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Posts Tagged ‘conflict’

gloves

Preteen + preteen + peacemaker AKA tattletale + one year old = it’s spring but if we dare open our windows someone may call the law.  And I might need them to.

After much begging, pleading, and coercing from tomboy mom, I think my girls have finally chosen a sport they want to practice.  My girls – especially the older two – seem to have adopted a new way of life.  It is hard to describe, but if it had a name it might be called, “Four Girl Fight Club.”

Apparently they have come to believe that the only solution to their ridiculously difficult life is to fight with one another over everything.  Sometimes, the decibels are so high in this compound that it takes a conversation with a hard of hearing mom, a machine washing clothes, a screaming baby, a running lawn mower, a phone alarm ringing to remind me that today’s the last day to pay that bill before I have a 32 thousand dollar late fee, and the noise of a 25 year-old refrigerator to successfully ignore the bouts of unmitigated rage.

Oops.  Did I say ignore?  I mean avoid.  Er.  Um.  No.  I mean, I would never ignore or avoid my own children.  That’s ridiculous.  Clearly I’m busy with all the above mentioned, conveniently noisy tasks.  I would really prefer to be ringside.  Who doesn’t love a good fight, right?  That’s why, even being the free range parent that I am, I always make sure I rush in to see the good parts.  Anytime I am in the middle of 17 other things and I hear someone getting pummelled with pretend accusations, I run right in!

Yesterday was one of those days.

By the time I came to see what was the matter, one fighter was already crying and drawing an emo self-portrait complete with tears and monster sister hovering over her in the sketch, and the other was smugly smarting off about her rightness in the matter.

Now.  I always like to get the facts straight from both sides before I go trying to sub out for the referee, but, with all the commotion I didn’t hear that phone alarm and it just so happened that the ref’s paycheck was the bill I forgot to pay.  So, unfortunately, I had to jump right in quick before someone lost a tooth, or, in my case, their own flippin’ mind.

“What on the earth is going on in here, girls?!”

“Addie made an app and she made rules for the game she created but she isn’t following HER OWN RULES that SHE made!”

“That’s not true!  I made it so I am allowed to make the rules!!”

When I got down to the bottom of it all, it seems that my very technically inclined daughter made up a game and made a rule for her fellow gamers that she was not following herself.  This reality ignited the call to use every justice bone in my other daughter’s body.

“You can’t do that!!!  You can’t just change the rules for yourself!  You can’t just make other people follow them and not follow them yourself!”

“I made it!!!  I am the owner!  I can do whatever I want!”

“AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” said the referee.

“Ok.  Let’s see here.  You are both right – in a way.  Addie is right that if she created it, as the administrator she is ABLE to do things in whatever fashion she chooses.  If she sets it up with an exception for herself, she can because she owns and created the game.  However, as a matter of good business and fairness, Mia is right.  No one likes leaders who expect others to follow the rules that they made but do not follow the rules themselves.  That’s why everyone gets mad at the government.  They have the authority to make the rules and laws because we have entrusted it to them – given it to them – but they are so unjust that they apply them to everyone but themselves.  They also change the rules whenever it is personally advantageous.  That is called injustice.  We do not want to be unjust to others.

So, I understand why everyone is upset but, while both of you are right, you are also both wrong. Think about your other two sisters, girls.  Maylee is upset.  Sonny is screaming.  You are scaring them.  I understand why you both feel justified, but the truth is that neither of you are.  Look how you’re treating each other.  This is not acceptable.

Next time, listen to each other.  Stop yelling over top of one another to get your ideas heard by the person you clearly disagree with.  Talk about it.  Don’t get upset when someone challenges your decisions.  Instead, answer them.  Know why you’re doing something and be able to explain it clearly when asked.  If you are the one asking, don’t be condescending.  When you have a different perspective, respect for the authority goes a long way – especially if you are older than they are.  Lastly, never forget to consider others who hear your disagreements.  Namely – your sisters.  But the windows are open for goodness sake! Everything we do affects other people.  Remember that.

And in that four girl fight club, I believe the Lord truly showed up with wisdom like unto Solomon’s for me.  My own heart was revealed as fighter number five and my own foolishness was found out.  Like the mechanic always says, they only know what you teach ’em.  God did none other than prove Himself faithful once again.

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anger

“Who do these guys think they are?  They just want to tell us where to go and what to do.  How do they even know?  Obviously we are lost.  We are in a desert with no food.  We should have known better than to follow them.  We may been slaves but at least we had food before.  Good food, too.  Now, look!  We’re starving!  These incompetent jerks are trying to kill us!”

