Don’t take the Wind out of their Sails- Communicating God’s Way

 

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Dad warned me in my single years, “You take the wind out of their sails.” Whether I asked for his advice or not—like father, like daughter. “You talk too much. You don’t always have to have the last word.”

This week I found a journal entry, Rolling, written those years. Timely in light of my recent daily prayer …for humility.

Rolling—

I’m so controlling,

I’m a ball that’s rolling

Over my man, again,

Taking the wind out of his sail.

My mouth,

A forceful gale.

God I need help…to stop myself,

I must lose

for us

to win

I don’t know what spurred this poem in those days, but we all know words have the power to build up or tear down. I’ve been working on my heart-mouth sync since I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord at 17. Then it was sarcasm and gossip. My delivery can take a twisted turn pretty quick.

Nowadays, I have a husband who picks up on the tiniest attitude, my sacred mirror. Bummer for me. I have to speak from a heart of respect and a thoughtful mind for a gracious delivery if I’m feeling at all tweaked.(impatient, judgmental, sarcastic,petty). Many times, silence is golden.

Pastor Greg Laurie gave a sermon at a harbor in Crete, Greece. Pointing to docked sailboats he explained in Ephesians 5:18 when Paul spoke of us being filled with the Spirit—it had the  meaning of these sails filled with the gusts of wind and ready for the journey.

James 3:4 says “although ships are large and driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go…”the tongue is like a little rudder that steers a great ship—

If any of you have struggled for a lifetime with mouth problems, I have found practicing spiritual disciplines really helps.

Start the day asking for humility and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we’re emptied of pride and selfish ways (impatience, judgment) we can be filled with His Spirit and gentleness—strength under control.

Jesus loves to be walking with us on this journey. He helped Peter, the impetuous apostle. He can help any of us who have the uncanny ability some will never know….to speak before thinking. Did I say that?

 “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”    Psalm 19:14

 

Forgive Again? Yes, it is Good Friday

Bay bridge day

 

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”(Matthew 18:21, 22 NIV)

Peter had been traveling with Jesus and eleven disciples—so many personalities, habits and moods to contend with daily. Some are flexible and spontaneous, above board and honest, like him…or so he thinks.

Others are quiet, thoughtful, and slow to move and speak. They question everything and seem resistant, even critical of anything Peter says.  Peter is learning from the Master, but he’s struggling with the brothers, especially one. And this time Peter runs to Jesus, tired of forgiving over and over. The guy just doesn’t care about Peter’s feelings.

Downton Abby, a famous PBS series, just played episode seven, where Mary, the older sister brings pain to her younger sister, Edith, once again. She humiliates her in front of her family and betrothed catalyzing a break-up.

Edith lashes out and calls Mary on her horrible behavior. Hurt, she flees to another city. The rift between the sisters is strong. Yes, Mary is remorseful but sees no way to fix the trouble she has caused her younger sibling. She is not a people pleaser. Nor does she like to admit fault. It is easier to wait, and in time….

In a surprising turn of events to Mary’s benefit, Edith forgives Mary—unasked. She is not ruled by pride. Always the humble one, she closes the breech by coming to Mary.  Longing to bridge the gap, Edith declares the importance of keeping their bond, despite their innate differences.  Their upbringing and family history, their parents and Granny, their deceased sister and children—no one else could know the nuances of their family, the way they both understood.

Isn’t it interesting? It seems in life, the people hardest to forgive are the people closest to us. A woman married fifty years once stood in a church foyer and stated how she made it—“breathe forgiveness.”

Sounds a lot like seventy times seven.

Jesus knew the value of forgiveness and our human feelings.

            “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27 NIV)

A blessing for a curse?  It sounds paradoxical. Jesus knows forgiveness is a decision and love is active. He knows, as we do, we all need His forgiveness for our wrongs and we rely on His love and mercy to cover our mistakes. He paid a price for us to be forgiven, and expects us to be merciful to others in turn—to sacrifice pride and judgment, even pain—and choose to forgive. It is never easy. There are depths to pain and forgiveness like the depth of the ocean, the deeper the pain, the darker the water. But forgiveness releases the victim as well, from misery and hate.

