How, then, Shall We Respond?

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It’s been a challenging season for the United States.

Political unrest, upsurge in racial violence, and random attacks have caused fear and anger all across the land.   People distrusting one another,  speaking poorly of one another, and vicious verbage on Twitter and other social media.  Fear abounds.

Yesterday, waiting in a long line at the Post Office, I had a chance to listen to the numerous conversations around me.  People were irritable, frustrated, critical, and even unkind. I was sad to “hear’ the anger in their voices. Anxiousness and fear abounds.

My dear friend and writer Alisa Nicuad puts it this way in her blog

“3 Ways to Overcome Fear”:

Disaster. Shootings. Deadly diseases.

Every day in the news we hear of lurking threats that could have the potential to strike fear in our hearts. We fear for our country, ourselves and our children. The path our world is headed leaves us vulnerable to anxiety and fear. It’s not just my opinion. It’s a fact.

The National Center for Health Statistics released a report in 2011 stating that 1 in 10 Americans age 12 and older are taking some sort of antidepressant. This is an increase of 400% in a 10 year period (1988-2008). It is now the 3rd most prescribed medication in our country.

Why do I mention that?

Because it’s clear we are having a hard time dealing with the world we live in. Our minds have difficulty dealing with all the tragedy and instabilities. So what can we do?

How, then, should we respond?

There is something called “righteous anger” that fuels us to take a stand for things that matter, to stand for what it good and right.  However, rage and anger only causes dissention, reaction, offenses, and the inability to reason or work together. Fear is often at the core of anger.

What if we chose kindness?

What if we chose to understand? What if we chose proactive behaviour? What if we linked arms to find a way to work together?  What if this was the churches finest hour?  What if we chose grace rather than anger?  What if?……..

If Christ is our example we can see that He “drew” people to Him.  He showed such restraint and grace while believing that troubled people, finding Him, could and would experience peace and real change!  Can we also believe that as we show grace and kindness that other’s might see that same spirit in us during this time of turmoil?

How, then, shall we respond?

Ask yourself. I am asking myself too.

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

 

 

 

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.”

 

Unanswered Prayers.

 

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I had the good fortune this week to have the opportunity to talk with a friend and fellow coach about trusting God.  Her honesty was refreshing and both of us acknowledged how difficult it can be to trust God in the face of unanswered prayers. Now I am mature enough to know the God is not a “spiritual Santa Clause” so I’m not talking about prayers that involve frivolous requests.  ” I pray I get a parking place.”, I pray I win a trip”, or I pray I can get a new, fancy car”.  No, I am talking about prayers for a friend that has cancer; who passes away.  I’m thinking about those who pray to become parents; remaining childless. Or the prayers of protection those who have beloved children pray; only to lose their children long before their lives have been lived.  How do we navigate continuing to trust what God’s word clearly tells us:

Luke 11:9 says “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Mark 11:24  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

I believe these promises are true and have experienced God’s faithfulness over and over again!  But, I have also walked through the darkness of prayers that were prayed with absolute faith yet have remained unanswered.  How do we remain faith filled?  How to we keep ourselves from feeling as though God is distant and unfeeling?  How do we protect ourselves from becoming angry and disillusioned?   In the movie God’s Not Dead, the college professor makes a profound statement; ” The biggest atheists are those were had been believers and experienced unanswered prayers”.

Have you experienced unanswered prayer?  How have you kept yourself faith filled in the midst of the disappointment?

Three years ago, I had a precious family members life taken brutally at a young age.  I had prayed for him all his life.  I had seen God do mighty things in and with his life.  He was amazingly talented and deeply loving.  Upon the news of his death I spent almost 90 days angry at God, seeking understanding with the knowledge that God “could” have stepped in and protected him from losing his life.  I was devastated and confused by the scriptures that had once given me comfort.  Those verses now served to cause greater hurt.

God is good.  His shoulders were big enough for my questions; even my anger.  In His still small voice He just kept reminding me that He would help me through the pain. He would never leave me nor forsake me. He spoke the truth that His ways are higher than my ways.  And slowly, with the power of the Holy Spirit, I could feel myself beginning to whisper   “Even so, I will trust you.”

I couldn’t even begin to give you a formula for navigating this particular spiritual challenge, but there are a few action steps that will help keep your heart from becoming bitter.

1.  Stay in God’s Word, it speaks to your soul.

2.  Be brave to talk about your questions, don’t isolate.

3.  Make sure you continue to look at your many blessings, even in the midst of unanswered prayer.

4.  Be willing to learn something fresh from what you are having to walk through.

5.  Remember, loss and challenge falls on the just and the unjust.  It is part of our human condition and can help you gain keen empathy that will enable you to love and support others along the way.

Steven Arterburn in his article , When Prayers seem Unanswered says;

It certainly seems like a secure bet that sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers because he’s aware that his, ours, and the whole world’s best interests will not be served if he does. It’s safe to say that when God decides what’s best, he’s got a broader perspective for making that decision than anything we can bring to the table.

All of which brings us to the very good reason that when mature Christians do pray for something, they tend not to say, “God, please do [such and such],” but rather, “God, if it is your will, please do [such and such].” This is the all-important caveat. Always leave to him the final determination of whether or not what you’re asking for is, in fact, the thing most ultimately beneficial.

We all want to live a life trusting the Lord. However, life can broadside us.  Rather than pulling away, becoming angry, and perhaps even bitter, choose to remember God’s heart for you and I. Find yourself whispering “Even so, I will trust you.”