Mature love = extending hospitality

“Mature love is extending hospitality — even toward the parts of your soul that are angry, fearful,  anxious, or sad.”- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

“But when you give a feast,  invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”- Luke 14:13-14 (ESV)

Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller conclude their Introduction to Boundaries for Your Soul as they make an ironic note.  They note that the most natural way of addressing troubling emotions actually makes things worse.  Thus, many well-meaning people attempt to suppress aspects of themselves they don’t like.  Or, they go so far as to condemn those aspects.

Most noteworthy, the authors states, this book presents an alternate way.  Hence, it uses different means to reach the same end.  As Alison and Kimberly describe, Boundaries offers “a slower way to get where you want to go — faster.”

Through this approach, Alison and Kimberly add, you learn to understand and even befriend the hurting parts of your soul.  Furthermore, you’ll get to know your overbearing aspects as well as facets of your personality hiding in the shadows.  And these aspects exist for a reason.  You need to create healthy boundaries with them.  As a result, you can relate to them from a comfortable distance.

In conclusion, Alison and Kimberly observes that, ultimately, the Holy Spirit provides the best way to care for the overwhelming parts of your soul.  Here’s what the authors know:

“When you think of your unwanted thoughts and feelings as belonging to parts of your soul, you begin to see how they relate to one another and to the core of your being where the Holy Spirit abides.  And just as you can experience a more peaceful life as a result of healthy boundaries with others, you can also establish helpful boundaries with the parts of your soul.”

Today’s question: “To what parts of your soul do you need to extend hospitality?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Unhealthy ways of relating to painful emotions”

Creating healthy internal boundaries

“Internal boundaries strengthen the connection between the sacred place inside your soul and various parts of yourself. . . .  we call this process of creating healthy boundaries within your soul ‘Spirit-led self-discipleship.’ “- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I have.”- Romans 7:15 (NLT)

In their Introduction to Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies, coauthors Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller note that all of us can be overtaken by extreme thoughts and feelings at times.  Yet, just as we possess the ability to set external boundaries with others, we’re able to set internal boundaries with the overwhelming parts of ourselves.

Most noteworthy, the Bible contains more than three hundred verses that relate to boundaries. In fact, the apostle Paul described his own conflict with internal boundaries in Romans 7:15. Furthermore, Boundaries for Your Soul focuses on this universal struggle.

Therefore, healthy internal boundaries empower you to live from the essential you, meaning your soul in its purest, holiest state.  As a result, Alison and Kimberly state, the work of building strong internal boundaries involves:

  • practicing the presence of God while at the same time becoming attuned to the parts of yourself needing your attention
  • inviting the Holy Spirit into the farthest reaches of who you are

In addition, the authors stress, internal challenges – anger, guilt, unforgiveness, etc. – require your attention.  Otherwise, you’ll end up overwhelmed and unnecessarily hurting others.  For when you hurt inside, it’s hard to be good to others.

Today’s question: What sense of urgency do you feel to create healthy internal boundaries?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the latest Short Meditation, “Restored and made right – I’ve got Jesus!

Tomorrow’s blog: “Mature love = extending hospitality”

The soul’s fate – always the greatest question

“The fate of the soul– to whom we entrust it, where it will go when we finally sleep when the game is at an end– has always been the greatest question.”- John Ortberg

In Chapter 21 (“The King Has One More Move”), the concluding chapter of When the Game is Over, John Ortberg presents four views of the greatest question:

  1. Ignore our mortality.  Writing in The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker states we spend our lives ignoring, avoiding, or repressing one irrefutable fact.  We’re going to die.  In other words, we keep trying to have it all without graves.  Or, as Woody Allen once said, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
  2. Hide our mortality.  Today, Pastor Ortberg notes, we give kids lots of biological information about how babies arrive.  Yet, kids hear that grandpa is sleeping in a beautiful garden with flowers.
  3. Outsmart mortality.  Think cryonics, health clubs, new diets, better medications.
  4. Accept our mortality.  Consider the following inscription on Mel Blanc’s (voice of Porky Pig) tombstone: “That’s all, folks!”

