Category Archive: Conversations

That They May be One

‘Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell’. 

Psalm 43:3

A devotion from Seeds of the Kingdom explains that in Scripture light often symbolizes well-being. So walking in the light of God’s presence illuminates the deepest secrets of our hearts, and carries with it day to day benefits for us. First, it keeps us in the truth. We live in a world of compromise and relativism and more than ever before we need to know the truth so we can walk in God’s ways. Second, it dispels our fear because His presence is always with us and we will not lose our way. Third, walking in the light of God’s presence is the way of obedience. In Scripture obedience and blessing go hand in hand. https://seedsofthekingdom.org/devotionals/0140/walking-in-the-light-of-god%E2%80%99s-presence.php

How can we walk in the light of God’s presence in a world, a country that is deeply divided right now?

Our small women’s Bible study group studied Jesus’ prayer in John 17 this week. He prays that we will be one, as He and the Father are one. He prayed for us, for me–“for those who will believe in me through their message.”

He prays for this oneness so the world may believe God sent Jesus, and that Jesus loves us even as the Father loves the Son (John 17:23)

This weekend a local pastor shared some letters he has received in the past two weeks. Each said she was questioning her relationship with God because of the divisions, the anger she sees within the church over politics.

Hearing these letters hurt. How tragic if our disagreements, my desire to be ‘right’, causes others to turn away from rather than to Christ!

So how do we move forward? We know we have political differences in the church. I think most families have some level of political difference. We don’t have to think alike. And yet Jesus prayed that we would be one.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

1 Corinthians 12:25-27 MSG

When injustice occurs, we need to hurt with those affected, and work for justice. When righteousness blesses someone, we rejoice exuberantly with them! We can look for opportunities to be intentional about loving someone with whom we disagree, especially politically.

We can also focus on relationship. There are differences within my family, but we have agreed that our relationship is more important than our differences. We’ve agreed not to discuss politics or, if we do, we work to do it briefly and in a spirit of respect for the other’s point of view.

Politics is not our savior; a political party cannot make us right with God. His purposes go beyond what happens in the November election. We don’t have to think alike; but our focus needs to be on Jesus and on the mission He gave us to share His love and truth with the world. If we do this, we can lay some of our differences aside and love each other.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headedthat exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Hebrews 12:2-3 MSG

What are you finding in this divisive time? Is your family all on the same page politically? If not, how do you handle those disagreements?

FINDING HOPE

In Finding Hope: Steps toward Racial Reconciliation, Pastor Hurmon Hamilton taught from the story of Lazarus in John chapter 11.

Three keys he mentioned from this story were:

  1. Listen graciously. So often we listen while we’re preparing our response, whether it’s defending our own actions, justifying certain behaviors, or even agreeing with what we’re hearing. Jesus listened to Lazarus’ sisters who both bared their hearts, saying “If you’d only been here, our brother would not have died.” Jesus didn’t rebuke them; rather, He wept with them.
  2. Reflect prayerfully. What is our God-led response to what we hear (rather than our knee-jerk reaction)? Jesus saw the sisters’ pain, and that of the mourners, and was “greatly troubled.” He asked “Where have you laid Him?” The mourners didn’t just point the way – they said “Come and see.” And He went with them.
  3. Act thoughtfully. John 11:38-39 says “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb … Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.'” Martha, never one to hold her tongue, said but Lord, he’s been dead four days. Surely he stinks by now!

Jesus spoke to His Father, then cried out loudly, “Lazarus, come forth.” And Lazarus, wrapped in graveclothes, bound and stiff, walked out of the tomb. Jesus told the watchers to take the graveclothes off the man, because he was no longer dead, but alive!

I hate what’s happening in our country now. The riots, looting, violence, burning Bibles and flags. I’ve never experienced such a divisive time in my lifetime.

And no, we’re not each responsible for the racial injustices we see in our world. But as Christ-followers it is our moment to stand up and show the world who we are in Jesus.

