Posts Tagged ‘Relationship’

What Is Our Influence on People

December 16, 2015

Oh, sweetie, just put on a smile and you’ll get over it.

God will heal you if you believe hard enough.

Just stop sinning and then come to our church.

Sometimes I wonder whether in my social awkwardness whether I’ve said something as callous and stupid as one of those statements. Or maybe in a spiritually blind moment.

Have you ever heard someone approaching someone in need and just trampling all over their feeling seemingly oblivious to the person beneath the skin?

There are two reasons that people don’t come to know Jesus

  1. They don’t know any Christians.
  2. They do.

People need a guide and a mentor. They need someone who has battled the demons and come through on the other side. The 12-step people have something there.

There are people who think they have great knowledge and want to go around like Santa depositing gifts of advice on everyone.

Then there are people who really do have knowledge and wisdom, but they don’t realize it. They don’t know when they really could step in and help. These people need to be awakened. Then they could join the mentor group.

Lean Manufacturing, or Lean Thinking, teaches us that people are important. It also teaches to keep probing around a problem until we finally come to the “root cause”. Then, and only then, can we begin the process of finding a solution.

Same with people. If we don’t want to be either 1 or 2 above, then what we do is stop thinking advice and start thinking about the person. The problem probing technique is called “5 Whys.” If you keep asking Why, eventually you will come to the root of the problem.

When you are working with a hurting person, you don’t begin with advice. You ask them in a trustworthy way what is wrong, how they feel, why they think it happened, when did it start, who caused the problem. Rudyard Kipling’s six faithful serving men, who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Asking shows interest. It helps the other figure out things. Answer when asked, ask when they’re silent.

Be the type of Jesus-follower who shows concern and offers help–not the “Christian” who pompously showers advice upon unsuspecting victims.

Respond To Others Rather Than Giving Speeches

December 15, 2015

“My wife told me about a situation at work. I told her how to solve it. Now she’s mad at me. What gives?”

“I told him over and over about the gospel, but I can’t seem to make him understand.”

Have you ever heard comments like those or something similar?

I’m following up on yesterday’s post on listening.

Did the wife ask for advice? I doubt it. She’s probably smart enough to work out things. Why treat her like a child?

What would be a better response? Discussion. And Empathy. “Gee, honey, that’s too bad.What are you going to do?” (OK, the actual conversation would be longer, of course.)

Let’s look at evangelizing.

How well has speaking at people worked for you? Not well? Of course not.

Once again, what does the other person want? Did you ask? Are you merely offering simplistic advice? No one appreciates advice.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, said, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”

What is that key? Respond. In order to respond properly, first we must listen actively.

Attitude Says It All

December 9, 2015

It’s all in the attitude.

How do you say, “Merry Christmas”?

Americans, especially us rural ones, are struggling to understand how to live in a diverse community. As recently as 20 years ago, most communities outside the cities would count greater than 90% of their populations as Christian. As recently as 10 years ago a local small city not only had no residents of color (either African or Asian Americans). Not only that, black people routinely warned their out of state relatives to pray their cars didn’t break down in that area at night.

In my area, there are still a few villages that are white, German people only. Outsiders not welcome. But most of us live in areas with white people, black people, east Asians, south Asians, Africans, people from the Middle East. There are now a variety of religions.

Add to this retail businesses that wish to be inclusive.

So, the greeting “Happy Holidays” prevails in many venues.

One of our pastors got up Sunday and had people practice saying “Merry Christmas.” Now, she said, you can go out and say that and not happy holidays.

Back to attitude. How do you say that?

Is it joyous greeting among those in the community? Or, is it an “in-your-face” command? Kind of like a challenge. Sort of, “I dare you to disagree.”

Then I thought why make such a big deal?

I’m secure in my faith. I don’t need the validation of someone else. You can say whatever, if said with a smile and a sense of generosity, it conveys a proper meaning.

Or, you can get the words right, but miss the feeling. Sort of like the Pharisees who got the religion part (sort of) right, but missed that heart thing.

It’s all in the attitude.

Bringing Down The Walls That Separate

November 23, 2015

Business writers (like me) often write about new technologies that promise to “break down the silos” of the various departments within an organization–for example, manufacturing, finance, engineering, maintenance.

The same can be true in other organizations. A church may have organizations (committees) around finance, buildings, worship, children ministry, youth ministry, missions. A church without a strong leadership team will discover that each of these have become a silo working independently often at cross purposes wasting resources.

Herod’s Temple in Jesus’ time had a wall beyond which non-Jewish people could not traverse. They were not allowed into the holiest of the areas. Paul the apostle had a problem when he was accused of bringing a “Greek” into the “Jewish” area.

Today we are still busy building walls. I read something about a bunch of governors wishing to erect a wall to keep refugees from the war in Syria out. Others desire a physical wall to keep Mexican people out.

