Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Logical insensitivity

So I’m realizing more and more how poor my communication skills are. Not to fret, as the Lord doesn’t overlook anything. Today produced a good example of a tidy learning lesson.

One of my responsibilities at work is to go to the post office and pickup our PO Box mail. I was out sick yesterday. This morning, my co-worker apologized for not getting the mail, citing her full schedule. I only go Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. So, naturally, my response was a rather terse (to the outside viewer…you know, not me) “Yesterday was Tuesday.” (It was logical to me, and I didn’t understand why she didn’t realize this. I wasn’t upset, though, in the least…honestly). Pause. “Steve only wants me to go Monday, Wednesday, Friday.” And…successful completion of making yet another person feel like they’re stupid. Of course, this wasn’t voiced, but I was able to see the conversation from her view.

For years I have been (rightfully) accused of flaunting my intelligence and elaborately explaining things as an attempt to do so. As a way to compensate, I have tried to not “lay it all out” but rather give pieces of information and let the person figure it out themselves, lest I be accused of cranial flexing (okay, I couldn’t resist that one). And that seems to have resulted in scenarios such as the one above, where I don’t exhibit my own, but rather insult the other’s intelligence. There are times when another person’s thinking confuses me and far too often I let my logical mind steer my tongue; my friends and family know this all too well. Sadly enough, when I said the terse part, I was thinking in my mind “This is good news.” But it didn’t come across that way.

Shortly after the exchange (I think as I was walking away) I thought of the words I wished I’d used, something like “Oh, not a problem. Steve has only wanted me to go three days a week, so it works out…no harm!”

Perhaps the true success part of the story is that this came to mind rather quickly, as opposed to not at all or far later on. The next step will be, you know, actual implementation :)

I’m grateful for all of you who have put up with me throughout the years. Assuredly at the top of the list is my mother, who’s had 22 wonderful years of this (I’m assuming I developed terseness at birth). I started to write this post as a way to express a learning experience, but now it’s starting to feel like a solicitation for empathy. Better stop this now.

Prov 11:12 “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.”

Prov 12:18 “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Prov 17:28 “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”

Prov 21:23 “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

Who's good?

I can get upset or even mad if and when someone might think I’m a good guy. I don’t feed the hungry or clothe the poor, so I can’t be a good guy. But I realized today the implied inverse of this thought is that if I did feed the hungry and clothe the poor, that people should think I am a good guy. Hmm…that’s not right.

Being nice or generous is not in and of myself, it’s from God; I’m not capable of those things on my own. When good things do come from me, it’s by God’s grace and for His glory. Any reflection of goodness at all is really on Him and not on me, as it is merely done through me in a given situation. I’m learning to not take negatively my lack of doing certain “idealistic” things (idealistic in respect to a perfect ideal in my mind), because who I am doesn’t change by the things I do or don’t do. Whether or not I flow out the Lord’s love doesn’t change that I am a sinful man in need of God’s grace.

That said, I do desire to emulate my Savior and love as He loved. I deal with fear that if I’m not hard on myself, I won’t “do” anything, as I am a very lazy and complacent man by nature. But God is good, and He has given me His Holy Spirit. I’m learning to trust Him to convict and challenge me, rather than taking on this unbearable burden myself. (Sigh). Yeah, He defines who I am…“For [I] have died, and [my] life is now hidden with Christ in God.”(Col 3:3)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another special morning

This post is basically a recounting of my morning. Slightly hesitant to share, but hoping that it may help someone; when the Lord speaks clearly, I don’t want to pull down the lamp shade. (Please forgive the upcoming train of thought if scattered; I feel it necessary to share as things unfolded.)

As previously mentioned, God’s done a lot in me recently with the issue/desire of marriage (don't worry, the whole post isn't devoted to this topic). Oddly enough, as I’ve grown in contentment with current singleness, my mind has pondered marriage and various aspects it entails all the more (which makes me question the contentment, though I know it’s there). A feeling I’ve had the last few days especially is one of selfishness in taking a daughter of the Lord, as though I may be a distraction from the pure potential of a woman wholly devoted to the work of the Lord. And perhaps, in the heart of “taking,” there may be truth therein. There’s much pressure in the idea of taking a wife, trying to lead her, sacrifice for her, protect her, etc. Not your strength, but Mine. Oh, yes Lord, You’re right…it is written “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”(Ps 147:10-11) God gently reminded me of another way: His daughter given as a gift out of His love. God gives good gifts. And there’s freedom in submission to the Lord, and in receiving a gift with His guidance (and He is faithful to guide).

Good thing for guidance. Marriage is the second biggest decision in life after the choice to follow Jesus, in terms of time (Jesus for eternity, spouse for earthly life) and excitement.

In reflection of His design of marriage, He draws to the surface such a beautiful back and forth process. I love, support, encourage my wife, she’s built up to love and serve others, and as well to return the love to me. And throughout, Christ is glorified. Of course this applies not only to marriage, just in a more intense and intimate way.

