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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Light from Darkness: The Resurrection Changed the Apostles' Lives and Can Change Ours as Well

Unlike my other posts: Today is my Easter message that I will preach in church today.

The story has to begin in darkness. That's what makes it so incredible, unbelievable. Not incredible like it was awesome and magnificent. I mean, un-believable, like they didn't believe it.

Let’s think about where the followers of Christ were before we think about the resurrection. They spent Friday night and all day Saturday without Christ.

Some of them had spent three years with him.

What was it like? What were they thinking? Feeling?

Well, some had scattered to different places, but I bet most of them were together. They were afraid of the Jewish leaders and what they might do to them now that they had killed Jesus. They assumed they each had a target on their back now that he was gone. So there was fear.

So, in their homes and without much fanfare, they gathered quietly trying not to draw attention to themselves and they grieved.

Have you ever grieved the loss of someone you loved, whether in death or even just as a child when you moved away and knew that you would never see your best friend again?

They probably went through times of talking, reminiscing. They might recount some of the great miracles that Jesus had done. “Remember when he healed that guy who was blind from birth! That was intense!” Or, “Remember that lady who was pushing through the crowd, touches his cloak and there he is surrounded by hundreds of people packed into that street and he says, ‘Who touched me?’ and we are all like, ‘Who touched you? Everyone touched you!’ He was incredible.”

But, I think they probably spent more time thinking about Jesus Himself.

Not what He did, but who He was, and how He made you feel when you were around Him. “He was so kind and so gentle.” Another would joke, “Except when he said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan!’ That was rough.” “But, you know, I never once doubted that He loved me. I just knew. I could feel it with my whole being, body and soul, all that I am. I never once doubted that he loved me and would do anything for me. He was just that kind of guy.” “I loved him.” And then, the chorus of “Me, too” probably rung out.

Remembering Jesus was remembering the intimacy and the love and the faithfulness and the kindness.

Like when we grieve today, the conversation was probably intermingled with times of silence, the tears intermingled with laughter, the great memories mingled with regrets.

“I wish we hadn’t run away. John tell us again what happened at the trial.” Peter would have probably got up and walked away at these moments, still carrying the shame of denying Christ, but unwilling or unable to confess it all to them. So, he would go for a walk. No one would suspect him if he did. They all needed some time alone.

At times, their hearts and the conversation would turn ugly. If you have ever suffered grief because of another’s sin, you know what I mean.

“I wish Judas was hung on that cross instead of Christ. I can’t believe he did that!” “I wish the whole Sanhedrin were on that cross. Bunch of hypocrites!” “What about that weasel Pilate! I hate him so much!” “If you had seen the way those guards struck and spit on him… it made me sick. It was like they were enjoying it. It was the worst thing I have ever seen.”

And then, maybe one of the women said, “But, His eyes.” And the room got quiet, really quiet. “What?”

“His eyes. As I looked into His eyes, even when they were striking Him, even at the very end, hanging there on the cross… There was no hate there. There was pain. There was grief even like He was going to miss being with us. There was even pity for the soldiers. But, no hate. There was love. The same as when he sat here with us, teaching or eating with us. Pure love. He was so amazing. I loved Him so much.”

And, the tears would flow again and the hate and rage would subside.

Hours of this. The women gathered together with the men just like when Jesus was with them.

Each one remembered Jesus’ love for them as a person… how he has touched their life personally.

Peter clung to his wife and remembered how Jesus had healed his mother-in-law. Mary Magdalene remembered how Jesus had saved her from such a horrible life. Mary, Jesus’ mother, remembered what it was like raising God from a boy.

Each one remembered when Jesus had called to them, those few words that changed everything, changed the course of their lives, “Follow me.”

It was as simple as that for many of them, but they couldn’t resist His call. They left everything and followed. How could they have done anything else. He was so loving, so amazing, his teaching was compelling, the truth was overwhelming, and the eyes.

How could they go on? They would never again be able to look into those eyes.

What would they do? Without Jesus to follow, where would they go? What does their life mean now? So much confusion and disappointment.

“You saw me! I was ready to die for him, to fight for him. I cut that guy’s ear off! I would have died right there in the garden and known that I had done the right thing. No regrets! But, now, what now? I’ve decided, I’m going back to the boats. I still have connections. I can get on a boat and I can fish. That’s what I’ll do. If any of you want to join me…”

“Well, I can’t go back to tax collecting. I don’t know what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll learn how to mend nets.”

“I was going to follow him to the palace, to war, to victory. I don’t know how to follow him now.”

“He changed me. I just know that I am different. I can’t go back. I have to go forward. But, I don’t know what that means. I just know that things are going to be different.”

