Only Two More Days for the Big Giveaway

Because I’m so excited about this BIG GIVEAWAY, I’m sending one extra email this week as a reminder to enter by Thursday, July 11th at midnight.

If you’ve already entered, I’m cheering for you to win! If you haven’t, here’s our prize:

TEN copies of Exhale

Group Study (for a participant)

Leader Guide

Here’s how you enter:

  • Prayerfully decide to lead an Exhale group in your home, workplace, or church.
  • Go to ExhaleBook.com/study
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page, and enter your email address. This will enter you for this giveaway, and you’ll receive our updates, training, and support for leaders starting in the fall.

Note: If you’ve never led a small group before, but you feel God knocking at your heart, dive in and do it! Cheri and I will walk alongside you and other leaders in a private Facebook group to help support you.

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What Happens When You Step Into Your Highest Calling

“The very word ‘calling’ is fraught, isn’t it? It feels like a word saved only for special people and those paid to do ministry.”

That’s a line from my Encouragement for Today devotion, “Your Highest Calling Isn’t What You Think.”

It’s true, isn’t it? So many of us struggle with the idea of calling, but ultimately I believe that it’s not as hard as we make it. In fact, we often miss our highest calling by over-complicating it.

(Spoiler alert! If you’re not sure what your highest calling is, read the devotion before you proceed.)

Our highest calling is simple. We’re called to be near Jesus.

How do we accomplish coming near Jesus? Just like with anybody you want to build relationship with– a grandchild, a friend, your husband– you get closer to Jesus by spending time with Him. Read the Bible. Pray. Sit in silence and listen to His words for you. Bask in His presence and peace. These are just a few ways to prioritize time with Jesus.

In this fast-paced world, it’s not easy to carve out time to come close, but it’s essential. There just aren’t any short-cuts. 

In those moments, I know that God will meet You. I can say it with full confidence, because He’s met me. As I said in the devotion, He’ll draw you close and then He’ll send you out. If you’ve been wrestling and wrestling with what to do, pause to simply come close, and leave a comment to let me know what happens. I’m praying that God floods into your time with Him!

What happens when we step into our highest calling of coming near Jesus? He meets us there, giving us patience in a wait or sending us out to do His work. Either is beautiful!

Giveaway (a tool for your highest calling):

Cheri Gregory, co-author of Exhale, and I are excited to announce our Group Study materials available through Amazon! Before we wrote one word of Exhale, we dreamed and designed it to be a book that groups would love digesting together. Our six-week group study is designed to take the life-changing lessons from the book to an even deeper level, creating change that sticks through group discussion and support.

Combining Scripture, thought-provoking questions, and time to inhale the lessons of Exhale, the group study will empower you and your friends to walk through a process that releases you from the things that have created unbearable pressure.

The materials include: a Group Study guide for participants, a Leader Guide, and free teaching videos from Cheri and me (available August 15th at ExhaleBook.com/study).

I’m super-excited about today’s giveaway because I know it can lead to the life you know you’re made for as you develop a community around Exhale with all the tools you need!

TEN copies of Exhale

Group Study (for a participant)

Leader Guide

Here’s how you enter:

  • Prayerfully decide to lead an Exhale group in your home, workplace, or church.
  • Go to ExhaleBook.com/study
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page, and enter your email address. This will enter you for this giveaway, and you’ll receive our updates, training, and support for leaders starting in the fall.

Note: If you’ve never led a small group before, but you feel God knocking at your heart, dive in and do it! Cheri and I will walk alongside you and other leaders in a private Facebook group to help support you.

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Numbed Out

At no additional expense to you, this post contains affiliate links to defray the cost of website maintenance. Click here for full disclosures.

Have you ever caught yourself saying or thinking things like this?

The news stresses me out too much. I’m not going to watch it anymore.

I can’t think about that problem. It’s too big for me, and I’ve got enough of my own stuff to handle.

Man, this has been a day. I need ___________ (food,  binge-watching, a substance) to help me relax.

