What Your Facebook Wall Says About Your Heart

facebook likeHearts are treacherous things. It is always difficult to see what this monster inside me is trying to do. My heart is deceitful, just like yours. Jeremiah even refers to it as “desperately sick.” There is a long Christian tradition of distrust of hearts and desires. As the wise philosopher Pogo the Possum once said, “I have met the enemy and he is us.”

One of the great difficulties of taming the heart is the myriad forms this evil takes. There is a modern notion that people are intrinsically good (except for those bad people). There is no justification for this idea other than it is quite comforting to believe it. Generally, when I try to assert that people are good, I am really making a much more personal statement.

I am saying that I am a good person.

Now, I must defend this sentiment. Evidence comes up all the time that says quite the contrary. If I am so good, why do I want to yell at my kids, envy my neighbor’s car, sleep with that girl? I know these things are wrong and yet I want them.

Feeling the tenuous support for my assertion of my goodness, I must do some mental gymnastics to keep cognitive dissonance from killing me (for an excellent book on the sorts of gymnastics we do, read Mistakes Were Made: but not by me). I can, for example, say that I deserve my neighbor’s car. I work as hard as he does. My kids were being little demons, yelling at them is totally justified. If God made all those beautiful girls, why would he say I can’t enjoy them.

Our powers of rationalization are nearly limitless. When Muamar Gaddafi was killed by revolutionary forces, one of his last words were, “What did I do to you?” I think he meant it. I think he had no idea why these people he had brutally ruled for decades would want him dead.

What is frightening is that I have the same monster living in me. Mark Sayers in his book Facing Leviathan argues that one of the great problems humanity has is that when our heroes save of from a monster, they don’t account for the monster inside them.

We would be wise to identify the monster and name it for what it is. One useful tool to do this is actually just a few clicks away. That’s right, your Facebook wall.

Take a look at the last ten posts you put up.

It’s OK, we’ll wait.

….

Back, good. Why did you post what you did?

Maybe you lambasted those idiots at some organization. Was it a selfie? Maybe it was an adorable thing you kids just said. A quote that you found inspiring. A rant about that guy who cut you off in traffic earlier. A complaint about the weather.

Behold, your heart.

I recently was talking to a friend about selfies and he noted that they are usually put up by ladies more than men and more often by single eligible ladies than any other. So a selfie, for them, it partially motivated by the desire to get a guy. There is that desire that everyone feels to be wanted and attractive and nothing does that like a selfie with 42 likes.

How many men have put a picture of themselves up with their beautiful girlfriend? In their hearts, they know they are showing everyone else how special they must be to have that girl at their arm. What about that picture of a cat? Part of the message you sent was, “See how funny I am.”

Closer to home. Here is the last post I put on Facebook.

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. -Animal Farm

Now this appears harmless. I just finished reading Animal Farm and this is one of my favorite quotes in all of literature. It is also important to me that you knew I read it. I want everyone to know that I am a literate and intelligent person and nothing does that better than to post a quote from a book. Yep, none of you will think I’m stupid. I read a book.

What about the post before that?

You just know that every tech company is right now developing a phone bending machine to determine if their phones bend too easily.

This is innocuous enough. But I know that this will affiliate me as part of the cutting edge group discussing the recent difficulties with the new iPhones. Chip sure is a cutting edge guy. To top it off, do you sense that fun sarcasm? I sure hope you do!

Even as I write this blog post, the monster inside me stirs. Wow, people will sure know that Chip is a guy who knows his weaknesses and is willing to be out there: authentic. honest. Chip is one great guy. One of the great joys of Heaven will be to have that monster silenced forever.

Some will object that I am being too harsh. The post of grumpy cat was actually quite funny and harmless. If we second guessed every single sentence on we wrote or said, we would quickly stop speaking. Every sentence could have a possible poor motive ascribed to it.

This is true. A result of reading this could be that everyone is so concerned about this that they never post anything, write anything, or speak to anyone. The goal of life is not simply to fail to sin but the honor and love God. I hope to cause some introspection, but only enough to cause you to look outside yourself to the God of all speech.

But in your searching of your heart, consider not just what you posted, but what you didn’t. There are many things that are not appropriate to place in a public setting like Facebook. Your bathroom habits should not be a public discussion nor your brothers troubled marriage. We should keep these private matters just that, private.

