Live Peaceably, if Possible

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There is nothing worse than knowing I have offended someone.  I would much rather be the “offendEE” than the “offendER”!

I like it that this verse says “If possible…”  It is not always possible to mend fences with an offended brother or sister, but “so far as it depends on me,” I want to do all I can to make that happen.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this dilemma.  No two cases are alike.  But here are some general suggestions that may help in certain situations.

If we know an offense has occurred, we can purpose to put on our “big girl panties” and break the ice of unforgiveness.

We’re talking about serious stuff here because we know that a root of bitterness can cause much trouble (Hebrews 12:15); and one of the things God says he “hates” is one who sows discord (no doubt because He knows the harm it can do in relationships within families, churches, and other associations).

The Bible says that a brother offended is harder to win than a strong city. And contentions are like the bars of a castle (Proverbs 18:19).

Even with that bleak prognosis, it is possible to mend fences in many cases.

It starts with a word — a character trait — that we all like to think we have, but, when put to the test, our actions often prove otherwise:

It starts with humility.

One of the strongest urges we all have as human beings is to vindicate ourselves, either outwardly or inwardly.  St. Augustine cried out to God, “O Lord!  Deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself!”

Oswald Chambers says, “Such a need for constant vindication destroys our soul’s faith in God. Don’t say, ‘I must explain myself,’ or, ‘I must get people to understand.'”

How about this:

Let’s seek first to understand, and then to be understood!

And, even after that, we may not completely understand the other person’s point of view … but we can at least accept the fact that it is his or her point of view (skewed though it may be [at least in our opinion]).

This is a good time to use our best listening skills and best non-threatening voice inflection.  If we ask out right, “Did I offend you?,” most won’t admit that we have.

Instead, let’s consider gently saying, “Mary, I have noticed that you seem to be pulling away from me. Is everything okay between us?”

Then listen.  Listen to the bitter end!

And while we’re listening, we should fight the urge to interrupt and explain our side.  Listen with compassion; and, when the person is finished, validate his or her feelings.  After all, right or wrong, it is how that person feels.

Saying, “I am sorry you were offended” is a not an apology. It actually escalates the offense rather than deescalate it.  It is like telling the offended party, “You have issues. Get over it.”

Can we not resist the urge to defend ourselves?  Even if, in our opinion, we are at no fault whatsoever!  The offended party will NOT hear or process what we say until we verbally acknowledge his or her feelings.

Once we have deflected the potential firestorm, we might be able to (in certain situations) gently explain our perspective, but then follow up quickly and gently (there’s that word again) with, “But I can see how my words (or my abrasive approach, or my behavior, etc.) must have made you feel.  Will you please forgive me?”

The One who created us says to agree with your adversary quickly (Matthew 5:25).

Let’s not be afraid to take the blame (no matter how innocent we may think we are) if it will bring peace in the end.

If we are not forgiven instantly, be patient and gracious.  After all, God is certainly patient and gracious with us!

We can at least release our own guilt once we have sought forgiveness.

It’s not fun being the “offender.”  Not fun at all!  But even the most gentle-minded, peace-pursuing person can occasionally offend.

Sometimes the person on the other side of the offense has issues that cause him or her to be easily offended; but sometimes we just flat say or do the wrong thing.

But working to do so less often (and never intentionally) should be our goal.

If … you are snared by the words of your mouth … deliver yourself; for you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself; plead with your friend.  Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids.  Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler. ~from Proverbs 6.

It is inevitable that, at some point, we will offend someone.

But when we do, it is our responsibility to act with integrity and personal responsibility

and …

if possible, so far as it depends on us, seek to live peaceably with all.

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Beauty Beyond the Blustering Billows

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While sitting in my safe and sunny corner this morning with the Word of God and my “Be Still” coffee cup, I poured out my burdens before the Lord.

So many issues swirling around in my head — deep concerns, serious concerns for people I love!

Concerns that are completely out of my control!

Do you ever feel profusely powerless? What a great place to be!

I can’t tell you what God “did” do in answer to my pleas, but I can tell you what He “didn’t” do! 

He didn’t fix anything — at least not in that moment … BUT … He led me to Nahum 3:1:  “The Lord is in the whirlwind and the storm.”

Through His Word, He told me, “I am in the storm!”  He’s not up above somewhere in the wild blue yonder “watching” us be in the storm.  I will repeat.  He is in the storm with us!  How comforting is that???

Henry Beecher aptly stated, “Fear not the stormy tempest that is at this moment sweeping through your life. A blessing is in the storm, and there will be a rich fruitage in the ‘afterward.’”

