May I share an excellent post by Tim Fall
I have my client’s permission to tell you about a great idea he had. We had been talking about the perils of being self-employed… keeping a good schedule, being productive, making plans and following through, all with self-discipline as the main driver. He said, “I need an imaginary boss.” Next time he was at the huge, sell everything store he picked up an inexpensive action hero, his favorite League of Justice hero, put it in his home office, and told himself that this “boss” was there to advise him, keep him on task, and train him in self-discipline. And, it has worked.
I realized, and shared a little with him about why it may be working. It builds habits with a humorous way, moving ideas from the impulse level up to more rational and productive executive function areas of the brain. After a minute or so of that, we were both tired of academics, and we returned to the thrill of the chase. That is, how can we get to where we want to be in our efforts, when we are the boss. At the end of the day, week, or year, we need to feel a sense of accomplishment.
In praise of imaginary friends, it helps him to be able to say, “What would _______ say at a time like this?” Let me admit that there have been plenty of times that I have said to myself, “What would Ole Roy do at a time like this?” (If you don’t know who that is, go to You Tube, and look up Roy Rogers.)
I will frequently say to couples in marriage counseling, “What would Harley and Davidson do at a time like this?” Most partnerships would go out of business if they did not communicate, and share influence/decisions any better than some couples do.
Most of us talk to ourselves, and we aren’t imaginary. We do it to get some reflection and some perspective about ourselves. Can we mentor ourselves, especially when other mentors are not available?
I recommend some other of these internal references. We need to think on those good and wise things said by others over the years.
Our Imaginary Sage can be a collection of those shared quotes and stories told us by people who have learned and loved the truth.
Our Imaginary Coach can be sum of good motivators and teachers we have had.
Our Imaginary Critic can remind us of the uncaring folks out there who want to make us feel as stymied in life as they do. The imaginary one in our mind can let us practice as we say to them, “I am content with my better way of making well rounded decisions about this.” One more thing, an important thing, in your mind, be sure your imaginary critic is tied to a tree, so that you can keep on walking down your chosen road.
Imagination doesn’t have to be about fiction.
Imagination is what developers and inventers use to come up with new tools, products, solutions, and even changes in life itself. It can be about the future, and how we can accomplish. One of my favorite books is one I have read several times, with a title I think of at least scores of times a year since I first read it in the 70’s. It is by Edward C. Briggs, Will It Matter What I Was?, and it challenges me. Imagine the future you want and head that direction, but you have to do it every day.
May I contribute to your collection of good advice?
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Paul in Philippians 4:8
Paul is telling the truth, recommending the truth of a real relationship with a real and living God. Living an effective Christian life needs healthy thinking… and before we ask, “What Would Jesus Do?”, we need to read, understand, and put into committed practice, “What Jesus Did….” Find your gifts and callings, and find good relationships with other encouragers in the faith.
Another wonderful article by Tim Fall… (Thanks Tim)
[From the archives.]
A few years ago Voddie Baucham made the outlandish claim that shyness is a sin. Then he said that when he sees a shy kid he knows better than the kid’s own parents how to fix that kid’s sin. (Skip to 2 minutes 30 seconds if you want to bypass his insistence on corporal punishment when children are just a few weeks old, because “your kids desperately need to be spanked”.)
As he puts it toward the end of the video clip:
Let me give you an example, a prime example. The so-called shy kid, who doesn’t shake hands at church, okay? Usually what happens is you come up, ya’ know and here I am, I’m the guest and I walk up and I’m saying hi to somebody and they say to their kid “Hey, ya’ know, say good morning to Dr. Baucham,” and the kid hides and runs…
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Many people have heard of what John Gottman calls the Four Horsemen of a failing marriage; Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness; and Stonewalling. Recently, I noticed a feature of these four threats to marriage, something I had not noticed before. May I share some thoughts about what I discovered?
First, in case you have not read the excellent book, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, let me recommend it, highly. Gottman brings over 40 years of good research to the book and to many other marriage publications and training opportunities. So much opinion on the street is only anecdotal, or repeated from other people, yet with little or no research findings to inform and document the views. Of course, much opinion is provided by the individual’s own experience in a marriage. This book is an informative read, an easy read, and it contains excellent exercises for a couple to practice together.
Criticism attacks the character of the other person. There should be room for a legitimate complaint, given without fight-talk or spite-talk, but when attacks happen and these attacks become vicious, the relationship is in trouble. Often a client will say, “Of course, I didn’t mean it…”, to which I say, “Actually, you did mean something… You meant to hurt, and disable the spirit of your spouse. Yes, you did.”
Contempt is especially bad… it is the most dangerous of the four. Contempt suggests that all hope is lost, that nothing will ever be done well enough by the recipient of the contempt, and that this is a continuous, underlying attitude, not just found during an argument but all the time. There are antidotes, but they are seldom used.
