The Battle For America’s Soul

As the circus that was this election year draws to a close, I cannot help but remark on the strange dichotomy that has riven this country.  Donald Trump, as morally questionable character as you might ever meet, battled Hillary Clinton, arguably one of the most bought-and-paid-for politicians in recorded history. And this country became, essentially, bi-polar. A schism was rent in the fabric of our society, as the vocal and easily swayed aligned themselves behind one or the other candidate. Violent “protests” looking strangely like riots erupted as America became polarized behind ideological opposites,.

White middle-class America, tired of being branded latent racists, judged worthy of scorn because of the color of their skin (strangely enough, by other melanin-challenged individuals), and called “white supremacists” – a term once reserved for the skin-heads in a compound in North Idaho – rebelled against academia and the mass-media elites, and said, no more will we avert our gaze, no more will we quietly take your accusations of implicit racism. Or, to put it in a more colloquial verbiage, they said, essentially, “Screw You.”

This election became a referendum against the progressive agenda. The failed messiah Barack Obama, who promised so much and delivered so little (except some pretty decent turns on the back nine), became a sort of rallying cry for “flyover country.”  As he sat quiescent while Black Live Matter protests smashed and burned their way through suburbia, strangely silent as ghost-funded busloads of professional protesters clamored against a Trump presidency in supposedly “spontaneous” outrage….complete with their pre-printed, laminated protest signs, working class America decided that they’d had enough.

So, while Donald Trump may not be the paragon of  virtue most might hope for in a presidential candidate, he still became, in essence, “At least he’s not THAT!”

As middle-class moms and struggling entrepreneurs watch their insurance premiums double and triple under ObamaCare’s gentle ministrations, as they watch President Obama decry racism in the Republican’s approaches to immigration reform while he continues to quietly deport millions of brown-skinned “immigrants,” they’ve basically said enough is enough.

And so we are at a crossroads. A tilting point. Do we continue down the ultimately self-destructive road that the progressive’s messiah started us on, or do we cautiously hope that maybe, just maybe, we can stem the tide of enlightened self-immolation upon which the past administration has set us?

Donald Trump is far from a paladin of virtue, some noble knight in whom we might otherwise expect the noblest of intents. But. He is, at least, a tremulous hope to which we might cling, as we strive to halt this nations slip into irrelevant oblivion.

Time will tell if we have chosen well.

We don’t really want a God.

So, first a little background. I came to know Christ when I was six years old. Yes, I remember, and yes, it was very real to me. I grew up a Baptist, and I once sat in a chair next to my mom in a good ol’ fashioned Midwest revival tent until I watched the sun come up. I think I was maybe nine. Went to a Presbyterian church in Junior High. Back to Baptist in High School. Assembly of God in college and later on. When I wasn’t walking waaaayyy far away from the Lord in between. I’ve been to revivals and evangelical shindigs of all varieties. I even dabbled in a Vineyard church for a while. That was….interesting.

As an adult I’ve settled into a theology which isn’t neatly categorized, but falls somewhere between evangelical, fundamentalist and…libertarian.

I’ve read the Internet. Okay, not all of it. But, well, a LOT of it. I’ve been on chat boards and newsgroups since they were white text on a black screen. I built websites when you had to write the code by hand. I blogged before there were blogs. I’ve worked for a Christian web ministry and been a lay pastor in a Foursquare church. I’ve waded through a good deal of the emergent church movement and “progressive” Christianity. I’ve looked at Satanist sites, been steeped in apologetics, and run the gamut of cults, one-offs and also-rans in the religious world.

And through it all, I’ve come to the fairly decisive conclusion that as a group, humanity…well…we don’t really want a God.  Not really.

Sure, we talk a good game, but the fact of the matter is that our human pride is just too much in the way.

When I read the Bible, I read about a God that expects to be taken seriously.  I think it’s hard for us in the modern western world to really put God into the proper context because we’ve never lived under a true king. We’ve never lived in a time when one man, sitting on a throne, literally has the power of life and death in his hands. His word is law, and with a mere wave of his hand, he could pass a sentence of death or commute a sentence of torture or banishment. We simply have no concept of that kind of personal power.

And so we have built up this image of a squishy, malleable, approachable, gentle Sunday-school Jesus god who loves puppies and small children and pats us on the head and sends us on our way as his merry giggling children.