“Well, ladies, I know what I am going to do. I am going to take the spices we bought and before the sun even rises tomorrow, I am going to the tomb and get somebody to roll back that stone, and I am going to give him a proper burial. The way they rushed to get him in there on Friday, it just isn’t right. The least we could do is bury him properly. It’s the least we could do.”

The Bible is clear that even though Jesus told them, even though the Scriptures foretold it, even though they believed in the resurrection of the dead, even though they had seen Lazarus and others raised from the dead…they didn’t believe. They couldn’t believe.

The light had gone out and they were plunged into darkness. Their world had caved in.

According to John’s telling, Mary went and seeing the empty tomb, she ran back to tell the others. She was convinced that someone had stolen his body.

After Peter and John had come and gone, there she sat, weeping. How could this happen. The one thing that she could do… The one plan that she had… to take care of the body of her Lord, was ruined. Someone defiled her Lord’s body, stole it.

She might have been thinking, “Is there no end to this misery? They beat him and tortured him, they mocked him and spit on him. They killed him! Couldn’t they just let us bury him in peace? Why would they take him? Where would they take him?”

As she wept, facing into the tomb, the sun low on the horizon behind her, someone came up from behind casting a shadow over her. She looked up, unable to recognize who it was, but she hoped it was someone who knew where they had taken the body. Who else would be here so early? Maybe the gardener.

John 20:15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

At this point, she probably did what any of us would have done. She went to him. She kissed him. She hugged him. She clung to him. She held him so tight that she told herself that she would never again let go. She would never again let Him out of her grasp. Her love overflowed. It burst from her so naturally.

“He is real. He is here. He is mine. I will never let Him go again.”

And in verse 17, Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

With her world turned upside down once again, she probably couldn’t even put words to her racing thoughts, “Wait, what? No, you can’t go! Do you know what we’ve been through? The darkness…the despair…the pain…the hopelessness. You can’t leave now. You must come back with me. You must come and see everyone.” And, then he was gone.

Collecting herself, (she must have been quite a mess by this time), she ran. She ran to the disciples.

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Are you like Mary Magdalene? Have you seen the Lord? Were you in darkness? And, now are you in the light? Well, don’t just stand there looking confused. Go tell someone. Go tell them of the overwhelming joy of seeing Your Lord.

He is risen!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

4 Times When We are Most Likely to Lose Our Cool and What to Do About It

When was the last time you got angry?

For me, it was last week.

I got home from an allergist appointment. They poked me ten times with different sticks (that was fun), and I sat there not itching as I watched the bubble on my skin grow. If you've had one of these tests, you know what I mean.

For 30 minutes, I tried to distract myself from thinking about itching, but every time I looked down at my arm, these bubbles are growing bigger and bigger. And, all I want to do is scratch, just a little bit. Just once or twice and I'd feel better. Then, finally, I made it.

I left the allergist and came home. I beat the boys home by a few minutes and then we were all together for the rest of the night.

No games. No practices. No meetings.

Right after dinner, about 6, I got this crazy headache. I don't usually get them like that, but I felt this pressure pounding on the back of my eyes.

Ethan left the dinner table and was complaining about having to finish his homework.

"Ethan, you have to bring your plate to the sink before you leave the table. You know that."

"But, I have to do my homework." He was not happy.

"Plate first, then your homework. NOW!"

I had been doing well about controlling my temper and hadn't raised my voice like this in weeks, so I got his attention, but he was visibly upset.

He brought the plate to the sink where I was loading the dishwasher, my head still pounding.

"You have to scrape it off first." I held out the plate to him. I could feel the anger rising in me. My heartbeat rising, my eyes pounding.

"I have to do my homework!" He went to his backpack, got out his homework and proceeded to walk right past the outstretched plate.

He was not going to ignore me, disrespect me. I wanted to get those dishes done, go sit down, and close my eyes. The Advil I took didn't touch the pain. Ahhh! I couldn't think straight.

I grabbed him by the back of his sweatshirt, and shoved the plate at him.

"Scrape it off now! Then do your homework."

"OKAY! Jeez!" He did it and I went back to the sink feeling like a complete idiot. All this work on controlling my anger, being patient, talking and not yelling, I thought I might be wasting my time. I will always struggle with anger. Who am I kidding?

My analysis was still clouded by my guilt and shame and the adrenaline still rushing through my body. As I look back now, I can see things more clearly. Maybe you picked up on some of the clues too.

First, I had used up a lot of my self-control at the allergist. It took so much out of me to just sit there and not itch. Self control is like a muscle and when we use it up, it is all used up.

