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Thursday, 15 September 2022 14:42

Ask This Mom – Why are some Christians so divisive?

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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Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 19 July 2022 18:47

Ask This Mom - Why is my mom so clingy?

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?”

“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.

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Published in Devotionals

 

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. 

Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 17 May 2022 11:41

Connecting the Generations Day 1

Day 1: Connecting the Generations
Light from her computer monitor reflected off her face. She rubbed her eyes, after hours of starring at the screen. Now the source of her work, entertainment, and social life, this machine illuminated her weariness. Freshly graduated from college, her childhood bedroom once a source of comfort now felt like a trap.

“I need to find a social life.” With a sigh, she leaned back into her chair, “I don’t know where to begin when I don’t know anyone here anymore.” In fact, working from home, she spends most of her time in her bedroom – alone.
The Covid 19 pandemic brought chaos to Gen Z and younger millennials. Current events including illness, divisive political rhetoric, social unrest, financial stress accompanied by job loss, and war in Ukraine pummeled the hope of younger people. Loss, division, and pain amplified around them pounding at their spirits and mental health. Anxiety levels spiked; uncertainty reined in their day to day lives. Eighty percent of the young people I surveyed said their anxiety is greater now than it was pre-pandemic.

Two years of pandemic and now economic struggles intensely affected both millennials (now in their twenties and thirties) and Gen Z (teens and early twenties). Mentoring these individuals now carries additional challenges. Older millennials, now parents themselves, faced the challenge of balancing their children’s distance education and working from home. Many with young children face finding ways to socialize their preschool kids. Generation Z entered the workforce during a volatile job market. Finding career jobs with lower pay combined with increased housing costs have forced many to move back with their parents.

Job loss was common, filing for unemployment brought confusion, uncertainty and even embarrassment. Hard working individuals never thought they’d find themselves in this position. Still launching their careers, financial pressure added to their pain.

Transitioning into adulthood during a unique historical event created difficulties new to modern times. Although they interacted via video, most of their workday remains spent alone. This greatly stifled workplace relationships, an essential part of transitioning from college to career. In addition, loss of church community put further pressure on them. Watching from home brought spiritual food without a community to nurture its growth.

How do we become a source of help to this struggling generation? In this five-day series we will:

  1. Look at the problem and try to understand its impact on our younger generations. Gaining tools to validate the real circumstances our young people are facing.
  2. Define anxiety and learn what to do and what not to do when walking with someone who struggles with this.
  3. Examine the deconstruction movement as it relates to our mentoring relationships? We will examine both the positive and negative impacts. In turn we will develop listening skills important to younger people. Listening is the greatest relationship builder we have.
  4. Develop ways to build intergenerational relationships and combat loneliness not only in their lives but also ours.
  5. Recognize in the long run this will build a stronger and resilient generation. There is a great potential in our young people, growing in your understanding will benefit all of us. Bridging the divide propels us toward unity.

Psalm 68:6 “God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” (NLT)

Action step: Who came to mind when you read this piece? What young people do you know that my need your encouragement? Take a moment to write down their name(s) and commit to praying for them during the next five days.

Feel free to send this to others that may be interested in this information. Invite them to join our journey. They can sign up to get the rest of these emails here. 

Published in Devotionals
Sunday, 31 January 2021 19:59

Restore the Broken House of God

 

Are you frustrated with the fractured society that has infiltrated the church? Anger, conflict, and division ripped through our country this last year. People were categorized allowing us to dehumanize them. BUT they are human - created in the image of God. We need to see each person as individuals. Young people look to their elders for example and accuse us of apparent hypocrisy. Jesus calls us to restore others – repairers of the breach in the King James. Isaiah 58:12 NLT Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. 

As I scroll through social media, my stomach flipflops to see the vitriol written. Brutal critiques of the “other side” continue to flow. Criticism from younger people bring tears to my eyes because they are partially correct. Offensive words put us on the defense, but I implore you to look beyond the acidic words and see the pain behind. 

Together we can open an amicable discourse that encourages freedom to respectfully express opinions. We can each be the repairer of the breach we see in our communities. Where do we begin? 

  1. We repent of any offense we are carrying. Ideologies divide our theology and that must stop. Humbly we go before our Lord and admit we do not have all the answers. Young and old in the church disagree about important topics but not the Gospel. If Jesus is Lord, we belong to the same family. We pray and live Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. NLT 
  2. Listen to those that disagree with you. Not online, but in person or on the phone. Listen to the heart behind the opinion, the depth of knowledge behind it may surprise you. Our goal becomes understanding, building relationship and trust. Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. NLT
  3. Instead of correcting their opinion, tell them why they are important to you and your community. Ask them how you can pray for them. Where are they struggling, how can you be an answer to their needs? Encourage them through Scripture, not to correct but to grow together. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. NLT 
  4.  Throughout your discourse, clearly state your mutual faith in Jesus. Our unity rests on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the nonnegotiable center of the relationship; Jesus is the Lord of our life. Centered on Him nothing else matters, let Him teach each of us to be more like Him. Galatians 1:11-12 Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. NLT 
  5. Respectfully disagree if you feel it necessary. Make it clear, all opinions can be discussed if they are stated respectfully both by you and your young friend. No opinion should be held so tight that it damages the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Proverbs 18:2 Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. NLT 

 Each generation holds important characteristics to cherish in one another. Combining them together, the Holy Spirit interweaves us in ways beyond our understanding. 

