Judge Not…


download (1)I have noticed, in my brief stint on earth, how people love to judge you and form opinions about the type of person you are. For awhile, as an avid red wine enthusiast, I used to post pictures of myself on Facebook trying different Cabernets, Pino Noirs, Malbecs and Merlots to name a few. My hope was that other red wine drinkers would be inspired by my posts and share some of their favorites as well. It didn’t take long before being a red wine drinker became my entire identity to the point where my wife advised, “You need to stop with all the wine posts because that is all that people think you do!” How sad? How narrow? It seems social media has morphed into a breeding ground for judgment and criticism. Some folks are angry with you for appearing to enjoy your life and, God forbid, posting pictures of yourself having fun. Other folks want to pick a fight with you concerning your views. Don’t even mention politics! Even more strange, certain people feel quite indignant that a fellow human must be exaggerating their good times and should post a more shitty, realistic view about their present situation. Again, how narrow? How sad? What is it about people that has led them to this place of criticism and harsh judgments? Why won’t they choose to judge not? 

I think the only logical explanation for the overflow of judgments is that the world and its systems has worked over the masses to the point where people are judging themselves so negatively that they can’t help but judge everyone else as well. People have been trained to search for the wrong in themselves and following a natural course, see the wrong in others as well. People judge where you work; the type of work you do; where you live or don’t live; the type of car you drive; how you dress and on into infinity. Folks just love to find out your faults, your weaknesses, so that they might feel just a little bit better about themselves. Further, those judgments are fraught with generalizations that fail to take into account the human being behind the actions. And all the time, beneath the judgments is a person that does not feel good about themselves. You wouldn’t be so quick to judge if you didn’t feel so judged yourself. In its basic essence, you tend to give out what you are inside. Judgment of people is a harsh reality festering in the heart of the one doing all the judging. You and I cannot possibly know what is going on inside another person; their motives; their reasons; their why. All we can do at best is look on the surface and form a few opinions. In this, when we judge other people, we are wrong. Judging another person has never led to improvement in a person, but instead only serves to fracture and break up the relationship. Judgment brings out cruelty in people. It offers the ever false promise of maybe feeling better about ourselves. Yet, we will never feel better about ourselves by pushing others down, no matter how justified we may feel. The way you persuade that old heart of yours is by building others up. You feel better about yourself when you hand out a little empathy, a little compassion coming from a place that knows how easy it is to get screwed up in life and how many times you have been there yourself. Sometimes what people need most from you is a pass. A great man once said, “Love sees more but is willing to see less!” A close friend of mine once remarked, “Don’t look at people too closely!” In other words, what people need most is love and a lot of forgiveness, not judgment. 

It may surprise you to know that our great God is not a fan of judgment. The reason for the law of the Old Testament wasn’t to condemn and criticize people, but rather to establish a standard for what sin was in order to send a Redeemer from sin and its claims on mankind. Jesus Christ fulfilled that just standard by living the law perfectly so you and I wouldn’t have to! Remember, Jesus came not to condemn but rather to help; to offer a sin sick and sorrowful world a chance at life. He hung out with the publicans and sinners because those are the ones that needed his help. He didn’t choose to judge people but instead left the judgment with God, whose judgment is always just. And, incredulously, that same God made a way for His precious man to escape the confines of sin and live his life without judgment because of the accomplishments of another man; His son. God’s will is that we do not judge and He gave us a way to cleanse our own hearts to help us not judge other people. Who are we to say that our own mistakes and endless foibles are any less than an another man’s errors? When we finally get a good taste of what God did for us with His son on the cross, we can finally rid ourselves of the cruelty of judgment towards other people. God works in your heart to see and love like He does. The least I can do is offer you forgiveness remembering how many times God has forgiven me.

Obviously there are times when you acknowledge wrongs done to others and you don’t have to pretend to like it. But even then, it’s not our job to judge folks. Judgment hurts people and wounds their tender hearts. Even a child knows the sooner they acknowledge their wrong done and say they are sorry, the sooner they will feel good about themselves again. Similarly, people are going to make mistakes at times; sometimes epic blunders, but when that happens they don’t need your judgment to get better, they need your love. They need your willingness to never bring it up again! And, the world would be a better place because of it. I know how easy it is to get caught up in it at times especially when everyone else seems to be doing it as well. But, it is the wrong space from which to operate. It serves no other purpose than to glorify the insidious one behind it; the one working in the situations to bring about the pain and loss; the enemy of mankind behind every wrong that was ever done. It is much better therefore, to try and live your life without all the judgment, beginning with yourself. Give yourself a break and stop listening to the accuser. You are not the mistakes you have made, you are a person with a heart; a good heart. God looks on your heart! Forgive yourself for being a human and extend that heart to other people. That is what God wants you to do. 

