When ‘only skin deep’ is a beautiful thing!

Do you know what the largest organ in your body is?


Would you believe it covers almost 20 square feet on the average person?

It’s one of those organs that perhaps we don’t give enough credit.  The heart gets a lot of love.  And the brain gets its rightful accolades.  But the skin… well, let’s give it some of its fair shake.

skin deep

It’s good we have skin in the game!  It

  • covers and protects everything inside our body.  Can you imagine the havoc it would wreak on our other organs if it didn’t serve this important protective function?  All kinds of grime and gunk would cripple our other vital organs.  Skin protects from the viruses and bacteria to which we are exposed every day.  It also protects from sun exposure.
  • holds everything together.  It keeps our bones and muscles and organs from hanging out all over the place.
  • allows us to sense touch.  It is allows us to feel loving touch, hurtful touch and pain, fun touch… and play tag! : )
  • regulates body temperature.   It helps control hot and cold to enable our organs to function at their best.
  • kicks the bad out.  Our skin has an impressive 7 million pores through which is expels impurities and enable perspiration.

Skin serves as a protective barrier between our insides and the rest of the world, and it acts as a filter.

And not just physically.  Not just medically.

Skin is also an important protective barrier relationally.  It is an important filter in interactions with others.

A person’s skin is their boundary: it is their protective barrier between their insides and the rest of the world.  It is where they begin.

Let’s say someone makes a comment that is ‘only skin deep.’  So the comment would be simply about what is observable about another’s ‘skin’ – their physical actions.  For example, if a small group member arrives late to their 7:00 small group, the leader may start an inquiry with an ‘only skin deep,’ observable action:

“I noticed you arrived at 7:30.”

We’ve talked before about the importance of communicating about actual, factual actions.  Things that are skin-level observable.  Taking things at face value.  Commenting on things that are observable isn’t invasive because it does not go beyond skin deep.

But what if the leader took a different approach?  What if the leader presumes an interpretation of the member’s action?

“You clearly aren’t committed to the group.”

This goes beyond skin deep.  It delves into the persons heart and head, presuming to know their thoughts and motives.

Maybe the member isn’t committed.  But maybe they stopped to get a snack for the group, and while in line, they shared with another person in line about their amazing small group, which led into a conversation where they got to share about Christ.  Maybe the assumption about motive is completely off.  Maybe the interpretation of the observation is inaccurate, untrue, ignoble, and sinful.  Maybe it is actually the leader who is sinning by thinking things that are not true about the member.

Comments like this feel so hurtful because they go beyond skin deep.  When the leader comments about motives, such as presuming that the person isn’t committed to small group, they are presuming to know what is going on in the heart and mind of the member.  They are presuming to know the member’s motives and thoughts.  They go beyond the member’s boundary – their skin.  They penetrate beyond the boundary of the person.  They are a boundary-buster, and such boundary-busting causes unnecessary hurt and destruction in relationships.

This is why verbal abuse is so hurtful.  Someone presumes to know the precious things inside of you and negatively characterizes them.  They penetrate beyond the boundary of your skin.  It is not acceptable for someone to invade you in such a way; it is violating.   And that feeling is intensified when you are penetrated by someone you trust, someone in authority over you, or someone who should be protecting you.

You begin at your skin.  When someone tries to invade your protective barrier, you mustn’t let them!  It may feel rude to interrupt their sharing of their ‘perceptions’ of you, but interrupting is not a sin.  Verbal abuse is.  Saying things that are untrue about you is sinful.

You have every right to stop their penetration of you… and I would argue, every duty.  The Lord commands you to think on things that are true and noble, and if someone is trying to fill your thoughts with untrue, ignoble things about you, stop it.  Simply interrupt.

Do not let those ‘perceptions’ get under your skin!  Keep that bacteria and grime out of you.  One tiny little bacteria getting inside of you can wreck havoc on your system ~ not only mentally, but psychologically, spiritually, and physically.

