• DANCE IN THE RAINLife is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain.- Vivian Greene

agree 2018+

 

A friend recently announced that she’d discovered the most powerful words to end relationship conflict.

I was admittedly skeptical. Each relationship is different, I reasoned. Each conflict has its unique characteristics. Besides, if there are universal words to end conflict they should be, “I’m sorry.” Or perhaps “I love you.” Or even, “I was wrong.” And those were not her words.

Nonetheless, I jotted her words down on a scrap of paper. I’d reread them from time to time when I was cleaning my office. Each time they felt strangely significant, though I didn’t know why. For months, the words kept coming back to me.

Finally, I tried them myself. In an actual conflict. The idea came to me unexpectedly, in the middle of arguing my point with someone.

And the results blew me away.

So I decided to make them my words for 2018. Each January, I choose a specific word or phrase to focus on for the entire year. A popular writer first gave me the idea to blog about it. In past years I have chosen words like encourage, pray, joyfully accept, savor, charitable and available.

Immediately, I knew these new words would be perfect for 2018.

What are these powerful words?

“I agree.”

I’m guessing most of you are underwhelmed. I was.

At first, I objected to my friend’s assertion because it seemed insincere to agree with someone just to keep a relationship intact. I don’t want to seem patronizing. Besides, sometimes disagreeing, even challenging someone, is the most loving thing to do. I don’t want to lie just to keep the peace. I already struggle with being a people pleaser, so pretending to agree with someone seems to play into my weakness and sin.

But as I thought more about it, I realized that when I’m in conflict with someone (usually a member of my family), I don’t WANT to agree with them. I want to pinpoint what I disagree with, not affirm what I think is correct.  I focus on their poor word choice. I get defensive at their accusations of “you never” or “you always.” I look for ammunition to mount my defense.

As part of my rebuttal, I start listing everything I can to support my case, ignoring any elements I agree with in their position. I question their motives while rationalizing my own.

In every conflict, I focus on what is wrong with the other person’s statements rather than agreeing with what is right.  

Yet inevitably, I have found there is always some truth in the arguments of others.

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  • January 5, 2018 - 12:29 pm

    Karen S. - I too would have written off your friend’s words because I hate being manipulated by people using modern arguing techniques (“you” statements rather than “I” statements, or whatever). They seem to put on a mask of polite correctness but it comes across to me as fake.

    However, a couple of days ago I was doing some research on James 3:17. I was looking up the words that describe the characteristics of the wisdom from above. One of them is “eupeithes” translated as reasonable,easy to be entreated,willing to yield,accommodating, etc.

    What caught my attention was the Helps Word Studies notes: EASY TO COME TO TERMS WITH BECAUSE ALREADY WILLING. So “I agree” if said with the heart attitude you describe (not a just as another tool for winning an argument) is exactly that.ReplyCancel

  • January 5, 2018 - 12:32 pm

    Vaneetha - Great perspective, Karen. Love this as a definition of “eupeithes” as part of wisdom :EASY TO COME TO TERMS WITH BECAUSE ALREADY WILLING. That’s exactly what i want to do. So I totally agree with you! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • January 8, 2018 - 11:48 pm

    Jennifer - Hi Vaneetha,
    Love your blog! Conflict is always an interesting area, it brings out either our fallen natures or to right an injustice we feel is being or has been committed either against a third party or ourselves…. & comes disguised in many various ways of the two.
    I have used “I agree” with a significant other in my life many times & yes it does work because it validates the other persons opinion or frustration (whether we think they are right or wrong) with the situation & that in itself is soothing!

    I invite you to drop by & join me in a cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, add a little treat of delightful deliciousness & linger awhile 🙂ReplyCancel

    • January 9, 2018 - 8:28 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for writing, Jennifer. Good to hear “I agree” has worked for you. I’m really looking forward to trying to find more common ground with people, especially my family members who bear the brunt of my disagreement!ReplyCancel

  • January 12, 2018 - 12:05 pm

    Maggie - This is such a really solid thought. The number one item it starts with is putting others before ourselves. Being focused on their need to communicate their idea, concern, position or perception. If we enter a conversation with – hey I am present and listening – then we usually can find something to agree upon in a conversation. Also, I have a bad habit of quickly coming up with thoughts while some one is still speaking. This really does require the focus on the other person and truly listening.
    I think if Christ were sitting next to some one in a conversation, He would listen and try to find a point of connection. So that makes it much easier to follow through – imagining Christ.ReplyCancel

    • January 12, 2018 - 2:32 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks so much for writing, Maggie. Love this idea: I think if Christ were sitting next to some one in a conversation, He would listen and try to find a point of connection. So that makes it much easier to follow through – imagining Christ.ReplyCancel

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God with us+

 

At Christmas I feel an ache and a wistfulness that I can hardly put into words. Others must feel it too, for amidst the cheerful choruses of “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls,” we hear the haunting strains of songs like “Mary Did You Know,” reminding us that what our hearts most need at Christmas will not be bought in stores or found wrapped under the tree.

