Dew on grass blades at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX (photo by my brother)

What my pants taught me about perspective

I cleaned house all weekend. Dusting. Sweeping. Moving furniture. Rearranging furniture. Cleaning and scrubbing and planning and organizing. With my parents moving back in with me at the farm, we decided we needed to do some major purging before reuniting our respective houses of furniture and assorted possessions.

I’ve emptied out closet after closet of old clothes that I don’t wear anymore. Some we just threw away because they were so torn up they wouldn’t have been any good to anyone. Others have gone into a donation stack, and others I think we’re saving for a garage sale.

But I’m pretty sure that my brand new pair of khaki pants from Old Navy ended up in the donation bag. Either that or I’ve hidden them so well I’ll never find them again.

Did I get upset? Well, not really. It’s pretty silly to get upset over a pair of khaki pants. But at the same time, those stupid things cost me a decent amount of money. And it’s not like I enjoy shopping. I go every two years if I have to. If I don’t have to, I push to every three years.

But people aren’t always rational or logical, and sometimes you just get upset about silly things. And it’s in those moments when you have to make a choice about how you’re going to see your situation. Is it a problem? Or is it an opportunity?

Dew on grass blades at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX (photo by my brother)

Dew on grass blades at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX (photo by my brother)

Today’s verses are Philippians 4:11-13.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength.

I really liked that pair of pants. They fit just right. They were just the right length. But is a pair of pants really worth getting upset about when you misplace them?

No.

Come on, it’s just a pair of pants. You can run down to the store and buy another pair. It was nobody’s fault. Sometimes things like this just happen, and we’re fortunate it was only with a pair of pants and not with something more valuable–or irreplaceable. Because I can pop down to Old Navy and buy another pair easily.

So I came face to face with a choice. I could be upset about it and try to pin blame, or I could let it go.

Guess what I chose to do?

Seriously, life is too busy to waste any time fretting about an easily replaceable pair of pants. Sure, the other pants I have aren’t the ones I really like, but I’ve got other pairs of pants. It’s not like I haven’t got other clothes.

The principle works the same in every other area of our lives. We flip out at the drop of a hat sometimes, and if we’d take a moment to think about it, we’d realize we’re freaking out over nothing. Or if it’s not nothing, we’re freaking out over something that can be replaced. Few things in life are irreplaceable, if we’re being honest about it. And it’s those things that we should focus on. It’s those things we should spend our time and effort in maintaining and obtaining.

Perspective. It’s a choice.

Freak out about bad stuff that happens, or look for the positive in it? Every bad situation has something positive in it. I promise you. You just have to look for it. And the more you look for the positive in every situation, the better you’ll be at spotting it. The better you get at focusing on what God is doing in your life, the less attention you’ll pay to the stuff that isn’t going the way you want it to.

I could get upset because I don’t have my new pair of khakis anymore. Or I could be glad because someone at a Goodwill in Wichita is going to get a really nice, barely worn pair of Old Navy khakis for a really excellent price.

What is your perspective? What are you focusing on today? What matters to you this week? Is it something that’s going to last, or is it a pair of khakis you can replace?

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Chicken yakisoba I made one day just because I could, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God will provide

What do you need? I’m not talking about what you want, because what we want and we need are rarely the same. But what do you need? Do you need a job? Do you need a car? Do you need food to eat? Do you need clothing to wear? I’m going to make the assumption that you are reading this blog post on your computer or your tablet or your phone, which probably means you have your immediate physical needs met at the moment. That is an assumption, and I never know where these crazy posts end up, so if I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

All of us have needs. Our needs vary greatly from person to person, and our needs today may be completely different than our needs tomorrow. So when you need something, who do you ask? When I was younger, I would ask my parents. If I needed something, I knew they were there to provide for me. But I’m not that young anymore, and while I still sometimes turn to my parents for help, most of the things I need are things that they really can’t give me. Most of the things I need are things they shouldn’t give me if I want to call myself an adult.

So who do you ask? Friends? Family? The government?

