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On Conflict

This week I’m at Camp and our theme is “Come and See.” Our, somewhat ambitious, goal is to experience the ENTIRE life of Jesus from beginning to end…in one week. Most of our main teaching times are skits that act out some moment in the life of Jesus. Yesterday, we did the calling of Matthew. I was Matthew and one of our other directors was a Pharisee. During the interaction the Pharisee would “boo” me and encourage others to do so. The Pharisee said the group shouldn’t allow me to follow Jesus. At one point, he threw a spoon at me.

Yes we’ve embraced the historically accurate practice of spooning at Camp this year.

It got me thinking about the conflict that must have been present between the disciples. Zealots and tax collectors weren’t on the most friendliest of terms, you might know/remember. For much of my life I’ve just assumed they all were well behaved and just ignored the tensions between themselves because of their curiosity about Jesus. But the more I think about Jesus, life and people, the more I realize this is a naïve imaginary tale I’ve woven for myself without thinking about.

No there was probably a lot of conflict, a lot of bad blood and no matter who the leader is, bad blood doesn’t dissolve over night.

And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing and maybe we have something to learn from this.

Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on conflict and the kingdom of God. Of particular interest I’ve been pondering how often people who are Christ followers engage conflict with themselves and those around them. I’ve often noticed that among members at a Church, people seem to be very passive aggressive. We often have problems with other members for various reasons but we don’t really deal with the reasons. We don’t address the issues. We’re so afraid of conflict exploding and hurting the church but instead we internalize our feelings, or we talk to the completely wrong people about what’s going on.

We tend to group into like minded groupings, this is natural and is not necessarily a bad thing. BUT when that grouping becomes insulated and a place where people outside of the group are negatively discussed we end up poisoning the whole group. This is especially true for the church. In, perhaps the tragic irony of the whole ordeal, by trying to avoid conflict and keep the peace, we actually are destroying the very bonds that hold us together.

In Matthew 5 and Matthew 18 (I’m not going to tell you where, go find yourself lazy bones) Jesus lays out a pretty good method of dealing with conflict. It’s actually brilliantly simple. It’s called…are you ready for this….talking.

WHAT?!?!

Yes, talking, actually going to the person and engaging in conflict to find peace and resolutions. The truth of the matter is that peace and resolutions do not happen without conflict. True peace among friends is not a lack of conflict per se, but rather a healthy view of conflict and how it is to be handled. Also, conflict has a way of bringing people together. Anyone who has been married for a long time knows that healthy conflict resolution will actually grow a relationship. Engaging conflict says to the other person (or persons) that they matter to you. They are worth trusting and being honest with. They are worth fighting with them as you fight for them.

Don’t let feelings of hurt, betrayal or frustrations stay internal. Don’t push it down for the sake of being nice. Jesus doesn’t call us to be nice (kind yes but not nice…and there’s a big difference by the way). Jesus calls us into unity, into service, into love. And maybe in a perfect world there is no conflict, but this isn’t a perfect world and there is conflict and conflict, when handled properly, actually moves us towards a more perfect world. A world where it’s ok to be honest, a world where people actually communicate with each other.

So if you have a problem with someone….go work it out. Seek forgiveness, give forgiveness. Stop pretending like there is not problem between you and someone if there is. Handle your business my friends…and do it well.

Hey it’s my blog!! Man, I haven’t written on this thing in about a year…well 11 months and some change really. It’s the night before I leave for two weeks of camp and I’m sitting in silence in my living room. Why? Because my life is going to be pretty loud the next few weeks so storing up some peace just seems like a wise move.

As I was sitting here listening to the sound of sweet lady A/C, my mind wandered to a topic that it has wandered to quite often lately. The people who used to be involved in church and have sense left for various reasons. My heart breaks for them, it really does. Some leave for, what I think are poor reasons, and my heart doesn’t necessarily break for them, although I also recognize that I don’t know their whole story so I try not to judge. But for those who have legitimate complaints and concerns, for those who tried and were burned, ignored or pushed away…my heart is heavy for them.

I want to create an environment where people see the beauty of the Church and people aren’t burned by her. I don’t know if that’s possible but it’s my dream. I want to create time(s) and space(s) where honesty can be embraced, where people are safe and where we all understand that faith is hard for some people…and that’s…o…k. It doesn’t come easy to everyone and they should have the space to admit that and not be made to feel burdened. God comes to us all in different ways, Jesus doesn’t just approach us all like he did Paul…there is great diversity in how Jesus approached many of the apostles.

And I hope to create environments that embrace that idea. I could say more but I have a podcast on the topic, which you should totally check out Tear Gas and Gum Drops on ITunes. In the next few weeks our podcast will be addressing the topic.