After exerting self control in one area, we can't put ourselves in another situation where we will need a lot of self control and expect to behave well. I should have known.

Second, I was in pain. When we are in pain, physical or emotional, we enter into somewhat of a survival mode. We are more likely to jump straight to "fight or flight" mode without much provocation.

Third, I was working hard to finish a task so that I could go and hopefully get some relief from the pain. I felt an urgency that didn't really exist. I could have simply told Rachel, my wife, about my pain and left the dishes. Ethan was the barrier, I thought. He was frustrating me, blocking me from reaching my goal. Frustration can easily lead to anger and in this case, it led to anger very quickly.

Fourth, I was thinking and trying to analyze the situation in my head. I was talking to myself, defending myself and blaming Ethan. I reasoned that I was the one working hard on the dishes, and he was the one complaining about his homework and having to bring his dish to the sink. I was right, and he was wrong. I was good, and he was bad. I had to act! I chose to act based on adrenaline fueled incomplete thinking.

Fifth, I acted, and immediately felt guilt and shame. I knew that I was right! But, it didn't matter. I felt horrible. I was wrong.

In the course of a couple of minutes, I went from feeling pain, to feeling frustration, to feeling anger, to feeling justified, to feeling shame.

4 Times When We are Most Likely to Lose Our Cool and What to Do About It

What we do when we feel Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT) can make or break our day.

It can determine whether we feel good about ourselves or feel guilt and shame.

If we behave badly in these circumstances, we can either choose to blame others and further isolate ourselves or looking in the mirror, we can blame ourselves and begin to lose love and respect for ourselves.

When that happens we can do all kinds of self-destructive things. You know which are tempting for you. But, instead of trying to deal with the symptoms, we need to face the disease.

What do we do when we feel hungry, angry, lonely and tired?

The Path

Ask for Help. Ask God for help and then ask people for help. If you believe that God wants you to change, then ask for His help, pray that His will is done in your life. He always answers that prayer. Then it is just up to us to listen and obey.

God will often use people to help us. I asked Rachel for help. Rachel has been a patient, gracious support throughout our life together. I also found a counselor who believed in me, listened to me, and counseled me with wisdom and grace. I have had a number of accountability partners that God used at different times to help me face different sins, to overcome challenges in life and ministry and to encourage me toward some specific goals. God has used each person in different ways to help me move forward. The key in all of these relationships is grace.

Know Yourself. Know your weakness. Pretending to be strong doesn't help any more than pretending to be weak does. Accept your weakness. When are you most likely to feel Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? Don't be afraid to say, "I can't do that." This was incredibly hard for me to admit in the past. If I can physically stand, than I can do what you are asking me to do. It was hard for me to admit that I was too weak to do something if the weakness was emotional or spiritual. Face it. Admit it to yourself and then...

Set Helpful Boundaries. Know yourself and set up boundaries that will help you live from strength to strength. Good boundaries are crucial to a healthy life. Knowing my weaknesses allows me to know what boundaries I need. For me, there is no need to lock up the wine cellar when I am around, but you might want to hide the remote! I can't stand the taste of alcohol, but I could waste hours watching TV without caring what I was watching.

Here are some boundaries that I set up in my life, that have helped me at different times:
 - Make time to be with my wife, every day to catch up and make sure we are on the same page, every week to face any issues that have arisen or might be coming soon, every month to make sure we are on track with our goals for the year and for life, and every year to do an inventory of our marriage, our family, and ministry together.
- When I am angry, I give myself a time out.
- When I feel lonely, I run to my wife not away from her.
- I take time to understand how I feel, not just what I think.
- Go to bed by 10 or 10:30, so that I can wake up before the kids and have some time to pray and read and listen to God. I need to get back to this one!
- Use an accountability program that sends every website I view to my wife or some other accountability partner. I use Covenant Eyes, (which is also a great tool for parents to talk about and use with their children).
- Limit the number of nights I spend away from home.
- Cook, eat and clean up after meals together as a family as much as possible.
- Vacation together as a family and as a couple.
[I discuss this more personally in Confessions of a Pastor, Part 2.]
Solve the Real Problem.

Hungry? Eat something. When you realize that you are hungry and that that hunger is causing you to act in unhealthy ways, eat something. Choose something healthy, but eat something.

Angry? Deal with the underlying cause. [Here's a link to my blog about what usually leads to our Anger, so we can get to the source of it.]

Lonely? Phone a friend. Spend time with a safe person who consistently extends grace to you. If you feel like you have no one, go to God. First let him be your friend, then let him speak to you about being a good friend to others, and then ask him to point you in a direction for making friends.

