markforstrom.com

reflections of mine others might find useful

Category: Personal Reflections (page 1 of 7)

These are the things God has been teaching me.

Resolved to have NO SECRETS

[please subscribe to my blog to the right so you’ll know when I post something]

2017 will be remembered as the year when successful, famous people were suddenly taken down by the sins of their pasts being brought to light.

And when Christians fall, it’s doubly scandalous.  We all know of those who claimed to be followers of Jesus whose hidden sins were embarrassingly exposed.  Jesus himself, spoke out strongly against religious people who pretended to be Godly on the outside — while being corrupt on the inside.  “White washed tombs” he called them.

But before we get too critical of the hypocrites around, we should pause to recognize the propensity we all have for living a double life.

Being aware of my own vulnerability, I have set a life resolution — one of my 40 Life Resolutions —  as a reminder for me to continuously bring every vice of mine into the light.  I don’t ever want to be counted among those remembered as having fallen from grace.

Resolution #11:   Resolved to have absolutely no secrets of any kind in my personal life. I will fully disclose all my areas of weakness to trusted friends that they may hold me accountable — so that I may always be a man of complete authenticity and integrity.

How does this play out for me?   Four ways.

1.   When I mess up, I fess up.    I use this phrase a lot.  Secret  sins never go away –instead, they grow and fester until they eventually take you down. We sure see that happening around us today!  For my part, I want to live completely in the light.  This is why many years ago I installed Covenant Eyes on my computer and have had my reports sent to my wife AND my two daughters.  It’s amazing how those inappropriate images suddenly have very little sex appeal when indulging them would result in grievous conversations with my precious girls.  And even when the software doesn’t catch something that may pop up on my screen (which just happened when searching for the image above in this post) I have made it my personal policy to report what I see to Cindy — I figure it’s her business to know what my eyes and heart have glimpsed.

2.  Maximize, rather than minimize our sins.  Too many people — even within the church — try to minimize their sins, calling them mistakes or blunders.  They avoid taking full responsibility for their sin and make flimsy excuses instead.  This is a slippery slope which desensitizes people to the seriousness of their sin — they pretend they aren’t all that bad after all.   With me, if I’m going to err, I find it better to over-apologize, over-confess, and take more than my share of responsibility for my actions.

3. Absolute accountability.   By this I mean that I intend to be forthright in confessing not just my bad behavior, but also my sinful attitudes, thoughts, and weaknesses.   A mentor of mine once chastised me for my stated goal of confessing every sin.  He warned me that “people can’t be trusted to know everything about us.”  I respectfully disagree.  We’ll only become as holy as we become honest.  And if I’m doing things that potentially could make me unsafe around others, maybe I should stop doing those things!

4. Open Invitation.  I invite others to speak into my life about sins that I may be blind to.  That includes you!

As this new year arrives, may God’s people renew their efforts to live with integrity, that we may not see more of the casualties caused this past year by Christian hypocrisy.  It starts with us.  Join me in making such an important resolution.

Jesus sums it up in Matthew 5:16:   Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

…and I also want to live the way my dad did.

[This is a transcript of what I shared today at my dad’s funeral.]

I recently blogged about wanting to die the way my dad did.  It’s also equally true that I want to live the way he lived.  God’s fingerprints are all over that story too.

As an infant I was adopted by Jim and Corey Forstrom.  There were a million homes where I might have been placed, but God sovereignly delivered me to these extraordinary parents.  I will forever be grateful for that.

My dad’s life verses were  Proverbs 3:5-6.  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.

“Trust in the Lord with all  your heart…”  At age 9, the Lord prompted Dad to  place his trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins.  He recognized that he was a sinner, deserving of the wrath of a holy God and that it was only by God’s mercy and grace provided through the death of Jesus on his behalf that he could be made right with God.  Dad understood that God’s free gift of salvation could only be received through faith and not through doing good works.   Yet his life was characterized by good works, not as a way to earn his salvation, but out of gratitude for what God had done for him.

At age 19 — in an Iowa bean field of all places — the Lord impressed upon my dad a conviction to enter into full-time Christian service.  And oh how he followed that call!

