Sister to Sister: Bind Us Together

For several days now, I’ve been thinking about and praying for a righteous perspective about relationships…friendships…the sisterhood. Like most areas of living, if we can get HIS view into our own focus, we can get this right. After thinking and maybe even overthinking, I believe the age-old secret to preserving godly relationships is deeply embedded in the concept of agape, itself. And it really seems pretty simple to me.

I think there are two premises that are required for friendships that cannot be severed. It’s important to remember that BOTH premises must be central to BOTH parties in a relationship. It seems to me that, if they are, you have a friendship that can’t be annulled; a kinship that will never end. If they are not, the friendship is severely compromised.

The first premise is this: I will never intentionally offend you, unless I must offend you to obey God.

The second premise is this: I will never be offended by something you inadvertently do, unless it is sinful, and thus offends God. 

Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but it seems to me, that if BOTH parties in a relationship are willing and able to maintain BOTH of these premises, there will be no end to the “green pastures” through which he leads and protects us. Adherence to the first premise means that I will love you enough to do whatever it is that would keep you safe from insult or injury in my relationship with you, up to the point of offending my Lord. The second means I will love you enough to give you the benefit of the doubt when I am tempted to become offended, unless you are sinning in the offense.

I believe this is Biblical. The first premise is based on many passages, including I Corinthians 10:24.

Let no man seek His own, but every man another’s well-being.

The second premise finds a home in many places, too. Among them would be I Corinthians 13:4-7

Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The first premise makes me pray “Lord please help me to be only an encouragement to this, my sister, and help me never to be a stumbling block to her in any way.  Let me show her always your grace and your light and place my own desires below her needs and desires.”

The second premise makes me pray “Lord, please help me to think the very best of this, my sister. Please help me to be longsuffering enough to know that she loves me and that she would never intentionally hurt me.”

If we both are thinking both ways, we can’t ever lose relationships over things that are less important than the gospel. I believe a great example of this is the relationship of Jonathan and David. Surely Jonathan placed his own desires below the needs of David as he risked his own life in the advancement of David, even against his own flesh and blood (I Samuel 20—premise 1). Surely David must have always been thinking only the best of Jonathan, even as Jonathan died fighting in the army of David’s own enemy, Saul. It is encouraging to see David’s memorial honoring of Jonathan even after he lost his life in service to Saul (II Samuel chapters 1&9—premise 2). 

I hope and believe I can rely on these Biblical principles to guide me to godly relationships…those relationships that can always promote unity and evangelism among and by His people today. 

Sister to Sister: Ironic Living

Funny thing happened to me on the way to the auditorium in one of my recent speaking engagements. On this particular day, there was a donut breakfast prior to the seminar. It was a pleasant fellowship brunch held in the lobby of the auditorium of this church building. Upon speaking to one of the elderly women, she rather scowled at me and said, “Whoever heard of having donuts and coffee in the lobby?… I just don’t approve of this at all!”

Well, she said it with a coffee cup in her hand, so I smiled and responded, “Well, perhaps you should put down your cup, then, if it bothers you.”

She said, “Well, it does bother me!”

I said, “Well, do you think it’s okay down the hall in the fellowship room, then, but it’s not okay in this room?”

“Just a minute,” she responded, “and I’ll tell you what I think.” She proceeded to scoot around the table to the coffee dispenser to refill her cup.

While her inconsistency was a little more blatant than most, it occurred to me that, in most of us, there may often be an unrecognized clash between what we say and what we do. Here’s a sampling. You may have heard similar statements.

“Mom, Jamie doesn’t bow her head when we are praying.”

“I just hate Sophie. She’s always bad-mouthing people.”

“Honey, I wish for once you would stop being so selfish and think about what I need from this relationship.”

“I know I need to get serious about this, but I just don’t have TIME to think much about ETERNITY.”

Facebook status: “It makes me sick how people on facebook are always so negative.”

“I always sit all by myself. Why doesn’t somebody come sit with me?”

…or my personal favorite… “I can write good. That’s always been my favorite subject. Can you tell me how I maybe could write a book?”

These are funny examples of ironic self incrimination. But, in a more serious vein, perhaps we should all taste our words to be sure we are not spewing forth like the fountain in James 2:

Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh (James 2:12, 13).

And one final word from the One Who has the final word:

“…So practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger (Matthew 23:3,4).”

Sister to Sister: Pop-off People

Do you know anyone who’s just liable to pop off in a rage at any given moment?…Someone you just dread being around because she just might snap at you for the least of offenses, or for nothing at all? Sometimes such a person will be fairly polite for an extended period of time, causing you to loosen your guard and open up to her–share some of your opinions–only to have her lash out once more, causing you to retreat again and making you want as little conversation with her as possible. 

