Category: Relationships (page 1 of 13)

5 Practices to Combat Yard-sticking, Part 1

99% of the time I love being a cheerleader! It’s easy for me to get excited about the contributions others are making to the kingdom.

I marvel at those who have gifts that I don’t.

Like anything having to do with math. Or spreadsheets. Or budgets. A poker face. Technology. Patience. The ability to not speak every word that comes to mind.

But then there are other moments.

Especially with folks who have similar gifts and talents to mine, I find myself doing what psychologists call “yard-sticking” – the act of comparing yourself to others, particularly people in your own peer group, in a manner that results in feelings of inadequacy or jealousy.

And let me just say, I know you. I’m not alone. There are certain people who, when you hear someone rave about them, or see them on social media being all shiny and successful with “perfect kids” or a “perfect job”, it triggers something sad and hurtful inside you.  You feel diminished. Discounted. And that is not from Jesus.

Clearly, this is not something I’ve mastered, but there are 5 practices that have been helpful to me. I’ll share the first 3 today:

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Lessons From Non-conformist Women, Part 2

In these days of social media, it’s tempting to see ourselves like the prophet Elijah, self-righteously calling down “fire” in public forums on anyone who we judge to be an enemy of God and His kingdom (or anyone who disagrees with us). Absolutely, God calls us to speak out against evil, but He shows us other ways to be effective in bringing about change also. Wednesday we looked at Abigail. Today there are two more women to pay attention to.

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Lessons From Non-Conformist Women in the Bible, Part 1

“’Do not conform’ is difficult advice in a generation when crowd pressures have unconsciously conditioned our minds and feet to move to the rhythmic drumbeat of the status quo.” Martin Luther King Jr.

HOLY BUCKETS it’s a minefield out there isn’t it? More and more we are forced to face what it means to interact with both grace and truth in a vitriolic society, what it means to not be conformed to our culture, but live out the way of Jesus.

It seems like people are just looking for a reason to be offended. We pray for discernment and we ask questions like:

  • If I speak out on this issue will it mean that a whole segment of the population won’t listen to me about anything anymore?
  • Is this the most important issue to take a stand on?
  • Is social media the best place to have this discussion?
  • What exactly is it that I hope to accomplish if I take a public stand on this issue?

“Both secularism and devout faith are growing. What’s going away is the mushy middle of religiosity.” Tim Keller

Recently I was reading two accounts in the Bible where three women modeled different approaches to conflict and evil that we might learn from. I thought I’d unpack one today and two tomorrow giving possible contemporary parallels for us.

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2 Words That Will Improve a Strained Relationship

A friend of mine returns after a holiday visit with her in-laws. The relationship with her mother-in-law has been rough as a pot-hole-filled Minneapolis winter road from the start. Different interests, different expectations for the relationship, different cultures, different education…all of these are factors that leave these two both feeling like they are walking through a minefield whenever they are together.

They each go into time together armored up…wary. Over time, they have come to anticipate detonation rather than delight. The other becomes freeze-framed  as a caricature of their worst self…

“She is so ____________”

“Why is she so sensitive about _________________”

“I always have to __________________.”

Whether an in-law, or colleague or friendship that has soured, most of us have a relationship like this in our lives. I do. And as I have been reflecting on my friend with the in-law, and me with a difficult friendship, this is where the Lord has led me.

Humility promotes healing. 

To improve a strained relationship we need to remove our armor, examine our own failings, and offer two authentic words.

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Now The Work of Christmas Begins

Those of you who subscribe to this blog know that it is my heart to create environments and resources that help us draw closer to Jesus and others. Often that sounds really good, but living it out? Ahh that’s the tough part!

Someone recently said that January is like the “Monday” of months. It may include the excitement of fresh starts, but also the “Ugh, it’s back to work…” Boy I hear that!

This morning I opened an email from a friend that included this poem.

 

If you’re like me, you read this and say, “YES! AMEN to that!” It sounds so right, so noble, so inspiring.

But then we ask, “But how? Little ol’ me? How am I going to do that?”

Yes, God may call us to BIG, DRAMATIC actions in order to achieve the work of Christmas and I want to be ready and willing for that.