There are also those matters we fail to bring up because they reflect badly on us. I have been known to go back and correct spelling in my posts not because I want to make a more pleasant appearance for the reader, but because I don’t want to look stupid. Would you ever post a bad picture of yourself because it is a great picture of someone else? There are a delightful few people I know who regularly talk about their weaknesses and pains, but most only discuss their successes and virtues.

I don’t mean to say that everything said is done from a poor motive, I hope this whole blog post is helpful to me, my friends and family, and the church. I know my motives are mixed. Knowing that does not force my silence. Reticence to make a mistake is as dangerous as being cavalier. Edmund Burke said it well, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

While some will be tempted to silence, most of us will fail to take Jesus seriously. For example,

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, Matthew 12:36

The monster inside me starts to justify against the words of Jesus. Then James follows up with an even harsher message.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. James 3:5-10

What? A fire lit by Hell! The monster revolts at these words. James is clearly exaggerating. What Jesus and James are asking is impossible!

How can I fight the monsters out in the world when even when I defeat them, the monster in my heart will replace them. This is the dilemma when Frodo offered Gandalf the One Ring, he responded:

Gandalf: You cannot offer me this ring!
Frodo: I’m giving it to you!
Gandalf: Don’t…tempt me Frodo! I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand, Frodo. I would use this ring from a desire to do good…But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.

Human beings are far more majestic and powerful creatures than we ever imagined. We are more like Gandalf than we realize. Being image bearers of the Holy and Powerful God of the Universe is something we barely understand.

So what do we do? Clearly we need to talk and clearly our hearts have deep motives that we don’t understands. Thankfully, God did not leave us without guidance. The Psalmist struggled with his Facebook feed just like we do.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139: 23-24

Talk to God about it. He knows you fully and loves you! He knows what is good and what is evil. The technology is new but the hearts are not. The Psalmist had a problem in his heart too and he felt safe to go to his God with it.

Humility is not the failure to be proud. It is to stare deeply into the soul of your God and to be overcome by Him. We have a God who is surrounded by unimaginably powerful angels day and night yet somehow, amid all of that grandeur, he loves you. This is an amazing thing.

So look at your heart for a minute and look at your God forever. Some should leave Facebook because it is too tempting for them. Most of us should live in it wisely. As Jesus said:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

Who is the good person? The lover of God. If you want to redeem your foolish heart and speech, God alone is the source of a pure heart. How is the monster slain? By going to the God who has already killed it. Jesus killed the monster. It is in its death throes in my heart today. Soon, very soon, I will die and it will die too. Then I will be free.

Until then, rejoice in the slayer of monsters. Watch the monster in you die slowly and Jesus’ power in your life grows. The solution to the weaker joy of wanting approval from people is to trade it for the greater pleasure of being approved by Father or Heavenly Lights! That, my friends, is very good news.

-Chip

The image above is courtesy of Sean Macentee and is used with permission.

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A Dream for Kitty (on her High School Graduation)

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Kitty,

I know you don’t like to be called Kitty any more. You have grown into a young woman who has the world in front of her. A sea of expectations, hopes, fears, and dreams. A commander of your destiny who will choose to battle the storms and find a new country for herself. Bold, curious, and determined, you have a bright future.

Such a person really shouldn’t be call Kitty.

But I don’t see you that way. To me, you will always be, to some degree, that little girl sitting in that van with a ridiculous number of pets in it. With brown hair and tender eyes, that little girl’s sweet disposition shined through. A tender soul who looked at life with curiosity and a healthy dose of caution.

That little girl visited us often. I remember when she visited us in our apartment in Knoxville. I remember when she lived in our basement, when she drove a car for the first time, when she pursued her first job. Soon, I will remember when she graduated High School and moved into a strange and exciting world.

Please permit and old man like me to see you as a little girl and, because I love the name, to call you Kitty.

What should I say to you? How do I encapsulate all of the hopes, fears, and joys I feel for you in a single letter? Even for an old man like me, this is too grand a task. Your life cannot be wrapped up in a few fumbling words, even if I wish it could. The tender affections I feel for you and the deep hopes I hold for you could fill volumes and yet would not fully describe them.

When God sat down to create the world, he had many things on his mind. The molding of atoms and galaxies. He hand-carved the Earth and threw it gently into its orbit. He formed the first seeds and scattered them over the whole Earth. He then worked on men and women. Even as he gathered the dust up to make Adam he pondered the people who would come from what he was doing. God has a nostalgic side.