At the end of the day, this life is challenging enough without judging people from here to breakfast. Folks have enough challenges to surmount without the added pressure of negative judgments. Someone might be behaving like a real stinker right now, but haven’t you been that stinker yourself at times? Not being judgmental does not require that you ignore all of the wrongs done in this life, but rather asks for compassion for your fellow man. You don’t know all that is involved, only God knows that. Let God do the judging and know that He desires for all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Who knows, maybe your acts of compassion and empathy might be all a person needs to finally turn their life around. Love people like your Momma loved you! Judge not! 

Just some good thoughts…

Have Things Gotten Bitter Between You? (Relationships with Sugar Added)


Relationships are often complicated because people are complicated. When a longterm relationship begins to dissolve, it’s not usually due to a big mistakes made or some epic past failure, but rather in response to a multitude of minor slights adding, multiplying and blending into one large, bitter whole! Relationships fail due to words not said, important things not remembered, genuine care and concern not demonstrated. It breaks up and splinters first in the mind, then in the heart from too many missed opportunities to communicate love. And despite all of its associated complexity, can be repaired quickly by adding a little sugar.

The problem with us humans is that we tend to hold on to the negatives and easily forget the positives. How many people still rehearse the cruel words spoken to them by their partner during a big fight from five years ago? How easy it is to compile a list of a spouse’s failings, then read those failings into future scenarios that soon become present? How many of you have simply made up your mind about who your significant other is and as such offer zero possibilities for a new way in a new day? Your boyfriend, your girlfriend has little chance to demonstrate proper behavior while being chained by you to the mistakes of their past.

Understanding relationships is understanding how each of us grow and evolve. People can and do change even after they may have shown you who they are. The point being that who they are isn’t always defined by who they were. Priorities change. Desires change. Happiness and contentment are based on varying stages of life. Change is good unless it is met with a refusal to see the person through a different lens. Maybe your ex-husband is so happy with his new wife because he finally was afforded the opportunity to be someone else. Maybe you needed to get away from your ex-husband so you could be someone else. Wherever you are or whatever you may be facing, you must have some capability to modify your thinking; to get out of your rut; to reframe your expectations.

I think if you are honest, you have to recognize that relationships require commitment on both parts. I’m not referring to your decision to commit yourself to the relationship, but rather your decision to commit yourself to stop drawing negative conclusions. You have to change your own mind, your own beliefs, your own long-held preconceived notions. You have to cease from being mired in perpetual negative expectations. No matter your justifications, your righteous rights, your standing up for yourself and your other stories you’ve made up to justify your shitty approach, you have to flip the script. You have to realign your “self-defense” mentality to one of alignment and loving mutual respect. You cannot make someone else be something else, but you can damn sure make yourself be something or someone else.

In order for a relationship to thrive there has to be some element of love involved and love is best characterized by sweetness. To think that sweetness is somehow weak or pitiful or acknowledging inferiority is to be deluded in regard to the essence of human relationships. Now I recognize that people have hurt you and maybe done and said all manner of terrible things to you, but that doesn’t negate your ability to be kind; to be tender; to be sweet. The alternative is simply to keep living and reliving the same nightmare over and over and over again. Your escape isn’t in finding the perfect guy or the ideal woman, but rather in relocating your heart; the one you had before the damage occurred. The real you wants to give love and receive love no matter how far down you got knocked. It seems risky but in reality there is no risk because love never fails!

Real love; true love; abiding love requires a new beginning, a fresh start. Just as you forgive yourself for your own absurdities and foolishness, you have to be willing to offer your love interest the same privileges. You have to learn to make your evaluations and draw your conclusions based on today in the moment called now. Today is always a new day and carries with it unlimited new beginnings. Sure stuff is going to happen that drags you back to yesterday, but in like fashion you pull your own self back to today. You treat your partner like someone you love in spite of yourself. Just as a soft answer turns away wrath, a soft approach can remedy a whole world of failings. If your love is always based on proper behaviors and the right words you are setting yourself up for a misery that cannot be overcome.

