Let Compassion Guide Your Social Media Conversations

Heart of compassionMaybe it’s just me, but it seems like social media conversations are often lacking in compassion. There doesn’t seem to be much restraint as people are quick to vent their emotions online.  The result is a nasty, mean comment that hurts!

I recently read a troubling conversation thread on Facebook. My friend had posted a picture of her son who would have turned 34 that day. The photo showed him on an earlier birthday, blowing out candles on a cake. My friend simply wanted to remember him in better times. Last fall,  he was killed in a tragic series of events. Sadly, he had suffered from mental illness. One day he snapped and killed three people on a random shooting spree near his apartment. Then police shot and killed him. There’s no way to understand the intensity of pain and anguish felt by each person affected by this tragedy. This would be any parent’s worst nightmare.

Most people who commented on my friend’s Facebook post had only words of compassion and support. Really, it’s impossible to find the right words. Then as I scrolled down the page, the mother of one of the victims weighed in expressing her raw anger and bitterness. The conversation that ensued seemed like a posting free-for-all. My heart ached for my friend and for this mom who are both dealing with an enormous burden of grief. I was thankful for a few voices who brought some reason and compassion into this volatile exchange of words.

Social media has brought many positive changes–the ability to communicate with a large audience, to keep in touch with friends by simply sending out a short update. Text messaging makes it possible to contact people quickly and efficiently. But lately, I’ve been more aware of the downside. Maybe it’s because you don’t look into the eyes of the person you’re communicating with, that makes it easier to send out brutal comments and criticism. People are quick to judge the mother whose child climbed into the gorilla habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo or the parents of the toddler who was attacked and killed by the alligator at Disney World. You just write whatever is on your mind and then hit send. There’s no compassion or even an attempt to understand what the people involved are experiencing. The biggest problem with social media communication? Once those words are hurled into cyberspace, there’s no way to retrieve them. The sting of negativity is there forever. It used to be that when you had a verbal confrontation with another person, there might only be a few witnesses, if any. Now, a Facebook or Twitter post can be viewed by hundreds if not thousands or even more.

Last Sunday, my pastor talked about how damaging words can be. He referenced James 3:1-12, a scripture passage that tells about how something as small as our tongues can be so destructive–just as a small spark can start a huge firestorm. (Something we’re painfully aware of here in central Washington as another fire season begins). The same guidance for speaking can be applied to our social media conversations. Instead of rushing to comment and pass judgment on others, maybe we should pause and ask ourselves the three questions Pastor Jeff mentioned in his sermon:

1. Is it true?
Do we know the facts about what’s being said–or is it hearsay?

2. Is it helpful?

Is what we’re considering passing along something that will have a positive impact?

3. Is it necessary?

How important is it that we share this information?

Maybe when we feel strongly about joining a social media conversation, we need to put love and compassion first and leave judgment and criticism behind. Most of us are struggling through life to do the best we can. And if there’s a need to confront or express our opinion, we can consider how to communicate this in the most loving way possible.

How do you respond to negative comments on social media?

 

 

Forgiven: Accepting God’s Amazing Grace

In 1992, artist Thomas Blackshear II, painted a picture titled Forgiven. It took my breath away the first time I saw it. The image is a contemporary man wearing a T-shirt and dirty jeans, holding a mallet in one hand and a nail in the other. The expression on his face is desperation and exhaustion. Standing behind him and holding him up, is Jesus. His nail-scarred hands appear large and strong. His face is tender as he embraces this man, a picture of God’s love and forgiveness, the real message of Easter.      He-is-Risen-from-StudioJRU

Tears welled up in my eyes. The man in the painting reminded me of my husband Randy. He had tried over and over to stop the deadly spiral of alcoholism that he was caught in. Sometimes he broke down in sobs of desperation and anger. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop drinking–even though it was destroying him.

But this painting gave me hope. Though Randy’s addiction seemed hopeless, as a Christian, I had to believe that Jesus was right there loving Randy, and that his arms wrapped around him would never let him go.

One week before Easter in the early 1990s, Randy agreed to have our pastor and others pray for him. Pastor Mark and several others placed their hands on Randy’s head and shoulders and prayed. It was powerful. We all felt the intensity of God’s presence. Pastor Mark turned to me and said, “Deb, here’s your husband back.”