Tired? Go to sleep. We have had productivity engrained in us since we were kids. The early bird gets the worm, and all that. Work hard, play hard. YOLO. Just Do It. It is never ending. We will never accomplish all that we want to do if we don't get rest. God wants us to work hard and to enjoy life, but he also knew that we need a Sabbath day of rest. Good night!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Anger is Power and How to Use It Wisely

The latest evolution of the Incredible Hulk is well... incredible. Lou Ferrigno was huge... for a guy. But, this latest CG version is truly amazing.

I'm sure you, like me, have learned some great life lessons from watching the Incredible Hulk over the years.

Here are the top three lessons I have learned:
"Always buy cheap clothes", because they could get ripped to shreds at any moment.
"Never squash the woman you love."
And my favorite, "Anger is Power."

No one ignores the Incredible Hulk. Either stay out of his way or you will get squashed.

My favorite line from the Avengers movie is by the Hulk.Check out this video if you can:

In case you couldn't watch it: When Captain America says, "Dr. Banner, now might be a really good time for you to get angry," he replies, "That's my secret, Captain. I'm always angry."

I know some people like that.Don't you?

I am "some people" like that sometimes. Are you?

If you feel like you are always angry like our green friend, you probably have some regrets and wish you had handled some situations with more patience and grace.

Anger affects us all.

In  my family, anger gets expressed in a myriad of ways. Dirty looks, gritted teeth, harsh words, yelling, elbows thrown, shirts grabbed, pushing, shoving, and even the silent treatment. It's all here.

We struggle with anger every day.

But, there is hope, for us and for you. We have started making some foundational changes. We can't completely stop ourselves from getting angry, but I have learned that we can make anger work for us instead of against us.

[BONUS TRUTH: In some cultures, anger is the one emotion that men are permitted to express and the one emotion that women are not. A real man doesn't show other emotions and a good woman doesn't express her anger. Both are lies. The fact is we all get angry and anger is not wrong. It is how we express our anger that can be wrong, can be destructive and can leave us with regrets.]

Anger is Power

With anger comes adrenaline, pure raw energy. We are the shaken soda bottle, filled with power just waiting for the cap to twist off.

Anger is contained power.

When we are angry we are infused with adrenaline, with energy. That energy has to be used up. Either we keep it bottled up inside and damage our internal organs (think ulcers and heart attacks), or we let it out in some way.

Since, when we are POWERFUL (AKA- angry), we don't typically make good decisions, we need to make a plan ahead of time.

Before we get angry (like maybe right now because who knows what will set us off next), we need to figure out some basics.

Figure out which of the four primary emotions usually gets us angry: hurt, fear, disrespect, and/or frustration. I wrote about these yesterday, if you aren't sure which combination it might be.

Figure out when you are most likely to get angry: after work or before bed, Monday nights or Sunday mornings, after a business meeting or before your family comes over to visit, at home or at work. What triggers it? And be ready!

We also need to figure out what the signals are when we are beginning to feel angry. Do we want to run away? Do we talk louder? Do we become more sensitive to little annoyances? Do we become critical of others, insulting the people around us? Do we want to punch someone? Do our muscles bulge and our skin turns green? There are lots of subtle hints.

For me, I feel my heart beat faster. I usually feel frustrated and/or disrespected. It shows on my face. My stomach can get in knots. I start to sweat.

Every person's anger is unique. Figure out what your signals are and start to pay attention. And when you blow it, don't give up, confess your sin, receive his forgiveness and grace and go back to the drawing board.

Then, think through these steps for when you do find yourself getting angry:

First, BE AWARE of the signs.

Know when you are getting angry. The sooner you can catch it, the more likely you are to handle it in a way that you can respect later.

Second, OWN it.

Accept responsibility for your own anger, the feeling and your actions as a result of your feeling.You are the only one responsible for your anger.

Resist the temptation to blame someone or something else. Until you take responsibility, you will feel powerless to change.

Third, CHOOSE what to do with all this energy.

We get a choice! Since we choose, we can change.

Don't try to use this energy to fix the situation you are in unless you are being attacked by a bear or being pulled under by a giant squid. In those cases, your adrenaline should come in handy.

But, if you are angry because your kid won't go to bed or your boss overlooked you for a promotion AGAIN, then don't use that adrenaline to solve your problem. Your kid will probably wind up in therapy or you'll wind up without a job.

What would be a constructive use of this abundance of energy right now?

