On a November Saturday

It was the late fall of 1982. The first semester of my junior year at the University of Kansas was almost finished, and my girlfriend’s sorority’s fall service project was to help with the Lawrence Special Olympics bowling competition. They were short on help, so my future wife asked me to tag along.

What follows was what I like to call “God’s audition to be parents of a disabled child.“ We had a wonderful time bowling, laughing, and eating with these young adults. Most of them had Down syndrome, but several others had different cognitive or physical disabilities. Regardless, my future wife and I left that event very happy that we had been involved, and wondering whether we should volunteer for future Special Olympics activities.

Little did we know what God had in store for us.

Helping with that bowling tournament was like being a grandparent. It was great fun while it lasted, but the kids weren’t really “yours.“

But once that disabled child comes home with you from the hospital, things begin to change. Slowly and imperceptibly at first. The first time we went to a Down Syndrome Guild meeting was just after our oldest son was born, seven years and a few months after that fateful Saturday in November 1982. I distinctly remember walking into the Guild meeting room, full of families who had also just entered the world of special-needs children, and experiencing a very familiar feeling.

I was instantly transported back to the 6th grade, when the class of disabled kids was in the self-contained classroom next door to my homeroom.  As they walked by our door, from lunch or the playground, I remember feeling an uneasy mixture of fear and pity. Fear, in not knowing what “those kids“ might do. And pity, at once thankful that I was not among them, and believing that their lives must be something less than mine.

Thankfully, over the years that all changed. It started with events like Special Olympics, where I could actually meet disabled kids, and grow to like them.

And then, I joined their dads.

Within a span of just a few short months, all those kids in the Down Syndrome Guild became my kids. It was impossible to know them all well, but 28 years later, I still know their names. William, Sean, Matthew, another Stephen, Kyle, Paul.

And their parents became some of our very best friends.

How appropriate it is, then, that our son’s favorite activity is….

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I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with a disabled person in your life.  Please take a few moments to leave a comment. It only takes a few seconds!

May I Have This Dance

Has the weight of just a thought ever taken your breath away?

Happened to me just this morning.

Maybe it’s the fact that my daughter’s wedding is now less than two months away, and she was in town this past weekend for her first bridal shower. Maybe it’s this fact that this afternoon, my wife and I are attending a funeral for a long-time family friend who lost her battle with cancer. Her two kids are the same age as my middle two kids.

No matter the reason, here’s the thought that left me struggling to breathe:

A husband and wife, in their 80s, dancing cheek-to-cheek in their kitchen.

It’s so easy to say, “Aren’t they cute? They still love each other, after all these years.” But have you thought about what that dance really represents?

  • Millions of miles together in the same car.
  • Tens of thousands of nights together in the same bed.
  • Depending on how many kids they had, thousands, or tens of thousands, of diaper changes.
  • Countless ER visits, late nights with sick kids, and broken hearts.
  • Graduations, weddings, births, and then round two of graduations, weddings, and births.
  • Deaths of their grandparents, their parents, their siblings, and occasionally, their children and even grandchildren.
  • Several major health scares, surgeries, and treatments.

Those of you who have lived it know that this list isn’t even close to exhaustive. And to top it all off, society has changed so extensively, and so rapidly, that the elderly couple can be left wondering if they’re even still relevant.

As my thoughts sunk in, a physical weight rested on my chest. The sheer magnitude of two lifetimes, lived together and for each other, was more than I could bear.

Anyone looking for miracles in the modern age need look no farther than the couple celebrating an anniversary of 50 years or more.  God’s design for marriage, and God himself, for those who choose Him, make it possible to complete the journey.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. – Isaiah 46.4

And for another post: What the elderly still have to give to their families and communities. Here’s a hint: They’re not only still relevant, they’re the missing link to sustaining our society.

I’ll never look at an elderly couple dancing the same way again.

Authority

How long has it been since you had just a few feet of pavement between you and 50 longhorn steers?

