The Fifth Day of Conflict~5 Volcanoes Erupting

Are you a volcano erupting, and who is in the path of the fall out?

When was the last time you lost your cool or blew up at someone? Took your aggression out on the family dog because you knew he’d forgive you, forget it, and his tail would be wagging the next time you walked in the door. Vented like a blow dryer to the first person you saw? All sorts of situations can cause us to get all heated up into a frenzy and ultimately, loose our cool. My personal favorite goes back to a scene in Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase when he discovers he’s been enrolled in the Jelly of the Month Club instead of receiving a bonus like he has in years past.  My apology for using two Christmas Vacation illustrations in a matter of days, but it is the Christmas season.

There are many different types of fire or heated scenarios that can affect your life. All cause change and transform the situation.  Think of a molten fire that shapes and molds metals at will. Extreme heat and pressure turn coal into diamond.  (all of us would rather receive a diamond than coal for Christmas)  Passion fuels a vision, marriage or relationship, but just as easily can damage those things. Fire, in the form of a simple flame, can be a heat source that protects from the cold, but if unattended, can destroy material possessions or anything that resides in its path. With every positive in life, there is also a negative. Think of a magnet. Positioned one way, it pulls itself firmly to an item but when turned around will repel itself from its own kind.  The same is true for heat, fire and passion. Alone, each has the potential for great good, but each can also do great harm.

What are the lessons from nature we learn, and how does it apply to us personally?

  • The glowing heat from a hot molten fire poker can be used for the good in the hand of a silversmith. Metal can be molded and shape, horseshoes can be accurately designed for each individual horse. Slag and other impurities can be removed from silver to create a blemish free masterpiece. What are the negative sides of this process? Careless handling can cause irreparable damage to those involved in the process. Physically harming someone out of anger leaves irreparable damage, as well. Proverbs 15:18
  • Extreme heat and intense pressure from within the earth are the environmental factors that turn coal into a beautiful diamond. Without them, the coal would remain hard and unchanged.  What is the negative part of this process? It takes a long time…it’s not an overnight event. Dealing with issues in our lives that we don’t want to deal with can produce the same results. If we resist God working in our lives to make us more like Him, we can become hard and unchanged. He will apply whatever heat and pressure is necessary to transform us from coal into a beautiful treasure, made in His image. Whether it’s God working in our lives, disciplining us because of lack of obedience on our part or God allowing a person in our lives to build perseverance—we can rejoice that either way, we are becoming more like Christ in the process. Hebrews 12:10
  • Passion. We can’t live with it but we can’t live without it, either. It’s the fuel that keeps the vision thriving. It’s the magic in a marriage that needs to be revitalized. It can also be the breaking point in a relationship that has a fissure. Be careful with your passions. Not everyone is passionate about the same things you are. In fact, your passion may be a touchy subject for someone else.  I Peter 3:13 tells us to be sensitive talking about things you are passionate about at family gatherings. Not everyone is going to be as excited as you are about, let’s say, your favorite political candidate.
  • Fire can be used to warm a room when it’s cold outside or can destroy a home when left unattended. Fire is used to burn underbrush fuel to prevent wildfires but if handled incorrectly, can set the entire forest aflame in a matter of minutes. The same way fire can destroy a forest our tongues can destroy a relationship. James 3:5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire.

What is the bottom line when it comes to the heat in our lives?  I don’t think it would be an understatement to say we need to handle with care. How you respond in each situation will affect those around you like a row of dominoes standing at attention just waiting to be nudged. Be the one to stand firm in your faith and not allow the heat and circumstances of the holidays knock you down.