Do we not appreciate the beauty of the landscape after a rainstorm passes through the valley? I surely do!

So why not just lean into it and trust Him to “have His way,” knowing that beauty lies beyond the tempest.

He didn’t say it would be easy, but He did say it would be possible (in Christ).

So let’s believe Him! Let’s just buck up, ride the storm, and remain faithful. What else can we do?

Let’s take a lesson from the eagle.  What does it do when it encounters a fierce storm? It takes advantage of it and actually uses the blustering billows to buoy itself up to higher heights! (That is one smart critter!!!)

And so … rest … for the Lord is indeed in your storm … and there is beauty beyond!

I’m taking that to the “bank” — my Bank of Hope — and I’m depositing it!

Right here. Right now!

And I’m hoping you will too!

Glory to His Name!

Amazing Love

 

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Upcoming Women’s Bible Study:

I would love to have you join us online if you are unable to attend in person! We have a FB group and an e-mail group where I will post recorded video snippets of the study, as well as an occasional PowerPoint and other study helps.  You may access these at your convenience.

Please private message me on FB (WarrenandMichele Snyder) or comment below if interested.  I hope to hear from you!  🙂

My Testimony – 40 Years Later

Desiring to celebrate my 40th anniversary of walking with Jesus, I revisited the place where I had first met Him.  I had planned to sit on the steps outside the church and talk to Him, but serendipity awaited! The door to the building was OPEN and the muted resonance of friendly voices drew me inside.  Consequently (and Providentially), I was able to visit the exact spots where the Lord had convicted me about my sin, and where I had responded to His offer of forgiveness (all pictured below)! My friend Dala, who had witnessed my new birth 40 years prior, just so “happened” to be there at a women’s Bible study the night of my impromptu visit, so she was able to celebrate with me (along with all the other women who were there).

Isn’t God GOOD!!!

Getting inside the church that birthday night (at precisely the same time I had been there 40 years earlier) was a gift from His hand!

But, as good as that was, it wasn’t as good as that FIRST Gift He gave over 2000 years ago — His only Son who died and bled on the Cross to buy my pardon! Glory to His Name!!!

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This marquee was not there 40 years ago, but this is the church where it happened.

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This was the view from my vantage point the night I responded to God’s invitation to trust in His Son.  My first pastor, Floyd McElveen, had been standing at the front presenting the Good News of Jesus (the Gospel), and the Holy Spirit had convicted my heart.  I remember sitting in that pew and raising my hand, acknowledging that I was a sinner in need of forgiveness.

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This was the exact pew in which I had been sitting when I acknowledged my need for a Savior, and this is my friend Dala who was there “that” night — the night of my salvation and the night I revisited the church 40 years later.  We had been a couple of young women with babes at our knees and our whole lives before us.  We have been friends ever since, walking this earthly journey together … and we will spend eternity together, dancing around God’s Throne, rejoicing in Him!

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This was the very spot where the most important conversation I’ve ever had took place (except I had a chair back then).

Fortunately, the pastor didn’t just have me raise my hand and then send me out the door.  Had he said, “Talk to somebody before you leave and tell them what you did,” I would have walked out the door, would have talked to no one, and would have never realized the significance of my decision that evening!  (I know this because I had taken this step multiple times in my past and still had had no clue of my inheritance!)

But this dear pastor was a shepherd!  He had pressed and required me to step up and identify myself.  With heart pounding and palms sweating, I found myself standing.  From there, I was invited to a room — the very spot where I am sitting in this photo — where he talked to me one-on-one.

Pastor Mac didn’t preach to me or talk “at” me.  He asked me questions.  He let me express myself to discern where I was coming from — and then he made sure I understood what had taken place by taking me through some of the basic salvation (and assurance of salvation) verses.  A week later, I was baptized, and then found myself sitting at a microphone in a radio studio, telling “the world” about my conversion!  Wow!  (It makes me chuckle to think of that!  How I wish I could hear a recording of that conversation today!)

Immediately after that night, I was taken through several weeks of discipleship classes where I received a thorough grounding in the basic tenets of the Christian faith. (I am thankful that it was done that way!)  God had also placed some wonderful believers in my life who helped me through those first wobbly baby steps.  Dried up old sponge that I was, I bombarded them with a myriad of questions about this new life and what the Bible said about it!  (Thank you Pastor Mac and Virginia [both with Jesus now], DeWayne and Georgie Wageman, Mickie and Bob Amen, Tom and Dala Walton, Bruce and Flo Walters [my beloved Flo is also now with the Lord], John and Bonnie Meyer, and Pat Barnes!)

