Thursday, August 27, 2015

Giving away help is sure hard work!

Homeless young man: "I need some help."
Me: "OK, is today the day to start getting help?"
Homeless young man: "I need some counseling."
Me: "We can do that. Is today the day?"
Homeless young man: "I have no money."
Me: "What if finances were not a problem? Is today the day?"
Homeless young man: "I don't know."
Me: "What if the counseling, that you want, did not cost you a dime? What if we worked around your schedule? What if we helped you take the first step to wellness? Is today the day?"
Homeless young man: "Hmmmmm"
Me: "Do you want to be well? Is today the day?"
Homeless young man: "Ok, I'll call . . . tomorrow."
Me: "But not today?"
Homeless young man: "Yeah, I'll call."

I know we cannot ignore the poor, but sometimes the poor ignore us. Even so, we keep inviting. It's no wonder Jesus asked a person in need of healing if he wanted to be well. 

I guess there are those in need of wellness, yet they resist the opportunity to get help. Apparently, the cost of wellness (Self-awareness, time, money, energy, effort, etc.) is something they resist.

Perhaps, the man Jesus encountered realized that if he was well, he would have to work. Staying in bad health for this man had advantages. People responded to his situation with donations. If he was well, no more handouts.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Redemptive Power of Invitation

Nothing is reconciled until someone invites.

I am confused over two positions I often hear among believers.  People tell me they want to restore broken relationships, but then they add, “Not now.”  Excuses range from: I am not ready, they are not ready, it is not the right time, coming together will only make things worse, conflict will take care of itself, or time heals all wounds.

Here’s another excuse.  I received an email from a pastor who experienced conflict with a few church elders.  The elders eventually left the church.  The pastor invited them to come together to discuss the conflict.  The elders stated they had “prayerfully considered the suggestion for further discussion and collectively agreed that the cause and testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ in the community would be impacted in a negative manner by any more discussion.”  Instead, the ex-elders started another church.  Actually, reconciliation would have had the bigger impact in the community.

Frankly, there is a huge disconnect in what we say we believe and what we do.  This is particularly true in our approach to resolving conflict.  We know what the Scriptures teach: “go” to the other party whether we are the offender or the offended (Matthew 5:23, 24; 18:15-20); reconciliation of relationships is a prerequisite to worship (Matthew 5:23, 24); deal with today’s anger today (Ephesians 4:26); live in peace (Ephesians 4:3); and seek agreement (I Corinthians. 1:10).  We know Jesus is especially with us during the process of reconciling relationships (Matthew 18:20).  We even know that peacemakers in God’s Kingdom are blessed and identified with the Most High God of Peace (Matthew 5:9).  There is no logic to this disconnect between what we know to be true and how we actually live.

Dr. Jerry Sheveland, President of the Baptist General Conference, makes an important point regarding the best time to resolve conflict.  He simply asks, “Why wait for a harder moment than this one to begin a process of honesty and grace . . ?”

Now is the time for reconciliation.  Don’t wait for a more difficult opportunity.  There is no hope of reconciliation until someone invites the other party into a process of restoring the relationship.  Someone has to do the work of invitation.  Why not now?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Stop Lying to Yourself and Start Reconciling with Others.

Ten Guardian-Lies 
or "Why I do not have to reconcile"

Disclaimer:  There are interpersonal conflicts that are sometimes intractable based on criminal felony offenses, years of abuse, deep emotional wounds, and the like.  I am not writing about those types of complicated conflicts.  I am writing about the normal routine conflicts that people bring into New Path Center every week.

As a result of serving as a mediator over the last 20 years, I've noticed a pattern.  Sometimes, when I invite conflicted clients to enter a reconciliation process, the clients, along with several other clients, give amazingly similar irrational responses.  I hear the following responses over and over again.  Hence, I have learned to recognize these repeating phrases as "guardian-lies."

A guardian-lie is any belief that hinders a person from moving forward.  People are stuck NOT because of any outside force beyond his or her control.  People are stuck due to their own belief and choice.(1)

Here are some of the most common guardian-lies that I hear.  These lies keep people from moving forward to reconciliation.

I choose to remain stuck in conflict because:

  1. I know the other party will not want to reconcile.
  2. Even if the other party says they want to reconcile, they are not showing enough sincerity, remorse, humility, forgiveness, (and so on).
  3. Reconciling will only be a waste of time.
  4. We have tried to reconcile in the past but it has never worked, and it won't work this time.
  5. Any more contact with the other party will only make it worse.
  6. There is nothing we could possibly do to make it better
  7. The other party knows what they did wrong, they need to come to me.
  8. If I have wronged someone, they have the responsibility to come to me.
  9. I'm just going to avoid being around the other person.
  10. The other party is "crazy!"
1. Dr. Ed Smith, Theophostice Prayer Ministry, adapted by Tony Redfern

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Don't Write Off The Lousy Guys

Sixth Grade Class, 1961, Samuel Gompers Elementary School
A few weeks ago our family enjoyed the end of another Little League Baseball season. What fun to cheer for our younger grandson, Jack, and to watch his team spirit at each game. It was easy to tell Jack knew he belonged on the team.  

