Posts Tagged ‘Journey of Thomas’
Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
Hidden Feelings Come Out
I was going to Sears to check out something I was interested in but I was a little early so I was sitting in my car waiting for the doors to open. I looked across the lot and saw a young lady get out of her car. She checked out the back seat where her young toddler child was belted in and shut the door leaving her child in the car. She locked the door and proceeded to walk towards the door to Sears.
I was astonished at what had just happend! I felt a responsibility to protect that child who was motherless in the car in a shopping mall parking lot! I quickly called the police to inform them that a child had been abandoned! I was experiencing nerve shattering, exasperation! I wanted her to be taken to jail no matter what else happened that day, I desired judgment to occur – right then!
I am very protective of little children and the times in my life when I have come out of my skin with carefree confrontation of others has always been when I perceived children were being wounded, or neglected. Oh, I have the stories but never saw anyone get the penalty and today I wanted to see that occur.
So I waited, looking all over the lot for a police car to drive up.
About five minutes later this young mother came walking out of the store moving towards her car. Well, I was ready for bear! I got out of my car and moved towards her with intent to harm on my mind. I approached her and out of my mouth came all of those anxious feelings:
What in the HELL!!!! do you think you are doing?
You walked off and left your child unattended in your car!!!!!!
The lady looked at me with eyes wide open, shocked at the intensity that just flew out of my mouth.
She said: “I am so sorry you were afraid”.
I responded, Of course I was afraid! You left your child! That is how kids get stolen, burned alive, abandoned! You should never leave your child like that!
She said, “I am sorry, I won’t do it again”. ”Thank you for caring enough to say something and to be so protective over my child”.
She got in her car and drove off. I was still shaking like a leaf.
That was quite a shocker for me as well! I never expected her to be so rational about what had just happened. When I got away from the situation I saw something really interesting about myself and about what had just happened.
I do a lot of teaching that almost always includes learning how to communicate our feelings in ways that are honest and effective. That day, this young mother called out my deepest feeling, fear. I was expressing deep anger through my overt words but I didn’t know myself what I was really feeling, I was just reacting!
How funny, this mother who is at the other end of a tongue lashing was calm enough to know more of the truth in this situation than I was.
Lady, I feel fearful and anxious about you leaving your child in the car unattended! I feel incensed that you would put your child in harm’s way! I felt protective over your child’s welfare because she was alone and potentially in line for severe danger! I feel confused as to why you would have done that and over how important it was that you left your child in the car to do something in Sears!
I felt embarrased that I had just left my sanity, swore at this young mother shaking her to the core. I also felt some indignation for what had happened because honestly, the lady was careless and did in fact put her child in harms way.
Well, God has His ways of bringing us into teachable moments of life. Fortunately, nothing happened to the child and hopefully the mother won’t ever forget:
Whatever the HELL she was doing that morning!
Friday, December 18th, 2009
I’ve written a great teaching on the significance of expressing our feelings. I have long touted the importance of sharing the feelings we have in order to express them, release them, and resolve them. The scriptures talk about when one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts.
This morning as I left the fitness center after a good work out, I was putting my gym bag into the car. I was feeling pretty good and as I slid the rear door of our minivan shut a bolt of electricity went through my whole body! Yeeeeeaw! My thumb screamed to my body, I’m stuck between these two doors!!!!!
I quickly pulled the handle open to release the door from my thumb and looked at a very ugly sight. I will not describe it to you so as to not spread my experience too far into your life.
I grabbed something to wrap my thumb in and with everything in my I began to pray asking God to free me from this pain. I started to intentionally breathe heavy, in, out, in… out, in…. out, with the hope that this may help with the pain. Hey it works for delivering children; maybe it will work for me!
As I was gingerly driving home all I could think of is, I need to see Vileen and share my pain with her. Then I thought about the feelings material that I had written. I really needed to share my pain because something inside me told me it would make it better.
So, as I drove up to the house and went inside, I found Vileen and showed her my sorry thumb. It did help to share my pain. She entered into the solution with me to find something to wrap my thumb. She was giving instruction for making it better. We thought it would be a good idea to get a thumb guard to protect it so I drove to Walgreen’s to see if they had one.
