Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Love and Respect: C-H-A-I-R-S

When, I first started talking about "Love and Respect", by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, I was very deliberate in discussing the ways that men can show love to their wives FIRST. I love our couch but not that much, if you know what I mean.

Now lets explore how wives can show respect to their husbands. Eggerichs does not take his foot off of the gas as he takes us into the C-H-A-I-R-S chapters for wives. This clever acronym is a roadmap that all wives can use to understand how to give "unconditional" respect to their husbands. Much like the C-O-U-P-L-E chapters, C-H-A-I-R-S empowers wives while recognizing their responsibility to be accountable partners.

Tucked amongst a myriad of poignant stories and testimonies, Eggerichs has also planted the "Respect Test." When I first read the following statement, I thought to myself "This rubbish does not work", but then I realized that Janelle has said some form of this statement to me many times. The statement is as follows: "I was thinking about you today and there are several things that I respect about you, and I just want you to know that I respect you." WOW.... I yearn to be respected by my wife and it is amazing how much closer I am to her after hearing these words! Wives, if you don't believe me, try it (with the utmost sincerity, of course) and let me know the result.

As a husband reading these chapters, my heartstrings were pulled with the turning of every page. I like the fact that I can be understood, validated, and appreciated. So, again, just in case you are wondering, C-H-A-I-R-S stands for the following:

C-Conquest- Your husband feels respected when you tell him verbally or in writing that you value his work efforts.

H-Hierarchy- Your husband feels respected when you praise his commitment to provide for and protect you and the family.

A-Authority- Your husband feels respected when you praise his good decisions and are gracious when he make bad decisions.

I-Insight- Your husband feels respected when you tell him upfront that you just need him to listen and don't complain later when he tries to fix you.

R-Relationships- Your husband feels respected when you tell him that you like him and then SHOW IT.

S-Sexuality- Your husband feels respected when you understand that he needs sexual release just as you need emotional release.




Everyday Justice - Live Oak Value #5

Justice is a big word with big meaning in our country. It goes right along with the other big ideals in American life such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." I used to think of "justice" as something the legal arm of our government took care of - not something that I was necessarily responsible for taking part in also. Justice, however, doesn't only happen when people in positions of power take action. Justice can happen everyday by each of us simply making simple, thoughtful decisions.

All it takes for this world to become more just is for each of us to open our eyes and be willing to see the world around us. Instead of ignoring that woman on the street corner and assuming she is lazy or an addict, why don't you picture yourself in her place? Perhaps she left an abusive situation and has no family to fall back on for help. Perhas she is an addict - but even if she is, God does not want us to ignore her and pretend she isn't there.

Everyday justice can become a part of your whole day when you begin to open your heart and eyes to the world. When you go shopping do you think about how the goods you are buying have come to be available to you? Has the manufacturer paid a living wage to those who have produced that cute shirt or that particular brand of coffee? Has another section of forest been clear cut and burned to mass produce cheap meat or produce crops that cannot be grown there for more than a few seasons?

I believe that the little bit extra I spend to buy goods that have been produced in a way that won't harm the world God gave us stewardship over and enables a farmer to feed his family, send a sick child to the doctor, or give his children a chance at an education is worth it. The hassle of bringing all my own reusable bags to the store is worth it. Paying $2 more per pound of coffee is worth it. To me, being aware of how my actions and consumerism affect others is worth the extra effort and money because in some small way, it might make the world a better place.

Obviously, everyday justice is not just about how we shop. We need to be aware of how the issues of justice affect those who live arounds us as well. We don't have to look far to see need close to home. According to the Basic Needs Coalition of Central Texas, 40% of families in the Austin/Round Rock Major Metropolitan Area are living below the Central Texas Security Index. In regular language that means that 40% of the people living in our area (possibly including you) are living on the edge of economic catastrophe because they earn just enough (with a combined income of two working adults) to pay the bills.

Everyday justice is about taking off our blinders and looking carefully around us. We can reach out to the mom next door who is stressed out and needs a break from the kids for a few hours. We can step in when we see abuse. We can take over meals to folks who need them. We can teach our children by example to not fear those who are different from us whether that difference is based on skin color or socio-economic level. We can all donate regularly to social service providers close to us - such as food banks, shelters for the homeless or women and children.

We can do justice everyday if we see justice as something that can be accomplished in small, baby steps.