The Sixth Day of Christmas~ 6 Spades a Digging

We live in Payson where most of the ground is decomposed granite under 12 inches of great soil.  It creates a deceptive planting environment.  I heard one of my friends say anyone can get something to grow in Payson, but keeping it alive is another story.  I’ve given up on planting anything that I want to actually flourish. Trees, shrubs, flowers alike—all look great for awhile but then as the roots try to dig down deep into the ground, they have nowhere to go. Stifled, they begin to droop, look brown, lose leaves, and eventually die. I’ve tried to entice my husband to dig the holes a little deeper so the plants will have a bigger ‘pot’ to grown in, but he claims dynamite would be necessary.  And dynamite requires all sorts of permits and insurance.  Well you can probably understand why he is not real excited about that option.

Although this is the general rule, I have had the occasional plant that did make it.  They usually started slow, maybe even looking dead for a year or two, but somehow they make it.  But it takes years.  Somehow they must be putting roots down through that granite.  Payson soil is a good metaphor for a lot of relationships.  Often, those relationships that  take off quickly, only to fizzle just as quickly.  Other relationships start slow.  It seems like all we do is invest, but we don’t see results.  But then one day, maybe years later, we realize that the relationship is as solid as an oak.

So if relationships don’t just happen, and dynamite (real and or figuratively) is not an option, how do we intentionally create great relationships?  Lets stick with the planting metaphor and ask three questions:

v  Are you fertilizing?  Time is the fertilizer of relationships.  It nourishes the relationship and without it, the relationship is starved and will eventually die.  We need to be asking have I been intentional in making sure I am spending time with the person.  Am I nourishing the relationship?

v  Is there poison?  No matter how good the soil is; no matter how much I water, if my husband thinks my plant is a weed and sprays it with weed killer, it is DOA. In the same way, we need to make sure no one or no situation is spraying ‘relationship killer’ on the relationship.  Is there something that happened in the past or is happening right now that one of us just can’t get over?  Is it causing everything in the relationship to be viewed through the lens of death? Maybe it’s not about the relationship, but something that one of us brings to the relationship.  If forgiveness is needed, stay tuned for day 4.

v  Is full sun too much?  In Arizona, full sun will kill most plants.  Sun is good, but full sun will wither the plant.  Is there something in the other person’s life (past or present) that is just too much for them? Maybe ask what you would do if I do if I were in their shoes. Sometimes just the act of walking through what is going on in their lives helps us to have more empathy towards people that cause conflict in our lives.  Maybe you can be the shade they need; the shade necessary for both the relationship and the other person to flourish. Galatians 6:2.

None of these suggestions guarantee instant results.  In fact, the deepest relationships are the ones that take the most time and effort.  May God give us the strength to fertilize, keep away from the weed killer and be the shade for others in our lives.

The Seventh Day of Conflict~7 Days with Jesus

Have you ever noticed two junior high girls strolling through the mall together? Their hair is identical; they may even have matching clothes ; shirt, jeans, tennis shoes. If you take a moment to follow them (not in a stalking weird sort of way, but a people watching sort of way) you might notice that their mannerisms are similar. If you are lucky enough to over hear their conversation you may also discover that they talk the same way! When you watch this phenomenon you are witnessing best friends.  Today’s generation uses the term ‘besties.’  Perhaps if you dig far enough back in the recesses of your memory you will recall times when you and your bestie did the same thing. Buying jeans that are the same brand and getting your hair cut in the latest trend are exterior things people notice. What you probably didn’t notice as a youngster, but your mother will confirm, is that your behavior was also very similar to your besties. You may have even heard your momma say, ‘you are who you hang out with.’ She was right, you know.

Do you have a best friend now that you spend oodles of time with? Think about the things you do that are similar to each other. Every so often my girls will say to me, ‘that was a very Mrs. C thing to do,’ meaning, I’m acting like a girl friend I spend time with. As a mother, I notice when my teenage daughters are spending too much time with certain friends. When that happens, my husband and I step in and limit the amount of time our daughters can spend with that person, because, ‘you are who you hang out with.’

