Staying Focus: Video Lesson

Back in the beginning of October, I wrote a post about what God had been convicting me of in August and September of this year.  I was encouraged to try to do a video series about what God’s been teaching me, there is something great about getting to hear tone of voice and see a person’s disposition that I believe was missing from my writing.  Writing and words can seem so harsh, and that’s not what I desire to convey here – a harsh message of truth without the love and encouragement of Christ.

 

Bible verses mentioned in video:

“Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above (the heavenly things), not things that are on the earth (which have only temporal value).”  Colossians 3:2 (AMP)

“Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example],

Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of [b]scoffers (ridiculers).

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.
 
And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season;
Its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity].

 
The wicked [those who live in disobedience to God’s law] are not so,
But they are like the chaff [worthless and without substance] which the wind blows away.
 
Therefore the wicked will not stand [unpunished] in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
 
For the Lord knows and fully approves the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked shall perish.”  Psalm 1:1-5 (AMP)

Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage]
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity].”  Proverbs 4:25 (AMP)

“For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose].”  Romans 8:5 (AMP)

“Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable andworthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely andbrings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, thinkcontinually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”  Philippians 4:8 (AMP)

“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character],

Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].”  Isaiah 26:3 (AMP)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you [who are willing to learn] with My eye upon you.”  Psalm 32:8 (AMP)

The [intrinsically] good woman ( text says man) produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure[stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil woman (man)produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for her mouth speaks from the overflow of her heart.”  Luke 6:45 (AMP)

How blessed and favored by God are those whose way is blameless [those with personal integrity, the upright, the guileless],
Who walk in the law [and who are guided by the precepts and revealed will] of the Lord.”  Psalm 119:1 (AMP)

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Abigail – The Heart of the Matter

I hope you readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I feel like I’m still overflowing from the joy and happiness of spending time with beloved family members, eating so many delicious foods, and enjoying each other!  We got to see my brother again, it’s been a few months since we’ve seen him, and it was so good to see how well he’s doing.  He’s been growing in his own journey of masculinity for a couple of years now, going through various phases of pro-masculine awareness, and it was just so wonderful to see him doing so well!  We all had so much fun together, and there were several times I laughed until I cried 😀

I’m grateful for this involuntarily-imposed break, it’s given me more time to think about the way David, Nabal, and Abigail’s situation played forth.  How can a good, intelligent, godly woman do what Abigail did and be honored, even rewarded for it?

Since there seems to be so much to cover, and for time’s sake in writing for me (and reading for you), I’ll break this topic up into a series, with Abigail – The Heart of the Matter, being Post 1.

***

I’ve seen many conflicting interpretations when researching it this past week; quite a few say that Abigail is the prime example of a wife that was unsubmissive and disrespectful to her husband, therefore giving us the perfect example of cases in which the wife isn’t to submit.  Here is an excerpt from a woman’s blog that promotes this idea,

Abigail is not what we would call a leader, but she is hailed precisely because she took the lead in a crisis situation.  Had Abigail followed the rules of wifely submission, she would have honored her husband’s commands, and then everyone in her household would have died.  I recently watched a video clip where John Piper (a Reformed pastor and Complimentarian) urged women to submit to their husbands unless/until the husbands wanted their wives to sin- even in situations of abuse!  But here, Abigail is praised for doing the exact opposite.   Her story proves that even in the intensely patriarchal culture of ancient Israel, there is a limit to wifely submission.

I’ve also seen interpretations in the past where Abigail is accused of being disrespectful because of how she talks to David about Nabal.  Hopefully I’ll be able to address both of these misconceptions from our point of view (my husband’s and mine) in this one post – although their situation is so complex there may be something you readers would like to also point out – please chime in, this topic is very deep and confusing to many Christians.  So if you are reading this and have something to add to the discussion, feel free to do so!

***

First, let’s just look at the biblical passage starting in 1 Samuel 25:

Samuel died, and all Israel assembled to mourn for him, and they buried him by his home in Ramah.  David then went down to the Wilderness of Paran.

A man in Maon had a business in Carmel; e was a very rich man with 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats and was shearing his sheep in Carmel.  The man’s name was Nabal, and his wie’s name, Abigail.  The woman was intelligent and beautiful, but the man, a Calebite, was harsh and evil in his dealings.

