Adult Coloring Books – #Write31Days

coloringbook

Look what I found at PUBLIX!  I am super excited about this little find.  I actually grabbed it a few weeks ago, and my intention was to color it.  I had been going back and forth between using colored pencils, markers, or pens.  The pages are thick and single sided, which even brought to mind using watercolors for some of them.

Reality was that I just didn’t have the time to get started on anything, so it sat on my desk.

Today, I had a bit of free time.  I plucked the booklet off of my desk and began thumbing through the pages trying to decide my plan of attack.  Did I want to treat this as a coloring book, working my way through the pages?  Or, would I pick a few pages out and spend a little more effort on staying in the lines.  If I did this, I could potentially frame the pages and hang them as art pieces in my house.

However, to my surprise, I didn’t want to color a single page.  As I looked through some of the intricate designs I had an epiphany!   I could use the pieces for inspiration for a few quilling projects.  I think for now, I just want to work on some of the individual images.  However, I may then piece them together and create a picture/scene of some sort.

I’m curious if anyone else has ended up using the adult coloring books for something other than a relaxing color session?

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What About Me? – #Write31Days

octopus

To those who know me, I love anything arts and crafts.  I love to craft with paper, or grab a paint brush and create something new to hang in my house.  My home is filled primarily with pieces of art that have been made by various family members.  Occasionally, I will head out with some friends to one of the “sip and paint” style events.  You can bring food and drink, socializing with your friends for a ladies night out… while you paint. 

Painting is not something new to me, I take to it pretty easily but even more so when I am being given step by step instructions. 

A friend invited me to a “sip and paint” party at a local studio, we were going to paint an Octopus on these cool boarded plaques.  There were about six women seated at my table, and despite the instructors best efforts these various octopi couldn’t look any more different from each other if we tried.  Well, maybe if we painted them different colors would could get one step further.

The instructor would pass by and comment on my octopus. 

“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”

“That’s really good.  I like how you painted the tentacles.”

“I love the detail spots you added.”

“Wow.  That’s coming along so well.”

Let me key you in on something, I really do not like public affirmations like that.  I don’t.  I get embarrassed easily (shocking, I know).  It makes me uncomfortable for others who may be struggling.  I am also highly critical of myself and would prefer to float under the radar… or I’m too busy fretting over that mistake no one else notices but is staring me in the eyes challenging me to “fix it”.

After her first few passes and comments, the gal sitting next to me was starting to feel something about the attention.  Kindred to my own soul, she made funny comments about it.  Not directly TO me, but in my range of hearing.  I’d laugh about it, because… well… she was funny.  I’m down with self deprecation, so I chimed in a bit myself.  She laughed.  I laughed.  Then just as the tension was dying, the teacher would whiz by again commenting on my octopus.  The cycle would start over. 

Finally, she began to speak a bit louder to ensure the teacher heard her.

What about me?  Am I not doing a good job?  Is she the teachers pet?

While her tone suggested she was saying these things in jest, we all know there is usually a bit of truth in these types of comments.  The teacher was not picking up on it, but I already had.  So I began complimenting her on certain aspects of her piece.  I pointed out a detail that she added that I had skipped because I didn’t think I would do it right.  I  shared that I was worried about messing up the piece.  The one of the other gals chimed in, complementing another facet of her finished piece.

It is hard, when you are trying to do a good job.  We seek encouragement so that we know we are on the right path.  If we have put in a lot of effort, we desire someone to notice it and appreciate that effort.  That’s a lot to handle and balance with being humble.  It is a check to our pride, graciousness, and humility.

Sometimes, it’s more than just a painting or a task we completed.  We just want to be acknowledged as a person.

There are times, however, where the Lord doesn’t want us out in front of the pack.  He doesn’t want us waving our arms, bouncing in our seats, shouting “look at me”.  In fact, he wants our work to unknown… no credit, pats on the back, accolades.  In a world that is giving prizes for participating, picking weekly superstars, and overloaded recognition we can begin to expect it within all the facets of our lives.  Then, when it doesn’t happen … we take it too personally.

I wonder though, if we are supposed to give the Lord the glory in ALL THINGS… why do we demand such accolades for ourselves?  Why do we demand to be seen, even when He clearly is asking us not to?

