A little frustrated

Well it is week 8 of having a broken thumb, and my second week back at work.  And it has been a stretching time.  I am one who doesn’t sit still very well, just ask my wife.  She says I even fidget in my sleep.  🙂  So not liking to be still makes it even harder to not do something.  But my thumb refuses to be rushed.  At this point I still have 2 more weeks to go with a splint on, I finally got the cast removed, and hopefully that ends it.  So far every time I see the surgeon he says “another 2 weeks” and it is getting frustrating.

I want life to get back to normal and to stop having my thumb get in the way of everything.  Just one of those things I guess.  Everything has been a new trial and discovery.  Learning to simply live life without something you never even think about usually has been interesting.  You would be amazed at the simple tasks that cannot be done without a thumb.

But I did finish my second light duty week.  That in itself was a trial.  I have a very physical job, and work in some pretty inhospitable environments, and have been assigned a permanent helper.  As I am someone who is self-sufficient and doesn’t like needing help that has been a trial in itself.  Having to stand still and only give direction while someone else does the work is really difficult.

However, progress is being made, and hopefully this will be the last visit I need to make.  And then life can begin to return to normal.  I can start being useful at work, my thumb can stop being in the way.  I couldn’t tell you how nice it has been just to put on a jacket and two gloves. 🙂 And I can start playing my guitar again.  Lots to look forward to once my healing process completes.  And with any luck I won’t have to hear “two more weeks” again.

Communicating Love

We all have ways of communicating and receiving love.  Our problems come into play in relationships when the people we relate to either don’t communicate or receive love the same way as we do.   Sometimes we are trying our best to communicate that we love someone as best as we know how only to have that love, we perceive, rejected or dismissed.  Or the people we are showing we care about misunderstand us as we are trying to show how much we care and can get offended and upset.

One book that helped me understand this whole dynamic is “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman.  He basically states that there are five common ways we communicate and receive love from the relationships we have around us.   These are the most common and basic ways, and not meant to be the end all and be all of course.  But the simple way that the languages are explained helped me immensely in my relationships.  The five languages are;

  • Words of Affirmation
    This is when you say how nice your spouse looks, or how great the dinner tasted. These words will also build your mate’s self image and confidence.
  • Quality Time
    Some spouses believe that being together, doing things together and focusing in on one another is the best way to show love. If this is your partner’s love language, turn off the TV now and then and give one another some undivided attention.
  • Gifts
    It is universal in human cultures to give gifts. They don’t have to be expensive to send a powerful message of love. Spouses who forget a birthday or anniversary or who never give gifts to someone who truly enjoys gift giving will find themselves with a spouse who feels neglected and unloved.
  • Acts of Service
    Discovering how you can best do something for your spouse will require time and creativity. These acts of service like vacuuming, hanging a bird feeder, planting a garden, etc., need to be done with joy in order to be perceived as a gift of love.
  • Physical Touch
    Sometimes just stroking your spouse’s back, holding hands, or a peck on the cheek will fulfill this need.

You basically receive love the same way you communicate love.  If your way of demonstrating  is by acts of service and you spend your time doing odd jobs and providing for your spouses every little need, but your spouse receives love by Physical Touch then you and your spouse will have great difficulty if you never try to speak each others language.  It will be just as difficult for you as though you were only speaking Spanish and your spouse speaks only in Chinese.   There would be lots of communicating, but absolutely no understanding.  And many people get caught by this.  How many  times have marriages ended because the husband spent his time providing financially for his wife’s every need and desire, and all she really wanted him to do was spend some quality time with her.  If we don’t learn to share the love we feel for those most important to us in ways they can receive it then they may feel completely unloved and unappreciated.

Our task is learning what their language is, and then learning to speak it.  It is not easy, but it is worth the effort in the end.  Once we can understand that what is frustrating us in our relationship is the way that they are communicating love we can begin to receive that love, and once we learn to speak their language then we can communicate love in a form that is easily understood and received.  The only question that remains is whether or not the relationship is worth the investment in coming to understand the language being  spoken.  Once we invest the time, our relationship will only improve and deepen.

Living a Christian Life

Many of us have struggled intensely with living out what we were told was a “Christian Life”.  We have tried, mostly in vain, to become ‘Christlike’ in word and deed.  And for the most part we have been left with a sense of failure and frustration.  In the end we gather with other Christians in weekly services and ‘appear’ to have it together with them because we can’t be seen to ‘not measure up’.  We wear the façade of ‘Christianity’ and can never talk about our struggles because the other Christians we relate to seem to have it all together.

