Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Source of Success:

I remember back in the 90's, the first time I heard Hillary Clinton on TV talking about her book, "It takes a village to raise a child."  My first thought was, "That's laziness if I've ever heard it."  To me, it seemed like she was trying to get people to pick up each other's slack or step in and parent (verb) neighborhood kids when parents neglected their responsibilities -- thus, fostering irresponsibility...

We've always parented where we take primary responsibly for our own children.  But, we've always welcomed help; we've never neglected to nurture opportunities for our children to develop relationships with those who wanted to mentor our children.  There have been great people in church who have offered to be role models, to teach our kids, to partner with us in their development.  Not nearly as many I wish our children would have had, but we've been blessed a few quality relationships along the way.

Parenting isn't always easy, sometimes it's downright hard.  Thinking of this cooperative "village to raise a child" concept, I'm convinced it takes a church to nurture a healthy marriage.  As believers, we have a responsibly to each other, to help love our spouses as deeply as possible.

To offer sound advice or helpful resources on strengthening a marriage is one thing -- but to encourage love, kindness and patience is another.  It's another level all together -- a whole other realm -- to actually put the brakes on a negative conversation before it gets started.  I haven't always done the best job of buffering other people's frustrations or diffusing their sarcasm.  I can't speak for you, but I want to train myself to block out other people's unhealthy conversations or jokes that belittle others.

Tammy & I have a great marriage.  We are in love & committed to each other.  We aren't perfect people, and however infrequent it is, we do have our share of times when we will argue or fight or disagree or get angry.  But.  We have a strong marriage, a loving marriage, a marriage that often has many people commenting on it, as they recognize they'd love a marriage like ours.  How did we get here, from our past?

Sure God has played the biggest role.  But God also used people who loved us and guided us early on.  In our first years as Christians, our church family made a huge impact on us too.  Couples like Ted & Susie Matthews, Gary & Zoe Lambrecht and others who modeled healthy marriages for us --- these men also called me on the carpet when I wasn't loving Tammy with a Christlike love.  Yes, they spoke truth firmly and lovingly into my life.  Thankfully, they helped me to mature in my faith, and in my marriage.

I Cor 15:33 teaches we will be like those we hang around with.
Surround yourselves with healthy people and be a healing presence yourself.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's a good thing when those we depend on the most, suck the worst:

Why does it seem like those we count on the most, miserably disappoint us?
The people we came to depend on the most, ended up sucking worse than we ever imagined possible.

Consider this when rethinking your last major disappointment:
It's unrealistic. No, we are unrealistic.
We put too much confidence in others... No, we've discounted our own ability.
People are selfish... No, we are giving into selfcenteredness.
Other people aren't giving me what they owe me... No, we've tried to shuffle off something we should take responsibly for.

I could go on, but I think that I would bore you if I took this much further.
There is a perspective-issue on the line, and it's uncomfortable to come to grips with, I agree. 
People let us down, important people in our lives who weren't supposed to let us down... and let me say, it's okay.

It's okay, because of two reasons:
1., We need to rely more on ourselves & on God.
Not to say we are an island or meant to be isolated, I believe in being interdependent.
I'm saying, we often relegate too much of our self-esteem, self-confidence, and, we don't take enough responsibly for ourselves.  And to the God thing, we idolize people when we give them too much sway or power over us.  When our expectations aren't met, we act like the other person had some sort of divine powers, and they cheated us out of a miracle. 

2., This is good, because when other people let us down and disappoint us, it's a reminder of how often we fail others.  We do.  Admit it.  We make commitments and promises, and we don't follow through every time.

Sometimes we have to quit looking to everyone else, to bring us a sense of happiness through their performance.  Sometimes, we need to realize that there are people in our lives that simply can't get healthy.  They are doing the best they can, I guess.  Who cares?  If they can't "deliver," then we need to move on with our lives.  If they ended up being selfish, which it looks like, move on and learn how not to be.  We can learn a lot about how we ought behave, by observing the way we feel when people mistreat us or leave us hanging...