I noticed Randy’s eyes seemed clear and at peace, no longer tormented. He felt free! Sadly, after a week of experiencing this miraculous freedom, the old patterns crept back in. Randy struggled with his addiction until 1998 when he finally came to believe that God loved him and had forgiven him. Grasping that truth made all the difference for him. He has been free in Christ since then!

Today, on Good Friday, my thoughts have turned to this painting and the picture of a defeated and desperate man. Tears come to my eyes as I realize once again, the power of forgiveness. Maybe Randy needed that very real taste of freedom he experienced in order to ultimately be able to accept God’s unconditional love for him.

Really, Randy is no different from any of us. We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We all have held the mallet and nail in our hands, demanding our own way, instead of humbly submitting to God. I like to think I would never have been part of the crowd shouting, Crucify him! I know better, though. Without God’s amazing gift of grace and forgiveness, I’d never have submitted my life to Him. Only through the pain and heartache of Randy’s struggle with alcoholism, was I finally able to surrender.

I can’t do this.

God can.

I will let Him.

Whatever challenges you may be facing today, the promise and hope of Easter always follow the desperate darkness of Good Friday.

God can do anything, you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Ephesians 3:20,21 (MSG)

 

Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Your Marriage

I heard the news that a young couple in our community is getting a divorce after only one year of marriage. What went wrong? All I know is this is a tragedy. I remember the wedding announcement we received with their bright smiling faces, their eyes so filled with love for each other.

Being silly at Lucy's birthday party!

Being silly at Lucy’s birthday party!

I want to tell them, “Don’t give up! Your story isn’t over yet.” In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say: “Don’t give up 5 minutes before the miracle.” Sometimes 5 minutes can seem like an eternity, but when the miracle comes, you don’t want to miss it.

My husband Randy and I are celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. When I look back, I remember the tough times we faced in our marriage. It seemed hopeless. Struggling with Randy’s alcoholism loomed like a never-ending problem with few solutions. In retrospect, it was 5 minutes. The miracle of Randy’s sobriety and the years we’ve enjoyed since then, have truly been a miracle worth waiting for.

New Hope for Marriage Women’s Retreat

I’m excited about the NEW HOPE FOR MARRIAGE women’s retreat I’m co-facilitating with Christie Miller. We have a few spaces available for the Feb. 20-21 date. Know someone who is discouraged in her marriage and needs some new hope – new energy – and a new plan? This is a great weekend opportunity. Small, private, encouraging!

For more information: www.nwspeakers.com

What I’ve Learned through a Lifetime of Marriage

My husband Randy and I recently celebrated 44 years of marriage.

Our anniversary celebration at Steak ‘N Shake

Wow–how can that be possible when we’re only 30+ years old? Well… we haven’t been that age for a long time, but it’s still hard to imagine we’ve spent most of a lifetime together.

When we first got married, I had this naive notion that all we needed was love. All together now: All you need is love. Da…da…da…da… da…When I hear those words, I automatically want to burst into song. Never mind about the misunderstandings and the immaturity of two 19 year-olds who are going to become parents before their first anniversary. As long as we have love, we will stay together. Wasn’t that also a song? Love will keep us together. If only it were that simple.

We do need love, but not the kind Hollywood portrays or most of us envision. I remember seeing the movie Love Story with Randy when we were dating. Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw (can you believe she’s 75?) looked deeply into each other’s eyes and proclaimed, Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

How sweet (and unrealistic) is that? But that’s the love I was looking for…where romantic feelings never fade and you sail off together as best friends and lovers without a disagreement or ever raising your voice or crying yourself to sleep.

After 44 years and weathering many marital ups and downs, I’ve learned a lot about real-life relationships:

  • There’s no such thing as 50/50 in marriage. Many times you’ll be the one giving more than you bargained for. It would be nice if everything were split neatly in half. The reality is that each of you will be called on at different times to give more than your share. It’s also good not to keep score.
  • Recognize the myth of the greener grass. It’s possible there is “greener grass,” but many of us see the grass and want to vault over the fence without considering the costs. The repercussions of an affair are devastating for everyone. Two families are directly affected, as well as extended family and friends. Life is never the same after trust in a marriage has been broken. God can heal and bring reconciliation, but the price paid is excruciatingly high.
  • Love the one you’re with. What would happen if you intentionally treated your spouse as if you really loved him/her? Not the Love Story type of love, but love that’s patient, kind, steadfast in sickness and in health, in good times and bad times. God’s kind of love that never fails.

