Tuesday, May 12, 2009


“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Alexander Graham Bell quotes

“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations - one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it - you will regret both.”

Soren Kierkegaard quotes

Accept the pain, cherish the joys, resolve the regrets; then can come the best of benedictions - "If I had my life to live over again, I'd do it all the same

Regret-Thesaurus entries

Regret is a very common emotional experience for most of us. I don't think many people would argue that statement. If that is the case, why is the term nearly absent from the Bible? Here is the one substantive quote regarding regret I could find:

2Co 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Why? Because regret is a hollow emotion. I would go farther and say it is a useless one. It is feeling sorrow for something one did, or failed to do, but without any sense of responsibility or guilt. Feeling that you didn't necessarily do something wrong, but that you could have done better or differently and brought about a more satisfactory result. That's an understandable feeling, but, what do you do with it? Regret comes after the fact, so you can't change the outcome. The incident is in the past, so you can't fix it.

Are you really feeling regret, or is it remorse? What's the difference you ask? Remorse includes with it the feeling of guilt and responsibility. That's a horse of a different color altogether. There is an entire chapter of the Old Testament dedicated to the expression of remorse (Lamentations). There are several other synonyms of regret that include guilt that are used profusely throughout the Bible.

So. If you did something wrong, sinned against God or another person and are remorseful, repent (see 2 Cor. above) and release yourself from your burden. If you didn't do anything wrong, then what? The only use for regret I can see is that it teaches us. Learn from it. Don't repeat your perceived failure. Grow from it. But stop punishing yourself for something you can't change, and resolve to do better next time.

Relationships, pt. 4 (final)


Job 5:2 For vexation killeth the foolish man, and jealousy slayeth the silly one.

Resentment is something that takes time to form in any relationship. It does not appear overnight. All it takes is one decision you didn't really agree with, one choice you feel your opinion wasn't taken into consideration for, or one time you failed to do something small. If that is left unchecked it will start to grow. The next time you aren't happy with something you will add it to the first one, tuck it away and save it for later. Much like the proverbial snow ball, this small annoyance can grow and grow until it is a huge impediment to any kind of honest and heartfelt communication. We are warned, "...that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled." Heb 12:15b This is so easy to let happen, to just ignore at the time of the perceived slight. But, buy the time it becomes evident that you have this mountain of resentment it becomes almost impossible to resolve it. It is a huge pile of so many small, petty, and by themselves almost insignificant things that you cannot untangle. You are just angry at all this "stuff" and when(or if) you try to explain it or seek redress you sound foolish because each individual thing is so petty. The only way to avoid this is to be aware of it, and don't let it get out of control.


The way you can stop it from getting out of control is by forgiving the other person. Think about the slight, really think about it. Is it worth destroying your relationship to hang on to? Probably not. It can be very helpful to tell the other person about it (later, not when you are still upset). Let them know how it made you feel, why you didn't like it, and how you would like do to things in the future. While you are at it, let them know that you have forgiven them and don't hold it against them (not necessarily in those words). Even if you can't bring yourself to speak to them about it, or if it seems too insignificant to bring up, you still need to honestly forgive them. Forgiveness to the point that you don't remember what was done a day or two later. Really forgive them and let it go.

I know this goes against human nature. Someone hurt you and you are going to forgive them and forget about it. Self sacrifice is involved in all substantive long term relationships. I know we all would like to be on the receiving end of the kind of forgiveness. How can you expect to get it if you don't give it?

An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.
Mohandas Gandhi

While this act may be far smaller in scale, it is essentially the same thing that Christ did on the cross. He forgave those who crucified him. He did it without them asking for it, without them apologizing, and he did it not expecting anything in return.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Relationships, pt.3

Part 2 is here

Insecurity can also be destructive to relationships. As I see it there are two ways that this effects how we relate to others; An inward manifestation and an outward one. Our own self-doubt and feelings of insecurity cause us to put up walls when people start to get to close. We become afraid of exposure, that others will see our faults and imperfections, that they might see us as we truly are and not as we would like them to see us. It may be a fear that once they see us for who we really are, they won't like what they see, or we won't be good enough anymore. We also fear rejection from others. Both of these fears tend to cause us to keep people at a distance, keep them from getting too close. This is a way of protecting ourselves from being hurt. It also keeps relationships from becoming truly deep and meaningful, they remain shallow and easily discarded. Other people may sense this, may even run right into your wall, but it is a passive defense.