We will have mentors, relatives, co-workers, close friends, all who we will depend on in one way or another,  but let's not overly depend on them.  Avoid the unnecessary pain.  Try to see the best in others, hope for the best, but remember -- all that glitters isn't gold...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

They hate Mother's Day...?

This Sunday is one of the biggest days of the year because we do get to honor mothers.
Not everyone is as excited though..., we hear more & more about the people who cringe as Mother's Day rolls around.  There's a blog post that's gone viral this week.  The blogger writes an "open letter" as "non-mom" and it's a plea, and a tongue-in-cheek warning. Many people whom I deeply respect are all gaga about this open letter.  But I'm baffled at the positive response people are giving it.  Click here to read the blog: "an-open-letter-to-pastors-a-non-mom-speaks-about-mothers-day"
I've read this open letter blog post over several times.  She threatens to take her toys and go home if the pastor asks the moms to stand  (she said she might just walk out of church if the pastor asks the moms to all stand)?  This is hard for me to comprehend. There are people though, who get downright upset over Mother's Day, or at least the way we celebrate it in church.  Some people are practically protesting Mother's Day, insisting preachers tone down their Mother's Day message?

Motherhood is like an Olympic sport, and just as Mom climbs the platform to receive her Gold medal, we're told there are people who were disqualified from competing, so...?  I guess fairly soon people will write to Hallmark, raising the fact that seeing Mother's Day cards in the grocery store is painful?

Motherhood is so lofty & virtuous it deserves our fullest respect.  To respect & honor moms is not an attempt to remind people left wounded by motherhood of the pain they feel, it's focused on celebrating the ideal -- and there's the rub.  When we as a culture celebrate Mother's Day, this isn't an insult to anyone -- Mother's Day isn't a time that people are "rubbing it in your face" because of whatever misfortune you've suffered from.  It's a wonderful time to show our appreciation to the most influential people in our lives.

To cease the fuller celebration of Mother's Day, is the logical equivalent of subduing the joy one family holds as their child is baptized, because it reminds another family of their prodigal.  This isn't a slippery-slope philosophy  it simply comparing a closely related example.

There are different levels of pain we feel at Mother's Day.
I imagine the first few Mother's days, after a mother passes away, are bittersweet.
Not unbearable, but certainly painful, yet as you reminisce, perhaps you can still smile?
You look back fondly at memories from childhood, and you miss your mom.  Thankfully, those who have had mothers who have passed away don't seem to resent Mother's Day.

Sadly, not all moms stick around, and then again, some who stuck around maybe should've split...  I don't know what it feels like to miscarry or to not be able to conceive, but I can also see how this Sunday is a very painful reminder of the void many women must feel.  There are moms who failed their families and there are those who would love to start families and become mothers but can't -- and the pain is too great to allow them to fully celebrate Mother's Day.  I respect that, but still, we should want to stand up for the many-more healthy experiences too.

There are people who have legitimate issues with motherhood, but I think most often this disdain for Mother's Day is a lot like the people who have a hard time with Christmas music playing in the shopping malls or the school Christmas pageant.  Does this mean we don't publicly want to celebrate wedding anniversaries as much, because too many people have divorced or choose to remain single these days?

I hope I don't come off as insensitive,  but I'm not sure why the rest of society is always expected to give into the exception?  I find it offensive that so many people are jumping on the Hush-Mother's Day bandwagon.  I'm sorry if Mother's Day is a sad reminder of the deepest pain in your life -- I hope you can find it in your heart to extend grace this Sunday.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Vengeance, it's more dangerous than you thought...

Vengeance is popular; it's socially acceptable.  The plot of many stories, major movies, and TV series, -- all thrive on revenge.  Narratives throughout the ages have tapped into this most basic human experience.

But.  You've known from your youth, "Two wrongs don't make a right."
You know the Bible's strong warning to not take vengeance.
You've never heard of anyone who was very successful in "getting sweet" revenge...
Still you entertain the idea.  Don't do it, it won't end well.

Have you ever asked: Why is vengeance so unhealthy, for those seeking to dish it out?

