Be Sensitive First, Then Honest

A recent failure on my part reminded me to monitor my initial reactions to an unpleasant experience. Thankfully, my insensitivity didn’t bother my husband Tom as much as I feared it had, but I’m always striving to improve.

My husband wasn’t feeling well, so he opted out of a family gathering. I had a relaxing day with my two daughters, a son-in-law, my four grandchildren, and my step dad. Our fun interactions were mixed with emotionally touching moments. I drove home in a quiet car mentally singing, “Life without God’s love is like a doughnut…there’s a hole in the middle of your heart.”* I prayed that everyone could be filled with God’s love.

When I got home and walked into the house, Tom was on the couch and he had music blaring loudly. It was a startling contrast to my mood. I said, “Hi” and we smiled at each other, and then at a volume to match the music, I yelled, “Do you think it’s loud enough?” He turned it off and I asked how he was feeling and said I wanted to hear about his day as soon as I unloaded the car. (That part was okay.) Then I sat next to him and, feeling badly about my comment on the volume of the music, said he could turn it back on, just not so loud. He left it off and we discussed how the day had gone for each of us. (He had a relaxing day.) So far, we were doing fine. After I showed him the pictures, I got absorbed into editing them. He then headed off to bed and I feared he was feeling ignored. It turned out he was mostly just tired.

The next morning, I confessed my insensitivity and apologized and asked how it had made him feel. Then I explained how the contrast in mood had startled me and that loud music actually hurts my ears.

So, if I were to do that scene over, it would look something like this: I’d enter and say, “Hi! How are you feeling?” (Listen to his answer.) Then I’d say, “I want to unload the car, then I’d like to hear about your day.” After unloading the car, I would sit by his side, and if he hadn’t already turned the music down, say, “Would you mind turning the music off while we talk?” Then we’d share about our days and I’d do the photo editing when I was alone. The next day, at an appropriate time, I’d share my feelings about the music.

I’m blessed to be married to a man who cares about my feelings, so we’re both working on being more sensitive and honest with each other.

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*The partial quote is from a Rob Evans “Donut Man” song. The whole line says, “Life without God’s love is like a doughnut, like a doughnut, like a doughnut. Life without God’s love is like a doughnut, ‘cuz there’s a hole in the middle of your heart.”

 

Distractions and Insensitivity

Being focused on a problem can cause us to be insensitive. Not long ago, I fell into this trap. My husband and I had two of our grandchildren (ages 6 and 5) over for a few days. On their final day, the kids and I ran a few errands together. (Tom was away at a conference with our son, that day.) Our first stop was the gas station. I usually put my credit card in my wallet while the gas is pumping, but this particular time I stuck it in my pocket while washing the windows. We then went to the bank and to the park.

Finally, I took them out to lunch. When I went to pay for it, I discovered that my credit card was missing. Thankfully, I had another one. The kids and I prayed that I’d find my card and I should have left it in the Lord’s hands at that point. We’d had a wonderful 3 days together and a delightful time at lunch. But now my mind was distracted by the loss of the credit card. I wanted to get them quickly home in order to return to the places I might have lost it or to call and cancel the card.

As a result, I spent little time socializing with the rest of their family. When I was about five minutes from their house, on my way back home, I suddenly realized I hadn’t even hugged the kids good-by! When I got home, I sent a text message to my daughter asking her to apologize to the kids for me and tell them God answered our prayers. I also shared the lesson I’d learned. She wrote back saying that they were sad when I just disappeared without saying good-by, but she appreciated what I’d learned.

I did find my card (it had fallen out of my pocket at home) and I learned a valuable lesson. Trust God with my problems and keep focused on the moment at hand!

Resource for Christian Grandparents

In February, my husband and I attended the Legacy Coalition annual conference for Grandparents. (See legacycoalition.com). The key point is to intentionally mentor your grandchildren in the faith as well as have fun with them. In addition to the keynote speakers, there was a wide array of break-out sessions that seemed to cover most grand-parenting situations. They also had a huge resource room of books and hands on materials. I highly recommend attending this conference, if you can.

Invisible Rainbows

One of the ways God blesses me and brings a smile to my heart and face is through His rainbows–the sign of His promise. Sometimes I’m blessed to see beautiful rainbows in the sky, such as the time I was walking in our neighborhood, crying out to the Lord for a sign of hope regarding my disabled son. As I rounded the corner, I saw a brilliant rainbow shining over his house! Other times, little “rainbows” dance upon the kitchen cupboards or the bedroom door, as the sun reflects off the beveled glass windows, creating colorful prisms.