While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep, so David sent 10 young men instructing them, “Go up to Carmel, and when you come to Nabal, greet him in my name.  Then say this:

‘Long life to you, and peace to you, to your family, and to all that is yours.  I hear that you are shearing.  when your shepherds were with us, we did not harass them and nothing of theirs was missing the whole time they were in Carmel.  Ask your men, and they will tell you.  So let my young men find favor with you, for we have come on a feast day.  Please give whatever you can afford to your servants and to your son David.'”

David’s young men went and said all these things to Nabal on David’s behalf, and they waited.  Nabal asked them “Who is David?  Who is jesse’s son?  Many slaves these days are running away from their masters. Am I supposed to take my bread, my water, and my meat that I butchered for my shearers and give them to men who are from I don’t know where?”

 

The hearts of these men matter greatly here.  David has a beautiful heart, a generous heart, and a good heart – and it is especially revealed in his request to Nabal.  His request speaks blessings over Nabal, and blessings over his household.  His words and actions displayed the goodness of his character– his men didn’t have to watch over Nabal’s shepherds, they could have even bothered them or stolen from them, but David had integrity and made sure his men did what was right in this particular cultural situation.  Nabal’s men described David’s army as being a “wall” around them, protecting them and giving them security as they worked.

David was on the cusp of becoming king, indeed he had just spared Saul’s life in a battle, and even received a blessing from his enemy, as Saul acknowledges that David was more righteous than him, that David repaid him with goodness when Saul only did evil to him.  Saul even acknowledges to David as he spares his life, that he knew for sure now, that David would become king, and that the kingdom of Israel would be established in his hand.  Saul asked for David to spare his family and descendents, and David graciously promises (and later fulfills that promise) to do so.

Requesting in a gentle, humble way to be added in their feasting, but only given whatever Nabal could spare or afford, was a modest, gracious and humble response.

Nabal, however, shows the depth of the wickedness in his heart in his reply to David.

Nabal insults him in a particularly ugly way – “Who is David?  Who is Jesse’s son?  Many slaves these days are running away from their masters. Am I supposed to take my bread, my water, and my meat that I butchered for my shearers and give them to men who are from I don’t know where?

Nabal no doubt knows who David is, and even more than likely understands what and who David will become on some level, but he shows his wickedness in how he chooses to slander David, condemn and disregard his obvious good character, so that he would not be required to give him anything from their prosperous feast.  A feast that David and his men in part ensured was protected and made possible!  But Nabal knows David still hasn’t become king, and so because of his position and wealth, it appears that Nabal takes advantage of David’s humbling himself, opening himself and his men in their vulnerability in asking to receive food from Nabal, and insinuates that David is no better than a runaway slave.

In reading Nabal’s reply, one can almost taste the evil he speaks to David’s men – this is a man who does not care how his words impact others, and feels free to tarnish the reputation of a good, humble, and eventually powerful man.  Even though David has an army of men with him, Nabal doesn’t even seem to comprehend how his words may provoke violent natural consequences.

His foolishness is in believing that his wicked actions will never come back to haunt or harm him, and that, as we’ve seen, is one of the hallmarks of the Proverbial fool.

Even wise people can and may act in very foolish ways at times, however, they are open to feeling conviction, open to a wise and well-founded rebuke, and while they may have acted in foolishness, they often feel deep shame for their actions.  This shame or guilt is godly and produces in them the fervent desire to do better, indeed, to become a better Christian.

A Proverbial fool requires a lot more in the name of consequences to ever feel even a smidgen of shame for their wickedness.  Instead of being open to acknowledging their wrongs against others, and apologizing or changing their disastrous ways, a Proverbial Fool holds fast to their arrogance, and believes their wicked words are either well-deserved, or that they rightly describe another’s character.  In the case of Nabal, he may have thought that David deserved the insult, condemnation, and humiliation of being compared to a runaway slave for even asking to share in Nabal’s feasting and wealth.  Or he truly may have believed that David in fact was comparable to a runaway slave, and would eventually amount to nothing in his life.  A Proverbial fool has a way of overlooking the potential of someone they may despise for no reason.  Even though it was clear that an evil spirit was using Saul against David, Nabal may have thought that Saul was still the rightful king, and that David condemned himself and his reputation in falling out of Saul’s graces.

