Marriage can be wonderful, but conflict is usually part of the equation. There are differences to work out, hurts to deal with, and misunderstandings to overcome. Some people will barge into conflict with little concern for how it hurts the other person. Other people will bottle their feelings in until they’re ready to explode. Either way, the consequences can be devastating. Learning how to deal effectively with conflict in a marriage can be helped by laying down some simple ground rules on how to fight fair. I was helped by Brian Orme’s article in this regard. He gives five do’s and five don’ts for more constructive conflicts. This week, we’ll look at the five things to avoid.
Last week, I talked about those times when I see a need but don’t feel like I’ve got what it takes to meet it. There are lots of times when I feel overwhelmed. Whatever it is, I feel like I can’t do it. But there are other times when I feel overconfident. I’ll take on a new opportunity or start a new ministry and, at first, I feel desperate and in need of God. But soon that desperation changes into complacency. I become confident and switch into auto-pilot, feeling like I’ve got it covered. I assure myself that I know what I’m doing and implicitly send the message that I don’t need God. God’s exchange with Moses in Exodus helps me in those times when I’m feeling inadequate, but His instructions to the high priest in Exodus helps in the times when I’m feeling overconfident.
I like to be prepared for whatever I do. “Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing right,” is my motto. But there are often times when, frankly, I don’t think I’ve got what it takes. I see a need. I recognize what should be done. And I may even feel God nudging me to do something about it, but I just don’t feel qualified. Surely God will bring along a ringer to bail me out, I assure myself. Sometimes, that’s the voice of wisdom speaking. The reality is that we can’t do everything, neither should we. But other times, I’m convinced that it’s pride making me shrink back from opportunities to serve in weakness. Reading in the book of Exodus recently, has made me realize that I’m not the only one who does that. Rereading a familiar passage has challenged the way I see opportunities and God’s working in my life.
With one of our church members in palliative care right now, I’ve spent a lot of time there in recent days. The view of life from the palliative care wing changes you. It reorients you to what life is really all about. Stephen Covey became famous for telling people to “begin with the end in mind.” We’re so isolated from opportunities to consider the end of our lives, though, that we seldom let it deeply affect us. It’s a perspective I don’t want to lose, and yet if I don’t pause to reflect on it, I know that I probably will. Let me share a few of the lessons.
The end of summer is always bitter sweet for me. It means my daughter’s return to university, but my consolation is a long drive there, together, filled with conversation. One of the things she mentioned this time stood out to me:
‘I think one of the main things God used to establish my faith was people’s testimonies. Growing up, I heard so many powerful stories of God at work in people’s lives that I couldn’t deny that Jesus was alive.’
It was interesting that she mentioned that because I knew right away where she had heard all of those testimonies. It was at an annual retreat where we gathered with other churches for an overnight event. The ironic part is that this retreat was one of the toughest things we did all year.
I remember, as a young Christian, attending a newcomers meeting for a church I had begun to attend. I listened with interest as the pastor talked about the church’s priorities. I nodded in agreement as he talked about worship, evangelism, discipleship and prayer. But when he got to the word fellowship, I felt a disconnect. For me, fellowship was Christians eating donuts and drinking coffee and I just couldn’t understand how it could be important to God. It took many years for me to figure out what fellowship really is, but again and again it has been the means that God has used to sustain my faith, keep me grounded and help me thrive in my relationship with Jesus. I wonder whether you really understand what fellowship is and why you need it.
Last month I shared some of the most important lessons God has taught me about parenting. With our Summer Sunday School presentation coming up on Sunday, and families getting ready to go back to school next week, I thought I’d share three more of those lessons that have helped me most.
We have amazing volunteers at Grace. I’m always encouraged by the different ways that I see people using their gifts to demonstrate their faith and love. Yet there are some people who don’t volunteer. They hear about the needs and the opportunities, but don’t respond. One good reason can be because they’re just settling in. We encourage people to attend for several months before they start getting involved in ministry because it takes time to get to know people and get a feel for the church. But there are other reasons. Recently, I read an excellent article by Carey Nieuwhof on the “7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks But Never Says Out Loud.” It looks at some of the reasons that a disconnect can develop between ministry leaders and potential volunteers. Let me share Nieuwhof’s questions along with some comments in response to them.
On Sunday, the team responsible for our weekly children’s ministries gathered for a BBQ and celebration of God’s goodness over the past year. As part of our time together, we discussed some quotes from Samuel Williamson’s book, “Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids? How Moralism Suffocates Grace.” For those of you with children at Grace, don’t worry: our Sunday School isn’t destroying them! But Williamson argues that when we get Sunday School wrong – and it’s easy to do – it has the potential to destroy our children’s faith. Let me explain why.
Last week, my vacation started and ended with camping trips but in between I had the privilege of being a part of a birthday party that encouraged my faith and perspective about life.