Being close to people always ends in pain. I’d rather be alone.

I’ll go ahead and confess that I’ve had each one of those thoughts at one time or another.

None of us likes to hurt or feel pain, but numbing out has become an American obsession. It’s reflected in shelves full of pain relievers, the way we shelter our kids from adversity, and how quickly we turn to entertainment to dodge or dull our pain. There are times when all those choices may be appropriate, but we’re a people (I’m person) who too often chooses numbness over pain.

Pain has a purpose.

In his book Where is God When It Hurts?, Philip Yancey uses the physical disease leprosy to show us that pain can be a gift. People with leprosy lose feeling in their extremities. Their hands, feet, nose, ears and eyes become numb. The tissue damage that’s symptomatic of leprosy isn’t caused directly by the disease. Instead, tissue damage happens because there’s no feeling to let a person know that they’re damaging themselves. For example, one boy with leprosy lost a finger because of turning a key in a sticky lock. When the key wouldn’t turn, he just kept pushing, not realizing that the metal was lacerating his skin. Pain would have kept the boy from injuring his finger beyond repair.

Other physical diseases also prohibit pain, and Yancey says, “Insensitivity to pain dooms such people to lives of constant peril.”

Emotional pain is the same. It’s an indicator that’s something’s wrong or that something has been lost. Although it’s not pleasant and is sometimes downright devastating, pain lets us know that losses and evils like death, divorce, financial ruin, racism, wandering children and sexism are not part of God’s original plan. These things, and many others, are the problems of our broken world.

Pain points to our problem.

When we turn away from pain, blocking it complete from our lives, we actually miss out. Tender hearts feel pain by definition. Numbed out hearts don’t feel, so they can’t:

  • Solve problems
  • Empathize with others
  • Connect through relationship
  • Feel joy either

Numbing may seem like a solution, but it only works temporarily and it brings greater consequences down the line. One is the absence of joy. Jerry Sittser, in his exquisite book A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, tells the excruciating story of the year after the loss of his wife, mother, and child in a crash caused by a drunk driver. At the end of the book, he says,”Yet the grief I feel is sweet as well as bitter. I still have a sorrowful soul; yet I wake up every morning joyful, eager for what the new day will bring. Never have I felt as much pain as I have in the last three years; yet never have I experienced as much pleasure in simply being alive and living an ordinary life. Never have I felt so broken; yet never have I been so whole…. What I once considered mutually exclusive– sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure, death and life– have become parts of a greater whole. My soul has been stretched.”

If we’re to make a difference in our world, we have to engage our hearts fully in both pain and joy, so that we can connect with the people we want to help.

In the series that I’m doing to develop tender hearts and strong voices, you’ve heard the four steps.

  1. Listen.
  2. Feel.
  3. Do.
  4. Speak.

In my Christian circles, I believe feelings have gotten a bad rap. Yes, it’s true that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (Jeremiah 17:9) But it’s equally true that God created us with emotions–the whole range including pain– that are meant to be gifts.

In the “feel” part of the series, we’ll talk about how to leverage emotions rather than being led by them. Next week I’ll write about God’s emotions, so please pray for me as I study!

How about you? How do you process both the gift and curse of your feelings?

Note: I don’t want to leave those adrift who are currently in deep pain or feeling like I’ve minimized your suffering here. In the year after my friend Linda died from breast cancer, the two books I quoted in the post, Where Is God When It Hurts? and A Grace Disguised were a life-line to me in my grief. They are my most highly recommended and most often given when people I love are in pain. Yancey’s book is more of a theological textbook, though it’s easy to read. Sittser’s book is a first-hand account. It looks unflinchingly at grief, but it’s full of hope even though it’s not a bit sugar-coated. Both were exactly what my heart needed–truth and understanding– as I grieved my friend.

