spirited conversation

spirited conversation – that which I use to define something I personally find dramatically uncomfortable

I think my discomfort with confrontation comes down to what was communicated to me nonverbally as a child. It took seemingly little, from my young point of view, to stir up an angry response or lengthy lecture from my father. Or, silence from my mom. As an adult, I know it was a result of living in a house with a lot of brokenness and fear, but as a child, the lesson I learned was that fewer skills were quite as vital to survival as choosing my words carefully.

So I did. And, still do.

Fast forward to marriage and kids and I find myself in the middle of my 40’s, just now learning about the blessing, and cursedness, of silence. I will often tell my kids that relationship is more important than being right, and while I do believe that, I also recognize that my angst about the potential responses of others has often bound my tongue when necessary words of healthy boundaries, relevant opinion, or actual emotional sanctity, were fearfully suppressed.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7

In today’s world, many seem to have the opposite struggle – the desire to be heard, to be right, and to stifle the voices of those in disagreement trumps a desire for community. And yet, as Christ-followers, are we not only beholden to promote such unity, but commanded to love others as we were ourselves first loved?? 

And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 22:39

Regardless of one’s position, I think it should be of paramount concern to those of us who profess Christ as our Savior to be mindful the of the how when we are communicating. The what is often not as much the issue as the how that we go about our solutions, and the how that we express our opinions.

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. – Proverbs 16:24

Jumping on the media bandwagon and believing everything we read and hear without doing our own research not only clouds our vision, it perpetuates the agenda of a mostly anti-God world in continuing to bring chaos to our daily lives. Worse still, more and more people who call themselves Christians are buying into the cultural norm above biblical mandate, and committing Christian Cannibalism with the most indignant of justification.

Oh, how the enemy loves distraction and dissent.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. – 1 Corinthians 14:33

With so many talking heads, it can be challenging to find any sort of plumb line. And yet, I submit to you that the only center for believers is found in the worn out (hopefully!) pages of a very old book…and maybe sitting in the pew to your left. 

The next time someone speaks, or makes a decision you are challenged/angry about, take a deep breath and consider:

  1. Is it biblical? Just because it doesn’t feel fluffy, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
  2. Is it true? Fact check, fact check, fact check.
  3. Is it tainted? People like to bait us without revealing the bottom line.
  4. Does it set a precedent? What can seem like a win is not in the long run.
  5. Know the Constitution. Period. It’s easy for others to steal what we don’t know we have.
  6. Does it bring peace? When the dust settles, do you still love people? If not, you may have chosen the wrong side.

Life in today’s world can be beyond chaotic, unsettling, but the truth of God, the peace and grace and integrity of His Word, remains as a cornerstone for our lives. Make the decision today to build upon it, and find your rest.

Allow the Spirit to lead your spirited conversations … 

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sweet spirit …

A sweet friend had to take her little one in to have his tonsils and adenoids removed recently. Even as a woman of faith, there is a dance of fear and faith we walk when we hand over the life of our precious ones to another.

There is no human love like the one of a mother.

That afternoon, she shared a story about her boy in post op. Usually, in such circumstances, parents are not allowed in the room as children come out of their anesthesia, as it can evidently be very difficult to experience. Her sweet boy, though, was a little tougher on the nurses than most, however, and they asked her to come in and be with him.

When she came in, he shared his distress, to which she responded with an offer to pray (he said yes), and then she put on the worship album that she plays for him when he goes to bed. He was immediately calm and the nurses came in repeatedly after, to visit and I think, to further experience the peace that had fallen over the room.

What I found most beautiful about the picture she painted for me is that her child already knows where to go when he is in need – first his mom, and then his God. As he grows older and his own relationship with the Father develops, he will find increasing peace and power in his God. Mom will become a source of friendship and guidance, but his connection to the Lord will become his strength.

Of the 10 Commandments, the first 5 are directives to our relationship with our Creator, but the 6th commandment is the first that addresses our horizontal relationships – “Honor your mother and your father that you would live long and prosper.” – Exodus 20:12. Not only does this directive lead us as children to honor the order designed for us to walk in our own blessing, it is also a call to be more like God as parents, as our children will learn whether or not God is safe, just and willing to parent in a healthy way… 

Or not.