But for most of us,

  • finding the lost may look like greeting a stranger at church
  • feeding the hungry may look like preparing care kits for the homeless with fast food gift cards
  • releasing the prisoner may look like extending grace to someone who has wronged you
  • rebuilding the nations may look like supporting refugees (check out renewproject.org or preemptivelove.org)

 

 

  • bringing peace among the people may look like reaching out and getting to know someone from a different faith, culture, or political party – asking questions and listening well. Or advocating with your congressperson.

Big or small, may we be open to doing the work of Christmas every day.

 

A Post For Young Leaders

The other night John and I got an email. You know…one of those emails. The ones that make your heart race and your stomach do flip-flops. An email criticizing something you’ve done or said.

In this case it was me being criticized, but they wanted John, as senior pastor to know.

As a first-born rule-follower, people-pleaser with WOO as one of my strengths, this is just the worst. And being in ministry for 35 years, it’s been my biggest area of growth.

When I was younger, my immediate response would be ALL THE FEELS – embarrassment, shame, righteous indignation, anger, and (as a J on the Meyers Briggs)….. IMMEDIATE ACTION!!

Is is darn hard living with people’s displeasure, whether we’ve made a mistake, or there has been a misunderstanding, or we just disagree. There is no way to make all the people happy all the time.

This is the hardest lesson I’ve learned as a leader: It’s not my job to please everyone, but it is my job to pray and pay attention in order to learn from everyone.

This is the challenge for each of us: To allow criticism to teach us more about God, ourself, and others. 

I’ve grown a tiny bit over the years (and I’ve gotten much more used to criticism), so after my brief emotional freak out over this recent email, I settled down, prayed, and went to sleep.

The next morning I prayed again.

  • I listed all the issues I thought the critique-r raised.
  • I listed all the questions I needed to talk to God about, including “What is true? What is from You? How do I please not the critic, but YOU?”
  • Then I went through Scripture typing out any pertinent passage that might inform my thinking about the issues raised.

  • I prayed some more.
  • I wrote a response to the offended person and asked if we could talk face-to-face, but I didn’t send it immediately. I let it sit and came back to it 5 hours later.

 One of our rules is “Never argue in email.” I stand by this because body language, tone, and nuance are so important, and so easy to misinterpret in email, but I also see the value in putting something in writing that others can take the time to read over and process.

  • Before I sent it, I asked myself:
    • “Does this fail of grace?”
    • “Is there pride, resentment, self-righteousness…that I need to confess and deal with before sending this?”

In this case, I was fortunate because the critic who had been offended is someone healthy and well-meaning.

But that’s not always the case. One of the hardest parts of dealing with criticism is letting go.

We do our part. We pray and search for the kernel of truth. We apologize when appropriate, but we can’t control the response of the other. 

As Jesus-followers we’re supposed to be all about redemption, forgiveness, and do-overs. We’ve discovered that many give lip-service to those values, but not all are willing to do the hard work of living them out in real-life relationships.

It takes two to come to understanding and reconciliation. It takes two to truly listen to each other with compassionate curiosity. So it’s deeply disappointing when you feel like you’re doing your part, but not getting the response you envisioned.

This is when we need to do the further hard work of opening our hands and praying: “Lord, if I’ve missed anything that is mine to own, please show me. If I’ve done what’s mine, help me to forgive and let go.”

What about you? What has your experience been with criticism, conflict, and crucial conversations?

Three Questions to Prep You for a Dysfunctional Family Gathering

John likes to say he grew up in the Simpson family and I grew up in the Cleaver family.  For those of you born before this century that’s the Leave-it-to-Beaver-all-american-solve-the-oh-so-dramatic-problem-of-someone-telling-a-white-lie-in-30-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after-TV-family-of-the-1960’s.DSC00619

I share that only because we’re coming up on Thanksgiving and Christmas and every holiday that involves families gathering together.

Some of us have dreams that look like this:

 

But reality can often look like this:

And as wonderful as my family is, and as much as I’d like to think they’re perfect, I’m resigned to face the truth that there is no such thing as a fully functional family.  We live in a broken world and we’re a broken people – dysfunctional in some way, every one of us.

It’s a little comforting to know we have some not-so-stellar company in Bible families.

