The days the discourse died

We’ve retreated to our corners, digging our heels into our opinions.

We ready our scripts for a fight

to prove we are right.

We seek approval and justification of our side solely from those who read the very same lines.

These are the golden awards we receive; having the most people who agree with us surrounding us.

Congratulations.

We hold pep rallies and rejoice in our common mind.

We rest in the comfort of being surrounded by an army of people who won’t question.

We must be right because that guy with the YouTube channel says so. We share it and feel the ego boost because of that guy.

We dismiss any questions.

We mock any disagreement.

We label any conflict as negative or uneducated.

We ready for battle to squelch discussion.

We shrink with bitter wounds because of what someone interjected.

We slaughter the opposition by plugging our ears and throwing words of mud to label them.

We are weak

because we won’t listen.

We are weakened

because battle-lines shatter community.

And we lose our footing as we fear the challenge of opposing thought. So we conveniently vilify views.

Our arguments cemented- only practiced to slay the opponent- fall flat at our avoidance of the stretching of our minds. Our opinions are meant to be heard not challenged. Our minds are meant to be made up.

Learning is shunned because of our rightness.

Transformation and unity are words of ages gone by. They are the dead religions of the past. Communication is only fruitful when everyone at the table agrees.

These are the days the discourse died.

Just a little pruning, boys.

It’s finally warm enough in Houston to prune my climbing roses. I have three climbers, and they are a mess. Luckily, my boys are grounded from the Xbox, so they are officially enlisted to assist me with the big chop.
img_4003Some roses grow year round in Houston, though most still need an annual pruning to put on a good show in spring. Mine are in desperate need of attention. There is dead wood mixed in with new growth which prohibits airflow and can, and has, cause disease.

My roses have been through a lot this year. After all, they survived the pounding rain, forceful winds, and floods of hurricane Harvey. They also survived surprisingly below freezing temperatures seldom seen in this part of the country. They survived my boys nearly running them over with the mower and the trimmer. They survived our pug dog’s horrible choice of where to potty. And here, you see, they are still blooming. Somehow through all those tests and storms, I was able to cut a couple sad-looking blooms and place them in a vase.

These roses are a testimony to what is possible within our lives. Life brings heavy storms. And if we all knew what was coming, we would swear that we wouldn’t make it through. Yet, somehow we do. We pull through…just like my roses.

But…

If I leave these roses alone after this last year of trials, they may survive, but it won’t be pretty.

The harshest test of all for my roses will be my attempt to prune them. I’ll cut them back to nearly nothing. I may damage some good vines in the process. I will definitely cut off all the winter growth, and they won’t look like much after I put away my garden shears. To quote my youngest, “you always cut them down to nothing!”

God does this to me sometimes. He allows life to cut me to the quick. I don’t believe He wishes to bring me harm. I do believe he disciplines me so I know where to grow next.

God’s plan for our lives is to cut away whatever is no longer growing or serving His purpose. He knows that if we keep the old dead diseased aspects of our life, we won’t bloom into what He desires.

Pruning is one of most difficult lessons for a Christian to learn. Sometimes the direction we want to grown is not in our best interest nor does it fit into the Great Gardener’s plan. We must submit to the Gardener, though it hurts. We must submit to the Gardener’s plan even if our plan seems easier and painless.

If life has brought you pain this year, try to see it as pruning. If a prayer was answered with a ‘no’ from the Great Gardener, press on and pray that He leads you to where you can best grow.

Spring is coming and with the Great Gardener’s help, your new life lessons will make you unstoppable, healthy, and beautiful. After all, this life we live is His garden, not ours.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. -John 15:2

Mediocrity and the Bearing of Souls

pexels-photo-265702.jpegCall it a mid-life crisis. I’m not coveting fast cars or plastic surgery. I haven’t bought anything expensive or colored my hair, nor do I really want to. Instead, I woke up one morning with this unwavering realization that my life has excelled in one thing and that is mediocrity.