One day, as I was bustling around the house and praying about certain concerns, I suddenly saw some prism rainbows on the bedroom door. I stopped abruptly and just gazed at them. Tears sprung to my eyes and I dropped to my knees in thanksgiving. God washed away all my concerns and filled my soul with peace as His love washed over me. I watched until the rainbows grew pale, then I got up. An instant later, they were gone. If I had not stopped the moment I saw them, I would have missed out on a priceless experience.

Then a thought came to mind. I know (intellectually) that God loves me and is always with me, but how often do I slow down enough to let His love splash over me? He is continually blessing me, but many times His “rainbows” are invisible and I fail to recognize them because I’m either too busy or too stressed.

O precious Lord, please open the eyes of my heart to see your love touches throughout the day. May I stop long enough to allow Your precious love and peace to flood my soul. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Parent Vs. Child Responsibility

God calls us to raise our children knowing Him and His standards of right and wrong. He also calls us to model good behavior (including confessing our mistakes, asking for forgiveness when we offend people, etc.) and He expects us to discipline our children, teaching them that there are consequences for bad decisions.

Thankfully, God is well aware of our individual weaknesses as people and as parents, and He is always willing to help us when we ask Him to. My husband and I needed continual wisdom and strength in raising our children.

The saying that “no man is an island” is true. Our behavior (good or bad) can impact far more people than we may ever be aware of. Let’s take a look at two fathers in the book of 1 Samuel in the Bible. Eli was Israel’s priest. His two wicked sons also served as priests. We learn in chapter two (verse 29) that Eli honored his sons more than the Lord. In chapter three (verses 13-14) the Lord foretold the terrible consequences Eli’s family would suffer because Eli knew of their sins and “failed to restrain them.” Apparently, even though Eli asked his sons, “Why do you do such things?” (chapter 2, verse 23), he did nothing about it. He should have removed them from the priesthood. Confronting our children does little if there are no consequences for their actions.

Samuel was a godly judge and ruled Israel faithfully. In his old age, he appointed his two sons as judges for Israel. But “…his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” (chapter 8, verses 1-3). As a result, the nation demanded to have a king instead of these men. While the people suffered as a result of this decision, there is no record of God rebuking Samuel, so I assume that the Lord did not hold Samuel accountable for his sons’ decisions. We don’t know if Samuel was aware of their actions before the leaders came to him, or how he would have handled it if the people hadn’t demanded a king. We only know that his relationship with the Lord was intact and God did not rebuke Samuel.

As parents, we can only do so much. Our adult children will make their own choices but if our relationship with the Lord is still intact, we can pray for our children and trust in God’s love for them whether they are walking with Him or if they stray. He is faithful. We can do our best in raising them and then entrust them to the Lord.

Victory Through Surrender

I have found that it is impossible for me to cheerfully and willingly surrender my desires to the Lord and sacrificially serve others unless two things happen: (a) I have a fresh revelation of how much God loves me and has sacrificed for me, and (b) I ask Him for His power to surrender my desires.

Something once came up that gave me insight into this. I was also reminded that compassion comes through empathy and understanding. I have two friends that I’ll call Sue and Jane. Sue, Jane and I have been friends for many years. Many times, Jane has sacrificially helped us, but it seemed to me like Sue never really saw or appreciated the sacrifices. Sometimes I would try to help Sue see it, but it didn’t seem to register with her.

A situation came up where Sue and I would have an opportunity to serve Jane, but it would require a sacrifice mainly on Sue’s part because she would have to give up doing something she really wanted to do. I decided I would just pray for her, but I was feeling upset that she wouldn’t be willing to make that sacrifice for Jane after all that Jane had done for us. I asked the Lord to help me forgive Sue for her selfishness. Instantly this thought came to my mind: I guess that’s just a tiny taste of how the Lord feels when I’m unwilling to sacrifice for Him in light of all that Jesus has done for me. We all struggle with surrendering our desires, even for those we love. Instantly forgiveness and compassion for Sue flooded my heart.

Note the difference between my sinful, critical reaction and God’s merciful compassion. He was merciful to both Sue and me. He understood Sue’s struggle in surrendering her desires and He understood how blind I was to my own sins (like a critical spirit). In answer to my request for His help in forgiving Sue, God revealed my own struggle with selfishness and laying down my personal desires. Instantly I had empathy and compassion for Sue.

Sweet Lord, I truly want to reflect Your mercy and compassion to others. Please continually remind me to ask for Your help in overcoming my pride and selfishness and flood my heart with Your compassion. Help me to surrender my desires and bring them into alignment with Yours. I want to live the victorious life in the power of Your Spirit. Thank You. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen!

