Accusations Abound

A friend called to ask advice over an incident that occurred. I listened carefully, then I laughed because what do you do other than laugh? The story went like this. My friend has three dogs. As with most pet owners they are indoor/outdoor dogs and at any given moment they can be inside or outside.

The neighbor children took to daring each other to climb over the fence into my friend’s yard to see what the dogs would do. My friend’s dog’s are trained and friendly but they are dogs and therefore can react differently than anticipated if they feel threatened. My friend happened to be home to see the children climb over into her yard and her dogs, fortunately reacted accordingly without barking or acting aggressively.

Upon further thought, she walked over to the neighbor’s home and politely told the mother about the incident telling her that her dogs were trained but that dogs react differently under pressure and she didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The mother became angry and said that these dogs “better not” bite her children. Rather than apologizing for her trespassing children she went into accusation mode. My friend shouldn’t have dogs if they are going to hurt children. Needless to say the conversation didn’t go well. The mother told my friend she would call the police because her dogs were dangerous.

What do you do when there is no foundation for an accusation? I remember a similar incident when we had our cat Joy who passed away of old age a few years ago. A neighbor came to my door and said that my cat was getting the other cats pregnant on our block and I needed to do something about it. She knew this because the kittens looked like my cat she explained. I assured her that it was not my cat as my cat was female and spayed. She shouted, “Are you sure because these kittens sure look like your cat?” Believe me I am sure.

One of the 10 Commandments is that you should not lie about your neighbor. I know these sets of basic human decency boundaries are considered outdated but they still hold true today for a civilized society. How do we hold to tenants that no longer apply? For those of us in Christ the bearing of false witness is a real thing. In a world where the media reports and then fact checks later it can get confusing as to what is right and what is wrong. Friends, don’t be deceived. We will give an account to God for every word that proceeds from our mouth. In a culture where truth isn’t valued it will be important to keep yourself clean of these types of infractions. Instead keep your peace. The accusations being thrown about are truly not your concern and don’t add a minute to your day.

My advice to my friend? Guard your pearls. Matthew 7:6

Because You Said Yes

I don’t typically write about you. It’s personal. My private world. Today I took a step out of myself and the day to day I get caught up in to catch a glimpse of you.

You asked, “Do you need anything?”

“No, honestly, I have every single thing I need.”

“That’s a blessed life.”

“It is.”

Then I noticed us. We laugh a lot. We laughed so much today that at one point, I couldn’t breathe or walk.

We have easy conversations. I don’t have to work to have things to say. We flow. 

We also hold hands. A lot. And smile at each other. A lot. Exchange glances a lot. 

I shouted, “WHAT IN THE WORLD DID I DO TO DESERVE YOU?”

“You were born on this planet. Then you were smart enough to say ‘yes, I will’. Because you said yes, the rest is just us.”

Sometimes you say things I’ll remember forever. 

The kicker? You made my day when you said, “I love these days.”

Me too. More than you know.

 

Leadership Lessons From Lulu The Wonder Dog

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When Baron arrived as a puppy to our home he happily bounded throughout the house. We began the daunting task of training him to sit, to stay, to walk on a leash, to use the doggy door and not the floor, to chew on his toys and not on the furniture.

Lulu The Wonder Dog was 10 years old at the time and she began the task of training him to be her assistant in the house. She corrected him when he came near her bowl. She corrected him when he pounced on her when she was taking a nap. She corrected him when he crawled on her bed without her permission. He learned quickly the boundaries of what would be acceptable and what wouldn’t.

The difference in these two breeds was noticeable. Lulu is a Cattle Dog, she herds for a living. She likes her humans in the same room, she walks ahead of us, then circles back behind us to make sure we are rounded up and sticking together. I am the alpha of the herd so she follows me and knows exactly where I am at all times. She is serious about her job and if you want to play fetch she won’t stop you, she just insists you go and get the object.

Baron is a Golden Retriever. He fetches things, socks, underwear, water bottles, doves, ducks, and tennis balls. He isn’t as sophisticated as Lulu so he chases cats. He isn’t concerned with herding, instead he looks for puddles, pools, lakes, mud, all while carrying two to four balls in his mouth at once. He hunts, he runs, and he is happy go lucky. If Lulu is the administrator, Baron is the frat boy.