(Response to the above rumination)

Lord, I feel like a foal rarin’ at the gates, but I want You more. As desires intensify, is it just more from You to give back, to offer up in sacrifice? Is “it” closer? Aaaahhh…I just want to know. But You, Jesus, are my Daily Bread and my portion. Thank You for the Great Comforter. And Father, thank You for Your gracious smile that my cleansed heart can see. I can only imagine Your joy as You think of the plans You have for me…plans to glorify Your name and to bring joy and happiness to my life (in more abundance, that is, for much joy and happiness You’ve already given). “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”(Gal 6:8) May I live to please Your Holy Spirit, by Your great grace and mercy.

Thank You for breathing life into this dust, for Your careful knitting, for Your innumerable thoughts of love, for Your rod and Your staff. Let me not be slow to acknowledge You and Your mercies everyday of my life. For is it not the Lord who gives life? Is it not the Lord alone who’s worthy of my life? “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”(Ps 32:1-2) In Your forgiveness, “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”(Ps 118:17)

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”(Ps 116:7)

Lord, this is one of those mornings where everything seems great and I feel connected to You and that I’m hearing You. And tomorrow morning may well be one of the hardest in my life (but “ not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matt 6:34). Ah, yes…“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”(Ps 118:24) “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful…Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.”(Ps 68:3, 19-20)

Praise be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Sometimes I doubt; sometimes being “more than a rare occurrence.”

Is this the voice of the enemy, or the voice of reality?

A good portion of my doubting comes from my logical thinking and incessant striving for comprehension of “the big picture” and how everything works together. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”(Prov 3:5-6) Doctors of the days of old come to mind, with their knowledge limited to the four humors. In that knowledge they drew conclusions and in many ways were dead wrong (I couldn’t resist :). Our knowledge, as there’s, is limited.

Sometimes it feels like my “foundation” and faith is a rug under me sliding around a little (a scary feeling). Hardly the roots of a planted tree near streams of water I desire (see Ps 1). But I choose, by God's grace, not to stand on a flimsy floor covering, but rather on the Rock. “Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.”(Ps 31:2-3) “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.”(Ps 95:1)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is alive!

Indeed the Lord has risen, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. We live now in Christ, as we died in Christ. Praise be to God for His wonderful love and grace. Praise the Lord!

Friday, April 10, 2009

What is love?

(Originally written 2/18/09)
Lamely blah title, but that doesn’t matter…

I had a really hard day this past Saturday (Valentine’s). Not so much any form of the typical “heartache” stuff, but rather dwelling on the realization of how much I’ve hated human love. It boiled down to his tidy couplet:

It hurts to be loved imperfectly. And it hurts to love others imperfectly.

The thought of words coming out of my mouth that destroy and don’t build, that impair and don’t help…hurts. The idea that I do things to the harm, and not to the benefit, of someone God truly loves…hurts. The times someone says or does something mean or unloving to me…hurts.

So, on the day the world celebrates its own idea of “love”, I was hurting. I didn’t understand Jesus’ words: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” What? Why? To fall short and to hurt/be hurt again? Why would you tell us to do something we can’t do? Or can we, in You? Why…? Why…? Why..? (I’ve learned that when I start using the word “why” so much, I need to sit down and humble myself before the Lord).

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Being the Faithful One that He is, God showed HIS love for me through persistent friends, who that night would not let me stay at home in my sorrow and self-pity. I was literally crying as I walked to their house, battling through these thoughts and emotions. Yet God had me with my family, surrounded by love.

It’s pretty sad that the enemy can twist things to the point that there are times friends are kind, and I take it in as pain; maybe I’m scared to lose it? I don’t know, and that’s not the point of this note. I wrote this to offer up a topic for discussion, if anyone has thoughts/comments. I may have some more things, but I’m still contemplating.

So, loving hurts. Jesus knows that, more than I ever could. And Jesus tells us to love one another. I’ve always wondered what “carrying my cross” meant…is this part of that picture?

I pray the peace of the Lord and knowledge of His love to all of you. God bless.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

To the graduating and "transitional"

Many of my friends are soon graduating. What a milestone in life. I’ll spare you all from my reminiscing and strolling Memory Lane. With graduation comes the foray into the workplace; for some, the first such exposure. Cover letters written, résumés sent out, interviews lined up, dress attire neatly ironed (hopefully). A wonderful time for us to try our faith when we have claimed God’s great provision. A good test indeed.

I’ve tried to encourage people in regard to interviews. Remember that an interview is not simply a way for you to impress someone so you can get the job you think you want (though that seems to be are conditioning). An interview is a time for two parties to evaluate each other; are you a good match for the company and the position, and are they a good match for you? You don’t want to put forth a fake front and end up underperforming or being stuck in a job unfit for your skills and abilities. An interview is a time for great honesty, which, naturally, may be hard to do if you’re gripping to your hopes for the position. And if your aim is merely to get the job that brings fulfillment, happiness, and grand financial gain, the grip will indeed be as a vise (and perhaps a vice).

