Thing 6: Hate Well (b216)

This one threw me. I admit it. I think a great deal about growing in love. But I don’t often think about what I should be hating.

Dr. Cloud recounts a time when a new business partner learned of some debt owed by the partnership after he bought in. He scheduled a meeting with all the partners. He told them all firmly and clearly, “I don’t mind problems. Business is about solving problems. But I hate surprises.”

In many ways, what we love and what we hate define us.

In many ways, what we love and hate defines us. Click To Tweet

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Thing 5: Act Like An Ant (b215)

Henry Ford said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” This is true in every area of our lives from education to careers to health to relationships. Success is not achieved in one giant step. It is the sum of small steps taken consistently toward a larger goal.

In this chapter, Henry Cloud talks about the trouble he had working on his dissertation…

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Thing 4: Do Something (b214)

This is the fourth in a post series on Dr. Henry Cloud’s excellent book: “9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life.” Read previous posts:


People who are successful, whatever their definition of “success,” are people who do something. They take responsibility for their lives and take action accordingly.  The situation may not be their fault, but they still take action to move forward. That action might be to wait, but even the decision to wait is a conscious decision made with a sense of intention rather than resignation to forces outside their control.

There are several ways to talk about this principle…

I am responsible for my life, including my attitude. Click To Tweet Continue reading “Thing 4: Do Something (b214)” »

Thing 3: Play the Movie (b213)

This is the third in a post series on Dr. Henry Cloud’s excellent book: “9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life.” Read previous posts:


“Play the Movie” is a principle that I use on my kids all the time. If I confront one of my children in some infraction of attitude or behavior and he doesn’t back down, I say, “Play this movie forward. Where does it go if you keep acting like this? Does it end well? Does the child ever end up getting his way?” Kids understand plot arcs as much as anyone. They can “read the scene” and predict where it’s headed. Often this helps her choose a new direction.

This is exactly Dr. Cloud’s point with his third thing that you must do to succeed in love and life. You must think of the future consequences of your current actions and attitudes. You must “read the scene” of what you are doing now and play it out to see where it goes.

The future will come. Your decision is about where you will be and what you will be doing. Click To Tweet

If you are facing a situation or decision…

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Thing 2: Pull the Tooth (b212)

This is the second in a post series on Dr. Henry Cloud’s excellent book: “9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life.” Read the post on “Thing 1: Dig It Up


Dr. Cloud summarizes this principle this way: Successful people do not hang on to bad stuff for long. While a positive attitude is a good thing, ignoring things that need to be addressed will prove to be a roadblock in your life. If the tooth needs pulling, don’t wait. Get ‘er done. Pull the tooth!

In this chapter, Dr. Cloud distinguishes between things that are not a big deal but not positively contributing to life and things that are truly negative.

Successful people do not hang on to bad stuff for long. - Dr. Henry Cloud Click To Tweet

 

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Thing 1: Dig It Up (b211)

This series of blog posts will cover Dr. Henry Cloud’s “Nine Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life.” It’s a book I’ve read/listened to more than once. I’ve found it helpful so I’m offering these blog posts to you. If you find these helpful, consider reading or listening to the entire book. It’s well-written and accessible, with plenty of anecdotes.


In his years of dealing with people of varying degrees of success, psychologist and author, Dr. Henry Cloud, writes that he has noticed nine ways of dealing with self and life that “successful” people appear to have in common.

Note well that Dr. Cloud does not define success in terms of wealth or status. His definition of “success” rests on the way people’s lives are lived. Are they fulfilled? Are they peaceful? Is their life moving in a direction that they want it to move?

PRINCIPLE 1: DIG IT UP

In summary, this principle recognizes that the outer life arises from the inner life. Successful people take the time and effort to dig inside themselves. They find and own their own dreams, desires, talents and other treasures of the soul. And they honor them.

This doesn’t mean dropping your responsibilities and rushing off half-cocked to fulfill your dreams right now.

 

Read more about Dig It Up!

