That’s Worthy

Today is a special day.  And I’d love your feedback.

Today is our 200th blog post.  Can you believe it?!

We’re celebrating with many of our posts all wrapped into a nice, tidy package: the play button below.  It’s the audio of a workshop I did.  And I’d really love your feedback.  
that’s worthy

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The paradigm I share has been hugely helpful for me:

  • It’s helped me distinguish what feedback is wise… and what feedback looks wise, but actually isn’t.
  • It’s helped me find healing in things that have been seemingly oddly, incredibly hurtful… though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
  • It’s helped me be wise in when I should say something to another person… and when I am free to simply live and let live.

And it’s given me hope – that this thing called life, that sometimes gets messy and hurtful – that this thing called church, that sometimes seems confusing whether something is wisdom or judgmental – that this thing called relationships, that sometimes feels life-building yet other times life-destroying – it’s given me hope that vitality and health and restoration may, in some situations, be as simple as a little tweak.  For me in my life, so much healing came when I finally got clarity on one small tweak.

So I’ve wondered if this was just helpful for me… or if it might be helpful for others as well?

The Lord has brought some folks across my path who have found it helpful and healing.  It’s been exciting to see how impactful it’s been for them.

I’m trying to gauge if it’s helpful to a wide swath or if it’s simply helpful for a targeted few.  So this is where I need your help.  Would you listen to it and let me know if it is helpful to you?

This is the paradigm we unpack.  It may be helpful to print out this page and follow along.

thats worthy-1

Then you’ll need this when I mention flipping to the ‘back’:

thats worthy-2

If you’re like me, you’ll want a bit of an outline of what’s ahead:

introduction: 3 reasons why what we’re going to talk about is important

the meat:  Everything we can possibly confront falls into one of 3 categories.  Easily discern which category it’s in and how to handle it well!

  • Yes, their actual action is clearly stated in Scripture.
  • No, their action isn’t in Scripture, but it’s how people should do it!
  • Practically.  I mean, their actual action isn’t in Scripture, but the motive I feel certain is behind their action is.

the last column:  Whom are we helping in each situation?

our simple fix: a handy tool to be sure our ‘wisdom’ is like the wisdom from heaven – first of all pure!

After you listen, I’d love to hear your feedback.  Feel free to leave a comment below, or I’d love for you to e-mail me at doublehockeysticks (at) mail (dot) com.

I’d love to know

  1. Was this helpful for you?
  2. If you’re comfortable sharing, what was most helpful to you?
  3. If you’re really comfortable sharing, why was it helpful?

Happy listening, and I look forward to hearing from you!

~ Susie

Our Family’s Win-Win

Holiday Contest!___________________________________

A follow-up post from the amazing Megan!  She gives a glimpse of what all this boundaries and conflict stuff looks like with kids.  I hope one day to be as adept with conflict as her preschoolers! : )

forman mom dadI’m a big fan of personal responsibility.

For example, in our marriage, we don’t allow blaming for bad moods. Some days one of us has a bad day, and that’s totally fine. But no one, especially my spouse, can be blamed for that bad mood. I have a choice, and boundaries help to make sure that we all agree on where his behavior ends and where my decision to be in a bad mood begins.

And frankly, because boundaries work in our marriage, we’re using them with our children as well.  So far, we like them.

Why Boundaries work

I love boundaries because I truly believe that defining them, communicating them and sticking to them is the cleanest and fastest way to “heart change.” It’s the real change that goes past the behavior modification that so many of us have tried as adults and as parents.

I believe boundaries are a strong tool to bring us to a personal revelation of the type of “godly sorrow” that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 7:10:

“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”

That type of sorrow and ultimately repentance starts with a realization of your sin, and boundaries often are like a spotlight on the attitudes of your heart and your motivations. Boundaries have this amazing (and frankly often annoying) way of cutting through the blame shifting and complex emotions and hitting on the heart issues. I love boundaries because they are not only the tool but often the first step in a lasting solution for the complex relationships in life.

What they look like in our family

forman kids 2So what do I mean, when I use this term “boundaries“? Please indulge me by allowing me to tap into the plethora of relational conflict that I deal with everyday, all day — that between my four young children and often between one of the said children and myself.

I have found boundaries to be helpful for all four of my children. One boundary that guides all of our interactions with our children is that their word means something in our family. We in effect give them permission to use their words to set their own personal boundary.

  • If they don’t want to be tickled any more, all they have to say is, “No more, thank you,” and we respect it.
  • If they want space or need time to think about a situation, they have the words and the respect in our home to express that and to expect to be heard, without delay.

