Depression: The Big Conundrum

This is part 3 of the series “Invisible Illnesses.” To read the previous post, click here.

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The heavy beat of drums and the wail of electric guitars blared through small white earbuds. Her cold, trembling fingers pressed them deeper into her ears, attempting to drown the screaming and thumping echoing down the hallway. Another uncontrollable tantrum. A tantrum over… what, exactly? She couldn’t put her finger on the triggering moment.

Continue reading

Expanding the Core: Building relationships with Christians in the Church

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

~ 1 Corinthians 13.1-3, ESV

The elderly man tottered slowly into the foyer of the church building. He looked over his shoulder and glimpsed the bumper of his son’s Honda as it pulled away from the curb. Small knots of people were scattered around the warmly-lit entrance.

A deep sigh escaped from the depth of his soul. Being old was the pits. Just a few weeks ago he was living in his own apartment. A young couple would come every Friday to visit and take him out to run errands. On Saturday’s he had bible class with a family. Tuesdays he’d go fishing with Clive. The church had been so supportive and loving. Then, one Thursday evening, his whole life was turned upside down. His shaky legs finally gave out on him and the next thing he knew, he was staring up at those cold glaring hospital lights. Charlie’s son had flown down from Washington to make sure he was ok. A week later, all his worldly goods were boxed up and moved to a little room in his son’s house, over 800 miles away from all his friends and brethren in the church. Continue reading

Harmless and wise?

This is the fifth post in a series on Chip Removal for Christians. Read the previous post here.

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Much of the strife that plagues churches (and society as a whole) can be traced to plain, old-fashioned foolishness.

“I didn’t think ‘A’ would cause ‘B.’

“I didn’t think what I said would be offensive.”

“I didn’t think it was important.”

Key phrase: “I didn’t think.

The rapid pace of our society coupled with a constant influx of information affords little time for mental processing. We need that time. In order to become wise, time and meditative thinking are essential.

Why do we need wisdom?

Wisdom protects us from harm and prevents us from causing harm.
When Jesus sent his apostles out to teach in Matthew 10, he gave them several instructions, including this well-known phrase: “Behold I am sending you at as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

It’s an apt analogy. Crafty and cunning, the serpent stalks its prey. Before the hunted creature can even consider escaping, it’s being swallowed or constricted to death. Doves, on the other hand, don’t hunt anything but bugs. They are lightweight, gentle and, harmless. Learning to employ both tactics simultaneously requires practice and prayer.

Wisdom helps us perceive deceit and duplicity.
False teachers and moochers abound in our society. The time will come in our lives when such people need to be confronted, but it takes smarts to separate the sheep from the wolves. Many people are content to ignore the warning signs because of that teacher is “so nice”or that preacher is “so passionate.”

My friends, there comes a time when we need to offend a false teacher in order to protect those who are less discerning. It takes wisdom!Aside from false teachers, there are frenemies (enemies who pretend friendship) that can do a lot of damage to you and your family. Guard your heart carefully.

Wisdom guards our lips“Better to be thought a fool and remain silent than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln (or Mark Twain… depending on who you ask!)

If we are going to reduce the amount of offense we give, we need to talk less and listen more.

Wisdom knows when to comfort and when to discipline.
It is hard to discipline a child. The most critical component is to know when to administer discipline and when to offer comfort. So it is in the church. If you have a brother or sister in Christ who has decided to become addicted to drugs/alcohol/porn/gambling etc., and their life falls apart, do they need comfort or discipline? Probably a little of both!

We often fall short in the discipline department because its so awkward. I have seen former brothers and sisters in Christ weep over their troubles and talk about how sorry they were. They show up in the back of the church bemoaning their lot in life, wanting things to be better. But they are like the patient who comes to the doctor wanting more drugs so they can keep doing what’s making them sick. It’s utter foolishness. Their lifestyle needs to change. 

You can sympathize and comfort, but be sure to exercise some tough love. Don’t let them make excuses! Hold them accountable. Doing this effectively takes wisdom. Will they get offended? Possibly. But, as the proverb says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27.6, ESV)Be a friend.

Wisdom knows when to cover an offense.

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends
Proverbs 17.9, ESV

 

When we miscarried our child, we sort of hid from people for a few days. The pain was too great and neither of us wanted to put on a brave face. Well-meaning cards and calls came in. There was one card in particular I will never forget—and not in a good way. The card said, “So sorry to hear about your aborted child.” The heartless doc in the ER had used the same terminology. Words have weight. There are denotations (strict definitions) and there are connotations (implied meanings). Sometimes, docs will use “accidental abortion” when referring to miscarriage. When considering “connotation,” that phrase is grossly oxymoronic. Or maybe just moronic. Aborting a child is a deliberate act. Miscarriage is pretty much uncontrollable.

I wasn’t angry, I was wounded. What a terrible choice of words! But this is where wisdom kicks in: think about the sender—was she trying to be hurtful? No! She had sent a card to comfort us. She took the time to write it, stamp it and mail it. Many people didn’t even do that. The intent was to show compassion… she just had lousy word choice. So did I get my back up and give her the stink-eye when I went back to worship? No way! I knew that I had to let the offense go and forgive.

How do we get wisdom?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1.7, ESV

Experience and study are the best teachers. I can’t say this enough—read the Bible every single day. Deep wisdom resides within those pages. Use it!