Oh, about a month.

That’s right, no fence, no wall, no bullet-proof glass — NOTHING. Just some nice flat pavement for them to build up a good head of steam, as they charge directly at me.

What we saw at the Cherokee Strip Days parade in Enid, OK, this past month was a sight more common in bygone days. Still, even today it was thrilling to watch them walk by. Oh, the risk! The danger!

Oh, the steaks! The hamburger!

But I digress.

There were these guys on horseback moving alongside the steers. I think they call them “cowboys” in that neck of the prairie. Am I right, Oklahoma State? There sure was a lot of orange in that town on that particular day. Not to mention the OSU-Texas Tech football game blaring on the big screen in the downtown baseball stadium. No one was in the stadium, but the volume was turned all the way up, for the whole town to hear.

But it’s those cowboys I want to talk about. That’s the thing about fences and walls – they will come down when enough force is applied. And I can assure you, those enormous steers could supply a lot of force.

But having those cowboys there was better than any wall could ever be.  Why?

Because those cowboys held those steers in check by authority. Those steers didn’t want to charge the crowd, because they honored the authority of the cowboys.

If we want to make sure that we don’t do something that hurts ourselves or hurts others, there’s an authority over our lives as well.

And it’s not the local police.

It’s the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit. They’re all available to you today, right where you are, right now. All you have to do is ask them.

Just take a look a video of these majestic creatures as they strolled through downtown Enid on a bright, warm October day.

That’s a whole lot of ribs and brisket walkin’ by. Just sayin’.

 

 

Centerpieces

What do you see in this picture? I’ll tell you what I see.

Centerpieces.

Twenty-three of them, to be exact.

To be sure, they’re not ready yet to go on the tables at my daughter’s wedding reception next March. But it’s not something that 25 minutes and a chainsaw can’t fix.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 5-1/2 decades of life, it’s this: Getting through life is all about perspective.  It’s not as simple as being a “glass half-full” type of person. “The power of positive thinking” was a great book back in its day, but that phrase is now cliche’.

It’s about taking what life presents to you, and choosing what you can do with it.

This has become even more critical to me, as someone very close to me has been diagnosed with aggressive cancer.  For the second time in 10 years.

How do you “make the best” of a cancer diagnosis? The simple fact is, you don’t. There are just some lemons that won’t make lemonade. But defeat is not the only option.

I’ll let Jesus, the only man who was ever victorious over death and the grave, explain.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matt. 5:13-16

Has anyone ever been a light to others by taking a negative approach to any problem?

I didn’t think so.

Even just one of these tree trunks would break a table.  Properly prepared, they will adorn 23 tables in beauty and simplicity.

When properly prepared by the One who brought the light into this world, so it can also be with our lives.

 

 

 

The Ocean and Me

If you’ve ever been bodysurfing, you know what I’m talking about.

That moment when you’ve selected the right wave, timed your jump perfectly, and you’re carried by the crest of the wave as it breaks toward the shore. You sense the ocean’s raw power as the sea churns and curls under your chest. Then, towards the end, the wave starts to disorganize, and you’re either set down gently at the shore, or slammed to the rough sand by a secondary wave.

Two of the most formative summers of my life, when I was 12-14 years old and in the tumultuous mid-1970s, were spent perfecting the art of bodysurfing at the beach near my home in North Carolina. It’s by far my favorite thing to do at the beach. So of course, on our recent trip to Georgia’s fantastic Tybee Island, I had to bodysurf once more.

Bodysurfing can be fickle. A great wave may come along, but if you’re not standing in the right place, it will break behind you, or in front of you. Sometimes you think you’ve caught the wave at just the right time, and for whatever reason, it just doesn’t develop. Or, when you’ve caught and are riding that perfect wave, it goes away. Just…gone.

