Blog Archives

Archive for July, 2009


The Journey of Thomas – A New Life, John J. Smid’s Story

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009


 

 

Printable PDF – John Smid’s Journey Testimony

 

Psalm 116:1-2
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice, He heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

 

“John, you need to know Jesus! We are Christians and we want you to know that you need Him. I know all that you have been involved in and that doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you accept Jesus into your life.”

 
My head spun around several times while listening to these two girls. I had known them for a long time. We graduated from high school together. It was two o’clock in the morning and I had stopped by the local pancake house with my friends after our night at the bar but I wasn’t ready for what I heard that night.

 
This was a different experience for me. I had never heard anyone speak about Jesus that way much less from these two girls. What had happened in their life to bring about such a dramatic shift? Well, I didn’t really take the time to find out-I just wanted out of there. I went to a table where my friends were and they had all gone. I felt abandoned and insignificant since they didn’t tell me they were leaving or even to say goodbye! Maybe they heard some of the conversation and were scared too!

 
This was the first time for me to experience what many call “evangelical Christianity” but it wouldn’t be the last. I guess this was the hammer and chisel that would start the crack in my hardened life to spread. A short time later I changed offices at my job and found myself sitting right behind another lady. She was quite friendly and very energetic about life. It was apparent that she was connected to most of the other people working near us as she laughed with them, talked with them and yes, she was also very excited about something else – Jesus!

 
Pat took a different approach than I had experienced in the pancake house. She was friendly and interested in other people’s lives. She quickly found out that I was recently divorced from my first wife and was living a pretty active party life. I talked about going to the bars, being out with friends and that I was pretty happy with my new found freedom from my marriage. Oh, I told her about my two children and tried to seem excited about that too but in reality, I didn’t know much about what was happening with my daughters because I had other priorities.

 
Pat had things all over her desk that were evidence of her priorities. She talked about her own divorce, her past life of alcohol and partying around. She talked of her upbringing in a Catholic family. I related to that quickly as I too had grown up Catholic. We now had common ground. Her experience with the bars and such as well as our religious background became common conversation.

 
Now, about those things on her desk; magnets, books, pamphlets, and a worn Bible were all very present. A worn Bible? What is that? I thought you needed to protect them because they were special. Pat told me otherwise. I remember her telling me how she wrote in it and used it every day. That seemed so foreign to me that I kept asking her about this Bible she seemed to feel so special about. She gave me answers as she could.

 
But I mostly remember that Pat didn’t seem to be all that interested in my weekend life. She also didn’t seem shocked by it-seemingly since she had been there herself.

 
After a few months and our relationship became more comfortable, she said she wanted me to meet a friend of hers. His name was Jerry. I don’t remember where or how we met but it seemed that Jerry was a lot like Pat. He too was friendly and was up front about having been through a lot of stuff in his life like I did. Like Pat, he seemed to be real, and easy to talk with.

 
“John, there is a group at my church that I’d like you to meet. They are a singles group and this weekend they are having a social time. There will be food and these people aren’t scary. Why don’t you come?”

 
I was curious by this time. I was also not doing so well myself. I had experienced many painful disappointments in my relationships that I wasn’t really sharing with Pat, or her friend Jerry. I didn’t want to admit that my life wasn’t going so hot. But, in reality, I was looking for something different.

 
I didn’t go to the group that she was talking about but it remained in my memory as an option if things got worse, which they eventually did. Instead, my first attempt to get help came through an invitation to an al-anon group. My friends said there were “better” people there than I had been hanging around. Well, my lust and pain came together and I was motivated to attend this group.

 
“Hello, my name is Cindy, John. I can relate to what you just said. I have been there myself and I understand. I found help in praying the Serenity Prayer.”
What? REAL help in praying? Well, I needed real help. Cindy’s expression of common ground once again motivated me. She understood! Maybe I should try her prayer! The next Sunday I was going through the lowest of lows and feeling suicidal. I got out the prayer she mentioned and began to repeat its words. Something grabbed me that day; something very different. I felt relieved of some of the pain I was feeling. Could it have been the prayer? Could God have been listening to me? Is He real?

 
One particular night on which I was struggling, Pat called to talk with me about something. She heard my struggle and said, “Jerry and I are coming over”. They came to my house and talked with me for a while and offered to pray with me. I remember how accepted and loved I felt that this lady and her friend cared enough to go out of their way to show me their concern and their support.

 
I started to ponder the events I had experienced concerning God, Jesus, religion and my life. Maybe there is something to this Jesus thing that I heard at the pancake house. These people that I had met seemed energized about their experiences with Jesus. They also have had trouble in their lives and they didn’t seem as afraid to talk about it as I was.

 
“Pat, maybe I’ll go to one of those “social events” you spoke about. Is there anyone there like us?” She gave me directions and I went to someone’s house and there were lots of people there eating, laughing, and talking. I felt really strange there largely because I didn’t know anyone. But, Pat was right, they were having fun and it was apparent that their life was different than mine and yet, the same.

 
I went back to my life and friends and tried to make it again. I was determined that I was going to succeed with my plans. After all, I didn’t give up a family, marriage, and my children for nothing. I was invested in my decision – and being right! For a while it went better but not for long. I found more pain, more discouragement, and my pride wouldn’t let me go further in talking about it openly.

