Friday, January 26, 2001
I suppose there is some truth to the saying, but for the most part it is baloney. When we are first separated from a loved one the pain of being apart makes it feel like our love for them is stronger. But as time goes on, the absence of interaction causes our love to lessen. If the time is protracted enough, we actually grow apart because relationship requires interaction and shared experiences. When we return to each other time is required to reestablish the relationship. In many cases, the REAL truth is the "Distance make the heart go wander!!"
Well, you did so well on that last quiz, let’s try another. Same format. "Parting is such ________ __________." Who has the fastest finger? You, ma'am, over there with the cranberry juice. YES! "Parting is such SWEET SORROW." Does anybody really believe that? I HATE parting from people I genuinely care about. It hurts way too much. Maybe the author of that particular quote was talking about people he didn’t like… In that case, maybe it is true, but I don’t think that was the point. Parting means leaving, which means separation, which means distance. I’m not sure there is any sweetness at all in that.
There is an even more harmful kind of distance than physical separation. That is emotional distance.
I was talking to my good friend, Jim Harvey, some time ago. (Everybody say, "HI, Jim"). I was having trouble with an important relationship at the time of his call. He listened and then made a profound statement that has been powerful in all my relationships since. Are you ready for it? "Distance is never good in relationships." Allow that to sink in. Apply it to the many relationships in your life. Emotional distancing from another person we care about is never good. Physical separation, as in "Fighters, please go to your corners," so we can cool off can be good for a very short time. But emotional distance that comes from anger or hurt is never good. It only causes the problems to get bigger, not smaller.
I remember sitting in Mr. Augbaugh’s ninth grade sociology class at Northwestern High School when we learned the two responses to danger or conflict. Anyone remember? "Flight or Fight" said Mr. A. We can stay and fight or we can run away. In relationships, lots of people physically run away thinking that will solve the problem. It doesn’t. That only removes the problem from immediate view. It is still there. Even if we never see that particular person again, the same problem will emerge in another relationship. We can emotionally remove ourselves in relationships as well. Sometimes it is the "silent treatment." Other times it is pretending there is no problem, effectively wearing a mask and living superficially. Flight doesn’t work. Trust me.
Fighting can be a problem as well. Physical violence is a devastating problem in our culture. But so is emotional violence. The latter can leave deep, unhealed scars in our lives after other wounds are healed. Fighting can involve blaming, sarcasm, insults, force, punishing, withdrawal of affection or approval, and other kinds of hurt. That kind of fighting doesn’t work. Trust me.
So what is the proper response when distance threatens a relationship? A different kind of fighting. Not fighting WITH the other person, but fighting FOR the relationship. Choosing to care, love, help, fulfill responsibility, and do what is best for the other person no matter how they act. Instead of following our feelings, it is an act of the will in spite of our feelings. Even when that other person does not respond the way we would like and wants to keep the distance. That kind of fighting does work. It is painful, but worth it. It is hard, but pays off. Trust me.
I’ve discovered three things that pave the way to do so. The first is commitment to the relationship -- the resolve to stick with it NO MATTER WHAT. The second is communication -- the resolve to keep talking until the distance is closed. The third is Christ – a personal, powerful relationship with the One who gives us the example, the instructions, the power and the fortitude to make the relationships work.
Everything in life that is worthwhile involves relationships. Distance will threaten every single one of them if they progress to any depth at all. Bridging the distance will strengthen the relationship in the long run and prepare it to blossom in even more difficult times.
OK, one more quiz. Ready? Fill in the blank. "Nobody ever said on their deathbed, I wish I’d spent more time at the __________." Got it. OK, Jim, I’ll let you answer this one. "THE OFFICE." That’s right. People who know they are going to die always talk about relationships. Sometimes in regret, sometimes in appreciation. Now is the time to close the gap, to bridge any chasms of distance. So go do it. Today.
Give your spouse a huge hug and say, " I'm committed to you, I love you and always will."
Go to that teenager that grinds your soul and reassure him/her of your constant and unconditional love.
Patch things up with that relative that lives in another state.
Reach out to the coworker that you have conveniently been avoiding.
Grab your toddlers, hold them tight and don't let them go until you say "I love you" ten times.
YOU take the initiative to reach out to the people in your life, remove the distance, let them know how important they are, and spend time with them.
