The Red Phone to Joy

dreamlink_big-ideas_popsicle-hotline-1024-x-768In the Hollywood area of LA, there is a smallish hotel that is completely unorthodox. The Magic Castle Hotel was built a long time ago. The architecture is dated, the pool is right out of the 60s, to call it a hotel is kind of stretching the term. This place is really a glorified old-school motel. But, it is consistently ranked as one of the top five places to stay in Southern California. Five-star reviews across every website and rating group. They’ve taken a boring, run-of-the-mill motel, and turned it into one of the hottest places in town, by finding moments of joy.

The staff of the Magic Castle does things that, by everyone else’s standards, make no sense. They have free candy bars and snacks all day at the front desk, free soda fountain and soft serve ice cream for anyone who wants it, they just give a lot of things away. But the service everyone talks about, the thing everyone remembers, is even weirder. By the pool is a tacky, bright red phone that is the “Popsicle Hotline” Pick it up, and the white-gloved wait staff will bring popsicles on a silver tray to where you’re seated, all free of charge. Popsicles are not expensive, they’re frozen, flavored, sugar water. But when they’re presented in this whimsical way, it is so surprising; everyone is enthralled by the experience. The team at the Magic Castle has taken something ordinary and, by creating these little moments of joy, have created something extraordinary. God wants to do the same thing in our lives.

The things of God make no sense when looked at through the logical eyes of this world. The first shall be last; you must give away your life to save it, etc. That God would pour out His grace on us as a free gift for the asking makes no sense. But God does not work by the rules that everyone else is expecting; He creates His own rules that run counter to the common sense of this world. He wants to bring joy, on a silver plater, to where we are.

It makes no sense that by serving others, we would find joy, but that is how it works in the things of God. The standard operating mentality of the world says, “Collect more toys, make more money, buy a bigger house, get recognition, these are the things that bring joy, these are the thing that matter.” God has an entirely different take on finding joy in this life. The idea of giving to others, serving others, taking the humble servant’s attitude is crazy when looked at through the harsh eyes of the world, but it works.

The team I work with here in Mexico has the privilege of seeing people experience joy every week. We host short-term missions teams from around the US here in northern Mexico. They come down to serve in home building, medical outreach, ministry construction, or any number of areas where they can give from their talents. Every group is different, every group has different skills, and every group has different expectations. There are a few common denominators though; people are more alike than everyone likes to think. People from different cultures, different incomes, etc. tend to have the same reactions to some things. God’s rules universally apply to everyone.

Almost every group we host has the same responses to a service trip, “I’m leaving with so much more than I came with.” “I’ve experienced such joy.” etc. These are the types of comments we get from everyone. They come to give, they come to serve, they come to bless, and are blessed beyond measure. They find joy in the everyday acts of service they share with others.

God designed us to serve. The last example Jesus showed the apostles was foot-washing. God only wants great things for us, and He knows that serving others brings joy. Representing God’s servant’s heart to others brings those moments of depth that raise our lives to a higher level. Once again, the rules that God works under make no sense when viewed from a worldly perspective, but the rules of God work.

So how do we find joy? How do we experience those moments of surprise that bring depth to our lives? We can create them; we can reach out for that very cool red phone on the wall and order them delivered to us. God has given us the magic red phone to joy; He wants to deliver this to us on a silver platter. By seeking out those small moments of service we can find every day (not just on a mission trip) we can experience a connection with others, we can have an impact on others, we can make a difference.

Service does not need to be huge. A kind word to someone in hurting, helping someone load their groceries, shoveling someone’s sidewalk, are all simple acts that bless others and change us for the better. Live your life in an unorthodox way, live under God’s rules, find those moments of surprising joy.

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Why There Will Always Be Orphan Care

poorchildI recently had a conversation with someone who follows orphan care, and he made a statement that led to an interesting discussion. He claimed orphanages were ending in parts of the world. That many of the children were moving into foster care or larger care facilities. “So…into an orphanage?” I responded. “No, they are homes for children without other options.” He enthusiastically clarified. “So…orphanages?” “No no no,” he protested, “just big houses to care for children.” “So…orphanages?” We did not get far in the conversation. Calling an orphanage something different does not change the fact that it’s a system to care for kids who are abused, abandoned, or orphaned. If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and has feathers, calling it a banana does not change the fact that it’s a duck.