I’ve lived a conservative life. After college graduation, I stepped right into the role of suburban mom of three. I never knew I wanted to be a stay-home mom until I tried to leave two big blue eyes at home with a sitter. Now I’ve been home with my kids for the majority of their lives. I went to work outside the home three years ago and quickly learned that for a youth ministering lifestyle, both parents absent through the summer isn’t easy.  When one of my children began to struggle with depression and anxiety, I quickly walked away from a steady paycheck, a good job, and good people. I don’t regret it though my wallet does at times.

I recognize now as I’ve fallen even further behind the mass of Generation X moms who work, that I most assuredly will never professionally recover from a life spent momming. My ego flares up regularly in conversations as I posture to boast about my education, as if who I am without my education is not enough for the world. See how I even worked it into a blog. Geez. Who am I trying to impress exactly?

So, I’m a 41 year old mom. I haven’t done much to brag about. No one really knows my name. I wear leggings, and I load the dishwasher every day. I drive people places and fight teenagers regularly. My name isn’t in lights or on the cover of a book. I haven’t held together companies, and truthfully, I’m not sure that staying home will be worth it long term. I can’t afford college for my kids. They wear hand-me-downs regularly. I wish I could tell you that I have this mom thing down and that I’ve raised stellar children. But most days my singular agenda is to keep them all out of an institution. I have lofty goals for my kids: 1. Love Jesus. 2. Don’t kill each other.

I’ve watched other moms. I’ve coveted their perfect hair and nails. I’ve been amazed at their important jobs and shiny cars. I’ve glamorized the working mom. All the while, I’m just hoping my middle child doesn’t play another round of “is it flammable?” in the house. This is my life: leggings and hiding matches.

Twenty-five years ago I thought this life thing would feel more exciting. I had big dreams and thought a lot more of myself. In the throws of adolescence, I thought people were watching me and sincerely cared what I wore every day. None of that was completely true then and it is definitely not true now. Frankly, I don’t like people who care what I wear. Those people are horrible people. Avoid them.

Some of this life I intentionally chose. Some of this life was handed to me. And though days come when I feel less significant than others, those feelings all come from a place of narcissism and malcontent not from God. Life and growing up is mostly about accepting what is and doing your best with what you have to give. So, I mom. I mom like crazy. I mom to the best of my ability… and write a little when I have the time.

What I’ve learned is this: womankind looks at the outside. Women examine hair and nails. We study each other’s exterior and compare it to our own when we walk by mirrors. We wish for each other’s bodies and jobs and noses. We comment on crazy makeup trends with a quick follow up of “bless her heart” just in case someone accuses us of snobbery. We wish for different life circumstances and bigger paychecks. We are rarely content with what we have. And when we are content with who we are, then we pick on our spouses or kids or friends and make them projects rather than relationships.

Most women I know are fixers. Most of us read loads of books on the topic of fixing ourselves or fixing our kids or fixing our marriages. We spend a lot of time trying to fix things. Keeping up the appearance of having it all fixed becomes a full-time profession for some of us. And somehow during all this fixing, we forget that we are all doing this same thing…trying to appear significant and trying to be more than mediocre and trying to hide where we are all completely messed up.

But, if I’m mediocre and so is everyone else, then I’m not alone in that. We are all normal together. I only feel insignificant because I look into someone else’s life and covet it. I wear mediocrity like a badge of shame rather than living a life of gratitude and joy. I can’t change all the circumstances of my life, but my attitude is my choice.

Through it all I have great peace that while I may live out this life only being famous to my three precious kids and while their inheritance exists solely in the form of my sense of humor or their dad’s passion for the church, to my Creator I am someone quite unique and special. Every hair on my head was created with purpose. Every word I write was planned. Every moment and breath I take on this earth has great significance to Him.  If that is mediocrity, then that is enough.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. -Psalm 139:13-16

 

 

 

Just a little yeast…

I heard from God today.  I’m often so entrenched in my own selfish bubble that I miss some really sweet messages of comfort. Today I got it. I hear you, Lord. Thank you. And, man, did I need it! Right on time, as usual.