As I watched my grandson's games, my thoughts went back to my sixth grade class at Samuel Gompers Elementary School in Lakewood, California (see photo above). Yep, that's me at the top of the class! No ... really! Top row in the center . . . with the glasses; the shortest guy in the class. (Well, that label might be a toss-up with Petey Carter.)  I really did not figure out I was short until I was well into the sixth grade.  I knew some guys were tall but I did not think of myself as short ... go figure.  

I also remember playing baseball in sixth grade; specifically being at bat. It was sometimes bitter-sweet when it was my turn to bat. Bitter because, all of a sudden, as I stepped up to the plate, I could hear the shouts from the other team, "Move in, move in!"  The outfielders became infielders; additional short-stops and basemen to field my hit.  Even so, I always thought it was sweet when I did hit the ball over their heads and send them running after it. I guess I played bigger than I looked!

One time, I was picked to be the captain of one of our class baseball teams. I quickly worked on my selection plan in my mind, and I was ready to pick my team players.  I started off my team by picking Nicky Perko as pitcher. (Nicky is the second to my left in the class picture.  Hmmm ...Nicky Perko ... even sounds like a pro-baseball player, doesn't it?)  

The other captain picked his first player. When it was my turn to pick again, Nicky suggested that I choose a lousy guy. I was really confused about Nicky's strategy. I decided to go against my own plan and go with Nicky's plan. I picked Lousy Guy #1. Then Nicky whispered to choose Lousy Guy #2. Honestly, I already had enough of his plan. 

I turned to him and said, "Nicky, we are going to lose every game with all these lousy players." Despite my protests, he was sure of his plan to pick all the lousy players in the class.

"Tony, get all the lousy players and we will win," Nicky assured me. Pretty soon, sure enough, we had all the lousy players and all the good players ended up on the other team. All I could see was doom and gloom. But Nicky told me not to worry because we were "going to be a team."  

I learned that day that good players often are not a team but merely an assembly of individual players made up of all the glory-players who try to out play their own teammates.  Their pride divides the team and destroys the team spirit as they argue between themselves. And that is exactly what happened that day Nicky and I picked the lousy players. Our team beat the glory-team!

Counter-intuitive? You bet. It truly is upside-down. The moral: Don’t write off the lousy players.  They may organize and turn upside-down your low expectations of them!  Lousy guys tend to believe in each other and cheer for each other.  They possess the power of belonging. They just may hit the ball over your heads!  The lousy guys may win after all!

Thanks for the life-lesson, Nick!

Nick Perko and I, Eugene, OR, April 2013
PS:  Talk about an upside-down team!  Nick and I consider it an honor to belong to this team also: For consider your calling, brothers; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, no many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. and because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mean Girls and Forgiveness

Some time ago, New Path Center was assigned a juvenile offender case that involved two girls, Marie and Julia.  The case was a referral from the Kingsburg Police Department. The girls had a history of not getting long including verbal attacks, name calling, and escalation with physical violence.    

Other girls knew that the two girls hated each other.  These girls even encouraged Marie and Julia to fight by starting gossip about them in the hope for seeing more drama.  The "spectators" would actually tell Marie what Julia said about her; and, of course, they would tell Julia what Marie said about her.  Then they would watch the sparks fly!

I held individual meetings with both Marie and Julia. Each girl had a parent present in that meeting.  The individual meetings went well as each girl volunteered to participate in a modified KCJC as one of four ways to address their on-going conflict. 

One of the reasons for the modification was that neither girl wanted their parents involved in the process of reconciliation.  In fact, they really didn't want me involved.  They felt they could resolve their conflict on their own.  (Hooray for Option 4!)  I told them I would not be making any decisions for them.  They would make the decisions that would shape their future relationship.  I’d be there to help them have a constructive conversation.  They agreed to meet together in the NPC office with me as their facilitator, i.e. someone to help make the process easier. 

Frankly, I was concerned about the meeting going badly without parents or community members being present.  I felt the meeting could easily turn into a violent Jerry Springer show.  I even considered having a police officer join the meeting or at least request an officer to be on stand-by.

Even so, I decided not to “big deal” it and stayed with the modified KCJC and proceeded to meet with just the two girls.  We started with some ground rules, then talked about what happened, how to make things as right as possible, and lastly, they made some promises about the future.

This was one of the easiest conflicts I have ever facilitated.  The girls stepped up to the higher task of reconciliation.  They did not personally attack each other but shared out of their own brokenness and owned their part in their conflicted past.  At one point their dialogue become so personal, I offered to step out of the meeting to give them some privacy.  They agreed and I left them alone.  I rarely do this out of concern that things can quickly take a turn for the worse.  But the girls did very well.

