Engagement

Self Protection or Love

Every one of us lives with a level of discomfort.

Others may look really together but even 'the together ones" carry a form of mess within.

Discomfort heightens when we're put on the spot, anger emerges when a spouse displeases us, conversation shifts when a topic surfaces our ignorance and we search for opportunities to enhance our reputations.

We seek places of comfort rather than challenge and as believers we explore ways to improve our spirituality - serving and helping, reading and praying, selling our talents to others to prove our worth.

But still the nagging feeling of discomfort continues. There's more to us than merely loving God and others.

We were not designed to live in this world. Before sin, vulnerability with God and each other was natural. But sin ushered in shame and avoidance and a fear of rejection, even if it meant hurting those that we love. Therefore while we crave closeness, we create distance with others.

To present a front, or self protect may feel safe but it limits the depth of a relationship.

Finding those whom are willing to hear our struggles and anxiety is vital.

Being one whom is willing  to allow another to have issues is vital.

Even more, being one whom can hear but not offer the quick fix is more precious than gold.

 

 

Love is a Challenge

Is love described as a feeling in the Bible?

I ask this question because more often than not, people opt out of intimate relationships because of reasons such as "I don't like you any more", "our marriage was a mistake" or "I deserve to be happy". 

Few people understand what love is, particularly when it pertains to marriage. Most think of it in terms of romance, desire and pleasant feelings. When the term, "I love you" is spoken, it mostly means "I love me and I want you. Therefore I want to keep you because you make me happy."

If we think about this, it's a selfish way of living.

The love potion that often accompanies new romantic relationships does not last but should mature into a deep and trusting relationship. A relationship where one can trust the other with their deepest fears and desires. There is a level of vulnerability in which hope and hurt are shared and worked through.

Probably the greatest example of love is God giving His only Son due to His deep love for mankind, a love so filled with sacrifice for the sake of others.

This love is not a feeling, but an act of the will. And so should we, determine to keep this great act going.

How Do I Fit In?

In the early twentieth century, Abraham Maslow developed a chart that categorized people's needs. His work is worth examination, especially considering family.

We can be part of a great family and yet still feel little value, unknown or insignificant. 

Often we emphasize the needs for food, shelter, safety, education and hobbies. Busily, we reorganize schedules to maintain all of these things. But to finish at this level, denies greater needs and therefore we cruise through life wondering purpose and worth.

Each of us has a huge need to belong and to be valued.

These desires are fulfilled by giving time, listening without preparing for an answer, and providing encouragement.

Practice affection or rather than focusing on being the center of attention, watch for opportunities to include others.

Watch for those things that bring a smile to another's face.

Listen and validate other's thoughts and engage in another's interests. 

Build up those, whether spouse or child, whether an unlovable teenager or an angry spouse. 

To criticize isolates, but encouragement strengthens connection and that sense of belonging.

 

Being Blessed

There is no guaranteed way through which we can receive God's blessings. There are principles that guide us through life but there is no such thing as a cause and effect pattern that will guarantee blessing.

We can work hard at raising great children or building a great marriage. We can work diligently at a business or making lasting friendships. Ultimately though, we do not have that much control over the outcome and may not achieve our desired result.

Christian leaders can work hard and serve God faithfully. Some enjoy God's blessing by building a substantial ministry but others do not.

Some parents parent faithfully and produce fantastic children but other parents whom have been just as faithful, do not.

Ultimately if we live with a cause and effect mindset regarding the blessing of God, life becomes a roller coaster and disappointing.

If children, marriage, business or friendships succeed, we are happy. If one fails, though, we experience contempt not just for self but for others.

If we live with a cause and effect mentality, or as one whom expects blessing for good works, life and God are disappointing. We live, preoccupied with using God as a source of reward, rather than aiming at a relationship with Him.

Beyond the splendor that life has to offer, focusing on the thought that God Himself is the ultimate blessing is fulfilling. He is the constant relationship that lifts us despite trials and loves and accepts us in spite of success or failure.

What Do I Need?

In times of want and need we tend to focus on that particular desire. It becomes our primary focus and occupies our thoughts.

For myself, I found myself reestablishing myself as a single woman, selling and moving homes and finding a new career.

Do I leave my home church or stay? Do I move back to Australia or to a location close to my children?

Such concerns are a normal part of life but the stress of these things can find us pushing God to the periphery.

At such times we can neglect to seek God for help and become obsessed with our dilemma.

What do we do?

I believe that we start with repentance. Do what we usually do when we've neglected some one that we love.

After repentance, let the conversation with God flow.

The more we focus on God, the more access to His unfailing love.

