the apology

Posted: August 20th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

We can do some horrific things to each other. Animals out for blood, tears, thrills, or someone else’s something or someone.

Apologies are seldom good enough. But, they’re still necessary.

“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” - Matthew 5:23 MSG

It might be harder, or at least more confusing, to the apology recipient than the apologizer. We feel entitled to an apology. We could even craft a flawless one to ourselves on behalf of another. It makes sense. When someone wrongs you, you’re more likely to know exactly where it hurt, what it hurt, and whether or not it still hurts. We feel we were hurt so meticulously that the apology has to be as expertly executed as the blow for which he or she is apologizing. The apology we’re looking for has to meet a certain criteria to be considered satisfactory. If the apology doesn’t come on schedule, then we think it should include an apology and sufficient justification for that, too.

You don’t know what the other person is feeling or thinking.

The wronged may be waiting for the magic letter, all the while telling people they don’t expect one. They swing from the despair of betrayal to the pride of not being the one who did the wrong. From “how could I be so stupid?” to, “they’re not worth my time.” The wronged one goes through her own journey of healing. The long road to wholeness after being damaged includes an annoying tedious task of learning how not to need an explanation or some real form of closure.

Meanwhile, the one who hurt you has to let his or her own justifications run their course. Some people take a long time before they tire of arguing inside themselves. Once they stop justifying their actions, they have to deal with the flawed version of themselves. They’ve run from the truth mirror for so long that it’s like meeting someone completely new and clearly unlikable. They have to spend time with their own thoughts. They experience anger, their own realization of years of self-betrayal and self-sabotage, and then they have to forgive themselves.

This transformation process, if they have the stamina to stick it out, can take years.

They’re identifying damaging patterns as life rolls under them and rewiring some bad connections between the past and the present. Relearning how to be a better human is a private pain of ripping everything out and deciding what stays and what goes.

A year is experiencing each calendar day only once. The deeper the wound, the more time it takes to bleed the poison out. The hurt ones have to experience each January 1 through December 31 at least once to establish an new norm for that day. The new norm is the hurt, but the next time that day comes it will be less about the disappointment and more about the survival. The third time is closer to the new norm than the years before. Count them. Healing takes time.

It’s the same long process for the one who did the wrong. Their journey looks different, but pain is pain and you can’t use your own gauge to measure the other. You’re both trying to create distance between now and then. The one who wounded you has no idea where you are in your journey. And you have no idea how they feel about what happened either.

There are so many different avenues of healing, suppression, anger, or whatever.

All they know is that what they did to you is still loose out there somewhere. Their words are still echoing, the slap is still resounding, and the doing is still done. They may want to find the origin of those words and wounds and make it known to whoever is listening that they want to disown their behavior. They can’t erase it, but they can say they were wrong. It’s not for you as much as it is for them. They need to gather up the ugly, left behind pieces of themselves and amend their previous statement.

You can say that you didn’t give them any space in your life, that they are completely nonexistent to you, but that’s a lie we tell ourselves to create distance. Lie-based indifference is a bad root that will end up an ugly weed you’ll end up hurting someone else with later. The apology may not cover everything you need to cover and it may even unearth something you thought you buried. That’s probably a good thing.

Their apology is not about you and what it unearths in you is no longer about them. It’s just an intersection that God brings us to as we’re traveling with Him. Thank them for their apology and then give God what He’s asking for.

the apology


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real rebellion

Posted: August 19th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , | 4 Comments »

I don’t do a lot of things the way I’m expected to. I still get chastised though I’m out of the steamy breath of religion. My children even notice some of the pressure to conform to a mindless chant that insults the Spirit’s song. I might be “rebellious” to some, but not for naught. My lack of conformity is a blunt refusal to accept the counterfeit faith that exhausts and stupefies. I refuse to play along.

And now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever.- Isaiah 30:8 ESV

What could possibly be written then, now, and then again that would always be for now like it was then and will be all over again? A resounding hammer, a closed file, a waiting prison door? We’ll always be found guilty. But, not for what you think.

