Saying the Last 10%

Monday I wrote about our culture of who’s in and who’s out.  About how often, subtly, we “disqualify” people for church.

Jesus says we’re all broken, but through Him we’re all “in”.  A messy community of sinners redeemed and being continually picked up, dusted off, and set on our wobbly feet to take a few steps forward before we tumble again.

Here’s the tough part about this.  In an effort to be inclusive, we’re often afraid to say the last 10%.  The hard truth that everyone’s included, but everyone is also in process and in need of forgiveness and redemption.

Somehow, in our culture, inclusion has become synonymous with approval.  Not only do you need to welcome me, it’s taboo for you to point out anything that would indicate that perhaps not everything I do is in line with God’s Word and will for me.

How is it that we can follow Jesus in this?  How can we love, welcome, and accept, but also be honest in saying “We’re on this journey together and none of us have arrived.  Let’s help each other out as we try to move towards holiness.”

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One of the Hardest Verses in the Bible and Why it’s Important

John said, “I think you need to do a Matthew 18:15.”

No, no, NO!  Anything but that!  Not that Uncomfortable Thing.  Not that Truth-Telling thing.  Not admitting that someone has the power to actually ding me.

“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again.” Mt. 18:15, 16 MSG


Those are some of the sentences I’d like to cut out of my Bible.

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How to have a Hard Conversation

Tomorrow I am meeting with a friend for coffee.  I’ve been praying like crazy because I love this person and it’s because I love them that I’m anxious about our conversation.

I have some concerns.  I’ve noticed some things that I feel like God may want me to caution this person about.  But I have nothing to gain personally, and everything to lose relationally.  And…I may be wrong.

Like many of you I’m pretty much a people-pleaser.  I avoid saying hard things almost as much as I avoided hopping on the Yoga band-wagon.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the Jesus way of hard conversations.  As I’ve prayed and looked for examples in Scripture, here are a few questions I’ve asked myself:

1.  Do I have enough of a relationship with this person to have this kind of conversation?  Have I built trust?  Do they know more than anything else that I love them and am for them?

2.  Are they open to letting me speak into their life in this way?  Am I assuming a role that I shouldn’t? Or is this a Nathan situation (2 Samuel 12:1)?

3.  Am I going into this conversation prayed up and having examined my heart for messy motives?  Is my desire to speak rooted in pride or control?

4.  If this really is a case of iron sharpening iron, am I open to the roles being reversed?  Am I receptive to hearing something from this friend that might be hard for me to hear?

5.  Am I going in with a humble spirit, asking questions more than making pronouncements, willing to listen and admit I may not be seeing things clearly?

6.  People hear criticism like you’re using a bull horn and affirmation like you’re whispering it in the middle of a violent wind storm.  Have I figured out how to integrate grace and affirmation throughout our conversation?  And if there was just one concern I’d want to make sure this person heard, what would it be?

The title of this post was misleading.  There’s no magic formula and if there is, I don’t know it.  I’m just a learner who is stuttering her way through – all Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”.  Anyone can make a list of questions.  But a real conversation??  “Come Holy Spirit” is about all I know to say for sure.

What am I missing?  What would you add?

Bubble Wrap and Three Responses to Criticism

This was a text I received from daughter Maggie awhile ago:

This afternoon a man from the DC Legislature and Regulatory Services in the office next door reprimanded me for playing with bubble wrap too loudly.

BTW, You raised me.” 


This text raises so many questions.

The Jesus-y way people used to say this back in the day was “I rebuke thee!”  And it came with flames of fire, and lightning bolts.  Like Jason Bourne, Bruce Lee, and 007 doing their super hero moves in a whirlwind smack down of high kicks, karate chops, back flips and flying tackles.

Rebuking seems like the biblical free clobber card although these days it often comes under the guise of “doing a Matthew 18:15”.  If we’re honest, sometimes I think we can enjoy being the clobberer (or imagining it), but as the clobberee we usually we feel like we’re picking ourselves up off the matt, bruised and bloody after being called out.

A few weeks ago I was corrected loudly and publicly for a mistake I made.  Then later in the day I was scolded for something I wrote.  It felt like Simon Cowell had told me he had never heard anyone with less talent.  On national t.v.  Want-to-crawl-in-a-hole-pain-full.

