The Hard but Glorious in Conflict

ALICE KIM|CONTRIBUTOR Navigating conflict often feels like stuffing a bedsheet set back into its original packaging. If you manage to return the contents, you realize it’s not the same. The once smooth and compact surface and sharp corners are now bulging with lumps and oddly shaped edges. Though we sincerely believe the gospel makes a difference between two people who love Jesus and are actively walking toward understanding and forgiveness, it seems that reconciliation and restoration are unfortunately, the exception rather than the norm. Messy Relationships We feel the weight of how messy and complicated relationships in families, marriages, friendships, coworkers, and neighbors are as we live intertwined lives. Our differing personalities, backgrounds, desires, biases, and emotional triggers are potential sources of conflict. Furthermore, the less we know about the other person, the more inaccurate assumptions fill the gaps of understanding and in turn, taint the relationship. Even with the best intentions, we are still insensitive. I know this is true of myself. We treat objects or goals more important than people. We burden others with expectations and are convinced our way is better. Sadly, the effects of living in a fallen and broken world become inescapable...

The Hard but Glorious in Conflict2022-07-20T15:52:04+00:00

A Living Grief

HEATHER MOLENDYK|CONTRIBUTOR Hot water pounds my shoulders. I reach to turn the temperature hotter, desperate for the heat to stop the shivering in my bones. Although I am completely alone, my arms hug my naked chest in a protective gesture. They attempt to hold the broken pieces of my heart together. They utterly fail. The crumpling starts with my face before traveling down my vulnerable form. Dry sobs push up through my throat, contorting my mouth in a silent scream. There I stand completely alone, body raging against the guttural pain of grief, and unable to catch my breath before the next wave of tears push past my clenched eyes. To say that losing a loved one is hard is like saying an erupting volcano causes landscaping inconveniences. The exit of one you love always leaves a hole. Others may make substitutions. Others may offer what they can. But just like the uniqueness of individual snowflakes, each person in our lives contributes a special touch that only their fingerprints can make. We all know that life – no matter how vibrant and impactful – is always temporary. Each person is destined for eternity somewhere else. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. No one can live forever. That’s what each carved stone whispers to us from the cemetery. To dust we all return. No one is exempt...

A Living Grief2022-06-25T20:12:15+00:00

Stepping Out, Not Missing Out

MARLYS ROOS|GUEST Do you remember the story of the little red hen? She asked each of her friends on the farm, “Who will help me plant these wheat seeds?” But each replied, “Not I.” (They used correct grammar!) So, she did it herself. When the wheat had grown, she asked each to help her harvest it, but each replied, “Not I.” The same thing happened when she asked for help to carry the wheat to the miller to be ground and even when she asked them to help her bake the bread. Then, as soon as the bread was ready and the rich aroma wafted across the farmyard, she asked, “Who will help me eat this bread?” All her so-called friends eagerly replied, “I will!” She, nevertheless, informed them, “No, you won’t. I will eat it myself.” Although it was first published in 1918, I’m sure this folktale has been around longer. Parents and teachers (as well as Mister Rogers and Captain Kangaroo, if you’re old enough to remember them) used it as a parable to teach children the value of hard work and the consequences of laziness. I think it has an even broader application—for the times we just don’t want to bother or be bothered―and we miss out...

Stepping Out, Not Missing Out2022-06-21T14:53:11+00:00

The Problem with Meddling

SUE TELL|GUEST Do you practice the habit of having a word of the year? In 2021 the word God gave me (or two words) was pull back. Why? What does that look like? I started praying and was stopped in my tracks when I read Peter’s admonition, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” (I Peter 4:15, emphasis mine) Is meddling really in the same category as murder, theft, and evil? And are there areas where meddling is God’s reason for my pulling back? I began to pray. I began to seek the wisdom of my friends. I began to hear stories. And I began to hear God whispers. Three lessons rose to the surface: We who are entrusted with leadership are highly susceptible to meddling. Meddling can have serious consequences. When I don’t pull back and cease meddling, my time, capacity, and energy to give myself to God’s purposes designed for me are in jeopardy...

