Speaking Jesus

There’s a phrase that has come to my attention over the past couple of weeks.  More accurately, there’s a prayer that has come to my attention over those weeks.  This phrase is a prayer.  It is one petition in a longer prayer called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, a prayer supposedly (but, alas, probably not) written by St. Patrick.  It goes like this:

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It is the second phrase there which has really caught my attention (though all, of course, are worthy of consideration).  Christ is the mouth of everyone who speaks of me.  I think I heard that phrase/prayer/petition years ago; I vaguely recall encountering St. Patrick’s Breastplate in my college years (though that might be a false memory, a Mandela effect).  But it has exploded across my radar recently.  Some of this is due to the Celtic Daily Office.  I use this office at least twice a week if not more during my own prayer time.  The morning prayer of this office references this statement, saying:

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Not only so, but Ransomed Heart’s Daily Prayer, which I also use two or three times a week, mentions something similar:

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Somehow I have combined these two or three sources into my own idea, which I phrase in this way: “Be in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, and be in my mouth every time I speak.”

It is that second part that really convicts me.  The first part is a blessing I’m asking for myself, actually; I’m hoping that everybody who speaks to me does so as Christ, that is, speaks to me in the kind ways Christ would, doesn’t say anything that hurts me (yes, I know Christ challenged people but He never maliciously hurt anyone).  The second part, though, is a responsibility I need to accept.  It is a fair responsibility.  I firmly believe in “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”; I think I can make the case that is a biblical concept and that we thus shouldn’t ask something for ourselves which we aren’t willing to extend to others.  It is a good or noble responsibility; I’d be pretty honored if I knew that people felt I talked with them like Christ.

But it is also a difficult responsibility.  It goes contrary to my nature.  I think it does, anyway.  I always have a hard time separating nature from nurture.  But it definitely goes against nurture, goes against the way I was trained.  I was trained that you have to speak harshly.  Forget that, “Speak softly but carry a big stick” stuff.  No, speak heavy from the very beginning and don’t let up.  I was trained to believe that anyone who abridges you in word or deed must be immediately and fully smacked down in every way.  I was trained to believe that anyone who sends the slightest shade your way must be lit up hardcore.

Movies were a big part of this training.  In most (if not every) action movie (my favorites), there is scene early on in which someone braces the hero only for the hero to put them in their place.  I could give dozens of example, but my favorite is from the Chuck Norris movie Sidekicks.  Here is not Chuck but Mako who puts a man who braces him in his place (in case you’re wondering, this clip sticks in my mind because I was studying martial arts at the time; in every martial arts movie, the hero does some slight of hand in a situation similar to this, but this is the one in which my eyes were finally opened and I realized, “We’re martial artists, not magicians.  We can’t do stuff like that!”).

(I was totally surprised to find this clip on my first try.  I was also totally surprised at the racial slurs used.  Please remember this movie comes from a different time and that I don’t mean to offend anyone by using it.)

While I’ve never reached Mako’s level of putting people in their place, I have put them in their place nonetheless.  I have at least tried to.  It usually doesn’t work that well for me.  My mind doesn’t tend to insults (which I take as a good thing), and I usually don’t think of what to say to someone who braces me until much later.  I guess I’m like Marge that way:

(If YouTube removes that video, find it here: https://comb.qNnUSrio/)

But what I’ve discovered after reading and praying this phrase/petition, after seeing this incredibly beautiful idea of “speaking Jesus” to people (which is what I believe this is: not just speaking like Jesus but actually speaking Jesus), I am turning away from this training.  I am trying to, anyway.  I’m not sure what or how long it will take to be successful at this.  But I am sure I want to be successful at this.  Christ will not be in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me; that prayer won’t be answered at the one hundred percent level; people are going to brace me.  But Christ can be in my mouth whenever I speak to anyone.  The love of Christ can be all that is between me and everyone to whom I speak.  And I want it to be.  I’m praying for it to be.

Frustration and Goals

My wife and I went to a seminar at a local church last weekend.  The seminar was called “Stress Fractures”.  As you can probably tell, it was about how to deal with the stress which can fracture your life.  The counselor who put the seminar together said she originally wanted to call it “All Stressed Up And No Place To Go”.  I thought that would have been a great title for the seminar.  I also thought it was a great joke, one I wish I had come up with myself.

There were two sessions in this seminar.  The second was called “Increasing Frustration Tolerance”.  In this session, the teacher (a licensed therapist) gave us some instruction about how to manage frustration, which is something everyone (including disciples of Jesus) have to do.  It may even be something disciples of Jesus have to do more than anyone else.

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It is also something I struggle with quite frequently.  And one of the things this therapist said has really helped me with that struggle.  One technique he gave for managing frustration was “having a hierarchy of goals”.  You are probably familiar with the phrase “hierarchy of goals”.  I believe Abraham Maslow presented a similar idea (in fact, I think someone behind me whispered “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Goals” when the therapist used this phrase).  What this therapist was talking about, though, was significantly different from what Maslow was presenting.  He wasn’t talking about physical needs leading up to self-actualization, the most basic needs graduating up to the more complex needs.  He was just talking about the things you want to accomplish.  He gave this example of such goals:

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After we looked at this example for awhile, the therapist had us make our own list of goal.  My top three were identical to the example: 1) relationship with God, 2) relationship with wife, and 3) relationship with daughter.  I think everyone’s were.  My next three or four were largely the same.  My bottom ones were wildly different.  For me, quiet time is a goal, as is a clean house.

Once those goals were done, the therapist told us that getting frustrated about things that hinder the lower goals is something that destroys the upper goals.  In other words, eating cheesecake (to use his example) can destroy the higher health goal.  Or, to use my example, getting upset because my house isn’t clean can destroy my second and third goals, my relationships with my wife and my daughter.

And that really worked for me.  I don’t know why.  If I knew why some information or analogy works for some people while others does not, I’d be a far more fruitful man.  I just know that did work for me.  I just know that lodged itself in my mind and has been coming up ever since.  When I start to get worked up now, I think about my goals.  I particularly think about those top three.  I evaluate whether my frustration is worth the damage it will do to those top three goals, and I then act accordingly.  As a result, I’ve been happier the past week.  I also think I’ve done more to reach those top three goals.  And what more can you ask for than that?