What’s in a NAME? A couple more ThoughtFormative books (pt.2), & other musings…

12 years ago, theBean had a dream – to start a preschool in our church. With the help of a dear friend & a lot of hard work (& through too many twists, turns, & versions to mention,) it is thriving & is functioning far beyond anything I could ever have imagined. She (& her team) rock. About 2 weeks ago, most/all of the Kindergarten-age kids transitioned out of the preschool & into “the Real World;” at the same time, the school has had an influx of kids (babies through age 5) that has not only kept our enrollment up where it was at the end of the last school year, there are actually more kids currently attending than at any other time in our school’s history. Very cool to see.

What’s also cool is that, through the school, we get to reach people from all over the world, right here in our town. Currently,(in addition to the U.S.) we have kids from:

  • China
  • Russia
  • Mexico
  • Syria
  • Nigeria

It stands to reason, we’d have our share of interesting names… & we do…  In that vein, I’ve noticed a baby name-trendSee if you can pick up the pattern – we have:

  • Jackson
  • Jaxon
  • Jaxson
  • Jaxzyn (also pronounced JACK-son)
  • Axton
  • Paxton
  • Daxon
  • (STACK-son)

True story. (Mom of Staqxson said she had invented the name. I believe her.) No judgement from me. It does make me wonder, however, what do people consider, what do they think about, what is the process for picking a name for their baby? In Bible days, kids were given names specifically because of what they meant, because of the significance. Take for instance the name –John it means, “the grace/mercy of the Lord” & “God’s gracious gift.”  I can totally get that (named my own kid that. Makes sense in the case of Zechariah & Elizabeth too. And in the instance of Hosea’s kid, the name given served as an object lesson from God to His people – the boy was named Lo Ammi” which means, “not My people,”  (Sorry kid. God told me to call you this. Nothing personal.) People could end up naming their kid after a favorite movie character like Edward. Jacob. Bella. The Twilight Saga.)  or after a favorite TV channel, like ESPN, (there are estimated to be 93 kids named ESPN in the US.) Made me giggle a little bit to see that there is even a web page dedicated to the topic, “How To Pick A Baby Name” which includes helpful insights like “5 Pitfalls to avoid when choosing a name.”

For me & theBean: we wanted all of our kids names to mean something significant to us & them. We named all of the kids after loved ones. We (mostly I,) also used a couple of tests to screen names. They were:

  • The SCREAM IT FROM THE BACK PORCH test – (patent pending). It’s pretty self-explanatory. You yell the full name, out loud, outside & then listen to what you said. Many things in life can be avoided by simply Saying Them Out Loud before you do it. Think on that.
  • The KINDERGARTEN FRUSTRATION test – I figured when my kids were in Kindergarten, they probably had enough issues to deal with other than trying to spell out a long, unusual, elaborate name (esp. if it was something many adults couldn’t spell.) We avoided this with my daughter because she went by Weezer, Weezie, or theWeez for the 1st 12 or so years of her life.

Anyway – should be an interesting school year.

ThoughtFormative Book List, pt. 2 (pt. 1 can be found HERE.) 

  • The Monday Morning Church: Out of the Sanctuary, & Into the Streets – Jerry Cook – in a nutshell, this book explores what it could look like if every person who follows Christ would pray, think about, & then act as if they were doing what Jesus would be doing, if He were walking in their shoes, in their world. Because, in essence, that is EXACTLY what our mission is. And we are all little pieces of JesusEphesians,, & we all know how much the people of our world need that. It’s also a study through the letter to the & it is a (30 years later) sequel to Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness.
  • A Long Obedience In the Same Direction – Eugene Peterson – this ThoughtFormative gem is a breath of fresh air & a slice of real-life Christianity on the topic of discipleship – the process of becoming like Christ. Life w/Christ is NOT all emotional, “on-fire,” mountain-top experiences where it seems God is SO close, all the time. Many times, it feels like God gives us an encouragement, a direction to head in, & then… nothing (real or perceived.) It details the need for perseverancea never give up, never surrender , a stick-to-itiveness, life outlook (ala, Isaiah 50:7). The clincher for me is the quote Peterson used for the name of the book: The essential thing in heaven & earth is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction, there thereby results, & has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil. 

