Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing You a Silent Night

It is Christmas Eve and I have spent the day with family in front of a roaring fire working on a Christmas puzzle.  My perfect day of holiday celebration but it does not complete my yearly, holiday desire.

Every year I hope the Christmas season will be more meaningful . . . to me. I look forward to each December, Sunday worship service to enjoy a special closeness with God as we sing carols and revisit the familiar Bible scriptures. I want to look into the clear, cold night sky and have God reveal himself to me in a mighty way. I want to be filled and moved and immersed in the incredible gift we are celebrating . . . but I’m not. Why?

Amy Grant sings the song “I Need a Silent Night” which is an excellent description of what I feel. Even as I mature and grow spiritually the holidays more often seem rushed and tension filled. Reading through holiday cards, articles, blogs, etc. there is no lack of council on the “true meaning of Christmas” and how we should feel, should respond, should behave. I completely agree but never fully achieve these dictates. Why?

Pondering this for yet another year God revealed to me my disobedience. In the midst of making holiday cheer my personal quiet time is lost, my prayers are stunted and brisk and I do less to seek His face during the celebration of His birth. At a time when I want to feel His closeness the most I have turned away seeking holiday fun, cheer, memories in a manner that does not include Him.

The Christmas season should see an increase in my time with Jesus. Quiet time should be an extended priority with more time allotted to read, pray and sit in the presence. This should be a present I give to myself which in the end is a present I give to everyone else. By meeting my own expectations of the season I will prepare myself to meet the expectations that come with the season. It is my own disobedience that robs me of the joy of Christmas.

Others clearly share my dilemma so I will pray for you and for me that we will start each season in continued obedience to Christ with our Bibles in hand, in extended quiet time, sitting in the presence of our Lord while celebrating His birth, perhaps on a silent night after a crazy day.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Is it a Tradition or a Rut?

Here we are in the middle of the holiday season; after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. This is a fun time to be out among the masses. People seem quicker with a greeting or kind word. Conversations with strangers are begun with a smile and before I know it we are sharing our holiday plans and traditions. It is fascinating how different the same holiday is celebrated.

Tradition is a common word used when sharing holiday experiences. Young families are encouraged to begin holiday traditions and older adults are steeped in traditions and rituals. As times change and industries evolve rituals also change and evolve. Where once the fireplace, a crackling fire tradition, was in the majority of homes it is replaced by a video, evolved to a DVD, of a roaring fire that will play on your television or computer screen.

While visiting with a friend she shared that she liked to try new things for the holiday meal but had met with opposition from some members of the family. “We don’t usually have that,” was the response. There are those who have gone to great lengths to reproduce specific items. I, myself, have gone the extra mile to keep traditions in place and/or argued when one was missed, replaced or unavailable but when does a tradition become a rut?

A rut is a fixed or established mode of procedure or course of life, usually dull or unpromising. A tradition that becomes troublesome or uncompromising to the detriment of others can have crossed over to a rut. Are there times when our efforts to continue a tradition have caused others distress or brought conflict to the holiday? Have we, perhaps unknowingly, diminished the celebration of another by our insistence in keeping with tradition?

Traditions are a large part of our celebrations and also a large part of our Christian worship
experiences. Traditions are useful in remembrance and teaching and can provide a strong framework for spiritual growth but these religious traditions, too, can become a rut. Historically denominations have been split and formed over a disagreement in traditions. See the Old-New Side debate as one example.

Justo L. Gonzalez in his The Story of Christianity provides insight on how to escape turning religious tradition into a rut. “One way in which we can avoid this danger is to know the past that colors our vision. A person wearing tinted glasses can avoid the conclusion that the entire world is tinted only by being conscious of the glasses themselves. Likewise, if we are to break free from an undue weight of tradition, we must begin by understanding what that tradition is, how we came to be where we are, and how particular elements in our past color our view of the present. It is then we are free to choose which elements in the past, and in the present, we wish to reject, and which we will affirm.”

At this wonderful time of year when traditions play an important role in our family celebrations and worship be deliberate in the fruits of the spirit and be mindful of Romans 14:20; Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. (NIV)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Parable of the Two Salads

The Christian life is a journey. We accept Christ as our Savior, realizing we are sinful and then give our life over to His teachings and transforming love and grace. What follows is a constant learning, growing and changing at a pace our own ‘will’ will allow. I was 40 years old when I experienced the Parable of the Two Salads and though it was a heart changing, life changing experience I had already been on my Christian journey for many, many years.

