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How do I navigate differences in life opinions with my parents?
This question comes up often with a mixed bag of emotions. Some are sad and others are angry, but the underlying motivator is the chasm they now feel with their parents. As we move into adulthood, we start to see flaws or perceived flaws in the people we love, as we are all imperfect. Here are steps to build stronger relationships.
Looking for common ground helps this process. Before spending time with your family ask yourself these questions: How have I changed in my faith? How have my parents changed? Where do we have common ground?
Work through the following steps:
- Pray before you go. Ask for wisdom and peace.
- Jesus commands us to love, even love our enemies. (Luke 6:27-28) How can you show your parents love without compromising your beliefs?
- Be your authentic self without antagonizing your parents. Avoid controversial subjects but also respectfully stay true to yourself. Ask them if you can agree to disagree and move on. Remember you don’t have to prove yourself right or prove them wrong. Trust the Holy Spirit to direct their steps.
- Listen to them, recognize they are passionate about the world around them. Try to patiently allow them to express themselves. Being heard is powerful. James 1:19 Reminds us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Listening does not necessarily mean you agree.
- If you feel the need to challenge something they say, do so by asking questions. This is the way of the Rabbi, Jesus asked questions all the time. Watch your tone as you ask, leave sarcasm out of your conversation.
Why is this important to you?
Where did you learn this?
Why do you think that is true.
You might be surprised by what you learn as you respectfully listen. You certainly will see where their thoughts diverge from yours, but you may also see beauty and wisdom in there as well.
- Reassure your parents that you do love them no matter what they say or do. Just between you and me, you may not like them but you don’t have to communicate that to them. Scripture tells us to honor our parents, you can do this even when you disagree through love and respect.
We are complex, emotional beings, and establishing an adult relationship with your parents may be difficult. Assuming the center of your lives revolve around Jesus, use this as your unifier. Opinions are based on views or judgements, sometimes the facts get skewed as we work through them. As we grow, we work to gain knowledge, understanding grows from the application of the knowledge, and finally we apply it with wisdom. No matter how your parents respond, live this life exploring the richness of faith.
Mary had great faith but she was just a kid. Maybe as a teenager her naivety protected her from full understanding of what she would endure.
Luke 1:48-49 (NLT) “For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”
She believed the angel. Then God provided evidence to continue to build her faith.
Mary was highly favored. Luke 1: 28 (NLT) “Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Gabriel spoke these words over Mary before it all began. Yet, look at her life from a historical point of view. Mary was the only one who knew Jesus from conception all the way to Pentecost. Mary was at His birth, childhood, and first miracle. She witnessed His ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and was present in the upper room when the Holy Spirit empowered His followers. Reread that. Can you fathom the honor of her position? She sacrificed much but she witnessed the greatest events in history.
Not only was she visited by an angel, God prepared others to support her too. Older and wiser people walked along side her as she stepped into the position of mother of Jesus.It is another example of the importance of intergenerational relationships that empower each of us to live out our part of God's story.
Joseph – Her husband-to-be knew exactly what was happening. He loved God and loved her through it. (Matthew 1:20-24)
Elizabeth – Her cousin was empowered by the Holy Spirit to know the child Mary was carrying before Mary spoke a word. (Luke 1:41) Elizabeth, pregnant before Mary, it is believed that Mary stayed with her as little John came into the world. Her visit equipped her in her own motherhood journey.
Simeon – The Holy Spirit guided him to the temple to meet Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as they came to present the baby to the Lord. He spoke words that confirmed Jesus was the Messiah. (Luke 2:25-35)
Anna – This prophet recognized Jesus immediately. She praised God and was filled with joy when she saw the family in the temple. (Luke 2:36-40)
Who in your life is there to support you and who are you called to support?
Mary remembered God’s promises and provision. Luke 2:19 (NLT) “but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” When times became confusing, she remembered God’s promise. This boy, her son, was the Messiah. God’s promised deliverer. His life purpose would come to pass.