I wish orphanages did not exist. The fact that society needs a place for children born into horrible situations, who are abused, who have parents on drugs, is terrible. That wars, aids, and natural disasters happen every day leaving children to fend for themselves, is a fact that needs to be addressed. We live in a broken world. We, as a society, fail children way too often. Until we live in a perfect world, kids will be victims, and they need to be rescued and cared for.

To say that we should close all orphanages because children should be with families is a worthy goal, but it’s not living in reality. It’s like saying let’s close all the hospitals in the US because the billing system is a nightmare. “But if everyone worked out, lost weight, and quit smoking, we wouldn’t need hospitals!” If you could get everyone to look after their health more, we could cut down on hospitals, but cancer, accidents, etc. would still make hospitals a necessity for many people. Even the healthiest people age and eventually wind up in the hospital. You could make inroads, but ending hospitals because you don’t like hospitals makes no sense. It just isn’t reality. The idea of ending orphanages is just as crazy.

There has been a tremendous push in the last few years for the church to take up the biblical call to care for orphans through adoption and quality foster care. This is fantastic. Everyone who can, should be caring for the less fortunate, the marginalized, those who can’t care for themselves. The problem is, even if adoption doubled or tripled in most countries it would just begin to address the problem. Inroads could be made to address the issue, but to eliminate orphanages does not take into account the many situations where adoption or other placement is very difficult or impossible.

The latest estimates say there are 150 million orphaned or abandoned children in the world. If a child is in a system, orphanage or foster care, they have a 2% chance of being adopted. Adoption is not a reality for most children who need it. Adoption, when done right, is a beautiful, biblical, life-changing event. But adoptions are just too rare to make any real impact on the vast majority of children who need a home.

Orphanages should be the last resort after healthy family reunification, adoption, or some style of foster care. But countless children still need attention after all other options are exhausted. Severe special needs children, children with multiple siblings, or children with extreme behavior issues are complicated to place. There are also many children left in limbo because the parents are still in the picture in some way but can not (or should not) care for their children. Parents in prison or parents dealing with substance abuse might take their children back when or if healing does take place.

So given that orphanages need to exist, they should be outstanding. Back to the hospital analogy; I’m not crazy about hospitals, but if I’m in one, I want it to be the best hospital possible. Orphanages should be beautiful, inviting places. Orphanages should give the children as much stability, attention, and love as they possibly can. Around the world, so many children are left in systems that, due to lack of funding or lack of caring, are horrific places to grow up. We need to do better.

If you’ve adopted or have worked in foster care, THANK YOU. Keep up the difficult work you’ve been called to do. If you work in orphan care, thank you for being the last line of defense before children wind up on the streets. It’s a worthy calling.

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Finding Bromance

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Everyone loves a deep, solid bromance: Turk and J.D. from Scrubs, Wyatt Earp & Doc Holiday from Tombstone, Joey and Chandler from Friends, Captain Kirk and Spock from 26 different movies, you get the idea. The definition is pretty simple:

bro·mance / ˈbrōˌmans / noun; a close but nonsexual relationship between two men.

Women cannot have a bromance, females just function differently, not better or worse, just differently. (I know I’m going to get complaints about this last politically incorrect comment.) You can and should be best friends with your spouse, but it’s still very different than a guy friendship. Two women might be close, wonderful, supportive friends; but it’s just not a bromance.

Bromance involves a lot of hanging out and giving each other a hard time. Bromance will include a few practical jokes, and almost always involve some type of competition. It will involve not so subtle put-downs or ribbing, (My wife does NOT understand this part at all). The definition might seem simple, but the nuances and impact can be dramatic. Guys need this bonding with other guys. We need it for accountability, for support, and to know that the other guy will be there no matter what. Job loss, marriage problems, the death of loved ones, financial hardship, a solid bromance will remain as the one thing to count on outside of God.

The idea of bromance is actually a biblical principle.

Jesus did everything with a purpose; He sent the apostles out in twos for a reason. Two can keep each other accountable, two can encourage, two can support each other through the trials that will come into anyone’s life.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

“Iron sharpening iron” is very specific. Iron against something soft just becomes dull; it doesn’t say “As aluminum sharpens iron.” When iron does sharpen iron, it involves friction, sparks, and bumping against one another. But if sharpening is done correctly, all that friction creates something very sharp, something ready to be used, something much better than before.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

We live in a broken world, and the battle is very real. We are at war. In the last few years, I know two men who’ve committed suicide, a few who’ve fallen into sexual sin, some who battle substance abuse, and others who fight other issues. I know many people in ministry who are tired and worn thin from the battle. I’ve had my own struggles over the last few years. As we struggle and fight in this ongoing war, we need others around us to hold us up when we can’t stand on our own. We need others who understand the struggles we are going through, people who we know will be there for us. We also need to be the one holding others up, supporting others, giving a non-judgmental ear.

