Enjoying Contrasts

I have a child who enjoys classical music & rap. For me, these contrasts don’t match up too well, but to each his own.

I also made an interesting blueberry pie a few days ago where the recipe called for goat cheese & chopped almonds / more contrasts. The pie was like a party in my mouth because of the complementing contrasts: tangy goat cheese & sweet blueberries as well as crunchy almonds & soft blueberries. These contrasts were super pleasant although not something I’d usually consider.

That’s the interesting thing with contrasts: we don’t normally put contrasts together because they often seem to compete rather than blend & complement. But alas, this is how much of following Jesus seems to play out.
For example:

  • Jesus applauded Peter for acknowledging Him as the Son of God but He rebuked Peter for shooting off his mouth;
  • Jesus demonstrates genuine love in the face of abhorrent & brutal humanity;
  • we are to each celebrate our unique gifts & talents while blending them into the Body of Christ for mutual benefit

Navigating contrasts for spiritual growth requires us to pay attention to the Holy Spirit & remain steady in our commitment to genuinely love 🙂

Hot Topic: Donald Trump & the 2016 Election

Politics is a hot spot for many people. Everyone seems to get really lit up about who to vote for, what the candidates say or don’t say, the future of our country, moral underpinnings & HEAPS more. For his part, Donald Trump, has certainly escalated the emotional tone & conflict potential for our upcoming national election. 
My concern for those of us who follow Jesus has many facets:

  • I’m concerned that we will watch & listen to the candidates more than we pray for the election
  • I’m concerned that we allow politics to divide us more than we allow Jesus’ love to unite us
  • I’m concerned that we are deceived to think that human politics can resolve the broken & fallen nature of the human heart

Whether you like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Bernie or whoever, let’s make the commitment to pray for our country & its leadership more than we worry or complain 🙂

hot topic part 2: same sex marriage :)

Thank you heaps for all of the feedback on my post about the same sex marriage topic!  It’s obviously a very sensitive topic for almost everyone and by the input I’ve received (some pleasant, some slippery and some hostile), I think it’s worth a final post on the topic.

I’ve been praying about this post for several days because I don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit per Ephesians 4:29-32.  With that being said, here are a few questions to consider on the same sex marriage topic for prayerful reflection:

  • Who???  When we talk about this subject, to whom are we speaking or communicating?  Seems like we should think not only about what we say, but with whom we are communicating (seekers, Jesus’ followers, opponents to Jesus’ words, etc).  Jesus was super clear about different messages for different audiences – but all with the same motive
  • How???  How we communicate is a good peek into our motives & ultimately what’s in our hearts
  • What??? After thinking about our motives & audience, the content of our words are very important – what are we really saying?

I’m certainly up to speed with Paul’s words about homosexuality in 1Cor 6:9, Rom 1:26-32 & the relevant verses in Levitucs & the outcomes of Sodom & Gomorrah and I do not disagree with these words.  But I come back to the question of loving well from John 13:35 – the defining distinctive of Jesus’ followers is our love for each other.

To conclude, I believe that we can all find common ground in praying for our nation & our world.  Let’s agree to pray for our pastors, our political leaders, key influencers and let’s pray that Jesus lives well through our lives every day 🙂

Managing to Love Well

I was recently on a family vacation & there were a few tense conversations with family members – nothing major, but some scrappy & small conflicts. I was thinking about these conversations this morning in my prayer time & was letting God know that I was frustrated. Fundamentally, I want to love well, but struggle with how to role out genuine love in my daily living. I felt like God spoke this into my heart, “Give Me permission to love through you rather than trying to love from you.”
This has been extremely helpful because I know that my own love is far too limited, but God’s love through me can be infinite. 

So let’s agree to let God love through us & let the fun begin! Remain tied into God’s love ,)

  

Hot Topic: Bikers, Brawls and Bullets

On Sunday, there was a massive fight among biker gangs in Waco, TX and it became extremely violent in a matter of seconds.  Law enforcement officials are now concerned that gang members from neighboring states and affiliated gang coalitions are now heading toward Texas to pick up the conflict and defend the honor of their gang members and associates.  Clearly, this is a bad situation and without some clear and rational thinking, this situation could deteriorate even further.  So let’s keep in mind a few helpful things:

  • pray:  pray that peace would prevail and that any plans of the devil would be put to confusion
  • conflict:  consider that with the Holy Spirit’s help, conflict can be more constructive than destructive
  • get the word out:  if biker gangs can be highly motivated to defend honor, then let us as followers of Jesus be highly motivated to live our love out loud & not with quiet back room whispers

winning

FinishLine   I love to win & I hate to lose – in pretty much everything.  So I automatically like all of the Bible verses that talk about me winning, being victorious, more than a conqueror, etc.  On the opposite end, the Bible verses that talk about sacrifice, losing my life, crucifixion, pain, . . . . these aren’t nearly as appealing to me as the winning verses.  But life seems to have both the winning and losing experiences wrapped into each day:  driving, competing at work / school, controversial conversations, competing against myself, etc.