We Christians don’t like making mistakes.  It’s so, you know…ungodly.

Once in awhile critique comes wrapped in love from those close to us, like Mr. Rogers putting his arm around us and gently saying “You messed up, but it’s ok.  We all do.  You’re still a part of the neighborhood.”

But more often it comes from a stranger and it feels like Mark Driscoll has put us on his “Jesus hates you” hit list.

All this bubble wrap stuff has made me think about the ways we usually respond to criticism or correction.

1.  We hold hoard it like an 80 year old grandma saving plastic baggies to reuse.  We let it define us.  Maggie could see herself forever as the “Bubble Wrap Bimbo.”  Let it drown out any affirmation.  Research shows that it typically takes 4 positive interactions with someone to offset one negative one.  We’re giving reprimands a lot of power!  Maggie might so focus on the rebuke that she’d miss the three other compliments on her creative bubble dance moves, her cat-like reflexes, and her innovative use of trash.

2.  We rebuke the rebuker.  Replay the conversation in our heads complete with witty original comebacks.  In these scenarios we always emerge righteous and are able to do an end-zone victory dance with moves like Victor Cruz in the Super Bowl while the other person begs forgiveness for being  SO wrong about us.  Victim turned Victor.

3.  We look for the truth, learn from it, and move on.  Borrrrring, you say?  Yeah, and it’s about as easy for me as competitors on the Amazing Race, sifting through the mud to come up with the prized Japanese frog.  But I’ve seen it done so I know it’s possible.

What might a frog from the mud text from Maggie to Regulatory Guy look like?

RG, Sorry the noise bothered u.  It was thoughtless of me not 2 tone it down, but bubble wrap is joy in plastic!  Next time I’ll invite u 2 join us in the dance.  Have a great day! 😉

Just recently Mark Batterson tweeted, “Criticism, even unfair criticism, can be a blessing in disguise. It keeps you humble.”                                                                              Great.  Thanks.  Yea for humility.

I’m trying.  End zone victory dance fantasies aside, my prayer this morning was, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.  Help me to hear the words of truth in each criticism aimed at me.  Let my words of correction always be few and seasoned with grace.”

What’s your most common reaction to criticism?  How do you handle it?

Spirit Stretch Friday and a Bathroom Scale

I hate scales.  They’re so….ungracious.

Like many people, I struggle with my weight.  Ten pounds up, ten pounds down, ten pounds up… (If you don’t struggle with your weight I’m not sure we can be friends). A discipline that’s become really important for me is weighing in.

A few years ago I heard a podcast where the speaker did something fascinating.  He asked 3 brave (foolish?) people to come up on stage and tell the congregation what they thought they weighed.  Then he pulled out a scale.  He asked each of them to get on the scale one at a time, and, you guessed it, each of them had said they weighed significantly less than they actually did.  The scale was the truth-teller.

That gave me an idea.  The discipline of weighing in makes me aware of how I might need to adjust my eating or exercise.  It’s pretty stupid if I make myself face the truth and then don’t do anything about it.  So just recently I decided this physical discipline might be combined with a spiritual discipline.

This may sound really cheesy, but awhile ago I wrote these verses on a card and put them on the scale:

James 2:22-25 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Those who listen to the word but do not do what it says are like people who look at their faces in a mirror and, after looking at themselves, go away and immediately forget what they look like.  But those who look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continue in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.

So the other day I REALLY didn’t want to get on the scale.  I KNEW I was not going to like what I’d see because the day before I had eaten more than I should.  But I made myself get on the scale anyway and you know what?  I DIDN’T like what the scale said, but in addition, as I thought about the verse on the scale, God brought to mind something else I really didn’t want to face – someone I needed to go to and ask forgiveness.  I needed to DO something.

The great thing was that when I did have the hard conversation I needed to have, the person was extremely gracious and I felt like it honored God and brought our relationship to a healthier place.

That scale and that verse were reminders that part of growing in discipleship is facing some things we don’t want to face and then doing something about it.

Maybe this practice helps stretch the spiritual muscles of examination, obedience, humility… What do you think?  Is there a discipline in your life that helps you face the truth?