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

 

 

 

Lifegiving Words~

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“The words that people say to us not only have shelf life but the ability to shape life.” Bob Goff

I was a tired young mommy as I grabbed a grocery cart that Monday morning.  My son was 2 months old and far from sleeping through the night.  I spent many of my days in my sweats and a T-shirt as I navigated my new role as a mother; nursing, diapers, laundry, nursing, diapers, dinner….you get the picture!  I loved my new role and my little guy but, clearly, I was tired.

On this particular day I had the opportunity to shower, put on “real clothes”, and head out to grocery shop all on my own.  I was feeling a little refreshed, happy, and actually excited to be out and about.  I think it was somewhere near the milk and cheese aisle when a woman came around the corner, smiled at me, patted my tummy, and asked me when my baby was due!   Right now you are thinking “Oh no!”  right?   Though she meant no ill will, my day was hugely impacted by her misplaced words. I was dashed!

Our words hold a great deal of power to bring encouragement or hurt, to breathe life or suck the air out of a room.  I wish I could say I’ve always been great in using my words for good.  In those moments where I’ve been sharp or unkind there has never been a positive outcome! Never!

Author Michael Hyatt says ” Our words carry enormous weight. More than we sometimes think. They often impact people for decades, providing the courage to press on or one more reason to give up.”

We are human, fallible, and do say careless words. However, we should always strive to choose our words well and wisely.  That little phrase that says “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a really good measurement for us all.  How do I want to be spoken to?

Am I saying that our words must always be cheery, happy, and encouraging? No. There are times when we will find ourselves in conflicts.  I would suggest that we speak what is true with good timing and tone; with a desire for understanding and clarity.  Words spoken in anger are like little daggers, they’ll eventually have to be pulled out and given time to heal ~ we’ve all felt them and said them ourselves.

Benjamin Franklin said something really insightful, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

Be the source of encouragement and “life” to somebody today!

(oh, and I just smiled at the lady in the milk aisle and said I that I already had my little guy weeks ago.  By the embarressed look on her face I probably should have just smiled and kept walking; I think her day was impacted too.)

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Can we have an honest chat?

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Have you ever had a “down” day?  Have you ever felt “blue”?  I have and I’m sure you have too.  There are times when the challenges of life feel like they are crushing in on us, there are times when situations catch us so off guard that it sends us into a sad tailspin for days or even for a short season.  The ebb and flow of life can bring both sadness and joy.  Even King David had some “blue” days where he cried out to God “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak” (Ps. 31:9-10).

However, what if you found it impossible to move past those “blue” feelings?  What if you’ve tried everything you know to be happy and positive but the heaviness you feel remains?   What if anxiety and depression have become and unwelcome guest on your life journey? Shouldn’t you be able to fix it with enough faith in God?  What’s wrong with you?

Peter Kramer in his article; It Can’t Be Depression, I’m a Christian tells us:

“Christians feel guilty about being depressed. They feel they should “know better.”  This leads to denial, which only makes matters worse. Well-meaning friends, and even pastors, who don’t understand what is going on, encourage them to “snap out of it,” and offer advice on “getting their Christian act back together.”

But clinical depression and anxiety isn’t something a person can “snap out of.”

What if your depression and anxiety required some form of wisely administered medication to assist you in regaining that needed chemical balance? This is where we get religion and physical health mixed up?  With every other physical challenge, thyroid issues, asthma, cancer, heart disease, etc, we find it completely acceptable to require medications to bring greater health and healing, yet historically  the church can get really uncomfortable when medications are required for greater mental health.

Carlos E. Whittaker, a pastor, in a recent article says;

Common myths in the church as it relates to mental illness are:
1. A person struggling with mental illness needs to have more faith.
My faith and my serotonin levels have nothing to do with each other.
2. A person struggling with mental illness should forgo medicine and pray harder.
You wouldn’t tell an asthmatic to pray harder during an asthma attack. You would tell them to suck on that inhaler.

If you are a person who struggles with regular anxiety and depression then you are probably nodding your head in agreement.

Years ago, as a very positive type of person,  I was shocked to find myself in the midst of postpartum depression! I loved my baby.  Why couldn’t I shake off these feelings? Didn’t I have enough faith?  I was ashamed to tell anyone about how I felt and I didn’t know how to make it stop!  Finally, I got some much-needed help and over time I re-gained my emotional balance.

God understands our dark feelings, our doubt, our discouragement, and yes, even our depression; and his desire is to help us. Sometimes, the help we need might include professional counseling and some form of medication. After all, God created the minds that created these medications, and it is not a sin to take them if you truly need them. Sometimes simply making better choices for food, rest, and relaxation rhythms can be all that’s required to move us to a healthier place. Sometimes we need greater intervention.

You may agree with me or disagree with me, and that’s okay. However, as a Pastor’s wife and a Coach for many years,  I have heard the shame in the voices of those who struggle with the depression and anxiety; this breaks my heart.   Add their need for medication  and the shame triples! I don’t believe they should feel any shame; I don’t believe they are faithless people.  I believe God cares deeply and wants His church to express His heart to hurting people in the midst of a very difficult struggle.  I know you do too.

If you struggle daily with depression or anxiety; please get the help you need. Find someone to talk to, get some medical support, and refuse to let shame or embarrassment keep you from living a life full of purpose, peace, and joy.

Romans 12:15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

The Cost of a Toxic Conversation~

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Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling like you’ve just been sucker-punched?  Have you ever walked into a discussion that took a shocking turn and you suddenly felt you were being verbally attacked?   Have you ever let yourself stew over an offense or misunderstanding only to find yourself the perpetrator of a harmful toxic conversation?  I imagine, in our lifetime, that we would have to say “yes” to these questions.

Conversations of this nature NEVER bear any fruit and truly,and the energy it takes to try to “take back” what has been expressed can simply be wasted time; angry words spoken are a lot like a feather pillow~ Once the feathers are out you can never, ever put them back again.  Marriages, families, companies, churches, and friendships have been ruined by toxic conversations.

We may never be able to fully control how someone else conducts themselves in a conversation. However, there are some key elements that can help each of us to notice when we are initiating or engaged in a toxic conversation:

1.   Your body will feel the tension. (jaws, hands, heartbeat, etc.)

2.  You feel you are 100% sure that you are 100% right! (in every challenge we have to own our contribution.)

3.  The conversation has become unfruitfully repetitious. You find yourself saying the same thing over and over and over with no sign of resolve.

4.  You find yourself using terminology that is offensive and hurtful; attacking angrily making personal jabs that you know will wound.

5.  You know in your head that the conversation is getting worse and worse but you give yourself permission to keep trying to “Win” this discussion. You ignore even your inner voice that tells you to end the conversation.

I don’t believe that most of us engage in Toxic conversations on a regular basis, but frankly, even one can cause incredible damage to all those who engage in it!  Our best decision is to choose to be aware of ourselves in a challenging situation or relationship and make a decision ahead of time not to initiate or engage in it!

I’m a firm believer in crucial conversations; we all have to have difficult discussions from time to time and “done well” there can be resolve, understanding, forgiveness, or even a decision to agree to disagree. But~~a toxic conversation only causes harm!

Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”