Saturday, January 23, 2010

Perfection or relationship...?

I drove past this man once who was beating (I presume) his wife whilst trying to drive his car. He was so violent – unlike anything I can remember ever seeing. In the moment of driving past I could see right into her eyes and she was defenseless against the merciless onslaught of this man. What on earth did she do to ‘deserve’ that kind of treatment? I cried for an hour afterward just thinking about it...

I saw a woman once ‘disciplining’ her child with such harshness and impatience that I got in my car and left in tears because I couldn’t stand the sight of that little girl’s spirit being crushed over shampoo in her eyes. I cried all the way home...

The first thing I bought myself when I left home was an iron. I remember my mom never getting dressed unless she has ironed her outfit for the day because she didn’t want to look like someone who climbed out of a laundry basket; all creased. She would have her clothes washed and ironed, and then she would iron it again before wearing it on the particular day. It had to be perfect. When I left home I mimicked a lot of my mom’s behavior because I believed that that was the way it should be done.

As I became older I realized that some of her ways did not work for me anymore and I started feeling the liberty of making changes and doing things in my home the way I preferred them instead. I slowly started becoming the person I wanted to be. Up to that point her way was the only ‘right’ way and I so desperately wanted to please my mom. In my heart and mind it was about being good enough to earn her love. Missing the mark could mean love being withheld – like punishment. So if I could get everything just right – just the way she liked/preferred it – then I would be good enough, and maybe then I would feel loved... Growing up though, I never really felt that... loved... without performing to earn it.

The question that started rising up in my heart and mind as I started journeying with God was: where is the balance between getting it perfect and crushing someone’s spirit over the so called imperfection – remember, according to my idea of perfection/imperfection?

A dear friend of mine feels very strongly about a tidy house. This is a difficult concept when you have small children. Even though one can teach them to be tidy, you can never (realistically) have a home the same as someone who don’t have children. Kids will be kids... However, this friend of mine used to have horrible anger tantrums over a less than perfectly neat home and this little girl wasn’t quite catching on to the lesson her mom was trying to teach her about being tidy. Instead she had to bear the brunt of her mother’s anger. Somewhere along the line of this experience I started asking myself, “is it really more important to have a tidy house so that you would rather crush a precious little girl’s spirit than have a few things out of place?”

This, and a few other experiences, really taught me that sometimes we have to choose between perfection and relationship. What is more important to us; the thing or the person...?

Because of not understanding grace and mercy for myself I used to be VERY hard on myself – there was no room for error, or you were disqualified. I treated others the same way because I didn’t know how to show mercy and grace to others. (...can’t give what you don’t have...) Through this learning curve I started realizing that sometimes the imperfect scenario is not worth hurting the relationship (or the spirit of another person) over it. I started learning to weigh it up in the moment and choose my response more wisely. The thing is just that, not only had I often hurt the other person, but through hurting the relationship I really also hurt myself. I started feeling that it was really a loose-loose situation. Was it really worth it??? In most cases... NO! People are imperfect – will always be – so if we’re looking for perfection you have a very good chance of ending up a very lonely person because there would be no one to be in relationship with.

Last night I messed up quite badly. For me – if it was I looking at an outside party, I don’t think it was THAT big a deal, but for my friend, it was a VERY big deal! So much so that she refused to spend the rest of the evening with me. She didn’t say anything about what bothered her and I would honestly not have guessed what the truth was, but in the end of the evening she chose to change the plans we had and went home instead, ‘dismissing’ me. Later on she let me know about what bothered her and it made more sense to me then.

My heart felt very sad about her decision to call it a night. I had so looked forward to spending the time with her. I really felt that what bothered her was not such a big deal that I – that WE - had to loose out on spending precious time together. What makes me even more sad is the fact that I can never have this evening over again. It is time that is lost forever...

We have to be so careful about the choices we make, because every action (choice) has a consequence. Does the punishment really fit the crime? Do we cut our own nose and think that we spite someone else’s face? (Someone said it well once... it is like drinking poison thinking the other person is going to die...) If you have to put that which bothers you, and the choice/consequence about how to handle it in a scale, which weighs more in the greater scheme of things?

I realize that I cannot turn back the clock and do any of it over. I cannot fix it. I am not perfect, and that was not the last mistake I’ll ever make... But another question that rises up in my mind is whether the mistake was worthy of the ‘punishment’? Was it really more important to my friend that this small, innocent gesture didn’t suit her, than it was important to put the two minutes of it aside and spend the whole rest of the evening with me in a pleasant way? The thing is, in the end, if I understand it correctly, the choice my friend made caused both of us to loose out on something very precious... time together. Was it really worth it...? Time that you can never have back...?