We don’t want a God.  We want a camp counselor, a bartender, a friend, who will listen to our problems and our woes. A confidant and confessor; a beer drinking, cigar smoking buddy who slap us on the back and tell us everything is going to be okay. And sure, God in the person of Jesus Christ can be all that and more. And yet. And yet…

In our pursuit of these Kumbaya moments, we quietly and conveniently set aside the aspects of God we find uncomfortable, challenging, even perhaps daunting and scary. We can’t square that with the ideal of the enabling cheerleader we’ve come to expect, and so we decide that that CAN’T be God! Not the god WE want!

Because what we really want is a god….not a God. A god who is just too much like us, who thinks and acts and reacts just a little too much like the way we think he or she or it should.

Instead of a God who called the very universe into being. Who spun together the elements to form galaxies and planets and stars; who brought life to this planet out of nothingness. A God who commands the very atoms of existence to obey His will. A God with the power of life and death in His hands, who can, with a mere wave of his hand, pass a sentence of eternal death or commute a sentence of torture and banishment. We simply have no concept of that kind of personal power.

We think to bargain, and negotiate, and to craft a theology that conforms to our will, crafting a god (or gods) with whom we are comfortable. A god who obeys us, who acts and behaves as WE want it to….and not the other way around.

That’s not a God. That’s an idol, formed by man in his own image.

The Bible shows us a God, not a god. Absolute power and authority, tempered by eternal love and amazing compassion. But…we cannot deny the one and hope to secure the other.

Jesus Christ is God, in every aspect. We have experienced his love, his mercy, his grace and compassion. Let us not forget, however, the very important question asked of Job – “Where were YOU when I laid the foundations of the earth?!”

The problem we have with a real God is that thorny and troublesome word, “obedience.” We balk and chafe at the idea that we must suborn our will, our desires, our plans, to an all-powerful King. In our American ideal of independence and individual autonomy, we have progressively (!) lost our ability…or at least or desire…to “bow” before a “king.” I just seems so antithetical to everything we’ve been taught to value and believe. And so we reimagine and reinvent a god more compatible with this concept of, well, basically….“You’re not the boss of ME!

Problem is…He is. He holds my life in His hands. He brought me into being, and shaped my life around me. I am his child, a son of God. Sadly…that doesn’t mean what it used to either. A child, a son, should obey his father. Trusting in him, believing that he knows and understands things that my childlike mind simply can’t comprehend. Trust. Obedience. Submission. Reverence. Even…unto…death. THAT is what our God calls us to do. And to be. And far too many of us in this modern world have decided that, if that’s what it takes, well then….

…we don’t want a God. Not really.

Omar Mateen Wasn’t Crazy

Here are my thoughts on the Orlando shooting, in which 50 people were killed, and at least 53 others wounded in a horrific attack on a night club catering to gays. (I’ll warn you right up front, what follows is not “politically correct.“)

First, this was not a hate crime. It wasn’t a “crime of passion” in the traditional sense. It is said that the catalyst for the attack occurred after the shooter “got very angry” when he saw two men kissing while he was out with his family. But he didn’t flip his wig right then and there, lose his cool and in a moment of blind rage attack the two men he saw. He waited. He planned. He chose a lucrative target, and then he struck at a time and a place where he could do the most damage. This was completely premeditated.

So, if it wasn’t a “hate crime,” what was it?

Ethnic cleansing.

Instead of a heat-of-the-moment over-reaction, this falls much more clearly into the category of, “Something Must Be Done!” It’s the same mindset you see behind every pogrom, every massacre, every brutal culling throughout history. The Nazis and the Third Reich culling “undesirables” from their society in what they came to call The Final Solution. It’s the Hutus vs. the Tutsis in Ruwanda, the Serbs vs. the Croats in Bosnia, the genocide in Darfur and so many other examples throughout modern history.

Right now so many are, once again, focusing on the tool used to perform the act, suggesting that if Omar Mateen hadn’t had access to an “assault rifle” with all those bullets, the attack wouldn’t have happened, or wouldn’t have been so deadly.

And yet there’s another thing Omar Mateen had access to that was far more responsible for the attack than the weapons he used, and that was his IDEOLOGY. But a lot fewer people want to talk about that uncomfortable truth.

