Archive for March, 2008

Christian Art

Monday, March 17th, 2008

When we look at a painting, or hear a symphony, or read a book, and feel more Named, then, for us, that work is a work of Christian art.  But to look at a work of art and then to make a judgment as to whether or not it is art, and whether or not it is Christian, is presumptuous.  It is something we cannot know in any conclusive way.  We can know only if it speaks within our own hearts, and leads us to living more deeply with Christ in God.

— Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, quoted in Glimpses of Grace, compiled by Carole F. Chase

Misplaced Attention

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

The thing that cripples relationships is focusing more on their flaws than on their loving or their goodness.  This misplaced attention makes no sense and underlies many of our difficulties with forgiveness.

Every spouse has enormous good to offer the other one; when we don’t pay attention to those gifts, we can kill the marriage.  We ignore the endless piles of laundry she cleans and folds, the jobs he goes to year after year, the ongoing effort she makes to tolerate our flaws.  Our anger blinds us to the ways in which our partner overcame his childhood difficulties to be a productive person, her simple dignity in how she acts under stress, or what a loving father he is.  We miss both the small indications of love we regularly receive and the larger moments that sustain our lives.  The list of our lover’s good qualities is endless and limited only by our effort and imagination.  We take our lovers and relationships for granted and do not notice our blessings until something goes wrong….

Love suffers when we focus on our partners’ difficult traits and problematic behaviors to the exclusion of their beauty and goodness.  We accentuate our painful experiences when we focus our attention on difficult traits.  By focusing on what is wrong, we immediately put stress into our bodies and minds.  By taking our partners’ good qualities for granted and focusing on their errors and flaws, we create more stress in our lives and relationships….  What brings love to our relationship and sows the seeds for forgiveness is simple:  appreciating absolutely everything we can about the person we are with each and every day.  There is nothing simpler to do, and no more powerful gift you can offer to your partner.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 128-130

Easier Done than Said

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Just about everything in this world is easier said than done, with the exception of “systematically assisting Sisyphus’s stealthy, cyst-susceptible sister,” which is easier done than said.

— Lemony Snicket, Horseradish, p. 159

Handing It to God

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Forgiveness involves handing over to God the responsibility for justice.  The longer we hold onto it, the more it strangles us.

— Beth Moore, Praying God’s Word Day by Day, p. 73

Perseverance

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Yet, we are called to persevere, to persist in our prayers for the unsaved, and the helpless.  Perseverance keeps going, even in the face of continued disappointments, setbacks, trials.  Perseverance persists, not by power, nor by might, but by the Spirit of God.  Are you still persevering, or are you about to give up, because you cannot see an answer, and it seems as if your Lazarus promise is dead, or nothing appears to be happening each time you look?  “Go back,” says Elijah to his servant, and to you.  Keep looking, keep asking, keep persisting, and God has promised that in due time you will receive a reward if you do not get weary and give up!
Theresa, a Stander, www.rejoiceministries.org

Challenging Unenforceable Rules

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Once you’ve identified your unenforceable rule, you need to figure out how to hold on to the enforceable desire and get rid of the unenforceable demand.  Hoping that things will go the way you want and working hard to get your wishes gratified is a good approach to your relationship.  At the same time, remind yourself that you cannot control your lover’s behavior, and it is foolish to demand things that your lover isn’t willing to give.  Try substituting the words “hope” or “wish” for “must” or “have to” in your unenforceable expectation or demand.  This will help you to avoid driving yourself crazy and retain the energy to maximize the relationship you have….

Challenging your unenforceable rules lets you take responsibility for your feelings and helps you take your partner’s quirks less personally.  You become aware that much of what you took personally about your partner’s behavior was only rules you could not enforce.  You remember that you love your partner, not the things you are demanding from him or her.  Once you do this, you can see that your thinking played a significant role in the anger and hurt that you felt.  As you challenge your rules, you will see that clearer thinking leads to more peaceful coexistence in your marriage and day-to-day life….

Notice that when you wish or hope that things will be a certain way, you think more clearly and are more peaceful than when you demand that they be a certain way.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 121-123

The Pain of Broken Rules

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

The problem comes when we forget that what we hope for is not the same as what we need or have the power to compel.  Unenforceable rules warp our judgment.  We try so hard to get our rules obeyed that we do not see the damage that ensues from that effort.  We blame our lovers for breaking our rules, and we withhold our love when they do so.  Our pain and frustration cause us to do things that harm our relationship rather than help it….

The first step in unraveling your unenforceable rules is to recognize them.  When you finally realize that you are making unenforceable rules, you are taking the first step toward helping yourself.  Simply by doing this, you have taken back some of the power you gave your spouse to hurt you.  This is true whether your spouse failed, or was selfish, or stood firm defending his or her quirky behavior, or loved you wrong, or forgot your birthday.

When you challenge your unenforceable rules, you take the next step in learning to forgive.  The good news is that challenging unenforceable rules is a simple process.  Unenforceable rules make their presence known.  You do not have to look far to find them.  Every time you are more than mildly upset with the actions of your lover, it is because you are trying to enforce an unenforceable rule.  Every time you are more than mildly upset with your life, it is because you are trying to enforce an unenforceable rule.  Every time you are more than mildly upset with yourself, you are trying to enforce an unenforceable rule….

What you need to realize is that underneath your most painful feelings are rules you are helplessly trying to enforce.  Once you start to challenge your rules when you first feel upset, then your bad feelings won’t last and will not be as severe….

None of us have the ability to force our lovers to comply with our demands, and therefore they often break our rules.  It can be difficult to accept the fact that your lover does not have to make your life easier or better or lessen your suffering when you want him or her to.  You will only suffer more, however, when you try harder to enforce your unenforceable rules than challenge them.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 116-120

Transformation

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby — awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess.

— Lemony Snicket, Horseradish:  Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid, p. 105

Life-Changing Places

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

In every library there is a sense of possibility, a potential for wonder.  For all our orderliness and organization, for all the stillness and quiet, just below the surface there is the anarchic impulse that keeps us believing that at any moment our lives may be changed.

— Michael Gorman, Our Singular Strengths:  Meditations for Librarians, p. 181

A Rich Self

Friday, March 7th, 2008

A rich self has a distinct attitude toward the past, the present, and the future.  It surveys the past with gratitude for what it has received, not with annoyance about what it hasn’t achieved or about how little it has been given.  A rich self lives in the present with contentment.  Rather than never having enough of anything except for the burdens others place on it, it is “always having enough of everything” (2 Corinthians 9:8).  It still strives, but it strives out of satisfied fullness, not out of the emptiness of craving.  A rich self looks toward the future with trust.  It gives rather than holding things back in fear of coming out too short, because it believes God’s promise that God will take care of it.  Finite and endangered, a rich self still gives, because its life is “hidden with Christ” in the infinite, unassailable, and utterly generous God, the Lord of the present, the past, and the future (see Colossians 3:3).

— Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge, p. 110