Category Archives: Thoughts from the Inside

Love Your Neighbor

Love your neighborTwo events in less than 24 hours have me wondering what we as Christians think Jesus meant when He said these words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Ask yourself before you read on, “What is Lucy handing to Linus?”

Last night I was at the local Goodwill store with JoAnna. Goodwill is a store full of left overs, throwaways, things we don’t need or want anymore. I was walking around thinking, “When did we decide that helping someone meant giving them our leftovers?” If there is a clothing drive at the local church we look in our closets to find what we no longer want. If there is a disaster of some kind we look beyond our closets, we look in our bedrooms, our living rooms, our basements and our garages for the items that we no longer need or want.

Why do we do that? Is this what our Lord meant? Did He really say give leftovers? If He did, wouldn’t it read something like this, “Love your neighbor with whatever love you no longer need for loving yourself.”  Are we loving ourselves when we buy clothes and furniture and food? If we are eating steak should our neighbors be eating steak? Think what this means if we start talking about houses and cars; big ticket items. Think past this even. Think about what it is we want for ourselves, what ever it is, shouldn’t we want it for our neighbor and vice versa.

perfectionist cutting grassThe second event is this. I sat with a man today that told me he loves to take care of his yard. Being in the yard is his stress relief, it is quiet time and it is being able to see first hand his finished work, a job well done. He works hard at it, even to the point that he weeds the entire yard by hand. He uses very little chemical weed killer, which means he is digging up Dandelions by hand. He likes it, and it is good for him, and good to him. Well, as I am listening to him he tells me he also weeds his neighbors yard. I’m thinking, “wow this is great” until I ask him why he weeds his neighbors yard. He answers quickly, “So their weeds don’t spread into my yard.” My euphoria is quickly deflated as I realize he is only taking care of his neighbors yard so his yard looks better. It is not about his neighbor, it is about him.

I gently point this out to him and he gets it. He sees it and agrees, and we get in a discussion about how often this is the case. His first example is the store that allows the Christmas bell ringer in front of it so the business will look good, or the business that puts the names of all of the donors that give a dollar so it looks like they are supporting a charity. He even takes it to the stickers that we put on when we vote, showing the world  what we did.

How are these two events related? It is all about us; first. We determine what our neighbor needs by first determining what we need. By determining what we need  we are then able to determine what we don’t need. When we get there, we now know what it is we will do and what it is we will give away. We make it about us first and our neighbor second.

I think the Lord wants us to look to Him first, our neighbor second, and then if we have enough time left to look at ourselves. We are compelled to look beyond just what He said, we have to add to the equation what it is He did. He looked to our needs and knew the way to love us whas to give all He had for us. This is the story of the Gospel, the story of the Cross. While we were still sinners….. He loved us, and loves us in a way that gives us eternal life with him. He is not a God of leftovers. He is a God of new life, new beginnings, new chances, even to the point that we become new creations, the old is gone and the new takes it’s place.

Imagine a world, that when you shop for anything new, you know you want to buy two so you can give the other to your neighbor. Think about how it applies to our time and our commitments. I know that is a big imagination, but think about it. We do not have to be a people of leftovers. We can be a people of first fruits. It is obtainable, in fact, it has already been done. We can be “imitators of God.”

What is Lucy handing to Linus?

Final thoughts. Please remember we can’t know what our neighbors are thinking, and our neighbors can’t know what we are thinking or what our motivation is. This conversation is not about what our neighbor chooses, it is about what we choose for our neighbor and why. It is also not a conversation about making judgments, it is a conversation about our motivation. God judges the heart. He knows what our motivation is.

It is our heart that will speak the truth to our neighbor and to our Lord Jesus Christ. Our hearts will speak. speaking heart

My Husband Is Driving Me Crazy

woman in distress picture #5   Jane writes:                                                                                                                                                                        “My husband is driving me crazy. I want to leave even though I know that is wrong. He doesn’t get it nor does he care to! How do I get it into his head? My heart is growing so cold towards him, it is like I feel nothing for him. I want him to realize what is happening to my heart. I want him to know exactly how I feel about him.  He is wearing my spirit out.” 