Anyway, small sermon spewing aside, yesterday morning I was praying for my friends. As I prayed, a large smile developed wide across my face, and I sensed light going forth as God sent out His people. Many may see getting a job as a simple act of practicality. Do you not know the intricate complexion of God’s weaving in His placement of you? Hah…of course, none of us “know” it in its completeness. God will place you where you need to be. Within His permissive will, you could go somewhere other than where He first had in mind, with your decisions perhaps leading to such another place. But that’s ancillary theology outside of the circumference of this discourse (note the subtle insinuation to this writing being a loop that will hopefully come around with good meaning…and close :). I feel I should let that idea float without my anchoring it with my own ideas, at least without more than already presented.

Do know that it is good to desire good things. In that knowledge, I challenge you to close your bedroom door, get on your knees, and lay out your hands, offering up desires of a certain job to God. When released into His freedom (in this case, not held down by any unbridled longing), His peace is incredible. Give Him permission to use you as He wills. That’s scary, if done outside of the trust of a loving, compassionate, and protective Father. And know that your desired job and what you get after you surrender are not necessarily exclusive (just remember surrender entails a true letting go). Such a beautiful thing to receive back what was surrendered, and such grace to have lost it forever.

One last thought. I implore you to pray for your future coworkers. In doing so you allow God to prepare your heart for meeting them, and for serving them. You also are making a request that the all-powerful and sovereign Creator of the world to work in their lives, which He honors; that’s pretty cool.

May the Lord grant you His wisdom in your searching, His grace in your moving, and His heart in your loving.

Psalm 23 (I ended up memorizing this by reading it many times before interviews in ’07)

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A friend's eyes

The bible talks a lot about community and its importance. I’d like to share an example.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday. We normally meet each week, sharing what’s going on in our lives and helping one another press forward on in our pursuits of the Lord. This past weekend there was a conference about healing prayer. I hadn’t truly wanted to go, but ended up attending and leaving early. I felt “ok” with it; God hadn’t told me I must go, and I didn’t really want to go, so…what’s the problem?

During lunch I mentioned to Sean that I had some reservations about Christian Healing Ministries and healing prayer, lots of questions and such. As Sean knows me well, he asked why I hadn’t investigated it further, since that is my normal character. Through God-given introspection, I realized there were some deeper reasons for my evasion. I still have some deep-seated doubts about the Lord, about Christianity in general. I’ve struggled a lot with the idea of cults, brainwashing, etc., and many of those feelings remain from my BC days. There have been periods of time when those feelings were very hard to deal with and challenged my faith greatly. I haven’t had to deal with them for a while, as they had been laid to rest (but not completely dealt with). But healing prayer is something that stirs the leaves, so to speak. The pile had been dormant; why resuscitate the doubts?
God has recently done a lot in my heart in regards to love, marriage, relationships, etc. I’ve been prone to avoid dealing with this arena, as it has been a tough patch of emotions for a long time. I didn’t want to stir the leaves. But at some point recently, God gave me the ability and desire to delve headfirst into facing this giant of mine; the leaves had been stirred, so why shrink back now? I claim to want the fullness of Christ, so then let me cling to Him and pursue Him in dealing with issues, rather than pull away when conflict emerges.
That lesson rang loudly in my ears as I pondered the current situation with healing prayer. And by God’s grace I knew what needed to be done. I asked Sean to help me and keep me accountable in my pursuit of finding out more about this topic. Surely not all of me wanted to, which further compelled me to ask for help. This actionable result is out of a lot of work the Lord has done, as I haven’t always responded this way. And thank God he isn’t done quite yet :)

I share all this for two main points. Personal accountability is very important, and I sympathize for the Christian who doesn’t have that available to them (and pray God would provide that for them). As good as I think I am at analyzing everything and knowing my emotions/thoughts/feelings, I am still blinded at times from what’s going on. The enemy is the great deceiver, and when deception is lured in front of the chance to avoid tough circumstances, how much the greater the appeal. But God is faithful, and one way He speaks to us is through our family, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As well, I want to exhort you to press in when you want to peel out. I’m also saying this to myself again, as this is very habitual for me; I feel that writing things out helps to remind me about lessons, as I have something tangible to reference.

I pray God’s grace and peace for you as you struggle with the battle of flesh and spirit. And what a joy to have such a battle! Though it be hard and burdensome, the presence of the warring reminds us of Him who lives inside us and the work He’s doing, along with the promise of completion. Praise be to God for not leaving us to our wicked ways and unto death! Christ lives, and so do we…new creations in a dying world. Indeed, He makes all things new!