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It goes without saying that raising children in the faith today feels impossible. From every direction my kids’ heads are turned away from the path of the cross. For the most part, Hollywood mocks morality as well as the authority of parenthood. Unfortunately, my kids witness Hollywood on every screen in their life from their pockets to the theater. Politicians cheapen Jesus using him a vote manipulator. Churches struggle with entertaining or emoting my kids into belief. Our school teachers, while I know they believe, are limited in everything they say and do. My children’s best friends in school are not believers. From every angle, a walk in faith for my children is often lonely and confusing.

I am burdened by this. My heart aches thinking about it, primarily because I know that the two people at the helm of this family ship are so very faulty. Dave and I try hard to be good examples for the kids, but we fail. Daily, we fail.

My kids sit in a front row seat at my sin showcase.

Time is so precious, and I have so little of it. Getting in bedtime prayers and attempting spiritual conversations at our twice a week family dinner are generally our biggest opportunities for spiritual connection with the kids. The older they get the more difficult it is to find the time to ask them probing questions and get into faith discussions. And every year that has gone by has stolen one more family meal time. Instead, we shuttle people to rehearsals, practices, lessons, and meetings and talk in the car.  The car is a great chance to try to get into their heads, but it too, is so minimal. Time never stops, but we refuse to let time steal every opportunity from us.

God knows that my heart is heavy with the burden of sharing my faith with my children and today I saw this…

“He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like a little leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” ~Matthew 13:33

I have three children.  I recognize that biblical translations of this particular verse vary in the interpretation of the “three measures of flour”. And I’m not going to attempt a huge theological exposition on this tiny parable. Nevertheless, for me and my heart, what I read in these few words was the encouragement that my best efforts to work the word of Christ into the hearts of my three children won’t be all in vain. Small dividends will pay off. What God spoke to my heart today is that regardless of limited time and my giant glaring inadequacies, Christ uses my efforts to reveal Himself to my children. My limited and fallible attempts at sharing Jesus will result in growth. Thanks be to God!
Be comforted, parents. There is hope in Christ.  Our attempts to share Jesus with our kids can pay off big, not because of us; rather, in spite of us.

And He Hears.

And I cry.

and try to convince myself that I am not alone.
Yet, I listen to the voice pull me further from my home.

I see my reflection and wish a shattered mirror.
I listen to my failures and focus on my error.

I try to hear Him in the wind and the rain;
turn my aching ear to hear His voice again.

I sing the songs, and I know the steps.
I’ve heard the sermons, my boxes are all checked.

But I’m empty and I hear no calming voice
I cover my ears to shut out my noise.

And He hears.

I heard your prayers. I see your tears.
You’ve never once danced alone.
I walked those paths, felt the rocky soil
of that place that you call home.

I’ve been alone, without a friend,
not one to heal my wounds.
I felt the sting of goodbye, the ache of hate,
the glares from across the room.

But, the only difference between you and I,
that piece that blinds your scope,
is the empty tomb I left behind;
the assurance of your eternal hope.

I hold those hands you lift in prayer
while I hold the sky above.
I’m in the wind and storms you feel.
I’m the ever present love.

You’ll never fit within that space.
That world is not your home.
My gift for you is on the path of grace
My Spirit won’t leave you alone.

I ache to show you your home above,
a home meant just for you.
I left this place of perfect love
to offer everyone another view.

I took on pain and guilt,
and carried all the shame.
My heart breaks alongside yours
as I think of every name.

But, I know it hurts.
and I know you’re tired.
I see you try and try.
I won’t walk away, won’t give up, won’t ever say goodbye.

So, lift your head to see the end.
Find your joy along the path.
Pain will come along your way,
but there’s purpose in each task.