At the counter I spoke with the pharmacist about my smashed thumb. She said, “Oh, I’ve done that. That brings back some painful memories.”
She understood my pain because she had done that herself.
Why can we at times be so reticent to share our emotional pain with others? It helps to let others know. It relieves some of the burden to know someone else has gone through the same thing I have.
Within about an hour or so I had shared my smashed thumb with three people and it started to not hurt so badly. I have wrapped it and am now into the flow of the day. I have a big clumsy thumb but I’m ok now. Life is moving on.
Find a place to share your pain today. Get it out there and release it. Maybe it will help.
I never knew I could draw a lesson from smashing my thumb but God uses some strange things to show us how to live our live better.
Tuesday, September 29th, 2009
As I contemplated going to work for a Toyota Dealership I looked back over the years of my own car buying experiences. I had purchased a lot of cars in my lifetime. When I was 17 years old I was ecstatic when buying a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle.
I have bought cars from individuals, dealers, and yes, even off of Ebay! Each time I experienced my own internal battle to find something I felt comfortable with at a price I wanted to pay. I can also remember many of those times when I bought a car I really couldn’t afford.
I have wondered if the challenge of buying a car stems mainly from our own discomfort - with either parting with our money - or not having enough money to buy what we wanted. None the less, it came down to making a decision that would potentially impact many years of our life financially and practically.
I had a customer recently named Shelly who was interested in buying a fun little sports car. She test drove the car. At the point of trying to make a decision she said she wanted to talk about buying the car. So we moved to my desk and I got out the paper work.
At this point, I realized how many times I had sat at that same desk in my own lifetime.
Does this picture cause any car buying trauma?
They all look alike. Small, three chairs, inside a little cubicle often full of intimidation and fear. Our internal process begins; “How much can I afford? How much will they sell this for?” Most of us are familiar with the battle for the win! We want the best car for the best price. The owner or dealership wants the best price too; the one where they make the most money. Everyone is after the same dollar in the middle of the deal.
It is at this point where we have likely already found the car of our dreams and we tend to want it at any price and are willing to compromise some in our own checkbook to get it. We will even begin to make bargains with ourselves. “Hum, maybe I can eat out less or buy less clothing this year”, our thoughts ramble through possibilities. “How can I come up with the extra $30 per month that I need to get this car?”
As Shelley sat down I tried to put myself in their shoes. I tried to relate to her experience and be as honest as I could with myself. As we wrote up the deal the afternoon had already moved close to the dinner hour. Shelley told me that she had a special place to be at 5:00 and had scheduled to meet with friends that would be waiting for her.
The mangers tried to remind me that we needed to get her to a decision and completion of the deal. I understood their point. But I was in conflict with how inconvenient it was at times when I was trying to buy a car. I didn’t want to pressure her to make the deal even if it would compromise her commitment to another person. I remember a time when I had to call someone to opt out of something I had made a promise to attend because I was sitting in the sales cubicle myself.
After a quick evaluation of my own life experience, I related to Shelley that I fully understood and that I had no intention of holding her up so as to make her miss something she had committed to. I freed her up to come back the next day to complete the deal. As you might imagine my managers were confused that I let her go but I had a higher calling and purpose here.
I made the relationship with Shelley more important than buying a car right there and then. In my mind, if I was successful at showing her I could relate and I was as committed as she was to other relationships, then maybe I would not only sell her a car but she might tell others about me for their own car buying needs. I found that in the end, Shelley didn’t buy the car because she also had higher values. She did not have the budget to buy a car at that time. She said she would be more ready next year after paying attention to some current debt.
Maybe next year Shelley will be in a better position to by a car with more confidence about spending the money. Maybe next year I’ll find that by building relationships through actively listening to others’ needs will pay off multifold!
I want to be respected, believed, and valued so I want to treat others that way too. I wouldn’t want my customers to leave after a grueling and postponing experience with buying a car. I’d rather have them say that I was one salesman that respected them all the way through the buying process.
