You’re So Annoying

“You’re so annoying!”

That’s exactly what my wife said to me recently after a friendly discussion about the garbage disposal. I don’t know why she said it. I wasn’t trying to be cute or snide or sarcastic. I thought the disposal was just fine. It works. Sure, it’s old and smells bad. But it works.

Another reminder to us men that women truly are from VENUS!

Seriously, I think all of us, married or single, would admit that we annoy one another at times. And if no one has ever annoyed you before, you are either a true saint in whom there is no blemish, or you have always lived alone in a cave!

Sure, we conflict with those we love the most at times. That’s part of the relationship process – known as “iron sharpening iron”. Only problem is, this reality is often a grating and conflicting experience, resulting in frustration and sometimes, exasperation.

“Does this mean that relationship is bad for me and I need to get out of it?”

No. Relax. You’re relationship is just fine.

Now if there is abuse of any kind occurring then read no further because what I have to share today is for those healthy relationships in our lives that sometimes include conflict.

If you grew up in a large household with many siblings, at least more than yourself, you already know conflict just happens automatically when you include any other human being into the equation.

But guess what? This is a great opportunity for The Life to have a new growth spurt in your spiritual life. Those little pet peeves and creature comforts that we secretly cultivate and make room for suddenly get jostled and jilted when you live with others.

Eventually you have to let those go to an extent, or find ways to compromise so that all parties involved can each benefit. And when we are the ones being affected in some way by someone else, it requires management of our emotions, irritations and even anger.

If I can look to The Life inside me, I find there is grace and patience that I personally do not possess, and I find myself having the power to deal. And sometimes, accept, and occasionally, enjoy.

You know what? That person may be “so annoying”, but then again, without them, The Life will never get chances to grow and stretch and develop inside you.

And that may be annoying in an eternal sort of way.

Until next time!

Jeff

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Don’t get offended.

“I mean this in love and in no way intend this to come across as negative or critical, but…”

Ever have someone start out a conversation this way? Not the easiest statement to hear someone else say to us. Well, don’t feel too bad, it’s only natural to put up an emotional wall, or get verbally defensive when someone we know well confronts us with an issue.

Whether they say it in love or not, or whether it is even well-intended or meant to hurt us, I think we can learn to glean value from any kind of confrontation, rebuke, even attack.

Granted, some verbal attacks are purely worthless and should be discarded immediately. In fact, I sometimes think the reason many of us get defensive when spoken to this way is actually because of a lack of GOOD DEFENSE.

Now hear me, I am not saying that it is good to “get defensive”… not at all. What I propose to you is this: If we have built healthy boundaries (read any book from the amazing series BOUNDARIES by Henry Cloud and John Townsend) in our Circle of Relationships (ask ME for a copy of this helpful tool ), we won’t have to “get defensive” when bombarded, attacked, or lovingly addressed in a proper way.

You see, if you have built healthy DEFENSES ahead of time, you don’t need to GET DEFENSIVE at the spur of the moment!

You can listen to that person, chew any meat they may have given, and spit out the bones. And if someone gives you ALL BONES, well then you can spit the entire mess out and get a good breath mint later!

Jesus didn’t need to get defensive when verbally attacked by his critics, because he already had healthy defenses built before hand.

Some of these defenses relate more to a healthy view of ourselves and a confidence of who God is in us and the fact that if He is for us, we have nothing to fear.

In fact, if you find yourself getting defensive often, that indicates you probably have not built good DEFENSES up in your inner man. And in fact, you may find inside your soul many conflicting sources pulling and pushing you to really fly off the handle emotionally, psychologically, physically.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Now I would be a hypocrite to make it sound like I am such a well-adjusted human being that I have never, ever become defensive. The exact opposite scenario is closer to the truth. You see, I found so many unhealthy emotional triggers inside of me when I first started my spiritual journey – I was one of the most defensive people on the planet. I discovered part of the reason had to do with being a very caring person – I was sensitive. But sensitivity without a healthy defense system on the inside will produce a lot of pain. I had to “toughen up” as others say.

But truthfully, it had nothing to do with getting tougher, but with getting fortified with a good set of boundaries and inner foundational truths. It took years and still I am growing in that area even to this day.