Day two of his being home he was herded into the bathroom where I was getting ready. Not his scene he decided to turn around and proceed out of the bedroom. Lulu ran ahead of him, stopped him at the bedroom door and once again she herded him into the bathroom. She then laid across the bathroom entrance so that Baron could see what the mission was. She followed this pattern for days as if to let him know that their job was to guard me.

John 7:16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.

She wasn’t concerned whether his breed herds or not. She had a mission and it was his job to help her complete that mission. She wasn’t concerned that his breed is smarter than hers, there was a mission and a way to complete that mission. She wasn’t concerned that he was younger and bigger than she was. You see, she understood delegation and empowering leaders.

She knew the mission was to empower leaders to implement the vision that she had been given for her family.

Baron would much rather do his own thing. He brings me a ball as I get out of the shower. I toss the ball but if it goes past the bathroom door, he stops and waits for me to leave the bathroom. Where is Lulu? Lulu who is now 12 years old, lays on her bed, inspecting what she expects, keeping on eye on her charge.

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Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

I think of Lulu often when I’m at work. I don’t always like doing the jobs I have been tasked with but I have been empowered to implement the mission and I do so to the best of my ability, faithfully, no complaints, well some complaints, because it was what I was given to do.

How do you empower leaders in your line of work? How do you use your skills and talents to implement the vision of what you are putting your hands to do? I hope it’s with character and integrity.

 

Prayer For My Journey

1AC6FDBB-D623-4637-8A03-5AA9C70494EDI still look for your input and find it missing. I absentmindedly go to Facebook looking for your comments or look for our last text and email to see what you have to say about something. After years of your advice where does one go to hear wisdom from a godly sage?

Peers? No, my peers are on the same journey I am on. Maybe different circumstances but they aren’t looking back to advise their younger self as you were with me.

I remember the last time we spoke you said God had spoken and he was taking you on a new journey. You were so happy to hear and waiting in anticipating of what it might be. You said, “Oh Honey, at my age to be doing a new thing is exciting and scary all at once.” What we didn’t know was that the new thing was going to be your greatest calling.

A heart attack the very next week and the words that I didn’t want to hear, “Nothing more we can do.” But you rejoiced. Your voice was breathy and strong as you said, “Oh Honey, I so love you but don’t pray for my healing. Pray for my journey that I not tarry here. I am excited to see Jesus face to face.” Then in your sarcastic way, which maybe would have scared me if you hadn’t have said it but you said, “I have friends coming out of the woodwork wanting to pray for my healing. I don’t want them to pray for my healing, I want them to pray for my journey. Honey, tell them not to pray for my healing.”

So when Pastor Ida called to find out the details, I spoke up as you have taught, “She is ready to go. She asked that we not pray for her healing but for her journey.” Pastor Ida comforted me as only she can. She was a dear, dear friend to you and has been wonderful to me.

The last call when you assured me that they were treating you well and spoiling you rotten and that you loved me didn’t go unnoticed. You wanted us to know how much you loved us and you didn’t want us to worry.

Even in your passing from this temporal life to your eternal home you taught me to stand strong on my faith. You never ceased being a mentor in this Jesus life we live.

To always follow Jesus.

To put your fears aside.

To carry on because an unimaginable hope awaits.

To pray for our journey.

One step at a time.

So today if you are reading this, my spiritual mother, Doris Avila has gone on to be with Jesus. Never one to be shy about her faith she taught me to stand strong. Over and over again she offered advice, counseled, prayed, gave words of knowledge, heard my heart, told me when I was wrong, and loved me through it all.

If you don’t have a mentor, I urge you to get one. Then I urge you to listen. My very first visit to her home she corrected me. “We say Grace in this home before we put food in our mouth.” I was embarrassed at my misstep. I apologized and got on with the meal because as I was to find out, she was an excellent cook. To think, I would have lost all of that precious advice had I walked away offended. Instead I stayed and listened and gleaned. Find that one, my friend. She will make your journey one of blessing. As you read this, pray for my journey as I walk it out without one who always had a listening ear. That voice for me is gone in the physical realm but her words still ring strong in my heart. May it be so for you.

 

Manipulation

Manipulation is the skillful handling, controlling or using of something or someone. Whether it’s the sculpture you made in art class or how you convinced your friend to do your homework — both are considered manipulation.

