world.

Period.

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned." Luke 6:37

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

P4E.244 Beaten


Empty, stretched thin
like the next hurt will tear

Disconnected and alone
invisible...as air

Living life from afar
detached from effect
and from cause

Haunted by the thought
that nothing matters

That when I'm gone
time and the Cosmos
will not pause

Will all that was said and done
be lost?

Broken, distracted
misty eyed and dejected

Wanting to fight back
but, at what cost?

Exposed and vulnerable
scared and about to give up

Beaten and bruised
without friends or hope

Where are You?
Where are You?
I hurt
You're not there

Looking for You
Listening for You
I need You
You're not there

Waiting...

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

P4E.243 The Flesh Out List Revisited

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

Every year, 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

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Friday, June 22, 2012

P4E.242 Straight Line Thinking - 4 of 4

Pat Parelli, the natural horseman, says that the fourth obstacle that hinders the relationship between humans and horses is "straight line thinking." I have previously written about this subject here: Straight Line Thinker. In human horse relationships it comes down to this; horses are prey animals and perceive humans as predators. Predators engage in straight line thinking. With SLT, there is no subtlety. There is no nuance. There are no shades of gray. There is no wavering. No softness. No gentleness. Instead, there is directness. There is singular focus. There is black and white. There's rigidity and harshness and confrontation.

Sometimes, stereotypes exist because they are true. They can be helpful if we use them for good. Straight line thinking does a husband little good in his communication with his wife, because women are not typically straight line thinkers. SLT causes husbands to be abrupt. It causes us to move too quickly for our wife's comfort. SLT is what makes us men singularly focused while our wives are typically multi-taskers. This singular focus has caused me to be inflexible. I have found it very difficult, first of all, to have a Plan B and secondly to switch to it, when Plan A has been foiled.

We men are comfortable with "if-then" propositions. Our mechanical minds immediately want to "fix" problems. We find it difficult to understand the complexities of relationships. We'd prefer to interact with things like televisions and computers and cars. Golf intrigues us because we truly believe that we CAN figure it out. We can study it. Practice it. Play it and conquer it. These things appeal to our SLT.

Our wives, on the other hand, are a mystery to us. We have difficulty reading between the lines of the stories that they try to tell us. We don't have the patience to wade through all of the information that they try to impart to us. We wonder, is she playing games with me? Why can't she just be "straight" with me? How can she talk so much and not say anything? How come she seems so irrational, at times?

Yet, deep down, we know that they understand our children better than we do. They understand all relationships better than we do. They have the so called "sixth sense." Sometimes we ask them, "How do you know that?" and they answer "I just do." They call it "women's intuition." This is because our wives are simply more spiritually and emotionally aware than we are. Our SLT increases our rationality but, thwarts our spirituality and our ability to identify, understand and respond to our own spirits and the spirits of our wives.

But, if I want to understand my wife better, if I want to communicate better with her, I need to understand that my straight line thinking hinders me. I must slow down, be more gentle, more flexible and not be so direct. I need to develop more patience, be more forgiving and try to learn something from my wife. I need to try to understand my own spirit and my own emotions better so that I can understand hers better.

Put simply, I need to be more Christlike. Jesus was not your typical straight line thinker. As an example, sometimes people would ask Him a question and He would respond by asking another question or telling a story. I need to be more like Him. God, please help me to be!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

P4E.241 Chauvinism - 3 of 4


The third obstacle in the relationship between a human and a horse that Pat Parelli tells us about is chauvinism. Chauvinism is an exaggerated, bellicose, unreasonable belief in the superiority of and partisanship towards one's own group. So, whether it's humans and horses or the French and the English or men and women, the one thinks they're better than the other. You might think, "Chauvinism? Really? In this day and age? This is the 21st century!" But, when it comes to human nature, things don't readily change. Notice that humans are the common element. 