I was told when entering into this job that relationships sell cars. After being there for only two weeks, I am not sure they really meant what they said. At least not in the way I try to value relationships. The higher calling is to put this world and its idols out of the way and value what God does – people.
Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
Being content with who we are only comes from knowing who we are to begin with!
I was getting to know a fellow salesman the other day at the car dealership, “Mark, I found a great way to communicate with my customers about buying cars.” I found that I can sell an experience. Cars are meant to be driven and for many customers they will buy a car because they have a personal experience that is satisfying to them.
Marks reply after I talked more about my ideas was, “John, I’m different than that. I am more of a nuts and bolts guy”. We discussed our differences and I told him that his ways are personal to who he is as a person.
I learned that in selling any product, each of us has an authentic platform that is personal to us. If I am trying to copy someone else’s’ personality or trying to model another person’s presentation I could come off to a customer as being insincere or fake.
I am finding my own place in the market place. I am trying to be honest about who I am and what I think and feel as I present a potential car to a customer. As I do that, I really enjoy the connection I have with them individually.
Articles on Honesty and Authenticity Click Here
Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Printable PDF – John Smid’s Journey Testimony
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
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183
Printable PDF – John Smid’s Journey Testimony
Friday, July 3rd, 2009
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.
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.
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
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 3818
Printable PDF – Non-judgemental
Friday, June 26th, 2009
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
He who answers before listening that is his folly and his shame.
Part Two: The Way
The Journey of Thomas has been built in three sections. The first one is based on gaining honesty in our own life. It was a time to develop a better understanding of our own hearts. Each session was designed to help us to become more aware of our own life experiences with the hope we would be more able to share them with others.
The second section is called “The Way”. We are going to introduce some practical tools and skill development to learn more about what we can do to connect more intimately with others. The Way is the “how to” of this curriculum. It will involve building new habits, learning new ways of relating to others that are more effective. We will also have to break some old habits. We begin with Active Participation.
The Art of Listening
Listening to another person’s heart can be one of the most affirming actions we can enter into. Hearing the heart cries, the joys, the desires of another person can build a rich deep relationship and create a connection that will promote a stronger desire to spend time with one another.
Sometimes we are remiss and allow distractions to get in the way of hearing some important things from someone we know. Television, cell phones, busy schedules, or even our own life issues can all interrupt significant interaction with others.
Or when we are faced with a challenging conversation it is easy to respond to defend ourselves or to attempt to “fix” the problem that has arisen rather than to take the time to truly listen to what is being said. Sometimes the details we hear lead us to a misunderstanding of the real issues and our reaction can be to feel hurt or misunderstood and we react out of our own wounds.
So many of us are habitual “fixers” and try so hard to find solutions for our hurting or challenged friends or family. Sometimes the frustration that may come from the conversation can come from our “fixing” ways. Maybe our friend doesn’t want to be fixed; they just want to feel heard. Fixing can be a way of trying to get someone else’s problem out of my already overwhelmed life. Or, it can take focus off of the person and onto how skilled I am at fixing someone else. The motive to overrun another person with our own goals will often thwart listening to their heart.
Relating in a “fixing” mode will often lead to arguing, bantering, and overall a lack of effective relationship.
It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
Active participation requires of us to practice the art of listening. Psalm 116: 1-2 is my life verse because I felt so unheard most of my life.
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.
My journey towards Christ started from knowing that He heard my heart cry for help. His personal response to my hurting heart drew me into His hope.
We must learn to listen in such a way as to turn our ears to one another when it is important to do so. It is important to know when it is time to put down the book, to turn off the television, to shut off our cell phones. Can you imagine how much it would help you to know that when we really need to share our heart with the person we have chosen to allow in, that they would turn to us with an undivided ear? I believe that everyone really desires to know they are significant and the when they are in trouble, there will be someone who will care. No matter what kind of bravado we can put up around ourselves, we are all human and I believe need a listening ear at sometime in our lives.