The Problem with Meddling2022-06-09T18:23:05+00:00

Five Steps Toward Discernment

TASHA CHAPMAN | GUEST “…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:8-10). “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-11). On most days we have hard decisions to make and tough responses to give. Some are especially burdensome and can easily result in conflict. Negotiating a project with a co-worker. Saying “no” to a friend. Meeting with a child’s teacher. Building bridges with a neighbor. These challenges immediately raise our need for discernment. Throughout the Bible’s stories, God’s people have urgent needs for discernment. Early in his reign, when God visited King Solomon in a dream, Solomon’s one request of God was for discernment to govern the people rightly (1 Kings 3:9-11).  The psalmists declare that they need God’s help to confess sin because God discerns our hearts better than we do ourselves (Ps. 19:12; 139:2). The prophet Isaiah exposes idolatry as a ridiculous lack of human discernment (Is. 44:18-20). We see the importance of discernment in the Apostle Paul’s command and prayer for the churches (noted above). How can we think more discerningly about our complicated decisions and challenging responses?

Five Steps Toward Discernment2022-05-04T00:35:37+00:00

When the Holidays are Hard

ALICE KIM|GUEST It’s been several years now, but there was a time when I stared at the bright red poinsettias that adorned the stage and the luminescent lights that outlined an oak stained cross and asked, “What difference does the gospel make?” I had neither anticipated nor was prepared for the unraveling of trust in my marriage. It felt like someone had, without warning, yanked the rug from under my feet. I fell hard. I was angry, hurt, confused, grieved, and struggled to hope. I was desperate to know that Jesus invaded the not only the cosmos with the hope of the gospel, but also my life and my home. When the Holidays are Hard We often equate this holiday season with time spent with family. But some of us feel pressured to shelve somber feelings related to our families like grief, disappointment, anxiety, and fear for joy, excitement, and gratitude. Just as a department store wastes no time the day after a holiday to move outdated merchandise to the clearance aisle in the back corner, the expectation is that we need to move on and exhibit only emotions that fit the occasion. But strained relationships marked by resentment, hurt, blame, contempt, silence, and unforgiveness are only magnified against the backdrop of picturesque captions of smiling family portraits in coordinated outfits, highlighting proud moments and notable achievements from the past year. If this is our experience, how can we reimagine the hope, joy, and awe of the Christmas story without dismissing the tension of living in the already-not-yet with ruptured and failed relationships? How can we invite the gospel to break through and transform our lives?...

When the Holidays are Hard2022-05-04T23:29:56+00:00

Seeing the Unseen Victims of Domestic Violence in Your Church

DARBY STRICKLAND|GUEST Did you know that 25% of married Christian women are being abused by their spouses? How might that change your response when a woman in your church comes up to you seeking marital advice? Victims of abuse need you to be alert to their reality. How might knowing the prevalence of domestic abuse prompt you to engage women in your church differently? I know it is hard to imagine that domestic abuse is so common, let alone that it frequently occurs in your church. And, regardless of how often it is occurring in your church, if there is even one woman in your local church body that is being abused, she needs you to be alert to recognize her situation. Unaware of a Pervasive Problem     There are two main reasons we often do not detect the presence of domestic abuse. The first is that marital oppression occurs behind closed doors—it is typically not something we observe happening. Oppressors use coercion and punishment in private to control their spouse, while they manage a carefully crafted image in public. The Bill Cosby and Ravi Zacharias scandals help us to better understand an abuser's ability to deceive those around him. They behaved very differently in public than in private. People who perpetrate abuse are master deceivers. That means there are most likely abusive people in your church that you could never imagine were abusive. Many abusers do not fit the loud, aggressive, out-of-control personality that you might picture in your mind. The second reason why we do not recognize abuse is because the victim does not realize she is being oppressed. I have had hundreds of conversations with victims who themselves struggle to call abusive behaviors sin, let alone abuse. Victims of abuse know that something is wrong, but they often do not know what it is. They worry that they exaggerate, are oversensitive, are ultimately responsible for their spouse's anger, or do not remember things correctly when recounting an intense conflict. Their abuser blames them for how he treats them, and they come to believe the cruel and twisted accusations. Consequently, they live in a fog of confusion created by their oppressor. Because of their inability to comprehend that what they are enduring rises to the level of abuse, when abused women approach other women in the church, they will ask for advice or feedback...

Seeing the Unseen Victims of Domestic Violence in Your Church2022-05-04T23:28:13+00:00