Because that’s the reality of the thing: It’s not the object that is dangerous, it’s the human being that is dangerous.

Here’s the thing: Mateen obeyed all the gun laws. He passed all the background checks. He was employed to provide private security. He bought his weapons legally, waiting periods an all. Though he had been interviewed by the FBI and been on a watch list off and on, nothing was every done because he didn’t rise to the level of a credible threat (unfortunately).  Which strongly suggest one very important thing:

Omar Mateen wasn’t crazy.

This wasn’t an Adam Lanza, with known and identified mental health issues.  So if he wasn’t crazy, what was he?

I would instead use the word…”Devout.”

Omar Mateen was a fundamentalist Muslim who adhered to the deadly, imperialist, fascist ideology espoused by Al Qaeda, ISIS and all their associated fanboys. This kind of ideology teaches that murdering homosexuals the way he did is not only permissible but an obligation. That it is essentially a mercy killing?!

The simple fact of the matter is you can have a basement arsenal full of the deadliest, high-capacity engines of infernal death and destruction, but they are still just things. Inanimate objects. Completely inert chunks of metal and plastic.  It isn’t until someone picks them up and puts them in the warm, soft hands of a human being that they become “dangerous.” Because that’s the reality of the thing: It’s not the object that is dangerous, it’s the human being that is dangerous.

It’s what happens in your heart that tells you it’s okay to become a mass murderer for your cause that is the real threat. And when you have a whole subculture and religious ideology dedicated to telling people exactly this sort of thing, that’s when things get ugly.

This is another example of why Islamic Sharia is completely incompatible with western values and society. We should not respond with violence towards innocent Muslims, we should not engage in an “eye for an eye,” or we are no better than Mateen and those like him. But we also need to stop pretending that fundamentalist Islam is not a threat to our western way of life.

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Hush now. Be Still.

Sometimes when we come before God  in a moment of crisis or confusion or uncertainty, when we lift our face to him in supplication seeking his guidance, some sort of answer or direction, instead we get something unexpected. Sometimes there are no great insights, no grand visions or prophecies, no “word from the Lord.” Sometimes, it’s just….”Shhhh. Hush now. Be still.

How many times as a parent have you had a child rush up to you full of hurt or anger or confusion, and they climb up in your lap and pour out their thoughts or fears with such intensity, sometimes with tears in their eyes, and you realize that the first and best thing they need is simply…comfort.  “Shhhhh.., “you whisper. “Hush.” You rock them a little, you wipe away some tears, you smooth their hair, and sometimes all you do is just hold them against your chest, let them cry, and you whisper softly, over and over, “Shhhh, now. It’s okay. I’ve got you. Shhhhh...”

Sometimes people need comfort more than they need answers. And sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes it’s just enough to know that there’s a place we can go, a lap we can crawl up into, a comforting hand for our forehead and gentle fingers to wipe away our tears. Sometimes it’s just enough to be loved.

God is a good one for giving us what we need, more than what we think we want. And sometimes all we really need…is to know that He is there.

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Reclaiming Lost Ground

In my last post, I talked about surrendering to God. Surrendering can mean many things; sometimes it means letting go of something, but sometimes it can mean NOT letting go!

In surrendering ourselves to God, we agree, we resolve, we commit to opposing everything in our life that is un-Godly. Or at least to try. To work at it. To make it a priority. BUT! If I stop resisting something, if I allow myself to become complacent, to just give up and accept it as part of my daily definition of “normal,” then I will have surrendered to it and not to God.

It can be as something as simple as a hardness of the heart that I’ve learned to accept, an area of unforgiveness, resentment, or anger – however justified in my mind – that I have ceased to oppose or worked to resolve. I just accept it as “the way things are.”

In doing so, I accept defeat. In effect, saying, in THIS area, God is not sovereign. In this, I “cannot win”…or don’t want to. In holding on to that anger, in nursing that grudge, in accepting that addictive behavior, I show where have I given ground over to the Enemy.

But the more you give him, the more he will try to take. Each step backward is a foothold for the enemy to advance further into your life.

Victory in Christ means not accepting defeat in your life. Find every piece of ground where the enemy has gained a foothold, and renew the offensive to reclaim it! Turn to God, acknowledge it to Him, then seek and accept his equipping to oppose and defeat it.