We don’t make promises in our home (we learned this trick from one of our wisest mentors). There isn’t any need — our words mean something. We don’t make threats; they aren’t necessary. When we say “no,” we mean it.

Take a look at this powerful verse from The Message translation:

“Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” ~ Matthew 5:37

So saying what you mean – stating your intentions clearly – is the start of learning to set and respect boundaries.

My boys using boundaries

forman boysWhat does it look like in our house on a given day? I have a perfect example from just this morning. I woke up this morning to my 5 year old son saying to his 4 year old brother,

“I really want to play police officer with you, but when you don’t listen to me and my ideas, I feel sad and like I don’t want to play with you. Can we work together?”

Some of us adults (including myself) could stand to learn this type of “I” statement, solution-oriented communication, right?

He set a boundary.  He said, “I don’t have to play with someone who isn’t listening to me. And if you want to play with me, we are going to have to work out something that works for both of us.” (paraphrase mine).

And it cut right to his brother’s heart.

Boundaries with my daughter

mom louI have one daughter, which in my short experience (we adopted her from Ethiopia only 9 months ago) is a completely different beast from raising sons. Regardless of culture, background and even language, she is well-versed in the art of wrapping others into her emotional tailspin, her personal quest for her own desires and muddying the waters of personal responsibility in any given situation. Let’s just settle now for once and for all, I am not ascribing malice to the child but will not deny that she is just as depraved as any of the rest of us and needs a Savior just as badly.

Many parents and well-meaning friends have advised us to ignore her or distract her when she starts these types of power struggles and emotionally manipulative antics. I appreciate their heart. They reason that she is only 3 years old. The goal should be to simply mitigate the damage of such outbursts. But my husband and I can’t help but think there is a better way. Dare I say, a more direct way — a way to handle her that instead of controlling her behavior in these preschool years might actually lay the ground work for conflict and strife management for the rest of her life.

So we “boundary” the heck out of her. The crazier she gets, the more we hem her in. The more we place her decisions and her reactions to her own choices squarely back on her shoulders. Like all of us, she doesn’t like to be told “No.” I appreciate that. Our home is a place where she can be angry, sad, disappointed, frustrated and all of the above (at the same time), but any manifestations of those emotions are hers and hers alone to deal with. Her go-to plan at this point is to somehow rope us up in those emotions in hopes of either getting us to change our mind or to enter into her misery and play in the “emotional gutter” with her. If she can just get us to lash out in our own anger, get worked up or heaven forbid give into her crazy, she is proving that her dysfunctional way is a perfectly acceptable way to relate to others and get what she wants.

A few weeks ago, she refused to eat her fruit at breakfast. No big deal. I clearly reminded her that it would be waiting for her at lunch when she was ready to finish her healthy food. We went on to my son’s soccer game and when mid-morning snacks were handed out, guess who didn’t get one? You guessed it. I politely said to her,

“Lou, I didn’t bring you a snack because your oranges are still back at the house, and you can have lunch and a snack as soon as you finish those.”

See I had set a boundary of my own: I am not in the business of toting around her unfinished breakfast. I am too busy and have too many kids to allow for exceptions. Meals are served at the table, and I’ll go crazy if I have to pack every half-eaten orange on ice and head off to the soccer field. So I continued on with my task. The tears began to roll down her cute little cheeks, so in an effort to acknowledge her feelings I added,

“It looks like your choice to not finish your fruit is making you really sad. I bet you are disappointed that you can’t have this snack. Would you like a hug?”

But she was way past hugging as an option. She escalated and escalated and escalated. Three year olds are not terribly creative so I’m sure you can fill in the blanks of what ugliness transpired at that soccer field.

But this is the beauty of boundaries. Boundaries remind me in the three-hour battle of emotions that unfolded that my only job is to kindly and gently remind her that it was her choices that brought her to these consequences. That her continued bad reaction to her choice (yelling, screaming, lashing out at me and her siblings) were hers and hers alone to own and to apologize for.

An important note for parents

On a side note, as parents if we fail to remain calm, we are demonstrating our willingness to abuse our power and break our own boundary of self-control and MUST apologize and repent accordingly.

More reasons I love boundaries

Life is about choices, and boundaries remind us that those choices have consequences. If you make a choice, you (and only you) also deal with the consequences.

And while I teach my children about choices, I am also teaching self-respect:

“I am a smart, capable (wo)man who can decide how I want to handle this situation.”

I am also teaching them that it’s ok to mishandle her emotions, and there is grace in our family and from Jesus to apologize and move on.