As a Christ follower, my desire is to be more like Jesus than anyone else in this world. If you are who you hang out with than I had better be spending time with Jesus or I’m not going to be anything like him at all. How do we do that? How about 7 days with Jesus.  Over the next 7 days, join me as I –

  • Spend time reading the Bible to learn about the heart of God and how He desires me to life my lives. If I don’t know what the Bible says about Jesus, I can’t live like Jesus did—Plain and simple. Ephesians 5:11
  • Read books about people who lived lives of great faith and were followers of Jesus. Reading about their lives, struggles, and victories encourages me that I am not the only one who desires to walk worthy of the calling to follow Jesus.  Ephesians 4:1 and Colossians 1:10
  • Spend time with people who have been spending time with Jesus longer than I have. If they have been spending time with God, they’ll emulate His character and because I am who I hang out with, I’ll become more like Christ because of their lifestyle. Someone who lives out Romans 12 is a great place to start!

It’s 7 days until Christmas—I realize it’s a crazy hectic busy time. But, can you afford to show up to a family gathering Christmas day and not be more like Jesus.  For me, I would show up all cranky? Grab a cup of tea or coffee-grab your Bible—leave your phone tucked away where you won’t hear it and decide today that you want to hang out with Jesus because your momma was right when she said, you are who you hang out with.

Tomorrow, 6 Spades a Digging

The Eighth Day of Conflict~ 8-ty Proof Holidays

Have you seen the movie Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase? It has got to be, hands down, the best Christmas movie ever. What other movie can you laugh until you cry? Where you can look at each individual character and pinpoint exactly who they are in your own family. My husband and I used to have the Christmas Vacation Trivia Party at our house each year. We invited 20 of our closest friends, made them dinner, then had them fill out the trivia sheet of 50 questions we’d come up with from the movie. Then, we would all gather around the TV as we laughed, cried and would see how well our memory served us as we graded our trivia answers.  It was the best attended event of the season and one particular couple always won! Each year the questions got harder but they inevitability knew exactly what the answers were.

One of the most poignant scenes to me in the entire film is when all has gone to hell in a hand basket. Clark Griswold asks his dad, “how did you make it through all of those family Christmas’?” to which his dad responds, “I got a little help from my friend, Jack Daniels.” Some of us may guffaw at the answer but so many more of us can relate. I will admit there have been times in my life that I’ve gotten to the brink and rather than asking God to help me through the moment, I’ve decided that having a drink (or a pain pill) was the way I decided I would alleviate my pain. That would be quicker than God can take care of it, right?  Certainly there is nothing wrong with having a few drinks—but, when we decide to hide behind the numbing effect of the alcohol or drugs instead of dealing with the emotional trauma we are going through, then it becomes a problem.  One such trauma occurred in my life when my brother died twelve years ago. I walked around in a fog wondering what I had done to deserve such a rotten lot in life. Time progressed. I worked through the grief that takes time. Slowly, the fog began to lift and I decided it was time to deal  with the truth and emotional baggage I had drowned with prescription drugs and alcohol.

So, where do we go from here? We remember:

  • God did not design life the way we are currently living. He created the Garden of Eden, perfect and unblemished, and mankind messed it all up. We will NEVER be fulfilled in this lifetime. There will ALWAYS be a void in our lives that only God can fill. The only time we will ever be completely content, happy, fulfilled, etc. is when we hit heaven’s door. God designed it that way so we would look forward to eternity with Him. II Corinthians 5: 1-10
  • We also know there are times in this life we have to deal with the consequences of our own actions, the consequences of someone else’s actions, or the crummy side effects of life here on this sin filled planet. In the last 4 weeks cancer has taken parents from 2 of my friends. A friend of mine lost her daughter to a drunk driver. Divorce has ripped apart another family and children are still reeling from the fallout. All are a result of sin. The whole world is groaning waiting for Christ’s return.  Romans 8:22
  • If you are in the midst of the fog and using drugs or alcohol to deaden the pain you are feeling—you will eventually have to push your way through the pain. Why not decide that today is the day that you begin to fight through the pathway that is unclear and allow Jesus, the light of the world, to help you find your way.  Psalm 119:105

I sometimes wish there was a movie explaining the reasons life is so crappy … then I remember that there is a story—it’s a true story about why we celebrate Christmas. A story of a little babe that came into this world because God loves us so much and wanted us to have another option. The option of eternal life with Him, where the world will once again be perfect like He always intended it to be. Will you take Him up on it?