 

 

Pat had often invited me to her church. She explained that it was different than maybe the ones I had experienced. There was hand clapping, lively music, and it wasn’t like our common Catholic background. She also said that I wouldn’t have to go alone and that she would meet me there and maybe Jerry would be there as well. Well I was up for something new and interesting so I finally decided to go. The day before I had bought some new shoes and clothes for a special “date” with a new friend I had gone on. I got these new clothes out to wear to church. Hum, that sounded weird, church. I am going to church!

 
I sat on the aisle and before the service, the pastor, John Walker, was walking down the aisle and stopped at my seat. “Hello, I am Pastor John Walker, you have a beautiful yellow sweater on. What is your name?” Oh, if he’d only known what happened in that sweater the night before. But, I enjoyed the compliment and that he took the time to introduce himself.

 
I wasn’t ready for any more church for a while. I had to process what I had experienced. I enjoyed it; well as much as I could, considering how strange it was for me. At the same time in my life there was another person who was excited about Jesus. She was the sister to someone that I had been involved with. Her name was Jeannie.

 
My friend told me Jeannie was a “Jesus Freak” and that she lived differently than we did. After all, I was engaged in immoral sex with my friend and Jeannie knew that was the case. She didn’t seem to make that a big deal. We would eat at her house and enjoy her funny sense of humor and friendliness.

 
One week, Jeannie called me to invite me to her church. She said they were having a revival. What? What in the world is a “revival”? Well, here we go again, something strange to experience. I guess I’ll go. I didn’t die from the last church experience I had. Maybe this will be equally interesting.
I surely wasn’t prepared for what would transpire this night.

 
I went in, sat down with her and entered into one of the most life changing events I had ever had. I do not know what was said from the front or who I was sitting next to but I clearly heard something in my head. “John, you don’t have to live this way any longer.” What? Who said that? Well, it wasn’t quite that shocking, but it was life changing, no doubt.

 
The voice continued on, “John, go and ask Laurie to go to dinner with you.” Laurie was a friend from a community theater I as a part of. I didn’t know her very well but she was a nice girl and really friendly. So, that night I went home and called Laurie. She said yes! So, Friday we’re on for dinner.

 
In our discussion Laurie was as friendly as I had hoped. She was also honest about her life. Well, you guessed it, Laurie was also a Christian. There were other things we had in common. Laurie was also divorced. But there was something even more important that came out that evening. Laurie’s first husband was gay. If you haven’t guessed it already, so was I. I had made quite a deep investment in a decision to leave my family and live out my life as a gay man with other gay men. I was searching for common ground, understanding, and for sure I wanted to feel heard by someone who knew what it was like to have life like mine.

 
This was quite the shocking experience. God must have known. Did Jesus really see my life from the inside out? Even more significant, did Jesus hear the cry of my heart? I can’t make sense of all of these people who I met with excitement about this Jesus, but is it true? Can something about my life significantly change? The voice said that I had a choice. That voice said I could live life differently and that the deep pain I had been experiencing could go away.

 
The girls, Pat, Jerry, Jeannie, Laurie, all had something in common. They seemed to have a relationship with Jesus and weren’t afraid to talk about it. But they had something else in common. They freely talked about their life stories. They told me about the mistakes, the pain, the choices, and the freedom they had all experienced. They were all real people with real life issues and seemingly had found a real Jesus that understood and accepted them.

 
After meeting with Laurie I had experienced enough of this Jesus that I began to look into this phenomenon. Pat gave me a $3 paperback Bible. I began to read it. It was really quite interesting, since I was reading it for the first time like a book, rather than chapter and verse references. I began to understand my life was broken from the beginning and I was in need of someone greater than myself who could rescue me. I found out that the gospel was not a religion, but it was a gift to John Smid from a living Savior to offer me eternity with Him.

 
My life did in fact begin to change. My priorities were different now. The change was slow and clumsy. One of the first decisions was to find another man that would love me that also was a Christian. That wasn’t hard. I met a man named Paul that fit the bill. On our first time together alone he told me he loved me and that he was a Christian. He taught at Christian school, no less. He was a great guy. But I wasn’t so great. Our relationship became as tumultuous as all of the others because I was so conflicted and torn I didn’t know how to relate to this guy.

 
The pain continued as if my life were on a pendulum swing. Up, down, up, down, up, down-and I was becoming even more troubled. What should I do now? I had been praying a simple prayer daily. “God, get me out of this.” On February 10, 1984 I made the bests decision of my life. I called my current partner at the time and told him that I was leaving the relationship – for good. We had broken up many times before but this time something was different. I really meant it.

 
The next week I attended the weekly gathering of those single folks that I had met the year before. I thought maybe they could help me and replace the friends that I was leaving behind. They did. They came through with flying colors. I continued on with their weekly group and I even went to that church every Sunday. It didn’t seem so strange to me anymore. I grew in understanding of their faith, their relationship with each other, and their Jesus. I had become like those girls four years earlier. I was now the excited one about what I had found in Jesus.

 
That was a long time ago. A lot has changed in my life for sure but it began with a few people who were willing to share their life with me. These folks had something in common that has stuck with me through the years. They were vulnerable, honest from their hearts, and weren’t afraid to tell me about their lives-including their mistakes and shortcomings. I wasn’t a project to be completed; rather I felt like a person they desired to know. Someone they cared about but weren’t trying to control or condemn.

 
It isn’t so strange that I would feel the burden to write about some core relationship values that might help us reach those that are hurting or lost. The values in The Journey of Thomas reflect what helped me in those trying years of my life. The people who reached out to me practiced them unknowingly. They weren’t using a systematic approach to reaching me. They were just being themselves. With God’s help, they didn’t hide underneath a false religion. They didn’t separate themselves from me as though they had arrived to some higher plane of living.

