Conference Website Now Available

We’ve recently expanded the information that’s available on the 2009 Peacemaker Conference to be held in Dallas, TX on September 24-26. Take a look at the conference website for detailed information on:

  • Keynote Speakers
  • Conference Schedule
  • Workshops
  • Hotel, Travel, and Other Information
  • Pre-Conference Training Events

Hope you’ll make it a point to join us this fall for what promises to be another great conference!

Remodeling My Kitchen, and My Heart

For the past month I have been hard at work remodeling our kitchen.  One of my concerns going into the project was that I might get so focused on completing the work that I would neglect my wife and son.  Because of this, I told my wife ahead of time that she needed to let me know if things were getting out of balance.

I estimated that this would be a 3-month project, and amazingly, it took just over a month to complete (I suppose this should have been my first clue of what was to come).  In the final week of the project I pushed especially hard to get things wrapped up.  I wanted our kitchen to be functional again, but even more so I wanted to be spending more time with Jenn and Noah.  Even though I recognized that I had been neglecting my family, I was stunned when my wife said, “I’m really glad this is almost done, because I feel like we need to be spending more time together.”  I totally agreed with her, and yet my first thought was, “I just poured myself into getting your kitchen remodeled, and all you give in return is criticism?”

I was ashamed at how I was willing to recongize in myself a need for change, but when my wife saw it and wanted to hold me accountable my first response was to deflect the correction and justify myself.  I am grateful to have a wife who loves me enough to say the hard things that help me grow, who forgives me when I stumble, and who makes me great dinners in our new kitchen!

Trust the Lord and Do Good

It was 1998 and in my hands was the book “The Peacemaker” by Ken Sande, who was scheduled to speak at an upcoming event my husband Rick and I were organizing. In preparation, I began the book reading a few pages a day at the end of my quiet time. It was resonnating well with me. Glorify God, serve others, grow to be like Christ, the need for peace with God and others; all good. Then came Chapter 3, “Trust the Lord and Do Good.”

The challenge started with this “If you believe that God is watching over you with perfect love and unlimited power, you will be able to serve him faithfully as a peacemaker, even in the most difficult circumstances.”  Even today I remember what I was thinking, “Wait a minute, what about the other guy? I wouldn’t have these difficult circumstances if it weren’t for the other person!”

I smile when I think of this, only because I hear this same comment over and over again when people call our ministry for help. Seeking peacemaking for some is a search for a method to squash our opposition or convince them we are right. (That was one of the reasons I was reading the book at the time.) But God calls us to something very different before we go to the other person. He calls us to really think about who we are serving, ourselves or God. Ken puts it this way:

“Trusting God does not mean believing that he will do all that you want, but rather that he will do everything that he knows is good. If you do not trust God, you will inevitably place your trust in yourself or someone else, which ultimately leads to grief. On the other hand, if you believe that God is sovereign and that he will never let anything into your life unless it can be used for good, you will see conflicts not as accidents but assignments.”

Did I want my way, or God’s? Was I willing to accept what he had allowed so that I could give him glory, even in this? At the end of the chapter, my question changed. Instead of “what about the other guy?” I found myself asking “who do I really trust?” My struggle was not nearly so much with the other person but ultimately it had been with believing God had a purpose in allowing the conflict in the first place. Even in the midst of the conflict, God has a purpose for me.

2 Peter 1: 3-4

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Trusting in the Lord, a precursor to doing good.


Introducing Three New Bloggers

You may have noticed lately that most of the posts around here have been originating from Molly. (Thanks for keeping us going, Molly!) Well, that’s about to change. I’m pleased to let you all know that we have three new bloggers here at Route 5:9: Jonathan Boll, Annette Friesen, and Bethany Amman. Each of these colleagues of mine comes with a unique perspective on life and peacemaking, and I think you’ll be blessed by what they have to share.

Jonathan is a proud new dad and is active in the youth ministry and peacemaking ministry at his church. He’s been working at Peacemaker Ministries in one form or another for close to ten years, and he now oversees our Human Resources and Operations here at the ministry. HR, even at a ministry, can get pretty sticky, and we are blessed to have his considerable gifts and gracious personality serving here. Welcome, Jonathan!

Annette has been working at Peacemaker Ministries for several years, and she handles most all of the initial requests for help with a conflict that we get here. She has a wealth of true wisdom, and personally, I think she’s one of the most indispensable members of our team. You may also recognize her as the mom featured in a People Magazine story that we mentioned here last year. Welcome, Annette!

Bethany has only been working at Peacemaker Ministries for a couple years, but she has plunged right in as the coordinator of our training events. She has a great writing style (WAY different from mine!), and I think you’ll all be challenged by her perspective as she represents the “younger crowd” in our churches today. Welcome, Bethany!

You will learn more about them as they post (just click on the name below the title to view their brief bio), but I just wanted to briefly introduce you to these friends and colleagues. You can look forward to hearing from each of them in the coming days. I know I will! 