His never ending love is empowering and fuels us as does nothing else. 

I Get It

I understand praying prayers that are not answered in the way we wish.

I understand fixing a marriage but I also understand losing a marriage despite all effort.

I understand life when it starts to unravel and when failure is discovered by others.

I understand telling one's children that their parents can't hold it together.

I know the fear of not knowing what's coming, of making wrong decisions and not knowing what to do.

I understand loneliness and the fear of being alone. Lord, will it always be like this?

But I'm seeing that God is a God of new things. I've made new friends. I have a new career and home and both are wonderful.

I've visited places and seen people for which there was no time in the past.

Dare I say, there's some fun in again being single.

God doesn't just create new things but He can make all things new.

In other words, He's not tossing us out and starting anew with someone else.

He looks at us and dreams of whom we are going to be when we get to the other side of our drama and pain.

 

Starting Over

We grow up in church  and the recommendations are to pray, read your Bible, attend regularly, get involved and to share our faith with others.

We usually struggle and feel guilty regarding our lack of competence in at least one of these areas. And therefore think of ourselves as being a little less than others. We carry a sense of failing God too.

But then great catastrophe can strike us such as relationship or financial disaster. In so many ways we no longer measure up to our former image.

And so we have to start again. It's actually a journey of rediscovery regarding one self. Who is God and what does He desire of me. I'm no longer what I was

The result is that God loved me as I was and loves me even now. I don't have to behave or perform in any certain way.

Hardship is a prime opportunity to move beyond immature ideas into greater faith and character. Some disasters, are a catalyst for learning perseverance, steadiness and hope.

Who among us wouldn't prefer an easier life but through hardship we discover the reality of God.

The Calling

I'm not really a fan of this word. It though works for this writing.

God assigns us a life to lead and as much as we'd like it to be a journey of plenty and fairness, this is not always so.

Nevertheless, there is something splendid about embracing our journey and finding new strengths and contentment along the way.

To compare our path to that of another is a useless task and only brings grief.

Each of us must make every effort to accept our own God given calling. This therefore lessens the hurt along the way in difficult circumstances.

Whether experiencing loss in career, relationships, a church home or in sickness, if we search for  that new pearl of wisdom that God is endeavoring to show us, we can accept His journey without losing hope for a better future.

 

Identity - Life after Divorce

There's a moment when you realize that you are no longer whom you thought you were anymore.

Several weeks ago, I sat in the church offices and realized that I was sitting in the place of my old office. And again the thought struck me. What has happened? Who am I now?

I looked back over the last few years - belittled, confession and argument to accusations of which I have no understanding. I cowered emotionally to not rock the boat and in an attempt to protect myself and those I love.

I wonder if I would do this again. 

I, at times, feel like an old piece of furniture that has been placed in a thrift shop. If perhaps some one were to come along and purchase me, he would see my value and restore me.

There would be a gentle washing of the wounds. I am not the labels that I have been called.

Then my restorer sands away the old layers - those roles that no longer fit. I'm not defined by marriage or lack of marriage. I am not defined by my career or lack of career. I am not defined by who I know or the number of meetings at which I've spoken or that I've attended.

Then my restorer applies new layers. The first coat is that which is true of all of us. I'm made in the image of God. He never leaves us and we are precious in His sight.

The next is though my favorite part which is the redesign of my details that make me unique.

Everything has been stripped away and yet I can still sit with God. Yet I still have a purpose and calling and a relationship that will not fail.

Email, Phone or Face to Face?

Most of us know that we live in a world of social media.

People post both their successes and pain on Facebook for all to see. We crave affirmation and value or we ask for prayer. 

We oldies can be overwhelmed by this. We cheer ourselves by knowing that at some time, the young will become old and will face the same dilemma.

Nothing though is more important than face to face communication.

We tell ourselves that we have no time but to say this, is to say that another is unimportant.

Because we live in this world, we fail to develop needed skills. Email and texting allow us an alternative to face to face conversation but these methods can leave a recipient hurt and feeling betrayed.

Sometimes texting and email are convenient. They are a quick message or they may be an update for a business arrangement.

When used however to avoid confrontation or because we fear the words or thoughts of the other, we are using a wrong method.

Communication is a gift that enables us to strengthen relationships, particularly when we have a conversation face to face.

Relationships are the most valuable thing that we have on this earth.

To value a relationship beyond our fears is likely to produce long lasting relationship.

 

You're a Good Person But...

You're a good person but...."

Many people have been on the receiving end of such a statement. 

How does one feel when hearing such words, particularly in the breakdown of a long term relationship.

The one speaking these words may be attempting to soften a blow but the words are mostly spoken out of guilt, particularly if a marriage covenant is being broken.