For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord. - Isaiah 30:9 ESV

‘If it’s negative and oppressive, then it must be from the Lord. Rebellious hearts, take heed. Lying children, listen up. Lest you get struck down for your unwillingness to listen.‘ That’s the good stuff they want. A resounding hammer of judgment and unending demands. People want bridles and bits. Parents want obedience and submission. Leadership requires conforming volunteers.

What are these instructions to which the rebellious children are so unwilling to listen? Why are some messages rejected and others craved? Who are the rebellious children and what illusions do they want?

…who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things. Prophesy illusions.” – Isaiah 30:10 ESV

The whole of scripture is the story of Jesus. It is an all-inclusive, one-way-street salvation with no respect for origin, successes, failures, social worth, or status. When the Bible talks about rebellion, it’s talking about do-it-yourself religion. Salvation without Jesus, or perfection of the “saved life” through self-control and more discipline. People like to make rebellion about personal failures and shoulder-shrugs to morality, but it’s not. It’s about accepting or rejecting “the Holy One of Israel”.

Real rebellion wants to over-achieve. As though that was a thing. They call it “depth” and the opposite, “seeker”. They’ve heard enough about Jesus. They want something more. As though that was a thing.

“…leave the way. Turn aside from the path. Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” - Isaiah 30:11 ESV

When the Bible talks about rebellion, it’s talking about that overwhelming urge to turn from freedom to a formula. This is one of those groups that feel the pressure to uphold the stereotype. The oversimplification of this life is insulting, and it’s especially repulsive when it’s perpetuated by people claiming to be the example. The so-called admission of “flaws” includes a list of candied sins rather than the admission of still learning how to live in the Kingdom while inhabiting the flesh.

They want a small cage because that means maybe their worst won’t get their best. Fear is a roaming beast. But the Kingdom life is wide open, big enough to suck you up and make you disappear forever. Your name echoes on laughter’s lips and that seems too easy.

Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you…” - Isaiah 30:12 ESV

The impending doom of walls caving in and smashing you like a piece of clay are the price you pay for not trusting.

“…like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.” - Isaiah 30:13-14 ESV

“Perverse” in this context means “contrary to the Way”.  This list of things you have to do if you want to call yourself a Christian is a wicked trap. You can never be good enough and you’re free from the petty tyranny of trying. Trying earns you a sentence of guilt with no grace. Get away from anyone who tells you that you have to do something else. There is a Holy Spirit who speaks your language and the largest part of life is learning how to hear Him.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” -Isaiah 30:15 ESV

different


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time to fight

Posted: August 9th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

You’re looking at your current struggles as though they wouldn’t exist if you had not sinned that big sin. You are the crowned enemy, accepting your role as punching bag, ever careful not to fight back. You don’t feel like you have a voice because of your guilt. I’m writing to tell you that your guilt has been spotted. Your sense of obligation has been harnessed by another and you’re being taken advantage of. You are prey and your residual guilt is your kryptonite.

You wear your self-condemnation like a necklace because you want to make sure that they know that you know you did something wrong. Years of demanding some outward show of your internal acknowledgment has molded you into a shackled coward. You’re always wearing your Scarlett Letter so that you can use it as protection from those who would accuse. It’s a way to say, “This house has already been robbed.”

You have this idea of  how things should be, but the only way to make it happen is if you and what comes from you is the sacrifice. Where is Jesus in you? Where is His sacrifice? Where is the the one who lives in No Condemnation in the house of More Than Conquerors? Where is your faith?

Maybe you need to let go of your utopic dream where everyone is decent and reasonable. It’s time for you to decorate your walls again. …something to fight for. Stand up and tell them that enough is enough. It’s their lack of faith, not yours. It’s their disbelief in grace that makes them burn you over and over and over. You were ransomed from this end. You are His treasure. It’s not about what you think of you, it’s about what He thinks of you.