So that’s where I am tonight…this was good for me…getting the words out and not dwelling…it’s Cathartic…which is probably why most people blog to begin with.

Listen

You may not know this about me but I love to talk. I really do. I love the sound of my voice (unless it”s being played back…I hear myself more awesome than I actually sound and prefer to just keep that illusion thank you very much). I was wired to be a public speaker. God gifted me for proclaiming and preaching. And I love doing it!! Being behind a pulpit or in front of a crowd to talk about the resurrection of Jesus…there just aren’t words to describe how I feel in that moment.

But the negative side of this gift is that listening is not my go to action. I’m not the best listener, even when people are talking to me most of the time I’m already forming my response before they have finished speaking. It’s not easy shutting that off and takes a lot of intentional focus to actually listen and to hear (not that this surprises anyone, I’m sure you’ve noticed).

I bet Jesus was a good listener. It’s probably why He spent more time asking questions than giving answers (that and He enjoyed messing with religious people). The writer of Hebrews said, 

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

On the one hand, the writer is referring to the incarnation, the idea of Jesus coming to earth as the Word made flesh. As Paul says “Jesus emptied himself and made himself a servant.” Jesus experienced personal temptation because He was human. I also think He experienced temptation and life through other people as well. He paid attention to them. He listened to them and was able to make a connection with them. Understanding, connecting with someone comes through experience AND listening. Paying attention to the world and the life of the other.

I’ve been trying to be better at listening. To not give an answer when questioned but instead to ask more questions. To get down to the core of people. It hasn’t been easy and I’m still not very good at it but I’m trying.

Next week listening will be key, questioning will be crucial, observing will be central. Listen when Terri, Nicole, Matt, Luis or Big Willy speaks. Pay attention to what we drive through. Observe how people live. LIsten, learn and love. This is how we empty ourselves as Jesus did and serve. This is how we learn of other struggles as Jesus did. This is how we love as Jesus does.

Prayer

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

It was 2012 when I went to Honduras for the first time. Me and Dennis and five other older women. It was like a weird episode of the Golden Girls (if you don’t know what the Golden Girls are…ask your parents). It was a blast!! I loved sitting and talking with the ladies, working on building houses, feeding people, playing with kids, walking around a hospital praying with sick men and women, who despite a language barrier knew at least the God I was praying to. And all I could think when I got home was, I can’t wait to bring students back. 

Last year we dabbed our foot in the water. Three students and two adults. I was a pile of nerves even though i wasn’t there. I was so anxious to see them and hear how it went that I couldn’t help but meet them at the airport. A picture of that group sits on my desk and I can’t help but smile each time I look at it.

Then in September we started fundraising and spreading the word. From the beginning of 2013, I said “we wouldn’t do this without God’s hand in it.” I spent hours on my knees and back in prayer. Late nights just looking up at the ceiling and talking to God, expressing my hope, fear, frustrations and desire for us to make our goal. I have never understood the idea of “pray without ceasing” as clearly as I have this past year. Not a day went by where Honduras wasn’t on my mind.

Then we made our goal! It was a miracle to me that we made the goal in spades. And this past Friday it struck me: I hadn’t prayed about Honduras since the benefit concert. I had forgotten that we still had the trip lol.

Prayer is a beautiful thing. It’s our chance to sit and listen to God but also to express our thoughts to Him. I believe Scripture teaches us that God listens to our prayers. Our prayers matter. I believe our prayers, in tandem with the Holy Spirit, change fates; life is not entirely a pre-designed set of steps clearly laid out before us. Sure there are something that God has prepared in advance but I don’t think that applies to everything.

That’s why we pray. We pray to live into the idea of God’s will being done on earth as it is in Heaven. We pray to find out what that will is and we pray to impact that will (see Luke 11). We keep going before God to be in communication with Him. To be in an intimate relationship with Him.

So keep praying for Honduras. Don’t stop just because we’re almost there. And if you hadn’t started yet…start now. 4 days people!! 4 days to see God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. So let’s get on our knees until they ache and lift up our voices until our throats are dry!!

 

4 days baby!! WOO!!!! 

Fear

You may or may not know that during youth group activities or events I am on edge. Not that I’m nervous all the time, I’m simply overly attentive to everything. I watch teens conversate, the way they make faces, what they do with their hands, who gets in line for food, who does and doesn’t play the game, who talks who doesn’t and so forth and so on. I am attentive and aware and prepared for anything to happen…and that’s just a regular Sunday night youth group (which btw, is why I like to be napping on the pew from 5:30-5:45).

