Correct With Love

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photo credit: Kurdistan Photo ???????? kurdistan via photopin (license)

 

The next time someone is wrong on the internet, let’s try to remember that correction requires a loving relationship, or it won’t be received well. Usually, it is best to just stop and pray. If God does ever ask us to correct his children for him, it is wise to first connect with God’s children and positively and nurture them, meeting their needs in a loving manner. If we take time to do that, we will be much better received. In this context, correction is a positive affirmation of relationship instead of the negative rejection it is when it is disconnected from a warm, nurturing relationship.

Let’s also remember we need loving correction ourselves and seek nurturing relationships where we will get nudged into the right direction safely. We can get through bad days by relying on a nurturing relationship with someone we can trust to lovingly, gently correct us while praising what we get right more frequently and patiently listening even if we don’t say everything as respectfully as we should. I strongly recommend we all have that relationship with Father God and Jesus Christ our Lord.

If you happen to have a good parent or spouse who qualifies, too, great. However, we need to keep the Lord as our first go-to person or our loved one will become an idol. Three reasons to avoid that. One, idolatry hurts God like our spouses committing adultery would hurt us. Two, even the best people won’t always be there for us, but God is always with his people. Three, idols often will fall off of their pedestals, but God will never fail you. So spare God and yourself a lot of pain and keep God first.

Now, some of us have conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder which cause rejection sensitivity. When triggered, it produces a physical anxiety that some would call “negative energy.” Whatever we call it, we are often tempted to think this comes from the person triggering us, blaming them. In reality, it comes from our own flesh’s response to our own perception of rejection.

Perception is not reality. Nonetheless, our flesh reacts to our perception. Our flesh’s reaction often triggers more negative behavior in the other person. And it can cause rejection where none had been. This cycle can be broken, if we can change our perception of others’ negative behavior. For example, what if, instead of perceiving rejection, we saw an indication the person is hurting and needs help? How would we respond differently? How might our more compassionate response improve their disposition?

This is far from easy, of course, and we do all need to be careful if someone truly means us harm.

Still, God can help us if we pray, acknowledge our weakness, and ask him to give us his eyes. He can also help us to treat others with respect and love even when we still find their behavior disrespectful and unloving. Again, abuse survivors, this does not mean we must let abusers keep hurting us. It means to set boundaries with respect and love. Typically, an abuser will decry any manner of boundary-setting as rude and unloving, so don’t allow them to be the judge. Let God show you how to love and respect the abuser as you also stop enabling them to keep sinning against you.

Finally, when you or a loved one is honestly struggling and truly wish to do better, give yourself or your loved one grace. Recognize where your and/or your loved one is at that day and set reasonable expectations of what can be accomplished. Lower the bar clear to basic safety levels, if necessary. Decide together on three baby steps in the right direction and take those steps together. Little by little can accomplish much and build confidence for more tomorrow.

[tweetthis]Correct With Love #Christiandiscipline #Spiritualgrowth #boundaries #abuse [/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]Before you correct God’s children, connect with and lovingly nurture them, meeting their needs. Godly correction is done with love, in a healthy relationship. [/tweetthis]

The Farmer’s Impatient Daughter

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photo credit: yaxchibonam Dark orchard / Huerta oscura via photopin (license)

Once a little girl lived with a cult that kept her locked inside, chained to her computer all day, hungry and naked. She couldn’t do any serious study. In fact, she couldn’t do anything but play games online. In her favorite game, she got to be a farmer and grow beautiful fruit trees. She figured out how to work the game so at least some trees were in bloom or ready to harvest at all times.

Finally, the police came and freed her from the cult’s hands. After many scary, confusing days, one morning, her greatest dream came true. A farmer took her home to live with him forever. On a real farm! The girl was so excited when she spotted the apple trees. She looked forward to the leaves growing back, the flowers blooming, and the apples appearing. Should only take a couple hours.

So, after lunch, she asked her new dad if they could go pick the apples.

Her new dad sent her a curious look. “Beloved, it’s winter.”

So? The girl wondered. In her game, she’d harvested her apples at least six times a day in winter, too.

Her dad let her go outside and explore the farm, and the girl ran straight to the apple orchard. To her dismay, they still looked as sad and barren as they had this morning.

The girl screamed and ran crying to her new dad. “They’re dead! The apple trees didn’t bloom and bear fruit. They’re dead We need to cut them down and plant new ones!”

“Beloved, our fruit trees aren’t evergreens. They sleep through our cold, dark winters.”

“Well, they need to wake their lazy butts up, blossom, and make the apples appear already.”

“It doesn’t work like that, beloved.”

“Of course it does! I’m an expert farmer in my favorite game. I know all about farming!”