This past week at Tybee, I decided to brave the surf. The morning had been low tide, making the waves choppy and small. But as the tide turned, the waves became larger, and I ventured out. I selected one of the first waves to come in.

The first wave I tried was perfect. I didn’t catch a better one the rest of the day.

Maybe that’s why, when my daughter asked me to laugh while taking my picture at the local coffee shop, my face was so ready to show the joy in my heart. Because I wasn’t just happy that I had returned to the ocean. No, this was different.

It was if the ocean had found me, and was welcoming me back.

Perhaps this was a glimmer of what the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable (starting at Luke 15:11) felt when he returned to his father. Yes, coming home was great. But it wasn’t joy-filled until the person who made it home — his father — welcomed him back with open arms.

Yes indeed, home really is a Who.

Shiny Bumpers

In the overcast pre-dawn of a recent cool fall morning, I was sitting at a stoplight behind a pickup truck with a shiny chrome bumper. In the yellow-white reflection from my headlights, the condensation from the truck’s exhaust drifted across the face of the bumper in ghostly wisps. A computer programmer spending hours writing code still couldn’t replicate the random but stunning patterns that danced across the face of the chrome, constantly changing shape and size, unpredictable and yet bounded.

I certainly did not expect to find such a beautiful picture of reflecting God’s glory in the bumper of a pickup truck. But there it was.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like for others to see God at work in my life. While it’s not the only way, and I’m certainly not great at it yet, one of the ways that God’s love can show through me is if I live my life for Him. That way, like our breath on a mirror, others can see when God “breathes” on me.

I’m clearly not alone when thinking about God breathing on his people. Scripture, in 2 Timothy 3:16, describes itself as “God-breathed.” For almost 150 years, one of the most beloved hymns in the church has been “Breathe on Me Breath of God.” More recently, musicians have written and sang beautifully and poignantly about Mary’s plea for the “breath of heaven” to help her with the enormous task of bearing and raising the Savior. Singer John Waller simply asks God to “breathe on me” to lead him in daily life. So, my challenge to all believers is to allow the world to see God’s breath on our lives. But how?

Let’s shine our bumpers.

You don’t need a pickup truck. And if your truck (or car) doesn’t have chrome bumpers, that’s OK, too.  It doesn’t involve Windex, or rags, or any kind of soap or wax. And the only elbow grease it calls for is the kind you use when you open your Bible, or you fold your hands in prayer.

In fact, you don’t even do the work.

God takes lives tarnished by years of sin and shame and makes them shine when surrendered to Him. Hearts given to Jesus Christ, time spent in His Word and in prayer, and obedience to his commands – God works through all of these to give lives a glow that attracts the world to Him.

So today, surrender your life to Jesus Christ – let your bumper shine. And watch the amazing patterns that God will work into your life.

 

 

 

 

 

No Secret Passages

The world of secret passages conjures up for me visions of medieval castles, old Frankenstein movies, and trying to win Clue games against my wife (and losing…everytime…). By the way, I’m grateful to Mel Brooks for removing the scariness from Frankenstein movies, and providing an endless supply on one-liners in his classic 1970s movie Young Frankenstein. Am I the only person who couldn’t watch Everybody Loves Raymond on TV and not see Dr. Fronk-n-steen’s monster? (Rest in peace, Peter Boyle.) Any coincidence that the name of Peter Boyle’s character was Frank? I think not.

What brought secret passages to mind for me in sunny and warm May 2016 is….weddings. And graduations. Yes, it’s that season again, with days filled with grad parties, wedding showers, and the actual ceremonies themselves, often on the same day. Both stressful and expensive. What a combination.

Like birthdays and anniversaries, these celebrations can lead some to experience pain and heartbreak. So much so that they might even choose to skip them to avoid the pain.