Challenge: Lord, show me daily, minute by minute, which battles I’m not fighting that I should be.  What footholds has the Enemy gained, what areas of my life do I need to reclaim? Teach me to live daily in the victory you have secured for me on the Cross.

 

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: The Power of Letting Go

I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee, my blessed savior, I surrender aaaaalllll.”

So the song goes. But…am I really doing it? Am I really giving everything over to Him? Or, am I still holding on to a few things I plan to handle for myself?

Why do we sometimes cling sooo tightly to a favorite fear, or chose to continually re-live the same past trauma, or dwell forever on that one special mistake we made way back when? It’s like some ragged stuffed animal that’s been with us for so long that we just can’t quite seem to let it go.

MINE!” we yell.

So, inevitably, that’s precisely where God is going to focus his attention; because it’s the very things that we hold on to the most tightly that are the most important for us to let go of.

It’s those learned responses, those conditioned reflexes, those programmed behaviors, those things where we stubbornly insist, “It’s just the way things are!” Even if they aren’t pleasant, they are comfortable, they are familiar; they are what we know.  And they may even be true…for now.

But…just because that’s the way things are, doesn’t mean that’s really how they have to stay, is it? God is all about taking what is…and changing it into what can be.  HOWEVER…

…we have to let go of it first.

It’s those very things that we “know” with such certainty that too often get in the way of discovering the real truth of things.  It’s only when we stop trying to tell God how things are, that we become open to the possibilities of what they can be!

Problem is, that means letting go of our illusions of control, of our carefully nurtured victim-hood, or of any of 101 other things that we tend to put in place of a complete reliance on God and an unwavering trust in His sovereignty over our life. And that’s hard. Real hard. Because we really like our little teddy bear.

“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.”  1st Cor. 13:11-12

If I hold on too tightly to those artifacts of the past, if I cling too tightly to that ragged old teddy bear, I can never really grow up the way I am supposed to, the way God wants me to. I stagnate, I get stuck, and I don’t grow. So, before I can move forward, I have to stop looking back. Instead of focusing on what was, I can start seeing what new things God is ready to lead me into instead!

Challenge:  Lord, what are those things in my life that I haven’t let go of yet? What are things I need to put into your hands? What are the fears I most need to trust you with, and the places in which I most need to be the most open to change?

Thoughts from my Quiet Time: Sometimes, It’s Really Not About You.

Going through my Oswald Chambers for today and he takes on the concept of “suffering” in terms of God and the Bible, referring to 1st Peter Chapt. 4 &5. Reading through all that really got me to thinking.

God repeatedly speaks of suffering as though it is a good thing!? That is not only inevitable but desirable?!  Why it this?

Because if we understand that it is inevitable, we will have a different attitude about it. We will be better equipped to face it rather than surprised by it.  And more importantly perhaps, we will have the awareness and foresight to look beyond our immediate circumstance and our own condition, and begin to look for the purposes of God in what we are enduring.  Why has he led me here? What purposes are being served?

This trial, this suffering may not even be about me. I may have been placed here to minister to someone else, or accomplish a mission, purpose or goal far beyond my own narrow vision.  And if I am only looking at myself, focused so completely on the depths of my own personal inconvenience, I may miss that opportunity entirely!

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NASB)

Challenge: Am I so focused on my own condition that I may be missing the work God is doing around and through me? Lord, help me to daily remember that even in times of sorrow, suffering or persecution, you are there. Help me be open to your will, no matter the circumstance.

One For The Ladies: Advice on Dudes!

FIRST: Don’t call them “dudes.” They hate…wait, no they don’t. “Dude” is totally cool. So is “Man.” And “chucklehead.” Guys really don’t care all that much. We call each other really creative, disgusting, and generally quite endearing terms like, “Spud,” “Buttface,” and “Goober” all the time. So call us whatever you want.

Oorrrrr…maybe not. So, hold up. Let’s back things up a bit. I maayyy be a little off base on this one. And here’s why.

Ladies, what you think, and what you say…(hold on…write this one down)…really does matter to him.  How you see him, what he sees reflected in your eyes when you look at him has a powerful impact.  You have a level of power and influence over the heart of your big, strong man that defies all reason.  If a man has given his heart to you, he has shown a level of vulnerability and trust to you that he has very likely shown no other human being on this planet. And that’s something you reaaaally need to think about.