In reflection this was my Jeremiah moment. Jeremiah 29:12-14 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and will bring you back from captivity. Although Jesus became my savior in grade school it took over thirty years of stuttering growth through stubbornness and selfishness to reach the spiritual development where He revealed Himself in a powerful way.

It was Thanksgiving, 2001 and the atmosphere was tense. No family or guests were expected but I was planning the meal, the day, the whole school break. There were two particular salads from David’s childhood that we always included at the Thanksgiving meal. Groceries were purchased, food made and served. Questions were raised about the salads. Something was different. What does that matter they are present on the table. Tensions rose, words were snapped, feelings hurt; the silence was deafening.

I bustled around the littered table cleaning up the remnants of a not-so-perfect meal while having a boisterous discussion with God in my head. “Why is he being such a . . . ? Why can’t he . . .? Why isn’t he . . .? Why doesn’t he . . .?” And in the midst of my tirade God asked, “Why don’t you?” I was dumbfounded. He proceeded to open my heart and flood it with David’s point of view, what my actions looked like and how, as a child of His, I should be choosing to act instead.

Like individual playing cards my negative, selfish behavior of the day was laid out for me to see. How I ignored what David was wanting, the good, childhood memories the salads evoked, for my desire of penny saving and expediency. How my unenthusiastic, rushed manner reflected on everyone else and created the tension. Where were the fruits of the spirit? Where was my Christ like behavior? Where was my thanksgiving?

I asked God, and David, to forgive me and made Psalm 139:23-24 my daily prayer. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (NIV) I asked God to give me the desire to seek Him and He planted that desire deep in my heart.

In the past eight years of consciously, deliberately seeking God I have enjoyed a deeper personal relationship and He has restored my joy in life. I was on the journey but often taking my own path and finding frustration and dissatisfaction but, when asked, He showed me a much narrower path that brought me closer to Him and understanding what He requires of me as an agent of the kingdom.

Do you have a personal parable that allowed God to reveal Himself to you in a powerful way? I would be honored to hear your story if you would like to share.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Writing on the Wall

I was sitting in church yesterday immersed in the worship and music and pushing through a continuing conversation with the Lord when I saw the writing on the wall, literally. It was the words to the song that everyone in the congregation was singing but as I sung the words the Lord spoke to my heart and His meaning was clear. The conversation was at an end and it was time for me to be obedient.

Many of you are familiar with the saying "the writing on the wall". It originates from the Book of Daniel when God wrote upon the wall the words that predicted the downfall of Babylon. As an idiom it has come to mean one can see the end of an event or thing. Personally this was the end of a discussion I began with God in August.

As is with most spiritual journeys the end result of the conversation was evident before yesterday but looking back it is clearer to see the other prayer markers in place. My situation will allow for the work, it is biblically sound and, most importantly, David is like minded. It is also clear that the holdup was due to the answer not being the fun and exciting answer I was negotiating for but an unglamorous job that will take much work, effort and discipline. I was delaying the inevitable by arguing under the guise of seeking God's guidance; hence, the writing on the wall.

There is a history in this situation which brings evidence to the personal relationship we can have with Jesus Christ. Very clear in my memory is a Sunday morning in April, 1992 of sitting in the church service at Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. I was in fervent prayer pleading for the Lord to provide an answer. "Lord, put the writing on the wall. Let me know what to do and I will do it," and I searched the wall behind the pulpit willing the Father to give me a word. There was no writing that day but the moment was poignant enough that the point of the writing on the wall, yesterday, was clear. I will do it.

Now begins the work. Ironically I anticipate my work for the Lord will be sitting eating chocolate bars and never gaining any weight when it is always harvesting the cocoa beans in the hot, humid tropical sun. The overwhelming proof in my personal journey that my joy will be so much more compete in the harvest should keep me from negotiating but my spiritual immaturity and strong will fight every time.

I am starting with this blog. The focus is changing from my intent to provide wisdom to Logan and my college friends to providing a window for those the Lord will send and the path that will unfold before me. Pray for me as I will pray for you that we be obedient in everything.