Happy Valentine’s Day (God Adores You!)

The author of love–our Creator–adores us!

 

God created us so that He could lavish His love upon us! Imagine that! We are the objects of His love, the apple of His eye! He loved us before we ever did a thing! He loves us when we obey Him, and He still loves us when we disobey Him. As a parent myself, I know that I may not always like my children’s behavior, but I still love them!

 

When a man and a woman fall in love, they respond to the other’s love for them. That is how God intended it to be between Him and us. He reaches out in love to us, and we respond to that love by reaching back to Him. Unlike human love, God’s love for us never fades with time. His love is not dependent upon our actions. He will love us faithfully and fervently for all of eternity, if we have chosen to become His child through faith in Christ. I have heard it said, as an illustration of Christ’s love for us, that when Jesus was asked, “How much do you love me?” He replied, “This much,” and then He stretched out His arms on the cross and died.

 

The apostle Paul prayed that we would know “…how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18, NIV) It will literally take an eternity to fully grasp that. But we can catch a glimpse of it even in this life-time, if we watch for it. “…the earth is full of his unfailing love.” (Psalm 33:5, NIV). It is in His amazing creations–from the stars down to the tiniest invisible organism. It’s found in human acts of kindness. (Think of all the times someone has reached out to you at just the right moment when you needed a love touch. Think of how people rally around disaster victims.) His love is in the strength He gives us to persevere in hard times, and it’s in the tender way He comforts our souls when we grieve. It’s in those moments when He intervenes and protects us from harm (ie; the near collision that you barely avoided while driving). It’s in His hand of daily provision and blessings. Every breath we take is a gift of love from Him! Take time to just bask in His love.

 

“In him our hearts rejoice…” for our “…hope is in his unfailing love.”

(Psalm 33:21 & 18)

 

 

 

Kindness May Appear Unkind

Sometimes kindness means not giving a person what they’re asking for, and that may appear as unkind to them. When a parent says no to a child’s request, the parent may be acting in the child’s best interest, but the child may not be able to see that at the time. When God says no to us, it may appear unkind, but we know He always acts in our best interest.

 

So far, God has chosen not to grant my requests for our son to be healed of cerebral palsy. But God has certainly brought good out of that situation! For one thing, God used Shon’s premature birth and disability to show my husband and me that we weren’t in control of all of our circumstances. God also used these situations to bring about our salvation, and now these challenges keep us close to Jesus, which is definitely a good thing!

 

I have been in situations where my intentions were to be helpful, such as trying to help people resolve a conflict, but I ended up being accused of things that weren’t true. In such situations, I need to trust God to work things out.

 

As in all things with God, kindness is an attitude of the heart (and that’s what God looks at: our motives). People may misjudge our actions, but we have to let God handle that. Our responsibility is to make sure our conscience is clear before the Lord. Then we will experience His perfect peace, regardless of circumstances.

The Proper Attitude

“Do everything without complaining or arguing…” (Philippians 2:14, NIV.) He “…takes a genuine interest in your welfare.” (Philippians 2:20, NIV) (The emphasis is mine.)

What a glorious world this would be if everyone lived like this! I am well aware of how my self-indulgent, self-focused sinful human nature struggles with this! When things don’t go my way, I’m very tempted to complain or argue.

Apathy is another by-product of self-focus. When I’m caught up in my own life and personal concerns, it’s challenging to have genuine concern for the needs of others.

I have been guilty, for example, of only half listening to someone while my mind wanders in other directions. But if I’m genuinely concerned about their welfare, I will give them my full attention.

It is always a challenge for me to sacrifice my personal comfort and my time for others, and to set aside my desires in the interest of achieving peace through compromise.

I’m so thankful I have the Holy Spirit to change my heart and empower me to better live the sacrificial, other-focused life! I look forward to the day Christ will reign on earth and we’ll all be perfectly unselfish!

Interject Only When Necessary (Love is not Rude)

One evening, I was working at the desk while my husband and another man were talking nearby. At one point, I thought my husband said something that wasn’t quite accurate, and I corrected him. (Actually, I just heard him wrong.) He said, “You’re eavesdropping” and I said, “I’ll shut up,” and I did, because he was right. (I later apologized to him for my rudeness.) I had no right to jump into the conversation uninvited.

 

This reminded me of two important lessons:

  • Remain silent when I have not been invited into a conversation!
  • Even when I am part of a conversation, I need to prayerfully discern whether or not it’s really necessary for me to correct someone.

 

I have heard it said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I could add, ignore the small stuff if it isn’t significant. It is more important to be considerate of the other person’s feelings. Love is polite, not rude.