Who is Jane? Jane is not her name, but she is a living breathing woman. Jane is real, and her cry for help is real.  I have changed her name not to make her invisible (she already feels that way), but to give her some privacy.  Jane is a woman that desperately wants to run and hide forever.  Her heart is dying, and the man that the Lord has put in her life to grow her heart is draining her spirit out drop by drop.  She is screaming with every part of her being for attention.  She is thirsting for love.

Unfortunately she is not alone; not even close to being alone.  Today, Jane takes on the name given every anonymous unclaimed woman whose heart lies rejected, or ignored alongside the road, the bed, and the alter, crying while the only world that matters walks right on by blinded by their own self-absorbed life.  Jane, a woman living inside a loveless marriage.  Holding on to one thing.  Not the promise of the man, who refuses to let go of who he is in order to see who she is.  She holds on to these words, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5).  Jane is holding onto the words of God himself.

Jane loves The Lord.  She knows Jesus; Jesus knows her.  Jane defines her life as a daughter of her Lord Jesus, a wife and a mother.  Jane is committed to her marriage vowels beyond the commitment she made to her husband; she made a commitment to her Lord.

In a marriage without love, Jane has a few choices:  She can give up what it is she needs, and the moment that decision defines her life she starts to die.  She will learn to function in the world around her, but at best she will be a shadow of who she was, and is.  There is a very slim chance that she will become anyone more than she is.  There is a big chance that she will only become less. Or, she can run (Gather her meager (nothing matters) belongings, and run to save her heart while it still beats.)  Or, she can stand and fight with The Lord by her side.

Jane has, and is working hard to deal with her past mistakes and losses.  She is committed to the Lord and she is committed to change.  Jane has good, honest friends.  She is committed to pastoral care.  She listens, she takes notes, and she implements the wisdom she receives and acts in love toward her husband.  She is passionate about having a good and sustainable marriage.  She is committed.  She is fighting, but she is getting tired.

Dear Jane, The first time we met, almost as quick as you told me your name the tears started to flow.  Your tear streaked face and sobbing heart will always be imbedded in my mind.  Today, when I read your words, it is that face that I see interlaced with your words of frustration, truth and pain.  Thank you for trusting me with your heart.

The tone and the desperation of your words, and the tears that come with them are not unfamiliar to me.  I have heard them many times on this walk that The Lord has sent me on.  They are on the hearts of many men and women in marriages around us.  Unfortunately, you are not alone.  Jane you are not alone on this earth in your pain, and you are not alone in heaven.

Words of people in pain are all throughout the Bible.  Job, David, Steven and all the saints that have gone before us.  As Christians we will have tears.  Jesus says in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.”  I cannot explain why we are destined for trials and suffering, I can only point you to the cross.  Our Lord suffered, the King suffered, so must His children.

Jane, these are not words of dismissal to your pain, or a way to avoid giving you comfort or action.  Jane, I know full well that you are staying where you are, because and only because, of your love of Jesus, and your trust in His love for you.  You are not seeing it, or feeling it, I know, but faith has you grounded while you suffer.  I have to say to you while you cry, and I do not say it lightly, you are in a good place.  Anytime you hold onto Christ despite what is going on around you, no matter how it hurts, you are in the best place of all.  You are not alone, not even close.

Your honest words of fear and flight may have brought you to a crossroads.  Jane, while you stand at this crossroad, I want you to know a few things, a few important things.  Please listen very, very carefully. Take a few deep breathes, and calm your beating heart.   There are important words of love, which are to be found in a faint whisper hidden in the sounds of the thundering of your breaking heart. You need to go real quiet inside, and focus on these words: “Jane, you are not alone. The Lord himself stands with you.  The Lord, is prepared to go with you whichever road you choose.  The Lord, will not choose for you.  Be very careful how you choose.  You are in a precarious position ready to make decisions that will re-define your life.  You know enough about life to know that you don’t always get to go back and do it over again.”

