Archive for the ‘Home’ Category


“Jerry Fletcher is a man who sees conspiracies everywhere. But if you keep doing that long enough, sooner or later you’re going to get one right…”  That was the teaser line used for the 1997 movie, Conspiracy Theory, starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts. I would offer to the end of that teaser: “…however, sometimes you don’t get it right because you are not filtering life through a proper lens.  Sometimes growing up in a dysfunctional environment, or a single traumatic event will cause an individual to respond to life from a skewed perspective.”

That’s what this series of blogs is all about.  We are looking at what some have called, “Stinkin’ Thinkin;’” Those unhealthy relationship patterns that leave us wondering, “What’s wrong with me!” I would like to pick up today with the pattern of…

2. Mistrust toward others

a. Isolate yourself

The story you tell people is that you are a loner or that you prefer to keep to yourself but the truth is that you don’t trust people. And the safest thing to do is to put up walls and stay to yourself because your mind tells you that the only person you can trust is you. I use the words stay to yourself but I could have said protect yourself because that is exactly what people do. They protect themselves by staying away from other people. Mistrust can cause people to isolate themselves from other people but it can also encourage some people to be:

b. Codependent upon someone else

There is a negative side to this one. There are people who are in abusive situations and they will defend their partner and refuse to acknowledge any of their faults even though the relationship is destructive. But that is not all there is to codependency. There are people who trust only one other person and so they pour their life into that person and receive love and acceptance primarily from that one person. The whole world ultimately revolves around this person. They make this person their life source and will do whatever it takes to stay close to them. Codependent people tend to be jealous and aggressive toward those who get in between them and their partner. Other relationships are neglected because other people cannot be trusted. People can be codependent with their spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or even just a friend. Parents can even become so focused on their children that they ignore their spouse. Do you know anyone like that? Mistrust toward others.

Please allow me to suggest as an antidote to mistrust: SEARCH FOR PEOPLE TO TRUST.

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can really find one who is really faithful? Proverbs 20:6 NLT

It is hard to find people who are trustworthy. But start trying. Take a risk!

Some of you know that I recently moved to a new location.  I have decided that I am going to take my own advice here.  Each time I go to the store, post office, doctor’s office, or church, I tell myself that I could be crossing paths with my new best friend.  That’s what happened with Andy and Marlene. We met them at church.  I discovered that Andy makes a slap-yo-mamma good seafood gumbo! What a great couple who are so encouraging to us.  It happens over and over around the world. Disconnected people find true friendship. I encourage you to take the risk, be friendly and you will attract friends.

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I read this story recently:

In April of 1988 I came home to discover that my mother had left home. Most of her belongings were gone as well as the mobile concession trailer that my dad and a man named Lloyd had finished working on just that weekend. In a few hours my dad and I received a call from Lloyd’s wife. She was wondering where he was. It did not take long to figure out what had happened. In about 2 weeks we got a call from my mom. She and Lloyd were in the state of Washington. Since then I’ve only seen my mother about 5 times. Before my mother left we fought constantly and the fights were even more intense afterward. It wasn’t until 1992 that we started to get along again. We’ve had several shaky moments since then but for the most part we get along ok. The lack of closeness between me and my mother and the disintegrating relationship between my mom and dad created serious consequences for me. I’m still working on such things as what real intimacy is and how to develop it in my own marriage as well as how to communicate strong feelings without starting a fight. There is still distance between my mother and me that I’m not sure can be erased simply because she has missed such a large part of my life. I struggle with feelings of bitterness even though I’m trying to forgive her.

I see bitterness as a self-damaging result of unforgiveness.  Today I want to explore this and other relationship damaging, life blocking symptoms of a person who carries a load of unforgiveness.

a. Bitterness

Bitterness is so deceptive because it is perfectly legitimate to feel hurt and abandoned and betrayed. The problem lies in how we responsed to these emotions. It is our response to these emotions that get us into bitterness.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15 NIV

Bitterness takes root in our heart and continues to grow into a huge tree. In Florida, we had an over abundance of what we affectionately called “stink weed.” It would completely overtake an azalea bush we had in our front yard.  It had to be pulled out but when you pull it out is when you understand where it gets its nickname.  It would stink to high heaven!  Bitterness is much like sink weed in that it makes our personality stink to everyone who comes into contact with us. It causes us much trouble and pain within ourselves. And because we have become embittered, we defile others with our negativity. Do you know anyone like that?