Now, to the point of this blog, Christian husbands and their marriages. It, unfortunately, cannot be denied that Christianity has a history of male dominance over women. Seen in a certain light, Christianity, Judaism and Islam all share a paternalistic and in some ways misogynistic history. In his book, Male Chauvinism! How It Works, Michael Korda says that chauvinistic men believe “that women are to be bullied, or humored, or charmed, or ignored.” Do we men start out any given day saying to ourselves, "I'm going to bully my wife today"? No, but does it happen? Yes, it does.

Chauvinism can be subtle to us men, though the women in our lives are well aware of it. It is the vehicle that helps us to justify being served when we should serve. It is what allows us to put our needs, desires and values above those near to us. So, we watch the TV show that we want to watch. We go to the restaurant that we want to go to. We rest and let others do whatever work there is to be done because we are better and deserve to rest while others, less worthy, work.

Chauvinism is what drives the humor that you will sometimes hear even from the church pulpit. It goes like this, "You know those women. (Pastor rolls his eyes) Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em!" (laughter from the congregation) "You know we'll never understand them. They're from Venus and we're from Mars." (concurrence in the form of applause).

Sometimes to put ourselves first, we must denigrate others. ("That's women's work!") We put them down. We call them names. We figure out ways to believe that they are less than us and we are better than them. Chauvinism propels us to develop negative stereotypes about women. They're over-emotional, stupid, soft, weak, hysterical, gullible, bitchy and talk too much. Pornography is the ultimate example of male chauvinism.

The unique thing about humans among mammals is that we have the ability to examine our own behavior and decide to change it. A polar bear does not think to himself, "You know, all this fur makes my butt look fat. I think I'm going to skip on the next seal and eat some seaweed instead." An ape does not say to himself, "I've been losing my temper a lot. That's not good for me or those around me. I'm going to enroll in an anger management class." But, we humans can and do perform self-examination and can act to change. However, we also have the ability to ignore our own behavior, and just act naturally.

Our belief in Christianity compels us to let our light so shine before men (more specifically, our wives) that they feel attracted to the One behind the universe. We are encouraged to let them know we are Christians by our love. This means we must be open to being changed by God. To allow Him to work on our hearts. And, finally, to fly solo and love like Christ in the form of self-sacrifice.

And, that is why I continually pray, "God help me."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

P4E.240 Autocracy - 2 of 4


The second obstacle that Pat Parelli identifies as an obstacle to the relationship between a human and a horse is autocracy. It means, self rule or one who rules by himself. It's an obvious problem when one sets oneself above another and rules by himself. Autocracy is every bit the same sort of obstacle to a husband in his relationship to his wife.

I admit that I, like many other Christians, have been very confused about the idea of a husband's leadership role in a marriage. And I, like many other Christian husbands, have handled my leadership role like an autocrat more often than not.

My wife, Gwen, had a good example of a leader in her life. It was her father, Ben. Gwen's recollection of her father is that he was something of a secret angel. When things would go wrong at neighbor's houses, they would call a person who would be calm, who was balanced, who would help solve the problem, not make the situation worse. They would call Ben. Gwen remembers her father as someone who was safe, who encouraged, nurtured and inspired. He did not make those around him feel threatened, overwhelmed or confused. He was not an autocrat.

I, on the other hand, do not have a track record of being calm in situations where things are going wrong. In my own home, I have made bad situations worse by getting angry, defensive, trying to place blame, and by my "woe is me" attitude. The double standard of my leadership, where I would have one set of rules for myself and another for the rest of my family would leave my poor wife feeling confused and overwhelmed.

The good husband leads by example. He takes his wife's opinions, values and recommendations into account. The good husband does not make ANY major decisions without being "as one" with his wife. The good leader seeks help in the form of wise counsel. His confidence is built up by knowledge, experience and solid decision-making. He's consistent in his temperament.

Jesus said, "Come unto me you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The good husband is a strong, safe harbor who's there to support his wife when she has a problem.