Where is the first place you run in despair? Is it friends? Facebook? Food? Do you respond with words of anger and fear, or faith and hope? As we learn to respond to the challenges and pains of this life from a positioning of worship and trust in God’s ability to meet us where we’re at, so will our children learn as well. Even if your babies are grown, or you do not have any of your “own;” what we sow into our world, so will we reap.

One of the greatest gifts we ever share with those around us, with generations ahead of us, is showing people the love of God, and what a life with Him looks like. When we sow words and attitudes of peace, it extends to our children, and beyond. When the Holy Spirit is invited in, everything changes. 

The presence of His sweet spirit, starts with us.

coyote consequences

This weekend I faced the unfortunate task of cleaning up a dead animal in my front yard. My husband had just left to coach baseball and was running late so he called to ask me to tackle it so the kids wouldn’t see it. His final warning was, “Um, one more thing. It’s missing its head.” 

Ugh.

Our neighbor had seen the local coyote twice that day, so I was pretty confident a creepy stalker hadn’t placed the cat there, but it was still a significantly more unpleasant job than my usual spider adventures (yes, I am the one in our house who handles all that creeps and crawls …). Ever since, we have kept our own cats inside. 

Our boy kitty, Vegas, is especially put out by my new boundary. All morning he has been whining at me, following me around and reminding me just how unjust this all is. Ignorant of the potential consequences, Vegas wants what he wants. Period.

Sounds a bit like me with God sometimes.

Vegas, of course, has zero understanding of the perils that await him were he to get his way – all he can see is green grass and fresh air. How cruel his mama is to not let him have what is clearly good. What will certainly bless him… 

(You see where I’m going with this, right??)

How often do we something that perceive is right, or good, and chase it down without praying for God’s will (or listening to His answer) only to later discover that the thing we longed for brought about the most unpleasant, or unexpected, of consequences?

Listening to his persistent mew while brewing my first cup of joe, I began thinking about the things that God has said no to in my own life. The relationship challenges. That job I wanted. Reconciliation I longed for. Healing. Finances. Breakthrough… But then I began to think about how some of the no’s I have received in my life have blessed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Oh, if I want to I can still spin things to appear that I could have made something really good out of those situations, but the truth is, God, in His sovereignty, brings about blessings from all things. 

Even when it was He who took it away in the first place.

Friends, we can’t always know what is best for us. That person who is being so unkind might not have a heart change because God has a better relationship for you. Or, He has your personal growth in mind. That financial struggle might be the best way to learn how to trust Him in a new area, or how to find grace for those who have less than you and perhaps made choices you tend to judge. A person who walked away might have created the space you need to accommodate a friendship which is richer than you could have ever imagined. Whatever the season, we have to trust the process.

We need to take Him at His Word.

What are you railing against God about today? Could it be that He just wants you to trust Him? Is it possible that this is His covering and protection over your heart in ways not yet visible? Are you whining at the door of God’s heart, or curled up peacefully at His feet, believing that in His presence you are just where you are supposed to be?

Maybe today is a good day to rest. 

justified. end game

This morning I was having issues with the heater in my truck. Given that it was 46 degrees outside today, this new development was immediately promoted to my must-immediately-address list. Driving home, my thoughts were overwhelmed with my own agenda. 

Until I pulled into the drive.

Taking a deep breath, I adjusted my thoughts to remember that my sweet husband, inside busily working, had his own agenda. His own to-do lists and set of thoughts, circumstances and unique problems to be worked out. If there is one thing I have learned in 17 years of marriage and 47 years of life, it is that the world does not revolve around me. 

Nor should it.

I often ask my kids if it’s more important to be heard, or to be understood. While it is human nature to long to be understood, to have our needs met and priorities validated, it is also quite predictable that most will elevate their need to express themselves above the desires, needs, capacity and timing of others.

Years ago, a wise woman shared with me that in her experience with ministry, she has learned to allow people with a seeming emergency to sometimes have a day or two to rest before she responds. She said that oftentimes by the time she responds, the person has already taken the emotion out of the equation and has solved their own challenge.

Brilliant.

I used to just bombard Chris when he would come home from work  – the tensions of the day, the disappointments and frustrations – with no thought to what that felt like to him when he was walking into what was supposed to be a place of rest and refuge (for ALL of us). When his response was less than what I had hoped for (which was often, given my selfishness), I would become sullen and feel dejected. 