We have church walls–even among varying persuasions of Christians. I remember playing guitar for a Mass in 1970. Father Ottenweller looked at me and said, “Someday, you will be able to take communion with us.” Well, 45 years later, still not true.

Several of my sources suddenly are all teaching on Ephesians. There is a chain of scholarly thought that this letter was not written by Paul. I guess these are the anti-Catholics (against priesthood that can be found implied in the letter). I’m not a scholar. This pretty much looks like a letter of Paul. And the second chapter has some interesting imagery. It talks of tearing down the walls that separate us. As Paul said elsewhere, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; male nor female; slave nor free; for we are all one in Jesus.”

Somewhere along the line, we as a people keep forgetting the simple facts of Christian life. We are meant to be wall removers, not wall erectors. Go find a wall to knock down today. And tomorrow.

Prepare To Meet Thy God

November 3, 2015

I was driving some back country roads this evening on my way to dinner. Passed by a small country church with a sign about as big as the church. “Prepare To Meet Thy God” it proclaimed.

Do you also get the feeling that that comment is an in-your-face remark? The picture of a black-bearded, black-suited, black string bow-tie wearing, finger waving, American country preacher springs to mind?

Maybe I get that image because I know so many people that way. It may be a caricature. But unfortunately, the phrase just strikes me that way.

Many of those “bumper-sticker” phrases do. There is something impersonal about them. It’s like shouting at someone. Not like conversing with someone.

Maybe that is my problem. This should be personal–not something shouted out.

I remember meeting God. It was personal. And life-changing. In the quiet of meditation, the experience was unmistakable. Then again in celebration time during an Emmaus Walk. And other times.

Preparing to meet your God–THE God–takes a life of getting ready. There was study so that I knew what was real. There was prayer. There were the disciplines of meditation and contemplation. There was an openness toward and expectation of the reality of God.

Like Paul, I hesitate to write things such as this. It is not boasting, which Paul abhorred. It is merely witnessing. Pointing to a reality that exists no matter what materialists say. No, it is not delusion as much modern psychology maintains. If they would prepare….

I don’t like in-your-face evangelizing. I am praying right now that God would lead someone into my life to disciple. Personally. Not just shouting slogans, but really preparing to meet our God.

Solve Disagreements Within The Church Family

November 2, 2015

“What happened to that couple?” she asked. “I haven’t seen them in a while.”

“She got mad at something someone said and quit coming,” I replied.

“Well, we should settle those things in the family instead of just quitting,” she replied.

Problem is that no one within the family reached out to them. I told a pastor who had a better point of view to address the situation than I. But neither one ever contacted the other.

Both Jesus and Paul addressed settling things within the family. They addressed a similar matter about taking a brother to court. But the point still was that we should settle matters.

Check out Matthew 18: 15-17 and the first verses of 1 Corinthians 6.

Let’s take a look at both sides and see if there is some discipline that we should apply

Jesus also told us a couple of time that if we have something against a brother or sister (meaning within the fellowship) that we should make things right before proceeding with worship. I think even modern psychologists and therapists would tell us that we bear some responsibility with initiating reconciliation.

Often people say things that they have no idea would be offensive to anyone else. If you don’t go tell them, they’ll never know. And everyone will wonder.

Sometimes you say something and think “Oops, I didn’t mean that.” Or sometimes you get upset and say things. Self-awareness brings the conviction of having hurt someone. It’s important to put pride aside and go make things right.

Letting things go never works. Don’t go off and pout. Confront with love. Respond with love. Work things out within the family.

All The Stuff I Put Up With

October 6, 2015

“You can’t believe all the stuff I had to put up with.” 

That was a person justifying an adulterous relationship that was quite public and resulted in the breakup of two families.

The relationship was not abusive. One party just got frustrated with the other. Actually, they were  both frustrated. Communication was nonexistent. 

Then came the opportunity for passionate sex. Emotions–dangerous things if not handled.

To this day the people who initiated the affair fail to see where there was sin in the situation.

They had put up with so much stuff, they couldn’t take it any longer.

I heard the quote the other day. I thought, gosh, we all put up with a lot of stuff. It’s called living with someone who isn’t 100% devoted to fulfilling my needs. I’m not so sure I could stand that, personally. But maybe a little would be nice….but I digress, and jest.

Paul spent much time on reconciling relationships. The letters to the Corinthians, for example. More to the point would be Philemon.

Adultry is a sin. It breaks relationships and draws the people away from God.

Paul spends the first couple of chapters of Romans talking about the ways we sin. Then he talks about how we have to recognized them, and our part in the situations, and then our confession, healing, and restoration.

I have a great deal of empathy–and even anger–with abusive relationships. The abused must leave, somehow. But for those who justify “lots of stuff” as grounds for adultry, well, that’s too much a stretch. 

