Monthly Archives: November 2014

Ferguson, Race, and the Lost Art of Relationship

I sit here this Tuesday morning on November 25, 2014… perplexed. I have lines on my forehead that describe the nature of my thoughts.

Watching the stories and hearing the sound bytes about Ferguson and the racial divide that very much still exists in this country – my thoughts take me to why we repeat history – especially the worst parts of history.

One news commentator mentioned that these events continue to happen so the root cause of these problems has not been dealt with.

I couldn’t agree more.

There is an endless search for who is to blame. Trying to reconcile tragic events sends us down an emotional path where listening becomes almost impossible.

During commercial breaks, I read an article calling out “white Christians” and asking them to “wake up” to the racial issues that still plague our nation.

Let me first say I agree there is still very much of a racial divide in the United States. Let me follow this up by saying that Christians of all backgrounds are still divided over trivial issues that have no bearing on salvation, including such things as how we should worship God on Sunday mornings.

One issue that does have a bearing on eternity is our response to the two greatest commands that Jesus gave to us. Love God and Love Your Neighbor as yourself. If all of us took THIS litmus test, I wonder how many of us would pass.

Pause.

I just got lost in my thoughts. Here is why.

The root cause of why we find ourselves in this racial predicament is a sin issue. It is an issue that goes all the way to the beginning, where pride, envy and selfish ambition brought a downfall that would affect the rest of humanity.

This post is not directed toward white people, black people, brown people or any other “color”. This post is directed to ALL of us.

If we who call ourselves Christians – “Christ-Like ones” – truly understood the lost art of relationship, I believe we would find ourselves in a much different state.

The last post was on forgiveness. Still others were on vulnerability, gratitude, loving even in disagreement, what keeps us from entering into relationships – insecurity, communication – and what I have on my list will keep this blog going for months to come.

There is a lost art to relationship and the events in Ferguson, the posts I read on Facebook, the response or lack thereof from pastors and churches, and the fear of even speaking about this subject – all prove there is still a heart problem that needs to be addressed.

It is a difficult path. It is a narrow path… the one we must walk.

I realize there may be many who would read this and express their thoughts on what should be done and how we should respond.

By all means, share your thoughts.

However, before you hit that final “REPLY” button, ask yourself – Have I been an example of what it means to love my neighbor as myself? Have I truly loved God with all I am? Have I spoken words of division in private conversations, but words of unity in public? How can I be a part of the solution?

I don’t stand in judgment of anyone who has strong opinions. As a matter of fact, I put myself on the stand. What can I do to be part of the solution?

Sacramento and the surrounding regions happen to be some of the most culturally diverse areas. However, being culturally diverse does not mean that the cultures and sub-cultures that live there are in relationship, truly integrating into each other’s lives.

This is one area where I believe those who are Christians should focus their energy. Spend your efforts on finding ways of connecting on a deep meaningful level with those of other cultures – truly finding a way to communicate, understand, and grow together.

Before anyone lambasts me with their words, I am not referring to Christians in relation to those who are non-believers. I am directly speaking to the relationships we are supposed to have with each other. The relationship that becomes the example to those who are non-believers that God loves the world.

Pursue relationships with other Christians who have a different background, experience, culture, or color. Do so with the attitude of innocence – a child who is curious and doesn’t see the differences as a hindrance.

So what is the answer to Ferguson, Race and the Lost Art of Relationship?

I don’t know. I hope you weren’t expecting me to attempt to answer this difficult issue.

What I can tell you is that until those of us who consider themselves Christ-Followers can become the example of Grace and Mercy through relationship, we have no right to stand in criticism.

Thank you so much for continuing to read week after week. I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email me or respond to this post by Commenting below.


Please Forgive Me?

Ever hear that expression, “I forgive you, but I will not forget!”

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There are still others, that say if you don’t forget then you have never really forgiven.

There are problems with both of these statements.

The first statement I would doubt forgiveness was really given. It sounds like a veiled threat. The second statement is impossible. You can never really forget what someone has done to hurt you.

Forgiveness…

The only One that can truly forgive and forget is God Himself.

Let’s unpack the act of forgiveness.

We have ALL been hurt or offended by someone, whether it is something they said or did directly to us, or if it was indirect (gossip, throwing us under the bus, etc). Frankly, it feels horrible.

