First Impression~ Wrong Assumption

This morning Greg and I managed to get to church early despite the snowy roads. We don’t get there early often but it’s always a treat to be able to visit with friends and grab a cup of tea before the service. While chatting with a leader in the coffee area I saw an elderly man trying to get around us to grab a little snack of fruit that had been put on platters for the taking. As this gentleman got closer I tapped on my husbands arm to alert him not to back up on this gentleman who was standing so close by.

From the corner of my eye I observed him; he looked a little out of place, a little awkward, and just a little disheveled perhaps. I wondered about him as I had not seen him there before. I wondered if he was alone, maybe homeless and I found myself putting him in a “category” based on my first impression.

Imagine my surprise when he walked right over to our conversation, stood there and said, “ I wanted to introduce myself; this is my first time attending Westside Church.” He then went on to share (in his European accent) that he was visiting from Silicon Valley; has two successful daughters who live in Bend.   We continued chatting and it became evident that he was a brilliant professional, well spoken, and kind. In fact, he was involved with a hefty robotics contract with Google in California.

As we all made our way into the service I was struck by my ability to make such hasty judgments about people! I was disappointed that I had made assumptions, incorrect assumptions about this dear man. Sad to confess but I don’t really know if we would have had such an engaging conversation if he hadn’t initiated it.

As I listened to the speaker share a powerful message from the stage of the power of loving people in “the way of Jesus” knowing that left to my own human nature I fall prey to internal judgments and assumptions that keep me from being “Jesus with skin on”.

I was reminded of a story I heard a long time ago:

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek  ( pictured below) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000-member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

 

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Lord, may my biases and assumptions cease as I am filled more and more with Jesus. Amen.

 

The Election~ yep, I’m going there….

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Imagine a huge earthquake hits the Northwest; buildings collapse, people are injured, food and electricity are sparse, and getting fresh water is an incredible challenge.  I can predict that everyone in every community would attempt to work together, side by side, to care for the needs of those within their reach. I can visualize people opening their homes, sharing what they have, and lending emotional support.   As humans we have a natural tendency to set aside our differences in a crisis.   In a crisis situation the most important focus is helping people regardless of race, gender, income, spiritual beliefs, and yes, even political persuasion.

However, in this heated political season folks with opposing beliefs, are engaging in critical commentary, vicious responses, and fierce accusations between themselves. There is hateful rhetoric flying freely and I am left to wonder, “What’s missing in this season?”

Recently I listened to a great message by Andy Stanley on this very issue and he brought to light what is missing:

The generation that’s coming along behind us are going to take their cue from us. And here’s the cue we’re giving them: ‘Oh my goodness, if we don’t get the right person elected in office, it’s the end of the world. If we don’t fix the economy, it’s the end of the world. If we don’t have religious freedom like my mamma and my grandmama had religious freedom, it’s the end of the world. …

“Nothing could be further from the truth. Government matters. Policies matter. But neither of those matter as much as men and women who understand this word:  Faith

Politics have always been dicey, there’s always been a tiring season of speeches, advertisements, and promises made.  I remember hearing the same things when I was just a little girl  watching the news with my parents. Politics have always created conflict.

My concern is the division we allow it to create in our assumptions that in this process God doesn’t still call us to love people, to speak kindly to others, and to give grace to one another.  I imagine He actually wants us to apply theses things in even greater measure.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”Luke 6: 32-34

This is a season for us to remember two things:

  1.  God is still in control.
  2.  People really matter.

Andy Stanley’s final quote was this:

“Republican, Democrat, left or right, we’re all precious in His sight.   This political season is an opportunity for us to showcase our political diversity in a way that honors The God who made us so diverse.  If we get this right, we’ll learn something. We’ll become a more generous and loving people. If we get it wrong, we’ll be an average church.”

How has this political climate affected you? are you anxious? fearful? angry? disengaged? Perhaps it’s time to take a step back, catch your breath, remember how fortunate we are to “get” to make a choice, and choose to trust in God’s promises again.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

 

 

 

Full Circle Relationships~

Full Circle Relationships~

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I hate conflict. I’ve always hated conflict. In fact, I believe I spent many of my “young adult” years avoiding conflict as much as possible, especially in my college years, and early in my role as a Pastor’s wife. Yet conflict is often inevitable. For me, the problem with being IN a conflict was that I felt I needed to fix the relationship as quickly as possible. My nature is to want to be friends and friendly with others to the best of my ability; conflict simply makes me anxious and sad.

