change, devotional, encouragement, lessons learned, midlife faith

Walk the Talk

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

“Sure, I’d love to help!” Not really, but I don’t want to sound rude.

“Yes, I have plenty of time to work on that last-minute project!” I’m going to have to work overtime now because I’m swamped. Ugh.

“I’m so sorry I hurt your feelings.” Why are you so thin skinned? 

“I’m sorry you’re going through a hard time.” Suck it up, buttercup, like the rest of us.

How often do we say things we don’t really mean? It’s easy to give lip service to many people and many things without meaning it. 

But in Romans 10, Paul makes clear that we cannot just give lip service to God. We’ve got to believe with our hearts. We’ve got to put hands and feet on our words.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Romans 10:9-10 ESV

So, what does it actually look like to not only say it, but also to believe it? It looks a lot like evangelizing those around us. Not all Christians are called to go overseas as missionaries, but we are all called to tell those around us about the Gospel. Here’s what the apostle Paul has to say about those who spread the Good News of Jesus Christ: 

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Romans 10:15 ESV

Truly believing looks a lot like the Christians in the book of James, who are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. We need to bridle our tongues and not show partiality as we do good works (James 2-3).

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

James 2:18 ESV

Sincere belief also looks a lot like the fruit of the Spirit. A dead plant does not produce flowers. A dead tree does not produce fruit. Likewise, someone who has not received the new life that is a result of salvation may try to sound like a Christian but will not have the heart of a believer. Our walk should match our talk.

So when our walk matches our talk, we can truly sing, like the old chorus, How beautiful the hands … and feet of the body of Christ. We then become like a radiant bride, waiting for our Savior, the bridegroom.

It’s not always easy, but we have been given—by the bridegroom Himself—all the help we need to match our hearts with our mouths.

Scriptures for Reflection:

  • Romans 10 (get the whole context)
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • Colossians 3:1-4
  • James 2:14-24

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Have you ever said something you didn’t mean? What was the result?
  2. Who can you talk to about the Gospel this week?
  3. How can you cultivate the fruit of the Spirit this week? Choose one to focus on.
  4. How can you tangibly help someone in need this week?

**This article also appears on the Beyond Sunday Blog.**

about me, devotional, encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

Embrace the Grace

Growing up in church, I thought all pastors’ families were supposed to be perfect. At least, that was what was to be portrayed. They were always smiling, always serving, always hospitable, and the children were always obedient (insert adult eye roll). 

And I don’t know how I acquired the false idea that some sins were worse than others, but somehow in my legalistic private school education, the list of sins started with short skirts and ended with girls who got kicked out for, well, you know what.

But somewhere between collecting demerits for too-big earrings and my second divorce—as the pastor’s daughter, no less—I figured out that short skirts aren’t a mortal sin—and neither is divorce, or speeding, or yelling at your kids occasionally, or having a ring around the bathtub. 

During that journey, though, Satan had a field day, making my sense of shame and guilt bow my chin to my chest. 

The devil suggests to people that they cannot change; God will not help them. They are helpless slaves to sin and its consequences. Romans 6 says instead, “No, you are free.” Romans 7 says, “The Law can neither save nor sanctify you.” Romans 8 says, “The Holy Spirit does enable you to walk in a manner pleasing to God, so you can be a conqueror.”

After we are freed from the bondage of slavery to sin, nothing can separate us from God’s love for us (Romans 8:37–39). God’s love is not conditional; He doesn’t look at the length of our skirts to determine the height or depth of His love for us.

A few years ago, my dad (the aforementioned pastor) noticed that I always seemed to be carrying around a sense of shame and heaviness for my current life situation (being divorced is no picnic, in case you were wondering). He reassured me that he did not see me through the lens of a divorced woman, or a woman who’d been fired from a job, or a woman who could never live up to some other imaginary standards. He just saw me as his beloved daughter. Period.