Lord, let my human fleshy needs take a back seat to your wonderful righteous glory! Amen.

Midfaith Crisis – con’t from Failure blog

MBA

Yesterday’s blog piece on Failure was my attempt to wrap my head around a fellow writers statement that “Jesus failed her”.   As I read through the piece, I just couldn’t get passed it.  I can’t think of a time where things didn’t go my way resulting in my feeling as if Jesus somehow failed me.  Even when I feel discontent with God’s answer or lack of movement in an area, I’ve never blamed Him.  More often than not, I will point the finger at myself assuming that my desires were not in His will or perhaps I have been walking in disobedience.  I may even remind myself that I have to be more patient because things happen in God’s timing not my own, or that His answers will always be infinitely better than my own.

I can remember being pregnant with my second, the doctor alerting me to precancerous cells found in my uterus and cervix.  I listened intently at the options before me, what risks each carried for me and the pregnancy.  I don’t ever remember being angry at God over the risks to my pregnancy.  My husband came upon me in the bedroom crying over it, and he told me “God wouldn’t give you a baby just to take it away”.  His words were sweet, but we all know that sentence isn’t true.  Women lose babies.  I said as much to my husband, and told him that her purpose may simply have been to save my life.  I was trusting that however this was going to play out, it was part of God’s good plan.  That doesn’t mean I stopped crying over it, worrying over it, praying that the Lord would protect her.   Had I lost the pregnancy, I would have grieved.  I just don’t recall ever feeling let down by God.

That is not to say that I haven’t had my moments where I have cried out to the Lord, because I couldn’t understand  what He was doing in my life (or the lives of those I care for).  I think that is an entirely different thing.  I can be confused or concerned, worried or sad, and even angry with a given situation.  I just don’t see an emotional response as being the same as feeling that Jesus let me down.  So, as you can see, this was just a concept I couldn’t understand or agree with.  When I read the piece a second time though, something else caught my attention and then I had my “a-ha moment”.

The author penned the term “midfaith crisis” and suddenly it all began to make sense.  At some point, whether via a movie, television show, or happening right before our eyes, witnessed someone going through a midlife crisis.  Mid LIFE crisis is a term we all know, even if we don’t understand it personally.  Entertainment will portray it heavily, as the guy who cheats on his wife with a younger women… or lightly, the man who comes home from work one day with an ear pierced, a tattoo, and a motorcycle.   A result of an nonacceptance of aging, desperately clinging to their youth, or attempting to accomplish those bucket list items before they are too old to do so.

When someone has a midlife crisis, we can at least have an understanding as to why they are making some crazy choices even if we don’t approve of those choices.

A mid FAITH crisis wasn’t really a term I was familiar with, or even a feeling I could understand.  However, when I consider the totality of my faith walk… well, I joined the party on the late side.  Maybe, I will be spared the midfaith crisis… or it’s just lingering further down the road.

As I spent more time trying to understand the concept of the midfaith crisis, I found myself softening to the author and beginning to grasp how she could feel that Jesus let her down.  Sometimes our immediate knee jerk responses are more about our ownselves and perceptions than they are about the other person.  Being able to apply what I understood about midlife crisis, midfaith crisis was a bit easier to work around.  The more I thought about that, the more sense the whole piece made.

If I had to imagine myself as a person who worked hard all of my life, dedicated to my job and family.  A person who volunteered in the community, was a good steward with my money, living a modest life and helping others.   If I think of these things, and then imagine that all through my life I could never catch a break.   I can see how that would bring me to the brink of crisis when I hit that half way point of my life.  You wonder “will it get better?” and you may even begin to take things into your own hands to control a better outcome.  You believe that you worked hard all of those younger years, full of sacrifices, so that your golden years would be easy and carefree.  You worked hard, you deserved an easy retirement.  Then one thing after another comes along that takes you money, your health, etc. away… and crisis strikes.  You feel let down by life, you wonder why you sacrificed for nothing.