 
Each of them knew their shortcomings and they lived in the grace of a loving God. They just wanted me to know the Jesus they had met because He had loved them “while they were yet sinners”.

 
I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to marry again. I was married to Vileen in 1988. My two daughters have grown into mothers and I have three grandchildren. As I look at my grandkids, I recognize each day that the gifts that were shared with me those many years ago have now transcended into a second generation of life! I certainly wouldn’t have been married to Vileen if it weren’t for those loving people who cared enough about me to share their Jesus with me. I do not believe I would have hardly any relationship with either my daughters or my grandkids if it weren’t for Christ saving my life and changing my path.

 
I am not sure I really know how to thank each person who has had an effect on my life through their own honesty. The numbers are far too great to share with each one of them. Some of them have gone on to other places and I am not sure I could even locate them. I do have friendships with some of them and I try to often tell them how much their lives have meant to me. I may have some that I haven’t adequately thanked.

 
This is my new life that remains new every day. His mercies are new every morning for sure. I need Jesus today just like I did all the years before but didn’t know it. The only difference is that I know Him now and can call upon Him freely. I also recognize His grace not so much for the sins I commit every day because I know those were forgiven before I even thought to commit them. I recognize His grace for my humanness! The fact that I was born into a sinful, broken world requires His sacrifice at the cross for my eternity.

 

In the end, my greatest thanksgiving goes to Jesus Christ for His salvation that came upon our brothers and sisters from the beginning that is passed down generation to generation. This is my story. Well, part of my story. There isn’t enough paper to contain all of it. Each time I think back over my life, there are many more things to say about Jesus and me.

 

 

As you can imagine, Jesus drew me to Himself through letting me know that He heard me. He understood my plight and joined with me for life. He forgave me, freed me from bondage, and continues to work with me to change my life one day at a time.

 

© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
jjsmid@gracerivers.com
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183

 

Printable PDF – John Smid’s Journey Testimony

 

The Journey of Thomas – Honor

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009


Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

 

We have gone through 8 other Core Values which bring us to Honor. We began with Honesty, and have ended with Honor. I think it is very interesting to see the “H O N” at the beginning of each of these book end topics of this series.

 

One meaning of the word Honor is to engage in “public esteem”. To honor someone is to reflect respect and value to them in a public fashion. In the King James Version it says “in honor, preferring one another”.

 

When we have learned how to be internally honest, to rid ourselves of false images and pretense, and opening our lives up to God’s plan and purposes; something changes inside our character. At this point we move into other’s lives more intentionally, becoming less judgmental with them and hold their lives with confidentiality.

 

From this point we move into learning how to love them sacrificially just because we are commanded to and therefore we value them as God does. We learn how to see things in their lives that are worth affirming even if we don’t agree with other aspects of their life.

 

I have experienced several times lately a natural movement towards public honor. When I have seen beneath the surface of a person’s life and find their human heart to beat just like mine I have good things to say about them when I tell others the story of our meeting.

 
I recently received this poem that sums up our series:

 

Shoes in church

 

I showered and shaved I adjusted my tie. I got there and sat in a pew just in time. Bowing my head in prayer as I closed my eyes I saw the shoe of the man next to me touching my own I sighed.

 

With plenty of room on either side, I thought, ‘Why must our soles touch?’ It bothered me, his shoe touching mine but it didn’t bother him much.

 

A prayer began: ‘Our Father’…. I thought, ‘This man with the shoes has no pride. They’re dusty, worn, and scratched. Even worse, there are holes on the side!’

 

‘Thank You for blessings,’ the prayer went on. The shoe man said a quiet ‘Amen.’

 

I tried to focus on the prayer but my thoughts were on his shoes again. Aren’t we supposed to look our best when walking through the door? ‘Well, this certainly isn’t it,’ I thought, Glancing toward the floor.

 

Then the prayer was ended and the songs of praise began. The shoe man was certainly loud and proud as he sang. His voice lifted the rafters and his hands were raised high. The Lord could surely hear the shoe man’s voice from the sky.

 

It was time for the offering and what I threw in was steep. I watched as the shoe man reached into his pockets so deep. I saw what was pulled out and what the shoe man put in. Then I heard a soft ‘clink’ as when silver hits tin.

 

The sermon really bored me to tears, and that’s no lie. It must have been the same for the shoe man for tears fell from his eyes.

 

At the end of the service; as is the custom here we must greet new visitors, and show them all good cheer. But I felt moved inside somehow and wanted to meet the shoe man.

 

So after the closing prayer I reached over and shook his hand. He was old and his skin was dark and his hair was truly a mess. But I thanked him for coming, for being our guest.

 

He said, ‘my name’s’ Charlie I’m glad to meet you, my friend.’ There were tears in his eyes but he had a large, wide grin.

 

‘Let me explain,’ he said, wiping tears from his eyes. ‘I’ve been coming here for months and you’re the first to say ‘Hi.” ‘I know that my appearance is not like all the rest’. ‘But I really do try to always look my best.’ ‘I always clean and polish my shoes ‘before my very long walk. ‘But by the time I get here they’re dirty and dusty, like chalk.’

 

My heart filled with pain and I swallowed to hide my tears. As he continued to apologize for daring to sit so near. He said, ‘when I get here I know I must look a sight.’ ‘But I thought if I could touch you then maybe our souls might unite.’