But why did Nabal say those things to David even though it is highly likely he knew exactly who David was, and that David would be offended by his careless words?

Proverbs 18:2 ESV 

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Nabal didn’t care to take into consideration the goodness of David’s words to him or actions in generously watching over his flock and shepherds.  He enjoyed airing his insulting and condemning opinions of David to the very men who helped provide Nabal’s prosperity, fully knowing those words would be repeated back to David.  Fool’s do not take delight in understanding a person or situation, but they love hearing their own voice or thoughts.

Proverbs 29:11 ESV 

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Nabal gave full vent to his thoughts about David – insulting him, mocking him, even provoking him – daring him – to react in kind.  We know we are acting foolishly when we give “full vent” to our emotions without care of acting godly with wisdom in how we respond when angry.

Proverbs 18:6 ESV 

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.

Because of Nabal’s words, he invites great harm on not only himself, but all the male servants in his household who may have better character.  Nabal’s folly endangers not only himself, but innocent people as well.  His provocation of David and his army invites them to come and destroy him.  Fool’s regularly mouth-off at the wrong time, or offend people who have particular power over their life or livelihood, causing themselves to lose their job or even their life depending on the degree they provoke a person.

Proverbs 29:9 ESV 

If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.

Nabal mocks and belittles David and his great accomplishments, no doubt if David was to “argue” with Nabal, he would never be able to get through to him how wrong his actions were.  David was well-known around the country for his success in battles years before this, however, Nabal still feels arrogant enough to take advantage of David’s humbling himself before him.

Proverbs 18:7 ESV 

A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.

Nabal’s words condemn him and his entire household in the anger they provoke in David.  Because the Proverbial fool excuses their lack of self-discipline, their lips ensure their demise or departure from acting godly.

Proverbs 10:23 ESV 

Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.

Nabal we’ll see later, not only enjoyed mocking David and his army in their time of hunger, need, and humility, but he then went on to enjoy his feasting and drinking wine.  He may have remembered how David “begged” for food from his table, and laughed to himself as he enjoyed his bounty as if it was a great joking matter.  The Proverbial fool loves to mock, make jokes of those who are righteous or acting godly – mocking their humility or goodness, even calling their righteous words pesky or annoying.

 

The Proverbial Fool provokes, it’s how they choose to find their enjoyment of life, and both Christians and non-Christians may act in this way.  If you watch a Proverbial fool for long, you will undoubtedly see that they actively seek out arguments to get into where they gleefully insult another believer or person, without a care to how their words will impact their future or the other person.

The Proverbial Fool feeds off of questioning another’s character to “get away” with continuing in their wickedness.  If Nabal can make David appear to be no better than a runaway slave, someone worthy of death anyway, then he doesn’t feel the guilt of not allowing David and his men to take part in his feast.  A wise person recognizes a person acting in righteousness and authenticity, but the fool only deals in insults and ridicule, and provokes to anger even a person committing themselves to doing the right thing, and living with integrity. 

David’s response to the Fool was rage, and immediate plans to commit violence.

I don’t think we should overlook this crucial part of the story, as it is actually a common response – a human response – in reacting to a fool.  A Proverbial fool will do almost everything they can think of to insult or bait a righteous person into an argument with them.  They will lie about them, call them every name in the book, mock them, try to slander their reputation to others, and it’s normal for a person facing this kind of behavior to become extremely angry, try to defend themselves against blatant lies being told about them, or otherwise try to reason or argue with the Fool.  Of course, fighting with a fool using any kind of natural response that a wise person would respond well to, doesn’t work, it would only be fulfilling their deep craving for drama and the feeling they get from controlling another’s response with their provocations.

Even though David’s innate response was wrong, it doesn’t mean it’s not understandable.  Folly seems like it is contagious.  When one person sins against another, insulting or mocking or degrading their character as Nabal did, it can easily incite a person to respond out of character and against their better judgment.

Abigail protects her husband in his foolishness, his household servants from death, and David from reacting rashly, and having innocent blood on his hands due to a mere fool’s careless provocations.

Abigail’s heart and actions will taken apart in the next post.