It’s a lot of responsibility. Wait…what?! That’s right. Your husband, your father, even your son has made a choice, taken a step to entrust to you his most valuable and guarded possession: his heart.

And For The Record: men do not do this easily. They do not do it lightly. They do not do it for just anyone. Why?  Because it is dangerous for us. That’s right.  Dangerous.  And it’s a scary thing.

Ladies, you are emotional creatures. By God’s wonderful design you see things and feel things and intuit things that leave a man scratching his head in wonder.  You’ve done it your whole life.  You’ve dealt with the highs and the lows and the aches and the joys of life with an openness and readiness and simple awareness that in most cases just isn’t part of the experience of the average dude out there. Not to say that he can’t see these things, can’t experience them the way you do, but it doesn’t have the same sense of something-come-naturally that it does to you. So, here’s the thing…

Guys don’t operate in the realm of the emotional on a day-to-day basis like you do.  This does not make them broken, this does not make them defective…it makes them “men.”

This does NOT, however, mean that men don’t actually feel these things. But if you hear nothing else, if you retain nothing else I say here, hear this: Men simply do not allow themselves to reveal that aspect of who and what they are to the world because…IT  IS  NOT SAFE for them to do so!

We live in a world that will chew you up and spit you out sometimes. Men are shown how to achieve, how to build. It is our nature. We are drawn to it.  We want to climb it, to build it, to shape it and mold it and exert dominion over it. It’s how we are wired.

And it comes with a cost. Most men are not cruel. Most men are not evil. But most men live in a world that requires a kind of strength and drive and self-possession that has little room for softness, for indecision, for anything that doesn’t involve moving on to the next task to complete, the next obstacle to overcome. And, sometimes, it just really sucks.

But here’s the caveat: we are men…but we are also still God’s creations. We are still emotional beings with every aspect of who and what God is written into our very DNA.  We still need to feel it. We still need to experience it, to share it, and to confide in someone those struggles that we face every. single. day, but can’t allow ourselves to show to anyone else.

To anyone else, except…for you.

You are our refuge. You are the place to which we retreat from a world that demands so much of us that it takes every ounce of what we have to face it all. And when we run out of gas, when we’ve given it all and have nothing left…we come home to you.

So..the question then becomes….what do we come home…to?

Is it a safe place? Is it a place that says, lay down your armor, lay down your sword, for a while the battle is over, and you have come home to a place of comfort and of refuge?

Or…is it something else?

Ladies, I tell you this with the utmost confidence, and with the utmost sincerity, and with all the fervent prayer I can muster, that your man, your husband, your father, your brother, whoever he is, he will move heaven and earth for you…if you give him a safe place to come home to afterwards.

Men are simple creatures. We really aren’t that complex. We want such simple things.

We want your respect. We want your admiration. We want your trust. And more than anything else…we want to know that what we do for you matters.  Even if we do it wrong.

Whaaaaat?!Wait..WHAAAAT?!?! Yes. You heard me. Even if we did it wrong.  You sent us to the store for milk. And we got whole milk instead of skim. Should we have listened better to the instructions? Sure. (see previous post, guys). But we got you MILK!! Ha HAAA! VIC-TO-RY! (this is the part where you swoon and toss us your handkerchief).

And so now you face…The Decision®.  Your girlfriend would have known what you wanted, right? Heck, she can all but read your mind.  She would just know, and she would get it right AND remember the two other things you forgot to ask her to get as well!  Hmmph!

So do you let him have it with both barrels because he FORGOT! And how hard could it BE?! He NEVER listens and you ALWAYS have to……

See where this is going?  Now instead of lacy hankies and batted eyelashes he gets…the business end of the dragon.

So here’s the newsflash, ladies: MEN.  CAN.  NOT.  READ.  YOUR.  MIND.  No, I mean it. Stop laughing. I’m being serious here. No, this is not a joke. Guys will get you exactly what you asked for. Usually. Mostly. And that’s it. We are task oriented. We fulfill requirements. That intuition thing? Wroooong set of chromosomes.