The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 2 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

Friday, September 4, 2009

When Death Plans to Visit

David and I have entered that season when we are taking care of aging parents. Although they are light hearted about having 'one foot in the grave' death is close enough that we have discussed, or are discussing, what is to be done during, and at, their final stage of life. As we are watching these loved ones slow down and their bodies give in to the inevitable the natural inclination is to review their life. This brings revelation, consideration and insight.

As health issues are often what brings death close we take a look at inherited maladies and the cause and effect of good vs. bad choices. Heart disease and diabetes are all encompassing and expensive. Better choices about eating, exercise, stress levels and sleep patterns at any age are documented to make a difference. When you are young you diet and exercise to look good to others. At mid-age we try diet and exercise, again, because we’ve seen too many medications and not enough energy to get outside.

Finances are what decide what level of health care you will receive and, be well aware, there are many levels. Having poor health due to bad choices will reduce any financial situation to ‘limited’ very quickly. Having good health still puts you in poor conditions if you have not financially planned for a time when physically your body will not labor daily. You need to prepare for medical science to keep you alive longer than you expect or desire. Having a place to live that is paid for will be your greatest advantage when you begin to live on a limited income. Expecting to die before financial hardship settles in is NOT a plan.

Relationship skills, or your lack of, are spot lighted in your twilight years. Consequences generated from decisions made concerning family relations throughout your life come home to roost. If you didn’t have time for your children or take care of their needs when they were young don’t be surprised that they will not have time to take care of your needs when you are old. Be the parent, grandparent, sister, brother, Aunt, Uncle, cousin and/or friend you would like to have and you’ll always have someone to sit beside you.

Faith will bring you peace. Where you will go when death comes for you becomes very important when death plans a visit. It is human nature to be afraid of the unknown especially with the possibility of Hell existing soon to be revealed. I fear the overwhelming sadness of the absence of a loved one even when I am certain they will be waiting for me in heaven. That emptiness can be a wide expanse. For myself I find great comfort in Proverbs 3:24” When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down, and your sleep will be pleasant.” I know that when death comes for me I will be going home to heaven. I want to spend as much time as I can with those I love here on earth but I look forward to the day Christ takes me home.

So what are we doing? Trying once again to eat right, get more exercise and participate in a wellness program. Working, saving and investing wisely for what we anticipate our needs will be when our income becomes limited. Demonstrating love and care for those who will be needed to care for us. Above all else: nurturing our spiritual life so we may be about the work of the kingdom here on earth, experience peace in our passing and hear “well done good and faithful servant…,” Matt. 25:21 upon our arrival home.

Google images:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dating & Mating #4: Keeping Relationships Alive

It is not breaking news that we, as humans, are relationship challenged. We have few, walking, breathing, models of a “good marriage” that we can observe either personally, in our family circles, in our communities, nationally or worldwide. Lots of factors play into the death of a relationship. I want to address those benign breakups that blame factors like “irreconcilable differences” as the cause. Those breakups where both parties hold equal share in the unaddressed problems and agree that it is more effort to stay together than it is to (attempt) to sever all connections.

In these breakups selfishness is the cause, short-sightedness is the motivator and lack of communication is the driving force. In 1977 Robert J. Ringer published his book “Looking Out for #1”. He created a title that turned into a mantra and was absorbed into our culture thus providing a socially acceptable excuse for seeking our own pleasures at the cost of all others.

We need little reason to be selfish; it is part of our inherent nature. Self-less-ness is what makes a life in Christ so outstanding and yet so difficult to maintain. To be self-less takes conscious thought and effort because it is not our idea, not what we want or what would make us most happy or our point of view. Being self-less is being obedient to the commands of; love one another, do to others as you would have them do to you, love your neighbor as yourself. Being self-less is putting others first, it is looking out for numbers 2,3,4…; it is a joy you realize only when you are.

In our selfish desires we become short-sighted. We want what will make us feel good ASAP giving no thought to what the consequences may be in the long run. Not thinking that supporting two households is more expensive than keeping one together. Not seeing beyond “I cannot stand this another minute” but a year later you sit alone yet another night. Someone young makes you feel young but six months later you realize you have so little in common. Our pain, our frustration, our fears are so large, so immediate that only instant action will salve, solve, or soothe us. We’ll deal with the fallout later no matter the cost.