Chicken yakisoba I made one day just because I could, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Chicken yakisoba I made one day just because I could, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:19.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

This is one of the closing verses of the Book of Philippians, where Paul is saying his farewells to the people of the Church. This verse comes off a previous paragraph (Philippians 4:14-18) that thanks the Church of Philippi for their support and their gifts that helped sustain him when he was on one of his missionary journeys. He identifies the Church of Philippi as “the only ones who gave me financial help.” He also says no other church did this, at least at that time.

And at the end of this paragraph where he is thanking the Church of Philippi for providing for him, he writes down this verse that says God will provide. God will provide? Sounds to me like the Church of Philippi provided. Is Paul being facetious? Is he being sarcastic about this? How can he go from saying “thank you for all the money you sent me” to “God will take care of you too” in one breath?

I really believe that you have to understand how God works for this to make sense. This is what I’ve learned through many years of following Christ: Whether through miraculous circumstances or the generosity of fellow believers, God will always provide for your needs.

If you’re a Christ follower, you’ve experienced this. You’ve been sitting in church and listening and all of a sudden you feel an undeniable urge to give money. Or you’re walking down the street and you feel this sudden pull to give somebody some money or help somebody out. Do you really think that’s you? I mean, maybe you’re a good enough person to just randomly walk around giving people money and helping people out, and if you are, good for you. I’m not that good. But God is. And God lives in me. And He tells me sometimes that I need to help somebody or I need to give somebody some money.

When that happens, I hesitate sometimes because honestly I live paycheck to paycheck. You would think a single person living in a paid-for house and a paid-off car with a full-time career would be fine, but it’s the little everyday expenses that kill you. But every time God has told me to help someone else financially, those times when it was a financial burden for me, He has always provided for me. He’s always made up the difference, and usually He provides more than I need.

Sometimes those needs are met through circumstances and situations that nobody has control over. In those instances, I can only thank God. But other times, people provide for me–like my parents or like my friends or like strangers on the street, and in those instances, I can thank them but I also need to thank God because He moved them to do it.

Philippians is one of those books that I never get tired of reading. It’s all about how to be happy. It’s about how to be content and joyful in living and following Christ. And a big part of that is trusting that God will provide for you, no matter what you need.

And God does. Maybe he’ll use a miracle, maybe he’ll use your next door neighbor (and maybe that is a miracle), but He will provide. He might even use you to provide for someone else, but you can trust that if He asks you to do something, He will provide for the hole it leaves.

That’s who He is. He is our God who provides what He requires. We just have to trust that He will.

We Americans don’t think about it because we don’t usually sacrifice anything; we’re not used to it. But standing up what Paul was doing back then could have been a death sentence. In all honesty, in parts of our world today it still is, just not in the U.S. Not yet.

Mountain lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

The secret to happiness

What is the secret to being happy? Is there a magic formula that you can just mix up some random things and expect to create happiness for yourself? Is it at the end of a rainbow, like a pot of gold? Does it even exist? Life can be so dark sometimes. People have to endure so many things, so many hurts, so many disappointments. How can you be happy when you have to face so many discouraging obstacles, whether they’re of your own making or not?

Yesterday, I posted about how Paul said we can be content. And it’s true. We can. There’s a difference between contentment and complacency, but we can be content where we are. In one of yesterday’s verses, Paul said that he had learned the secret to being content, but it didn’t strike me what it was until I read today’s verse.

Mountain lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Mountain lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:13.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 is one of those hallmark verses that just about everybody knows, whether you realize you know it or not. People who don’t read the Bible know it. It’s almost as prevalent as John 3:16, but have we really stopped to think about what it means? It’s comforting, yes. And whenever I read it before, it calmed me down because it helped me to remember that God can empower me to accomplish great things.

But what we need to remember is that the Book of Philippians wasn’t originally broken down into chapters and verses. It was one long letter Paul wrote to the Church of Philippi, and while most verses can stand on their own, if you consider them in their original context, they take on a different meaning.