  • Lot got drunk and slept with his daughter.
  • Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.
  • David refused to deal with his son, Absolom’s sin.
  • Abraham slept with his wife’s servant.

Not exactly “Minnesota nice.”

“How is this encouraging?” you say!

Well, in spite of their sin, God forgave, redeemed and used them.  There is hope for all of us.

For those looking forward to Norman Rockwell gatherings this week, praise God.  But for those who are going into the crazy zone that is your family, what are some things you can do to prepare?

Think of the person or people you will see who brings out the worst in you. The person who tries your patience, or shames you, or prompts you to act like your two-year-old self.

Consider these insights from Henry Cloud:

“You can’t control outcomes. You can only control your behavior. Focus on that and you will get better outcomes.” 

  • What is it in you that needs to change?  What can you control?

“No one can manipulate you unless you need something from them….figure out what you need and you will discover the source of their power.”

  • What are you looking for from someone else that only God can perfectly give you?  Approval?  Forgiveness?  Love?
  • What can you authentically affirm in each of your family members?  A kind word can diffuse a lot of tension.

Most importantly, though, maybe prepare by praying.  Hands open.

Lord, I bow before You, marred, and messed up, just like the rest of my family.  Help me to see myself and Yourself more clearly.  Give me grace to cover the offenses of others.  Give me humility to ask forgiveness where I have offended.  Give me courage to speak the truth and pursue healthy boundaries.

So as you anticipate being with family sometime during the holidays, is it with excitement or  a knot in your stomach?  Are you going in prepared and prayed up?

How do we Change the Story of Racism in America?

I vividly remember the day Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. April 4th, 1968.  Not because I was horrified. Because it interrupted my t.v. program.

My younger brothers and I were watching T.V. in the small den at the back of our suburban house when our program was interrupted by the news. We were ticked! What in the world could be more important than Bozo’s Circus? As we goofed around, loudly moaned and complained about Walter Cronkite, my mother stepped in front of the T.V. With tears running down her face. She spoke to the three of us who were shaken to see our mom so impassioned, her voice raised in anger.

“STOP IT! RIGHT NOW! A great man who has been courageously fighting for everyone in America to be treated with dignity has been shot! This is a terrible day for our country and we need to pay attention!”

I haven’t posted any thoughts on the recent events in Charlottesville, or the angry, divisive rhetoric in our country because frankly, anything I write seems too little, and in my mind, too obvious…too easy. After all, who am I, as a white, privileged American, to think I have  anything helpful to say??

My thought process goes, “Writing something on social media is empty courage. What will it accomplish? It will only be read by those who agree with me. And I can’t possibly have any tiny understanding of the situation.”

Talk is cheap, right?

But then I am reminded by my friend Todd, of the MLK quote, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

Privilege means we have the freedom NOT to think about this if we don’t want to. But if we turn away,  we participate in the sin of indifference. Privilege when it comes to race, is unearned access and the freedom to ignore what is uncomfortable. I don’t want that to be me.

“The stories we own…we get to write the ending. We as a country need to own the story of white supremacy.” Brené Brown

In order to own this story, we need to start somewhere. Here are a few of my ideas. Please add your own in the comments!

  • Build relationships

This can be a challenge because most of us live in our homogenous bubbles. For John and I it has meant reaching out and building a relationship with a local Imam, Asad Zaman. Recently, when a mosque here in the twin cities was bombed, it was John who our friend reached out to be the voice of a peacemaker to Christians at a subsequent rally.

The question I keep asking myself is “Where can I be involved in a community with people different than me?”

  • Read up – here are a few resources that have been helpful to me.

The Sin of Indifference  – an article by Ruth Hayley Barton

Small Great Things – a novel by Jodi Picoult about an African American nurse and a white supremacist father whose child dies in her care. This book helped me better understand white privilege.

Just Mercy – I’m halfway through this book that is accurately described as “A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.”

  • Choose humility. Listen, and listen more to the oppressed. Listen longer than is comfortable.

 

  • Name it. Yes, there are situations that are a matter of perspective. There are times to agree to disagree, but when anyone, created in the image of God, is abused, is treated with anything less than the utmost respect, is the victim of injustice and hate, it must be named as evil. Unacceptable. Period.