It’s important to remember that celebrating any significant milestone in life — a passage from one chapter of life into the next — serves an important spiritual function. One of my personal heroes, King David, reminded us to number our days, so that we might gain a heart of wisdom. Memorializing life’s passages serves as a reminder that our time on earth has an end, that the number of weddings and graduations we’ll attend is limited. And it highlights the importance of each choice we make in our lives. Choices to love, to show support, and to be there for those we care for, even if we don’t quite feel like it. And choices to live the next chapter of our own lives in line with His will, and to His glory.

Besides likely not being as glamorous as portrayed in the movies (think rats and black mold), secret passages were more often than not used for nefarious purposes. So my prayer is this: That we won’t let Satan succeed in his nefarious purpose of avoiding or even eliminating the observance of passages in our lives. Jesus blessed weddings by attending one in Cana and performing his first miracle there. Bless your loved ones by being there for every birthday party, anniversary, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas celebration, New Years’ Eve party, and yes, every grad party, wedding shower, and graduation or wedding you can possibly attend. Even if they’re on the same day (and they probably will be).

Let’s lead lives that have no secret passages.

 

 

Lessons From a Broken Gas Gauge

In the early 1980s, summers in Kansas City were wonderful. More fountains than Paris, beautiful flowers and foliage, and at the time, pretty good baseball too (we had this guy on the Royals named George Brett — you might want to look him up). One of the oldest and largest parks in Kansas City, Swope Park, housed a beautiful outdoor theater known as Starlight Theater. On a glorious Saturday night in July 1984, my fiance and I decided to take in a show there. I don’t know what we saw, but I can guarantee it was excellent.

I was just 21, about to graduate from college, and engaged to my high school sweetheart. At the time, I drove a school-bus yellow Oldsmobile Omega, and even though the car was only three years old, it already had a broken gas gauge. At any given time, I really didn’t have any idea how much gas I had in the tank. So we dressed up, me in a nice suit and my fiance in a dress, and we took off in the Omega for Starlight. I chose not to put gas in the car that night, believing I had enough to make it to the park and get her home.

I was very wrong.

When the car finally ran out of gas, it was on a street in a relatively safe area of Kansas City Missouri, and thankfully just a couple of blocks from a gas station. Knowing my issues with the gas gauge, at least I had the forethought to keep an empty gas can in the car. So, my fiance and I walked to the gas station, filled the can, and began the three-block walk back to the car.

About a block away from the car, a older man pulled up alongside us as we walked on the sidewalk. He drove the car slowly beside us, matching the pace of our walk, watching us intently the entire time. I looked over at him once, but I didn’t acknowledge his stare.  I told my fiance to just keep walking. After about 20 seconds of tracking us step for step, he pulled away.

I don’t know what his intentions were. I’m hoping that he just wanted to help, but, seeing that I was carrying a gas can and walking away from the station, he assumed we were fine. Still, the very real possibility exists that his thoughts were far from honorable.

As I write this on Mother’s Day almost 32 years after that night, I am so thankful that God didn’t allow the consequences of my poor choices to have tragic effects. Because of his mercy toward us, my then fiance (now my wife) can celebrate this Mother’s Day as the mom of four grown children, the mother-in-law of one (so far), and the daughter of one of the finest mothers on the planet.

We will make bad choices. We’re human, there’s no way around it. And while Jesus chose to die on the cross so that we can be forgiven of our bad choices (sin) and not have to endure eternal consequences, the fact remains that our bad choices have consequences here on earth that can’t always be avoided.

My real problem on that Saturday in July 1984 was that I allowed one bad choice to be followed by another.  First, I had chosen not to have the gas gauge repaired.  I followed the first bad choice with a second one, choosing not to top off the gas tank before we left. Those choices, compounded together, could have led my life, and the life of my fiance, to places we definitely didn’t want to go.

There is a way to avoid compounding bad choices.  First, take advantage of the free gift of forgiveness of sins that Jesus Christ offers.  Then, learn from Him how to see where choices made today will lead in the future. It takes only a small correction to get back on the right path after just one bad choice. But after several unwise choices in a row, well, it’s a much longer and more difficult road.

