Simplified Communication

Simplified Communication

simple communicationLife.  Overcomplicated!  Hard.  To.  Simplify.  Argh!

Whether it is making a simple weekend plan or figuring out exactly how to help someone struggling with fear, worry or anxiety; we can quickly get frustrated.  Our identity as ambassadors for Jesus Christ who speak grace according to the need of the moment, can instantly degrade into something like Genghis Kahn demanding food after a long day of marauding the countryside.  Bringing clarity and resolution to the issues in our hearts is not turn-key.  Wisdom, discernment, and understanding are needed but those usually require more time.  Where do you start?  How do you minister in the moment especially if you’re short on time?  Here is a helpful little diagnostic tool that quickly brings initial clarity and a way forward.

It is what I call the “1 to 10 scale”.  Sophisticated isn’t it?  To bring definition to an otherwise complicated, and sometimes emotional situation, especially when time is short I will sometimes ask, “On a 1-10 scale, 1 being good, 10 being bad… how do you feel about the situation?”  Or, I might say, “Rate each of the three issues you are struggling with.” Or, “Over the past two weeks, how intense has your struggle been with this?”

If someone is struggling with fear, worry, and anxiety.  I will ask, “On the WAF scale (worry, anxiety, and fear) where are you?  A “1, 2, or 3” answer means the issue is not exigent.  I can give a word of encouragement, pray about it with them and move on–but come back to it.  On the other hand, an “8, 9, or 10” means that I need to take time for a fuller conversation now or soon.

When trying to communicate, I find the scale extremely helpful.  When I can’t figure out exactly how one feels about something such as a career path or how one feels about a particular friend for example, a number is quite helpful in cutting through the conflicting emotions and forces a clearer idea of the intensity of the struggle.

Certainly, it would be counterproductive to reduce all such conversations to the 1-10 scale.  This is only a diagnostic tool.  But it is helpful tool at certain times.  While it is not sufficient to deal with most situations, it is a decent barometer for discernment, understanding, and formulating a word of grace in the moment.

 

Did I Get the Job Done?

Did I Get the Job Done?

moving day

In January, my 21 year old daughter was the first to fly the coop.  Strike up Barbara Streisand singing “Memories” and pass the tissues.  While it has been quite an adjustment for all of us, it has not been too bad thanks to (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) the wonders of texting and the Marco Polo app.

On the morning her brother and I drove her to her new home in another state, I wrote a note to her that I planned to leave in her apartment for her to find after we had left.  (It’s the writer in me).  As I was writing, I was partially successful in holding back tears as my mind ran through 21 years of very precious memories.  I kept reminding myself, “She’s not dying or even getting married.  Get a grip!”

As I wrote, I couldn’t help but think about all the things I failed to do well or at all.  My perfectionistic flesh was really whipping me good.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

I imagine that some of you reading this have already had a child leave home through work, education, marriage, or some other reason.  As we wrestle with the changing seasons in family life, we can take encouragement from some principles in the Bible that address our performance as parents.

We are ambassadors, not saviors.

If I could do everything right, then I would not need Jesus.  It was never God’s intension to share his glory with us by making it so we could do a perfect parenting job.  2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are plain ambassadors with a powerful message.  The Holy Spirit is the only One who is able to call and change our children and he does the changing on his perfect timetable.

God’s plan takes into account our failures.

Paul says in Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  All things includes bad things.  God is able to use even our worst moments in his work of conforming us and our children into the image of his Son.  It’s never too late to confess our failures and ask forgiveness!  Sometimes, it takes many years, decades even, before we see how God has worked/is working through our good and bad moments—but he is working!

God restores the years that the locust has eaten.

Our failures do not define us as Christians.  God is all about redemption.  Joel 2 says that “he restores the years that the locust has eaten.”  Recognizing what I could have done better strengthens me not to repeat the same failures with my other children who are still at home.  My failures do not have to remain failures!  We can learn from them and change how we disciple our other children and grandchildren.  I can also share what I have learned with other parents, thus helping them avoid our mistakes.