I’m with you on your journey.
I’m with you on this road.
I’m in the dance you dance each day,
and I lighten every load.

Your journey doesn’t end there.
Focus on what’s to come.
Your journey ends right here with me,
where the sun never met a horizon.

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I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.  ~2 Kings 20:5

 

the Choice.

it’s your choice.

the path, you complain, is hard
too rocky, steep to climb

the path, you see, is winding
yet, you miss all the signs

you’re lost inside your whining
lost within your head

you only see the struggle
the sick, the mess, the dead

you miss the joy around you
you miss the laughter shared

you miss the hope above you
trapped within your snare

the choice to see the blessing
the choice to see the good

is lost within complaining
is lost within what “could”

but life is never easy
it’s a matter of our view

life will bring the darkness
light comes from within you

it’s your choice.pexels-photo-66100.jpeg

The Dual Nature of You

I’m just like Elizabeth Bennett…according to Facebook. I love a good personality inventory. I’ll click on a Facebook personality test regardless of the topic. At this point, I know which ‘Friends’ character I’m most like, which Disney princess I think like, as well as, which junk food I most resemble. I love the Meyers-Briggs Assessment the most and regularly try to guess the personalities of people I meet. I usually get pretty close. The stronger the personality, the easier to spot whether someone is an Introvert/Extrovert or Perceiver/Judger etc. Within relationships, understanding one another’s personalities is crucial to resolving interpersonal conflict.

I recently went through a book for the third time with my kids called Nurture by Nature. This book uses the Meyers-Briggs Assessment to pinpoint your child’s personality. Then chapter by chapter it unloads hints and advice on how to parent each specific child.

Our kids are a pretty good blend of their parents. The fascinating observation regarding my kids’ personalities is that they each have a dual nature about them. The hardcore leadership of my firstborn backfires at times. She has a great sense of right and wrong and expects everyone to fall in line. She gets angry when she sees injustices and irritated when others sit on the sidelines without sharing her passion to seek beneficial change. She questions authority and abandons respect for anyone in authority as soon as she witnesses any inconsistencies. She questions the status quo daily. She seeks improvement in everything and everyone. She is hard on herself and others, an amazing future leader tempted to isolate herself.

The compassion of my middle child comes with heightened sensitivity and loads of guilt. He offers mercy for everyone in the world except himself. My middle kiddo is the most loving of the family. We all recognize this. He has more compassion in his pinky toe than the lot of us. With this compassion comes great emotional turmoil because life simply does not deliver peace, love, and joy to all the hurting. He can hardly discuss our adopted child through Compassion International without distress. He gets depressed when the rest of us forget to include her in prayer, a future humanitarian daily discouraged by humanity.

I believe God made each of us with a purpose and plan. I do not believe God’s intention was for us to dismiss our personalities or try to become carbon copies of each other. Rather, He created us to be just as we are –to use the best of our personalities to challenge others, to love the unlovable, to cry with the hurting, or to give without question. Whatever gift God gave us, we should use it to the fullest.

However, there are two sides to every human story, and there are two sides of each of of our personalities. Neither may be particularly harmful or sinful, but a strength or tendency may hint at a potential weakness. Our individual personalities are multi-faceted and fascinating.

One challenge in a blossoming self-awareness is to recognize that there are usually two sides to who you are. If you are merciful without question, are you also a doormat who regularly tolerates poor behavior? If you are an extrovert and love being with people all the time, do you ever struggle to set boundaries in relationships or neglect moments of solitude for personal prayer? Are you an excellent judge of character but also experience the temptation to be judgmental of others?

When I teach peace-building classes, I usually ask for two volunteers to help. I hold up a book between them and ask them to describe what they see. Simply, they each see a book, but as they describe it, they discover that the cover on one side doesn’t match the cover on the other side at all. They each see part of what is before them, but can’t describe the other side without hearing from the other volunteer. The same is true in relationships. We only see our side of the story. Relationships grow when we try to see the other side through others’ eyes accepting our own limitations.