Another way to know if you have a pattern of unforgiveness toward someone is that you may tend to have:

b. Shallow Relationships

This one is not only related to unforgiveness but people that have patterns of unforgiveness rarely have deep relationships because deep relationships require conflict. Did you realize that? You are not in a deep relationship with anyone with whom you have not had a major conflict. Conflict and deep relationships go hand in hand.  People who have a pattern of unforgiveness tend to avoid conflict because it plays back the tapes of the past that are so fresh because forgiveness hasn’t taken place. So let me just ask you, are you struggling with unforgiveness? Is there some bitterness in your life? Are there many people who really know who you are? Or do you tend to stay pretty shallow with people?

Is there someone you need to forgive?  I’m not going to tell you it is easy but I am going to tell you it is do-able and necessary if you want to find joy and fulfillment in life.

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Jimmy had what most people would consider to be a normal childhood – at least, as “normal” was defined back in the 1960s.

His father and mother had a stable marriage. Both worked hard at full-time jobs to provide as much of the “American Dream” as possible – a nice home, two cars, a dog and summer vacations. And for the most part, Jimmy and his two younger sisters felt secure in this environment.

In elementary school Jimmy was small for his age, which meant that he was a favorite target for Joe, the neighborhood bully. Because his parents worked, most before-school mornings and after-school afternoons were spent at a neighbor’s house where an adult was at home. Unfortunately, for Jimmy, that house was Joe’s house and the adult was Joe’s grandmother.

At Joe’s house, Jimmy endured regular abuse which included insults, taunting and, on many occasions, getting beat up. To make matters worse, whenever Jimmy tried to tell his parents what was going on, Joe’s grandmother would inform them that, in reality, Jimmy was the problem and her angelic grandson had no choice but to defend himself. (By the way, Joe was about six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than Jimmy).

But Jimmy’s parents believed her anyway. “If you would stop agitating him,” they would say, “Joe wouldn’t pick on you or beat you up.”

For almost three years this went on, until the end of Jimmy’s sixth grade year. At that point a bizarre confrontation occurred which finally convinced his parents that something was seriously wrong. Within weeks, they sold their home and moved away.

Today, as an adult, Jimmy still deals with the repercussions from that period in his life. He’s not a little kid anymore but he’s still usually the shortest person in a crowd. It may sound strange but sometimes he wonders if people take him seriously because of his height (or lack of it). Sometimes he is intimidated when engaging in a conversation with people who are bigger and taller than he is. Rationally speaking, he knows there’s no reason for it, but that’s how it is.

Most people underestimate the power that past events have on their present. Today we are talking about overcoming dysfunction in our lives. And we are going to start by looking into some patterns from the past.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (patterns). We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God… 2 Corinthians 10:3-5NIV

This verse is talking about strongholds or patterns of behavior, ruts that we as human beings so easily fall into and have a tenancy to remain in.

All of us have these patterns in our lives. Many times we are not aware that we have them. In fact, most people go through life totally unaware that many of their interpersonal relationships are affected and sometimes controlled by these strongholds, or patterns. And here is the kicker: most of these patterns began in us when we were children or teenagers.

Before I continue I need to say that these patterns may be related to your family situation and they may not. But if it applies to you I ask you to consider how these patterns are affecting you or someone you love.

The first pattern from our past that has the power to affect our present is:

1. Unforgiveness toward others and yourself

This pattern is foundational for all other patterns. Unforgiveness leads to a thousand other problems.

Unforgiveness is hard to understand because sometimes we have a valid reason to be upset at our circumstances. So how do you know if you have unforgiveness toward someone or if you are just wounded from the experience? 

When you think of them do you get angry?

When thoughts come up, do you immediately relate them to the past events that caused you pain?

When you’re with them do you look for ways to get offended?

Are you waiting to find something to pick at when you are around that person?