 

I was silent for a moment knowing whatever was said would pale in comparison I spoke from my heart, not my head.

 

‘Oh, you’ve touched me,’ I said ‘and taught me, in part; ‘That the best of any man is what is found in his heart.’ The rest, I thought, this shoe man will never know. L

 

ike just how thankful I really am that his dirty old shoe touched my soul. (author unknown)

 

Printable PDF – Honor

 

The Journey of Thomas – Respect

Friday, July 24th, 2009


Ephesians 5:21
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 

Rom. 14:3
Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.

 

The term “respect” can mean many different things for different people. Here are some definitions to help us enter into this subject on the same basis of understanding:

 

1. Esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.
2. The condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect.
3. To hold in esteem or honor: e.g.” I cannot respect someone who does that”.
4. To refrain from intruding upon or interfering with: to respect a person’s investment or time.

 
I am going to use two definitions from the list above, number “2″ and number “4″. God has given an intrinsic value to each of us. To respect what He has created without judgment is to agree with God’s assessment of value to His children.

 

I would also like to call attention to learning to value one another through maintaining commitments and paying attention to one another’s time and resources.

 

Esteeming Actual Value

Respect is a practical way of esteeming actual value. When we were created, God spoke into our lives a value that is not negotiable no matter what the world says or does. Just because we were treated poorly or we’ve acted poorly this did not remove or change our actual value. By respecting others we are communicating to them that they are worth whatever God says they are without regard to what they’ve done or based upon the world’s perspective.

 

When I was on a television program with others that were outwardly contrary to my way of thinking I learned a valuable lesson about relating to them. One man in particular was very outspoken and at times rude and the audience was cruel towards him in return. I watched what was happening and found the words “respect doesn’t have to agree” enter my head.

 

I was reminded of Jesus going through extensive insults and abuse and yet there was a respect that came out of His life that was hard for me to understand. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

 

Rom. 14:1
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

 

When I consider others that I might be tempted to disrespect in my own mind, I must admit that I do not always know or understand their history, their life circumstances, or their heart. How do I know what may be underneath their opinions? Without listening to them, I won’t.

 

I have all too often been mistaken in my outward assessment of where others are at. Maybe a person was appearing to be unconvinced of something I would deem immoral. It is entirely possible that they may be seeking for freedom and deliverance from a habit right at that time? Weak in their faith could mean they are on the same road I am, just at a different place along “their” road than I can see.

 

Respect for one another’s choices

I learned a valuable lesson in respect when our country went through a very challenging election in 2008. The country was divided over race, moral values, and certainly political concerns. How did each of us make a decision as to whom we were going to vote for? Each of us had our own reasons for our choice. I am certain that we could argue our own points that we would want others to agree with. Maybe we felt threatened by the differences that were at stake. But in the end, who is right? Well, from a Christian standpoint, God’s word tells us that He selects the person of His divine choice no matter what my opinion might be.

 

I heard that a close friend of mine, who happens to be African American, was going to attend the inauguration of Barak Obama in Washington D.C. After the event I asked him how it went. His comment was heartening to hear. He said, “John, it was all worth it when I saw the tears on my dad’s face”. So much went through my mind when I heard about his experience. I know nothing of how it feels to be African American in our country. I haven’t walked the path that so many have. I absorbed someone else’s experience in my heart through their words.

 

There are so many who had strong opinions about Obama vs. McCain. Their lives, their personal experiences, their values are something I need to respect. I would do well to listen to the roads they have travelled, the reasons for their convictions, and to hear their hearts regardless of which side they may have been on. My opinions are not any more important than anyone else’s. Yes, there are absolutes in God’s Word but there is also much room-as acknowledged in Romans 14:3-for personal freedom or conviction. Sometimes we just don’t know the bigger picture. In the end people have their own perspectives and we must respect their right to think and act as they choose.

 

Learning from difference

I found that I could learn a lot more about life if I would practice listening to others even if they disagreed with my position. Once I saw value in the differing opinions I saw them as food for thought and I began to learn. I heard someone once say that you learn from listening to your worst critic. I believe this can only be the case if you are willing to hear what they are saying with respect, and then you may find yourself growing in wisdom and in perspective.

 

Respecting one another has to do with pushing down our own pride and gaining a perspective for others that Christ may want us to see. Jesus loves everyone equally; He sees things in our lives and hears things in our hearts that we cannot always see and hear for ourselves. Respecting others will require us to see deeper into each other and look for what God sees.

 

Respect for authority

I remember sitting at a picnic table with some friends of mine. I was upset about some things going on in our church and was speaking negatively about the way our pastor was running things. My friends challenged me by saying, “John, God has not made you the pastor”.

 

I quickly did an evaluation of the truth of their words. I didn’t sit in his chair, his office, nor did I see things from his perspective. I was not right to assume I fully understood his reasoning for the decisions he had made. God had called me to respect his position, not because it was greater than mine, but because I was called to submit to his perspective, and that I didn’t know it all.

 

This didn’t mean that I was less than, or “underneath” him. Rather, there was an intrinsic difference between my view and his. When Ephesians 5:21 says to “submit to one another”, scripture is saying that we are not above or below one another, rather just different. We are called to understand this truth, that we each have different positions, different perspective and to submit to one another is to embrace this reality and not to push for our way being the right way.

 

Heb. 13:17
Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

 

Respecting the authority of difference around us will be a blessing to all of us.