By the time I entered the picture ten years later, my dad had finished college and seminary, and had been redirected from being a missionary in Africa to serving as a youth pastor in two different churches in Chicago and Minneapolis.  We then went to Crystal Free for four years before spending the next 22 years here in this church [First Free Rockford, Illinois].  And then my parents moved back to Minnesota for 8 years of involvement with the National Free Church missions, followed by 12 years of volunteer service  before returning here to Rockford for these past five years.

What I’d really like to share with you today is what I’ve personally gained from being Jim Forstrom’s son.

What a privilege to have had him as my dad!  As I reflect on what his life meant to me, I realize that I could speak for hours and hours about this.  But for your sakes, I will choose just a few of his qualities to focus on today.

The  first thing that comes to mind about dad is his authenticity.  What he taught, he lived.  At home he was exactly what you saw anywhere else.  He had a daily walk with Christ and he continually aligned his life with Scripture.  This is his Bible and this was the foundation of his life.  In a world where we see so many badly behaved so-called Christians who preach one thing but who live compromised personal lives, my dad stood out to me as the “real deal.”  I got a front row seat in seeing what a real Christ-follower looks like and it made me want to be one too.   If this is what being a Christian is all about, I want in!  Anyone who truly knew him would have felt the same.

His leadership in the home is the second thing that comes to mind.  Because my dad led our home using the principles of Scripture, it was a place of good relationships, love, nurture, respect, support, encouragement, and great delight.  I have only positive memories of those years.  Shannon and I had the privilege of growing up in an unusually healthy home.  Today, I find myself passionate about helping dysfunctional families become healthy, and I’m sure it stems back to the nurturing environment of my childhood home.  I personally reaped the benefits of a healthy home and I want that for others.  My future career in counseling finds its roots in my healthy home growing up.

My dad’s humility in serving others is something else that I greatly admire.  He was always content to be behind the scenes:  planning, organizing, problem-solving, equipping, training, and deploying.  He accomplished great things in life, but he didn’t need credit for them, or to be placed in the limelight, or to receive recognition.  His life was more about others than himself.  He preferred to make others shine.  I need to be more like him in this way.

His commitment to faithful hard work and finishing well have truly inspired me.  I tend to be lazy, but no one could ever accuse Jim Forstrom of laziness.  He was always on mission and enjoyed doing things that mattered.  A couple of years ago, when dementia had begun restricting his ministry opportunities, I remember him asking me for prayer that he could still find some kind of useful ministry to do during his remaining years.  It turned out that his final ministry was one of prayer, which he faithfully did right until the end.  I loved browsing through his folder of prayer letter updates, with notations from him about many of them in the margins.  They were his boys — and girls.   How he loved praying for their families and the advancement of their ministries.

D.L. Moody, the famous evangelist, once said something profound that could just as well apply to my dad:  “The world has yet to see what God can do with…the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will try my utmost to be that man.”

On behalf of our family, I want to personally say how much your love and support has meant to us during this time of Dad’s homegoing .  Yes, we are grieving that he’s not currently with us.  But it is times like this that reveal the authenticity of our belief in what Scripture teaches.  We live based on the truth of this book and we die in the confidence of what this book teaches — that there is guaranteed for us an everlasting life with Jesus.  Dad had no fear of death, in fact in his last conversation with Mom he talked about looking forward to being  with Jesus.

Eternal life is a promise for those like Dad who have repented of sin and self-effort and who have trusted in Jesus’ death and resurrection for salvation.   Because of this confidence we don’t need to grieve like the world does.  We grieve with hope.  We know we will be reunited with Dad for eternity, enjoying the rewards that await all followers of Jesus who serve him well.  I know that Dad wanted nothing more than for all of his family and friends to one day end up with him in heaven.

Many of you listening to me [reading this] today never had the privilege to meet my dad.  Perhaps he sounds like someone you wish you could have known.  The good news is that you can meet him!  Give your life to Jesus and you can spend eternity getting acquainted with my amazing Dad!

I want to live the way my dad did because his life looks a lot like Jesus’.