I can give you some words of advice, but I must start with what the Word says first.  In Jeremiah 6:16 we read,   “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  These are good words, important words, words you can trust.  Think about what the good way is.  Think about the love your mother and father had for each other.  Think about how their love sustained you, and covered you up when you thought all was lost.   This is the love that The Lord wants for you today.  I know you don’t have it from your marriage right now, but that does not change the fact that the Lord wants it for you.  He wants it in the marriage you have today.  He promises rest for your soul.  The Lord promises.

I know your husband is a broken and hurting man.  He has learned the hard way how to protect his heart from anyone and everyone. In his own words he has defined the name and the location of the door to the basement of his life.  He says, “I come from a family that are not people pleasers.” Wow!  Painful, dark words from a person in a world full of people, in a marriage made up of people, from the mouth of a person.  No pleasing anyone? Really?  My heart breaks for him.

The good news is, he does know who The Lord is.  Your husband may not be ready to let The Lord in, but I can tell you from experience, it does not matter what a man does or does not want once The Lord starts in on him.

It is The Lord’s work to save, and change a man. You have not been put on this earth to save your husband, but you are privileged to reflect the face of our Lord.  It is you that Christ invites to be His reflection in your marriage.  Reflect love in your patience, kindness, and with a gentle spirit.

What does that look like?  Let’s start with what it does not look like. Not necessarily better sex or a clean house or a well cooked meal. It does not look like “diagnosing” him, or whining.   It looks like understanding and compassion for the man he is, and the man he can become.  It looks like letting him find his way to The Lord and to the Lord’s counsel.  It looks like a gentle word and prayer.   A gentle word on your lips, and in your heart.  It looks like prayer beside your bed, and prayer in your closet, alone with just you and The Lord.  Jane, this reflection looks like strength and perseverance.  The Lord loves us with His gentle strength.  He loves us by letting us freely choose the way we are going.  The Lord weeps with us, smiles with us; He lives with us.

He persevered, so we must and can persevere.

Jane, I know you are tired, but your spirit is stronger than you think.  The Holy Spirit lives within you, and the Holy Spirit is a spirit of strength. The Holy Spirit gives words of truth, and wisdom. The Holy Spirit whispers and shouts.

Jane, I know part of your heart has been missing from a long time ago.  But love has carried you through.  I know this, and I can only say to you, you must wait while The Lord does his work. Together, we will get to where He knows you need to go. Jane, hang on.  You are not alone.

In His name, for His glory.

Death of A Family

Death of a Family

Today in beautiful house, on a great street in a good neighborhood in Louisville, KY two families will meet to disassemble their future; all their futures. Their goal is to eradicate a family’s existence from the face of this earth. Its existence will be scattered to the wind. It will be as if it never was.

It is 4 am and as I write I have to wonder if they are sleeping peacefully, gathering their strength for the job ahead, or, are they lying awake the same as I, wondering at their actions? Will they rise with a yawn, to the smell of coffee and bacon frying in the pan, slowly waking to the sun reflecting through the window? Are will they wake in the darkness of the cold dawn with vengeance and destruction on their hearts, with no thought of substance other than the blood lust before their eyes.

Or, are they not sleeping as I don’t sleep? Are they reflecting on the long term effects of their actions yesterday, today and tomorrow? If only I knew for sure what they were thinking at this very moment. It could tell us so much.

I suspect, I know what they are thinking, and I will speculate. Last night they went to bed worn out. The day was very emotional and physical.  Destruction is hard work. This morning they will rise and dress with a grim look on their face. Some will sit to eat, others will stand and sip from a coffee cup until one will say, “Well, we might as well get to it,” and get to it they will. There will be heaviness of heart mixed with a little of the bloodlust, looking for revenge on whomever they have decided that brings them to this gruesome task today. They go forth under the banner of love and honor that will forever be drenched in the stench of deceit and selfishness.