I feel the same way about my daughter. She is living far, far from God although she professed His name for many years when she was young. However, my love for my daughter is not based on whether she goes to church or plays DnD on Sundays.

So, how do we get from hanging our heads in shame because we were formerly slaves to living like the beloved children of the King of kings that we are?

We must learn to reframe the shame! First we face it, then we grace it. Remember, the opinions of others don’t matter. We will always be too much or not enough for some people, and that’s ok. Through the grace of God and Christ’s suffering, we are accepted the way we are!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1 ESV

Boom. Mic drop. That’s the whole sermon, right there. 

Romans 8:15 tells us that we have not been delivered from slavery to fall back into fear! We are to embrace the grace we’ve been given; otherwise, we’re throwing God’s gift back in His face. 

While feelings are, indeed, powerful, they are not what’s real. They may indicate that we’ve got some emotional baggage to unload, but they should not dictate our actions and our thoughts. We might just need to spend some time aligning our emotions with God’s truths. 

So, go live like the conqueror you are! Use your freedom to point others to Jesus. 

Read and Reflect:
Romans 8—read the whole context for this week’s message
Ephesians 2:8–9
Colossians 2:6–23

Think and Pray

  1. Are you stuck in a cycle of shame and guilt from which you need to be set free?
  2. Why is it often more difficult to receive grace for yourself than it is to extend grace to others?
  3. How do your feelings get in the way of your acting like a child of the King?
  4. What would it mean for you to actually live like a beloved child of the King of kings instead of a servant in the dungeon?

**This article also appears on the Beyond Sunday Blog.**

anxiety, devotional, encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith

Everyone Loves a Road Trip

Everyone loves a good road trip—the freedom of the open road, escaping the everyday chores staring us in the face at home, and the novelty of experiencing new places. Sometimes the destination is unknown and everything about the trip becomes a chance to explore new vistas along the way. Or kids bounce up and down in anticipation of Grandma’s homemade cookies. And even teenagers can be roused from their phone screens when driving through the gates at Carowinds. 

Everyone loves a good road trip—until the toddler pukes on her carseat, or the engine light comes on miles from home, or the alternator dies on a dark and stormy night with babies in the backseat (and no cell phone—true stories, all!). 

Life is a little like a road trip. We anticipate that it’ll be smooth sailing when we say “I do.” Then he lashes out every night after work as she cowers in the bathroom hoping he won’t break the door down again. 

We anticipate retiring from the perfect job—only to get fired unfairly a few years later. We feel sure that the cancer diagnosis won’t be fatal. But it is.

So, what are we supposed to do when the journey of life takes us down bumpy back roads  that don’t show up on our GPS?

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

Psalm 121 reminds us to look UP to our creator, keeper, and protector. When we realize how completely God loves us and longs to meet our every need, we can surrender to his care and rest in his protection. God is our:

Creator—v. 1-2

God is in control. He’s omnipotent and omniscient. Not only did he create the entire universe, but he also created each of us—intimately and uniquely. As Psalm 139:16 reminds us, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” 

God cares enough about us to be involved on a personal level with every detail of our lives. When I’m in the rain on the side of the road with babies and no cell phone, he’s got a plan. When I’ve been rejected by other people, I’m comforted to know I’m not alone.

Keeper—v. 3-6

Even when we’re on slippery slopes of bad decisions or glaring engine lights, he will keep us secure. He never sleeps or turns his eyes away from us. God’s power is greater than any evil we may face during the day (or night).

Not only does he keep our feet from slipping, but he also keeps us under his shade. We won’t be scorched when the rumors fly faster than a peregrine, nor will we be alone and helpless when evil screams at us for hours during the night (literally and audibly).

Protector—v. 7-8

God is always on guard. There’s nowhere we can go that he doesn’t know, as noted in Psalm 139:7, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” Not only does God go with us, but he also has preordained every step we take. He’s got the bigger picture all laid out for our good (Romans 8:28). 