You have to actually tell us things. Sometimes more than once. Especially if the TV is on. It’s just the way things are.  This is not a defect, though it may seem that way.  And you need to plan accordingly.

And that’s where the safety part comes in, where you make the choice to make it safe, and KEEP it safe. He has to be allowed to fail. He has to be allowed to be human. And vulnerable. And imperfect. Because if he can’t do it with you, it’s entirely possible that there’s nowhere else in the world that he can.  And that’s a tough situation for anyone to face.

Here’s another newsflash: it’s hard for men to feel vulnerable. I know, shocking, right?! It runs counter to everything we see and hear and face, every day. So we want to know that we can trust you with our heart, and that you will love us enough to let us be less than perfect.

I know it’s hard. I know that it can take everything you have to step back, take that deep breath….aaaand another deep breath, aaaand maybe even another one…and then make the choice to love him enough to let his heart be more important than your agenda. Your plan.

So you smile, you kiss him, you say thank you, and you put whole milk in the recipe and pick up the skim milk on the way home from dropping the kids off at daycare tomorrow.

Why? Because — and listen closely here — he didn’t do it on purpose. Yes, he could have done it better.  Yes, he could have listened more closely, and maybe it feels to you like he just didn’t care. But ladies, I am here to tell you, it just isn’t true.

His failure to perform the task you wanted in the manner you expected has no bearing on his love for you.

Let me say that again: His failure to perform the task you wanted in the manner you expected has no bearing on his love for you.

And so….it should have no bearing on your love for him.  Men make mistakes. Women make mistakes. But we can make a choice, every day, minute by minute, situation by situation, victory by victory, mistake by mistake…to love the person anyway.

To realize that that may very well be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. And then to do it anyway. Again. And again. And again. Because folks, ladies, gents, when it really comes down to it, that’s what love is.

A choice.

One For The Guys: Advice on Chicks!

First: Don’t call them chicks. They hate that. (Unless you’re in Australia, in which case I guess it’s cool).

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, how can a guy who lives alone, with a divorce under his belt be qualified to lecture ME about how to deal with ch…er, women?!”

Who better to talk about the dangers of drinking than a recovering alcoholic, right?

(Hmmm…miiiight not be the best comparison.)

Actually, the thing is, the best way I can think of to give you advice on how to deal with women…is to give you advice on how to deal with yourself.

We live in a time of crisis. An identity crisis. Women are bombarded with messages about how they should act, who they should be, what they should look like, what values they should hold. Radical feminists set one standard, old-school fundamentalists set another. It can be confusing, frustrating, and downright demoralizing. Women are criticized by the Frothing Fems for staying at home with the kids because it denies them their right to spend 60 hours a week fighting their way up the corporate ladder only to suffer a heart attack at age 53 like us dudes. Or they are criticized by The Traditionalists if they forego starting a family in favor getting that PHD because, I dunno, reasons.

So, guys, I ask…do they really need to be getting the same thing from you?

God made women as women, and men as men. Guys..,women are not a mistake. Ladies…men are not a mistake. They are not this crazy broken thing that you have to fix.  We are two parts of a whole. Two pieces of a mechanism designed to work together. And — IMPORTANT NOTE (write this one down):

WE  ARE   DIFFERENT.  Let me let that sink in a bit.  Kind of ground-breaking stuff here, I know.

We are both engineered to perform exactly the way we do. The man piece and the woman piece fit together because we are designed to.  Not just sexually, but emotionally. Spiritually.  So here’s where I get into the “advice to guys” part.

Okay guys, so…..wait…turn off the game. (You. Over there. Yes you. The boss fight will wait. Yes, yes, I know, you were in the queue for this dungeon for, like, 20 minutes. Trust me. This is more important. Besides, the drop-rate is terrible on that guy. Just buy it on the auction house instead).

Anyway. Now, for the “Advice on Chicks Women.”

They love you. They really do. But there’s one problem. You don’t think like a chick. And that just blows their mind. And you reeeeally need to understand that. Women expect you to think like they do, and when you don’t, when you don’t act or react the way you are “supposed to,” it sets off ALL sorts of alarm bells. Why? Because if one of her girlfriends responded like you just did, Something Would Be Wrong©.