He thought of you. Deep in his enormous heart a fountain of joys poured out as he considered the way you would walk and the funny things you would say. He cried quietly about your hurts and laughed with you at the joys you would have. He chose to love you deeply and to hold you close to his heart.

He also took a bit of that affection and was kind enough to give it to me. What a sweet gift!

From that tender place in my heart, I see a future for you. That future has not happened, but I pray for it. Allow an old man like me to show you what I hope for you.

Love Jesus (Choose your God Well)

Kitty, give your heart wholly to Jesus. My affection for you is a tiny spark that was flung from the inferno of his affection. He walked through a dark and painful world out of his love for you. He died for you. One of the stunning revelations we will experience on crossing into Heaven will be the deep and tender care he has for us. Love him!

Love Your Husband (Choose your Husband Well)

God knows I am very pro-marriage. There are few more beautiful things in the world than a sweet marriage. But there also few uglier things than terrible marriage. Most awful marriages could have been prevented while only a few of them can be fixed.

The fact is, most people don’t change. I mean the core of them. Sure some surface things are refined in life, but most of the deepest parts of us are fixed and we cannot change them, even when we want to. Most people do mean to be faithful when they marry, but they are then are unwilling to deeply and truly love when the challenge is put to them.

Kitty, one day soon a young man will walk into your life and will see you and see a glimpse of how precious you are. He will honestly and deeply desire you. This is a good thing! He will pour his creativity and heart into winning you. This too is good! He will be sincere and it will feel really good that he wants you that passionately. This is wonderful as well!

But his sincerity and desire are not good enough. It takes more than good intentions to be a good husband. Please be careful. Take your time. Bring in trusted adults with stable marriages to look him over and to see what substance there is to him. It will be so wonderful to see you happily in love. I want that to last a lifetime. Be careful.

Love Your Life

Soon you will have the wonderful privilege of making big decisions. As you stand at the crossroad you will realize that when you choose one path, you are choosing not to go down another. If you want to become a doctor you can’t simultaneously become an interior designer. God gave you a limited life in this world and you will have to let things go to fully embrace what is good.

Don’t be afraid. We have all faced this.

When you choose, throw your heart into that choice. None of the choices are wrong, but give yourself to your choice and pursue it with passion. Pray about it. God gives wisdom to those who ask.

Holiness and Joy are the Same Thing

You will be presented choices that will look like God is holding a joy away from you: that if you do the right thing you will be choosing misery.

That is a lie.

Certainly you will suffer for doing the right thing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung from a gallows naked for his choices. The Apostle Peter was crucified upside down for his choices. Were they fools?

No, they suffered because they believe that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Jesus commended us to not “store up treasure on Earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but to store up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.”

The fact is, your God loves you and the rules he has placed are there because he loves you. The guard rails at the Grand Canyon are not limitations for you, they are guides to keep you safe. Remember, holiness and joy are the same thing.

In Closing

Well, I seem to be rambling a bit. Kitty, you have a bright future that is full of joys and sorrows that you cannot imagine. I don’t know what they will be but I promise you this: as long as I am able to, I will walk them with you. To the extent I am able to support you and care for you as you strike out in this world, I will do it.

In this way, I am acting like my Father. He too will walk with you. Unlike me, he knows what is coming and is already preparing you for it. Unlike me, he is never out of resources to help you. Unlike me, he will not die and cannot be stopped. He will never be sick and he will never sin against you. Trust me a little bit. Trust him a lot.

Kitty, I am so excited to see what this life has for you. Permit me to take part in your journey.

-Chip

The lovely image above is courtesy of Ephriam Ragasa and is used with permission

A Family Lunch at God’s House

feastArriving at Father’s house is always a bit of a challenge. Many times it is difficult to get the kids ready and get out the door and there is always that nagging feeling that I should have a better attitude before going. Either way, we finally arrive and the kids go to play and my wife drifts off to talk with some friends.

As I wander around and look around at God’s family, my family, I am struck by their…well…their strangeness. Uncle Joe is sitting in the corner quietly watching the mulling mass of family. He clearly doesn’t like crowds, but Father was here so he was will to tolerate them to visit Father again.

