Archives For April 2011

Beautiful & Broken

Tim Jackson —  April 30, 2011 — 1 Comment

The vast contrast in the news from either side of the Atlantic couldn’t be more stark:

The triumph of a celebration over the much anticipated royal wedding in England . . .

Photo by Gerard Stolk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

. . . and the path of destruction left in the aftermath of 173 deadly and unexpected tornadoes that has left much of the Southeastern United States scared under mountains of debris scattered across 16 states.

American Red Cross photo

One nation mourns over the loss of over 320 lives in the single most deadly day of tornadoes in US history. Another nation celebrates the union of a new royal couple that stands in line to be the next King and Queen of England.

How gloriously beautiful is one . . . and how grotesquely broken is the other. And while we may struggle to understand why some get to celebrate while others are grieving, we know this:

While none of us are fully in control of the circumstances or situations we encounter in any given day of our lives, we are all responsible for how we respond to those circumstances and situations. We need to offer up prayers for protection, provision, and comfort for those who are suffering tragic loss. And we need to offer up prayers for protection, provision, and gratefulness for those who are rejoicing.

The New Testament writer, Paul, stated it simply in Romans 12:15:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

But mourning feels a whole lot more helpless than celebrating. But even in mourning there is hope.

For more help for those who are mourning over tragic losses either suffered in the recent tornadoes or from any number of other deadly circumstances, please check out our free booklet, When Tragedy Strikes.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

 

Royal Weddings

Tim Jackson —  April 29, 2011 — 1 Comment

OK, it’s time for true confessions. How many of you set your alarms this morning to get up and watch “the wedding of the century?” OK, if you didn’t, how many of you recorded it on your DVR?

Everyone’s talking about the royal wedding between Prince William and his Princess Bride, Kate. It’s all over the media. You can hardly read, watch, listen, or search any of the media outlets without getting the latest low down on “the marriage of the century.”

I love it! Why? Because of all the pomp and grandeur of a royal wedding?

No. That part I can do without. I’m not into all the preparations and pageantry of a wedding. Let’s face it, I’m a guy. Enough said. That part is all for the woman. And all the women reading go “Ah.” Come on, you know I’m right. And that’s okay.

So what part do I love?

I love it because it’s a reflection of the grandiose celebration of hope. It reflects what every marriage was and is meant to be. Not just a grand beginning, but also a wonderful middle, and a glorious finish.

We lose the wonder of marriage soon after the rice flies and the happy couple heads off on their honeymoon. The return to “real life” quickly diminishes the regal beginnings of “once upon a time.”

In his epilogue to his book, The Mystery of Marriage, Mike Mason describes the glorious privilege of being married better than most, and certainly better than I can.

At first he describes the grandeur of waking up everyday to a glorious sight out of his bedroom window in the Canadian Rockies . . . a beautiful mountain, sunrise, river, and breathtaking scenery. The scenery he describes is both majestic and mystical. And as a man, I get that. I’ve watch glorious sunrises and sunsets from knee deep in a trout stream, huddled in a duck  blind, or from my camp site north of Denali in Alaska.

But then, Mike describes a glorious scene that is far more majestic and beautiful than anything else in this natural world. He writes:

There is a woman in bed beside me. Right this moment I could reach out my hand and touch her, as easily as I touch myself, and as I think about this, it is more staggering than any mountain or moon. It is even more staggering, I think, than if this woman happened instead to be an angel (which, come to think if it, she might well be). There are only two factors which prevent this situation from being so overpoweringly awesome that my heart would explode just trying to take it in: one is that I have woken up just like this, with this same woman beside me, hundreds of times before, and the other is that millions of other men and women are waking up beside each other, just like this, each and every day all around the world, and have been for thousands of years.

Just so easily are miracles unraveled, disqualified, turned back into the common stuff of everyday life. Just so easily do statistics sprinkle their unmagical dust over all the wondrous beauty of life, transforming the celestial into the commonplace, the impossible into the inescapable. Yet if even the miracle of a man and a woman in love can be stripped of its splendor, covered with dust, buried under ordinariness, then what hope have we men and women of ever surviving the monotony of Heaven, where love will be as common as air? How shall we cope in an afterlife where there will be nothing miraculous to lift us out of our tedium, because there will be nothing unmiraculous? Here and now, it seems is the time to practice amazement, the time to learn how to be thunderstruck. Either we suffocate under all that is unbeautiful, unsurprising, unspectacular, ungraceful in our lives, or else we learn here and now to breathe the air of grace. In marriage, to put this thought into more homely language, we learn how to appreciate one another, to see one another a precious. We learn how to love.