Thank you for being here for our family today.

25 years ago I almost didn’t become the Youth Pastor at New Covenant.

[please type your email address in the “subscribe” box to the right to receive notifications when I blog]

25 years ago today I became the Youth  Pastor at New Covenant, but it’s a miracle that I did.  The odds were against me all the way.

Very few of you know the story I’m about to tell.  But before I do, I have to show a picture of what Cindy and I looked like back in 1992.  We were 28.   We were young and in love.  Now we’re just old and in love!  And we have less hair!

Here’s the story.  For six years I had been serving as “Director of Christian Education and Youth” at a Baptist church in our hometown of Rockford, Illinois, when one day — out of the blue — I got a phone call from some guy in Iowa.  He said his name was Dave Sanders, that he was on a search committee, and that my name had been recommended to him by Jay Jentink (a former classmate of mine from Moody Bible Institute.)  They were looking for a full-time Youth Pastor!

To put this in perspective, this NEVER happens.  This was my dream job, but I hadn’t really told anyone about that dream.  I wasn’t looking to change jobs — I didn’t even have a resume!  From Dave’s description, New Covenant was a healthy, non-denominational church that made youth ministry a top priority.   It sounded like a perfect fit for me!

I didn’t even wait to tell Cindy the good news!  Instead I turned it down.

As much as I wanted to say yes to this exciting opportunity, I knew that I had to decline it.  In recent months Cindy and I had become very upset with things that were going on in our church, particularly how certain people that we loved were being mistreated (in our view) by a handful of adults.  We dreaded going to church to be around these “mean people.”  Somehow, I knew that to leave our church at that point would be running from our problems — and that we would always regret that.  I knew that God wasn’t releasing me.  So I hung up with Dave Sanders, knowing that I had just passed up a rare opportunity.

Remaining stuck with these people and losing our potential escape from them made us doubly miserable.  Recognizing our need for sympathy, we drove to Chicago to unload our woes on my best friend and mentor, Brian Carroll, and his wife Liz.  We vented for hours about the way we were surrounded by gossipy, negative, unloving, grumpy, back-stabbing people.  When we were done Brian quietly said eight words that changed our lives forever.  “It sounds like you’ve become just like them.”  Ouch.  It was a knife to our hearts, but we knew he was right.  He challenged us to give up our bitterness and instead choose joy, to love those we considered unlovely, to be Jesus to everyone.

It was like a switch in our souls was flipped.  In an instant our attitude changed from incredulity to love.  Instead of dreading church and going out of our way to avoid certain people we decided to make it our mission to gravitate toward them and treat them with kindness.  Starting that Sunday, church was suddenly a delight for us.  We stopped focusing on people’s shortfalls and started focusing on our responsibility to love them.  We saw that these were good people and that the log in our eyes was bigger than the speck in theirs.  Our attitude was completely transformed.  I was even prompted by God to personally apologize to each of the people I had harbored bitterness toward — an apology not for my actions, but for my attitude toward them.   One day — about a month later — I told God that I would be willing to work alongside them for the rest of my life.  A miracle!

That’s when Dave Sanders called back a second time.  “I know you turned us down, but for some reason your name keeps coming up in our search committee meetings.   Are you sure you won’t reconsider?”

To put this in perspective, this NEVER, NEVER happens.

Because we had resolved our bitterness with our church we knew that God had released to pursue this new opportunity.  I put together a resume and the interview process quickly confirmed that God’s had brought this about.  We left that church on good terms with everyone and consider many of them dear friends to this day.

So God brought us to Iowa!  Little did we know that my ministry here would last 25 years!  As I blogged about last year this church has meant so much to me and my family!  God has certainly been good to us!

I have nine months left as youth pastor before leaving to pursue my new career in counseling and a new chapter in my life, but I will always be thankful for our 25 years at New Covenant and how God brought it all about so long ago!

I want to die the way my dad just did…

[subscribe to my blog by entering your email in the column to the right]

I told my youth group yesterday morning that today would be a good day for my dad to die.  God answered our prayers.   It’s 1:30 am.  My mom just called to say my dad just went to heaven.