This is an example. This verse can stand alone and be true. We can do everything through Christ. Christ gives us the strength we need to get through life. That’s true. But where is this verse located in the grand scheme of Philippians 4? It’s in one paragraph that reaches from verse 10 to verse 14.

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

It’s a good habit to get into that whenever you see a verse that begins with For or Since or But that you read the previous verses, because that word indicates a connection to the sentence that comes before it. So what comes before verse 13, our verse today? Well verse 12.

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

See what I’m getting at? Do you see the difference? Do you see what I saw this morning that I’d never really paid attention to before?

If there’s a secret to being content, to being happy with life, it’s right here. No matter what you’re going through, no matter where you are, no matter what you have or what you don’t have, you have strength to do everything because Christ is with you. Christ gives us strength for the bad days. Christ gives us strength for the good days. So whether you’re celebrating a win or mourning a loss, you can still be happy because you can trust that Christ will strengthen you no matter what.

Trusting that Christ will help me face a day no matter what it brings is enough to make me happy. It’s enough to make me content with where I am in life and where I’m going. I don’t have to be afraid of the future, because with Christ I can handle whatever is coming. I don’t have to have to regret the past, because with Christ I can learn from my mistakes and leave them there. I can love people, I can rejoice in difficulty, I can live without worry, and I can be secure enough to disagree with people I respect because Christ gives me the strength.

I think the Message encapsulates Philippians 4:13 best: Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Want to be happy? Want to be content? Embrace this. You can do everything through Christ.

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

We can be content where we are

If you have spent any time at all reading this blog, you’ll know that I’m both a control freak and a perfectionist, and while those characteristics have positive sides to them, they can also be quite negative when it comes to everyday living. While striving to understand a situation is good, trying to control every aspect will drive you nuts, and the same is true of perfectionism. It’s good to do your best, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t be perfect. And if you try to do so, you’ll nitpick and pigeonhole yourself into a dark hole of depression.

It’s good to control the things you can control, and it’s good to do your best; but we can’t go to extremes with either of them because we simple human beings can’t handle either of them. They’re too much for us. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

I’m so thankful that God doesn’t require us to be perfect. He knows we can’t be, and He understands that. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can just let down and live however we want. That’s not the point. Understand where I’m coming from. As a perfectionist, there’s a part of me that is convinced that my best is never good enough, and that I can’t just take God at His Word that He loves me no matter what. I have to perform, and I can’t ever be content with where I am in life. I always have to strive for the next level.

But is that really how a Christian is supposed to live?

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 4:10-12.

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, and always before I’ve focused on the fact that Paul is talking about being content with little or much. I’ve been in those situations. I’ve been in situations where I had everything I could ever need and even everything that I wanted, whether I needed it or not. But I’ve also been in the position where I had so little I wasn’t 100% sure where my next meal was coming from. And I’ve spent enough time out on the mission’s field to know what it’s like to have to give up the modern comforts and conveniences American’s really cherish. I know what that’s like too.

But these verses hit me differently this morning, because whether or not I have everything I need and everything I want or just enough to scrape by doesn’t really affect my level of contentment. My contentment really has never been based on my material wealth. I’ve always been thankful for what I have.

What struck me this morning was the plain and simple fact that Paul says he has learned to be content.

Paul learned to be content. He was content. Wherever he was, whatever he had, he was content. He wasn’t constantly putting himself down as a failure. He wasn’t always seeking the mistakes he made in order to fix them. He wasn’t always striving to reach the next level of performance.

He was content where he was.

Does that mean we really can be content? Does that mean we can accept where we are in life and not worry about being the best at everything all the time? If you’re a perfectionist like I am, that sounds almost blasphemous, doesn’t it? How dare anyone suggest that we don’t have to do our very best! It’s all for God, isn’t it?

Well, is it?

I run myself into the ground. Daily. Sometimes hourly. All in pursuit of perfection, but I’m not quite sure it’s always for God. I honestly think a lot of it is for me. I’ve admitted on here multiple times that I struggle with pride too. And it’s not too far a leap for perfectionism to turn to pride.