So, when you check out the updates on William and Kate’s big day, just remember this:

There are hundreds and thousands of royal weddings that will take place throughout the world this year. And while they will not all be accompanied with the fanfare of British royalty, rest assured that their Heavenly Father is present and celebrating over them. Sons and daughters of the King of Kings–each one a prince and princess in their own right(1 Peter 2:9)–will unite in marriage. They all share a royal lineage and have great hopes of what can become of their blessed earthly union that will echo throughout eternity.

So, if you have the privilege of being invited to a “royal wedding” yet this year, remember that you are in the presence of royalty. Celebrate with joy. And for those of us who are married and who have forgotten the glory of our own royal wedding, remember and celebrate over that “prince” or “princess” who the King of Kings so graciously gave to you.

So what is the best approach to a relational conflict? Is it is wise to figure out what to do first, and then think about why we responded that way later? Or is it better to first do the work of considering if we are at a good place or not, and then decide how to respond?

While it is not our tendency (it’s certainly not mine), I would suggest that the latter is better than the former.

Ideally, it’s best to first carefully think about where we are at in our hearts before we act. Are we in a self-absorbed place, only thinking of what’s important to us? Are we in place where we consider ourselves as a non-person, diminishing what is important to us?  Or are we at a mutually considerate place where we are striving to consider what’s important to us and what’s important to the person we are in conflict with?

In a self-absorbed place, we are likely to be bound by our prejudices, respond defensively, and paint the other person as the bad guy. Hmmm…that sounds vaguely familiar to the current lockout between the owners and the players in the National Football League.

In a non-person place, we are tend to be bound by fear, avoid dealing with problems, enable toxic behavior, and feel responsible for the other person’s unhappiness.

In a mutually considerate place, we are freed from our prejudices and fears and able to see more clearly where mercy and justice are called for on both sides of a conflict.

In the midst of relational tensions, resist the tendency to “put the cart before the horse.” Whatever we decide to do,  let’s think about where we are at inside and do business with that  first, so we can respond from the best place.

 

I know there’s a lot of talk and words written about what love is and isn’t, what love does and doesn’t, whether love wins or not, or whether we’re just to cynical to even believe in love in the first place. The fact is, on this good-est of Fridays, we need to focus on what perfect love is all about.

Sacrifice.

You see, whenever I question whether or not I’m truly loved, I mean deeply loved for who I am–warts and all, there is one place I’m always drawn back to. One moment in time that is undeniably clear. It’s historical. It’s believable. And it’s true. And I go back and touch it to remind myself, “This is real! This is core!”

Where do I go?

Romans 5:8.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

This is the bedrock of my faith–my touchstone. There is a place in time and space where God proved to me that he loves me. It’s the cross. It’s the day when perfect love collided with perfect holiness and justice was satisfied. And the Innocent died for the guilty. God punished his Son in my place.

Whenever I reflect on that singular truth, I’m undone. I’m left speechless. I have nothing to say. All my arguments, objections, doubts, and fears are crushed in the embrace of God’s overwhelming love for me.

I am loved.

And so are you.

I pray that today–on this good-est of Fridays–that you will be overwhelmed by the loving embrace of the God who sacrificed all so that you could be forgiven and free. And that you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Sunday as you choose to follow him in living a life marked by loving sacrifice . . . just like Jesus.

 

Love beats porn

Jeff Olson —  April 21, 2011 — 6 Comments

CS Lewis once said, “The process of living seems to consist in coming to realize truths so ancient and simple that, if stated, they sound like barren platitudes.”

At the risk of sounding too simplistic, I often suggest to men (and remind myself) that one of the most powerful weapons against the destructive and enslaving forces of pornography is love. Simply put, love sees people as people, not objects. As Jesus put, to see people as people is to “love your neighbor as you love yourself ” (Matthew 22:39). It to recognize that the needs and desires of others are just as legitimate as our own.

When a man looks at porn, he is not thinking of the women (or the men) on the screen as people. At that moment, they are nothing more than objects to him. In order to look and keep looking, he has to dehumanize them. And when he does, he will lose to porn.

The enslaving forces of porn, however, begin to lose their grip when love enters the picture. With love is on the scene, a man will no longer view a woman on the screen as merely an object to be used and exploited for his own sexual gratification. Instead, love compels him to honor her as a fellow human being who has needs, dreams, and hurts as legitimate as his own. And in seeing her as the person she is, he is freed to turn away and keep away from porn.