Not one person I have met likes to be hurt or offended. However, I will say there are those who may are quick to be offended (these are the ones we would likely say have “thin skin”). I know, because I used to be one of them.

There was someone in my life that came alongside me as a mentor who taught me how to have thicker skin – who taught me about forgiveness.

He taught me there are two responses to being hurt and/or offended. We can either allow bitterness to set in because we choose not to forgive them, or we can release the person from the offense or hurt by forgiving them.

When we hold a grudge (bitterness) the only person who is really being negatively affected is ourselves. We continually remind ourselves of what caused the offense and open the wound that was inflicted over and over again never allowing it to heal.

I have seen bitterness literally begin to affect someone physically causing sickness, headaches, and poor health.

Bitterness is a terrible thing. It is like a festering wound that never heals. Bitterness causes someone trouble and begins to stain the relationships with those they are close to.

With bitterness, it blocks us from truly loving others. It is a scab that when picked it begins to remove the healthy skin around the wound.

Distrust is one of the major results of bitterness. Insecurity is another. It can strangle out the healthy aspects of any relationship.

Have I gotten your attention yet?

Living with Unforgiveness in our hearts toward others will slowly dismantle any healthy relationship piece by piece. I have witnessed it destroy marriages, destroy family relationships, destroy friendships, and slowly eat away at the health of two of my family members.

Bitter people – those who have never let go of a past offense or hurt – have built up walls in their hearts toward others. Whether they were hurt by…

A family member

A church

A pastor

A friend

By someone of another ethnicity

By a co-worker or employer

By someone in leadership

When offenses are not dealt with in a healthy manner – walls are built.

Bitterness can stain our relationships. We begin to see others through the lens of the grudge, distrust grows into a stalwart tree and blocks us from experiencing the warmth of other relationships.

Bitterness is the root that grows to become that stalwart tree that cannot be moved. The only way to get rid of bitterness is to UPROOT it. It needs to be completely removed.

How do we do this?

One word – Forgive.

But, you don’t know what they DID to me! You don’t understand the level of the hurt, or the result of the offense!

You are right. I can only tell you in my own life what Forgiving someone has done. It has freed me to love again. It opens up the door to reconciliation on my part. It shows another the strength of your character, the depth of your love, and the power of mercy.

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. In any relationship, you will need to utilize this tool especially if you desire to keep these relationships.

It is difficult to understand the magnitude of the power of forgiveness if you do not realize the need for it and how it can help you develop deep meaningful relationships.

When you forgive – or ask for forgiveness – the weight of the offense and the responsibility is now off your shoulders. It frees you to trust others again, understanding that people are imperfect and so are you.

It is a great feeling when a debt you owe has been canceled. Debt can feel like a weight around your neck.

It is the same way with unforgiveness. It is a weight you carry with you.

There is no better way to describe this than to interject in the conversation a topic that I know many may shy away from. It is that of Jesus Christ.

My faith has been the best example to me of what it means to forgive. In my mind it is easy to harbor bitterness. Then I am reminded of how much I have been forgiven of. I have lied, taken jealousy to places it should not have gone, and I have failed others in relationship.

Worst yet, I have failed to follow the greatest instruction ever given – To Love God and Love others as I love myself. Breaking these commands has placed me in the category of someone in need of forgiveness by God. And Jesus bridged that gap in relationship, forgave me and has shown me that it IS possible to live in relationship with others, to have deep meaningful friendships, and to love others as I love myself.

You too can experience this kind of relationship. If you would like to know more about how, please message me at Daniel_Chrystal@yahoo.com.

The bottom line is that forgiveness can uproot bitterness and open the door to deeper relationships with others.

Forgiveness is a LOST ART, but one that can provide wonderful results when exercised.

Thank you so much for continuing to read week after week. I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email me or respond to this post by Commenting below.


You’re My Favorite…

Do you have a best friend?

What constitutes a “best” friendship?

Take a look at this short clip (32secs) and then keep on reading…

2 Year-Old Best Friends

The kids in this clip are freakin’ cute! But that’s not the point. The interviewer (probably one of the moms) asks them if they are best friends. They look at each other and then answer yes.

Then they proceed to argue over which one was two or five, as if they both cannot be the same age and one of them owns that age.

The two two-year-olds have no clue what a “best” friendship is. At this age, they spend most of their time together because the parents facilitate their playtime. They haven’t experienced enough life yet to really say they are best friends.