Tomorrow—The Twelfth Day of Conflict—7 Days with Jesus

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. II Corinthians 5:1-10

The Ninth Day of Conflict~ 9 Rounds in the Ring

Too bad they don't make these for verbal knock down drag out fights!

We all have at least one person in our lives that when they start talking, before they finish their sentence we have formulated our defense in our head. “But, you didn’t”  . . . “or apparently you’re unaware of” . . .  a little jab here, an upper cut there, maybe even a left hook—the verbal knock down drag out can temporarily make us feel better. I received a phone call like that once. I sat and listened for 15 minutes of what seemed like an eternity.  I could visualize the virtual smoke pouring out the person’s ears as each item was listed of each and every time I hurt or disappointed was described. As I listened, I made a mental list of why #1 wasn’t true. #2 might be a little true. #3 I have NO idea where that one came from, etc.  Each item that was listed, accusing me of doing things that hurt someone’s feelings, and all because of what I could see was more often than not, miscommunication. But, at this point that didn’t matter. The damage had been done. What I have found, is that when you start to defend yourself, the other party gets even more defensive, swinging insults right back, taking more proverbial jabs at your character, and maybe even a couple below the belt.

As I thought about this, I had to ask myself what Jesus did and what did He say when someone wanted to go 9 rounds.  Fortunately for me, there is quite a bit of information.

In Matthew 5:22, Jesus tells us, whoever is angry with his brother, or insults him, will be held liable. In contrast, in Matthew 5:44 Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. I’m thinking there are two sides to our behavior—either way, we are to act ‘perfect, as our heavenly father is perfect’. (which by the way, simply means we see the world through God’s eyes. If you’ve never heard Brandon Heath’s song, Give Me Your Eyes-check it out on YouTube).

How did Jesus respond when He was justified in His actions and people still wanted to go a few rounds at his expense? Mark 14:61 tells us He remained calm and silent, listening to the insults not returning evil for evil.

Even if our actions are justified, getting in the ring for a knock out drag down session of words is never a good idea. The ol’ adage of sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me is the most repeated lie in all of history. Proverbs 17:28 tells us, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

I have a memory like an elephant.  I never forget the emotional scars.  They are like tattoos that will never be removed in this lifetime.  So, what happens once you have averted the boxing ring, and yet all those accusations are still swirling around in your head? Let me suggest the following:

  1. 1.       Tell yourself the truth—whatever words are used to lure you into the ring, remind yourself, out loud if necessary, of the truth.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
  2. Ask yourself if what they said really matters. Is any of it true? If there is any truth, take responsibility for what is yours. Ask God for forgiveness for any malice you may have had in hurting the other individual. I John 1:9
  3. Take a moment to read Luke 6:27-36. It’s a great reminder of how Jesus would desire us to respond and a reminder of the truth!

Remaining silent isn’t the easiest avenue, but it’s definitely the wisest and it’s really hard to go nine rounds with someone who is not fighting back.

Tomorrow—8-ty Proof Holiday

The Tenth Day of Conflict~ 10-der Relationships

Have you ever watched NBC’s The Office? Talk about dysfunctional relationships. Yet, so many people love the show because in many ways it is so true to life. What about ABC’s Modern Family? We may not all have a gay brother living with his partner and adopted daughter or a father whose second wife is the same age as his children —but there are  many times we can relate to the difficult relational interactions between the family members. One thing is true about all relationship whether on TV or in real life—some relationships in our lives are more tender than others.