Finally, in Rumors of Another World: What on Earth are We Musing?, Philip Yancey notes our very response to the reality of death signals that God created us for something more:

“Nature treats death as a natural occurrence, the foundation of the all-important food chain.  Only we humans react with shock and elaboration, as though we can’t get used to the fact. . . .  We act out a stubborn reluctance to yield to this most powerful of life experiences. . . .  In a way unique to our species, we are not fully at home here.  As a symptom of that fact, we feel stirrings toward something higher and more lasting.”

Thus, Jesus insisted death itself wasn’t allowed the last word.  The King has one more move!

Today’s question: How do you witness your answer to the greatest question?  Please share.

Note: the annotation for When the Game is Over appears on Thursday, August 23rd

Tomorrow’s blog: “Creating healthy internal boundaries”

Being rich toward God – giving yourself to Him

“Being rich toward God begins with giving to God that which he desires most of all.  And what he desires most from you is you — your heart and devotion.  Just as God can give us many gifts but the best gift is himself, so we can offer God our resources and acts of service, but the gift he desires most is us.”- John Ortberg

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves, but is not rich toward God.”- Luke 12:21 (NIV)

Pastor John Ortberg opens Chapter 2 (“Be Rich Toward God”) of When the Game is Over with a quote from Dave Toycen.  Mr. Toycen retired in 2014 as President and CEO of World Vision Canada.  Dave astutely observes:

“We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.”

In the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21), Jesus succinctly summed up the object of life in verse 21: Be rich toward God.  Therefore, John notes, it’s futile to spend your life playing Master of the Board.  It’s impossible to beat the house.  However, with God’s help, your life can provide a source of pleasure to the God of the universe.

So, when the game of life ends, only one thing matters – God’s assessment of our lives.  Everyone stands before God on level ground.  Hence, Pastor Ortberg defines the term ‘rich toward God.’  The term means:

  • growing a soul that is increasingly healthy and good
  • loving and enjoying the people around you
  • learning about your gifts and passion; doing good work to help improve the world
  • becoming generous with your stuff
  • making the temporal become the servant of the eternal
  • savoring every roll of the dice and every trip around the board

Today’s question: How do you define being rich toward God?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “Appropriate smallness – dream small”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Love — a by-product of knowing God”

In times of immunity from care

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while, ‘Is this the condition that I feared?‘  It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress.”- Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher, Moral Letters to Lucillius

Brian Jones concludes Chapter 8 of Finding Favor as he notes God responds to our requests for His favor in one of two ways.  First, God responds through provision for our financial needs.  Just as often, though, God responds by making us poorer.  Thus, poverty signals God’s favor as much as wealth.

As a result, Pastor Jones wants us to consider two truths:

1.  The more we consume, the more in bondage we are.  Consequently, as author Joshua Becker notes on his website,

  • the average American home contains 300,000 items (LA Times)
  • over the past 50 years, the average size of an American homes has tripled (NPR)
  • 10% of all Americans rent offsite storage

Even without considering what the Bible says, a visit to most other countries reveals something wrong with the typical American lifestyle.  In addition, times of immunity from care:

  • toughen the soul for times of greater stress
  • help us gain perspective and feel freedom
  • separate our perception of blessing from the consumption of material possessions

2.  The less we own, the more freedom we have.  Rather than giving us freedom, our glut of possessions steals freedom from us.  As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve God and money.”  And, as Pastor Jones astutely observes:  “Anxiety comes when you try.”

Today’s question: How do times of immunity from care fortify you for occasions of greater stress?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A specific, tangible sign of divine confirmation”

A concrete block of guilt in the soul

“There is a guilt that sits in the soul like a concrete block and causes a person to feel bad for being alive.  There is  guilt that says, I did bad.  And then there is a guilt that concludes, I am bad (emphasis author’s).”- Max Lucado

“That evening [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of God walking in the garden; and they hid themselves among the trees.’- Genesis 2:25 (TLB)

In Chapter 3 (“Rejoice in the Lord’s Mercy”) of Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado notes that while guilt frenzies the soul, grace calms it.  Whether guilt results from a moment or a season of life, a harsh consequence occurs.  Anxiety.