Did I learn a lesson from it...? No. The hurt of my heart is what stands out more in this memory. The hurt over disappointing my friend, and the hurt for lost time that I will never have back, no matter how much I wish that I could have done it different, done it better. All the wishing and desiring in the world does not change a thing...

It is 3:20am... I can’t sleep because my heart is troubled over things not being right with my friend...

I’m remembering a blog I wrote a while back on “dressed for the occasion”... It reminds me of who I used to be... I’ve posted it again in adding to my experience of tonight...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wired to make disciples

[Excerpt by Kenny Luck - New Man eMagazine - 21 Jan 10]

Risking spiritual reproduction of yourself requires guts and perseverance. But it is also the greatest adventure God's man will ever take. Raising up and training a leader to do God's work is nuclear—it has a blast zone that extends to people you will never know you influenced. [Liane – I LOVE this statement!!]

It will happen because you invested yourself and made deposits into the life of one other person and intentionally brought him to maturity so you could release him to ministry. People touching people who touch people for Jesus in a chain of relationships that span centuries.

As a men's pastor, my goal for the guys in my church is that they be "contagious" reproducers—that other men will be "infected" with a desire for spiritual reproduction. The reason is that Jesus shared His life and mission with 12 men who in turn went on to infect the world with the gospel. Paul had the same mentality. How about you?

Kenny writes Paul defines discipleship in the simplest and most functional sense: taking another man on a spiritual journey with you. He grabbed Timothy and hit the road! They traveled together; taught together; ate many a meal together; laughed, I'm sure, together; and saw large numbers of people come to know Jesus. Paul passed down a pattern of thinking and teaching to his disciple while they were together over the years that Timothy needed to retain, protect and preserve as he lived among others he would influence for Christ.

Jesus influenced through RELATIONSHIP!

The concept of taking another man on a spiritual journey with you is something very close to my heart. If God can use me to change another man (or woman’s) life for good, then I’m in! One thing that Kenny touches on that resonates in my heart is in the first paragraph: “risking spiritual reproduction of yourself requires guts and perseverance.”

Firstly, when you have a burning desire to help God change lives, it most certainly challenges you to stay abreast with your own growth/development in God, because you cannot give what you don’t have, therefore whoever is under your leadership can’t grow bigger than who you are. You have to make sure that you never stop gaining something new in your character to give away. Ray McCauley said it well when he explained that our lives needed to be like a river and not a swamp. A swamp does not sustain life because the water is dormant. There is no in- or outflow... no movement. A river on the other hand has an in- and an outflow. Because there is constant flow of water there is consistent space for new and fresh water. Therefore it has the power to sustain and reproduce life. So not only is it good for us to give away of ourselves so that we can consistently be topped up with new Life, but it also changes another person’s life – a gift of eternal value! I’M IN!!!

Secondly, according to God’s standards, it will always be: FIRST the WHO (we are), THEN the WHAT (we have or do). Who we are in our character – eternal value to an eternal God – determines the life we live on this earth, which is anyway the temporary part of it all, since we’re just ‘passing through’, according to the Bible. While we’re here we can therefore not loose sight of what really matters. If we focus on what is most important (the WHO), then the WHAT will chase us, instead of us chasing it. Besides that, if we are not mature enough in our character, we cannot be trusted with valuable treasures that God have for us.

Someone once preached on it, and it made good sense to me, where he compared it to a human passing away and leaving an inheritance to a minor child. According to law the child cannot receive his father’s millions because he is considered under age and not responsible enough to know what to do with it. Therefore it is managed by selected adults – mature enough to know what is best for the minor. However, as the child comes of age, he might receive portions or all of the inheritance – often at the age of 21. At this point the law considers him/her an adult and able to make his own decisions in a more responsible way.

The preacher continued explaining about the prodigal son who asked for his inheritance and then ended up with the pigs after having wasted it all away. He did not have the character to know what to do with the inheritance. If he did, the story would probably have ended very differently. In the same way it is important that we mature in our character so that we are able to know what to do with that which God wants to entrust us with. I want all that God has for me, so I’M IN!!!

Thirdly, when God entrusts you to work with people, it is VITAL to remember that those people belong to HIM!!! What you do with it matters to Him greatly, and you dare not have a ‘don’t care’ attitude about it! The Bible says that spiritual leaders will be held accountable by God for the lives that they worked with. These people are God’s jewels, and He loves and cherishes them. We dare not treat it with disrespect or careless negligence. Do you know Who you’re dealing with? I have great reverence for this fact.