Try to pinpoint the potential struggles within your unique personality that can lead you to step outside of God’s will for your life or that can cause personal, or even interpersonal difficulties. Be completely honest with yourself. And if you are particularly brave today, ask a close friend what they see as your strengths and potential pitfalls.

Within relationships, be wary of self-righteous by assuming everyone sees the world just like you do. Don’t expect others to observe the world in the same way. We each have unique strengths. We each have unique temptations. We can only see the world through our own eyes.

Without consistently seeking understanding as we relate to others, we may never clearly see the other side of the story. Further, individual perception often becomes an individual’s “truth” until both parties attempt to clearly understand where the other is coming from and how they view the world.

I am sure that God, who began a good work in you, will continue His work until it is finished on the day Jesus returns. ~Philippians 1:6

the last run.

Caryn Blanchard Blog

e41a152e18df4fdea70ade3b8b78e9b7When I close my eyes
after all final goodbyes
i’ll eagerly expect my new view.

I’ll open my eyes
and quickly arise
dismiss all that’s behind and run to you.

You’ll open your arms
erase all that brought harm
then greet me in a land of clear skies.

I’ll at last see your face
as we celebrate grace
and recall all adventures gone by

You’ll introduce me to friends
the day will ne’er end
as eternity bursts forth from short life.

I’ll rejoice in a reward
that i never earned
and clutch hands with a friend who knew strife.

For all that was toil
the heartbreaks of poor soil
matters never again when i run to you.

When all wrong in me is gone.
and we sing a new song
As my final run embraces your truth.

-CB

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5 Reasons Why You Shutdown Conflict

kid-shushingAmericans have a love/hate relationship with conflict. We love to sit in the spectator seat and watch conflict unfold. We’ve watched thousands of hours of reality TV from Jerry Springer dysfunctional families to Honey Boo Boo to Survivor and Big Brother. We sit and ravenously eat popcorn and purchase stock in the exploitation of the broken and emotionally unstable for their entertainment value. We post authoritative political comments on Facebook and verbally assault anyone who disagrees with us hiding behind our screens with pompous indignation (guilty). And it’s all fun and games until someone disagrees with us in a board meeting, church committee meeting, or at home.

One of my fondest memories of church relationships was on an interview weekend with my husband in Detroit. If you’ve ever been on a ministerial interview weekend, you know it usually includes food. At the beginning of this long interview weekend, the entire search committee took my husband and our family out to dinner at a hole in the wall Chinese food restaurant. We all sat at a long table in the middle of the small seating area. At one end of the table were the two obvious leaders of the group. I noted how loudly they laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a good first impression. In the middle of meal (around the time I was begging my 4 year old to eat his food and not embarrass us) the two men at the end of the table began to raise their voices. It startled my daughter. She nearly jumped out of her seat and my family all stared at the loud-mouths. It’s notable that no one else at the table seemed moved by the elevated conversation, but kept their attention toward their fried rice while asking us questions about family, our goals, and our educational experiences. The two male voices at the other end of the table grew louder and more impassioned in dispute. My husband and I exchanged glances smirking at the interchange wondering what was going on and if the argument would come to blows. Finally, in one final outburst, both men laughed and one smacked the other on the back and shouted “ah, you know I love you, man! We may disagree, but I love ya!” It was that singular moment that sold us on moving our family 3000 miles to work with a small church outside one of the most dangerous cities in our country. That one moment showcased open and honest discourse and disagreement, even a loud public interchange, between Christians that ended in laughter and love. It was a sight seldom seen among church people: conflict enjoyed. For people in Yankeedom, this is normal behavior. In some places in this world conflict is approached, appreciated, anticipated, and always allowed. In others, conflict is avoided at all costs. To date, Michiganders hold a special place in my heart for being the most honest and open people I’ve ever known.