I’ve been richly blessed in my life with several very solid male friends. Way more blessed than I deserve. Some of these friends have come into my life in just the last few years, some go back decades. Many times I’ve been able to be there for them through their trials, and they have been a steady force while I’ve gone through my own battles. I am here today thanks to the small group of men in my life that I have the privilege to call my brothers. They have helped shape me and kept me going, I hope I’ve been a blessing in their lives.

Choose your friends carefully. This sounds like obvious advice but who you spend time with has a considerable influence over every aspect of your life. No one is perfect, but choose people who have character, who have vision, who are seeking God on a daily bases and not just on Sundays. Have people in your life who stretch you and help you be the best version of yourself. Once you have those people in your life, protect them, cherish them, be there for them. You will be better for your efforts, and it will help you survive the inevitable battles that will come into your life.

In the movie Gladiator, Maximus says to the other slaves at the start of the Barbarian hoard scene, “Whatever comes out of these gates, we stand a better chance of survival if we stick together, do you understand? If we stay together, we survive.” There is a lot of truth in that line. We never know what will be coming out of the gates to attack us. We need to stick together.

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Breaking the Cycle of Orphan Care

IMG_7507 2Most of the time, orphan care seems like a losing game. The bulk of the time it just doesn’t work the way we envision it. Often, a child is brought to a home with so much baggage that it’s almost impossible to help them reach a healing place emotionally. Frequently, a child is in an orphanage (or foster care) for a short period and then returned to the family, and the cycle of abuse or neglect continues. Orphan care can be a discouraging, heart-wrenching journey. But it can work some of the time. The times orphan care does work makes all of the other times worth it.

Recently, two great young adults married. Weddings go on all the time, but this marriage was a little different. Both had been raised in an orphanage. For reasons that aren’t important here, they were each brought to an orphanage with other siblings at a very young age. They were raised in this large home, and it was the only family that they knew for many years. They grew up independently, she going on with her education, him apprenticing in construction and learning various marketable trades. After they were out and on their own, they started dating and continued to make healthy life decisions as they planned for the future. A few years later, once she graduated, and he had established his own successful construction firm, they decided to marry. Today they are constructing their own home and building a wonderful life together. They’re a joy to be around. Granted I am biased; I so am proud to call Jerri and Yury two of my many children.

So how did these two beat the odds of becoming healthy productive adults while being raised in the system? I’m not saying we have all the answers, and I’m not saying every child brought to us has the same outcome, but it can work. We have found that many of the children raised in our home for years have gone on to be healthy productive members of society. Today there are doctors, lawyers, businessmen, many healthy individuals that can look back and say they were raised in an orphanage. It can work.

Many factors go into what makes a successful orphanage, even defining what “successful” means can get complicated. But, there are two factors that we’ve found to be the most impactful for children who need long-term care and healing.

1) Consistency. We all need a stable environment. Most children in the system anywhere in the world are moved to new homes, returned to blood relatives and then removed again, moved to another home, etc. If we each had to change homes, schools, friends, churches, etc. every month or two we would have some serious issues also. Constantly shifting living arrangements is not how people are designed to live and grow. God is consistent; He does not change. We all need a certain level of security in our lives. Over time, we’ve found that children given a loving, consistent upbringing will eventually learn what it means to feel comfortable, to know they are loved and wanted. We all need this.

Part of consistency is building traditions into our lives — the same activities for the holidays, the traditional meals, celebrations, and events that occur annually. The simple rituals that happen in most families: birthday cakes, the tooth fairy, etc. almost never occur in the lives of children who are in the system. They never know what the next week will bring, they don’t know what to look forward to. We need to be consistent in our care and model stability in these fragile lives.

2) A Servant’s Heart. We are designed to serve others. Most child-care systems never give the children the privilege of serving others. Children are fed and cared for, but a life of just receiving is an empty life. It also creates a victim mentality that does not make for healthy relationships in adulthood. By allowing children to experience the joy of serving others, it gives them purpose. When a child is abused or abandoned it can be hard to show them they have value. When a child has been thrown away, it teaches them at a profound level that they have no worth. By showing them they that can have a positive impact on others, it shows them they have great things to offer the world. Service shows them they have value. Service shows them God wants to use them to impact other people’s lives in a positive way.