See, here’s the deal. And I know this can hurt like hitting your thumb with a hammer, but…(wait for it)…you have to really listen. I don’t mean listen like guys do. Guys, we talk, we communicate to transmit information and accomplish goals. And then we’re done.  We deal in goals and deliverables. We deal in quantifiables. Tangibles. The ladies…they deal in perceptions, and connections, and shared emotions. Intangibles. The squishy stuff. And it takes a loooong time to communicate that way compared to what guys are really prepared to deal with.

And that’s where we get into trouble.  Guys, seriously, let’s be honest. We don’t multi-task. We really don’t. They do. They can have the TV on in the background, be on the phone with one friend while IM’ing another, keeping track of two kids while planning dinner…and scrapbooking all at the same time. You and me? If the TV is on? Forget it. We’re done communicating with the outside world.

This can, to put it mildly, cause some problems in the area of communication. So here’s the deal. When your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your sister, your mom, any woman of any significance in your life wants to talk to you, to really communicate with you…STOP. WHAT. YOU. ARE. DOING. Just…stop.

And listen.

When I say listen, I mean it. Not, endure it. Not, huff and squirm and ostentatiously check your watch. Why? Because that is communication to a woman! When you do that kind of stuff, you are communicating to her that just about anything else in the world is more important to you at that moment than listening to what she has to say.

And, damn, but that has to hurt. She wants for you to want to connect with her…like her girlfriends would.  She wants for you to listen, and empathize, and not try to fix, but just nod, and touch her hand, and just plain BE INTERESTED. And when you don’t, when you are impatient, or imperious, or dismissive, YOU ARE REJECTING HER. And it will hurt her. And she will react and respond out of that hurt.

And you will be left wondering what the heck just happened?!? And why am I suddenly sleeping on the couch?

Because you weren’t really paying attention.  It’s as simple as that, guys. The women in your life want to know that they are important to you. And you communicate that importance and that value to them when you choose them over everything else.  When they see you turn off the TV, put away the book, step back from the computer and really listen, THAT’S where the connection happens. The one they really want from you more than anyone else.

It’s not hard….but it’s not easy. Not for us. But guys, man, it is so worth it. So they next time she starts to talk, to tell you about her day, when she confides in you her struggles and doubts and starts pouring out that technicolor description of everything that made up her day…just stop….and just listen.  And talk. And nod, and smile and laugh and frown.

But mostly…just listen.

 

 

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Embrace The Foolishness!

If you spend enough time on the Internet — not to say that I do of course — but if you do, you’ll find that there are a lot of really polarizing issues out there. Me, I tend to gravitate towards political and religious discussions, and those can get pretty heated pretty quick.

I’ve seen comments about Christians (and about people of faith in general) that run the gamut from enlightened commentators who state with utter certainty that Christians are mislead, ignorant, close-minded and/or foolish, to those who will insist with all sincerity and concern that teaching your children about God is “child abuse,” or that people with a strong faith in God are mentally ill and need to be rescued from their delusions. I could send you links. Really.

It’s sad, but…it’s also understandable. What Christians think and believe can seem kind of out-there sometimes…even to Christians! A God so mighty that He created the universe, and yet somehow notices something as small as me? Not only notices, but cares? Miracles and healing and a Savior who rose from the dead?! Folly! Foolishness! Bah!

It’s not easy to hold onto your faith sometimes in the face of such doubt and derision. And yet, it is essential that we do it.  Our struggle daily is, and should always be, to be more fully conformed to the image of Christ. To worry less about how we are perceived according to worldly standards, and more about how we measure up on the scale of being Christ-like.

Understanding that as Christians we will have a perspective on the world that will seem strange, confusing, even foolish to those who do not know Him, who do not see with His eyes. But maybe, just maybe, that perspective, that lifestyle that I emulate and communicate will somehow become so compelling, so troublesome, so curious that people who don’t understand it…will want to. My faith and compassion and forgiveness in the face of everything the world has to throw at me will frustrate and confuse and bewilder.

But maybe, just maybe, it will also become something so different from what they know that it will begin to take on the form of a mystery that they must solve.

The mystery of Christ.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…for since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men…God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong..  1 Cor. 18-27 (NASB)

Challenge:  Am I communicating a compelling vision of who and what Christ is, by how I live my life, by the choices I make, and by the way I love those around me?