He had mentally left us on the aptly named “Black Friday,” but it took nine more days for his body to concede.  He was resting comfortably under Hospice care when he took his final breath.

It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only.”  That lyric from one of my favorite worship songs comes to mind right now.  Every breath is indeed a gift from God–none are owed.

Dad, aka Jim Forstrom, was 82.  He had suffered from vascular dementia for the past several years.  It didn’t alter his personality or physical abilities  but it did cause him to become spacially disoriented and he increasingly struggled to verbalize the thoughts that were stuck in his head.   In the past six months it was often hard to understand what he was trying to say.  He was always a good listener, but even more so as of late.

On Thanksgiving day, my parents had a group of dear friends over for dinner.  Dad enjoyed the meal as well as the after dinner conversation.  After the guests had gone and just before bedtime, my dad called Mom over to his recliner–something he hadn’t done before.  She brought a chair to his side.  With unusual clarity and articulation, he thanked her for being such a good wife to him throughout their 60 years of marriage.  He expressed his love for her and talked about his affection for Jesus.  It was truly a holy moment.  Mom prayed with him and read some scriptures from the Psalms.   There was something sacred about those shared moments together as if the Lord had given him a premonition that he was about to go to heaven.  Mom felt it too–she suspected the Lord might take him home right then and there as she hugged him in her arms.  When he didn’t, she thought that perhaps he would die in his sleep that very night.

On Black Friday, he did awaken, but his mental and physical condition were beginning to quickly deteriorate.  He was confused and couldn’t dress himself properly.  At one point in the day she found him in his recliner, but it was strangely turned around and he was staring at an empty wall.  By suppertime he had developed Parkinson’s-like symptoms and couldn’t even pick up a fork to feed himself.  After feeding him supper she had to help him shuffle his way to the bathroom, inching his way down the hallway.   (To put this in perspective, up until Wednesday he would go outside for 30-45 minute neighborhood walks by himself every day.)  Realizing she wouldn’t be able to put him to bed that night, she called 911.  An ambulance took him to the hospital.  He would never return home.  The premonition God had given them both was proving true.

We saw God’s sovereign hand in another way.  Cindy and I live in Cedar Rapids Iowa, and we were already on our way to Rockford at the very time that my dad was being admitted to the hospital. Our 35th Auburn HS class reunion was to be on Saturday night, but we had decided to come a day early.  By the time Mom called us we were almost there already.  What a blessing that Mom didn’t have to be alone on her journey!

On Saturday when we went to see Dad, he clearly wasn’t himself.  With rare exceptions he remained in a deep, deep sleep until he died nine days later.  For a few moments during those first few days he seemed to wake up enough to answer brief questions (name and birthday) and at those times he seemed to be vaguely aware of his visitors, but he mostly just slept — restlessly at first (which we observed before returning to Iowa) and calmly towards the end (according to Mom).

How blessed we are for the way God chose to take Dad home! I want to die the way my dad just did — with God’s fingerprints all over the story.    When I reflect on my own mortality I’ve often thought about how I want my life and my death to bring glory to God.  And now I can add, “just like my dad.”

I know I’ll be blogging in the future about his well-lived life!  His was definitely a life with no regrets, a life worth emulating — I want to be like him in every way.

During my week there, Mom and I were able to finalize details for my dad’s Celebration of Life service.  Always the planner, dad had planned out his funeral service in great detail so it he made it very easy for us!  Just as you’d expect!

My dad’s “Celebration of Life” service will be at First Free Rockford, on Tuesday, December 19 at 11 am, followed by a luncheon.  There will also be a visitation at the church the night before from 4-7 pm.

Do people really care what you wear?

my sunday duds (2)

I was chatting with a guy one time who told me how burdened he was with deciding what to wear to church on Sundays.  It was causing him quite a bit of anxiety.   It struck me that anxiety over this is needless.  It shouldn’t matter what one wears.

I decided to do an experiment.  I would wear the exact same outfit every Sunday until someone made a comment.  I wore the same purple shirt, argyle sweater, & dress pants each week.