God likes to see us grow in maturity. We work out stuff one way or another. That is what grown-up people do. Heck, even kids know that.

Be Careful Lifting Quotes From Context

October 1, 2015

The last 6 minutes or so of my Yoga class ends in “final relaxation” where we lie in a comfortable position, close our eyes, focus on slowing our breathing, using our imagination perhaps to find (as one student puts it) “Gary’s happy place”, and relaxing.

When I wake them up (sometimes quite literally), I end class with a quote for inspiration or guidance.

The Bible is packed with sentences that can be taken for this purpose. 

Meditating on the beginning of Romans 12, I began to consider the importance of context when we lift quotes from scripture. 

Paul says that as much as is possible, he teaches that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we should. In itself, that is a worthy thought.

But why did Paul say that? What is the rest of the paragraph?

He says we should use sober judgement when we look at ourselves. Why? He continues that just as a body has more than one member, just so a church (group) has people with a variety of roles. Some teach, some offer compassion, or prophecy, or leadership, and so forth.

He’s telling us not to desire being the preacher when we are better suited for teaching, or maybe service.

In this case, I don’t believe that lifting out the first verse hurts that much.

Andy Stanley recently looked at the passage where Paul says he can bear all things. This one can become dangerous when someone quotes it to another who is hurting. Telling the  to bear all hurts is hardly empathetic. It can cause further hurt. Knowing the context is helpful, sometimes even essential.

Knowing the context is all important in understanding another. Sometimes in a soccer game a player will get kicked or tripped. They may utter a “bad” word. Maybe the word would warrant a booking (yellow card). But if the player was just hurt, the context would tell us to give a little grace.

Others we may meet may have hurts that we cannot say. They may say something bad. Perhaps if we knew their context we’d know to show them some grace.

There is much effort to understanding what we read in the Bible–and what we read in our relationships.

Confronting People The Right Way

August 31, 2015

There was a meeting at church. Suddenly one woman spoke up aggressively. She was complaining about someone who evidently was in the worship band at one of the services.

She was upset about the person’s lifestyle. “He’s living in sin, and he knows it. And he needs to stop, or else stop coming here. And he’s even on the platform.”

She had confronted the person, but he did not change.

I was thinking about confrontations such as this over the weekend. Must have been a book I’ve been reading. But the story of this meeting returned. In full color. In my mind. With the harsh judgementalism.

And I wondered, just how did that confrontation go? I’m guessing it was not done in a gently and loving manner. Given that the meeting was some time after the confrontation, I’m also guessing that the confrontation had no effect.

People do need to be confronted at times. Addicts need someone to stop enabling them and tell them no and tell them where an AA meeting is. At a smaller scale, someone you know is about to make a bad decision. Giving your point of view can be helpful.

But there are ways to do it. 

The judgemental, angry, finger-in-the-face “you’re going to hell” confrontation will seldom have a desired effect.

I’ve found on the soccer pitch that watching my tone of voice as a referee helps immensely. When I lose my cool and shout something stupid, guess what, I don’t obtain a desired change from the person.

Saturday, I had a high school boy get too aggressive on a foul. I called the foul, checked the fouled player quickly for injury, then made a public, but quiet, gesture and word to the player. He nodded. He understood that I was trying to help him curb his aggressiveness a little so he could stay in the game.

It’s all in the approach. When to be gentle, when to be tough, when to be a little of both.

But I’ve never found the in-your-face method beneficial.

Works the same for evangelism.

Give Them Grace

August 25, 2015

Aunt Bethany keeps asking “Where’s Grace” as a recurring line in Christmas Vacation. To which Uncle Lewis keeps replying, “Grace is not here.”

Sometimes our churches are like that. You observe members and listen to conversations and you wonder, “Where’s Grace?”

My wife and I were discussing Andy Stanley’s current series in his “Your Move” videocasts. It is entitled “Christian” and discusses how that word is not defined in the Bible, so you can make it mean whatever you want it to. He points to the word Jesus actually used for his followers–disciple. That is a word with well known meaning.

He tackles straight on the opinion of most outside the church, and even many within, about “Christians.” Quarrelsome, disputatious, judgemental, homophobic–and sure that they are the only ones going to heaven and you are going to hell secretly happy that you are going to hell.

Where is grace in all that?

I was recently talking with some leaders who in turn have a leader who is a non-leader. They handle it with grace. Better than I would, for sure. But I’m learning.

They say he has too much grace to make a decision. I see that as more of a failure of maturity as a leader. But they give him grace. And life goes on.

That is challenging to most of us–giving grace. 

We all have daily dealings with people who seem to require extra grace. They probably don’t even know it. But, it is better to suck it up and give grace than live with the results of not living in grace.

Quarrelsome, judgemental, disputatious, mean, bitter.