I could understand the author’s point more clearly.  Imagine that all of your life you had been a faithful believer.  You prayed every morning, and each evening with your kids.  You were a faithful wife, who was a perfect helpmeet to your husband.  You taught your children about God, tending to their hearts.  Every week you were at service, never missing a Sunday.  Volunteering in the church, leading studies, tithing above 10%.  You heeded the call to full time ministry service or missionary work, selling your belongings and raising the funds.  You put your hands and feet into kingdom work every single day.  Then crisis knocks down your door.  You cry out to God…. “Have I not been obedient to you?  Have I not gone where you told me to go, served as you told me to serve?  Have I not sacrificed with joy, followed you word, shared the gospel… all that you have asked of me?

Then WHY God… why this?  Why now?

Then I felt it, I could understand.

Part of the reason I couldn’t wrap my head around it from the beginning was because I still feel like I fail at following Him to the fullest.  I know I could sacrifice more, give more, serve more, pray more, follow better.  Which is why I lean toward the belief that I let God down, not the other way around.

But, for those who have… and we all know those people exist (even if the number is few)… that serve God, love God, obey God with every bit of their being?

I could understand that moment (however long it lasts) of being honest with God and saying, Lord… you let me down on this one.

The good news?  Our God is big enough, and loving enough to handle that feeling.  He can handle your midfaith crisis.  He knows our hearts, because He dwells there.  He knows that we love him, serve him willfully, and that sometimes the directions He will take us can be tough.  He understands that we are confused, and can’t see what He is doing.  He understands that we are hurt, and don’t see the good in what has happened (yet).   He loves us through it.

As a parent, I would love to be able to give my children all of the desires of their heart.  However, I also know that all of those desires are not good or healthy options.  My 10 year old would be content with eating cake the rest of her life, my middle schooler would love for me to allow her more freedoms, and my high schooler is entering a time in her life where she teeters between childhood and adulthood.  There are times when our answers to their requests are no, and they will cry or get angry.  No matter the words they hurl in that moment… they know that I love them, and I know they love me.  Despite that crisis mode they are in, or the hurt, or the words.

My eldest recently asked me a question, and she started it with:  “I need to ask you something, and I hope you will say yes…”  I knew it was going to be a weighty question, and probably one I couldn’t answer on the spot.  Yet, even with those words spilling out of her mouth… I could sense hope.  She had her hopes up already, even knowing that my answer would not likely be what she wants to hear.

Just as we know our children, our Father knows us.  He hears the hope in our voices, He knows the desires of our heart.  As I reflect on the blog piece that started the wheels in mind to travel down this road, I realized how raw and honest this woman was being.  But, I was also able to see that despite her feeling that “Jesus had failed” her… she had not given up on loving Him.  Her words were not as dire as I first perceived them.

Perhaps, we could all learn from this exploration to be a bit more patient before we jump to conclusions.  To listen better, to read through things a few times before we jump to judgments.  To take the time to process it and see situations or statements from other perspectives, so that instead of judging someone harshly… we can stop and pray for whatever situation they are dealing with.  Quite often we only have part of the story, or we focus on a small detail and miss the bigger picture.

Had I allowed myself to stay hung up on her statement of being failed by Jesus, I would have missed so much more of what she was attempting to share.  I would have missed her endurance, perseverance, honesty, transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability.  I think we could all do well with a dose of being real and raw, with the world… with ourselves… and with our God.

So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

badmoms.jpg

First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

Opened Eyes

MBA

Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend.  We were discussing racial equality, because any of my friends will tell you … I’m not afraid to talk about deep stuff.  Generally speaking, I prefer to do it in face to face conversations with people who know me.  Why?  Because I know they can see my genuineness vs. written conversations that lack tone, body language, and that personal touch that comes with seeing someone’s face.

I was sharing with her my inability to see that racism and discrimination were still as bad as she claimed they were.  (You most definitely can eye roll at this, Lord knows I am eye rolling myself so hard… I’m going to get a migraine.)    The argument she gave me, at the time, was that I didn’t understand what it was like to be discriminated against.  And I retorted back that I in fact did know.

As a woman, I faced discrimination.  As a professional working woman, I once had a man refer to me as “little girl”.  I couldn’t even count the number of times a man wanted to speak to my manager, only to see his disappointment when he found out my manager was a woman too.  Nor, the number of times this same scenario happened and I was in fact the manager.

Before that, in my youth, I can recall walking into local stores and being looked at suspiciously because of the way I was dressed and the people I was with.  The instant look of distrust, eyes watching us the whole time we were in the shop, just waiting for us to do something wrong.

