God Is Safe

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.  Proverbs 29: 25

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Do you fear people?  I think many of us do to one degree or another.  One way to tell is to ask yourself, “If I was having problems with my boss, would I feel comfortable going to her and airing my grievances?”  Or how about this one: your neighbour’s cat continually comes onto your property and does their business on your lawn.  Would you be comfortable in going over and talking to them about the issue?  I’m not saying that either of these situations would be easy, but would you be willing to do it if it’s the right thing to do?  You see, it’s these type of situations where fear can easily slip in and paralyze us.

It’s much like jumping off cliffs into a lake with your buddies or kids.  If you stand at the edge and ‘think’ about it, it actually becomes easier to not do it, than to jump.  And in the end, you walk away.  It’s the same when you need to confront someone, if you overthink it, it becomes easier not to talk to them and just walk away.

Solomon says that fearing people (regardless of the reason) is a dangerous trap.  I love that the word ‘trap’ is used.  One of the definitions given for ‘trap’ states: “…a literal or figurative contrivance for deceiving or catching an animal or person.”  Have you ever considered a trap as a tool used to deceive?  Isn’t that a lot like fear?  Fear makes you believe that it’s better to back away, to stop dead in your tracks, to doubt yourself.

When it comes to people, fear puffs the person up in your head making them look larger and more menacing than they really are…and so we back away.  It’s when we back away that fear bites.  Once we back away, we diminish and dishonour ourselves, and end up not giving the other person the opportunity to grow and mature.

Sure, by retreating I have avoided the difficult situation, but at what cost to myself?  And that’s where the danger lies.  In backing away, I am training my brain to respond to difficult conversations by avoiding them all together.  It’s that practice that is detrimental to my spiritual, mental and emotional growth.

Solomon says that there’s a way better way to deal with all of this.  Rather than putting my energy into fearing people, it is much safer and healthier if I simply trust God.  Trust means seeing myself as God sees me, and seeing you as God sees you.  When I look at myself, and when I look at you, I see the image of God.  It’s in that place where love overtakes all fear.  It’s in that place where honesty and honour rule.  God can be trusted because God is safe.

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The Intimidation Factor

humility

While dining with a ruler, pay attention to what is put before you.  If you are a big eater, put a knife to your throat; don’t desire all the delicacies, for he might be trying to trick you. Proverbs 23: 1-3

Have you ever met someone who comes across as a bit intimidating?  If you have, then you know you know it has the potential to knock you off balance.  This proverb is a warning to dining with ‘rulers’, or folks who have power, because they may have ulterior motives as to why they want to meet with you.  Basically, beware of being dazzled by their wealth or lavish food.  And no, the writer of this proverb isn’t suggesting that you actually put a knife to your throat.  That word picture has to do with – you guessed it – self-restraint.  In other words, keep your wits about you and remember not all that glitters is gold.

Let’s talk about what’s really going on here.  This is the time when you find yourself with someone who brings out that intimidation factor that can be found in all of us.  Now, sometimes, the person is intentionally intimidating for the purpose of compliance.  Think police or military in their uniform.  It’s fashioned that way for a reason ;).  And it works!

But that’s not the issue here.  The issue is when you find yourself with a person who is using intimidation to control you or have the upper hand.  There is something they want from you and one way to get that is for you to feel ‘smaller’.  It works, because we’ve all experienced it.  Let’s dig into this a little more.

For the person doing the intimidating, there is obviously a need to be in control, to communicate or show that they are greater, more powerful, richer, smarter, etc, then you.  However, the fact they need to do this says quite a bit about them.  The need to elevate would suggest to me that there are some inferiority issues at work here, and the only way to overcome that is to make you feel smaller.  Or perhaps they want something from you and they will go to any length to get it, and if intimidation works, they will employ that tactic.

