Tag Archives: Negative

spiritual infection

While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly.
Ezra 10:1 (NIV)

Earlier this summer I had outpatient surgery to remove a patch of cancerous cells from my ear. Days after my surgery the pain and discomfort were getting worse instead of better. By the time the chills and fever set in, I knew that something was wrong. It turns out I had a nasty infection that required two rounds of antibiotics and some intense attention to quell.

One of the subtle changes I’ve noticed during my lifetime is the attention that has been given to fighting infectious diseases. You can hardly go into a public venue or restroom without finding sanitizers by the door waiting for you to protect yourself and others from germs, viruses, and disease.

But, like so many things in life, infection cuts both ways. The positive example can be infectious as well. A teacher stands at the door of her classroom each morning and greets every child with their own unique handshake. A stranger surprises with a random act of kindness and then tells the recipient to simply “pay it forward.” One person’s sacrifice or selfless act inspires others to follow like Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

In today’s chapter, Ezra’s very public display of regret and repentance compelled others to stop and notice. Eventually, the crowd began to join him. One man’s confession and dedication became the spiritual contagion that started a spiritual revival.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself taking a trip down memory lane and revisiting various experiences I’ve had along my life journey of spiritual outpourings and movements within groups of people. In most cases, I can follow them back to one person whose faith, conversion, witness, or confession became the spiritual pebble that started the avalanche.

I’m reminded this morning that I have the power to infect people in both positive and negative ways. What am I affecting with my thoughts, words, actions, relationships, posts, tweets, and snaps? When Paul wrote his letter to the followers of Jesus in Galatia, he used contrasting descriptions of infectious spiritual results.

A negative spiritual infection Paul describes this way:

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.

Galatians 5:19-21 (MSG)

A positive spiritual infection Paul describes this way:

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Galatians 5:22-23 (MSG)

I endeavor to infect those around me in a positive way today.

Have a great day, my friend.

There Will Always Be Naysayers

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”
John 12:4-5 (NRSV)

A few months ago I received a call from a person who had attended worship with our local group of Jesus’ followers a week or two before. The caller had taken issue with the message that had been delivered by another one of our members and was mightily upset about it. I listened to the complaints and asked a few questions to try and understand, but it became clear to me that what this person heard and what they read into the words that had been said were not consistent with the message I heard. I’m not sure where the vehemence was coming from, but it was unwarranted.

One of the things I’ve learned along life’s journey is that there will always be naysayers. For every person who tells me “great job” after I give a message, I know there is an equal (or greater) number of people highly critical of me and what I said. For every person who says they value my leadership, there is an equal (or greater) number of people taking pot shots at me behind my back. This is life. Even Jesus had critics. While He rode waves of popularity, there were always those objecting and arguing with everything He said and did. Raise a man from the dead and they want to kill you. But, that was nothing new. There were numerous times, from Nazareth to Jerusalem, that the crowds wanted to kill Him. In today’s chapter, we see evidence that the criticism and questioning came even among his closest followers.

Today I’m reminded that I can’t control what others think and say. There will always be naysayers. People get out of sorts for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it is for conscious reasons, though I find that often a naysayer’s anger comes from hidden places in the heart which they have not explored. My job is to try to be understanding, gentle, loving and kind while standing firm in what I know and believe to be true.

Which Story Will I Choose to Believe?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)

I realized somewhere along my life journey that I had a tape recorder playing in my head. The recording was a montage of voices of the past and negative blurts that had clung to my soul as though someone had stuck them there with velcro. The recording played on a loop in my head like Muzac in a department store. I was largely unaware of it most of the time, but the recording played over and over and over again reinforcing certain negative messages:

  • I’m not a good enough person
  • I’m not a good enough husband
  • I’m not a good enough dad
  • If people really knew me they’d reject me
  • I’m such an idiot
  • I don’t have a clue what I’m doing
  • I’m never going to be [fill in the blank]
  • I’m such a hopeless wretch, God won’t really forgive me

There came a point in my journey when I became aware of these shame-full messages whispering in the background of my consciousness. I began to realize just how insidious and powerful they were in framing my self image, my perspective, and even my behaviors. They contributed to nagging attitudes of insecurity and defeat.

I began to listen more carefully. I began to write these negative blurts down as I heard them and then identified them. Where possible, I identified the source of that negative blurt from my past. If possible, I tried to identify how and when it was that I came to believe that negative message about myself. I brought them out into the light of day and examined them thoroughly, memorizing what they looked life, sounded like, and felt like.

I began consciously, day-by-day, to create a new recording. This recording was based on affirming messages sourced on what God says about me:

  • I am loved
  • I am fearfully and wonderfully made
  • I am forgiven, my sins remembered no more
  • I am purified from all unrighteousness
  • I am blessed
  • I am a child of God
  • I am an heir of God
  • I am the light of the world
  • I am the salt of the earth
  • I am more than a conqueror
  • I am enriched in every way

From that point on, whenever I recognized one of my old negative blurts whispering to me, I turned up the volume on my new recording. It wasn’t a quick process. It took time and tenacious effort. Slowly, however, things began to shift. My mind began to transform and let go of the old messages as it embraced the new.

Today, I’m thinking about the story that I have for so long told about myself deep in the recesses of my soul. I’m thinking about how much that story contrasts with the story that God tells about me. So often I’m the prodigal child approaching God, hat-in-hand, repeating the self-written story of my wretched unworthiness. God is the prodigal’s father believing and telling a very different story of just how loved, honored, and valued I am.