And most importantly for us emotionally suave creatures called women, my daughter is learning that emotional terrorism and caddy power struggles are not only more trouble than they are worth but that they don’t work. Talking clearly with Mommy, expressing your emotions healthily — that works!

Our Win-Win

forman stockings

I know to many of you, this sounds harsh and awfully cut and dry for a three year old. Heck, some of us struggle with boundaries even in our adult years because of the “clinical” and impersonal feel of it. But I’ve never felt closer or more connected with my children than the times when we are clearly communicating about the “heart issues” and not arguing over obedience and behavior. It helps me truly enjoy them as people and value their great strengths as emotional beings with strong opinions. And that’s what we call a win-win in our house.

{To follow the Formans’ journey click here}

 

The Trick with Feelings

Julie sent her friend an e-mail. It simply said,

“You don’t care about me.”

Her friend Heather’s heart sank.  Of course Heather cared about her!  She could think of a lot of ways she has cared for her.  She responded that she was sorry Julie felt that way, but could she please clarify what made her feel that way because she actually cared a lot about her.Julie responded,

“That’s just how I feel.”

Oh – it’s a tough day for Julie and Heather’s relationship!  What is going on?

There can be value in ‘sharing our feelings.’  It can help build intimacy in a relationship – if done healthfully, that is!  It can also cause great damage and destruction if done unhealthily.  Feelings are tricky.  They are great indicators… but poor foundations.  They are valuable in drawing our attention to something that is often important… but they are poor sources of truth.

Anyone can become angry—that is easy.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not easy.    ~ Aristotle

Feelings can be valuable to hone in on.  They could be a prompting from the Holy Spirit… or an indication that our rights have been violated… or a conviction that we have sinned… or an awareness that we have been sinned against…or simply the devil playing tricks.  At the very root of it all, feelings distill down to essentially three sources:

1.  God – The Holy Spirit may be prompting us, or our feeling may truly be a result of a pure spirit.

2.  Satan – Oh he’s crafty!  He figures out our buttons and knows how to orchestrate things so they get pushed.

3.  Sin – Our ‘feeling’ may entirely be our sin nature: our ignoble perception of a sinless – or lovingly motivated! – action.

With such hugely impactful sources of our feelings – and since they can send us and our relationships in oppositely helpful directions, how do we determine what to do with them?

“Your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to.”

Sometimes we blame others for our feelings… but in reality, our feelings may be caused by our own sinful nature.  They may simply be something *we* need to own and confess.  Before we go spreading it around the kingdom, it is valuable to first determine if we are spreading destruction and sin… or constructive, kingdom-building feedback.

Since excellence is associated with God and His glory, and since it refers to preeminent and best in its class, a feeling is only excellent if it is of the Lord.  If it involves our sin or Satan, it obviously can’t be excellent.  And since ‘excellent’ is a summary of the other characteristics in Philippians 4:8, let’s drill down on what it’s summarizing:

  • Is the feeling true?  Actually factually true?  No, it’s a perception.  So let’s start there – what *is* true?  What is actually, factually true that may be contributing to my feeling?   Did Heather do an actual, factual action?  Does it even have to do with Heather, or am I just in the dumps?
  • Is it noble?  If Heather did do an actual, factual action, what could be a more noble reason she could have done it?
  • Is it right?  Is this a personal preference thing, or does it pertain to sin?
  • Is it pure? Am I sure my heart is pure before the Lord, and this feeling isn’t a result of my junk?
  • Is it lovely?  Will sharing this with her promote brotherly love?
  • Is it admirable?  Or is it complainy and unfavorable?

If it’s not excellent, it’s not of the Lord.

Julie and Heather’s story demonstrates an important aspect of excellence:

It never means cloistered virtue or virtue of attitude, but virtue which is demonstrated in life.

Excellence is impactful.  Julie’s feelings certainly got demonstrated in life!  Her feelings and thoughts have played out in the kingdom and impacted at least one other…as well as herself.  This can be hurtful, damaging, and even verbally abusive to Heather.

But it is also hurtful to Julie. Second Peter 1:4 tells us the first thing we are to add to our faith is excellence:

Peter uses it as a quality of God and thus as the first quality that we are to add to our faith (2 Pe 1:3, 5). This means that as a new Christian, one of the first things you must do is to stop any behavior that is not in line with God’s moral virtues as revealed in Scripture, such as the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul’s list of the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:19, 20, 21-see notes Gal 5:19; 20; 21). To continue doing such things will hinder your growth in godliness. We must focus our minds on moral virtue.

If we continue in feelings not of the Lord, it will hinder our growth in godliness.  Yikes!  Let’s rid of that.

