Are You a Bridge Builder or a Jersey Barrier Within The Body?

Handling offense can be challenging. However, even more challenging how to handle to being labeled as offended publicly, being placed in a defensive position within a body of believers. But exactly what do you do when you have been unjustly labeled as offended, with the self identified offender never seeking proper reconciliation? Sometimes there isn’t much we can do to make things right except to make sure we seek the Lord and be obedient to His promptings. Being offended is something most people actually can recognize within themselves. Advice to the offended is simple, go to that person and speak with them. If needed, go a second time, with a witness (Matt 18:15-16). Most importantly before you do anything…Always take the issued before the Lord FIRST. Although, perhaps we are the offender, offending someone, knowing that we ought to passionately pursue peace with that person, seek them out, and build that bridge. Honestly we have ALL been on both sides of the fence.

Offense can be quite the slippery slope and without Godly guidance no matter if you are the offender or the offended, all will fail at bringing the Lord His due glory, if our heart and motives are not right before Him.

Do you have a pointy finger? Name calling rarely builds bridges, it tears them down. As a body we ought to be seeking any and every opportunity to build a bridge to our brother or sister that may not be within our “inner-circle”. Building bridges can only strengthen the body; resulting in glorifying God! To call someone offended publicly is not Godly, ever. Let their fruits speak for themselves, no need for interpretation from you or anyone else. This just encourages division within a group. This behavior whether intentional or not looks much like placing a jersey barrier, the concrete dividers on a freeway that are used to split traffic, right between this person and the jersey-barrierbody; especially if this comes from an “inner-circle” or pastoral position from within the church. I cannot tell you how many of God’s people I have seen become professional Jersey barrier installers all in the name of looking superior by being the first to point a finger. People naturally feel as if they have to be on one team or the other. This only has the potential of becoming a public spectacle that will damage’s a church body’s ability to witness to those opposed to church in the first place.

Are they really offended, or did they just disagree with you? Too many times a rift will grow over simple personality differences. The only way a person can recognize if what is going on is a personality clash or a communication issue is to build that bridge, extend a bit of you to them. I understand that this can be hard work, but the investment made will be returned in ways you will not expect! Some people love to discuss opposing views, while others cannot handle disagreement (interpreted as rejection); figure out the basis of the conflict then move on (Rom 14:1-23). Not everyone in the body is meant to be your new found BFF( best friend forever) and that’s okay! Just as long as there is an understanding and respect is built within this new bridge.

Are you qualified to see offense in them?  Do not label those offended that you do not have a personal or close professional relationship with. After all as discussed just previously it could be a case of lacking in understanding or insight into that persons personality. Let’s define these relationships. Personal relationship means you meet together on an unofficial basis; there is direct communication (not exclusive to text or IM’s. You know their history and family make up beyond knowledge of a testimony. You “break bread” with them regularly. Professionally, you would be in direct working relations; supervisor, employee, or co-worker on an equal level with the same job. If you are outside of these close relationships you are not qualified to call someone out as being anything. Instead, get to know them…start on that bridge!

If you recognize someone as offended, then as the offender what should you do? Use a Biblical model in love. Do not use text messaging, FB, or email as a means of communication. Heart is how-to-build-a-bridgerarely felt or properly communicated in this manner. It will greatly hamper any feeling of genuine reconciliation. Having ANY conversations about the matter with anyone other than with those directly involved WILL cause damage. If a “consensus” is needed, do so in a proper face-to-face with all parties present. Do not be one sided. Do not tell them how they feel (offended, bitter, angry, or hurt). They are perfectly capable and more qualified to interpret their own feelings. Doing so will only place a jersey barrier between you and them and bridge building will cease. While they just may be offended (or not), acknowledge your part or role. We are not to make a brother or sister stumble (Rom 14:21). Offense in the Greek means just that, “to stumble”. Be humble, be gracious, and most of all be hopeful for real reconciliation. This is a new opportunity to get to know a brother or sister better and for all parties to grow in the Lord. Blessing will be multiplied more than you know if we have the courage, patience, and strength to handle these matters God’s way, not our way.

Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14

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Happy Valentine’s Day to who?

