Tag Archives: brokenness

Veiled hostility

Open conflict in the church is a very ugly thing.  No one wants to see followers of the Prince of Peace going at it tooth and nail.  It really leaves a negative taste in people’s mouths.

So does that mean we try to get along in God’s house?  Well, hopefully!  But it also means that sometimes we just hide or submerge our conflicts, we veil our hostility.  And that isn’t healthy either.

We have to face it, no group of people is going to be without conflict.  That’s a fact of life.  The issue we have as the church is whether we can agree and disagree in love.

This week we’re going to try to address what to do about dividing walls of hostility.  But before we do that we have to really take a deep look and ask ourselves, what are these dividing walls?

This week’s prayer:  Dear Lord, give us eyes to see the walls we make, so we  may work these walls to break!

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A sorry story

Anyone who has ever taken care of multiple children for any length of time has probably had this experience: one child hurts another. You bring them together and ask one to “Say sorry!” And if you have a good memory, you can probably remember the tone of that sorry. I have heard too many surly sorries!

You can’t get a sorry on demand. You can’t manufacture a sorry. You can’t manipulate a sorry. A sorry has to come from inside. Telling someone to “say sorry” might be good advice, but it often doesn’t get results. The real issue is what is in someone’s heart.

I think back over all the times I’ve tried to get people to say sorry. Maybe it was the wrong approach. Maybe what was more important was whether I was saying sorry. Was I modelling what I was trying to teach? Did I say sorry often enough? Did I mean it from my heart?

This Sunday we’re going to be looking at a broken family in the Bible, and using it as a springboard to think about the brokenness in our own lives. Why is it so hard to say sorry? Where is God in this picture?

This week’s prayer: God, give me an open heart, a clean heart, a heart that can see where a sorry is needed.

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Relationship problems?

Someone I know was going through a marriage breakdown, and she described a dream she had. “I dreamed there was broken glass everywhere; on the ground in every direction, and there was even broken glass inside my mouth.” The description of that dream has stayed with me. When relationships break down we feel shattered. The more intimate the relationship, the more shattered we feel.

The Bible has lots to say about relationship problems. A read through Genesis is a good lesson on “how not to treat people”. In the gospels the disciples didn’t always get along, and the book of Acts talks about tensions between the early leaders of the church.

Everyone has relationship problems. It’s impossible to get through life without them! Playground rivalries, sibling spats, highschool feuds, arguments with parents; all these early experiences set the stage for adult life. As grown-ups we constantly deal with misunderstandings, hurt feelings, betrayals, jealousies and abuse, whether from family members, friends, neighbours or co-workers.

Unfortunately, being a Christian doesn’t exempt us from troubles. The question we are going to look at on Sunday is, how is God present for us in the midst of these hard times? How does believing in God make a difference in how we respond? Think of one relationship problem you are currently facing. How does being a Christian make a difference in your game plan?

This week’s prayer:  Open my eyes to see this difficult relationship in a new light, the light you give. Help me to love in this difficult relationship with a new love, the love you give. Amen.

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Rain grace upon us

Forgiveness is the water on the horizon,

and we’re the pilgrims in the desert

who cannot possibly walk there.

Tied up tight,

revenge is a hot little bundle

we hug to our chest.

We are plagued with hurt;

the betrayal, the murder,

the verbal barbs, the abandonment

the lack of love, whatever.

We have been robbed

and god almighty it hurts.

Our pain is the one sure thing

and someone has to pay.

We drag ourselves on our way

burdened with what will not sustain us.

Anger warms the belly for a while,

righteous justice can fire the mind,

self-pity burns inside.

On this most barren of trails

grace falls like rain,

a deep benediction.

Even here, forgiveness can blossom

inexplicably,

like a delicate desert rose.

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The specialist in family drama

We all know Joseph, the guy with the coat and the big dreams. And we know about his brothers, the ones who hated their kid brother enough to throw him into a pit and then sell him as a slave to Egypt. They topped their violent act with lies and bloody fabric-ations.

It seems easy to see what went wrong in that story from Genesis 37. But as with so many stories in scripture, and in our lives, there is more to the story than meets the eye.

I invite you to come to church this Sunday with a story of your own in mind. Bring a story of a broken relationship; it doesn’t matter if that relationship has been healed or not. I can think of a number of broken relationships I’ve had, with friends or family members or ex-family members.

Part of being a Christian involves looking for God in the stories of our lives. Where is God working? Where are we turning away from God? God gives us eyes to see the grace in even the most painful of stories. Sometimes it takes a year or a decade or a lifetime to see clearly. Graceful stories are rarely simple stories, with one hero and one victim, one cause and one effect, one right and one wrong.

God can take the most messy family drama, with a cast of twelve brothers and one sister and one father and four mothers and a pharaoh, spread it over two countries and twenty years, throw in some hatred, deceit and vengeance…God can take even this story and find an ending which has some grace in it.

Maybe this Sunday we’ll find some of that in our own stories.

God, you’re a specialist in family dramas, in broken relationships of all kinds. Help us this week to be open to hearing old stories told in new ways.

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Chaos theory, Christmas and your family

Are you going to a family gathering this year? If you are, you can probably predict what is going to happen. After all, you’ve known some of those people your whole life. When we don’t like what happens, we can groan on our way to a reunion, “It’s the same people doing the same things….the same topics, the same type of jokes, the same relationships.”

And then something unpredicted happens. Your Uncle Jake, who is always argumentative and sarcastic, begins his annual tirade with, “The snow this morning was so beautiful, it actually brought tears to my eyes.” What happens next? Who knows! Or your sister Denise, who is habitually negative and critical of everyone’s children, shocks a frazzled mother by offering to read a cranky child a book, and ends up spending an hour playing one-on-one. What happens next? Who knows!

We can’t say exactly what made Uncle Jake or Denise veer off their regular trajectory. Maybe Uncle Jake’s neighbour had a heart attack last week, and Jake went to visit him in the hospital, and something the neighbour said about the snow stuck in Jake’s mind. This morning he looked out the window, and thought of his neighbour, and suddenly he saw the snow in a new way. Maybe Denise had a dream in the night about her grandmother and how she always made Denise feel loved. She had the vivid dream because she ate dill pickle chips before she went to bed. In any event, Denise may not even remember the dream in the morning but the child’s neediness hits her differently that day, and instead of a critical remark, she kneels down and looks into a little someone’s eyes.

The smallest tiniest things can change our patterns of behaviour. Uncle Jake and Denise, by doing something different may or may not change something in that family gathering…it’s hard to say what will happen. With so many people in one room, how will one small change affect the group? It seems impossible to predict, it’s chaotic. Who knows what will happen?

God has a theory. God can see how the smallest acts of love and kindness, as gentle as the breeze from a butterfly’s wings, can change the course of history in beautiful and maybe even predictable ways. One seven pound baby kicking away in his mother’s womb, waiting to be born. There are thousands, millions of babies born…but this one…this one….

God, open my eyes to see your love breaking out through the tiniest of cracks, in my family, in me. When I am with my family this Christmas, let me be the change I wish to see. You can take it from there.

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