on the year of rest

“No one should ever pick ‘rest’ as their word for the year!” my friend exclaimed.  She had spent quite a lot of time in the hospital that year with some life-threatening conditions.  “Too late for me,” I thought. I knew that ‘rest’ was my word for 2015. What the year of “now” revealed was the frenzy inside.  Rest was the right word.

time lapse trafficwhite water rapids

Like my friend, I have had surprises in this theme of rest.  Ironically, this is my busiest travel year in a while.  On top of that, there are major projects requiring a lot of time, thought and energy, leaving me wondering how things will get done.

To actually “Rest” means you respond to an invitation.  Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden…”  Like a physical invitation, you can read it and put it on a pile. You can know that you’re invited, but that doesn’t mean you’re going.  You have to RSVP and you have to show up!  The invitation to “come” is throughout Scripture.  Knowing that doesn’t give you rest.  Coming to Jesus and laying your concerns with Him is the start of a heart at rest.

Isaiah 30:15 gave me another insight – to repent.  Repentance and rest lead to salvation. There are some nuances in these words that made me think about turning away from my own solutions and turning toward God, as well as stepping down, settling.  How many times is my own unrest generated from holding on to my own ways, and trying to be in control, rather than turning to the Lord and letting Him be in control?

My unrest often comes from holding on to my own ways and wanting to be in control.

The verse goes on to say quietness and trust are your strength.  Quietness instructs me to let God lead me, to follow, rather than try to figure it out all in advance. Trusting in the Sovereign Lord means I need to remember and rely on His greatness, His love, His power.  The more I remember who He is in all His glory, the easier it is to stay at rest.   My confidence in Him grows when I am continually reminded of who He is and what He has promised.

beach panoramaThe more I come to the Lord with what’s going on with me in real time, the more I am able to rely on Him. And that reliance, that confidence that He will supply what is needed that brings my heart to rest, right in the midst of demanding days and busy seasons.

I like that.  I like it a lot.  Praying for these habits to take hold in me.

What has helped you find “rest” in the midst of busy seasons?

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great teams don’t just happen – part 4

We were halfway through dinner, three roommates seated around a small table, discussing the family traditions of our growing up years. One roommate, in a forlorn kind of voice, said, “When we came home from school every day, whoever was home came out and greeted us, usually my mom. And in the mornings when anyone was leaving, the whole family went to the window to wave good-bye until the person was out of sight. I get so disappointed when I come into the apartment and no one comes out to greet me, or when I leave and nobody walks me to the door.”

welcome homeThe other roommate and I looked at each other with wide eyes.We were so surprised! Neither one of us had that kind of family experience. We had no expectations of being greeted or of greeting anyone other than a shout of “Hello—I’m home!” In my case, my mom was busy with other kids, so I would go to where she was to let her know I was home. My other roommate was active in sports and had a working mom, so coming home was also a different experience for her.

That one difference had created some real hurt among us. We inadvertently implied to the first roommate that she was not a part of the “family.” It was not her “normal.” We acted differently from her “normal family.” She felt rejected.

 How do you define “normal”? 

In most situations people define normal as what they are accustomed to, in this case, what they grew up with. Those practices are part of us; they are how we express value, closeness and belonging. They are different for each one of us.

Rev. Peter Scazzero, in The Emotionally Healthy Church, describes how our families lay the patterns for the ways we communicate, the ways we handle conflict or hurt, and the ways we signal belonging. They establish what is normal for us. When joining the family of God as new believers; we must be discipled into a “new normal,” in order to become spiritually mature and emotionally healthy disciples.

We mix it all up when we create ministry teams! Each of us comes with our own practices, values, and different maturity levels. Increasingly, teams around the world are a mix of people from different cultures and countries, ages and experience. Think of the challenges as each person on the team adjusts to the values and practices of the new team.

The Bible gives us a lot of food for thought for a new normal in the “one anothers.” That “new normal” means that we become aware, sometimes painfully, of ways we need to change.