  1.     Traditionalists bring wisdom of their experience. 
  2.     Baby Boomers get it done with their strong work ethic. 
  3.     Generation X join us with their ability to problem solve. 
  4.     Millennials strong desire to care for their community empower us to reach out. 
  5.     Generation Z’s pragmatic approach to life help us to ease into working in a diverse workforce. 

 It is true that Jesus said He would bring division (Luke 12:51-53) but the division occurs in recognizing the deity of Christ. We are divided by believers of the Gospel and those that reject it. Within the faith we need each other and we need to initiate the restoration of our church homes.

 

Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 03 October 2020 12:31

The Dragonfly Effect

 dragonfly effect 2

 

Dragonflies played a lovely part of raising our son. To pass the time while his sister napped, we
counted the dragonflies that sunned themselves on our neighbor’s roof. As he grew, he learned
to capture these delicate creatures and bring them to me for study.
 
Dragonfly eyes dominate the tiny faces of these odd creatures giving them excellent vision.
While our vision sees in shades of three primary colors, the dragonfly sees way beyond that, up
to 30 different primary colors. Their vision captures much more of the vibrancy of the light
spectrum, they even see ultraviolet rays!
 
Body heavy, these fascinating insects look like that couldn’t get off the ground. Yet, their
iridescent wings glimmer in the sunlight as they fly. Masters of flight each of their wings work
independently allowing them to catch their dinner on the fly. At 30 miles per hour they can eat
hundreds of mosquitoes a day.
 
I can relate to the dragonfly. I feel like I’m awkward and unable to do what God calls me to each
day. But if these baffling insects can traverse the air with acrobatic stunts, I too can learn live in
the way I am designed. Free to fly as God leads and seeking the vision to see His next steps. This
is how I see you as well.
 
Dragonfly women fly because they are fruitful, linked, and yielded.
 
        F: Fruitful, bridges to other generations and builds relationships that bring unity to the
            body of Christ. We recognize we need each other but we also value the next as well as the
            previous generation as dynamic members of our community.
       L: Linked by these bridges, we depend on one another because we yearn to nurture
           each other as well as be nurtured. A vibrant woman thrives in community.
       Y: Yielded to the Holy Spirit, we desire a close relationship with God that builds our
           confidence and anchors our identity in Christ. We release insecurity through living as God's
           child.
 
When we learn to live this way, we recognize God esteems us as His daughters. Our mid-life
centers around renewing and restoring ourselves recognizing we are still needed. We are a vital
part of our community.
 

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

 
Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 29 June 2019 12:25

Building a Legacy

Building A Legacy

Be the woman you wished you had in your life. Legacy by Leslie Schonfeld

Leslie Schonfeld

I always knew I wanted to teach God’s word, but I didn’t know how to initiate that process. I prayed for opportunity. I was determined to allow the Holy Spirit to lead, but I was afraid any movement I made would be outside of God’s will. I will never forget the phone call that came on a bright June morning. Elizabeth was looking for women to mentor into Bible Study leadership. A wonderful teacher, she saw in me a glimpse of who I could become. She was wondering if I would be interesting in joining two other women in a year long process. After that year, the three of us would share the Bible Study leadership at our church. I didn’t hesitate to say yes—this is what I had waited for! As the year progressed, so did our friendship. Soon we were discussing more than Bible Study—we were sharing our lives.

But it wasn’t just knowledge she poured into me. Elizabeth knew me, and saw what I was good and what I was not-so-good at. She saw things I didn't see; she exposed flaws and encouraged gifts. Not only did she teach, but she listened. Introverted, she chose her words thoughtfully. I was the extrovert to her introvert, and often had ten times as many words as she did! But she listened closely to every one of them. She was a wonderful sounding board and I have learned much not only from her knowledge but also her technique.

“You realize I didn’t give you any advice,” Elizabeth would say with a chuckle. “I just had to wait until you heard what was in your head. You came to the conclusion without me.”

That may be true, but I needed help untangling that mess. I’m a verbal processor; I needed someone who loved me enough to patiently listen to all the details, all the bunny trails, and finally determine the conclusion. This is one of the tools I bring to the young women I know. I love them because I was loved. I pass on the legacy I was given.

Maybe you didn’t have an Elizabeth in your life—don’t let that stop you from being an Elizabeth for someone else! The potential is in you because you have Jesus in you. He is greater than your past. Put Him in the center of your relationships and watch Him work. You can do this. Be the woman you wished you had in your life.

I know, I know—I can hear your protest now: “But I don't have anything to offer!”

That’s not true. Discipleship is not about your accomplishments. You don't need an impressive resume or a string of letters behind your name to be a mentor. Discipleship is about sharing your struggles as well as your victories. Sharing life is more important than sharing advice. Availability plays a stronger role than teaching knowledge. You have wisdom to share but your confidence comes from your identity in Christ, not your achievements. You are fully equipped, and sharing you time tells others they are important. Sharing life—like Jesus did with His disciples— just takes availability.

Will you make yourself available?

Leslie Schonfeld

Speaker, Author, founder Dragonfly Ministry

Leslie Schonfeld

Published in Devotionals