 

Respect for Wives and Husbands

One of the most interesting things I have experienced is the multifaceted interpretation of the biblical instruction for a wife to “submit” to her husband and for a husband to “love” his wife. To submit in this context is a willing subjection, not to be “lorded” over, rather to understand perspective. God has given the husband a mantle of understanding from his role in a marriage. God has also given the wife a mantle of perspective. A mutual submission here is an understanding of respect that will set us free! It is not designed to place us into bondage.

 

For a wife to willingly subject herself to her husband is to understand that he may see what she doesn’t. To choose to allow him to walk in the position of husband and to support what God has put into place by His design is to respect the role.

 

The husband on the other hand, is equally called to respect the role of “wife”. To grasp that God has also given her a viewpoint that is to be heard and embraced, not fought against and resisted as though there is a supreme authority in the husband.

 

Eph. 5:33
Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.

 

Through Jesus’ eyes

An acquaintance of mine, Tim Miller, once said, “When you look into the mirror and begin to see more of Jesus, the mirror will turn into a window and you begin to see what He sees – hurting people needing our kindness and respect.”

 

We must also see that there isn’t a “pecking order” in the kingdom of God. There isn’t a hierarchy, or someone who is bigger than or better than someone else. There are some who are more talented than others, or who have a different type of responsibility but this doesn’t mean that others are less significant, less valuable or those who have all the answers.

 

When the man who is cleaning up the office speaks to the President of the company about how his job of cleaning would be made more efficient if some things were handled differently, it would behoove the president to listen because he isn’t the one mopping the floors each night. The Janitor therefore is to be respected for his perspective. At the same time, the president may have knowledge about the budget that the janitor needs to hear and submit to as well.

 

Respect for time

Another way to respect is to value one another’s time. I have known some people who are habitually late for things. I am not talking about the situation where an unforeseen matter comes up that causes someone to be late, rather the person who just doesn’t get up in time or dawdles around to make them late. Being on time is something that is really important if we are to respect one another. Being habitually late may communicate to a friend that “our” time is more important than “theirs” and therefore they can just sit at the restaurant and look at the menu until we arrive.

 

Have you made a commitment to do something for someone? Than do it out of respect. Have you made a promise that you would follow through with something? Than make it happen – out of respect.

 

Respect for yourself

Always remember to respect yourself as well. Taking care of ourselves in our health, our rest and personal maintenance all affirms to us internally that we are worth respect. Sometimes we don’t receive respect because we aren’t communicating to others that we respect ourselves.

 

Developing healthy boundaries, healthy relationships, and allowing God to remove unhealthy patterns of behavior will all say that we respect ourselves. Saying no when we feel the need or conviction to do so will say “I am worth taking care of myself”.

 

Matt: 22:37-39
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

 

Printable PDF – Respect

 

The Journey of Thomas – Sensitivity

Thursday, July 16th, 2009


By John J. Smid

 
Prov. 15:23
A man finds joy in giving an apt reply- and how good is a timely word

 

Prov. 16:24
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones

 

I love you! How many times in your life have you heard someone verbally say they love you? How often as a child did you hear your dad or mom say these words to you without shortening them to “luv ya”? Or did you hear this at all? I find that it can’t be said too much.

 

It is so important when showing the love of Christ to others that we develop an awareness of how much people need to know they are loved and cared for. Affirmation is so important and it is much more significant when it is attached to something specific.

 

John 13:34
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

 

God loves us, period.

God’s word here says basically two things: First, God loves us, period. Second, it says that we are asked to share that love with others through personally loving them.

 

This kind of love isn’t necessarily romantic, nor is it intended to be erotic. In our contemporary world, the word love is so misunderstood because it has so many meanings. The love shown here is a command that may or may not have a mushy, affection attached to it. It is the kind of love that we chose to give away. It may be very sacrificial! In fact, most people that we chose to love will likely bring us to a point of sacrifice at some point or another in our relationship.

 

Some of us have received a comment such as “good job” for things we have done well. Or maybe we have received kind words of thanks when we have given something to someone as a gift. And in some cases, we might have heard “I Love You” from unexpected places. But what about affirmation of whom we are as God has created us to be?

 

This love is not connected to performance!

I was at a weekly men’s support meeting at my church about 12 years ago. I was in a really tough spot and feeling a lot of self pity. One of my friends spoke emphatically to me about how I really needed to “get over it”. His words were true and I received them in the spirit in which they were meant. I was thankful for his response which was intended to somehow “shock” me into a better reality. But, at the end of the meeting my friend said, “John, maybe I was too hard on you and it might have been better if I had just told you, “I love you.” Wow! That was powerful for me to receive. I was moved to tears hearing this man spare his own machismo to tell me clearly and succinctly that he loved me.

 

One of the most meaningful kinds of love is unconditional love. This kind of love isn’t attached to what we have done or given, it is just that we are loved by God and as His children we are commanded to do likewise, love each other just because we are called to, because He loves them.

 

If you happen to be a parent, check to see how often you tell your kids, “we love you” as though you and your spouse are one person. While it is very important to be united and show you are a team, in marriage, it is also important to show your kids you are individuals too. Try to tell them you love them as a dad, or mom separately from one another. “I Love You!” There is a lot of meaning in a son hearing from his dad, “I love you, Son.” There is a lot of significance for a daughter to hear this from her dad or vice versa as well. The eye to eye, verbal, with personal contact, “I L O V E You” is very important.

 

This certainly doesn’t mean we are to avoid giving affirmations on behalf of a group or couple. Being sensitive to that is very important as well. Showing appreciation for someone’s involvement in our lives is equally important – however it may be easier because of less vulnerability involved.