Short-sightedness leads us to stop talking. If we don’t communicate we can’t argue, disagree or hurt. Once you shut your mouth to suffer in silence you begin construction on the wall that will separate you from them, the pain, the situation and the solution. Healthy arguments resolved are substantially better than icy silence. If concerns are not given a voice there can be no understanding only conjecture and speculation. NO ONE is a mind reader and expecting them to be is your fault alone.

The cure for a hurt, damaged, broken relationship is forgiveness. To forgive is to grant pardon; absolve; to cease to feel resentment against. Forgiveness is something we want desperately to be given but give so reluctantly or not at all. To forgive goes hand in hand with self-less-ness. As Christians we are called to forgive simply because we have been forgiven: Col. 3:13, Luke 6:37, Matt 6:14-15. Forgiveness will heal those you give it to and most importantly it will heal you. It takes practice, and many times, great effort to forgive but it is a skill that should be honed at all costs because if you do not it will cost you.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:14,15

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Health of Your Spiritual Heart

I work at a church and of late have had multiple discussions on the seemingly lethargic attitude of the average church member. This observation is neither new nor singular to my group but it washes across those who seek daily to add to the kingdom of God and minister to humanity. Everyone has an opinion and here is mine. The health of the individual spiritual heart reflects the spiritual attitude. Active or lethargic, or somewhere in between, your spiritual heart health can be observed in your displayed existence.

This is not the question of being ‘saved’ versus ‘lost’ nor being’ fruitful’ as a result of a mature Christian. All those who have accepted Christ as their savior have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; John 14:1 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. Similar to other analogies of a maturing Christian I would suggest that our spiritual heart, that which only God and we truly realize, fluctuates in health with the choices we make and the deeds we do. Though no one can see our spiritual heart its health can often times be sharply displayed by our actions or the means of our existence. Luke 6:45, The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

As we age, grow and change our life and spiritual life are affected by our choices and circumstances. To mature as a disciple of Christ our choices and circumstances will have purpose and meaning and we will be more than a reed pushed around by the wind. It would seem the lethargic Christian may accept Christ as their savior but not as the author of their life story. An unhealthy heart receives an infusion upon acceptance of Christ into our lives and then fluctuates within the average to ordinary range as is evident by what we say, the choices we make and how we exist.

What does your life indicate the health of your spiritual heart is? Do you live in average but spike towards extraordinary or live in mediocre and dip towards unhealthy? We are the only ones that know the true condition of our spiritual heart but the world is often given more than a glimpse at the true condition: the angry hand signals while driving, our time at the food bank, the small, unknown indiscretions at work, at night, out with friends, our years as a mentor, our nasty comments to the cashier, our trip to help disaster victims.

We fluctuate with circumstances and the choices we make. As we mature in our walk with Christ and allow Him to be the author of our life story we begin a regular fluctuation between ordinary, extraordinary and astonishing. Donald S. Whitney is author of one of many spiritual resources with his book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health. Those questions are: Do you thirst for God? Are you governed increasingly by God’s word? Are you more loving? Are you more sensitive to God’s presence? Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others? Do you delight in the Bride of Christ? Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you? Do you still grieve over sin? Are you a quicker forgiver? Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

Make the determined effort to take the steps towards spiritual maturity and let your heart live spiritually between extraordinary and astonishing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What Are You Known For?

“You need look no further for any man’s god than where he derives his identity.”Beth Moore

Actions speak louder than words. A picture is worth a thousand words. Ask a friend and a general acquaintance to describe you as though to someone else. Do they describe your actions as well as your attributes? Did they list what you like to do or what they’ve seen you do? From their words can you determine what you are KNOWN for? “She goes skiing every weekend and makes one trip a season to Colorado. She has so much ski equipment she can’t park her car in the garage….” “He collects baseball cards, he has gone to every major league game and he has a team jacket he wears all the time….” What are you known for?

Listen to how people are described to you. “He’s a great guy but he likes to smoke cigars, a little too much.” “She can be fun but don’t tell her anything you don’t want spread around.” “He gets things done but he can be really pushy if you want to make any changes.” We rarely hear the “but….” part of those statements describing us but you can figure out that part by analyzing your public image. What are in the pictures you post on Face book, My Space, your blog? Is there a similar theme running through most of them? What symbols, pictures or posters decorate your living space? Where do you spend your free time, with who and doing what?