An attitude of service makes us all healthier. It makes us better workers, bosses, spouses; it just makes us better people. Christ’s example to us is a perfect servants heart. We need to not only follow that example ourselves, but we also need to instill that humble servant’s heart in the children we are raising. A humble servant heart is the most empowering gift you can give a child. It will heal them, and change them for the better.

Does orphan care always have a happy ending? No. But it can work. Even in the cases where we feel it’s failed, we need to know that the seeds we plant in the hurting children we encounter are what matters. Those seeds can grow down the road; they can impact lives. If you are in orphan-care, please know your work matters a great deal. Your efforts are needed, work through the discouraging times. It can work, hang on to the times when it does.

The Best Advise I Ever Got

shoesMany years ago, a few months after taking over management of a struggling orphanage, the lady who ran it for years came down for a visit. She had been gone for quite a while before I got to the orphanage and I had never met her. I was terrified. Everything I tried to do, I was told, “Well, Agnes never did it that way.” After six months of working in the shadow of a legend, I was finally going to meet her. I just knew I was going to be judged by her the same way everyone else was judging. Yikes.

Twenty-five years later I still remember the meeting, where we sat, the time of day, everything. She turned out to be incredible, very gracious and encouraging. She told me two things that I didn’t fully understand or appreciate at the time, “It’s OK to leave now and then.” She wanted my wife and me to make time away from the ministry. The second thing she said was, “Buy good shoes.” Agnes had wrecked her knees walking miles around the property wearing old, donated shoes. She hadn’t wanted to “waste” the money on herself and paid for it in other ways years later.

It took me a very long time to fully understand the advice, and much longer to start to put this sage wisdom into practice. What she was saying was, “It’s OK to take care of yourself. If you’re going to survive orphan care, or any full-time ministry, learn balance.”

Full-time ministry is hard. Yes, I know this sounds cliche or self-serving, but a lot of the time ministry just sucks. There can be a great deal of joy, but there is also a relentless stream of problems and challenges that wear away at a person. Every week you can read of another pastor or ministry leader who falls into deep sin, suicide, substance abuse, etc. You can attribute this to spiritual attacks, pride, or just the broken world we live in. But whatever the cause, there are a lot of casualties in ministry.

In the ministry leader circles I run in, I can list a suicide, a couple of people battling substance abuse, and a few that are so worn down they are just going through the motions at this point. I know others who’ve not only walked away from ministry, they’ve walked away from the faith.

While working through this article, I happened to meet with the head of a children’s ministry working in the middle east, and I brought up the topic of burn-out. Although he said he was doing pretty good now, he shared that he had considered “swerving into oncoming traffic” a few times over the years. I know for me I’ve gone through some very dark times in ministry, usually not relating to any big issues. Oddly, the big challenges can energize me, but it’s the day-to-day that can wear me down. More than a few times I’ve been smiling on the outside while sharing with a group or spending time with a child, and inside I was screaming and wanting to run and hide. I could relate to my friend’s “wanting to swerve into traffic” moment. Been there a few times.

We are called to serve. It’s biblical; it is Christ’s example to us. But it’s so important to find a balance, find a support system, and keep strong in our walk with the One who provides our strength. Jesus spent a great deal of time alone, getting up early to pray. He also had a small team around Him, and He would ask them to pray along with Him. The battle is real; we need fellow warriors when we’re weak.

A few years ago a young pastor came into my office, and I asked how everything was going. He gave me the standard boring pastor answer, “Doing well, some challenges but excited to see where we’re going.” I’m not sure why, but I asked again but with some force, “No, honestly, how are you doing? I know as a pastor it’s hard to find people you can talk to. Nothing you say will leave this office.” His eyes widened, he paused for a moment, and he broke down. He unloaded so much pain over the next hour. He shared about his loneliness; he shared about the strain the ministry was putting on his marriage, how the people in his church had hurt him, he just shared. I had no great advice (I’m not that bright) he just needed an ear, a safe place.

If you are in full-time ministry, a caregiver, or are just worn down by life, please find people or only one person who will listen. Find someone you can be transparent with. Find someone who will not judge you or try to “fix” you. If you’re leading a life of service, odds are you spend a great deal of time giving of yourself to others both physically and emotionally. We can not give to others if we have nothing left to give. I want to re-emphasize this: find someone you respect that you can go to and be safe when you’re hurting. We all need support. It’s sad how few people have this in their lives.