But to be fair, I must consider the other side of the coin.  It’s true that sometimes I sabotage myself when it comes to meeting someone who, in my eyes is ‘more’ than I am.  I immediately feel and believe that I am ‘less than’, and in believing that, I have placed myself at a disadvantage.  That person may not have an intimidating bone in their body, but because of how I see myself, I therefore see them as intimidating.

So what’s the answer to all of this?  It comes down to how I really see myself?  The truth of the matter is that in God’s eyes, we are all created equal.  We are created equal because

It comes down to the application of wisdom.  If you’ve been reading the proverbs over the past three weeks, then you will notice that the wise person leads themselves.  Their desires, other people, and situations do not dictate how they live their lives.  The wise person has learned to walk humbly with their God. And in that statement, lies the answer.  Humility will always trump intimidation.  A humble person is aware, not only of their strengths, but also their weaknesses.  A humble person is not swayed or captivated by money, sex or power.  A humble person is aware that they were created in the image of God, and it’s to God that they owe their life.

A humble posture always triumphs over intimidation.

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall…

YourPerceptionOfMe

Proverbs 22…

The rich and poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.

True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.

As I’ve been reading through each chapter of Proverbs, there is one nugget of wisdom that I bump into every now and then.  It goes something like this – There is a way that seems right to a person, but God examines the heart, or looks at the motive.  One of the meanings behind that is we may have moral actions, but God sees what your real motive is behind that.  Ouch!  I don’t know about you, but there are many times when I read something like that I don’t even consider for a second that that could be me.  Moi??  Never!  But yes…my motives are not necessarily the best.  For example…

For the past couple of months, a friend and I go out every Thursday afternoon to prayer-walk throughout a neighbourhood near our church.  About fifty percent of this neighbourhood is lower income, where people live in substandard housing.  Our desire is to interact with the people, not just walk through their ‘hood’.  So today, we purchased fruit, bagged it, and went knocking on doors to bless them with bags of fruit and if they were open, to pray for them.  We had some great encounters with people and that made my day.

We returned to the church after we were finished and spent some time praying.  It was then I had this sense that God had a question for me: “Why are you doing this?”  That was it, but I could tell that the question was more like, “So tell me, why are you REALLY doing this?  Is it because you’re a ‘pastor’ and it’s your job?  Or is it because you want to get more people in the church?  Or it’s one of your programs?  Tell me something…would you do it if you weren’t a pastor and the church you attended didn’t hand out bags of fruit?”  That’s what it sounded like to me.  And yes…I was busted!  So when I prayed, I asked God to help me have a heart that wants to do this simply because they are people just like me, and giving out a little bit of sunshine never hurt anybody.

You see, that’s the point about the two verses for today, all of creation, and especially humanity, is dependent on God to provide for us.  There’s nothing wrong with being rich, unless it causes you to see yourself as better than other people, including those living in subsidized housing, the panhandler at the intersection, or the homeless.  ALL of us are dependent on God for our needs.  There is no such thing as a ‘self-made person’.  Every human bears God’s image.  Every human being stands on level ground.  Every human being is loved by God.

So whether you’re rich or poor, or somewhere in between…and because all of us are dependent on God for the very air we breathe, let us live our lives with humble attitudes and generous hearts towards one another.  Let’s journey together through this life.

How To Be a Good Wife :)

GoodWifeAnd now from Proverbs 21!

It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.

19 It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.

For all you wives out there, I hope you’re paying attention to Solomon’s words of wisdom. This tidbit of advice is coming from someone who has ‘been there – done that – and bought the t-shirt’! Like c’mon, he had, what is it? A thousand wives and three concubines? Oy vey! I can’t imagine what that must have been like, but surely he must be the expert on the kind of wife you ought not to be! So listen up all you wives.

Now would probably be a good time to crawl into a bunker as you start to lob bombs my way!

Let’s get serious now. We live in the western part of the world in 2017. Things have changed just a wee bit from Solomon’s era in the middle east…just a bit! So when you read something like this, understand that yes, it’s God who is inspiring people to write, but what is being written is coming through a specific mindset, culture, upbringing, and a particular understanding of how life is viewed.

