Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A New Way to Think About College

The following article, titled A High - Tech Rebirth From Higher Ed's Ruins, written by David Gelernter and appearing in the Monday, January 23, 2017 Wall Street Journal, explains a way of learning and maturing that I believe is much more compatible with encouraging and developing the unique personas and capabilities God has instilled within each person. 

It is exciting to think that the traditional educational mold, not just at the college level but at all levels of education, is finally beginning to be thoughtfully broken.

Read it here:


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Detachment From the Past

One of the tests to discern whether we are allowing the past to direct and determine our present lives is to notice how often we say, “I was raised...” or “When I was growing up” or “My parents....”

Now, reminiscing about grand family vacations to the Tetons or Yellowstone, or sharing with others the exhilarating excursions in Great Uncle Fred’s open cockpit biplane are not what I’m talking about.

What I’m referring to is the line of thinking we fall into in which we habitually look to the past to explain the less-than-ideal person we are today.

We often operate from a presupposition that the past defines our personality and justifies our mistakes and bad habits.

It may never have occurred to us that we can begin to think about ourselves, not, in fact, from as far back as the beginning, but from the point at which we now find ourselves.

Is the past full of “stuff,” as many people like to put it? Yes.
Is the past full of nothing but tragedy and victimization for some? Yes.

Am I belittling and discounting these events? No.

There is, depending upon the circumstances, a place to certainly get the past out there for close scrutiny in order to heal from it. And for those with seriously egregious pasts, this can take time.

But for many people with the “normal”—and by that I mean traditionally dysfunctional—childrearing that takes shape in one form or another in almost every family, once that past has been digested, there is a time to stop chewing the cud.

By placing too much importance on the past, we stall our progress forward. 

The thinking often goes like this:
The past cannot be changed.
I am a product of the past. 
Therefore I cannot change.

In this way, the past continues to be our present.

Giving up the past and our standing as victims can be as difficult as removing a pacifier from a baby. We have come to rely on the “facts” and “truth” of our increasingly distant past to let us off the hook in many areas of our present-day lives.

How often have we said things like,
“Seriously, what can you expect from someone who was raised as I was?” 
 “You’d be depressed too if you’d had the childhood I had”
 “Really, if I had had some encouragement as a kid I wouldn’t be in this lousy job”
“I never wanted to go to college but...”
“Sadly, I married my father/mother"
“Christmas was always a let-down at our house, so Bah Humbug!”
and on and on it goes.

It is remarkable that, in almost every other area of our lives, we rally for cleaner air, new laws, legislation that will free us from this or that constraint and yet, we freely allow, if not welcome, the pollution of our past to dominate our current thinking, attitudes, actions and relationships.

The fact of the matter is, we will live the greater portion of our lives outside of and free from the bygone days we grew up in. 

And even though some of those same dysfunctional people may continue to have a role in our lives, we, as mature adults, are capable of directing interactions with and setting boundaries around those people. 

We are not at the mercy of any person, place or thing, perpetual victims to what once was and still attempts to be.

Instead, we are at the mercy of our loving Father, who implores us to step out in the new life He has so graciously endowed us with because He knows we require it.

To refuse His lead is to allow the people and circumstances of our past to be our gods. It should be no surprise then that our lives will bear the sour and rotten fruit that a life lived off of the soil of yesterday produces.

copyright Barb Harwood

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
Watch the path of your feet
And all your ways will be established.” Proverbs 4:25-26

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’
‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’
Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.’” John 3:3-6

Friday, January 20, 2017

Because We Are As One

"Because we are made in the image and likeness of God--because we are as one on this planet--let us this week renew our commitment to a world where our Nation and all nations grow and prosper together in a spirit of love and brotherhood."
Ronald Reagan, February 13, 1981 Message on the Observance of National Brotherhood Week, February 15-21, 1981

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Can I Change My Thought-Life?

The Bible says to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

How does a person do that?

First of all, as Christians committed to the Word of God in Christ, we hold ourselves accountable to God for our thought-life.

Matthew 5 is a wonderful chapter to read regarding thought-life versus action and Jesus’ call to the unorthodox—by secular humanist standards—response to these juxtapositions.

What we learn from Scripture is that all aspects of life, including thought-life, fall under obedience to God, who can hear everything we think and say (Matthew 6:6; Luke 1:51; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 17:9-10).

How does this differ from someone who does not have a relationship with the Triune God of the Bible?

Well, in agnostic, atheistic or relativistic-religionist situations, the only person to remain accountable to for our thoughts is ourselves.
(If I have made the decision that everything, including God, is relative, then haven’t I crowned myself God? If I have decided there is no God, haven’t I then assigned myself to be in charge? If I have given up, stopped questioning and decided there are no answers or absolutes, haven’t I made my conclusion an absolute and myself its leader?)

So it follows then that if I have put myself in charge of me, then I have also put myself in charge of not thinking negative thoughts. If I go ahead and think those thoughts anyway, the only person who knows is me. I am in charge of me.

And since I am the only person who knows of the infraction, although I may become extremely frustrated with myself—even depressed—that I cannot seem to change my thought life, the only incentive to change that thought life continues to be me. And so I continue in a vicious circle of wanting to change my thought life, and failing.