It was a hot, humid, muggy Kansas City Monday morning in July 1984, as I was driving my yellow Omega to the service department at our local Oldsmobile dealer…..

Overcoming What Overcomes Us

Just a few thoughts while I’m waiting to go help take care of the toddlers at church this morning.  It’s our week, but my wife was called in to work at the last minute, so it’s just me.  Great training to be a grandparent…but I hope they have some reinforcements should the natives become too restless!

We live in a society that’s prone to addiction.  Not necessarily to illegal things, just to allowing things to take roles in our lives that are larger than what is good for us.  The Apostle Peter, that brash, strong-willed leader of the disciples who followed Jesus, had a stern warning regarding this: “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:19b ESV)

Most people who are addicted deny that they have been “overcome” by an addiction. Anybody who looks at my waistline and my checkbook can see what I am addicted to.  And yet I lived for years — decades, in fact — where I believed it wasn’t that bad.  I certainly didn’t feel like I was enslaved to food (and to Diet Coke).  And yet, I was.

But as I read Peter’s warning this week in preparation for our Life Group study, I was moved by Peter’s use of the word “enslaved” (consistent across translations). That is such an emotionally loaded word, as I’m sure it was back then.  Peter’s use of that word, to me, indicates just how dire an addiction situation really is.  No one wants to be a slave to anything.  We’re willing to be a servant for something we believe in, but a slave?  So many bad connotations.

So what’s the takeaway from Peter’s thoughts?  To take a realistic look at the problem areas in our lives.  We all know what they are, and everyone has them.  And we don’t even have to ask if we are a “slave” to anything. It’s as simple as this:  Am I overcome by anything?  What would cause major disruptions in my life if I had to give it up? Do I believe enough in that thing to be a servant to it? If the answer to that last question is “no,” am I willing to make the next choice to start moving away from it?

The best news?  We don’t have to make that choice alone, or in our own power.  I’ve seen lots of articles lately asking whether following Jesus Christ is too restrictive.  They are all asking the wrong question.  The real question is this:  Where is true freedom found?  The kind of freedom that leads to health, happiness, a spirit at peace, and strong families, things that everybody wants?  It’s found in the One who came so that we could have life, and have it abundantly. Not just later. Right now.

Make that next good choice. And feel the chains begin to lift.

Spiritual Lessons from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s death.  It takes me back to my family’s “national and family heritage” Spring Break trip to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 2007.  During that trip, one of my goals was to impress on my children the role of our Christian faith in the founding and history of our country.  We started one of the days at the west end of the national mall, in the Lincoln Memorial.  As the six of us stood just below the great statue of Lincoln, near the steps where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, we read together the text of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, engraved on the Memorial’s inner walls. Even before that day, I considered Lincoln to be the President who had the greatest positive impact on this country while in office.  But knowing the questions historians had about Lincoln’s faith, I was especially struck by the skill with which the president weaved Scripture and the words of Jesus into the text of his speech.  I made it a goal to dive into the speech and someday write about it, either in my previous Seeing the Heart blog or here in OMFJ.  This post is the result of that desire.

During national tragedies, presidents often become “Pastors-in-Chief,” comforting a grieving nation with a quote from the Bible or a well-known religious platitude.  Lincoln had many opportunities to assume that role during the grim four-year war, including the brief but stirring Gettysburg Address just 16 months earlier (“…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom…”).  But in March of 1865, with the Civil War coming to its bitter conclusion, Lincoln knew that both sides would soon be faced with the daunting task of mending a nation torn by brother-against-brother conflict.  Lincoln used this opportunity, this “bully pulpit” (to quote a later president, Theodore Roosevelt), to encourage the victorious Union states to forgive, and to reunify the broken nation.  Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address did just that, and more, by showing all Americans, both North and South (who would no doubt read these words as well), just how to approach the end of conflict through the prism of God’s Word.