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All Your Beautiful Seeds

Oh my heavens…

I’ve spent the morning reading back through all your comments, and my heart is overflowing. Although I’m unable to write a response for each one, I’ve been thanking God for all the seeds He’s sending into the world through you. You’re sending seeds of care-taking, encouragement, the arts, giggles, and even grief. The last one may seem strange, but watching a friend grieve her husband’s death in healthy ways taught me more than any book ever could. All that you’re doing and living through when lived in Christ makes a difference in your world.

Thank you for each of your comments. You’re the beautiful field of women that I describe in chapter 15 of Exhale! And here’s what happens when we step into being Seed Senders:

A couple of weeks ago, I shared some testimonies last week of how the message of the book has impacted others, but I also want to share how it’s impacted me.

I hear the same thing over and over again from authors like me who only share what God has taught them. God always tests us on what we’ve written. That’s certainly been true for me with this book! I wrote Exhale in the middle of a fairly major home renovation. Then, a month prior to the launch of the book, my youngest son graduated with lots of family fanfare, and he got married.

It was a lot, y’all. A whole lot.

Do you know what I had to do to keep my head above water? I had to live out the lessons I was writing in the book.

  • I couldn’t say “yes” to one more thing no matter how much other people thought I should.
  • I had to say no to many good things so that I could live out the missions of keeper of the home, mom and author that God had assigned me.
  • I had to release my over-developed sense of responsibility that constantly told me that I’m in charge of everything and therefore to blame for everything.
  • I had to examine every interaction with my adulting sons to make sure I was truly helping and not meddling. (If you don’t need anything else in the book, you need the chart on p. 72 in which Cheri shows the contrast between helping and meddling. I’m seriously going to print it and put it on my refrigerator for quick reference when I’m having conversations with my adult sons!)

Now I’m going to testify to the greatness of God and the power of His Spirit. In all the chaos of the last year of my life, I can’t think of a single major meltdown. I’m not saying that I didn’t have any “moments,” but I was able to flex and adjust in ways that I’ve never been able to before.

I’m fully aware that I’m totally incapable of that on my own, so it’s not me bragging on me. I give the credit to God who is the only One who can accomplish change in the hot mess that is me! Now I’m going to say something to you with full confidence (but trembling knees ’cause this is a stretch for me).

The lessons from Exhale, when walked out through the transforming power of God’s Spirit, can change your life. I know it’s true because they’ve changed mine.

If you aren’t one of the winners below, you can get a taste of Exhale at ExhaleBook.com, and you can also download and read a portion for free (the Forward, Introduction and Chapter 1) when you click here.

Next week, I’ll be returning to regularly scheduled blog posts in our series where we’re learning to:

Listen –> Feel –> Do –> Speak

We’ll be starting on the “feel” part of our series, and I’ll send out the freebie “How to Grow Into Your Calling” on the 17th as a free extra to all who subscribe. God’s been whispering to my heart, and I’m excited to share what I’m learning!

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Congratulations to:

Candice Hope (5.21.19 3:44 pm), the winner of the Exhale prize package

Heidi Blair (6.4.19 2:03 pm), the winner of 2 copies of Exhale and 2 necklaces

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The Powerful Beauty of Something Tiny

You know the saying… “Great things come in small packages.” That saying may be truest of one of the tiniest things I can think of– a seed.

Years ago when the boys were small, we moved into a new house with a barren yard. Even though I love landscaping, there was no budget for it that year, so I hesitantly bought a packet of zinnia seeds. Because I usually bought full-grown plants from the nursery, I wasn’t quite convinced.

Later in the summer, as I looked out my window at the tall, colorful zinnias gracing the front of my house, I basked in the powerful beauty that comes from tiny seeds.

In today’s devotion “Why Your Big Life Starts with Something Small,” I ask the question, what seed(s) do you hold in your hand? God’s given you something powerful to send into His world. What is it?

If you’re not quite sure, I have two resources for you.