Enough for today. Look for opportunities today to BE & DO what Jesus would be BEING & DOING in your shoes. Because He is. And you’re it. #BeTheGood

pride rears her ugly head, taking stock of life, & other musings…

I know that I just personified pride as a ‘her…’ not really sure why, other than when I was typing the title, it just seemed so wrong to write “pride rears its ugly head…”

Mostly because my confrontations with pride seem to take on an almost other-person-ly interaction… as though my wrestlings with pride aren’t internal, but rather external, taking place in conversations with self that contain an element of shock; the same type of shock at turning the light on in the garage when you’re taking the garbage out, only to discover a rat. Not a little mousey-mouse, but a big rat. There’s a “WHOA!” element to that discovery, & something more than distasteful. Repulsive even.

That’s how I feel about discovering bastions of pride lurking within. I found her this time when I did something I haven’t done in many a moon: I slept through an appointment.

I take pride in being on time. I take pride in remembering people’s faces, names, & phone numbers. I take pride in being able to remember & keep track of my schedule, both in my head & on my iPhone. I take pride in being prepared for multiple scenarios in which I’d need an alternate route & directions to get where I’m going. I take pride in other people knowing I can do all these things, & like it when they talk about my preparedness, my memory, & my punctuality.

Hmm. Seems like I take pride a lot.

I hadn’t been feeling very good, most likely due to keeping an overloaded, breakneck-paced schedule for three weeks prior… so I thought I’d take lay down for a short early morning nap (which would fall conveniently after my even earlier morning devotion.) Which would leave me plenty of time to rest, then get to my 9:45 appointment. Except for one thing. I slept until 11.

I awoke in a stupor, which is a warning sign for me that the candle has been burned at both ends for too long… I looked at the clock… & couldn’t believe it. I had missed the appointment. Totally slept through it.

The self-flagellations began. Pride had been dealt a blow by my frailty, by weakness brought on by attempting to be superhuman. Ignoring my limits, ‘just this once.’

The worst part wasn’t so much that I had missed the appointment; it was how wounded & deflated my pride was. And how long it took me to get past it. (NOTE: the person who I had the appointment with was more than gracious, forgiving, & compassionate.)

So, being the melodramatic over-reactor that I am at times prone to be, I decided to take a complete inventory of my life. To measure, evaluate, & scrutinize my life, my calendar, etc.

And also to repent. For getting caught up in the greatness of me. For subtly & quietly feeding my pride, letting her grow, nourishing & encouraging her development. Asked the Holy Spirit to check me out, search me for areas where pride & other infestations of destructive self-absorption may be lurking. Silly me.

I feel better today.

Over the last few months, I’ve been doing my devotions & Journaling (the SOAP plan if you’re interested.) Usually I do the journaling on my lappy, but lately I’ve gone retro, & am using my old-fashioned pen & paper… a real leather-bound journal even. I love the feeling of the pen in my hand, & the tactile sensation & smell of the leather/paper combo.

Except today I couldn’t find My Pens. They’re mine because I purchased them special, just for me. I had placed them in My Spots (on my desk at work, by my sofa, & at theGiant Scofield table, so no matter where I am, I have a pen,) but there was no pen to be found.

No. Pen.

Pen thieves.