 

 

 

Giving Thanks When its the Last Thing You Want to Do

Happy Thanksgiving sweet reader!  I’m hoping that today is finding you well, and has been a long awaited, wonderful blessing for you.  I’m supposed to make a cherry pie this morning, but wanted to drop in and post a brief note of encouragement to you.

I’m sorry for the absence and delay of the promised next post.

We’ve been having computer issues, and actually had to take our computer in to get it fixed, so tomorrow I will post on the character of Abigail.  The computer place we went to was a trusted company that’s been in our city for years, one that my dad even used to go to when we had computer problems growing up.  Unfortunately, our computer anti-virus software had been over-rided (if that’s the right word), and we had many viruses and malware that was removed by the technician.  It was hard to feel thankful (even though I obviously am) when we got it back yesterday – I feel so vulnerable and exposed, being thankful feels like a distant memory.

But God tells us to,

“Always be joyful.  Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances…” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When things are going all wrong, don’t stop praying.  When your reputation is being maliciously slandered, don’t stop being thankful for it.

As I’ve mentioned before, in the post about Malicious Joy, thanking God for the trials that you go through, especially when you are doing a good work for Him, Redeems those trials.

There are blessings even in the hardships if you continue to look for them.

I was prevented from posting for days because of our computer issues, but in and during that time, God refreshed my spirit and even gave me 6 more ideas to post on that will be coming soon.

Even though I’ve seen posts written criticizing my compassion for other people, or my authenticity with my readers, or my ability to admit fault (which I freely admit my shortcomings to anyone, especially those of you who know me in real life), even though I’m being “cursed,” God is blessing.

Even though I shouldn’t be writing – my computer was so infected it actually completely stopped working – even though I shouldn’t be joyful in light of these circumstances – I am still writing, and with every word, God is lifting my joy and even thankfulness!

Our attitudes often mysteriously align with our actions.  So with my actions, even though I didn’t truly feel like it, I’m choosing to thank God this Thanksgiving.

No matter what trials you’re going through, dear reader, be thankful for what you do have.  Be thankful for any of the gifts in your life, they are all graciously and generously given to us from our loving Father who wants so much to bless us!

 

Happy Thanksgiving, and may you truly find happiness in it today.

 

A Husband Confronts His Wife’s Mean-Spiritedness

In this post, I will be presenting an example of a husband confronting his wife on her behavior in their marriage.  In this example, the wife is not just a “normal sinner,” but actually follows a very biblically detailed pattern of the Proverbial fool.  In order to understand the depths of depravity human character is capable of when engaging in folly, first we must look at what the Proverbial fool truly is like – how they relate, how they treat other people, and why they are sometimes more difficult to deal with than even a truly evil person.

We all are capable of acting in foolish ways, being people who are susceptible to our inherent sin nature, however the “fool” described in Proverbs is different from the normal sinner, and using Dan Allender and Tremper Longman’s book, Bold Love, I will try to illustrate the difference.  And give an example of when and how a husband calling out the of his wife was good and beneficial to him, their family, and definitely the wife herself.

First, the Proverbial fool is fairly easy to spot, they are often the loudest, most combative voices in a family or community.  They react in second nature to almost anyone with anger and insults.  If a fool is called out, they often refuse to admit or accept their wrongdoing – and double up for retaliation using mocking, shaming language, even anger and rage.

The Proverbial fool calls attention to themselves because they have to win an argument, no matter how low they stoop in engaging in sinful behavior, or the degree of damage they carelessly do to a relationship, their goal is only to win, and nothing will stand in their path. They have patterns of anger outbursts or jumping headfirst into arguments they enjoy getting into, and this pattern can be daily, or even multiple times a day, or even as infrequent as a weekly occurrence.

A normal sinner, according to Allender and Longman’s viewpoint, is usually convicted deeply enough to not allow themselves to continue in an obvious pattern of sin.  But the fool gives themselves permission to act as if they have no self-control, and constantly give in to their emotions – usually being the obvious emotions of anger and bitterness, but can also be a general contentious or mean-spirit.  Their willing lack of self control is actually justified to the fool, their situation is always an exception and calls for whatever behavior they decide is right in the moment!  Although their sinful behavior or lack of self-control are obvious in their attempts at dialogue or relating to other people, especially when they are conversing about a person they dislike or disagree with.