You don’t have to be the punching bag for the bitterness of the faithless. People are tangled in their own damage and they’ll drown you in yours if you forget Who’s you are. Fight like you’re protecting what is His.

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” - Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG

time to fight


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whatever you think

Posted: July 30th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

You have the ability to write your own reality. Not literally, but cognitively. There is a such thing as absolute Truth, and I’m not suggesting that that can be altered with what we think. I’m talking about our perspective and the lengths we will go to maintain it. Our perspective is our current reality and it is never 100% correct. Yet, we base our attitudes and behavior on our perspective all of the time. Same thing flipped around: We are animated from a place that isn’t necessarily true.

It’s not what it means… it’s what you think it means that matters. You should challenge what you think every once in a while.

For example, you’ll makes excuses for the behavior of your friends in such a way that allows you to maintain your friendship. However, you create reasons for the behavior of your enemies that allows you to be morally superior and completely distrustful. It’s not really on purpose. It’s a human default setting. Your relationship with the person determines how you spin your explanation of them. This is how former friends can dislike each other and former lovers can tear each other’s character to pieces.

We see what we expect to see. Perspective is like a pair of prescription glasses. The prescription is determined by what you’ve already been through and what you expect to happen. It’s a really fast way for our brains to learn from our past and help us survive our future. It becomes a problem when a poisoned perspective  goes unchallenged. Former friends don’t spend the kind of time together it would take eradicate the false assumptions.Unchecked false assumptions become truth and that “truth” becomes the stage for subsequent thoughts, words, and actions regarding the other. Lovers can forgive personality quirks as they focus on the good qualities that, but the personality quirks become back bites when a scorned lover needs balm for relational wounds.

There was a study done to determine the role of expectations with experience and memory. The questions revolved around whether or not the person can alter his or her experience with their perspective. Individuals were given a few seconds to look around a kitchen before they were taken to another room to write down what they saw in there. The goal was to illustrate their sharp memory and write down the most items. Included on their lists were items that were not in the kitchen, but are typically in a kitchen. These people could tell you where the toaster was from memory, even though there was no toaster in the kitchen. Their history with kitchens and their expectations created their reality and implanted a false memory. They remember seeing what they expected to see.

We do this all the time. Sometimes it’s harmless and even necessary. It’s how you protect yourself and survive dangerous situations. You don’t go down seedy allies at night, you don’t pick up hitchhikers, you grab your kid’s hand in response to a feeling. In essence, you trust your gut and that’s a good thing. But, it’s not always right. When your life could be in danger, then it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong.

It does matter, however, when past pain has made you so cynical that you’ve cast a dark cloud over everything in an attempt to lower your expectations and avoid more pain and disappointment. You can’t go through life feeding the divide between you and your perceived adversaries. You need to allow yourself the opportunity to heal so that you don’t assume the worst so often that you miss the good things. Sometimes healing requires reaching out and making yourself vulnerable again.

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16 MSG

How can you be salt and light in the world when you remain unchallenged and in the dark? It’s one thing to be non-believing cynic clothed in self-preservation against countless imaginary enemies. It’s another when you’re a proclaiming Christian who is supposed to be living life from a completely different perspective. It’s a perspective of being “more that conquerors” so that you can live “generously” among others by “opening up” to them. You can’t do that in your cocoon.

Part of the problem with all of these broken relationships is that we can too easily see what we assume is the presence of the spiritual enemy at work in the lives of the people we don’t necessarily like. It’s too easy to say that someone is spiritually deceived. Deeply rooted bitterness makes us unable to see God at work in another. Jesus said that you’re supposed to be a light-bearer to bring out the God-colors. Who is using you as an accuser?

It’s time to change your mind. Haven’t you heard it said to “hold your thoughts captive”? Isn’t that the idea behind the whole “intentional living” thing? Your thoughts actively write your reality. You’re not put on this earth to find fault, doubt the intent of a kind gesture, or vilify people you’ve marked for disposal. You are salt and light. If you can’t see God when you look at His people and they can’t feel His love through you, then why are you here?