She faced hopeless and helpless situations according to the world’s standards, but God saw it differently. She trusted God, although an ordinary woman, God did extraordinary things through her.
Victor in Christ, faithful to belong, noble in character and ready now to follow His lead we will go forward into a new year.
Perplexed by the choice in front of her, she hesitantly expressed her concern. The din of the coffee shop almost drowned out her voice, and the cup she wrapped her hands around grew cold. We weren’t there just for the coffee that day, her face expressed the confusion she felt.
Repeated by today’s younger generation, this famous quote from Pontius Pilate feels hauntingly relevant. “What is truth?” With echoes of “false news” ringing in their ears, how can they measure God’s truth.
The Apostle John gave us a simple answer test the spirit.
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
Confusion over truth is not new. John addressed this issue after the Gnostics introduced confusion about Jesus’ identity. The Gnostics claimed Jesus, a mere man, received God when God descended on Him at His baptism and left Him before Jesus suffered on the cross. This prompted John to encourage his readers to test the spirit.
John knew that Jesus, the Son of God, was God from conception on. This is an intricate part of our faith and one we stand on as truth. With acceptance of Jesus as our savior we receive Holy Spirit, also known as the Spirit of Truth.
The Spirit of Truth radiates out of us. It empowers us to live in this world, preventing us from to be pulled into legalism or grace without boundaries. None of us get this one hundred percent right every time. Just look at the history of the church. In hindsight we can see the errors. We need to look at each situation with humility.
Our job is to point others to Jesus, not fix their flaws. We need to recognize we don’t always get it right ourselves. I know I am flawed and can’t possibly be right in everything and neither can you. We need grace for each other, so much grace.
Our goal is to be self-aware, testing what we are learning. Walking along side others as they are doing the same, guiding them gently and humbly into the truth.
When we are listening to others who are seeking spiritual truth, we can ask these questions so they can see it through the lens of Jesus.
- Do they claim Jesus is God? Knowing their spiritual roots helps discern where the information is coming from. It doesn’t mean you can’t get good information from non-Christian sources; you just need to measure it accordingly.
- How would Jesus respond to them? We see countless interactions in Scripture of Jesus response because Jesus loved people. He offered gentle guidance to those caught in sin and firm rebuke to the religious leaders who did not recognize His authority.
- Do they reflect the character of Jesus? Do we see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the people expressing this ideology? Does it fit with the Bible’s description of Jesus, the Word.
- Does it line up with loving God and loving people? This is a tough one, I think we get this wrong so much of the time. We either extend too much grace or we extend judgement. That road is narrow just as Jesus described. We need to tread prayerfully forward.
- Does it line up with Scripture? Does this information you are examining line up with the Bible. We must use Jesus’ Word, in His way, giving life.
If they are still uncertain after all these questions, then we err on the side of grace. As we walk with them through the outcomes. We ask Jesus to continue to teach us and prayerfully surrender each step to Him.
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I opened the conversation as usual, “What would you like to discuss?”
Suddenly animated, the young woman across from me, hit the table with her fist and exclaimed “why are some people at church so angry all the time?”
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t disagree about anything without getting a lecture back.”
“What is your reaction to that?”
“I’ve stopped talking to them and I may even stop going to church to avoid it.”
Sadly, I’m hearing this question over and over.
I’ve tried to look at this topic from all sides, remembering that the end goal of our journey here is to build the Kingdom of God. Our society has developed an either/or culture. In general, it plays out as either you are with me, or you are against me.
With the pandemic we became more isolated, siloed with like minded people. We sought out information that we agreed with and interacted with only those sources, especially on social media. Once we reunited with others, many of us were set in a cultural truth we believed. In addition if you disagreed with me you were simply wrong.
To many those who disagreed were perceived as a threat to their way of life. This was true on both sides of each debate. So much so that their “either/or” became paramount in their mind and needed to be protected.
We became so entrenched in the “either/or” we have forgotten how to live in the AND. What does that mean? You are welcome at my church AND can disagree with me. Jesus is the center of our unity. Yes, the fruit of our lives reflects our relationship with Him. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit pours out of us with His fruit of love, joy, peace, patients, self-control, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and goodness.