I think that it can feel much better to win than lose, but let me throw out a few perks that can happen from losing:

  • losing can reveal our character when we might be at our lowest
  • empathy seems to grow better when we lose rather than win
  • winning can be sometimes be an impediment to connecting with someone
  • losing can be a place where strength, endurance and roots can grow
  • sometimes humility grows better in the soil of losing more than winning

Please don’t take this blog to mean that losing is everything.  On the flipside, winning isn’t everything either.  Maybe “everything” boils down to genuine love 🙂

#selah

making decisions

I have friends who hate to make decisions.  The bigger the decision, the worse the gridlock, to the point that they become virtually paralyzed.  I’m sure that some of their struggle with making decisions comes from some past challenges as well as some current insecurities that hide in dark corners of their mind, coming out to haunt at the most inopportune times.  So when I read this morning about Lot and Abraham, with Lot’s decision to live in Sodom, I think there could be some practical help available in this story for making decisions:

  • don’t let circumstances be the fundamental reason for a decision: Lot chose land that looked appealing, but maybe he knew that Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t top grade choices for cities in which to live
  • discuss conflict before making decisions:  the whole reason for Lot to move was partially driven by a conflict between Abraham’s and Lot’s shepherds
  • consider the choices that are available:  from reading this story, it doesn’t seem to me that Lot considered all of the options that were available (exchange some of his cattle wealth for gold, come under Abraham’s leadership, create a partnership, etc).
  • think about the consequences:  I seriously doubt that Lot would have chosen to live in Sodom had he known more about the people who lived there
  • Pray – when Lot made his decision, there’s no mention of him asking for divine input or guidance;  in contrast, God was highly involved with Abraham, maybe because Abraham was obedient and highly esteemed / treasured God’s input

Conflict Management

It seems to me that we all have various conflicts & hot spots that we have to manage – such hot spots could include: stressful conversations with co-workers / classmates, conflict with our mates, harsh words between friends, scratchy people, etc. Regardless of having hotspots, which seem to be inevitable, here are some ideas for constructive words that might come in handy:

*a soft answer turns away wrath (Prov 15:1): you are a really gifted person with (name a talent they have)

*words seasoned with grace (Col 4:6): I believe that you were trying your best in this situation (give the benefit of the doubt)

*be quick to listen (James 1:19): Please help me understand what you’re concerned about (seek to understand the other person’s point of view)

*be encouraging (1 Thess 5:11): I really want to encourage you that I see you’re trying hard in this situation; I want to encourage you that I see talents, gifts and potential in you that you may not see

*pursue peace (Rom 14:19): Here’s the common ground that we can agree on (describe something about which you agree)

 

What are some suggestions you’d give us that could also be helpful?

Advice for Constructive Conflict

For whatever reason, this week has had an over abundance of conflict & almost none of it with low intensity, it’s all been high grade volatile & even borderline destructive. So today is a good day to take a deep breath & look for some sunshine. In the meantime, here are a few take aways I’ve acquired from this week in dealing with conflict, constructively (operative word):
*being reactive can often make things worse
*listen to understand rather than argue
*disagree but don’t disrespect
*appreciate that the other persons / side has some valuable points of view
*seek common ground rather than retreating into hostility, aggression or worse apathy, isolation & passivity

What has helped you manage conflict constructively? Please share so we can all get better with your wisdom 🙂

The right fight

In the war on terrorism, it can get tricky to figure out who to fight. Similar to the guerrilla warfare in Vietnam, when a soldier wears civilian clothing, it’s hard to figure out that he’s a soldier until it’s often too late. In the same way, the enemy of our soul often masquerades in what seems to be various human conflicts, stresses & pressures. If we only look at the outside of what’s happening, we’ll get distracted & fight the wrong fight, rather than warring against the true opposition of our soul. Jesus says in John 10:10 that the thief comes to kill, steal & destroy.
There is a real enemy warring against your soul & more often than not, your enemy isn’t your spouse, your pastor, your friend or your kids / parents, a co-worker or fellow student. The enemy of your soul is a masquerade genius, so don’t fall for the disguise!!

quiet prayers

Recently, I’ve had some experiences that have been really tricky:  conversation I didn’t agree with, uncomfortable situations that made me feel insecure, topics being discussed that are WAY outside of anything I know about, etc.  As I’ve been in these situations, it’s been difficult for me to figure out what to do or say because there didn’t seem to be any easy or obvious solutions, answers or escape routes.  In the past, I’ve found myself saying stupid stuff, or just withdrawing to a wall flower status & getting internally frustrated.