I started last November and it took until just now in May –seven months later –before anyone mentioned it.

 This could mean one of three things.

  1. People don’t care what you wear.
  2. People are nice and don’t say what they’re thinking.
  3. I do so many odd things that no one notices anymore.

Regardless, this seems like a good occasion to remember these words of Jesus:

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:28-34 (NIV)

Oh, and by the way, I don’t care what you wear — as long as it’s modest!

I want to live in a mental hospital

house-999476_1280

I want to live in a mental hospital.

This past Wednesday night in youth group we discussed a Ted Talk video called “Lessons from the Mental Hospital .”   The woman shared her struggles with eating disorders, depression, and addictions.  She talked about how when she was institutionalized as a senior in high schooler she finally found a community where she could take off her masks and begin to deal with her own brokenness.

One comment that stood out to me was “in the mental hospital everyone wore their scars on the outside”.

Listen to more of the things she said.

  • there was no pretending, the jig was up.
  • we could express how we really felt
  • everyone learned how to be a good listener.
  • how to be brave enough to tell our own story while being kind enough not tell anybody else’s.
  • nobody was allowed to be left out.  everybody was worthy just because they existed.
  • there we were brave enough to take off our [masks]

It struck me that this is the kind of community we need our church and youth group to be.  We live in a world full of broken people, including ourselves.  Let’s not make people wait until they get to the mental hospital to offer them this kind of support.

Love Fails

(You can subscribe to my new blog posts in the right-hand column.)

broken-154245_1280

For many years I’ve been reflecting on the topic of love within marriages, families and friendships — and my profound conclusion is this:  Love Fails!

“Forstrom’s a heretic!” the Bible scholar will contend. “He’s 180 degrees off-base!  1 Corinthians 13:8 clearly instructs us that “Love never fails.”

Others will call me a pessimist. “Shouldn’t he be upholding unfailing love as the foundation on which to build healthy relationships?   What’s gotten into this guy?”

Let me explain.

Unconditional, pure, selfless love is certainly the biblical ideal — and at times it is achievable — but it’s never sustainable.

Human love always falls short. It’s unreliable. Limited. Lacking. Temporary.  Incomplete. Eventually, love always fails.

This is important to understand because if we don’t concede that others’ love will inevitably fail us, our expectations of them will be unrealistic and we will be needlessly — and perpectually —  offended.

Let me illustrate from our own lives with reference to Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages.

  • I am very aware that Cindy’s primary love language is “Acts of Service”, and yet here I am blogging instead of scrubbing the shower.  In fact, I’m ashamed to admit that I spend an average of about 23.5 hours a day not doing acts of service for her!
  • As for me, my primary love language is “Touch” — and you can be sure that I have made my wife Cindy very aware of that fact!  But at this moment as I write this she is not touching me.  She’s working on her “pile.”  She could be rubbing my shoulders at this very moment but she’s not — to my chagrin.  In fact Cindy spends about 15+ hours every day not touching me. (Note: I’m giving her full credit for all the time we spend sleeping–we share a “super single” sized waterbed so not touching me is not an option for those 7 or 8 hours!)

The point is this:  Cindy and I will never love and serve one another as much as we could.  There will always be one more honey-do project I could have done today.  Every backrub she thinks to gives me could have lasted 1 minute longer.  Or an hour longer.  Our love for each other always falls short of what it could have been.

Of course loving others involves much more than Touch or Acts of Service — there are multiple expressions of love.  But the reality is that the time and effort we spend intentionally and actively loving each other is quite often interrupted by other things.  Plus, we’re forgetful, we get distracted, we get overloaded, we’re unaware of needs, we lose momentum, we lose focus, we misprioritize, we run out of energy, and sometimes we get lazy.

Many people live their whole lives perpetually offended by this.