 

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This week after having a way over the top reaction to manipulation, I kept this question in front of me:

“Why does manipulation make you so angry?”

Knowing that anger generally masks a primary emotion I examined myself. This morning as I was going through my chores doing the laundry and I realized that manipulation feeds on an unresolved need or desire. It is predator characteristic and it preys on the ones who are non-confrontational, or people pleasers. The moment I see it I get out of its way because I know its damage first hand.

Do we recognize it? 

When manipulation knocks on your door do you see it, smell it, hear it? Or do you cower to it? No one can manipulate you without your consent. So how does manipulation work? Have you ever had someone come and say these things to you?

“I’ll just go away. Obviously, I’m too much of a bother. I have done a lot for you but you have your own life now, and you’ll never have to hear from me again!”

These people get the academy award for emotional manipulation because they are a master of their craft.  You have to either confirm their statement or backtrack. When push comes to shove most people backtrack.

“No matter how much I try to get ahead, something always knocks me down and I know people are tired of helping me, but they don’t understand that life has been hard since (and you can fill in the blank of what tragedy has fallen upon them)”

Be it a death of loved one, an unfulfilled marriage, a loss of job, or whatever else they deem the stopping point of their life, it is now somehow on you to fix it. Social media makes this manipulation tactic extremely helpful as they will post their latest dilemma and then a shout out to their loss.

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“I know I said that, did that, but you don’t know what was said to me, and I don’t want to burden you with it. Never mind, I’ll take the fall for what you consider bad behavior. I always do.” 

Victim thinking and the hint of a bigger picture can keep us in manipulation’s hand.

“You’re not going to help me? Don’t you go to church? Do you think that’s the way a Christian should behave? Aren’t you being judgmental?” 

This is one I have heard a lot. As if a spiritual walks makes it necessary to give up your common sense.

“I know this puts you in a bad position but I think if you do this God will honor you for it.” 

Do you hear this person? They are actually telling you they are putting you in harm’s way and hoping God intervenes on your behalf.

“My tribe always shows up when I need them. We always have each others back and we love deep.” 

Basically, if you want to be one of us you have to conform to how we do things. We move together and if you have an opposing view or decide not to follow then you’re out of the tribe.

“You’re tired? I’m exhausted. You have no idea what I go through.”

This either puts you in defense mode or makes you feel petty for having an emotion. This too is emotional manipulation.

“<sigh> I have been putting so many hours into helping you. I don’t understand why we have to do all of this. <groan> I wish I would have known what I was getting myself into. <ha!> I am not complaining, of course I want to help you silly, don’t be so sensitive!” 

This person is the martyr. They work so hard and so tirelessly and you don’t acknowledge what they do for you. Then they make you feel like you’re insane for asking if they don’t want to do it.

So why does it make me angry? I realized this week that when I question the insanity of a manipulative person out loud that I feel shame. I should be a kind, compassionate, a willing to help person. Instead I feel hurt, resentful, and frustrated at what they are doing to others. These aren’t emotions that are becoming to anyone, and I don’t like to see these emotions in myself.

What can I do to get healthy in this arena? I can be mindful of the true needs of others in my life. I can ask myself if the person is truly experiencing a need or are they merely trying to make their problem my problem? Will this be a one-time help or is this a pattern of ongoing mismanagement of life? Are they making others responsible for their poor lifestyle choices and if so is it any of my business and I would have to say no. I want to shout, “You’re being manipulated!”, but what does that solve?

Today I realized my anger came from my assumption that if I don’t speak out then I’m an awful person. When I sat down and truly examined my feelings, I realized wisdom and discernment and saying no is not bad. I am mindful of what I help with and I am not one to nurse dysfunction and I think that is a good trait.

What about you? Do you fall for manipulation or do you recognize it? When you know you are being manipulated do you get resentful or do you just say yes to keep the peace and continue to keep the feeling of being adored? What are you going to do to get healthy?

 

 

 

 

 

A Special Gift

As pastors we are handing down our first grandson a treasure of tradition. When he comes to church with us he learns to praise and lift up hands to his Heavenly Father. Papa and Nana in their cowboy boots at the altar and Cameron nearby.