The “old normal” may cause pain, just as I did to my roommate. Because of different experiences, values, and habits, a person can easily undermine team unity by holding on to a comfort zone.

What we learned as children helped us get what we wanted when we were kids. Those defense behaviors that worked well at age 12 or 15 are no longer productive or helpful in moving a team task forward. Neither are they respectful to others on the team:

  • Passive-aggressive behavior*
  • Dominating discussion
  • Deflecting topics
  • Topic jumpers
  • The chronic objectors

In addition to these problem behaviors, there may be more subtle signals related to belonging or not belonging. In 1973, Mary Rowe, PhD., found that people in particular minorities (race or gender) were affected by subtle messages of devaluation that kept them from flourishing. These messages are called “microinequities.” Here are some examples:

  • Constantly being interrupted
  • Being excluded from discussions
  • Not getting full attention from the listener (on cell phone, continuing to work while talking, etc.)
  • Cutting down ideas before they can be entertained
  • Mispronouncing or misspelling your name
  • Change in voice pitch, rate or volume
  • Change in body language

These kinds of behaviors over time can leave a person feeling devalued. They are a way to say “you don’t belong.” Part of the problem is that these behaviors may be unconscious behaviors, part of the “old normal” that we grew up with.

Messages of Devaluation AB 4

Jesus gives us specific instructions on how to deal with relational offenses or microinequities. They are the basis for our “new normal” in relationships. In Matthew 5 and Matthew 18, we are to go to someone when we become aware that he or she may have an issue with us, or that we have been hurt.

Our roommate did that—she took the initiative with us. She was the youngest of the three of us, so I don’t imagine it was easy for her. Even if there’s a remote possibility of a problem, it’s better to go and check it out, rather than to simmer in vain imaginations. In either case, offender or offended, we take the initiative to go to the other person.

If you recognize yourself in any of these behaviorsseek feedback from your teammates. Give them permission to let you know when you’re engaging in them. If you become aware of offending a teammate, repentance and seeking forgiveness are your first two steps. Take the initiative to go to the person. You know the rest! In practice, differences tend to divide. People tend to befriend those who are most like themselves.

As believers, our “new normal” is that we reach out to people who are different from us. Both Romans 12:13 and I Peter 4:9 tell us to practice hospitality, i.e. to love strangers, to make people feel “at home.” Interesting to note that in both passages, the commands to love and offer hospitality come in the context of differing gifts.

As members of His body,  our differences are good and necessary (I Cor. 14). God instructs us to encourage, to build up, to be kind, to forgive, and to speak the truth in love. The research shows us that people respond to small acts of affirmation.

Dr Mary Rowe shares that micro-affirmations need to replace micro-inequities.

“Microaffirmations are tiny acts of opening doors to opportunity, gestures of inclusion and caring, and graceful acts of listening.Micro-affirmations lie in the practice of generosity, in consistently giving credit to others– in providing comfort and support when others are in distress, when there has been a failure at the bench, or an idea that did not work out, or a public attack. Microaffirmations include the myriad details of fair, specific, timely, consistent and clear feedback that help a person build on strength and correct weakness.”

She says it well. Inclusion, caring, listening, generosity, giving credit, comforting, feedback— hmmm, that sounds like love and hospitality to me.

Great teams require courageous people who pursue right relationships before the Lord. They are willing to look foolish or weak in order to be at peace with each other, forsaking their pride, so that Jesus is honored. They don’t let offenses build up. Team leaders need to pay attention, not only to the agenda or content of the meeting, but also to the small things, to the little ways we encourage or discourage each other. They have to pay attention to whether we are moving toward our “new normal.”

That night, with the three roommates around that dinner table, our differences resulted in hurt. Love and hospitality meant adopting a new practice at our home. Each of us was willing to change our “old normal” once we knew how left out our roommate felt. We developed our own “new normal.” That made all the difference on our home team!

What new practices have you learned to adopt to make someone feel valued on your team?  How does your team express you are valuable to them? 


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