I wish I could go into greater detail with this, but if I did, this would not be a blog entry, but a book. And for more detail, you are going to have to wait for THE BOOK – “The Life” ha ha.

So all I can tell you is this – you and I need our source to be God inside of us in order to build healthy defenses on the outside. Then and only then, when the time comes for someone to “share a personal word” with us, we won’t get defensive anymore, but instead, with peace and calmness we can gently listen to the person(s) and filter the information properly with a smile, and even say, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I will take it into consideration. Have a great day!”

Sounds easy, of course it is not. But with His Life inside of us, it is more than POSSIBLE!

Until next time,

Jeff Saxton

Now & Later – Part 3 of 4

So where was I?

Oh yes! Now and Later candy. Yummy. Can use, re-use… even re-re-use.

Only thing is – it will screw up your dental work! Man I could tell you stories of when our mouths would lock up during a Now & Later chewing episode. I remember I used to get scared as I would be chewing away and then after stopping for a rest, my teeth would suddenly bond! I tried and tried to re-open my mouth. But to no avail! The Now & Later candy had fused my teeth together! Lowers stuck to uppers forever and ever AMEN!

I remember in my wonder years that this would almost send me into panic attack – wondering would I ever be able to eat again. Or would I have to get a pry bar and rip it all apart and sort my extracted teeth out later!

I think they could use Now & Later candy as a NASA commercial-grade glue on the space shuttle. Or maybe as a fastener for high speed engines in NASCAR. The stuff is beyond sticky. I could take you to my parents home where we grow up and show you the Now & Later spots in their carpet where that stuff fell, never to be retrieved again. Once it sticks, that’s it until Jesus comes back!

So likewise should great friends stick together.

Friends are to be friends forever (as the Michael W. Smith song says), but many times we just move on to the new friends. Right? “Old friends, meh… what do we need them for? Their OLD!” We want NEW everything in America.

The value of old friends however, goes far beyond the “honeymoon phase”…

Proverbs 17:9 says “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” (New NIV)

I recall a time I was struggling with an offense that a very dear friend had done to me. It was quite severe, at least to me and how I experienced it on the receiving end. But at the same time, the close friend that committed this act against me very likely didn’t realize it, and possibly was going through enormous pressure with other things that were tearing their personal life apart at that time. Even though I knew this, the offense still was very real and raw and I pulled away from this friend for a couple years. We didn’t even speak; which was mostly on my end, since the friend would sometimes try to reach out in small ways.

But I wanted them to apologize.

Then I read this verse in Proverbs 17:9 (CAUTION: Beware of just randomly reading your Bible on a given day! You will get hit with a truth bomb like a submarine running into an enemy depth charge! Ha ha. Just kidding. That’s the goal, right?).

I thought about my friend immediately as the Holy Spirit brought… not really conviction, but just a very sweet reasoning. “So Jeff, you and this person were amazing friends for a long time, right?” I had to admit we were. “This person has done more for you than almost anyone has in your entire life.” I thought, yes that is true. Then this douzy hit me – “Jeff, this friend will never ask for forgiveness for this sin. It was way off their radar screen at the time. You do need to forgive them. They did sin against you. But it was more of an unconscious act on their part. They won’t ever understand your side. And it happened several years ago. They wont remember the details of it. Is it worth it to let this sin separate you two forever?”

I had to admit that I valued the friendship much more than holding on to the offense. So I contacted my friend.

To this day we are good friends and our relationship is back on track. I think I would have lost that friendship forever. And NO – I did not bring up that offense!

Maybe you are not like me, maybe you cannot forgive sins that are committed against you by someone close to you. Some sins are obviously much more severe in consequence. But also it is true that EVERY GREAT RELATIONSHIP will be tested by potential offenses on both parties. No one is perfect.

The skill of friendship lies in being able to forgive, as well as communicate offenses in a loving way when its appropriate. This verse suggests as well that their are some offenses that should not even be communicated, just forgiven and forgotten.

We can talk about boundaries and earning the right to be brought into a closer circle of depth in regards to friendships. But for certain kinds of issues, we sometimes need to just move on, and love, and forgive and just – DROP IT ALREADY!

Tune in next time as I address NOW & LATER – PART 4 of 4!