And, so did he.

Over time I began to see the value in honoring HIS space, HIS time, HIS capacity. And, as I learned to honor him better, he began to honor my voice as well.  The things that I deemed so valuable were worth more than to merely be flung at an unwilling participant, but carefully presented when I was aware he was positioned in a space in which he actually had the bandwidth to navigate thoughtfully.

My entitlement dimmed and we were both set up for success.

Watching headlines, video clips on social media, reading myriad angry and impassioned posts, I see a daily reminder that generation after generation has missed the opportunity (or direction?) to make the conscious decision to learn how to truly honor ones own space, and the space of others. We rail and cry out wanting to be heard, our needs and opinions overshadowing others, meanwhile, giving little to no ear to those around us. In doing so, unwittingly sabotage the very understanding and audience we crave.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven – Ecclesiastes 3:1

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. – Proverbs 25:11

There is one who speaks like piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. – Proverbs 12:18

It is not so much what we say, but the when and how – choose wisely, my friend, always remembering the end game….

lights. camera. action.

Just as the best movies have the best writers, so should our lives be authored by our Creator. God will certainly write something infinitely better than we ever could. And, as every action lover knows, there will always be danger, evil, and a climax – even the most savvy can give in to thoughts and fears of “what if.”

But, for those who trust in the Lord (and know the conclusion is promised to end well!), even when we thrash and flail in the chaos, we are reassured that there is a plan. Jeremiah 29:11

As we declare our faith, however, how many of us actually choose daily to walk our journey with the same zeal and fight as our onscreen heroes? Can we honestly speak to a lifestyle which reflects that which we feel so inspired by?

strength,

belief,

courage,

action…

When was the last time your faith move you? When has it inspired you – to move, to risk, to feel that passion in your soul propelling you to believe, and respond, in a manner reflecting a revelation of your truest nature? To make changes in your priorities to include the things placed deep in your heart. Have you ever been made fully aware that as a son or daughter of Christ, you have a divine purpose? That your daily choices literally effect the nature and legacy of not only your own life, but for generations to come?

If you haven’t, what would you do to get there?

What would it take?

I love the Lord of the Rings series. The battle between good and evil, the tension between belief and fear, the choice given to walk in bravery or retreat to safety, move my soul at its core. And yet, I find myself more often than I would like to admit – moved by the nuances, concerns and sometimes mediocrity of this human life. I turn back to what is familiar instead of facing the uncertainty of doing something new or potentially losing a comrade or two along the way.

There are possibly more days where I fall short of all I am called to be than not, and I am faced with the question again.

Am I running a race of faith, or sitting in a puddle of complacency?

Now before you start feeling poorly about yourself, remember that ( Romans 8:1) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.We are not called to perfection, but rather to spur one another on to greatness, to face shortcomings with grace and honesty, and exchange them for something better tomorrow.

Lamentations 3:22-23 – Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 

What does your walk look like today? Is it active and alive, or sluggish like today’s Seattle weather? Wherever it is now, it is never too late to shake off the old, let the Light of God enter into your decisions, be bold in spite of the glaring filter of others, and move to action.

plot twist

For any of my faithful readers, you know I hardly ever (have I ever??), comment on politics. Sometimes I like to touch on current events, but most of my conversations are ignited by heart issues as it relates to walking out a daily lifestyle with Jesus.

Watching the chaos surrounding the Kavanaugh hearings, however, and the subsequent dialogue, I am moved to make a few observations which I think are relevant to what it might look like in navigating such challenges from a positioning of faith. 

And a sound mind….

*Mocking someone who is visibly shaken by horrific and uncorroborated accusations reveals a lack of understanding as to what it looks like to actually abhor such evil. (Romans 12:9) Having also been personally accused of doing something I stand firmly against, I will tell you that a righteous anger burned in my heart as well – it is extremely violating. I might think we want people in office who long for integrity and truth.

*Criticizing or joking about a child who prays for someone who is harming their parent, exposes perhaps an individual who has not yet taught their own child to pray for those who hurt you. (Matthew 5:44) Even if he is guilty of past sin, raising up his child to walk uprightly is a clear indicator of character now. (Would that be your child’s first response??)