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” - Jesus in Matthew 5:13 MSG

Reach out to someone. Maybe it will change your mind.

Let's have a drink.


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nothing but the blood

Posted: July 8th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. - Psalm 73:13 ESV

In that moment of shame, after you have done what you knew you shouldn’t, it’s tempting to want to cleanse the soul by cleansing the moral palate. You read only Christian literature, listen only to Christian music, get more involved in Christian circles, and with Christian causes. You do this until you feel clean again, then you relax and go back to the business of being you. It’s psychologically sound that dipping into the cleansing pool of law abiding religion can make a psyche feel clean, but it’s not a relationship with Jesus.

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” - Matthew 27:24 ESV

In a 1971 study, a couple of researchers wanted to know how people’s behavior would change if they felt guilty for some moral infraction (McMillan & Austin, 1971). They tempted half of the subjects to lie during an interview. After the interview, they asked the subjects if they could stick around and help the researchers set up for a completely unrelated test. Those who didn’t lie stuck around for a couple of minutes to lend a helping hand. Those who lied stuck around for over an hour. People who are trying to compensate for their own guilt will be more giving and helpful than those who aren’t experiencing guilt. Being helpful and giving doesn’t mean that you have a relationship with Jesus.

Back in February a study was published where a few researchers wanted to measure prosocial behavior as it relates to feelings of guilt (Xu, Begue, & Bushman, 2014). They had a group of people recall and write down a personal failure that affected a significant other. These people were divided into three groups: those who washed their hands after writing down their story, those who watched a video of someone else washing their hands, and those who watched a video of someone typing. They were, then, given a questionnaire to fill out within three weeks that would help a doctoral student achieve her PhD. Those who washed their hands sent fewer questionnaire’s back, those who watched someone else wash their hands sent an average of a few more back, and the group who watched someone type sent the most questionnaire’s back. This shows two things: physically cleaning yourself can reduce feelings of guilt and the less guilt, the less prosocial behavior you will exhibit.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! - Psalm 51:2 ESV

We want the memory to go away. The flashbacks of strobe light snapshots cripple us with the dirt we let in. Wash me! screams the heart, the mind, and the eyes closed onslaught of our mistakes and our fault. Can any amount of prosocial behavior, moral standard achievement, or fancy soap cleansing make our deepest spiritual fissures subside and allow us sleep?

Tragic is the soul who quiets without the Blood. A wolf under the fence. Lost is the man who can perform his way into a peaceful conscience.

All we know is that we have to put as much distance between ourselves and our sin as possible. If we can fill out time with with good-guy behavior and hyper-moral activities, then maybe it will drown out the sulfuric stench within us.

… the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. - 1 John 1:7 ESV

Have you ever felt like super-morality was an attempt to compensate for something? Or wondered what they’re hiding with all of their religiosity? Do you notice the fear laden gasp when you teeter on a tightrope you didn’t even know you were on? People can and do feel like better people when they clean up, help others, and get some religion. But, it doesn’t mean they have a relationship with Jesus.

Like pickled ginger on your sushi plate, cleansing the palate isn’t a bad idea. It’s helps alleviate the dissonance. But, don’t rely on your own ability to keep yourself clean and emerge thinking that you’ve accomplished something. It doesn’t work like that. Churches are full of the helping hands of the guilt wracked. Don’t emulate what you see. Trust in the Blood and walk through the Gate.

Nothing but the blood.

 

 

 

McMillen D. L., Austin J. B. (1971). Effect of positive feedback on compliance following transgressionPsychon. Sci. 24, 59–61

Xu, Hl, Begue, L., & Bushman, B. J. (2014). Washing the guilt away: effects of personal versus vicarious cleansing on guilty feelings and prosocial behavior. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014; 8:97.


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