Jeff

I Got Your Back

“I got your back.”

I was listening to Jim Rome the other day on his syndicated radio sports talk show.

He was interviewing an athlete and said, “Hey bro, I got your back.” You know what he meant by that, right?

That’s how dudes tell each other they are loyal to them. I think it probably comes from the military idea of watching out for the other guy. You know, you are clad in your soldier garb, helmet, rifle and all – sitting in the foxhole in the jungle with the enemy firing all around. Your fellow soldier buddies are on all sides, shooting. It’s your turn to jump out of the foxhole and run over to the bullet-ridden army jeep that has extra ammo cases and retrieve them.

While you are literally running for your life, your fellow soldiers are supposed to “give you cover” or shoot at any and all possible enemy locations. In this way, they “got your back.”

I love this notion.

There is something ethical, moral and even spiritual about friends who “got your back.” That’s really what a true friend is – someone who has your back; in the midst of negative or critical comments or gossip, your friend is somehow able to say, “Yeah well I love that guy anyway. And I got their back.”

How do you feel when you find out a supposed “close friend” does not have your back? What do you do when a friend has perhaps turned against you in some way, or betrayed you in some manner?

Julius Caesar was totally shocked when his closest friend, Brutus, stabbed him in the back along with the Roman Senate. For some reason, in my mind it is easier to forgive Brutus for a political betrayal – after all, it wasn’t personal – just business! 🙂 I find most upsetting are the betrayals in which the motive is centered in jealousy, greed or fear.

When I see someone act like they are a close friend to someone, and then when not in their presence they clearly do not have their back, I really have a hard time with that. There are those who use friends like tools – they have their back for as long as they are useful to them in some way, but the minute they are no longer needed, suddenly they no longer have their back and they are dropped like a hot potato – put right back in the box of “I don’t have your back anymore”.

This is messed up. Right?

People who cannot keep any close friends often do this kind of thing – I think its a personality disorder. There are many “wolves” who stalk lonely women looking for someone to “have their back.” These guys come along and treat these women like they are queens, and then they drop them in the “I no longer have your back” box. Some men can juggle several women all at the same time in this way.

If you have a problem with this, I would take a good hard look inside – is it possible that you see others, including close friends, as a means to attain some kind of personal gain? If so, you know this is really a selfish way to operate. You don’t have anyone’s back.

Someday you will be in the foxhole and the crossfire will be more than you can bear. You will look back at your buddies and to your shock, you will be all alone with dead bodies. And guess what? They weren’t all just shot by the enemy – some you turned on and shot in the back when they were busy trying to protect your back.

And when the ammo runs out, you’re gonna have to get up and run. Good luck making it out of there alive.

Something to think about.

As always. 🙂

Jeff

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A Loyal Friend – Part II

This is the second part of my blog about “Loyalty”.

The truth is, gossip is so easy to slip into. We all fail in this area at times, I’m afraid. And the hard truth is, as we spend time together in certain social circles, we become intimately aware of each others weaknesses and failures. If you don’t believe this is the natural course of friendships in the world, just watch the next entry of “Desperate Housewives”.

I think the problem comes when we stop seeking to speak the best about the absent member of the group, clique, or church, and begin to enjoy the meaty morsels of the latest “dirty laundry” instead of praying for that person or people.

IF WE DON’T PRAY FOR EACH OTHER, WE WILL SURELY PREY ON EACH OTHER.

Some groups require that you gossip in order to continue being part of them. They will cease inviting you if you are not a partaker. Guess what, whoever is absent is probably going to be one of the topics of discussion.

Some people feel empowered by tearing down others. I must confess… I think such people are arrogant bullies that need to be taught a lesson on respect.

Have you betrayed a friend lately? Why not make it right, and at the least, change the subject next time the gossip crew gets things going.

Think about it.

submitted for your approval

Jeff

A Loyal Friend

Let’s be honest – loyalty isn’t exactly considered to be the unpardonable
sin in 21st century America. It would seem that people value and promote
occasional calculated acts of disloyalty as needed for, say… a job
promotion, a romantic interest, getting an “in” with a higher social group –
even in the church community.