Randy and I have been blessed to experience this love in our marriage. It didn’t come naturally, though. It took a lot of pain and struggle and heartache. We both realized the ability to love well was only possible if we were willing to get beyond our selfishness. As we experienced God’s grace, we were then able to begin to love each other unconditionally. Not perfectly, but in a way that says I want the best for you. I’m willing to do whatever I can to encourage you, to build you up, to help you become the person God created you to be.

And guess what? I found out I married the right guy– the one who has been God’s gift to me for almost a lifetime. And yes, we’ve learned that saying you’re sorry is at the top of the list!

If you’re struggling to love your spouse, there is hope! Small acts of kindness can be a good starting place. I would love to pray with you and encourage you to believe that God’s love never fails. 

Interested in reading more about marriage? Check out these similar posts:

Marriage Advice for Wives: 5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Got Married

Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Your Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Would We Be Without Friends?

When my mom had a mastectomy a couple of years ago, my dear friend Mary came to be with me.
Mary arrived at the hospital after Mom came out of surgery. Seeing a familiar face felt so reassuring. I threw my arms around my friend. I knew I could walk through this because I wasn’t walking alone.  Mary drove nearly two hours to be with me in Seattle. After her work shift, she loaded a cooler with bottled water, juices, fruits, and other snacks for us to enjoy at the hotel. She even tucked in a Starbucks gift card. Her presence meant the world to me.

Our friendship spans more than 30 years. We’ve walked a lot of roads together…weathered the storms of our husbands’ battles with alcoholism…  rejoiced with their sobriety…grieved over losses–parents, jobs, pets…celebrated weddings and births. We’ve shared life together and carried each other’s burdens. I don’t know where I’d be today without friends like Mary. I believe one of God’s most gracious gifts is the gift of friends.

Through the years, as I’ve been on the receiving end of a friend’s kindness, I’ve asked myself, what kind of friend am I? How can I be a better friend?

Lord, help me to be:

  • The friend who thinks of others and anticipates their needs.

  • The friend who is generous with her time.

    • The friend who is honest and loves you enough to tell you the truth.   

    • The friend who loves and accepts you no matter what.

     

    I’ve been blessed to have more than one friend like Mary. I pray you also have known the love of such a caring friend. No one can do life alone. God designed us to need one another.


    Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their work.
    If one falls down,
    his friend can help him up.  Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

    I would love to hear how a friend has made all the difference in your life! 

        

      My Way or the High Way

      I used to think it was all Randy’s fault. If only he’d stop drinking, then we (or most importantly) I could be happy. I also thought I could change him. I could make him want to stay sober. I used ultimatums (you’d better stop drinking or…I’ll leave you…I’ll file for divorce, etc.) I thought he would be motivated to stop drinking. Wrong!

      I launched my personal mission to get Randy sober. I placed inspirational books in strategic places around the house and refrigerator magnets with Bible verses on the fridge. When Randy popped open a can of beer, he would see those verses and want to change. Suddenly he would see the light, drop to his knees in gratitude, and proclaim his desire to stay sober. Wrong—again!

      It is so tough to love your husband well in circumstances like this, finding the right balance in loving him that reflects Christ’s character. Maybe you’re dealing with a situation where you’ve tried everything you know to love your husband. Nothing ever changes and you feel angry and frustrated. You’ve lost all hope.

      I know how you feel. For the longest time it was all about me. I don’t deserve this. Why am I going through this? It isn’t fair. Author and Women of Faith speaker, Patsy Clairmont once said, “Fair is where you buy cotton candy!”

      I needed that reminder. The truth is, life isn’t fair. It’s how we respond to life’s inequities that determines whether or not we will find contentment. Looking back, I can see how my reluctant choices to take the “higher road” in our relationship, helped our marriage survive.

      Maybe what we need is a road map to guide us, some cues to encourage us to let go of “our way” and become willing to choose God’s “high way.” I thought of the acronym H.I.M. I had to intentionally follow Him (Jesus) to become more Christ-like in all of my relationships.

      H = Humility 

      Jesus is humility personified. He had a way of zeroing in on a problem and speaking the truth in love. He had a posture of gentle strength. Humility doesn’t mean accepting or condoning your spouse’s bad behavior, but it does mean treating him the way Jesus treated others.

      Dangerous Detours that almost derailed me:

      1. Self-pity—Why me? This isn’t fair!
       2. Blaming—It’s not my fault.
      3. Comparing—The grass is greener myth.

      I shifted my thinking. I learned to admit where I had been wrong. Who me? I learned to accept responsibility for my actions.