As young people inundated with information, you are continually making choices of right and wrong. Discussing and debating issues allows us to develop our ideas of the truth but it also needs to be in a safe environment.
We each need to answer Jesus’ question of Mark 8:29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” This is the foundation of our faith. However, even if you don’t agree with Peter, as I do, you can still be my friend if you accept me for who I am. A believer of Jesus and a minister of the faith.
To my older friends, on current events and cultural issues, I ask these questions:
What do you value?
What causes do you care about?
Where do you want to grow?
How does that line up with Jesus’ teachings?
I follow up with their belief statements with:
Where did you hear that?
Why do you believe that?
In the process of examining our own answers to these questions we develop the ability to think for ourselves. This practice of critical thinking prevents us from the sway of the next social media influencer that comes along. The process of dialoguing develops relationships that grow with grace. It allows the participants to grow in understanding with unconditional love. It invites in, instead of pushing out.
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On a steamy July evening, we sat on the porch reflecting on her faith journey. She had spent the last ten weeks away from home for the first time. At twenty-one, she tasted independent living, although she entered it with anxiety and she’s now leaving with a newfound confidence.
“I’m thinking of looking for a new church home, is that ok?”
Certainly, that is ok.
The question to answer is why?
This was the church she grew up in, her family still attends there. She, however, no longer felt like part of that community.
You may relate with her concern but feel conflicted over this move. Especially if you experienced a healthy church life as a child, you may struggle with feeling disloyal. Your loyalty lies with Jesus first and your church family second. Pray and ask Him to show you whether you need to stay or go.
The church or Ekklesia, is the gathering of people who share in their belief of Jesus Christ. This group of people are meant to be family, sharing in worship, serving one another, and building the Kingdom of God. It is to be a place where the participants learn and grow to be more like Jesus.
Every church is flawed with imperfections of one kind or another. This is part of the human condition, so if you are leaving to find the perfect church, you aren’t going to find it. But leaving your childhood church, to see what else is out there, may help your faith move to the next level. As young adults, especially Gen Zers, you are looking for autonomy, for a place in which you will be treated as an adult.
Here are questions to ask yourself as you explore new congregations:
- Can you authentically serve in your current church?
- Does this church draw you closer to Jesus? Do you reflect Jesus to others because of attending there?
- Are you building community or see the potential to build community – especially an intergenerational community?
- Are you recognized as an adult, ready to commit to this community?
We are to avoid cherry picking, taking what we need, to meet our own needs. We need the love and support of other people to continue to pursue Jesus. True, as a young adult, you are going through a lot of changes, but you are also setting habits that will last a lifetime. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we are to “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” We each need a place to learn to live vulnerably in community.
She staired into her steaming cup of tea, tension creased her forehead. A recent college graduate, she haltingly expressed her concern.
“I love my mom but…”
“But she’s driving me crazy. She is constantly texting, calling, or dropping by. I feel guilty saying this, but she is so clingy!”
The words rushed out; a mix of emotions washed over her face. This wasn’t the first young person to share this complaint, so let’s dive in why is she so clingy?
Launching children into adulthood is a bittersweet event for most parents. If unprepared the parent can get lost in navigating the new landscape. As you mature into your new life of responsibility and independence, mom may not know how to respond.
Dear young friend, like you, your mom is in transition from one phase of life to the next. Her role until now, has been to get you to adulthood. From the day of your birth, her responsibility was to raise you to be an independent adult. This is a bittersweet time for your mom.
True confession, I’ve been tempted to be the clingy mom. I’ve said manipulative, guilt induced things which I later apologized for. Not be most stellar moment. I didn’t expect their launch into adulthood would leave me feeling discarded and old.
The negative emotions surprised me—I had higher expectations of myself. What should have been an exuberant time of my husband and I planning and pursuing our previously set-aside dreams became a dissatisfying lull I learned the Mayo Clinic identifies as Empty Nest Syndrome.
