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.

Advertisements

See The Why Behind The What – LA Dream Center

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him how can the love of God be in him? I John 3:17

I’ve been hanging out in Watts and Compton all week, feeding people.

And I know I’m supposed to say about something deep about that – like the poor are beautiful and the light of Jesus shines in their eyes. And it does, because Jesus loves all of us the same, from the woman stepping out of her Bentley in West Hollywood to the Filipina grandma rolling a dirty stroller through the food line to pick up her frozen chicken and yams.

But there’s nothing deep to say. Poor and hungry people aren’t always grateful and sweet, sometimes they are demanding and they hustle you, which makes them very similar to rich and well-fed people. And there’s a lesson in that. We all have a story and we are all broken in different ways. Maybe it’s PTSD in the homeless veteran, molestation in the prostitute, illiteracy in the gang-banger or critical selfishness in me. As Nancy Alcorn founder of Mercy Ministries says, “there’s always a why behind the what” and Jesus cares about all of it.

So the LA Dream Center’s idea is a simple one. Go to them, feed them, find out what they need, try to get it, make friends and introduce them to Jesus. People here are clear-eyed about the enormity of the problem – 100,000 homeless people live in LA – but they don’t let it paralyze them, instead they get up, pray hard, load the truck, sort the food, pass it out, hug the people and repeat day in and day out.

Skid Row, Los Angeles

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And it works. One by one, story by story, it works.

This morning I picked through a pallet of persimmons, looking for the best ones to take to Skid Row this afternoon.

Skid Row is home to about 10,000 homeless people and has the highest concentration of violent crime on the West Coast. Yet the Dream Center is there five days a week, feeding hot meals to the drug addicts, prostitutes, homeless veterans, the mentally ill and people who have just come up short.

And here’s what they say about it.

What could be a better place to shine the light, love and hope of Jesus then in the midst of such dark and dismal places?

For sure not everybody is called to do this kind of work. Some people go to Skid Row and some people send them. But if you are interested in helping the Dream Center rescue one life at a time you can donate here.