Her dad restrained his amused grin and hugged her. “Come with me.” Her dad led her out to the apple orchard and lifted the child up so a branch was at her eye-level. “See here? See these tiny little buds?”

The girl scrutinized the seemingly lifeless apple tree branch. It did have tiny little brown buds.

“Those, beloved, are our asleep apple trees, growing our apples. It’ll look like no apples are growing if you check them every few hours or even every few days, but they are growing.”

“Why so slow? What’s wrong with them? What can I do to make them grow faster?”

“Nothing, beloved. This is life, not a game. Real growth is not instantaneous. Nor does it only take mere hours for the fruit they’re growing to appear and mature. There is no hack that will give you real apples ripe for harvest year-round, not as cold as our winters get. I know it’s hard to be patient, it’s hard to see real growth happening,  but slowly, day by day, the season will change, the days will get longer and warmer. In spring, the apple trees will blossom. Their fruit will mature by harvest time, this fall. Then we’ll pick our apples and wait on the Lord through the next cold, dark winter.”

~~

We may laugh at this poor child’s absurd expectations for real trees growing real fruit. But many of us react similarly when God leads us or a loved one into a spiritual “harsh winter.” We don’t understand what God is doing, especially when the season lasts far longer than we think it should.

It can be hard to tell on a daily basis if a soul enduring a harsh winter is in fact still alive and growing. Let’s be slower to condemn and cut down. Instead, let’s be more loving and encouraging like the farmer in our story. Stay with the Lord through the harsh winter of the soul. I don’t know why you’re going through this. But I know he is with you and still at work in you, even when you can’t see it. And all you have to do is let him. Faith itself is a gift. Just cry out to the Lord and ask. It likely won’t be instantaneous, but spring will come.

[tweetthis]The Farmer’s Impatient Daughter #spiritualgrowth #shortstory #parable [/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]An expert #farmgame player learns real fruit takes longer than two hours to grow. #modernfable[/tweetthis]

Change Begins With Us

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Devanath / Pixabay

Devanath / Pixabay

Peace, brothers and sisters in Christ, peace.

 

Lately, I’ve encountered a disturbing amount of Christians bickering amongst ourselves, sometimes with the eyes of a lost world literally watching, and likely thinking if our unkind, unloving, disrespectful attitudes in the moment represent what Christ is about, no thanks. They can get plenty of that without the Lord. Meanwhile, often, everyone involved in the fussing is sure they’re right and the other person is wrong, no one is respectfully listening and respectfully responding to each other, and everyone feels justified in their bad behavior by the other side’s bad behavior, and this ugly cycle just goes on and on. Let’s break the cycle, be respectful to the disrespectful, kind to the unkind, loving to the unloving. It begins with us.

 

We have to set boundaries sometimes of course. Even when that is the case, if we want anything to change, we need to all examine our own conduct, restrain ourselves from reacting automatically, pray for God’s help, and choose to respond in a manner that represents Christ well. I know such discipline is hard for some of us, and learning it may take time, but we have to keep practicing making the choice to crucify the flesh and walk in the Spirit on such matters. It is too easy to behave disrespectfully, hatefully, etc. when we feel we or someone or something dear to us is being disrespected, hated, etc.. That’s simply the nature of the flesh we all struggle with.

 

It’s long been a battle in my own life for sure, but lately, I have observed so much of Christians falling prey to the flesh in this regard, I’ve begun to strongly suspect that none of us are immune. If we want things to change, we need to face that if we’re not watching ourselves, any of us can get sucked in and become one of those people. Yes, even when we deeply love the Lord, care deeply about the lost and demonstrating who God is to them. Even someone who is normally one of the loveliest, sweetest souls on Earth can potentially get conned by “righteous” anger into becoming part of the problem. So I ask us all to watch ourselves, to humbly face the potential within ourselves to become a part of the problem, in hopes one of us will catch ourselves about to act like that and check ourselves first.

 

Again, becoming “one of them” takes only one moment of “righteous” anger where we’re sure we’re right, that the other side is ignorant, wrong, and a threat to people or causes we love dearly. One moment of feeling disrespected and hated and in pain is all it takes to surrender to the flesh, snapping back in kind without thinking or praying through our hurt and asking God to help us respond in a way that will glorify his name. While it is fine to give respectful, loving responses and to set boundaries in a respectful, loving manner, outside of that, keeping it going isn’t much better than causing it when these things quickly come to both sides thinking the other side started it.