The God Who Likes His Children

I appreciated what Tim Challies had to say today in his short essay, Like Love, likening a proud father showing off pictures on his cell phone to how God views us through Christ:

…I thought about this a short time ago when I was considering how God feels about us, how he feels about me, how he feels about all of his children. I guess I often go through life thinking that God is generally displeased with me. I see my sin, I see my failings, I see my heart. At the same time I see from Scripture God’s majesty, his holiness, his perfection. And when I put these together I suppose that God must be looking at me with at least some level of disgust. He must regard me as I regard myself so much of the time; as a person who may try to do what’s right, but as a person who is just an abject failure when it comes to holiness.

But I’m starting to think that I’ve had this all wrong… 

Maybe we can be so careful in (rightly) understanding God’s hatred for sin and his desire for holiness that we forget about his great love for us despite the sin that still pollutes us. Maybe we forget that God truly does regard us as children–children he not only loves but children he also genuinely likes. And there’s a difference between the two, isn’t there?

This is a precious reminder of the gospel. And once again, it is good to remember that how we view and relate to others (i.e., peacemaking) is going to reflect how we view and relate to God. If we have a broken view of God, we are going to have a broken view of others.

The Power of Words

This week’s PeaceMeal was short and sweet, but I think it applies well to my post the other day about how we communicate electronically. (If you haven’t already, you may subscribe to PeaceMeal, our weekly e-devotional here.) And I should also note that the folks over at 9 Marks are on the same topic, sharing Sinclair Ferguson’s 20 Resolutions on our speech (from the book of James).

In any case, here is this week’s PeaceMeal:

The Power of Words

“Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him
who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15

Words play a key role in almost every conflict. When used properly, words promote understanding and encourage agreement. When misused, they usually aggravate conflicts and drive people further apart. If your words seem to do more harm than good when you try to resolve a disagreement, don’t give up. With God’s help you can improve your ability to communicate constructively.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 162.

Food for Thought

Have you felt like your words have “aggravated conflict” lately?

Maybe your words were careless–you just didn’t think them through. Or maybe they weren’t loving, true as they might have been. Remember, our words can either be powerful vessels of God’s grace or can be the spark that sets the forest afire (see James 3:2-12). Reflect on your words during your last conflict. How would you characterize them? Pray that when you are “speaking the truth” today, it would be “speaking the truth in love.”

Update from Asia

On Monday, I posted an update from two of our staff members who are traveling in Asia.  They parted ways this week — Chip went to India and J.R. went elsewhere in Southeast Asia– and will meet up early next week in central India.  Here’s an update from J.R., who is currently working mostly with another organization, but he’s seeing conflict and opportunities for peacemaking everywhere he turns:

Since you might be wondering what I’m doing over here, I’m documenting a story about the Church. But as you can expect, it’s also a story of conflict. Westerners (like ourselves) haven’t had to face the conflict of Christianity and State. Here, it’s very real.

In this country, it is illegal for the ethnic majority to convert from Islam. Additionally, race tensions are so high that when a new party takes office, people will not come out of their homes due to fear of race-riots. And even beyond that, anyone who is suspected of evangelizing Muslims will end up having the Special Branch [of the State Police] make their lives very, very miserable. These are just a few of the conflicts that are very present just under the surface of even a beautiful and seemingly peaceful city like this one.

My host mentioned tonight that “this is a country of deceptive peace.” There is massive conflict just under the surface. He and others are here in Southeast Asia working as artisans, craftsmen, and teachers supporting the local church and enabling its people to carry out the message of peace only found in Christ.

The Way We Communicate Electronically

I saw a link today (HT: Justin Taylor) to an article by Bill Mounce at Koinonia that suggests how blog comments from Christians (and emails, too for that matter) often stray far from the standard set for us in Ephesians 4:29. Now thankfully, here at Route 5:9, we haven’t had much of an issue with overly-strident commenters, but I’ve certainly seen this happen elsewhere. I am saddened by how some Christians communicate in these settings, even though I may completely agree with the position they are advocating! The relative anonymnity of these e-communications seems to entice us to write things that we would never say face-to-face. Bill writes:

One of the patterns that I have noticed is that we often are justified in our anger, and that anger vents itself in ungodly language that clearly violates the clear teaching of Scripture. But because our anger is so strong, and our justification so deep, we feel that not only are we justified to speak in corrupting and graceless ways, but that we have some sort of divine mandate to do so. It would be wrong, we reason, to speak any other way…

This attitude of entitlement–“I have a right to express myself in angry and violent terms”–shows itself in many venues. When I was pastoring, I had the rule that if someone wanted to encourage me, email was great. If they wanted to criticize me, it had to be done face-to-face. I have a file of happy notes that I read and reread, from students and others. They are a source of great encouragement and edification. But if someone has something against me, the only biblical option is to talk to me face-to-face. Scripture makes no other allowance.

Email gives us great strength. Because we are not looking right at the person, we lose a sense of accountability and are often more willing to use stronger language, words that do not convey grace, make conclusions that are based more on imagination than fact. We make more of ourselves, and we make less of the person to whom we are writing.

Mounce ends with a summary of his “guidelines” for communication on blogs/email:

1. Take every thought captive to Christ. In other words, think before we speak and write, weighing everything we say and write against the teachings of our Lord.