The Proverbial fool gives themselves permission to not have to abide by godly standards.  In the fool’s mind, their obvious lack of wisdom, prudence, or self-control is justified and excusable, however, because they don’t feel deep conviction or remorse for their wrongdoings to other people, they are constantly behaving in this pattern of returning to their own vomit.

As a dog returns to it’s own vomit, so a fool returns to their folly.

 And now for the example, a husband boldly loving his wife by confronting her on her sin, and disallowing her to remain in her depravity that is destroying their family:

“The power of words is immense.  A word can soothe the soul or cut it to ribbons, and discussion with the fool ought to do both.  When a fool acknowledges any level of responsibility or sorrow, it must not be merely accepted or quickly dismissed, but captured and underscored.  Let me construct a possible dialogue that addresses both the dignity and the depravity in a fool’s heart.

“Assume that Kathy fits the description of a fool, and Ralph, her husband, has been the kind of man who has ignored her cruelty and given his energy to his work and children.

KATHY: Honey, I am sorry for how mean I’ve been to you while I’ve been working on this project. I hope you’re not too upset.

RALPH: Kathy, I am quite upset.  Frankly, as much with me as with you.  This has gone on for years, and I’ve failed you by ignoring it in the past.  That is wrong.  But I am encouraged, at least a little, by your willingness to admit that you have been mean.  My question is, do you want to deal with this or are you looking for a quick absolution?  If it is the latter, then I am far more upset than you can imagine.

KATHY (with slight disdain): Ralph! Do we have to get into one of these psychological discussions again?

RALPH (with quiet strength and twinkle of a smile in spite of a sharp bolt of anguish): No, sweetheart, we don’t. You are mean.  In fact, you can be cruel and contemptuous.  But I feel no compulsion to deal with your heart if it is that hard and cold.  I trust and pray that the woman who asked me to forgive her will one day come to the surface far more.  What would you like for dinner?  I know you’ll be buys with that project, but can I make you anything in particular?”

The authors’ frequently point out that in dealing with a fool, they have strongholds of arrogance that can only be truly broken by their own admittance of their depravity.  Like Kathy, they will sometimes concede that they’ve “been mean” or “I’ve acted rudely,” however, behind those shallow words, there is no real depth of meaning, no true understanding the degree of their heart’s sin – and therefore, no real chance for experiencing godly change.

Paul talks about believers experiencing godly shame and sadness that is crucial to the believer understanding their need for change, however, the fool, even with their shallow acknowledgments of their missing the mark, avoids this reality.

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. 2 Corinthians 7:10

It often can take years or decades of a fool pressing on in their life and relationships, causing pain and heartache in their family or children’s lives, before they even slightly begin to see themselves as they truly are.

A clear biblical example not covered in Bold Love, but great to cover now is of a married couple, where one partner was a classic example of the Proverbial fool, they are Abigail and Nabal.  Abigail was a beautiful woman – beautiful inside and out – she was strong, cunning, fearless, and bold in the way she lived her life, and even in the way she submitted to, but also reacted to her husband, Nabal, who’s name literally translated to “fool.”

 

The next post will be on taking apart Abigail’s story in the Bible, and of course, her husband, the fool.

 

Bold Love – Responding to Fools

Back in 2006, my mom bought me a book that had changed the way she saw things, a rare find that she felt was actually biblical 100% of the way through, it was Dr. Dan B. Allender & Dr. Tremper Longman III’s book, Bold Love.

This is a fascinating and intellectually stimulating book on how to love like Jesus Christ did – not passive or nice, but unpredictable, cunning, and sometimes offensive in how it causes a person to come to face with the reality of their depravity – and forces them to look at the evil they do, to feel the pain that is designed to help that person deal with their patterns of diseased sin that is damaging the way they relate to other people.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book when I first read it, is that it confronts a wife’s capacity to sin (and sin greatly) against her husband.  So often women are viewed as only being capable of goodness and purity, however, as a woman, I will be the first to tell you that I believe we are capable of severely evil acts against others – I myself, have done and said things I deeply regret.  I am constantly on a path of trying to allow God to convict me and show me where I need to change unhealthy patterns, or in how I respond to foolish or evil people.  But I’ve often found that women in our society, are often given an out, given an excuse for their depravity, “Oh, he caused you to do (fill in the blank).  If he hadn’t pushed you to that point, you wouldn’t have had to do (fill in the blank).”  This kind of response is of course, ridiculous, and doesn’t force the woman to deal with the fact that no matter what someone did to provoke her, she is still responsible for her reactions.  She is still called to react like Christ, no matter the initial offense or how deeply wrong she feels.

