Seeking to be transformed into the image of Jesus


Fix Your Divot!

My father began teaching me golf when I was nine. Once he thought I was good enough to get on an actual golf course, he taught me some of the etiquette. Stand still when someone else is hitting. Don’t talk during someone’s swing. Never walk over the line of your playing partner’s putt. Furthest away hits first. Lowest score on a hole has honors on the next one. And always fix your divot!

A divot is made when you go to hit a shot and your club digs into the earth behind the ball, taking a chunk of grass and soil with it.  Often it is small, but sometimes the divot is huge and travels farther than the ball (usually not a good sign).

If a divot is not repaired, the grass will die and the spot of the divot will dry up as well. It isn’t good for a golf course. It looks bad and will take a long time to recover.

But if the clump of grass is put back over the divot, it will regrow fairly quickly and soon it will heal over and be as good as new. But as easy as that sounds, many people won’t take the time to simply walk over, pick up their divot and put it back into place.

“Replace your divot” is a good principle for relationships too. Far too often our words or actions hurt others or we are hurt by theirs. Sometimes we are not aware of the hurt immediately (unless we are the one who experienced it). Too often we let the divot sit. We don’t repair it right away. As a result, resentment and bitterness creep in and cause deeper damage than if we had sought reconciliation and repair as soon as we knew there was a problem.

Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

And in Colossians 3 he wrote:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. 

Fix your divot! If someone has offended you or hurt you, go to them and gently tell them what happened and how you felt. Focus on the issue, not their character. Avoid saying, “You always…” or “You never…” Lovingly point out what happened and how you feel.

If you are the one who caused offense, ask forgiveness. Go to the person and tell them you are sorry for what happened or what was said. If you feel you’ve been misunderstood, explain what you intended. Hearing why they were hurt or angry may make complete sense and you can affirm that had that been what you meant, you’d be upset too.

The important thing is to repair the relationship. Forgive or ask forgiveness. As much as it depends on you, seek to keep peace. Be willing to be humble and kind and compassionate and gentle and patient. Love well. Not everyone will want to be reconciled. Not everyone will forgive your wrong or ask forgiveness for the wrong they’ve done. That’s ok. As much as it depends on you, do your part. It may not bring the peace you hope for. The other person may cling to their hurt or pride. But your heart will be in line with God’s and that’s a good place to start.


Father Hunger, Father Wound

947204_10152757958420324_1640118380_nFor some, Father’s Day is a happy occasion. It’s a day to remember fondly times playing catch in the backyard or times out on the lake; it’s a time to remember getting advice that only later became wisdom or a big hug when it was needed most; it’s a day to remember a father’s love and concern or his faithful example. But for others, Father’s Day is painful. It’s a difficult day with broken memories of broken times or of absence – physical or emotional. It’s a day that is dreaded or ignored.

Whether we recognize it or not, each of us has what one author has called a “father hunger”. It is a longing we have for our father’s assurance and approval to comfort us and affirm us. Many will do almost anything to find it because of the deep validation it brings. When we do not find it from our earthly father’s, we will seek it somewhere else. A father’s love, a father’s acceptance and approval is “more important than that of any other man, and of a completely different quality than the affirmation of a woman. Until and unless we get it, every male relationship will somehow be our unmet father, for good or ill.” When we do not find love and affirmation from our fathers, the father hunger becomes a father wound.

Let me pause to affirm the importance of a mother’s love. Without question it is possible for us to experience a mother wound if a mother’s love is for whatever reason withheld. It can be even more devastating than a father wound. But the reality is that it is more common for a father to be absent physically, emotionally, or spiritually in relationship to his children. Generally speaking, a mother’s love is a constant from birth. There is something instinctive and constant about it. A mother’s love seems so often to “go without saying”. There is a natural bond between mother and child. But, while many fathers find it very natural to love their children from birth, there is a sense in which a father chooses to love his child; chooses to show love and affirmation in a way that is decidedly different from that of a mother.