Playoff baseball, & this year I’m watching intently because My Giants are involved. My history with the San Francisco Giants has oft been one of great disappointment & frustration. The teams from the 70s & 80s were largely also-rans, though my heart didn’t care. I loved (& love) the Giants. The lineups from years back still fill my brain, remnants of radio broadcasts listened to on my very own transistor radio & the imaginary action I reconstructed as I hung on every word from Lon Simmons, Hank Greenwald, & the others…

I know its only the 1st round of the playoffs, & that the mighty Phillies are waiting for the winner of this Giants/Braves series… but my team is in it. So, hoping beyond hope, I watch the games intently, often through clenched eyelids, thinking that maybe, this will be the year.

It could happen.

my current reading list…

I don’t exactly know why I do this, but I don’t just read one book at a time; I do several. The method for this madness is usually the same – read a chapter or 2, then put the book down & digest it… some of the digesting takes place when I pick up another (aka ‘transitional’) book. Usually, there’s about 5 in the queue that I’m working through. (NOTE: I reserve the right to change my mind & binge read at any given point.)

The list of books on my desk right now:

  • A Grief Observed – Lewis
  • Why Churches Die – Brunson & Caner
  • The Mishnah – Neusner
  • The Colossian Syncreticism – Arnold
  • Safe People – Cloud & Townsend

    A couple conversations have led me to revisit the last book – & I’m especially interested in Cloud & Townsend’s personal traits or identifiers of “unsafe” people. Here are a few that stood out to me:

    Unsafe people:

  • don’t admit their weaknesses, but act/live as though they have it all together.
  • are religious, not spiritual.
  • are defensive, instead of open to feedback
  • are self-righteous, not humble
  • apologize, but don’t change their behavior
  • demand trust, instead of earning it
  • blame others, instead of taking responsibility
  • lie instead of telling the truth
  • avoid closeness & intimacy with others
  • are more concerned with the “I” than the “we”
  • flatter instead of confront
  • condemn instead of forgive
  • are unstable over time, not consistent
  • gossip, & don’t keep secrets

    Interesting. And please note: what I put down in a list that takes up a couple inches of virtual blog space is written on in detail over 60 pages. Still, I think that we could have a conversation or 2 on any one of these. You?

  • Friends #6 – Or more off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts

    About 3 years ago, I read one of the most influential books I’ve ever come across – called, Love Is A Choice. It made an impact because it brought to light & illustrated the human condition & how/why we connect with others… esp. in unhealthy, selfish, &/or destructive ways.

    One of the things that stood out to me, (at least from the thoughts that ended up being provoked OUT of having read it,) was that in order for a friendship to be healthy & life-giving, both parties had to be ‘givers’ (my word;) nurturing, feeding, building up the relationship & the other person – a relationship where 1/both are ‘takers’ (again, my word) ends up with 1/both being taken advantage of, used & abused, all in the name of friendship.

    It made me think about what I’ve tolerated (& also watched others tolerate) in the name of “keeping a friendship.” Things like:

  • 1 persons constant tardiness or not showing up at all, & when they’re questioned, saying, “Oh, I was busy,” or offering up some other excuse. Always.
  • The blowing up in rage, pouting in petulance, avoiding in silent treatment upon saying “No” to a request (demand?), & seeing the behaviors (& acceptance) change only upon giving the “right” answer, “YES!” – do what I want.
  • 1 person being the one that kept communication going – in emails, letters, phone calls, with the other always being ‘too busy’ or ‘not good at” initiating contact.
  • Having been asked, “if you see something in what I’m doing, who I’m seeing, places I’m going that seem destructive, would you please tell me?” & actually believing it & doing it, to find that what you end up with is a person that ‘dumps’ you from the friendship because of what you’ve said, finding out too late that the fine sounding words spoken in a point of seeming relational intimacy were not quite what was meant.
  • hearing from someone just when they need something, & going weeks, months, & even years when they don’t.
  • Not being able to talk about anything significant or important to being really real friends, because it just might upset the other person – meaning we wouldn’t be able to maintain the minimal & surface-ey contact we have.