There were those days, too many of them in fact.  The days were every married couple around me seemed so very connected.  I noticed the inside jokes or references.  I noticed glimpses of affection and courtesy.  I would envy the opportunities for connection:  Sitting together at church, worshiping and studying together, shopping together, dining together, ect.  These were not just tasks done at the same time, but and honest time of connectivity.  Either an opportunity for new ties, or old ties strengthened.  They are living life together.  I couldn’t help but begin to feel hopeless.  I saw everything that my marriage lacked, blinded to what my marriage had.

I have been studying and observing how offense has such an impact on our relationship with the Lord, and with others.  One of the most common, overlooked trap is comparison.  When we are busy comparing to others we are no longer focused.  In almost ALL cases of offense, wheither we are offended or happen to be the offender, we are not focused 100% on the Lord.  Yes, 100%.  Do you actually think He would actually require less?  If we keep our focus on Him, are no longer concerned with the affairs of others, what they may say, or what they have or have not done.  We look for Him in all aspects of our lives.

I should be focused on how He works in my own marriage.  I will never see the blessings if I am busy counting what is lacking by comparison to others.  I have a husband that would give us everything he has.  He is loyal, and he loves me unconditionally.  We have challenges that most other marriages do not have to contend with.  He is home only a few days a month.  Our only source of connectivity is the phone, almost 90% of the time.  Fatigue, bad service, and general communication failure happens daily.  Even more reason to remain focused on the Lord, who saw fit to bring us together.

That being said, wives — If you have your husband home every night, love him.  If you have the joy of serving the Lord with him, praise God.  If you have your husband there to pray when you pray, you are very blessed.  Always have his back, and speak highly of him.  So forgive me if I do not always seem so eager hear stories of all the wonderful things that your spouse is able to do.  But do know that I praise God that He is working in marriages around me.  He is working to take that sting away, a little at a time.  I can not afford to be pricked by a thorn of jealousy, for it is a huge stumbling block in my relationships with my friends that are happily married.  We are called to share in praises and blessings with in the body of Christ.  Jealousy, or the act of comparison gets in the way of being able to wholeheartedly take part.

There was a man all alone;
    he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
    yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
    “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
    a miserable business!

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecc 4:8-12

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Who are you giving YOUR kids to? Literally?

A recent visit to So. California, included a trip to pick up my nephew from his elementary school.  This is what I found, locked gates, locked classrooms equipped with peep holes.  I found this to be quite disturbing.  I asked my sister about these gates.  She begin to tell me about Sandy Hook, and how it impacted them and as a result them found the following security measures necessary.  Parents are no longer allowed to walk their children to class.  Parents are NOT allowed on campus, if a need arises they must sign in at the office and be escorted to and from the classroom and ultimately off grounds.

ImageI immediately looking at the gates, and fencing around the grounds realized this was no security to keep these kids safe against an insane person with a gun…it was only keeping parents out.  The fences, simply chain link.  The gates, more then enough room to go over the top, even a trash can easily placed for assistance to make the leap for a fast escape for an insane person.  This school simply succeeded in locking parents out, not mad men with guns.  Obviously the parents have accepted this lie.

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Secondly and I feel more importantly, I had to ask:  What kind of message does this send our children?  That the school is ABOVE parental influence?  That the school is ABOVE parental authority?  Parental influence and authority is demeaned by these actions, purposely by common core.  After all it is the current consensus that our children are not our own but belong to the state?  Don’t agree?  Well then why are our school being allowed to take such actions?  I am appalled at the very idea would be allowed.  However it is the norm in metropolitan areas.  If this is not your experience, it is coming soon to your area!

PARENTS!! You do have a voice, I beg USE IT!  You do have options and choices, USE THEM!  You have full authority to say NO!  If parents do not stand up for their constitutional rights NOW, we fail to teach by example to our children, our most precious asset, that LIBERTY is worth fighting for.

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Sometimes not seeing is the only way to believe.

Approximately two months ago I had gotten a very strong notion that change was pushing in.  While it was vague, it was a very strong impression.  I prayed, and I prayed.  I could not get clarity.  Did I need to changed something?  Did I need to look for something or someone?  I had no idea what to do with this.  All I could do was pay attention, pay attention to details and people.

I began to notice stuff.  Some of it was small things, like not being included for menial things with a group I felt I was deeply a part of.  Things became increasingly more difficult, like basic time management between all of my commitments.  Relationships became strained over things said, and those things left unsaid.  The discord became unmanageable.

