Monthly Archives

October 2016

An Essential Ingredient In The Aftermath of Life’s Storms

October 11, 2016
After Hurricane Matthew pummeled the Atlantic coast near my home recently, I moved slowly through the stillness, surveying the damage. Debris streaked the yard and patio, tree limbs scattered over soft, muddy ground.  And across the property, a glint of silver tin against weathered red walls showcased damage to the barn roof.
All a reminder of impatient winds howling through the darkness as the storm moved north, leaving beach dwellers and those of us further inland without power.
In the absence of electricity, I recalled sounds of nature colliding with the silence of modern convenience the night before. No hum of an air conditioner to filter the rhythm of torrential rain. No whir of a ceiling fan or buzz of technology covering unfamiliar scrapes and bumps in the blustery night air while persistent wind and water took a toll on part of the Eastern Seaboard.
That morning, beneath low, gray clouds, I pondered the parallel between whirlwinds of nature and those of the heart.
With subtle shifts in pressure and temperature, the storms themselves come and go, but it is often the devastation left in their wake that can cause my faith to shake.
And maybe yours too.
Do you ever consider what compels us to take the next step when the aftermath of a storm hovers on the horizon?
In our small community, the dome of a nearby silo was ripped away with unpredictable gusts, carried by the wind and changing the landscape of a rural neighborhood I have loved for many years.
Though no longer functional, the broken silo particularly saddened me because it has served as a landmark for many sunset walks and the backdrop of countless photographs, blending palm tree fronds and evening sky. The special setting portrays a lifestyle I hold dear, the rare combination of country living and coastal charm.
In reality, the loss of something material pales in comparison to the storms that carve deep, hollow places in our souls. But to me, it illustrates the events of life that leave a trail of tears or lingering emotional devastation, those that change the landscape of life as we know it.
Winds of grief have an unsettling way about them, tilting our world in the face of loss, heartache or unpleasant news. We pick through the rubble, wondering if things will ever be the same again.
And maybe they won’t.
But as I ponder what it takes to move forward when the foundation of life is shaken, one word rises above all others, the essential ingredient you and I need in the aftermath of life’s storms. Not a sprinkle of fairy dust floating over the ragged edges of devastation, but a hard fought choice.
It is HOPE.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Psalms 46:1-3
Hope is the life giving force that propels us beyond what we see in the moment by absorbing the reality of God’s presence in slow, deliberate measures.
 Finding light on a troubled horizon will require us to cling to the truth of Psalms 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God.
The most important paradigm shift of all is to know that God is. And because He is, there is always hope.
Hope to rebuild broken dreams or a broken life.  Hope to believe a new landscape will rise when our current view is battered and torn, and that His light will bring forth beauty we can’t see right now.
Many years ago, during one of my own hard times, a friend gave me a framed quote with these words:
“Hope is putting faith to work when doubting would be easier.”
Even now, displayed on a shelf in my bedroom, it serves as a gentle reminder. The process of recovery is often slow, but with just a small seed of faith, new beginnings are possible.
Even when life is hard, what do you say we hold tight to hope? Let’s believe that God is and seek Him for answers and strength to move forward, step by step.
In His time, the dawn of a new day will come. Because He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
Though winds roar and seas rage, leaving destruction in their wake, the light of His presence endures ~ with power to pierce the shadows and cause the sun to shine again.

 

 

 

Featured Image Credit: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_stormchaser’>stormchaser / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

3 Steps To Better Conflict Resolution

October 4, 2016
Tension knots needling my back and neck, I sat very still, unprepared for the anger hitting my ear. Hands hovering over my computer, fingers poised to end the scathing rant with one touch of a button, I had a decision to make.
The peaceful silence of the phone line had been disrupted by an angry customer, one transferred inappropriately from other areas of the company for which I’m employed. Not just once or twice.
Six. Different. Times. And even worse, I would need to make another transfer, fueling the fire of his injustice.
Immediately on guard as I came under attack, defensive responses bounced around in the recesses of my mind.
After all, it really wasn’t my problem.
Or…was it? I hadn’t caused the tangled web of confusion, but could I help unravel the painful mess?
A long exhale escaped parted lips and my hands relaxed, decision made. Dodging the spray of verbal fireworks, I sat back and listened.
Maybe you’ve been there too? Faced with the unexpected wrath of an angry countenance turned your way? If so, you know it’s not a pleasant experience.
As the object of this man’s tirade, desires to protest and claim innocence in the debacle rose up inside. But would that ease the tension? Not likely.
Finally, the ammunition seemed to run dry and the line went silent once again.
“I’m very sorry sir,” I responded feebly, voice low, as not to ignite another spark. “I agree. That should not have happened, and you should not have had to go through that. Again, I’m very sorry.”
It was a humble offering, and I honestly didn’t think it would be enough.
Until I heard it.
The long, low sigh filtering through the other end of the line, signaling a possible end to the battle.
All fight drained from his voice and he replied simply, “Thank you, ma’am.” A slight pause, and a few more words came. “You can transfer me now.”
The brief, heated exchange stayed with me long after duties of the day resumed. Even now, I contemplate questions stirred by the interaction.
In conflict, what if solving the problem isn’t always as important as acknowledging the struggle on the other side?
And what if knowing someone cares means more than having the right answer?
To be clear, I’m not referring to abuse or acts of violence, but rather those unpleasant disagreements that bubble to the surface on the job or in our relationships through the journey of everyday life. The ones where it’s tempting to have the last word or prove our own point.
While there may not be an exact formula for every situation, scripture outlines principles that will bring about better resolutions when we apply them.
Listen Well
Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. James 1:19
To be honest, listening doesn’t always come easy for me, but I’m learning. At times, it’s necessary to give quiet consent for someone to vent frustration without jumping in too quickly to give my side of the story. In heated discussions, intentional silence may be the catalyst needed to alleviate the tension of struggle, even when it goes against the grain of everything we are feeling at the moment.
A Soft Answer
A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1
When we fuel a fire with more of the same, flames rise with little hope of burning out. But a gentle response may be the calm, cooling rain that deflects anger, initiating a turning point toward resolution.
Fresh Perspective
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves. Philippians 2:3 
It’s often too late to change what has already happened, but in viewing the battle from a fresh perspective, can we recognize the pain on the other side? Stepping over the line for a few moments to filter life through the lens of another person may stir compassion to reach across the aisle and ease their burden.
As I reflect on these words and see them in black and white on a computer screen, I know they are much easier to speak than to live. When the next conflict arises, will I put them into practice? I don’t know. But I want to. And I’m guessing you do too.
As we continue this journey of life, what do you say we take time to pause when challenges arise? And remember, that in the face of adversity, a slow response is often more valuable than a quick reaction.