    Maybe it’s just that I have a different set of definitions when it comes to what a friend is & what a friend does & doesn’t do. Maybe it’s not being willing any longer to live with the sham of “as long as you’re feeling ok & not offended today,” relationships. Maybe it’s being tired of carrying both sides of the relationship. Maybe it’s the realization that there are many, many great people that hold a high value on true friendship that makes fakin’ the funk not worth it, no matter how long standing the contact or how much water has gone under the bridge…


  • Friends #5 – More thoughts & randomness, or "et tu Brute’?"

    We will all be let down, disappointed, & hurt by friends. We will all let down, disappoint, & hurt friends. It happens, & will happen – & a lot of the time it will be unintentional, due to funky circumstances, the pace of life, bad planning &/or bad choices. If I’m expecting a friend to be perfect, to always ‘be there’ or ‘be here’ (pick your location… those two phrases drive me nuts anyway…) I’m putting unrealistic expectation on them – expectations that only Jesus could fulfill – so I have to know how to communicate through & about hurt feelings, frustrations, & disappointments… & know that friends, real friends will do this. And are worth the same love, acceptance, & forgiveness that I hope to receive when I biff it.

    Julius Caesar was murdered on the ides of March, (the 15th for those people in the real world.) It was a terrible murder carried out by a mob of Roman senators… but perhaps the most brutal part of the whole thing was Caesar’s seeing his friend, his best friend, Brutus, with a knife in his hand, waiting to plunge it into Caesar’s back. And Caesar is incredulous, he can’t believe what is happening, what has happened, what Brutus has done. And that’s when he utters the famous line, “You too, Brutus?”
    It’s really a great picture of what I’m talking about (esp. in Shakespeare’s version of it.)

    Betrayal of friendship, real, deep, true friendship is different than being let down or disappointed – I believe it involves intentionality, pride, spitefulness, & it leaves the deepest wounds – because the wounds come from someone who with whom you’ve been transparent, open, intimate… someone that’s been trusted implicitly. And when the betrayal comes, it feels like something unreal has happened… almost like right after a car-accident, where you’re in shock, & can’t quite clear your head, like you’re dreaming & just need to roll over in order to wake up & see life restored to being “alls as it should be.” But it doesn’t happen. And the unbelief of what has happened lingers, & the sting deepens.

    In my studies for the Growing Up series, I discovered that this type of act in a friendship would fall under the category of a tragic loss – & is different than a “transitional loss” where people, due to distance, changing jobs, value & priority shifts, grow apart & see the ‘level’ of friendship diminish, not based on something destructive that has happened, but based on ‘less time, energy, & resources’ expended to maintain the friendship.

    The tragic loss is just what it sounds – almost like a divorce, the discovery of a terrible disease, the uncovering of infidelity – it’s not something that one just puts on the British ‘stiff upper lip” & moves on. It’s something that MUST be grieved… because otherwise, it becomes a life changing event, the kind of event where a person makes vows never to ‘trust anyone that deeply’ again. They shut down. Stop risking & stop growing. Treat everyone as ‘just another person that is going to hurt me.’

    Once again, I find myself reading David’s laments in the Psalms – he has experienced this & writes:

    It is not an enemy who taunts me— I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend. What good fellowship we enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God. Let death seize my enemies by surprise; let the grave swallow them alive, for evil makes its home within them. But I will call on God, and the LORD will rescue me. Psalm 55:12-16 NLT

    I don’t know what events or what friendship David was referring to – it might have been the betrayal by Ahithophel, his trusted friend & advisor (the history on that starts in 2Samuel 15,) or something else. I just know that when I read Psalm 55, it resonated.

    At a time like that, all I want to do is hide in my dark closet, & never come out. What I usually do is cry out to God – with cries & sometimes some loud yells. Pain hurts, & sometimes a gut-blasting yell is just what the doctor ordered, though may not be good on the vocal cords.

    Maybe its the telling Him exactly what I feel & think – the hurt & disappointment, the sting of the poison, but there is always a point of relief, or at least His peace that comes alongside at that very moment. Its not like the pain goes away, but the edge & the bitterness are gone, as is the desire to never risk again.