At the time, I felt like “I get it” and “it’s not exclusive to any race”.    I’ll pause a moment, and let you get a few eye rolls in… and even a few verbal responses too.  I know…I know…

Now, I’m looking at things with a new set of eyes.  Why?  Because there are women who have taken the time to help me understand.  They are willing to have the uncomfortable conversations with me.  THANK YOU, ladies, for being gracious and not smacking me upside the head for my naivety.

These conversations don’t discount the fact that I faced discrimination as a woman.  However, even within those discriminating moments… there was never “hate” because I was a woman.  My male peers and counterparts respected me, my work ethic, and trusted me to do the job I was hired for.  My discrimination came only from those who didn’t know me.  Customers and clients who were interacting with me for the first time.  Even then, when they realized my authority (like it, or not)… their attitudes did shift.   In fact, one even came to prefer working with me exclusively after he was able to get over himself.  This is a different response than you’ll find in racial discrimination.  Where people of color (whatever ethnicity they represent) may not even be given that benefit of the doubt.

I recently reflected on a young woman I worked with, and how a customer once treated her.  She was a beautiful black woman, her skin was like midnight.  She was also disabled, only to the point where she moved a little bit slower than the rest of us.  Yet, she was one of my staff members that I could count on the most.  Need someone to stay late, she was the girl.  Need someone to fill in for another staff member out sick, she’d come in on her off day.  Never once did I have to fix a mistake she made, her work was accurate and dependable.  I can still recall MANY times I had to intervene with a client who was anything but pleasant with her.  At the time, I thought this issue was her pace.  But the more I have thought about it, the more I realized this was not their issue.  It was the “safe” complaint they could make, under the public eye.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook her thoughts about racial discrimination and our response to it.  She’s not a Christian… and her post was riddled with curse words that would make some of us a bit uncomfortable.  So, I’m going to paraphrase her (if you read this, I hope I do justice).

If you have never had to

  1.  run through scenarios of what not do in public places so you are not perceived as a criminal…
  2. have your parents explain to you how to behave if you get pulled over by the police so that you can survive
  3. wonder if a picture of you will be used out of context to justify you were a bad person…

… then sit down.

If your only contribution to the current conversation is to point out all the mistakes a person ever made as a reason why they deserved to die…

If you have a clean record, college honors, amazing career, beautiful family…. but do not have to live with a baseline of fear of being killed in the wrong circumstances…

… then sit down.

She was sharing her real feelings about her every day life.  This is her reality, so yes the news causes her to respond with her feelings.  And one thing I have learned over the years is that we all have a right to our feelings.  Regardless of the situation, our feelings are real.

And, as she finished her post she left the question:

Is that feeling worth at least a conversation?

Yes.  Yes it is.

It’s also worth some serious introspection.

You see, back in the day… when I walked into those stores and distrust was flung my way.  Yes, you could say I was discriminated against by the way I looked.  But, let’s be honest.  That look… I chose it.  Those friends… I chose them.  I could have walked right out of that store, gone home, changed into plain jeans and a t-shirt, adjusted my make up and hair, and returned to a very different response.  I would have been welcomed, no eyes would have followed me as I perused the shelves. I would have been greeted with a warm smile, a friendly how do you do, and thanked for my business.

That is not the same outcome for people who don’t look like me.   It wouldn’t have mattered if they walked in a track suit or a 3 piece custom fitted suit.  I could go home and change my choice of clothes, but they can’t go home and change their skin color.

My husband and I were talking about it, and he said….

It comes down to this, if you are pulled over by the police… what color do you want your skin to be?

He grew up in a predominantly black neighbor, and he can recall his own interactions with the police.  He told me that the cops in that area were hardened.  They were used to being lied to, and they expected the worst from everyone.  Everyone was suspected.  However, he also shared that he knows his interactions with them were far better than if he was a black kid.

Watching a documentary one night, our eyes were opened even farther.  When you can see the long standing distrust of the police in a community, from not so distant days where bathrooms were not only defined by gender but also color… you begin to understand.  You can see why communities, as one of the women interviewed stated, “protect their own”.  Because, at one time… innocence or guilt didn’t matter.  Those neighborhoods wouldn’t be so quick to hand over someone to the police, but instead would deal with it in their own way.  They took the risk that their lies to protect the innocent might mean a guilty person got away with it.  The recognized that the punishment that would fall on the shoulders of the guilty black man would weight heavier than if he was white.

