Raw Reflections from the Journey

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Key to Living Loving: Die and Then Die Some More

Like a runner who collapses one step past the finish line, I collapse when I cross the threshold of our home after traveling out of town for several days. It's time to exhale, to rest, and to be served...or so I sometimes think, and that's where the problems begin.

"What do I want? What do I need" I think to myself as I anticipate arriving home.
- hugs and affection
- a good meal
- an opportunity to share my feelings and reflections from the journey
- or maybe some solitude because I'm an introvert who needs alone time after periods of people-time

Not unreasonable, right? So what's the problem? Well, I'm not the only one with needs. Jill too (and the girls) are usually waiting to talk and to do some things on their minds. So...who goes first?

We're learning that when we are running on fumes, meaning that we are physically, emotionally and relationally spent, that we are both apt to want to go first. And that's a lot like trying to walk through the same doorway at the same time. It doesn't work very well. But what does work is taking turns. You go first, and I'll wait my turn. Die to self so that relationship might live.

Dying to self. Not just impatiently waiting for my turn, but truly dying. "If this need is never met by a human being it's ok, because I have you Lord. I can talk to you, find solace in you, and I know that you understand...you were a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and in you I have a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

Now, the cool thing relationally is that when I die to demanding that my needs get met, then I am free to live loving by focusing on ways I can serve and meet others needs; and when they offer to give something to me I am free in my spirit to graciously receive what they offer as icing on the cake instead of obligatory (and possibly begrudging) fulfillment of my demand. Is this making sense?

For example: When I arrive home from a trip, weary or enthused (it varies by the nature of the day; whether it's been full of ministry vs. quiet reflection, and how the travel went) I can assert for my needs (rest or conversation, affection or solitude) OR I can decide to ask and discern how I can serve the needs of my family (hugs, conversation about events, tasks/chores, etc.). The latter is what I am equating to dying; dying to self (my desires) that others and my relationship with them might live.

To love is to sacrifice and to pay a price. Dying to self makes room for others needs to be met. When I live loved ("He loves me") I can more easily die to self and live more loving in relationship with others. What do you think? On a scale of 1-10 how loving do you live, and how is that related to your willingness to die?

Learning to live loved and to live loving,


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Engaging Relationships: How to Handle Offenses and Hurts

What do you do when someone tells you something about someone else?

I had an experience recently that led me to ask myself this question. "How do I handle a conversation when someone complains to me about someone else; when they tell me that they have a concern, or that they have been offended, or when they denigrate or demean someone?"

We (Jill and I) were once part of a community of believers that had a covenant between us about how to conduct relationships. We were very intentional about how we handled situations like I described above. These were the guidelines:

1. We committed to not participate in a conversations where the topic became about someone that wasn't present.

2. We agreed to encourage the person with a concern about someone to approach the other person directly.

3. We promised to approach the person in question after 24 hours to ask them if the person with concern had spoken to them

The upshot of this was responsibility in relationships consistent with Jesus teaching in Matthew 18:15. Direct communication and direct confrontation.

"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you..."

Admittedly, this full passage is directed at those that have sinned and offended, but it seems to be good practice for lesser concerns.

How do you think Jesus handled his disciples concerns about each other? Can you imagine the circumstance of one coming to him to complain about another? And how do you think he responded? My guess is that he re-directed them to the person with whom they had a concern, and that this was part of their training in relationships; to be direct with each other.

When a friend comes with the gift of feedback, I appreciate their courage and benefit from their perspective. It's easier to hear when they combine affirmation with concern. "I appreciate your heart and passion. And, because I believe in you and what you're about, I have some feedback about how you affected me and how I perceived you when _______." Such conversations help me to see myself and to grow.

However, if the same person comes as a messenger for someone else, all sorts of bad things happen. "Hey, a couple people have mentioned to me that they were offended when _______." OR "Someone you know well approached me but they're probably not going to talk to you, so I'm going to tell you that _______." Yuk. I really don't like this. Do you?

Why did the messenger listen to the complaint instead of re-directing the complainant?

How does it enable the complainant to remain immature in relationship?

What do I/you miss in terms of opportunity for a potent relationship because someone that supposedly cares about us offered feedback third-hand?

Unfortunately, to my observation, this manner of conducting relationships is common, and direct communication is uncommon. It is unpopular to do otherwise.

Here's my commitment going forward:

1. The moment someone complains to me about someone else (or tells me about how they've been offended, etc.) I'm going to ask them to stop. "My personal policy based on Matthew 18 is to not listen to gossip or slander about others."

2. I will urge the complainant to speak directly with the person they'd begun to talk about.

3. I will not complain about anyone or give a bad report to anyone about others. If I have a concern about something that has happened between me and someone else, I'll go to them myself or keep my mouth shut.

Will this mode of operation in relationships make me popular? Probably not. No one likes to be cut-off or somehow "corrected" about what they share with us. But, I'll have a clear conscience about doing my part to increase the potency and health of relationships, and I hope that I will increase my reputation for being positive and trustworthy in conversation.

Finally, there's another ramification to ceasing talk about others. We'll be free to talk about other things! Like what? Ideas, visions, projects to help others, to build the Kingdom of God.

Mama taught me when I was young that small people talk about people, bigger people talk about things, and the biggest people talk about ideas to help others and to change the world. In the context of having limited days of life to live, that's what I want to spend my time doing; changing the world in the ways God gifted me to do it. And if He prompts me to be part of helping another person to change themselves, I'll do it directly.

Learning and growing, Jeff

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The HOLY ONE is Wholly Other

Me and Jesus are nothing alike. He is Holy. I am NOT!

Sin abides in me. My very nature is to sin; NOT to refrain from it.

The Apostle Paul, one who was saved by grace (unmerited favor), testified to the abominable nature that resided within him, "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me..." and, "It is by grace that you are saved, not by works, so that no one can boast."

When he was confronted on the Road to Damascus, Paul (Saul) braced for deadly blows, that he deserved. But NO! Jesus graciously declared him His chosen one to proclaim the Good News that He (Messiah) had come, and to make this know to ALL men...even those that were beyond God's chosen people (the Jews). And still He chooses unworthy servants, such as you and me.

Paul was among the least likely to be conscripted to build Christ's Body, His Church. To date he'd led the charge to literally exterminate Jesus' heretical followers. But his confrontation with Christ on the road to Damascus left no questions about who was Lord and who was a servant.

Paul had a lot to live down; years of heinous acts against the One he'd been chosen to serve. And so it is for you and I...we have despicable resumes; don't we? At least in our minds and hearts if not in actuality (see the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-8).

Consider the ways that you have been an enemy of the Cross; in deeds observable by others, and the attitudes of your heart. Be honest. If you considerable yourself good, you are deluded. Only He is good... and we are good only in so much as we surrender to His life within us.

My heart is not good. It is despicable, sinful, self-serving, unfaithful, etc. My only good, and my only hope is surrender to His life within.

Jesus, live in me. Be my every breath, my every thought, my every act. You are good. I am not. My only good is to embody and incarnate You; and for that, You deserve the credit and the glory, not me.

gratefully following, Jeff

*check out Mark Schultz's recording of "Holy One". I am deeply touched that He is so GOOD and so wholly other than me when I consider Him ways through this song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkMg6vxWMJI