I was at a total loss.  Here I have this urgency, but no where to go with it.  I just simply could not see.  I was totally in the dark as to what the Lord wanted.  Why couldn’t He just tell me!  Oh, how I was getting miffed.in the dark

I prayed.  I knew I needed to address these difficulties one at a time in order to get clarity.  There was just too much noise in my life, too much “crap”.  I began to handle one difficulty at a time.  Realized it was time to move on from this deeply cherished group.  They did nothing wrong, but my season with them was over and I need to trust that He had prepared a place/a need with in another group, somewhere.  I needed to address the time management issue.  That meant giving up a small job I really cared about.  I gave notice trusting that He had a plan for them and me.

While I still have not fully connected with a group, I did get confirmation that turning over my little job to another was divine.  This new person is so much better suited for the position given his personality make.  I left praising the Lord after briefing him and with no sorrow.

I still feel the wind of change blowing thru my life, my families life.  I still can not see the whole picture and how all the disconnected pieces fit.  But the anxiety has left.  When you can’t see what is a head, just put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.  You will be able to look back and truly believe you have listened and responded to the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes not seeing is truly the only way to believe.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.  2Cor 5:7

What kind of LOVE is this?

love_confused

My husband often tells me that I just have “no clue” how much he loves me.  I honestly did not understand why he felt the need to communicate this to me….and more importantly just what was I supposed to do with this message?  I just simply could not process this statement.

The other night I found myself watching the movie Fireproof.  Even though I have seen it many times I found myself glued to each word.  I often get teased by my family on how I can watch a movie a dozen times like it’s the first.  However this time I tuned into a new perspective, which lead to new questions.  I questioned why couldn’t Catherine not see Caleb’s love and devotion?  What was stopping her from receiving his love?  Then like a slap on the back of my head…..DING!  She just simply could not process his message.  Once she did….well you know if you’ve seen the movie, and if not well I am not going to give it away.  🙂

Tonight I was drawn to re-read one of my most favorite yet tragic love stories in the Bible, Hosea and Gomer. It was referenced in detail in a movie the kids were watching.  If you are unfamilar with the story you can find it in the Old Testament.  Here is a simple summary:  The first part of Hosea records the tragic story of the prophet’s unhappy marital experiences. Hosea’s wife, Gomer, whom he married in good faith, proved to be an adulterous woman. Three children were born to her, but they were not Hosea’s. Because of Gomer’s unfaithfulness, the prophet divorced his wife and lived apart from her. Following her separation from the home, Gomer continued her adulterous life and eventually was scarcely different from an ordinary slave. But Hosea still loved her in spite of her unfaithfulness. To rescue her from her lovers, he sought her out and purchased her freedom. [1]

I do not think Gomer could process Hosea’s love for her.  I am not sure that she ever did, even after her rescue, unlike the character Catherine in the movie Fireproof, she finally got it.  Her acceptance of Caleb’s love prevented their divorce.  Despite Gomer’s refusal of Hosea’s love his love remained the same.  True love is not dependent on being received in order to remain.  Let me say that again, True love is not dependent on being received in order to remain.

This is true of God’s love for us.  His love never changes, no matter our actions.  We can always return to him, He is always there.  He is just waiting for us to process His message.  Even if we love never failsreject Him, He still loves us the same.  Until we can fully realize God’s love, we remain handicapped in loving others AND in receiving true love.  Even with God’s love it takes more then Love to keep the relationship from becoming broken.  Just as in any relationship it takes more then just love to make it work.  It takes work-hard work, initiative, discipline,  and commitment.

So back to my husband….He probably is right, for I have not known true love (the kind that remains) from a man.  But I was fortunate that the Lord brought me a man that truly does understand Love as God designed it.  Therefore I am not sure how to process his love…but the message is being received and will be fully realized in time.  I am a very blessed wife.