The question is what you do to break these patterns. How can you overcome dysfunction in your own life? How can you receive power to live as a free person in the present?

1. Practice forgiveness

You must make allowances for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13NLT

The first part of that verse says to “Make allowances for each other’s faults.” That means that we accept the fact that people are not perfect and will rarely respond like we think they should and we must learn to be ok with that, and to even expect. It means that we consider the other’s person’s situation and not just the way they have offended us. Remember the story of Jimmy? Suppose you knew that “bully Joe” was with his grandmother because his mom had abandoned him and he lived with a dad who constantly bullied Joe?  Would it be easier to forgive him and even have sympathy for him?

 Notice the second part of the verse, “Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” The reason and the power behind forgiveness is in the fact that God forgives. You forgive others because you have or could be forgiven by God. Any offense you have against someone whether it’s betrayal, neglect, meanness, or whatever the offense; you have already committed a similar offense against God. All of us have shook our fist in the face of a loving God and said, “I don’t need you! I can handle this on my own.” The ultimate act of betrayal, abuse, and neglect. And the Scripture is very clear over and over that God is able to forgive any and every sin.

So practice forgiveness. Great idea, Billy, but how? Ultimately forgiveness is a choice of your will. You may never feel like forgiving someone. But you start acting like it is so and it will eventually be so. Your emotions will change because you make a choice with your will. Temptation to have unforgiveness will still happen when the person you have forgiven does something that reminds you of the past. But make the choice to forgive again and again and again. Forgiveness is a choice and a process. The key is to make a choice to begin the process. Is it hard, yes! Is it necessary, you better believe it!! If you are having a problem with this and need help, please contact me or some friend and ask for help.

We will continue tomorrow looking at these dysfunctions and how to overcome them.

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ALTERNATE TITLE: HOW TO SURVIVE WEIRD PEOPLE!

Let’s just be honest. We all have difficult people in our lives, don’t we?  More than likely if you don’t have one, you are one.  On top of that every family has at least one chestnut roasting on the open fire and a jack frost or two who is going to be nipping at more than everyone’s noses.  You may be able to stay clear of these people for most of the year but at the holidays you are going to be thrust into the same room with weird Uncle Joe.

Here are some simple suggestions to hopefully help you achieve a measure of relational happiness this year:

1. The first step toward relational harmony is to focus on their positive qualities.

Even though your difficult person might be totally opposite from you in terms of preferences and pattern for doing life, they bring something positive to the table. In fact, they just may have a quality or two that could be lacking in your own character.

If they’re organized and you’re laid back, you could probably learn something from them about being more disciplined. (Of course, for that to happen you’ve got to have a teachable spirit). Maybe your difficult person is very spontaneous and you’re always in a rut. That rubs you the wrong way but, truthfully, in a lot of situations, it’s better to be spontaneous than in a rut. Maybe they could help you.

The Bible teaches this principle this way:

Suppose the whole body were an eye–then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! … The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 1 Corinthians 12:17-21 [NLT]

In other words, in the same way that each part of the human body, on its own, is incomplete … each person on their own is incomplete.

That person who is so hard for you to relate to is making a positive contribution somewhere. That’s step one on the road to relational harmony.

2. I won’t lie to you, step two is hard: Give up the right to be right.

There is a sign outside a mental hospital in California that says, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be well?” Let me rephrased that thought a little, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”

Getting along with people, especially with people who see things differently than we do, requires us to choose happiness over rightness. It requires us to give people the freedom to be wrong. The Bible puts it this way:

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with–even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. Romans 14:1 [Msg]

Let me ask you: in your dealings with the difficult people around you how much of the strain is caused by you having to be right? What if you decided that your goal wasn’t to convince that person, but to love that person?

So, focus on positive qualities, give up the right to be right and finally …

3. Realize that “different” people are also “dearly loved” people – by God.

He created them, just like he created you. And not only did he create them, He also loved them enough to die for their sins on the cross, just as he did for yours. Why?

… God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5 [NLT]

Jesus died for difficult people and as hard as it is to swallow, we all fit in this category from time to time. He did this not because we deserved it … not because we are normal … not because of any other reason than the fact that we are dearly loved by him. And that makes us valuable.