Decide right now to be that warm, loving person you know you really are already. Stop with your defensive approach, your self preservation, ever hedging just in case.  End your failure planning and plan to succeed. In spite of what is going on and what you are experiencing, be sweet; so lovingly, genuinely sweet. In doing so you will find that sweetness and kindness are irresistible and almost impossible to slight. You will find yourself on the high road, unshaken and unaltered in your thinking. You will find yourself living love and giving love from which there is never any need to retreat. You will be loving people how God loves you, unconditionally and without a change of heart.

No matter how bitter or jaundiced you may have become towards him or her, know that there is something you can do. Don’t go to the counselor with an expectation of confirmation for the things you have seen for years, but instead with an open heart regarding what you can do with you to effect a change. Maybe, just maybe it’s you! And if it’s not you, you still have the solemn responsibility to guard and nurture your own heart which is never accomplished in anger, fighting and bitterness of soul! Oh my friends choose sweetness! Add some sugar and see how much better it all tastes!

Just some good thoughts…

 

The Good Thoughts Pledge…for Yourself


download-1I’m going to tell you something tonight that may come as quite a surprise to you. It’s not really a part of mainstream thought. I would even go as far as to say that you may be besieged by thoughts to the contrary. It seems so irresponsible; so laissez-faire; even reckless. It sounds ostentatious; lacking forethought, presumptuous. It may quite threaten the way the western world thinks. Nevertheless, here it is…there is no profit or value or benefit or lesson or good outcome in thinking negatively or critically about yourself.

On the surface, you probably agree in premise. But, can you agree in practice? Can you do it? Should you do it? Do you feel there is a value in chastising yourself or that critically evaluating your behaviors helps you get better? I think most people do and as a result take themselves through endless loops that never end up at – good. I’m not talking about honestly evaluating what you could have done better. I’m talking about rehearsing mistakes you made or reliving negative scenarios. I’m discussing that all too familiar human tendency to berate yourself for saying that dreaded thing or performing that shameful act. Do the people you berate transform themselves? Does feeling ashamed prevent poor choices in the future?

I’m sure you’re curious, so let me explain myself. When you do something wrong, you know it is wrong. Wrong things have a way of communicating a painful message to you and it happens rather quickly. Stubbing your toe may hurt like hell, but is nothing to be compared with willfully stubbing it over and over again. Well, how about your thought life? Will rehearsing that negative scenario make it go away? Is there a remedy or benefit to be found in the rehearsal? If you dutifully replay the event on the VCR of your mind, will you somehow arrive at a place where it now makes sense? Oh, if you could just go back in time, right?

Maybe it will help you to think in terms of the physical. Let’s imagine that you just put your hand on the hot stove. You weren’t seeking to bring pain upon yourself, but because of distraction or ignorance or some competing idea, you set it down on the burner. And as burners do, it burned you! The lesson is immediate! Ah shiiiiiiiiiiii*! You briefly contemplate what happened and then quickly seek a remedy. You most likely won’t ever do it again. Now again, imagine that three days later you are still going through the painful scenario in your head. People would rightfully conclude that you are nuts. But, isn’t that exactly what you do with the other mistakes you make in your life and most likely you did for similar reasons? (Distraction, ignorance, competing ideas) I’m here to tell you today that there is absolutely no profit in it. In fact, there’s grave danger in it.

Dwelling on past mistakes is almost a surefire guarantee that you are going to make the same mistakes again. And, even if you are smart enough to avoid them, dwelling on them only serves to reinforce the idea that something is definitely wrong with you. Not your behavior, you! What possible chance could you ever have of succeeding or overcoming if down deep something is wrong with you?

I’ll put it in terms of the spiritual. Let’s say that there is a force in the world that seduces or deceives you into doing things that are bad. So that force, that the world is woefully unaware of, tricks you into doing something evil. I would say that in itself is bad enough. But, what if you could derive a greater damage to a person by getting them to rehearse the matter for the rest of their lives? I would say you have done an excellent job of defeating that person for a lifetime! Well folks, that is exactly what is taking place when you innocently or ignorantly hold your mistakes; your faults and failings in your mind. It’s insane. No manner of self-chastisement atones for the wrongs done, but instead only hurts you in the process.

This notion of incessant focus on your shortcomings, or more importantly perceived shortcomings is epidemic! It’s a cancer that eats away at all that is good. When a child makes an error he immediately seeks forgiveness. He doesn’t try to undo the wrong. He doesn’t evaluate what might be wrong with him to cause such a thing to happen. He doesn’t review the matter in his mind for two years. He simply seeks forgiveness from his parents and once he receives it, as he knows he almost always will, he moves on – quickly and emphatically. Well, the same is true for you and me. When you hurt people or damage things or hurt your own heart, you make an effort to immediately seek forgiveness and then move on. Refuse to rehearse it or think about or give it space in your mind. If it’s God’s forgiveness you need, get it as He is faithful and just to forgive you, every time!