Has one of them gone through something traumatic where the other one doesn’t judge, but consoles, listens and carries the burden of the other? Have they been tested in their friendship and shown they can overcome any external circumstances and become closer friends through it?

Of course not! The cool thing about this video is the fact that they are different ethnicities, and they are clueless to this fact other than they probably see they look different.

There are so many different ways we could go with this conversation, especially after watching this video. However, we are going to view this from the angle of how relationships go from surface to deeper friendships and what would cause us as adults to say we have a “best friend”.

Hopefully, those who are married would say this of their spouse. However, although married, each one could have someone else in their life that they would consider a best friend. The trouble with this, is how can you have two best friends?

Doesn’t the phrase “best friend” literally mean there are no other friendships in our lives that compare?

How does a “best friendship” develop?

The only answer we can give to this is time. I would like to suggest that we can only look back over time and assess whether a relationship is a “best friendship” by the tests placed on that relationship.

My wife and I have been married for almost 18 years (in March). We have often said of each other, that we are best friends. I can assure you, there is NO ONE else in my life that I can share as deep and meaningful a relationship than my wife.

We have been through many difficult circumstances and situations. We have shared some of the most wonderful experiences together. We have learned how to communicate (well, I’m still learning). There have been situations we have individually gone through where the other has had to step in and be the strength when the other was weak.

We have had to care for each other when either one of us was sick or had surgery. We have had to comfort each other when we have experienced a loss. We have “been there” just to listen, be a shoulder to cry on, encourage, and cheer up.

We have called each other on our weaknesses or mistakes (this one took a while).

We have certainly not developed a perfect friendship (because we are imperfect and still have a lot to learn), but with all we have experienced, positive and negative, we can say our friendship with each other cannot be compared to any other friendship in our lives.

Take a look at your list of friends. Who has been a constant, consistent, persistent person in your life who has influenced you and that you have allowed in your life to speak into the darkest parts of your past and the brightest areas of your life?

I have had friends over time that met these criteria. However, there are only a handful of people I can say have truly never judged me; have seen potential in me where I could not see it; have corrected me when I was being stupid or needed to be drug out of my negative emotions; let me vent until I was done and then didn’t tell me I should feel differently; allowed me to be the same for them.

There really is no other way to determine a “best friendship” unless it has been tested over time.

If we take it one step further, a meaningful relationship can only be determined through the test of time.

It is possible to have more than one meaningful relationship. As we have mentioned in previous posts, having a deep meaningful relationship with another person involves vulnerability, trust, love, good communication, respect, and many others we have yet to explore in this blog.

Is it possible for someone to be a best friend, but the “best” part is not reciprocated? Some may immediately answer no. In a marriage, which I believe should be the “best friendship” you ever have, the answer is definitely NO!

However, in other friendships it is possible. If we live our lives in such a way as to benefit others, treating them as we would want to be treated…then it is possible you or I could be someone’s best friend without them responding in kind.

Why would I want to be in relationship with another person where it was not reciprocated? Great Question!

The answer? Because we should strive to treat all people we come in contact with as we want to be treated.

Of course, you cannot be present, consistent, and persistent with everyone. You are only one person.

Nevertheless, there are fundamental attitudes and actions we can have with everyone that would be the basis for any friendship, and especially a “best friendship”.

They are…

Integrity, Honesty, Respect, Listening, Supportive, Generosity, Honor, Forgiveness, Truthfulness, and Encouragement.

I am sure there are others I could add to this list.

Our relationships are built on these and other fundamental qualities. When we exemplify them others will see authenticity in you.

So what is our goal? Are we to search and find that ONE person to be a best friend with? That depends on whether you are looking for a spouse.

I would encourage you to BE the friend you desire to have with others. Practice the fundamental qualities of relationship with others. Watch for those who will only take from you and be cautious in your vulnerability with them.

When your relationships are put to the test, you will discover which are meaningful and which are not. I am in no way saying you should allow yourself to be rolled over and taken advantage of.

I am saying that if you are looking for deep and meaningful friendships, you will find it difficult if you don’t at least take the risk.

With the person you consider to be your “best friend” – make sure you are respond in kind, otherwise you will jeopardize the relationship.

Do not be like the kids in the video you watched. Let time be the test of any friendship you have with others. In the meantime, BE a friend.

Thank you so much for continuing to read week after week. I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email me or respond to this post by Commenting below.