    And usually what happens is I get really thankful for my friends. And determine to be a good friend to them.

    Friends #4 – Randomness…

    This post, (& maybe the next couple) may be a bit random… I attribute that to the seeing an abstract concept like “friendship” as a series of sometimes related pictures…

    I suppose it would be easier to tell if someone was more Jonadab than Jonathan if they wore name tags, or if their whole life body of friendships was downloadable for review… but to my knowledge, that just doesn’t happen. And I don’t believe that the “Sarah Connor Chronicles” alternative, trust no one, is a viable option, as going through life with a mistrust, suspicion, & paranoia just don’t cut it either…

    With that said, I also think that listening to my gut has been helpful – if by gut I mean the nudge of the Holy Spirit – something that discounts the exterior, how much polish or presentability a person can bring to the table. Just about every time I’ve had one of those “something’s just not right here,” & ignored it, it turned out that the ‘unease in the gut’ was spot on. Maybe it shouldn’t be 100% of the test for whether or not I start/continue a friendship with someone, but it would be foolish to ignore it.

    Actions speak louder than words – & if someone’s actions belie their words, I tend to trust the actions… most recently, I had a situation where a guy I’d never met, a guy in the same line of work as me, wanted to get together for lunch, to talk about things, & to ‘build some relationship.’ Sounds like fun, right? Except that for the past year, the same guy had been engaging in what I would consider to be consistent, unscrupulous, & unethical behavior, directly related to me & situations/people etc. that I was responsible for. So, though it was bewildering to the other guy, I let him know that I’m not starting at “Buddies” with him, no matter what his job is, or what he says. His actions & words are incongruent – & though I’m not shut down from ever seeing something come out of that ‘relationship’ – growth, healing, etc., I’m also not going to try to be a ‘good Christian’ or a ‘nice person’ & ignore the behavior, which I believe perpetuates more unhealth, this time close to something that whacks me in the head.

    Friends don’t talk smak about you when you’re not around.

    Friends #3 – Faithfulness…

    Along the lines of what I wrote in my previous post on this topic, another one of the pictures that comes to my head when I contemplate friendship is Jonathan.

    He’s the son of King Saul & eventual best friend of David – his story can be found starting about 1Samuel 14, & runs through the rest of the book. Several things stand out to me about Jonathan, as revealed by his actions, both in public & also when there’s no one around to pat him on the back for what he does/doesn’t do.

    Jonathan is the son of a king, a prince, the crown prince actually, meaning that he is next in line for the throne in Israel – he’s brave, bold (check out 1Samuel 14:1-14 for some insight to the kind of guy he was.) When David killed Goliath, Jonathan’s whole world changed – it was evident that God was with David, & Jonathan knew that Samuel the prophet had told his father, Saul, that the kingdom had been taken from the family, & given to another… watching David’s fearless onslaught on the giant & the subsequent battle against the Philistines (ch.17), it didn’t take a genius to put two & two together: David was the Lord’s anointed, the one who would supplant Saul (& Saul’s descendants) on the throne, ruling as king over Israel. Which should have made Jonathan as paranoid, antagonistic, & suspicious of David as his dad was.

    But it didn’t.

    We see in 1Samuel 18 that an immediate bond of friendship developed between David & Jonathan – so much so, that Jonathan & David made a covenant, an unbreakable agreement of friendship & devotion, a covenant that was sealed with Jonathan giving David his royal robes & clothes, his sword (1 of 2 in the country, 13:22) his bow, & his belt. This is significant because the items that Jonathan gave away to David were things that marked Jonathan & his position as royalty – something that he willing laid down in recognition of God’s call & anointing on David’s life – to be the next king of Israel, a title that by all intents was meant for Jonathan. Most significantly, ch.18 says he did this because, “Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.” Further, the covenant of friendship was renewed 2 more times in 1Samuel 20 & 23, cementing the lifelong commitment between the men & their descendants forever.