I’ve been trying to unpack this longing, trying to figure out what is behind it. What do I really need at Christmas? I read these words from Matthew and my heart is stirred though I’m not sure why.

Matthew 1:23, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel (which means, God with us).

God with us.

The tears fall as the realization hits me. God is with us. God is with me.

That’s what I need to know. That’s what my heart is longing to experience. That’s the magnificent promise of Christmas. That God is with me.

Lately I’ve been struggling with post-polio syndrome, wondering what the future holds. How much longer will I be able to walk? Or write? Or even feed myself? Those questions have gripped me, and I have felt fear closing in. What will I do when my body fails?

As I reread the familiar passage, which refers to the prophecy of Isaiah centuries before Christ, I know this is God’s word for me. Emmanuel, God with us, is the answer to my fears.

God will be with me no matter what comes. I need not face anything without his strength. Or his power. Or his presence. As Psalm 23 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” I don’t need to fear the future because God will be with me.

God with us does indeed drive out fear. As Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God with us means God will strengthen us. God with us means God will help us. God with us means he will uphold us through every trial. And because nothing is impossible with God, God with us means that nothing will be impossible for us. View full post »

  • December 22, 2017 - 1:27 pm

    Trudy - Such beautiful, hope-filled reflections, Vaneetha. Thank you. This truth especially moves me – “Even greater than the incredible things that God does FOR us because he is with us, are the incredible things God does IN us when he is with us.” Also that nothing is too hard for Him. May you have a Hope-filled Christmas, filled with love and peace in Jesus! And may God give you strength for each day!ReplyCancel

    • December 22, 2017 - 4:36 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Trudy. I always appreciate your encouragement! Have a great Christmas.ReplyCancel

  • December 22, 2017 - 3:14 pm

    Mike R - So well expressed. God with us–the gaping chasm that was cut in the fabric of Eden has been healed. We perceive but a taste of it and we long deeply for the complete fulfillment. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

    Surely God places in us this longing…an incompleteness that we are aware of, if only at ti

    For me those times have been when I am suffering, be it of my body, or the constant and weary battle against my sin nature. Those of use who have been blessed with long physical trials know the bittersweet joy of the cry from Psalm 119, “It is good that I was afflicted.” How would I thirst for Christ if God has not made me thirsty? How would I yearn for heaven if he did not show me the pain and fallenness of this life?

    Vaneetha, thank you for your posts over this year. You have helped me walk with Christ in the presence of disease and disability. I wish you a blessed Christmas and pray that God indeed will be Immanuel to you through the next year–God with you.ReplyCancel

    • December 22, 2017 - 4:40 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks so much, Mike. Your comments always inspire me and I’m so grateful that the Lord has used my words to encourage you. Thank you for praying: “God indeed will be Immanuel to you through the next year–God with you.” That is definitely the most wonderful gift I think of.ReplyCancel

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depression christmas+

 

Depression can almost wither our joy. Especially over the holidays, when everyone seems cheerful and excited, enjoying time with friends and family.

Those who suffer with depression often endure silently, feeling shame and internal condemnation. For Christians, the struggle is often magnified by the assumption people are less spiritual if they can’t seem to “count it all joy.”

Terry Powell understands that struggle. His battle with depression began at a young age and continued through adolescence into adulthood. Terry has learned a lot through the years and offered to answer a few questions about depression and how he copes with it, particularly at this time of year. Here is my interview with Terry:

  1. What is depression like for you?

Depression for me takes one of two forms:  either a robotic, emotionally-numb state when I’m listless, less motivated, and have lost a zest for living, or the pendulum swings to the opposite extreme:  periods of heartache and extreme sensitivity, causing me to cry at the least provocation.  Current descriptors include hopelessness; negative self-talk consisting of severe criticism; wishing for death; and an overreaction to the normal stressors that all people face.