The Resurrection of Jesus for Everyday Life


We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every year, as we should! As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the biggest of deals! But the “big deal” resurrection speaks to more than our ultimate life after death. It speaks to us in the helpless and hopeless of times of life. It speaks to us in times of disillusionment, frustration, and unmet expectations.

To believe in “the resurrection” gives us solid ground for believing in resurrection in every area of our lives. If the dead can come back to life, then all the other lesser problems can experience resurrection, too.

What’s going on in your life that needs resurrection? What difficulties or struggles are you facing? Where has hope died in your life? That’s a place for resurrection to enter.

But death comes before resurrection. Jesus said that in order to live, we need to die to ourselves. Is your difficulty, struggle, or pain being prolonged because of your unwillingness to let something die? Your pride? Your worldview? Your bitterness? Your sense of injustice? To die in the midst of a difficulty is to commit it to the Lord. To commit it to the Lord is to leave it in God’s hands and do what Jesus would do if he was living your life.

Jesus does want to live in and through you. He is the resurrection and the life. When you entrust your life to Jesus by allowing him to teach you how to live, you begin to experience resurrection.

But resurrection always looks different. The resurrected Jesus told Mary not to hold onto him for the moment. The resurrected Jesus was, at times, unrecognizable to his disciples until he decided to make himself known.

Littler resurrections in our lives are like that, too. To say that you can experience resurrection is not to say that your problems vanish. To experience resurrection is to follow the path of Jesus, the path of the cross. Instead of clinging, running or hiding, you move into the difficulties and pains of life expecting God to work. You choose to act in faith and you make your choices based on your Lord’s direction. Even if the choice is to wait, it is an active choice with a purpose rather than a choice to avoid.

When you move into difficult situations new life blooms, often in unexpected ways. The resurrection that comes out of your difficulty and pain will not be a return to the old normal that you were clinging to or running from. It will be new and different. It will be wonderful. It will be God working God’s resurrection power in your life.

I cannot tell you exactly how this will work in the midst of what you face right now. That’s not the way resurrection works. But I can tell you that if you commit your ways to the Lord he will make your paths straight. If you knock, Jesus will answer. If you seek, you will find.

Grace and peace to you,
John

A Tale of Two Gardens (b208)

Some say that Jesus comes along and turns your world upside-down. I say that Jesus comes to turn your world right-side up.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve were in a properly ordered relationship with God and creation. All was shalom… peace. Then the world was turned upside-down.

Satan succeeded in tempting mankind to step outside of the boundaries God had set for them. They decided to try life according to their own rules. The problem was that they didn’t know what they didn’t know. They didn’t know evil. But evil once known can’t be unknown. Once seen, it cannot be unseen. Once tried, it cannot be untried.

God had told them not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God was protecting them from the knowledge of evil.

Adam and Eve knew good. They just didn’t have evil to compare it to. God wanted to spare them the knowledge of evil. But Satan succeeded in planting doubt in their minds about God’s good intent for them. So, they took a bite of the knowledge of evil. They tasted the knowledge of evil. One bite brought shame, fear, regret, and suffering. And the taste cannot be untasted.

In one instant, in a garden, the world was turned upside-down.

It’s been upside-down ever since. Every horrible thing you see one human do to another is a result of our disordered spirits.

Same goes for you. Every regrettable thing you do is a result of your disordered relationship with God and the world. Every word that should have been left unsaid. Every thought you wish you weren’t thinking. It’s all part of creation being turned upside-down. It’s not the life God intended for us. It misses the mark. It’s “sin.”

Jesus came to turn your world right-side up again.

Jesus said that anyone who follows his instruction is like a person building a house on a rock foundation, a house that weathered the storm and came out standing strong. But anyone can say that. This is where the second garden comes in.

The Apostle John tells us that the tomb in which Jesus was laid following his crucifixion was in a garden: “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” (John 19:41 (ESV)) Upon hearing a voice in the garden on Easter morning,

Hearing a voice in the garden, Mary Magdalene assumed that Jesus was the gardener: “Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” (John 20:15–16 (ESV))

Long ago, death gained the upper hand in a garden. When Jesus rose from the dead, he broke the chains of death in a garden.

