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The Case for Conflict

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Have you downloaded First 5 onto your phone yet? If you haven’t, pause now. Seriously. Leave this post (but come right back! :)), find First 5 in your app store, and download it.

You might be wondering about why I’m so insistent. It’s not because it’s from Proverbs 31 Ministries, and I’m part of the team. It’s not because I love my phone so much that I can’t even put it down in my quiet time.

It’s because First 5 has me more excited about reading the Bible in the morning than I have been in the longest time.

And God is using that little app in the most powerful way in my life. He’s reminding me that His Word is for me. To speak to me daily. Right in the midst of my circumstances. When they’re joyful. And when they’re stinky.

This week, I have to confess that I’m feeling stinky about some of my circumstances. I’m smack in the middle of some relational stuff that’s making me squirm, and I have two friends in separate cities who are in far worse situations than I’m in. It’s enough to make a Jesus-loving girl want to move to Costa Rica and build a hut on the beach with some palm fronds. (Yes, that little scenario might be well-enough thought out to make it seem like I’ve been dreaming about this for days.)

The reforming perfectionist in me wants to run. To hide. To disappear. I hate the imperfection of conflict and unsettled relationships. In the past, I would back out of the room so stealthily that you’d wonder where I went. You’d turn around… and POOF! I was gone. But God has been teaching me a different way, so here I am sitting at my computer typing instead of enjoying ocean breezes on the coast of South America.

I dragged myself out of bed this morning longing to curl back into a fetal position for the rest of the day, and I dropped my heavy limbs down into my “quiet time chair” to start on Acts 15, today’s scripture for First 5.

That’s where I found it. Just what I needed.

Acts 15 is the account of the conflict in the early church over circumcision. The party of the Pharisees –those rule-loving folks– said that the new Gentile believers had to be circumcised to be saved, but scripture says that Paul and Barnabus were in “sharp dispute and debate” with them.

I actually love that the Bible uses the word “sharp” to describe the conflict. This word leaves no room for thinking that these guys calmly and gently talked through this matter. This word makes it clear that there was passion and vigor and maybe a little raised volume.

To get the whole fabulous, scriptural lesson about the marks of healthy conflict, you’ll just have to download the app, but here’s the statement Whitney Capps used that captured my heart this morning:

[Tweet “Unity is often found on the other side of conflict… healthy, Holy Spirit-resolved conflict.”]

Acts 15 shows us how  to behave in the midst of conflict. Was everybody involved happy slappy at the end? I doubt it, but God’s people acted like His people and sought His Word, His will and His best in a hard situation. They moved through conflict into unity.

That’s when I knew God was speaking straight through His Word to me. This isn’t a time to run. This isn’t a time to disappear or move to Costa Rica. This is the time to draw close to God’s Word and to His people. This is the time to work it through and work it out. This is the time to jump into the deep instead of jumping ship.

What’s God’s Word speaking to you today? I’d love to hear!

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Thanks to all of you who left a comment to enter to win Come with Me! Congratulations to Mary Louise Buchiere (5.10.16 10:39 am) who is the winner! I’ve sent you an email for your address. 🙂

Please note my new policy: I announce winners here and send personal emails, but I will choose a new winner if I haven’t received your address within a week.

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Conflict as a Growth Agent

It’s super-hard for me to think of conflict in positive terms.  Even though I can tend toward opinionated, I don’t like for relationships to be out of kilter, and I’m extremely uncomfortable with the thought of someone being mad at me or not liking me.

Several years ago, I was living in the midst of a lot of conflict including the one I described in today’s devotion.  I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on, and I didn’t like it.  Not one bit.

It came to a head one night at a conference I was attending.  After listening raptly to Lysa TerKeurst give one of the most impactful messages I had ever heard, I headed with the crowd out into the hallway.  There, I ran into a dear friend…a dear friend with whom I was in conflict.

