Thursday, January 26, 2017

It's A Mirror Not A Window!

Is it true that the moment you drove that gray crossover off the lot there was a national run on gray crossovers?

No. But there’s no denying that you are seeing them everywhere, and you’d never even noticed them before. What’s up with that?

Awareness and Connection

No reference means there’s no connection which boils down to no awareness.
Once you became the proud owner of that new vehicle you automatically became aware, and your mind expanded to make room for this new item of interest. Now, any information connected to this new item - of which you are now aware - gets a pass to the front of the would-you-look-at-that line in your brain.

This phenomenon has been dubbed “selective selectivity”.  It’s a study exploring our mind’s limitations to see only what is already believed, find only what we are looking for, and recognize only what we are already familiar with.

It’s both fascinating and frightening.  And - like so many things - we find God’s warning concerning this in His Word. We learn in Genesis that humanity was forever changed in an attempt to be like God, knowing good and evil.  Do you realize humans already knew good?

We read something very hard for our minds to grasp in Matthew 19:17.  Jesus is responding to the way a man had addressed him.  “Why do you call me good?  There is only one who is good and that is God…”  Adam already knew good because he had walked with God!  What the story of the garden tells us is that humans wanted to change the rules and in changing the rules we could then change roles.  The new rules took effect immediately and we became godlike in our minds and the game - to keep the scales tipped in favor of good over evil - became the basis of our spiritual pursuits and judgments.

Selective selectivity doesn’t get suspended when we pick up a Bible. And this is a problem. It means we simply find reinforcements for what is already believed, see only what we are already familiar with and are focused on.  And what is it that we are focused on?  Usually it’s ourselves, our problems, our wants, our ways of thinking, our preferences, and our prejudices.  I know. It’s not a pretty reality.

I don’t think I’d be too far off in saying most people read the Bible in an effort to gain an understanding about God, His laws, ways, demands and expectations.  It might be viewed as a how-to manual for properly identifying and punishing wrongdoers. Other folks might read it like a treasure map or a mystery sprinkled with clues pointing to the ultimate end of humanity.  Or sometimes we read in an effort to tip the scales in favor of our idea of good; like little windows into heaven’s ways, earth’s future and God’s heart. Maybe there’s something to that, but James, Jesus’ brother, likened the Word of God to a mirror, not a window.

What does that have to do with selective selectivity?  Well, because we are now hardwired to believe we are like God, we think He is like us. And, because we actually think we know what it is to be God, when we pick up the Bible our study is with a limited bias. (Because gods must know everything, well really good ones do anyway.)   I hear it all the time.  “If I was God…” News flash!  You’re not!   “God’s fed up with…” Ah, no.  You’re the one who’s fed up, not Him.  “God’s judging such and such sin.”  Wrong again.  Sin has already been judged.

When you approach the Bible as a mirror, rather than a window, you’ll begin to recognize yourself in all you faulty humanity.  It’s a bummer. I know.  But when I began doing this, something transformational happened.  I surrendered my “I am god” card and embraced Him as God. It became much easier to say, “I don’t know”.  And it became so much easier to see how great the Father’s love is for imperfect people and how far reaching His plan.

The next time you pick up the Bible, become aware of its reflective qualities. Recognize the fact that what you’re seeing on those pages is humanity in its various stages of imperfection, and make the connection between God’s unwavering commitment to loving you back into His arms.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Need Someone To Coach Me!

Our youngest had always been a solid hitter for her softball team but something was wrong that tournament weekend.  She couldn’t get her bat to make contact with
that ball.  All the go-to people in her softball world were playing in a golf tournament and unavailable.  I was no help, I can’t tell a shoulder drop from a late swing.

“What am I doing wrong?” It was obvious that the frustration was threatening to spill over her lower eye-lids.

I offered a shoulder shrug and a head shake.  And that’s when I heard a statement so profound it resonates as clearly today as it did over a decade ago.

“I need someone to coach me!”