*As a wise friend pointed out to me, women since the beginning of time have cast false accusation at righteous men (Potiphar’s wife, fellow bible lovers? Genesis 39)

*Interestingly enough, it is the very idea of white privilege that actually allows so many people the luxury of jumping onto a bandwagon which negates due process and asks the accused to prove innocence (which is nearly impossible). Our brothers and sisters in the black community, especially, are familiar with false accusations playing out in an unjust conviction. (Proverbs 3:3)

*There are MANY voices, from many women, whose stories and physical evidence are not being heard. Today. (1 Samuel 8:3, Deuteronomy 16:19) The inconsistencies (and hypocrisy) are glaring. It’s all fun and games when it works in your favor, but setting such a precedence isn’t where we want to head as a nation. (Proverbs 16:3

I believe the current statistic for females being violated in some way is one-in-four, and from personal experience, I would declare that statistic to be true. And, I also know from personal experience that every woman needs to be heard, believed, validated and offered a pathway to healing; regardless of whether the violator is ever brought to justice in this lifetime.

At the end of the day, as followers of Christ, and believers in the Word, it is imperative that we operate, to our greatest capacity, within the safety of the grace we have been offered. God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7. This means we are not moved by the winds and whims of culture, but adhere to the truths laid out in God’s word. We are called to a higher standard within our hearts and homes, in our relationships and in the words we speak into all our spaces. (Proverbs 16:32)

Wherever you land in your opinion; none of us was there. I myself cannot personally say one way or the other. But the greatest truth is that to annihilate our legal processes and fling hatred at one another without evidence and justice is not worthy of those who call themselves Christ followers. I might submit a cautionary note as well that we all do reap what we sow into our own lives – many a person has been corrected by their misspoken words, even in private. 

Be wise, my friends. Slow to anger, slow to speak, slow to judge, and thoughtful in speech. For those of us who are called to be ambassadors of the love of Christ, I believe it’s time for a plot twist. 

confrontation with no destination…

In today’s climate, it seems voices continue to increase in volume, decrease in credibility, and hinge on the emotions and fear of those speaking. For many, the rhetoric has become nearly too much to bear and subsequently, there is silence from the reasonable, and an unwillingness to engage in many issues of divine value.

The plan of the enemy is at work. For now.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Are we called to action? To engage in the process afforded to us in this country? Absolutely. And yet, how many Christ-followers avoid active participation, or neglect it in pursuit of a “truer” calling? How many who claim a life dedicated to Christianity vote according to their own personal points of view, world views or public opinion above biblical values?

Do not love the world, or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15

I think many are becoming confused as where faith, community activism, and politics actually intersect. We allow the “feels” of personal experience to dictate above rational thought and due process, perceive anything that appears to support our personal filter as truth, and engage in battle against those who apparently differ in ideology, or methodology, instead of investing our own hours and resources into viable solutions. 

The enemy is still winning.

The times in which Jesus was raised up were extremely similar to what we face today – corruption, deceit, slander, political/sociological/ideological unrest – near chaos. The people were radically divided and opposed and peace seemed too far a reach to hope for. The Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Sanhedrins … each with a different world view and ideology, in blatant conflict, most likely also silenced the voices of the “Switzerland’s” of the time. 

Do you suppose that I [Jesus] came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. – Luke 12:51

Division comes when worlds intersect – but should not exist amongst God’s people. While we may not always agree on the how, we can agree on the what. And above all, we must agree on the Who. Who is our judge? Our vindicator? The lover of our souls and director of our path? To sit and be silent in the face of adversity and strife, or to stir the pot of animosity, dishonors not only one another, but ourselves and our God. To be of sound mind and theology is a luxury and responsibility that we have each been given. Even Paul, highly educated in the ways of culture and political identities of the day, when sitting with the most distinguished of leaders, pointed out the deity of our God. 

And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14

While we continue to walk on this earth, we will inevitably face discord, and yet as followers of Christ, we are mandated to bring truth into this world, share the Good News of a Savior, and to love. To love with a godly love, not as the world loves. Love brings light, life, correction, admonition and freedom. Anything less is far beneath the inheritance prepared for His people. 

Seek truth, be slow to anger, be of a sound and clear mind. Love not the wiles and frivolousness of this world, but rest in the strength of His promises and practice obedience to His Word. There is no greater victory than to keep our mind and lives stayed on the cornerstone of our faith.