Fallen From Grace (A Fresh Perspective)

In the world that I grew up in, ‘Fallen From Grace’ was something catastrophic, an unwanted label, something hugely embarrassing, and something that had an irreparable air about it. At all costs, you wanted to avoid this humiliation, this shaming, this ‘DIS’ Grace. Coming back, if you could, from a fallen position was something that would take hours, days, months or even years to repair, and it might also bar you from a place in heaven. The message was as dangerous as it sounds. It was invoked with a warble in the voice and exaggerated gestures that made the most religious squirm.

That was then, and I for one am glad that it is over for me. Oh, there are still many who would follow that understanding, but for me, there is a fresh understanding that is light years apart from that and has brought back peace and purpose.

I believe that a person can and will fall from grace, but the definition of grace isn’t directly connected to a description of eternal consequence.

Grace simply put, biblically put, is God’s ability given to an individual to meet the task, problem, obstacle, or challenge at hand. God actually empowers you to meet face-on what you need to ‘get through.’ He gives you the ‘grace to help’ in time of need

Falling from that? Falling from grace just means that I have chosen to meet that same obstacle in my own ability and trying to use my own strength, or once again saying, “God I’ve got it.” That’s it. I can continue in that power struggle if I wish or I can yield.

But, that also intrinsically means that I can get back to where God is the one helping and empowering by simply admitting my error, “God I just tried to do this, again, in my own wisdom and ability. I want and need you. I need your grace once again. Amen.” No longer fallen, once again connecting and growing with Him.

Just like getting back on a horse, dust your self off, check out and correct your place of compromise and get back up and get going.

God gives grace to the humble.

Hollow Love

Who gets to judge? No, really, who gets to set the bar or examine the evidence?

The simple answer?

Others.

That’s right, those who are looking, those for whom it was intended, those who are casual observers and those who read or heard our words. They get to judge. Actually, whether they get to or not, whether we give them permission to or not, they will and they do judge.

Just recently we completed a document that gives our view of love, its importance, value, and prominence. The document says it well. I like the words that have been crafted and the way they sound when you say them. However, if the recipients of that document would not say that we love, if they would not tell you that when they think of us that they know they are loved, then that document only proves to be noise.

I can tell you all day long that I love my wife. But, if my wife does not feel the love, if she does not think those thoughts when she thinks of me, then my words at best are hypocrisy and at worst a direct lie because I don’t get to be the judge.

I can tell you all day, extrapolate all the nuances, I can even have it nicely written out and ornately decorated on a tablet. But unless it reaches its target and resonates with my wife, decorated or not, it is hollow.

Years ago, I would not have been identified as gentle.  Many other descriptive words that would have been used for me. Hopefully, some of them good, but ‘gentle’ would not have been one of them. 

Then I was reading and came across these words, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5, NIV) I think at that moment God spoke to me asked me a question. “Phil, are you known for your gentleness?” Before I could build a case in my mind he continued, “Would your daughters call you gentle?” The word ‘Gentle’ became very personal, and I had to admit that I didn’t think it would be used to describe me. I realized at that moment that the picture of ‘me’ needed to change.

As I wrestled with my thoughts and how I was going to make this happen, I came upon the criteria that I have used ever since. It doesn’t matter what I would tell you about myself that matters, it is what others would say about me that exposes all and tells the truth.

Today, I believe that each of my four daughters, and my wife, would tell you that I indeed am a very gentle father.

So what about love? What do others say? Do our words have the depth or do they resonate as hollow?

Make a solid contribution to your marriage this Valentines. Let those around you say of you, “He or she is the most loving person that I know.”

I can help you get there in your marriage. I’ve created a tool that you can use. Its called The Marriage Consult. Here’s the link, https://philsovdi.com/the-marriage-consult/

Address The Mess: Sick!

I had completely forgotten about my legalistic tendency.

I was raised in a Christian culture, and my family was considered godly.

Maybe they were, but I was challenged with a legalism which I have come to know is anything but godly.

We had a doctrine of grace and could teach it to you, but an unwritten code of performance. I, being a ‘good’ leader, in kind, passed that on. Grace was given with a smile, but adherence was expected to follow in a not too distant place. Remember, none of this was written down, just expected. I would probably be called delusional for bringing this up because like Jell-O, this code could not be nailed down.

You can only imagine the mess that this spawned.

In this regard, I was like Saul, before he became Paul, knowing that I was accomplishing big things for God, but in fact tying nooses around other’s necks and posturing a righteousness that indeed wasn’t by faith, and indeed wasn’t righteousness at all.

I am so incredibly grateful that this absurdity broke in my life.

There were two significant moments where this was driven home to me.

First:

It had been bothering me for a while, but when I showed up at family functions, I would frequently tell all that would listen about all that I was accomplishing. I couldn’t get the exploits out fast enough. I needed to let everyone know how well I was doing and how neat things were going for me, at least in my fanciful dreams. It was obsessive.

One day, while contemplating another gathering, I realized how I was ramping-up my preparation for the next day. I actually said out loud, “Phil you are sick!”

In a moment of clarity, I knew that my posturing days were over and I was able to walk free.