Aunt Linda is a gossip and I never really liked her even before I knew that. She reminds me of the witch in Tangled. All of her words are filled with half-truths and double meanings. I carefully navigate the crowd to avoid drawing her attention.

Little Billy found a way to spill koolaid on Father’s couch AGAIN! Seriously, where are his parents? That couch now has more red and blue spots on it than its original color. Father is a really rich guy, why hasn’t he replaced that eye-sore of a couch? Looks like Billy’s mom just saw what he did. She is so mortified that it happened again. Now I feel sorry for her. It looks like I am not the only one who gave a dirty look.

Cousin Norman is cantankerous as ever. That man does not know when to shut up. He very much has a speak first and think later philosophy. I see a number of faces giving him a wide berth. No one wants to be caught in his cross-hairs. Personally, I’ve made some peace with it. He is a jerk, but I can tolerate that most of the time.

Ah, finally someone I want to talk to. Cousin Jeremy (he’s actually my second cousin) is by the fish tank. He is a bit of a dweeb and while gregarious, he gets overwhelmed in crowds (I wonder if he and Uncle Joe would get along). Jeremy and I shake hands and discuss the latest tech gadget or website or something.

Both of us have a history of porn addiction of which we are both on the better side of recovering. It kind of bonds us though we both feel a little uneasy knowing how poorly the family would respond if they knew our history. We may be a family, but we can sure be a judgemental group sometimes. Most of the family would simply not understand.

Hearing the bell in the kitchen (which is the signal that it is time to eat) we call file in and sit at the very long table. The rough-cut wood always felt good to lay my hands on and none of us minded the long wood benches on both sides of the table (except Grandpa Randal, but he was never quite happy with anything).

At the head of the table was Father. A tall and strong man who had a well-trimmed white beard and a flannel shirt, we all respected him. He is hard-working, determined, direct, and hard yet carried a very sweet demeanor all the same. He was the sort that if you woke him up in the middle of the night, he used all of the hardness for you. He never complained about helping. He actually only really got on your case when you didn’t ask for his help.

Far on the other end of the table was our oldest brother Joshua. He was so much like Father but yet seemed to present the sweetness of Father’s disposition first and is less intimidating. He had done some amazing work for the family and had worked with Father to rescue us all a family from great danger! He still was scarred from his work, but he never complained. We all felt a deep debt to him.

But he was the sort who never called in debts. One quality they both possessed was endless generosity. No one seems to know where they made all of their wealth from. The food and help and joy seemed truly boundless. Even though the people sitting at this table were sometimes very difficult to get along with, we all agreed that as long as Father and Joshua were going to serve lunch, then we were going to keep coming. It seemed the Air between them was so crackling with happiness, calm, and peace that we just wanted to breathe it all day long.

Being the very messed up family that we are, it was not unheard of for a fist-fight to break out at the table and for Father to walk over and pick the combatants up and bring them out of the room for one of his legendary “talks”. Most such fights happened only once.

Father spread out his great big hands out and blessed the food. That is not to say he prayed. He just made the food a little more wonderful because he could!

In an instant He and Joshua were in action. Flashing in and out of the he kitchen door with plates of steaming food. It was more of a dance with fluid motions complementing the other’s actions. The serving of the food itself was a delight to behold.

And the steak. Yes, that’s right, steak. Steaming with a simply intoxicating smell. You barely needed your knife it was so tender. Each delightful mouthful seemed a tad better than the last. Combined with a wonderful grape juice and a lovely baked potato, Father had outdone himself.

Some of us fancied ourselves to be good with a grill, but Father put us all to shame. It remains wonderful to me how much he loves to serve us good things. Really good things. It is such a deep part of Him that I can’t imagine Him not being so giving. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Him not taking care of us one way or the other.

As our bellies become full and a hearts happy, I noticed how much easier it was to care for my family. Sure they are a mess, but Father loves them very much. He is just as irritated by their stupidity as I am, but the well of His love for them is immensely deeper than mine.

We are a family because of him. If he hadn’t adopted all of us, we would never have gotten to sit at that table together and enjoy His wonderful food, wonderful demeanor, wonderful Self! As we move along as a family and slowly become more like Father, I think I could grow to even like most of them. One day, even love them.

It’s hard to hear Father criticized because of His adoptive family. We don’t represent Him very well. He knew that He would be criticized for adopting us and He did it anyway. Yet another way He is a great Father.