I’m not an expert in dealing with such a person. But I’m getting more experience and I can think of a few lessons learned in what is, perhaps, not the prettiest way. 

First, I hope you don’t allow yourself to become embittered toward such a person. If you do, you lose the best chance to do something that builds patience (James 1: 2ff ) Instead of shouting or “smarting” back, try gently explaining that, while you do not deserve this kind of mistreatment, you refuse to lash out in anger against anyone and that you will do your best to continue to be nothing but kind regardless of how you are treated. Each time you respond in kindness, you’re building spiritual muscle that makes you stronger for the next encounter.

Second, resolve to pity that person. Just be glad you are not her. Be glad you are the recipient of ill treatment rather than the dispenser. Such a person is not very happy. Troublemakers are troubled people. Besides, you have the favor of the Lord if you do not seek to retaliate in such a scenario. Stay on His side. 

Thirdly, Read the last few verses of Romans 12 and think of some practical ways in your specific situation in which to heap coals of fire. In my instance, this person told me exactly what inexpensive item she’s looking for right now on eBay. She told me this just before exploding at me. Well, I can shop on eBay, too, and I may search for some coals. I just may find some (at a bargain price) to heap on her head. Perhaps it would help move her toward heaven. 

Fourthly, if you believe there might be a disorder or a chemical imbalance occurring that’s causing outbursts of anger, pray and consider toward finding someone who might be able to convince the angry sister (or brother) to seek medical or professional help for the problem. Often this is very difficult to accomplish (because everyone’s afraid to get close enough to the ticking time bomb to suggest it), but I have seen angry people modify or eliminate the problem with proper help. They’ve gone on to live happy and productive lives. Homes have been stabilized and marriages strengthened by medical intervention. It’s just a fact.

Fifthly, don’t put too much stock in a criticism if it is from lips that alternately yell and scowl and bear gnashing teeth. Go to an older, wiser, unbiased person and ask for an assessment before you enter the world of guilt. Most importantly, go to the Word.

Lastly, remember the lamb that was led to the slaughter, opening not his mouth (Is. 53:7 ). Remember he spoke from the cross saying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” and made that forgiveness possible beginning at the following Pentecost (Acts 2:37,38). Remember your own state without that lamb’s sacrifice. (Your sin might not be unrighteous anger, but it is something!) Be sure that you are on-the-ready to forgive if penitence is achieved in the life of the angry sister. In fact, you should be in prayer for that penitence. 

Remember, the golden rule was meant for golden opportunities. When someone pops off at you, it’s a large and spontaneous and, yes, a golden opportunity to exhibit your faith in the command of Matthew 7:12.                                                                             

Sister to Sister: Guest Writer, Hannah Colley Giselbach

DSC_0662Earlier this week a mom of a college student stood relating to me a bit of the “drama” that seems to be inescapable in her daughter’s world. It just seems like it’s hard to be in a dorm, an apartment, or even on a team with other girls when you’re between the ages of 16 and 25 without having some “yah-yah”-ing going on…sometimes a little gossip, a bit of pride and some histrionics that can turn minor incidents into full-blown relationship busters. Even more complicated is when the trouble involves someone of the opposite sex–someone who may be looking for male logic and sense in the hysteria that may at any time be compounded by caffeine, hormones, or sleep deprivation. As I was thinking about this I was reminded of my own college days and those of my daughter that were not completely free of the turmoil of girl theatrics, by any stretch. I reached back into the archives today to pull out something Hannah wrote while in the midst of the dorm drama. It might be useful if you find yourself embroiled. Keep calm and keep Christ in the mix. In fact, keep Him at the center. In times of crisis, get somewhere quiet and spend some time in the Word. Here’s Hannah on drama. As you read, try to call to mind scriptures that support her five recommendations. I think you will find they are very Biblical.

Be the Bigger Person
“I’m sorry! It’s really hard to keep up with who we’re not talking to anymore!”

This quote, taken from the teenage chick flick of the century, Princess Diaries, is funny, yes, but far too close to home. Said in a group of melodramatic teenage girls, this should have been an exaggerated example of how immature girls can be, but I daresay it wasn’t an exaggeration at all.

We’re all aware of how mean girls can be, and, while we girls at FHU have great role models and a spiritual environment to help us avoid the drama, sometimes we, too, can make regular productions of petty incidents. An argument over something as silly as laundry detergent can result in a menacing grudge that can start during the first semester and last until graduation 4 years later—complete with gossip in an attempt to make the ostracized one look as bad as possible, dirty looks, and envy when the other girls gets ahead in the game. It’s exhausting.