Here are some practical tips of what to do with all that power surging through your body...
                     Exercise. Go for a walk, a jog or a run. (Never get in a car and drive! Angry driving is a recipe for disaster.) Do push-ups, crunches, jumping jacks. Maybe work out with the person you are angry at if its your spouse or child, especially if they are angry too!
                     Sing. Play some fun, loud music and sing along. This probably isn't what you feel like doing, which is why you need to plan it ahead of time.
                     Dance. Maybe while you are singing!
                     Laugh. Find something to laugh about. Maybe make a book of funny memories to help you when you need a release. Bookmark a funny video, nothing violent. Find a reason to laugh. Release that energy! Steven Wright said:

"My watch is three hours fast, and I can't fix it... So I'm going to move to New York." and

"I like to reminisce with people I don't know." and 

"When I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction." and 

"You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" and 

"A friend of mine once sent me a post card with a picture of the entire planet Earth taken from space. On the back it said, "Wish you were here." and something like this, though I can't find the exact quote,

"I know the speed limit is 55 miles per hour, officer, but I wasn't planning on being out that long." 

Steven Wright makes me laugh. What makes you laugh? How about Jim Gaffigan's Hot Pockets routine:

Making a choice before we act is the key to using anger to our advantage.What do you want to do with all that energy? You can use this energy to get physically healthy, emotionally refreshed, connect with a loved one. It's your choice, if you can catch it in time before you say or do something you will regret.

Fourth, BE LOVING!

Follow through and do what we chose to do, and do it lovingly.

We can choose to be kind and compassionate, gracious and patient, even when we are angry. We can find a way to express the love we feel for ourselves or those involved without being mean or spiteful. BE NICE!

Afterwards, we won't regret our choices. We will respect ourselves when it is all over if we can just get through the energy rush, the adrenaline should last 15-20 minutes.

Finally, REWIND.

Afterwards, after the adrenaline is spent, after the veins in our temples have returned to their rightful place, evaluate the whole situation beginning to end, figure out what happened, what triggered it, what signals you could have noticed, what did you choose to do, what if anything do you want to do differently, and receive God's grace. In other words, start over from the top.

We can do this! We can use our anger constructively. Our anger is just a signal that something is wrong. Slow things down enough to make some good choices, and there is hope that we can use that anger, that power, constructively. And, then we can begin to face the underlying problems.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Why Am I So Angry? A Look at the Primary Causes of Our Anger

I used to think I was a very spiritual guy. I wanted everything I did to be spiritual and good. I occasionally even spent days fasting, without eating anything, in order to pray and focus more on God. Once when I was fasting, I had planned to have a meeting with one of my mentors. Rachel had a meeting that night, so one of us had to be home with the kids. He was able to come over to my house to meet so I could be home. Gene was supposed to arrive at bedtime, so I rushed around to get the kids in bed on time. I had to do a little extra yelling and rushing, motivating, but I got them into bed. I was proud of myself for getting the job done and a little flustered from all the yelling. Then, Ethan came walking down the stairs. Knowing Gene could arrive any minute, I lost it, totally lost my temper. I screamed and yelled and scooped him up and brought him to his room and told him not to get up again. He was almost 4. He should know better. Then, he was screaming and crying. In the living room waiting for Gene to arrive, I wondered, "What am I doing? Why am I so angry? What is going on? I'm a spiritual guy. I'm fasting."

Healthy anger is a gift. It was designed to save our lives, to help us figure out who the alpha dog is, and to protect those we love from danger.

But, mostly, our anger doesn't look like a gift. It looks pretty ugly and it can be quite destructive. Before I can deal with the emotion of anger, which I will in the next blog, we need to understand the underlying emotions.

Anger is not a primary emotion. It is secondary. And, it is very easy to misunderstand it.

If we want to know why we are angry, we have to get back to that primary emotion. What triggered the anger?

Usually the primary feelings are: hurt, fear, disrespect, and/or frustration. These lead to the feeling of anger. Let me unpack that a little.


Have you ever stubbed your toe and wound up cursing in anger? You got hurt because it was dark and you lost track of where you were in relation to the coffee table. Feeling hurt makes sense.
But, why are you angry?
Who or what are you angry at?

Usually, we will cleverly find someone or something to be angry at. We will be angry at our wife for buying that stupid thing in the first place or angry at our daughter for asking for a cup of water in the middle of the night or angry at ourselves for not turning on the light. But, in reality, we are just hurt.

How about if you get betrayed by a friend or ignored by a love interest? Feeling hurt makes sense, but why the anger? Any number of situations cause us pain. If we try to ignore it or stuff it, it will just give us an ulcer or heart attack. If we try to react without really facing it, we can wind up being self destructive or trying to control those around us. Some drink or drug to medicate. Some cut or have an eating disorder. Others become controlling and manipulative.

Instead we need to face it. What caused us pain, physical or emotional? What can we do about it now?