So keep those tiny little bacteria out!  If a comment starts to feel like its presuming things about your thoughts and motives – that it’s getting under your skin, interrupt.  Because ‘only skin deep’ is a beautiful thing.

What will God ask me?

I was talking on the phone with someone I love dearly the other day.  As I’ve mentioned to you, I’m going through a really tough season in a relationship.  And the person on the phone had some opinions about what I should be doing and how I should be handling it.  Including that because I’m a Christian, it shouldn’t be like this.

I tried to kindly reaffirm my boundaries – this is my relationship with this other person, and I am handling it in as God-honoring of a way as I know how.

The response was, “I think I’m entitled to my opinion.”

Hmmmm…..I mean, I guess that’s true.  We are in America.  But something about it didn’t sit well with me.  I don’t know…

I was praying through all of this.  A bit uneasily.  I asked the Lord to show me what I should do in situations like that – Am I entitled to my opinion about what others should do in their lives? The Lord brought this verse to mind:

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial.  ~ 1 Corinthians 10:23

So it seems like it’s permissible.  But is it beneficial?

This could go a bunch of different directions, so let’s take a quick pause to clarify.  We make a distinction on {double hockey sticks} between sin and personal preference: 

  • Personal preference when *I* think someone should be doing something differently.  Our perspective is that personal preference is just that, personal preference!
  • Actual, factual sinwhen *God* thinks someone should be doing something differently.  If someone is actively, factually sinning, we of course encourage lovingly bringing it to their attention.
  • Perception of sinwhen I think I can see a person’s heart and motives and I think that God thinks they are sinning.  We are *huge* unfans of this.  It can quickly get messy and is destructive.

With that all framed up, our question today pertains to personal preference situations – not sin.  When I have a personal preference opinion about how someone else should be doing something, is that beneficial?

Ok, unpause : )

Now we could run our question through our {dhs} sifter

  • Is what I’m thinking true – meaning do I have all the facts and they are straight?
  • Is what I’m thinking noble – have I considered that there are at least two sides to the story and I know both of them and am presuming the best about both parties?
  • Is what I’m thinking righteous – that my opinions pertain to sin and not just personal preference?

Just to get us started!

Or we can take the shortcut!  Remember what we’ve established – even if you can’t remember all the adjectives at the beginning, we are to think about things that are excellent and praiseworthy as overarching principles.  ‘Excellent’ refers to ‘best in class.’  Are we thinking the best possible things we can be thinking?

Turn my eyes away from worthless things…  ~ Psalm 119:37

Is it straight up sinful to opinionate about others lives?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Some of it may or may not make it through the {dhs} sifter.

But we are commanded to think about things that are excellent.  Is opinionating about others’ lives excellent?

Here’s my best theory so far.  And it revolves around this question,

“What will God ask me when I get to heaven?”

Yikes, right?  How did we get to big heavy questions and the afterlife?  It’s an easy way to get a glimpse of what really matters.  Begin with the end in mind!  So let’s think about the big picture and see how it fits in.

Based on what I see in God’s Word, I personally can’t find any place in Scripture that seems to suggest God will ask me,

  • How do you think that person should have handled that situation?
  • What was your opinion on how my child did that?

I personally can’t find anything in Scripture that supports that God wants us to spend our time opinionating with our personal preferences about how another person handles things.  Remember when Job’s friends did this?  God was none too happy with them!

So is it straight up sinful?  I don’t know – I could see how that argument could get tenuous. But is it beneficial?  If I am trying to focus my thoughts on things that are ‘preeminent’ and ‘excellent in their class,’ to me, that means focusing on things that God wants us focused on – and I can’t find anyplace that suggests opining fits into this ‘excellent’ mold.  As David prays that God would turn his eyes from worthless things, are there more worthwhile things we could be doing?  Is there something more excellent we could be doing?