God’s people were not happy with God’s prophets – Moses and Aaron.  Underneath that, the truth is that God’s people were not happy with God.  They question God’s providence because they are hungry.  God is not threatened by their grumbling, angry faces.  The prophet is not threatened by their grumbling, angry faces.  Instead, to these grumbling, forgetful, ungrateful people, God gives a special blessing and the prophet gives special instructions.  They are, after all, His beloved children.

 In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.” ~Exodus 16:13-15

Food was provided by the immediate hand of God.  So peculiar and extraordinary the provision was, that the people actually called it, “Manna,” meaning “What is it?”

What is it?  What is the meaning of this food-rain?  Is it rain?  Is it dew?  It is food?  It is food!  We have never seen food quite like this.  Daily bread – nothing more, nothing less – is what God was willing to give them.  That is what God is offering today.

Is that good enough for you, kids?  A daily miracle tailor-made just for you is what I am offering.  Is that enough?  Will you stop complaining now?

 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.” ~Exodus 16:19-20

No, God.  That is not good enough.  We want extra food.  We don’t trust you.  We don’t trust your prophet.  Let us hide some in our pockets.  Let us store some in our tents.

  I told you, NO! Let no one leave any of it over till the morning!

Little wonder why the prophet was angry!  No matter how great the sign, these people refused to trust; to obey; to rest; to listen.

God just keeps on giving, though.  And the prophet just keeps on speaking.  The prophet just keeps on doing what they would not – listening, trusting, resting, and obeying, God.

The children of God were angry.  The prophet of God was angry.  The former were being unbelievably selfish.  The latter was being amazingly obedient.  God was being God.

Is that OK?  Is that good enough for you, kids?  Can God just be God and people just be people and prophets just be prophets?  Will you stop complaining now?

No, God.  That’s not good enough.  We want extra food.  We don’t trust you.  We don’t trust your prophets.  We don’t trust your providence.  Let us hide some in our pockets.  Let us store some in our tents.

I told you, NO!  I am God and you are not.  Listen to me.  Obey me.  Trust me.  Eat.  Rest.  If you don’t, your ‘extra food’ is going to rot anyway.  Self-sufficient psuedo-control is the most vain thing you can ever attempt.  Let ME be God.  Trust my prophet.  Do not worry.  I have you in my hand.

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police

“Others first.”

“Listen, don’t talk.”

“Did you obey?”

“Don’t hit!”

These are my very famous one-liners.  Officer Mom always gets the last word when it comes to conflict between four sisters. I feel like I say these things so repeatedly that maybe they do not mean what I think they mean.

Funny, I wanted to be a police officer at one point. God said, “No.”  Could this be him fulfilling the desires of my heart?  Maybe he is just showing me why it wasn’t what I really wanted!

When the children were young, I always tried to keep it simple.  Now that three of my four are getting a little older, I find that my one-liner toddler tips are still my go-to’s.

I don’t mean to insult my kids’ intelligence.  The truth is that conflict has nothing to do with intelligence.  It has to do with the heart.  And the heart, my friends, is a hard nut to crack.  Not complicating interpersonal conflict within our family often means that we must deal with the heart in very direct ways much more often than we must deal with the details of how those hearts got there.  My goal is always to convey a clear, concise message that gets to the very heart of whatever sibling issue we are facing.  Therefore, these short responses to conflict are meant to make my daughters think about their own heart and help them understand where the root problem really is.

When one won’t share and the other is indignant, “Others first” addresses both hearts.  When one talks over another, interrupts, or disregards what the other is saying in order to share what seems far more important to them, “Listen, don’t talk” is a good place to start to check motives.  When there are excuses flying like 747’s through my living room, “Did you obey?” answers them all.  When emotions are high and smooth sounding justification is brewing on all sides, “Don’t hit” is the best I can do to keep the peace.

Interestingly, it usually is not the one who is most “wrong” in the conflict who gets punished.  It is the one who resorts to unchecked selfishness, uncontrolled rage, or unrepentant attitudes that gets the most severe discipline. It becomes less about what happened and more about what is happening…because what is happening tells me a lot about what happened. 