Matthew 5:45 reveals when we forgive we are behaving like children of our Father in Heaven. We bring God honor through forgiveness. We release others from guilt.

Yes, sometimes the people closest to us, spouses, siblings, children, parents—can seem like the enemies Jesus said to love. Their words pierce deeper because they are the closest to our heart. They are the ones we have decided to trust with our thoughts and emotions. We want to believe they are always safe people to live with and love us as we love them.

“My daughter is breaking my heart,” a tearful nurse erupted as she arrived at work. Her fourteen-year-old had said goodbye with the words, “I hate you.”

It’s hard to love and feel loved when actions and words flip day to day, or week to week. Love and hate, blessings and curses. The wheel spins inside the brain and words fly off at alarming rates sometimes. There is an enemy of our soul who loves to surprise us with a hit, when we least expect it. Ambushed, we can feel like we are battling something unseen. We are.

Mary, was in pain and inner conflict when she callously opened Edith to humiliation. Those closest to us, in their pain, can cause ours. “Wounded people, wound people.” And those with deeper wounds are often not aware what they are doing. They are minions of emotion and confusion, creating crazy circles of crisis for themselves and others.

Enemies may come from horrible bosses or backstabbing, burden laying peers. I have prayed Jesus’ words to cope with an unsavory work environment. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35, 36 NIV)

Attempting to do my job clear-headed without having to constantly address the virus of emotions running in the background, spurred by comments and actions unrelated to our job positions, I prayed to love them.

Daily I had to shake the bird nest of bitterness trying to camp in my mind. “You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep him from building a nest.”

Just this morning a friend told me her work has improved. “I decided to forgive my boss, carte blanche. I just don’t let it get to me anymore.”

There is power in forgiveness, not just for us, but for those around us. We are not expecting them to be something they cannot be. Because we are praying, we are not as easily disappointed or frustrated by their behavior.

Our unseen enemy, Satan, is out to divide—to bring pain and build walls with pride and animosity. Hatred is the opposite of love. If we give into hatred we cannot do the good Jesus asks of us. We cannot walk worthy of our calling as believers or help those we love, because we are not able to use the greatest power given to us by God—the power of love.

Love is stronger than hate. God’s way is stronger than the way of the world. He can empower us through the Holy Spirit to forgive, because we are attached to the Vine. The Vine is Jesus who hung on a tree and died for our sins, while forgiving those who drove the nails into his hands on the cross.

Today He is alive, and the power to love pours through His veins. Apart from Him we can do nothing. But with Him, we can choose to forgive—simply by asking Jesus, the One who knows how best to help us.

Suicide and Sympathy


I don’t blame Robin Williams’s daughter for wanting out of social media sites after she received discouraging posts/ unwanted trolls. People will be judgmental in the face of suffering.

Last week visiting a group of friends the topic of suicide emerged in light of the beloved actor’s untimely death.

“I am tired of the comments some visitors make to those suffering from chronic illnesses, “my nurse friend sighed—the undue guilt thrust on a patient when they don’t get well—labeled lack of faith.”

In the book of Acts Paul was hailed as a hero to islanders after he survived a horrific storm at sea and helped rescue all aboard. However, as soon as a viper bit him at a group campfire, his admirers abruptly changed their opinion. Obviously, Paul wasn’t in God’s good favor or protection or he wouldn’t now face a torturous death from poison—which he survived. Superstitious and judgmental, Paul quickly became the brunt of his host’s unmerciful criticism. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust. At some point stuff happens to all, in this imperfect atmosphere called earth.

When I was twenty-something, a Christian friend from high school committed suicide. Tormented by the mental disease that had aborted his mother’s life, he won a football scholarship pointing toward a promising future—but lost the battles in his mind. He had a deep faith. He loved Jesus and literally handed his jacket to a cold homeless man on the street. He was loved and he was judged.

“He is not going to heaven,”

“How come?”

“Because he murdered—himself.”

How would that theology play out with Jesus who walked with us according to God’s sovereign plan of redemption? He himself endured scathing critics and yet consistently showed compassion to the sick of all categories: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.

 In Luke 18:1 he said, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”

Do you think if a person faints that God will then turn his back on them?