Based on what I see in God’s Word, what He asks us to do, and what He desires of His children, it seems to me that questions He may ask straight up from His Word would include things like,

  • How did you encourage them?
  • How did you support them?
  • How did you love them?

I see a lot in Scripture that supports that God wants us to love, support, encourage, pray for, and advocate for others.   It seems to me this may be the most excellent thing.

So is opinionating about what other people should do beneficial?  I think our end goal determines this.  When we stand before God, it seems to me that, at best, our opining will be of no value.  It will, at best, get burned away like chaff (1 Corinthians 3:15).But anything we’ve done according to His Word – our prayers, encouraging, advocating – that has eternal reward.   I get goosebumps just thinking about it!!

So are we “entitled to our opinion”?   I suppose.  Everything is permissible.  Including chaff.  Chaff is permissible.  But is that what we want?

It seems to me there is something so much better!

Something beneficial.


What God values and rewards eternally.

To me, it seems encouragement, support, love, and care is the excellent route.

Am I crazy?

Photo credit: Marco Bellucci

A new kind of intelligence

The people at our church I just *love.*  They are an amazing community.  So many wonderful faces are coming to mind as I type this.

So one of my favorite things to do is stand in the lobby and greet people as they come to church.  It is seriously like a dose of happiness to see so many just amazing people come in one after another.  And it’s fun to be available to help and serve.

So one day I’m hanging out in the lobby and in walks two pairs: a woman with her friend and a wife with her husband.  The way our lobby is structured, as soon as you walk in, it’s kind of like a Y – you have to veer either to the right or the left.  So I greet them, and the wife with her husband veers to the left.  I can hear her say to him, “Oh!  She is always so warm and welcoming.”  Super nice, right?

Simultaneously, the lady with her friend veer the other direction, and I hear her say to her friend, “Oh!  She is so fake.”

(Yes, I can hear what you say in the lobby : ))

Interesting, huh?

Now I’m no psychology expert, but I think it’s kind of hard to be simultaneously Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I’m guessing there are at least some times in my life where I am warm and welcoming, and there are other times when I’m really trying hard to muster up the love.  But simultaneously?

Ok, so it’s kind of a small story and kind of a small ‘conflict.’  But it highlights a very important question for this blog:  Why are we spending so much time in a website about conflict talking about all the true, noble, admirable stuff?  Why do we keep talking about what we *think*, and not how we resolve conflict?

For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. ~ Luke 6:45

Or their new translation,

For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

If the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure (and it is! : ) James 3:17), we best be sure we’re pure before we go confront someone.  And that includes thinking things that are admirable.

There are a few specific ways that this Luke 6:45 concept affects us, others view of us, and our relationships.  Thinking – or not thinking! – things that are admirable is so valuable in relationships!

#1 – TRAIT TRANSFERENCE: It reflects who we are.

There is a quote that I’ve loved since I was little.  I’m not sure exactly where it came from, and weirdly, I can’t find it on the internet.  Who knew there was something that couldn’t be found on the internet!?! : )  It goes like this,

What you say about a person says more about you than about them.

But we’re talking about *them*!  Yes, but we’re talking about *them* through *your* lens.  What we’re really seeing is your perspective.  What we’re really seeing is a better look at your lens.  What we’re really hearing from your mouth is a glimpse of your heart – affected by their actions, sure.  But *interpreted* by your heart.

Psychology seems to have found this Luke 6:45 concept reflected in relationships:

In “trait transference,” whatever you say about other people influences how people see you.  If you describe a coworker as brilliant and charismatic, or arrogant and obnoxious, your acquaintance will tend to associate you with those qualities.

People seem to sort of naturally apply the qualities we characterize others with to us.  It seems it is sort of natural for people to recognize that what our mouth speaks reflects the overflow of our heart.

#2 – FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR: It affects our relationships.

So here’s something interesting on that whole perspective.  I was reading Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage – a business leadership book, nonetheless, with this helpful psychology tidbit.  It says we can often be guilty of the fundamental attribution error:

Intentions or personalities are the reason other people do wrong things.
Environmental factors are the reason I do wrong things.