If you think that doesn’t still exist, just look at the news.  A white, student athlete from Stanford raped an unconscious woman after a party… he was given a six month sentence.  A black, student athlete from Vanderbilt raped an unconscious woman after a party… he was given a fifteen year sentence.   And we wonder why a community of people has a distrust for our legal system?

We wonder where anger stems from?  We wonder where suspicion stems from?  We wonder where the pain stems from?  We wonder why “they” feel the way they do?

In the words of my friend:

Is that feeling worth at least a conversation?

This is where I believe we all start.  A willingness to at least have the conversation.  Maybe you have not experienced this discrimination or witnessed it.  But, I would challenge you to have those awkward conversations… the uncomfortable ones.  It exists.

It shows up when the teacher asks for the “black perspective” on a piece of literature from the only black student in the honors literature class.

It shows up when we assume a college student was accepted to an ivy league college because of the color of their skin vs. the merit of their work.

It shows up in how the media reports potential crimes, the photos they use and the details they share.

It shows up in how our judicial system dishes out punishments.

It shows up in the conversations that parents have with their children, and how different their life lessons are.

When we are willing to at least have the hard conversations, our eyes are opened a little wider.  Maybe things are not quite as we see them.  It may not be as bad as it was, but we still have a long way to go.

May we see each other with the same eyes that the Lord does, image bearers… our family of believers.  All of equal value, merit, worth, and love.

Thank you to those who are willing to have the conversation.  Thank you for the grace, as I am still seeking to understand.  May the conversations we have be fruitful!

The Art of Conversation

conversation

There are some people who simply love to talk, about anything and everything.  You either know one, or you are one.  I am one.  I love to talk coupled with a love of learning… I’m always ready to engage.  However, sometimes my love of conversation engagement will get me into hot water.   I definitely have subjects where my opinions are set & it would take a miracle to change my point of view.  On the other hand, I have subjects where I am happy to admit that I lack any real knowledge with an eagerness to learn.  Some days, admittedly I am not in the mood to talk at all (that’s my inner introvert saying ENOUGH with the gabby gabs!).  On most topics I will generally land somewhere in the middle.  I know a little, willing to learn more, and you may even change my opinion.

So, how do I end up getting myself in hot water?  At first, I really wasn’t sure.  I thought I was a good conversationalist.  I listen, ask questions, and share my perspective.  I may get animated but rarely overbearing.  I generally don’t try to force my opinion on someone, but would rather ask questions that will move them to think differently about the subject on their own.  If I can help someone learn or change their perspective, that is great.  But if not, it’s fine… let’s order up another coffee and move on to something else.  My feelings are not hurt if a conversation is going no where and you want to end it, or jump to something more interesting. 

I also consider myself a fairly open book, I think you can ask me just about anything and I’ll answer you.  As a whole, I don’t think I have ever received a question as someone passing judgement.  Nor, do I despise unsolicited advice.  In fact, the only time unsolicited advice gets me riled up is when you interrupt me before I can even share that I found a solution.  These are all attributes that I think make up a good conversationalist, and I expect those that I converse with to have these same attributes.

And that expectation lands me in hot water, over and over again.   What I realized is that the issue was not necessarily with me but instead the decline of true conversation.  We are losing the art of conversation and instead embracing the art of debate.  Listening shifted from being a tool for learning and into a tool for debate.  We don’t listen to learn or gain perspective, instead we listen to respond.  We are building up our argument as the person is talking versus allowing ourselves to really hear what they are trying to convey.  This is what I believe has led us to a place where we are talking in circles far more often than we should.

When we are talking in circles it means that both sides are unwilling to hear the other person and continue to make their points over and over again.  We want to be heard, but we are not willing to hear.

In my experiences this has led people into reading more into my statements or comments than there really is.  You see, I believe a question can be just that a question.  It can be rooted in curiosity, branching out for more clarity, or an attempt to glean some fruit of knowledge I lacked.  Some questions are for the sake of keeping the conversation going, even if we are not interested in it the topic, we are showing respect to the person talking.   I believe questions and conversations can exist free of judgment and intolerance.  Well, I believed that at one time.