The outward, aggressive manifestation of some of these same feelings is jealousy. This is one of my failings and as such, I don't feel comfortable writing too much about it. A small amount shows how much you care, any more than that reveals a lack of trust, even when it's all about your own fears it still looks like you are impuning your partners integrity, motives, sincerity...

If you are not building deep relationships how do you expect to reach others?

Trust and love combat this destroyer, and build relationships. Without trust no relationships can exist, and that begins with trust in God, Psa 31:14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." You have to be willing to trust God with your life, trust that he is in control, and trust that he will guide you through any difficulties. Without this trust any attempts to form relationships with others are going to be less than satisfactory. Trusting God should be pretty easy, right? Not always, I know. The next is trusting each other, and that is far more difficult. Trust can take years to build up between two people, to some extent is has to be earned, but it can also be given. Soldiers and some law enforcement build trust between each other in hours or days in some situations. How do they do it? Lots of opportunities for each to rely on another and to stand up to the challenge for another. You can emulate this to some extent in your own life by looking for and making the most of opportunities that arise. Even if you tend to be a bit cynical like me, try giving someone the opportunity to fail. Show them you trust them (even if you don't), give them the freedom and see what they do. If they fail, you are no worse off than if you never tried to trust them. On the other hand, if they do succeed, you will have gained trust in them. Nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Trust has many levels and much intricacy, too many fine shades to be fully explained here. But, at some point you will have enough trust in someone that you should be able to love them. Love, a four letter word, simple and direct, yet a single word cannot come close to describing all of the variations of the concept. One is forced to use other languages to say what one really means. Agape, Eros, Phila, Storge... Greek works well for this. Whether it's love of friends, family, christian brothers(sisters), or romantic love it has the same effect on insecurity. You cannot love someone and keep them out of your life, you can't withhold yourself from them. It's a mutual interaction that requires both parties. It takes work and must be looked at regularly, and even talked about sometimes. A few words can dispel months of misunderstanding.

Building relationships like this is what we are meant to do, called to do actually. Once they are built they have to be maintained from time to time as well.

Part 4(final) is here

Monday, February 9, 2009


Taking a short break from my series due to life happening.

I have been feeling that I needed to be a bit more forward in making my faith known. But, at the same time I am very reluctant to do so. One reason is that I have had many people push their faith on me in the past and I didn't respond well to it, generally pushed me further way. Beyond that, inviting people to come to church was something I didn't think I'd ever do, not really anyways. I've never had a problem talking about religion with others, but that has always been more of an academic discussion in the past, not a real discussion of faith with clear cut right and wrong answers. Beyond that, I couldn't really see myself inviting others to church either. I mean, I can invite another christian to try my church if they are not happy with theirs, but it's a whole different thing to try to get a non-church goer to attend. I was really unsure if I'd be able to start this kind of discussion or how I would. I was a bit scared that I might not see an opportunity or if I did that I might not take it.

Well, last night an opportunity smacked me over the head. There was no missing it. A little small talk, then he asks, "you're a Christian, right?" He had asked me that before and it had led to a random discussion with no direction or conclusion. But, last night he had some serious questions and was looking for solid answers. He believes in God, but is not a "serious" Christian. He had been influenced to start questioning some of the basic doctrine of Christianity, specifically the devine nature of Jesus. He seemed to be losing his grip on his faith, heading down the path of relativism. I did not hesitate to jump right in and answer him directly and without equivocation. He responded well and made a vague comment about maybe wanting to go to church. I ran with that too, and invited him. I didn't just leave it at that either, he gave me a somewhat positive answer, I told him I would follow up with him, and I plan on it.

For all my worrying about what I would do, if I could do it, how I would go about it... I got my answer. I wasn't nervous, saw the need clear as day, and stood up at the first opportunity. It wasn't until leaving that I realized what had happened. I felt good about it, but not proud. I was a bit surprised, but not shocked. I see it as a sign of my growth as a Christian.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Relationships, pt.2

You can find part 1 here

2. Pride as a destroyer of relationships. I never really thought of pride as an issue in my relationships, but, that's probably because I haven't spent much time thinking about what pride is and does. Pride can lead people to be critical of others, always finding fault in what they do or how they do it, while at the same time the person is unwilling to admit their own faults and short comings. It can also be a cause of superficial relationships. In order to protect your own view of yourself you keep others from getting to close and getting to know you. This way you can keep your faults hidden. Some people express their pride by always having to "oneup" everyone. They always did it better or faster, always have a story to top yours. The other thing that pride can lead to is the unwillingness to admit weakness. Admitting one's weakness is a tough one, our culture frowns upon men(particularly) admitting to any real weakness, so, whether it's pride or not is up to you and your conscience.