Instead of wallowing in feelings of neglect and resentment let’s put the failing love of others in perspective.  Here are seven ways:

  1. Cut them some slack.  Concede that others are simply human and prone to fall short.  Except by the grace of God, there go I.
  2. Recognize that life pulls people in many directions.  As I blogged about earlier we shouldn’t require others to do their best all the time.  Let’s not expect them to do as much for us as they could, instead let’s keep our expectations realistic.
  3.  Admit that we’re not the only recipient of someone’s love.  We have to share our loved ones with others. To not share them is to be controlling, manipulative, and selfish.  It it important to remember that we don’t need them.
  4. Recognize that our felt needs do not necessarily define what is best for us.  If Cindy gave me backrubs 16 hours a day the bills wouldn’t be paid, the house would be in disarray, etc.  If I did acts of service for Cindy around the house 16 hours a day I wouldn’t bring home a paycheck and we would no longer have a house!  My felt needs are not all that matters.
  5.  Humble yourself and admit how much you yourself also fail at loving others.  When I start to feel neglected by others an instant cure comes when I recognize how much more I’ve neglected them.  Take the log out of your own eye first, adopting the attitude of Brother Lawrence, “When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, “I am used to do so; I shall never do otherwise if I am left to myself.” (The Practice of the Presence of God).
  6. Remind one another that your love is guaranteed to fail them.  Make it very clear that they can expect this from you.  Not that you’ll willfully harm them or spitefully neglect them, but that your love will ultimately fall short of all it could be.   “I promise to neglect you,” is a phrase they ought to hear you say, knowing that this will never be intentional, but that it will be inevitable.
  7. Trust in God’s unfailing love rather than man’s.  Allow the failings of human love to be useful in giving us a thirst for that love which never fails.

Guaranteed to fail you,

Mark

An Apology…

(Subscribe to my blog to the right.)

sign-1719892_1280

An apology, if genuine, is one of the most powerful forces on earth.  It can mend fractured relationships, can instantly heal decades-old wounds, can re-unite families, can stop wars, can keep a teen from running away.  We need more of them.

An apology is rarely made these days.  People dig in their heels and won’t admit they were wrong.  Look at our political climate recently.  So much abusive mudslinging and devaluing of people, yet I can’t recall a single heartfelt apology.  They were owed, but never given.  So much pain inflicted.

An apology requires humility.

An apology is always a good idea.  When you sense tension in a relationship, apologize for whatever you may have done to contribute to it.  Even if you think the other person was mostly to blame and you had little culpability, take the first step and apologize for your part anyways.    When in doubt, apologize.  This principle will serve you well.

An apology must take full responsibility for one’s actions.  Avoid flimsy, fake, vague apologies such as, “I’m sorry you were offended by my words.”  Or, “I didn’t communicate as well as I might have.”  A good apology bares one’s soul and exposes the real offense with no sugar-coating.  “When I slammed the door in your face I was treating you with complete disrespect.  That was wrong of me.  You deserve better than that and I am ashamed of how this must have made you feel.  I am truly sorry, will you forgive me?”

An apology removes bricks from the relational walls that separate us.  And builds bridges instead.

An apology coming from an authority (parent, government leader, etc) is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength.  The impact of such an apology will actually garner respect and your children or constituents will follow you with more loyalty than if you tried to cover-up your obvious misdeeds.  Children whose parents are in the habit of apologizing for their errors will grow up taking responsibility for their own blunders.

An apology is meaningless if done out of obligation.

An apology should be freely given, but never demanded.  To tell someone, “You owe me an apology” doesn’t fix anything.  It simply puts the other person under obligation.  The apology that may follow will be forced, with no certainty that it was genuine.  It’s fair to let the other person know how their actions hurt  you.  Then it’s up to them to apologize, or not apologize.  But if you tell them how they hurt you be sure you’re doing it for their benefit, not as an attack.  Otherwise you are being manipulative.

An apology that’s not given doesn’t give you permission to mistreat that person back.  It is possible to forgive someone who won’t apologize, in fact you must.  Forgiveness is you cancelling their debt, even if they don’t deserve it.  Just like what God did for you. You’ll live in freedom if you practice forgiveness towards those who don’t deserve it.  You’ll live in bondage if you live in unforgiveness, waiting for an apology that might never be given. As the adage says, “Unforgiveness is the poison we drink hoping the other person will die.”

An apology should not be forced upon children, as in “You owe your brother an apology.”  Parents’ response to injustice should be justice not empty words.