So when someone does something differently from how we think it should be done, or when they do something wrong, or when we feel like they are rubbing us the wrong way, we tend to assume it is because of their intentions or personality.  We say it is because they are fake or selfish or uncaring or whatever.  We tend to categorize and characterize.  But if we do something that is a little off, we tend to explain it by saying we were tired and trying our best, or we made the best decision given the circumstances.

Doing this is dangerous:

This kind of misattribution breaks down trust on a team

It breaks down trust in relationships.  Yuck.  But we can avoid this by applying #3!

#3 – EMPATHIC INTELLIGENCE: It affects our reasoning and intelligence!

But the ability to avoid it is divine!  In fact, apparently it’s a type of intelligence.  Who knew?  It’s called “Empathic Intelligence,” or the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes.  So that’s the ‘smart’ term for it.  The ‘cute’ term for it is “shoe-shifting” : ).  An article in Psychology Today says that

the ability to put yourself in the other guy’s shoes is a fundamental skill of extraordinary power.

We simply try to stand in their shoes.  By doing so, we gain a fundamental skill of extraordinary power.  Psychology Today argues that this skill has proven important in major decisions, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis!  We might as well start practicing small now, right?

So fake or warm?  Ultimately that’s for the Lord to decide.  What is for me to decide is whether or not I will choose to think admirable thoughts about others.  In doing so, we can avoid the fundamental attribution error, and we avoid breaking down trust in relationships.  Instead, we honor the Lord by thinking and saying things that are of good report, not inauspicious, and implying essential worthinessWe honor ourselves, our thought-life, the other person, our relationships – and our Lord! – by thinking things that are admirable!

photo credit: John E. Simon

Your fellow partiers

It took me a long time to realize I’d done it wrong.


And years.

And even then, I wasn’t sure if I agreed with my new conclusion. I had this sort of tug-of-war between what I wanted to be true and what I think God may actually suggest is true.

So I totally understand if you disagree with me today. I did for a really long time.

As I embarked on my journey to do everything without complaining, I wanted my fellow partiers to know about what I felt like the Lord was challenging me to do. So I shared with them what the Lord had impressed on me: that I was uncomfortable how I talked about others around them, and I didn’t want them to ever question or wonder how I talked about them when they weren’t around. So out of care for others – and them – and because I felt like the Lord was challenging me to, I was going to quick talking critically about others to them. I wanted in general to only talk about – and think about! – others as if they were right in front of me. Respectfully. As God’s creations deserve.

The Lord affirmed His challenge to me with verses like Philippians 2:14 – to do everything without complaining, and Proverbs 29:11 – a fool vents.

Now this FIRST STEP I actually highly recommend. It gives those close to you a heads up that you’re not all of a sudden withholding information from them… or unwilling to talk about subjects you used to… or doesn’t send any potentially incorrect messages like you suddenly don’t trust them with information or anything. So I highly recommend sharing your new challenge to do everything without complaining with those close to you.

That part was valuable. But these next two steps I didn’t think of at the time. But I wish I’d done them.

The SECOND STEP I recommend is this: invite them to join you in the challenge.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Hopefully it is for you! Hopefully they say, “Great! I love it. The Lord says it, so let’s do it!”

If so, blog post is done! No need to keep reading. You have your fellow partiers… and your party – and afterparty! – is underway. Enjoy. Party on!

But they may not respond so excitedly. After all, complaining is sort of a ‘part’ of people. It’s their ideas, their perceptions, their ‘insights,’ and some find it incredibly valuable and hard to let go of.

An image comes to mind. Is this too much? Uggh. It’s emblazoned on my mind.

We were walking in DC one day and saw one of their many homeless men on the street corner. He had a whole slew of bottles lined up around him. Tons. And tons. And I couldn’t figure out what was in them. It kind of looked like beer maybe? What was that? Some kind of drink?