Fourthly, you can never invest of yourself in another and NOT grow yourself. What you experience with the disciple, will always be worked back into your own life by God to mould and shape you where He knows you also need it. The miracle of this is that it happens while you’re focussing on giving to someone else. It is not because of your effort, so in the end God gets all the glory, because you were distracted from trying too hard to fix yourself. I’ve often heard it said, and I agree with it, that when you need God to do something in your life you should find someone for whom you can do something that will help them. While you’re busy helping someone else, God sorts your situation – it distracts you with something positive so that you are not consumed by your own problematic situation and neither are you having a tug of war with God over who gets to deal with your problem. He can work in peace, and the next thing you notice, it is resolved.

The last thing I want to point out is how important it is to remember that it is always GOD’s work. He chooses the assignments and the timing and we are merely instruments for His glory. We should never loose sight of that. We stand in service of the King and we do as He instructs, not as we please for our own glory. So it is important for me to listen to God’s leading. Who does He want me to become involved with – to journey with – how long the journey should last, and what my role is in it – to speak when He tell me to and to say what He needs them to hear. He is always centre stage. Also, He is the only One who knows exactly what that person needs and how to influence their lives, so it is important that He holds the instrument (us) to get the job done precisely. We just need to have our heart in the right place and be willing... with a humility to submit to the leadership of the One who knows it all!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Waiting for the fulfilment of the promise (by Joyce Rodgers)

When someone tells us "thus saith the Lord," many of us hold on to every prophetic word, waiting for the fulfillment of the promise. But we must not wait passively; God wants to reveal Himself to us now in a fresh way. We want results, but He wants relationship. Let's ask the Holy Spirit to infuse us with a passion to know the Father intimately, no matter how He brings about His will.

So you have it all 'figured out', do you...?

What is it with us always imagining the worst case scenario...? Why can’t we go through life thinking, “What if (.... fill in something SPECTACULAR)...?” Instead, we go through life imagining all the negative “what if’s” and spending way too much time worrying about it, or being miserable. All of that just to find out that most of those scenarios never materialize. What a waste of precious time (and energy)!!

When I was younger I had tremendous issues with rejection; rejection from others and also self rejection. I used to feel that everything that went wrong had to somehow have something to do with me; either who I am or something I did. When it came to love and relationships I couldn’t accept the idea that anyone could just love me... let alone love me unconditionally, the way God does. I would actually behave in ways that would push people away, and most people did leave. So initially when they seemed to care about me, I would not believe it or allow myself to just accept it. I would subconsciously start behaving in ways that actually challenged their caring and in the end most of them would move out of relationships with me. Then I would feel that I have ‘proved’ myself right: they said they cared, but they lied, and them walking away had just proved me right –“Just as I thought”, I would think to myself.

I spent many years thinking that I was right, until I realized just how wrong I was.

Today I understand why they left and I don’t blame them. When I look back now on who I used to be, I can see just how much of a work God had done in me till now. I could not have been an easy person to be in relationship with. But today I am a far cry from the person I used to be, and my heart is eternally grateful!

However, lately I have been very challenged with the idea of having to control my imaginings. I find myself often taking little things very personal and it threatens to get out of proportion. I have to consciously discipline the ‘demons’ in my mind. I’m becoming more and more aware of the question: “Where do we get off thinking we can read someone else’s mind?” Where do we get the notion that we know it all? How much time and energy do we spend on thoughts and emotions where it is all about us thinking we have all the answers about something or someone? Then we spend more time making plans, rehearsing conversations, having arguments, plotting revenge, making ill informed decisions, feeling sorry for ourselves, etc. (planning actions) based on those illusions. And then we spend even more time regretting all the time that we have spent being miserable when we find out that we made the complete wrong assumption and now we have to spend even more time on corrective actions to bring our thoughts, emotions, actions and relationships back to a positive place...

For example, you don’t hear from a friend in a few days. You start wondering whether it is something you did or said. You start analyzing the last few conversations you had, you re-check the most recent SMS’s just to see what you chatted about; checking that you didn’t say anything that might have offended her. You try to phone her and she doesn’t answer her phone, and you start imagining that she saw it was you and deliberately ignored the call. You send her an SMS that she’ll find later on, and after two days you still don’t receive a reply... At the end of the few days you’ve chewed off all your nails, you’ve ended the friendship in your head, you’ve rehearsed how you’re going to tell her that nobody treats you that way, you’ve planned to give her back anything she’s bought you for your last three birthdays just so that you don’t have anything to remember her by, you’ve burned the photo’s of you together, you’ve cried your eyes swollen shut and you’ve ‘figured out’ what you must have done to end it all.

