Tag Archives: Actions

Micro Aggressions; Macro Issues

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff.
Numbers 20:7-8, 11a (NIV)

I’m currently doing character study for a play my friend and I are producing next year entitled Freud’s Last Session. The script is a “What if?” play that imagines an ailing Sigmund Freud inviting a young C.S. Lewis for a visit in his study in London. Freud escaped Nazi Germany to England where he worked and lived out the end of his life. The play is set on the day Britain entered war with Germany. The two intellectuals match wits for an hour on matters of life, death, faith, and the impending war.

In the play Freud makes an argument against Hitler’s use of Christianity and religion to support his fascist regime. Lewis concedes that the institutional church is an easy target. History is filled with evil done in the name of God.

The truth is, however, that what is true on a macro level (e.g. the institutional church in Germany supporting Hitler’s evil regime) can also exist on the micro level (e.g. me doing the wrong thing and cloaking it in spiritual motives). I have no control over the macro level concerns of the institutional church, but I do control my own thoughts, words, and actions.

In today’s chapter, the Hebrew tribes are once again in grumbling mode. The wayfaring nation is camped in the desert and there is no good water source. A couple million people wandering in the desert require a lot of water to survive. Let the rebellion commence.

Per the systemic pattern that’s been well established at this point, the people’s grumbling complaints prompt Moses and Aaron to go before God and throw themselves on the ground in exasperation. Also well established by this point is the fact that God has proven to come through with provision when the survival of the people is at stake. God tells Moses to “speak” to a rock there in the camp and it will miraculously produce flowing water.

Moses, however, goes on a bit of a rant against his grumbling people and “raises his hand” to strike the rock. In his rage Moses strikes the rock not once, but twice.

Moses actions are a micro level spiritual problem with macro implications. God was very specific about speaking to the rock. Moses lost his temper and went postal on the thing. My first impression is that it seems a small matter for God to get upset about, but as every psychologist knows micro aggressions hide macro issues. As Freud explains to Lewis in Freud’s Last Session, what his patients tell him is not as important as what they don’t.

This morning I’m doing a little spiritual inventory. Are there places in my life where I’m striking when God has directed me to speak? Are there places in life in which I’m speaking or acting for my own self-centered motives and cloaking under a guise of “doing it for the Lord”?

Taking the Blinders Off

If any of you sin without knowing it, doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, you have incurred guilt, and are subject to punishment.
Leviticus 5:17 (NRSV)

I received an e-mail from a front-line manager of one of our clients. In a regular report that went to the executive team I had mentioned something that caused an executive Vice-President of the company to question the front-line manager’s handling of one particular circumstance. This caught the manager off guard and caused the manager to feel thrown under the bus. It had never been my intention to do so, and I honestly had not anticipated that my report would create the executive’s concern.

My initial human reaction was defensive. My report was accurate. I said nothing that was untrue. I was only doing my job. I couldn’t have anticipated how the report would be received. Yada, yada, yada…. My excuses did nothing to address the unintended injury. I quickly responded with a sincere apology and I committed to being more aware in the future and to letting the manager know if anything in my future reports might create similar questions.

Along life’s journey, I’ve observed that we often plod along with blinders on, unaware (or unconcerned) how our words and actions may affect others. When confronted, I have noted that our natural human reaction is usually the same as mine in this case: excuse, shift blame, and/or deflect personal responsibility.

Today’s chapter is a list of ways the ancient sacrificial system God established through Moses addressed mistakes we as humans with our blinders on:

  • and are unaware of it… (vs. 2)
  • and are unaware of it… (vs. 3)
  • and are unaware of it… (vs. 4)
  • When you realize your guilt… (vs. 5)
  • When any of you commit a trespass and sin unintentionally… (vs. 14)

The message is clear. Just because I am unaware of something I have done does not excuse me from responsibility for my words and actions. Guilt is not excused by ignorance or self-justification.

This morning as I read, I must confess that I found myself mulling over a few things others have recently said and done that pissed me off. Words and actions that created problems for myself and others. I thought of the human blinders we wear and the way these individuals act unaware, excuse their behavior, shift blame, and avoid responsibility. Then, I remembered the e-mail and my initial reaction to it. I have my own blinders. People are people. We are all guilty of unintended injuries, even to those we love most in this world.

Today I’m thinking of ways I can take the blinders off as I journey through the day. I want to be more aware of my words and my actions, and the potential or their unintended effects.

 

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Things I Can’t Control and Things I Can

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.
1 Timothy 6:1 (NIV)

It is hard, I believe, to understand with our 21st century experience what daily life was like for those who followed Jesus in the days of Paul and Timothy. I have often heard individuals criticize the fact that God’s Message does not specifically condemn slavery, and those arguments come to mind when reading today’s chapter. I have a lot of historical, cultural, and contextual thoughts about why this is the case. Nevertheless, I will admit that it’s only one of many questions I have about the things God says and the subjects on which He chooses to be silent.

What I take from today’s chapter, however, is a human challenge that is as relevant today as it has ever been. At different waypoints along life’s journey we will all find ourselves in situations we cannot escape and that will not be fair. It could be a situation at work, a family relationship, life tragedy, or a legal obligation.  Sometimes in life we are powerless to change our circumstances.

Paul’s entreaty to those who follow Jesus was to manage those things that we can control in otherwise unmanageable situations. We can choose how we act, how we respond to others, what words we choose to use, how we will think, and the attitudes with which we will approach a situation.

Paul was powerless to change slavery in his day. It would be 1800 years before humanity began to address that issue in earnest and it still plagues our fallen world today. What Paul, and his friends who were slaves, could address was how they lived their lives each day within their given circumstances.