Nobody is perfect and your friends are friends because they like you in spite of your negative aspects but you may want to take occasional assessment of “what you’re known for” in the general acquaintance circles of your life. What you find may embarrass you enough to make a change. The extreme is “Girls Gone Wild” but that behavior in varying levels on a regular to semi-regular basis, for anyone, says the same thing. You may be known as; high maintenance, a gossip, untrustworthy, self centered, snotty, too full of yourself, arrogant, a princess, god’s gift to women. The average individual wants to be seen in a positive light and is generally surprised to note they carry a negative label.

I was ‘inadvertently’ informed that I was a gossip and therefore untrustworthy. Upon further reflection, once the shock subsided, I realized this was a correct label because I enjoyed being the first to deliver “juicy” information about friends and acquaintances alike. When it was revealed to me that friends were not sharing with me BECAUSE I was untrustworthy I was hurt but even more embarrassed. I set out to change that perception of me which could only be accomplished by NOT gossiping. There is always someone willing to attach a negative adjective but, for me, a gossip and untrustworthy of a confidence is no longer among them. I want to be known for; always smiling, being friendly, having a positive attitude, laughing often, enjoying life, loving people and representing Christ as He calls us to. This only happens if I do these things. What do you do? What are you known for? What do you WANT to be known for?

"Acquiring accurate self-knowledge, which is impossible without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, is absolutely necessary if we are to recognize the perversity through which we stumble." Christianity Today editorial Self-Examination Time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Good Life Guaranteed: Skill, Credit, Hope

In a country that provides endless possibilities and free public education there is a basis on which you can be guaranteed a good life. This is a base. There are innumerable additions to ensure a happy life, fruitful life, secure life, purpose driven life, etc. but these three things, with no other efforts, motivations or requirements will see you through a good life.

Have a skill. This is best decided early in life when there is more time, choices and fewer commitments on you personally. This skill can be developed in many different ways. Not everyone is college bound but if you are get good grades in high school because they equal money in college. Many high schools offer tech classes and/or opportunities to apprentice in the field such as mechanics, drafting, construction, beauty school to name a few. There are many technical schools offering two year programs for; medical lab specialists, x-ray or records, blood banks, legal assistants computers etc. If schooling isn’t for you find an area of interest and be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. The McDonalds Restaurant Corporation has its own Hamburger University for manager trainees; United Supermarkets have baggers who worked their way up through Dairy, Produce and upward to store manager. In a country with endless possibilities develop a skill that will assure you a steady income.

Create and maintain a good credit rating. Credit is the economic merry-go-round and a good credit rating is the fee to ride. Begin a credit history by obtaining a loan or credit card and paying off the loan or purchases promptly. When you begin providing evidence that you will pay for what you purchase, in a timely manner, companies want to extend you credit. With a good credit rating you can purchase a house or car, begin a business, fund college, etc. A good credit rating can be damaged by one incident of late payment or default. A bad credit rating can be reversed and will take time and patience but is WELL worth the effort. A poor example of fiscal responsibility belongs to one who never has enough money, never money when it is needed, constantly looking for the next dollar, always wanting, wanting, wanting. A GOOD example will include a savings account, there may not be much in it but the plan to save is in place, staying on time with credit payments, saying “no” when a purchase will over extend the budget, taking another job and being patient towards a large or desired purchase. Observe the behavior you want to exhibit and pattern your financial life accordingly. Build a good credit history and protect it.

Have hope. Hope is defined as ‘the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.’ Psychological studies of prisoners have proven that without HOPE the will to live or survive dies and generally the individual dies shortly after. Without hope there is no motivation to develop a skill, no need to have good credit, no desire to enjoy life, no need to be a productive member of society. You can hope in many things; yourself, country, government, popular figure, parents, God. Your hope in any one, or more, of these is that they will provide you with what you want in your community, society, life; you expect they can affect your life in a positive way and so you place your hope in them. Hope moves you forward when there is no evidence or reason to move. Hope keeps you trying through the dark of circumstances when there is no light at the end, hope helps a neighbor, lends a hand, makes you vote, keeps you working. Hope feeds the soul and without it your inner light expires. The Christian life is based on hope; Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” If you lack hope, or would like to be more hopeful, I would be happy to share more on this topic with you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The god of Selfishness

