Less is more

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Because I have so much to learn in this area, I am relying on one of our Catch members today for advice on raising kids — in this case, highly opinionated kids who happen to be his sons.

This discussion on building bridges has been an eye-opener for me in that it has shown me how much I have failed in relation to building a relationship with my son, Chandler. So I am going to pass on some of Peter’s advice to you, since I’m between the answers on this, as I wrote about yesterday. I hope you will find it as  helpful as I have, and not just for kids, but for all our relationships, because we’re talking today about listening.

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Life between the answers with certainty

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My Catch is late today because I’ve been caught in the middle. It’s a familiar place. I commonly vacillate between wanting to give you the answers with certainty (that makes me look good), and wanting to capture what it is to live between the answers (that makes me look vulnerable), because in reality, that’s where we all are most of the time.

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What do we have in common?

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Continuing our deeper discussion on bridge-building is discussing the concept Look for what you have in common. This is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s harder than it looks. It relies, as all parts of bridge-building do, on the last concept about being eager to listen. It’s only as you get the other person to talk that you can find out what you might have in common.

Bridge-building is all about connecting and you can’t connect over what you don’t know, so you have to get good at questions and at getting someone to talk. Show an interest in what they want to talk about even if you aren’t interested. This is where faking it may be required — at least in the beginning.

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I’m right; You’re wrong; So what?

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Like we said on Tuesday of this week, being right is overrated.

I wonder how many relationships have been sacrificed at the altar of being right. What is it that makes us do this? Is it our natural competitiveness — (we just can’t resist a good fight?) Is it a diversion away from a more important issue that remains unsettled? Is it an issue of pride? Whatever it is it can be harmful. And if being right is harmful, admitting you are wrong can heal a relationship because of — you guessed it: its vulnerability.

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Living with confrontation

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I need to build a bridge to my son. He’s over there somewhere; I’m over here somewhere, and there is a wall between us. I built the wall, brick by brick, by avoidance. I’m the one who can remove it — or maybe together, we could build a bridge over it.

Chandler is confronting by nature, and I mean that in a good way. He says what he thinks and expects you to do the same. If you don’t, he doesn’t have time for you. I don’t always say what I think, and he knows it, so he doesn’t have time for me. I am not confronting by nature. I avoid confrontation at all costs — and the cost is high — it’s the cost of a relationship. Did I just say I would sacrifice a relationship to avoid confrontation? That’s how bad my isolation is.

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Out of my shell

th-6Be vulnerable.

Be open-minded

Look for what you have in common.

Empathize.

Cross over.

Be willing to admit you were wrong.

Be more eager to listen than to talk.

Yesterday’s Catch was about building bridges. It listed 7 different things we could do to help build bridges with people instead of walls. Marti thought it was a brilliant Catch. Then she challenged me to pick them off, one by one, and write about how I’m really doing with each one of these suggestions.

Wait a minute. That’s a violation of the cardinal rule of teaching, which is: The teacher is exempt from having to apply what he/she is teaching to him/herself. If you came up with it, you are obviously doing it. Not.

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Building bridges in a season of walls

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Jesus gave us one command before he left. It was the last thing He told us. He told us to go. Go into all the world. Go into all the world and make disciples. Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. That is a massive undertaking and it is entirely inconsistent with current cultural trends toward separation and isolation. How can you go anywhere with walls around you, and no bridges to get there? “Going” in a season of walls will take some serious bridge-building or you can’t even get there. We will have to buck the trend. What will help us do that?

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Keep the door open

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I will count Egypt and Babylon among those who know me—

    also Philistia and Tyre, and even distant Ethiopia.

    They have all become citizens of Jerusalem!

Regarding Jerusalem it will be said,

    “Everyone enjoys the rights of citizenship there.”

    And the Most High will personally bless this city.

When the Lord registers the nations, he will say,

    “They have all become citizens of Jerusalem.” Psalm 87:4-6

The quote above from the Psalms of David is one of the most surprising I’ve come across in scripture in a long time. Talk about inclusion! God is counting Egypt, Babylon, Philistia and Tyre among those who know Him? And He is going to register their citizens as citizens of Jerusalem? Imagine David being inspired by God to write this? Can’t you imagine him saying, “Are you sure, Lord? Did someone slip something into your holy water last Sabbath?” David’s been chasing and been chased by Philistines all his career as a warrior/king, and now he’s writing that the Lord is going to make them all citizens of Jerusalem? Put in the names of your most hated enemies and then count them among those who know God and it will have the same effect.

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