Sometimes I wonder if we as followers of Jesus have become “careless” in presenting this Wonderful Gift that is available to our friends.  I fear that we’re not making salvation clear to people and that we are leading them into a state of “easy believism” and away from experiencing the power of God in their lives.

Salvation in Jesus is far more than parroting a prayer and then walking out the door and going back to life as usual. 

Salvation is not continuing in sin that grace may abound.  “God forbid!” as the Apostle Paul says.  True salvation results in fruit and in a growing desire to know Him and walk with Him.

May God help us to present the Good News accurately and thoroughly … to identify the need … to expect a visible response … and to take our responsibility to disciple new believers seriously.

Thank you to all those who followed the Matthew 28 mandate to disciple me … and thank you, Lord, for John 3:16, John 1:12, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:9-10, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5-6, 1 John 5:12-13, and so many others!

And thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying for me on the Cross of Calvary, and for taking the punishment that I deserved.  Thank you for preparing a home for me in heaven.  And thank you for giving me purpose as I finish the race on this planet.

And thank you for changing my life forever! ❤

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Marked by His Grace

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Here is Bekah’s reaction to the incident I wrote about last week.

We got home yesterday to the mess that we were in the middle of on Wednesday. Charlie had cleaned up the blood and had the refrigerator back in place (and anchored), but aside from that, everything was just as messy as things get when you’re in the middle of life and have to leave abruptly. I swept Wednesday’s dirt off the floor, loaded Wednesday’s dishes into the dishwasher. I did everything else possible to avoid doing what I was in the middle of when the accident happened. I had been in the middle of changing over the kombucha when Hadi asked me if she could put the juice away. I said yes and kept going with my process. She said there wasn’t room, so I told her to go ahead and put it in the new fridge. Immediately, I saw a picture of the fridge falling over. So I put the kombucha down, and went and opened the door myself, all the way, making sure that it wouldn’t actually fall. When I saw that it was stable, I returned to my process, my back to my babies, and heard the crash.

So as I picked up where I left off in the process yesterday, I had to really question myself–“okay, was there any thought or picture that just came into my mind that I need to heed before continuing on in this busy-ness?” The night we had in the hospital, I was so tormented. Any time I was about to drift off to sleep, an image of the fridge falling and crushing both Hadi and Jonny came in my mind.

I prayed every time, Phil 4:8, asking God to show me what was true, honorable, etc… and fix my mind on that. And He was so fast to answer that with a picture of two angels–one catching the fridge on his back, absorbing most of the weight and blow that would’ve landed on Hadi, and another one that scooted Jonny out of the way. Her new left hand is going to be the most beautiful thing about her now–she is forever marked with the graciousness of God, His mighty, powerful, loving and saving hand.

Just two weeks ago, I was sideswiped on the interstate, and I came away from with with only a few dents and scratches to my car. No doubt God had angels there, too–but I’m able to forget about that, or even dismiss it, because I didn’t have to see just how close I actually came to real harm.

So, to answer my question– I probably will have more warnings in my heart that I’ll be willing to risk in the name of getting stuff done. I pray I let that voice get louder and my drive for “powering through” chills out, but even if it doesn’t, we are so cared for and protected by a loving God, who, in spite of our absolute ignorance, will keep us safe until our actual time has come. ❤️

Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed and called upon other people to pray for us. We are so well taken care of.

~Rebekah (Hadi’s mama)

Back to me now (the grandma):  Hadi saw her hand for the first time since the accident, as her fingers were being re-dressed today.  She looked at her fingers and mused aloud, “They aren’t that short.”  What a beautiful little spirit!  She is already magnifying the Lord and impacting lives through her experience.  Hadi is indeed “Marked by His Grace.”

Broken Places

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It started out as an ordinary day, running around, doing my ordinary errands in my ordinary way … but I knew there was “trouble” when I slipped into the car after one of my stops.  I had left my phone in the car and had picked it up to see if there were any missed calls.  To my chagrin, there were not just one or two missed calls, but there were seven!  And they were all from the same person — our daughter Alicia!

This did not look good.

With trembling hands and palpitating heart, I reluctantly hit the “call back” button.

My suspicions were correct.  There had been an accident.

A mother never EVER wants to receive one of those calls!

Alicia told me that Rebekah, our youngest daughter, was, at that moment, on her way to the hospital in an ambulance with her three-year-old daughter, Hadassah.  A refrigerator had fallen on her, completely severing two of her fingers from the first knuckle up.

As bad as that was, it was a small miracle.  Hadi’s baby brother had been crawling on the floor close to where the fridge had fallen.  It could have fallen on him which, most assuredly, would have killed him.