Which means the dynamic is prevalent enough to warrant a name. But since it’s not a clinical diagnosis, there’s not an exact or easy cure.
Your mom is excited for the new life you’ve found. She misses you, but she’s also happy for them. You worked hard to achieve all your accomplishments. Living on the edge of new adventures we call adulthood you are ready to go and she’s wondering what happened!
Remember your mom is more than your mom, she’s a person. She may be experiencing emotions she’s never felt before. As you traverse this new territory, respectfully address your concerns. Think of ways you can support her autonomy without threatening your own independence.
Some moms need time to adjust, and others may never change but they will always be your parent. Scripture reminds us to honor our mother and father, my prayer is you will develop a stronger relationship with your mom that lets you easily honor her.
Is it okay that I question things I’ve been taught about my faith?
The short answer is yes.
Does that surprise you? I think we get confused between theology and faith; a tension between the two brings moments of confusion causing us to seek clarity.
Theology is defined as the study of God and religion. Theo means God and ology means study of, it is a pretty straightforward understanding of the word. As believers we seek knowledge to better understand who God is and how to build a relationship with Him. That knowledge, appropriately applied, develops our wisdom as to how to properly live what we know.
Scripture is clear that we are to seek after wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 assures us that the knowledge and wisdom is in Jesus, we just have to look for it. “2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Some of theinformation presented to us can be misunderstood or misrepresented. This is why we test and search out the truth.
Faith, although related, is based on belief in God, spiritual comprehension instead of proof. As it says in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith, pistis in the Greek, means a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is God.
Theology is knowledge based while faith is belief based. When we question theology, we are not to throw away faith. On the contrary, when we investigate, we are simply answering the why we believe to grow our faith.
As imperfect beings, we recognize we don’t know it all and we continue to seek wisdom and knowledge through our relationship with Jesus Christ. This builds a better understanding of who He is and who we are to become. Find a trusted friend and investigate these questions together. Accurately applying Scripture, while seeking Jesus, will help you sort out what He has for you.
Ask this Mom is a monthly post that investigates the questions that matter to you.
On a cool summer morning, hinting at the approaching fall, we gathered. Each of us recognized this was a special moment, identifying it as a time worth celebrating. No speeches or toasts were given, just plenty of stories and laughter shared. We celebrated the intimacy of our family bond nurtured over a lifetime of experiences.
It started as a getaway weekend to my sister’s summer home. A quiet place on a river, a perfect escape destination from the stress of life. Within a few days of our departure, we discovered two of my other sisters were camping nearby. Texts flew back and forth as we realized our fifth sister also planned to be in the area. Expectations turned to excitement as we saw an impromptu party become a reality. For the first time all five sisters, with their five husbands, gathered without our children.
An extraordinary moment to treasure, the day remains a cherished snapshot in my mind. A simple backyard barbeque full of love and laughter ensued. Admiring the circle of family and friends, I quietly thanked God not just for them but for the legacy of my mom and dad. Their purposeful pursuit of family identity and unity permeated our time together. Essence of each of them peppered our conversation.
My parents raised five independent women during a tumultuous time in our history. However, their gifts to us remain timeless, a beautiful testimony to those who followed. Although far from perfect, they invited us into an adulthood centered on Jesus and His church with the freedom to choose our own path. Here are four intentional steps you can take, to form a similar legacy.
1. Make encouragement part of your daily lives.
No matter the age, recognizing both the gifts and struggles of the individual emboldens them to move forward in the path God set out for them. Encourage the good choices and coach them through the failures, reminding them that both develop us into our God designed selves.
2. Declare your family identity. I’m not sure when my dad started calling us “the good guys”, but it was a continual title used throughout my life. This is how my parents saw us and this is how we behaved. He set an expectation, through this positive declaration, of our character. When others urged us to step outside our family beliefs, that identity curbed the temptation.
Find a simple phrase that fits your family to undergird your identity. Make it positive and empowering.