I want to be that good husband. I like feeling good. I want my wife to feel good. I don't like feeling troubled and I don't want my wife to feel troubled by me. I don't want to be a threat to her spiritual well-being; instead, I want to be a reason for her spiritual wellness, an encourager, a champion, a defender, her hero.

The Scriptures say that the meek shall inherit the earth. This meekness can be defined as incredible strength held in check and harnessed so that it is feather-light and able to handle things most fragile without damaging them. The good husband is not an autocrat. He is meek and mild and kind. I want to be that good husband. God help me.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

P4E.239 Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man? - 1 of 4


A couple of weekends ago, Gwen and I attended a a conference given by natural horsemen Pat and Linda Parelli. In it Pat listed four of the obstacles that natural horsemen have to overcome in their relationships with their horses. I've made the correlation between pursuing natural horsemanship and pursuing Christlikeness in marriage many times in this blog. I've found in Pat Parelli's list another opportunity.

The first obstacle on Pat's list is anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics onto other things, like horses. It is the vehicle that allows us humans to think that our horses are being "disobedient," or "naughty," or "stubborn." Basically, what we do is project what we know onto what we do not know. When we do that, we make very faulty assumptions about communication that can cause tragic results in the relationship between a human and his horse.

As husbands, we practice our own version of anthropomorphism on our wives. This is what we do, as men: Since we don't know any better, we project our male characteristics and attributes onto our female partners. So, we think that they think like we think. We believe that they feel things the way that we feel things. We assume that they value the same things that we value. We try to make our responsibilities their responsibilities. We believe that their tolerance for evil is the same as ours. This approach can become a real obstacle in a husband's relationship with his wife.

I'll give you a simple example. In the past, on my way out the door to work, I have told my wife something like this: "Gwen, the left-front tire on the Tahoe is looking low. You should take it over to the Chevron station and put some air in it...OK? Bye!" I really didn't realize just how much stress this put on Gwen. It's not that she's not capable. She certainly is. But, I forgot that the Chevron station in the town where we live is not the most savory place to be for a woman. I forgot that the air machine is a very cumbersome thing to work. I forgot that it's a hassle and kind of embarrassing to have to ask the attendant to turn on the air machine. Does Gwen know how much air pressure to put in the tire? Finally, if we were to ask 10 people who's responsibility it should be to maintain the tires on an SUV, I'll bet at least 9 out of 10 would say it's the husband's responsibility. But, before I learned better I'd wonder, "Now, why does she have to make such a big deal about that?" I'd do my own version of Professor Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady and ask, "Now, why can't a woman...be more like a man?"

This is not meant to demean women. In fact, women are very capable of just about anything. But, God created men and women different. He made the differences for the same reason he created everything else. To glorify Himself. I realized that if I pay attention and learn to recognize the differences, I can become more aware, sensitive, godly and blessed.

I've come to believe that the defense against making assumptions is to do my homework and learn about my wife. So, I've learned to ask questions and not challenged the answers. In fact, I realized that I don't have to know about all women (although there are some basic things about women that can be known). I really only have to know my own wife. And so do you.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

P4E.238 A New Person

Last weekend, I had the honor of sitting and talking with Dr. Robert M. Miller, equine behaviorist and veterinarian. Dr. Miller is also a world renowned author and speaker. He is best recognized for his system of training newborn foals, known as imprint training. At 85 years old, Dr. Miller is one of the people in whom many "natural" horseman have found inspiration and encouragement. Dr. Miller is the vet who accompanied Monty Roberts as he "joined-up" with a wild mustang he later called "Shy Boy." He is also credited with foreseeing the future success of Pat Parelli as a natural horseman.

In his book, The Revolution in Horsemanship, Dr. Miller says,


"There is something very special about a horse that makes you want to do better with and for them.
But just wanting it isn’t enough because this is something very different and very unnatural for us humans. It takes time and effort to learn to communicate effectively with a horse. You have to be willing to go back to school, to learn and to change the way you behave. You have to set your ego on the shelf and leave it there while you reinvent yourself as a horseman and, often, as a human being.