There are reasons I choose to correct my children in this way.  Everyone knows that facts are important any time there is conflict.  The question is not, “Are the facts important?” rather, “Which facts are most important?”  When I allow myself to get drawn into all the, “She did this” and “She did that’s” I get lost somewhere in the loop and we all lose.  No matter which role I end up choosing – be it judge, jury, executioner, or all three – I have found that, in the day to day conflicts, none get to the heart like concise, heart-checking correction.  Keeping correction simple moves the mountains Officer Mom cannot move by force, fear-mongering, or even consequence-facing.

These mountains have names.  We have Mt. Envy, Mt. Me-First, Mt. Mad, Mt. Lazy, Mt. Self-Righteous, Mt. Careless, and Mt. Clueless, just to name a few.  Each one erupts at its leisure, and sometimes, several at once!  I find that addressing where the lava is spewing from is best accomplished with concise, direct correction.  When it is my mountain, it is best accomplished with concise, direct confession.

This is how Officer Mom avoids taking sides.  It is how Officer Mom avoids spending the entire day listening to the play by play including everything from My Little Pony’s poor pet grooming epidsode to Barbie’s bad beach day.  Usually, my one-liners get us back where we need to be without needing the bound to breed more boo-boos backstory.

Unfortunately, there are times when we do have to deal with that backstory.  Those are what I call big bads.  If we are dealing with a big bad, we cannot use the day to day wake-up shots.  Every detail and dirty diaper is something with which Officer Mom must deal.  Everything becomes evidence in the desperate case against our very not-nice villan – sin.  Big bads require big backstory.  Fortunately, we only have those things come up very scarcely, and often it it because Officer Mom has dropped the ball on discipline for several days in a row, but it is tremendously important to recognize a big bad as being just that – big.

So here’s hoping my famous last words help you deal with whatever dirty diapers you have to change today.  Signing off as I get ready to make the donuts and patrol from my grocery-getting SUV.  Remember, others first.  Listen, don’t talk.  Did you obey?  Don’t hit!  May the Lord remind you that blessing is held for the peacemakers.  We, too are children – children of God, that is.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. ~Matthew 5:9

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unity

As a mom of three girls, it is a rare day when no sibling unrest occurs.  Despite the conflicts, usually they play without needing my assistance for some time.  They often figure out how to reconcile their differences alone.  Yesterday, however, was not one of those days.

Somewhere between dragging them to the phlebotomist with me and grabbing school supplies, two girls were fighting.  One was being selfish, the other self-righteous.  One was crying, one pouting.  It occurred to me after much repeated correction (this went on for some time)  that once the issue was over and the cosmic balance of our home had been restored, I had not made it a point to sit down with either of them and just talk about what had happened.  Between the busyness of the day and the struggle to call an effective cease-fire, by the time it was over I think we all just wanted to forget about it.

I feel like I forgot to be a parent.  Comfort and convenience have a way of producing selective memory.  Maybe we will revisit World War 3 today…

Anyway, Paul does not seem to have this problem with churches.  Paul never forgets to parent God’s church.  First, he instructs and corrects.  Correction is almost always followed up by exhortation.

In the closing of Colossians, Paul’s final address stresses the importance of inclusion and unity.  He mentions ten specific people, including himself, as well as an entire church body.  He urges the people in the Colossian church to “welcome” and accept them.  Consider his words.

“Tychius...is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.  I have sent him

Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner…

Mark, the cousin of Barnabus…welcome him…

Jesus who is called Justus.  These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God and they have been a comfort to me…

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Jesus Christ…for I bear him witness...

Luke the beloved physician greets you as does Demas…

Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house

…I, Paul…remember my chains.”

Why does Paul name these people?  What is the point?

Doubtless, this is a father managing his children.  He is saying, “Hey guys, I’m not there but here comes your brothers and sisters.  Here’s how they’ve served me, you, and the Lord faithfully.  These people are part of God’s kingdom.  Welcome them.  Accept them.  Treat them as your own.  Consider their sacrifices for the gospel and include them as your own when they come to you.  It couldn’t be more clear what Paul is saying here.

Why would Paul close his letter this way?  What reason would he have to tell them these things and name these individuals?

Paul spent his efforts on this letter making sure the Colossians knew who not to listen to.  Perhaps he does not want them to get conveniently confused.

Tychius was a fellow minister.  Onesimus had been a poor slave who’d been converted from a particularly wicked lifestyle.  Mark had been at odds with Paul previously.  Epaphrus prayed fervently for these people.  Jesus, now called Justus had changed his very name out of respect for the Redeemer.  Luke was a doctor.  Nympha was a woman who held church in her home.  Archippus was of the of the ministers in Colosse with them.  Paul himself was a prisoner for the gospel and an overseer of the churches.