Today these invaders meet in the home of a family facing divorce. The victims, the children, are hidden away safely in another location as their home is stripped of its life. The invaders are a motley crew, but all of the important players are present and accounted for. We have the husband, the wife, the mother and father of the wife, the aunt and uncle of the wife and the mother and the sister of the husband.  It is not coincidental that all of these people know each other. They have been together numerous times. In fact, they all met the first time 16 years ago as they stood as witnesses to the creation of the family that they now help destroy.

I have to wonder what was their thoughts way back at the beginning of the beginning of this family. Were they for the union and the construction of this new family? Did they see hope and a future for two young lives coming together?  Did they live a life that promoted this union?  Or, I wonder did they have a different line of thinking. Did they forecast destruction in the future? Did they think it was a futile attempt, this union? If so, I wonder if their doubts have fed into what brings us here today.

Why are they here? If only I could sit them all down, and in a quiet moment ask them that question and listen carefully as they ponder what it is they will say. Could they speak it in a quiet, thoughtful way, or would it come out like vomit staining the world around them.

Sixteen years ago, Julie walked down the isle of a beautiful church. Her dress was the most brilliant white, hanging on her in a way that made the witnesses envious, hopeful and shameful. The women that were older looked at her with envy to a time when they were so young and vibrant.  The younger women and girls looked at her as a vision for their future, their future walk. The men both young and old looked at her with some lust as the beautiful women that she is. There were I am sure, hundreds of combinations of thoughts that day, but they all agreed on one thing; it and she were beautiful. It is a good day to live.

John stood at the altar, proud as a peacock dressed in his tuxedo. He was looking better at that moment than he ever had or ever will look again.  His face was beaming, his heart was beating, and his hands were sweating as he looked at his future coming slowly towards him like an angel floating on clouds. He was almost faint with the anticipation.

They were all there. John’s family on one side of the isle and Julie’s family on the other side of the isle. Mother, father, siblings and grandparents sitting in the best seats in the front rows. Behind them scattered out through the church was an assortment of lessor family members and friends. All witnesses to one of the greatest event know to humankind; the creation of what we call a family. Oh by the way there were two more people there. In fact is for them that I write this story. Did you know reader that when a female human is born that inside of her womb are all of the eggs that will grow someday into her children. Yes, inside of Julie just waiting for the union with John their father, waiting patiently are Jared and Jonathan. The entire family, the total existence of this unit arrived by a miracle at this altar to begin their beginning. Without this meeting, without this accumulation of events the people we know as Jared and Jonathan would not ever exist.

It can only happen this way you know. Do I mean this dress and this tuxedo? Do I mean this church on this day? No, of course not to all of that. What I mean is that in order for Jared and Jonathan to exist on this earth is for the birth of Julie with eggs in her womb and for the union of Julie and John.  Any other combinations, any slightest deviations from this path and we do not have the Jared and Jonathan we have today. It is the same process that brought everyone together for the wedding. Any deviation at all and this wedding does not happen, but it did and it happened for a reason, maybe for a lot of reasons.

A new family brings a lot of things. First it is an extension of families before; it is what we call a new branch of the tree. It is a chance to continue building on all of the good work that was poured into two people by their parents. It is the time to throw out and reject the bad teachings and influences of those families.  It is truly a new start and one more new chance to get things right. It is true and most sane people will admit that families are made up of both good and bad, and if they think just a little past that they will realize that means that the people from those families are made up of both good and bad pieces.  Bad families don’t just create bad people, and good families don’t just create good people. It is a combination of a lot of things but remember it all starts with a coming together of two people, and what is in them gets passed onto the person that comes out of that union. This is why that union is so important. It is the combination that matters.