In the midst of the negative news that abounds and the disintegration of relationships around us I began to wonder if we, as Christians, are as guided by the god of selfishness as the pagans. The pagans have no need to be ashamed of this possible truth but as Christians should we not be burying ourselves in sack cloth and ashes? 1 Corinthians 13:13 “and the greatest of these is love.” Given this truth would the greatest sin be selfishness?


love-noun 1. A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

Selfishness-adjective 1. Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

Is there a sin that does not stem from selfishness; orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, debauchery, dissension, jealousy, greed, gossip, theft, murder, anger, lust? As a list these sins can seem very far removed from us. Put this list into our perspective. What about divorce because we cannot get over anger at our spouse. Our jealousy we carry because others can afford a bigger house, better car, expensive vacations. The lust we don’t control that pushes us into an affair. Gossip that destroys a friendship. Greed, that we justify with need, that causes us to steal money from the vending account or petty cash. The continual drunkenness on college campuses causes death due to alcohol poisoning. The debauchery that leads to embarrassing pictures posted on Facebook. Murder of an ex-girlfriend or family members because they didn’t do what we wanted.

How often have we sacrificed others on the altar of our selfishness? When have we chosen to show profound tenderness and passionate affection to another person IN FRONT OF our primary concern for our own benefit? I believe that God has placed in all of us the ability and desire to behave in love but selfishness is strong and difficult to battle, but it can be done.

Changing poor behavior (sinning less consciously) follows a process similar to the 12 step recovery program for addictions. Dr. Bob, a co-founder of AA characterized the 12 step recovery as "Trust God, clean house, help others." To begin to change selfish behavior (or any negative habits or behaviors) follow the same basic steps; recognize and admit your selfishness, pray and ask God to help you to change, examine past errors, make amends for these errors, begin living with a new code of behavior.

Recognizing bad behavior at the outset allows for you to implement change. The more vigilant you are towards identifying negative behavior the quicker you are to change the behavior and the easier it will be to overcome and reduce the occurrences of bad behavior.

Selfishness is rampant and seeing it in others often increases our own selfish behavior. Be an agent for change. Be the first to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to forget, to step aside for someone else or to be last . Be the first to love.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dating & Mating #3 - Unequal Yoking Equals a Rough Journey

In the never-ending American mating ritual the BIG PICTURE is often overlooked or ignored by couples inebriated with love. Frequently blinded by the intense joy of being someone else’s #1 individuals develop tunnel vision. Many of you can reflect on past relationships where you neglected to see the big picture, disregarded those who tried to make you see it and when you finally focused and saw the big picture promised yourself to be more observant the next time.
Many relationship issues fall within the “big picture” but here I want to focus on religious differences/religious upbringing between couples.

Individual spirituality, or personal religious beliefs, falls on a wide spectrum. Often if asked to explain our viewpoint we find it difficult to accurately express our beliefs. It is often so difficult that when we are dating/mating we are willing to put aside any obvious differences and let each be who they are. End of discussion…NOT! This particular item within the “big picture” will manifest itself in very real relationship problems, most often when the children arrive, if not sooner.

If you are one who has a strong, personal faith let your prayer be that God prepares and presents to you your mate. Be patient and obedient to that prayer by not dating anyone who does not share your strong faith. (Perhaps you believe God has called you to be Hosea to an irresistible Gomer. Carefully read how that relationship went and put out your fleece, Judges 6:36-40.)

We overlook the potential problems in our different family, religious backgrounds because, hey, we both believe in God. Coming to a mutual agreement on church attendance, religious education and personal faith requires a level of maturity and unselfishness that takes too much work especially in the glow of a budding relationship. The time WILL come when conflict will raise an ugly head and require attention to these issues. For the sake of your future happiness it is strongly recommended you do not overlook discussing these issues. The earlier in a relationship you have this discussion the stronger a foundation that relationship will enjoy or the sooner you are available to meet your God-given mate.

For those who have/will miss seeing the “big picture” all is not lost, but it WILL NOT be easy and happiness will come at a costly, personal price. Our selfish desires will feed the argument and cause problems but it is UNSELFISHNESS that will solve the disagreements and heal any wounds. 1 Peter 3:1-7 is the model you’ll both need.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dating & Mating #2 - Judging a Book By Its Cover

The saying goes, “Never judge a book by its cover.” This is wise advice because what is outside may not be a good representation of what is inside and yet this saying exists because WE DO judge the whole by what we SEE. This is very true of how we dress. Our clothing; the lack of it, the quantity of it, the style of it, the care of it speaks volumes. NOTICE: People come to the time when they want to be noticed positively at different times in their lives. If you are not there yet go ahead and read on you can file the information for when the time is right.