1.  Resolution and Healing Requires Humility.

“Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”  President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

President Lincoln must have recognized the temptation for those in the North to think that they were somehow superior to the Confederate sympathizers.  After all, Union fathers and sons were giving their lives to eliminate the scourge of slavery, unlike their Southern counterparts.  But Lincoln’s quote of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 (KJV) illustrated Lincoln’s long-held understanding that God could not be claimed as being exclusively on either side.  In Notre Dame historian Mark Noll’s excellent article in Christianity Today entitled “The Struggle for Lincoln’s Soul,” Dr. Noll observed that in a private memorandum as early as 1862, Lincoln wrote that “[i]n the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party.” (Read the full excerpt of Dr. Noll’s article here.)

2.  God Has Not Changed, and Does Not Change.

“‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?”

Just because this country was obliged to fight a brutal civil war to end American slavery, does that make God any less good, less just, less kind?  Lincoln’s use of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:7 from the beautifully worded King James Version is especially poignant here.  It also illustrates why Dr. Noll suggested that, when it came to the war, Lincoln’s theology was higher and finer than many professional Christian theologians of his day.  Dr. Noll’s research of Lincoln’s life revealed the president’s sense of God’s divine authority over his life, and “[“Lincoln’s] eagerness to commit the Civil War to divine rule.”  In this pivotal speech, Lincoln wisely pointed out that there’s no need to ask why the war was necessary, or what good came from it.  The war was there, and it was real; there was no avoiding it.  Even Christ had said bad things would happen (“it must needs be that offenses come”).  But while Lincoln’s closing question in this paragraph doesn’t quote Scripture, it certainly highlights God’s unchanging nature.  “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, o children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6 ESV)

3.  Surrender All Outcomes to God, Because He Is, and Ought to Be, in Control.

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'”

Here President Lincoln dared to suggest the unimaginable: that the Civil War might continue until every drop of slaves’ blood shed over the course of 250 years is avenged by the death of a Union or Confederate soldier.  But this time, Lincoln quotes not Jesus but King David in Psalm 19:9 to show that, no matter what happens, God’s ultimate purpose for the war is just and good, because justice and goodness are the attributes of God.  And while Lincoln’s speech doesn’t mention it, there’s no avoiding the parallel between’s Lincoln’s illustration of the sacrifice given by America’s sons and the fact that the world’s redemption for its sins came by the sacrifice of God’s son through the shedding of His blood on the cross at Calvary.  “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of trespasses, through the riches of His grace.”  (Ephesians 1:7 ESV)

4. Prayer and the Word of God Brings Healing.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

While the conclusion of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural was not a direct quote of Scripture, it shows that high regard that Lincoln held for God’s word.  Dr. Noll’s article mention’s Lincoln’s comments in 1864 upon receiving a Bible from a group of African-Americans, when Lincoln said this: “All the good the Saviour gave to this world was communicated through this book.  But for it we could not know right from wrong.”  Lincoln’s call to the grieving nation appears to be to look to God and his Word, because it is what “God gives us to see the right.”  I also think it’s no accident that Lincoln asks the nation to care for the “widows and orphans” of not just Northern soldiers, but of those who fought for the South as well (“malice toward none…charity toward all”), because care for those groups is close to the heart of God.  “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27 ESV)

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural is a simple blueprint for Biblical conflict resolution.  It can be used for any conflict, whether international, within the U.S., or simply between two people.  First, reconciliation and restoration requires the generous application of love and humility, as modeled by Jesus Christ.  When you’re tempted to get discouraged, believe God’s holy Word that God has not changed, does not change, and will not change, no matter the circumstances we face.  In the end, surrender the outcome of the conflict to God.  He forever is, and ought to be, in control of each and every situation.  And when you question how to move forward, earnestly pray for God to lead you, and look to his holy Word for guidance.  God, through his Word, is the only One who can show you what is right.