Of course! She needed someone who not only knew the game she was playing, but who had spent time observing her, would know her capabilities, and areas she tended to struggled in.

I could think of only one person that day who might be available to help.  One teammate’s dad was not there because of work, not golf.  I summoned my courage, which was bolstered by the defeated look in my daughter’s eyes, and we drove to his workplace.  We walked in and I explained our reason for bothering him at work.

He asked Rachel a couple questions and after hearing her answers simply said, “You’re swinging too early.  Relax and wait for it.”

She nodded her head and said, “You’re right!” And I watched defeat morph into realization.

We headed back to the tournament and sure enough, the slump was over.

When you’re in a slump, life isn’t working, and the harder you try the bigger the whiff,  do what all truly successful people have done. Find a coach.  Someone who can see what you cannot.

Our society is comfortable with the concept of coaching when it comes to sports, careers, and hobbies.  But in matters of lasting significance like relationship, personal and spiritual growth, we are less enthusiastic when it comes to getting help.   These are the same areas where we, as a nation, seem to experience the most strike-outs.  Maybe it’s time to find a person who knows the game we want to win at, has spent time observing us, knows our capabilities, and recognizes our areas of struggle.  Maybe then our personal, relational, and spiritual lives will begin to enjoy the satisfaction and success as have our career and leisure lives.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Getting Your Ducks In A Row

Some things can seem overwhelming when you don't have any idea 

where to start.  The need to 'get your affairs in order' might fall in that 

category for more than a few folks out there.  

I've been doing some research in this area myself lately and have

compiled some helpful information into a single PDF file.  

It's not a complete list of things to do, but it's a painless way to get the

ball rolling.

Getting your ducks in a row is a wonderful way to show your loved 

ones just how much you love them.

Say "I love you"  in 2017  by getting your ducks in a row.

The Healer Makes House Calls

Several years ago, a person I’ve known for decades told me his story…

In high school things got really tough; manifesting in: mountains of homework, frustration, anxiety, and exacerbating a painful stomach ulcer. The solution - psychologists? Counseling? Tutors? An internist? No. He went to an optometrist! While looking out a window during the eye exam, the Doctor asked him to describe the scene and to point out the building that had a different colored roof. He could have more realistically been asked to recite the Declaration of Independence. A few days later, while wearing his newly prescribed glasses, he was again asked to describe the scene outside the office window.

"Red" he shouted. "The roof is red. Not only that, I can make out the individual shingles." And after an awe-filled moment or two he turned from the window and said, "I didn't know that you could see each leaf hanging separately on a tree."

So, what's my point? Pay attention to symptoms. Including the painful ones. What my friend knew was that his dreams were going to not be realized because they required very high grades and a much higher education.

His dreams were clear but his perspective was foggy. He had no idea how much he was not seeing. From his vantage point things were normal. But the pain had a purpose. It brought to light things in need of attention.

When life is full of pain, pay attention! Painful things like frustration, anger, anxiety, depression, hate, disappointment, stress, despair, sorrow, rage, jealousy, impatience, and bitterness are on the short list.

Attempts to do away with pain might include busy-ness (work or play), diversion (becoming overly involved in someone else's life so you can ignore your own), religion (trying to get the at-a-boy punch card filled with rules and rituals), materialism (buying relief), mood altering consumption (drugs/alcohol/food) or pursuing forbidden pleasures. These are nothing more than an indication that there is a wound in the heart that has made it impossible for a person to clearly see reality. Great news though. The Healer makes house calls. He stands at your heart's door, cure in hand, but will only enter where and when invited.

Invite Him into the secret chambers of your wounded heart. You'll discover that wherever you permit His presence, the fog will lift because He will bring light, life, wholeness and a clear-kingdom-of-God-perspective.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Been Intoxicated Lately?

If a=b you can plug either into an equation and reach the same conclusion. That is one of only three things I remember from my nine years of algebra (three of my own and two for each of my kids). This algebraic concept came wafting up recently while I was wandering through the book of Proverbs.

Wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging; whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. Proverbs 20:1

There I was, minding my own business when I heard the question, “If wine is a mocker, what is mockery?”


“Yes! What about rage?”

“I'm gonna go with strong drink?”

“Exactly! And what are both wine and strong drink known to produce?”


Oh boy. Since the hard fought efforts of the prohibitionists, of the previous century, expounders of Biblical truth have focused solely on the a=b equation. I’ve yet to hear anyone chime in on the b=a side of that verse. So, here goes.

The verse doesn’t say wine makes you a mockery (although it can) nor does it say strong drink makes you rage (again, it might). The proverb uses the word “is”. Mockery is a wine and rage is a strong drink. The issue is about intoxication and not necessarily the alcohol induced kind.

I’m going out on a limb here and say if given the choice between a room full of Merlot sippers or folks overdoing it at the annual Christmas party, and a single, stone-cold sober mocker or person in a rage, I’ll take my chances with the party folks. I am not saying there are not dangers or that there are not those who get violent when they are intoxicated with alcohol. But I do think it’s time to shed some light on the intoxicating effects of our own emotions and the dangers of group think. 

A quick look at the 2016 presidential campaign protester’s use of mockery, and the post-election protesters use of rage provides a case in point.

Mockery feeds off of the pain, chaos, and confusion it inflicts on others. Those who employ this tactic are doing so from a place of weakness, ignorance, and insecurity, (think grade-school bully) but that doesn’t diminish the destruction a mocker is capable of inflicting while imbibing on this powerful, self-perpetuating, intoxicating, drug of choice.

Rule #5 of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals (a book and ideology lauded by some of the highest political players in our land) says it this way: 

     “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.” 

And, according to the Word of God, it is intoxicating and deceptive to those who engage in its practice.

Rage is different. Rage feeds on the fear it produces in others.   Collateral damage is of little or no consequence when one is in the intoxicating throes of rage. It was the raging crowd that demanded Christ's crucifixion, and a raging Hitler who exterminated millions.  Rage sees others as enemies blocking the desired objective and believes destroying anyone or anything that stands between them and their fixation is justified.  

To be wise, one must abstain from mockery and rage so as never to be deceived by their intoxicating effects. Mocking is wine, raging is strong drink; whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Christmas Shopping

One summer, a few years ago, I wandered into a store that specializes in retro styles.
It was there that I had an encounter that sparked the recollection of something five decades past. I circled the display table while relishing the emotions my heart surrendered to my consciousness and dared my hands to pick up the item I knew had triggered the memory. When I touched the jewel-toned aluminum tumblers I was transported back the summer I turned five. It was a sweltering day when Aunt Phyllis introduced my world to these gleaming metal marvels when she served her guests root-beer floats in them. I remember the fascination of witnessing, whether by miracle or magic, those amazing vessels produce a whisper thin layer of opaque frost. Oh how I wished to have such articles of lovely luster in our cupboard at home.

Fast forward to December of that same year. Dad announces his intention to go to Motive Parts.

Motive Parts and Supply-unlike McDonalds- doesn't lure customers in with smiling clowns and enormous play lands. No, I'd venture to bet that unless a child had actually ever crossed its threshold, ever begged, pleaded, or threw a tantrum in hopes of getting a peek inside the nondescript, rectangular brick structure flanked by chain link and tire towers. But those informed and privileged few (like my brothers and myself) knew the pleasures that awaited us in the toy aisles of Motive Parts were second to none. Unlike the toy aisles at K-Mart which could only be perused with parents present, we kids could wander, wonder and wish to our heart’s content in Motive Parts. Unfettered by fears of stranger abduction, while Dad (usually holding a greasy piece of broken steel, worked with the parts guy and his catalog) was well within earshot. So when Dad announced his intention to go to Motive Parts my brother Rick and I grabbed our coats and coins and raced to the pick-up.

