Earthen vessel

Vessel

You lift me up

in the valley of despair

above shadowy sorrows

downcast discouragement

ground-level grief.

You flatten my mountains

of pharisaical pride

arrogant accomplishment

puffed-up knowledge.

You level my rough spots:

habitual temptations

chronic conflicts

persistent flaws.

Your glory shines forth

through all the cracks

in this earthen vessel.

Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed
and all people will see it together.
Isaiah 40:4-5a NIV

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Confrontation can be kind

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 NIV

Recently I was bushwhacked by harsh criticism from a loved one. Her words were too strong and untimely, and I reeled from the impact. Some of the issues she brought up are minor. For example, my late arrivals had been bothering her for at least four years, and at last her frustration boiled over. If I had known that by showing up 10 minutes early I would have closed the puzzling distance in our relationship, I would have jumped at the chance to honor her preference. She always seemed so laid-back about plans; I had no clue it bothered her. Why did she hold it in that long? Her answer: she didn’t want to add stress to an already stressful situation. I wish she would have let me decide how much stress I can handle.

To be sure, once I’ve cooled down I will confront her harsh delivery and her tendency to hold grudges. First I need time to pray and consider how I can speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). I will examine the grains of truth she presented, seek godly counsel on how to approach her, and show her compassion and grace. I understand very well how hard it is to confront, and also how productive healthy confrontation can be.

A people-pleaser and peace-seeker by nature, I grew up paralyzed by fear of conflict. My blood pressure rises when I watch something as benign as an ESPN debate panel discussing coaches’ decisions. Their raised voices and sharp, clashing opinions set me on edge. For most of my life I have suffered silently, uncomplaining, as I allowed people to make choices for me since I didn’t want to face their wrath by speaking up. I really didn’t know how to confront; I usually chose to withdraw instead.

When I married my husband, who has no fear of confrontation, I learned how to confront without cowardice. We work as a good team when we must confront someone. He is stronger on the solution; I am kinder in the administration. As we can’t possibly please all four sets of our parents simultaneously, much less all our siblings, we’ve combined our skills to confront when necessary. Their responses aren’t always positive. However, he has peace knowing that nothing is left unsaid, and I have peace knowing our delivery wasn’t disrespectful. It’s all in the presentation.

In some cases, confrontation has actually improved our relationships. Some loved ones are willing to grow from the confrontation; others aren’t willing to get past it. That’s a real risk we’ve faced as a couple. But I can honestly say I have no regrets—other than I wish I would have confronted sooner!

Speaking the truth in love is surely one of the hardest directives in Christian living. I’ve learned if I sift my words in prayer before I confront, they lose their bitterness. They become a practical way to love my enemy. Sometimes, my enemy turns into a friend—but only through confrontation.

How do you apply this proverb to your conflicts?

My diverse spiritual background

bible-light-rays

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NIV

Jesus wooed me to himself through the influence of several religions. Here is my journey.

As I have written on My Story page, my family heritage is primarily Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. I attended a LCMS grade school and church, which shaped my childhood understanding of God’s truth and his Word. I knew the Bible stories inside out and I memorized hundreds of Bible verses. I am thankful for that beginning.

From the age of 12, I watched Dr. Charles Stanley on Sunday night television. His preaching is undeniably Baptist, and it is grounded firmly in God’s Word. After one of those Sunday night sermons, I experienced spiritual rebirth at age 15. I have been listening to Dr. Stanley for almost 25 years now on television and radio. Probably no other teacher has shaped my faith more than him.

In high school I attended a small Presbyterian church. A friend in that church led me to my alma mater, Covenant College, the official school of the Presbyterian Church in America. At Covenant I gained a solid biblical worldview, and I was inspired to reform and redeem every circle of my influence. For the past 10 years or so, I’ve listened to Dr. John MacArthur, a Presbyterian Bible teacher, via radio or podcast. I also consider Tim Keller, a well-known Presbyterian pastor in New York City, a major influence.

I have some exposure to the Catholic church through my stepfather’s family and through my husband’s family and friends. The best takeaway I’ve had from Catholicism is the imagery of believers as priests, a practical application of the book of Hebrews. I have mixed feelings about Catholic teachings, but I have loving relationships with many Catholic believers.

For the past eight years I have participated in Bible Study Fellowship, a non-denominational group. I have grown so much from the BSF method: interacting with God’s Word alone, discussing it in a small group, listening to a lecture, then reading the commentary. It’s wonderful to see how God’s Word unites believers through BSF, and I’ve made many friends there.

Jesus is the thread who runs through all my spiritual influences. He gave me a love for his Word in the Lutheran church. He made me strong in the Spirit through Baptist teaching. He called me to action in the Presbyterian church. He increased my compassion through Catholic believers. He brought me to spiritual maturity through non-denominational Bible study. My story is His story. He is my Way, my Truth, and my Life.

How has God wooed you through your religious background?

Thank you Renee Espriu for inspiring this post, by your comment on My Story page.