One of my friends explained: The man had nothing. So there was actually something comforting about having something in his possession. Something to his name. So apparently its pretty common to keep bottles of – are you ready for this? – urine. They are a possession. They are his. And in some way that both seems really weird but then sort of started to make sense, they are valuable to him because they are a part of him.

Yeah. Sorry for the gross visual! But at least I didn’t include a picture, right? So that’s sort of what starts to come to mind after I started to realize and get adjusted to how ucky complaining was. People’s complain-y thoughts are theirs, and they love them. They feel valuable because they are a part of them. They are their insights and ideas. So it can be hard for them to let go of them. That is, until the Lord helps impress upon them how ucky they are.

So my old mindset was this: God works on different people at different paces.

And I totally believe that’s the case. There are things the Lord has done in your life that He still needs to work on in me. And this complaining thing – He’s worked on that with me – and we’re of course still working, but maybe this is the first time He’s impressed it on you. There are other things – or maybe even this thing! – that you’re farther down than the road than I. And that’s what’s fun about the Christian kingdom. I would be hard-pressed to say that there is anyone who is farther down the road than you or me at everything pertaining to Christ. Even a brand new believer – they may be stronger at having childlike faith or exuding joy or any of lots of things that a seasoned believer can be refreshed in and reminded of.

I still believe my old mindset, but its application is so different for me that it actually kind of feels like a new mindset.

Old way…

me: “God’s working on me to not talk critically about others and not do things without complaining, etc.”

someone else: “Ugghhh.”

me: {thinking} That’s ok. God is working on us at different paces and places. I’m sure they are ahead of me in lots of ways, and this is simply an area that God is working on me in. But not them. Ok.

Grace is a wonderful thing. But I think I was applying it wrongly.

It took lots of struggling… and pain… and hurt… and broken relationships… and, in all honesty, reticence to still accept because I wish it weren’t true. But this is what I now believe is the new way.

This is really hard… it’s even hard for me to type. And it might sound mean. I hope you’ll give me a chance to unpack it next time. Because I really think it’s the Lord’s heart. Reluctantly – I reluctantly think that. But I do think it’s the Lord’s heart. So STEP THREE is this: If fellow believers don’t want to take the challenge with you, it is right and good … {gulp} … and hard and may feel mean … to reconsider their role in your life.


Like one of those deadening {thud}s.

This isn’t so much feeling like a party anymore, eh?

I don’t like this part of life, in all honesty. I want everyone to be at the party together. And I want everyone to *want* to be there. But if you’re partying in non-complain land, and you have complainers all around you, are you really in non-complain land?

That’s sort of a weak start… I promise to unpack it more next time. Please come back! I don’t want to leave you hanging on this sour note. But I’m guessing I alone can’t convince you. The Lord will have to do much of that. And it took me years and years to be willing to accept step 3. I’ll at least give you the weekend! I think you’re smarter than I. And I pray the Lord’s quick clarity for you. It saves lots of pain, heartache, mis-invested relationships, and misapplied grace. Ughh. I still don’t like the reality of it. But I do think there is value in its truth.

(of course there is! There is always value in God’s truth : ))

Enjoy your weekend. I’ll see you back here next week!

The Afterparty

Living life by doing everything without complaining is truly a party.  I mean, why hang out in the yucky things of life?  Keeping our focus on what the Lord is doing… and how He wants us doing it – without complaining!… is such an enjoyable way to live life.

And as if that’s not enough, the afterparty is fantastic!  Not only do we get more enjoyable days that – do you remember this goodness?  ‘support the whole life of the soul‘ – but it also enables a whole cascade of other delights!

Here are a few favorites I’ve experienced…

1.       Better solutions

When I don’t complain, I’m more solution-oriented.  I’m more focused on the actual problem.  I do far less disparaging of a person, their character, and their possible motives.  I think more admirably of them, which, in all honesty, frees my thoughts towards more productive stuff – like actually understanding and solving the problem.