Yet these negative descriptions don’t always characterize me. Symptoms come and go, yet with God’s grace, I’ve maintained a fruitful teaching and writing ministry.

  1. What are the common misconceptions among Christians about depression and faith?

Some Christians still believe that recurring depression stems from anemic faith or a failure to pray or read the Bible. I believe some despondency may result from the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin or from not spending time with the Lord, but I’ve personally felt buoyant on days when I’ve neglected the Lord, and despondent on days when I experienced an unhurried, meaningful devotional time.

A Christian colleague familiar with research on depression says that over half those suffering from major depression have a genetic predisposition to it caused by a depletion of brain chemicals such as serotonin, which control mood.

Looking at the lives of spiritual giants like David Brainerd and Charles Spurgeon also keeps me from equating depression with weak faith.  Their outrageously fruitful lives coexisted with recurring bouts of despair and darkness of spirit.  In the Bible, David and Jeremiah both alternated between periods of zealous praise and laments over God’s perceived absence or forgetfulness.

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  • December 7, 2017 - 1:12 pm

    Jann Coffman - This article was helpful and insightful. I whole-heartedly agree with Mr Powell’s view that Christmas is an objective fact and not about our subjective feelings. He was born to die for our sins and His resurrection assures us that we now can walk with God in newness of life in any and all circumstances. Thank you for sharing this article. Have a blessed Christmas as we celebrate our Savior and Lord—God with us!!!ReplyCancel

  • December 7, 2017 - 5:12 pm

    Trudy - I can so identify with this. Thank you for being transparent, Terry. I know I have a genetic predisposition of depression, and it’s also a result of past abuse and dealing with chronic illness. It’s hard when Satan knows and preys on our vulnerabilities. But God is faithful. I’m so grateful He never lets us go. This statement really touched me – “His Word, which promises His presence, is far more reliable than my fickle feelings that question His presence.” So very true. Little by little, I’m learning to trust God’s faithful character instead of what I “feel.”Thank you, Terry and Vaneetha, for this encouragement. Blessings to you both!ReplyCancel

    • December 7, 2017 - 9:35 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for writing, Trudy. Thanks for the great reminder to trust God’s character rather than what we feel!ReplyCancel

  • December 8, 2017 - 1:14 pm

    Terry Powell - Hi Trudy, Vaneetha says I can address you directly since you addressed me. I deeply appreciate your words and am glad the Lord used the post. Hope you also visit my blog and see some recent articles there on depression & faith. Blessings to you and to your family. TerryReplyCancel

  • December 29, 2017 - 2:14 pm

    C Whitla - Thank you for this wonderful article. I found it very encouraging and honest. This honesty is so very much needed in the Christian body because we cannot fight what we are deceiving ourselves about. Like Terry, I have suffered bouts of depression since childhood (as has all of the adults in my Mother’s side of the family). I have read extensively about this subject (both worldly & scripturally). As I understand it, a person may be born with a genetic predisposition to depression. This genetic predisposition only expresses itself in actual clinical depression IF the person experiences severe and/or chronic stress in childhood. These stressors can come from illness and/or natural disasters and/or accidents and/or abuse. We do not have a choice about whether these genes are expressed or not BUT we do have a choice about how we manage the symptoms – either with God’s gracious help or by giving into them. Two things help me most, and I hope they help others…..my Pastor told me this quote…..

    “Feelings come and feelings go
    And feelings can be deceiving.
    My warrant is the Word of God
    Nought else is worth believing”

    I also try to remind myself that God is omnipotent, not me. That he is in control, of all things and has promised to love and help me if I trust in him, depend upon him, ask him for help, and believe in him. I will also be forgiven if I truly confess and repent of my sins/failures. God does not need us to achieve anything FOR him, but graciously permits us to be involved in his works, for his glory and our great reward.

    I am also GREATLY encouraged by some of the past brothers in Christ (Jeremiah, David, Elijah, Brainerd, Spurgeon, etc etc) and, most of all, by Christ himself who was called a “man of sorrows” and was “familiar with suffering”. The Bible rarely (if ever) mentions that Christ was happy. He came to do the very serious work of salvation, to glorify God and he wept at the state of his people’s sin. We also have a serious work to do in witnessing to his sufferings, the good news of the gospel, the glory of Christ, and to weep with those whose sin is blinding them to their creator God who loves them and gave himself for them.