If you feel you’ve reached the point where it might be clinical depression, please seek help. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of bravery to confront this real problem. It’s not your fault, it’s life.

Taking care of yourself is OK. It’s OK to “buy good shoes.” It’s a long walk to the finish line, you want to be able to keep walking.

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Peter Was a Jerk

Silhouette legs reflectionWhen we look at “our” ministry or walk with God, we frequently fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to the “great men of God” that we’ve seen or read about. Today, many people reflexively bow their heads when they speak of Frances Chan or Rick Warren and ask “Why can’t I be like that?” In orphan care, Jorge Muller is the legend that everyone refers back to. He was a Christian evangelist and the director of an orphanage in Bristol, England in the late 1800s. He cared for over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime. Everything written about him shows that he was impressive, Godly, and upright. I can’t relate. I identify with the apostle Peter; he was a slow learner and a profound jerk. My kind of guy.

You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, Peter was one of the big guns, he was one of the foundations of the church.” Don’t be so impressed. When you read about his actions and responses you have to ask yourself, “What was God thinking?”

Let’s take a real look at Peter:

Jesus called Peter as an uneducated man. He didn’t have a degree, no training, he never set foot in a seminary. He was a fisherman, a worker, not overly respected in the culture of the times, but God called him anyway. Matt: 4:18

He was the one who was told to walk on water and proceeds to screw it up by taking his eyes off Jesus and sinking in a panic. Matt 14:25-31

In Mattew 16:21-23 he reprimands Jesus and starts to argue with Him. (not a bright move, ever)

At one point speaking on behalf of the apostles, Peter shows an astounding lack of humility or servant’s heart by basically asking Jesus, “Hey, what’s in it for me?” Matt 19:27

You would think Peter would start to catch on but at the foot washing after the last supper, he was the one who fought with Jesus when Jesus tried to wash his feet. “Not my feet, no way.” Jn 13:6-9

We read that Peter was one of the ones Jesus asked to go and pray with Him in the garden before He was to be betrayed. And…Peter falls asleep…twice. Matt 26:36 & 40

When the High Priests’ slaves come for Jesus, Peter is the one who pulls out a sword and cuts the ear of the slave. At which point Jesus AGAIN has to clean up after Peter’s temper and poor judgment. Matt 26: 51 (named in John 18:10)

The high point (low point?) of Peter’s story might be when he denied Jesus three times after swearing he would never deny Him. Matt 26: 33-35 / 69-75

Peter was a temperamental, argumentative, prideful person. He would never be asked to work in an established ministry today. He would never pass a background check. He was immature, emotional, divisive, and a little slow. When you look at the breadth of what we know about Peter at this point, he was the WORST apostle ever. So what was Jesus’s reaction to Peter? Peter was one of Jesus’s favorites. Like a puppy that poops all over the house but is still loved, Jesus knew that Peter would learn eventually, and the Peter could be shaped and trained. Jesus was very fond of Peter.

Jesus asked only three apostles to go with Him up the mountain were Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah. He wanted Peter to see and experience this interaction. Mt 17 1-3

Although he screwed it up, Peter was the one Jesus asked to walk on water. This was a huge privilege. Jesus wanted him to experience stepping out onto the waves, to learn to trust Him in all circumstances.

In Luke 22:7 Jesus asked him to go and prepare the last supper. Although Jesus could have had anyone do this, He knew it was essential and that Peter learned how to serve in this way. Peter was trusted in spite of his history of screwing up.

Jesus didn’t ask everyone to go and pray with Him in the garden; He called the ones closest to Him. Praying at that level is no casual event, Jesus wanted Peter with Him in His darkest hour. Matt 26: 36 “Pray with me.”

Jesus says about Peter in Matt 16:15-19 “On this rock, I will build My church.” I’m sure more than a few people questioned Jesus’ selection, but He knew what He was doing. Jesus needed a flawed, broken individual to lead flawed and broken people. Anyone else would have seen the broken part, Jesus saw a rock in the making.

When you think you don’t have what it takes to make an impact for God, you’re right. That is the perfect place to start. Realize we’re ALL broken, but this is what God uses. A farmer will talk about needing to break the soil for it to be used. Seeds need to crack and be broken before they will grow. When a new building is going up, it can be a messy endeavor and can be very hard to see what the architect has planned. But the architect does have a plan; he can see the building in his mind. If we allow Him, God wants to be the architect of our lives.