2. Feel free to disagree when it is appropriate to the situation, but always do so as an expression of grace.

3. When wanting to encourage, write it.

4. When wanting to criticize, if possible, do so face to face. If it is not possible, write only what you would say face-to-face.

5. No matter how angry or justified you feel, there is never a place for cruel or vulgar speech.

Maybe then we wouldn’t have to moderate blog comments.

I think this is a helpful word for all of us, and it is what we had in mind when we noted, “… do remember Ephesians 4:29” in our blog comments policy.

Report from Asia

Doc Production Stop One: Manila from J.R. Friesen on Vimeo.

Exciting newsflash! We have a group currently traveling to several places in Asia; they just left Manila, Philippines and sent back a report of their time there. The group’s purpose is twofold — to meet with, encourage and strengthen relationships with ministry partners, and also to give people who are not involved firsthand in our international ministry a chance to experience it for themselves (including videographer J.R. Friesen who is there to help the rest of us experience it as close to firsthand as possible).

The video above will give you a taste of what our group experienced for the last few days; below is a note from Vice President of International Ministry Chip Zimmer giving a few more details about the purpose of the trip and ministry partners they’ve connected with while there. Keep your eyes out for more updates — they still have several stops left, namely in Allahabad, India, for a peacemaking conference through a seminary.

It has been a very good 4 days in Manila. Even my bag finally arrived, after having taken off for other parts of the world.

The time here has been divided into 3 parts. Part 1 happened Friday, when we visited the International Graduate School of Leadership (IGSL), where Peacemaker Ministries is engaged with the Doctor of Ministry project and where I taught for a week this past October.  Steve H, IGSL’s coordinator of the project, met us and we had a great discussion of the program and the students, in particular talking about how our 9 doctoral candidates are already putting the lessons they are learning into practice in their home communities in Asia and Africa. We had lunch on campus, visited the various buildings and learned the story of IGSL and its vision for building leaders for the rapidly growing church in Asia.

Part 2 began Friday afternoon, when we were handed off to our friends Winnie and Maloi S, who head up the local Peace Builders group. We went with them to a meeting at the Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) for a get together with Peace Builders core leaders, including PCEC director Bishop Efraim Tendero. We talked about how to strengthen and coordinate the developing partnership between Peacemaker Ministries and Peace Builders, which will include future visits by Peace Builders staff to the US and by Peacemaker Ministries trainers to Manila. That evening, we attended a dinner and fellowship time put together by Peace Builders for about 40 Christian lawyers, judges and legislators, where I had the opportunity to share a bit regarding the
work of Peacemaker Ministries and our partnership with Peace Builders to bring biblically-based conciliation to the Philippines.  The evening, we later learned, generated a lot of interest.

Still on Part 2, Saturday from 9 until 1:00 was a special Valentine’s Day program put together by Peace Builders called “Love to the Max,” (a clever play-on words as it was hosted at “Max’s Restaurant.”) This was a 3-workshop mini-conference on marriage, with me filling in the second spot on dealing with conflict in marriage. I cribbed shamelessly from Rick and Annette Friesen’s conference workshop on marriage and talked about the Slippery Slope of conflict. Winnie and Maloi organized the event and taught one of the sessions. They had originally hoped they might get 40 or 50 couples to come out on a Saturday morning, but wound up with 237 people (I was the only person there without his wife, which explains the odd number). It was a really good time and Peace Builders couldn’t have been more pleased with the response.

Part 3 for me began on Sunday, a day off for us when we went to the downtown church to hear Manfred Kohl of Overseas Council preach (he did a wonderful job and J.R. got him on film). Then Winnie and Maloi took us to lunch and a bit of a shopping tour of Manila. It is now Monday morning and we’re preparing to head off to Calcutta this afternoon, hopefully arriving in Nagaland in northeast India on Monday afternoon.

We’ll keep you updated as we receive more updates from Chip and J.R.!

Forgiveness … thoughts from Volf

I was searching for a quote yesterday and picked up (again) the book Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf.  I was reminded (again) how incredibly profound his thoughts are on the subject.

On  page 209, he is responding to a hypothetical objection, “Professor Volf, you speak about the seed of forgiveness growing into a plant and the need of the forgiver to nourish the plant with the food of God’s goodness. But don’t perpetrators have a responsibility to tend that plant of forgiveness too?  And must the forgivers do all the hard work of mending relationships?”

His response to the last part of the question is what really struck me:

Finally, to the last part of your question about the burden of mending relationships resting on the shoulders of victims. Sometimes offenders do repent first and seek reconciliation with those whom they’ve wronged, making the victims’ burden easier to bear. When they don’t, the burden is heavy. Is it fair for victims to bear it? It’s not. Do they deserve to bear it? They deserve it even less than they deserved the original offense. So why should they bear it? Because that’s what it means to be a follower of Christ. Forgiving the unrepentant is not an optional extra in the Christian way of life; it’s the heart of the thing. Why? Because God is such a forgiver and Christ forgave in such a way. And you know what? We also bear the burden of forgiveness because when we are forgivers we are restored to our full human splendor. We were created to mirror God. Anything less is really Judas’ kiss on our own cheek, a betrayal of ourselves by ourselves.”