So again, let’s all work together to break this ugly cycle. Let’s stop before we react automatically by mirroring either real or anticipated bad behavior. Let’s instead give our angry feelings to God and ask God to give us the strength to respect those who are disrespectful, to be kind and loving to those who are unkind and hateful. It begins with us.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Tired of sister dividing against sister over politics? Longing for peace? It begins with us. [/tweetthis]

The Bread of Life Never Expires

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sh4 the bread of life

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:2)

The Bread of Life never expires, never goes stale. Preachers who come offering us some other gospel that is “newer” and “fresher” are handing out junk food at best, deadly poison at worst. Only the Bread of Life they falsely accuse of being stale and expired nourishes our souls.

Watch out for cotton candy, feel good, fuzzy preaching and teaching that appeals to our appetites but lacks substance. The true gospel challenges us to change, to grow–by the power of the Holy Spirit, in grace, through faith, not by our own fleshy strength, granted. It doesn’t have to be a stone, and watch out for bones, but a good study of the Bible takes some thought, challenges us to prayerfully evaluate ourselves and our lives and calls us to a closer walk with God while nourishing our souls.

And let’s not forget Christ proclaimed of himself, “I am the Bread of Life.” We need the Word Made Flesh as well as the written word. As Isaiah 55:1 said, “And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” It doesn’t matter how spiritually impoverished you are due to sin. Come, naked and poor, wretched and blind, come. Christ has paid the cost. Lay it down, whether for the first time or the thousandth, receive the Lord. He is knocking. Sup with him today.

Thank you, Lord, for being the Bread of Life. Thank you for nourishing our souls. Lead us in your way. Show us anything we’ve been holding back from you, any area you want to work on in us next.Turn us from self-idolatry to serve you first, not our own flesh’s appetites and desires. Warn us when we’re being offered spiritual junk food and give us ears attentive to your voice. Transform us by the renewing of our minds. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

[tweetthis]The Bread of Life never expires, never goes stale. He alone nourishes our souls. More:[/tweetthis]

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Balance

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child railroadIt’s tough to keep our balance. I have a weakness for losing my balance in the literal physical sense and metaphorically in life. I have a tendency to fall/slump to one side and this leads to pain on the other side, or in compensating I can over correct and ouch again.

So where do I get off priding myself on my balance?

On theology and general controversial issues,that’s where. When I don’t have anything better to do, I carefully study a matter of interest online, here both sides’ arguments, and find as many ways to tick off both as possible with my take. It usually is fairly easy to do in our deeply divided society. An us versus them mentality reigns today. If they take X stance, they are the enemy, so I will take Y stance, which is the exact opposite, because they are the enemy.

That isn’t the way Christians are supposed to decide where we stand. We’re supposed to prayerfully turn to the Bible for moral guidance through dark and troubled waters and seek out where Christ stands and seek strength from Christ to stand with Christ, regardless of where the rest of “our” group or the rest of “their” group happens to be, if God’s shown us from the Word, and we’re not making God our puppet and forcing the Word to okay our own sinful desires.

No doubt I am not nearly as good as that as I like to think. Like I said starting off, balance is a weak area that I struggle with a lot in the flesh in many areas. Most left of center would at a glance pin me down as a far right-wing conservative, a “legalistic nut job” who only wears skirts, would home school if God gave me children, who married my best friend after a one-week courtship that came after months of pretending my boyfriend was still only my best friend and finding dozens of ways to say “I love you” without actually saying “I love you” to get around a self-imposed definitely legalistic rule. Hey, we were young and still learning wisdom.

In this heavily divided “us” or “them” climate, I don’t expect to impress “them” or “us” with my efforts at fairness, listening to all sides and evaluating scientific facts for whether they’re actual science or mere propaganda, at showing I am in fact listening despite stubbornly staying standing on the Bible. I expect “them” to call me one of “us” and say everything they say about “us” about me anyway. I’m also braced for “us” to accuse me of being a traitor, etc.

Sometimes, I hope to be clearly a conservative Christian who isn’t stupid and knows how to think for myself rather than just repeat party lines. To be fair, my ears truthfully hear from all sides party lines being mindlessly repeated without really digging into a matter, including from some who pride themselves on being intellectuals or even free-thinkers. No doubt I have done that kind of thing myself in lazy moments where something was “obvious” at a glance.

Perhaps balance isn’t easy for anyone. Perhaps sometimes we’re stronger in weak areas when we know we’re weak and seek to overcome it. Perhaps some of us have medical conditions that give us difficulty balancing in some areas, but not in others, and the problem won’t just go away if we try hard enough. Perhaps we do all need sometimes to latch onto Christ’s hand and let him lead us. He may leave physical imbalances to remind us to stay close, but he’ll slowly bring us into spiritual balance.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Seek to be balanced, not to impress either “us” or “them” but to be like Christ, the true center.[/tweetthis]