An apology should be made in public if the offense was made in public.  This kind of apology is especially powerful.  I saw a vivid example of this on a youth event once.  Both parties apologized publicly for disrespect they had each publicly shown the other.  It was a profound moment and the tension in the room melted immediately into harmony.  I will never forget that moment.

An apology must be followed up with changes in how you treat the person.  If your subsequent actions negate your words then your words will mean nothing.  When someone can’t believe the words that proceed from your mouth then you have little left.

An apology should be done as soon as you realize you’ve wounded someone.  “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  God’s advice is prudent — you’ll both sleep better.

An apology ought to be made as frequently as you mess up — daily or even more than once a day.  I suspect living a life of quick apologies will ultimately result in having less need to apologize.

An apology, if genuine, is one of the most powerful forces on earth.  It can mend fractured relationships, can instantly heal decades-old wounds, can re-unite families, can stop wars, can keep a teen from running away.  We need more of them.

How to make your wife and kids feel unneeded.

child-1160862_640It’s quite simple, really–hardly worth even blogging about.  You pull them aside and you just say these four words, “I don’t need you.”

But feel free to be more creative if you like.

Personally, I prefer using the phrase, “I have no need of you.” Somehow it sounds a little more theatric, yet it accomplishes the same thing.  I’ve used that phrase often with my family over the past 23 years.

If you don’t believe me go ahead and ask them yourself.

Now before you call DHS, indicting me for shattering my girls’ fragile self-esteems, let me explain why we should be telling our family members that we don’t need them.

Here are five reasons why we shouldn’t tell them we need them.

  1. It’s secondary.  It’s much more important to tell them we want them.  I am always clear to communicate “I want you,” “I cherish you,” “I delight in you,” “I enjoy you.” “I like being with you,” etc. — even while using my epic line “I have no need of you.”  These are powerful phrases that communicate that they are desirable, lovable, interesting, and treasured.  They don’t need to be needed, but they do need to be valued.
  2. It’s bad for them.  Making them feel needed, can create an unhealthy sense of co-dependency, where their identity is wrapped up in meeting the expectations of others.  I know many older adults whose entire adult lives were consumed with having to please others to their own detriment.
  3. It’s bad for us.  Viewing a loved one as a “need” of ours might put us in the position of consumer with them being our provider.  It can create high expectations, where our happiness depends on their performance.  This could lead to us using or manipulating others.  Such a “you owe me” attitude is a setup for serious marriage and family conflicts.
  4. It’s a deviation from what is true.  I believe that God is truly our only real need. Everything else is a want.  This truth is the subject of the first of my 40 “Life Resolutions” — everything else that is important rests upon it.  I disagree with Maslow,   If God is truly the giver and sustainer of life and love for this life–as well as for eternity–then we don’t technically need anything else. Period.
  5. It’s a setup for our devastation. When we view our loved ones as “needs”, it sets us up for deep despair and bitterness should we lose them to death, disability, deficiency, or desertion.   Let me expound on each.
  • Death.  We have no guarantees.  Life is fragile.  We live in a fallen, precarious world.  Our family members are mortal.  It’s conceivable that the God who gave us our loved ones could choose to take them away. How would we handle that?  I’ve seen two responses.  Those who see their family members as a “need” that they’ve been robbed of invariably shake their fists at God and descend into a dark tunnel of bitterness.  One dad who lost a son became so bitter that his other sons lost their dad emotionally for the next 10 years.  On the other hand, I’ve seen families lose a child yet praise God for the precious time they had together.  Although they grieved their terrible loss, they were eventually able to press forward knowing that their child’s earthly presence wasn’t something they “needed” in order to be joyful.  In my daily prayers for my family I tell God, “Help me to treasure my family more and more, yet hold them looser and looser.”
  • Disability.  We can probably all think of marriages that dissolved after one spouse became disabled.  A Christ-centered marriage shouldn’t depend on our spouse’s physical prowess or functionality.  “He (or She) didn’t meet my needs” should never be an excuse for splitting up.  That’s not what Christlike, unconditional love is.  “In sickness and in health, till death do us part” is the commitment that was made.  Thankfully, our spiritual disabilities don’t keep Jesus from loving us.
  • Deficiency.  Parents often “need” their children to be star athletes, musicians, performers, scholars, etc.  This then becomes a point of contention when kids don’t live up to their potential.  Parents sometimes derive their own esteem from their kids’ performance or try to live out their own unreached dreams through their kids.  This pressure adds stress to kids’ lives and often builds walls between parents and kids.  If parents stopped “needing” their kids to be something they want, perhaps they could help their kids explore who God made them to be.
  • Desertion.  Kids who abandon the beliefs, values, or lifestyles of their parents can cause devastation for parents who “needed” their kids to stay true to the faith.  These parents often try to scold, nag, or pressure their kids to come back to the fold, which ironically has the opposite effect.  On the other hand, parents whose joy doesn’t depend on their kids’ choices are free to live their own lives.  Though they will certainly remain concerned about their child’s choices and well-being, they don’t lose their own ability to worship, serve God, and take care of themselves.  Ironically their ability to worship God and love others amidst disappointment may be the very thing that influences their kids to come back to the fold.