Instead,

A believer demonstrates moral excellence or virtue by living the way he now has the potential to live (possessing everything necessary for life and godliness, His precious and magnificent promises, partaker of His divine nature).

Thinking things that are excellent is truly fulfilling our purpose as it enables us to live the way we now have the potential to live as believers.  It enables us to grow towards godliness.  And it enables us to truly reflect the One who is Most Excellent!

Up next… I’ll share with you my own ‘Julie’ moment and how the Lord guided me through.

Best in Class

{some background today… with some great, practical application on Thursday}

What is one of the absolute best ways to get upstream of conflict?  Thinking things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.  So much conflict flows from our own thoughts… that we then try to pin on others.  Uggh.  But if we first be sure to align our thoughts to Christ’s, relationships flow much more smoothly!

We’re rounding the bend on unpacking Philippians 4:8.  Up next?  Excellent.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Now note the format changes a smidge when we approach ‘excellent.’  Introduced by εἴ τις – ‘if anything’ or ‘if there be any’:

A comprehensive exhortation follows, covering all possible virtues.

Excellent and praiseworthy, then, sum up all we are to think.  They cover all possible virtues.  It’s like

The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  ~ Romans 13:9

You’re likely well familiar with “Love your neighbor as yourself” – the second greatest commandment.  The phrase ‘whatever other commandment there may be’ contains that same εἴ τις, so the comprehensive exhortation to “love your neighbor as yourself” includes the commandments mentioned before, sums them up, and is overarching.

‘Excellent’ and ‘praiseworthy’ will do the same in Philippians 4:8. If you can’t remember all the adjectives before, just remember these!  They are the comprehensive exhortation of the verse.  They cover all possible virtues and sum up the ones mentioned.

So what do they mean?

Let’s start with excellent.  We could ask Bill and Ted : )

But we’ll go with Peter!  He’s the only other one who uses it in the NT.  Paul uses it only here in Philippians 4:8, then Peter uses it three times:

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.   ~ 1 Peter 2:9

We are supposed to show forth the excellencies of God – who called us out of darkness into marvelous light! We, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation!

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  ~ 2 Peter 1:3

I love that.  In the *knowledge* of God and Jesus, grace and peace can be multiplied.  For those of us with a sacred pathway of intellect, this is music  to our ears and lovely worship!  And I love that His divine power grants us everything – everything! – pertaining to life and godliness.  I could just rumble that around over and over all day long.  How amazing is that!  All this through true knowledge of Him! This kind of strikes a chord – Paul tells us to think things that are true, and there is a reason for it.  Truth leads to amazing places!  Yet again, in such a glorious verse, there is our word ‘excellence’ – again associated with God and His glory.

And our last one…

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge…  ~  2 Peter 1:5

So Peter uses it twice to refers to God’s glorious excellence, and here he challenges believers to add it to their faith.  Why?

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble…  ~  2 Peter 1:8-10

I just think that’s such a crazy amazing promise.  If we add excellence to our faith, we will not be useless or unfruitful.  How amazing is that?  And as long as we practice these things, we will never stumble.  Um… sign me up!

“Peter uses it as a quality of God and thus as the first quality that we are to add to our faith (2 Pe 1:3, 5). This means that as a new Christian, one of the first things you must do is to stop any behavior that is not in line with God’s moral virtues as revealed in Scripture, such as the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul’s list of the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:19, 20, 21-see notes Gal 5:19; 20; 21). To continue doing such things will hinder your growth in godliness. We must focus our minds on moral virtue.”

So here we are, with amazing reasons to desire thinking things that are excellent.  Now all we have to do is think things that are like God’s glory.  Yikes?

Let’s break it down a little.  Excellent, or ἀρετὴ, refers to ‘virtue’ or moral excellence.

In class. it has no special moral significance, but denotes excellence of any kind—bravery, rank, excellence of land or of animals.

So we’re not necessarily talking about being God here!  God is of course excellent in his class – or any class for that matter!  Thinking things that are excellent “refers to any preeminence (moral, intellectual, military).”  It came to mean “quality of life which made someone or something stand out as excellent.”

It has a couple of nuances to it that we’ll explore in some fun upcoming posts.  But for today, I must say I am always struck as I look into these words.  The bar is high.  The calling is noble.  What we are to be thinking about is ‘excellent’!  Preeminent.  Excellent in its class.  Like God and His glory.  Is the thought that I’m thinking about another person excellent? Is the thought that I’m thinking about the other candidate excellent?  How would my analogies hold up?

afterlife : heaven :: political discourse : my description of the other party’s candidate

gods  : God :: water cooler talk : my thoughts on my coworker

It’s pretty challenging – and convicting!  (And I’m not just talking about that flashback to SATs! : ))  If God is the most excellent in his category (and He is!), then by parallel, is my talk about others the most excellent it can be in that category?