However, Pastor Lucado stresses, we must go deeper than the typical list of anxiety triggers.  As Max wryly states: “Guilt drove the truck, but anxiety bounced in the flatbed.”  And just as Adam and Eve didn’t know how to process their failure, neither do we.  Therefore, Pastor Lucado describes nine sophisticated ways (as opposed to hiding in the bushes) that we process our guilt.   Max discusses the first four ways today,

  1. Numb it.  Alcohol, drugs, affairs – all ways to numb guilt.  Yet, as Pastor Lucado underscores, while guilt disappears during happy hour, it reappears when we get home.
  2. Deny it.  When we deny, we pretend we never stumbled at all.  Furthermore, we concoct a plan to cover up our bad choice and then sustain it with lies.  Thus, our goal becomes prolonging the charade as long as possible.
  3. Minimize it.  Rather than admit our sin, we rationalize it.  We just (a) lost our way; (b) got caught up in the moment; (c) took the wrong path; or (d) experienced a lapse in judgment.
  4. Bury it.  Here we keep ourselves busy in order to bury the problem.  As Max humorously observes, “The busier we stay, the less time we spend with the people we have come to dislike ourselves.”

Today’s question: What concrete block of guilt weighs down your soul?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Grace restores life to our souls”

Peace is within reach- rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty

“Peace is within reach, not for lack of problems, but because of the presence of a sovereign Lord.  Rather than rehearse the chaos of the world, rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty, as Paul did.”- Max Lucado

“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.”- Proverbs 21:30 (NIV)

As Max Lucado continues Chapter 2 of Anxious for Nothing, he reminds us it’s impossible for us to take control.  Because control’s not ours to take in the first place!  Therefore, we need a better idea.  And the Bible provides it.  Instead of seeking total control, we must relinquish it.  While we can’t run the world, we can entrust the world to God.

Therefore, Pastor Lucado underscores, the apostle Paul entrusted even his miserable prison conditions to God’s sovereignty.  Thus, Max exhorts us to apply Paul’s words to our lives.  Max writes:

“To read Paul is to read the words of a man who, in the innermost part of his being, believed in the steady hand of a good God.  He was protected by God’s strength, preserved by God’s love.  He lived beneath the shadow of God’s wings.  Do you?  Stabilize your soul with the sovereignty of God.  He reigns supreme over every detail of the universe.”

Consequently, when troubled times come, God always supplies the same answer: He occupies the throne in heaven.  In the Old Testament, God gave that message to the prophet Isaiah.  After fifty-five years of relative peace, King Uzziah died.  That gave Isaiah ample cause for worry.  Yet, just like Isaiah, God has a message for us when calamity strikes.

Although Uzziah’s reign ended with his death, God’s reign continued.  Death silences Uzziah’s voice, but God’s voice remained strong.  In addition, since God’s alive and on the throne, He’s worthy of worship.

Today’s question: What Bible verses place peace within your reach?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “How your anxiety decreases”


Quiet — think tank of the soul

“Quiet is a think tank of the soul.”- Gordon Hempton, acoustic ecologist

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”- Psalm 32:7

Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 1 of Whisper with the observation that “God often speaks loudest when we’re quietest.”  Hence, Pastor Batterson cites “The List of the Last Great Quiet Places,” compiled for the last 30+ years by Gordon Hempton.  The list consists of places offering at least fifteen minutes of uninterrupted quiet time during daylight hours.  At last count, only twelve such quiet places existed in the United States.

As a result, due to our hearing problems (the spiritual Tomatis effect), it’s critical that we hear God’s whisper.  When white noise distracts us, God’s whisper quiets, calms, and stills us.  In fact, since white noise contains every frequency, it’s especially difficult to hear the still small voice of God.  Furthermore, we lose our sense of being when our lives get loud – noise filling every frequency.