God’s accountability is an excellent motivator on several counts: 
Out of His love for us, He has given us salvation and new life through Christ, and His Word and Holy Spirit equip and empower us in this new life.

Out of our love for Him, we will want to please Him. And when we please Him, we realize we are overcoming all sorts of things that we could never overcome on our own, including negativity and other dysfunctional thought patterns.

When we fail, which we find, over time, to be less and less, we have someplace to go with that failure: to God’s forgiveness and the renewed commitment to Him that comes out of that to leave our life of sin (John 8:11).

We know that the only reason we fail in our thought life is because we don’t take our thoughts captive under the authority, wisdom and love of God.

There are religions, philosophies and ideologies that put man at the center of man; man in charge of himself. So if me is the god of me, then I can pretty much get away with whatever I want, or with whatever I am not able to control.

In Christianity, we have the gift of not having to be in charge; in fact, we are commanded not to be in charge, of ourselves.

If I am repeatedly intent on changing something about myself without success, I must honestly ask who I have put in control of this decision to change: myself, or God?

 copyright Barb Harwood

“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’
But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:12-16

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:21-24a (although the context of this verse is within a discussion of money and material possessions, the underlying universal point is that whatever we serve through prioritization, be it our possessions and money or our thoughts and attitudes, reveals where our heart is.)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3: 1-3

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature...You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:5a; 7-10

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Conditional Forgiveness

Ravi Zacharias, in his and Vince Vitale’s 2017 book, Jesus Among Secular Gods, describes how the attitude that “forgiveness is only for those who deserve it” is incompatible with Jesus Christ.

I am thinking deeply about this: about the conditions I put on forgiveness, and the conditions others may put on whether or not they forgive me.

It is fascinating to discern the many layers, often subconscious, of forgiveness.

We may intellectually forgive someone, adamant that we “hold no grudge.” But our actions tell another story.

We may withhold forgiveness because we feel a person is undeserving:
Perhaps they have not “properly” apologized;
perhaps they have not apologized at all;
perhaps we are upset that they are not mind-readers and thus appear to be unaware of our being offended;
perhaps they have denied any wrongdoing;
perhaps they do not want to or cannot apologize;
perhaps they blame us for the infraction and see no need to be held accountable.

We may deem institutionspoliticiansleaders and political parties unworthy of forgiveness. We may in fact see forgiveness in this case as being traitorous to our cause, incompatible with our sense of justice, or an infringement on our self-righteousness.

We may ignore any signs of regenerative maturity from another person because our wounded pride wants to continue to believe they are still the rotten person they were days, weeks, or years ago when they were steeped in their own dysfunction. And so we don't forgive.

And even if we concede someone has changed for the better, and their actions are conciliatory, we hold onto the past infraction forever, basically “paying them back for what they did to us” within a mindset of unforgiveness.

Many of us have, or currently are, practicing this withholding of forgiveness, all the while paying lip service, on social media and in other areas of our lives, to kumbaya, love and world peace, and “being the change.”

Very few of us ever get to the place where I believe Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, in the story, A Christmas Carol, was: unconditionally loving his abusive, curt and hurtful uncle while keeping the door of forgiveness open, whether Uncle Scrooge walked through it or not.

Note that Fred did not love the abuse, the curtness or the hurt it caused, but he loved the man in bondage to it by maintaining a forgiving heart and mind.

This nephew was able to practice daily compassion for his uncle by not taking the uncle’s gruffness personal; a very difficult, very mature stance.

Fred did not read into the attitudes and actions of his uncle, but instead separated himself from his uncle’s outworking of inner fears and hardness of heart. The nephew was loyal to the uncle, not to the uncle’s behaviors.

Fred was patient in letting Scrooge work out his demons, and did not punish him once that battle was won. In fact, Fred celebrated with Scrooge in his victory, letting all the bygones melt away.

It is a wonderful turning point to be able to emerge out of, logically and emotionally, our own unforgiveness with all its qualifiers, and to separate one’s self logically and emotionally from the unforgiveness of others. 

It is the ultimate freedom to detach from what has been and what may yet continue that is out of our control, and attach instead to what is in Christ.

copyright Barb Harwood

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:7-14

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tired of Being a Bad Actor in a Lousy Play?

In the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the author Stephen R. Covey talks about each person’s script and autobiography, and how what has transpired for us and molded us in the past doesn’t have to continue to be our reality going forward.

Another author I recently read put it this way: the way we were raised may provide reasons for how we are today, but not excuses. Covey’s book is all about how each person can choose to change and write a new script, and in fact, must make that choice in order for a new script to replace the old.

For those of us who have accepted Christ, our new script is Christ. He is writing our autobiography now. And to the extent that we cooperate with His process is the extent to which we free ourselves from the insanity of trying to do things over and over again the same way but expecting different results.

Christ’s script is to be my only script, and who I am in Him to be my only autobiography.

This must become a discipline, empowered by His Holy Spirit reminding me every second of every day until I no longer need to be reminded quite as often because I am, without even thinking, living this new script. It has become who I am in Christ and Christ in me.

copyright Barb Harwood

“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:9

“but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:24-30