 

The power of a poignant pause……

Think about it just for a minute. It can be very personal to enter someone’s day with an “I love you” that just hangs there and isn’t associated with a tradeoff nor does it expect something in return. This is the love of Jesus, His love for us without us giving anything in return and expecting nothing in the future. Sounds a lot like the Gospel, doesn’t it?

 

The Blessing – without it we may search in all the wrong ways to find it!

There is a book by Garry Smalley and John Trent called The Blessing which I have found teaches an important lesson on sensitivity. This little book is powerful and effective in showing us how to truly bless one another, not by affirming something we have done, but rather affirming the character that God built into us when He created us.

 

When blessing an adult child, as a parent, it is important to think of them when they were growing up. There are times when we are looking at our adolescent or adult children and a blessing is far from our minds. We may be really challenged by their lives or choices. But this may be the most significant time to share a blessing; at times when they may not feel they deserve even a kind word-much less a blessing.

 

What kind of person were they when they were 7 or 8 years old? What was their natural bent? How did they see their world or other people? This may have been a time before they were wounded or hurt by the world. It might have been a purer time in their life for their personality to have shone.

 

A blessing for them when they are grown would contain many of these characteristics within it. The same would apply to a child blessing their parent. Look back over your life and see if you can find things about their character that you can bless regardless of their current behavior.

 

 

Blessing people in general

Sometimes we have challenging relationships with others that might require us to dig deep for a blessing to be written or shared but it is possible if we put aside surface things we see and look for the positive character traits that we have observed over time.

 

As we learn to live honestly, entering into one another’s lives, we must learn to become more sensitive in regards to loving each other. This is not a perfect world and we are certainly not perfect people, but God asks us to love each other actively.

 

1 John 3:18

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

 

If we have been honest, put aside our rights for a special time, heard their hearts, and released our judgment, it becomes so much easier-maybe even natural-to sacrificially love someone else.

 

Physical Affirmation

I grew up without much physical affirmation. When I was a teenager I felt hungry for hugs. I thought this through and figured the easiest person to get a hug from would be my Grandma Smid. I was at her home and when we left I reached out and sought a hug from her. It was so well received; I thought “who would be next?” So one by one I reached out to other family members and found that when I hugged them, they typically responded with a warm hug in return.

 

Later in my life, I went too far with hugs. I lost all sense of healthy physical contact and moved into inappropriate physical contact and sexuality. When I was convicted to return to a healthier lifestyle those simple hugs didn’t seem to mean anything anymore. I was starved for the way it felt to hug my grandma but my excessive physical boundary crossing had damaged my physical receptors.

 

I was in a really good church where hugs were often given and I received them with resentment due to my unhealthy hunger for more. But over time, something amazing happened! As my flesh detoxified from the abuse of touch, I found that God had healed my failed nerve endings. Simple hugs, holding hands to pray, and a pat on the shoulder became a lifeline to my soul, healing many places that were damaged.

 

I never thought it would happen, but the hunger was finally satiated. Today, I give physical affirmation to others rather than trying to manipulate it from someone else. I realize how important physical touch is when it is healthy. I know how many may be starved for the touch of a trusted friend who isn’t looking for something in return.

 

Seeking permission to touch

I have also learned that some people may be wounded in such a way that touch may be something they can’t accept from someone they don’t know or without their permission. For some, physical touch can feel unsafe and potentially dangerous to their personal circumstances.

 

I learned that it was vital when at church, or in a social setting that if I don’t know someone I need to ask permission to hug them if it is healthy in that setting to do so. I also learned that there are safe ways for people of the opposite gender to hug. A safe “side to side” hug can not only communicate healthy physical touch but it can also communicate that I desire to protect them by not assuming they are comfortable with other types of physical hugs.

 

Learning sensitivity for others hearts, souls, and physical boundaries is vital in developing respectful relationships.

 

Printable PDF – Sensitivity

 

The Journey of Thomas – Protect Confidentiality

Saturday, July 11th, 2009


 

Proverbs 11:13
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

 

Prov. 25:9-10
If you argue your case with a neighbor, do not betray another man’s confidence, or he who hears it may shame you and you will never lose your bad reputation.

 

Prov. 12:14
From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.

 

One Type of Gossip

I learned a valuable lesson a few years ago about gossip. There are two aspects to protecting one another’s confidentiality. The first pertains to what is commonly understood as gossip; it is our responsibility not to speak out of turn with regards to someone else’s story.

 

When someone shares something with us that is personal or when we become aware of something in someone else’s life that we intuitively know needs to be protected, we ought not to speak of it to anyone else.

 

There isn’t a better way to ruin the health of a relationship or the unity of a group of people than to talk about things we shouldn’t. I have added the word “protect” to the title of this topic because it brings to my mind the nature of my responsibility, which is essentially to protect someone’s “nakedness” in life.

 

When we become close to someone through really hearing their heart and through our own personal honesty connect to their story, it would be my hope that the natural outcome would be to be protective of them and not share their story out of turn.

 

I have listened, understood, and related and now I can actually put myself into their shoes and think about how I might want my personal story protected. Even as I write this I am thinking of someone I know who is going through a very hard time. I reflect back on times when I have struggled intensely with something very personal. I wonder how I would have felt if someone carelessly told my story without purpose or redemptive intent. I wonder if they would rather tell my story just to have something juicy to share with their friend.