Enter With Our Whole Heart
When we decided to enter into honest, authentic, and transparent relationships we must choose to enter in with our whole heart. This requires of us to set aside our lives for the sake of one another.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Letting go of our personal agendas or rights for the time needed to affirm something in someone else’s life that deserves our attention is a skill worth learning. When we have become honest enough with ourselves to know how much we desire to feel heard, to feel significant, we can be much more aware of this need in others.
Maybe that television program can be let go; or the score of the game can be seen at a later time. We might be out to lunch with a friend and we just heard something that pricked our heart and we can put down the drink or sandwich at least for a moment to gain eye contact with our friend letting them know we are listening.
We might have found ourselves involved in a difficult discussion with our spouse and we feel defensive about what is being brought out. It would be helpful to develop the self control to not respond in defensiveness. But rather it would be great to learn to turn our ears to the other person to hear them. This will go a long way at staving off fruitless arguments.
Many years ago in my growth as Christian one of the most important things I learned is that I do not really have any “rights”. I realized that without the grace of the Almighty God, I am dead and my very breath is a gift from Him. The fact that I am alive is God’s provision for me at His will. This helps me to be a lot less defensive with others when I feel challenged or threatened by something someone has said. I also have learned to be honest with myself. At least inside my heart I know that more than likely, there is a lot of truth in a challenging comment or situation. I know that I may hold at least some of the blame for the rift or accusation. It is a pretty thin pancake that doesn’t have two sides!
A friend of mine told once that when a conversation is really heated up, it can be like a racing herd of rhinoceroses and not the best time to try to stop them because they will trample you. It was wise to let them run themselves out and then go and deal with the issue that may have caused them to run. I have found this to be such wise counsel. Don’t try to come running into a hurting situation with your best memory of God’s word. It would be best to listen to their heart.
Listening to the Wounded Heart
I have worked with a lot of wounded and abused people over the years. I have been wounded too. I have learned that what I needed more than anything else in order to experience healing was an ear of concern or validation. I typically figured out the rest with the Lord and over time. Because I knew this about myself it has made it much easier to learn the skill of listening to others rather than trying to remove the pain by my insights or instruction for them. I can easily slip into a teaching way and therefore I also learned that this is a skill that must be practiced.
An example of this is when I was in my forties, I told my sister that my step father had crossed some serious sexual boundaries with me when I was only ten years old. After I shared this with her, she just looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “John, I never knew this happened to you. I am so sorry”. I cannot tell you how much healing occurred in my heart that day just because someone that was there, who knew the people involved, said they heard and understood. I felt validated, and a salve of healing poured over my wound that day. All she did was to hear my heart and I felt it deep inside. She didn’t try to minimize, fix, or over compensate through her own efforts.
Can You Relate?
Active participation in one another’s lives requires the sacrifice of our own. Jesus modeled this in setting aside His own life for ours. He is asking us to do the same for one another.
Can you relate to what someone has shared? When I was in a terrible situation in my life with broken relationships and increasing shame, a friend told me to go to an Al-anon/Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He said that I might find a better group of friends there. I had nothing to lose so I went. I will never forget the impact I experienced at that first meeting. I don’t remember what it was but I openly shared something about my life and a lady across the room stood up and said, “John, I can relate to what you have shared”. That one act of listening moved me to a brand new life with God. I learned the Serenity Prayer and felt led to seek God the next time I was experiencing the pain I had gotten myself into. Her active relating that day helped me to feel less alone and more motivated to seek help. I believe this was the first time I sought God from my heart to His.
One of my favorite scriptures is:
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
As Christians one of the most powerful tools we have is the ability to share the testimony of our life experience with those who are stuck or bound by their own prisons. Active Participation leads us to put our own lives in the shoes of someone else’s experience, because we recognize we have been there. We have all known a prison, a shame filled experience where we were so bound we may have been unwilling to leave the prison cell due to our own fears. We needed desperately to know we weren’t alone. Someone coming alongside us who would just listen can be the trick!
To actively listen to someone’s heart will require us to get into our own hearts. It may be a vulnerable place for us to go but taking the risk is worth it. It is a personal sacrifice we become willing to make for the sake of God’s kingdom and His people.
© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 3818
Printable PDF – Active Participation
Sunday, June 14th, 2009
by John J. Smid
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Authenticity is a word that is very poplar these days. It seems everyone is looking for authenticity and is saying they want this from others. The definition of authenticity is to be genuine, real, not false or an imitation of yourself. Are we sure we know what we are asking for?
The challenge to a discovery of authenticity is that it requires of us to know ourselves deeply. To live out an authentic life means that we must be willing to live as who we were created to be.
Psalm 139 14-16
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
If God knows us intimately and formed us for His own purposes and design, then our role is to seek Him for who He made us to be. Authenticity can therefore only be lived out if we know the original plan. This would require of us to speak to our Creator and hear His responses. Hearing from Him His original design for our lives can be a lifelong process but in our discovery process we are given the option to accept it or to reject it.
God’s created design is not so complicated. First, we are humans. He has shown us many things in His Word about how He designed us to live as human beings. Then, he created us “male and female, He created them”. There are clear designs for men and women as well. After that, we are individuals with many unique qualities.
What are our talents, our gifts? Do you know how you were designed to function within our human culture? Have you hungered to be like someone else thinking life would be better if you had their gifts? In some cases, trying to be like someone else would be like putting a Toyota emblem on a Chevrolet; not only would it not be honest, but it might look awkward to the discerning eye.
There are many questions that we have concerning whether or not God intentionally created some people with birth defects or weaknesses. Without getting into a theological study on this; living an authentic life includes the acceptance of things the way they are without trying to hide this reality.
For example, I remember a speaker that was born with half of one of his arms missing. He wore a prosthetic arm. When he got up to speak, the first thing he did was tell us the story of his arm. His authenticity put us all at ease and took the attention off of the curiosity that could have been there had he not mentioned it.
We can also learn to apply “false images” to ourselves through the course of our lives that can deceive others as they get to know us. When I was figuring out how to live my life I went through stages of clothing styles, haircuts, and mannerisms that I remember with embarrassment today. I am sure I looked pretty weird to some people as I passed through my phases of self-discovery. I realized that there were also times when I conformed to what I thought others may have expected, blending in so as to not draw attention to myself. Either of these can be an extreme if it isn’t lined up with my own authenticity.
Sometimes we misrepresent ourselves to others. I have known a couple of young men who are artists. When I first saw them they appeared to me to be counter-culture. Therefore, I judged them to be cold and emotionally hard due to their tattoos and ragged clothing. I later had the opportunity to hear them talk about their lives. I was so wrong! They were both sweet spirited, kind, and very connected to the real spirit of the Lord. They were mature in their walk with Christ as evidenced by displaying His heart. The sad thing is that they had adopted an appearance that was misrepresenting their true heart and likely were rejected by many who were thrown off by their external attire.
When we lack authenticity, others can sense that and steer away from us, avoiding something they perceive is not genuine. I believe we can experience this more than we know. People don’t always know why they may avoid someone or walk in separation from others and sometimes it’s because they don’t sense genuineness about them.
I was at a conference once where a young man was dressed in a very unusual manner. He was wearing clothes that were too big, dyed hair that was a strange shade of red and overall just kind of clownish. During our conversation I felt the open door to ask him about his clothes. He said the he wore them because he didn’t trust people. He explained that if someone were willing to get to know him through the strange appearance then he believed they could be trusted more. I was very honest with him in my reply. I said, “I feel manipulated by your clothing and appearance. That isn’t fair to me or anyone else that comes in contact with you and it isn’t fair to you!” He was not living authentically and I am sure it created loneliness for him and much discomfort for others.
I ran into this same man when he came to hear me speak about six months later. He told me that when I saw him previously he had just become a Christian about two weeks prior. He had learned a lot in those six months and was no longer dressed in such an extreme fashion. I was really grateful that the Lord allowed me to see the change in his life.