It is always difficult to navigate questions that torpedo in bringing a myriad of emotional fallout in the face of unexplained human hellholes. The devil advocates falsely to God’s lack of love and goodwill toward the weak or burdened, sick and harassed.

Yet, According to Isaiah 42:3 the Anointed One will not even throw out a damaged plant. “A bruised reed He will not break. And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish…” He tends the plant and flames the fire.

Isn’t it interesting this prophetic verse is recited by Jesus in Matthew 12:20 in-between healing two illnesses, one physical and one spiritual? Targeted, Jesus is rebuked for healing a man’s hand on the wrong day of the week and criticized for delivering a man who was demonized.

 Biblical references abound where God addresses our human fear. Jesus admonishes His disciples to trust and not fear throughout the gospels. Would His character be consistent to punish the timid? Didn’t he reach out His hand to Peter even as he began to sink with anxiety on the sea, after an initial burst of courage?

Those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord, wear His robe of righteousness. The moment we reach to Him for salvation, for help and deliverance from the ultimate darkness of eternal life without His love and eternal presence, we are forgiven. If we deny we need His Act of Mercy at the cross for us then we are on our own. We have no High Priest to cover our sin, our failures, and our junk. If we believe we are good enough to worship at the Throne of God with all the angels of heaven who adore the Lamb who was slain for us ( Revelations 5:11,12)…then we are truly done.

King David expresses many prayers to the Lord for strength as in Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Again, what happens if our hearts fail and weaken and we lose hope and courage? Is our Savior One who is unmerciful and unforgiving, non-compassionate and judgmental of our human flaws?

Rather, the Scriptures teach eternal Death comes by pride. And separation from God by haughtiness, not by weakness. 

Japanese Garden SF

How to Weed Hearts and Grow a Garden for Two

 

Japanese Garden SF

Yesterday I weeded the little patch across from the sliding glass door where our budding rose tree dove toward the dirt midweek. Steve propped it up with a stake again and I yanked at crabgrass ½ inch round and 6 inches under—that nasty grass is back? Wow. I’d spent hours removing stones and crabgrass many springs ago.

 

Now, it felt right to have my  husband working it too—two tending their garden together.  Spring a decade past “weeding and writing” filled my days in the midst of writing my book and acquiring a fixer upper.

 

Gardening invadedmy thoughts after hearing “You have a garden with every person in your life.”  How was I doing maintaining the garden with various friends and family? I hated weeding which was a chore growing up.

 

Pondering this concept, I first practiced “weeding sessions” when I was dating.  We would share observations, disgruntles and negative emotions that were hiding dormant (unseen) by the other. Of course, many times we knew something was up because although hidden by silence, nonverbals would creep through like crabgrass roots strangling any beneficial growth. I knew once exposed and removed, seeds could be sown, beautiful thoughts and good acts and deeds to nourish the soil of our heart and create a fragrant garden together. It required care and commitment.

 

Every plot of land, every relationship or garden between two people needs maintenance. Is there a child we are at odds with? An estranged sibling? Difficult parent or spouse? Critical thoughts, like weeds must be chucked. God’s counsel, His Word, encourages us to forgive as Christ forgave us insults, being misunderstood, harshness, apathy. Failures, mistakes, and wounds from ill-spoken words or none at all.

 

People are fragile. Handle with care, a saying from my teens, reminds me of flowers. Hearts must be fertilized and tended, seeded by affirming thoughts and prayers resulting in spoken affirmations and validations. Making plans and creating good memories replants the ground of our heart with fragrant blooms where once weeds stood dominant. We must get past the past to plan and create thriving gardens, joyful flowers.

 

As we rehearse prayerfully and practice speaking the truth in love, we become more skilled. When we measure our words with respect and intentionally speak in a gentle tone, anger defuses. When we allow Christ to teach us humility, God’s ways, to practice understanding—we look at the beam in our own eye before mentioning the beam in someone else’s. The rubble and weeds of pride break free from our hearts. When judgement dies, mercy lives, mercy that triumphs over judgement.

 

I never garden in the rain. Nowadays I am learning to observe the sunshine or dampness on my husband’s face—like noting the weather condition in his life. It’s like God saying when. Wait. Not now, means more time to pray for softness for both of us. Ground that is ready. Diplomacy means we agree to meet… and weed. Without agreement stubborn weeds resist. Timing is everything. I love to weed after a good rain- the weeds come out with half the effort.