But I think I’ve found some help with these types of problems:  quiet prayer.  In the last few days as I’ve been in these challenges, I’ve stayed quiet, but quietly in my heart asked God for help and that’s exactly what’s happened.  God has answered my quiet prayers in several different ways by giving me:

  • insight & wisdom into the situations & conversations
  • patience & strength not to say something stupid or that I’d later regret
  • discernment on how God was leading the discussion or situation
  • awareness that God has purposes for stuff that doesn’t always make me feel good

There’s a boatload of value in long & loud prayers, but also in short & quiet prayers:  the full truth is that prayer is very good 🙂

conflict resolution

A few of my kids went to school this morning after a heated conversation.  Both had tears in their eyes & it rips me up as their mom to see this tension and strife.  Which makes me wonder how God “feels” when we are yucky with each other.  The truth is that any relationship worth it’s weight will have to work through conflict.  So here are a few pointers to help with this challenge:

  • benefit of the doubt:  assume the best rather than blame the worst
  • double standard:  be mindful that you don’t just the other person by actions but ourselves by intentions
  • breathing space:  sometimes a “cool down” can bring some clarity and options that aren’t available when we are in the heat of a conflict
  • be generous:  seek to understand before being understood
  • forgive well:  practice makes perfect
  • conclusion:  sometimes the best outcome is to agree to disagree without being disagreeable 🙂
  • pray

Happy Monday to you!

 

hot topic: Ferguson shooting

Recently, there was a shooting in a suburb of St Louis where a white police officer shot & killed an african american teen, Mike Brown.  There has been massive outrage, demonstrations and upheaval from this altercation with lots of accusations being thrown around.  The National Guard has been called in to the area, curfews have been enforced and there’s a tremendous amount of anxiety, pain, frustration, anger, hostility and even some violent reactions to these events.

My goal with this blog is not to throw more fuel into an already intense inferno.  Rather, I would ask you to join me in praying a few brief but powerful points for this situation:

  • peace and clarity
  • comfort and healing for the family who lost their son / family member
  • wisdom, strength and grace for the leaders in Ferguson & those who are involved in these events

hot topic: Gaza & the ceasefire

I’ve been watching the situation with Israel & Palestine over the last month & I was very happy to read this morning about the ceasefire and what seems to be the ramp down of the military conflict between Israel & Palestine.  If you have looked into any of the history of this area, you’ll quickly see that this area of the world has been unstable to varying degrees for millennia.  Regardless of which side of the conflict you sympathize, its good for everyone that they constructively work toward a peace that can be realisticlly achieved between these neighboring countries.

With that being said, I don’t see how you can be a neighboring country, endeavoring to build trust while concurrently telling your population that your neighbor is the enemy – both sides do this.  I also don’t see how you can build trust when an underlying tenant of your political existence is the obliteration of your neighboring country – there has to be mutual respect for mutual sovereignty.  Finally, you can’t build trust without first creating an environment for constructive conversation.

Let’s pray for peace in the middle East!

Hot Topic:  Israel, Palestine & Hamas

If you’ve been following the news of late, there’s been a very significant increase in the military activity between Israel & Palestine within the last several days.  Israel has mobilized troops and is currently carrying out ground operations into Palestine & Gaza.  There have been very noteworthy increases on both sides of fatalities and loss.  And there are many individuals who support Israel and many individuals who support Palestine.  No matter what “side” is your position, let’s pray for peace in Israel and Palestine.  The loss of lives, injuries and property destruction from this conflict is all extremely high, so let’s be sure to keep this area in our daily prayers!

volatile

Ok friends, I’m writing this blog knowing that I’m stepping into some very serious controversy.  In the past several weeks there have been lots of feedback on John MacArthur’s book, “Strange Fire”, a book that takes a critical position of the Charismatic movement in today’s world.  There are more than enough brilliant people taking sides on Mr MacArthur’s position – in both opposition and support.  Whatever your thoughts or opinions are about Charistmatics or Mr MacArthur’s beliefs, let’s keep in mind what Paul says about the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21.  Such works include not only immorality and idolatry, but the works of the flesh also include:  enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions and factions.  Let’s remember that Jesus prayed that we, His followers, would be one like He is one with the Father, John 17:21-22.