Today I am reminded that I cannot always control my circumstances, but I can control my mind, my tongue, my eyes, my ears, my feet and my hands. What I choose to do with them is what matters.

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A Million Choices

“…all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord your God….”
Deuteronomy 28:2 (NRSV)

When I was a young man I made an observation as I hung out with my friends. I watched as my friends made snarky retorts to their parents and the argumentative escalation that inevitably occurred and usually ended with some sort of punishment. I would see the willful choices others would make to do what they knew was wrong, and the trouble that it eventually afforded them. I was not a perfect kid, and I did my share of stupid things, but more often than not I realized that there was a peace in life that came with simply doing the right thing.

As I read the chapter this morning I was struck by the list of blessings that were promised to God’s people if they would obey His commands. While some of these blessings are divine in nature, there are many blessings on that list which are simply the natural consequences of consistently choosing to do what you know is right in life and relationship.

Life is both crazy and stressful. The journey is hard. I can make it more difficult with poor choices in the way I live, act, think, speak, and relate to others. I can also assure myself a certain level of peace by choosing daily to live, act, think, speak, and relate to others in a way that is good and right.

The day lies before me with a million choices to be made of thought, word, and action. How I choose in each moment will make a huge difference in how this day ends, in stress or peace.

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Bricks and Mortar

English: Cornerstone from first Naponee, Nebra...
English: Cornerstone from first Naponee, Nebraska school, dated 1936. The brick structure containing the cornerstone holds the school bell. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
Psalm 118:22 (NIV)

When constructing a building made of bricks and mortar, the cornerstone is the most important brick of the entire building. The cornerstone is the first brick placed on the foundation. All other stones are placed in reference to the cornerstone and the placement of the entire structure is derived from the position of the cornerstone. Since ancient times, the cornerstone has had metaphorical resonance in multiple ways.

We build our lives day-by-day. Our thoughts, words and actions are bricks with which we give structure to our lives which others see and which influence those around us. In the end, the whole becomes a legacy of who we were. Every brick in the structure of our lives is derived from a cornerstone. If my cornerstone is self, then my life will reflect my own self-centered desires and intentions. If I choose to place Jesus as the cornerstone of my life, then my thoughts, words, and actions will ultimately reflect the cornerstone from which their placement is ultimately derived.

This morning, as I prepare to spend a week on the road serving clients, I am thinking about the thoughts, words, and actions with which I will serve, and coach, and consult, and train this week. I think about the thoughts, words, and actions with which I will interact with my employees and team members. I think about the thoughts, words, and actions with which I will interact with family and friends from afar. What will they say about cornerstone I have chosen for the placement my life?

An additional thought:

 

The lyric above, from an ancient songwriter, became an important prophecy to Jesus and his followers. Jesus quoted it in reference to Himself. Peter quoted it when giving testimony in front of the religious leaders. Both Peter and Paul quoted it in their letters. I love the on-going theme in God’s story in which God uses the rejected, the broken, the youngest, the least, the overlooked, and the weak to accomplish His special purposes.

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Spiritual Home Improvement

shack at the landfill
(Photo credit: margaretkilljoy)

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 3

Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. I Corinthians 3:12-13 (NLT)

Down in Missouri, on the lot next to our Playhouse there sits a house on a poured foundation. Years ago the owners poured a nice concrete foundation and began to build on top of it. They enclosed the house, furnished the inside and added a patio door that opened toward the lake. Then, they abandoned it.

No one has been to the house on the lot next to ours for decades. The roof collapsed. The furniture and walls are covered in black mold. Local wildlife have lived on the inside and caused more destruction to the contents. The house is a health hazard and an eye sore. But, the foundation is still solid. We have more than one friend who has eyed the property and come to the conclusion that you could bulldoze the house, clean off the foundation, and start building a new home on it.

That house (or what’s left of it) is the perfect word picture of exactly what today’s chapter is trying to communicate. When we come to the point of decision and choose to follow Jesus, the Spirit of God indwells us and pours a rock-solid spiritual foundation in our hearts. From that point on our motivations, our thoughts, our words, and our actions are the construction materials with which we build our spiritual “house” on that foundation. As we live day-to-day, the quality of our choices and lives determine the quality of the spiritual house we’re building. Some of us throw up a shack and are content to live in spiritual squalor. Others take the time, develop the discipline, and make the sacrificial investment to build a spiritual mansion. Like our neighbors at the lake, some of us abandon our spiritual building and its foundation altogether.

Today, I’m meditating on this simple word picture and considering the quality of the spiritual house I’m building on the foundation of salvation Jesus poured in my heart 30 years ago. As all homeowners know, the work is never finished. I have sections of the house I’m proud of. I have other sections that need to be gutted and renovated from the ground up. As one company reminds us: “never stop improving.” As long as there is life and breath, the building and renovation of my spiritual house will continue.

 

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 36

Big Spring, a giant karst spring in The Ozarks...

For you are the fountain of life,
    the light by which we see.
Psalm 36:9 (NLT)

One of our favorite places to take guests down at the lake is Ha Ha Tonka State Park. If you arrive by boat and take a leisurely hike down the trial you’ll find a natural spring. The cool, fresh water bubbles endlessly up from the depths of the Earth. I thought of that spring when I read the lyric of today’s psalm about God being a fountain of life.

I also found it interesting that God’s bubbling spring life life comes after a descriptive image of the wicked earlier in the psalm. “Everything” the wicked say is crooked and their actions are “never good.”  In other words, they are a contrasting fountain of stuff that leads to death compared to God’s spring of life.

Jesus said that it’s out of the overflow of our heart that our words and actions spring. Today, I’m thinking about my words, my thoughts, and my actions. Do they  bubble up from an inner spring of Life, or do they emanate from a deathly emptiness of the soul?