2.       Better positioned to honor the Lord

What I love about all this is this:  I can’t take a lick of credit for it.  God’s smart, of course.  When we do things without complaining, it’s much easier to also keep his other commands, like “In your anger, do not sin.”

And in ucky situations, when we don’t complain, other commands are much closer in reach.  “Rejoice always.” “Give thanks in every circumstance.”  If we’re not heading down the complaining path – but instead down the party path - they seem a mite bit less impossible.  If we’re following one of God’s commands by not complaining, we’re better positioned to be able to follow His others.

{These next two are a bit awkward to write. My heart is that every lick of glory goes to the Lord.  I pray I’ve conveyed that!}

3.       More respect

This piggy-backs on #2.  It’s for sure one of the things for which I can’t take a lick of credit!

As I work through my ‘recent unpleasantness,’ it is such a blessing to me when the Lord is honored with responses from others like, “Wow.  You talk so respectfully about them.”  “I’ve never heard someone process so much hurt with so much respect.”  “Hmm….  I don’t sense bitterness in you… but actually, oddly, respect.” Now I can’t take any credit for any it!  It’s simply God’s way.

I believe that not complaining about others helps enable it.  I believe that thinking things that are admirable about others enables it.  In the midst of messes, it is truly an honor to speak and think honorably about others.

4.       Confrontation is easy

Yes, you read that correctly!  When I do things without complaining, confrontation is easy.  Why?  Because it’s not really ‘confrontation.’  When we communicate to others with respect, it’s much harder for things to get messy.  Dare I say – nearly impossible?

I am humbled by others’ feedback when they feel I’ve said something directly but respectfully – actually in a way that respects them and builds them up though I’m asking for something to change. And again, I can’t take a lick of credit for it.  It’s the overflow of God’s Word.

It simply starts by implementing one of his commands, “Do everything without complaining…”  And that cascades into so much other goodness.

It’s a blessing of an afterparty – and it’s credit goes all to the Lord!

QUESTION:  As you’ve been doing everything without complaining, what are your ‘afterparty’ joys?

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?


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!

Am I crazy, y’all?

We enjoyed a great 4th of July!  We took a delightful trip to Nashville, where we got to see great people from both sides of our families.  We ziplined – so fun!, caught up with friends, and enjoyed some delicious farm-to-table restaurants.  It was a granny-slappin’ good time! : )

While we were there, it was hotter than a goat’s butt in a pepper patch.  How funny a phrase is that?  We learned a few others as well as we talked with friends and kinfolk about lots of things… including {double hockey sticks}.  Through those conversations – and with someone newfound phrases! – the Lord was gracious to crystallize a few things:

1.  What we’re fixin’ to do:  Right now, we feel like we’re knee-high to a grasshopper in what the Lord could do with {double hockey sticks}!  If we had our druthers, we would be excited to see several stages.  Down the road, we hope to work on building more of a platform, developing the ministry, prayerfully adding sort of like Board members, and hopefully spreading this goodness!

But for this stage – for where the Lord has us now, for the things He’s unpacking and the message we’re passionate about conveying, for the words we’re trying to find to best explain it, and for the refining, clarifying, and solidifying He’s doing – for this stage, it seems that our purpose is to answer this question:  Am I crazy?

Much of the {double hockey sticks} mindset is different from so many relationships, conversations, and mindsets.  So it seems that either we’re crazy… or it seems that the Lord has a refreshing refining to do in His kingdom, and He’s gracious to let us be a part!  So step 1?  Determine if we are crazy!!

2.      Not everyone will say, “Dern tootin’.”  (Apparently that’s an expression of agreement – who knew?)  The {double hockey sticks} mindset doesn’t seem to be the majority perspective, so some well seasoned people in life seem to have a different perspective.  There have been and will continue to be challenges as we navigate this mindset with those who think we’re crazy!