I think it would help us a lot in our relationships with others if we could remember this, if we could remember that we’re dealing with someone for whom God put his Son’s life on the line.

So, let me ask you …

That person or persons who’ve been in your mind since you started reading this … what do you need to do about them?

Maybe you need to make a little prayer out of that verse we read earlier. “God, you give patience and encouragement. Help me and this other person to live in complete harmony with each other …” Let me assure you that is a prayer God wants to answer.

Maybe you need to sit down and make a list of positive qualities about this person and start complementing them on those things, start blessing them in those areas. That will have an amazing effect on them.

Maybe you need to say to yourself, “it’s OK if this person is wrong. I won’t die if they don’t let me be right.” You’ll sleep a lot better at night and the tension level in the relationship will immediately start to drop.

Maybe you need to get a vision of that person’s value in God’s eyes. Maybe you need to get a vision of your own value in God’s eyes.

You will get an opportunity to use this during the holidays. These suggestions, however simple, will work to help make the season bright which is my wish for you this year.

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GAME PLAN

Ok, let’s get more specific. How does the game actually work in relationships?

In my previous post I wrote that all you needed to play the kids version of King of the Hill was a bunch of kids and some elevated surface. To play relational King of the Hill what you need is a basic belief that the way you relate to others is the right way (and even if it’s not, it doesn’t matter).

In other words, you have to have it in your mind that your way of doing things – including relationships – is superior to everyone else’s; that there isn’t a whole lot left for you to learn on the subject; and even if there was, it doesn’t really matter because you are strong enough to make everyone around you submit to your way.

Most of us aren’t quite as in-your-face as that. We’ve learned that there are several strategies to get the upper hand and to take charge of those around us. As I hit on these you might want to place a mental check mark next to the ones that apply to you.

1. “Pull rank” verbally or non-verbally.

When your kids complain about your policies and decisions and want to know why, is your primary explanation to them “because I said so?” “I’m your father” …”I’m your mother” … That’s what it means to pull rank.

In essence, whenever we communicate, “you have to do it my way because, right now, I am higher on the hill than you are” we’re pulling rank. And if we’re not careful, we can fall into a pattern of doing that to our spouses, children, subordinates at work and even our friends.

Is there ever a time when it is valid to pull rank? Yes, but very rarely. Only when it is critical that things be done your way and only after every other option has been exhausted.

2. Take offense when someone questions you.

This communicates that you don’t like anyone thinking that they may have a better way or better idea than you do. To be King of the Hill, you need everyone to automatically assume that your way is the best way, that your ideas are the best ideas. So, you need to let people know that if they don’t do that, you are going to make things hard on them.

3. Expect others to compensate for your relational weaknesses.

Have you ever heard yourself saying to someone else, “Look, this is just who I am. This is how I roll. Take it or leave it”?

Occasionally, it may be ok to say something like that, but people who play this game say it all the time. Instead of admitting their weaknesses and trying to improve themselves, they throw the burden onto everyone else. “You learn how to deal with me,” they say, “and we’ll all get along just fine.”

4. Stick together primarily with “birds of a feather.”

It’s hard to play this game for a long time because it hurts to have people leave you or distance themselves from you. So, you need to have other people (who are also playing the game in their relationships) encourage you that your way is the right way. They understand exactly how you feel, because they, too, are surrounded by jerks who just need to get in line.

5. Rely on logic to control people.

“Knowledge is power”, they say, and so people who play this game strive to become masters of knowledge – or at least enough knowledge to have control over others. (Very rarely does their knowledge ever apply to them personally). They know it all and they know how to present it in a way that makes everyone else look stupid or foolish.

So, that’s the strategy, But how do you win?

A win (and I use that word somewhat sarcastically, because nobody really wins in this game) amounts to successfully covering up your personal insecurity through pride.

That’s the real goal of people who play this game. On the outside, they appear totally self-sufficient. But, on the inside, they are full of self-doubt. “Do people really care what I think? Will they listen to me? Am I valuable? Am I capable?” … and the list of questions goes on and on. So, to compensate, they put on a front that says, in essence, “I’m better than you”, which is the definition of PRIDE.