So, we left. Full from a meal at our Father’s table, we left to face another week of life in a challenging world with a messed up family. Father handed each of us an invitation to be back next Sunday for lunch. I waved to Jeremy on my way out.

I guess I’ll see him next week at our Father’s house.

-Chip

The great family photo above is courtesy of Andrew Lance and is used with permission.

It’s a Virtue, We Just Don’t Like It

5546445177_3251db342c_b We like virtues. We really do. Well, maybe we like them in theory, but not always in practice. Who could rail against love, joy, peace, kindness and goodness? These attributes are nearly universally valued by people.

But when I say valued, I mean I value it when other people do these things. I am not always so interested in doing them myself. I do get rather outraged when people do not treat me the way I want to be treated.

There are virtues in the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23) that are not so widely lauded. Most people have a grudging acceptance of patience but more often have a punchline that implies that it is impossible. Faithfulness reminds us too much of how much divorce we engage in. That is really uncomfortable, better not mention it. Gentleness really sounds like weakness. We’ve all known gentle people: they cry a lot when they are bullied at school.

And no one will ever stitch self-control on a pillow. Self-control implies that I can be held responsible for the porn I look at or the video games I am playing or the laziness I so deeply want to indulge. It implies I can do things I don’t want to do. That is downright unAmerican.

But the virtue with the worst reputation is not one of the Fruits of the Spirit. It is maligned when it is discussed, misrepresented when it is described, and we complain viciously when other people don’t possess it.

That’s right, it is humility.

Humility is terribly misunderstood in our day. I think most people would describe it as the lack of pride. No one would tolerate love being described as the lack of hate or joy being the lack of sadness, but poor humility is always described by its opposite. We just know we don’t like arrogant people.

But then we run into semantic troubles. We talk about pride in our work and pride in our country. We take pride in our family and pride in our possessions. We talk about jobs as if they can allow a man some pride. With all of these uses of the word pride, it is difficult to define humility as the opposite of them. When we say pride, we mean many different things.

So humility really needs to be described on it own terms.

Often, when we think of a humble person, we think of a things like the old English term of being in a humble estate. That means poor. This is misleading. I have known many arrogant poor people and arrogant wealth people. Humility and pride are states of the heart, not dollar amounts in a bank.

So what is humility? One of the most helpful descriptions of a humble person came from C. S. Lewis.

To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert. Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

Humility is the self-forgetfulness we experience when we look at the stars on a clear night. Some describe it as the conviction that we are small, but I think it is more like the conviction that God is more interesting and delightful than I am. It’s not that I’m boring, it’s that he is fascinating.

Humility treats others well because it has compassion for their pain (treating it like I treat my own) and delights in their good (again, treating it like it was my good). Humility does not feel entitled to being served and, quite the opposite, delights in serving. Humility loves to see joy in others eyes and loves to serve them to see that joy.

Humility is not overly concerned with its reputation. This is one of the great lies of our society, that a humble person feels badly about themselves. A humble person is not thinking of themselves much at all. They have a delightful focus on the world around them which is not distracted by the constant posturing for appearances.

Humble people loves kids. They love the sincerity and delight that children possess. Far from being too wise and polished for children, humble people don’t mind getting on the ground and being silly with them. Because of that self-forgetfulness they experience, humble people don’t have to keep up appearances and neither do children.

Humble people love Jesus. They see him and are awestruck. They delight in the fact that he humbled himself more than anyone else ever could.

Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Phil 2:6-7

Do you see it? Do you see how amazing it is that he was not stuck on being thought of (counted) equal with God. He chose to serve us. Why would he do this?

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2

He did it for joy. He humbled himself for the joy he would experience later. He humbled himself because humility and joy are very nearly the same thing.

If you’re like me, you are no doubt feeling quite guilty right now. You are looking into your soul and seeing the stunning amount of naval-gazing you do and then realize the you are currently naval-gazing. Crap! What can we do?

I recently heard a wonderful lecture by James McDonald (see a wonderful excerpt here) where he made a fascinating insight into humility. He noted that the bible does not command you even once to be humble. Rather, it always tells us to “humble yourselves.” His argument is that humility is much more action oriented. It is the choice to clean up that mess you don’t have to, to serve someone for the joy of serving. Far from the ivory tower solution of considering my own humility, he says to over and over again that “humility is not a feel thing, it is a do thing.”

