As I was sharing life stories with a friend today, it dawned on us that life is just as hard at 40 as it is at 14. We happened to be discussing the trials and tribulations of middle school, when suddenly, and with a bit of a laugh, we realized that our own lives were displaying some of those same conflicts and resolutions. The illustrations of life that we all come to know and <sigh> dread. The hope is that as we encounter conflict and go through resolution, we develop coping skills that are healthy. Proverbs 4:23-27 MSG “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.” We are called to be generous, kind, and loving while thoughtfully offering grace and mercy to those in need. The skill we have to learn is how to protect our own hearts in the process. Our hearts are going to be tested and our feelings are going to be hurt. We learn from these things and hopefully we grow in dealing with these things. The learning process can be painful and yet we all still go through it. The skill we have to learn is how to protect our own hearts while still being able to show kindness, being generous, offering encouragement, as well as showing and sharing grace and mercy. God teaches us to carefully guard our hearts with a few illustrations. Don’t be two faced, keep watch over our words, don’t get caught up in the drama, learn that sometimes we just ought to say no, and to watch where we are walking so that we stay on track and focused on Jesus. Occasionally we just have to let go and let God, while we stay focused on the hope that is found in Jesus. We have to learn to continually pray for wisdom as we grow from the inside out. Dealing with conflict and resolution is an on-going lesson plan for life; the skill we try to learn is to remain focused on the hope that is found in Jesus.