So, I’m asking you to make a pledge to yourself, for yourself. Do not give the mistakes you made or your faults and human failings or your shortcomings (perceived or real) another thought. Don’t allow them to take up residency in your mind. Put an end to all negative evaluations of yourself. Just stop it! There is no profit or value or benefit or lesson or good outcome in doing so. Being critical of yourself will never make you a better person. Being critical only serves to weaken you from being everything you really ought to be in this life!

Will you take the pledge? I hope so…

Just some good thoughts…

The Yoke’s on You…


slavery-tmFear is the silent epidemic that thwarts all hopes and dreams. Fear is the great hold-back and reason you procrastinate. Fear is the imposing wall between you and everything you ever wanted. Fear rules the entire world and few escape its grasp. Fear is your worst and most pervasive enemy. Fear is a yoke of slavery and the yoke is on you!

Nothing in life retards your progress like fear does. Fear stops you dead in your tracks. Fear will make you turn back when you need to move ahead. It works to silence the voice that is truly yours and ever seeks to make you into someone you are not. And although all these things are probably very obvious, folks just march on frustrated and working hard, pretending and faking; trying and trying; hoping and wishing, with little or no results.

You would think that the hardest thing in the world was actually getting what you want given the amount of energy you have spent trying to arrive. Now, I don’t mean getting some needs met here and there. I’m talking about being and doing everything you ever wanted to do. I’m referring to that “more than abundant” life God promised His children. I’m getting at the A+ life! That dream life, however it looks to you, is waiting around for you; not to figure everything out but to get rid of the obstacle, the blocker, the real effin’ problem…fear! Funny (peculiar) everyone denies its existence and everyone lives under its yoke. Again the yoke is on you!

It’s time to get honest folks. It’s high time to recognize the real issue. It’s not the economy, racism; where you live; your upbringing, the police; your education level, climate change, the terrorists, politics, money or lack thereof; your IQ, EQ or Ps and Qs, it’s you! Just let that sink in for a minute… Everything you really, really want but don’t have is because of your fear.  Obliterate the anxiety ridden doubt. Cast off the heavy burden, worry. Kill off every semblance of fear and you will find every good thing you desire. You’ll find it because it is already there, well hidden by the obscuring, deadening clouds of fear.

If you really want to live the A+ life and find the contentment and fulfillment you know deep down you desperately need, invest yourself in eliminating fear. Nothing good can come from bad no matter the disguise. Bad begets bad and fear is bad. If your motive is fear, for anything you do, the result can only be more fear. If you work hard out of fear, you won’t succeed. If you give to others based on fear, you won’t enjoy a harvest. Fear is an illusion. Fear is an expectation of defeat. Fear, through deception, brings negative results into your life. Fear is always about you. And, the only lasting solution to fear is love.

Love is the light that illuminates your path. Love isn’t blind, it’s just willing to see less. Love nurtures and encourages and builds. Love is never discouraged or impatient or frustrated. Love heals and revitalizes. Love warms and softens. Love removes every yoke. Love knows that what it seeks always comes to pass and there’s no power on earth greater than it. Love never fails. God is love.

The only possible way you can finally escape from the yoke of fear is by making the decision to love. So simple, yet so profoundly difficult. Real love isn’t all about you, it’s all about everyone else. Love doesn’t have time to sulk and brood and feel sorry for itself. Love doesn’t take what it already has for granted. Love doesn’t judge and criticize and condemn. Love seeks to relieve the suffering in others. Love wants to lend a helping hand. Love gives and gives and gives expecting nothing in return. Love speaks lavish words of kindness. Love forgives everything and everyone, knowing the true source of the wrong done. Love is tender-hearted and not afraid of revealing itself, for there is nothing wrong in itself. Love is the only enduring answer.

When you head out into the world tomorrow, instead of bracing yourself to be bold and brave and courageous; taking on fear wherever it shows up, do something different instead. Stop making it about you and make it about someone else. Quit pursuing your life’s dreams and help make someone else’s dream a reality. Love those people around you that you take for granted everyday. Love those people all around you. Just love them. Speak words of kindness and encouragement. Let your real heart out without fear of someone hurting it. Give your goodness to those folks at work. Have compassion on them and forgive them. Look deeply into their eyes and honestly seek their good. Heal them, help them, love them. Perfect love casts out fear.

