Thursday, September 30, 2010

Familar Land Mines: Emotional E-mails

Emotions, not for email.  A friend was experiencing a legitimate frustration in a committee planning cycle and called me to read an e-mail response before sending it.  The act of reading it aloud was all she needed, hearing her words did the editing trick. 

I still encouraged her that being right in expressing her frustration was not enought to make it wise---e-mails are only able to effectively handle facts.  E-mail communication crumbles under the weight of expressing emotions.

This is true in both negative and positive ways.  Does the smiley face at the end of the statement really discount the sarcasm that precedes it? (nope)  Do lines of exclamation points and other punctuation abuse drive home a point with more clarity?  (not so much)  Is YELLING AT SOMEONE THROUGH YOUR CAP LOCK BUTTON going to make them listen more closely? (I am thinking, no)

We know this, so why do we continue to try and communicate our emotions through a vehicle which will result in worse communication and exaggerate problems versus solve them?  Why do we choose to make matters worse?

I think it is the quick fix, the momentary satisfaction of pushing the send button and sending the attitude in addition to the information.

It's not just negative e-mails either--cute does not correspond well either.  A written story can be funny, but one-liners, cute comebacks, the cyber equivalent of a wink wink (also can be tried, without much effectiveness through punctuation ;) does not really add value to the message ;) ---does it?

My advice, not needed as the writer of this e-mail knew it, was stick to facts.  The beauty of e-mail is in the quick exchange.  It can be used to share a story, if the writer is up to taking the time to write the context--who, what, where, when, how and why.

But use words to express facts not emotions.  If you are mad, say, "I am mad or frustrated," straight up.  Only say, "thanks a lot" if you mean thanks a lot.  If you mean, "I don't appreciate this," then say that.

E-mail should not be a guess what I am really feeling through this quick hit or new punctuation symbol combo.

Corporations now have e-mail style books and etiquette, which points to the fact I have not stumbled upon a new tension.  However, it is a tension and frankly temptation that I confront regularly.  This post is a reminder to me, to communicate emotions I need the full context of body language and I need my listener to have the chance to reply.  I need to wait for face or face, and not with a snarky statement followed by and assortment of  :) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Worthy Words from "A Leader's Heart"

A Leader’s Heart devotional book by John Maxwell is functional and inspiring for those times where quick and relevant reflection is ideal. The 365 pages of scripture and Maxwell leadership application followed by short journaling space is the perfect way to approach a meeting, a study session, a class or an assignment. It’s a positive catalyst to remind one what is really important before launching feet or head first into a task.

It is also beautifully bound and would a make a wonderful gift for someone taking on a new job or leadership role in the church or workplace. A Leader’s Heart focuses on truths of faith in the context of work and leadership without a hint of sentimentality. It has Maxwell’s typical gift for practical wisdom with an inspired approach and expectation of excellence.

I also appreciated how the scripture references come from every part of the Bible, prompting a more interesting and varied approach to the overall call of leadership. Goal setting, generosity, hope, influence, servant’s heart, purposes are just a sample of the topics, really the character qualities of a leader who acts with Christ like integrity.

I recommend for anyone who is currently serving as a leader or embarking on a new call to cull from Maxwell’s wisdom and challenges as a way to focus daily on effective service.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"What's It Like to be on the Other Side of Me?"

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another, not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.  Romans 12:10-11

I just read a great question, "what's it like to be on the other side of me?"  It points to developing empathy, and a healthy sensitivity about what others see--an attempt at honest self assessment without narcissism.  Thought a lot about that, as I wonder if I am superficially strong and relationally weak.

I care about lots of people, but do I actively love?  Is my concern for others loyal, hospitable, lacking hypocrisy, open minded, respectful, peace keeping, generous--or is it (yes) too often just a general wish for good will to all and to all a good night?

Do I have time to love others, really love them--listen to the whole story, do something helpful, engage without noticing faults or frustrations? 

What's it like on the other side of me?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not a good nor a God move

You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise:  Deuteronomy 6:7

I think this blog is read by 10's of people every other month, and none of them shares much DNA with me, so I am safe.  I also think I made a mistake under the dangerous umbrella of good intentions, but motivated by offense and a mama bear's desire to protect.