Making peace, however, is not always resolving the conflict. Sweeping challenges under a rug is not helpful in sustaining long-term quality relationships. Nevertheless, I have been learning over the past 10 years that if I do what I can to bring resolve, even letting the relationship go for a season, it often comes around “full circle” where resolve and understanding are uniquely applied anew. I have been surprised by this many, many times. Watching this take place in my life both takes me by surprise and, frankly, makes me very happy.

I’ve gained a few insights as I’ve pondered all of this and I want to share just a few with you.

  1. In a conflict, especially in the heat of it, don’t say everything you are thinking. Emotions are interesting and can cause us to respond so defensively or angrily that what we say, in the moment, can cause greater harm than the conflict itself. The example of opening a feather pillow, letting the feathers fly out, and then trying to put them all back inside the pillow is a good picture of how the things we say can be impossible to retract. In a conflict it is better to cautious of what we say if we desire the relationship to have resolve one day.
  2. Be willing to let things go. In many of the full circle relationships I have experienced I have not been “justified” nor have the other parties necessarily apologized. When I look over all the goodness that has surrounded my life, all the blessings…it just doesn’t seem right for me to hang on to disagreements, necessary endings, or misunderstandings. I want to move on, beyond the conflict and be ready to forgive. Life is too short to harbor anger and resentment. Anger changes me; it doesn’t make me the best version of myself!
  3. Learn from the conflict. What was my part? What could I have done better? What should I have avoided? How can I grow from this challenge? My dad used to use the statement about finding a “pony in the poop”! J There is always something to gain from our challenges if we are willing to really dig for it! And, there are always two sides to a relational challenge.
  4. Use the conflict to grow in grace.   Conflicts are real, and sometimes, relational challenges can cause really deep hurts; real scars. And yet as I look at the grace I have been given over and over and over again; unmerited favor, I am challenged to practice grace with those around me. Some situations require more time on my knees but at the end of the day bitterness never wins.
  5. It’s okay to have boundaries in a challenging relationship. There are times when a relationship comes full circle and there is peace where there has been conflict. But~ the relationship may require more caution, even good boundaries in the days forward. Boundaries can be wise if they are applied with kindness and understanding. I have relationships that I know can be toxic; in those instances I will limit the amount of time I spend in connection with them.
  6. Last of all~ never slam the door shut on a relationship.   Honestly, life can be surprising. People Change. Time changes people. Challenges bring fresh understanding. We NEVER know what can and will happen in a relationship; keep the possibilities in front of you.

Reconciliation is at the very heart of God; starting with our reconciliation with Him. His heart is that His people would walk together in peace and understanding. However, this can prove to be a real challenge as we do life with others. In families, in the workplace, in the church, even in the community; conflict can happen. Hopefully you will see relational challenges in your life come full circle in the days ahead as you practice caution with your words, grace and forgiveness, and are willing to own your part! Dr. Phil always says “This situation needs a hero; will it be you?”

They thought they knew~

 

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I could see their reactions as I quickly walked through the grocery aisles grabbing a few needed items off the shelves, hoping not to be noticed.  As I finally made it to the cashier I could tell that the folks behind me in line were looking at me, they were concerned…….they assumed that someone had hit me in the face.   I quickly began to tell the cashier, in a loud enough voice for others to hear, that I’d had a recent surgery on my eyes and that is why I had so much bruising.   I could hear a few of the folks around me let out a relieved sigh.

I really appreciated the concern that I felt from the folks at the store, they had just enough evidence to come to a logical conclusion. Those around me assumed they knew my story, they assumed why my face was bruised.  However, they could not have been further from the truth!

This “aha” moment made me wonder how often I assume I know someone’s story and come to a conclusion about them?  How often have I been so wrong about the facts? The very word ASSUME means to “take for granted without proof”.

It’s so easy to think that I know what’s going on in someone else’s head.  It’s easy for me to imagine that I understand why a person has taken a particular course of action. But I don’t always really know and have certainly come to conclusions that have proven to have been incorrect.
Assumptions can hinder both relationships and life choices.  Have you found this to be true in your own life?  The only way to address the assumptions we make would be to:
1. make the effort to ask clarifying questions.
2. to gather real facts.
3. to be intentional to acknowledge the assumptions we make about people and situations. “Am I getting the whole story?” “Am I responding to a bias rather than the facts?” We have all experienced how it feels to have others make assumptions about us in our lives; it never feels very good.  I want to be careful to address this in my life in the days ahead, how about you?
…and my eyes?  They are doing great!  Bruising gone,  another lesson learned! 🙂