This is why you should trust Jesus. This is why those who follow Jesus’ teachings are building the house of their lives on a foundation of stone. There are many wise observers and teachers of life. But there is only one who died and rose again: Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus does not turn our world upside-down. The world is already upside-down. Jesus turns it right-side up again.

Easter is a great time to re-examine how you are living your life, the criteria by which you make decisions, the priorities you set for your time and your resources. Are you living the upside-down way of the world, like a person building a house on sand? Or are you living the right-side up way of Jesus, like a person building your house on a rock?

5 Myths About Faith that Might Be Guilt-Tripping You (b207)

What does it mean to live by faith?

First, let’s clarify what we’re talking about in this post. There are two basic definitions of “faith” within the Christian church:

  1. “the faith” – the body of teachings
  2. faith: trust in God based in Jesus Christ

I’m writing about #2

Trust in God is not based on speculation. It is a consequence of a conclusion based on scripture and experience that we see God most clearly in Jesus of Nazareth.

In his Gospel account, John refers to the second person of the Trinity as the “Word.” This is a Greek word, logos, that indicates the word, thing,  or matter of something else. It’s not surprising that the language gets a little convoluted when trying to talk about the nature of God since we don’t understand even the nature of the physical universe, life, or even our own selves.

Regardless, John asserts that the word — the essence of who God is — became flesh and blood in Jesus Christ:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14 (ESV)

John tells us that it is Jesus that makes God known to us:

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. — John 1:18 (ESV)

Note well that Jesus was full of “grace and truth” not “judgment and condemnation.” If you don’t think it’s good news that Jesus shows us what God is really like, you either a) have never looked into what Jesus was like or b) you don’t like Jesus.

Let’s think about what a life of faith looks like by thinking about what a life of faith is not. This is a valuable way to approach the topic of “faith” because several of the things I will mention are pathways to guilt or spiritual burden for people.

I would like people to feel set free from the weight of thinking they are not faithful when, in reality, they are simply human.

Here are 5 things that do not necessarily indicate a lack of faith:

1. The Opposite of Faith Is Not Necessarily Questioning or Doubt

Jesus didn’t jump down people’s throats for having honest questions. He engaged them.

Once he told a man named Nicodemus that he needed to be born again to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus had, I think, a perfectly reasonable question:

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” — John 3:4 (ESV)

Jesus’ response was to continue the conversation with Nicodemus, not berate him down for lack of faith or tell him “you just gotta believe.”

Often, when we have questions and doubts, we are not questioning God but our understanding of God and how God works in and through us. Our understanding of God and God’s ways will never be complete. We can expect question and doubt!

2. The Opposite of Faith Is Not Necessarily Works

This is going to require a bit longer to tease out, so stay with me. It’s very important.

First, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that we are right with God simply by trusting in his mercy rather than by being a good enough person or working hard enough at doing the right thing.

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. — Romans 3:28 (ESV)

This is how the notion may have arisen that the opposite of faith is works. This is true in a certain sense: if you are thinking about how to get right with God, then working your way toward God is the opposite of trusting God in faith.

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. — Galatians 2:16 (ESV)

When Paul writes to the Christians in Galatia who were starting to think about good works in the wrong way, he calls them back to the point at which they experienced peace with God:

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? — Galatians 3:2 (ESV)

Paul later tells those same readers that supposedly “religious” works don’t count for anything. But then he drops a little hint that though we are not right with God by what we do, what we choose to do is important:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. — Galatians 5:6 (ESV)

The foundation of faith is God’s love, shown in the person and work of Jesus Christ. But the grace and truth that Jesus brings are meant to affect us. As the grace and truth of Jesus have their way with us, they will affect the way we treat other people and act within our communities.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, — Hebrews 6:1 (ESV)

James tackles this distinction by simply saying that our good works are the natural outflow of our faith.