“How to Grow Into Your Calling”

Next Friday, June 17th, I’m going to do my quarterly mailing to my faithful subscribers. This mailing will include, “How to Grow Into Your Calling,” a practical resource for identifying your calling, the seeds you hold in your hand. I know that sometimes our calling is clear, and sometimes it’s not. Occasionally, the word “calling” is too intimidating to even contemplate! This simple tool will acts like a magnifying glass, helping you to discern the seeds you hold in your hands by seeing the clues that are all around you.

If you’re already subscribed, thank you! Hang tight, and “How to Grow Into Your Calling” will arrive in your inbox on the 17th.

If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to subscribe and enter your email so that you can receive “How to Grow Into Your Calling” along with free weekly encouragement from me. You’ll also stay update on all things Exhale, including our upcoming announcements about group study materials. (Note: Only those subscribed by June 16, 2019 at midnight will receive this quarter’s free resource.)

 Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not. Love Who You Are. Live Your One Life Well.

The devotion today is an excerpt from my new book Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not. Love Who You Are. Live Your One Life Well. which is co-authored with my podcast co-host and partner in crime, Cheri Gregory. Welcome to the world, Exhale!

Isn’t she a beautiful baby? 🙂

Exhale is for the woman suffocating under the pressure of being all things to all people; of filling every unfilled spot at church, work, and home; of trying to do it all right, make decisions that benefit everyone else, and keep everyone happy.

Rather than adding more to your to-do list, Amy Carroll and Cheri Gregory show you how to

  • lose the ill-fitting roles you’ve been trying to fill so that you can be lighter and freer
  • love your truest, God-created self with all your glorious gifts instead of trying to shove yourself into a mold
  • live your one and only life in a way that you know truly matters

This isn’t a time-management book filled with how-to lists and calendar tools. Instead, it walks you through a process that releases you from the things that have created unbearable pressure. Then you’ll be able to live the combination we all long for: fulfilling the desires of your heart, loving your people well, and bringing glory to God.

Live the life you were created for!

GIVEAWAY:

In celebration of Exhale’s birth, Cheri and I are giving away two Exhale books and two stamped necklaces. Keep one to enjoy, and give the other to a woman you love.

To enter, tell us what seed(s) you hold in your hands OR simply say “I’m ready to exhale!”

 

(Tip: Next month’s giveaway is a big one, so make sure you’re subscribed! Cick here and enter your email.)

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A Little Fun for You!

This week I’m taking time off to celebrate my son’s wedding and enjoy my family. Be sure that I’ll have some pics to share when I return!

In the meantime, I wanted to invite you to a little fun. My friend, co-author, and co-host, Cheri Gregory, designed an amazing website for our new book, Exhale. On it she included a personality quiz that she created, and it’s spot on!

Click on the graphic below to go take the quiz, and while you’re there, be sure to look around and enjoy. 🙂

If you can, come back and tell me what your personality type was. Want to guess mine?

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What to Do When Someone Hands You Their Trash

Make sure to enter to win a great giveaway today at the end of this post!

Have you ever been in a situation when someone hands you their plate of  trash? In other words, they try to make you responsible for their lack of planning, emotional baggage, or work load. I talk more about that in today’s devotion “I Believe This is Your Plate of Trash,” an excerpt from my new book Exhale, co-authored with Cheri Gregory.

“Plates of trash” = Inappropriate expectations

In the past, I’ve defaulted to two different but equally damaging reactions because of “plates of trash” being passed to me:

  1. Anger– An inappropriate expectation leveled at me by someone else makes my blood boil. Maybe I’m ok with it at first, but the longer I live with the consequences of trying to meet or deflect that inappropriate expectation the more frustrated and resentful I become. Not helpful. I can’t love my people well in that state.
  2. Aquiescence– In other words, I give in. I do what someone else expects me to do even though it was never mine to do, resulting in a cluttered schedule and a frenzied heart.

Thankfully, Jesus gives us a different response that allows us to stay focused on the mission He’s given us as well loving our people.

We gently but firmly hand back the plate of trash.

How do we do that practically?

  • With a loving but empowered “no” (the power comes from knowing God’s mission for us)
  • With a boundary
  • With a compromise ie. “I can’t do what you’ve asked me to do, but I can do ______________.”