As luck would have it that December day in 1966, Mom elected to stay home (perfect for covert shopping operations). I headed straight to the kitchen and housewares section in search of the Holy Grail of all gifts: jewel-toned aluminum tumblers. I pulled them from their shelf with an exuberance that proved short lived. It was crushed by my brother’s explanation of affordability and cost constraints.

It was a defeated and dejected pre-schooler, in the throes of learning a life lesson called compromise, that Dad found next to the check-out counter clutching a shrink-wrapped package of pallid, pastel, plastic juice glasses.

The chasm between desire and resources was simply too wide to span. I was forced to settle for the gift equivalent of a booby prize.

That gift cost me forty-one cents and I'll tell you why I remember that.

When Dad found me holding the less spectacular gift selection he took it, along with any other gifts Rick and I had decided on, and paid for them, assuring us that it was simpler that way and that we’d settle the bill at home. That night, I went to him. My chubby left fist holding all of my accumulated wealth. I remember holding out my hand and watching Dad lift a quarter, a dime, a nickel and one penny.

“There, that’s just right.” He punctuated the declaration with a quick nod.

The fact that I still had money left in my palm eradicated the day’s disappointment.
I don't know when I realized that Daddies (and Mommies) habitually take what their child has to offer, make up the difference themselves and use their power to declare any debt satisfied, paid in full, just right.

Dad hadn’t denied me the pleasure of participation in the transaction. He made sure I contributed a price that was proportionally significant, while he covered the deficit.

Years later, I came to desire another unattainable prize: a forgiven life of grace and peace. What did I have to offer in exchange for this magnificent prize? Forty-one cents worth of sweat and tears, failure and sin. This time it was my Heavenly Father who graciously received my inadequate offering and declared it to be, “Just right”.

Through the years I’ve been tempted to entertain the idea that God lied, that I still owe something to cover the bill. That when we settled up. He bought my life from the slave-master of sin and re-enslaved me to Himself. Not so. The word says that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free. That I am no longer called a servant but a son. There is no denying that what I gave in exchange for the gift of a life of freedom couldn't possibly have covered the actual cost but He is Dad.

He's the One Who took what I had to offer and declared it to be Just Right.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

That Will Stay

Remember the show Clean House? Simple premise:  a work crew would help families - swallowed by stuff - regain their lives and homes.   Although I didn’t have stuff taking up every square inch of my home, whenever I watched this show, something inside felt very familiar.  When the subconscious message finally broke through to the conscious part of my mind, it was a classic “duh” moment.

Humans are extremely complex when taken as a whole. It’s helpful, when working with people (yourself included), to separate that whole into more manageable systems.  I see five distinct – separate but united – areas: bodies, souls, minds, hearts and spirits.  Physicians, personal trainers, chefs, and parents are some of the professions  focusing on the physical needs of the human body.  Educators, philosophers, psychologists, counselors, and parents are a few examples of those primarily concerned with developing the mind.  In the book of Hebrews we learn that issues of the soul are what pastors (and parents) deal with, while  God, Himself, works on human spirits. But, the heart is an area that is the sole responsibility of individuals themselves.  In Proverbs 4:23 we are instructed to, “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it springs the issues of life.”  NKJV    

What is the heart?  Referenced nearly 1,000 times in the Bible, I’m lead to believe the heart is a big deal.   Jesus tells us exactly what the heart’s function is when explaining  the sower parable in Luke 8 "…The seed is the word of God… then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts…"  The heart is where beliefs grow; and it doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to know that not every belief flourishing in the hearts of humanity is worthy of the real estate it holds. 

Just like those television programs that featured families whose houses were overrun with clutter and stuff, our hearts  become overwhelmed with beliefs that no longer (if ever) serve our lives in positive, constructive, beautiful ways.  The inexplicable draw to those shows was my heart’s silent cry for me to  attend to my responsibility for its  keeping.  Like a homeowner deciding what goes and stays in their effort to build a home of peace and beauty one item at a time; we must decide what is permitted  in our hearts - one belief at a time.  The heart-owner is the only one authorized to make those decisions.