So if you were to ask Kyle to describe what he’ll be like next week think, “a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” There is a lot to be anxious about when going on a mission trip (or any youth trip really).There is a lot to be anxious for in a developing country like Honduras. So combine them and you get a massive tornado of potential anxiety and fear. We go next week trusting God because there are a lot of unknowables involved.

What is something you’re afraid? What are you most concerned about in regards to our Honduras trip?

It’s funny how quickly a small concern can grow into a major worry and then evolve into a massive fear. You know what I’m talking about? You have a small thought that you let run wild and pretty soon…you find yourself afraid to swim in lakes because you’re afraid of swimming into a dead body (long story, silly fear from high school…still the reason i don’t like swimming in lakes).

So again I ask, “what are you most concerned about for our Honduras trip?” If you can write it down or say it outloud do so now please. I’ll wait.

Done yet? Really? Sheesh…ok hurry up.

Ok…have your fear? Good. Think about it for a moment. Why do you have this fear or concern? How daunting is this fear to you?

Here’s the good news: Our God is bigger. Our God is bigger than any fear or doubt we could possibly conceive. You know…cause He’s God and all, it comes with the territory. Nothing we can imagine for this trip will ever be able to over power the wonderful God who calls us to serve Him.

Consider these words of Jesus found in john 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble but take heart!! I have overcome!!”

Notice he doesn’t say “we won’t struggle, I have overcome!!” He says you will struggle and I have overcome.” The things we fear may bring us trouble, not like our Honduras trip won’t have problems (the DUMP alone may make some of you discover how much you can vomit in one hour) but those problems, those struggles and those fears have nothing on Jesus. He has overcome!!

As you prepare for Honduras spend some time taking your concerns and fears before the Lord in prayer. Focus on Him and let Him take you by the hand through your fears in His strength and His glory.

An Exciting Story!!

If you’re life was a book, would people read it? What kind of story would it be? Would people walk away from that book feeling better about life? Would they know something knew about the world around them? Would it change the way they think of love? Would it be an action and adventure book or a love story? Would it tell the tale of an under dog over coming amazing odds to accomplish some brilliant goal?  Would it be a best seller or at least make a profit from sales? Would it be a story worth telling?

Or would it bore people? Would it be the story that you get three chapters in and think, “Nope, I’m done.” Would it quickly get tossed into a donation pile? Would scores of copies be stored away in warehouses for ages to come? Would it make it on the 10 worst selling books of all time? Would it be mediocre?

Why would it be boring? What is your story lacking that would make it worth telling to someone else?

I am excited because next week, after literally years of planning and praying, after months of fundraising, we finally get to go to Honduras. We get to stand among people who live in a dump, we get to build houses, we get to feed the hungry, we get to play with orphans. We get to be apart of the story of Jesus. We get to be a part of the Kingdom of God in a wonderfully, simplistic way. I’m not saying it’s going to be amazing at every step of the way. I’m not saying it’s going to be a deeply spiritual week. It may just be a regular work week for us. But it will be a GOOD week. It will be good because we will get to interact with Jesus in a way we don’t often have the chance to.

Matthew 25 tells the parable of the end of times. In the story one group of people is sent off to destruction for not caring for the poor, the hurting, the naked and the hungry. Another group finds salvation because they did care for the poor, the hurting, the naked and the hungry. In the midst of this story Jesus says, “That which you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Do you get what that means? Jesus hangs out with the poor. Jesus is in the midst of those who are hurting, broken, naked and hungry. We get to serve Jesus in a wonderful, smelly, gross, hard, beautiful way next week.  How awesome is that?! We get to take hold of the Lord in a way that many Christians fail to do. But we GET to. It’s a beautiful gift that is coming next week.

Now of course, you might be nervous. That is a perfectly normal response. We are traveling to a different culture, with a different language and a different worldview than our own. And of course you may be doubting what good you’ll be next week. Again, a perfectly normal response. From personal experience I know I can do very little when it comes to hammering. And it’s often hard to help people when you can’t understand them. But in whatever way we may deem ourselves valuable or unvaluable remember that none of that matters anyway. We’re not going because we have a long list of skill sets people need. We’re going because Jesus is there and we want to be a part of what he is doing. We’re going because Jesus loves us enough to give us an opportunity to be a part of something special.

So what kind of book would you have? Whatever kind of book you think it might be, the good news is that if it’s boring you can change it. You can live a life that is filled with good. Next week we all get to add an exciting story to our books. I hope you don’t miss out on it. Start preparing now. Start praying, start reading Scripture. Open your mind up to the story God is writing in Honduras and when we get there next week, dive in like someone who just bought a brand new book they can’t wait to read.

