Whitney Hopler
Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer

A neighbor waved me over to where she was sitting by the edge of our community pool, talking with a few other people. As I got closer, I heard them discussing another neighbor who wasn’t present. “Did you hear that she left her husband?” my neighbor asked me.

“No,” I replied, surprised to hear that the marriage of a couple who had seemed close was ending. I wanted to know why, but didn’t verbalize my curiosity, since it was really none of my business.

“We can’t figure out why,” someone else said, as if she knew what I was thinking. “It was just so sudden.”

“Well, her kids were always acting out,” someone chimed in from a nearby chaise lounge. “There’s probably been a lot of stress at their home for a long time, and we just didn’t realize it.”

“The kids are going to do even worse now,” said the neighbor who had called me over. “Now they won’t get to see their dad as much. Whatever was going on, I don’t think she should have just left. That was selfish. She should have thought of her kids.”

Anger welled up inside of me as I listened to them gossip about a caring woman who had spent several years serving many of our children as a volunteer leader of a scout troop. 

“I’m sure she thought of her kids,” I blurted out. “She cares about her kids, just like any mom does. And she cares about our kids, too. Remember how she led the troop for three years?”

Silence. The group of neighbors stared at me for what was probably just a few moments, but what felt like an agonizingly long time. What are they going to say next? I wondered. Then someone changed the subject, and the conversation moved on to a healthier place.

When I saw our soon-to-be-divorced neighbor later, I didn’t ask about her marital troubles, but she brought them up, assuming I’d heard gossip about her. Then she revealed that her husband had been abusing her for many years, which is why she finally left. Afterward, I felt an urge to tell the other moms who knew her why her marriage had broken up. That could help them not judge her so harshly, I reasoned. But then I hesitated, realizing that by attempting to stop gossip like that, I would actually be gossiping myself!

Everyone loves to hear a good story, but when that story damages someone’s reputation, it’s not worth telling. In fact, telling any negative story about a person who isn’t there to defend himself or herself involves gossiping. Since gossip can seem well-intentioned to us at times – such as when we’re asking others to pray for someone in need – we don’t often see how it’s a big deal. But gossip is a sin that God takes seriously. God declares in Leviticus 19:16: “Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.”

So the next time you hear gossip about someone, don’t participate. You don’t have to listen, either – and in fact, you shouldn’t, since listening to gossip only encourages others to continue to talk badly about others. Instead, you can stop gossip in its tracks. Here are 5 ways you can do so:

1. Change the subject. Distract people from gossiping by bringing up another subject in the conversation. Something that’s interesting – yet positive – to talk about can redirect people’s focus away from gossip, while also sending them a clear signal that you don’t want to talk about the gossip they had been discussing. In Ephesians 4:29, the Bible urges: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” If a conversation isn’t heading in a helpful direction, choose to be the one who changes its course by changing the subject.

2. Say something positive about the person who’s the target of gossip. No matter how negative a gossipy story about a person may be, there are positive qualities to that person, since he or she is made in God’s image. Remind people who are gossiping that the person they’re talking about has said or done something good by mentioning something specific that’s positive, just like I mentioned my neighbor’s volunteer service to our children. “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things,” the Bible says in Philippians 4:8.

3. Confront gossip politely yet firmly. Stand up to people who are gossiping by saying that you don’t want to know about the story they’re trying to tell you. Don’t hesitate to directly call the gossip what it is, but do so with grace. For example, you could say something like: “That sounds like gossip to me, so I don’t really want to hear any more. Let’s just drop it.” Saying something like that isn’t too harsh; it’s simply holding others accountable for their choice of words. Jesus reveals in Matthew 12:36-37 that “…on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” God places a high value on keeping people accountable for their words.

4. Point out missing information. Ask questions that point out holes in a gossipy story, such as specific times and places of events that supposedly happened. Challenge gossiping people to tell you how they personally verified the information they’re spreading about others. Help them see that just because they heard a story doesn’t mean it’s true – and even if it is, they can’t possibly have an accurate perspective on the situation unless they experienced every detail of it personally. Likewise, no one can assume what someone else’s motives are, as 1 Corinthians 2:11 points out when it says, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?” Help people see that gossip isn’t reliable information.

5. Turn gossip into prayers. Whenever you hear gossip, pray for the people whom the gossip targets. Talk with God – but not other people! – about the negative stories you’ve heard through gossip, asking God to intervene in each situation to help each person involved, if in fact there’s actually any truth to the stories. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help people overcome the attacks to their reputations. You can pray these words from Isaiah 54:17 over them: “no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.” View every time you encounter gossip as an opportunity to bless the people involved by praying for them.

Whenever you successfully stop gossip, you prevent further damage to relationships and help usher God’s peace into them. That’s a powerful way to live out your faith! Jesus himself said in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

 


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We are no more responsible for the evil thoughts that pass through our minds than a scarecrow for the birds which fly over the seed plot he has to guard. The sole responsibility in each case is to prevent them from settling.