While we may struggle in knowing why we got fired from a good job, he’s already lined up the perfect job. When we’re confused by a response from a church leader, he already knows how it’s going to bring glory to him through our lives. Hang in there, friend, and rest surrendered in God’s care. Remember, “God is just as present in the journey as in the destination” (Guzik).

encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith

Sticky and Sweet: Church Relationships

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Although Charles Dickens was referring to mid 19th-century England, I suspect many of us could say the same about our relationships within the organized church.

We all know that the church should be a refuge, a hospital for sinners and the weary, yet we are sometimes met by stabbing saints instead of singing saints. Looking for sweet fellowship, we often get mired down in the stickiness of life.

One thing I’ve discovered is that there are no perfect churches; however, we can’t equate God’s church with God’s character. The church is people, and people aren’t perfect. 

But don’t give in to the temptation to give up on church completely just because of a few bad experiences. It’s tempting. Trust me, I know. So, why should we keep attending church even when we’re doubting?

God desires us to be sanctified. Part of that ongoing process involves the church. I think we sometimes forget that. God calls us to be holy as he is holy, but it’s a process. 

The purpose of the church body is to help and encourage each other, not to rip each other to shreds. 

A dishonest [wo]man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.

Proverbs 16:28

Looking for some guidelines on how to make sure you’re acting like a model church member? Look no further than the apostle Paul’s epistles to the New Testament churches. You’ll discover that there really is nothing new under the sun! Here’s a synopsis of the high points: 

  • Worry about yourself first. Don’t criticize others, especially those in leadership. 
  • Major on the majors (doctrine, right treatment of people) and minor on the minors (don’t let your contentiousness over the color of the carpet drive someone away from the church—true story). 
  • Don’t cover up sin or abuse, but tread carefully and biblically when dealing with it. I have so much more to say on this topic, but that’s for another time.
  • Be kind. Be loving. 
  • Be involved. Don’t criticize the way people do things unless you’re willing to jump in and help. And even then hold your tongue.
  • Instead of focusing on the splinter in your sister’s eye, focus on the log in yours (Matthew 7:1-4). Focus on building up your fellow saints instead. Your local church body will be better for it.
  • Filter your words before they fly out of your mouth or off your fingertips. 
  • Don’t participate in gossip. While no one will deny that there are problems in the church, and church leaders are falling like flies, gossip only makes it worse. And don’t try to disguise your juicy news as a prayer request. We’re onto you, sister!

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29

Let’s focus on the sweetness of fellowship with believing sisters in the church. What’s one thing you can focus on this week to help foster positive relationships within the body of Christ? Leave me a comment (or email me back) and let me know!

change, encouragement, high school, lessons learned, midlife faith

Adult(ish) Children

“Mum, I thought parenting kids would get easier as they got older,” I exclaimed one day in desperation about my 20-something girls. 

After she quit laughing, she asked, “Why on earth would you think that?” Fair question.

We raise our kids to be independent, but then when they try to exert this independence, we push back in full helicopter mode. The struggle is real, friend, and I’m right there with you. 

I have only three thoughts: Open heart. Open door. Closed Mouth. And boundaries as needed. Oops, that was four. And, no, I don’t practice these things perfectly. Especially the closed mouth one.

Open heart. Open door. Closed mouth. Boundaries as needed.

The crux of the matter is that the nature of our relationship changes as our children mature. If we want our relationship to continue to thrive, we need to change with our kids. Or rather, our young adults. 

I say young adults to remind myself that my kids are not dependent children anymore (unless they need to know how to get stains out of their favorite sweatshirt). We need to deliberately change the way we talk and relate to them and ensure we’re treating them like adults. If we want them to act like adults (i.e., take responsibility for their own bills and move into their own apartments), then we need to treat them as such. I admit that’s really hard when they’re visiting or staying for an extended time (due to a pandemic or other emergency).