And there are many reasons to listen, to reflect prayerfully, and to act thoughtfully. I have not experienced the systemic racism that instituted Jim Crow laws, that led to the formation of the Ku Klux Klan, that gave higher-interest mortgages–or none–to persons of color, because I am Caucasian. But my heart goes out to those who have been unfairly treated and given less opportunity simply because of the color of their melanin.

I want to follow Jesus’ example. Pastor Hamilton suggested asking our brothers and sisters to tell us their story of being African American in America–and listening!

If you’d like to hear the entire sermon, follow this link. I think you’ll be challenged and encouraged as Don and I were.

How Do I Deal with Separation Anxiety …

I took my Sunflower Butter and raspberries to the checkout counter, where a tall, lovely African-American woman greeted me with a big smile. We chatted for a minute and I said something to which she responded, “I’m on your team there.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is woman-in-gray-sweater-3214751-2-683x1024.jpgPhoto by Ralph Rabago from Pexels

Prompted internally, I said, “And the biggest team I’m on is Jesus’ team.”

“Me too girl! I don’t wanna miss that team!”

Her joyful response prompted me to say that I thought she might be. We parted with big smiles and anticipation of seeing each other the next time I’m in that market.

With Shelter in Place we have fewer opportunities to communicate with others, to encourage them and be encouraged by them, to laugh together, to enjoy a shared moment that brings sunshine to both our souls.

Most of Don’s and my interactions have been with each other and our sweet Paigey; and occasionally with a family member we see, or an individual in a grocery store. I notice that with our masks on, shoppers look less at each other.

Perhaps because we can’t see each other smile.

Perhaps because we’re trying to keep as much facial distance as possible between us. 

So when we relate to someone, like a cashier, over our masks, eyes meeting, it is a gift. We are made to be in relationship. We need each other. We need to find ways to connect despite our social distancing, which separates us, increases anxiety and depression.

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At PsychCentral, Paula Durlofsky, PhD writes about ways to combat the emotional impacts of social distancing. I have edited and added my own comments to some of her points.

  • Record your feelings like a reporter – just the facts. This helps calm the emotions and allows us to reason more clearly.
  • Make a plan for reducing your distress, whether that is watching a funny movie, taking a walk or a warm bath.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading and listening to the news. A radio talkshow host told one listener who was feeling depressed that if she stopped listening to the news for four days she would feel considerably better. Wise counsel!
  • Eat well-balanced meals, exercise, get enough sleep, and avoid damaging coping strategies like alcohol and drugs.
  • Enjoy the times you can have with family. Playing board games, watching movies together, taking walks, and talking through your day all help reduce stress levels and enhance your relationships.
  • Stay connected via social networking sites and virtual platforms. Zoom and FaceTime can provide opportunities to see the other’s facial expressions while we hear his or her voice.
  • Spend time in nature, hiking, going for a run or bike ride.

And  I would add:

  • Make prayer and Bible reading a part of your daily life. In this pandemic we are not alone. We have family, friends, people of faith with whom to connect; and more, we have the God who is always Present and who loves us unconditionally. Reading the Bible helps me cope with some of those depressive and anxious thoughts that rear their ugly heads. Praying helps me give them to my good good Father – even if I have to do that multiple times a day.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 NLT

What strategies are you using to deal with or prevent depression and anxiety?

 

How Do We Start the Conversation?

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there – and especially to mine in heaven, John Froese. I love you Dad!

So in this video Dad’s grandson, Drew Froese, starts a conversation with his friend Chris. Both are pastors. I love that during this time when we are very focused on racial reconciliation, the Church is starting these dialogues which I hope will continue long past the current protests.

https://youtu.be/o3yWfn4TAkc

It’s a conversation worth listening to. (And there are others found at tlc.org/reconcile, then click on “Conversations”.) When Jesus taught us to pray, He started with “Our Father …” and He’s a good good Father! But the “our” suggests that, while we pray individually, we also pray corporately – with all our brothers and sisters of every race and nationality and tribe.

He adopted you as his own children … now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ …

Romans 8:15, 17a

Let’s continue the conversation. I’d love to hear your response.

Blessings!