This is a far bigger issue than I understand or have answers to offer. The father hunger and father wound affect both men and women but it does seem more devastating, in many ways, for men (which is my focus here). Without a father to guide direct them from boyhood to manhood many men feel insecure and that they have to prove their manhood all their lives because they did not have a father, or some other male, who told them they had what it takes.

One author suggests that “even though there are no guarantees in life, we (fathers) can help our own sons by sharing 2015-06-01 18.31.11our inner lives with them, our thoughts, feelings, dreams and hurts.” He suggests that what most men require is respect and as a boy growing up he longs for his father to be proud of him with that pride growing over time to respect and honest admiration. “If dad waits until junior’s a teenager, it’s too late. That honoring of the man in the boy is what invites the boy to join the club of men” (emphasis his).

Some men overcome the father wound by pursuing the visions and ideals of men they meet along the way. They may become the best men a society knows because they are driven to overcome the father hunger they may not even know they have. “They sometimes learn to seek, to desire and to trust that God is that loving and compassionate Daddy they always wanted.”

Too often it seems, the hunger festers and becomes a wound that is passed on in a myriad of ways. Let me suggest just a few things we can do as fathers to help prevent the father hunger from becoming a father wound in our children, but especially our sons. I realize what I offer may seem like common sense, but perhaps a reminder is just what we need.

1. Affirmation – Our sons long to know we are proud of them. They long to hear, “Well done,” or “I’m so proud of you!” We also show our affirmation by being at their games or concerts…by making them a priority over our work or ministry…by letting them know that they are important and matter. But even if we go to every event, we still need to say the words: I love you! I believe in you! You have what it takes! Well done!

2. Affection – At some point as my boys grew up, I started feeling a bit uncomfortable with physical affection. At times Angie has to remind me that it’s something they both need. Hugging our boys is an important way we show love and affirmation. Wrestling and rough housing and horsing around is good too. It is a way for us to communicate to them our respect; our love; our acceptance. It may not always feel comfortable or natural, but it’s an important element in helping our boys become men.

2014-08-01 13.07.293. Acceptance – Over time, we need to welcome our boys to manhood. In non-western cultures there are rites of passage that help in that process. In recent years groups have tried to provide something like that in the US (like the Boys Scouts, Ransomed Heart Ministries, and Raising a Modern Day Night for example) One of the things I’ve tried to do with my sons, but know I could have done better, is to plan a year for each of them in which we intentionally read and discuss important books or watch and discuss meaningful movies. I planned hikes and road trips that added opportunities for them to plan and execute their plan. We had fun, but we also had purpose. My intention has been to discuss what it means to be a man and to affirm that they have what it takes. I’m in the middle of Jonathan’s year, but with both of them I see how it helps in transitioning to more than a father-son relationship; we become friends/peers.

I am thankful for my father who was an incredible example of each of these things. I heard many times that he loved me and was proud of me. He was always ready to give me a hug or a pat on the back. And I’ll never forget the day he first invited me to join his friends to complete their foursome to play golf…in one small act, my Dad communicated acceptance and that he believed I was ready to be considered one of the men.

I pray this Father’s Day would be a day of happiness and fond memories for you…but if it isn’t, I pray you would find in your Heavenly Father the affirmation, affection, and acceptance your heart longs for and the healing of your father wound. For those of us who are fathers, may we endeavor to love our children well. May we equip our sons with what they need to become men after the Father’s heart.


Spiritual lessons learned from Arab culture

Arab culture differs in many ways from the American culture I was raised in.  Much of it still retains values we see of biblical cultures in the Old and New Testaments.  As I was reflecting on Arab culture and my experiences recently I was reminded of three ways Arab culture has encouraged me in my walk with Jesus.

1.  Even before we moved to Jordan, we knew how important it is in Arab culture to host and visit friends.  Initially we did not have many Arabs come to visit us, but we enjoyed taking time to get to know neighbors and others we came in contact with in their homes.  Often we would take flowers or chocolate or some small gift to thank them for their hospitality.  Sometimes we would take a gift that was wrapped or was in a nice bag – perhaps some candles or dish towels.  As our children began to make friends at school, they were invited to birthday parties and would, of course, take a gift for the birthday girl or boy.