Along those same lines, we need to not give them unasked-for advice. We’ll both be frustrated. Yes, I know how tempting it is. Yes, I know that we know better, but let’s save ourselves the headache (and possibly a few missed phone calls and bitter feelings) and keep our advice to ourselves. We had 18 years to pour all our hard-won experience into them. Now we need to reserve it for when they ask for it, which means they may be more likely to follow it. Maybe. We can let this be our prayer:

Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!

Deuteronomy 5:29

We also need to respect their choices. Yes, even the ones we don’t agree with. By respect I mean accept that they have the right to make their own choices, even if they’re mistakes. We need to let go of our feelings of responsibility for the choices they make. I struggled fiercely with this a few years ago when one of my kids made a life-changing decision that went against everything I believed. But I had to release my feelings of guilt and shame because I could not own her decisions. I had to let her own them. That took a lot of time on my knees, and I still struggle with it sometimes, but it’s much easier now.

Sometimes kids just have to fail and take the consequences in order to grow. We know from our own experiences that we grow spiritually and emotionally when we go through trials, and the same is true for our kids. As much as we hurt when they hurt, we can’t fix everything for them. We shouldn’t enable them, and sometimes that means setting hard boundaries and then sticking to them. It’s called tough love for a reason!

I don’t have all of the answers. But I can spend time on my knees and cling to this promise:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6

Where are you and your kids in this growing up process? What have you found that has blessed your relationship with your young adult children? Please share your wisdom!

change, devotional, healing, lessons learned, medical issues, midlife faith, reinventing

Behind the Mask of Health Mania

As we begin a new year, we often make goals or resolutions to improve our physical health—lose weight, exercise more, eat better, cook at home more, cut out sugar, etc. But we often forget about those goals before the end of the month. While there’s nothing wrong with improving our physical health and nothing wrong with making goals or resolutions, perhaps we’d be better served by focusing on the state of our souls.

It’s all too easy to hide the state of our souls behind the state of our physical bodies. Many overly health-conscious people hide the imperfections of their souls behind the perfection of their physical bodies. We obsess over counting points and steps while neglecting our daily devotions. (Just me? I thought not.) We preen in front of the dressing room mirrors while gossiping behind closed doors. 

While we are definitely called to take care of our physical bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6), we are not called to make idols of them. Sin takes a good thing and makes it the only thing; at the same time, Christians tend to take a worldly thing and give it a spiritual spin. 

For example, the premise of Daniel Fast is to eat just vegetables in order to lose weight; however, the actual reason Daniel chose to eat only vegetables was so as not to “defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8 ESV). As a result of following their convictions to remain pure, God gave them favor so that Daniel and his friends were “better in appearance and fatter in flesh” than their counterparts (Daniel 1:15 ESV). 

What we see here and in other Scriptures is that being what we would call overweight or fat meant having enough food to eat during biblical times. Obviously overeating is considered gluttonous, but as in all things, balance is the key.

Another biblical principle concerning our physical bodies that often gets taken to extremes is the concept of athletic training. The apostle Paul often uses the importance of physical training to emphasize the importance of spiritual training. For instance, he talks about how only one person will win a race even though many people will train and participate in it. So, we are encouraged to run in such a way as to win. Of course, the point is to run our spiritual race in such a way as to win an “imperishable” wreath or crown (1 Corinthians 9:25). 

Along with the extreme of doing our utmost to win the prize, what can happen when we idealize perfection too much? We put down those who can’t achieve it, and they somehow become less than. Instead of embracing all people and abilities as God’s unique creations, we revile them and leave them in our dust. 

So our aim should be working to become more Christlike instead of focusing only on physical fitness: “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV).

Another aspect of physical training taken to the extreme is exhaustion. Behind the mask of achievement and success lies a tired body with multiple invisible problems. We go and go and go while neglecting the rest our bodies need because our culture sees rest as laziness. But God designed us with a need for regular rest! Our need to be always on the go leads to drive-thru dinners several times a week that do not provide our bodies with the nourishment they need.