 

A More Subtle Type of Gossip

For the last 30 years, my life has been a relatively open book. When I chose to go into a sin-filled lifestyle of homosexuality my family and friends all knew of my choices. I didn’t necessarily make the decision to tell everyone but in that situation, no one attempted to hide my choice or pretend in any way so as to hide their perspectives. Actually, this became a good thing in the long term. There was no information that was left unturned.

 

When I made a decision to leave my behavior and associations with it behind, that too was public information. Then for the next 25 years, my life became an open book to the public. There isn’t anything further to find out about me. All of the skeletons that could have been in my closet never moved behind the closed door. It has been pretty hard for someone to gossip about my life. There isn’t anything further to tell that I haven’t already publicly told. I find that quite freeing!

 

I have learned there is another aspect to gossip that is a bit more difficult to discern as such. Gossip can also be a pursuit of “untold” information. I find that when it is appropriate to share something about our own lives, then sharing enough pertinent information about the circumstances will actually slow down the temptation to gossip from others. When we hide things from those around us it is more likely there will be gossip.

 

I remember a time when a spiritual leader had fallen into sexual sin. The leadership of the church saw his repentance and felt the spiritual leading to have this man share his struggle and seek forgiveness with those in the sphere of his influence. Due to the fact he had sinned against them in his disobedience they had him share in front of his group. When this was done, the details were not kept to just “he has had a moral lapse” but rather, he shared that he had gotten into pornography and had committed adultery against his marriage. The leadership supported his desire to seek restoration and he was then prayed for and subsequently supported into his restoration.

 

The facilitator of the sharing time closed with this statement, “when you leave this place, don’t talk about anything you didn’t hear here” I was amazed at this because it was as though there was a release to talk, to process, to work through the effects, but there was a boundary set in place. “Don’t go digging for things you don’t need to know. You have all the information you need to deal with this appropriately!”

 

The outcome of this situation was a surprising lack of gossip within the circle of people involved! People were loving, supportive and went away with the questions in their mind settled. I learned that gossip often comes out of unanswered questions. It can be for some an attempt to seek answers but without honesty and authenticity this can become a breeding ground for gossip. The “did you hear about” pursuit often ends up in a fact-finding pursuit that leads to gossip.

 

Our Responsibility

We have two responsibilities here. The first is to not share things out of turn or to seek answers to our questions through the guise of “please pray for them”. The second is to live our lives with integrity, honesty and not seeking to falsely protect our reputation. Live in the light!

 

The biblical encouragement to confront sin in Matthew chapter 18 starts with the one on one confrontation of what has happened or is going on. If it becomes clear that the sin continues, scripture says to take two others with us. This would require telling someone about what is going on. This step has a spiritual responsibility to share the situation and if done with redemption in mind, is not gossip – that is unless you have the wrong motives.

 

The spirit of this lesson is to have a protective heart for others no matter what our relationship is. In building healthy relationships it is imperative to not speak out of turn. Some of the deepest wounding in our families and relationships come from not protecting one another’s hearts.

 

Proverbs 16:28
“A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”

 

Let’s become trustworthy people and build a strong supportive community so that when we have problems, we have a community to help.

 

When we have engaged in gossip

I struggle with my lips being too loose. One of the hardest things I have had to do is to go to someone and confess that I have said something out of turn. There is a lot of shame associated with gossip. This tells me in my spirit how much this hurts the Father and others. Gossip is listed in the same places as sexual sin, adultery, stealing and prostitution!

 

1 Cor. 6:9-11

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

 

So often we hear of the abomination of “bigger sins” and yet, slander is listed amongst them. Gossip is slander. It is engaging in conversation that would leave someone’s reputation in worse condition than before we spoke. I am speaking to myself here! I feel much conviction when I have spoken about someone negatively.

 

As I evaluate the times I have spoken out of turn I realize that I have often been feeling resentful, entitled or betrayed. I have been looking for validation or for someone to vent with instead of handling the situation with maturity and love. There have also been times when I have felt “powerless” to change someone else but instead of having a redemptive attitude or plan in place, it was just empty and unproductive “talk”.

 

A common passage on the tongue was written in the book of James.

 

James 3:3:-12
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

 

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

 

This passage tells me that without Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will allow the tongue to control our lives and relationships.

 

© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
jjsmid@gracerivers.com
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183

 

 Printable PDF – Protect Confidentiality

 

The Journey of Thomas – Non-Judgmental

Friday, July 3rd, 2009


Matthew 7:1-5

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when at the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

 

“Arthur, I have been really struggling with something I did recently that I just can’t seem to shake. I don’t know what happened but when I talked with Sarah yesterday it seemed that I made things even worse for her. She failed her test at school and I studied with her and knew she could have passed. I tried to help her but in the end, she went away in tears.

 

“Well, Jim, you just need to understand, these things happen and your daughter is responsible for her own failure. She should have studied more. You probably shouldn’t have studied for her like it seems you did. You know what the Bible says about those things, “Each man should bear his own load.” Your daughter is responsible for her own grades. She is old enough now for that.”

 

(Gosh, maybe I am really a bad dad and have made more mistakes than I thought I did.)

 

What just happened? Jim started out the conversation seeking Arthur’s camaraderie and friendship in something that was troubling him. His friend quickly became a teacher and with arrogance just shut him down. I am certain Arthur didn’t intend on hurting his friend Jim. But in the end, Jim may have just needed a friend to listen; instead he got a teaching session and a Bible scripture to boot!