Don’t misunderstand. There’s a vast chasm between contentment and complacency, and I really think the width of that chasm depends on your heart. I think it depends on you and what you’re physically capable of. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know if you’re being complacent. You’ll know if you’re just accepting the things that come at you and passing them off without really considering what they might be about. You’ll know if you’re treating opportunities to make a difference for God like they don’t matter.

But you’ll also know if you’re killing yourself to achieve the impossible.

So the next time you start stressing out because something isn’t perfect or because you don’t have control over every detail, check your heart. Check your motivation. Do you want to be perfect for the glory of God? Or for yourself? And don’t beat yourself up because you can’t get there. It doesn’t do you any good, and if God would never think those things about you, what makes it okay for you to think them?

Yes, do your best. Yes, invest yourself, your time, your heart, your hope. Yes, strive for the top. But remember your place. And remember your purpose. We’re not here to be perfect. We’re here to praise God. And it’s difficult to praise God when you’ve beaten your own head into the ground.

Boat in a yard on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

We become what we think about

All of our brains are wired to work without us really telling them to work, though. I mean, how many processes go on inside your body that you don’t have to control? Do you tell your lungs to breathe? Do you tell your eyes to blink or your heart to pump? I hope you don’t. If you do, you might consider talking to a doctor. There are just some things your brain is supposed to do that you don’t have control over, but there is a level of processing that we do control.

Choosing to be happy and choosing to look at life with a perspective that honors God is difficult sometimes, but it’s a lot easier if you’ve already chosen to alter the way you think anyway. Some people operate under the assumption that we can’t choose what we think about. But that’s not true. Just because your brain starts thinking about something, that doesn’t mean you have to think about it.

Boat in a yard on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Boat in a yard on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Philippians 4:8-9.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

I’ve heard this verse described as a filter on more than one occasion, something to run our thoughts through before we allow ourselves to think them. If it’s true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, and/or excellent, you can think about it. Thinking about things that meet those requirements will encourage you, will enrich you, and will help you be a light to other people who don’t necessarily think the same way.

But does it really matter what we think about? Does our thought life really mean so much to how we live?

Well, I haven’t done any major studying about it. I haven’t researched it. But I know I’ve heard plenty of secular people talk about the power of positive thinking, that if you think positively about something you can overcome it. And from what I know about psychology and mental exercises, I would say that the content of your thought life is a direct reflection of how you live and it has a direct influence on your attitude.

I know personally when I spend a length of time thinking about something that upsets me, I become upset. If I think about the things I don’t have that I still want, I become discontent and unhappy. If my brain wanders down the road of any random topic with a negative bent, it won’t be long before the rest of me follows right along. What I spend my time thinking about shapes my mood and my attitude and my conversation and my choices.

So what do you think about? Are you thinking about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, and/or excellent? Or do you think things that are degrading? Do you think things that are bitter and resentful? Do you think things that are hurtful? Do you think in lies? Do you think about things you shouldn’t?

It’s difficult to keep our thoughts true and pure, especially when we’re surrounded by so much garbage that leads us to think things that are the opposite. But the beauty of how God has designed our mind is that we have control over our thoughts. We don’t have to think about things we shouldn’t. We can choose what we think about, and we need to choose to think things that are true and right and good. Each thought we have is a seed, and we need to choose which ones are worthy of nurturing and which ones need to be thrown away.

Don’t misunderstand. A single wrong thought isn’t going to send you toppling out of control. Most of our brains run on overdrive all the time anyway, and in many instances, we can’t control that very first thought. But we can control the choice to keep thinking about it or let it slide away.

So the next thought you have, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it right? Does this thought honor God? Does it honor the people around me? Is it something worthy of praise? Is it something God would have me focus on?

If it is, think about it.

If it isn’t, drop it. And don’t go back to it. Don’t dwell on it at all.

We become what we think about. So it’s a good idea to think about something worth the time.

