Sunday, April 14, 2013

Learning to love in confrontation.

What is your first reaction when confronted justly or unjustly by someone? For most of my life, my reaction has been to defend my position. I have always felt very strongly that justice would be upheld, because truth would be found. The person who was right, would win that argument. But what happens when there is no clear right answer? What happens when no resolution can be met?
What does it mean, and how do we proceed in reacting like Christ would?
I have to admit that reacting this way has never brought me the best results other than broken relationships. There are times when it is easy to just give up and walk away, and then there are times that it isn’t so easy because it is a person we have to deal with day in and day out. A person we care and love deeply, where resolution needs to be made.
I do not have this all figured out, but through a situation in the church this last weekend, I have learned much. And through the wise words of my Pastor, I learned more. I had been sent a nasty email and had no idea how to respond. I began in defense of myself, telling my husband just how ridiculous the situation was. I began with defending my position, my personal life, and many other points beyond that. I did not begin in love. I did not begin in Christ.
Thankfully, wisdom spoke in my life and because I was not particularly emotional about the problem, I decided not to respond. I waited and prayed. I read Scripture. And prayed some more. I never emailed, never said anything in response.
I then went to my pastor with the problem. I began telling him how ridiculous it all was, yet again defending myself. Yet again attempting to prove I was right. And his response stopped me in my tracks, “I wonder what’s going on in his life. This just doesn’t seem like him.” Wha?????
We chatted for a few more minutes, then he had business he had to attend to. But I kept thinking about that sentence, and about that statement. It was not meant to convict my heart, but it did. It cut deeply, to the marrow, and sent me on a totally new course of reaction.
I still did not respond to the email. Instead, I prayed. I prayed that God would let me love this person. That God would give me the grace and mercy that constantly receive. And guess what? It happened. My heart let go of the defense, and in its place was love. There is no room for defense, hate, anger, and fear when love is in the heart and mind.
After thinking on this, praying and asking God to intercede, Sunday morning service came along. But I am not going to share the results of this prayer just yet. First, I wanted to share with you the notes that I wrote down after thinking about this some more. When confronted or attacked by someone, these are the steps that I will choose to take:
1.     Stop thinking about myself.
I know, it’s hard. But I had to remove my emotions, the control I sought, and myself from the situation. I had to stop and set myself apart to be able to see and pray clearly.
2.     Stop thinking in defense.
I am one of those people who take a conversation and roll it around in my head over and over again. What I should have said, what I would say in response, etc. This never helps me. It just makes me anxious and afraid. Stop doing this immediately!
3.     Start Praying.
Seek the Father’s heart. Ask God to indwell your heart, life, and mind. Ask Him to help you love this person. Pray God’s blessing upon them. Continue to do this until you begin feeling this for them.
4.     Communicate to that person that you recognize their need and their position.
Most the time, people just want to be heard. They just want their point, no matter how crazy, recognized as valid. This is important.
5.     Seek reconciliation without defending anything.
This may not be needed. To conclude the above story, this morning this person came and apologized to me. This person had been having a difficult couple weeks, and felt shame for what had happened. I was set free from the situation, completely! By the grace of God!
This happened only because I sought the Father’s heart first, instead of seeking my own defense, because God can move and work in people’s hearts and minds much better than I ever will be able to. When God’s will goes before, we can travel lightly and easily because His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Can I get an amen???
How can you think through the hurt and turn your heart and mind to Christ?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Walking away from fear: Being called to lead men.

Throughout the history of the church that I attend, the Nazarene Church, women have been upheld and encouraged to be in leadership and become ordained clergy. Many of the first pastors who built the church’s holiness foundation, were women. A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine who is also going to school to become an ordained minister, asked me this question: If our church started out with all these women, fourteen percent were women clergy in the early 1900’s, why is there less than 2% in the church today?
As I was talking with yet another female future minister, she kept saying things like, oh, I can’t talk to men about this or that or referring to the various women’s ministries that she is a part of in leading.
Through both of these experiences, it dawned on me that although we believe that we have been called by God to fulfill His purpose for our pastoral leadership, we are afraid to step into the realm of leading men. We back away from heated conversations, hold our tongues around men who assume they know the best way to do something but in reality are not seeing the whole picture, and keep our thoughts to ourselves to allow them to lead first. Are we doing these things because this is the godly way to do them? Or are we just afraid to differ and perhaps argue our points to men?
I have been guilty of this same thing myself. As a woman, physically I am vulnerable to men. I fear for my own safety when leaving a building at night, or even my own home. I avoid confrontation with men outside my husband, because I am vulnerable. Just by being female, I am vulnerable to the physical impact that their strength could have. Regardless of whether or not I believe those men will actually hurt me, I still hold myself back because I have been taught that one never knows when  a person could snap.
I have also had this kind of reaction inbred in my life because of how I grew up. I lived in a home where my father was incredibly verbally abusive, and would use his size and strength to intimidate me. He never hit me, but there were times I was very afraid of him. Since I grew up with a man who used his strength and size to intimidate me, I still expect this to be the case years later, when my husband has never done the same. I hate this reaction, but it is still there all the same.
Through the journey that God has set me upon, I have come to realize that if a person, male or female, is called to pastor people, they can be called to pastor both sexes. All races. There is not an issue under the sun that God cannot and does not equip people to pastor in, regardless of what gender they are. I was highly cared for when in labor with my first two children by our pastor who was not afraid of the laboring woman, and came to pray for me and our children. Male pastors have mentored and disciple me in many ways, why is that different when the pastor is female ministering to men?
All women in ministry need to stop holding themselves back specifically for women’s or children’s ministry, and begin seeing that God calls us to minister to all people. Yes, there are times that we are specifically called to minister to certain groups, but do not pigeon hold yourself. God can and will open many doors that we are meant to walk through. The main idea here would be that we must stop being afraid to step on a man’s toes in ministry. We must learn to be confident in God’s call for our lives, regardless of what gender we are.
On a side note, we must be careful to not put ourselves in dangerous positions to be hurt by someone physically or emotionally. If a female pastor or female community member is being discipled by a male pastor or community member, it is always smart to have other people around the building. We need to know that God calls us to minister to men and women, but that we must protect ourselves from gossip or slander as much as possible as well. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Today, I mourn not having anymore babies...