What’s the cure? When we’re so worn out that we don’t know what to do, Jesus invites us to exchange our burdens for his. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me … and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29 ESV).

In the end, it’s all about balance! When we’re tired or hungry or on a sugar high, we can’t focus on God. Let’s take off our masks of physical perfection and busyness, so we can focus on our spiritual well-being and ask God what our priorities should be.

Call to Action:

Read and reflect on these passages of Scripture in light of this week’s sermon.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 (ESV)—“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
  • 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)—”Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
  • Ephesians 5:29 (ESV)—”For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
  • Hebrews 4:10 ESV)—“For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

Questions for Reflection:

  1. In what ways do you find yourself masking your spiritual state behind your physical state?
  2. How have you taken a good thing and turned it into the only thing, which takes the focus off properly glorifying God with it?
  3. How can you create more balance in your physical priorities this week?
  4. How can you create more time for physical and spiritual rest in order to prioritize your relationships with God and your family?

*Note: This article was originally posted on my friend Tammy’s church blog, Beyond Sundays.

anxiety, devotional, encouragement, healing, holidays, lessons learned, midlife faith

The Mask of False Happiness

As we wrap up 2020 (who’s breathing a sigh of relief with me?), it’s a good time to reflect on our emotional health. One of the masks we women tend to don frequently is the mask of false happiness. Now, there’s nothing wrong with faking it till you make it occasionally, but we’re not meant to live that way. We’re meant to live authentically, sharing our true selves with each other in community.

When we drop a bowl on the ceramic floor, and it shatters, what do we do with it? We toss it in the trash can, of course. When the Japanese break a piece of pottery, on the other hand, they repair it with gold (do they sell that kind of superglue in WalMart?) and proclaim that the piece is even more beautiful than it was originally. Their idea is that by embracing the brokenness and flaws, the piece becomes even stronger and more stunning. This is called kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair” or kintsugi, which is “golden joinery.” Wow! 

What if we treated people like that? What if we reframed our emotional scars—instead of judging ourselves as failing at the Christian life, how about we see our scars as battle wounds of winning warriors? What if we saw those made fragile by life’s circumstances and emotional upheavals as those who needed more care—not judgment and rejection?

Then, perhaps, we would be able to take off the masks of happiness and perfection that have become so a part of ourselves that we hardly recognize ourselves without them. With the rise in mental health issues and social media comparisons, we’ve all become quite adept at putting on a happy mask. But behind the mask of “fine” lies a multitude of “not fine.” Good news: God cares for the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

What if, instead of hiding behind the mask of our fake smiles denoting a nonexistent, perfectly happy life, we put our authentic selves on display? Scary thought, I know. 

As noted by poet ee cummings, “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”

But here’s the thing. The emotional connections and emotional health we all long for do not lie behind the mask of perfection. They lie in wide-open authenticity. In order to be truly loved, one must be fully known. The reverse is also true; in order to truly love others, we must fully know them.

The other side of emotional health is what we believe about ourselves, which is largely based on how we talk to ourselves. So often, we talk to ourselves in ways we would never talk to a struggling friend. Instead, we need to pretend the woman (or man) in the mirror is a good friend across the table at our favorite cafe. 

What we think—about others and about ourselves—matters because out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NKJV). 

Instead of trash talking to and about ourselves, we need to remind ourselves of what is true and right and lovely. Instead of sowing discord in our own lives and in the lives of those around us, we need to reap the fruits of the Spirit by being as gentle and patient with ourselves as we are with treasured friends.

Remember what God says about us: we are his masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10)! Not practice pieces, not discarded, broken bowls. Masterpieces to be treasured!

When we can fully embrace God’s proclamation of value and worth about others and about ourselves, then our brokenness will become beautiful, and we would no longer feel the need to hide behind the mask of perfection and false happiness. We would embrace others and ourselves with the art of kintsugi. 