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A third way you can create a significant life is…

3. Look for eternal significance in all you do.
Three brick-workers were asked what they were doing. One said, “I’m laying bricks.” Another said, “I’m making $17.50 an hour.” The third said, “I’m building a cathedral for the glory of God.” All three were doing the same job, yet all three had a different perspective about it.

The key to significance–to living a satisfying life without regrets–is in recognizing the eternal value of the little things you do.

Steve May, a pastor to whom I give much credit to for this series, punctuated this truth. He said a young widow told him “It was about a year after her husband, Tim, had passed away. She and her family were having Thanksgiving Dinner and everyone was saying what they were thankful for. Her 8-year-old son said ‘I’m thankful for the days that Dad went outside and played catch with me.’ The woman said, ‘Tim’s office was at the house. Whenever a client missed an appointment, he would take Michael outside to play catch. He did it to defuse his anger over the client missing a session; he had no idea he was creating a memory that would last a lifetime.’ Then she said, ‘If he had realized how significant it was, I’m sure he would have done it more often.'”

Every day matters, even the mundane, are filled with eternal significance. It may seem to us that we’re just killing time, but we could be strengthening the bond of a relationship. It may appear just small talk to us, but we could be saying something that will change someone’s life forever. We may think we’re just laying bricks, but we could be building a cathedral for the glory of God. Look for meaning in the little things.

We see this principle in the life of Christ again and again. He would be having a meal with a friend and turn it into a life-changing experience. He would be walking along the road with his disciples and see a tree, and teach his disciples a lesson in faith.

Do you want to create a life without regrets? Remember this: There are no throw-away moments. Every day matters. Look for the eternal significance in your work, your words, your relationships, and your actions.

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It is not uncommon for homes to have rules and boundaries for curfew and chores and things such as these. Let me suggest some you may not have thought about:

1. Spending Time is Non-Negotiable

If you want your relationship with your teen to move beyond entertaining them and providing for them you will need to schedule it and be regular with it.  A weekly father/son breakfast or a father/daughter dinner to spend some time developing your relationship needs to be a non-negotiable. Make it a rule – we will go out and eat together once a week. “If you don’t show up, you owe me $10. If I don’t show up, I owe you $25”

2. Listen More Than You Talk

In simple terms: Keep Quiet! Instead of always nagging, correcting, cajoling, or critiquing – just be quiet. Look for opportunities to lead the conversation around to where you ask your teen to explain their point of view, their solution to a problem, or how they arrived at a conclusion, then allow them to talk. Don’t try to correct their thinking – just let them talk.

Some parents just need to zip it. Teenagers today need to know they have someone who will truly listen to them and not judge them for what they say. So sharpen your own listening habits, and your teenager may just learn how to listen to you. Your home needs to be a place where everyone listens so make it a rule.

3. Lighten Up! That’s an Order!

Some families need to learn to laugh together. So, make it a rule to do something wild and wacky together every week. Parents today take themselves and their teens way too seriously, at times. I still remember the day that I lightened up with my kids.  I decided to enjoy them and try to get them to enjoy me more.

4. Our Rules Will Be Periodically Reviewed

Rules need to be reviewed from time to time to see if they are still appropriate as your kids grow from childhood to teenagers. For example, “We must hold hands crossing the street.” Now, that was appropriate for little children, but for a teenagers it would be, well, just weird! Likewise, a rule such as “curfew is 9 o’clock” for a 12-year-old may be obsolete for a 17- year-old.

Nothing undermines rules, even in society, more than when they are totally inappropriate, for example:

In Hartford, Connecticut, it is illegal to cross the street walking on your hands.

In Memphis, Tennessee, it is illegal for a woman to drive a car unless there is a man either running or walking in front of it waving a red flag to warn approaching motorists and pedestrians.

In Washington, it is illegal to drive an ugly horse.

In Youngstown, Ohio, it is unlawful to run out of gas.

By the way, some rules never change and these are the kind of rules that apply to all family members, including the adults. They generally have to do with the values you hold dear, like: respect, morality, family observances, faith, common decency and societal laws.

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