Defensiveness tries to make it all about the defender, or it tries to turn things around and make it the other person’s fault. I call this latter one the, “Oh yeah, what about you…”, defense. It is the most common horseman, and is dangerous mostly because it shows up so often, but it is also the most curable…good news.
Stonewalling happens for many reasons, of course we can’t always hear why from the Stonewaller. By definition, this person is giving their spouse the silent treatment. Sometime it is happening because the spouse is using one of the other horsemen, and the stonewaller is trying to escape. Other times it may be because this person has brought with them a habit from childhood, and they may actually believe this is the only way they can survive.
That thought about survival is what made me notice something new, for me. Here it is. All four of these horsemen are about survival and safety. However, however, however… they are all about safety for only one person, and about danger for the other person. Why should only one person be safe?
For those couples that Gottman calls, “the Masters of Relationship”, safety is something shared. The relationship is treated as more important than the issue being talked about. The Masters of Relationship don’t build their relationship around using anger to communicate, nor do they build it around worry that their spouse might “get mad”. (Not that you can’t have anger or other emotions, but emotions are there to inform you about your well-being, but anger is not a good communication tool. It would be like using your smoke detector as an oven timer.)
Sharing safety is about kindness, a trait for both people to practice, but it is also dependent upon the belief by both people that they will both be heard, understood, and treated fairly by the other. Lots of good results turn risk into trust and confidence. This can be tough for the person who grew up seldom or never seeing it modeled by their parents, and maybe not in their previous relationships. But… it can be true for the couple that becomes committed to the experience.
It isn’t supposed to be hard, in fact it is supposed to be easy, and it is for the kind, the loving, the courageous… those who abandon selfishness, and share safety, for the purpose of resolving the issue and blessing the relationship.
My family was from East Texas, and I did a lot of growing up there (though I was born in Louisiana), so I learned the language. Lots of colorful expressions came to me from there. This one about two ticks and no dog comes to mind quite often in working with couples in counseling. Not to talk about any one of them, that’s confidential, but to say that with Lots of them I see two hurting people, wanting help from the other, but both either have nothing to give or they have an internal rule against giving.
When they have nothing to give, perhaps it is because the trauma and abuse they feel has depleted them, taken away their personality and strength, or built a wall of stone. The abuse may have happened long before the marriage, or in the marriage alone, or in both before and after. Regardless, they have their emotional arms wrapped around them and their head covered with lots of “never again’s” and “I know what I’ll do’s” to protect them from any further attack. I have made another discovery. Sometimes it is because they learned about “romance” in Jr. High school and their knowledge of people and relationships has not grown much since that time.
So, what do we do? We start with self-awareness, and with a search for what made the wall necessary. We must not just tear down the wall if the relationship is still hurtful. Self-awareness is part of what J. B. Phillips was talking about when he developed his translation of the New Testament verse, Romans 12:2, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold”. Sometimes even the world right at home can mold us into someone other than the person God created us to be. Couples begin speaking in “we-think”. An abusive partner may enforce compliance with their ideas. In the case of the “two ticks and no dog” couple, maybe both have tried to enforce compliance and both have become exhausted.
Recovering self-awareness takes a lot of conversation with our selves, and a lot of choice making and growing in wisdom, but it can happen. Next, comes assertively expressing ourselves to others without being a people pleaser, and also without being a bully toward them. Differences of opinion and personality need to be O.K., and they can even be fun. What happens when one spouse begins to speak for themselves, is that the other spouse may struggle with two things, 1) that their spouse isn’t blindly following them, and 2) that they themselves are now only speaking for their own self, and they too, will need to get used to more independence.
After self-awareness, and the assertiveness this involves, both ticks, ooops, I mean, People, will need to develop and share sensitivity. No couple becomes a happy and fulfilled couple without the ability to communicate about unmet needs, and do it in a way that is loving and helpful. Seeking the best for one another, as well as ourselves, practicing cooperation, openness, trustworthiness, and truthfulness with each other, two people can grow together, in reciprocal equality.
They will no longer be two ticks with no dog. They will be two strong people who can join each other to build a life together.
Another excellent article to share… more truth is out…
I have argued before that the Nashville Statement, seemingly about gay and transgender people, is actually a stealth way to make evangelicals sign on sexist values. Here is another piece of evidence.
The CBMW web page currently start with the Nashville statement right beside their Danvers statement on Biblical™ Manhood and Womanhood. These are the first and biggest things you see on the web page of an organization which exist to promote gender roles:
Almost at the top of the list of initial signatories, and one of the main endorsers, is Russell Moore. In a 2007 interview i, Moore said:
“… most of the people in our churches are in same-sex marriages right now, they just don’t realize it. Because you have people who have marriages in which we do not have male headship, you do not have male protection…”
According to Moore, to let go of…
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May I share another blog post? This is one, of the blogs I read, and this post, I believe, is one to share. I have often shared this same thoughts with clients in the Counseling Room.
