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

Dying to Live

This year I’m walking away from some old practices leaving room for God to begin something new in my life.

My son and I are already planning our vegetable garden this year. I’ve even started a compost bin to improve the soil. Funny thing about composting, it’s basically a bin of death and rot that provides essential nutrients in soil for new growth. To have the most productive garden, it must be surrounded by death. Much like my compost bin, I want to put to death all the pieces of old me so a new, more God-pleasing, me will grow. I want to put to death jealousy, self-doubt, people pleasing, materialism, worry, busi-ness, and fear. We will see what grows in my life once I’ve buried a few of those old things and let them die.

May God richly bless your new year and may we all endeavor to seek Him, speak truth to ourselves and others, and be bold for the sake of the cause. Happy New Year!

An Ecclesiastes Kind of Day

image_367465da-304c-4628-9f86-1ee7bcf26131_1024x1024The last two days have been a struggle for me. I hate that those days come when my faith is weak and the future of humanity appears so grim and life so overwhelming that living it is pointless. I hate those days. But those days do come; thankfully, not too often. If any of you struggle with depression and anxiety, you understand.
The fact is my hope often renews (slow as a snail on gravel) because those days force me to settle into what I know is truth and to seek out comfort from the invisible Creator God of whom I believe. Even if those days include me reminding myself of what I do believe every two minutes, reminding me that I made a decision to believe. I made a commitment to Him and not to self. When you try to emote faith on days like this, sometimes the most comforting way back is to remind yourself of your commitments to follow truth and not your wayward emotions.
This morning as I struggled to understand how the Spirit of the Almighty would lead a person such as me, a doubter, a sinner, a self-loather, I skeptically flipped open my bible. I admit it was an aimless opening. I had no verse in mind and no direction. (Maybe I was testing the Spirit’s presence in my life.) But where the pages fell open was surprising. Ecclesiastes. If you’ve read Ecclesiastes, you’ll wonder how in the world I could gain encouragement from such a book. And yet, there they were, the words I needed to pull me out of this gross emotional self-seeking lie of doubt.
“God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
This tiny truth woven into my heart is where my pain comes from. It’s like an aching homesickness that never goes away. It’s an ache for justice- for resolution- for a fairness that is clearly missing in the church and in the community around me. I ache for home, for heaven. I ache to see all children loved, to see all church members appreciated, to see all Christians wage a war against evil and not each other, to see God glorified and the bible held as our connection to our God and Savior.
My heart longs for a place that is truly beautiful. My heart knows that it exists and my discomfort here, as painful as it can be at times, is further proof that this earth isn’t home. My attempts to camp here and make it feel comfortable will always be vain attempts to create a home that truly awaits for me…somewhere else.
No church. No friend. No marriage. No child can fill the hole in your heart than only heaven can fill. As beautiful as this earth can be, we haven’t seen the truly beautiful resolution for our lives that He has in store for us. We can’t even see the plan He has nor understand the intricate blueprint he has designed for our paths. Maybe we should stop trying to understand and simply trust in the promise that we indeed have a tomorrow with Him.
Today, I rest in this hope of a future of peace, a beautiful view where all that I see around me finally makes sense and my inadequate attempts to make this earth feel like heaven will vanish in the blink of an eye when I finally see the real deal.
Peace,
me

Does Obedience Matter?

There are two ways of viewing obedience to the directives in scripture. The first is to view obedience as a challenge: the obedient warrior. The second is to view the notion of obedience as a reminder of judgement and guilt: the broken worm.

spartan-warrior-1366x768In viewing obedience as a challenge or a directive, the obedient warrior, knowing logically all are imperfect, hears messages throughout scripture that challenge all to live a perfect life. Jesus challenges us to live holy and separate from the world. He puts obedience in our hands and within our grasp, yet reminds us, through His great sacrifice, that He will indeed cover what we cannot achieve. Our love for God motivates us to try. Our desire to worship Him calls us toward repentance and obedience as we fall on our knees and thank Him for all He’s done. Obedience is our challenge to live for God not for ourselves.