While at Christine Caine’s Propel Conference I heard Lisa Harper explain that the greatest inheritance she received was her father’s bible. In it were notes, highlights and underscores, and old bulletins.

I was reminded of that story at the birth of my first grandson, Cameron. So last year, I purchased a journaling coloring bible.

I began to write sermon notes and special things I want him to read one day. Titles of his Papa’s sermons and little funny things that happen. I was careful not to color on any of the pages but instead leave those pages for him to color as he visits and goes to church with Nana and Papa. At 19 months old he is so attached to his Papa that when he sees him walk to the pulpit to deliver his message Cameron wants to follow him. Will he remember the words spoken? Will he remember the heart in which we serve the Lord?

We are in a post church age and a digital age at that. I admittedly use my bible app more than I do my actual bible, but as Lisa Harper pointed out, there is a great gift in reading what was important in a moment to a previous generation. Maybe it will spark an interest in a renewed look at faith to one who considered Christianity to be a thing of past. As an old pastor told me once, “I don’t know what the future holds but I know it is marvelous.”

As we watch Cameron intensely watch his Papa preach his sermon on Sunday we don’t know the impact. We bought him a toddler microphone and thought we would have to explain what to do with it. Not at all! Instead he began to make noises as he reached for the microphone stand.

Consider getting an old fashioned hands on bible and begin to write out notes and meaningful scriptures to leave for the next generation. You don’t know the lives that will be touched and the hearts that will remember what you loved about your walk with Jesus.

The Strong Women Beside Me

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Today we lay to rest a mighty woman of God. Terri Rivas, on the left in this picture, came to our TLC4Women bible study years ago. A quiet woman with a bible and pen in her hand, she had been invited by a pillar in our group her best friend Bernie, on the right above. Both women had been friends with each other for over 50 years. They each attended different churches but they each loved to study the word. Bernie is a solid, grounded, woman of the word and so I knew her friend would be as well. What does it say that two women are friends for 50 years? In a time when we are offended so easily and friendships tend to come and go, this was something to be admired.

It didn’t take long for me to find out that Terri was not quiet at all. She had a quick wit and would make all of us laugh with that smirk-y smile she would get right before she made a comment.  She celebrated all of our successes and she told about her escapades with Bernie. Bernie and Terri wouldn’t sit together in study because Terri would say she was afraid Bernie would get her into trouble.

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I discovered that I could go to Terri for anything and she would pray. She wasn’t about gossip and she wasn’t about drama but she could pray. I saw why she and Bernie were such great friends. Two women who stood strong on the word of God and were mentors to each of us in the group. When Terri decided to move her membership to our church, she came with a notepad, scriptures, and a word from the Lord, BUT she wanted to talk to us first to make sure that we knew she would not to be any trouble. She taught me about honor and hearing from the Lord.  She wasn’t going to walk on what she thought was the right thing to do she weighed it out, got counsel, and waited on God.

When she decided to retire from the hospital we talked about it and it turned out she didn’t have to retire she could work from home. She was thrilled to do that but again, wanted us to pray to make sure it was the right thing to do.

When Terri developed Parkinson’s she came to me with a quake in her voice and announced the news. I could tell it had shaken her and I had never seen her scared before, she had faith for so many others, in that moment I needed her to have that same faith for herself. I reminded her that the Great Physician had the final say and we prayed together. I honestly didn’t think I would lose her. I thought she would battle on. She had been through a lot in her life and I thought this would be another victory story. When she determined that she could no longer trust her driving at night she told me bible study would be out. I told her to let Bernie bring her. She instantly replied, “Have you ever been in a car with Bernie? Pastor Susan I want to live.” I answered, “Well, at least you’d go together right?” She laughed and said, “Bernie would probably survive.” But laughter or not, scared or not, there would Terri be, walking in the door of bible study with Bernie.

Terri, I love you, I will miss you. The impact you have made on my life cannot be measured. I was graced by your friendship. I was graced by your love of my children and my grandson. And even though I mourn the loss of you here on earth, you won the victory. I know that you made it home safely. That all of the promises of God are true and that we will one day be together again. I’m sure you are talking to loved ones and strangers and everyone you meet. You’re making people laugh, and you’re awaiting the time when we’re all joined together again.

Proverbs 31:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

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