On the receiving end, there are often feelings of bewilderment and inadequacy. One is good but not good enough. What is good enough? If I try a little harder would that make a difference in the relationship?

And then sadness and hurt can turn to anger. Who has permission to set such a standard?

Even God does not hold such standards over our heads. And so we should let such accusatory statements go so that they no longer wound our hearts and minds.

God's grace is always sufficient and never ends.

Who's in the Driver's Seat?

So often we hear that it is communication that determines the future of a marriage. I don't think that this is true. Other skills are needed.

For a marriage to survive, the sharing of power is important. 

Some find this hard for various reasons whether it is a lack of trust or a threat to one's ego.

As married couples, as in any relationship, we should take other's opinions and feelings into account. We should allow their thoughts to influence ours, particularly in a marriage. When we neglect to validate others, their sense of value is minimized.

These thoughts do not mean that one gives up the driver's seat but rather that each person is validated in the relationship. We also learn and achieve more as we are willing to share the power and our lives.

Parent or Partner? (Intimacy)

After having children, women tend to view themselves as primarily a parent and less as a wife or intimate partner.

Men still though view themselves as a lover or partner.

Maintaining intimacy must be maintained and it takes work.

A partner takes precedence over the children. The greatest gift that a parent can give a child is their great marriage.

Maintaining physical intimacy is a conscious and intentional choice. It rarely "just happens", particularly once children arrive.

Children feel safe in a thriving marriage and to see non-sexual affection is great for them.

God, Is It Ok To Be Angry?

How many times have we suppressed anger because we've been told that it's inappropriate. As a parent we tell a child not to show anger because it's embarrassing or wrong. We then dismiss the situation and send an inadequate message.

In later years, this child can then find it difficult to identify how he truly feels or he demonstrates explosive outbursts.

His honesty is prevented by a fear of rejection. "Niceness" and "suitable behavior" has been prized over honesty. Genuine feelings were punished.

Many have been taught that real Christians don't get angry. King David and the Apostle Paul though, often spoke in ways that revealed deep hurt and anger. God Himself reveals anger.

God knows that we will be angry at times and He can handle it. It's we as believers that are unsure of a response. And so we instruct ourselves and others to hide this legitimate emotion.

In Ephesians 4:25-26, Paul instructs believers to stop lying to each other and be honest about our anger.

When we allow anger to be expressed in an appropriate setting, time and way, we allow honesty, we are encouraging godliness and prevent future problems.

Following Our Father

Being willing to follow God, wherever He leads, can be difficult.

Change is an easy yes when life is not challenging. How many times have we stood in church and mouthed a cheerful yes in the good times? It's very different though when a season is difficult.

We may not know what lies ahead but God does. His greatest blessings may be just around the corner, out of sight. To be a recipient of these blessings, we must walk by faith and not sight.

Walking by faith does not mean that we close our eyes to all of the present problems that we are facing but that we press into the ever-present God within us.

Yes the problems are still a part of life but we daily have a choice as to whether we take hold of the Father's hand that can lift us to a place higher than difficulties. We choose to not focus on the surrounding turmoil and we look for our comforting Father that is within us.

To allow this presents us with a different view. 

 

The Beauty of Anxiety

Anxiety should not always be thought of as a disease. Nor should we merely quote Scripture at one who claims to be anxious.

Anxiety is not a pleasant feeling but it can be constructive.
Anxiety often points us to an area in life in which we should invest.

Perhaps we have some unresolved hurt from our past or an apology that we owe to another.
Perhaps our anxiety is connected to our present situation and so we work on this situation and find comfort in God.
Perhaps our anxiety concerns our future and so we do all that we can to secure that goal but again we trust God. He holds our future in His hands.


Anxiety can be a friend rather than an enemy. Anxiety is a natural emotion for each of us at times. It does not have to be a dreaded emotion but a cause to inspire change. 


 

Conflict

This is a normal part of life. If we examined our lives, we'd probably find that we experience the same old conflicts again and again. The subject matter may change, but patterns remain the same. One might get hurt while the other seems unaffected. One may think the matter trivial while the other bends over backward trying to please.

We all have crazy patterns. We need to break the bad patterns and find new habits that will improve our relationships.

Unhappy people major on arguing their own agenda and winning the fight. Happy people negotiate and are prepared to hear the other's thoughts and opinion.

It takes two to keep a fight going and only one to stop it and start the problem solving.

Aim at being the one that really listens without preparing a retort in advance. Aim at asking more questions to bring clarity to the situation.

Negotiate and determine to win the relationship rather than determining to win the fight.