There are those people in your life that you can be a bull around and there are others you must act like Bambi around. How I interact with my husband, children, best friend, and strangers are all different. Why is that? Could it be that the relationship I have developed with each person dictates how honest I can be with them and how I share my true thoughts? Does the other person’s emotional and spiritual health dictate the relationship? Michael Scott has no issue ‘laying it all out there’ with Dwight because he figures Dwight’s skin is thick enough. Yet I have to ask myself, ‘is Dwight’s skin really all that thick?’ Sometimes people can be like burnt marshmallows, hard and crunchy on the outside yet soft and gooey on the inside.

Since I don’t really want to emulate my life after Michael Scott, I asked myself, how did Jesus interact with those around him? What I found is that each interaction He had was customized.  It depended on who he was talking to. For example, when Jesus was speaking to the woman at the well in John 4 he was empathetic. When he spoke to the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23 he was truthful and laid it all out there in a seemingly angry manner. It wasn’t just that he was dealing with man verses women. He looked at the spiritual and emotional condition of the parties he was speaking to.

How can I do the same?  First, I think I have to care enough about others to look at their spiritual and emotional state.  We aren’t called to judge people based upon their spiritually or emotion state, but would it hurt to at least recognize where they are?  After that recognition, I may need to adjust my interactions accordingly.  A little recognition and a little understanding is probably more important this time of year than a sledge hammer dose of truth, especially if you know the relationship is a 10-der one.

Tomorrow: The Ninth Day of Christmas–9 Rounds in the Ring

The Eleventh Day of Conflict, er, I mean Christmas: 11 Great Expectations

How many of you sit, the day after opening gifts—or even while opening gifts—and think to yourself, ‘was alcohol involved in this purchase? Or what on earth were they thinking when they bought this?’ Am I the only one who thinks like this? Perhaps I seem shallow in discussing the gifts, but it’s not really the gifts per se but what the gift giving sometimes seems to communicate about the relationship. More often than not we say gift giving but the expectation seems to communicate otherwise! Maybe we should all say gift exchanging. We all desperately want to be loved and appreciated and when someone gives us a gift that screams 5 minute purchase, we wonder how important our relationship really is.  Or what if you spent hours working on gift for someone and they don’t seem to really appreciate all the thought, time and energy you put into it? This, my friend, is unmet expectations. And in my experience, there are usually more than eleven each year.

I cannot meet everyone’s expectations and nobody could ever meet all of mine.  I take comfort in knowing that even Jesus had to deal with unmet expectations. Once, while Jesus was speaking to a crowd, his mother and brothers were outside asking to speak to him (Matthew 12:46). I think their expectation was for Jesus to say, “come on up to the front of the line” but instead his response was, “who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Those who do the will of my father in heaven, they are my brothers and sisters and mother.” Whoa! That is NOT the response I would have been looking for if I’m his momma. That didn’t seem like a very nice thing to say. Jesus’ response perplexes me to no end!! As I think about it, I realized there is usually more to what Jesus says than what is seems.

So, I asked myself, “What are some ways that I can lower my expectations of others? How do I respond to others expectations?” Jesus didn’t always respond in this manner. There is the time during the wedding at Cana in John 2:2 when Jesus responded to his mother’s expectations by doing what she asked of him. So, there must be a formula to how I react in each situation and with different individuals.  Well, maybe not a formula, but at least some principles.  Let me suggest some possibilities:

  • A knee jerk reaction is not the wisest.  Praying and seeking wisdom with each individual interaction should be our goal.
  • Each response will be different and both parties may not always be pleased with the outcome.
  • When your expectations are not being met, ask yourself how you would desire to be treated in the same situation. Could something in the person’s life be causing them to not meet your expectation? And, is it really the end of the world if what you wanted to happen, doesn’t happen?
  • No matter what decision you come to—always respond to the individual with humility!

What individual situation are you going to pray about today? Ask God to give you ‘the wisdom of Solomon’ in that situation so you can ultimately glorify Him in your response.

Tomorrow, we’ll be talking about the Tenth Day of Christmas: 10-der Relationships.