Your child is out late. He told you when he would be home and you are worried that he might have gotten into an accident because the roads are getting icy. You feel fear. "What if's" race through your head.

Finally, your son gets home and after that feeling of relief that he is ok comes...anger.

Your worst fear was that he was hurt or dead. If he was hurt or dead, you would turn your anger toward God or someone else. But, since he is just late, you turn your anger on him. In some form of parental logic, you yell, "You're grounded! Forever!"

Face your fear. What were you afraid would happen? Now think through it. If that did happen, what would you do? How would you go on? If your answer to that is, "I couldn't go on," then you have an idol in your life. You are actually declaring to God that you won't go on unless he stops this thing from happening. You are putting your own needs and wants, fears above God Himself. Face that. Confess that. Repent from that.

God is patient. Take your time and examine your heart, follow your faith and face your fear.

Bonus: If you struggle with fear, here is one band's hilarious solution.


When our coworker belittles us in front of the boss or a client, we feel disrespected. We want to set the record straight and demonstrate our capability.

This feeling of being disrespected quickly turns to anger. We want revenge. If we feel helpless at work, we take that anger out on someone else: the guy driving too slow in front of us, the idiot talk show host on the radio, or our unruly family. We try to control other people with our anger so we won't feel so helpless.

Facing disrespect can be tricky. Do you have respect for yourself? Do you believe the lies that are being told, the gossip or that the way you were treated is deserved?

Until you respect yourself, it will be hard for you to require that others give you the respect you deserve. But, it is easy to fall on the side, the side of arrogance and to start believing the lie that you are better than someone else.

As we are learning to respect ourselves, we need to balance a healthy respect for others. Respect others as much as we respect ourselves.

Then, standing on this firm foundation, we can begin to face disrespect when it occurs whether it is directed at us or someone else. This often involves confrontation, speaking the truth in love, standing tall and extending grace. It takes tact and grace to confront someone with truth without judgment or condemnation, but it is possible.


You have just finished cleaning the whole house, you sit down for a cup of tea and the kids get home from school. "I just cleaned the house, please don't..." But, before you are finished with the sentence, everything seems to unravel. The shoes track in mud, the coats and backpacks are dropped haphazardly on the floor, the juice is spilled and the volume is turned way up. You feel frustrated, like all of your work was unappreciated.

Then, the anger starts to build. Do you retreat and hide in your room or try to keep them from destroying the whole house by yelling and demanding?

Frustration is most often the source of my own anger. I find it so difficult to slow things down enough to realize what is going on, but I think it is actually the easiest of these four primary emotions to face.

Face the source of our frustration. "My child is getting out of bed again! I am so angry." What are we believing at this moment?
           - We can't handle this because we are so tired from a long day.
           - If we were good parents, our children wouldn't do bad things.
           - If our child can't even stay in bed, how can she hope to succeed in life.

I hope you can see the lies in each of these statements. First, if we are trusting God for our strength and this is what is happening, we can handle it in God's strength. Second, our children's bad behavior has more to do with our children than with us. We are responsible for our bad behavior, but not theirs, though I can influence it greatly. Third, slow down! We are talking about a little thing that we will forget in a week. This is not the end of the world.

So, take a breath, we must face our false beliefs, the source of our frustration, and decide what we want to do about it. What can we do that we will be proud of when the day is done?

A Few Last Thoughts...

Determine if our primary emotions are real or embellished? When we feel betrayed by a friend who stood us up, were we really betrayed? Did the person not call us because they wanted to hurt us OR did they do it for some other reason? Unless they intentionally tried to hurt us, they didn't betray us. Our feelings of hurt and fear of losing a friend and feeling disrespected are all more or less created in our own minds.

We must be careful of what we allow to play around in our heads. Our thoughts can create images and feelings that aren't based in reality. We can take a little knowledge and think that we understand the whole picture.

The only solution to this kind of anger is humility. We must acknowledge our lack of information and face the truth. We need to confront the person we are angry with. Tell them the truth about how we feel and ask them to fill in the missing information. We may have a good reason to be angry. We may not.

Facing the person that we feel has sinned against us is the only path to healing. If there is sin, then our path to health and wholeness is forgiveness. If there is no sin on their part, then we can only confess our mistrust and the lies we believed and receive grace and forgiveness from God and hopefully from the person we have mistrusted.

Usually, it is one of these four emotions that is driving our anger. If we can get to the bottom of it, figure out which of these are behind our anger, we can face it and decide what to do next.