""In your anger do not sin" : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)
"The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."" Galatians 5:14 (NIV)
""If a brother sins against you, go to him privately and confront him with his fault. If he listens and confesses it, you have won back a brother." Matthew 18:15 (TLB)
Friday, January 19, 2001
The accused criminal stood before the man who would either set him free or sentence him to death. The judge was shaken by the calmness, the lack of fear in the one before him. "Everyone on the side of truth listens to me" stated the accused. The governor scoffed, turned cynical by too many years of sour life and asked the question most all of us wrestle with, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38)
A recent Barna poll revealed that nearly 70% of Americans believe there is no absolute truth. In a society of relativism, rationalism, pragmatism and tolerance there is very little room for any belief in truth, real truth. But our ignorance does not make it untrue. Just makes us ignorant.
Is there truth, absolute truth. Or are we, like Pilate, simply left with a haunting question debated by philosophers and ignored by the rest of us. And, hey, is absolute truth important anyway? Is it something we should be concerned about?
Suppose you are having physical pain and go to a doctor. By putting you through a battery of tests she discovers that you are suffering from a terminal disease. The good news is that she had caught the disease in the very early stages and it can be treated. But, and this is a big but, she does not want to risk hurting your feelings or causing fear so she tells you that you are fine. Is absolute truth important? You BELIEVE you are fine – isn’t that enough? Nope. No matter what you believe, the truth is all that matters. And the absolute truth is that you need treatment or you are going to die.
Suppose you and I are walking along a busy downtown street. You intensely look at me as we talk. I look up just in time to see a truck jump the curb and head straight for us. You believe we are safe. I duck into an entryway of a nearby store and leave you to be crushed by the truck. Hey, I didn’t want to interrupt you. You can get really testy when you’re interrupted. Is absolute truth important in that situation? You BELIEVE you are safe, isn’t that enough? No matter what you believe, the truth is all that matters. And the absolute truth is that you are going to die if I don’t push you out of the way. Makes you feel like I’m a little more important than you thought, doesn’t it?
Let’s do another round of "Let’s Suppose." You believe that when you die you are done. There is nothing after this life and that’s it. Or you believe that if you are a good person you’ll go to heaven. As long as your list of good deeds is longer than the list of bad stuff you’ll walk through the pearly gates. Or you believe that it doesn’t matter what religion you follow as long as you truly believe and do your best. Does absolute truth matter? Hey, you believe you’ll be all right. Isn’t that enough? No matter what you believe, the truth is all that matters. And the absolute truth is that to get to heaven requires a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and without it Hell is on the other side of death.
I remember standing in front of the coffin of a very dear friend. With everything in me I wanted to go back a week to prevent the accident that took his life. No matter how badly I wanted to do so, the absolute truth was that he was dead and there was nothing I could do to change that truth.
The Bible provides us with absolute truth for living. No matter how much we would like to change some of it, we can’t. It is absolute and unchangeable. Instead of bucking against it we need to learn to embrace it. (Yes, even those pesky parts that we don’t like). By embracing the truth, it will set us free to be all that we were born to be.
Therefore the question we must answer in every situation is "What is the truth here?"
Truth is important, unchangeable and absolute. TRUTH REALLY IS ALL THAT MATTERS! By learning it through the Bible and living it through everyday life we discover God’s perspective on life. That is how we crawl up onto God’s lap and see life "From Where God Sits." I invite you to do so. It is worth it.
"Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6 (NIV)
"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."" John 8:31-32 (NIV)
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)
Thursday, January 04, 2001
I was content to live and let live. Really, I was. I am not a violent person. Sheila, however …
I first heard the noise last summer while I was enjoying some afternoon Sabbath rest. It was a scurrying kind of sound. I looked out of our second story window toward the rain gutter thinking it was a bird walking in the gutter. Nothin’. Every Sunday afternoon the same thing happened. It sounded like it was just outside of our window. There was never anything there except the noise.
As we moved into the fall the noise seemed to disappear… most of the time. Every once in a while it would show up again. But, hey, live and let live. I can coexist with a little noise. I live in a small house with two teenagers and two elementary kids! Still didn’t know what it was but I had no clue how to figure it out.
In October Sheila was in the attic straightening our stuff and looked into a dollhouse stored "up there." She noticed that something had been sleeping in Papa Bear’s bed. Wait, no that’s a different story. She really did notice that something had eaten the ends off of a package of plastic hotdogs. (Don’t ask me why we have plastic hotdogs in our attic) There were also shreds of tissues scattered about. Ah, the plot thickened.