Observe people. Become a reader of facial expressions and body language. Observe the 5-second rule. When somebody talks, count to 5 in your head before speaking if at all possible (for those of you who know me personally, I am working on this. I tend to gush overmuch when I get excited).

And, of course, it all comes down to two things:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”(Matthew 22:37)

“…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13.8-10)

Be wise… and harmless.

How to Perfect the Art of Listening

This is the third post in the series on Chip Removal for Christians. Read the previous post here

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Communication is a lost art.

In spite of the vast amount of books, classes and seminars on the subject, we are probably worse listeners now than we were 50 years ago. We are instantly connected these days through social media, email, and texting and yet much is lost in the cacophony of wires, pixels and tones. (Those wires and pixels are often distracting us from fellow humans as well!)

What do you think is one of the major causes of conflict in our relationships? I suggest that it is often poor listening and foolish talking.

How often do you find yourself in one of these scenarios:

  1. While someone is talking, your mind is rapidly piecing together a response to what they are saying (instead of really digesting what they are saying).
  2. Your friend is going through a difficult time She sits across from you, pouring her heart out. Instead of discerning the uniqueness of her situation, you jump in: “Yeah! I know exactly how you feel! Let me tell you what happened to me…” (This unwittingly causes them to feel that you view their troubles as paltry compared with your own).
  3. You try to talk to your friend over lunch and they are sort of listening, as they thumb over their meDevice. They say, “mmm-hmm” to your non-yes-or-no question while scrolling through their texts and typing replies.
  4. You are in conversation with someone and, while you are still mid-sentence, they turn around and begin talking with someone else.

Have you been there? Were you the listener or the speaker? How did it make you feel?

No wonder there is so much anger and offense in our congregations and the world at large: We are failing to truly listen and respect each other!

Several years ago, I worked as a customer service representative for a mid-size corporation. I served customers like Cingular (now part of AT&T), Costco, T-Mobile and others. I was in charge of coordinating with the clients and the printers to get the projects completed and delivered to our factory on time. I learned early on that relaying information over the phone with my printing company was a mistake. They would eliminate critical details from time to time and there was no proof that I had conveyed the information. To reduce the amount of mishaps, I would call to notify them about the job and then send an e-mail confirming our conversation and supplying the specs for the job.

My correspondence consisted of neatly composed checklists complete with clarifying comments at the end. I even tried to work up a PDF form that they would like, but it never stuck. The situation did improve over time. We slowly learned to communicate more effectively with each other, but inevitably, there would be that high-dollar project for that challenging client that we needed yesterday and some crucial detail would be overlooked. When I asked why the error occurred, the answer was often, “you didn’t tell me.” I would breathe deeply (to avoid blowing a gasket) and ask them check the original e-mail. Remember the “e” in email? It means evidence. Evidence that I did say that. They would slap their hand on their forehead and groan.

Yeah… Guess who got to call the customer with the bad news…

Getting the right information from person to person was vital, and in our fast-paced work environment, there were inevitable problems in getting things right the first time. I should have asked more questions regarding their needs instead of assuming I knew the best way to relay information; they should have paid closer attention to my carefully submitted details. We were both at fault. We should have worked on our communication (and respect) skills!

Consider this verse in James:

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…”

~ James 1.19, NKJV

Ask yourself: Am I swift to hear and slow to speak… or am I slow to hear and swift to speak?

I often find myself mistakenly thinking that what I have to communicate is so vital. It might be, but my attitude should be one of discretion and discernment. Is what I have to say necessary or is it damaging? Is it helpful or does it merely add to the noise?

I saw the image below on the internet over a year ago. I printed it and put it in my kids’ notebooks for school. The acronym is useful for anyone striving to be more controlled in what they say:

before you speak

You can download this file at scribd.com by clicking here.

We would have so much less “offense” in our congregations if we would slow down and take the time to hear and comprehend what our brother or sister is really communicating. True listening is an act of respect and love. Love extends a higher regard to the one loved and places their needs above my own.

The 4 steps to better listening:

  1. Look. Look directly at the face of the person speaking. As they are talking, consider their expressions and body language.
  2. Pause. Let a brief silence hang in the air when they are done speaking. And while that pause is hanging, go to step 3…
  3. “T.H.I.N.K.” Their need to be heard and understood is greater than your need to speak. Consider what you have to say before it escapes your lips.
  4. Speak. It may be wise to reiterate what they said in your own words and ask if that is what they meant, or, ask a clarifying question about something they said. This demonstrates that you were indeed listening and resolves any possible misapplication. Once that is done, then, say what you think needs to be said.

The whole point of this listening exercise is to demonstrate your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ. In our instant message world, we are in such a hurry to shout our words that we end up running people over with them.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2.3-4, ESV

Take time to read the surrounding context of the above verse. Even Christ—the very Son of the Almighty God—humbled himself. He truly listened not just to what people were saying, but what they were thinking! He could have easily said, “What I have to say is far more important. Stop pestering me with your petty problems.” More often than not, He listened. As a boy of twelve, He sat in the temple asking and answering questions. As a teacher, He heard the pleadings of a Canaanite woman. He listened to the mournful cries of the suffering and dying. He read between the lines and touched people’s needs. He listened because He loved.

Quality listening demands humility. It requires love. It seeks to honor the other person.

What exercises help you to listen better?

Leave a comment below!

Our next post in this series on Chip Removal for Christians will deal with the Golden Rule.