When it's laid out like this it becomes very clear to me how this can not only destroy relationships, but, cause them to never really get started in the first place. Beyond that, Prov 3:7 says, "Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil." I never really realized how destructive pride could be or why it was a sin so often mentioned in the Bible. Now I see how much it can effect one's relationships, and that directly impacts our mandate to love one another. So...

The opposite of pride is humility. I have to say that pride has always seemed to me to be an Old Testament theme, and Humility a New Testament one. A quick search shows that, at least these exact words, are both used about the same as each other and both are used more times in the Old than the New Testament (ESV). So much for my intuition. Well, maybe I have that gut feeling because, while the word may not be used as much in the scriptures, Christ was a constant example of humility. He didn't preach it, he did it. At least to me, his actions speak louder than any words. There is no good reason to push others away, no sense in trying to hide our weaknesses (Mat 26:41) "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." I can see how it could be a bit scary to let people in close to you. But, I've always found that the majority of them will be good to you if you give them a chance.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Not that I am by any means an expert on relationships, plenty of people can vouch for that, but my pastor presented a sermon last week that I thought was really good. I thought I would take my notes and add my own thoughts to it, I'm even going to follow his AB AB presentation. I don't really think that Biblical analysis of all situations is always the best way. Sometimes these lead to tortured readings of the Bible and lots of gap filling. I also don't subscribe to the notion that the bible has the answer to everything (If you do, take your Bible out to your garage and use it as your only manual for rebuilding your transmission). However, relationships is certainly something that is addressed at length in the Bible and a very important part of not only being a good person, but also being a good Christian. Yep, being a good Christian... John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (Love is a whole extra post, I'm sure... here's a cheat)

There seems to be a natural tendency in most relationships. They start out casual, then you get closer pretty quickly, then over time you drift apart. I'm sure most people have friends they have known almost their whole life, but they are usually few in number when compared to the number of friends who just drifted away over time. This tends to happen with groups or organizations as well as with individual people. I'm mostly thinking and writing about interpersonal relationships, but, the same key issues effect other relationships.

1. Selfishness is a part of human nature, we are all basically selfish, but it is something that will destroy a relationship. James 3:16, "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. " Most of us start out relationships being very giving, always concerned about the other person, willing to go the extra mile to do things for them. But, over time, we back away from this and slowly start to turn back inward to taking care of ourselves first. It's easy to do, just stop doing something because they can do it themselves, or not taking that extra minute to do something for someone else because you are too busy. Eventually you are too busy to do anything for the other person. They will normally do the same to you, you will resent it (see #4), and grow even further apart. The tit for tat retaliation is relationships is horribly destructive, and we all do it, always have ("well, he hit me first."), being aware of it can help limit it.

So what's the answer? Being selfless. Doing for the other person because you can without expecting anything in return. (Did I mention that these are not my ideas and that I'm as lacking in these areas as everyone else?) Jesus showed us this famously by washing his disciples feet before the Last Supper. He didn't make a show of it, didn't ask for anything in return, he did it as an example for them to follow. He led by example. That's what we are supposed to do, follow his example in our everyday life, and by doing so be an example for others. If you are going to do this you have to stop keeping track, you can't keep an accounting, it won't work if you do. Very hard to practice. However, it is also something that can keep a relationship close, well worth the effort.

This is going to get a little longer than I thought. I'll end here for now, Part 1 of 4.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thoughts on God's words

I had a bit of an epiphany today, just a minute ago. Not the first time the thought has crossed my mind, but, I thought I'd record it this time. It is truly amazing how often I find myself troubled by something, searching my mind for the right direction or just puzzling over what I should do. There have been a couple occasions here recently when I have found myself doing just that. I figured the best thing to do would be to give it a rest and find something else to think about for a while, just distract yourself and come back to it later. A few times, like today, I chose to read some section of the Bible, generally chosen at random, in order to fill my mind with something other than whatever was bothering me. Now here's the amazing part (me thinking things into the ground is neither novel or rare), usually within a few verses I find some words of wisdom that are directly applicable to my situation. Even when I don't think I'm reading about anything even close to related.