In November Sheila went into the attic to grab the Thanksgiving decorations. Sheila pulled out her cornhusk dolls designed to look like pilgrims. She’s had them for years, but there was something very different about them this year. I’m not an observant guy, but even I noticed the change. Something had eaten their faces. (Boy, did we have fun with that). They were in mint condition – except now they were faceless. Just two more faceless pilgrims in the crowds of life. After Thanksgiving Sheila was putting decorations away and found that ears of dried Indian corn she’d left in the attic had been completely stripped and the kernals taken. Whatever was "up there" had not only eaten the faces off of the pitiful pilgrims but had also robbed her decorative door hanging and left her the cobs behind.
I was amused but SHEILA WAS NOT HAPPY. Being a peace loving kind of person, she didn’t want to do anything vicious so she bought a pest preventing gadget. The idea is to plug it into an electrical outlet to emit a high pitched sound wave and thus chase away any varmints. We didn’t hear the noise anymore and thought our visitors from "up there" had vacated the premises.
In December Sheila once again ascended the stairs into the attic. After sending all the other Christmas stuff to the living room, Sheila carried down her box of angel ornaments. As she walked she heard rattling. Her angels have not, do not and never will rattle. Most are made of soft, lightweight materials that cannot rattle. The thought crossed her mind that a glass angel might have broken. She unpacked the angels to find, wonder of wonders, kernals of Indian corn nicely squirreled away and tissues neatly gathered for a nest. Whatever was "up there" had no plans of leaving anytime soon.
I was amused. Very amused. Amber was amused. Chadd was amused. But SHEILA WAS NOT HAPPY. Nor was she amused.
Those animals could have probably grown to a ripe old age, sitting in very small rocking chairs in the dollhouse, afghans lying across their laps, sipping cocoa and roasting plastic hotdogs in the fireplace except that they made a fatal mistake… They made Sheila mad. I have lived long enough to discover that it is not good when the mom of any family gets mad. And those mammals had made momma mad. She came home from the store with two very crude devices of destruction – mousetraps. She "asked" me to load them. I am not a violent person, but whatever was "up there" made momma mad. So using two small pinches of colby longhorn cheese I set the traps and placed one on each side of the attic entrance.
The next afternoon I was sitting at the desk in my office when I got a call. I had been there all day, many things on my mind. "We have success!" I heard my otherwise gentle wife scream on the other end of the line. Like a good husband my mind raced trying desperately to figure out what that meant, thinking I was obviously supposed to know and that I was probably in trouble if I couldn't figure it out quickly. Nothing came to mind.
"What in the world are you talking about?" I innocently asked.
"We have success ‘up there’. Both traps." she nearly shouted with delight.
"Oh. Well, did you take them out of the traps?"
"No way. That’s your job!" my gentle wife replied.
When I got home that evening I went "up there." She was right. Two small gray mice had met their maker in our devices of death. They should have known not to make momma mad. That was the end of our noise.
It wasn’t really the trap that got them. It was the cheese. One of the mice smelled the colby, scurried over and took a nibble. It had to be appealing after working so hard on all that dried corn. With the tasty treat, though, came the trap and the end of life. And I can just imagine the second mouse watch the first get caught, shed a mousy tear for his brother and then look at the other trap. "I never did think he was all that smart," he whispered to himself as he approached the other pinch of cheese. "He couldn't get it, but I'll be able to grab the cheese before the same thing happens to me. It won't happen to me. I’ll be able to get the cheese without the pain." He tried and quickly followed mouse number 1 to his eternal destiny. The power of cheese. Pretty stupid mice, don’t you think? Risking it all for a pinch of longhorn.
We'd never do that, would we? Sure we do. The desire for something moves us to ignore danger. We know what we want is wrong but we justify our actions and think we can get it without pain. But we can't and we pay the price. There is something in each of our lives that tempts us to risk all to get it. We even lie to ourselves as we watch others bring sorrow into their lives telling ourselves that other "mice" might not be able to get the cheese without pain, but we can. We scoff at high profile people like Robert Downey, Jr. or Darryl Strawberry. But everybody has cheese in his life. Everybody.
What is the cheese in your life? That which tempts you with great power, promising satisfying reward but delivering destruction and sorrow? I know what it is for myself. Now that I am older and wiser, I recognize that I must guard myself and run away from it. Otherwise I will not survive. The power of cheese is real and it is strong. We dare not mess with it, but claim the promises and power of God to say no. I hope you will.
"But remember this--the wrong desires that come into your life aren't anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation's power so that you can bear up patiently against it." 1 Corinthians 10:13 (TLB)
Be blessed and BE BOLD!