    A few of the more prominent characteristics I see emerging from the picture of Jonathan: loyalty & faithfulness, even when it cost him everything; backing up his kind words & declarations of friendship with his actions; defending his friend when his friend wasn’t around, even though doing so put his own life in jeopardy; he was able to rejoice with David when David had successes, & to grieve with him over the injustice of Saul’s attacks against him.

    I see a self-lessness; a commitment to another person that doesn’t personally, financially, or materially benefit him; there’s no one-upmanship, no competition; no slander, no undermining, no attacking his character or attempting to elevate himself.

    Jonathan is the kind of friend that I want to be, & that I want to contend for for myself.

    Friends #2… how someone does unto others…

    When I think about an abstract concept like ‘friendship,’ I think in pictures – often, those pictures come from personalities in the Scriptures – people who have been revealed, either in brief or in great detail. These pictures, (or maybe biographical portraits is a better description,) serve to provide a vivid, bigger-than-me, concrete-ness to the abstraction.

    Probably the first picture that comes to mind when I think of friendship is a guy named Jonadab. He’s not really well-known, & only shows up in 1 chapter of the Old Testament, 2Samuel 13. The reason that he’s mentioned is for his friendship & interactions with his cousins, most notably Amnon, the son of King David. Jonadab is the son of David’s brother, Shimeah.

    2Samuel 13 tells of Amnon’s lust for his half-sister, Tamar, & how he was so consumed with ‘not being able to do anything to her,’ that he made himself sick. That’s where Jonadab comes in – 1st off, he’s introduced with the friendship & family ties made clear. Then, he’s identified as a ‘very subtle man.’ I had to look up the Hebrew to see what words had been taken & put into the English as subtle, as the content of the story reveals a lot more than what I’d describe as subtle. The Hebrew might better be stated in English: “Now Jonadab was a completely, totally, exceedingly cunning, crafty, scheming, manipulative, man…”

    Jonadab comes up with a plan for Amnon, so he can get Tamar alone & do whatever he wants to, whatever he’s entitled to as the son of the King…. Amnon takes Jonadab’s advice, gets Tamar alone, & rapes her. His lust turns to hate, & he sends her away, thus shaming himself, her, her brothers, & the entire family. Specifically, Tamar’s brother Absalom hatches a plot to avenge his sister’s shame, a plan that is 2 years in the making.

    He shows up again at the end of 2Samuel 13, shortly after Absalom has exacted his revenge upon Amnon by killing him at a ‘special feast’ that he’d thrown for all of the king’s sons. King David had erroneously been told that all of his sons had been killed by Absalom, & went into a panic… Jonadab is there, for some reason, to let David know:

    • Not all of the king’s sons are dead – only Amnon
    • This has been Absalom’s plan for over 2 years, in revenge for Amnon’s raping & disgracing of Tamar, et al.
    • David shouldn’t worry because only Amnon is dead.

    Here’s the picture I get: Jonadab is an opportunist; selfish, manipulative, & a user of people to attempt to weasel himself into a better spot of influence or importance. He’s cunning, a schemer, & always looking out for #1. As a way of ingratiating himself to Amnon (the heir to the throne of David,) he comes up with a ‘plan’ so Amnon can rape his ½ sister. Then, 2 years later, when Absalom is looking more & more like the ‘favorite of the people’ & new potential heir, he holds his tongue while his ‘friend’ Amnon goes to a bloody, murderous death – only to show up in the King’s court to reveal that he’d known about the plan all along, but didn’t tell anyone.

    Jonadab is a portrait of the person that I try to avoid any sort of relationship with – which is a lot harder than it sounds, because the Jonadab’s are ‘exceedingly, totally, cunning, crafty, & manipulative,’ meaning that the true, self-serving motives aren’t the 1st thing that get revealed. But then I think, they really do.