This new person observes, remembers and compares. He listens more and talks less. He takes responsibility rather than assigning blame. He controls his emotions. He becomes aware of his body language. He tries to improve himself. He commits himself to acting justly. He cultivates patience. He forgives. He lives in the moment rather than stewing over the past or waiting for the future. And of course, he places the wants and needs of his wife ahead of his own.

He does it all, at least in the beginning, because it will make him a better horseman.
It isn’t easy. We cannot wave a magic wand or drink a magic potion and change the nature of our species anymore than a leopard can change its spots. It takes work and lots of it. It takes willpower and persistence, focus and thought. In an age of mindless entertainment and instant gratification of our every physical and emotional craving, those don’t always come easy to us. But if we persist, the payoff makes it all worthwhile."

This is very touching, sensitive stuff when you consider the relationship between a horse and a human. But, I have a different interest in it. Because this blog was started to explore the relationship between husbands and wives I'm wondering how it reads when we make certain replacements. What if we looked at it this way:

"There is something very special about a wife that makes you want to do better with and for her.
But just wanting it isn’t enough because this is something very different and very unnatural for us husbands. It takes time and effort to learn to communicate effectively with a wife. You have to be willing to go back to school, to learn and to change the way you behave. You have to set your ego on the shelf and leave it there while you reinvent yourself as a husband and, often, as a human being.


This new person observes, remembers and compares. He listens more and talks less. He takes responsibility rather than assigning blame. He controls his emotions. He becomes aware of his body language. He tries to improve himself. He commits himself to acting justly. He cultivates patience. He forgives. He lives in the moment rather than stewing over the past or waiting for the future. And of course, he places the wants and needs of another living creature ahead of his own.

He does it all, at least in the beginning, because it will make him a better husband.
It isn’t easy. We cannot wave a magic wand or drink a magic potion and change the nature of our species anymore than a leopard can change its spots. It takes work and lots of it. It takes willpower and persistence, focus and thought. In an age of mindless entertainment and instant gratification of our every physical and emotional craving, those don’t always come easy to us. But if we persist, the payoff makes it all worthwhile."

 If your mind thinks like mine, the middle paragraph will remind you of 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." Sometimes, we learn something about one thing by looking at another.

Friday, April 27, 2012

P4E.237 Scene at the Airport


There's an unnatural amount of light in the airport terminal. It makes everything look stark and sterile, like a surgery. The place is nearly featureless. The beige terrazzo floor meets a bank of black windows. Only the lights of the planes waiting in the night are visible through them. The seating is modern and lends to the sterility of the place. The people who move through it seem affected by the light. They look detached; washed out by the overexposure. But, they are no doubt distracted too, either by the tedium of yet another trip or the excitement and anxiousness of a rare flight. Some move briskly, their baggage rolling behind them and others plod with their bags swinging at their sides.

From one side come four young men. Hair askew, unshaven, and lanky they have that uber-hip quality of appearing careless and intense at the same time. Two of them are wearing sunglasses against the fluorescent glare. A fedora. A long black coat over a khaki v-necked t-shirt. Long-sleeved plaids. Dark, skinny jeans. Doc Martens and Converse high tops. The strong smell of cigarette smoke trails after them and if you get close enough a hint of alcohol too. Two of them have soft, black guitar cases slung over their shoulders. They know that they can't take them onto the plane, but will carry them on anyway. The stewardess will politely inform them that they aren't allowed and offer to stow them. That way they won't have to pay the extra baggage fee. Just one travelling trick of many they have learned along the way.