There seems to be a disconnect in the minds of many “Christians” who claim
to love God and yet wouldn’t think twice about betraying a close friend.
Disloyalty is even considered a “moral” in and of itself – if it leads to a
so-called “greater good.”

It seems way too easy to betray another person. All you have to do is open
your mouth and talk. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man stirs up dissension,
and a gossip separates close friends.”

The Bible clearly condemns stirring up dissension through gossip or any other
means. The fact is, Proverbs says anyone who would do this is a perverse
person.

Truth be told, it is hard not to betray others. It’s easy to be disloyal. It
takes effort to remain loyal – especially when you may have a good excuse for
not remaining loyal. We have all been guilty of hanging with close friends
and then suddenly finding ourselves running the gossip train all night long.
It feels good, it makes us happy about ourselves, and let’s face it, talking
about others can be hilarious – in the “right” company.

A great friend sees you at your worst, and still thinks the best of you.  If
we look down on someone for whatever reason, we have just entered the
hypocrite zone – a place we dare not enter, and a place once entered that is
nearly impossible to ever leave without a serious reality check and a deep
work of spiritual contrition.

Next blog entry – I will continue with A LOYAL FRIEND –  PART II

In or Out?

Are you IN or OUT?

What I mean to ask is, are you in the “in” crowd or the “out” crowd? If you answered “in crowd”, then you might want to re-adjust your focus and priorities. If you answered “out crowd”, ironically you may also need to re-adjust your priorities.

Have you noticed that cliques and certain social groups kind of naturally “pop up” in church? This is sad, but inevitable of course. I think most visitors today feel comfortable in churches where this kind of “vibe” is kept at a minimum.

But if you are trying to be part of the “in” crowd, what does that really mean? There is a balance of being open and vulnerable and wanting to have fellowship with God’s family, and yet also not wanting to create a closed social group that basically looks down on other people for not being “good enough” or “cool enough” or “spiritual enough”. I have found that whatever the variety of the clique, it ultimately becomes a negative and dangerous element within the life of a church.

Jesus said, “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees!” (Luke 12:1) His disciples didn’t get it. But Jesus saw them begin to compete with each other and desire to be greater than each other. Jesus lifted up a little toddler and told everyone that “if you want to be great, you must become like this little child.” (Matthew 18:3)

At the end of the day, Jesus is not at all impressed with how stylish and put together you appear on the outside – he cares about your humility and purity of heart on the inside. Hypocrisy is that leaven that Jesus warned about.

It is hypocrisy to think you are “better” than anyone. God knows your heart. We are all the same at the foot of the cross. And we need to live that way if we are to avoid becoming leaven – which is like a really bad infection. Is that how you want to appear before God and all the hosts of heaven today? You want to look like puss is oozing out from within you? Yuck!

Here is a sure-fire way to tell when you are becoming part of a badly infected clique – if anyone in that clique tells you who you should hang out with, and who you should not, it’s time to run!

If you are part of a group that consistently invites only certain people, and at the suggestion of inviting someone new or different (not including someone who would of course actually be unhealthy to relate with) , you sense a negative reaction from them, it is time to find a new group ASAP. Whatever the social motivations, be sure that they are not motivated to be like Jesus. Because Jesus was the opposite of exclusive and pompous.

Jesus would leave that group, go hang out with that person, and begin inviting other people to hang with that rejected person.

We all KNOW that is what Jesus would do. But then why do we find these other desires inside of us that want to be part of a “higher class” of people?

I watch “THE HOUSEWIVES OF————” from time to time, I will admit. But they are pitiful to watch. They constantly ooze jealously and envy and pompousness. They always let us all know how great their social groups are and how this makes them more impressive as individuals. And then they tear apart one another on live Television with the most petty and immature behavior that you might ever see on TV.

Is that how you and I want to appear on God’s TV in heaven? We are surrounded by a GREAT CLOUD of witnesses! (Hebrews 12:1)

Guess what, you are in the biggest REALITY PERFORMANCE ever! And you have a wide audience, including the only important viewer – GOD!

I hope you and I can continue to keep relevant in our outward appearances, but within that we must keep our hearts humble and not simply hang with the “in” crowd.

After all, our Savior didn’t fit with the “in” crowd (Pharisees) of his day, and was rejected by them repeatedly and eternally.

Too bad for them.