So we continue to struggle as long as we can.  Some end up walking away from the ‘church’ because it seems like an endless stream of ‘thou shalt not’ comes at us and we can not stand under the weight of the things we already feel we must do.  Others even walk away from God and faith all together.  Christians have even ostracized those whom they have felt have ‘not measured up’.  And yet if you were to scratch the  surface of our ‘faith’ everyone is facing the same identical struggle.  And trying to put on a good face for those we fellowship with each week.

And this was not at all what God intended.  We were never meant to bear the burdens of rules and regulations.  The bible actually says that there was no way to live up to the standards of the law.  It wasn’t intended for us to live up to.  It was intended to show us our inadequacy and our need for a Saviour.  Scripture teaches that the purpose of the law was to reveal sin.

So if we cannot live up to the standards and rules and regulations what are we to do.  Paul says in Galatians 3:3 “How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” And yet week after week in churches all across North America this is exactly what we do.  Or as the Message version reads “Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.”

So again I raise the question, if all our struggles cannot bring us to live a Christian life what can we do?

Well first let me say that we need a relationship with God.  Rules and regulations and going to church will make us truly Christian when going into a garage will make us a car.  It sounds extreme but it is the truth.  John 3:16 basically says that God loves us so much that Jesus came to die for us and give eternal life to anyone who believes in Him.  John 17:3 says that eternal life is a deep intimate relationship with God.   So we need a relationship first.  Without that we have nothing but rules and regulations and ritual.  Which will only continue to leave us disappointed and depressed.

But once we have that relationship what happens.  Does God completely take away the desire for sin?  Unfortunately not.  Our nature is the problem.  Watchman Nee says “We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners.” Our nature is still there.  I some great wisdom in this mornings sermon.  The speaker said “God has redeemed my soul, He hasn’t taken away my humanity.” Our tendency to sin is still there.  Paul said it best in Romans 7:15 “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate.   I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good.”

Sounds like most of our lives.  So what do we do.  I think we need to do three things.

First recognize our need for a Saviour never diminishes.

We cannot become who we are meant to be without the help of God.  Each day needs to be lived with Him.  The good news is that God is at work within us.  He didn’t start something only to leave us to ourselves.  Hebrews says that Jesus is “The author and the finisher of our faith.” Philippians 2:13 says “For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him” What God started God will finish.

Secondly we need to grow in our relationship with God.

It is in our relationship to God that we grow and develop.  Living a “Christlike life” is not living a life free from sin.  It is simply living in a relationship with God and daily following His lead.  Paul starts and end everyone of his letters with the phrase “may the grace and peace of God be with you” or some variant of it.  He always prays that God’s grace be with us.  So what is God’s grace if it is so important?  Well I could write for days on what God’s grace is, but let me be brief.  God’s grace is His blessing poured out without measure upon us.  And that blessing is His power doing in us what needs to be done that we cannot do for ourselves.  In other words,  all the power of heaven is at our disposal to cause us to live the life that God calls us to.  And it is in that relationship with Him that we experience and grow in that grace.

Thirdly we need to lay off ourselves and others.

We cannot measure up to God’s standards on our own, and neither can anyone else.  We need to lower the standards we have for ourselves and others, and simply be people who love Jesus and are working out the expression of that love.  It is going to mean some difficult changes are going to come our way.  I won’t try to diminish that fact.  But we can rest in the fact that God will walk us through every one and bring us out the other side in victory if we do it with Him.  If we continue to try to do it ourselves we will never become anything close.  We will just continue to be the people the world sees and wants nothing to do with.  We simply need to allow ourselves the room to grow as God leads us, making sure we always are holding His hand, for just like any child we can let go of our parents hand and go our own way and walk away from the path that God has for us.  Time for us as a ‘church’ to rise up and become the people that God has called us to be, and none of it can be done in our own strength.  So lets rest in God’s goodness, and simply follow His plan and take one step at a time, one day at a time.

And we can lay off ourselves and others because Scripture teaches that every temptation that comes our way is “common to man”. So we are never alone.  We can share our struggles with others because they have faced similar ones, and can then be accepted for who we truly are.  A lost sinner, saved by grace and living out a love relationship with the One who called us.