Do you often feel guilty that you struggle with anxiety? Do you beat yourself up afterwards? When you hear, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything and with thanksgiving present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6-7) do you feel more burdened knowing that you are often anxious and filled with worry?
Indeed the Scriptures speak very frequently about our anxieties and worries. Might it be that it is a human experience (this side of the Fall) that will not be removed? If you worried less about your worries; if you felt less shame and guilt for them, how might that change how you respond to your worries?
I leave you with this thought as you ponder your way of responding to your worry. Psalm 56:3 says, When I am afraid I put my trust in you. It doesn’t say that such trust erases fear. You can be afraid and…
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I am reading a challenging but thoroughly interesting book these days. It is, The People’s Book, edited by Jennifer Powell McNutt and David Lauber. This collection of Papers is in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the appearance of Luther’s Ninety-five Thesis.
In a chapter by G. Sujin Pak, Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity at Duke University, there is a focus we do well to stop and ponder. Dr. Pak points out that the usual view of that time and environment was that church leadership had forbidden all but the clergy and the professors from having scripture, reading it for themselves, and sharing it with others. The truth is, Pak says, is that all laypersons had, at some location, access to the scriptures. But, there was a catch…
Also, themes such as salvation by grace had been talked about in many of the ivory towers of theology. But, there was a catch…
Dr. Pak says that one of the major effects of the reformation was to move this mere access to the scripture, all the way over to action about the scripture. The catch mentioned above was that the discussion of scripture often stayed in the ivory tower. Plus, even though the layperson could obtain access to scripture, the layperson was often discouraged from doing so by 1) leaders who told them they would be wasting their time and would only be confused, and 2) leaders who, themselves, did not read much scripture, but only literature about scripture.
A major outgrowth of the Reformation that affected all churches and all believers was the move to action about the Word of God. Scriptures were rediscovered and were proclaimed in the churches and even in the homes and the streets. Scriptures like…
John 6:45, “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” (Jesus)
Joel 2:28, “It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions.”
I Peter 2:9, But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;…”
I Corinthians 14:31, For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;…”
What was this??? It looks like all believers were called to read, interpret, share with others, encourage and build up one another. Then, we have come to believe, that the Word of God, shared with one another, and voraciously taken in by the believers who are reading it, will be used by the Spirit of God to bring about growth and maturity in the lives of believers. This was the predecessor of our modern day Sunday School classes in which we grapple with the study of the word of God, whether we are clergy or layperson… whether we are young or old in the faith. It is the predecessor of the home group, if the home group meets for Bible study and Bible understanding. It is even the predecessor of the two people, or more people, or just one person who sit at someone’s table to open the Bible, and open their hearts to see what God will have for them.
It’s not just about access, it’s about action…
The Apostle, John, said in his own letter, I John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
For this Blog post/ Bible Study I will depend much on the work of Stan Grenz, and his book, Prayer- the Cry for the Kingdom. His outline and his thoughts are excellent.
Grenz states that “praying according to God’s Will has to do with both the petitioner and the petition.” He quotes John Allan Lavender, “Spirituality leads to effective praying, whereas the prayer of the unspiritual person is of no avail.”
Grenz writes about the importance of our own condition.
- Sin hinders prayer. Psalm 66:18 says “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear”
- As stated in the study of the Lord’s Model Prayer, our two great enemies are our own sin, and also the unforgiveness of the sins of others. “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” Mark 11:25
- Interpersonal problems affect our prayers negatively. Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
- I Peter 3:7 says, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone more susceptible to harm, as a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” A lack of mutuality in marriage will hinder prayer.
- Here is another… Proverbs 21:13 “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered.”
Isaiah sums it up in chapter 59 verses 1-2, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short
That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
Next, Grenz points out the importance of proper motivation. “Our calling as disciples of Jesus is to engage in the business of the King.” A Look at the prayers of Paul showed that, “his central desire was that [his readers] come to a full knowledge of—that is, that they experience fully—the love of Christ.” And James warned against wrong motives. Chapter 4:3. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
Third, the Lord calls us into cooperation with him in his work in this world. “Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38 “The willingness to cooperate with God in the granting of one’s request brings results, whereas unwillingness to be God’s tool leads to ineffectiveness.”
A fourth principle of praying according to the Will of God is that it will naturally be compatible with the Word of God. It is Biblical Prayer and may easily, even rightly, be “seasoned with God’s purposes as disclosed in scripture.” Luke gives us an example of this in Acts 4:23-31, as believers prayed in response to the threats of the Rulers-
“When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, ‘O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM,
who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
‘WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE,
AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS?