You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; — James 2:22 (ESV)

One cannot legitimately claim to trust someone but not do what the person he trusts tells him to do. That’s not really faith:

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. — James 2:26 (ESV)

So, if your faith is not compelling you to act in love, you might want to reflect upon what you really believe about God, Jesus and yourself.

3. The Opposite of Faith Is Not Necessarily Certainty

In one sense, faith is like certainty. It is a conviction about what a person believes to be true.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. — Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

But faith necessarily includes a lack of certainty. Faith fully admits that there is much we don’t know.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” — 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV)

You can end up in a pretty bad place personally if you think you should have certainty about things we clearly don’t and can’t know about.

4. The Opposite of Faith Is Not Necessarily Reason

Reason operates within the framework of knowledge and observation We acknowledge that within the Christian frame of reference, we expect some thoughts to be beyond our reason. It would be unreasonable to think that all thoughts about God would be reasonable. 🙂

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. — 1 Corinthians 13:11–12 (ESV)

But that does not excuse us from using our reason to the best of our ability to live out our faith. Evidently, some in Rome had come to the conclusion that they should not celebrate special holidays while others believed that holidays are important. Paul doesn’t give a definitive answer. He simply tells them that each needs to think about it seriously and come to reasonable conclusions:

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. — Romans 14:5 (ESV)

5. The Opposite of Faith Is Not Necessarily Fear

Jesus connected fear to lack of faith:

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” — Mark 4:40 (ESV)

He regularly encouraged his followers not to fear because their lives were completely in the hands of the Father:

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. — Luke 12:7 (ESV)

But fear is a normal human emotion. While it may not be exactly like the fear we experience, even Jesus experienced some sort of dread at his impending crucifixion when he asked the Father to take that from him if possible.

The bigger point — and here I think we are getting to understanding “faith” a little bit — is that Jesus did not shy away from the Father’s call on his life. Even if he felt fear, he faced into the fear because of his trust in the Father rather than turning away and running from the situation. Faith doesn’t eliminate fear, but it does give us the courage to face our fears.

 

So, while it’s a little bit of a dodge to define a word with that word, I’m going to have to say that at the basic level:

The opposite of faith is distrust.

The Christian’s trust in God is not blind. It is based in the belief that God’s nature is revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christian faith is based in the belief that rather than being full of rules and judgment, God is full of grace and truth.

For the Christian, the opposite of faith could show up in:

  • Disloyalty
    • The unwillingness to publicly acknowledge the faith you hold privately might be a sign that you aren’t really trusting God as revealed in Jesus Christ. I offer this as a point of self-reflection not condemnation and judgment. Christians are called to be merciful to those who doubt (Jude 1:22). But it would not be kind to you to avoid a difficult truth that you may need to face before you can enter into a more joyful and peace-filled Christian life.
  • Infidelity
    • This word, of course, simply means lack of faithfulness. We typically use “infidelity” in the context of marriage, that someone is “playing the field,” rather than sticking with his spouse. Likewise, you may need to reflect on what you believe if you find yourself looking to Jesus and others instead of Christ alone for your identity, security, purpose and meaning. Psalm 62:1-2 tells us, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
  • Cowardice
    • Again, I am not offering this Bible verse for judgment, but for reflection. I ran across it a while ago and it stuck with me: Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” I’m thinking that “cowardly” in this sense refers to fearing the opinions of and consequences meted out by people more than God. This is worth thinking about.

 

So, to live by faith is to live trusting in God, loyal to Jesus Christ. It begins with relating t0 God based on mercy and love rather than works. And it finds its completion in Jesus’ followers doing their best to reflect Jesus in their thoughts, words, and actions.

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” — John 8:31–32 (ESV)

Points to Ponder

  1. For which of the “not necessarily the opposite of faith” points do you needlessly judge yourself?
  2. Which of the “not necessarily the opposite of faith” points might indicate an area of faith growth for you?
  3. What is one habit you can add or remove from your life that might encourage greater faith?

CLICK HERE to download a PDF with six days of short Bible readings and thoughts for reflection on the idea of living by faith.

Grace and peace to you!

