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

This post has been shared on L.L.Barkat's
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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.