The drawbacks of not doing it?  Changing my role at the water cooler talk.  It can be kind of a bummer to change those dynamics.  But the advantages?  Oh yeah – remember all that good stuff?  Never stumble.  Growth in godliness.  Being useful.  Fruitful.

Lord, help us crave thinking about things that are excellent!

A big picture to ponder… with a practical example coming up!

Mind the Gap

I was talking to a friend of mine who does websites for churches.  I shared the concept of my blog, and he suggested a talk by Andy Stanley.  It’s only fitting that it’s all about apps! : )

The talk is #5  in the Life Apps series.  It’s all about trust.

Andy’s take on this whole conflict thing seems to align pretty swimmingly with our take here at {double hockey sticks}.  I just love his angle on it!  I highly recommend listening to the talk – or even better, watching it!  He uses a simple illustration that is fantastic.  Here’s what I just love…

He offers a fairly simple – yet oddly profound – breakdown:

In every relationship, there are expectations…And then there is what we actually experience.

Here is what you said you would do…

Here is what happened…

Now here is the interesting part.  What happens when there is a gap?  What happens when what we expect and what actually happens are different?

When there is a gap, we choose what goes in the gap.

*We* are in charge of that.  *They* don’t control what goes in the gap.  *We* do.

Why?

Andy launches from some of the beloved wedding verses about loving one another.  His take:

Love gives the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Love looks for the most generous explanation for the other person’s behavior.

Here at {double hockey sticks}, we advocate it’s because it is our responsibility as believers to take captive our thoughts and make them obedient to Christ.  It is our responsibility to think things that are true and noble.  So we start with what is true – actually, factually true.  We start with what factually they said they would do… and what *factually* happened.  Factually what is true.  Not our opinion or our interpretation of their motives or our false attribution error of what happened.  The actual, factual, unopinionated version of what happened.

Then what do we do with the gap?

It is within your power to choose what goes in the gap.

We think things that are noble.  We assume there is a noble explanation.  We choose to believe the best.

We are in charge of what goes in that gap.

No matter how bad it is, no matter how wide the gap is, and no matter how consistently there is a gap, you. choose. what. goes. in. the. gap.

So we start with what is true of our expectations and experience (actually, factually true!), then we believe the best by thinking things that are noble to fill in any gaps.

This is, by the way, a great model for more than our thought life – it is a great model for ‘confrontation’ as well.  I put it in quotes, because it is my experience that most ‘confrontation’ doesn’t have to be ‘confrontational.’

Can I tell you the sweetest story from my husband’s childhood to demonstrate?

So my husband is out playing with some friends.  His mom calls him in for dinner.  What is a good kid to do? Well, obey their mom and come in for dinner.

But Dave doesn’t come in.  He continues hanging out with his friends.

Hmmmm…

You see the paradigm playing out here?

  • EXPECTATION: son comes in when mom calls him for dinner
  • EXPERIENCE: son continued talking to his friends

Both very factual, right?

Now what goes in the gap?

Possibilities of course include disobedience.  But my husband is a saint.  I’m serious : )  So my mother-in-law chose to believe the best.  She chose to assume positive intent.  She chose to think things that were noble.

And can I tell you – boy, was she right?

So Dave comes in, and for the sake of the story, let’s say she knows the future and follows Andy’s outline. : )  So she ‘confronts’ (not really, more ‘asks lovingly’)…

MOM: Dave, when I call you to come in for dinner, I expect you to come in.  But this time you didn’t.  Can you tell me about what happened?

And Dave responds, (are you ready for this?)

SON: I was in the middle of sharing the gospel with them.

{insert a bit of stun}  Yes, I told you the man is a saint : )

Sometimes there is a pretty decent explanation for why there is a gap between expectations and experience.  And may I be so bold as to say that we keep from sinning when we think nobly about what should go in that gap.

So let’s mind the gap.  Nobly! : )

{ There are more goodies in the talk.  I don’t want to spill *all* of them! : ) }

Grumble up!

So the first part of James 5:9 tells us not to complain or grumble against one another.  And we’ve been camped out on thinking things that are admirable.  So should we complain or grumble at all?