At the end of the meeting, I asked the girls if they thought they had just experienced forgiveness.  They both said yes.  I asked them if they could give me a definition of forgiveness.  They both agreed that forgiveness was when they no longer held the wrongs of the past against each other.  (They got it!)

Before Marie and Julia left my office, I asked them if they wanted to meet again in a few weeks to follow-up and hopefully celebrate their new and improved relationship.  Surprisingly, they agreed to meet with me.  In fact, we agreed to meet at Baby Cakes & Ice Cream in Kingsburg.  However, when I called to follow-up, they did not return my call or, if they did take my call, they would tell me how busy they were and could not meet.  Finally, I turned back the case to the police department with a note that said, "After several attempts to make contact with the offenders and having left several messages, I am waiving the follow-up meeting.  (Perhaps, the thought of meeting with an old guy over ice cream was not appealing to two young girls.)"  Hence, I considered the case closed but not really sure if things worked out between the two.  

Several weeks went by, and one day Marie and Julia dropped by my office.  They were together, happy, giggling, and just enjoying each other's company.  They said, "We have come for our ice-cream celebration!"  I dropped everything and we walked to Baby Cakes.  The flavor of two scoops of forgiveness tasted sooooo good.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Franky, We Gotsa Four Ways To Do This.

Franky, me and yous hasa beef.  I wanna to work the west side and yousa wanna to work the west side.  How do we solve this beef? - cause right now, we are alls balled-up, capish? (Yeah, I knows that is Sicilian but I like a the way "capish" sounds.)  Anyways, we gotsa four ways to deal with our beef:

1.  Well, I am a powerful man but yous are a powerful man also.  Maybe yous gotsa more power than me?  Maybe I gotsa more power than yous?  Maybe we take yous for a ride and yous loose both your knee caps or worse you wear some cement shoes and go sleep with the fish.

2.  Or we could ask some palooka to make the decision for us?   But maybe, we don't like the decision and then we take the palooka for a ride and bump off the bird.

3.  We could also go to some joint that helps people with a beef.  Kinda like #2, except this palooka is there to help us have a "constructive dialogue" - whatever that is.  We'll havta find out.  He says he has no power but, I am told, he sure looks intimidating.  Anyways, this palooka gives us alls the power to make a decision, but we gotsa share the power.  He's no big cheese or bull.  He just helps us to not beat our gums and not get anything done.  I knows he's gonna ask us, "Why?"  Why do we each wanna work the west side?  He's also gonna ask us to be nice to each other - like we just went to charm-school or something.  He's saying we may even get 100% of what we each want.  Yeah, I know whata dreamer!  He sounds all wet and filled with baloney.  I even heard his name rhymes with baloney.

4.  Hey Franky, maybe he's aright.  But we don't needa this palooka.  I'll tell you why I wanna work the west side and I can be nice.  Alls I'm saying is the west side is very important to me and yous are important to me - yousa like a brother to me. Why don't we meet at some juice-joint and hava a "constructive dialogue."  Together, we can level with each other and, maybe, we walk away with both knee caps, what we want, and we still be friends, capish?  Huh, I kinda sounda like a one of those hard-boiled peacemakers.  I hope that is copacetic with yous.

(Photo by Jason "Red Beard" Wedehase)

Monday, September 10, 2012

War and Peace (Defining reality)

Defining reality is the first step of redemptive transformation.  Therefore, I am also convinced, along with my national conference of churches, " . . . that war destroys all Christian values ..."


War and Peace - Resolution Adopted 1968 by Converge Worldwide (BGC)

We are convinced that war destroys all Christian values, including the destruction of human lives, rights and properties; that the possibility of plunging the human race into unimaginable holocaust of death and destruction through nuclear warfare is ever upon us; that we share in the weakness and sinfulness of the human race, that we express our Christian love toward all mankind, since we believe that God is love and that every person is precious His sight; that ultimate peace comes only through the coming of the Prince of Peace; that any temporal hope for the solution of the problems of human society is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ which offers reconciliation and peace with God and our fellow men.

Therefore we recommend that the members of our Baptist General Conference churches-
1. Confess their sins, asking God’s forgiveness for all past failures that have contributed to misunderstanding and conflict.
2. Increase their support of world missions through which the Gospel of redemption and salvation is proclaimed to all nations.
3. Pray without ceasing for peace and good will throughout the world; for leaders and organizations which seek to bring about cooperative understanding and the alleviation of international discord, racial injustice and world hunger.
4. Support any practical program which attempts to reduce armaments thereby lessening the tensions that lead to war.

Recognize that we are a part of a world-wide fellowship of believers in Christ, that we have spiritual resources that transcend national boundaries and political differences and that link us to the power and Spirit of Almighty God and His Christ.