In my last blog I talked about my future plans for raising Isaac (my son). Ideas that I had that I would try and implement to help him grow not only into a responsible adult but also into a faithful follower of Jesus. It was based off an article that I read called “10 Mistakes Christian Parents Make” or something along those lines…I don’t remember the specific title at hand and it really isn’t important. It was an article in line with what seems like hundreds of other blogs that are trying to address the problem of Christians leaving the faith when they get older. The theory is (and research supports this theory to a degree) that teenagers model their parents’ faith. This is a good pursuit. Strong Christian role models are a noble endeavor. God is certainly glorified when we try and encourage one another. Plus the Church needs a PR face lift, so encourage radical faithfulness to Jesus can certainly help with that in some ways I imagine.

But then I got to thinking about parents who students who left the faith who were faithful followers of Jesus. In all the studies, in all the reports it can become very easy to assume that teens that stay in church had great parents and teens that didn’t had not so great parents. It can be easy to turn this discussion or issue into a black and white, this is in and this is out battle extravaganza…similar to the discussions about which sleep training method to use Baby Wise or whatever other books are out there.

It’s easy to get vicious in these discussions because we care about our kids. Because this issue is important and when important issues arise it is hard to remain objective and honest. It is easy to get tunnel vision and create a strict, one size fits all solution. So I got to thinking about all of that. And while I do plan on implementing many of my ideas plus others I also want to address one thing when it comes to parenting. But before I go there, a word on future Kyle.

This whole post started because I started thinking about Future Kyle…you know the me in a few years who has to live with the results of Present Kyle (the always awesome) or Past Kyle’s (the usually annoying) decisions. Normally, I’m very neglectful of Future Kyle mainly saying “That’s Future Kyle’s problem.” But in a rare moment of futuristic-self-empathy, I started to worry about how Future Kyle would respond to my last post. What If I didn’t implement everything, what if Isaac grew up not following Jesus? What if he was Buddhist or something else? Would Future Kyle be sad? Is this another soon to be “silly past Kyle” moments that Future Kyle would bemoan? So I’m going to be a little pastoral to Future Kyle…and hopefully to others as well.

Dear Future Kyle,

Hey buddy, hope you’re doing well. Sorry about your credit score…I know, I know. On a brighter note, I bet you’re still hilarious and well read. Is it easier to buy books off amazon after they downloaded the shop chip into our collective brains? Do you still play Fantasy Football? I hope you do. Also, I’m trying to lose weight so our waste stops looking like our dad’s or better yet a lower case b. I’m assuming I succeeded.

Look, I don’t know what the future holds or what decisions I made but I hope we made good ones. Regardless of what happened, remember, Good Parenting does not negate free will (or if for some reason you turn Calvinist on me….Good Parenting does not negate predestination). You do the best you can, share and proclaim to the best of your abilities and the Lord moves as He will. Isaac will make whatever decisions he wanted to. It is not a negative reflection on you or your parenting choices.

Look, you know this but in case you forgot, kids do dumb things. Kids rebel. Kids don’t always listen and if Isaac is anything like his mother (and you unfortunately) he’s probably really stubborn. We’re all flawed people and sometimes we make mistakes. You’re just as flawed as Isaac if not more so. Yes you could’ve read more books to him, made more time for him. I’m sure you lost your temper with him more often than you would like. But you never stopped loving him and that is important.

Regardless, he is a free being capable of making his own choices. The reasons people make the decisions they make are complex and not always easy to resolve. Faith takes time to develop. And remember faith is not built on a list of rules, doctrines, ideas or even actions of other people but it is grounded in some experience with the Risen Lord Jesus. Maybe it hasn’t clicked yet, in any event, keep your head up buddy.

If he isn’t a Christian please remember the story for him isn’t over yet. There is always time, God is always at work and wondrous things tend to happen when we least expect them to. Regardless, he is your son and for that give thanks and be proud. He is a gift. He is YOUR gift. Treat him well, treat him with love, be firm when necessary (cause I bet that was your strength…right? being firm? I’m sure it was). But above all never stop supporting him.

That’s all for now buddy. I hope we end up well, maybe not super rich but I would like to think the world is a better place because we existed. In any event, I’ll do my best so you don’t have to roll your eyes too much when you get all nostalgic. Say “Sup girrrrl you lookin all fine and what nots to future Erin” for me. Love you bro and I’ll see you one day.

 

P.S. – IF we develop the ability to time travel, DON’T go back to the old west…I don’t want to die in the 1800’s around cowboys. Any other time is fine. *future self -high five*

 

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