No matter if you agree or disagree with Mr MacArthur, if we are followers of Jesus, then we don’t need to be disagreeable with a fellow follower of Jesus – smile 🙂

Advice for hostile situations

From time to time I have the opportunity to be involved in situations that can be volatile, hostile & combative. I can’t say that I enjoy these types of situations but I am learning a few things that you might find helpful:
*Proverbs says that a soft answer turns away wrath – answering with gentle words & replies can be super helpful to turn a hostile conversation into a constructive conversation
*volume, pace & pitch are important in our verbal replies because they can increase or diffuse the hostility
*seek to understand before being understood – this always helps me to grow & learn more
*pray: seems to me that we need God more than we frequently recognize 🙂

What have you found to be helpful? Thanks for your input!!

ever had any challenges with communication???

 We have had access to massive communication improvements over the past few decades.  If you think about it, did you ever pull the phone cord out of the wall?  In the ’80s, a tweet  would have been “twit” mis-pronounced.  And my idea of “wifi” in the ’70s was more like “hi-fi” in our house with speakers in every room so I could play records throughout the house at maximum volume.  Communication has certainly improved, but we can all stand to make some improvements in our inter-personal communication, especially as it relates to conflict 🙂

Here are some tips that you might find useful in resolving conflict:

  • Understand the issue:  get on the same page about what you’re discussing because often the center of the conflict comes from not discussing the same content
  • Separate what was said from what was heard  (that’s not what I said, but that’s what was heard)
  • Consider the emotions & expectations associated w the conversation – these items can make communication hazy & ineffective if they’re not identified
  • Be patient & listen without asserting your opinion
  • Own your part of the communication challenge – blame sabotages communications & does nothing constructive
  • Be clear by removing subtleties, nuances & emotional telepathy;  these efforts will only leave you frustrated

 

what should I say???

We all have had the experience where something has happened or someone has said something & we were left speechless.  Sometimes, we’ve had people say things that have been really hurtful.  Sometimes, we are in a situation that is very difficult to know how to respond.  Sometimes, a conversation goes in a direction that can be uncomfortable.  These are just a few examples of when we might be left “speechless”.  Thankfully, I’m starting to learn to say less than what I think – whew!  But what should we say in difficult situations, conversations etc?

Here are some thoughts:

  • be encouraging – look for something positive if you’re expected to make a reply
  • wisdom, the leading of the Holy Spirit, helps us to know when we should speak & when we should remain silent;  there are appropriate times to be vocal & there are times when silence is golden
  • listen to what God would want to achieve through the interchange – getting on God’s page is more helpful than pushing my personal agenda
  • speak life – acknowledge shortcomings, be forgiving & affirming
  • Jesus said that people who are peace makers are a blessing because they’re called the sons of God – making peace isn’t the same thing as rolling over & playing dead, but it also isn’t about escalating a conflict.
  • trying to resolve conflict through email, facebook, text messaging, voicemail, linked in, etc is really difficult & sometimes impossible.  Be mindful of what you’re trying to accomplish if you bring up difficult conversations in these settings because there is HUGE AMOUNTS of room for misunderstanding 🙂

the anger danger

I had an interesting experience a few days ago with a very unhappy person.  This person was extremely upset about a difficulty & she was upset beyond what the circumstances called for.  I began to think about the possible reasons why she could be over reacting:

  • maybe she was having a rough day,
  • maybe there are other pressures in her life where she vents her frustrations in unrelated  situations,
  • maybe she has some medical challenges that cause her to be easily upset
  • worst of all, maybe she is an angry person
There’s a difference between being angry about something & being an angry person.  One is based on situations but the other is an identity.  The person who finds their identity in anger brings dissension into his conversations & relationships based on Prov 29:22 & 15:18.  An angry person tends to lack control over their behaviors & conversations.  And an angry person, based on what Proverbs says, is a fool (29:11).
In contrast, a person who is slow to anger tends to have a better life – they have great understanding (14:29, 17:27), they’re not easily offended (they overlook offenses – 19:11), they have more self-control than an angry person and a person who is slow to anger is better than the mighty (16:32).
Let’s be angry for the right reasons (against injustices, wickedness & evil), but let’s not be angry people 🙂