The mailbox between the road and the driveway yesterday morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The world is not enough

I get tired of the world. I get tired of living in such a broken place, where what used to be good is now called and what used to be bad is now called good. I get frustrated because I know things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. Marriages aren’t supposed to break up. People aren’t supposed to hurt each other. The things that are broken in the world were never intended to be broken, and it’s easy to get depressed thinking about it.

I hate to see people hurting, and I get so tired of having to overcome obstacle after obstacle in my own life when I don’t feel like I’ve really done anything to deserve it. You know? You live the way you’re supposed to. You read your Bible. You keep the faith. You treat others the way you want to be treated. You love God. You love people. And everything still goes wrong. Why is that? What point could there possibly be to living like that?

I got to thinking this morning that if everything went our way, we could be pretty comfortable down here. Aside from the obvious strengths we gain when we go through struggles, what we need to remember when life falls apart is that we don’t belong here. We weren’t made for this life.

The mailbox between the road and the driveway yesterday morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The mailbox between the road and the driveway yesterday morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 3:20-21.

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Some days it’s easy to remember that this world isn’t home. On those days, I would like nothing more for Christ to descend from the clouds and take us away. But then there are other days when I’m not thinking about that. There are other days when I’m pretty happy just where I am, with no one rocking the boat, with nobody reminding me of any higher purpose, when it’s just me and the world and I’m okay with that. And that’s not a good place to be.

Don’t misunderstand. Being content is important. Being content with what you have is essential. But being content is different than being comfortable. We shouldn’t be comfortable in the world because when you get right down to the heart of the mater, the world isn’t going to agree with people who follow Christ. And while I blogged about agreeing to disagree yesterday and how that’s all right (and it absolutely is), disagreement still causes conflict. It always has; it always will. And if your perspective isn’t shaped by the grace and love of the Holy Spirit, many times a disagreement is going to turn to outright anger and resentment. If you know your history, you know it’s true.

The world disagrees with us. Part of the world resents us. And the rest of the world hates us. And, just being real here, the parts of the world that don’t hate Christ followers yet, soon will. Why? Well, the Bible says they will. Because the world hated Jesus, so why would we expect different treatment when we are His followers?

It’s good to be content with what you have, with what God has given you. But that doesn’t give you permission to be comfortable. Being comfortable means you’ve settled in for the long haul. It means you’ve got your head down. It means you’re ignoring the signs around you that are trying to spur you into action. Being comfortable means you’ll stop growing, stop learning, stop seeking, stop trying. Being comfortable means you think the world is enough.

And to quote James Bond, “The world is not enough.”

We aren’t supposed to have a comfortable, easy life on Earth because Earth isn’t our final destination. Christian, do you get that? We aren’t supposed to hoard all our money and resources so we can sit back in our easy chairs with our remote controls and our cups of coffee and watch television all day long. We were designed for more than that.

I get comfortable. I have that dubious gift of being able to block stuff out and power through with my own goals and ignore everything else around me, and it’s not always a good thing. God put me here for a purpose, and as long as the world is broken, He has something for me to do. And if I’m so comfortable in my own little kingdom, I’m never going to venture out into the places where He wants me to go.

So take a good look at your perspective this morning. Are you angry because life isn’t working out the way you thought it would? Are you frustrated because the obstacles in your path seem unfair and inversely proportional to the life you’ve lived?

Good. Because the more uncomfortable we are, the easier it is to remember that this world isn’t our home.

So get your head up. Pay attention. And get uncomfortable.

Hole in the old wood of the 1890s-era schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Agree or disagree but don’t stop moving forward

We live in a contentious era. It’s favorable and even popular to argue a point where you disagree. The invention of chat rooms and blogs and social media has allowed people from every walk of life all across the world to sound off on each and every topic of discussion that is brought to light in a public forum, and while healthy conversation and discussion is useful, one-sided arguments where others aren’t allowed to disagree never are. But it’s the one-sided arguments that don’t allow discussion that have become more and more prevalent.

