How to Deal with Conflict.

IMG_2022Last fall, I learned something valuable about conflict from a woman named Joyce at the LA Dream Center.

Joyce is a huge character – a native Angelino, possibly in her 30’s, with tatts up her legs, basketball shorts and a hoodie. She is one of the leaders of the Dream Center’s food truck ministry and hollers out the window as she weaves her rattletrap delivery truck through LA traffic, loudly encouraging other drivers to GET THROUGH THAT LIGHT! I’ve never seen anybody who can shout in traffic, with the love of Jesus.

Joyce is compelling because she follows Jesus in her exact context, authentically and with heart. She didn’t tell me that. I witnessed it. She is my favorite kind of Christian because the love of God sprays out of her, like water from a kinked garden hose that’s riddled with holes and turned on high.

One morning as we were unpacking, sorting and loading food into the trucks, two of the fellas were bickering about who was driving what truck where. Feeding poor people every day is hard work and I sense these guys were a little worn out and cranky. It was nothing big, just the garden variety conflict that bedevils humans every day.

Joyce stepped in, straightened it out and then said, “K everybody time to go, let’s circle up and pray.”

Then rather than sending up some big, shiny prayer, Joyce just talked to God about what was happening at that moment. It wasn’t a rebuke to the bickerers, it was just an acknowledgment that we are inadequate when it comes to loving one another properly and we need help.

She said something like this:

Father God, we thank you for this day and Lord please help us to not bicker over who is taking what truck, and to remember why we are doing this, and please help us to be kind to each other and give us your strength to go feed some hungry people. Thank you that you love us even when we are cranky. Amen.

I’ve been thinking of that prayer all week because I had a small conflict I needed to confront. I didn’t want to be unkind but I also didn’t want to be phony and pretend the conflict didn’t exist. So I thought WWJD – What Would Joyce Do?

Well, she’d pray about it, then she’d be kind but blunt. So, I did that. And it wasn’t fun but now it’s over and peace rules in my land.

I’m sure Joyce doesn’t even remember me or that bickery little moment in the parking lot last fall, but I do, and that, I think, is a great truth about Christianity.

People respond to what we do as Christians, way more than what we say. When Christians do it right, by being honest, authentic, humble and kind, especially in conflict, it sprays like a garden hose on a hot day.

Conflict is certain. Our response is discretionary. Jesus helps.

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Team Kirk is the #3 Exodus Road Fundraiser!

Did you know we are the #3 Exodus Road fundraising team now? Fifteen of you have joined me in raising nearly $700. Thank you!

We have one week to raise the other half. I blogged here about my commitment to help this non-profit raise $1400 to raid a brothel selling imprisoned children for sex. The Exodus Road is taking two of its top fundraising bloggers back to SE Asia to see the operation firsthand. That could be me!

Here’s why this work matters:

1. There are more human slaves now than at any other time in human history.

2. An estimated 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked over international borders, including into the US, each year. Seventy percent are female and half are children.

3. Human trafficking is the third largest organized crime after guns and drugs.

Ugh, thanks Erin, I really needed more bad news.

Don’t despair! It is easy to help and you don’t have to solve the whole problem, you just have to refuse to do nothing. Your contribution matters to rescued sex slaves like Sarah.

So here is not one, but two options for fighting sexual slavery.

Donate to The Exodus Road coalition and support the people performing covert surveillance and organizing raids on SE Asian brothels.

dream_centerDonate to The LA Dream Center, which operates the United States’ largest transitional care and recovery center for victims of human trafficking. Even though I was at the Dream Center in November, I know little about this program, because security for it is super high. In LA that is expensive.

As Chris Caine, founder of the A21 Campaign says, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

Tomorrow, I’m bringing the noise from Sweden – a nation which sex traffickers consider “inhospitable for business.” Solutions abound y’all. Be a part!

Five Ways You Can Feel Better Fast.

I sat in the drive-thru at McDonald’s yesterday, hoping an order of hot, salty fries would make me feel better about Sandy Hook.

Photo Credit: wikipedia

I’d already tried three Ferrero Roche chocolate balls, prosciutto and Havarti on crackers, grapes, cookies, a glass of wine, and mining my RSS feeds to ease my agitated crankiness.

As I pulled up to the window this popped into my head:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21

I had been looking to other limited, sad, confused and clueless humans to explain the unexplainable, and stuffing my face. Neither were working. But how do I square the need to decorate my cute little Christmas tree and shop for knick-knacks when a bunch of families in Connecticut are now indelibly marked with grief? The Apostle Paul says, strike a blow right here in Texas.

“I’d like to pay for the car behind me,” I told the girl working the register. I’d heard of people doing that before, but I’d never done it myself.

“It’s like nine dollars and there’s a happy meal, is that ok?” she said.

“Oh yah, I don’t care. I just want you to tell them a stranger said Merry Christmas.”

“You don’t know them?”

“No.”

The girl smiled widely.

See! Paul was right, that silly, little act of kindness absolutely did make me feel better. It also made the McDonalds worker smile and I wonder if some kid eating a happy meal felt better about the world too. That’s at least four people. It’s so simple and sometimes it even makes the news.

So are you feeling flat, bleak and defeated? Here are five ideas for overcoming evil with good:

christmas tree

(Photo credit: peminumkopi)

1. When you drive thru this week (and you know you will) pay for the person behind you. Say something kind to pass along to them. Watch it infect the person taking your order too.

2. When purchasing something at the mall, tell the cashier she has beautiful hair, skin, smile or that she is fast and good at her job. Christmas is brutal on retail workers. Making them feel good is free.

3. Buy a handful of $10 grocery gift cards and when you get panhandled, give one; then look them in the eyes and tell them their lives matter.

4. Donate $20 to a charity you care about. Oh you can’t think of one? How about The Exodus Road a coalition of investigators kicking in brothel doors in SE Asia. How about the LA Dream Center, which is running the nation’s largest recovery center for victims of human trafficking.  Here’s a place to donate to Sandy Hook families.

5. Pick up your bible. Yep. We need to reflect on the big picture asap. Our nation and our world is getting sicker and sicker, but it is not unprecedented – read I and II Samuel. The Bible says the answer is to change our minds, and look to God for guidance and salvation. When I look to my friends or myself, I just get confused. When I practice what Jesus said, I get smiles in the drive thru.

Here’s to a Merrier Christmas my friends.