community · faith · Following Jesus

Nuggets From Elizabeth Oldfield (I)

I’ve been listening to another Nomad podcast, this time with director of thinktank Theos, Elizabeth Oldfield. The conversation was all about how we engage with those who are not like us. She had three insights that particularly struck me. This post will be part 1.

The first insight was to do with a passage in Luke’s’s Gospel, where Jesus says:
“But I tell everyone who is listening: Love your enemies. Be kind to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who insult you. 29 If someone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other cheek as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t stop him from taking your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who asks you for something. If someone takes what is yours, don’t insist on getting it back. If someone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other cheek as well – what’s that all about ?

Elizabeth Oldfield talks about our most common responses to conflict, which are well understood – fight or flight. So if someone hits you, you can respond by hitting back or running away. But there’s often a third option, which is just to hang in there. This means subverting our gut response, which, depending on our personality, history etc, will be to run or hit back. So for example the conflict might not be about fisticuffs, but to do with a difficult conversation where someone has said something that makes us want to verbally ‘hit back’ or alternatively withdraw from the conversation. Jesus is saying – “Stick with it. This might be a conversation worth having, even if it’s tough.”

I can relate to this. In my experience it’s usually when someone says something critical about something I have said or done. My typical responses are to a) back down and say nothing, or b) justify myself and say why I am in the right. Neither option allows for a genuine conversation to take place.

What I have tried to do in that kind of situation is to say – ‘Tell me more’, or ‘Help me to understand why you feel like that.’ Responding in that open way has often led to a greater understanding on my part why the other person has said that – which may actually have more to do with them, or their circumstances than with what I have said or done. It also may (although this is not the main purpose) give me an opportunity to explain my own point of view.

Grace and peace to everyone who is struggling with how to have difficult conversations.

Elizabeth Oldfield is director of the thinktank Theos

and has a podcast – The Sacred

faith · Prayer

When Some Serendipity Comes Along

I think I’ve written before about times when things seem to fall into place.

On this occasion, it was all about something I felt that I needed to say to a friend. I was struggling with how and when to make contact. It just wouldn’t wait, it needed to be done the next day. A harsh thing that they had said about another of my friends – in front of other people – had really got to me. I thought they were out of order and it kept bugging me.

Now I’m someone who finds it really hard to engage with conflict and to challenge people, so this was a problem. I really needed to speak with them, and it wasn’t something I wanted to do on the phone. I needed to see them face to face. So I sent up a prayer that God would help me speak with them.

As it turned out, our schedule at home the next day was quite a bit later than usual. We slept in a bit longer than normal, and then had a phone call, so all in all I was about an hour behind at least.

Then on my round of day to day jobs around the town, I was just emerging from the supermarket, when I just happened to see the person I needed to talk to. We chatted for a while about things we had in common, and then I said … ‘This is amazing. I don’t usually come this way at this time of day … could we go and have a coffee somewhere ?’ Which we did, and in the course of the conversation, I was able to say what had been building up in me. As we spoke, they admitted that what they had said was unkind. I don’t know if my words had really changed anything in them, but the fact of having spoken was the important thing.

We cannot take responsibility for what others do, think or say – all that we can do is take full responsibility for our own words and actions

On the way home, I just kept thanking God for the ‘chance’ meeting. It had cleared my head, and cleared the air. It was one of those moments where everything came together in a remarkable way.

Often, I’ll admit I don’t have a clue what’s going on, and what God is up to, but I do know that God is in it with me, even down to the small details.

Grace and Peace

Bible · faith · Political

Conflict With The Ruling Powers

This is an aside/reflection to my general notes.  I’m just getting into this frame of thinking – where Mark’s Gospel is the framework for these next two months, and situations of conflict/oppression are the context for today.

I’m remembering also that Mark’s Gospel could well have been written for the early Christian community in  Rome – a community that knew something about being in conflict with the ruling powers.  So it seems entirely appropriate that I write my thoughts on Mark’s Gospel whilst being attentive to what is happening in places like Israel Palestine.