Surely the temptation was to exclude certain types of people from the church.  Little wonder why Paul does this end of letter name dropping.  These mentioned are very different types of people.  There is no doubt Paul mentions them by name so that the Colossians make no mistake.

These are your people, church.  These – the pastors as well as the paupers.  Those from the wrong side of the tracks just the same as the doctors.  The women as well as the men.  The ones who have had differences with me and you as well as the chum buddies who’ve been serving alongside you.

Welcome them.  They are all beloved.  They are all your brothers.  They are all faithful.  They are all of you.  Greet them.  Hear them.  Include them.  Welcome them.

Remember me.

~Love, Dad

“The meanest circumstance of life, and the greatest wickedness of former life, make no difference in the spiritual relation among sincere Christians: they partake of the same privileges, and are entitled to the same regards.”  ~Matthew Henry

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Image

I survived my first week of training.  I lost a few pounds and gained a few insights.  I have to admit, throwing punches at a real person takes some getting used to.  It’s one thing when you’ve got beef.  It’s another when you’ve got nothing but appreciation, admiration, and respect.  It is not natural.  It’s hard to get in the right frame of mind.  You have to focus on something other than that human being.  You have to focus on your mission; your position; your goal.  

“Frankie liked to say that boxing was an unnatural act, that everything in boxing is backwards. Sometimes best way to deliver punches is step back. But step back too far, you ain’t fighting at all.” ~Eddie Scrap On Dupris in Million Dollar Baby

You know what is even more unnatural?  Being jabbed at.  How about being jabbed at by a dude twice your size, ten times your strength; skill; speed; knowledge; precision and who possesses all the skill and experience you have not even begun to learn yet.  

“I wanna run away from you, Coach!  I’m scared!  You’re stalking me down!  I got nothin’!”

“You do not run!  Never run.  You wanna fight?  Fight!  You wanna run?  Get out on the road.  You might as well give it up.”

For a wanna-be fighter who has an extremely poor defense and only knows how to play offense when when the opponent is a stationary, lifeless bag, I needed to hear that.  For a girl who has spent her entire life running – both literally and figuratively – Coach has something here that I desperately need to learn.  

Never run.  Fight.

I love to run.  Running is my favorite activity when I’m happy, sad, mad, or ready to implode.  Running gives me clarity.  It relieves stress.  It gives me peace and time to meet with my Maker; to pray; to decompress; to re-prioritize.  

Running does other things, too, though.  Running avoids.  Running ignores.  Running fails to deal with what’s still waiting at the finish line.  Running makes a kind of pseudo peace even though it knows there’s a stalker standing inside the ring who must eventually be dealt with.  It’s an extremely poor defense when you are confined to a ring surrounded by fire.

The Lord is using my very amateur attempts to learn how to box to teach me what to do when running is not the answer.  

Running may save me from pain in the moment sometimes, but it will never keep me from feeling the pain in proximity to the problem day in and day out.  I’m going to keep getting burned on those flaming ropes if I continue trying to run from the fight.  The truth is, I’m going to need some offense.  Poor defense is not sufficient to win the match of life.  

Our culture has all but lost its ability and desire to debate, discuss, dissect, and deal well with its opponents.  Instead, we run.  We hide in flaming corners getting burned by our own foolish defense.  We must fight for the truth by staying in it no matter how small of an underdog we seem to be.  

Running has its place, but so does fighting.  You will not fight if you keep running loosely lodged in you back pocket.  You will not run if you are a real fighter.    When you begin to realize that the shame of deserting is far worse than the pain of getting beat up, you cease to run and you learn to fight to the very end.  

I want to be a real fighter.  I want to be able to run without needing to.  I want to learn how to focus so fully on my mission; my goal; my God that it no longer matters how I feel about my opponent.  Whether I love, hate, fear, or have neutrality towards him, I want to be able to lay it down and strike at the heart of that fighter every single time.  Then, I will be of use to my manager.  Then I will not need to run no matter how badly I am beaten.  Then I will have the heart of a true fighter.  

“In the clearing stands a boxer 
And a fighter by his trade 
And he carries the reminders 
Of ev’ry glove that layed him down 
Or cut him till he cried out 
In his anger and his shame 
“I am leaving, I am leaving” 
But the fighter still remains. ~Simon and Garfunkel

 

 

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