You want to be humble. Go change a kids diaper. Do you want to broadcast your stunning deed on Facebook? That is your pride trying to rob you of the much deeper joys of humility. God knows you did it. He encourages you to show off to him that you did it (Matthew 6:4-6). By implication, he wants you to love that your Dad is proud of you and delighted by your good deed. He wants you to be so pleased that he is pleased, so delighted in his delight.

He wants your joy. He wants your humility. What I never knew before is that these are nearly the same thing.

Humility is not only the foundation under joy, it is the foundation under love. You will notice that love has the strange components of loving actions and loving feelings. If you only describe love as an action or a feeling, it becomes either useless (just a feeling) or martyrdom (just an action). It must be both.

And that is where humility comes in. We must harness the joy of a delightful world full of image-bearers of God to pry the claws of stupid pride out of our souls. We are then free to joyfully look outside of ourselves and drink deeply of a joyful and sweet God and his lovely creation. The joy of humility is the fuel we use to love and sacrifice and serve. Under all that good is a humble heart that just doesn’t find itself all that interesting.

So do the humble thing. Go to God with your stupid pride and naval-gazing. Tell him about it. Then accept that he really does love you and really does forgive you because he really is that good. It takes humility to trust him, but isn’t that what this is all about.

Once you accept that he is trustworthy, then real joy is yours. Drink deeply of all the joys outside yourself. Drink from the deepest wells of joy which are scripture and prayer. Love the lesser joys too like nature, great books, people, great stories (movies too!). Stare deeply into things you love and forget yourself in them. Then make that joy complete by thanking God for them and then telling people about them.

Don’t buy into the lie that humility is miserable. Humility is joy, real joy.

-Chip

Photo is is from Waiting for the Word and is used with permission

Affirmation Junkie Seeking Treatment

7392For those of you that know me, I have a secret.

No, I don’t do drugs.

Nope, no secret life of crime.

I’m an affirmation junkie.

But I take comfort that you are one too. You see, we are all affirmation junkies (except maybe some sociopaths). I love to have people’s approval. It’s one of my biggest fears in blogging that I am really just trying to sooth my affirmation habit.

In a real way, I should be an affirmation junkie. I should want desperately to be approved by God. Jesus treats that phrase, “Well done, good and faithful servant” to be a serious and honorable reward to seek. Think about it, how incredible would it be to be patted on the back by the creator of all things.

Unfortunately, I often prefer a much poorer substitute: you.

There is nothing wrong with your praise for me. The best of us are the one’s who praise God and others the most. I am reading a wonderful book by Sam Crabtree called Practicing Affirmation which is about how to wisely affirm others. Please read this book, particularly if you are a crank who never praises anything. To praise others can be wrong, to never praise others may mean you aren’t like God at all. He praises people. We should too.

By affirmation, I don’t mean flattery. If I say something positive about you for the purpose of getting you to do something for me. That is garbage. There are many flatterers out there and the scriptures clearly condemn the practice (Pro 29:5, Job 32:21-22).

I also don’t mean praising the insignificant. “Nice shirt” is praise, but of the smallest variety. These praises are the bulk of the affirming words that we as Americans give to each other. They feel shallow and meaningless because they are. No, there are better praises than that.

As Sam Crabtree argues, real affirmations are descriptions of how a person is displaying an attribute of God. If someone works hard, say that. God also works hard and they are being like God. If someone is kind or gentle or generous or humble, tell them so and remind them that they are being like God when they do these things. How substantive is that!

“It was so good to see you help that lady with her groceries. That looked like something Jesus would do.”

“The way you spoke to that angry customer was very gentle. That took patience.”

The nature of a good affirmation is actually delighting in the way they have imitated God. When people act like their creator, it is a wonderful thing.

But back to the original question, how can I like affirmation yet not idolize it. Jesus had some serious warning about seeking the praise of people. He also had serious promises about the praise God can give as a reward. So what do I do when someone praises me.

  1. Recognize that all the praiseworthy things in me are gifts from God.
  2. Not only are these attributes from God, but they are perfected in him. If I do something well, how much more magnificently does God do it.
  3. The real joy is in delighting in God getting praise. Not in keeping the praise for myself.
  4. Praise from people is to be joyfully accepted. What a sweet thing that someone can delight in my work. But it is not to be kept, as if the good quality were from me.