       -- John Churtom Collins


Today's Verse

Ephesians 2:4-5

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.

Thoughts on today's verse

I cannot think of anything I'd prefer the Holy God to be rich in than mercy. I know my failures, shortcomings, sins, and transgressions. Without his mercy to pardon, and without his grace to send Jesus to pardon at first, I would be lost and without God. Now, because of his rich mercy, my life is tied to Jesus' future and not the one I earned for myself.


Prayer:

Father of all grace and mercy, thank you. Thank you for being God like you are God. Thank you for extending grace when I have not deserved it. Thank you for giving mercy when I most needed it. Thank you for giving life when I thought my life was doomed and hopeless. May my wealth be found in mercy and grace much more than money and gold. Help me be more like you. Through my older brother, Jesus, I pray. Amen
All Rights Reserved by Phil Ware. Used with permission

What Can the Saints Teach Us about the New Evangelization?

Posted: 12 Sep 2014 06:35 AM PDT

What Can the Saints Teach Us about the New Evangelization - header image with several saints

Let’s identify some saints that we can look to as models for the New Evangelization. I’d like to be able to take credit for this notion of saints serving as evangelization models, however, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI beat me to it when he canonized seven new saints in 2012: Jacques Berthieu, Pedro Calungsod, Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Marìa Carmen Sallés y Barangueras, Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Anna Schäffer. In doing so, he referred to these seven as saints for the New Evangelization.

Even before that, however, Pope John Paul II canonized numerous new saints as models of holiness for the New Evangelization. In a 2001 interview, Archbishop Edward Nowak, then Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, explained the reason for looking to the saints for the New Evangelization:

The saints…enable us to see how Christ continues to make himself present to the world, and how his Gospel is extending in time and space. They are valuable examples for the Church: Blessed and Saints show us the practical ways to holiness. Their lives are lives of witnessing to Christ. Today they are held up to the people of the new evangelization and to the people of our times…Since they constitute a heritage, the saints are also a programme, that is, they show us what we need to do. They are an example for us to follow of how, or in what way, we should fulfil our commitment to being human and Christian. (“New Evangelization with the Saints,” L’Osservatore Romano, 28 November 2001, page 3)

In describing the New Evangelization, St. John Paul II explained that it is a proclaiming of the Gospel with “new ardor, methods, and expression.” I suggest the following as inspirational examples for these three key ingredients of the New Evangelization:

§ Ardor: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta; St. Isaac Jogues.

§ Methods: St. Paul; Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

§ Expression: Blessed Fredrick Ozanam; Servant of God Dorothy Day; St. Ignatius of Loyola.

If we look to the example of the saints and other holy people, we can find many who embody the qualities of ardor, methods, and expression. Who would you add to the list in each category? And what can these saints teach us about the New Evangelization?

What Can the Saints Teach Us about the New Evangelization? is a post from: Catechist's Journey

Used with Permission


Spiritual Formation at Home (Part 2 of 4)

A growing body of research indicates that the decline of strong families means we are swimming in different water than in the past.  Even the most conservative estimates tell us we are becoming a nation of unbelievers as fewer people associate themselves with any form of Christian faith. Be careful to use only credible studies since many over-quoted reports lack veracity. The situation is bad enough without overstating the numbers, such as: most self-described unbelievers in this country are former church kids. Only about half of those who attend church with their parents remain active believers as adults. Most churches affirm the priority of faith at home, but they struggle to develop workable strategies.
 
The Strong Families Innovation Alliance identified ten components that are essential to building a customized strategy for church-driven, family-centered redemption.  Here are five of ten "Lego piece" shapes essential to any model.

1. EMPOWER A CHAMPION: If everyone owns it, no one does. Make it clear which senior leader is responsible for keeping spiritual formation at home objectives on the team’s radar screen
.

2. ESTABLISH NEW MEASURES: What gets measured gets done. Introduce simple measures that will keep you focused on family-centered strategies and drive continual improvement.

3. BUILD UPON EXISTING CHURCH VISION: Do not compete with or criticize the existing vision. Build upon it to drive family-centered strategies. Don’t re-write the great commission to insert the word "family" or force the team to change everything they are doing.  Instead, make everything more effective when it comes to impacting the home.

4. USE EXISTING TIME SLOTS: People will typically give you one or two time slots per week: perhaps the worship service and a small group session. When you move to a third time slot (Saturday workshop, Wednesday study, etc.) participation drops like a rock. Yet most "family" oriented ministries occur in a third or fourth time slot making it impossible to create a church-wide culture. Find ways to make your spiritual formation at home initiative fit and support existing “main time slot” and church calendar priorities. 
 
5. USE "HOME LENS" ON EVERYTHING: As a priority, every area of the church must reflect the family impact vision. Every department and program needs to apply a "faith at home" lens to what they already do rather than create another program that will compete for attention and resources. 

NEXT WEEK: Our next installment will list the other five best practices for creating a culture of intentional families.

Used with Permission

Daily Meditation by
2013 Don Schwager


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