‘THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND,
AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER
AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’
‘For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.’” And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
Then there is another principle of praying according to God’s Will. Many times we think of those things we may want and we check them out against God’s Will in scripture. We want to see if our wishes are in accord. This is appropriate, but it is not complete. It is also our calling to make sure we know God’s wishes about all matters of his Will, and how he wants to include us. God’s Will isn’t just about checking out our Will, but also growing in the life of letting his Will become our Will. Is there more I should be wanting for Him.
Let’s pray for areas of concern to God and the believer-
- For those who have not committed their lives to Christ,
- For the world’s needs, evangelism, missions, peacemaking, feeding, helping, etc.,
- For world leaders,
- For social action,
- For other Christians,
- For situations in which God’s Will is not known,
- For the sick, the grieving, broken hearts, broken spirits, broken minds,
- For those who suffer abuse, for those who fight abuse, for how we should fight abuse,
- The list goes on.
Stanley Grenz, Prayer- the Cry for the Kingdom, revised edition, 2005, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, chapters 3-4, pages 54-92
 Grenz, p. 55
 Grenz, p. 59
 Grenz, p. 61
 Grenz, p.64
How do we serve God? The question took on a finer point recently when it went to “How will we serve God when we get to Heaven and no one has needs, needs that we can help fill in His name, no one lacks a knowledge of God that we can help fill in His name, and so on.” I like questions that make me go deeper, and answers that help me live better, so I dove into the search. Understanding feels good.
How do we serve? I think of the first and obvious answers. I serve God by the church experience of expression through music, letting that shared expression call me into remembering and learning from adoration. For me, the preaching is part of worship (the biggest part, in fact) as I encounter the pathos of a text from God’s revelation in his word. We serve in other ways at church, teaching, sweeping, giving, decorating, cooking, visiting the sick, encouraging each other, repairing stuff from the light switch to the air conditioning, and in many more ways.
But there is more serving of God outside the church. Whether through a church sponsored event or one we find on our own, we serve God through taking food to the hungry, helping people in need because of failing health, age, catastrophe, being the kind witness for the person struggling with their own internal questions about the purpose of their life, and many other ways.
What does the Bible say?
Perhaps we can find the simple advice helpful about service to God. Be like Jesus, and do what comes naturally. Look at how many times “Love one another” and “Build up one another” appear in scripture. This is serving God.
The most basic service to God is about where it all begins, which is not any of our efforts at all. We are saved by his grace. He came looking for us and found us. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:10) He has begun a work in our life that he will finish. (Philippians 1:3-6) Out of this new creaturely-ness (II Corinthians 5:17), our serving of God begins.
Again with the basics, I see Romans 12:1-2, and then Romans 12:3-8, and don’t stop reading even there.
1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
This phrase often translated “spiritual service” or “reasonable service” can also be translated “logical, philosophically sound, service”.
3For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
One of the challenging stories from the early writings is the story of Rehoboam. In II Chronicles 12:1-16. It is a sad story of how he “Forsook the law of the Lord.” He weakened the nation of Judah spiritually, and also practically, so that Shishak of Egypt marched against the nation. When many leaders of the land humbled themselves, God spared Judah from vast destruction, but the land became subservient to Egypt. God allowed this as the scripture says in verse 8 …“so that they may learn the difference between My service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.”
Yes, serving God is different from serving those people or things that oppress us, or call for us to follow along with them. “The way of the treacherous is hard.” So says Proverbs 13:15. Galatians 6:8 says “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
But, what does it mean to serve God? As stated above, it is being like Jesus and doing what comes naturally. It is bringing others to Christ and his salvation; it is loving each other in our treatment of each other; and building up each other by helping each other be stronger and encouraged, and forgiving each other. It is concern and social action for a world in its paralysis and its shame, it is turning a broken person’s hiding place into a meeting place… thus building this new community and fellowship we call Christ’s church. We call these actions being obedient to The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and The Great Commandment. (Matthew 22:36-40) It is the prayer for God’s Kingdom and Will to become real in this Earth as it is in Heaven.
One passage that I think should be read and re-read every few weeks is John 15:7-17. There in v.15, Jesus says, “I have called you friends.” Is that a glimpse of serving God in heaven… friends sharing each day together, in that place God has prepared for us.
As I read the description of heaven in the book of Revelation, I am struck by all the things that won’t be there. No sorrow, no pain, no sin, and the list goes on. We won’t serve by reform movements or challenging social ills. We won’t serve by growing the church. We will still serve by loving, won’t we? We will have full and complete fellowship with Jesus, with no interference between. Heaven seems to be about relationship, worship, friendship, thanksgiving, freedom, knowing even as we are known. But when we are there, perhaps we will see that these were a large part of what we called service while we were here.
 See the excellent writing about this prayer, in Prayer- the Cry for the Kingdom, Revised Edition, by Stanley Grenz.