Guys, on the other hand, get over things rather quickly. I don’t know if it’s because they’re more mature or because they’re just too absentminded and careless to prey on bitter thoughts long enough to hold a grudge, but in any case, their world is much simpler than that of us girls. I’d like to think it’s because they’re reasonable enough to see that having to remind yourself how mad you are at someone every morning is no way to live.

For the record, I’m not discrediting the perks of being a girl. Young womanhood doesn’t always have to equal childish drama. In relationships with guys, it is our keen instincts, female intuition (proven time and again), and tender hearts that balance out the coarseness and unfeeling logic that is often characteristic of our male counterparts. At the same time, girls ought to have figured out by now that not all guys pick up on body language that screams, “I’m mad at you—ask me what’s wrong,” and if even if the guy is sensitive enough to pick up on it, he may actually believe you when you quickly retort “I’m fine,” (oh the horror!).

My advice for girls? Be honest, be real, be Christ-like. This is so much easier said than done, but there are some simple ways to work toward this ideal. Here are a few (you know I’m all about lists):

5. If you have an issue with another girl, don’t assume that she knows what the problem is, or that giving her the cold shoulder will fix it.

4. Talk to the girl who has upset you, and not everyone else instead of her. Talking to someone unrelated to the situation can be beneficial if the purpose is a sincere desire to gain insight on how to help someone or how to help a situation in a Christian manner, but all too often, this excuse is used as a crutch to make you look good while you’re backbiting. Go to the girl herself with an attitude of humility and selflessness. If you cannot find resolution then, you can pillow your head at night knowing you did your best, and the rest is out of your hands.

3. Be calm and clear when you communicate with guys. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t expect them to always pick up on clues or hints.

2. Remember that when you give in to drama, you’re hurting yourself more than anyone else. To illustrate this, let me remind you of something Augustine of Hippo once said: “Resentment is like taking the poison and hoping the other person dies.”

1. Rise above it. Be the bigger person. Period.

In short, let’s start communicating. Really communicating.

Inasmuch as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Sister to Sister: Do You Phub?

images-17A neologism, by definition, is a newly invented word and one of the newest terms emerging this week in English is “phubbing”. To phub (from two words: “phone and snub”) is to give attention to your phone when you should be paying attention to a significant other…say, maybe your husband. To “phub up” a relationship is to damage or destroy it due to ignoring important aspects like conversation while you scroll or communicate with others via that hand-held device.

We do this, don’t we? I know I am guilty of phubbing at times. A study at Baylor University recently revealed that phubbing is a significant cause of unhappiness in marriages and sometimes leads to bigger breaches of intimacy and to significant problems in relationships (http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/10/02/phubbing-ruining-relationships-study-says/.

As I was talking this weekend to women about treasuring the sisterhood, I first thought about this neologism in regard to our sisters. Do we sometimes get so “into” the superficial relationships with people we almost never see and hardly know that we neglect to capitalize on the times we could be spending with our local sisters? I don’t know, but it would be a shameif we let that happen. While it’s wonderful that technology has broadened our fellowship in some ways that make it possible to encourage sisters in other countries, it would be sad to be encouraging to sisters in distant places while hardly knowing those with whom we regularly worship. I want to be careful to treasure relationships with sisters with whom I share local activities and local evangelistic efforts.

But as I think further, the ultimate tragedy would be if a person phubbed God. Is that possible? Can a person spend inordinate amounts of time phone trolling, Facebook scrolling, skyping and chatting with “friends” while failing to communicate and develop a relationship with God?  I think so and I think many people do.  Are there practical steps I can take to be sure I don’t let devices subtly take the time and interest that I should be giving to God?  Can I even disrespect God by slighting my husband while communicating with others via phone? I’ve been thinking about this and here are a few things I want to incorporate into my personal habits to make sure that I never inadvertently give God (or His delegated authority in my life) the leftovers of my communication time.

  1. When God is talking to me (i.e I am reading my Bible or listening to teaching), I will attempt to have my phone silenced or at least ignore any calls that are not emergencies, no matter where I may be.
  2. When I am talking to God, I will not allow my phone to interrupt that prayer time.
  3. I will reserve time for study and prayer every day as a priority over time spent on devices.
  4. I will not look at my phone during mealtimes with my husband, who is the one I am to reverence (Eph. 5:33).
  5. I will not text others while Glenn is speaking to me.
  6. I will not be on Facebook when my husband prefers that I be doing something else with him.  This  would be next to impossible for some women I know who are very much addicted to Facebook  or Twitter or Instagram. It may prove to be harder for me than I think. It’s my challenge for the coming days. I don’t want to be a phubber! (It’s funny….The term is so new that “phubber” autocorrects to “chubbier”. I don’t really want to be that either!)

