Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Communication 101

Thoughts for the Day:

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
                                                                                             The Apostle Paul
                                                                                             I Cor. 13:1

"Wise sayings often fall on barren ground, but a kind word is never thrown away."
                                                                                             Arthur Helps

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Free-Range Emotions

One of the most common conversations in my office begins when a client apologizes for his or her emotions: "I know I shouldn't feel this way, but...."  Our lack of control over the way we feel generates tremendous insecurity and frustration; it also opens a large gap between who we are on the inside and how we want to be seen--strong and independent.  In our productive and technologically-focused culture, emotions are an embarrassment.

The Christian church often makes it even more difficult for a believer to deal with his or her emotions.  I often hear Christian leaders denigrate emotions and caution those in their care and under their authority to regard emotions with suspicion, even to ignore them.   A common "word of wisdom" is to make emotions the "caboose" of our faith "train."  I respectfully disagree.

We have been created by an emotional God in His image.  Our emotions reflect our spiritual DNA, and we need not apologize for them.  We do, however, need to take responsibility for them.  It is not our emotions that are a problem; it is our lack of appropriate responsibility for them that exposes our sin nature and gives our emotions their bad reputation.

I would like to suggest that we take a more constructive approach to our emotions, to offer them to the Lord for His purposes and His glory.  If we see our emotions as a gift from God, we have a powerful tool as we pursue spiritual growth.  Emotions enable us to see and understand what is going on inside of us.  And since our God is most concerned with our hearts, it is our emotions that enable us to connect with God's internal work of sanctification.  Our emotions allow us to to move beyond our performance and behavior and examine our attitudes and desires.  Our emotions also allow us to identify hurts and apply forgiveness so that we can maintain spiritual health and promote growth.  Finally, emotions provide energy and vitality so that we can follow our Master with passion and joy.

The core problem is that our emotions are subject to our sin nature.  While they are given to us by God for His good purposes, we often allow our emotions to drive our most destructive behavior and least kind words.  We also allow our emotions to lead us in selfish, unwise, and unproductive directions.  Emotions that are not placed before the Holy Spirit and not governed by our heads are dangerous, indeed.

In order to receive God's gift of emotion with gratitude and to be wise stewards of our emotions, I think that it is helpful to regard our emotions as free-range chickens: to let them see the light of day, to give them fresh air on a regular basis, but also to monitor and tend to them with care and not allow them to run wild.  May we grow healthy flocks of free-range emotions.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Highway to Heaven

I am a directionally-challenged individual.  I can get lost in a box, and even if I successfully find my way to my destination, I may not find my way back easily.  Road names are important to me as a matter of travel survival.   Therefore, I do not readily appreciate the existence of Village Road, Village Road East, Village Road West, and New Village Road, all in West Windsor Township, New Jersey.  I am still trying to understand what those same municipal minds have done with Meadow Road.

It is even worse when the same road has multiple names.  In Princeton, a mere 3-mile stretch of road has numerous names.  In my own small town of Plainsboro, Edgemere Ave. becomes Dey Rd.  This makes for real frustration and confusion for the unititated.

Sometimes, though, there is a good reason for a road to have multiple names.  A major road may be identified by a county or state number but have more “personalized” names as it goes from town to town.  While the highway remains the route to your destination, the street name as it passes through a town tells you that it is time to slow down and perhaps stretch your legs and look for a meal.  It seems to me that this phenomenon can help us to understand an important spiritual concept.

As the women of Perisseia have learned, truth is at the heart of who God is and must be at the heart of who we are and who we are becoming.  With the foundation of truth in place, God can then sanctify us and grow us into the people He has created us to be.  Growth and sanctification often include Godly and gracious confrontation, confession and repentance, forgiveness, perseverance through trials, and practicing appropriate boundaries.  None of these elements of Christian growth is possible without truth.

This is where the analogy of road names comes in.  The highway to heaven could appropriately be named Truth.  As we travel the Highway of Truth toward heaven, though, we may find ourselves in areas with reduced speed limits and local names—names like Confrontation, Confession and Repentance, Forgiveness, Perseverance, and Boundaries.  If we are to learn, grow, and mature in our faith—so that we are able to reach our destination—it is imperative that we remain on the highway of Truth but also observe the reduced speed limits of the slower sections and take advantage of what they offer us on our journey.  Too often we want to hurry and find a detour around these difficult sections, but if we do so, by ignoring, avoiding, or suppressing the truth that is to be found in them, we will find we have left the Highway and become hopelessly lost.  If we patiently persevere, though, we will successfully cover important ground and remain on the Highway of Truth. 

May we faithfully travel the Highway of Truth, resist detours when it becomes slower and less pleasant, and encourage one another to do the same.