Here are some tips on how to give positive notice.

Everyone – We swim in a sea of black, white or tan. These colors are neutrals and have a place in every wardrobe but if you want to be noticed discover COLOR. Colors are separated between spring and summer or warm and cool. Colors with a yellow base are warm and colors with a blue base are cool. Individuals will look better in one or the other. Finding the color that compliments you makes a striking difference and will get you noticed. GET A HAIR STYLE. The length makes no difference, what this means is get a cut with some shape, use products such as gel, mousse, paste, de-frizzes , shine enhancer and/or a hair dryer, curling iron/brush, flat iron or hot rollers.

Guys- The age of internet allows no one the excuse, “I didn’t know.” On your laptop, in a quiet corner of the coffee bar watch episodes of, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” If you are ready to get noticed follow any of their tips. You don’t need a new wardrobe if you train your eye for the cut that works best for your body type and have clothes that fit. NO MATTER what your size you can look good and get noticed. If you need help shopping take a female (or a male friend who understands style) that you trust. Your mother is good if she has style but otherwise pass her up (this includes a girl you want to impress) because you’ll purchase to please them versus being honest with your opinion. Essentials for you include jackets; leather, corduroy and tweed, etc. Shoes that include, but are not limited to, tennis type shoes. Shirts that have collars and button up and include some natural fibers.

Girls- If you are not a fan of “What Not To Wear”, (available on the internet) become one. They do an excellent job of training your eye to find the style and cut that will showcase ANY body style. I speak from experience. Some standards for the woman who wants to be noticed: learn to use jewelry and shoes successfully as accessories. You don’t need the $5000 new wardrobe. Comb through your current closet and then add with sale items. Never pass up a shoe sale (I used to have 6 pairs of shoes, blue, black, off white in both flats and pumps..period.) Heels make us walk with confidence. Start small if heels intimidate you but they make our back side and walk worth looking at. Use make up and use it correctly. (#1 mistake) Wear the cut of jean that flatters your body. If it fits it will be as comfortable as your ratty jeans and you’ll be noticed.

The Psychology- When we think we look good we carry an air of confidence that is attractive. When we don’t know how to dress our body style we often hide behind the attitude of, “If they don’t like me as I am that’s their problem,” what we show is that we don’t like ourselves….and that is unattractive. Look good for yourself. It takes a bit more time in the morning but once you learn how easy it is to do with the proper tools you’ll be confident and others will notice that confidence.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Valentine Gift Tips

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and for those who are still undecided about a gift let me give you a few tips.

Guys - Girls don't need a lot of money spent and, contrary to diamond commercials, they are not always expecting expensive jewelry. Just as appreciated, and possibly more memorable, is the unexpected. The sacker at the grocery said he was taking his girl to McDonalds because she said she didn't care. This is fine but do the unexpected by bringing valentine cookies or cupcakes for dessert. Girls like the entire array of valentine knick knacks such as the red and heart decorated or shaped things that are found in every Wal-Mart or Walgreens. Put together school supplies like a heart pencil, pens and a notebook; give her a picture of yourself or you together in a heart shaped frame, buy a Valentine stuffed animal and attach a personal note, a Valentine card (always appropriate) with a note setting a date for coffee or a movie. These small unexpected gestures, (doing something small is better than nothing at all) can be more memorable than the routine but expensive gifts.

Girls – Most guys are not into the Valentine knick knacks, or anything that decorates (some team items excepted) so don’t waste your money and then be disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm. Women often make the mistake of giving gifts THEY would like and for a girlfriend or your mother that works. The memorable gift for men takes observance and tuning in to what they enjoy. If he is a gamer a subscription to Game Informer, the latest game for his system (chances are he was talking about it with his friends) or gift certificate to Game Stop. If there is a sport that he enjoys (even if you don’t) get him tickets and let him take a friend. A favorite team, get him a team shirt or other team embossed paraphernalia. The only acceptable gift for you/for him is lingerie. Girls often like this idea but are not committed to the continual gift giving this implies and will generate. Using this as a “teaser” gift is inconsiderate and harmful to a relationship. I highly recommend this only to the MARRIED girls who are buying lingerie with a full understanding and commitment to the gift. (I’ll provide further insight to this topic for those who inquire.)

