Saturday, July 26, 2014

What's in a word?

Have you ever thought about how hard it would be to learn English as a second language? Sure, you could learn the basics: verbs, nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections...(yes, I had to look up the last two because although I use them all the time, I wouldn't recognize them by their "proper" names). But knowing the basics and putting them to use are completely different.

There are so many nuances in the English language. Think with me of the words that look and sound the same but have completely different meanings depending on the tense, context, inflection, etc.

  • Break (take a break, break a pencil, brakes on your car)
  • Fire (something is burning or you lost your job)
  • Tear (tear a piece of paper, tear through your work, tear up at a sad movie)
  • Favor (prefer one thing over another, gift from a party, doing a service for someone else)
  • Love (context: I love my mom v. I love pizza)
  • Like (appreciate something, make a comparison, give a thumbs-up on Facebook)

One particular word is at the forefront of my mind these days: compromise. It's important to understand when it is appropriate to compromise with someone when you are at odds and when it is important that you do not allow yourself to be compromised. The dictionary offers the following definitions for compromise:

  • a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims(...)by reciprocal modification of demands
  • an endangering, especially of reputation; exposure to danger, suspicion, etc.

In our relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, we learn the value of serving and putting the other person before ourselves. That is not to say we shrink back and refuse to communicate our likes, interests, and preferences. In fact, I find it to be more meaningful to compromise than to always get my way. If someone were to always let me choose, I wouldn't appreciate it as much as talking through how we can work it out so that we either both have the opportunity to get what we want at different times or brainstorm to find a solution we both agree on. We should not be surprised at or walk away from relationships where two people do not agree on everything. In fact, this is the perfect time to perfect your compromise muscle (like how I threw in that extra one?).

You cross a dangerous line, though, when you allow your faith, morals, or safety to be compromised. When you are in a relationship where you feel you must always set aside your beliefs, needs, and comfort to make sure the other person is happy (read: not going to walk away, manipulate, or hurt you physically or verbally), you put yourself in a compromising situation. 

While we should not run from disagreements (since no two people will always agree on everything), the Bible advises us to avoid quarrelsome people who look for any reason to start a fight (Proverbs 26:21). You know those people - they like to start arguments for argument's sake. They enjoy "stirring the pot" or throwing in a verbal grenade and watching others get into a heated discussion (aka argument). These are people we should not befriend.

The Bible talks a lot about quarrelsome people. When we familiarize ourselves with the indicators of these types of people, we learn discernment and can make wise decisions regarding who we allow into our inner circle. 

The Bible also talks about what our lives should look like when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. Galatians 5:22-23 lays out the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When two people in a friendship or relationship seek to bear these types of fruit, compromise should be relatively easy (and even exciting) as they watch the Holy Spirit work through them.

So be wise in who you associate with. Learn when to compromise and when not to compromise.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

There's just something about getting away...

Don't you agree? When you get away from the day-in, day-out, so many things fall into place.

My friend Courtney and I drove down to Galveston a few days ago for an extended weekend. I don't think there was a break in the conversation on the 4 1/2 hour trip! We laughed and caught up on recent weeks. We got serious and discussed challenging professional and personal situations we are facing. It was that good, deep conversation that can be hard to come by in the midst of busy lives.

The weekend consisted of relaxing on the beach, watching dolphins, and eating good food. We read, prayed together, watched some tv, and caught up on sleep. It was a GREAT trip!

It took until this morning, though, to realize one of the primary benefits of getting away. Dr. Michael Easley stepped in for Pastor Chuck this morning and brought a good word from the book of Jonah. In the middle of the message, he referenced a quote that I now find lingering in my thoughts as the weekend winds down. He said, "Comparison is the kiss of death to gratitude."

Take a minute to think this through.

When we spend our time comparing ourselves to others (our work, our lives, our relationships), we miss out on experiencing and expressing gratitude. When we take time to step away from the routine and gain some perspective, I think we would all acknowledge that we fall short in being grateful.

The world constantly tells us we should be unhappy with what we have. Take marketing for example. Commercials and ads are based on the premise that you are missing something and that the product/service being advertised is the answer to fill the void.

I could list a number of other examples like social media, celebrity news, and pop culture in general, but it can be even simpler. We tend to compare ourselves to those around us more often than we do to the out-of-reach celebrity. We do it at work with our peers or superiors. We do it in our relationships with our friends. We even do it with people we pass by but don't know.

And there is the key. We rarely know what is really going on in the lives of the people we compare ourselves to. We may see the one good thing they've got going at that time while the rest of their lives is crumbling around them. This is why we must focus on being grateful for what God has given us and trust Him to provide for our needs. Leave it to John Newton to summarize it perfectly,
"Everything is necessary that He sends; nothing can be necessary that He withholds."