I was worried at first it was just something that was happening in social media.  I mean, really, how much clarity can your statement have if you are limited to 140 characters?  As my husband points out, social media lacks the opportunity to read body language and hear vocal tones.  It is easy to misunderstand or misinterpret written conversation, questions, and intentions.  I recall a time where typing in all caps on the internet was considered yelling at a person.  Current generations don’t see it that way at all.  Just like social media, texting and emails present the same issues.

In recent years, however, I have begun to notice the art of conversation is being lost in face to face conversations.  We can blame it on the increasing levels of political correctness, or the fact that is seems like everyone is offended by something.  My nine year old had a friend over to play the other day, and I can assure you there were at least ten instances where I heard her friend state: “I am offended by that…” in one phrasing or another.

Simple questions, or even complex ones, are being perceived as personal attacks and judgement.  Conversation is shut down because instead of taking the time to answer questions, we become quick to accuse the person of some wrong doing, ignorance, or jump right into slander/name calling. 

A few years ago, I remember having a conversation with another mom.  She had some rules for her kids that were pretty strict.  One day, when I was at her home, I asked what I thought was a simple question out of curiosity.  It appeared she had decided to loosen up the reigns on one of her rules and I was curious about how she came to that decision.  Instead, she took my question as judgement on her parenting.  She answered my question, but there was a tension the rest of our visit. 

Only a few months ago I was attempting to engage on a hot button, controversial topic.  I stated a truth, from my perspective, which was that the topic didn’t particularly relate to my life experiences.  I shared however that I had friends who did experience this issue in their lives, and they can’t agree with each other on how it needs to be addressed.  I then followed my statement with the question:  “If those who are directly impacted by this topic can’t agree, how am I supposed to respond in support?”.   And that is when the eruption began of insults hurled at me, accusations, and other terrible things.  I retracted my question and slunk away from the topic.  There was not going to be any conversation in that arena.

Even just this past week, I asked a question about ministry service and leadership… and according to the people in the conversation I should expect Jesus to take my Christian Membership Card back any day now.  To even pose such a question and take an intellectual look at the scripture was some sort of indicator of witchcraft.  Yes, I was accused of witchcraft for asking a question, about biblical leadership, and using bible verses in my question. 

What I have found is that the lost art of conversation isn’t confined to one area.  It is lost in the written and the spoken word.  The art of conversation has been lost on subjects about day to day living, and in large platform forums.  The irony is that when whenever something big is happening, and we look to resolve it, someone always says that we need to “have a conversation” or that a particular incident has “started a conversation”.  But, I can’t help and wonder … has it?

Are we even capable of having real conversations anymore?  Can we discuss subjects with out taking things personally or as attacks on our character?  It is possible to navigate through the tough topics without assuming the person coming from the other side isn’t genuine or is incapable of understanding?  Can we talk without hurling accusations and talking down to others?  Can we disagree on a subject and yet respect each other?  Did we forget that we can understand another person’s position without actually agreeing with them?

Fortunately, I do have a handful of women that I can have conversations with.  I do miss being able to do it on a broader scale, because that is where I am most challenged about my own beliefs and opinions.  It is where I will learn the most, from others who have a different experience or education level than myself.  Maybe if we could restore the art of conversation, there would be a lot more understanding and a lot less being offended in the world.  Because, then we would be listening to understand instead of listening to argue.

#Write31Days – Post 13 – When the Church Says No

tgcarticle

I was reading the above article, on the website for The Gospel Coalition.  The gist of the article was that members of the body with artistic talents are often discouraged in using their gifts within the church.  It could be an art form that is not really understood, or that the church staff don’t know how to actually include it into the service of the church.  It isn’t always that they don’t want to, they just may not know how to.

But I would challenge that is discouragement isn’t just for those who have artistic gifts, but any gift or talent that isn’t being utilized.  I have been in churches that were welcoming of gifts and talents & would utilize them if the person was willing to commit.  I’ve also been in churches that will dismiss the gifts they don’t understand or can’t seem to figure out how that gift fits in to the vision of the church.