Walk humbly, trust in God. As Moses reacted to God’s calling in Exodus 3: “Who am I that I would speak to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Rejoice in the fact that God uses the Peters of this world. We’re all a little, or a lot, like Peter. Rejoice in your brokenness.

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People Are Irritating

fightPeople frequently ask me, “What’s the biggest challenge of running a large orphanage?” It’s not funding, it’s not dealing with childhood trauma, it’s not even dealing with government bureaucracy. My biggest day-to-day challenge is keeping “grown-ups” from killing each other. Think of any group you’re involved in (work, home fellowship, whatever). Now imagine living with those people seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. If you’re honest, you might want to kill someone also.

All human beings are flawed, weird creatures with their own baggage, wants, and needs. When people work and live together for long periods of time, all that baggage tends to go on display. You’ve probably heard the saying: “Fish and houseguests go bad after a few days.” Anyone can live together for a while, but over time the quirks and irritating habits come out and grate on each other. Most of the groups we host at our ministry come in for a weekend or maybe a week. When a group books for two weeks we try to have them take a break mid-way through to spend time apart decompressing and to catch their breath. We’ve seen well-intentioned groups self-destruct after having to live together for more than a week. One group gave up and left five days early not speaking to each other. People are complicated.

In our home, we have over 100 children and about 30 adults that all live together. Our large staff is made up of multiple cultures, a wide range of educations and backgrounds, and an even more extensive range of personalities. In spite of the many interpersonal challenges that come up, along with the occasional romances, everyone gets along remarkably well. Not that we spend a lot of time discussing it, but the reason most of our team gets along so well is a sense of humility. A humble servant’s heart helps in any situation or relationship. Listed below are a few thoughts on ministry relationships, in no particular order.

Know that you have your own issues. You’re no picnic. It helps to realize you are as difficult and irritating as everyone you work with. Being self-aware is a challenging and complicated goal. It’s incredibly healthy to hold up the proverbial mirror and take a long look at yourself. “What am I doing to add to the conflict?” There is one person that I need to work with daily who is about a third of my stress. When I feel my blood pressure rise, I’ve started to look inward. Why is this bothering me so much? Does this matter? How am I hurting the situation? Sometimes it is the other person, but it’s pretty hard for any conflict to be entirely one-sided. When you’re frustrated with someone, it’s good to realize; you’re not so great yourself.

Lose the pride. Most people react from one of two places: pride or humility. I know some people who seem to be offended by EVERYTHING, I’m sure you know the type. When someone is always offended, it screams pride. “How dare they do that / ask that / expect that? Don’t they know who I am?” Pride really is the basis for all sin; it’s amazing how it can screw up relationships, workplaces, and lives. People reacting from pride are hard to work with and impossible to correct. You probably thought of at least one person after reading that last sentence, but ask yourself: “How do I respond to correction?” Do I get defensive? Or do I take an honest look at myself and see if changes need to be made? It’s a huge symptom of pride when we can not see our own faults. Throw several prideful people together, and it never works for long. Humility is needed in a ministry, in relationships, and in society, if we are going to survive.

Have grace for others. God has shown wild, abundant grace to us, way more than we could ever deserve, we need to have that same abundant grace for those around us. We need to show that grace to others, pour grace over others, and see them through our Father’s eyes. It’s easy to focus on what someone else is doing wrong; it’s harder to look at the person and see why. Everyone has been hurt; everyone makes questionable decisions, everyone is looking at life through their own warped lens and history. We need to “walk a mile in their shoes” and try to understand them as the valued individuals that God sees. When we see people with God’s eyes, they appear very different. When we truly hurt for someone, it’s hard to be hurt by someone.

When we’re looking for new staff, the most important thing we look for is a servant’s heart. Skills can be taught to anyone willing to learn, but a servant’s heart is essential for living in a community. A humble servant’s heart means someone has an understanding of what it means to walk in Christ’s example. Christ was a humble servant, and people were (and are) drawn to that. Christ was honest, He was OK with calling out sinful behavior, but it was always to teach, never to yell “gotcha.” He wanted what was best for all those around Him.

People are irritating, ourselves included. By walking in Christ’s example and seeing people as He sees them, living and working with others shifts into what God desires for us. We can live and work with others in peace, if it’s not about us.

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