The verb – στενάζω, translated complain or grumble – is used six times in the New Testament. Four times it is used towards heaven or longing for heaven and is ok:

1.     Mark 7:34 – Jesus does it while looking towards heaven as part of healing a man.  Since Jesus does it, the verb in and of itself isn’t sinful.

2.     Romans 8:23 – We groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies.

3.     2 Corinthians 5:2 – We similarly groan longing to be in heaven.

4.     2 Corinthians 5:4 – We groan and are burdened while on earth because we long for heaven.

Twice it is used towards man and is *not* profitable:

5.     Hebrews 13:17 – We obey our leaders so that they lead with joy and not groaning, because the groaning towards us would be of no benefit to us.

6.     Here in James 5:9 – the only time it’s used as a command – as something we are not supposed to do towards one another.

It seems that the intensity with which we long or groan should be directed towards heaven… not towards man.  So if you want to grumble – if you’re really in a grumbling sort of mood – grumble not towards one another, but grumble and groan instead for the things of heaven. 

This is so cool.  I just love this shift!  Our struggles with fellow believers can actually remind us of our longing for heaven.  They may actually cause us to groan for the harmony of heaven.

So instead of grumbling at, we should grumble up. : )  We can groan and long for our eternal dwelling place of peace.  What a lovely place that will be!  And in that, we can rejoice.

The cure for grumbling!

So if we’re trying to think on things that are admirable… which includes not complaining…  how exactly do we do that?  When life gets frustrating – when people get frustrating – what do I do?

Today I’m hanging out in James 5:9.  There is so much good stuff in here that I’m just going to hang out with a few words – the first part of the verse, where it tells us not to complain or grumble against one another.

In some respects, that’s straight up.  But sometimes we dance really close to this – or straight up ignore it. Sometimes we find ourselves complaining or grumbling against our brothers and sisters… and sometimes we even justify it. So what is it exactly that we are *not* supposed to do against one another?

James’ approach is interesting.  Instead of fully detailing what all classifies as grumbling or groaning, he instead tells us how to keep a wide berth from it.

One of the wise pastors with whom I’ve had the privilege of working challenges that often we want to know where the line is on something so we can get right up next to it without going over it.  Our question often is, “How much can I get away with without crossing the line?”  But instead of having our eye on the line, we should instead have our eyes on Christ and try to get as far away from the line as possible.  Our question should be, “How can I best glorify God and keep a wide berth from the line?”

And gratefully, James helps us know how to do this!

His command not to grumble against one another occurs in the context of patience and perseverance.  It’s actually part of a series of commands:

Be patient… be patient… strengthen your hearts… don’t grumble against each other…take the prophets as an example (and Job who persevered)

So it seems that staying away from grumbling against one another involves being patient and strengthening our hearts.  (And thus grumbling would seem to be something that involves lack of patience and a weak heart.)

I like the imagery conveyed here.  Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to be patient – I run out of ways to distract myself or motivate myself to persevere like Job.  But strengthening my heart – that helps.  That tells me how to be patient – by loving my brothers and sisters wholeheartedly.

And it makes sense that patience involves strengthening my heart, right?  After all, “Love is patient” (1 Cor 13:4).  And God is the source of all love, so if I stay connected to Him and His love, I can rest in His patience and the strength that it brings to love my brothers and sisters and not grumble against them.

PHOTO CREDIT:  Thanks, f_mafra!

A Whole New World

So let’s say ‘complaining’ is something we dabble in from time to time.  Or maybe we even indulge in it.  It feels ‘normal.’  Others around us do it. And its bonding. And sometimes, we even enjoy it.  After all, people complain, right?

And then we read some crazy blog (or better, Bible!) that challenges us to do everything without complaining. And we start to wonder if we should take on this challenge.  But how do we even go about it?  What do we think about?  What do we talk with others about?  It seems restrictive. And hard.  And well, weird.

Is it?

  • It’s like when we gave up TV for a week – or more.  When my husband and I wanted to commit to this, it had honestly become such a habit that at first we sort of wondered, “What are we going to do in the evening?  What are we going to do with our time?”  But it didn’t take long.  We went for an evening walk and found ourselves stopping longer to talk to neighbors.  We didn’t feel a ‘need’ to get back to catch up on our shows.  We ended up at a neighbor’s house just chatting for a couple of hours.  How fun!  And that was our first evening even trying!
  • Or it’s like starting my new diet.  I recently learned I needed to avoid dairy.  Translation: no ice cream. At first, that doesn’t at all seem like fun.  It seems restrictive and limiting.  One of our favorite comedians, Brian Regan, has a whole gig about when he had to give up dairy.  He went to the grocery store and saw the dairy aisle – and it was like everyone was having a fun celebration with party hats on.  (2:50 – 3:25 – other than his affection for h*e*{double hockey sticks}, he’s super clean and funny!)  At first it feels like you’re missing out.  But then you discover things that you might never have explored otherwise.  Like did you know you can freeze a banana, then put it in the food processor (or through a Yonanas) and it comes out like a creamy bowl of goodness?  It has a consistency of ice cream or frozen yogurt, but it’s healthy?   And if you mix blackberries in with it, it comes out a fun purple color?  And with peanut butter it tastes really scrumptious?  And now I have a whole new world of fun treats… healthy treats… delicious treats.  But I may never have discovered or been drawn to this whole new world without avoiding the party in the dairy aisle!