“I want a white nationalist to feel uncomfortable in my church. I want him to feel like ”’Ooh, this is not a place where I can express white supremacy freely. Where I know it’s looked upon as sin and not looked upon as just a political difference.’” – LeCrae

  • Pray

Here’s a place to start.

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

I know my understanding is woefully limited. I confess I have often avoided the uncomfortable conversations that are necessary for healing. I acknowledge I have benefitted from white privilege in many ways I’m sure I’m ignorant of. I ask forgiveness from my brothers and sisters of other races. I want to do better.

These are just a few of my thoughts. What would you add?

 

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3 Questions to Ask Before You Post on Social Media

Recently, a friend of mine was waiting in her van to pick up her son at soccer practice, like you do when it’s summer, and you have kids and 99% of your time is spent shuttling kids to activities.

She idled there with the car running, two littles napping in the back seat, when suddenly she was startled by someone pounding on her window.  She had accidentally pulled partially into one of three handicapped spaces, waiting for her son to come to the car.  A mother with a handicapped child at home, didn’t approach her to question for better understanding, or respectfully point out her mistake, but instead, pounded and yelled repeatedly for her to move.

The offended mother then took a picture of my friend’s car with the license plate and posted it on Facebook, with publicly shaming remarks, a distortion of the situation, and no chance for explanation or apology. This escalated, with FB readers weighing in, suggesting all kinds of retribution against my friend who had made an innocent mistake.

So here’s what my friend did. After some investigation, she discovered the angry woman had a blog, so she read it all, trying to better understand her. She then wrote a letter of apology for her mistake, attaching some hydrangeas and a bag of peanut m&m’s (which she learned the woman liked from reading her blog), and dropped it in her mailbox.

The woman made it known she has no interest in talking with my friend, so that’s that, right?  I don’t think so. Who knows the pain this woman is carrying and how this small act of grace and peace-seeking may be a seed that will bear fruit in the future?

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

My friend’s experience is just one story – #ouch! Young, old, single, parent, retired… It doesn’t matter. Most of us navigate the mine field of social media on a daily basis. When we’re dinged we need to question for better understanding, and respond with grace. But what about our responsibility as posters?

What’s happened to civil discourse and respectful problem-solving?

 

Here are 3 additional questions we might ask before posting:  

  1. Is this helpful and constructive? Will this promote dialog and understanding, or am I lobbing a “hand-grenade”?

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col. 4:6

2. Why do I want to post this? Is it coming from a place of hurt? need for attention? anger?

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23, 24

3. Would I feel comfortable saying this directly to my parents, employer, friends of a different faith or political party?

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building othersup according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph. 4:29

Those are a few of my thoughts. What would you add?

You might also be interested in this post on “Crucial Conversations”.

 

 

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Neighboring Challenge, Day 7 – Eat

Most of us view our homes as a sanctuary. A safe place where we can hide from the world. It’s ours. No matter how chaotic the world seems, at home we have a sense of control. Letting others in threatens that sense of control.

We may think:

  • What if they judge me or my cooking or my decorating or housekeeping?
  • What if I don’t like them?
  • What if they stay too long?
  • What if they expect too much of our relationship?
  • I don’t want to do the work. This will just be uncomfortable!

God has a bit different take on the situation and that can feel scary. He actually thinks everything is HIS, and we’re just caretakers – charged with using our homes, our cars, our money to further His kingdom of loving care. Hospitality is a high value in the kingdom as we see in these passages.

Genesis 18: 1-8 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.  Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.  Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it.  He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

Hebrews 13:1-2 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

I LOVE the idea a friend of mine has initiated! She calls it “Front Porch Fridays” and invites friends to drop by for drinks and appetizers from 4:00 on!

Neighboring challenge:  Actually invite your neighbors over! I know this can be scary, but think of it as an adventure! You could do:

  • a cookout
  • a Saturday morning bagel bash
  • a potluck where each family brings a dish that tells something about their heritage
  • or “Sundaes on Sunday” like we did

I was nervous that no one would show up, but EVERYONE came! We made it short (7:00-8:00) and as simple as possible – sundaes or root beer floats. Try it and let me know what happens!

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