Today is a perfect example. I had some conflicting emotions and thoughts. I have taken to writing these things out in order to get them off my chest and sometimes clarify just what is on my mind. So, first I wrote a poem (it's really bad and should never see the light of day). That was half of what was going on and did not seem to get it all out. So, next I wrote an email, that I saved as a draft, to the person in question explaining my thoughts and feelings(most likely this should never see the light of day either). But, neither one really helped me a who lot and I was still unsettled. Casting about for something, I figured I'd read today's Proverb, Proverbs 15. There in verse 2 was what I needed to hear, "The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness." Continuing to read there were several more verses in a similar vain. I really had nothing to be so conflicted about and certainly didn't need to be spilling my half thought out ideas on anyone else. Just keep my mouth shut, take a few deep breaths, and trust that things will work out just fine.

It is amazing how something so small can have such a big impact on you. It brightened my whole afternoon. I'm sure by heeding the advice I will also be brightening someone else's afternoon as well. Taking a few minutes break before taking an action is a good thing. Doing some reading during that break is not a bad way to spend the time. The Bible's well suited to reading small sections that stand on their own. Might brighten your day, or someone else's.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


There is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant and I would rather die a thousand deaths.
-General Robert E. Lee, [Said before the surrender at Appomattox, 9 April 1865]

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done' and those to whom God says, 'All right, then, have it your way'.
-C.S. Lewis

Might as well jump right into the deep end. The doctrine/concept of surrender to Christ has been on my mind of late. The term is not new to me, but the depth of meaning is something which had not truly reached the level of understanding for me. It's still a bit hard to grasp intellectually, and even harder to try to put into practice. The spark that led me to look into this more was a story about Billy Graham that I read in Henry Blackaby's, Spiritual Leadership. In it he stated that one had to surrender more than once, even repeatedly throughout ones life. As usual, these things bounce around in my head for weeks or months, I seem to see the topic discussed everywhere I look, and eventually something just 'clicks.'

The concept of surrender runs contrary to our most basic instincts. It brings to mind defeat, loss of control, weakness, lack of ability or will, failure. These are not things that most of us desire to feel or would go out of our way to practice of our own accord. To me, this is like a lot of Christianity... sounds easy (bumper sticker slogan easy), but very hard in practice.

Surrender is not used (at least in any of the translations I have available) in the bible in the same way as in the doctrine here. It has been put together from the teachings and example Christ gave us. In Luke 14, Christ is working with a large group of new believers and explaining to them the risks and tribulations they may face if they continue to follow him. In verse 26 he tells us, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." Hate here must be seen in the context of Mat 10:37, it is a comparative term. One must love Christ more than their closest family and friends. We must be willing to put Christ first in our lives, even at the expense of our closest relationships or even our own life. While lose of life for your beliefs may not be a reality today in the US, the possibility of scorn and ridicule from others for your beliefs is very real. He is asking us to make sure we are willing to pay the price for our convictions, even unto death.

Paul tells us in Php 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." We have nothing to fear from death, and just the contrary, we should look forward to it. By accepting Christ and being born again, Col 3:3 "For you died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God." We are to accept death as something to look forward to. I don't know about you, but, for me this is very difficult, as all I know is my life. As pitiful as that life may be at times, it is the only one I have. Releasing yourself from the illusion of control and knowing that you are bound for things beyond this world is the charge we have. What you think is real is nothing, what is real and eternal is intangible. Give up everything you can see, touch, taste and feel and accept that God is in control on faith alone.

Christ gave us the perfect example of this. He is God made man, unlimited power and knowledge in a finite and fragile body. In Php 2:8 "...He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Now, I know I have at time put little emphasis on this. He know what was going to happen and why He was doing it, so, of course He did it. How does that speak to us who do not have that foresight? Thankfully, we do have some insight into His thoughts just prior to his crucifixion, Luk 22:42 "...Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Yet not My will, but Yours be done." This, to me, shows the man part of Christ, an attachment to the world and his life, yet his utter willingness to do His Father's will, acceptance of His control, surrender.

I know that I cannot go about my daily life, all day, every day, knowing in my heart that I am not in control and that God is. I know that there have been times when I have not loved Christ more than my family, friends or neighbors by my actions. I know that I have surrendered to Christ my will and my life. It is uncomfortable, like giving in to unconsciousness. That feeling of sliding into the unknown blackness. But, it is also liberating. The freedom of being free from worry. Since I cannot keep myself in this mindset at all times, I do find it necessary to renew my surrender from time to time.