Sunday, March 20, 2016

Work Your Soil

I heard a phrase a few weeks ago from a pastor named Steve Furtick, and it's helped me realize something about myself.  I've realized that I almost always believe that success in ministry is always in a role beyond me.  "Real ministry," I'll say to myself, "Is the flashier stuff.  I'm just doing little stuff that doesn't amount to much."

But Steve's revelation cut through that fog of stubborn inadequacy in me.  "Work your soil," he said.  Be an expert in every part of the ground that God has given you to cultivate right now.  Keep working until it's rich and cleared out and ready for growth.  That's how to engage in true ministry.  Don't look at someone else's soil to quantify ministry.  The Lord has given each of us a plot to upkeep and then called us to care for it, however big or small it happens to be.

Working your soil--THAT is successful ministry.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Rules for Conflict

I had no idea until I got married that I like to run away from conflict, but now there's no escaping it.  I make both Jeff and me miserable when I run away from someone who's in the same room as me.  Especially at first, it was rocky and painful and unpredictable.  Getting through conflict has felt like a journey up a dark mountain.  At the Weekend to Remember, we learned these 7 practical steps to conflict that have acted as carabiners for us, helping us climb up the mountain.  They've helped establish rules for me to follow which provide a framework for what to do and say.  These are treasures.  Check them out.  

When in conflict, focus on:   
        1. one issue, not many
        2. the problem, not the person
        3. behavior, not the person’s character
        4. specifics, not generalizations
        5. facts, not judgments of motives
        6. “I” statements, not “you” statements
        7. understanding not who’s winning or losing 

I hope they can bless you as much as they've already blessed me!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Characteristics of Generous Forgiveness

In the Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaway, we learned that generous forgiveness: 

 1.  Is offered quickly.
 2.  Is applied freely.
 3.  Is expressed graciously, keeping no record of wrongs.
 4.  Leads to true security.

So good.  Here are a few more criteria to add about generous forgiveness:

 5.  Isn't withheld if the person hasn't apologized.
 6.  Leads to true healing. 
 7.  Puts you on the same level as someone, not raised above them. 
 8.  Is based on Jesus' forgiveness for ourselves, not the situation. 

What characteristics would you add?  I'd love to lengthen this list!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Communication Levels

Five Levels of Communication from the Weekend to Remember Getaway Conference:
1. Cliché - non-sharing (shared with anyone)
2. Fact - sharing what you know (shared with many)
3. Opinion - sharing what you think (shared with some)
4. Emotion - sharing what you feel (shared with few)

5. Transparency - sharing who you are (shared with 1-3)

  1. Cliché - Hello, how are you?  
  2. Fact - It's supposed to rain later today. 
  3. Opinion - I don't think he would do a great job as president.  
  4. Emotion - When I heard the news, I felt really afraid that we'd get hurt. 
  5. Transparency - ... ?

Honestly, I have no framework for the fifth level.  I don't think I've experienced it yet, but I'm excited to.  According to the presenter from the conference, that level takes a lifetime to attain with someone else.  

Imagine with me: what would that be like?  To share all of your you-ness from the bottom to the top with someone else and to receive the same back.  To open every closet door inside to show what's really in you and to have the courage to let someone else see all that's good and bad inside you.  

I'm ready to shift gears in my life to head towards that destination.  I want to be known and to know that deeply.  I want vulnerability and uncompromising honesty to be my constant companions around the incredible people whom God has given me.

Have you gotten to that level?  Can you tell us what it's like?  I'd love to hear about it. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Give Gifts, Not Snakebites

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:5-8

My dad preached the James passage above and taught us to see our tongues as though they were a poisonous snake kept in a cage of teeth.  I'm a mammal, but my tongue is a snake.  

A friend of mine used to work at a zoo handling dangerous animals.  He told me, "It's the mammals you have to watch out for.  They'll pretend like they like you but then turn on you when you're least expecting it.  The reptiles (pythons, alligators, crocodiles) are easy.  They hate you from the start and never pretend anything different."

I'll do much better in my life if I know that my tongue is a reptile, not a mammal that I'm trying to make friends with.

Knowing my words have the power for so much evil, I need to monitor them closely using the filter of Ephesians 4:29.  Here's the Message version:  “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.”  

Each word a gift.  

Lord, please help us to be strict with our tongues.  Help us to give out gifts all day with our words instead of releasing our venom.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I'm a Glass

I'm a glass figure that You've lit from the inside.  Now I glow Your blues, greens, and yellows.

Each day You make my layers cleaner, glassier, babier.  One day soon You'll make me so translucent that all that's seen is the colors.  No more of my smudges, just You.

I've grown accustomed to my smudges.  Shine them out of me Lord.  Your light is all I'm made for.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Sorry I'm Not Sorry

A few years ago I heard Colin Powell describe what it’s like to visit hospitals full of recovering soldiers who’ve lost an arm, a leg or sometimes both.  He said, “I never say to them: ‘I’m sorry that this happened to you.’  These men don’t want pity and misery—they want to talk about their battles.  So the first thing I ask is always ‘Were you a good soldier?’  That’s the perfect opportunity for them to talk about their battle.”


Today a sweet, sweet friend of mine told me that her heart is completely broken.  Knowing her circumstances, I believe it.  The Lord put her into the fire two months ago, and last weekend He unexpectedly put her into a whole different kind of fire.

Everything in me wanted to respond: “My sweet friend, I’m so sorry!  I see that this is extremely painful, I hate that you’re going through pain and I wish it were a different way.”

But I see four things are true here:  The Lord is in control.  He has my friend in His arms.  He uses suffering to forge immaculate character.  And she is already trusting Him in a radical way.

Certainly it’s comforting if she knows that when she hurts, I hurt.  But I don’t want to empathize to the point of leading her to lament what God is doing in her life, even (especially) the sharp turns that He takes.  So maybe instead of offering her my pity, it’s more helpful to offer her our Jesus, who is far FAR more compassionate than I can be or even understand.

Tough times are often paired with spiritual battles.  I don’t want to be a fellow soldier who comforts my friend on a physical and emotional level, yet works against her in the spiritual battle that’s still in the thick of fighting.  I want to hear how the battle is going and help point her to Jesus who is our physical, emotional and spiritual Savior.