I started then and continue now to rest in the work that Jesus did for me. One of my favourite passages of scripture reads like this, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV) This passage is actually saying that God has taken our mess, all of it, and has given us in exchange his righteousness. No posturing, no performance, just righteousness.

God has taken my ‘sick’ and has given me right living, if I want it, in its place. I find that unbelievably incredible.

Path+Out+2+Proof-2 copy.pdf_edited (1)

Book Offer

I will share Second: next time.

Address The Mess: Not So Perfect Picture

We can assume that it is our job to address someone else’s.

Most of the time that is not the case.

Cruise2017aI recently shared this picture on Facebook, and I love it. It captures the sass and the fun that my wife and I frequently have with each other. One of the comments by someone who knows us reasonably well was that it captures our personalities.

What it doesn’t show is the regular, the mundane, the hurt, and the pain that life can hold and sometimes deal out. It doesn’t show the low moments, the struggle moments, or the confusing moments that accompany every relationship and every life. It doesn’t show the hours of conversation or the short nights that it sometimes takes to work through the mess.

We can naively carry on thinking that others have a perfect life and “If I could only have it like them then things would be great.”

Everyone has snapshots that if captured and presented would represent a moment of bliss or euphoria. I am not so concerned about those moments. Instead, I want to address in this series the other 99.99%.

I can think that life is pretty good. I can take care of ‘my side’ and believe that everything is okay. My problem is that I often start with me and work out from there. However, that may not always be the best measurement, and much of the time it can be skewed.

Even though I can look good in a moment to you, or I can look good in my thinking to myself, I also have the potential to affect others, and that will not always have me in a great light. I struggle like you with being human, with getting it right.

I can even go to the scriptural extent that I’m busy trying to take out a sliver from your eye while I am oblivious to the log in my own.

I need to Address The Mess in my own life. That is where I start. Once I come to terms with how short I have fallen, how much I need, how far I have missed the mark of perfection, then maybe, just maybe I can begin to help someone else.

God provides tons of help and encouragement, but it is only available when I can be honest with myself and real with him.

Address The Mess Series: Emotional Duct Tape

 

I had just turned 50. My wife and family gave me an amazing birthday gift of a Fly-In-Fishing trip into Ryan Lake Alberta, in the Canadian Shield.

I, in turn, bought a place for my son as a graduation gift and we coerced a friend to come with us. The three of us had the lake, lodge and three brand new boats and motors to ourselves for five whole days.

The very first day probably not even an hour on the lake and my brand new fishing rod snapped. Yup? I was angry. I was fortunate in that I had brought an old faithful spare rod.

We had a fantastic trip, and I have tons of stories about it.

The last day we needed to use up our supplies and did I tell you that the friend that I brought was a chef? Let’s just say it was an amazing week, and we ate like kings. But, this last day we had to use our steak, veggies, apples, whip cream and oatmeal. So, Peter made an apple crisp pie and baked it on the BBQ. The only thing I had to do was use the wisp and get the whipping cream whipped.

The whisk was taking so long and not seeming to produce much, so all of a sudden an idea hit me. I call it a Red Green moment.

I had a reel that wasn’t being used, Duct Tape for an emergency and a wisp that could use some torque. Within minutes there was pure whipped cream sitting there waiting to add the fifth star to the restaurant review in the middle of nowhere.

Image 3

We laughed, ate, and laughed some more. The only thing missing was our wives, a maître d and a bottle of wine.

Duct Tape is made for a moment of need. It isn’t usually meant for a long-term fix.

It just occurred to me yesterday that we have tried to use Emotional Duct Tape to solve long-term problems.

I want to also explore this in future posts.

 

Here is the connect to my recent book, Path Out-Eliminate the Swirl

(Here’s how you can get a copy. https://philsovdi.com/book-offer/)

Path+Out+2+Proof-2 copy.pdf_edited (1)

The Upside is Fantastic!

Reality Check.

God? Who needs him?

Measuring against God is risky business. I would rather measure myself against someone else. (Previous two blogs.)

The problem? If I accept God, I have to take his standard and be subject to his rules and authority. This immediately puts me at a deficit of magnanimous proportions. If I am standing on my own accomplishments and pride, I need to find another way, any other way out of such a standard. In all reality, that is the issue. Unmasked, unpopular, and undone pretty much sum up the feelings connected with such vulnerability, so why would I engage in such a journey?

Why would I go through such a feeling of smallness and weakness?

Rather, I want something that affirms my prowess. I want someone who affirms me and lifts me up. I want my personal graph to move up and to the right. I don’t want to talk about an accurate reading, and accurate emotional GPS especially when it includes words like; deficit, deficient, shortfall, need, help, or weakness.

So, why? The upside is fantastic!

The provision that God makes for those who fall short (of his standard, not ours) is unbelievably generous. He has known all along that we do not measure up. We cannot. He has just been waiting for us to realize and recognize it. Nothing in our life changes, nothing can be appropriated, nothing will genuinely transform until we do.

It is that simple. Recognize our need and receive un-proportional grace (God’s own enablement) to help.