 

How do we live without grace? Not only being gracious with someone else but with ourselves. Each situation is different even if it’s the same issue whether with the same person or someone else. If we have avoided resolving conflict from fear of how-to, if we haven’t pursued building a relationship or garden with someone for awhile—our tools will be rusty. It starts with asking God for help and courage to start.

We are equipped with all we need—two ears to listen patiently, one mouth to say less over more and a heart that beats to love as God designed. We must let go of the outcome before we start, but not let go of an attitude of  faith, hope and love. It is impossible to plan a conversation or control it. We must trust  our Master Gardener to help us get in and start when he says now. He knows how to prune anything and how to grow every flower and fragrance we can imagine—or can’t.  

 

Pursue (think plant!)  righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness of heart.   1 Timothy 6:11 

 

 

 

 

Japanese Garden SF

Daily Close to His Heels Together

I'm trying to remember to pray for humility every day. Why? Because it doesn't come naturally. I don't know how to live in it. I remember asking God after reading Micah 6:8 What does the Lord require of us? "To do justly , to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.

" "What does humbly with our God', mean God? "

I know God is hugely humble and gentle. He made the flowers and spindly legged spiders and soft billowy clouds. He whispers. When Jesus walked here, he stopped often to smell the roses and give them away to those around Him, by listening, helping, healing emotionally and physically by touching hearts and hands.

Translated for me it is Gentleness. Love in action. Consideration for others and meeting needs as God directs. Allowing time for the other person to talk and being willing to listen and learn. Humility is demonstrated daily on the field of life. God calls us to maintain a gentle attitude in our relationship with others, while we are listening to Him–the one who is gentle and humble of heart.

We just finished a series at our church where we talked about Divine Interruption- recognizing when God is allowing our daily path to take a detour or a pause for an interaction with someone we hadn’t planned on.

Jesus did that all the time. But since we are not Jesus, and tuned in to God the Father as he was, we need to stay mindful what is happening in our moments—rather than rush on by and miss opportunities God is placing before us to give, to bless, to entertain angels unawares.

 I heard John Ortberg, pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian church, refer to Christian leaders as "Guardians of the Soul."

 It touched that scripture I love in 1 Peter 3:1 that says we are now called to live in righteousness for “we have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls." One thing leads to another.  So we are in this world to tend others as he tends us; to comfort with the comfort he gives us.

 It’s really hard for me, selfish as I am, to tune in to others when I am feeling the heat myself. It’s basic human nature to take more interest in mwa.

Maybe that’s why it took Moses forty years tending sheep in the desert and learning God’s ways. He learned to listen on a long time out from the pleasures of living as a prince in a palace and being served. He learned to listen to and share the burdens of everyday living and provision through his wife’s family. To let them sharpen him as a person. No doubt he learned humility letting humble folk, practical people around him speak into his life—before he was ready to lead, help and live with a million of his clan  as they journeyed around a desert.

 I once listened to Dr. Dan Allender as he discussed a crossroads in his life: the decision to work at a seminary or start a graduate school. The list of advantages, disadvantages, was a quickie. The pro-con list stacked up for the seminary position with benefits—and ease. But then his wife looked at him and said, "You've never been able to do anything normal. Why start now?"

 "My wife was reading my story," he said.

She knew the direction it went. She knew him and understood the Author's heart for her husband. It is amazing how people who know and understand us can see better than we sometimes, many times…what we need; the direction we should go.

Today maybe I, maybe you, can be more open to listen to those on our path. It takes humility. They may know something we don't. They may have something to offer us, a novel thought. It doesn't happen for me unless I make a mental note and pray for God to help me. Not only to pause in pursuit of the next direction marker listening to others observations, but also aware God may be using them to meet a need I don't even know I have.  

And as we pray for those God puts on our mind, in our heart, we know they are on His heart. He most surely is putting our needs before them too. We are a great blended family down here. Together we are helping eachother to daily learn His ways, and hear his footsteps as we walk close to the heels of our Humble Good Shepherd.