Seem too simple? You will have to be judge of that. But if you’re a man addicted to looking porn, I encourage you to start here. When you are broken over seeing women as objects to be used and start to see them as the precious fellow image bearers that they are, porn will start to lose it’s appeal.

Check out this video insight on how looking at porn shapes a man’s view of a women?

 

Soul Surfer

Jeff Olson —  April 14, 2011 — 1 Comment

Last weekend my family took in the excellent film Soul Surfer.  The film tells the inspiring true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton who beat incredible odds to become a competitive surfer again.

Life was anything but easy for Bethany after she lost her left arm and nearly died after being viciously attacked by a large  tiger shark.  She not only had to rise above her fears of going back into the water and to learn how to surf again with only one arm, but she also had to struggle with how to come to terms with why God allowed such a terrible thing to happen. Although she wrestled to understand God, her faith, like her determination to surf again, remained unshakable.

With the help of family and friends, she came to trust God with her unanswered questions. Eventually, she began to see how God takes something as traumatic and awful as a shark attack and turns it into something beautiful and powerful for good.

Anyone struggling with severe loss or thinking about quitting on life and God might want to consider seeing this film. It is so much more than your typical shark attack movie (I’m thinking Jaws). It’s an amazing story that will move your heart and remind you that while God isn’t always safe, He is good!

You may also want to check out the Day of Discovery program When God Takes What Matters Most, Part II: They Mayer Family.

Never cheat

Tim Jackson —  April 5, 2011 — 1 Comment

When did we shift from the idea in our society that cheating is wrong to cheating is okay? People often think nothing of cheating on their taxes.  Cheating on the job has become common place and costs employer’s billions each year. And cheating in professional sports or in politics? Lying in court? Cheating on one’s spouse? Well, it’s the fodder that fuels much of the late night stand up comics’ routines. And honestly, we’re just not surprised by much any more. We’re living in the world where the the popular mindset of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” has some how become acceptable.

So, it’s not an over statement to say that cheating is epidemic, and almost expected.

But, why?

I remember when I cheated. I was sitting in Mrs. Watchhorn’s 4th grade class. Math reading problems were my nemesis.  No matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t get it. Ancient Greek would have been easier in my mind to understand. (That thought that would come back to haunt me later in a seminary NT Greek class!).  I froze during a math test with 6 reading problems.  I was terrified of failing. I saw no way out, except one.

That’s when I cheated.

I convinced Christine Adams, the  cute little neighbor girl who sat next to me and who was a whole lot smarter than me when it came to math, to let me see her answers. She begrudgingly complied. Probably because she felt sorry for me and could sense my utter desperation.

But, Mrs. Watchhorn was watching. (Now with a name like “Watchhorn” you think I would have gotten a clue. OK, but don’t be too harsh on me. Remember,  it was 4th grade.) She was strict. She asked me, “Did you cheat?” “No,” was my reply. I flat out lied to her. She looked at Christine and repeated the question. She told the truth. I was busted.

But Mrs Watchhorn was not just a good detective with eyes in the back of her head. She was also a good teacher. While she was intolerant of cheating in her classroom, she was also kind. Yes, I failed the test because I cheated. But, she didn’t discard me because of my deception motivated by desperation. Instead, she invested time helping me understand math. She worked with me until I got it. She taught me how to conquer math reading problems . . . and a whole lot more.

Over time, I took what I learned from Mrs. Watchhorn about tackling math problems and began addressing other struggles that I encountered. Instead of running from challenges because I was afraid of not knowing what to do with them, I learned to step into them with the confidence that I’d learn something.

There are a number of reasons why people cheat. One of the biggest ones is fear. And that’s a heart issue that God wants us to learn how to handle. Because he’s an even better teacher than Mrs. Watchhorn.

Yes, he’s the all-seeing and all-knowing God and nothing gets by him. And, yes, he’s made strict rules about not cheating (Check out 4 of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:13-16; they all have to do with some form of deceptive cheating–e.g. murder, adultery, stealing, and lying) because he knows how destructive it is for those who cheat and those who are cheated against (See previous post on cheating on a spouse in Infidelity’s Devastation).

But God also makes provision for us to learn to deal with our fears so that we need not run from obstacles that feel so threatening. Paul wrote a letter to a young man that he was mentoring who apparently also battled with fear. He wrote these encouraging words to boost Timothy’s confidence level. And I find great confidence in them too:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7 NIV).