They may end up being right, but so far, the interactions have proven clarifying.  Every encounter – as we go back to the Word and examine its teaching and consider its application – has strengthened our understanding that the {double hockey sticks} mindset is exactly what the Lord teaches and desires.  We’re grateful for the new levels of understanding, clarity, and commitment those encounters provide… but the rockiness is tough!  For as challenging of a journey as it has been so far, we’d love to be surrounded with supporters.  Some think our dog won’t hunt, but we trust the Lord and His perfect plan, we rely on His firm Word, and we pray for His perfect peace, clarity, and will.  As one of our cousins is so wisely committed to, *Thy* will be done!!

3.      The Lord will sho ’nuff unfold His steps!  It’s tempting to want to skedaddle on down the road and unfold the next steps, but as we’ve been reminded often on this journey, we invite a heap of cattywampus into our lives when talking about conflict.  It’s oh so wise to go at the Lord’s pace!

One of our cousins has had a neat journey as a rising artist in Nashville.  And her parents have the greatest stories about how the journey is the Lord’s.  He unfolds the path.  He unfolds the next steps.  Our job is to rely on Him, trust him, and seek Him.  His job is to light the path.  When our cousin needed a new guitar, they prayed, and the Lord provided.  Their connections have been truly of the Lord.  Their meetings with the right people are because the Lord orchestrated it.  It’s a purdy picture of trust and reliance on the Lord to do His work His way in His time.  I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if it’s because of human effort!  No, it’s because God knows what He’s doing.  We simply trust Him.

4.      Our hankering keeps on growin’!  As we celebrated America with some good ol’ Nashville country artists in their inviting small town big city, I couldn’t help but well up with gratitude and joy for our freedom in America.   I love celebrating freedom!  And I especially love the freedom that the {double hockey sticks} mindset offers!  It’s a tiny tweak that makes such big difference in our freedom and joy as we relate to others.

So that’s where we are and what we’re all about right now.  We are beyond blessed that y’all have chosen to journey with us!

“You are intimidating”

Let’s get our {dhs} sifter cranked up!

Today’s topic?  Telling someone, “You are intimidating.”

We’ll run it through our trusty sifter – because before we consider how to confront someone on their ‘intimidation,’ we must first consider if it is worth confronting.  And our big question before we consider if it’s worth confronting is it is even worth *thinking*!

So here we go with our Philippians 4:8 {dhs} sifter.  We’ll do the first few at least…

IS IT TRUE?  Is the statement “you are intimidating” a true statement?   Is it actually, factually true?  By ‘true,’ I mean  on par with statements such as “God is true,” “Jesus is true,” and “Scripture is true.”

No, it is an opinion – a perception.  And remember that we are to *demolish* perceptions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God.  So then our big question becomes, “Is this God’s perception?”  Remember, to be off on this is to set ourselves up against the knowledge of God.  That’s a crazy big deal.

It also easily edges into some pretty ugly words – like slander:

Slander is making a false statement or misrepresentation about another person that defames or damages the person’s reputation.

I think we can do better!

IS IT NOBLE?  Is “you are intimidating” the most noble explanation we can come up with for their actions?

A story for ya…

There once was a gal for whom this term “intimidating” was often used.  I wanted to know what the scoop was and why everyone thought she was intimidating.  This is what I discovered:  Almost two decades earlier, she had been violated by someone she trusted.  And she felt stuck.  She trusted him, and he severely broke that trust.  Whom can she trust to tell?  So for almost two decades, she held on to this secret.  She was hurt, felt violated, and was unsure about whom to trust in life, and if she trusted someone, what they would then do to her.  She didn’t need someone to tell her, “You are intimidating, and you need to be less intimidating.”  She needed someone to care.  To love her.  To give her a safe place to unload her big devastation.  And to help her explore how to let the good in while keeping the bad out – instead of just keeping it all out.  Unpacking all that helped her be more open to relationships – healthy ones, that is.  But a judgment wasn’t going to help her; care was.