       Humble yourself in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you. James 4:10

       I= Integrity

      Integrity is courageous honesty, speaking truth in a compassionate way to ourselves and others. Jesus was also a master of integrity.  

      Dangerous Detours where I often got hung up:

      1. Denial—Refusing to believe or accept what is true.
      2. Fear of confrontation—Lack of boundaries or inability to set limits.
      3. Disrespect—Treating your spouse in a discourteous manner.

       I needed to honestly confront Randy (and myself) with reality. Truth gives us the ability to walk into the light instead of staying forever hidden in the darkness. Truth brings freedom and relief.

       You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

      M= Maturity

      Maturity helps us extend grace to others and give up the need to be right. Maturity requires that we’re grounded in reality and that we do our best to make wise choices.

      Jesus knew how to reach people. He asked probing questions and told stories to make his point.  

      Dangerous Detours that kept me stuck: 

      1. Unforgiveness—Bitterness and resentment, the desire to punish the person who has wronged you. 2. Selfishness—Insisting on your own agenda.
      3. A hardened heart—Stubborness and unwillingness to change or accept instruction.

      Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

      I almost gave up on Randy and our marriage. I’m so thankful the Lord gave me friends who pointed me toward a “higher way.”

      • Toward humility so my heart would become tender instead of critical.
      • Toward integrity so I could confront the lies I’d told myself and have courage to confront my husband in love.
      • Toward maturity so I could act unselfishly, desiring to awaken the goodness in my husband.

      By attempting to follow Him, I have truly experienced God’s grace.

      Grace is undeserved generosity. It’s a hug when I deserve a slap. And that spirit of forgiving is the soil from which grow words that impart grace to those who hear. Only tender hearts produce words that heal rather than hurt. –Jerry Harvill

      Where are you on your journey to follow H.I.M.?

      Raise the White Flag!

      I called my homeless brother yesterday. I only wanted to say that I love him. He couldn’t hear that. He thought I was trying to intervene, judging him. He told me his life is miserable, the party’s over–not that there ever was a party, I thought. I tried to interject hope into his hopeless comments.

      You don’t have to do this alone, I said. But he couldn’t hear me in his deafness to allow anyone to help him. I’m going to recover on my own, he insisted. I don’t need anyone to help me.

      My heart aches for him. I’ve walked this road before with my husband, Randy, as he struggled to find freedom from his addiction to alcohol. And as I struggled to let go, to finally admit there wasn’t anything I could do to fix or change him. 

      It’s funny how we think we have the power to help someone else choose life over an addiction or other destructive behaviors. Fear got in the way of my ability to surrender my husband. I believed I had the power to decide for him. I thought if I let go of Randy, he would die. That’s a scary place to put ourselves in–and rather presumptuous. Do I really think I have that kind of power? Hm…I don’t think so. I am thankful there is One who has all power–and that one isn’t me!

      Surrender!

      There comes a time when we need to raise the white flag. We not only surrender our loved ones, but we also surrender ourselves to the Lord. We let go so God can work in our lives and theirs. We let go so we can be free from the anxiety that is destroying us. By surrendering, we choose a way that brings life to us–and possibly to our loved ones as well.

      There are no pretenses or illusions about any noble efforts to save someone you love. This is rock-bottom where the rubber sole meets the road. You admit that what you’ve been doing isn’t working. You don’t have what it takes to motivate another person  to change their behavior. Only God can do that. Finally you give your impossible situation to God.

      In Alcoholics Anonymous, they describe surrender in three steps:

      1. I can’t do it.
      2. God can.
      3. I will let Him.

      There’s something powerful about recognizing we can’t do what needs to be done in our own strength. This might sound depressing. If we can’t do anything…who can? Ah…that’s the very place God wants us to be. He doesn’t need us, really. He has access to infinite resources. Sometimes the most we can do is simply get out of the way. We intentionally let go of our loved ones. This doesn’t mean we abandon them or stop loving them. Instead, we lovingly entrust them to Jesus. He loves them more than we can imagine. What better place for them to be! The Lord knows every detail about them. He even knows every hair on their heads. He loves them with an everlasting love. Our love pales in comparison.

      Author Jan Johnson says it well: 

      Letting go is both too simple and too difficult. It looks like weakness instead of strength, like losing instead of gaining, and it is. As we relinquish control and admit weaknesses, we remember who we are and why we’re here…This need to control is rooted in fear, but I need to do the thing that is rooted in faith–surrender.  