"...let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" - Amos 5:24


Monday, July 19, 2010

It's about who, not what - Live Oak Value #4

We live in a divided society where if you think differently from me or if I have different views than you, we tend to avoid each other and not develop friendships. It is interesting to me to watch how we have begun to assemble ourselves into smaller and smaller subgroups based on political and religious viewpoints or the absence of such views. Even on Facebook we classify ourselves as 'fans' of different things. Many of us feel enormous pressure to belong to a specific subtype.

I have always had a hard time giving myself completely over to one way of thinking and because of that I tend to straddle many different groups. I am a "stay at home Mom" and yet I also volunteer/work as an ordained minister. I am pretty liberal socially but very conservative theologically. I buy local and organic foods and recycle, but I will also buy paper plates when serving a crowd and spend way too much time driving all over Austin in my minivan.

The one belief that I do hold to and will not stray from is that my relationship with God is more important than anything else in this world. Because I believe that, it follows that my relationships with others are also more important than whether or not we agree on abortion rights, gun laws, or health care reform. We are meant to be relational people just as God, in whose image we are made, is relational. The mystery of the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - three and yet one, shows that the very nature of God is relational.

What we share above everything is our humanness: Our need to be in community with others. Yes, it might be easier to only be in community with people who think exactly like us, but where are the open arms of Christ in that?

The Old Testament book of Numbers speaks of community rules being the same for both the Israelite and the foreigner because they are "the same before God" (Numbers 15:13). In fact, throughout the Old Testament, we are continually reminded that we are all in this together - we live and die together as a community. We are convicted and forgiven of our sins as a community. (Meaning we can't stand by and watch harmful things happen and claim innocence because we didn't participate.) We are all here to work out our lives together, whatever our beliefs or actions. Separating ourselves into cliques does nothing other than encourage us to be prideful and vain because it encourages us to believe that we are better than someone else. Underneath everything, we are all the same - broken people longing to be accepted and loved. At Live Oak, we believe it is important to love everyone and develop relationships with everyone even if it is uncomfortable and difficult.


"If you have gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care - then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep spirited friends."
- Philippians 2:1


Monday, July 12, 2010

Authentic Living in the 'Burbs - Live Oak Value #3

It is pretty easy in our suburban culture to think that you are the only one who doesn't have it all together, but believe me - everyone has their own stuff to deal with that doesn't smell like roses.

It doesn't matter that the Smith's next door have children who are always clean and well behaved, a lawn that is free of weeds and an immaculate house - Mr. and Mrs. Smith have stuff that is just as troubling to them as your stuff is troubling to you. They just hide it - just like you hide yours.

No one is perfect. No one has it all together. Most of us have deep griefs as well as deep joys that we long to share with one another instead of mindlessly chatting about the weather or our kid's latest soccer game.

It seems socially unacceptable, however, to speak of anything that might imply you are anything less than 'great' publicly. It has somehow become a personal failure or a character flaw for someone to be having a difficult time with their job, their kids, their marriage, whatever. Even people who have recently been bereaved are expected to answer that they are doing 'fine' within a week of the funeral.

When we encounter people who are not hiding their 'issues' we tend to not want to be with them. I sometimes wonder if it is because we worry that it is catching: if we hang around people who are not holding it together, we might fall apart, too. Is it any wonder that the number of Americans who take antidepressants has doubled in the past decade?

Jesus, however, does not want us to live this way. Jesus wants us to share our burdens and troubles with each other because we are called by Him to help each other. We are not to be people living isolated within a community. We are to be people who live together in true community.

Live Oak church wants to be a place where people can form this kind of community. A community where each one of us is allowed to be authentic and still feel lovable and loved.

Being authentic is not any easier than being unauthentic. Just as it takes a tremendous amount of effort to create a facade that shows everything is great, it also take effort to be authentic. The pay-off for being authentic however, is being known and loved for who you truly are, not for who you pretend to be. Personally, I think that pay-off is worth the effort.

Authenticity allows for emotions and brokeness to be seen and shared by others. It pushes us to respect how others differ from us because we can't simply pretend we don't see those differences. It moves us out of our comfort zone to engage with our own and other's struggles involving things like grief, broken relationships, illness, or addiction.

We are all broken people living in a broken world. Pretending anything else is exhausting and depressing. There is a freedom that comes when we are able to admit that we all have problems and flaws and that it is okay to not be perfect. We should all have a place where we can be authentic, truly known, and accepted by others. A place where when someone asks, "How are you?", they really want to know and you really want to tell them.

I hope that Live Oak will be that place for you.


"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle's teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer." - Acts 2:42