Bold Love covers many topics, but one I truly love is how a foolish person (woman or man) is capable of hating knowledge – hating to face the facts of the depravity of their own heart so much, that they bypass a deeper relationship with God and the chance to become a different person than they were.

When you allow God’s knowledge and truth to shine light on the way you’ve been acting in diseased depravity of your sins, you become changed – and you will NEVER quite be the same again.  The knowledge literally transforms you, because all knowledge is connected to God – it comes from God.

The foolish woman or man, hates the knowledge of their sin, and cringes or reacts in a flood of anger at it being called out; whereas a wise person acknowledges the knowledge of their sinful depravity, feels remorse, and works to deal with it, in order to change.  A fool takes steps back in spiritual growth, whereas a wise person earnestly tries to allow God to move them forward.

Fools automatically go into assault/attack mode when faced with the reality of their sinful heart or actions.  It is easy to spot because they easily fall into rude or abusive humor, slinging insults, and doubling down on insisting people know “their side” of what happened.

Unless they are at what Dr. Allender calls a “vulnerable point” of remorse, or forced to feel “the piercing exposure of shame,” a fool’s hope for redemption is honestly slim.  It is second nature for them to feel an increased, ungodly rage when a person points out their failures (past or present), and they are almost incapable of achieving real, lasting change from their old behavior.  Lasting change requires an admittance that what they were (or are) behaving like, is wrong.  The best tactic to forcing a fool to see their own actions is exposure that causes them shame.

“Expose with a mood that is matter-of-fact, strong, and benevolent.  Such a mood is like passing a red cape before an enraged bull; it will incite and intensify the fury.  When we “set up” the fool for further exposure, as the Lord did with the rich young ruler and the woman at the well, we set ourselves up for attack.  We need to be prepared to move out of the way with a light step.  This is the most difficult principle to describe because it requires such freedom of heart to operate with spontaneity, humor, and power.”

Exposure must be designed to leave the fool ultimately alone, so that they can face God with the shame of their reaction.  A foolish man or woman will never repent unless they feel pain.  And genuine pain only comes from truly acknowledging the depravity of their actions, but that pain produces beauty.

The authors have many more tenants for setting up a fool, for having boundaries and consequences set in place, all so that the foolish person is forced to deal with their own foolish behavior.  Oftentimes, your reaction must be the opposite of what they would expect, because in many ways, our own reactions enable the sinful behavior of the fools we have to deal with.  By surprising them with unexpected behavior or an unanticipated reaction they thought they’d get from us, we violate a sense of their being all-knowing or in control.

“Consequences must have a bite.”  In dealing with a foolish person, sometimes the best thing is to show kindness at just the right moment where it surprises them and knocks them off guard.  However, more often with a foolish person, the consequence has to be a “natural consequence,” that they don’t enjoy having to deal with.

Tomorrow I will write on an example of a husband dealing appropriately with a wife who is mean-spirited.

 

Malicious Joy – Schadenfreude

In our Joy study this week, we came across the concept that I’ve thought of many times in life, it was the concept of Schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude is a German word that literally means “malicious joy.”  It is also defined as feeling great pleasure when someone encounters misfortune; misfortune meaning anything negative that they are going through: trials in their life, their kids not doing well, drama they have with other people, illness they may acquire, injuries they may get either physically or psychological harm.  I’ve seen some definitions that put forth that it’s synonym is “bullying.”  True, bullies enjoy hurting someone, but bullying can also be to enjoy watching someone be hurt by someone else.