Another situation I ran across had to do with a man who came from a certain ethnic background. He was talking about a sense that he was being judged harshly at his place of employment. When he told me the story he was speaking with an ethnic lingo as well as a posture that was recognizable in a stereotypical way. I questioned him about this and asked him if that was the way he was at work because I had not seen this from him in our previous interaction. I suggested that he talk in his non-affected manner and lose the ethnic posture and he might find a better reaction at work. He took the challenge and things did change for him. His accent and posture were false images and stemmed from self-protection. They did not truly represent who he was authentically.
Not Always Comfortable
No matter how much we may want it, true authenticity isn’t always comfortable! I have found that when we stop playing the games of pleasing, cloaking, and hiding, this can create realness that many people aren’t used to. The unfamiliarity with true authenticity can be uncomfortable. We need to discover who God made us to be and find the best way for us to reflect the genuine model of whom we are even in the face of making ourselves or others uncomfortable.
Authenticity May Not Look “Normal”
I also knew a lady who was a very creative lady. She saw the world through colorful eyes and unique perspectives. She dressed in flowing fabric, colorful and creative collections of jewelry, and hair that was tossed in very random ways with color that was off the shelf for sure! There was no falseness in her appearance and she was very comfortable if not very pleasurable to be around. In her case, she was creative from the inside out and she remained true to who she was.
So, as we think about those that we may judge to be so different from us, how do we look to them as Christians? What is an authentic Christian life? Is it a man in a suit or a woman in a nice dress? Is it the two parents with delightful little blonde children? Does it mean we speak with “Thee’s and Thou’s”?
I think we can all agree that these do not define an authentic Christian. However, there is a sense from our world that Christians aren’t authentic. So what’s the problem? I think it is often that we carry an image that we don’t have problems or that we just “love” Jesus so much that we hang around in the clouds of religious romance.
I have found in my walk with Christ that I have many unanswered questions about life; I also remain in bondage to sin that causes me to struggle with my faith. I don’t always “love” Jesus in an emotionally relating way and as a believer in Jesus Christ; I know why He offered me forgiveness from my sin because I need His forgiveness each and every day.
As I think about what it means to be a Christian, I find myself confused and not always in sync with other Christians I know. I can feel lonely, fearful, and not always as well received by my Heavenly Father as I hear preached from some pulpits. I recoil at some of the proverbial plastic Christian rhetoric and at times feel cautious around some Christians who seem to be “in love with Jesus” without ever exhibiting any real doubts or struggles. I can be judgmental, critical, and rebellious in making wrong choices that I know will not benefit me in the end.
What I do know is that all of this is in fact why He died for me and offered me a new life that includes an eternal destination of living in His kingdom of perfection at the appointed time.
Our Daily Lives as People
What about the man who goes to work as a corporate executive who as a youth had his heart set on working with his hands in creating order out of mechanical disorder? Or how about the church pastor whose heart is more in foreign missions and finds himself frustrated each day with his congregation’s lack of interest in missions?
Or think about a woman whose most significant desire is to raise her children and yet she gets in the car each morning leaving her children for a job that she is not truly invested in. Or, maybe her job gives her the financial ability to maintain an image she desires and yet her family could live on less.
These people, by emotionally shutting down, will begin to experience the consequences of living a daily life of confusion. Maybe they have feelings of disconnectedness from their soul in their daily lives that leaves them deeply searching for more in places that are unsatisfactory. There may be an invisible barrier around them that keeps others at a distance or that keeps them from reaching out for true relationship.
The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.
Choosing to walk in authenticity is a choice of integrity. A lifestyle of integrity is to be the same all the way through. It is costly to develop a willingness to be just what God created us to be. The simple life may not feel so simple until we rid ourselves of those things that don’t fit us and get comfortable with who we are.
Prayer for today: Lord, I know you made me the way you wanted me to be. I trust that you knew what you were doing at that time but I’ve done a pretty good job of covering that up. In my life, I have allowed others to make me into what they wanted me to be rather than what you created me to be.
Please show me who I am and give me the grace to live that out. I want to glorify you in all that is seen and unseen. I know that the only happiness I will find is to be who you created me to be. I want to figure that out and find your joy in it.
© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183
Printable PDF Authencity