Wrapping Presence

It’s defintely true that I can struggle with the right spelling of words from time to time.  But in this situation, the title for my blog isn’t a misspelling.  Instead, it’s an intentional play on words to catch your attention & maybe challenge you to some ongoing generosity with Jesus.

How so?  What Jesus likes more than your words, money, service, clothing, church attendance, etc. is your self.  When we give all of ourselves to Jesus, it seems to me that this gives Jesus the greatest pleasure!  So here are some wrapping ideas for your presence with Jesus:

  • time:  we can give Jesus time in all kinds of ways – as we drive, in those unexpected moments of pause with a cancelled appointment and in the morning / night to be present
  • words:  it’s always good to give thanks to Jesus (for daily things, miracles, unexpected blessings, rich conversations, etc ), as well as some worship for who Jesus is
  • attention:  let’s ask the Holy Spirit to increase our awareness of Jesus’ presence, since He said He’d never leave nor forsake us.  I ask, throughout the day, for help with my focus and attention to sense Jesus

Be sure to wrap your presence with time, words and attention, to give your self wholly to Jesus!

hot topic: gun control

Last week, a gunman killed more than 10 people at a small community college in Oregon & there’s been a  renewed outcry for greater gun control in the US.  For Americans, this is a difficult quandary for lots of reasons, including something about the right to bear arms, somewhere in our Bill of Rights.

Whether you agree or disagree with gun control, I think that it’s worthwhile to consider that the gun user is most likely more dangerous than the gun.  And for that matter, let’s take an even bigger step back & think about how frequently we might use our mouths to shoot up another person’s character, mock their personality or magnify their mistakes.

It’s easy to point the gun, so to speak, at someone else.  But let’s be sure that our words, character and actions reflect Jesus, if we claim to be His follower 🙂

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?

act the right way???

“YOU SHOULDN’T DO THAT!!!!”  When we were growing up, you probably heard that a few times, as did I.  Now that I’m an adult, I still hear those words in my mind sometimes.  “You shouldn’t be driving so fast!  You shouldn’t be sarcastic, you shouldn’t be so casual, you shouldn’t . . . . . ”

In religion, there’s lots of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”  – we wishfully think that the right behavior will fix everything.  From my perspective, this kind of thinking is like putting peacock feathers on a cow:  accessorizing the external in an attempt to deny or compensate for the internal.

More than we realize our beliefs shape our behavior, so perhaps we would be better to consider what we believe as the first step.  Yucky beliefs and thinking always result in yucky words and actions 🙂

poise or poison

I’m a sucker for compliments and maybe you are as well.  I like to be told that I preached a powerful message, that I’m a great mom, I’m an excellent wife and I could keep going with a really long list.  Compliments are frequently really helpful, unless you get them from someone who you know isn’t a friend.  Compliments from people who are not your friends can be poisonous because the compliments are often insincere.  If you think about it, people who don’t have your best interests at heart can and will say anything nice to you because they don’t have any “skin in the game”.

In contrast, people who are genuinely your friend will tell you things that could be difficult to hear:

  • your zipper is unzipped,
  • you’ve been really cranky lately,
  • your thinking is really messed up,
  • that’s not a good color on you, etc

In Prov 27:6 it says that the wounds of a friend are faithful but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.  Don’t fall for deceitful kisses!

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speak, think, feed

I’m not a big fan of onions – when I chop them, they make my eyes water and sometimes they can have a really sharp odor & flavor.  But they can serve as an interesting metaphor with some helpful thoughts.  If you think about it, onions have many layers – you can keep peeling & peeling, ulimately finding that an onion may have up to 20 layers!

The layers of an onion are a little like our lives, with the first layer being what we say.  The things that we say are very important & since I’ve had children, I’m more convinced of this than ever.  Our words can give life, encouragment and be uplifting or they can be negative, discouraging and death oriented.  So our words are important, but our words are often a reflection of what we think, which is another layer of the onion, so to speak.

Second layer – Have you ever thought about what you think about – a thought inventory?  Many of our thoughts are about getting stuff done and general maintainence thinking (cooking, grocery lists, auto repair, etc).  But we also think about many other things – conversations, what we think people think about us, priorities, time management, how we feel, reactions to various people & interactions, etc.  What we let ourselves think about is very important because our thoughts affect our actions, words, decisions, etc.

But here’s the center of the onion:  what we feed our hearts is what affects our thinking & ultimately our words & actions.  So let me encourage you to take a few minutes to consider the things that you feed your thoughts, emotions & heart.  What are the inputs that you allow in your life?  Do these inputs give life?  Are they uplifting?  Are they truthful?  Do they have genuine love?  Our words are shaped by our thoughts which are shaped by the inputs we allow – so let’s chose these inputs with discernment, discretion, wisdom & love 🙂

what would Jesus say?

 Several years ago, it was really common to see the “WWJD” (what would Jesus do) bracelets everywhere & from time to time I still see them & they make me smile.  Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about what would Jesus say.  I’ve been thinking about this not in my communication with others, but more so in what Jesus says to me.  You see, from time to time, I wrestle with thoughts about discouragement, failure, disappointment, etc.  If I’m not careful, these thoughts can overrun my brain & become dangerous distractions from Jesus’ plans & purposes for me.