Most interpersonal conflicts occur when someone is bold enough to disagree and share a differing thought or idea. In a safe place, where altering opinions are appreciated and counted as productive, this is a great benefit and offers unprecedented growth. Conflict can be used for good where it is appreciated. In offices and homes where disagreement is interpreted as a personal attack or a negative experience, then growth is stunted, the conflict is swept under the rug, and voices are silenced neglecting beneficial discourse and relationship-building.

The popular notion today is to create “safe spaces” where you can gather with people who only agree with you and stagnate in a cesspool of common frustration and bitterness congratulating each other on mutual shared beliefs. I suggest it is healthier to create safe places where you can learn and grow while embracing conflict instead.

In a country that works so hard to achieve diversity of skin color in the workplace and in the church, then diversity of thought and opinion should also be paramount if personal growth is truly our goal. Otherwise, we simply create echo chambers that are personally comfortable but not sustainable.

Here are five reasons why we shut down conflict and dissenting dialogue around us.

1. We take disagreement personally. Some of us immediately interpret any disagreement as an attack upon us personally. Our feelings, often worn on our sleeves, can be damaged if everyone doesn’t agree with our amazing ideas. We assume that when someone disagrees with us that must mean we are not liked or appreciated. Our ego takes a hit. This conflict over-sensitivity can trigger the fight or flight response thereby heating up a discussion into an argument rather than propelling dissenting ideas into fruitful discourse or simply shutting down the discussion altogether to avoid personal discomfort.

Try to remember that conflict is not always about you and your ideas. Try to separate yourself from the issue at hand. Differentiate. A disagreement is not an affront to you personally. Additionally, someone else’s opinion does not define you, nor does it say anything about you personally. Listening and striving for understanding is the embodiment of good leadership. Welcoming discussion, even hearing dissenting ideas, leads to achieved common goals which only can benefit your home, your church, and your community.

2.  Better ideas demand change. Change is not fun and sometimes it hurts. Change is uncomfortable, takes work, and requires flexibility which is precisely why conflict is not fun. Better ideas demand that we change. Sometimes even when we see that change is necessary, we will find a way around it simply to save ourselves the hassle of making adjustments to our habits, traditions, ideas, and plans. It is this reason, however, why conflict is necessary for growth. Without change, growth never happens. Without adversity and struggle, people do not learn and systems stagnate. Change begets discomfort which, in turn, can mean the difference in whether your system is successful or not.

This is all fine and good to say until change is required in the church. You’ll never find a biblical mandate for carpet colors until someone suggests that we replace the old shag rug in the sanctuary! Change in the church is especially painful because faith is extremely personal to the heart of a spiritual people. One of the reasons churches struggle within conflict and change is a past, albeit a heritage, that is rich in the habitual stifling of new ideas, interpretations, or dissenting voices. We don’t talk about issues. We don’t feel comfortable when others disagree around us about issues we hold dear. We have believed the lie that the definition of peace is everybody listening to the guy with the fattest pocketbook or the loudest voice OR peace is simply the absence of conflict entirely. Neither of these definitions are true, by the way. Change in the church requires constant communication, understanding, and a leadership that encourages flexibility from everyone including themselves, and is proficient in listening skills even when it hurts. Change in the church also necessitates the evaluation of our beloved traditions and the revisiting of long-held beliefs. It takes a lot of patience, flexibility, and endurance if done well.

3. We are right. Everyone else should shut up. Being right feels great! Unfortunately, everyone believes they are right most of the time. It is important to remember, being heard is often more important than being right in times of conflict. When amidst an argument or conflict, often the opposing party simply needs to be affirmed and heard. When we shut down an opposing opinion, we essentially are expressing that the other side doesn’t matter to us. However, if you love Jesus, people should matter to you. Others’ thoughts, beliefs, and opinions, should matter especially within the church. It’s been two thousand years since Christianity hit the ground running. A few more discourses on church issues won’t end Christendom in one final swoop. God is bigger than our disagreements with each other. Further, a system never failed due to a listening leadership. I have, however, witnessed systems fail with the opposite.