Call to Action:

Pray and Reflect on the following passages in light of this week’s sermon:

  • Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)—But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
  • Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)—For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
  • Philippians 4:8 (NLT)—And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What emotional masks have you been wearing lately and why?
  2. How can you embrace your emotions in order to become more comfortable with them and then be willing to share them (judiciously) with others?
  3. How can you make yourself a safe place for others to be their authentic selves?
  4. Make a list of your characteristics and thank God for making you the way you are—a masterpiece. 

*Note: This article was originally posted to my friend Tammy’s church blog, Beyond Sunday.

about me, lessons learned, midlife faith, reinventing

50 Things about Turning 50

Today is my 50th birthday, and to celebrate, I’ve listed 50 things I’ve learned in life (in no particular order).

  1. 50 is fabulous!
  2. Living 50 years is worth celebrating!
  3. Eat the chocolate.
  4. I am enough!!!
  5. Jesus has met my every need, and He’ll keep meeting every need.
  6. This, too, shall pass.
  7. Friends need to be cultivated and cherished.
  8. I’m feeling more settled now than I ever did.
  9. I wouldn’t trade the years spent at home raising my kids for anything.
  10. I don’t need as much stuff as I used to think I did.
  11. Go for gold—dream big!
  12. Take time for reflection.
  13. It’s never too late to start—or start over. 
  14. Take care of your health.
  15. My mother was right.
  16. My dad is still the wisest person ever.
  17. Parenting gets harder, not easier.
  18. My kids will break my heart (again).
  19. Don’t take anything personally (haven’t learned this one yet).
  20. Get up, dress up, show up.
  21. Give yourself grace.
  22. Give others grace.
  23. Base my decisions on myself, not on others (kids, men, friends).
  24. Friends are important.
  25. Change is the only thing that’s constant.
  26. Learn to let go (still working on this one, too).
  27. It’s hard (see #26).
  28. Be gracious.
  29. Take a chance.
  30. There are worse things than a few gray hairs at 30.
  31. Trying to please others means no one is happy, including myself.
  32. Give gifts for no reason.
  33. Fake it till you make it.
  34. Don’t complain. Just stop it.
  35. Ditch the attitude.
  36. Be grateful for the small things.
  37. Celebrate all the holidays.
  38. Celebrate small victories.
  39. It’s not always about proving you’re right.
  40. 50 is the new 40 (but 40 was the new 30 10 years ago).
  41. Apologize—even if you’re right.
  42. Traditions are important.
  43. But be willing to change or flex them as needed (see #42).
  44. Nothing lasts forever.
  45. Learn to embrace new and different seasons in life.
  46. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin.
  47. I can’t control everything, so stop trying.
  48. Choose joy daily.
  49. The one where I was quarantined.
  50. I am 50 and fabulous!
anxiety, encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith

The Mask of Political Correctness

Behind the mask of political correctness lies a divisiveness—even among Christians—not seen in our country for many years. While we pray for healing in our land, how do we remain friends with those on the opposite side of the fence, whether that fence is political, economic, social, or religious?

By being so focused on trying to be politically correct, we’ve become socially incorrect! In trying not to offend anyone, we offend so many more people!  

Somehow, we’ve turned into an angry mob that thinks it’s ok to scream and yell our every thought from the street corners and from social media platforms. In doing so, we’ve alienated even those we love.

I could give the all-inclusive exhortation:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 ESV

Instead, let’s talk about what to do if you’re on the receiving end of a friend or family member’s tirade that goes against your views or grieves your soul. How do you maintain that relationship? Should you? How do you separate a person’s political/economic/social/religious views from the person herself?

It’s not easy! First of all, pray! Give your heartache over to the Lord. He knows all about betrayal and abandonment (Simon Isacriot, anyone?). 

Then, if the other person holds an immoral or unethical position, gently share the biblical position with her. She may not receive it, but you have done what you could. Then drop it and don’t harp on your position any more.