For Everyone – Quality time is a perfect gift but it takes a mature and thoughtful giver. Think of your Valentine and the things they like to do. If you roll your eyes at the thought of some activities and think, ‘I so don’t understand their interest.’ This is a great quality time gift. In any relationship for a giver to participate in an activity, willingly and with enthusiasm, that does not necessarily interest them for the enjoyment of another is truly an expression of God’s love and theirs. If you cannot give willingly and enthusiastically of yourself skip this idea, it will be a disaster.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Movie Review - Henry Poole Was Here

“Henry Poole Was Here” is not a blockbuster movie. It is a formula romance with a twist of faith. It is a heartwarming tale of love and faith found in the midst of fear and heartache.

For those who want to be released from their world and entertained for two hours this is not the movie. If you want to glimpse the day to day search for human interaction within the struggle to understand and grasp the concept of faith this is an hour and a half well spent.

“Henry Poole” is a good date movie that offers much for discussion. Can we detach ourselves from life? Do we possess an instinctive drive for human interaction? What does “hope” bring to the human spirit? What are the seeds that generate faith and belief? What is the advantage to choosing not to believe?

The characters are strong , well constructed, believable and well played. I am particularly drawn to faith based movies that are thought provoking. I would recommend it to any who enjoys a good story well told.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dating & Mating #1...Research and Development

This particular topic is numbered because all there is to say will need to be covered over several posts.

There is an innate desire in us all to be someone's #1. We want to matter, to be special, to connect with another person. This desire drives us to search, through dating, and to try time and time again whatever the pain and heartbreak we may encounter along the way. What would you do to give yourself a better chance for an enjoyable and and less painful journey down relationship road? Would you be willing to research and develop your skills?

Understanding the opposite sex is a quest that we all embark on. We are guided by friends, family and media of every sort. In the world of relationships, and life, information is knowledge. The more you know and understand any topic the better equipped and more likely you are to succeed.

In your quest for successful relationships let me make some media recommendations:

Dateable: are you? are they? written by Justin Lookadoo and Hayley DiMarco.
for men only and for women only both written by Shaunti & Jeff Feldhahn.

These are both quick read, meaning short, books and although Dateable targets high school dating and For Men/Women Only targets adults they both do a great job of providing insight to the inner workings of the opposite sex. You will be well served to read them both.

Once you get this basic understanding you are ahead of the game in the dating world. To go to the next level, or a deeper relationship, I would recommend these books:

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
Please Understand Me by David Keirsey.

These books require more effort but will provide you with a better understanding of your self as well as tools for successful relationships in all areas of your life.

Get ahead of the game and remember; you will only get out of a relationship as much as you put into it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

In The Beginning.....Welcome

Welcome to my friends (and family) that I have met face to face, to the friends I know only by their text messages and to the new friends who will meet me here.

This blog has been created to share my knowledge (Master's in Psych.) my advice (47 years of living) and my thoughts (wordsmith, known to few until now) with people who I care about. Those in consideration, here at the beginning, are my son, my nieces and nephews and the college friends I am making through my work with FBC Life Groups. All others who visit are welcome to enjoy and participate because I care about you too.

What you read here is mine and therefore will have baggage and unsettled issues attached. The only evidence I might offer are my feelings and impressions. I do not claim to be the only opinion or, by any means, the right opinion. My opinion is always fluid and open to change. Your opinion matters on any topic but be prepared that in the end, as with my own, it may only matter to you.

It is my intention to say all things in love. If you are offended or hurt or my opinion steps on your toes I apologize. My first bit of advice for you to remember; as with all human beings, it is all about me and very rarely about you. The second bit; never attach emotion to written communications as often your impressions will be wrong. If we believe we have been misunderstood let's make the agreement to talk it through.

I have an anglo-american Christian foundation and much of what I say will reflect this. We do not have to believe the same in order to be friends and share. I would be thrilled to visit with anyone, seperately, that would like to discuss this topic further.

I am a noob, in gaming terms, to the blogging world so I ask your patience as this space develops and I get my blogging legs.

Again, welcome.