From an artistic standpoint, I can totally understand.  As a professionally trained actress, who also has ample back stage experience,  I have offered my gift to churches in the past.  Some embraced it with open arms, others dismissed it as something not relevant.  Dismissed so quickly that I never even had the opportunity to explain that expertise.  In 2005, I directed a Christmas musical for the church we were attending at the time.  It just so happened that at one showing there was a television producer in the audience.  He loved the show, and they came back and filmed it.  They ran it every few days, where they had an empty slot, all the way through Christmas Day.

That was an exciting day for me.  Yet, too often, when I share with a church or ministry that I have a theater background they instantly want to put me in charge of a children’s production.  That is NOT my specialty, it is not my gift.  They do not understand the impact that LIVE performance can have on a group of people.  Perhaps this is because too few churches have trained professionals, maybe they haven’t enough trust in the quality or commitment.  What saddens me is to be shot down before you even get a chance to try.  The Lord blessed me with a gift, specifically a talent, one that I want to use for HIS glory.   It is sad to see it get brushed aside because someone else doesn’t “get it”.

Being dismissed and discouraged is not only an issue with the arts, but can come about in many different forms.  I watched my husband’s spirit get completely squashed by a men’s ministry leader because he made an assumption about my husband without even getting to know him.  What most don’t know about my husband is that he has the ability to talk to anyone about God.  It’s really amazing.  I envy his boldness at times.  Every day he is out among the community, doing his job, and sharing the gospel where he can.  He has prayed with people, give them encouragement, and even his own Bible if they didn’t have one.

He can do this because God gifted him in that manner.  My husband also went through Evangelism Explosion training to learn how to present the gospel to every day people in a way that they would understand.  Bringing them through the steps from accepting Christ, to getting plugged into a church, and more.  When we were married and our family was growing, a huge burden was on my husband’s shoulders.  He became lukewarm, going through the motions.  One weekend he went with a men’s ministry to a conference, and my husband was ON FIRE.  He was ready to get back on the horse.

The leader of the ministry didn’t know my husband that well.  He assumed that my husband was caught up in emotions.  Since he didn’t take the time to really listen to my husband, to ask any questions about his experience… the man quickly extinguished that fire.  My husband said “I’m ready to serve.  Where can I plug in????”

The ministry leader patted him on the shoulder and said:  “No brother, where can we serve you.”   My husband wasn’t even given the chance to share who he was, or the gift that God has given him.  To this day, my husband has not stepped forward since.  He was rejected.  Instead, he has become my biggest supporter and advocate.    Instead, he has continued to share the gospel in his every day encounters.

One church damaged my husband, and he just hasn’t recovered.  Over the years, he has had ideas for ministries where he could serve people in our church or community.  However, that inspiration is fleeting.

I believe that we have to be very cautious as a church to NOT allow our vision for the church become tunnel vision.  We must be open to see how the different gifts and talents of the body can be used in that vision.  It is easy to see things our way, within our own understanding and abilities.  It is easy to see how things ought to go and progress, and make a list of what gifts and talents are needed to move that vision forward.  It isn’t always easy to see how the gifts of others can fit into that vision, or be molded into that vision.   If we see things too black and white, we miss the many gifts that fall in the middle.

As leaders we need to be careful with the gifts and offers of service from others.  We need to not just immediately dismiss a person because at first we can’t see how their gift fits the vision.  We need to not dismiss a person as a capable kingdom worker without taking the time to get to know them.  We may be throwing away the most amazing gifts… and affecting people in ways we never realize.

This doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind, accepting any and everything.  We can be judicious and gracious at the same time.

  •  Thank the person for offering their gift or talent to the church/ministry.
  • Ask them questions about their experience or training.
  • Get an idea of how they think their gift or talent could fit within the vision of the church, or help the ministry/community.
  • Take some time to really think about the conversation, pray about it.  Is there room for this ministry idea?  If not, is there an existing ministry that we can plug this person into that fulfills their desire to serve with their gift.
  • Follow up with the person, and be honest.  If you are not sure how it fits the vision, talk to them about it.  They may see something you don’t.  If now isn’t the right time, agree to revisit it in 3 – 6 months.  If you require more information, ask for it and take the time to review it.
  • If this is a brand new member of the church, and you are uncertain of commitment, have them go through the new members class and plug into a small group.  Let them know you want to get to know them better, and let them get acquainted with the church first.  Then you can talk ministry work.