The question is: Which story will I choose to believe?

Shame-less

source: fabbriciuse via flickr
source: fabbriciuse via flickr

They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. Ezekiel 39:26 (NIV)

I reached a point as an adult in which I realized that for much of my life journey I had been plagued with an underlying sense of shame, 

Shame (noun) \ˈshām\ a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.

I felt a constant sense of being “less than” some sort of ubiquitous “should be.” I had a friend and therapist who once asked me to place a label to the core pain I felt deep in my spirit. After pondering the question for a week or two the answer I came up with was “not enough.”

This led me on a journey of learning more about shame. There is healthy shame and there is unhealthy shame. Like our appetite for food, healthy shame is a necessary part of a balanced life. Shame for our honest mistakes and shortcomings motivates us to check our behavior and make positive changes. But, appetites unbridled lead to unhealthy places. Shame that is unchecked and out of control leads to all sorts of negative consequences like negative self image, depression, seeking to cover our nagging negative feelings in unhealthy ways, and etc.

I came to realize over time that I was not alone in my struggle. Most people, whether they realize it or not, grapple with an underlying sense of shame. I have come to the conclusion that unhealthy shame is a very natural part of the human condition after The Fall. My discoveries led me to a time of study, introspection, and change. I began catching myself when my thoughts were given over to shame. I started consciously allowing myself to be affirmed in an active counter balance to my destructive self talk. As a result, I have I’ve found myself in much healthier places over time.

Today’s chapter is a continuation of the prophetic foreshadowing of the end times that began in yesterday’s chapter. I found it interesting that one of the restorative spiritual promises God gives is that the people will, in this climactic conclusion, “forget their shame.” I look forward to the Day when I can completely forget my shame.

Until then, I will continue on in my struggle to keep unhealthy shame in check, one day at a time.

Chapter-a-Day Hebrews 12

Deutsch: Historische Federzeichnung einer schu...
Image via Wikipedia

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:11 (NLT)

I still remember many of the spankings I received as a child. I don’t remember them because they were awful or excessive or unjust in any way. Spankings were relatively few in my home and reserved for times we’d totally been caught being naughty. For the record, I also remember sitting on the bathroom sink while my mom soaped up her hands and proceeded to wash the inside of my mouth out. I deserved that, too. Funny, my sister says she can’t remember ever getting a spanking, but she did. Several times. I guess I remember those for her.

As a parent one of the most difficult parts of the journey is disciplining your children. You don’t want to be too lenient, but you don’t want to be heavy handed. Each child is different in the way they respond to it, and every circumstance is different in the severity of discipline warranted. Appropriate discipline changes with the age of the child and his or her temperament. I had one child whom I could discipline with the mere look of disappointment and another child who seemed never to admit doing or saying anything wrong….ever. Needless to say, in our home discipline sometimes required different approaches depending on the offender.

No parent disciplines perfectly.

At the same time, discipline is required. It’s required for all of us if we’re going to develop into well adjusted and behaved people. We need clear understanding of right and wrong. We need to know when we’ve done well and when we’ve crossed over the line. We need appropriate negative reinforcement along with appropriate positive reinforcement.

Today, I’m thankful for parents who knew when to punish and when to praise. I’m thankful for good kids who responded to both pats on the back and pats on the butt. As the journey draws nearer to the time when my children may be having children of their own, I pray that they will find wisdom and balance in their own parenting. As I continue my journey as a child of the Creator, I pray that I will respond appropriately to both discipline and praise all the days of my life.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 10

by ercwttmn via Flickr

Too much talk leads to sin.
Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.
Proverbs 10:19 (NLT)

I was doing some call coaching last week and a gentleman I was working with made an interesting observation. “The longer my call goes,” he said, “the more likely it is that I’ll say something stupid or else get myself in a situation in which I should respond a certain way and miss saying something. When I keep my calls short and to the point they tend to be better quality.”

I remember being struck in that moment by what he was saying and how wise King Solomon would have applauded this gentleman’s observation. In essence, this man was capturing the heart of the proverb above from today’s chapter. The longer we go in loose, idle talk the more easily we can slip into conversation that can be inherently negative and unproductive.

I am reminded once again of what we read in the book of James a few weeks ago: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

Today, I’m going to try and keep my conversation clear, positive and to the point.

Chapter-a-Day Amos 2

Negative campaigning
Image by gorfor via Flickr

God’s Message: “Because of the three great sins of Israel —make that four—I’m not putting up with them any longer.
They buy and sell upstanding people. People for them are only things—ways of making money. They’d sell a poor man for a pair of shoes. Amos 2:6 (MSG)

Today is election day, and I’m relieved to not have the endless political attack ads running 24/7. It’s amazing the depth to which these negative ads sink, on both sides of the aisle. In fact, I find it sad how low the level of discourse sinks. We don’t like what others think or believe, so we generlize them, objectify them, and slap on a label. That way, we can speak arrogantly, disdainfully, and feel no guilt or shame. We’ve reduced them to “things” just like the people of Israel in Amos’ prophecy.

By contrast, Jesus told us to love our enemies, even our political enemies, and bless those who run attack ads against us, make snide jokes about us, write mean and outrageous things about us. I may not agree with a person’s political views, but they are still a person of intrinsic value and worth. Jesus died for them, too.

God, help me today to love and bless those with whom I disagree.

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