  • Or it’s like talking about Christ with someone who is exploring, and they respond, “What do you Christians do for fun anyway?  I mean, if you don’t go to bars and get drunk and if you don’t hook up with people, what do you do?”  And when you haven’t done that for years and years – or you’ve never done it, it doesn’t quite even enter the realm of enticing and fun.  You’re having so much fun with your friends and hobbies and relationships and volunteering and serving and loving and other things that those aren’t at all enticing.

So while it may seem restrictive at first, eventually we discover a whole new world out there.  (You’re welcome for getting images of Jasmine and Aladdin stuck in your head. : ))

And you no longer are stuck on the ‘off limits’ sign.  Because the way you think… and the things you think about… and the way you think about others… and the possibilities you consider… and the enriching, heartening, elevating, solution-oriented thoughts that go through your head are, well, so enticing!

I credit Mike Mason for doing such a good job capturing this concept for me.  I fell in love with his Mystery of Marriage well before I got married.  And I’ve just loved his Champagne for the SoulHe writes beautifully and insightfully about his 90 day challenge to truly be joyful always.  I loved his perspective on whether this was restrictive:

To be happy is not to be cut off from the full gamut of normal feelings.  Happy people do not lobotomize their minds or castrate their emotions… Anyone who doesn’t allow room for sadness, anger, and suffering cannot remain happy.  The joy of the Lord is all-inclusive, deriving its strength from the very fact that it has carefully considered every aspect of reality under the sun, yet still remains happy.  (p158)

Kind of reminds me of our teddy bear effect!  In not complaining, God’s not asking people to castrate their thoughts, but to consider every aspect of reality and to love ‘the whole bear’ – not just focus on his tattered part.

Ok, so that part I like, but this next paragraph I *love*!

Choose to build your life on anything but joy, and you’ll be unstable.  Only joy provides a foundation firm enough to support the entire life of the soul.

Do you love that!  There is stability in building our lives just as God intends.  His desires give us a firm foundation to support the entire life of the soul.  It’s not just a ‘more positive’ experience to include joy or not complaining.  It provides a fullness and a richness and a strength for our entire life!

God’s name “I AM” (Exodus 3:14) denotes His constancy – the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  We, by contrast are characterized by inconstancy—so much so that we can hardly conceive of being joyful all the time.

Does that sound like our complaining – we can hardly conceive of all the time doing everything without complaining?

Ok, so here it is.  This is the line I *LOVE*!

We sidestep the challenge of such a life by calling it too narrow, when really we’re evading the development of a character as dependable as God’s.

Some things initially seem too narrow – like doing *everything* without complaining.  So we sidestep the challenge of it by dismissing it as narrow.  But when we do that, we miss something precious the Lord has for us.  We evade what He longs for us, what He desires for us, what He delights to give us – a beautiful development of character.  That is, a beautiful development of character that looks more like God’s.

I.  love.  it.

It’s a whole new world.

It seriously is!

one of those 4-word days!

Sometimes my quiet times are simply 3 or 4 little words.

That’s all.

Some people are Bible-marathoners.  And I love that.  It’s awesome to read through the Bible in a year.

But some days, I can’t get past 3 or 4 words.  That’s all.  I’ve got too much to work on – too far to go – to digest much more than that.  And then sometimes I sit on those 3 or 4 words for days.  Or weeks.  Or longer.  This ‘becoming holy’ thing can take quite a bit of work for me (of course with the Holy Spirit)!

One of those days I was happily reading Philippians.  So much good stuff in there.  And I opened one morning and started to pick up where I left off – at Philippians 2:14.  So I’m off and reading.. then {jolt}.  It became a 4 word day.