Tomorrow I will post about "Anger is Power" and explain how we can use anger for our benefit.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Once Upon a Time: A Beautiful Maiden, Buddy and Me

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful maiden. She was married to a handsome and kind man. Her father-in-law died and so her mother-in-law came to live with them. To everyone’s amazement they all got along and would have lived happily ever after except then the story would be too short.

So, her husband died. The beautiful maiden knew not what to do. She loved her mother-in-law, but the custom of her husband’s family was that she should marry her dead husband’s brother and have children with him to carry on her dead husband’s lineage. 

But, her mother-in-law was old and kind of wrinkly, and her prospects of her mother-in-law finding a new husband and having a son with him were slim. And, even if she did, the maiden would have to wait until he was of age and then she’d have to marry a kid she helped to raise and it would just be really awkward.

But alas, she couldn’t leave her mother-in-law’s side. When her mother-in-law decided to return to her homeland in order to find help from her family, she told the maiden to go back to her father’s house where she could find a new husband and forget their crazy custom.

She looked her mother-in-law square in the eye and said, “Don't force me to leave you. Don't make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” And, that settled that.

When they arrived in the old country, the mother-in-law told her of another way, even weirder than the first. It was a long shot, but just maybe. The maiden learned that the wealthy man who’s grain she had been picking was a distant cousin of her husband and a close enough relative to fulfill the responsibility of the custom. If she could marry him and bear his children, she could preserve the line of her dead husband.

He was giving her attention and treated her better than he treated his own servant girls!

So, she took a big risk. She slipped into the barn and lay down by his feet while he was sleeping. Then, she pulled the blanket off his feet so they would get cold and eventually he woke up.

When he did, he found her and knew what she wanted. He told her to go back to sleep and he would take care of everything. They went back to sleep and in the morning she slipped out of the barn before anyone else got up so that no nasty rumors got started.

After a little finagling, they got married and lived happily ever after.

The End.

Buddy, our dog, is a lot like the maiden from this story. He sometimes wants my attention. So, he leans. He covers. He presses in. He will walk right up next to me, not even looking at me. He will get as close as possible to my legs and then lean against me. Not demanding anything from me. He wants me to know that he is there. He wants me to feel that he is there. Sometimes, he’ll lay down right there on my feet. He is being a constant and faithful presence, waiting for me. And, he can be very patient. He will wait for my touch, my stroke, my “Good dog.” (Unless he hears a car door or someone walking up the steps, of course. Then he is off, springing to action.)

We need to be like the maiden and like Buddy. We need to lay at God’s feet and just be there, patiently, lovingly, faithfully waiting for Him to acknowledge us. We need to be persistent, regardless of the circumstances of our lives and, wait for him to speak, to encourage, to lead, to guide, to simply say, “You are good.” Yeah, the car door slamming, the phone ringing, the schedule bustling may distract us, but we need to get to resting at his feet more and more.

With our patience and faithfulness we say to God, “Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay.”

He will speak. He promises to. We just need to wait and listen.

"The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep respond to his voice. He calls his sheep by name and leads them out of the pen. After he has brought out all his sheep, he walks ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice."- John 10:3-4

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

3 Relationships Parents Should Promote and Why

My 11 year old son, Ethan, was at pitching boot camp the other day preparing for the upcoming baseball season, and I overheard a pitching coach telling a young pitcher to keep his hands on his chest when preparing to deliver the ball. Sometimes pitchers, like this young man, raise their hands above their heads like the one in the picture as part of their wind up. He went on to explain that, back in the day, pitchers wore long sleeves and used this upward movement to get their long sleeves out of the way and give their arms full range of movement. Why do kids still do it today? Because that’s what they thought they were supposed to do.

As parents, what are we supposed to do?

What is our role in our children’s lives?

Too often, we just follow the example of those who raised us or, determined not to repeat their mistakes, we follow some other example. But do we really know why we do what we do?

The 3 Relationships Parents Should Promote for Their Children and Why:

1 - Be their Provider

As parents our primary role is to provide security and stability for our children. This includes lots of things including each of the layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shown below. Of course, the top level, self-actualization, is up to them, but we can certainly help give them a strong foundation to build it upon.

As parents, we also make and enforce boundaries – some of which are important and good and others which are fear-based, overly constrictive, dangerously lax, obsolete or even just plain wrong. We are fallible and though we try our best, we often fail to set healthy boundaries for our children.

In a nut-shell, that is our primary role as parents. Daunting, isn’t it?

There is more. And, here is both an added responsibility and an added support system. We have the responsibility to introduce our children to other significant adults and provide an environment where they can development meaningful friendships. These relationships play different roles in our children’s lives, but they are both essential to their development.

2 - Help them Find Supportive Adults.