[Please note that in this article I’m using the word, “need,” in a technical or literal sense.  I recognize that “need” is also commonly used in a more figurative or pragmatic sense, such as, “We need to work together as a team,” or “I need help making supper.”   I take no issue with such “needs”!  Yet I have found it helpful to limit my use of the word “need,” substituting “want” or “would like” whenever possible as a way to ensure I don’t fall into any of the pitfalls listed above.]

The surprising lesson I learned from Lexi’s trip to Italy.

Lexi in ItalyOver Spring Break Lexi went to Northern Italy with the UNI Wind Symphony.   She had a wonderful time playing the saxophone which she loves, getting to know her bandmates, and enjoying a new part of the world she’d never seen.

Her social role within the band quickly became that of a cheerleader.  Whenever enthusiasm would wane or boredom would creep in Lexi would pipe up, “Guys, guess what!  WE’RE in ITALY!  Aren’t you EXCITED!!” and that would return everyone’s focus to the amazing reality of their situation.

Lexi was simply reminding her friends of a truth that they already knew but had lost sight of.  Any instances of boredom or lackluster attitudes were merely the result of forgetting what an awesome place they were in.  Her animated reminders brought them back to reality and quickly helped them regain their excitement.

I think we need a similar reminder when it comes to our relationship to God.  It’s easy for our devotional life to become mundane and boring.  Why?  Because just like Lexi’s bandmates we’ve forgotten the amazing reality of our situation and we need to be reminded of what’s true.

“Guys, guess what!  WE’RE INVITED TO HAVE A PRIVATE, FACE-T0-FACE MEETING EACH DAY WITH THE CREATOR OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE!! HE WANTS TO SPEND TIME WITH YOU.  Aren’t you EXCITED!”

I’ve been contemplating this ever since Lexi shared about her trip and it has surprisingly transformed my approach to God.

What if I actually started living out what I know to be true?  What if I started to view spending time with God in the same way I would if I was being invited to have breakfast with a celebrity?  Would I hit the snooze button five more times if a head of state was waiting for me at my breakfast table?  Wouldn’t I go to bed early the night before if I had a breakfast appointment with a famous person, and if I were to wake up in the night wouldn’t I be counting the hours?  Wouldn’t I be excited when my alarm went off, no matter how early it was?  Wouldn’t sluggishness and boredom be unthinkable?  Wouldn’t I view my time with this celebrity as a humbling privilege rather than a chore?

By reflecting on such questions over the past months I can honestly say that I have enjoyed my early morning times with God more than ever before.  There have been many mornings when I have bounded out of bed to spend some quality time getting to know God deeper through His Word and prayer.

But it’s easy to forget what’s true.

And so just as Lexi’s enthusiasm reminded her bandmates of what they knew to be true, may this blog post remind you and me of what a privilege it is to be invited to meet each day with the Creator of the universe.

Lexi italy

 

 

Older posts

© 2018 markforstrom.com

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