Solomon lived in a patriarchal world where if you were born male, you were the master, superior, stronger, on the top of the heap, etc. The world was viewed through the eyes of men and women with that understanding. So of course Solomon would write something that would grate on the nerves of the majority of women (and probably most men) in 2017 in the western world. Gosh, it doesn’t even sit well with me. Nor should it with you.

Even Paul, in trying to loosen up the religious Christians in the city of Galatia wrote, For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Get it? We (men and women) are ALL one (equal and on level ground). Different? Yes. But not superior.

So now that we have that out of the way…

Simply put, living with a quarrelsome and/or complaining person (man or woman) would drive anybody crazy. You can’t live like that for very long before the attic, the shed, or even the desert starts to look really cozy.

Here’s why. Quarrels are not just disagreements. They are angry disagreements. And where there’s anger, there’s control issues. It’s not that you want or need to share your opinion, it’s that you have this belief that your opinion is the right one, and the other person’s opinion is flat out wrong! In fact you won’t even take to the time to listen and admit that their opinion may be better or even right.

Now when it comes to complaining, the issue there is that it’s gone from simply expressing something that you are dissatisfied with to lamenting about your dissatisfication (right on the heels of whining). We know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that. But for the one who is known for complaining, there is a deep dissatisfication that that person has with their own life. Something is out of whack. Absent from a life of a complainer is gratitude, thankfulness, joy, and the inability to see the good in this world.

So if you begin to notice your spouse eyeing the attic space, or fascinated with documentaries about the Mojave Desert…maybe you should book some time with your therapist.

The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

The first to speak in court sounds right— until the cross-examination begins.     Proverbs 18: 17

I can say a hearty AMEN!, to this proverb. When I was a police officer I spent many a day sitting in court, and sitting through many a trial. I found trials quite intriguing. Trials follow a very specific and detailed process, while slow, actually allows the judge and/or jury to have a more rounded picture or what really occurred. It’s one thing to hear one side of the story, but it’s quite another thing when you hear the other side’s version. What you thought was the truth turns out to be a part of the truth – but not the whole truth. It’s when you hear the whole truth that you are able to come to a right conclusion…most of the time.

Now, in case you think that is all this proverb is about…allow me to unpack it for you. This proverb speaks to a much deeper issue, and that is what we think we understand/know about a situation, person, or what we think we observe, is generally not a full understanding.

Here’s the problem. How we view people, any given situation, or even what we observe, is not necessarily the true reality. Let’s take something that we have all observed. Have you noticed when the moon is close to the horizon that it appears much larger than usual? The natural tendency is to think that the moon must be so much closer to the earth – hence, why it looks bigger.

The truth of the matter is the Relative size hypothesis. Huh?? Simply put, objects in the vicinity of the horizon moon exhibit a fine detail that makes the moon appear larger (Wikipedia). Okay, to make sense of what I’m saying, it’s the same thing as the Ebbinghaus Illusion, where a circle appears larger when surrounded by smaller circles, than it does when surrounded by larger circles. Really? Well check this out.220px-Ebbinghaus_Illusion.svg

Bottom line, not everything is at it appears at first glance. And that goes with everything. So next time you’re itching to jump to a conclusion because, “I just call it as I see it!”, remember the Ebbinghaus Illusion.

Make Friends With Yourself

A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.  Proverbs 14: 30                 

The beauty of ‘maturing’ (getting older) is that you realize not everything is as it may seem. The things I was so certain of in my younger days…well let’s just say I’m not so certain anymore. The lines blur a bit for me. I think that’s just wisdom and the beauty of living through a few decades of life on this wonderful planet of ours ;).

One of those blurry areas is this whole thing about body, soul, and spirit. I understand where that comes from, and I also get that we like to compartmentalize just about everything. I’m not sure why we like to do that, but we do. Perhaps one reason for doing that is we ‘think’ we can understand it better. It’s more easily controlled. And it’s just so gosh-darn fun to label everything.