Sister to Sister: Dear Rebekah

Dear Rebekah,

Caleb and BekahI hope you don’t mind that lots of people are reading your mail. It’s just that lots of moms need to know that it’s possible in the 21st century to raise girls with pure hearts and lofty eternal goals. And lots of sons and daughters in our world need to know that finding someone who has this heart and these goals is worth the wait.

I want you to know that Glenn and I have prayed many times for Jim and Debbie Meinsen. Oh, we did not say their names, but we were praying for them. We prayed before Caleb was even born that there were some parents somewhere raising up a little girl with heaven in her heart. We prayed that they were having family Bible times and that they were diligently putting Him in all of their decisions. We prayed and prayed. Little did we know that, when we started praying, Jim and Debbie Meinsen were probably not even married yet. But all of those details—the timing, the circumstances, the places and the decisions being made way back in the 1980’s and before, were the wonderful Romans 8:28 answers to our prayers.

Then later we started praying more specifically for you. Glenn Colley began several years ago praying for Caleb to find a wife…”soon”. I prayed for him to find a wife when the time was right. But we were  praying for not just any wife. We were praying for someone who would be willing to submit to a godly man…someone who would love the Lord more than she loved that man…someone who could appreciate righteousness more than riches…someone whose hope was stayed in the Lord. We were praying for you.

Little did we know that there was a period of years in which he, a college graduate was occasionally, visiting in your home. You were a middle schooler on those occasions when he traveled to Springfield as an Apologetics Press representative to set up an AP table at the homeschooling conferences your father organized. There you were, right before his eyes—his wife. That’s right. Who knew that one day, when you were all grown up, you would be THE one who would have all of the characteristics of a wife for which he was searching, even then? Certainly not the guy behind the AP table at the homeschooling conference!

So he just went right on though grad school…in fact, a couple of grad schools…and the next time he saw you, you were “all grown up.” And the rest is history and…chemistry. =)

Glenn and I are still praying; now in praise and thanksgiving for His great grace given our family through you. My favorite question on Saturday was not the big one…just because I was pretty sure I already knew the answer to the big one. My favorite question came later while we were celebrating your birthday and playing that game where you have to answer Bible questions to open gifts and the people who are not going to get any gifts (like my husband) get ridiculously hard questions like “Quote Revelation 14:6,” and the people who are going to get presents get questions like “Without _______it is impossible to please him…” (And, by the way, you are  tough competition in any Bible game.)

So your question, at one point, when we veered a bit from the Bible theme was “What are your three favorite things about your new fiancé? I will treasure your answer in my heart forever. You said it without hesitating:

“What I like most about Caleb is how much He loves and obeys God. Next, I love the way that he treats everybody…EVERYbody. And then, I love the way he laughs.”

Can I just tell you once more that I prayed for many years, diligently and frequently for somebody who knew how to answer that question; somebody who could appreciate the best things about Caleb? I know you love these characteristics because you have Bible studies with non-Christians every time you can get the chance. You have Bible studies in your dorm room with other Christian women. You, as one of the elder’s wives at Macland Road told me, “are comfortable in conversation with everyone around you all the time. It doesn’t matter how old or young, rich or poor.” I’ve entered the dining room and found you all alone  at our breakfast table on Sunday mornings (the day of the week when breakfast is definitely piecemeal and “come-grab-a-bite-when-you-can”) with your head bowed in morning prayer. I’ve watched you study the Bible, poring over a Greek word or writing a paper about a complicated passage. You are beautiful on the outside. But these spiritual traits are the prettiest thing about you. They’re the beauty that time enhances rather than fades.  “Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain; but a woman who fear the Lord shall be praised.”

See,  I believe you could, without even thinking about it, list the three things you love most about Caleb because you’ve worked so hard to be sure they are in you.

I’ve heard about some mothers who resent the women who come along and take their place in the hearts of their sons. I want you to know that we tried very hard, as Caleb grew up, to keep that heart clean and pure, heaven focused and holy, for you. We’re glad you’ve moved into it and we know you will help Him keep it fit for heaven.

We’re glad you like to hear him laugh, because he laughs a lot. We pray there will always be lots of laughter and few tears. We pray there will be children and songs and homeschooling and lots of visits to grandparents. We pray there will be heaven at the end for all of us. We love you.