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My son’s girlfriend is an atheist. He wants to share his faith but he doesn’t want to alienate her and he knows sharing his faith with her is risky. Sadly, her defenses are already up because of a series of abrasive Christians she has already met.
Why is it that when many Christians share their faith it sounds like a reprimand? “I know that you think you’re right, but . . . I believe that what you are doing is bad because . . . God hates it when you . . .” As a result, this young woman and so many like her see Christians as narrow-minded, bossy, and judgmental.
It is going to be a long, rocky road before she will be able to perceive anything else. Yet, my son has people pushing him to convert her NOW. Even when these people know why he is taking his time, they say the same thing. “If you don’t do it, I will.”
This is what my mother called bull in a china shop. These people know things are delicate and easily broken but they are going to thunder and they won’t consider another way.
My son has chosen another approach for dealing with people who have suffered abrasive confrontations in the name of Christ.
- Let the person get to know you. Model Christ’s behavior in your life and it will be seen.
- Mention your faith at appropriate times. As you interact with this person, don’t hide your faith or your church activities. Make brief comments as appropriate and then move on. This doesn’t mean any time there is a lull in conversation. It needs to fit.
- Link the two. As your friendship deepens, make the connection between your behavior and your faith more obvious.
- Invite. Ask this person to come to a church activity with you. If your friend is especially skittish, start with a social activity. Or if they are civic minded, you might ask them go to the Crop Walk with your youth group. Then invite them to a special service.
- Encourage. As this person starts to open up, encourage this by inviting them to learning activities such as women’s circle or a study group. The more personal relationships they build with kind, loving Christians, the more likely they are to see the Love and Beauty of Christ.
That said, when I have no words for a given situation that lack becomes my focus. When I should be focusing on Him, instead I am focusing on what isn’t there. The words I need to explain a situation that He already understands.
Recently, I learned a prayer that is a great go-to prayer in times of distress, The Jesus Prayer. While there are several versions, this is the one that I learned:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
That just about covers it. Lord, I’m coming to you and, in my flawed way, I have no clue what to say. Help!
That said, some people leave off “a sinner.” Including that phrase puts them in a dark place of self-doubt and self-incrimination.
Me? I include it. At this point in my life, I can accept the fact that I am far from perfect. I don’t like it, but I can accept it.
So when I have no clue what to pray, I have this to fall back on. I may have no idea what to say, because I am, after all, flawed. But I can fall back on these words and on His infinite mercy.
I am an earthenware jug
filled to the brim with simple water —
Adam’s ale, most humble mead.
And yet I cry:
Make me wine,
make me wine,
make me wine.
I wrote this poem fragment one afternoon, realizing it at once as a declaration of one of my deepest sins: I don’t think that I am good enough for God. I want to be special; I want to be a saint. I want to be extraordinary.
But what’s so wrong with ordinary? After all, I am as God made me. Why ask for wine when water is enough? And then it came to me: What if you knew that all you had to do is to be your best self, in all your day-to-day plainness, and you would be doing exactly what God wanted of you? What if being ordinary and happy is enough?
Sometimes I feel like Pinocchio; that somehow, if I do something wonderful, something important, I’ll achieve “real boy” status. But maybe this is as real as it gets. Instead of keeping my eye on some nebulous, unachievable future, why don’t I just look around at where I am right now, and focus on making it as good as I can make it? Wouldn’t that be a better use of my time?
It comes down to this: Some people, a select few, are extraordinary. And they earn that status in contrast with the rest of us, the vast ordinary majority. And that’s just fine. We are all doing God’s work by being who we are. Shouldn’t that be enough for us?
I’m not going to pray to be converted into wine anymore. I’m done with whining, too. I got the message, and I’m passing it on: You are enough. You are perfectly perfect. God made you so. Don’t waste your time fruitlessly wishing to be what you’re not. Just be a perfectly perfect you. God is absolutely crazy about that person. And so am I.
“Once again, he was an important historical figure,” said the author. “He was the forerunner of some of the greatest political players of our time, and if you look at a list of all his accomplishments, once again – one can only say, he was ahead of his time.”
I’d been listening to this conversation on NPR for a good fifteen minutes, engrossed and infuriated. Truth be told, I had no real interest in some politician’s biography, but what was really keeping me tuned in was one simple fact. During the whole conversation, the moderator and the guest had never once mentioned the historical figure’s name!
“Who the heck is it?” I yelled at the radio. “Once again, I ask, ‘what’s the dude’s name’ for crying out loud.” As the program ended I put two and two together. My face turned red and I was really embarrassed, even though it was only me and the radio in the room. For goodness sake. The historical figure’s name?
I thought they kept saying, “once again,” when they were actually – repeatedly – saying the name of the man they were talking about. Juan Seguin.