So along with my body, soul, and spirit, I also get that I have a mind, and emotions. All of these ‘parts of me’ are not pieces of a human pie…connected but separate. For me it’s more like pasta sauce – different ingredients all blended together; one enhancing the taste of the other. Take one out and it changes everything. By the way, this ‘pasta sauce’ analogy is just that, an analogy, but that’s what happens when the lines blur. So what does this have to do with the proverb I chose for today? Well…

This proverb is basically saying that a happy heart leads to a happy body. A jealous heart leads to a sick body. That’s what this proverb is saying. Yes, it’s speaking directly to jealousy, but as with all other proverbs, there is a general principle here, and a lesson to be learned.

Human beings today are frantically spending ginormous amounts of cash, time, and energy trying to not only fix those three areas (body, soul, spirit), but also trying to have them aligned perfectly with each other. The way I see it, we are becoming (and some of us have already arrived) a neurotic and unhinged people. I sometimes wonder if we are actually causing more harm to ourselves than the good we are desiring?

Again, the way I see it, it was me who asked Jesus to ‘save me’ because I couldn’t save me. If I’ve read my Bible correctly, God loves the ‘messed-up-me’ (Yes, it is possible to love a messed up person, just ask your parents). So if God can love the ‘messed-up-me’, then I think I can. It was a number of years ago that I decided to make friends with myself. Sometimes I’m not the way I’d like to be, and I don’t believe I will ever arrive at that place of perfection in this life (I’m not even sure what a perfect Scott would even look like). So I’ve decided to let Jesus work on me…in his time.

Today, why not make friends with yourself? Your body, mind, soul, spirit and every other part will thank you for it! And Jesus will thank you too!

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It’s All In How You See It

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which basically means that what one person may see as beauty, someone else may not.  Which then begs the question: “What exactly then, is beauty?”  If that saying is true, then I’m not really sure what constitutes beauty.

However, in saying that, I read a book some time ago, entitled Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, by Elaine Fox.  She unpacks why some people are born naturally optimistic, and others, pessimistic.  If you take an optimist and a pessimist and allow them to experience similar situations, the optimist will naturally see the good, while the pessimist will naturally see the negative.

And so I wonder, are some people just wired to see beauty in life, while others have a much more difficult time?  Well, whether they do or not, I am fairly sure of this one thing: I think I can choose to see what I want to see.  I feel fairly confident in saying that, because I naturally lean towards a ‘rainy brain’.  I think that’s why I enjoyed policing, because as a police officer, your job is to go out and look for what is wrong in society.  But it’s exhausting and a downer to just see the bad.  I made a decision some time ago to choose to look for beauty in all things and people.  I’m not saying that it comes easy…it doesn’t.  But I know that beauty is out there.

As a church minister, I have the opportunity to guide people as they navigate life and faith. Now Christians see the Bible as their guide for life, and that is a good thing.  However (and this is a big ‘however’), I’m fairly convinced that the ‘rainy brain, sunny brain’ plays a significant role in how one reads the Bible, which in turn shapes their belief in God, and how they see others and themselves.  I’m not an expert on this theory, nor have I conducted any studies, but the fact that there are close to 34,000 denominations, is a fairly good indication that we can read the same canon and come to different conclusions.  Just saying…

The Bible is my daily ‘go-to’ book because it nurtures my soul.  I choose to look for the good, and I find it every time!  Currently, I am reading through the books of the prophets in the Old Testament.  There are a lot of rainy passages, which can easily cause one to see an angry God.  But there are just as many ‘sunny’ passages as well.  Hosea is one such book.  This week I read the last chapter of Hosea, and it was full of sunshine.  Here’s what is written:

The Lord says,

“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;

my love will know no bounds,

for my anger will be gone forever.

I will be to Israel

like a refreshing dew from heaven.

Israel will blossom like the lily;

it will send roots deep into the soil

like the cedars in Lebanon.

Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees,

as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon.

My people will again live under my shade.

They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines.

They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.