In our culture, it is a social norm to immediately think that if someone disagrees with you, they hate you. I’m not quite sure where this concept came from, but we have been inundated with the idea that simple disagreement means a complete inability to live and work together. As far as most people are concerned, we must agree, or we can’t talk to each other.

Why is that? Why must we agree? Why must one person compromise his or her opinions or beliefs to make another person feel better about their own? I think there’s another issue at the heart of that matter. And there’s another issue in the lack of civility that has permeated our culture too. But in reading through Philippians, I realized something about agreeing to disagree: It needs to happen in the Church.

Hole in the old wood of the 1890s-era schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Hole in the old wood of the 1890s-era schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 3:15-16.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

I’d never really thought about it. Whenever I think about people having major disagreements, I usually go back to the debates I sat in on when I was in college. I remember having to I listen to one on homosexuality, and all I really took away from that debate was that my whole college despised the biblical view of gender and completely disrespected anyone who followed biblical principles. Of course, it didn’t surprise me, but I was shocked that the presenter onstage wasn’t even allowed to talk about his views because the audience kept shouting angrily at him. The moderator did nothing to stop it.

When I think about disagreements, that’s what I think of.

But you know what? Major disagreements happen in the church all the time. Even if you have an awesome church, disagreements are still going to happen. Why? Because everybody is different. We all look at each other differently. We all look at life differently. And our different experiences in life have shaped the way we live. And these differences extend to our walk with God too.

There are a lot of Christians in the world. Those people who believe that Jesus paid the price for their sins and because of Him alone they are going to heaven and they can have a relationship with God are everywhere, in every country. But if you put them all in the same room, it’s very likely that none of them will agree on anything else. Cultures are different. Personalities are different. Everything is different.

And it’s the same inside a church. A church is a group of people made up of different backgrounds, and if they don’t focus on what matters, if they don’t focus on what is the same, the differences will tear them apart. I’d like to say that disagreements in the church are more civil than disagreements in the world, but it’s not true. Oftentimes disagreements in the church are more vicious than what goes on in the world.

But no matter if your disagreement is with someone who doesn’t believe or with someone who does, the way to deal with it is the same:

Agree on what matters. Let God work everything else out. And keep moving forward.

That’s it.

Yes, sometimes it’s important to debate if everyone is given a voice. Yes, sometimes it’s important to argue as long as emotions stay out of it. Disagreements are healthy because they help us see other people’s points of view, but disagreeing doesn’t mean we hate each other. Disagreeing doesn’t mean you have the right to be vicious and mean to other people. Disagreeing is just someone with a different life experience trying to come to grips with you and your perspective on life. And if you listen to them, you’ll gain valuable insight. You may not agree. You may never agree. But that’s okay.

But you do have to listen. That’s part of a discussion. That’s part of a conversation. Listening. Not sitting still and clinging to your own perspectives, waiting for the opportunity to strike where your opponent is weak. That’s not listening. That’s premeditated attack.

And I can tell you from personal experience, the church excels at premeditated attacks. So do Christians.

Don’t misunderstand me. It’s important to agree. We do have to agree on the things that matter. But even if you get to the place where you can’t agree, that doesn’t mean you can be cruel. And within a church or a family or a business or whatever, when you disagree, let it go. Try to find a solution, but if you can’t, don’t worry about it. Don’t focus on it. Don’t press it. Don’t keep going back to it over and over and over.

Pray that God will make it clear, whether it needs to be clarified to someone else or to you.

But whatever you do, don’t move backward. Don’t turn back. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Hold on to the progress that you have already made because if you take a step back, Satan has won. And that’s what this is really about. That’s where strife and dissention really comes from, a ploy to hurt the cause of Christ.

You won’t agree with everyone. And not everyone will agree with you. Get over it. But you can focus on the perspectives that you share. And even if nobody agrees, you can still be civil. And let me tell you, it’s a lot easier to listen to someone who’s civil than it is to someone who’s rude.