The funny (peculiar) thing about love is that when you do it with all of your heart, all that you ever wanted for yourself comes to you without effort and striving and trying so hard. The door will open without you knocking. The opportunity will arise from the place you least expected. Your place, your purpose will find you because you finally found it, by deciding to love. So “funny” that getting everything you ever wanted was never based on pursuing everything you ever wanted, but rather by changing your focus to someone else.

The yoke’s on them, so why not help remove it?

Just some good thoughts…

Real Life…Keep Your Head Up!


inward-to-upwardOver the years, I’ve been up on the mountaintops of life and down in the valleys. I have experienced joy unspeakable and heavy duty agitation. And while God has never failed in His goodness towards me, I have often forgotten the secret to living real life with God. Interestingly, the difficult, frustrating times have always seemed to follow a distinct pattern whereby my focus shifts (or gets shifted) away from God and His goodness back to myself and all of my inadequacies. In light of this dilemma, I offer this beautiful work called, “The Secret to a Holy Life.”

The secret to a holy life is to get your eyes off your own inadequacies and onto the Father and His glory.

Our service is first and foremost to God and with God, not always to man.

To walk worthily is to walk with thanksgiving to God first and foremost.

The secret to a holy life is not the labour we do but just to love Him first and foremost.

Then the work we do is not to be well pleasing to Him but because we already are!

~ Dr. Victor Paul Wierwille

Religion persists in getting man to focus on his sins and shortcomings under the guise of helping him to live a better life. It is rife with judgment and an ever growing list of labels identifying good an bad… The focus is always about people and their behavior. And, if you have been a person long enough you are well aware that your behavior sucks at times. Since your heart wants to do what is “right” you chastise yourself and berate yourself with demands to get better and do better! Perhaps you need more discipline! Maybe you just need to work harder; get stronger; purify yourself more; stop doing this and start doing that. Maybe you are just evil! Maybe God is very upset with you! Maybe… The not so obvious problem with this line of thinking is that it drives you further and further away from God and the “real” life He has given you. It subtly turns your focus inward, not upward. Life basically becomes about you. Welcome to the deep valleys and the strangling agitation.

Try as you may, focusing on what you do “wrong” (so called) will never, ever get you to what is “right.” Again.. Focusing on what you “think” you do wrong, will never get you to what you “think” is right! You see, the issue isn’t really about doing right and doing wrong, the issue is about your focus and who/what is number one in your life. Religion has convinced us that a relationship with God is all about doing what’s right. The problem with that logic is figuring out what is “right.” One group says you can’t smoke. Another says you can’t do frontal hugs until you’re married (thanks Duggars). The enemy makes a clever appeal to our ego by promising us that we can do something to make God do something. In reality, we never have to make God do anything as He is already everything we could ever want. And to take it a step further, God sent His son to pay the full price for everything you and I ever did wrong, so we would never have to try and pay that price ourselves again!

Let’s say you had a child that continued to misbehave (according to what you thought was right). You scolded him, chastised him, threatened him, took things away from him and grounded him. Did those behaviors on your part make him do right? Of course not! If anything he simply did what it seemed like you wanted until the trouble stopped. Real change in a child only happens when the child chooses his own behavior without compulsion from others. It’s no different for us adults. We can modify our behavior; exercise discipline and everything else when it comes from a heart that is choosing freely without compulsion. God has done that for us. He has completely set us free in every regard so that we could truly be free to choose right. You get it? Free is free. No law is no law. Nothing you could ever do or not do will change God’s opinion of you! Nothing.

So the secret to real life is to get off your own back and stop making life and happiness all about what you do. Stop looking at your imperfection and focus on God’s perfection instead. Serve God not by clinging to approved behaviors, but by cleaving to God’s love for you and your love for Him. Thank Him for making you worthy no matter what the whole world says to the contrary. Then, you’ll find that you no longer have to work to earn His love and blessings, but will do what you do because you’re well pleasing to Him already!

True life; real life was never about choosing all the right behaviors to stand approved before men. Instead it’s about choosing to keep God first and foremost in your heart and life. Take a deep breath and let go of all that work and stress and anxiety you’ve amassed killing yourself to earn God’s love and protection and safety and a good life. Relax and breathe in the pure reality that He already gave all of that to you!

You are just fine, just the way you are…