[1]  http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guide/literature/old-testament-of-bible/summary-analysis/hosea.html

Who has your back? If you don’t know, maybe it’s time to adjust your focus…

My son has quite the challenges.  In his worst he was not verbal.  But just because he was not verbal it did not mean that he was not expressive.  In fact he was very expressive and always had a way to make his point.  But you had to pay attention.  You had to take the time to get to know him.  One of our challenges was of course daycare and school.  He was often misunderstood, as most highly functioning autistic children are.  At times he would give up.  It was a considerable amount of work for him to try to communicate the most simplest of needs.  I remember when he was in the midst of one of his most frustrating points in dealing with a particular teacher, I told him don’t stop.  Don’t give up.  I told him that no matter what I had his back.  That I understood exactly what was going on.  I encouraged him to move forward, have no fear.  I have told him many times…”Don’t worry son, I have your back.”  It was really neat to see how this gave him confidence.

Lately I have been dealing with more then my share of struggles.  I know how important it is to have a network and have prided myself on my ability to be connected.  Networked, if you will.  But I have not been so lately.  I have been very much on my own.  Feeling very alone.  I could hear God telling me “I got your back, keep going…”  But I let myself become polarized, held in the grip of stress, separation, and finally depression began to knock on my heart and in my head.

I did not see anything that told me that He had my back.  But I wasn’t looking in the right places.  Sometimes God will use circumstances not to bring friends together, Not for a church body to come together and do their good work for the month.  But to bring those out on the fringes in to work together.

I have found literally the best of love, the best of genuine care come literally out of the wood work.  God has used these circumstances to connect me to others.  He is building a new bridge, a new path right before me.  But I could not see it.  I was too set on looking on what I already knew, not for the new.  After all I had my map…I just wasn’t willing to zoom out and see the bigger picture.  I wasn’t willing to refocus to the new direction that lay before me.

I just have to remember that my plans are not necessarily those of the Lord.  Rather then zoom in on the problems before me…I need to zoom out and be open to a direction or option not considered before. The option of not doing so was to remain lost, or refocus and regain that purpose, my direction, that I had lost.

Today I am thankful for the people God had brought in out of the fringes and into focus.  God has my back and I am back on His path, with His purpose.  I am very thankful for how He looks out for me and my family.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

Silence can be golden, If you let it…..

It’s been quite sometime since I have been able to be quiet and “connect”, if you will.  “Life” had me in it’s grips.  A new marriage, a blended family, health issues for one child, financial pressures, a new job…the list could be endless, and the pressure was insurmountable.  I had kept most of this to myself.  After all, I was not looking for a pity party.  So I remained silent.  But I was going without encouragement.  I was going without being refreshed.  I was fighting a battle fit for an army, but waging on as a lone ranger.

I found my attitude absolutely in the toilet, and it had a death grip on my hope.  I could not find any good in anything in anyway.  That can be quite a dark place to be.  I prayed for light.  Suddenly it occurred to me I had been in this place one time before.  True to me being be me, I had written about it.  I reread my post, How I Almost Allowed My Hope to be Murdered.  Only this time I didn’t break up with anyone, just the opposite.  No one “person” had done anything.  This was spiritual.  I was in the midst of total spiritual warfare.  The enemy was taking advantage of my stress, my being splintered from fellowship — my silence.  I was really taking a beating.
So, deep breath…I know what to do.  Pray, read, meditate, pray, and then write if lead to do so.  It was during my reading that a second realization occurred to me.  First let me explain I tend to read back to front.  Drives some people crazy!  But in this case it was very important as to what the Lord wanted to convey to me.  So I get to Romans 5:5

This HOPE will not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (caps mine) HCSB

I did not have this hope.  So as I read, in my normal fashion — backwards — I found myself, if you can picture blindly holding a rope in the dark feeling my way back to the beginning (Ro 5:3-5). Hope comes from proven character, proven character comes from endurance, endurance results from affliction.  But the seed is rejoicing in the midst of these afflictions.

…but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.  This hope will not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts though the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

I need to rejoice in order to get my hope back.  I so did not feel like rejoicing.  I was living with a scowl on my face and in my heart.  But I knew this is what I had to do.  So while this silence was a product of being in a very dark place it became golden and it a blessing, I will be silent no more!!  I have made a promise to rejoice and find a blessing each day to rejoice about.  I will post each blessing each morning until Christmas morning.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God:  Those who are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

This is my first blessing that the Lord lead me to see that this darkness could leave, and will leave.  That no person, circumstance, or spirit can take my hope, my purpose found in the Lord whom I love.  I am truly living the promise of Romans 8:28.