We began to notice a pattern.  If we were visiting a family they would take our gift and set it aside.  They would say thank you, but would not open it.  We would not hear about it again during the visit though often they would thank us later.  At birthday parties, all the gifts would sit on a table in the corner, unopened.  Even as guests began leaving, no one moved to open them and no one seemed to object.

When we asked our friends about this we learned it would be shameful, in Arab culture, to open a gift in front of the giver.  To do such a thing would be to say that you treasure the gift more than the giver.  Instead, the gift is set aside so the hosts can give their guests their full and undivided attention. 

I’ve often thought of that in relationship to Christ.  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  Sometimes I catch myself treasuring the gifts more than the God who gives them.  He also said we should “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all (the things we need) will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).  I want to be a man whose treasure is Jesus.  I want to be like Mary, delighted to sit at Jesus’ feet and just be with him.  Somehow I know that if that’s the case…whether I have the stuff or not really won’t matter.  But wouldn’t it be sad to gain all the stuff and lose what’s most important?

2.  When we visit friends, inevitably they make enough food to feed a small army.  It’s way, way more than we could possibly eat.  Even if they are dirt poor, they go above and beyond what would be expected to provide a feast fit for a king. 

Naturally we thank them profusely and tell them how amazingly delicious the food is (even if on rare occasions it isn’t!).  In response they always say to us, “في بس الواجب ما” which means essentially, “We’ve only done our obligation.”  Now at first this seemed sort of offensive.  Us: “Thanks for the amazing meal!  It was great!”  Them: “We only did what we had to.  No big deal.”  But as we learned more about Arab culture, we realized that we were hearing them through our American filters…what they were really saying was, “We are so honored to have you visit, this was the least we could do.  It’s our delight to do this, but you deserve even more!” 

Jesus said in Luke 17:10: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”  This isn’t an incredibly popular verse.  But I think it points to the same truth that our Arab friends live out when we visit…namely, when you have someone worthy of honor before you, everything you do is the least you can do.  It should be our joy and our delight to give all we have and do all we can for God…not treat it like dull drudgery.  And the beauty is that he is not a hard taskmaster, but a loving Father and he will bless us for our obedience.

3. Arab culture puts a premium on relationships.  Relationships trump task more times than not.  For Americans, this can be frustrating at times.  We call someone on the phone and we want to get right to the point.  Our Arab friends call and they want to find out how our family is – wife, kids, parents, siblings.  They want to know about my work.  They want to know about my health.  Eventually, they will get to the point of their call.  But more important – like the giver and the gift – is the relationship.  To me, the conversation can seem like a colossal waste of time…to them I am incredibly rude if I don’t ask these questions of them.

I’ve learned, at least in this culture, I am rude when I make the task more important than the relationship.  I should ask more about their family and friends and health and work.  The relationship is more important.  I can wait to find out the information I need, but my friend should know I care.  To not call a friend regularly to check in, to see someone from across the street and not walk over to shake hands and greet them, to stop by to borrow something and not sit down for a few minutes for a cup of tea…it all says that my relationship with this person is not significant.

Do I bring that attitude to my relationship with God?  Jesus prayed in John 17:3 saying, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  He defined eternal life as a relationship – knowing the one true God and Jesus.  How do I approach that relationship?  How often do I sit and just “be” with Jesus?  Do I linger in his presence and do the spiritual equivalent of asking about his family etc.?  Do I listen?  Or do I just read a few verses, give a few orders (um, I mean prayers) and hurry off to do the Lord’s work?  Does my life reflect that my relationship with Jesus is the most important thing to me?  I definitely need to set specific time to sit in his presence and interact through prayer, listening, reading etc. but I also need to tune my heart to walk with him throughout the day…to center my life around Him and let Jesus be the heart of all I do and am.

No culture is perfect.  Each has positive things and negative things.  I am thankful for the time I’ve had here in Jordan and the way living here has brought much of the Bible to life.  I’m also thankful for so many friends who have allowed our family into their lives and for the many lessons we’ve learned and continue to learn through them and their culture.