I recently read an analogy from Corrie Ten Boom recounted from here:

Someone once asked her (Corrie) how she could possibly handle all the compliments and praise that were constantly heaped upon her, without becoming proud. She said she looked at each compliment as a beautiful long-stemmed flower given to her. She smelled it for a moment and then put it into a vase with the others. Each night, just before retiring, she took the beautiful bouquet and handed it over to God saying, “Thank you, Lord, for letting me smell the flowers; they all belong to you.”

I think Tante Corrie is right on. Praise can be delighted in, but only for a short time. The real joy is getting the praise to the one who really deserves it. What is amazing to me is that he is the one who really deserves all praise, yet he takes the time to praise my good works that he caused.

What an amazing God we serve.

-Chip

The War on Pouting

just-a-guy-pouting-250Pouting, moaning, whining, complaining.

Often considered the weakness of children, it is alive and well in men. Particularly this man.

This weakness would have gone on unaddressed but for an excellent Ask Pastor John called Make War on Pouting. In it, Pastor John challenges us to fight this pathetic childish sin.

What, pouting, a sin?

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent,children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Phil 2:14,15

Yes, gentlemen, a sin.

Think about what whining says about God. We look to the floor and pout because we think God should have given us a better wife or house or kids or car or job. Far from being content in all circumstances (Phil 4:11), we prefer to pout.

How pathetic is that? Grown men. Sons of the supremely majestic God of the Universe, looking at the floor because someone hurt their feelings or interrupted their video game.

You see, I am experienced pouter. I arrive home and my wife doesn’t greet me at the door. What, after all I’ve worked, no greeting! Not only that, but a child has just had diarrhea in his diaper (this may be a reason for the failed greeting) and another child is potentially going to kill the fish. I clearly deserve better than this. I work hard. God should have given me a more grateful wife, better behaved children, and more resilient fish.

Of course, I don’t think all of those thoughts that explicitly, but I believe them. What I really do is rescue the fish first, then do the minimum necessary to help after that. After all, I was treated poorly. No greeting at the door. Am I considering that my poor wife has been working with the diarrhea/fish assassinating children all day? Could the children’s behavior problems be more related to Dad’s behavior than their own?

Do I love my family like Jesus does? Do I sacrifice my comforts to care for them in this difficult time?

Well, I would, if they treated me better (pouting look).

To be clear, I am not talking about real grief. Jesus cried at times about real suffering including his own. No, this pouting is what we men do with the annoyances of life. It is not the flood, it is the drip.

The fact is, pouting is very unloving. It says that rather than being the one who sacrifices for my family, I am the one who takes what I need from my family and screw them if they don’t pay up with enough gratitude. This is not love.

To love them is to walk in the door and be so full of God’s approval, mercy, kindness, and joy, the I spill that joy into my home. It should drip off of me to redeem a room. I should not be a sucking hole of joy in my home, I should be a God saturated conduit of joy filling my home with it. The opposite of pouting is joy.

Pray for me that I can be that kind of husband and dad.

-Chip

Immortal Horrors or Everlasting Splendors

CS-Lewis-2_2735921b

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis was an amazing man. I was recently listening to an Ask Pastor John episode discussing C. S. Lewis and John Piper describes Lewis as a Romantic Rationalist. He is one of the few people to be wholly rational and yet wholly able to feel and experience the world. Lewis speaks frequently of joy in a very methodical and clear way.

While I was listening, Lewis again blew me away:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” -C. S. Lewis

Nations, art, and culture are mortal, but I am not.

This is profound. The creatures I pass at work are in their most humble condition today. They don’t even recognize the grandeur that being created in the image of God gives them. Far from people being boring or annoying, God has made them magnificent creatures: either “immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

And those amazing creatures will one day look toward Heaven and see a God so immeasurably beyond what we can imagine that they too will bow to him: either in fear or in joy.

I don’t view people this way. I often see them as nuisances or annoying.  Even my own children can become burdensome to me. I don’t see them as fellow heirs of an eternal kingdom with me, I often see them as barriers to a good night’s sleep.

Shame on me.

So don’t be as foolish as I am. Look at the people close to you and realize that they are delightful beings with a grandeur reflecting and eclipsed by the God who made them in his image.

He must be a great God indeed.

-Chip