One of the Swan chicks went to a camp this summer, and upon returning requested friend status on Facebook (my husband swears FB is the spawn of Satan) of her counselor--a 20 year old sophomore in college.   This request was declined and repeated and then ignored--which is ok certainly the counselor's prerogative, but the said 20 year old accepted many other camper friend requests.   For those not familiar with FB, the rub is this--my daughter can see who the counselor's friends are and also see interaction between counselor and other campers, when the campers are friends with my daughter.   If you are not "on FB" none of this makes sense--but cut to the chase my daughter was flatly rejected by someone she esteems and she knew the extent of the rejection.

Found out about all of this two days ago.  Prayed, then wrote.   Should have prayed, then slept and prayed again.   The temptation to blast said 20 year old was overwhelming.  I came very close and may have actually done that.  Do have some guilt about reaction and hubby commented that I had some other options than the one I chose which would have also resolved the situation.  Then he repeated his feeling about FB being evil, evil, evil-- etc, etc.

This woman hurt my daughter and I slapped back.  I chose my words carefully, but I know how to hit like the mafia where it is not really visible to the naked eye. 

My girl is now "friends" with this counselor, she does not know I wrote the counselor with some pointed concerns and observations.  My girl is also thrilled that the counselor finally "found the time to check her friends request".   

I was right, that is obvious.  It was also the right thing to make clear how significant, what a big deal it is, to manage FB and campers with care--its a very public forum.  I was wrong to write assumption into my inquiry--and I knew it at the time and did it anyway.  Cheap grace--act poorly (sin) and clean up later. 

Not a good move nor a God move.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Backing the "Got Junk?" Truck Up To My Heart

"They said to one another, "surely we are being punished because of our brother.  We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen;  that's why this distress has come upon us."  Genesis 42:21

The transfer of distress from Joseph to his brothers comes from a 20 year old act was never accounted for in their lives.  They (correctly) experience the weight of an old crime.

It's the kind of thing we want others to feel when they wrong us--a transfer of that distress--your bad acts toward me go back onto you.  Yet, it is something I would prefer to shortchange in my own life--to keep my bad acts, my over-reacts, my criticism and selfishness private and "give them to God," and move on.  

However, in those relationships when I have exerted myself, where I have authority and influence, I need an open accountability from people in addition to my accountability to God.  

In relationships and opportunities, I need the accountability--the honest assessment of my direction and decisions-- from scripture, from worship/preaching, from study, from prayer, from other people:  the accountability of the consequence of saying what is true about my sin.

Part of the challenge I face is that not every wrong act, and especially wrong thoughts are exposed to direct consequence.  It think I kind of get away with a critical spirit or indifference. 

That is where the transfer of distress or guilt comes in.  I may not have to confront the wrong and make it right--but the failure to do so will leave me carrying that knowledge and feeling the distress.  Unsaid sin is not unexpressed sin.

Is it enough to have Christ hold me accountable or do I have to go through the potential embarrassment and loss of a feeling of control that comes when I confess to other people?  When I do, I heal faster and learn more and I am better equipped to pass on making the same mistake again.

Is confession to Christ enough--well of course.   Sin is sin against God--David said, "against you and you only I have sinned" and Christ alone has the power to forgive and extend grace and mercy to relieve the due punishment of the sin.

However, adding to that reality of faith is the opportunity for God to use other people to mold me and move me to greater maturity.  It also may be the quickest path to ease guilt.

The first step of true confession to God is accepting responsibility in the temptation to default to indifference or excuses--adding people to the confessional work adds the element of greater good, greater healing, greater recovering coming from the bad.

The reality of good coming from my bad encourages me to open up, and not isolate or cheapen the grace of God by keeping it a secret between God and me. 

The season is changing, and it's time to clean out the closet a bit and show others what needs to be tossed as it it ill fitting and out of style.

Hunting for a God Will

What is God's will for my life--is NOT the right question.  The proper question is What is God's will, once I know that, I can adjust my life to Him.  In other words, what is it God is purposing to accomplish where I am?  Once I know what God is doing, then I know what I need to do.  The focus needs to be on God not on my life.

The foundation of a large portion of my fall study time.  I know it will be a worthy adventure because I know myself and adjust is not the first word that pops into a description of my natural desires. 

This study confronts a common misconception about faithful living--rather than ask God to approve or reject my choices, the study moves to see God as the choice. 

It's week one, so the how to and when and where and what it looks like questions have not been answered.  This I know my will and God's will are too often at odds, and I am excited to think that through this study my will may actually reflects his will in a clear, bold, effective way.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Heightened Awareness, A Heightened Response

Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado unpacks much of the book of Acts. It’s the story of God working through very ordinary people in very extraordinary ways. It’s also the story of the lasting power of faithfulness.
Lucado, with typical poignancy and humor confronts the distance between God’s truth—there is a world in much need and the reality there is world full of Christians able, but not always willing to meet that need. Yet, he confronts that tension in a way that encourages and creatively gets the read to consider actively responding to close that gap.