    The character & true colors of the Jonadab’s show up in how they treat others – not the person they’re ‘buddy-ing’ up to, the one(s) of course, but those that are of no use to their desire for personal gain, & therefore, of no consequence. They speak negatively about them, gossip, spread stories, reveal confidences they’ve gained as a way of brown-nosing into the good graces of the one(s) that can most advance the ever-growing agenda of the Jonadab’s. Until the time comes when the one(s) are no longer useful, & someone more ‘advantageous’ comes along – & the pattern repeats, with the one(s) now being the victim of the complete lack of loyalty, faithfulness, & true friendship; the havoc & chaos left in the wake of the Jonadab’s life.

    To me, the portrait of Jonadab gives the hint of a warning – & how it plays out is that if a person will sabotage, attack, insult, degrade, bad-mouth, gossip about, slander another person to get on my good side, they’ll do it to me…


    I don’t look at all people as “potential Jonadabs.” In my own life, those that have behaved in a manner reminiscent of Jonadab often display a radically different behavior to others than they did to me. Many times, I’ve had friends that talked to me, after the fact, about their own experiences with that person, & the very obvious junk that surfaced because they weren’t on their ‘best manipulative behavior’ with everyone, as not everyone is seen as a potential source of personal gain.

    I do believe that trust is built over time, & that a relationship with another person needs that time to be built on a firm & well-established foundation. And I’m reminded that the still, small voice, the feeling in my gut, & the nudge of the Holy Spirit are all things to be paid attention to, not glossed over or explained away, regardless of another person’s ‘self-presentation.’ I believe that each time I’ve had a Jonadab experience, I had warnings of the above-mentioned sort, that were ignored by me…

    On a side note: I’ve often wondered if Amnon et al… kept Jonadab, the crafty one, around because he was not only great at telling you what you want (like) to hear, but also because he was in the circle of trust – family, a group that we often make special exceptions for.

    Friends #1 – what got me thinking was ‘Facebook’

    Social networking is what they say is one of the purposes of Facebook. So when I veeerrryyy reluctantly joined, it was only as a ‘keeping in touch’ tool with a group of new friends from different places in Europe & the US… & only because Facebook was the chosen medium to do so.

    What does that MEAN, social networking? I labor over that. Does it involve meaningful connections, virtually created, ala internet, using the fact that I ‘know’ someone for something that profits me, or merely a panacea that only serves to assuage the burning human need for real connections…?

    Ok, I kind of get it – it helps us keep in touch with people we knew in high school &/or have interacted with over the years of life… BUT, for me, being friends is something I take seriously – it means something significant to me, more than a ‘social networking contract,’ something that can be put down as easy as clicking a mouse.

    For example, I take time & really contemplate before ‘accepting’ a friend request… thinking, “Am I this person’s friend in real life? Would I/have I hung with them, drank a cup of joe, & shot the breeze? Shared deep thoughts? Pondered the complexities of life?” And depending on the answer to that internal debate, I have clicked CONFIRM. Or IGNORE.

    There’ve been times where I overrode my gut & CONFIRMED when I think to be true to me & to not gloss over the reality of my relationship (or lack thereof) would have totally been to IGNORE. And then what? Fake it? Be ‘nice’ & carry on with surface level pleasantries once every blue moon, all the while ignoring the reality that if I saw my ‘friend’ in a store, I don’t think we’d interact. Perhaps that’s too mercenary, too serious, or just melodramatic – be that as it may, it’s led to a renewed contemplation of friendship & what makes it special…

    BTW: I’m not going to rehash my BOUNDARIES posts here, though I may allude to them… –as I think they are really applicable to this topic (& any other that deals with relationships & interpersonal interactions.) Just know that the Cloud & Townsend info is a big part of the background of my thought processes.