There’s more about how to walk through those steps in Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not. Love Who You Are. Live Your One Life Well.  If you’re exhausted from trying to be All The Things for all the people all the time, Exhale is for you!

Here’s what some of our friends who are reading advanced copies of Exhale are saying:

“I think about how many plates of trash I have accepted in the past. I’m not your trashcan anymore!” ~Linda

“Exhale is phenomenal! The freedom to love who I am is amazing. Chapter 11 particularly made me smile and rush right in to find out how ‘what makes me weird makes me wonderful.'” ~Jenn

“As I’ve been reading, I feel the inner walls coming down that I’ve built up after years (really a whole lifetime) of rejection and perfectionism and internalizing every single critical comment as truth about who I really am. Parts of my old ways are breaking down and something new is being built up within me.” ~Anonymous

The book releases June 4th, but when you pre-order from your favorite book-seller, Cheri and I have some fabulous freebies that we’ll send to you.

(“The Expectation Evaluation” is the freebie that will walk you step-by-step through evaluating what’s your assignment versus what’s a “plate of trash.” It’s a super-practical tool that brings clarity in murky situations.)

You can claim your freebies in two easy steps:

  1. Order Exhale from your favorite book seller. (Click on the links below.)

Proverbs 31 Ministries              Amazon                     Barnes and Noble                 Christian Book.Com

       2. Submit a copy of your receipt to [email protected]. Voila! Your freebies will arrive automatically in your inbox.

Giveaway:

In expectation and celebration of our book baby, Exhale, Cheri and I are giving away a fun package today that includes:

A pre-release copy of Exhale (You’ll be one of the few to have it right now!)

A beautiful Exhale stamped necklace

Yummy Chapel Hill Toffee

A Rae Dunn ceramic sign

Shea butter spa soap (smells amazing!)

Travel Tumbler

Plant not included 🙂

To enter, tell us how the “plate of trash” concept helps you with others’ expectations, or simply say, “I’m ready to exhale!”

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The Benefits of Busting Up Your Echo Chamber

Recently I was sitting in a meeting, working hard not to squirm in my seat. The views being expressed felt harsh and personal. The words pouring out of a new friend’s mouth seemed like an attack, and I wanted to defend. To explain. To argue.

But I didn’t do any of those things, because I’m working hard to live out our lessons about listening Those lessons include:

  • Only Scripture is true. Human opinions are just opinions.
  • To gain the rewards of listening, we have to lose our “one right way” of thinking.
  • Elevating our own opinions to truth shuts down dialogue. Listening with the fruits of the Spirit builds dialogue.
  • Listening = Love.

Instead of attacking, defending, explaining, or arguing, I listened without speaking. I didn’t agree with every word my friend spoke, but I learned some new things. I absorbed an experience different than my own. I built the relationship in a way that will allow me to speak my perspective at the right time.

Putting myself in positions where I feel the pinch of unease isn’t easy, but it’s good. The echo chamber that I lived in for years wasn’t helpful at all. It kept me comfortable but unchanged.

What’s an echo chamber?

We’ve created an echo chamber when we surround ourselves with voices who echo back our own ideas, thoughts, values, experiences and perspectives.

As humans, we’re all looking for those who are like us and a place to belong. The way we most often do that is to form an echo chamber which is a natural default but not the best way to learn and grow. We create echo chambers all the time by choosing TV news that supports what we already think, by following people on social media that post what what we already agree with, and by choosing friends who look how we look and live how we live.

There’s a comfort level to all that sameness, but it keeps us from understanding another’s perspective. It keeps us from learning and growing. It even keeps us from being solution-bearers since we never expose ourselves to two sides of a problem.

So I’ve been working to bust up my echo chamber.

How do you bust up an echo chamber? 

The only way to bust up our echo chambers is to be intentional. We have to seek out voices and perspectives different from our own, make friends with those who move outside our natural communities, and listen when we’d rather argue.