For starters:

  • When we seek to take vengeance,  we are saying to God, "God, we can do your job of judging and repaying people for the wrong they do, better than you can..."

  • Revenge consumes us.  The old Chinese proverb, "If you seek vengeance, dig two graves." This proverb doesn't mean that revenge is instant suicide or that you are in an immediate danger.  Eventually, revenge drains the life out of you.

  • Vengeance never quite satisfies.  Your loss isn't returned.  Your act of vengeance doesn't compensate for or bring back the past.  The most extreme example of this truth is: If you had loved one die, no amount of vengeance will bring them back to life.  

  • Vengeance doesn't drag you down to your offender's level; it lowers you below their depravity.  

  • One area you might not have considered though, is vengeance is deceptive -- it's completely based in lies.  You don't announce your sneaky plans.  You don't warn the target.  Sure, you spout out, "I'll get you back -- you'll pay for this!"  But that's a threat at the time you use to wound the other's emotions, to cause fear, to bully.  It's not honest and open.  Revenge only works when you lie.  You lie to yourself, thinking that the revenge will make you happy or happy again.  And, you have to lie to your target.  Revenge won't possibly work if they know your tactics or your timing, so you have to maintain the lie to make your fatal move...

So basically, vengeance make you neurotic, rots you from the inside out, dishonors you, and turns you into a liar.  Let me know how that works out for you.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Reading Darwinism though the Bible's lens

As a follower of Christ, I draw certain conclusions about reality from my understanding of the Bible.  One conclusion that is simple to me, is the origin of the universe.  I see the handiwork of a Creator in the Big Bang.  Even though I disagree with Darwin's idea on evolution and I disagree with his disciples's view of the origins of all physical-matter, I am deeply enriched by reading widely from authors who are Darwinists.  I find many benefits of reading widely, even from reading people who hold the complete opposite views on natural/supernatural realities.  

One of the best books on understanding people I have ever read was "The Social Animal" by David Brooks.  I couldn't put the book down.  It was based on research about how our brains and our emotions control us. It was written not as a textbook with quoting dry data, but written as a narrative, I'd even say in the form of a parable, on the lives of two people from pre-birth to death.  I literally was so moved by the book, I cried as I read the ending!  The book as as "Pro" Darwin as you can get, and I loved it!

Another great author, who embraces Darwin and who has blessed me is Daniel Pink.  I could go on listing several, phenomenally talented authors, who write about important ideas but hold contradictory belief systems.  My point is, I have read several books written from an anti-theological/militant-Darwinist perspective and I have grown personally from these works.  My faith wasn't shipwrecked.  I guess the old saying about reading books is like eating fish, has some truth to it.

Some of you might think this is risky to one's faith, reading books from an evolutionist's perspective.  I guess that might be true for some who have a fragile faith to start with; for me it has strengthened my faith.  I've read on all kinds of subjects from the inner workings of the human brain to multidimensional universes, to physics and math, to leadership and emotional intelligence -- and all written from people who believe when we die we cease to exist.  These authors no more believe in God than I do a "man on the moon."  And, I've grown so much from their writing, it pains me to think where I'd be if I refused to read their books because their core ideas clashed with my faith system.  

For me, the benefits of reading authors who strongly embrace evolution and reject the supernatural,  include becoming more articulate in important conversational realms.  It has also contributed to the formation and personal ownership of my Christian faith.  No doubt, I have grown intellectually too along the way here.  I want to add, you can't say you don't believe "Darwin" if never read him, or, you reject modern scientific conclusions, if you don't really know what they are.  That type of an anti-intellectual approach is embarrassing, and has done more harm to the Christian faith.

Final thought: Throughout history, both science and the church have gotten it wrong, plenty of times. We must admit we are all on a growing curve.  Plus, theories on science are transient; who knows what the next 200 years will reveal.  A worthwhile question to mull over as you compare and contrast your beliefs is: Which system can offer a why?  In other words, science can offer a "what" when it comes to investigating physical realities, but it will never be able to offer a "Why" as to reason there is in existence the very cosmos it is investigating.  Humanity can live any "what" but it is driven by the "why"