Shutting down a dissenting voice says a lot about you. It can be interpreted as controlling, selfish, bad-mannered, or even fearful, and it definitely does not define quality leadership. If you wish to sit at the helm of a ship, listen to your passengers. Affirm them. Who knows, you may hear good ideas, discover essential information required for growth, and improve relationships all at once.

4. I’m in control of this power trip. Unfortunately, one of the biggest reasons we hate conflict is control. Often listening to a heated debate can cause so much discomfort that we envision it spinning out of control and insist upon reigning it in before resolution is even close. Often conflict can spin out of control. This is true. But conflict where all voices are heard and the agenda is set to reach a resolution, can only lead to positive results. Some personalities require a louder discussion. This is neither unhealthy or healthy. It just is. If you are a leader in this situation, encourage the participants to avoid making personal attacks, otherwise keep the discussion going. Be ready to sit back and listen even if the moment is uncomfortable for you.

5. Conflict can be cultural.  Did you know that in the United States alone there are at least eleven different cultural regions? Business Insider contributor, Matthew Spicer, wrote an article outlining the distinctly different cultural systems that exist in our country alone. Different from our experience in Yankeedom, often expressing opposing viewpoints can be interpreted as personal us_regional_cultures_mapattacks to folks from the deep south. And to be successful when speaking to groups in this region, the dissenting voice is expected to carefully dance around issues in order to preserve the ‘face’ or comfort level of the hearer. The same trait can be stated for asian countries and their keen sense of honor. Unfortunately, the amount of time and subtlety used to avoid hurting someone’s feelings can take a toll on those from outside the region and isn’t always beneficial when time is of the essence. On the other side, yankees are often seen as rude and loud and are expected to proceed upon eggshells in southern cultures often failing at doing so. Whereas, southerners sometimes appear insincere and disingenuous to northerners who are accustomed to open, more robust, dialogue. Do you see how this cultural difference alone could cause more conflict?

A step beyond culture variances are generational differences. Generation X longs for completely open and honest dialogue and is renowned for its distrust of institutions who appear too slick or too political in their discourse. Whereas millennials and their parent counterparts are more careful in their approach to conflict or discourse often neglecting it entirely to maintain the comfort levels of all involved.

Remember these potential differences when communicating with someone who may be displaced or when you travel. Honesty is always the best policy, but a little tact never hurts. Remember, the heroes in all stories are often the ones who boldly spoke up when no one else dared.

As a Christian, I believe I am called to be honest. Honesty is required with the gig. And sometimes that honesty leads to disputes.  I also believe I am called to be a comfort to others. In leadership, these two qualities, honesty and comfort, are essential, but they may irritate the people around you for the reasons listed above.  Be honest with the people around you, at the same time, create a safe place where all voices feel comfortable enough to be heard. Welcome challenges to your ideas. Listen to others. Allow yourself and others the opportunity to learn and grow.

Attitude of Gratitude

Throughout 2017 our family kept a gratitude jar. I set out paper and markers and during the year each of us wrote down blessings big and small, folded the paper, and dropped them in an old Ball canning jar. The jar filled and quickly became smashed down, overflowing. I’m thankful for that.

This morning we read through all the colorful papers listing our blessings in 2017.

We even found some notes that sweet friends snuck in at some point while in our home this year.

Heartbreaks abound here on earth, but if you seek good, you will find good mixed into your struggles. Noticing even the smallest blessing counts and can lead you toward recognizing the bigger blessings you may miss otherwise. Seek good. Hunt it. List blessings aloud, on paper, on your mirrors, on your refrigerators. Soak in the blessings that life brings to keep you from drowning in the sorrows.

Hurt happens. Find the good anyhow and pop that memory in your gratitude jar whether literal or not.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

~John 6:38