Included in the book is a relevant and thorough discussion/action guide, written by David Drury. It functions well for both individual reflect and as a tool for a small group meeting.

Out Live Your Life contains a rich compilation of modern issues –related to hunger or orphans or resources, Biblical study and exploration and application, connecting the Christian, to the scripture to the need. It gently, but directly pulls down the walls of indifference and excuses that people erect to ignore problems.

The stories and study move the reader to a heightened awareness and heightened response so that our way of life extends beyond our comfortable reach and lasts beyond our days.

Groups or individuals looking for a renewal should pick up Out Live Your Life Today—it will motivate you to make a difference.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

An Inspired Twist from Familar Narratives

The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters by Andy Andrews is a lovely collection of stories that moved me to consider how ordinary, but bold faithfulness can have extraordinary impact, blessing many in ways I will never know.

It powerfully captures the reality of legacy, inspiring us to appreciate the creative ways our lives influence. Andrews thrust is that, “every move you make, every action you take matters.” The point is to consider our purpose, our place as having value.

Andrews takes well known outcomes and pulls the reader back into the origin of great people’s great work that changed the world. It reminded me of Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” in its fresh twist on familiar narratives—and it has the same effect of being clever and memorable.

In addition to the moving stories is the equally beautiful art throughout the entire book. Each page is visually inspiring too.

It is simple and elegant and very brief—a compilation of three stories to make his point that our lives make a difference and to live with that truth in mind.

This would be a wonderful gift for a student embarking on a new chapter of life, or following a point of accomplishment. It would also serve to lift and remind a friend or colleague that our life and work and relationships matter.

Permission to Speak Freely Speaks to the Heart

Permission to Speak Freely

Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace by Anne Jackson:

Jackson tells her story beautifully, but also weaves so many other stories into this beautiful collection, this offering of honesty and hope. The honesty of the book comes from no pity, but plenty of compassion. Victims are not presented as helpless, but their path to hope is clearly presented.

To capture elegance and bluntness within each essay and piece of art is unique and powerful. Jackson also successfully trims all unnecessary detail, but paints the picture, the tapestry with thoroughness.

I thought about, prayed for and was moved through each journey and was captivated and inspired.

I am leading a women’s retreat this fall and teaching several studies. I am already planning on how I can share Jackson’s work with these groups, it is that versatile in its reach.

It is a series of short stories, the book while substantive does leave the reader wanting more. It has that very common feel of a collection from a blog and other scattered experiences and observation. Jackson owns that from the start, so the reader does not miss a traditional narrative structure (much).

I follow Jackson’s blog now and continue to find her perspective highly engaging and relevant.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lack of Faith or Quirky Hangup?

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."----Matthew 6:31

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."----Philippians 4:19 

The Nagging Problem of “Little” Fears…

I have an irrational fear of medical procedures, most specifically of dental work. I really do regress to a basket case posture when then semiannual call for teeth cleaning comes my way. Recently, I dodged the call, threw away the postcard in an act of silliness in response to my fear of the procedures.

My family is blessed to be in the hands of a wonderful dentist, and I fully understand the benefit of regular care, but my anxiety is so exaggerated that I procrastinated this routine appointment.

Is this an issue of faith? Is this just a quirky hang up or something larger? In reflecting on fear and faith, I came to a point that my fear and anxiety was in fact a form of unbelief.

My fear was determining my behavior. I rested in the reality of my anxiety, and in that moment it was bigger that my faith in the God of the universe. Crazy, and unfaithful (big word for sin).

I have the great blessing of great medical care, care that will enhance my life—such opportunity should result in my thankfulness, regardless of physical discomfort.

I needed to remember such things are gifts, and to dismiss or grumble over them is in fact a faithless (sinful) response, and instead give thanks to God for such blessing and benefit.

Before penning this entry, I called the doctor’s office and look forward to a long overdue appointment in two weeks.
Heavenly Father, I give thanks that your presence is everywhere, even the seemingly little circumstances. I give thanks that you care about those little things that I allow to become big when I approach them without remembering my faith and your grace is the lens through which I should look at all things. Help me remember that when I am tempted to settle in destructive emotions. Thank you for willing and wanting for us so much more than to live in fear, but in your purpose. In Your Son’s Powerful Name I Pray…


About Me

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?