When I look at Jesus’ life & His words to us, they are always filled with life, faith, strength, encouragement, forgiveness, love and acceptance.  The only people Jesus ever slammed with overt offense were the religious leaders of His day who were judgmental, selfish and even ungodly.  To everyone else, His words were full of life, encouragement & faith.  When I think about Jesus’ words & their contrast with the discouragement & failure thoughts that run around in my mind sometimes, I’m faced with a choice.  I either listen to His life-giving words or I let the failure & discouragement thoughts run amuck.  I’m choosing Jesus’ words, because I’m Jesus’ sheep (John 10).  🙂

hurtful words

At various times in our lives, we are all the targets & recipient of hurtful words.  In elementary school, kids can often say things without thinking of how their words can be received.  Then in Jr & Sr high school, it seems like we get more sophisticated with our ability to use piercing & hurtful words.  By the time we’re adults, many of us have become very proficient at integrating sarcasm with our cleverly cloaked words so that we can slice & filet someone with very crafted and deadly words.

So what do we do with hurtful words?  Here are a couple of helpful thoughts:  

  1. forgive – whether the words were intentionally hurtful or not, forgiving must be your first & continual action
  2. dial down the emotions & see what could be truthful with the hurtful words
  3. make a constructive decision to get better & not bitter – let the hurtful words give you motivation to make some healthy changes rather than letting them fester in your emotional memory being nursed & rehearsed
  4. repay mean words with a smile rather than trying to craft a come back or pay back
  5. take the hurt to Jesus & let Him bring His healing into that pain

Pain isn’t always the main issue.  But what you do with pain will determine it’s results 🙂

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

 

tipping point

 Several years ago, there was a really popular book called, “The Tipping Point”.  It was basically about how small things can make massive impacts – I really like this concept for lots of different reasons, but most of all for how it connects with James 3:1-6.  In these verses, the author talks about how a big ship is turned by a small rudder, the bit in a horse’s mouth can make a horse change direction & how a small spark can create a massive fire.  The point for each of these illustrations is to drive home the importance of how we use our words.  Small words & conversations that can seem very innocuous can have very significant results, positive or negative.  So here are some choices for your consideration with the words that we use:

  • compliment or criticize
  • support or sarcasm
  • gratitude or entitlement
  • encourage or discourage

Let’s make wise choices 🙂

be gentle

Here’s a quickie thought about our relationships – be gentle.  I’m reminded to be gentle on many occasions – most frequently when someone says something to me that is sharp or insensitive.  When this happens, I find that it’s most helpful to give others the benefit of the doubt & not automatically assume that they’re trying to hurt me or have malicious intents.  I honestly think that if others understood some of our sensitivities, they probably wouldn’t say some of the things that we find to be hurtful.  So with this in mind, I want to be a gentle person & tread lightly.  I figure that if I’ll be gentle, others won’t find the need to forgive me as frequently and perhaps this is a practical way to express Jesus’ love.

I’m also reminded that Jesus wants me to be gentle with myself – to intentionally lose the lists of failures, shame & shortcomings, since these items have already received His forgiveness.  I can also be gentle with myself by being less impatient with my maturation.

Gentle words, gentle actions, gentle thoughts, . . . . . be gentle 🙂

give life

We can give life in lots of different ways.  Here are some thoughts & practical ideas to integrate into our daily living.

First, in a few weeks, I get to travel to India with @savingmoses.  I have it in my heart to create a facility where we can provide night care to the infants & toddlers of prostitutes of the sex workers.  Presently, infants & toddlers of the these workers many times are chained to the same bed during the time when their mother is working.  My goal is help these infants & toddlers develop a world view that doesn’t so overtly include prostitution as a means of earning a living.  I believe this is a very SIGNIFICANT way to give life to someone at the beginning of their life.  Of course I will be blogging about our trip everyday & keeping you posted on our progress on facebook, twitter, etc.

Second, we can give life to the people in our lives by our words.  Positive, uplifting, encouraging, vision casting words are absolutely vital not only in our lives, but also in the lives of the people around us.  The closer the relationship, the more opportunity that we can speak life into the person we love.  When you notice positive things about a person, tell them!!  When someone is having a rough day, remember something good about them & tell them!!  If a person tends to have a negative outlook, counter-act the negativity with some constructive optimism.  I seriously appreciate that we need to NOT live in denial, but on the way to positive results in our lives, we need positive inputs.  Maybe its even a good day to post a nice & sincere comment about someone on their FB wall 🙂

A final idea about how to give life is with our time and activity.  If we’re not careful, we can easily get caught in the selfish trap & fritter away our time & energy on selfish & even meaningless activities.  Let’s look for opportunities to improve someone else’s life by volunteering, getting involved in a local charity, church or relief agency.

Let’s give life, since we are made in the image of the original Life Giver 🙂