    Christ focussed on “the glory set before him” so that he might endure the great suffering of the cross. We also ought to focus on the glory of the image of Christ for all eternity, and the crown of life, which awaits us when our tasks are complete – according to the sovereign will of God Almighty who strengthens us to do that will – and only that will. He will not strengthen us to do that which is not his will. Selah.

    I hope this helps a bit. Thank you and may God bless both yours and Terry’s work in 2018.
    CarolineReplyCancel

    • December 31, 2017 - 6:45 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Caroline, for sharing what the Lord has used to encourage you through depression. I too find strength in God’s Word, in recognizing God’s complete control and in reading about the suffering saints that have gone before us. Thanks for writing!ReplyCancel

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girl with gratitude+

 

Is Thanksgiving only for people who are living the life they’ve always wanted?

Apparently for some people it is; my friend’s Thanksgiving idea was a disaster. She had asked her children living around the country to group text the family with things they were thankful for. That way, they could share a virtual Thanksgiving together.

Everyone was strangely silent. After a few days, her son texted: “Mom, if my life were as good as yours, I could be thankful too. But I don’t have anything to be thankful for.” Her daughter echoed a similar sentiment.

My friend laughed as she related the story to me and said, “I guess that was an epic fail. Clearly no one in my family has anything to be thankful for!”

While my friend could, thankfully, find the humor in her experience, it made me think about gratitude. Gratitude is a deeply biblical concept. The Old Testament feasts were celebrations of God’s goodness and reminders to the Israelites to give thanks for all things. The Psalmists were continually thanking God, even amid trials. Paul frequently exhorts us to abound in thanksgiving. Throughout the Bible, gratitude is both encouraged and commended.

Not surprisingly, the secular world is now discovering the importance of gratitude. In his book Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Dr. Robert Emmons recounts studies that he conducted to see the effect of thankfulness on everyday life. In one study, he divided participants into three groups, and asked each to make weekly entries in a journal over 10 weeks. Individuals in the first group was asked to write down five things that happened that they were grateful for from the week before; the second group was asked to write down five hassles from the previous week; and the third group was asked to simply list five events from the prior week.

The gratitude group didn’t necessarily list major events or material blessings but mentioned things like seeing the sunset through the clouds or experiencing the generosity of friends. The hassles group mentioned things like paying taxes or coming home to a messy kitchen. The third group just listed things they had done.

The results of the study were shocking. Those in the gratitude group felt 25% happier than the other two, were more optimistic about the future, felt healthier and less stressed, and even slept better. Nothing in their lives had changed – they had simply found things to be grateful for. These results were sustained weeks and even months later.

Emmons discovered that gratitude, which he says is “wanting what we have,” can measurably change our lives.  

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  • November 23, 2017 - 1:06 pm

    Trudy - I love this, Vaneetha. The studies are so interesting, but your friend’s experience is sad. I’m learning to grieve what could have been but be grateful for what I do have. I’m a work-in-progress though. But God is so patient and gracious with me. 🙂 Thanksgiving blessings and hugs to you!ReplyCancel

    • November 24, 2017 - 3:28 pm

      Vaneetha - I thought the studies were interesting as well and I too was sad about that participant’s experience. So glad you can authentically grieve what could have been while being grateful for what you have. But attitude can help us be content in all circumstances. Thanks for writing, Trudy!ReplyCancel

  • November 24, 2017 - 11:18 am

    Cher Arment - Vaneetha, I am so thankful that I came across your blog and bought your book. I have tried to tell others about your book and even bought one for my friend, but some people want their way, not God’s way. I have suffered a lot in my life and continue to this day, but I can see every year that I am learning more about God and the changes He wants to make in me. I too lost our first little girl. She only lived for five days. I grieved for a few days, then I began thanking God for taking her and told Him that even though I did not understand, I would still accept his will and thank Him. I didn’t feel like doing this but I did it anyway. I had to pray that prayer many days, then finally, I was over the grief in a very short time. I have never looked back. I may never know why, but I trust God. He had a plan. Maybe it was just to show me how to live the Christian life. Trusting our Lord is paramount! Thank you for trusting the Lord all these years. It is not easy, but oh so rewarding! Love you, my friend. ~CherReplyCancel

    • November 24, 2017 - 3:29 pm

      Vaneetha - Trusting God is hard, but makes all the difference in life. So glad you have been able to do that, even through the storms you have been through. Thanks for writing, Cher.ReplyCancel

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