Monday, May 14, 2018

When Dissed, Deflate

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       Have you ever watched a child, not yours of course, disrespect a parent or an adult? Maybe you smile it away, but inside you probably want to step in and say, "Hey, want me to handle this? Please, let me handle this."
       There's something about disrespect that's different. We can excuse a mistake, but disrespect is not a mistake. It seems to reveal a superior attitude, a self-promoting, judgmental, dirty little heart. Was I too strong there? Well, if I was, then answer me this. How do you feel when you're disrespected?  Look, I'm not having a Carly Simon moment. I don't think you're vain. This article isn't about you, but I want to ask you. How do you feel when you're disrespected, and how should you feel?
       So, I was sitting here in my study thinking about a situation and I felt disrespected. I had a little conversation with myself (not out loud, since that can get you in trouble). I started having a self-protecting, self-justifying conversation. You know how it goes. No one is there but you, but you're more than enough to form a committee and justify yourself. In the middle of all of this a question came to my mind, "Why don't you just deflate your self-importance?'
       I paused, and then immediately thought, "The problem isn't the disrespect I perceive from others. The problem is my inflated sense of self-worth." Once again, you may disagree with me, but hear me out. As I pondered that thought, I thought about Jesus. I don't have the greatest memory in the world, but I just couldn't remember a single time he ever said to someone, "You will NOT talk to me like that!"  Yes, he rebuked Peter when he tried to get him to avoid the cross, but Jesus was not self-defensive of his ego.
       Then I remembered the letter Paul wrote to the disciples in Philippi, and that passage in chapter 2 that says,  "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves." Well, that's certainly deflating to my offended ego. "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the from of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."
       There it is. It appears that even when Jesus was disrespected, it didn't affect his worth. He had already deflated himself, since he had no need to inflate himself. He is not only love embodied, but humility epitomized. And, it seems the Holy Spirit was saying to me that when I am offended by disrespect, I should take the opportunity to recognize my own over-blown sense of worth. I should recognize my pride and give God thanks for the opportunity to deflate myself, since my goal is to be like Christ Jesus; Jesus who, though God, laid off the glory of Heaven to put on flesh.
       The next time you hear a kid speak disrespectfully to a parent, they may need severe discipline. But, so may you. The next time someone disses you, they may be wrong. But, you may simply need to deflate that pride.

PHOTO: The photo of the upset Capucin was taken by Encarma Saez Gonalons & Victor Martinez Moll, and has been modified. It is used as public domain, and its use does not indicate that they agree or disagree with this article.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

It Is Hard To Serve God, Because It Is Hard To Serve People

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their tribulations. The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit. One who is righteous has many adversities, but the Lord rescues him from them all.
Psalm 34:17-19

       We who serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are guided by the Bible. It is a description of perfection. We follow Jesus, the perfect One, and his teachings with a desire to become more and more like him. So, perfection is ever before our eyes, except, it seems, when we look at the world around us and those we serve.  
       It's impossible to serve God and not serve people. It doesn't matter if you're the preacher, the teacher, the greeter, or the bottle-washer. All of us, not just the pastors, elders & deacons, serve one another. As a matter of fact, if you follow Jesus you must serve his people. And, serving people is hard. It's hard because people are imperfect.  
       Sometimes we don't even think about their imperfections, because their character defects seem minor. Sometimes, however, their imperfections are far from minor. Either way, it doesn't matter. We live in a world with people who are not yet perfected. And, we follow a Savior whose love compels us to serve them. Their imperfections aren't just a reality. They're actually the focus of our service. We serve to build up the body of Christ, "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ's fullness." (Eph.4:13) Pay special attention to the word, "until."
       Their imperfection, coupled with Christ's love within us for them, results in suffering. Service produces some measure of suffering. Sometimes, though, our suffering is caused by our own expectations. Since we are striving for the measure of Christ, we expect that of others. When they are not able to produce, and their failure adversely affects us, we suffer. It's not wrong to be disappointed, but the depth of that disappointment is often the result of faulty expectations. If our expectations for perfection lead us to stop serving, then our expectations need urgent adjustment. Remember, no one we serve is perfect. If you have been disappointed, or perhaps even crushed in the service of Christ, I want to suggest three helps.
       First, keep your eyes on Jesus. He's the only one who is perfect, the only one who will never fail, and the only one who will never disappoint. By the way, if he has disappointed you, then you have wrongly judged him. Even then he will save your crushed spirit and rescue you from your many adversities.
       Second, with Jesus ever before your eyes, take a good look in the mirror. When you do, you'll be quickly reminded that you also are not perfect. The troubles you have when you serve the imperfect are part of God's plan to perfect you. When you serve others, and their imperfection makes that difficult, give God thanks for the trial that is perfecting your faith. Every trial is an opportunity for your growth.
       Third, serve them anyway. If you don't serve, you don't follow Jesus. If you follow Jesus, you will serve. It's better to follow Jesus. I think Teresa of Calcutta put it well when she wrote,

People are often unreasonable,
irrational and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you 
of selfish,  ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful,
you will win some unfaithful friends
and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere,
people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating,
others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness,
some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you to today,
will often be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have,
and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

(Photo is the painting Lavement des pieds de Saint Pierre par Jesus, public domain.)

Monday, April 30, 2018

From New Orleans To Haskell County And Parts In Between

Because of the proof provided by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedient confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone. And as they pray on your behalf, they will have deep affection for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.
2 Corinthians 9:13-14

     I want to express my appreciation to the many people who made a long week much shorter. My stepfather, Jim McCurley, had a major stroke on a Thursday morning and died the following Sunday morning. In between the event and his death, many people prayed and cared. And they continue to pray and care.
     Professors in a doctoral seminar made it possible for me to miss half the seminar and still keep up. Danny took care of Wednesday. Deacons and elders took care of the congregation. Our church and many others prayed and offered their love and care. Tracy took care of everything else in the office. Thanks.
     My sister, Christi, made multiple trips from Lubbock, used her expertise in hospice care to support her mother and Jim's sons and family. And, the information freak that I am, she kept me regularly updated. Brad and Haley, you've been so good to my mom, and when the time came you took care of Jim. So thankful.
     My daughter graciously road (drove most of the way) with me from NOLA, to Sabine Parish to pick up Denise, and then to Haskell.  People who loved Jim, his sons, our mother, and all our family filled the church. Matthew and Craig did a wonderful job honoring their fathers - the earthly one and the heavenly one. Mike sang like only he can. Shelton, brother, you ministered throughout.
     Twenty-one women cooked and fed us lunch. Ladies, never underestimate the importance of the spiritual gift of hospitality. Several hours after the service, as we gathered in Wichita Falls for the graveside, there were more friends and family from that neck of the woods.
     So, from NOLA, to Haskell County, to parts in between, "Thank you." Forgive me if I didn't list your name. One more thing. As Jim and Mom have struggled with health issues over the past two years, we (the adult children) have struggled with them being so far from any of us. That's where the last "thank you" comes in.
     Thanks to all who continue to love and care for our Mimi (my mother). She's not ready to pack up and move to be near one of us. She has too many people she needs to serve right where she is as long as she can. It's difficult to realize her increased needs, know we could meet them, and know that she's not ready to move. It is a great blessing to see how many people there are around her who aren't just saying they care, but are showing it. Love you all.