Then, your phone rings and it’s her... she explains that her mother fell ill and she had to leave town on very short notice. She hasn’t slept in three days sitting by her mom’s bedside in hospital and taking care of her affairs and everything is better now, but she has been so tired that she slept for two days. She apologizes for neglecting you so terribly.

Right about now you beg the earth to open up and swallow you whole!!
Why do we do that?

I don’t think these imaginings are significant in and of itself, but rather it indicates something that is wrong on the inside of us. Maybe there is an unresolved hurt from your past that causes you to act like a fool, and maybe now is the time to let it go. Maybe you have issues with insecurity that you need to deal with. Maybe you’re looking for your identity in the wrong things or people. Maybe you’re learning about warfare on the battlefield of the mind. Maybe you have fears that need to be faced so that you can become free and live more victoriously.

I have stopped paying attention to the imaginings, and have rather been asking myself what it is an indication of in my own life. THAT is the issue that I want to address.

FEAR is “False Evidence Appearing Real”. I don’t want to live in fear. Sometimes we’ll get what we fear BECAUSE we feared it. Who wants that?! Most certainly not me! I want to live with an expectation for the best!! I want to live the life I dream of.

So what kind of ‘dreaming’ am I spending my time on...? I want it to be: “What if... (fill in something spectacular)...” I want to live in the moment.. with the facts when they emerge, and not the negative fantasies of an overactive imagination.

I want it to be .... SPECTACULAR... !!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

His love is relentless...

Always taking the hard way
Hoping to hide in some distant place
Thinking, “maybe, if I can run that far
I can escape You, but there You are.”

Your love is relentless
And Your touch leaves me defenseless
I fight, I scream, I shout
I run till the road runs out
But Your desire is in this
Your love is relentless

Hiding under my brave face
Coolly resisting Your warm embrace
And tell me: haven’t You had enough
Haven’t I hurt You
Why don’t you give me up?

Your love is relentless
And Your touch leaves me defenceless
I fight, I scream, I shout
I run till the road runs out
But Your desire is in this
Your love is relentless

I fly through darkness to the farthest sea
No matter where I go You still find me....

Your love is relentless...
WOW!! God’s love has transformed my life, and through the years He has allowed me the privilege of watching Him use that in me to transform others that have crossed my path! What a journey it has been!!!!!!!!!!

God’s love causes us to blossom. It brings out the best in us. It lets us be(come) all that we can be.

It has been the exception, rather than the rule, that I have I known someone who has been able to love like this: Earlier on in my life when I still had a lot of raw hurt in my life I would experience times when I desperately needed to feel loved. I’m not referring to romantic love, but a love that didn’t ask anything in return and that would embrace me just as I was – broken and lost.
However, in those times of need – when I desperately NEEDED to feel loved – I would do precisely the opposite and withdraw from people, and especially from her. She, however, was the one place where I felt safe, but still I did not feel safe enough to accept her love and allow it to heal my life as God intended it.

What was most precious to me though, was that she was able to recognize that I would withdraw precisely when I needed love the most. And she relentlessly kept pushing her way through my walls of brokenness and defensiveness. She was determined to love me through to wholeness!! And I have never stopped being grateful to God for it!!!

She taught me much about love... and it changed me. Now I get to see how it changes others through God’s relentless love in me!

Lord, what a privilege... what an honor... Thank you for what You’ve done IN me, and what you’re doing THROUGH me... may it bring You alone honor and glory – a testimony of Your loving kindness.

I love You because You first loved me! Thank you for never giving up on me!

Monday, January 4, 2010

What makes you happy? (by Linda S. Mintle, Ph.D.)

I had to laugh when I read this USA Today newspaper headline: "Psychologists now know what makes people happy." I didn't know happiness was a secret to be discovered by my noble profession! Curious, I kept reading. What were these exciting new findings?

If you are a student of the Bible, you won't be surprised. Research only validates God's way of doing things.

The happiest people are those who spend the least time alone and pursue intimacy and personal growth. When I read this, I immediately thought of Jesus. He was proactive when it came to community. He poured His life into a faithful band of followers and developed an intimate circle of 12 men. And through those men, He established the church. The early church was all about community, intimacy and personal growth.

Happy people don't judge themselves by what others do or have. That is, they don't compare themselves with others. The Bible is clear that we are not to measure ourselves by the yardstick of others, only by the Word of God. As we obey God's Word and choose to please Him, blessing and contentment follow.

Materialism is toxic for happiness. The parable of the rich young ruler in Matthew bears this out. Despite this man's riches, he wanted something more—eternal life. Jesus stressed the importance of keeping the commandments but told him something more was required. He must sell his possessions and follow Him. Sadly, the young man chose material possessions over Christ and walked away feeling "sorrowful."