 

No questions or active listening here. It is almost as though this friend had a script memorized ahead of time, ready for bear. Arthur’s answers were plastic, empty and prescribed instead of empathetic or caring towards his friend.

 

When I Listen….

When I look into someone’s life with sincerity-listening to their heart with mine-it is very difficult to be judgmental about their choices or circumstances. However, when I put myself in the role of detached instruction I likely devalue their life experience or perspectives on challenging issues.

 

All too often I can get into my “better than you” stance and look down on others as though somehow I have the definitive answers to life’s problems and questions. I must remember that I may see outward circumstances and may have my own opinions on things, but I cannot see their heart with full clarity.

 

Of course, this passage from Matthew does not negate our ability to make “sound” judgments and to make appropriate decisions about things that we encounter. Instead, this kind of judgment means to assume the office of “Judge” in someone’s life.

 

There is only one judge, and that is Jesus Christ! When we face His judgment we will be assessed fairly and with perfection so who are we to think that we can do that? It’s when we express this attitude that the world turns to us and says, “Don’t judge me”. When they see us with a “holier than thou” attitude their comments are often accurate about us. They are telling us the truth – we can be arrogant about what others do or think and it isn’t right for us to have that attitude.

 

I can quote the second part of this scripture like this, “Oh, here, little one, let me fix your problems since I don’t have any of my own, I can sure help you out here.” Meanwhile I am using this situation to distract myself from the gashing wound that may be present in my own life.

 

So, how do we learn to be more non-judgmental? By working diligently to evaluate our own lives truthfully. Then we are more likely to have compassion towards others and stop pointing our accusing fingers. We build towards this process as we become honest with ourselves. When we see we are capable of the same shortcomings, we can then see ourselves as fallible as everyone else. When we realize we are attempting to “cast the first stone”, we lose our power as accusers.

As we grow less judgmental our relationships will very likely improve. Our decision to assume the office of “Judge” does nothing more than to build walls and barriers with others. Personal honesty gives us the ability to better see our walls so we can begin to tear them down.

 

Teachy-Preachy Communication

Another concept of learning how to relate to others in a healthier way is to put down the proverbial pointing finger in our communication. This “teachy-preachy” way of communication is very prideful and off-putting and it may prevent relationships to flourish. It is with this “closed ears” posture that people feel invalidated and dominated. The “I know better than you” attitude that comes through parent/child style of communication between adults can invalidate a person’s heart and therefore produce walls between us.

 

Can you remember a time when someone pulled out the visible or invisible finger pointing, telling you what to do, or using the “I know what you need” kind of communication? How did you feel? Maybe feeling small or insignificant comes to mind? Or, did it just bring about feelings of invalidation, or intimidation for you? Certainly this is not going to be fruitful.

 

I am thankful that there are people who have walked the road ahead of me and have learned some life lessons that will help me. However, when I am trying to sort through my feelings or pour my heart out, I don’t handle someone telling me what to do or how to do it very well. There will be a time later when I am ready to hear wisdom from someone’s life experience and my ears are situated to hear it.

 

Covering Up My Own Insecurities?

I believe that teachy-preachy communication has closed more relationships off than many other communication errors we can make. I recognize that there have been times when I have gotten into teachy-preachy responses because I began to feel uncomfortable with overwhelming reactions and I just didn’t know what to do. So, instead of learning how to find a sense of peace with someone else’s sorting out process, I tried to fix them and their problems by all the things I know will help. In the end, I don’t think I helped them at all.

 

Bible Bullets

As Christians, we can be so quick to bring another bible passage to the conversation. So often when we find ourselves with a challenging situation with a friend or family member, we can default to some seemingly wise repeating of a bible scripture. I have heard these referred to as “bible bullets” and it sure can communicate an underlying message – “here, let me shoot you with this”! Maybe that will kill off the terrible choices you are making or about to make.

 

If the person isn’t a Christian, then I am reminded that the unsaved man doesn’t understand the things of the Spirit. (I Cor. 2:14) If the person is a Christian, the heat of a challenging conversation is really not the best time to bring out a Scripture. I have learned the best thing we can do in that situation is listen and wait for the right time for our own spiritual input to be relevant. A good time for this might be when they ask.

 

There is certainly a place for God’s holy, inspired Word to be shared. There are teaching moments and situations that provide the best venue to bring Scripture into a situation. But this must be discerned with wisdom and typically only after a person feels valued and heard by us as members of the Body of Christ. Then we might see a better receptivity for some of our best scriptural insights to be shared.

 

This doesn’t let us off the hook! The practice of personal honesty is work. There are times when we look at another person’s life; the splinter we see in their eyes can call us to be reminded of the logs in our own eyes. This humbling experience is just that – an opportunity to regain some honesty in my own life.

 

What will we do when we see someone troubled? What about someone who has just made a terrible mistake? And what was our response to the store clerk that didn’t help us like we would have liked. Or the church friend who has just slammed the reputation of someone we love.

 

Our response is one of humble evaluation of our own lives so that first of all we understand that if we haven’t done it, we may be tempted to do it or we may end up doing the very same thing we are critical of someone else doing.

 

I try each day to live with this in mind; the fact that I am breathing today, is God’s grace on my life. In my imperfection and humanness, I deserve death as compared to God’s standards of complete perfection. Due to my human nature, God provided Jesus Christ to die in my stead so that I may have life – life abundantly. Isn’t this the same for everyone?

 

© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
jjsmid@gracerivers.com
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 3818

 

 Printable PDF – Non-judgemental