Here are some other considerations and actions you can take:

  1. How important is the relationship to you? Is it worth preserving? 
  2. Listen actively to understand, not to give an answer. Listen with an open mind—you may learn something. On the flip side, be sure you know what and why you hold to your beliefs. Get to the heart of the matter that’s separating you. 
  3. Don’t take it personally. I know, I know. I’m the pot calling the kettle black! But chances are, your friend is not attacking you but rather is desiring to prove her rightness.
  4. Set boundaries. 
    1. Block posts from groups that upset your equilibrium on social media. 
    2. Unfollow someone for 30 days (they’ll never know, and it’ll give you time to breathe and decide whether you want to keep seeing her posts after that).
    3. Don’t engage in public debates on social media! Those debates tend to take on a life of their own and involve half of your friend list. 
    4. If needed, set a time limit on how often or how long you’re willing to engage in face-to-face discussions.
    5. Have a go-to phrase to signal the end of the discussion, such as “Well, we aren’t going to solve the world’s problems today, so let’s set this aside and focus on something happier.”
    6. If you can’t meet at Starbucks without getting offended by something she says, become less available for a meeting.
  5. Let go of the notion of being right. You may, indeed, be right according to Scripture, but if you insist on winning every argument, you will lose your relationships; however, it is possible to give facts and evidence occasionally in response without attacking the person or destroying a relationship. 

How do I know, first of all, how difficult it is to separate the person from her beliefs, and, second of all, how difficult it is to truly love someone in spite of her contrary views? Someone very close to me has become increasingly vocal about a value that is completely contrary to Scriptures. I understand, sweet friend, and I’m praying for you.

How can I pray for you during this difficult time? Let me know!

anxiety, devotional, encouragement, lessons learned, midlife faith

The Mask of Social Media Perfection: Mask Series #2

We all do it. We all post picture-perfect family gatherings, gourmet meals, and clean kitchens. 

But what lies behind the mask of perfection is the fear that our imperfections will lead to rejection.

Somehow, this social media craze has created the idea that only perfect people can be happy or that only perfect people can have friends.

But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the more we compare our imperfect lives with the perfection seen on social media, the more disenchanted we become with the blessings God has already bestowed on us. And the more we close off opportunities for true connections with other imperfect people. 

Lasting happiness doesn’t come from the one family photo when everyone’s smiling in their color-matched outfits. It comes from knowing our families are there to support us through thick and through thin. Pictures don’t capture the messy middle that’s real life, but we need to learn to find happiness in real life even when it’s not perfect. Somehow we’re afraid that if anyone saw what our families looked like and acted like behind closed doors that we’d be called out as frauds.

Sure, it’s fun to use those nifty filters to make our ordinary dinners look more delicious, but behind the mask of Insta-worthy plates lies the loneliness of a table set for one. And we would be horrified if our friends knew that on the nights we didn’t post the perfectly plated meals we ate frozen pizza, cereal, and ice cream straight out of the container. 

Somehow we’ve come to the conclusion that if our kitchens aren’t spotless, we can’t be hospitable. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Our friends need to know they’re welcome in our homes no matter how many dishes are in the sink. True friendships thrive when we know we can call a friend at 10 p.m. and ask to sleep on their couch that night. True friendships thrive when we open our doors to the neighbor for coffee even though there are toys all over the living room floor. 

The biggest lie we’ve bought into with our perfect social media posts, though, is that only perfect people can find true connections. The truth of the matter is that true connections flourish when we share our imperfections, thus inviting others to share their imperfections. 

The façade of social media fosters nothing but the danger and damage of comparison. But the openness of truthful imperfections invites what we’re all really seeking behind our masks—true connections.

So be encouraged to take off the mask of social media perfection and seek the happiness of imperfection.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

What’s one way you can find happiness in your imperfections to connect with others this week? Drop a comment below or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear from you!