The study guide asked us to reflect and consider when we’ve been tempted to feel this malicious kind of joy at seeing another person’s misfortune.  I’m so grateful that through God’s grace, I have never felt this for anyone… I was a little taken aback that the authoress brought it up in our study about Joy.  Its so anti-godly, anti-Christian behavior.  But low and behold, in the week devoted to understanding what robs us of our joy, there was the example of Schadenfreude.  I have spent a lot of time trying to understand why someone might experience joy or anticipation of someone else’s suffering.  To me, this is possibly one of the worst things a person can allow themselves to feel toward another human being.  It is akin to envy, but much more evil and darker, and I don’t believe people are even aware when they are doing it.  According to philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, schadenfreude is the most evil sin of human feeling, he is quoted famously saying “To feel envy is human, to savor schadenfreude is diabolic.”

Having malicious joy at another person’s misfortune is Satanic and demonic.  It’s ungodly, the opposite of what God would want us to feel toward another, and yet, I’ve seen communities where Christians engage in it all the time, and feel very entitled to it’s wicked pleasure.

Blogging online has opened my world to see and experience things that I have rarely experienced before I started writing this blog, especially in the way of the trolling (passive aggressive or outright aggression) I’ve received over the two years of blogging.
It’s especially awakened me to the negative feedback or attacks I’ve witnessed other bloggers receive for merely existing on the internet with their opinion.  I’ve seen people undergo smear campaigns where a group of accusers ganged up on one person in order to try to get them to stop blogging.  The blogger’s offense?  Something very minor that the group believes is worthy of their harassment.

I’ve seen a group of people be used by Satan in lying about someone, revealing their private personal information to the general public, and even revealing information about their precious children – their names and ages and where they lived or went to school.  I’ve even seen this same group of people claim that they were the victims, and that the people they cyber-harassed should apologize to them.

While others have had it much worse, the most vicious feedback I have experienced personally, has been sadly from fellow Christian brothers and sisters, people who even admitted to me later, their enjoyment of watching my attackers verbally abuse me online.  It’s Schadenfreude spectatorship.  And it’s been a very eye-opening experience seeing the depth that even Christian brothers and sisters can go when they are alone, anonymous, and behind a computer screen.

I had a young woman, a mother of three little boys, tell me outright that she actually enjoyed watching a man verbally abuse me online, calling me names and slandering me in every way he could imagine.  This same man still slanders me to this day, and yet believes he is representing Christ.  The young woman told me she thought I deserved his treatment because of how I tried to defend myself against his slander.  God convicted her that the Schadenfreude in her heart, her enjoyment of my mistreatment, was evil, ungodly behavior, and from Satan.  She actually apologized to me, and I was given the chance to tell her I forgave her.

There’s Hope.

If you’ve experienced verbal abuse or cyber-harassment (bullying) online, don’t let it steal your joy, and whatever you do, don’t try to counter-attack your attacker, as it never works, and only adds fuel to the fire.  Defend when you can, but sometimes the battles are too complicated, false witnesses rise up to tell lies against you, or the online environment too hostile for one person to defend themselves, that the only right thing to do is to walk away.

Don’t try to counter-attack your attacker, it only adds fuel to the fire.

I’ve also seen that people can be so confused as to the truth, especially when someone gives false witness of what happened, that they mentally block out any explanation you would even try to give to clear up the confabulations.  Focusing on the ordeal will steal your joy, and trying to clear up matters that people have chosen to misunderstand is a futile waste of one’s precious time.

Instead, we should be focusing on pursuing what God wants us to pursue, and this gives one a peace that surpasses understanding, the ability to even offer kindness and joy to our offenders that amazes and astonishes them.

When you’re able to ignore slander, and all kinds of insults or verbal abuse thrown at you from a person or group of people, you grow in a beautiful way.

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This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take a long time for you to get to that point.  I’ve only recently begun to realize a few months ago, how much focusing on these things was taking me away from my purpose, and stealing my peace of mind and joy – things that my children depend on me protecting for their own benefit!  But I understand the strong temptation to counter-attack or waste time fighting back in detrimental ways.

Recently this past weekend, one of my husband’s fellow Officers was hit by a drunk driver.  Amazingly, the crash didn’t kill him like so many others, however one of his legs were shattered.

