Archives For Kingdom of God

What words come to mind when you think of conflict? I recently asked a flower_on_the_streetgroup of a dozen church leaders. Answers ranged from anxiety, avoidance, and scared, to trying to keep the peace.

We are facing conflict in many ways in our world right now—national, political, ethnic, denominational, and familial. These conflicts heighten the tension in our churches. That can lead to some pretty bad situations.

Jesus offers some processes for dealing with conflict so that it doesn’t turn destructive. The Gospels say things like turn the other cheek, take another person with you when you have to call someone out, or forgive so that you can be forgiven.

But what if you can’t?

I want to introduce you to a process of self-regulation that will increase your capacity to follow Jesus’ counsel. In the world of emotional intelligence, self-regulation is the ability to master your emotions, responses and behaviors.   In other words, with increased ability to self-regulate, you can turn the other cheek instead of hitting back. You can have a calm conversation instead of stomping off and slamming doors. You can forgive instead of seething.

Self-regulation doesn’t make conflict go away. But it does give you the ability to avoid making things worse by turning your destructive reactions into productive responses. Click To Tweet

First, let’s take a look at what actually happens in a conflict situation: Conflict > Automatic Thought > Destructive Behavior.

An automatic thought is an unconscious assessment of what is happening. Automatic thoughts lead to generally destructive behavior. For instance, let’s say someone challenges me.   And that my automatic thought is, “He’s trying to make me look stupid!” In that case, I’m likely to get defensive and self-righteous. I’m going to want to prove my point instead of really listen to what he’s saying. The more I try to prove my point, the more I shut down any conversation. And the more likely he is to think, “#$%* She doesn’t even listen.” That will set up some destructive responses from him. See where this is going?

Instead of going down that path, here’s an emotional intelligence tool that will help you stay calm. In this acronym, each letter stands for an action to increase your self-regulation.

C: Calm yourself. For most of us this means pausing and praying. Or even simply breathing. Breathing gives us a chance to move out of fight or flight, and back into cognitive processes. In other words, it gives us a chance to access wisdom instead of simply reacting.

A: Assess your Automatic Thought. Tune in to your automatic thought. Bring it from the subconscious to the conscious realm. When you become aware of what you’re thinking, you’re on the road to choosing a new thought.

L: Listen to what was actually said instead of how you automatically interpreted it. Discover a new way of making sense of their comments. Listen both with your heart and your head.

M: Make a new response. Now that you have calmed yourself, assessed and listened, intentionally choose to make a new response. Think a new thought. Respond in a new way.

Conflict is a fact of life. At its best, it helps us clarify our values, articulate our needs, and arrive at new insights. At its worst, it tears us apart.

As stewards of the Gospel dream of the Kingdom of God, we owe it to ourselves to increase the love in the world, and not the anxiety; to increase the Kingdom and not conflict. That means we need to master ourselves. To practice self-regulation.

Ready to learn more about how to stay CALM? Join me for my upcoming Mastering Conflict workshop!

December 31, 2013

Rebekah Simon-Peter —  January 7, 2013

Between tweeting, texting, phone calls, emails and blogging, it’s hard to get a thing done! If you’re like me, you can sit at your desk and simply respond to the next electronic thing that blinks, flashes, chirps or vibrates.  Staying busy while getting further and further behind.

It happens with the big things, too.  For many of my friends who pastor churches, death is taking up an increasing amount of time.  How does one ever plan for the future if it’s all about tying up loose ends from the past?  How do we birth a new kingdom if we are always attending to endings?

I took some time between Christmas and New Year, after two deaths in my own family, to turn it all off and tune in to my spirit and to the Divine nudge.  What does God want from me?  Where are my gifts calling me?  Where does the world’s deep need and my own gladness meet?

I spent several days dreaming, reflecting, writing. Continue Reading…

I missed church on Sunday.  At least, I didn’t make it to my own church.  Instead, Sunday found me sitting in a pew in a Roman Catholic Church prepared to celebrate the First Holy Communion of Rachel and Lauren, the twin 8 year olds who live across the street.

Our families are engaged in “neighboring”and it’s deeply related to a healthy democracy.

Here’s how it goes.  The girls and their mom often watch Amigo, our little dog, when we are gone.  We help them out with projects from time to time too.  We often meet in the middle of the street just to say hi and to check out what’s happening.  We are frequently in each others home and have figured out we all like riding bikes!  And we are worried about environmental issues.

We have a lot in common and that helps.

Now, I have other neighbors down the street I haven’t yet approached.  They have signs hanging outside on their fence that I’m not quite sure what to make of.  One says “God bless Arizona.”  The other says  “God bless Israel.”

I’m all for blessing states and countries and I’m very pro-Israel.  But I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t really code language for something else, like: “We don’t like Mexicans and we don’t like Palestinians.”  Or even:  “God damn Mexicans and Palestinians.”

I’m not sure.  But this I know:  My husband and his family are of Mexican, Spanish and Indian descent.  And I believe in the human dignity and rights of Palestinians as well as of Israelis.  In fact, I believe in a world that works for everyone.  All families, all ethnicities, all religions, all species.

So, where does that put us as neighbors?

I confess I’m not really sure.

I’m reading Parker Palmer’s newest book, “Healing The Heart of Democracy:  The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit.”  It’s very challenging.  And very timely.  Not just because of the world we live in, but because of the neighborhood I live in.

He notes that regularly, “we withdraw into the silence of private life or express ourselves with cynicism and anger that make the public realm toxic, producing more psychodrama than social change.”

You’d have to live in a cave to not experience that…no matter what neighborhood, state or country you live in!

Palmer suggests an antidote.

It begins with seeing democracy as a way of being.  It takes shape in neighboring and other local associations.  It’s open to “The Other”and practices holding tension creatively.  It’s a way of being that moves us beyond our own little privatized worlds.  And requires both chutzpah and humility to engage the process well.

All of this is needed, he suggests, to counteract the “culture of cruelty” that overtakes when fear-mongering outweighs facts or real conversation.

So, as part of creating a politics worthy of the human spirit, I’m practicing democracy in my little neighborhood.  I know I’ll connect with the girls and their mom in the middle of the street soon.  Probably this afternoon.

But what about my other neighbors?  That’s going to take an intentional action from me.  To get over my fear, my judgmentalism and my “privatized world” that could easily keep them out.

It’s the kind of intentional act Jesus told stories about.  He too highlighted neighboring as the foundation of a healthy kind of living:  the Kingdom of God.  Reaching out beyond the norms to embrace “The Other.”  Of course, his wisdom was grounded in the Torah, too.  All of this makes a very strong case for me.

So what’s a democratically-inclined person who longs for a world that works for everyone to do?

It might just be time to bake some banana bread and head on down the block to meet all of my neighbors!