Part of being a mom means mourning the fact that we must, at some point, stop having babies. Really, I love babies. I waited most of my life to have them, had four in seven years, and now my youngest baby is two. It is surreal to me that the time went by so fast. While I was pregnant, people kept telling me to enjoy it because it goes by quickly, but in the fog of being tired, I forgot to savor it. I forgot to stop and press those memories upon my heart. Now I look back and wonder what I could have done to make the time go slower, but there is nothing I could have done.

As a woman, there will always be a part of me that longs to hold a sweet, little, newborn bundle. I love the warmth. I love nursing. And changing diapers did not bother me. The worst part of the experience for me was being pregnant. I had four really big babies, all between eight and ten pounds, so carrying that around for nine months was not easy. All these other women were working out a week before they delivered, and I was lucky to be walking a week before I delivered. There are times I miss the feeling of a little one kicking and squirming, but that would be about the only thing I miss.
So, to all of you having babies or with newborns, remember, it goes by very quickly. One day, you will blink and your baby will be a nine year old that can wrap those long arms all the way around your waist and squeeze tighter than you can handle. Your three year old will walk happily away one day, off to preschool because that is where he would rather be than in your arms. I have one that is happy and content just doing his own thing, and it makes me sad that he doesn't need mom or dad very often. I have been lucky with a two year old who likes to cuddle, kiss, and love on mom all the time, and it makes my heart happy. The best part about having four boys? Little boys never stop needing their mom’s. Boys grow up to be men who still need love and support from their mom’s. This does not make the mama’s boys, it makes them well rounded, loving men who know how to treat the woman in their lives.

Although I mourn my babies, I also look forward in hope and joy for who they will become in Christ. I gladly hand my heart, my sons, over to the Father who has a much better plan than I could ever have. Because, in reality, they were His boys long before they were ever mine. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sometimes, being Jesus means keeping our mouths shut.

For our Good Friday service at church last week, we viewed the Passion of the Christ film. It was only the second time I had seen it since it was released, and yet it was no less powerful for me. As we were watching it, I could not help but notice how much Jesus did not say. He never stood up for Himself; He never fought for justice because what was being done to Him was unjust. Instead, He went willingly to His own death and persecution.
It was during that time that the Supreme Court began proceedings on deciding whether or not to allow homosexual marriage. I have friends on both sides of this issue, and please realize that I am not starting a debate about it on my blog. What I am trying to point out in mentioning this is that as Christians, we have made standing up for our opinions and biblical beliefs more important than the people we are trying to help spread the Gospel to. I am guilty of this. For most of my life, I have attempted to prove myself right about issues and topics that were not altogether that important. I used to think it was very important to be right about things, and that everything was either black or white.
But through one particular relationship I had that quickly blew up in my face, I realized that sometimes it is less important to be right, and more important to love. You see, Jesus didn't tell us to “Go into the world and prove God’s moral issues.” God doesn't ask us to “Go, and teach other people how to prove their morality.” Both of these things sound ridiculous when I state them that way, but really, that is what we are trying to do. Glenn Packiam points out in his book, Secondhand Jesus, that “First, we cannot curse the darkness for being dark. Sinning is all a sinner knows to do, or is able to do. It does no good for the church to beg the world-or berate the world or beat the world or legislate the world-into better behavior. Sin is the best they can ever do.” This does not mean that we cannot attempt to vote for our morals and beliefs. It does mean that we cannot force other people to be or do what we want them to be or do. We cannot make people live morally.
Sometimes, being Jesus means keeping our mouths shut. It is learning to know when and where we share our thoughts and beliefs, and this does not mean that we are compromising those beliefs. It just means that we want to share who we are in Christ, we choose to share His love, more than we choose to share our interpretations of the Bible.