Tuesday, November 27, 2007

TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS ISN'T EASY...it is a miracle! At least in the area this "old dog" is learning them. God has been working on me in the area of reconciliation and peacemaking in a concentrated way since last September when I attended the PCA Women's International Conference in Atlanta, GA. I had heard about Peacemakers through seminars at General Assembly (our annual denominational time for worship, business...for the ruling and teaching elders...and renewal...seminars for those in ministry...teaching and ruling elders and wives and any type of ministry that would flow out of their responsibilities. As time goes on there is a renewal of friendships with people we have known over the years in different locations. We love it and are always inspired.) ANYWAY, now that you are totally confused by my ramble:) back to my point.

At the Women's Conference, I attended one of Tara Barthel's seminars on reconciliation. I had read her blog some before that and may have even had her book on Peacemaking Women (that she wrote with Judy Dabler) but meeting and hearing her in person was a whole new ballgame...to say the least! It was like the difference between a gloomy day and a sunshiny day:) She was saying all the same things in person that she had said on her blog, but with this cute face, naturally curly hair, puckish smile and funny, lovable, open way about her that completely changed how it came across. (Now when I read her book or blog, I can see her smile and hear her laugh and the intensity level changes.) I was starting to "get" what she was talking about but in the way a person learning a new language is starting to understand parts of the conversation as they learn that language. It was slow going...very slow.

For once, I decided to give myself some time to "learn the language" instead of trying to learn it all at once, "fix" all my relationships that were uncomfortable and move on from there. The first step has been the hardest to learn..."Get the log out of your own eye". When I need to work through a problem with someone, I need to deal with that first! I now realize why. The first time I had to do that, I realized how much it forced me to put myself in the other person's shoes and see the problem from their viewpoint...and feel their hurt. When I sat and thought through things from that point of view rather than my usual "prosecuting attorney's" point of view, I was able to truly empathize with them and even hurt with them over the pain I had caused them.

In some situations, that is more difficult. Then I have to go even deeper to the very foundation of my salvation and remember the great price Christ paid for my sin...and how great that sin is. It is so easy to minimize my sin...as it is my "fault" in messed up relationships...but that usually happens when I compare myself with other people, not Christ. When I see my sin (which I have been seeing more clearly in our recent study of the ten commandments!) for what it is, it is a lot easier to put the failures of others toward me in proper perspective...and forgive them.

So to recap the year+, I have seen God changing this "old dog" for His glory. I have so far to go, but I have started some of the baby steps I have known I needed to take and have appointments for some other baby steps. In this year+, we have seen a Women's Ministry Council developed at our church that is working to develop a broader women's ministry here. We have been studying Peacemaking Women at our monthly meetings and trying to apply it to our lives. Right now, there is a peacemaking issue that we don't know the answer to, that we are praying about...for wisdom and direction...that affects all of us.

During this past year, we were privileged to have Tara speak to our ladies through a delightful providential blessing that brought her to our area despite a full speaking schedule. God used her to bless our ladies and many in the community. Last month, Ron and I had the chance to go to a Peacemaking Pastor's conference in St. Louis that was very helpful as well. The thing that hit me during that weekend was hearing Alfred Poirier and Ken Sande talk and seeing how they do not give up on people. They and their session keep after people who are sinning, with love and hope because they know that the gospel works! That was such an encouragement to me. I think that may be at the heart of why so many of our churches are hesitant to use church discipline. Of course, there is fear of how a person will react or that it will turn them away, but I'm not sure we REALLY believe the gospel "works". We don't really believe that it is the "power of God to salvation" (both now AND later!)

One challenge that Ken Sande threw out a few years ago at a Peacemaking Seminar at General Assembly is a scripture that I have not been able to get away from: "A new command I give you: Love one another....By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." It has nothing to do with keeping certain rules (or not doing certain things); whether we have an icthus fish on our car; what denomination/non-denominational church we attend; how we are baptized. The way Jesus said people will be able to tell that we are His disciples is whether we love each other. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of churches, that is not a word that describes us. Then we wonder why people aren't drawn to attend or be part of our group. There IS a reason. Non-christians are VERY observant in this area of life. This is why the church grew so rapidly in Peter and Paul's day and sadly, it has a lot to do with why it isn't growing so well in the US. Whether we are "old" or not, we need to change our ways. The most important advice I can give is, be sure this change happens from the inside first. It is a change that has been perculating on my mind for a long time. Attitudinal change comes slowly and often imperceptibly. I'm encouraged that it IS coming. When the external change comes in ways people see, the internal change has happened. There is nothing fake or contrived about it. Then when you are in the "talks" of reconciliation and the inside change has happened already, the apology will be real. You can't fake or rehearse those talks because they have to do with the relationship and you don't know what the other person will say or how they truly feel. Obviously, it is all a process and mistakes will be made all along the way. The important thing to do is make sure the changes being made are on the inside first and not just external decorating on a rotten, termite infested house.

To review, (because I need it) the foundation of all reconciliation is based on MY sinfulness compared to a holy God and the great mercy, grace and forgiveness He has shown me when I was in a hopeless position and totally unable to pay Him back. (NOT my goodness compared to this other person who is less good.) In light of my position with God, I can now forgive this person who will never be as indebted to me as I am to God because their debt to me is insignificant by comparison. Of course, I can forgive them even though it may cost me, I can forgive by God's grace. So that is what I am learning over this year+. The act of forgiving/reconciliation is WAY more internal than it is external and it has a lot more to do with my relationship with God than it does the other person...but it does involve them often too.


At 9:23 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martha, O! Martha--

What a sweet and funny (and humbly transparent) encourager you are!

I'm so glad to be in touch with you.

With love,

At 11:59 AM , Blogger martha said...

thanks t the encouragement is totally mutual. m

At 3:54 AM , Anonymous Dawn said...

I think you are always learning "new tricks". It's one of your best qualities :).


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