And another one!

There once was another gal for whom this term “intimidating” was also used.  It turns out for her she had been verbally abused for years by spiritual leaders.  As she went to others for help, she was consistently given well-meaning – but actually not biblically helpful – advice and feedback.  She started to get leary of relationships in general and talking to anyone.  Her healthy, biblical boundaries were consistently violated. Then some sojourners along the way helped her start to identify those violations, and the Lord showed her how to navigate them with strength according to His Word and His pleasure.  As she began to get clarity on truly biblical relational dynamics, and as she began to feel like her life was less about constantly being hurt, she was strengthened to enjoy healthy relationships.

Now I’m no psychologist, but in many of the “intimidating” people with whom I’ve worked, there seems to be some common themes: hurt, unbiblical advice that sounds biblical, confusion about whom they trust, often some violations that I think would make the Lord very sad, lack of clarity on how to navigate those to let the good in but keep the bad out… and did I mention hurt?

There are often much more noble explanations for a person’s “intimidation.”

IS IT RIGHT?  WARNING:  I’m going to turn things on their head a bit here.  So keep reading at your own discretion!

Remember, ‘right’ pertains to ‘righteous.’  It refers to sin.  Our goal as believers is to help raise a harvest of righteousness (James 3:18) – not personal preference.  If a person is intentionally trying to make others fear them, that’s one thing (though that often still ties into the ‘noble’ hurts above, and though we’re still not to judge the motives of a man’s heart).

But if they simply have non-sin actions that we ‘perceive’ as initimiding… well…{gulp}…that may actually be…{are you ready for this?}… *our* sin.


When I run “you are intimidating” through the grid of Scripture, I can’t get the statement to come out in tact on the other side.  “You are intimidating” can be ‘translated,’ “I am intimidated by you.”  ‘Intimidated’ is ‘frightened’ or ‘afraid.’  We are to fear God… but anything else?

“In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”  ~ Psalm 56:11

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6

“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”  ~ Hebrews 13:6

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  ~ Psalm 27:2

“The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~ 1 John 4:18

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  ~ Joshua 1:9

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  ~2 Timothy 1:7

A spirit of timidity or fear is not from God.  In fact, God *commands* the opposite – over a hundred times in Scripture!

IS IT PURE?  If it’s my sin, then I need to purify my thoughts.  If I am losing sleep over someone’s ‘being intimidating,’ there is an easy way to solve it: Confess my sin of fear to the Lord.

Things get messy when we blame another person for our sin. They can’t own our sin.  They can’t confess it for us.  They aren’t a dreg runner!

water bottle characters

I cannot expect the world to change so I don’t sin.  Oh wow – that’d truly be a picture of the world revolving around me!  My sin is my sin.  I shan’t blame another for it nor expect them to own it.  It is *my* responsibility to own it and confess it.

So once I confess my fear and quit being afraid, well, then, there is no longer a problem.  {poof}  There is nothing left to confront.  And we’re not even all the way through our {dhs} sifter!

Yet I do want to go one step further.  We’ll touch on ‘lovely’ next time – and the possibility of a conversation of mutual benefit.  But I think that’s enough for now!  WHEW! : )

And the winner is…

Ohhh…. Me likey!

Someone e-mailed a suggestion to my request for better shorthand for tnrplaep!  To help us consider what thoughts to take captive and make obedient to Christ, we consider Philippians 4:8,

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.  ~ Philippians 4:8

But since all those words are a bit of a mouthful, I was hoping for a shorthand.  And I love the suggestion {dhs} sifter!

That’s precisely what Philippians 4:8 does – it helps us sift through what we should be thinking on and which thoughts we should send to the place with the {double hockey sticks}.  It focuses us on the things of Christ and helps us transform our minds to be more like Christ’s.  It helps kick sin and Satan — and all their sneaky ways — where they belong.  And it frees us to delight in conflict done well.

That’s a pretty darn valuable sifter!