The four move together in a focused amble through the terminal. Abruptly, one of them veers away from the others. He has straight, long reddish blond hair that hangs in his face and a beard to go with it. It flows as he moves. Coming the other way is an Anglican priest in his vestments. The priest is middle-aged, slim and fit with dark short-cut hair. The young man walks up to the priest and they stop, facing each other. As his band-mates stop to turn and watch, he shifts the guitar on his back, drops to his left knee, takes the priest's hand and kisses it. As the three smirk and keep walking, the priest watches them leave. He senses that they are not mocking their friend. Only tolerating his idiosyncrasy. The priest turns his attention back to the mass of hair at his feet. "The peace of the Lord be with you," he says. With a beaming smile and sparkling eyes a face emerges from the hair and says, "And also with you."

The priest pulls the young man up by the hand and they shake hands as they hug each other. They break apart and hold onto each other's hands and shoulders and speak earnestly and excitedly to each other. It's clear they don't know each other, but the bond between them is unmistakable. They could be brothers, except for their questions. "What's your name?" "Where are you from?" "Where are you going?" "Do you like being a...?" Anxiously, the young man looks over the priest's shoulder. His band-mates are moving quickly out of view. He must go. "Would you bless me?" he asks.

As a crowd of people move around them, almost unnoticed, the young man drops to his knees, the guitar neck sticking up past his bowed head. As he looks down he notices how dirty the beige terrazzo floor really is. In the raw light, the priest puts one hand on the long-haired head and makes the sign of the cross with the other. "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen." The young man says "Amen," makes the sign of the cross over himself and gets up quickly. "Thank you!" he says earnestly. He shakes the priest's hand as he goes to leave. "I've got to go! Thanks again!" He waves over his shoulder as he adjusts the guitar and runs down the terminal.

The priest watches after him until he is out of view before he turns and continues on his own way.

This post has been submitted to L.L. Brakat's On, In and Around Mondays!
On In Around button

Monday, March 26, 2012

P4E.236 Drinking the Christian Kool-Aid


First, an explanation of the Kool-Aid reference. Sometimes we make references to cultural events that are lost on readers because we don't share a common understanding. For those who don't recall or are not old enough to remember, in November of 1978, 909 members of a religious cult called Peoples Temple, and led by a man named Jim Jones, committed mass suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide in Jonestown, Guyana. It was the largest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001. Since that time, the phrase "drinking Kool-Aid" has come to mean blindly following the instructions of or adhering to the beliefs of an authority or institution or leadership, to the point of self-harm.

My son, Ben, has a friend who has served in the military in Afghanistan. The friend's duties included teaching Afghan soldiers various subjects. Ben's friend told him that the task is sometimes hampered by the Muslim belief system of the Afghan soldiers. As an example, the soldiers do not believe in gravity. They believe that the hand of Allah holds them down on the earth and that at any time he could remove his hand and they would fly away into space. Another example is that they do not believe in germs.

Upon hearing these things, I'm sure many of you had the same reaction I had; "How backward. How Medieval. How ignorant." And yet, the Christian community has its own Kool-Aid that it drinks. Let's take the example of evolution. The Christian community has gone to all sorts of gyrations to counter the idea of evolution.To drink this Christian Kool-Aid, one must also believe in a literal 6 days of creation, an extremely short life span of the earth, and dinosaurs co-existing with humans.  The Christian community has made belief in evolution tantamount to heresy. It would rather fight over this issue than do the work that Christ charged it with.

How does it make sense that many Christians believe in the virgin birth, but have trouble with transubstantiation? Other examples of drinking the Christian Kool-Aid (at least in America) include:

- Super-Patriotism
- Unquestioning support for the U.S. Military
- Alignment with the conservative Republican Party
- Fawning over Rush Limbaugh
- Disdain for anything Obama

I'm not saying that one doesn't have the legal/constitutional right to pursue the above, just please don't sully the name of Christ by associating Christianity with it. We NEED separation of church and state to protect the Church! Stay out of politics. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's!

Lastly, because this blog has its roots in ministering to marriages in crisis, I thought I would share some of the Kool-Aid that the Christian community wants us to drink in regard to marriage.

In his book, Discovering the Mind of a Woman, Ken Nair points out four male prejudices (what I'm calling Christian Kool-Aid) 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.