John

Create Shared Meaning with Your Spouse (b205)

This post concludes my series drawn from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Today’s installment is:

Principle #7: Create Shared Meaning

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous four principles I’ve covered in my blog (click on the title to read the post):

This seventh principle is the frosting on the marriage cake. If you’ve ever had a cupcake without frosting, you know they can be quite delicious. But, seriously, a cupcake without frosting is missing something wonderful.

Likewise, a marriage can be stable and happy without creating shared, but there is a rich — spiritual, maybe — dimension to marriage that goes beyond raising kids and following dreams. It is the shared inner life of a couple who have developed a deep, mutual sense of meaning in their lives together as a family. This does not mean that goals have melded or that both partners always agree on what the best child-raising strategies are. It is a culture of marriage that shares the adventure of life, that honors each other’s needs and dreams, and that is flexible enough to change as each partner changes and grows.

Creating shared meaning involves cultivating a shared narrative that includes shared rituals and values. Couples can do this by sharing their life stories and sharing new growth experiences. But the key to creating shared meaning is to share the impact of these stories and experiences on your perceptions, values, etc.

Try these suggestions:

  • Share stories from your family of origin.
    • In what way did your childhood stories impact you?
    • Why are they important (nor not important to you)?
    • What did your family of origin do during your childhood that you want to avoid?
    • Reflect on the interaction between your childhood stories and your adult life together.
  • Read books together.
    • What did you like about that chapter?
    • What did you disagree with?
    • Did anything make you uncomfortable?
  • Talk through family gatherings (like a CIA debriefing session)
    • What was great? Why made it great for you?
    • What should be avoided? Why do you want to avoid that thing? Did it make you uncomfortable? Why?

As you share experiences and their personal impact on you, you and your spouse will build a shared narrative for your life. You will adopt some things from your spouse. Your spouse will adopt some things from you. Your spouse will let go of some things as part of your new family. You will let go of some things that were important to you for the sake of this new family. The two of you will be melding your story and his/her story into our story.

Family rituals also reinforce a sense of shared meaning. When you and your partner intentionally adopt or reject rituals, habits, expectations from your families of origin, you create shared meaning. You build identity into this couple or family by developing the ways that this family does things.

When I was growing up, we celebrated birthdays on the nearest convenient day. Not so for my wife. We have adopted her tradition as the way we do things in our family. We might have a party on the nearest available weekend day but, in our home, we ALWAYS have cake and sing “Happy Birthday” on the person’s actual birthday.

A family ritual is anything you do habitually together. It could be eating dinner together (perhaps on at least Sunday evenings). Rituals can involve:

  • The ways you keep in touch with family and friends.
  • What you do on vacations
  • How you spend Saturday morning
  • What you do on Christmas, when and how you decorate the tree or open presents
  • Having family “business meetings”
  • Bedtime routines
  • It could be anything. You get the idea…

A quick Google search turned up some great resources for creating family rituals:

I confess to you that I am feeling a little inadequate as I complete this series. I’ve seen several ways in which I haven’t done the greatest job. This is especially true with family rituals. I can see how they are important and I can see how our family has very few rituals that identify our family. One of my children has already moved out but I have two left at home. In terms of kids, it’s not too late. And it terms of being a couple, it’s never too late.

The trick to life is not never making mistakes, it’s recognizing them and moving forward. Everybody falls, the successful people are the ones who get up again.

From my Christian perspective, Jesus came full of grace and truth. In this series, you may have been hit by some “truth” that wasn’t so pleasant for you to recognize (as I was with regard to family rituals). If so, be gracious to yourself. Speak to yourself as you would speak to a close friend who has realized some error or inadequacy in his way of living life. Be gracious… then move forward. Don’t just feel bad, do something different. If something pierces your heart, take it to heart. Choose a new road. Will you do it perfectly? Not likely! But get going in the new and better direction you perceived yourself as needing. And keep going.

As with every post in this series, there’s much more in Dr. Gottman’s book, including inventories and exercises to help you grasp the seven principles and put them into action.

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it is helpful to you.

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1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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