    And so it begins… I thought that my outlining would help my writing not be rambling & all over the place, but it turns out that rambling may be in the eye of the beholder. No matter – I’m going to lay out my friendship ‘givens’ – signs of a good friendship. Warning signs of a bad one. Assessing motivation in developing relationships. Looking to get from God what can only be gotten from God. And maybe some other stuff.

    Coming up next: Signs, signs, everywhere the signs…

    Boundaries in Marriage, #4

    The previous 3 posts in this series can be found here: #1 and #2 and #3.

    As I read through Boundaries, something clicked; something that had been circling the gray-matter for a long period of time, but that had been undefined & way too nebulous to be coherent & understandable…

    Of course it made sense: Boundaries are established in me, by me, for me, that I would live according to & congruent with my values. That I would be able to say “Yes” & “No” according to what I really believe, think, & feel, without attempting (needing?) to attempt the futility of making others happy with my decisions. To no longer try to avoid real/perceived conflict by making decisions/living life in such a way as that these ‘significant’ people in my life would approve. Just to be.

    Real boundaries deal with self-control – in that they deal with ME. Boundaries are definitely not lines drawn in the sand in thinly veiled attempts to control others by putting restrictions on them, using guilt, threats, &/or the withholding of approval or affection. Not calling something ‘boundaries’ that is really just an attempt to punish others into changing. Or to manipulate their decision making using the ‘silent’, (or is it pouty?) treatment. Or to withdraw from relationship & call it a boundary. That sort of behavior would only be exchanging one form of relational unhealth for another. (NOTE: Boundaries can only be worked out & on in the context of relationship. To cut someone out of your life isn’t a boundary. It’s retreat. It’s based in fear. It’s immature.)

    Self-control sounded good, as did personal responsibility. Then I started realizing & thinking through the consequences & potential loneliness in making such decisions. Claiming & owning responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings, emotions, & actions, while no longer using the familiar scapegoat of blaming others for my circumstances. Even my wife. I wanted something different for me, & for my marriage, & so did the Bean.

    Taking personal responsibility was like unwinding a string from a sweater that just keeps unraveling. In my marriage, I’d seen myself, for better or for worse, as a victim of circumstance; a victim of the decisions & choices of another; & I often felt sorry for myself because of those choices, & how they “kept me” from making decisions that were in line with how I really thought & wanted to live. It was no longer ok to live in the status quo, silently (usually) bemoaning the state of our relationship, without delving into real depths of transparency & communication. Displaying little of the unconditional respect, love, honor, & trust that we’d both promised to extend to each other “as long as we both shall live.”

    I discovered the pseudo-safety in being the ‘good guy’ (self-proclaimed) because of my spouse’s relational choices. It was a place I loathed, but one where I stayed because of fear. No more.

    Instead of complaining & being miserable about my wife’s choices, & blaming her for what amounted to my own inaction, I resolved to make my own decisions. Not to bail on my wife or the relationship – but to choose & live differently. To be my own person, & more importantly, to let my wife be HER own person too. To no longer feel or live like I needed to ‘compensate’ for what I saw or interpreted as her weaknesses, or to attempt to cover over her decisions that had bad consequences (for me.) Call it enabling, call it codependent, call it being afraid of being alone, or being responsible for me. Whatever. No more.

    At the root of what had to be overcome was fear – in particular a paralyzing fear that I tried to ignore & avoid, to no effect. In a nutshell:

    I feared that if I made the decisions & choices that were consistent with the boundaries I set with myself, if I lived in this manner, I would be rejected, abandoned, & no longer loved by my wife.

    There was nothing in our past or present that would support that conclusion, but it was real to me. And I wrestled. It seemed wrong. But I knew it wasn’t.

    In the middle of the decisions to change how I lived, to set & live by boundaries, I had to be ok with whatever ‘consequences’ came as a result of the choices I made. And to let the Bean make whatever decision she would make. And love & accept her unconditionally, no matter what. And to know that she’d committed the same to me. Now we just had to live it.