Because God has been putting racial reconciliation on my heart, I’ve taken steps to specifically listen and learn about that issue. Here are some of the steps I’ve taken to bust up my echo chamber:

  • I’ve started following women of color in social media. A few of my favorites are Chrystal Evans Hurst, Jackie Hill Perry and Arielle Estoria.
  • I joined a Bible study in a church that’s historically a black church. Not only do a receive great teaching every week, but I’m making new friends who have voices that I care about.
  • I’m listening to podcasts with perspectives that challenge my own. Two of my favorites are The TED Radio Hour and Lavar Burton Reads. (The second I love, love, love. There’s no better way to step into someone else shoes than by listening to a story.)
  • I’ve attended a conference that included both black and white leaders. So powerful to hear many perspectives!

What is God moving your heart to learn about? What issue do you feel led to eventually speak into? Find and follow people who speak into all sides of that issue.

How do you cling to the Truth in the process?

Although I’m asking you to join me in listening to voices out there that don’t echo your own, I’m NOT asking you to embrace all those voices say. That’s not at all the point of busting up your echo chamber.

Instead, at the end of this series on listening, I return to the beginning. Here’s the sub-set process within our listening:

Listen to God (first and always first) –> Listen to others –> Listen to God (last and always last)

All that we hear must be compared with Scripture, the only reliable Truth. We must be like the people that Luke commended in the book of Acts, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)

Let’s read like Bereans, listen like Bereans, and learn like Bereans. That doesn’t mean that we only consider what’s true, but it does mean that we only absorb what’s True according to Scripture.

With the rest of the information, we learn how to develop a strong voice that’s under-girded by a tender heart. When it’s time, we’re ready to speak.

Please share what you’ve learned in this series about listening. What’s the issue God is putting on your heart? Who do you recommend that I follow as I bust up my echo chamber?

This is the last week in the “Listen” series, but hang tight with me! Next week I have an exciting announcement, and then we’ll roll on in our process to:

Listen –> Feel –> Do –> Speak

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And the Winners Are…

Well, friends, it’s been a cra-cra week, so there’s no new blog post. The last post in the “Listen” series will be next week. Stay tuned!

And could I ask you to pray? This weekend is my youngest son’s graduation (YAY!), and he gets married in two weeks (even bigger YAAAAAY!). Two weeks after that is the launch of Exhale, my new book co-authored with Cheri Gregory. Let’s just say it’s to-do list mania around here. Please pray that my feeble brain can remember all that needs done!

Below, I’m announcing all the winners of the books I’ve featured, but if you didn’t win, you still don’t want to miss these. Here are the links one more time for easy access:

The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter by Lori Roeleveld

Tough to Love: How to Find Peace in Difficult Relationships by Rachel Britton

Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters by Blythe Daniel and Helen McIntosh

And the winners are…

Jeanie (5/2/19 10:16 am)- The Art of Hard Conversation

Adrienne (4/25/19 6:58 am)- Tough to Love

Paula (4/19/19 8:07 pm)- Mended

Neko (4/11/19 2:31 pm)- Exhale necklace

At no additional expense to you, there are affiliate links included in this post to help defray the cost of website maintenance. Click here for my disclosure.

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Are Your Words Grounded and Timed in Love?

At no additional cost to you, there are affiliate links in this post to help defray the cost of website maintenance. Click here for full disclosure.

The last in our series of guest posts about listening comes from Lori Stanley Roeleveld, and it packs a truth-punch! In this excerpt from her new book The Art of Hard Conversations, Lori shows us the key when it’s time to move from listening to speaking in hard situations. Make sure to read to the end for a chance to win a copy of this helpful book!s

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I was surprised when Carly invited me to lunch.

Our church had been experiencing a conflict that had divided many. Carly and I had had numerous hard conversations about her attitude. Our last conversation had been particularly adversarial, so I was nervous that our meeting might be a vengeful ambush.

Carly arrived after I did, and once we ordered, she didn’t keep me in suspense. “I need your help and your prayers. My doctor called me to discuss my most recent test results, and I don’t want to face it alone. Can you come along?”