Now let me explain.  I’m too southern to do conflict in a loud way.  (Except at home, and we all know that’s a whole other can of worms.  And another post for another day.  Sigh.)  My friend and I hadn’t digressed to yelling and screaming, but nevertheless, we simply could not see each other’s point of view.  We talked for a while with no resolution.

In frustration, I went back to my room, threw myself on the bed, and threw a tantrum in front of my roommate, Aimy.

“Aimy,” I said.  “I just don’t understand what’s going on.  I’ve had more conflict in my life in the last six months than I’ve had in the whole rest of my life combined.”

“I don’t know what God is trying to teach me,” I huffed, “but I DON’T WANT TO LEARN IT!!!”

(Read last phrase as an all out hissy fit.)

Because Aimy had never seen that side of me, she initially doubled over with laughter, but in a few minutes her laugh subsided.

And she looked me straight in the eyes.

And she said, “Let God chisel.”

You see in Lysa’s message just minutes before, she had given that exact powerful truth. Here’s what she explained:   God is the master sculptor of our lives.  He uses hard places in our lives to chisel us into the masterpiece He’s shaping us to be, but we have a choice.  We can choose to let Him use those hard things and become His beautiful piece of art, or we can resist and stay stuck in our original rough, unshaped form.  (Read Lysa’s excellent book Unglued for the whole story.)

Although I sat in a dark room less than an hour before transfixed by Lysa’ powerful words, I hadn’t applied them in my hard situation. 

God was obviously trying to get my attention.  And He was doing it with conflict.

“Let God chisel.”

Once I stopped resisting His shaping tool and let Him chisel me even in conflict, two beautiful lessons emerged.

Humility– I truly began to work to live out Phil. 2:3-4.  I said, “I’m sorry” more quickly.  I listened more carefully to hear the other point of view.  I relinquished my right to be right more consistently.

Growth–God will use anything necessary to make us more like Jesus. In my case, He used something I hated, conflict, to mold me.  As soon as I paid attention and submitted to His teaching, the conflict subsided.  How about that?!

Have you got any growth agents in the form of hard places at work in your life right now?  What lessons are your learning?  Has today’s devotion and blog post helped you to see conflict in a new light?

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Joyfully Invested…In Your Marriage

Easter is on its way, and visions of Easter baskets always take me back to one of our wedding showers. We got married in April (here comes anniversary #24!), and our hostess planned a fun and impactful game. Each guest was given a slip of paper on which to write one piece of marriage advice, and then each slip was placed in a plastic egg and into a basket.

easter basket Photo Credit: She Knows

It was so much fun reading the advice aloud and seeing how each person had their own view of the recipe for a great marriage.

My devotion today focused on some great marriage advice I received years ago, and I thought I’d try to reproduce our little game by asking some friends to pass on their best marriage wisdom to you. These are women living in imperfect but happy marriages, and they represent young marrieds, two couples married over 50 years, stay-at-home-moms, a counselor and a CEO. They’re living in different ages and stages of life, but they all are living to walk closely with God and to build strong marriages. Here are their wise words:

“Your spouse is not equipped for or meant to provide the depth of intimacy you are meant to get from your relationship with Christ. In short, don’t try to drain from your spouse what you were meant to receive from God.”  ~Lindsey Wingo

“Acknowledge and live every day of your married life with the knowledge that you have made a covenant commitment to your spouse before God. Whatever your differences might be on a given day, the foundation of your marriage is solid…and permanent – it’s a forever commitment to love each other!”  ~Lisa Grimes

“Joy is an important element in marriage. Laughing together keeps conflict in perspective and is bonding. I’m so happy I married a man who still makes me giggle every day.”  ~Me

(Case in point…this was Barry’s contribution when I told him about the blog’s purpose today…) “You can laugh with your spouse when you’re both naked, but you shouldn’t ever laugh at your spouse when you’re both naked.”  ~Barry Carroll