Merciful heaven! Think I need to leave my brain to science. If they’ll take it!
But how often do we find that we’re not really plugged in, not paying attention, but get riled up while having only half of the facts?
On my local newscast, a man was interviewed about the imminent introduction of Obamacare, and he said, emphatically, to the reporter, “It would be great if we had a little bit more time to get used to the idea. I mean, there wasn’t even any warning this was happening so soon!”
Say what? How much more warning could there possibly have been? I wrote an article about what was then the Health Care Reform Bill for the magazine Music & Sound Retailer in January of 2010. I interviewed small business owners from across the country and they hated the idea even then. So this law has been around in some form for years now.
Somebody at a store mentioned to his friend that he had a contracting job in Pohatcong. “Don’t you mean ‘Hopatcong’? his friend corrected him, rather (if I may coin a term) jerkily. But here in New Jersey, we’ve got a rich palette of Native American-based town names. We’ve got us a Pohatcong, all right. Along with a Hopatcong, and even a Lopatcong for good measure. So there, Mr. Know-it-all!
Maybe we should start a new holiday: Fully-Paying-Attention-Day. I know most of you out there are multi-taskers, but wouldn’t it be a kick if all of us were on the same page, tuned into the same wavelength? Taking a time-out from assumptions and half-hearted conversations might even lead to real communication. Once again I say, let’s really listen to each other (if only for today!)
When I tell people I’m an introvert, they laugh. Why? Because, when I’m in the mood, I am outgoing. I talk to and genuinely enjoy people, right up until I’ve had enough. Being with people isn’t where I get my energy. My energy comes from time spent away from noise and crowds. I need quiet time.
This means that sometimes people will ask me to do something, and I have to tell them no. My schedule is too crowded, my days are too busy. I need some time to myself even if what they are asking me to participate in is a church activity.
Sometimes that gets me a funny look. “God wants us to (fill in the blank).”
I know this. I am, after all, fairly intelligent, and I’ve been paying attention.
But, I’m still an introvert, and I’ve finally come to the realization that I’m an introvert because this is how God made me. It isn’t because there was too much sulfur in the water when I was a child. Or because I didn’t have a small pox vaccine. Or because I never had braces.
This is the way that God made me. I can’t help but believe that if God made me an introvert, he must be okay with it. As a result, I don’t fight it.
If someone asks me to do something, I pay attention to my first reaction. Community choir. Teach a class. Participate in a fund raiser. I could do any of it. I have the skills. But if my first instinct is to curl up in a ball, I simply thank them and tell them that I can’t.
Some people understand. Others don’t. But that’s okay.
My name is Sue, I’m an introvert, and this is how He made me.
Meteorologists have recently come up with a phrase you may have heard: “weather-aware.” They’ll show you the forecast and say, “It might be a passing front, but you should always be…. weather-aware.”
Sounds kind of ominous! But really, most of the time, it means: umbrella, yes; flip-flops, no. In some ways, it seems like meteorologists want all of us to see the world through the same lens that they do. All weather, all the time.
On the radio, I heard that New York City had introduced its public bike-share initiative. “We’re just in the final phases of the Citi-Bike program, and we’re rolling it out slowly, trying to build momentum.” Rolling out bikes slowly? Was that pun intentional? Does the spokeswoman see the world as one big bike path?
Norman Schwarzkopf once spoke to the press about a military operation, and he was asked by a reporter for specifics. “Sorry, son, I’m a general, and generals only speak generally.”
Doesn’t it seem as if we all see the world through our own particular filters? I know that my son sees every dollar as a potential video game. I see every food item in the store as a coupon waiting to happen.
And when it comes to prayer, I seem to see every moment as an excuse to give God a laundry list of things I need done. A “honey-do” list for the Maker of All Things! Why not? It’s not as if He’s holding the whole world together or anything! Surely He has time to help me with every little thing I need or even vaguely want.
I get so specific with God in prayer – asking about a particular bill, the leaky faucet, even my insurance co-pay – that I lose sight of the fact that God’s already on it. If I were to say what’s in my heart as I prayed, it would consist of: “Here’s what’s happening (as You know) and I’m just checking in to make sure You’ve got my back.” Isn’t that what we need anyway, from anyone in our lives?
Friendship, romantic relationship, even a co-worker. We want to be sure that our partners are on the same wavelength and that they’ll be there for us when the chips are down.
Could it be that God expects us to have His back too? I think we can make His job easier by actually releasing worries once we’ve prayed about them. Maybe even making a dramatic “jazz-hands” gesture as we unleash our troubles into the ether, certain that these problems now officially belong to God. Poof! All good.
Seeing the world through the filter of faith can really change the way you look at things. It can also take a load off of your back and lift a burden from your heart. You’ve just got to leave the heavy-lifting in the Right Hands.