We serve a God of grace and mercy.  He delights in showing mercy.  Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”  I am most grateful that my God—our God—is like this.  It gives us great hope and confidence as we move through the different but challenging seasons of parenthood.

 

Empty Prayers

Empty Prayers

empty prayers“Asking someone, ‘How Can I Pray for You’ is Bull *&%^ !”

These words were spoken to me with blunt frustration by a man after I had just taught a class on being intentional in relationships. Praying for one another was one of several practical exhortations I had made in the class. (There was more to what I said on prayer which I will get to later.) This brother in Christ had been wounded by some bad experiences.

As we talked, I was struck by what I suspect is probably the ugly and embarrassing truth about our prayer lives as Christians: we often take it for granted and become careless and lazy in our prayer habits.

Prayer for one another is an essential habit in our Christian walk. Yet, we can all relate to saying, “I will pray for you”—only to forget. Sometimes we ask for prayer without really thinking about it. It’s an easy (and expected) part of our Christian talk.

How seriously do we really take prayer? Following are three practical ideas to help us be more intentional in our prayer life.

  1. Write Down Prayer Requests

Studies show that we remember 90% of what we write down. Why not write down what people ask us to pray for? It forces clarity and helps us remember to pray. Along this line, one of the ideas I gave my Sunday school class that morning involved writing prayer requests on 3×5 index cards. Index cards are a cheap and wonderful tool. You can keep them in your pocket or tuck them in your Bible.

Make a card for each person we pray for. Put the person’s name on the top line. Beneath their name, write the date and then the request next to it. When the prayer is no longer needed, write down the date and the answer or resolution. Keep the card to add future prayer requests for that person. As you add cards for each person, you develop a powerful story; a tool for recounting God’s work through your prayers in other’s lives.

  1. Ask People to Pray For You Rather Than Telling Them to Pray For You

Have you ever had someone just say, “Pray for me” or “You can pray for me about …“. We’ve probably all done it at some point, however, without a “will you please” in front, it can come across a bit presumptuous or even demanding.  This is not so much an issue of manners as it is not taking prayer for granted. We all should remember to be mindful of the privilege prayer is. It is a gift to be able to minister to each other through prayer. It is also a comfort to know that we can ask our brothers and sisters to pray for us in times of need which in effect allows them to help us carry our burdens.

Consider that if we ask and the person says, “yes” then there is a greater possibility of them following-through which also means their prayers will likely be more intentional and effective.

Following is not so much a literal suggestion as it is a way to expose our own attitudes and expectations about asking others to pray for us. Would it ever be right to say, “No, I’m sorry but I cannot/will not be able pray for you”? The thought of that seems almost unconscionable. But consider: can we realistically pray for every request that comes our way either directly or indirectly? How many more can we add to a long and probably dusty list? At what point are we just being disingenuous?

Here’s an idea. If we’re having trouble being faithful with our current list, maybe a good alternative when asked to pray is to just stop and pray with the person for the need at that moment rather than to say we will pray later –and never do it.

  1. Report Back to People Who Have Agreed to Pray for You

For the person who is being intentional about following through on praying for our request it can be disheartening to pray especially over a long period of time and never get an update on what is going on in that situation. When no report is given, it can convey little regard for the time others invest in praying for us. Write down the names of those we ask to pray for us so that we remember to report back.

A simple report is very encouraging to see how God is working through our prayers. It builds our faith. We keep praying for the specific need. It encourages us to pray for others. It builds our unity in Christ. Frankly, it also helps us to be more serious about asking others to pray for us. We realize there is a cost to them: their time that we should seek to honor.

Evaluate Our Prayer Habits

Prayer is a powerful and effective weapon. God instructs us to pray. He promises to hear our prayers and to answer them. It is good therefore to evaluate our prayer habits and to try to correct areas where we have waxed lazy and unintentional.

Whether we’re asking for prayer or agreeing to pray—it is a sacred privilege; a treasured part of our identity as members of God’s family that helps to build our oneness in Christ.