You might have the same reaction as above, "How backward! How positively Medieval! How ignorant." And, you would be right. But, how many times have I heard a pastor in the pulpit express these very thoughts. Sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly. "You know those women. They're from Venus! Can't live with 'em. Can't live without 'em!" (wink wink). Even the women in the congregation will laugh! How many times has a husband conveyed these same ideas to me during a conversation about his wife? I can tell you: Lots!

The time has come to take the Christian community to task. To assault the paradigm that it requires of us to remain a part of it. To push the limits. To refuse to drink the Christian Kool-Aid. To challenge some of the Christian community's tenets because they stand in the way of ministering to and loving a needy world.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

P4E.235 Blowing in the Wind



Peter Paul & Mary, 1966

Gwen and I recently watched this video and it really hit me this time. I've heard the song before.These are timeless questions. Sure, there are parts of the song that have a protest aspect to them. But, they are also relational. The lyrics that caught my ear were "How many times can a man turn his head And pretend that he just doesn't see" I can imagine many wives (including my own) asking this question about their husbands. And I can also imagine their resonating with the idea that "The answer is blowing in the wind."

What we have (I had) is not so much a marriage problem as a Christianity problem. In the ways that we fall short of godliness, of Christlikeness, we fall short as husbands and fathers, brothers and sons, friends and fellow travelers. God does not turn His head and pretend that he just doesn't see. God not only sees all, but He observes, He takes in, He evaluates, He understands, He cares, and He responds.

I realize that I can wallow in the melancholy of blowing in the wind, or be encouraged to dispel the questions that haunt me. I know many of the reasons why I think the way I think and act the way I do. And they can be overcome. In the movie Ben Hur, Messala tells Sextus "you ask how to fight an idea. Well, I'll tell you how... with another idea!" In our time, and in our marriages, the idea is Christianity. And, at its heart, Christianity is self-sacrificial.

The secular world believes, and the contemporary church has bought into the idea, that marriage is a 50-50 proposition. It should be fair. It should be even. Justice should prevail. But, Scripture tells us husbands that we should love our wives like Christ loved the church, and laid Himself down for her. Not fair. Not even. Not just. One man sacrificed himself for the good of the others. This is the other idea; in my opinion, a better idea. The idea that a husband should lead by sacrificing himself for the good of his wife. In obedience to Christ's teachings, we die to ourselves. We are crucified with Him. We prove we are our wife's best friend by laying down our life. Not fair. Not even. Not just. But, BETTER than fair, BETTER than even and BETTER than just. Ken Nair has said that "fairness compromises godliness." I believe he's right.

I was not old enough in the 60's to understand what was going on. But what I see in the Peter Paul & Mary video is passion. We've lost that same sort of passion. Yes, there is passion out there, but it is a self-absorbed "what's best for ME" passion. Obviously, Dylan and Peter Paul & Mary wrote and sang this song to encourage people out of there apathy. To get passionate. To care. So, I recommit to NOT looking the other way and pretending not to see. I commit to NOT letting the answer blow in the wind. And, God help me, I will start with the ones closest to me.

Blowing in the Wind
Music and Lyrics by Bob Dylan ©1963

How many roads must a man walk down
Before they call him a man
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand
How many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they are forever banned
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

How many years must a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea
How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free
How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky
How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry
How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

Monday, February 27, 2012

P4E.234 - The Look on Her Face


Not too long ago, my wife, Gwen, and I were with a group of people. At one point, while Gwen was talking, someone said something and Gwen got a look on her face. There was frustration and pain. It was a look of exasperation and hurt. The look said "I give up." It said, "I feel disrespected." It was a fleeting look and she quickly recovered and continued her conversation.

The embarrassing thing is that the look registered with me; I remember thinking at the time, wow, I don't often see that look. I hope Gwen's alright. But, after we left the gathering, I didn't remember to follow up with her.