At about 7 years old, children start to see themselves as something more than just a member of their immediate family. They begin to let other people in and accept them as members of their inner circle of trust.

Adults that are not in the home can be in that inner circle. And this can provide tremendous support to parents. Significant adults in a child’s life can be grandparents, teachers, coaches, spiritual leaders, etc.
Ideally they will share the same primary values and beliefs. As the children see that adults they trust agree on the main things, they will feel more secure and confident about their core beliefs.

They will also begin to notice differences among their parents and these significant adults. Differences of opinion on certain behaviors like diet and exercise, political views, choice of entertainment, views on wealth and prosperity, ways of relating to others, and any number of other differences. These differences create space for the child to test their own individuality within the confines of the larger sense of security and well-being that the values and beliefs held by their role models provide.

They learn that they can grow up to be different and still be true to their core beliefs.

Even as toddlers, children need to test their boundaries and distinguish themselves as individuals. They long to be one of a kind! And, they are. Their uniqueness begins to take shape at a very early age. 

As agonizing as it is, our children need to say, “No!” when we tell them to eat their green beans or brush their teeth. This is a crucial step in forming their identity.

3 - Help them Develop Meaningful Friendships.

During adolescence, our children begin to identify with their peers and look to them for support and a sense of belonging. They long for the approval found in fulfilling others’ expectations. They still draw their security and stability from their family, but friends give them a sense of adventure and are will to take risks with them in their mutual search for identity.

These peers offer our children the courage to explore. All parents are wrong sometimes, our boundaries are too loose or too tight, our motivations are screwed up by our own insecurities and misplaced fears. At this age, our children want to know which of our boundaries are good and right, which are stupid and overbearing, and which are ones that they will choose for themselves.

In a sense, they want to figure out what boundaries they would set for themselves and try them on like a costume. The consequences of this can sometimes be harmful emotionally (like when our son or daughter gets their heart broken because they started dating too early), physically (like when they ride their bike over a homemade ramp that you told them wasn’t safe), spiritually (when they entrust their soul to someone who abuses their trust), or even fatally (when they participate in some life-threatening activity like cutting, car surfing, huffing, or any alcohol or drug use).

Faced with these realities, of course, as parents we want to protect our children. That’s what giving them security is all about.

Rather than trying to find a safe balance, a compromise or middle ground, we actually need to push both extremes, live in the tension. We need to let them express themselves, experiment with different boundaries, take risks and experience the consequences of their actions. And we need to protect them from themselves and their own lack of ability to evaluate risks.

Recent research on teenage brains confirms what we all have known, teenagers are bad at evaluating risks. They make dumb choices that can be disastrous. This research suggests that they actually do stop and evaluate the risk before doing something, but they are less afraid of the unknown than their adult counterparts.

This is vital for survival and thriving, since the adolescent has to face numerous unknowns in order to move out into the world and become an individual. But, it brings with it a limited ability to accurately gauge the risks involved in facing the unknown. 

Makes sense, doesn't it? Why else would teens be the most likely to start smoking, to begin having sex, to be converted to Christianity (or any religion)? Teens are less afraid of facing the unknown because so much of life is unknown to them.

We need to let them take all kinds of risks and reap the consequences good and bad. We also need to protect them from those risks that just aren’t worth it. We need to be that part of their brain that says, "No, not this time. That risk is just too great."

In the examples given before, maybe we say yes to the dating heartbreak but protect them from physical and sexual intimacy, maybe we allow them to scrape their knees on the bike ramp but move the ramp to the grass to prevent broken bones, and maybe we allow them to participate in other spiritual experiences and listen to and help them process their mixed reactions to them. And, definitely, we shield them from taking life-threatening risks all together.

Peers help our children to take appropriate risks, to press against the boundaries and find out where we have gone too far or been too lax. As much as possible we want to encourage these peer relationships with those who share similar core beliefs and values, but who they choose as friends is ultimately up to them. We can set appropriate boundaries to help them take risk in a controlled environment.

Throughout their lives, our children will be experiencing God and finding their own identity amidst a world that would gladly shape and morph them into its constantly changing image of enlightenment and happiness. These three interpersonal relationships provide a community of people to travel that road with them to act as guides, load bearers, travel companions, and comic relief.

The mutual dependence of these relationships cannot be over emphasized. In all three relationships (with parents, significant adults and peers), our children must perceive that they are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, actions and the consequences of each and responsible to those with whom they are journeying. Each of us has times when we are the guide and others follow and when we are the load bearer carrying more than our share.

Our children need us to provide the basics and also to help them create mutually beneficial relationships that will support them along their life’s journey.

By the grace of God, we can do that.