Optimism is important, even in dark times. Because of Christ, hope abounds. Jeremiah 32:17 proclaims, "'Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You'" (NKJV). In the last chapter of Job, after Job suffers much and has been tested, he cries out, "'I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You'" (Job 42:2). Over and over, we are given biblical examples of people who refused to be downtrodden because of circumstances or events. Their hope was in the Lord. The end result is rest and peace.

Actions matter. It's not just what you believe or your outlook on life that contributes to happiness. People who give to others and aren't self-absorbed are more satisfied with life. No surprise here. God gave His only begotten Son, the ultimate sacrificial gift. Giving is a biblical principle whether it involves finances, service, food, shelter, time or talent. The result of giving is blessing.

Happy people know their strengths and use them. We are stewards of God's gifts and are to use them for His glory. When you move in those gifts and do what God has equipped you to do, you are happy. Psychologists call this moving in the "flow." People of faith "flow" in the Spirit.

People who feel gratitude are happy. We are eternally grateful for Jesus and His sacrifice and for all God has done in our lives. Out of that genuine gratitude flows happiness.

The strongest link to happiness is a willingness to forgive others. The benefits of forgiveness are well documented psychologically. And for the believer, forgiveness is not an option; it is a command from Jesus. We forgive others because He forgave us.

The search for happiness will fall short if it doesn't lead to the One in whom contentment can be found. Authentic happiness is unrelated to events, money, power, fame or anything else our culture associates it with. Happiness is a choice, as the Scriptures declare: "Happy are the people who are in such a state. Happy are the people whose God is the Lord" (Ps. 144:15).

This new year, make it a goal to choose happiness by following the guidelines above. Look to God for your satisfaction and learn to trust in His sovereignty and omniscience. Obey Him and believe that He works all things for your good. Remember, His joy is available to you, and it is that which gives you strength.

Friday, January 1, 2010

AVATAR - movie review

I was not at all motivated to go and watch this movie. Somewhere I got the wrong notion that it was an animated movie and I got the impression, wrongly so, that it was some sci-fi adventure for kids (maybe). It wasn’t until I heard increasingly positive feedback about how phenomenal it is that I finally decided to go and find out for myself! BEST DECISION EVER!!!

I went to see it in 3D – there is no other way to watch this movie. Much to my delight it was nowhere near an animated movie. Even though it is a movie in the future – sci-fi – it exceeded my expectation by far!

What really had me excited was to find that it wasn’t simply amazing computer graphics – because it is REALLY well done! – but it also has a really good story line. The script it intelligently written and the characters were stunningly well rounded; they most certainly have you going on some breathtaking adventures with them. By the end of the movie they have evolved from someone into something completely different – in more ways than one – and it keeps you guessing.

I LOVE analyzing people’s character. In the movie I could, to some extent, anticipate what certain decisions would result in, but even though I was very correct in my assumption in essence, the full outcome was nonetheless unpredictable. It is a well paced movie - no time for dosing off because of boredom. It most certainly kept me on the edge of my seat.

Another thing I do – being a passionate movie lover – I completely get involved in the story. “It is just a movie” do not apply to me. I escape with the characters. I become engrossed in their lives like close friends. I feel compassion, anger (even rage at times), love, relief, joy, rejoice at justice winning the upper hand, and I cry whenever I know just how one of the characters must be feeling. I’m all out there. This movie certainly allowed me to feel – and to cry – not just for the characters, but also for myself.

The movie has a lot of depth – in more ways than one. It has a lot of dimension – the scenes are intensified with heights and depth. You wouldn’t experience the thrill if you had to watch this on a flat screen. There’s a tremendous amount of movement and it is best experienced as if you’re in the centre of it, moving with it!

The scenes are created with excellent brilliance and imagination. You become part of a world that certainly only exist in the imagination; pure and beautiful – a full circle of life.

I’m always a sucker for learning something from everything and many a lessons have been affirmed by a weekly Friday afternoon movie. The same goes for this movie – it gave me a new perspective on how everything and everyone has its perfect place in harmony – each serves a purpose and nothing exists in isolation. It creates the idea of life bigger than one. I loved the concept.

It deals with choices, pride / ego, it shows bridges being built, minds being opened to new ideas beyond the great “I”, humility, love, forgiveness, remorse, sadness, joy, camaraderie, selfishness, greed, exploring and learning, respect, survival and courage, to name but a few.

WOW – definitely the kind of movie that I would watch more than once – I get the impression that you’d learn or notice something different every time around.
A thrilling (almost) three hours indeed, but well worth every minute of it! A pleasant surprise indeed!