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Can Also Hurt Me

KATIE POLSKI|CONTRIBUTOR In first grade, there was a girl in my class who told me that my eyes looked like goldfish. For the love of fish.   I’m still not quite sure what that meant, but I do know that I spent too much time starring at myself in the mirror due to a concern over my fish-like eyeballs. In Highschool, a boy told me I was “pretty cool,” but he tagged that with: “It’s just that guys aren’t going to date a pastor’s daughter.”   And so, I kept that aspect of my identity a secret for as long as I could, coming up with alternative ways to explain my father’s profession.  In college, after playing piano for a chapel service, a student remarked that I swayed a lot when playing. “It looks funny.” I told him he looked funny. It was, admittedly, a terrible comeback and didn’t help my cause at all. But for years, I was conscious of my “movements” while playing at the piano. The Significance of Our Words Words don’t just disappear. At times I wish they did, but from the moment they leave our mouth, they often make their way into the small crevasses of a hearer’s memory and nestle in, sometimes remaining for a lifetime. If our words have this kind of impact, it’s essential that as believers we use them wisely. God certainly intended for us to speak; we’re created in His image, and He is a speaking God giving the world His inspired words for our benefit. But we’re sinners, trudging through a broken world. Every one of us has messed up with our words, and we will likely do damage with them again. God in His graciousness forgives fully and completely, but that doesn’t mean that what we say won’t have a lasting impact. It’s only wise, then, that as believers we give careful consideration to what the Bible has to say about the words we speak. Our Words Reveal the Condition of our Heart “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matt. 12:34-35). These two verses are incredibly convicting. Our spiritual condition is made manifest by our words. This doesn’t mean, believer, that your unthoughtful or unkind words are unforgiveable. What it does mean is that we have a responsibility before God to consider the reasons underlying our harsh or rash words...   

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Can Also Hurt Me2022-05-04T23:24:56+00:00

Encouraging Your Own Village

SHARON BETTERS|GUEST Our world cries out for purpose and hope. The need for an encourager to arise amid a desperate situation is not new. In Judges 4, we meet Deborah, a woman whom God used to perform that task for the nation of Israel. Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. (Judges 4:4-5 NIV) Deborah’s passion for God made her available to Him, and accessible to the people of Israel. According to Deborah’s own words, “Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7). Our Villages Deborah’s obedience infused with the power of God’s Spirit enabled her to lead the Israelites out of bondage. Although God may not call all of us to a position of national leadership, He does exhort each of us to take new life to our own villages. This is not as difficult as you may think. Consider Merriam Webster’s definition of village: “A settlement usually larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town.” Now consider your circle of influence. In most villages, a large country house is at the center. Consider yourself that country house and realize God is not asking you to encourage the whole world. Just your part of it...

Encouraging Your Own Village2022-05-04T23:20:19+00:00

Living Congruently With Who God Says We Are

AMY JUNG|GUEST It has been a few months since the bitter, cold day that our sweet rabbit, Cocoa, gave birth to her four babies. I remember it clearly, though, because it had an impact on my life. Since my daughter began keeping rabbits, I’ve been amazed at how rabbit mothers begin frantically pulling their own hair to line the nest for their babies. The first time our Cocoa had babies, she hadn’t done a thing the night before. By morning, there was a beautiful surprise: a soft blanket of fur covering all the babies keeping them warm. After birthing and cleaning, she had pulled her own hair to make a covering so they would live. It was a picture to me of the selflessness mothers and caregivers are capable of. Imagine our surprise when, instead of finding a beautiful fur blanket covering them during a recent birth, we found that our Cocoa had given each of her kits mortal wounds that killed them all! Cocoa was not being the sweet mother we had known her to be. Another life lesson on the farm for my daughter, Ruthie, and for me. Just as Cocoa once gave us a beautiful picture of motherhood and care, this time she gave us a scary picture instead. Sadly, Cocoa felt threatened. At the advice of our vet, we had brought her in from the sub-zero temperatures in hopes that her babies would have a better chance at survival. Our plan backfired, as she was keenly aware of other animals in our house. She felt so threatened, that she believed she needed to get rid of the evidence of babies to keep predators from attacking her. There was no way for us to communicate to her that she was safe and alone in a room where our dog and cats would not harm her. She didn’t know the truth about all that we’d done to protect her and her babies from the bitter cold. She smelled and heard the other animals and was operating out of instincts, unable to see the truth that we so desperately wanted her to know. What a significant illustration this has been for me to ponder! I think that humans, mothers even, do similar things. In our emotions like fear, frustration, and hurt, we can turn on those we love. We may even give them mortal wounds. While these wounds don’t physically kill, they do fail to give life. As Proverbs says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (18:21). We wield our tongues powerfully for either life or death. Like Cocoa, I’ve sacrificed time, energy, and my own desires for those I love. Sometimes, though, when strong emotions surge, I inflict wounds that fail to give life, leaving scarring wounds to the heart and soul of another. Do your loved ones sometimes see another side of you other than the sweet mother, sister, or friend they most often know you to be?...

Living Congruently With Who God Says We Are2022-05-04T23:15:57+00:00
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