Hello God, my name is Phil, I am so bent on doing my own thing, my own way on my own terms. I need help.

IMG_2731
Let’s Talk

You Don’t Have to Live; You Get To!

Compared to Who?

To whom do you compare yourself?

I find it interesting in my observations that we sometimes find incongruent people to compare with ourselves. We either look for the win in which we would compare our strengths against another’s ‘obvious’ weakness, thereby generating a feeling of good at their lack. Or, we take the other extreme of measuring our failing against someone else’s perceived strength. An example of the first is to reach down to an individual who is in need, where the reaching down is proudly evident. The second would be where we look at some “super blessed,” model, movie star or another achiever and look at our ordinary against their luxury, whether in looks, assets or abilities. Comparisons internally happen from the flagrant to the obscure. If our filter is off, we may engage in this process without realization.

Comparing with another is the arena of judgment when it comes to our interactions. When it isn’t masked with smiles or faked relationship, it is as ugly and stark as it looks in print. Usually, we aren’t so blatant in this process because blatant would clearly be wrong, but we subtly self-talk of our ‘arriving’ or conversely our improvements or lack thereof against an impossible standard.

The problem? We were never meant to compare ourselves to anyone else. Scriptural text supports this. “… When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12, NIV)

So, how do we get wise? How do we improve and get better? How do we measure and be accurate in that measurement? How do we define and get our personal emotional GPS properly established?

That is where I want to go next time.

IMG_2731
Let’s Talk

You Don’t Have To Live; You Get To!

Who is Your Fan?

My last weeks were filled with preparation. I worked a full-time job, gave hours of volunteering and I took on two different speaking engagements with just two week’s lead time for one and one week’s lead time for the other. I spent hours of preparation for two different audiences with two various topics to be relevant to two separate groups of people. Why, because my message was important and I didn’t want to waste anybody’s time or be unprepared for the topic at the moment.

I wanted the audience for which I was preparing to be fully appreciated.

We can perceive our life to be daily viewed and reviewed by all who are proximal. These proximity persons could be mistaken as our audience. We might even find ourselves bending or straining to gain their approval. The pressure that we perceive from them could if we let it force our decisions. “What will they think if I…did, or didn’t do…?” But really, is this with whom we should be concerned?

I remember a phrase that I heard many years ago, “We play for an audience of one.”

The urbandictionary.com gives a definition to the ‘audience of one’: focusing our “performance–what we do, say, think… or not, so as to be acceptable to one person, individual or deity”

Paul, in a context of those proximal, says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV)

Our words affect others; our actions may inspire, instruct, or even discourage, but we only play for the audience of one.

At the end of the day, the end of my life, there is only one person whose approval I want. “…Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 5:21, NIV)

IMG_2731
Let’s Talk

You Don’t Have To Live; You Get To!

Everyone Else Is

What do you do when everyone else is doing it?

There is ample opportunity to cut corners, to cheat, to ‘score,’ to sell the flawed dressed up as the perfect, after all, everyone else is doing it, or are they?

I can hear my dad in my ears, “Well if everyone else was jumping off a bridge would you do it?”

The answer is supposed to be ‘no,’ but I’ve grown up in a culture that actually jumps off bridges and pays someone for the opportunity. So the point gets clouded and indistinct. I see a culture today where there is a lot of ‘fuzz’ and not enough clarity.

Where are the Daniel’s of our day, the three Hebrew children? Where are the uncompromising, the integral, the honest if you will?

When it seems not to matter when no one appears to be looking, where are the men and women who play it straight?

Do you know anyone like that?

Do your friends?

IMG_2731
Let’s Talk

You Don’t Have To Live; You Get To!

Stay in Your Box (re-print from Blue Collar Theology)

I love you, ‘as long as you stay in your box.’

Jesus had just fed the five thousand men; also add in the women and children. That was a lot of food. He then started to thin the crowd with some tough teaching; he did it on purpose. Jesus? He doesn’t need a popular vote. Crowds? NBD.

Finally after the great stirring and movement, the slipping away of shadows, he looks at his disciples and says, “Are you going to leave to?” My translation said it this way, “Phil do you like me?” Oh not literally, but that was the question that confronted me. I responded with my best ‘christianeze,’ “I love you, Lord…” I was already onto the second stanza, “…and I lift my voice…” and the Lord interrupted, “That’s not what I asked. Phil do you like me?”

Caught and cornered, I was just like the 5000 ‘taste and see’ ‘stand and watch’ and ‘be amazed’ crowd. I immediately was uncomfortable with this unboxed Jesus/God. I couldn’t point at the Pharisees, I was struggling with the same Jesus who doesn’t care about my rules or protocol. He was cutting with the question. He still is.

As long as I could enjoy, watch and predict a miracle, as long as I could stay at a safe distance, ‘did I say predictable distance?’ As long as my religious, feel good rhythm went uninterrupted, then, I was all in.

In a moment there was no box, no sterile wrap no full stomach bringing on the yawns, there was just the super, simple, transparent, vulnerable Jesus. “Do you like me? Yes or no?

The only option is reciprocating transparency.

A God without a box, people that love without a condition or stipulating labels? Maybe we could start a movement.