3. Make unconditional love the expectation of your household. We were not measured by our achievements but loved because we were theirs. So much of our society rates our worth on what we do. However, a grace filled home counters that pressure, making it a safe place for the whole family.
Unconditional love extended into our poor choices as well. Living out the consequences of those choices impacted each of us as we grew and learned to navigate this world. No matter our choices, home remained a safe place.
4. Ask for wisdom before you act.
Even with all this in place, not all our choices lined up with the beliefs of our parents. Measuring the moment to determine their response took not only grace but wisdom. My sister moving to New York City challenged my parent’s peace, but it proved to be the correct choice.
Taking a moment to examine our own motivations before we comment or correct, helps direct a positive outcome. Measure our words and remember sometimes it is best to say nothing at all.
5. Daily choose gratitude. Living on a salesman’s wages with five daughters held challenges beyond our understanding. Each night at supper, we declared God is good and God is great. Thanking God for what we had permeated our home. Comparisons to friend’s material possessions were quickly squelched.
Thankfulness, demonstrated daily, trickles down to our children. Make a point to invite your children into sharing their gratitude.
Intertwined within our celebration, and our lives now, dwells the promise of Jeremiah 31:13 “Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” Building a lasting impact in your family through subtle daily choices will ensure joyful family gatherings even after you are gone.
It’s Good for You
How does celebrating shift our emotional response to day-to-day life? Celebration causes a physiological response in our body, lifting our emotions in the process. Acts of joy release dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters essential for brain health. In their presence we feel happiness. This same response comes with exercise, acts of service, and petting animals. However, our goal is more than a biochemical response, we want it to be an act of worship. A lovely cycle that invigorates us to move forward in life.
According to healthline.com, Celebrating is good for your brain, circulatory system and autonomic nervous system. As pleasure is stimulated in the brain our blood vessels dilate delivering more oxygen to our body. The ANS controls our fight or flight response, joy suppresses stress responses lowering blood pressure and breathing rate delivering an overall calm to the body. Fun is good for you! Now there is something to celebrate!
This physiological response is recognized in Scripture. Elizabeth’s baby John, leapt inside her when he heard Mary’s voice. His joy ignited Elizabeth’s, which in turn encouraged Mary.(Luke 1:39-45) David danced through the streets, emulate the dancing but don’t do it scantily clad.(2 Samuel 6:12-16) No, I’m not a prude, I just don’t want you to get arrested. Even the apostle Paul reminded us to rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and to celebrate with sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8)
Pick one joyful activity you can do right away, by yourself. What needs to be done to cross that item off your wish list? Now is the time to live it out. Make plans to do that one thing this month.
Second, pick something that includes your spouse or a friend. Work to find a mutual interest and make it an adventure. Keep in mind I’m using the word adventure loosely. Find something that you both are excited about that is out of the ordinary. Celebrate time together.
Third, pick something that will take some planning. What do you need to implement it? How do you need to proceed for it to come to fruition? It brings as much joy to a person to plan out a fun trip or activity as it does to do it, even if you don’t do it! Go for it, set a date, start saving, do what it takes to get this from an idea to action.
Here are some of my ideas:
- I’m going to make something from my Pinterest boards. You know the pins put in place when there wasn’t time to do them? Now is the time. Keep in mind the process is as important as the product. Enjoy the creative part of it, not just completing a project on a to-do list.
- My husband and I do Sunday adventures. We hike in local parks, go to farmers markets or a museum. These adventures include discovering new places and trying new activities. The actual event isn’t as important as getting out and enjoying time together.
- We are planning a trip to Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. It won’t be possible for a while, but the planning is part of the fun.
How you choose to chase joy depends on your individual personality. Whether simple or splendid, the point is to do it. God’s goodness is not dependent on our circumstances. The purpose is not to eliminate sadness in our life, it is an important aspect of our humanity. Reveling in the good in our life lifts our spirits so that we don’t ruminate on what we’ve lost but recognize the joyous gains. Take time this month to seek joy and celebrate the good around you.