Friday, October 10, 2008

Take a “Leaf-Raking Break”

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. I hope you will as well.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance of fighting "negativity" in my life and relationships. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that "life and death is in the power of the tongue…" We either appreciate or depreciate our spouse, children and other relationships by the words that we speak. As I was thinking along those lines, I read a devotion from "The peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict" by Ken Sande. Please allow me to share a story that Mr. Sande shared. I hope it will speak to you the way it did to me.

If you look for something bad in another person, you will usually be able to find it. On the other hand, if you look for what is good, you are likely to find that too--and then more and more that is good.

As you regain a more balanced view of the other person, you will often find it easier to overlook minor offenses.

Ken Sande says, "I have experienced this process many times in my marriage. One day Corlette said something that really hurt me. I don't remember what she said, but I remember going out into the back yard a few minutes later to rake leaves. The more I dwelt on her words, the more deeply I slid into self-pity and resentment. I was steadily building up steam to go back into the house and let her know how wrong she was. But then God brought Philippians 4:8 to my mind.

Ha! I thought. There's nothing noble, right, or lovely about the way she's treating me! But the Holy Spirit wouldn't give up. The verse would not go away; it kept echoing in my mind. Finally, to get God off my back, I grudgingly conceded that Corlette is a good cook. This small concession opened the door to a stream of thoughts about my wife's good qualities. I recalled that she keeps a beautiful home and practices wonderful hospitality. She has always been kind toward my family, and she never missed an opportunity to share the gospel with my father (who eventually put his trust in Christ just two hours before he died). I realized that Corlette has always been pure and faithful, and I remembered how much she supports me through difficult times in my work. Every chance she gets, she attends the seminars I teach and sits smiling and supportive through hours of the same material (always saying she has learned something new). She is a marvelous counselor and has helped hundreds of children. And she even took up backpacking because she knew I loved it! I realized that the list of her virtues could go on and on.

Within minutes my attitude toward her was turned upside down. I saw her offensive comment for what it was--a momentary and insignificant flaw in an otherwise wonderful person. I dropped my rake and went inside, but not to unload a storm of resentment and criticism. To her surprise, I walked in, gave her a big hug, and told her how glad I was to be married to her. The conversation that followed led quickly to a warm reconciliation.

Food for Thought

Fall is here, and many of us will find ourselves busy raking leaves in the coming weeks. Have you ever had a leaf-raking experience like the one Ken describes above? Keep in mind that even without a rake in your hand, you can take a "leaf-raking break" and apply Philippians 4:8 to your relationships.

Pause to call to mind the MOST strained, cool, or distant relationship in your life today--even if it's only a minor spat. Then work to develop a list of at least three characteristics about the other person in the conflict that are noble, right, or lovely. Now, as the Apostle Paul counsels in Philippians 4:8, take a "leaf-raking break" from your regular routine to "think on these things." How might your approach to the present conflict change by putting the apostle's advice into action? It is something to think about isn't it? Blessings!

Pastor Rusty