      Once again, I find myself in a place of letting go. This time I know it’s the very best for me and for the brother I love so dearly. 

      Is there a situation in your life where you need to surrender?

       

      Grace-Filled Marriage

      Last summer, Randy and I were flying from Philadelphia to Seattle after a delightful week of family fun in Ocean City, New Jersey. We arrived at the airport, checked in our bags, then took our place in the long lineup for security. That’s when things got tense.

      “We should be in that other line,” Randy complained. “This line isn’t going anywhere fast.”

      I countered with the fact that the “other” line was for inexperienced travelers and families with small children. We didn’t qualify on either account.

      “Well, it’s ridiculous to wait when we could’ve been through security if we’d gone in that ‘other’ line.”

      Anger simmered inside me. Why is he being such a jerk? 

      When we finally made it through security, we bought coffee and pastries. We looked for a seat in the  restaurant, but it was packed. Right outside, a row of comfortable-looking seats awaited us. 

      “Perfect!” Randy made his way over to the handicapped seating.

      “We can’t sit there,” I said. “It’s for handicapped people.”

      “Fine,” he said with disgust. He picked up his bag and walked briskly toward the gate, leaving me behind to grapple with a too-heavy carry-on bag.

      I fought back tears. I’m not going to cry, I told myself. A vendor on the concourse took pity on me and showed me a way to manage my bag more easily. I took a deep breath and kept walking.

      I wanted to lash out at Randy, to lecture him about his rude, abusive behavior–not at all typical for him. When we reached the boarding area, I considered sitting as far away from him as possible. I imagined the stony silent flight back to Seattle.

      Then I remembered a book I’d been reading…How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong by Leslie Vernick. She talked about how learning to respond rightly when we are wronged takes maturity and wisdom, developing the character of Christ. Not easy, especially in the heat of the moment…especially in a crowded airport on a marathon travel day. But according to Leslie Vernick, someone needs to take the more mature position and respond correctly.

      I had a choice. I could extend grace to Randy or I could put up my defensive walls. I had been mistreated. I could take the superior position, insisting on my rights, or I could choose to defuse the situation with a loving response.

      My hand weighed a ton as I lifted it and placed it on Randy’s. I smiled. I acknowledged that we were both exhausted. Long airport security lines are never fun and usually frustrating. He managed a smile and mumbled something that sounded like sorry.

      The rest of our 16-hour travel day felt peaceful. (We live several hours from Seattle!) We showed more patience and understanding toward each other.  A day that started out miserably had turned out well. And I had learned through the experience.

      Grace never ceases to amaze me.

      When have you experienced the amazing effects of grace in your marriage?

      A Place Called Blessing

      I admit I’m a slow reader. Mostly because I wait until bedtime to crack open the latest book I’m reading. I usually don’t get far before my head is nodding and my husband nudges me and asks, “Are you asleep?”

      When I read A Place Called Blessing, by Dr. John Trent (co-author with Gary Smalley of The Blessing), I not only stayed awake, I kept turning pages. The story is compelling. A young boy, Josh, experiences a series of tragic events in his life. His parents (who haven’t done a great job taking care of their children) are killed in a drunk-driving accident. Josh and his two older brothers are thrust into the foster care system. As long as they’re together, even the least desirable of homes is bearable. The unthinkable happens, though, and Josh is separated from his brothers. They are adopted by a family who chooses not to adopt Josh. His life is marked by rejection and abandonment.

      By age eighteen, Josh is an angry young man who only wants to be left alone. He’s determined not to ever need or trust  anyone. He vows to make it through life on his own. That is, until he meets a co-worker, Mike, who genuinely seems to care about Josh. Mike’s mom, Anna, has a room for rent, and Josh agrees to move in. Anna and Mike offer Josh the gift of “the blessing”–their unconditional love and support. And that is  life-changing.  

      As I read Dr. Trent’s book, I kept wondering when the hurting would stop. I felt sad by the unfairness of life.What struck me, though, was realizing how even one person who “blesses” another’s life, can make a huge impact. Josh’s relationship with Anna and Mike gave him the opportunity to choose a healthier direction for his life. 

      A Place Called Blessing inspires readers to consider how they can make a difference for others. Giving the gift of “the blessing” is truly where hurting ends and love begins.