I was taken aback. “Of course. Still, I’m surprised you’re asking me.”

“Why?” she said, leaning back in the booth.

“Well, our last few exchanges haven’t been the most comfortable,” I replied.

She nodded. “In fact, I hated those conversations. But through everything, one thing that’s always been clear is that you love me. It takes a huge commitment to love to stick with someone through talks like that. Other people probably have thought those things and just given up on me or walked away. I’ll take the tough talks as long as there’s the love.”

Love is a multidimensional quality. It’s both a noun, representing a feeling, and a verb, representing actions that put others first.

In John 21, after Jesus has risen from the dead, He appears to some of the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. In verses 15–19, over breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times about his love for Him. Peter answers three times that He does, indeed, love Jesus. Jesus’s response to each affirmative answer is to call Peter to action—feeding Jesus’s sheep—in demonstration of this love.

To say that we love others is to say we’re willing to risk our own discomfort to speak hard things to them.

To say that we love Jesus is to say we are ready to obey Him by living and speaking the truth. To say that we love Jesus is to say we are willing to reflect Him by loving and serving others. To say that we love others is to say we’re willing to risk our own discomfort to speak hard things to them.

Love is a feeling that leads to action.

When we prepare for any hard conversation, we must ask ourselves questions about love. Do I love this person, and if not, what am I going to do about that? Am I being loving to speak this truth in this way, at this time, to this person?

Some believers falsely assume that to be loving means to stay silent about truth or to compromise it in some way. Others are so afraid that loving feelings will lead to a softening of truth, they harden their hearts toward others and eschew mercy. This is dangerous thinking—both for the church of Jesus Christ and ultimately for the world.

The world (meaning people who don’t follow Jesus) has absconded with love, replacing God’s idea of love with a facsimile that many buy as the real thing. And not just the world. Some parts of the body of Christ believe that to be loving, biblical truth must be muted or modified.

Not so. Jesus walked on Earth living out perfect love while delivering perfect truth. It is possible. It’s not possible without Jesus, but it’s possible. Love and truth can occupy the same space, just as surely as Christ was fully human and fully God.

I’m aware that these two words frustrate, frighten, or trigger a wound reflex in some people. We’ve heard this phrase before, perhaps tossed around the church like a beach ball (or a dodge ball).

“I’m just speaking the truth in love, is all.”

“Well, don’t you know you have to speak truth in love?”

Intended for useful instruction, this power-filled phrase from Ephesians 4 is too often snapped from its context like a tree branch and used to club innocent passersby in Jesus’s name. The misguided speaker is often leaning heavily toward a personal interpretation of truth, while offering only a passing nod at anything others might recognize as love.

Inhale. Exhale. It’s tempting to edit from Scripture any passage that’s been misused, but this would be detrimental (not to mention heretical). Agreed, there has been a shameful amount of bullying that’s occurred in Jesus’s name. This speaking the truth in love concept has too often been the last word spiritually bludgeoned victims hear just before they hit the mat.

The worse thing we can do, though—worse than lancing the wounds—is to allow the bullies and abusers the last word on God’s Word. It will challenge some of us to revisit “speaking the truth in love,” but these are our Father’s Words. We must reclaim them from the bullies.

Of course, we can fairly represent love and truth simultaneously. Parents do it with children every day. Spouses do it. Church leaders, doctors, friends, and others all speak truth and communicate love, sometimes in the same breath.

Love is our high calling. The highest. We need to be trained and transformed by love, so that love is our first language, our initial reflex, and our emotional default setting. We need to foster loving hearts, if we want that love to influence our words.

(Excerpted from The Art of Hard Conversations, Lori Stanley Roeleveld, February 2019 by permission Kregel Publications)

Giveaway: To enter to win The Art of Hard Conversations, leave a comment telling about someone who has spoken the truth to you in love OR just say “Love covers a multitude of sins!”

 

Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

 

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