One Thing the Middle East and Sexuality Have in Common

I’m pretty sure I’m in Florida and it’s Friday as I write this, but I know I’ve missed posting on the days I usually do.  This week feels a little like being on the spinning cups ride at the fair – twirling from a set of controversial conversations where the narrative of one is at odds with the other in the Middle East, to another set of complex conversations around the issue of being gay and faithful to God’s Word.

I got home from Israel/Palestine on Tuesday so that I could be in MN for a conversation we hosted Wednesday night at our church between two friends – Jeff Chu and Wesley Hill.  Both happen to be gay Christian men who are trying to faithfully follow Jesus as best they can.

What do the Middle East and sexuality have in common?  Well-meaning, broken, faithful people are trying to find their way in a world that often feels hostile and unsafe.

The Wednesday night conversation was rich and honest and gentle. The overwhelming response I got from people afterwards was, “I can’t believe how gracious and kind the tone of the whole evening was…how thoughtful and respectful both guys were.”

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Yep, it’s sad that this is not what we’ve come to expect from dialog in the church over things we disagree about.  Why is that?  Why is there this anxiety about needing to be “right”?  Why do we use the Bible as an weapon to bash the other rather than an instrument of love to guide our conversations? Continue reading

Changing the Conversation

Last night most of America was watching the Oscars...the red carpet beautiful people who seem to be as good at dodging questions as a politician running for office.  Many questions the press hurls at them are inappropriately personal or just stupid.  Who wouldn’t want to avoid some of that?  But there are other times when changing the conversation is positive, and important to growth.

This afternoon I’m leaving on a trip to Israel/Palestine.  I’m traveling with a few people from our church, led by Telos, an organization we’ve been partnering with that desires to engage evangelicals in conversations with Israelis and Palestinians pursuing peace.

This is hard stuff.  Complicated and intense and emotional, and personal for so many.  Frankly, I might prefer it if Jesus invited me to follow Him into, say…Hawaii maybe. Continue reading

7 Ways to Thrive (or at least survive) at a Holiday Party

The other day I wrote about the people we’ve gathered around our table over the years.  I wrote about how we all have fascinating stories that are part of God’s larger story and part of life is getting to know each other’s stories.

“Well,” you might have said to yourself, “Stories shmories.  All fine and dandy for you, but holiday parties are about as fun to me as being chosen as a tribute in the Hunger Games.”

Unknown Ok, this post is going to change all that.  It will be a Christmas miracle and you’ll want to send me all your Christmas cookies as a thank you.

This morning there was a guy and a girl, maybe in their late 20’s sitting near me at Starbucks.  I’m thinking morning coffee date.  Match.com.

I really wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but it’s possible my natural spy skills automatically kicked in when I heard certain words like “single” and “Christian” crop up.

Here’s the thing. The girl talked about herself nonstop!  I kept wanting to stuff a Cranberry Bliss bar in her mouth and say “STOOOOOOP TALKKKKKING!  Give the poor guy a chance!”

Yep, most people love to talk about themselves.  Who could possibly be more interesting than…you?

But also in the same coffee shop is Tom, who comes in every morning and no matter how friendly I am he seems to have a hard time conversing with me.  He just always seems uncomfortable and lonely and I want to give him a big hug and say “It’s gonna be ok.”

All of this has gotten me to thinking about the ways that we connect, especially at holiday parties.  Here are a few ideas: Continue reading

Kingdom Conversations

One of the amazing blessings of my life is that John serves on the World Vision International Board and I get to tag along as he travels with them.  Seeing new places and learning about new cultures is enriching, but I also get to spend time with remarkable, godly people I admire!  This week we’ve been in London and Windsor with these friends.

One of the things I notice is the power of a mantra my friend Sharon repeats often: “Words matter.”  Too many, too few (a compliment left unshared), life-giving words, words of gratitude or complaint.  Our words can be the thermostat that sets the temperature of a conversation.  If God is noting the temperature I set with my words, I’m wondering how often it would be set at “foot in mouth”, or “insensitive”, “self-centered”, or “gossipy”.

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Sitting at lunch yesterday my friend Helen didn’t just let the conversation drift.  She asked the seven women around the table, (all of us new acquaintances) to share what one of our passions is.

After the first person spoke, another woman at the table suggested that we pray for each person after they shared.  What could have been nice chit-chat became a lovely, richer time of fellowship because these two women took the opportunity to set the temperature of our conversation, creating a God-honoring environment.

Whether it’s our friends on the board here, or mentors elsewhere, some of the things I’ve observed about Jesus followers who know that words matter are:

  • They listen really well.  They are present and will sift through the extraneous and pick up on the important heart issues.
  • They ask good questions.
  • They find things to affirm.  Their speech is “seasoned with grace.”
  • Even when asked for advice, they limit what they say. (This one is a huge one for me to learn from!!)
  • They model what Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”

What is it that you think makes the difference between conversations that lift our minds and those that lower them?

Praying Present

The other day I prayed a lot.

But not at all.

Not really.

I journalled thoughts kind of aimed at God like a wad of paper flipped haphazardly over my shoulder towards the trash can.

I repeated the words of the Lord’s Prayer in church along with everyone else.  Really fast like in a race.

Continue reading

What do Kingdom Conversations Sound Like?

Years ago, a wise old couple, (picture Mr. and Mrs. Yoda) – ones who have that “non-anxious presence” that is so winsome – impacted us greatly.

Every time we came away from a conversation with them we felt like our eyes, our hearts, our spirits had been lifted to something higher.  We came away feeling richer.  Sometimes inspired, sometimes challenged.  Sometimes with renewed vision.  We started referring to these as “kingdom conversations.”

They said they had learned the quality from people before them who always seemed to be able to redirect the focus of a conversation like a boomerang, away from themselves, back to the other person and the work of God.  Not in  cheesy manufactured way, but it was just part of who they were.

The other day we were with a group of young friends, discussing a new acquaintance who didn’t seem to be very good at the boomerang game.  Not a very good question-asker-listener.  Instead, this person seemed to be a little self-absorbed (like we all can be).

Continue reading