The second view of obedience, the broken worm, is the daily reminder of our worminadequacies and failures. The guilt driven worms that we are can never be good enough for God, so trying is irrelevant, albeit a fruitless attempt to earn favor. Grace covers all especially since we can never achieve perfection. When we are reminded of our sin, the guilt wounds our hearts to such an extent that our only comfort is in the unfathomable grace that we don’t deserve. In our broken worm state, we comfort each other in our helpless mutual failures and all improvement rests in the hands of God, Himself.

The obedient warriors work hard to please God, but risk emotionally wounding the worms when pointing to the challenge of obedience. Further, the obedient warriors risk falling into a works-based salvation as they hurriedly try to improve fellow believers. Warriors offend people often.

The broken worms recognize God’s unmatched gift, but risk becoming entrenched in a world not meant for believers at all moving farther and farther away from Christ and holiness and further into self-gratification because after all, grace will cover even the sins we can’t help but make. Worms risk never sharing the gospel at all for fear of hurting someone’s feelings and spreading the dreaded guilt.

What I’ve witnessed is that obedient warriors and broken worms have a difficult time communicating. The first tends to smash the other with scriptural directives, and the later tends to condescend with a spiritual smirk at the smallest attempt at righteousness.

I’m not sure how to make the two groups get along. I’ve been in both camps at different times of my life. What I’m coming to is that to live completely in one camp or the other isn’t spiritually healthy at all. Rather, we need both the warrior and the worm to come together and learn from one another to created a third party; faithful workers who are willing to strive to live right by God and by one another knowing we are all a part of the redeemed.

Warriors need to depend upon God.
Worms need to bow to God.

The redeemed do both.

Ripples

Ripples Lake Clouds Mountains Mist Trees Shore Free Wallpapers
Ripples Lake Clouds Mountains Mist Trees Shore Free Wallpapers

I stood beside a quiet lake with the Lord.
I asked Him what purpose my life holds.
He smiled at me and looked down.
He chose a stone and threw it into the middle of the lake.

The circles started small.
They grew.
They multiplied.
Until the waves kissed the shore at every edge.

“I see, Lord.” I replied.
“You want me to be the lake and feed the forest around me.”
“You want me to nurture any living being I can.”
“You want me to supply every need to this forest of trees.”

He responded with a simple shake of his head and smiled.
“No, child. I want you to be the rock.
Your life is but a vapor, a small moment in time.
You are the rock, but your life will create waves of change.”

The Brave Bow: Mark 14

lhw_luke7__36-300x256There is a lot of talk about courage going around. In America, we seem to label just about every act as bravery from waking up and drinking coffee to listening to NPR on our commute home. “She’s so brave to give up sugar for a month.” Hogwash, I say. We are so spoiled with independence and freedom in this country that most of us nary a clue what bravery and courage look like.

Surprisingly, in the majority of cases in this country, courage is not simply posting an article on Facebook or writing a dissenting comment or even participating in hashtag marketing. Courage is not marching along with a million others who think the same way you do to prove a point and fight for your cumulative rights. It is not an act of bravery to vote for a particular candidate in this country. Courage is not simply going to church on Sunday morning. Bravery is not jumping on a bandwagon of popular behaviors only to play the victim later. Living courageously is not complaining about how life isn’t fair. (It’s not, by the way.) And courage isn’t running off at the mouth and showcasing your outrage like your opinion is a badge of honor.

Today I read about a kind of courage that is rarely seen.

Courage walks into a room full of men who have the lawful right to throw stones at you. Courage willfully ignores calls for self-righteous justice as she marches toward the focus of her gaze. Courage owns and lays bare her sinful life in front of accusing eyes who choose to only see the sin of others. Courage falls to the floor and reaches to touch the one thing she has no right to even behold…the Son of God’s feet.  Courage is broken enough to use her tears to wash away the dust of a day’s walk. Courage calls herself a sinner, announces humbly to the world her low place, repents to God, and then walks away from her old life. That is courage.

In an age where sin is acceptable and even glorified, perhaps what we desperately need to witness is a bravery that is seldom seen today. What we desperately need, friends, is to humble ourselves and recognize that either we own our sinfulness or we deny it. Either we look our true selves in the mirror or we sit in denial and point our fingers at others. Either we grab a stone to throw or we bow down and reach out to the Savior’s feet.

Be brave enough to bow.

______________

If you would like to read through the New Testament with me this year follow this link to get a free bible reading calendar. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!