“There are 2 things we must be intentional about as wives:
1. Learn the language of RESPECT and speak it.
2. Be INTENTIONAL about lighting the bedroom candle on a regular basis. It’s a must!”  ~Tara Furman

“We are 47 & 49 with aging parents, and college/young adult children. Our maintained friendship is what connects us in these tough days. We’ve been married 27 years.” ~Jennifer Gay

“From childhood it was always my prayer that when, and if, I married, we would be a support for each other and have a home centered on Jesus. After almost 50 years, that’s still my prayer, daily. A thankful heart has also brought me to my knees over the years. I have been and still am so blessed to be married to Barry.” ~Barbara Carroll (my precious mom-in-law)

“Marry someone who brings out the best in you. After the 3 year buzz has worn off, they will continue to do so!”  ~Carol Byrd

“My first year of marriage, a wise woman shared this wisdom, ‘You don’t have to share your mate’s bad mood.’ My husband Larry says happy couples are made of individuals who know how to develop personal satisfaction without selfishness.” ~Debbie Wilson

“Avery and I try to out serve the other person. This is the basic principal of putting others before yourself. It works out nice in a marriage, and it keeps you from being selfish! Also, there must be adventure in your marriage!! The reason “things” aren’t the same as they use to be, is because you aren’t doing the same “things” you use to do. Go on a date, take a walk, go parking, make a late night Krispy Kreme run, put on a pot of coffee and sit and talk! Have fun, enjoy your God given life!!” ~Rey Cooke

“I have many suggestions for a happy marriage but some probably rank higher than others! Commitment would rank right up there, along with patience & not jumping to conclusions! Humor goes a long way too!!!”  ~Carol Dohm (my sweet mama)

“Pray pray pray for your man, & SHOW him how much you love & respect him!”  ~Julie Cable

“I am a better wife to my husband when I have been praying for him. I have been thinking of my husband’s needs/desires, and I have asked God to move in his life and to use him for kingdom work. I want to be a help and not an obstacle in my husband’s day.”  ~Brigitte Harrison

“’…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.’ (James 1:19) When angry, refer back to the first two admonitions!” ~Janet Dohm (my wise sis-in-law)

“Buy a camper! Or, at least commit to do something together that you truly enjoy. When Scott & I bought our camper a few years ago, we were in a rut….he was doing his thing & I was doing mine, but we weren’t doing much together. Then, we started camping and we began working together toward a common goal….unplugging, relaxing, spending time together, and making memories as a family. We never imagined that something so simple would strengthen our marriage in such a powerful way!” ~Holly Ladner

I so enjoyed reading wisdom from my friends and family, and I hope it’s been fun for you too. What piece of advice resonates with you? Please join in–leave a comment, and add your piece of marriage wisdom. We’d love to learn from you!

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Guilty Pleasure Friday

I look forward to Fridays. A lot. And I’m not sure I’m ready to confess why.

Do you have a guilty pleasure? Something you know isn’t deep growth material but appeals to your girlie and feeds your shallow?

I’ve got a pleasure like that. Here goes…true confessions.

Say “Yes” to the Dress.

LOVE.

I love the fashion. I love the big personalities. I love the psychology of relationships of all kinds.

(My guys don’t really love any of it, but they tolerate it.)

Here’s a clip just in case you aren’t aware of Say “Yes”.

I have to tell the truth. This is an elevated clip and may not best represent the “guilty pleasure-ness” of this show. I’d like you to see it in its best light, though. 🙂

This show makes me want to pick out a wedding dress again, although I loved this one at the time.(Can you say 1990s?)

Even with a different dress, I’d keep the exact same groom, and I’d marry him again any day of the week!  I got really excited about this idea last night and made a new Pinterest board.  Check it out here.

So, seriously, do you have a reality tv show that you love?  Which one and why?  Do you think reality tv is affecting/changing our culture?  I’m working on a message about cultural conflicts, and I’m processing thoughts about reality tv.  I’d love to hear yours!

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