But it didn’t fall on him.

Like I said … a small miracle.

The full weight of that beastly appliance did, however, fall on little Hadi’s hand.

What does a woman do when, on an ordinary day, doing ordinary things, she receives extraordinarily devastating news like this?

First, she groans with every fiber of her being.  She resists the pain …

… then come the tears.

And then she realizes that the only thing to do, being 2000 miles away, is to fall at the Throne of Mercy and cry out.

But what does she cry?  I don’t remember.  She just cries

…from the depths of her soul

… groanings that cannot be uttered

… groanings not only for her grandchild, but for her child.

Being a grandma doubles the joys, but it also doubles the sorrows.

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It seems so senseless.  What possible “good” purpose could God have for allowing two digits to be severed from the hand of a sweet little girlshe wonders?

Her precocious little granddaughter had awakened that morning with a perfectly intact body, and it was now broken, never to be the same again.  How does a grandma wrap her head around that one?  It’s not easy.

It’s not easy at all.

Numb with shock, and (naturally) worried about my baby girl, Rebekah, who was dealing with her own pain, I knew I had two ways to respond.

1) Curse God because of this, or 2) Praise God in the midst of this (Job 2:9-10).

I opted for Choice #2, for shall we receive good at the hand of God and not receive evil?

I decided there is no tidy pattern for who gets pain and who doesn’t.

I decided that God allows pain into our lives because we are most near the broken heart of Christ when we slip into the “broken places” of life.

So what am I going to do about this?

It’s all about perspective.  It’s all about choosing to think on what is lovely.

Choosing to trust.

Choosing to believe that good will come of Hadi’s loss.

Choosing to believe that God will use her story for His glory and for her good.

Choosing to believe that all the days of Hadi’s life were written before there was yet one of them (Psalm 139:16), and that this event came as no surprise to the God who created her for a purpose.

So when we don’t know why sorrows come our way, all we can do is go with what we do know.  And we do know that God is good and that He loves us …

We do know that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 35).

Hadi has a strong little spirit, and I have no doubt she will rise above this.  She will one day step upon this platform of pain to proclaim and praise the wonderful Name of her God and Savior Jesus Christ.

She has incredible parents whose faith is set in stone, and in the words of Hadi’s mama, I will close:

“Will you rejoice with us in praising God for preventing what could have been?  As much as we’re grieving over it all, I’m thankful that I still have all four of these sweet babies living and breathing tonight.  Thank you Jesus!!!”

Gratefulness like that from a grief stricken mother can only come from a fully surrendered heart.  That’s my girl.

And that’s my God — the One I serve — and His praise will continually be on my lips no matter what … by His grace.

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For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. ~ Psalm 34:1

 

Lost ‘n’ Found

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Have you ever lost a valuable item?  What a sinking feeling!  Especially when it’s MIA for a long period of time!   I had been in search of a “treasure” for nearly three weeks, having prayed DOZENS of times that it would surface — to no avail!

I didn’t relish the thought of the small fortune it would cost me to replace it.

I don’t happen to have a small fortune lying around waiting to be spent!

Desperate to find it, I had stooped to the ultimate low by digging through stinky, smelly, slimy garbage cans! I had looked in every possible crack and crevice of the house.

Nada! GONE!!!

I don’t know why God doesn’t always answer the fervent prayers of an absent-minded, gray-haired woman!

Because it was “time sensitive,” I knew I would have to replace it if I hadn’t found it by “x” date.  The day arrived.  It was now necessary to take steps to replace it.

With much chagrin, I readied myself to head to town. I had prayed a few days prior, asking the Lord to, in His mercy, help me find it before I spent the money.

Because don’t we ALWAYS find things after we have spent the money on a new one???

No response. Nothing.  Chilling silence!

Disgruntled and cringing over the anticipated expense, and chiding myself for being so careless, I sat down in the living room to put on my shoes before heading out the door to make the dreaded purchase, setting my glass of water on the doily-covered coffee table in front of me.

But, LO!

It ROCKED unsteadily!

Something was beneath it!

I moved the glass to investigate.

You guessed it! My valued item had been there the whole time, camouflaged by the intricate designs of the doily! I must have passed that spot a hundred times in my frantic search over the previous few weeks!

Sometimes God waits until the midnight hour before He chooses to act, and I believe that’s what He wanted to teach me.

His ways are surely not our ways, are they!

Don’t you just love the way God speaks to our hearts through real-life situations — everyday circumstances that are analogous to deeper spiritual truths???

… and so I wait in glad expectation for other “unanswered” prayers that sit on my plate of petitions.

Be still, my heart, and rest … for He is never late!