Consequently, English poet John Donne once said that “I neglect God and his angels, for the noise of a fly.  The solution?  Stillness. Specifically, God’s still small voice.

However, we cannot equate silence with passive waiting.  Rather, it’s proactive listening.  Henri Nouwen once described silence as an act of war against competing voices inside us.  Yet, each day we seek Him,  God’s voice grows louder until He’s all we can hear.  Henri states:

“Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply.”

Therefore, Pastor Batterson notes, silence is the difference between:

  • sight and insight
  • happiness and joy
  • fear and faith

In conclusion, Mark asserts, there’s something even more important and powerful than talking to God in prayer.  That’s listening to God.  For listening transforms a monologue into a dialogue.  Exactly what God wants.

Today’s question: How does quiet foster a think tank of your soul?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our soft spot – where God often speaks to us”

My place at the table – a need deep in the human soul

“There’s just something deep in the human soul that says, ‘I need to have my place at the table.”- John Ortberg

In the Introduction  (“Table for One”) of I’d Like you More If You Were More Like Me, John Ortberg states when he thinks of love, he thinks of a table.  Of Swedish descent, Pastor Ortberg notes that, for Swedes, a table = the primary love language.

Furthermore, John observes, many life-shaping moments occur around a table.  Also, at tables people tend to sit in the same places.  Because deep in our soul, we need to have our place at the table.  That means we belong.  We possess an identity.  John explains:

“For me, a table is a reminder that what really matters in life is relationships.  We are hardwired for emotional connection to other people.  We want to be known. . . . crave being loved. . .  to be accepted by someone who is completely aware of our gifts and our flaws and yet wants to be with us anyway.  In short, we crave intimacy.”

Yet, a lot of people consider intimacy a scary concept.  As a result, they strongly react to it.  Consequently, Pastor Ortberg presents four beliefs about why people fear intimacy.  John discusses the first two beliefs today.  We fear intimacy because:

  1. we’re afraid of hurtful actions.  Intimacy implies that someone knows us.  Therefore, that person knows our strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and fears.  In turn, an intimate friend possesses the options to bond and draw closer – or shame, wound, or betray.
  2. it can set us up for disappointment.  If you desire closeness with someone, you come to depend on their friendship or need their love.  Thus, rejection or abandonment wounds you to the core.  You feel like a fool for trusting your friend.

Today’s question: What Bible verses enable you to find your place at the table?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Intimacy – a fierceness that distance will never know”

Difficult people in our life – become the best version of you

“We all have difficult people in our life, but hear this: God can use them to help you become the best version of you — maybe even more than the people you like.”- John Ortberg

In Chapter 18 (“Find a Few Difficult People to Help You Grow”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg observes that other people don’t create your spirit.  In fact, if God desires to grow some quality in you, He may bring someone into your life who tempts you to behave the opposite way.

Although we always hope God plans on giving us a life without difficult people, God used difficult people to mold many great Biblical characters.  For example, Moses had Pharaoh and David had Saul.  Pastor Ortberg explains:

“If God loves you and wants to shape you, he will send some difficult people your way.  But take heart.  You are the difficult person he is sending to shape somebody else.  If we can learn to have rivers of living water still flowing through us in these relationships, we will be unstoppable.”

Furthermore, John notes, people impact our lives in one of two ways.  The either energize us or drain us.  Life-bringers:

  • increase our energy
  • deepen our hope
  • add to our joy
  • call out the best in us

In contrast, life-drainers (a) add to our anxiety and (b) invite us to cynicism.  As a result, we find ourselves becoming defensive, depressed, or exasperated.

Since only God can touch the deepest place of another’s soul, prayer provides the only way to influence people at their deepest level.  In prayer, John states, we go with God into another person’s soul.  The space between you and your enemy = the space where love grows.  And love is the only way to live.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg tells us there’s a quarter-second gap between when an impulse takes place in your brain and when that action takes place in your body.  That’s enough time for the Holy Spirit to take control.  Remember, every difficult person is a real person with their own story.

Today’s question: Do you surround yourself with life-energizers or life-drainers?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “When you discover your strengths”