Listen to the flow in these words of encouragement from one man to another. It’s a call to courage. The courage to face problems instead of running from them. Cowardice and courage can’t occupy the same space.  Paul makes it clear that cowardice isn’t from God. Instead, God empowers us to love with sound judgment. We don’t need to resort to any form of cheating, pretending, or denial to deal with things we’re afraid of. Instead, we can courageously move forward with the confidence that we have been given a Godly strength to battle through whatever adversity threatens us at the time.

So, what’s your story? Have you cheated? Why did you cheat? What was the fallout? What did God teach you through your failure? And how did you grow through it?

For me, I decided after that day in Mrs. Watchhorn’s 4th grade class, that cheating just isn’t worth it. So, my advice?

Face whatever it is you have to face head on. And never, ever cheat!

 

 

 

Ok, I admit it. I’m a child of the 50’s and 60’s who grew up with TV. I like to watch some favorite shows then, and now. And contrary to the popular belief of some, it’s not all bad.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a wholesale endorsement of everything that comes down the media pipeline into our homes. Much of it is a major waste of time. However, sometimes they get it right. And when they do, it leaves a mark.

A current favorite of mine is the NBC series, Parenthood. My interests are both personal and professional.

Personally, I’m a parent of 3 adult children, a son and two daughters. And while my role has shifted from hands on parenting to being a trusted adviser . . . when asked . . . I’m still involved in parenting.

Professionally, I work with a lot of parents who face challenging situations. Helping them navigate through those challenges with grace and courage is what I do. I’m constantly scanning  media– TV, films, books, or music–looking for viable teaching metaphors that can aid in my work.

I’ve also witnessed the the fallout of infidelity up close and personal with the couples and families who have come to my office. A recent episode that really grabbed me was Qualities & Difficulties (03/01/11 air date).

The episode chronicles the story of a younger brother, Crosby, who cheated on his fiancee, Jasmine, with his nephew’s tutor. Yea, I know . . . dumb, and typical for Hollywood. “I know where this is going” . . . I thought.

But here’s the twist.

Instead of championing the typical mantras that “sex is no big deal, it’s just sex,” “sex is just between two people,” and “what two people do sexually is no one’s business except them,” and all the other “there’s no consequences for unfaithfulness” doctrine,  this episode exposes the catastrophic fallout of infidelity throughout an extended family–the couple themselves, the children, the siblings and their spouses, the grandparents, the nephews, the nieces, the tutor, the fiance. Everyone is touched by it. And it’s not good.

What was so vividly portrayed was how devastating infidelity really is!

The final scene is at Joel and Julia’s house. Julia is Crosby’s sister. They’ve had struggles in their young marriage. And as Joel walks down the steps and nervously sits down next to Julia on the couch, you can almost feel what’s coming. What I expected was a confession of his own betrayal of infidelity. Instead, he takes her hand, and begins with, “I need to tell you something.” “Okay,” Julia tentatively responses. He continues, “I will never cheat on you.” “you know. . .  we’ve been through so much. And we’re going to go through so much more . . . you know . . . good and bad, we’re going to go through everything . . . and I will never . . . I will never cheat on you.”

Their embrace is priceless! And the expression on Julia’s face says it all: I’m safe and secure because I’m married to a one-woman man who has got my heart. Joel’s affirmation of faithfulness is all the more exquisite when displayed against the backdrop of  Crosby’s unfaithfulness. After 8 years of marriage, this couple knows better than the day they got married what real love means and what real love requires. Passionate Faithfulness.

Faithfulness is the most costly and exquisite gift that one person can give to another that continually reaffirms, “I Love You no matter what.” And for those who are Jesus followers, it’s the model of love that Jesus himself demonstrates and invites us to follow his lead (Rev. 19:11).

So men, how bout it? It’s time to be honest. Are you more like Crosby or Joel?

If you’ve broken your woman’s heart through unfaithfulness like Crosby, it’s time to man-up and start the agonizing work of rebuilding broken trust. It will take time . . . a long, long time. Counseling, accountability, and vulnerability are vital to rebuilding trust and becoming a better man who is faithful and true.

Are you more like Joel? Then it’s time for you to passionately reaffirm your faithfulness to your bride. Do it today. Make it a practice to find little ways to demonstrate to her that you’re “a one-woman man” (1 Tim. 3:2). Because that’s what a real man who loves God and loves his woman does.

And I’m pretty sure her response will be something like Julia’s.

For more help, check out When A Spouse Is Unfaithful , When The Flame Flickers, and this video insight on how to rebuild a relationship after an affair from Larry Crabb.