When a child is created they are not just born like one parent or the other. It is a beautiful event in our world. The child has a lot of exact parts of the mom and a lot of exact parts of the dad, but it is the combination factor, the joining together part that gives us a new life, a new child. It is the combination factor that is always adjusting by keeping the good, rejecting the bad and creating more for a greater good. It is a system that works and has worked since the beginning. Families are the same.

Families are the adjustment. Family is the combination factor that creates our homes, our neighborhood, our community, our world. The combination factor of a family is the system that is always working for the good. It is a way of constantly moving to a better tomorrow. It is the outward womb, or the outward nurture, the outward protection for that new person that has come into this world and has not only the past but the future in them.

Does the system always work? Of course not, children are unfortunately born with birth defects every day, but with the right combination they will be loved and nurtured. I am not talking about that. I am talking about people themselves, in their own minds deciding that the system or the combination factor is not right. That is what this conversation is all about. People deciding for themselves that things are not good and they do this by ignoring the proof around them. In this case the proof of the good is their health, their wealth and their children.

Which brings us back to today? To this street, to this house to this family. What is happening today is a rejection of all of that system that brings life to this world.  Not just life, but good life.  These people have decided that this union is not to be. They have decided in their hearts that it was a mistake, and in doing that they have sealed the brokenness of the past into the hearts of a man and a woman. These families that were there at the beginning are saying that they have it right, and the combination factor is no factor at all. Of course they won’t see it that way, of course not, are they would not be here today. It is a strange phenomenon, because what they destruct today, is in fact, their own future.

No they will argue. It was a mistake that this marriage happened, or if not a mistake than just a tragic accident. They will say they are good people, and can make good decisions. And I would ask, is not the proof of the breakdown, proof of the brokenness in two people, is this not proof that at least some of the brokenness came from them. I cannot address this marriage as an accident, because I don’t believe it is possible that such a planned, thought-out event can be an accident.

In fact, this destruction today is no accident. It was in fact birthed out of people that cannot, or will not see the faults within themselves. They cannot or will not see that this family, and these children are the best hope they have. If they could pour into this family in order to keep it whole, and to get it healthy, than their own future has a chance. The combination factor again would seize the day. The combination of people coming together to build and support the good, and to construct a future that not only sustains life, but creates it.

If we end here today with no reconciliation, with no healing, with no re-creation and re construction of this union between John and Julie, than we cast our hopes, dreams and future into the wind. We gamble with lives, hoping to turn up a winner with the same lack of knowledge and common sense a person has when they throw the dice on a felt covered table as a way to decide their future. At best it is foolish, and at worse it is the end.

Will John, Julie, Jared and Jonathan live past today?  Yes, with all of my being it is what I hope for. But I have to tell you, they will no longer be the people that they were intended to be. The adults go forth with a solidification of their view that the world is a difficult place, and a beginning of the idea of their mortality mixed with an acceptance of their mistakes. They will begin to travel down the road of thinking there is no hope. In fact, because their parents are still married, John and Julie will now think that they are less than their beginning, and will no longer see in the mirror the person that they thought they knew.

Jared and Jonathan, well, we will have to wait and see who they become. They are changed forever today. Today is the beginning of their lessons, their study on the evil in the world.  It is a real lesson; it is a lesson they learned at home. They will be somebody, but be assured they will not be what they were to be. They will forever be crippled in the most important place. They will be crippled in their heart.

If only I could get them to see the future that the destruction today will bring. But who am I to write such a thing as a future for anyone. Me? Who am I?  I’m just a fool that has been down the road of self-destruction under the banner of honor and good. I myself unfortunately learned that at the end of that road is no good, no nothing, but sadness and regret.

Good bye to the four “J’s.” After all, it is like a part of you never existed, and the pain you feel, it is what we call phantom pain; a pain for what is no longer there. It is a pain that will sneak up on you, and seem real, but when you look at it you will remember that sometime in the past it was cut off and thrown away. If you’re lucky, real lucky, that pain will fade away also.

It is a good day to die.

Good bye, with love.

P.S.  Stop!  It doesn’t have to be this way.  There is another way.