This is what I read:

Do everything without complaining…

Do you ever want to keep reading and pretend like you didn’t read what you read and look for something else you can work on applying?  : )

It’s kind of weird – there is something about it that feels like we’re giving up so much. It doesn’t say, “Give all your money away and everything you ever dreamed of and go live in a hut in Africa.”  (which would be totally fine if that’s God’s prerogative, of course)  But there is something about it that just feels like it’s challenging us to give up stuff down to our core.  Our thoughts, opinions, perceptions, conclusions – if we truly ‘do everything without complaining,’ these are all affected.

Ugghh for 4 word days!

Now you may be much faster at this whole sanctification thing than I.  If you are, hallelujah!  My 4 word day turned into days.  Which turned into weeks.  Which still gets me sometimes even years later!  So I certainly don’t have this ‘sanctification’ thing down yet, but I am so glad to be on the journey…

Those 4 words completely changed my outlook on so many things.  When I honor them, it truly is like a whole new world.  It helps me in thinking about our current Philippians 4:8 word, admirable.  It helps me abstain from inauspicious words – keeping from saying unfavorable things.  And truly, it helps me with so much more.

I’m excited to share with you some of my journey in applying this – or attempting to, at least!  And I invite you to come along.  Consider if the Lord may be asking you to apply this to your life, too.

It may seem unrealistic at first.  And it begs a lot of questions: I mean, what does that really mean?  Isn’t some complaining ok?  Aren’t your suppressing or squelching negativity?  Isn’t that more destructive later?  How in the world do you do that?  And what do you talk about if you don’t complain?

Those are great questions.  Let’s tackle them!  And I’ll include one more, “Is there anything you wish you would have done differently in your journey not to complain?”  (the answer is yes!!)

For now, I’d love to invite you to consider this question:

Is the Lord asking you to have a 4-word day?

I invite you to noodle and pray on it.  See if this is what the Lord wants you to work on right now.   It does feel a bit counter-cultural at times.  But it is a delightful journey and a wonderful challenge.  When I revert back to my old ways… ughh.  I’ll tell you that story next time!

the teddy bear effect

I’m a little bit excited here.

Ok, maybe that’s an understatement.

Today’s word I.  just.  love.  It’s the next word in Paul’s Philippians 4:8 goodness. We’ve explored thinking things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely… all with beautiful goals of honoring the Lord, staying focused on great stuff, and my passion: circumventing conflict before it even starts.

So what’s today’s word? Admirable.

A few fun facts about admirable:

Like ‘lovely,’ it is used only here.

In Greek, it looks like this coolness: εὔφημα.

  • The first part εὔ is the prefix of words like ‘euphemism’ – it means good.

In case its helpful, a euphemism is substituting a favorable word in place of an inauspicious one.  And don’t you love definitions that need to be defined!  Inauspicious means unfavorable {it pops up again below}.  So it’s substituting a favorable word in place of an unfavorable one.  (examples: ‘passed away,’ being ‘let go’)

  • And actually, the second part, φημα, also aligns with euphemism.  It means fame or report. It’s from the word φημί, meaning to say, declare, or make known one’s thoughts.

So admirable (εὔφημα) is also translated ‘of good report.’  It is making known your good thoughts.

It includes ‘keeping a holy silence.’  So it includes abstaining from inauspicious words {there’s that ‘inauspicious’ word again!} – keeping from saying unfavorable things.

But these aren’t just ‘euphemistic’ good thoughts.  It’s not just saying something nice even though you’re trying to cover for something less nice.  They are at least positive and constructive rather than negative and destructive.  But it’s more than that.  It goes deeper than that.

I love this:  Admirable (εὔφημα) is described as ‘implying essential worthiness.’

Don’t you just love that?  Can you imagine if all our comments about one another implied essential worthiness?  If they implied the essential worth that each believer has as the son or daughter of the King!  If they implied the essential worth that Christ implies – or more than that, enacts, embodies, exemplifies… bought!  He bought each and every believer with His. own. blood.  That is the essential worthiness of every believer (and those not yet believers!).

It’s like a tattered teddy.  There are plenty of negative or critical or lacking things to observe about him.

But can you imagine being critical about the bear to its owner?  Can you imagine telling its precious owner that this bear is ratty and a piece of trash?

Yikes.

Instead, how does the owner perceive the bear?  If we think about him through an admirable lens, how would our description of him change? What would we say if we thought about him through the lens of ‘implying essential worthiness’?

Valuable.  Precious.  Useful.  We’d look past the tattered parts – not because we ignore them, but because we see them differently.  They’re not inauspicious things to critique; instead, they give the bear some of its worth and identity.  They speak of memories and camaraderie. They are part of its essential worthiness.

It might be kind of how God sees us…

And how we could choose to see each other!