My husband saw the news article online, as well as the usual derogatory comments Police Officers tend to get, however, this time he saw one of his fellow Officer friends commenting online, trying to defend the friend that was injured.  This is something they never try to do, no matter how bad the slander and insults get!  Defending against commenters online who feel emboldened by their anonymity, and get away with saying anything would only be a torturous ordeal for them.  He told me he was going to counsel this younger man, and help him understand that there is NOTHING he can say to combat the cyber-harassment people do online when they think they’re anonymous, and when they have no real life consequences.

Photo Credit Sarah Rahman

Photo Credit Sarah Rahman

These men and women are used to the verbal abuse they receive daily, people tell them things that would make a normal citizen faint or want to violently counter-attack the person.  But watching people enjoy this Officers pain and joke about the way he was injured must have gotten to this man.  And I’ll admit it, the anti-police rhetoric I’ve seen from Christians in online communities has devastated me in the past.  I’ve tried argue that not all of the police officers are bad, only to receive more insults and slander against them, even against my own husband.

We must forgive those who engage in Schadenfreude.

I know that sounds like a hard pill to swallow, but it’s crucial to not letting it steal our joy.  Forgive them, warn against them as Paul did of the men who caused him great harm, even turn them over to Satan as Paul said he did of Alexander and Hymenaeus.  Wash your hands of them so that you can continue on doing a good work for God, not being distracted by their enjoyment of doing evil or causing others harm.

Put boundaries around yourself.

Don’t read the slanderous comments or the passive aggressive posts if they start to steal your joy.  Try your best to ignore the accusations and attacks that are based on ignorance, and forgive the people who foolishly believe the false witnesses.

I’ve found that the best thing is to depend on God for your sustenance, and to bless those who curse you, bless those who insult you, and to know that God sees everything, and promises to repay those who do evil against you.

Thank God for it.

I know it sounds backwards and insane, thanking God for something that is so painful and potentially reputation-ruining, but thanking God for the insults you receive, the lies spread about you, the false witnesses encouraging others to believe wrong things, changes the circumstances.  Thanking God for these things, Redeems them.  It’s acknowledging in your heart that God can even use this to grow you, to make you more like Him, and to work good in your life.

Thanking God for receiving verbal abuse, or feeling other’s malicious joy at your misfortunes also redeems back your joy in life, and protects your mind and spirit from becoming bitter.

Love others, do what is right, forgive those who cause you harm, and thank God for it.

Blessings!

A Morning of Christmas Spirit – You Want Your Kids to Have Beautiful Memories

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love the holidays.  It might be just me, but they seem to get better with every year… maybe as one gets older, they learn to appreciate the changes of the seasons, the joy children have in Halloween, the overwhelming gratitude in your heart during Thanksgiving, the sheer beauty of Christmas, and the excitement of the New Year in all it’s unearthed possibilities.  I’m sitting here, in my favorite spot in the early morning, looking at our beautiful Christmas tree, with a hot cup of coffee and just enjoying the silence and peace.

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We’ve been looking forward to all the traditions we have started to do over the years, going to our Riverwalk to see the magical display of Christmas lights at night & hearing the carolers ride by in boats, taking our son to see Santa, having a Christmas cookie decorating party (this year we’re doing it for my son and some of his friends), writing the letter to Santa, telling the stories my son’s already heard, but loves so much, about the real reason for our Christmas celebrations – the birth of baby boy, because God loved the world so much.

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Our second son’s due-date is Christmas Day, so it’s a treat to be pregnant at this time – not only am I justified in eating generous portions of all the amazing wonderful foods of the season 🙂 , I feel the wonderment of the baby’s movement, the excitement of his coming, and think of how Mary might’ve felt a whirlwind of emotions as well.  I’m sure she felt fear, traveling during her third trimester to her husband’s family town… and anxiety, going into labor & being almost left to have the baby in the streets of Bethlehem before the inn keeper let them into his barn.

But I’m also pretty sure Mary felt the beauty of Christ’s birth, the wonderment, and the blessing.  The Bible says she heard and saw all these things (the shepherds coming and telling them of the angels) and pondered them in her heart.

I’m sure she treasured them.  I want to treasure this time, too, the wholeness of the holidays – embracing them with open arms and open heart so that our family experiences the joy of Christmas.

Give your children the gift of beautiful memories – good memories – not of grouchy parents, mean-spirited relatives, the unpleasant feeling of rushing to holiday function, and party after party – but beautiful memories of happiness & peace being in your home.