A couple of days later, Gwen revisited that conversation and it was only then that I remembered the look. I say I was embarrassed because it sort of felt like Gwen was reminding me that she'd been shot a couple of days ago and I forgot to inquire about how she felt. Now, she didn't rub it in or anything, but I was more than a little mortified. The reason is that I am supposed to hold a position of spritual leadership. That means that I'm responsible to be aware of the spirits of those under my care. And certainly, Gwen is one of those. I'm reminded that I can become lax, callous, and unfeeling. I can be forgetful and a procrastinator.

It's weird, because as a businessman, I have been taught to pay attention to body language and voice inflection to read people in negotiations. It's especially important to observe the face and especially the eyes to gain insight into where someone is at in their emotions and psyche. As businessmen we do this to gain some advantage in negotiations. To pinpoint some weakness. To catch a lie. To find an opening for compromise. To exploit a fault.

But, as a husband, I need to remember to observe and to observe for different reasons. With Gwen, I need to watch her face, to listen to her voice inflection, to observe her body language to read her emotions. To read her spirit for the purpose of ministering to her. You may wonder what I mean. I've realized that when I talk about spiritual matters they will, or should, be couched in some form of Galatians 5 spirit language. That is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Or the lack thereof.

When I sense that Gwen is not experiencing this fruit, then it's my responsibility to be there to do what I can to tend to her spirit. What can be even worse is when I'm the cause of her spiritual drop. Then I must not only quit sabatoging her spirit, I must move to repair the damage. This is a huge responsibility. But, I've come to believe that that's exactly what I signed up for when I became her husband. Now I gladly accept my work. And. it is work.

Jesus said, "My Father is always at his work, to this very day, and I, too, am working." My work includes belief. Belief includes action. Jesus encouraged Peter to express his love for Him by tending His lambs. So, in a way, Gwen is my lamb to tend. Given me by God to watch over. God help me in my work.

Friday, February 17, 2012

P4E.233 Love = Self Sacrifice Part 10


I am the last person who should be writing about self sacrificial love, because I have so little experience. What will follow, then, are humble suggestions; a few from my poor experience and some from my imagination.

Continuing with the idea of letting others go first, there is a lot of precedence for this in Scripture. This idea enmeshes the actions in the world with the spiritual consequences of those actions. So, when Jesus responds to the rich young ruler's inquiry about how he can enter the kingdom of heaven by telling him to sell his earthly goods, give the proceeds to the poor and follow Him, He's really giving the rich young ruler a path to Spiritual belief. A path to expressing love. What Jesus is saying is: put others first in a worldly sense to express love and believe that by doing so, you will gain Spiritual benefits. You will be on the path to the kingdom of heaven.

Don't feel bad if this strikes you as counter-intuitive. In spite of being directly under Jesus' influence, His Disciples found it hard to embrace self-sacrifice, as well. They bickered over who would be greatest in Christ's kingdom. They wanted to be seated one on the right and one on the left of Jesus' throne. These were positions of great honor and they wanted to occupy them with Jesus. Jesus consistently counselled against these aspirations. He said that we should resist the urge to put ourselves in a position of honor, because we risked the disgrace of being asked to move out of the way for someone more deserving of that honor. Instead, He suggested that we take a humble position, which would allow for the opportunity to be moved to a position of higher honor. That could not be the motive for taking the humble position, but only as a gesture of true humility.

We have had our shining examples of selflessness. Mother Theresa. Ghandi. Dr. Rick Hodes (if you've never heard of him, check out Making the Crooked Straight). Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Jesus, Himself. But, when we idolize or immortalize these, we make them inaccessible. We set them apart from ourselves and believe that we could never approach their selflessness. But, we shouldn't excuse ourselves from making the effort to emulate these examples. We can't just throw up our hands and say, "Well, I could never be like that, so I'm not even going to try." I use them as encouragement to go forth and sacrifice my Self. To pursue humility. To crucify my ego. To consider others more important than myself. To put others first. Especially my wife.