Monthly Archives: March 2015

GOD’S FORMULA FOR A HAPPY HOME

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Ephesians 5 & 6 God sets up His formula for a happy home. The players and their key words are:

Husbands – head; love

Most of us think that the key to a happy home is everyone loving one another. And indeed it is for love comes down from the head of the home. When that love is raining down, just as God extends His love to us even when we are unlovable, then everything else seems to fall into place. Paul goes into great lengths to explain this kind of love. He compares it to the love that Christ has for the church–the bride that he loved and gave Himself for. He did this so that He might set us apart and cleanse us through the Word. Husbands, are you teaching your wife the Word so she will be usable by God? Is your goal that she will be glorious and have no flaw? Paul goes on to explain to husbands that you should love her as much as you love your self–he particularly says as you love your “body.” Now let me tell you, men love themselves–love their bodies. Paul didn’t just say “love your wife,” he drilled down to make sure men understood clearly just how much they were to love their wives. He continues, “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church.” Oh, yeah, we women can all agree with that statement. This kind of love enveloping a woman, particularly a woman who agreed to marry you in the first place, will cause her to respect (honor or reverence) you.

I Peter 3:7 says “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” I find it interesting that God didn’t say to dwell with your wife according to understanding, righteousness or wisdom–probably because it would be impossible. But He did say you should know her–EVERYTHING about her. She will translate this as love. And, guys, if you want God to hear your prayers, you need to be loving your wife. What would that look like TO HER? Would you take out the trash, help with the house cleaning, fix dinner, bring her flowers, say kind things to her? Time to get your LOVE on (I Cor. 3:14).

God goes on to tell men that they should not provoke their children but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord–teach them about God’s love. Talk to them of things of God; model God’s love and ways to them.

Now guys, get this right because you are going to give an account for your wife and your family before the Lord.

Wives – submit; reverence

Girls, our part is to submit to and reverence (honor and respect) our husbands. And as much as I’d like to tell you that IF he loves us, THEN we will honor him, the passage starts with us. We are instructed to kick off this whole happy home environment by submitting to our husbands. Would you believe every time God talks about our role to our husbands/families, He starts off by saying we should submit…FIRST! I asked my husband why he thought God said it this way and in this order. He explained, “Carol, when I tell you what I want done and you argue with me, it makes me dig in my heels and I can become unyielding and make decisions based upon exerting my control vs. what is right. This can be dangerous for our family. When you tell me you see my point and will abide by my decision, but you have something you’d like for me to consider as I make my final decision, it helps me maintain my role as leader of our home and allows my spirit to become open to your ideas. Your willingness to follow me allows me to let you be my helper.” Girls, your husband is going to give an account for your family. When he stands before the throne, you want to be beside him as a jewel around his neck that he can show off to His Heavenly Father, not as a thorn in his side he must explain. 

Children – Obey; Honor

And children, your role is obedience when you are young. And as you age, your role is to honor them. This means including them in your life, going out of your way to show them that you love them in word and deed. Oh, no doubt you’ve got a laundry list of things they did that you will do better now that you are an adult/spouse/parent. Trust me, your kids will have their own lists as they take on their adult roles, too. It’s time to lay those things down in your relationship to your parents. You are entitled to learn from your parent’s mistakes; indeed they hope you do. They will be aging. They won’t be as cool as you are. They may not know as much as you think you know. Some of their little quirks may irritate you. You’ll be busy and have a thousand things pulling at you. But before the Lord, your role is to honor. . .HONOR. . .your parents. After all, the life you enjoy today is because they sacrificed to raise you and help you take the first steps into adulthood. You’ll find that when your heart is filled with gratitude and honor, your relationship with your parents will flourish. And God promises you a bonus for doing so–your days will be long upon the earth. 

I’m not sure what role dogs play in our home except that dog backwards spells god. In early communications, men used stick figures and symbols. The symbol for dog was “ALL HEART.” I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from this.

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BOUNDARIES (Part Three)–Family Values

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Most of the time mutual agreements between parties happen fluidly as we learn about each other’s needs, preferences, expectations and roles. We defer to one another because we have a desire to keep the peace and to be liked. Conversations are typically respectful and understanding is given. But move inside the front door of our homes and our family relationships seem to defy boundaries. And it doesn’t help that roles are ever changing. It takes time to establish new boundaries, understand that you need to step back or forward–or simply out of the line of fire. The kids are growing up and becoming more independent; how do you let go? In-laws are being added to the family dynamic and new households are being spun off. Both young and seasoned spouses dance around the expectations, needs and sensitivities of their mates. Parents are aging and needing care vs. being the caregiver. And have you noticed that family members come in all kinds of packages–the choleric, the phlegmatic, the sanguine, the melancholy. Then blend in the achiever, the helper, the perfectionist, the leader, the enthusiast, the challenger, the thinker, the peacemaker. Now fold in their tendencies toward extroversion vs. introversion, age and maturity issues. We also have to factor in the venus vs. mars perspectives of our males and females. And let’s not forget the turf issues that families must address. It’s no wonder our families have the makings for massive meltdowns.

I find we say things to a family member we’d NEVER EVER say to a friend and expect they would ever talk to us again. At home we can let our hair down, which unfortunately can mean we not only do not filter what comes out of our mouths but also the way it comes out. We’ve had a bad day and we come home and let little irritations unleash those frustrations. Oh, you might tell yourself that the criticism, question, judgment, assumption, etc. has a good intention behind it, but you can bet that it crosses an unseen boundary. And then the fireworks begin. Sometimes you can tell you’ve crossed such an invisible boundary because there is an immediate verbal or physical response; other times people pack up and leave and/or stop communicating.

As I write this blog I’m half watching March Madness. These teams are playing their hearts out–running up and down the court against the clock much like each of us takes on the challenges of our day. They bump into one another, they foul each other. But there’s a dynamic at play we don’t have in our homes–a referee. Oh, mom and dad can serve that role when the kids are young, but as the family matures, who is there to call the foul? Maybe families need game rules, a foul line and free throws. . .and at times a referee. While no one is probably going to show up at your next Thanksgiving dinner wearing a referee’s uniform, families need healthy boundaries. Now this is not a great list of rules you can buy down at the local Hobby Lobby to hang on your wall. These are mutually agreed upon rules/values that families must set for their members. You might find it has an added benefit of focusing on the many things you all agree on and hold dear. Following are some you and your family might discuss over dinner one night:

* Church–serving God

* Education

* Hardwork

* Community service

* Family time (vacations or game nights)

* Holiday and birthday gatherings

* Moral integrity

* Reverence for God

* Generosity

* The right for each to pursue their own dreams with the encouragement and support of the entire family unit

* No blaming, no name calling, no accusations

* Mutual respect

* etc., etc., etc. . . .

There needs to be an expectation that issues are taken to the source, not spread around to others. No one can fix your problem with any family member except that person. God says there are seven things He hates, and the seventh one He calls “an abomination”–“he that sows discord among brethren.” I call it hate to the power of seven. Trust me, stepping on that one thing God identified as an abomination to Him is not something I ever want to do. If you want your problems to grow to a disproportionate size just start telling others about them. Proverbs 30:33 says, “For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.” Trust me, it will not only destroy your family, it will destroy the heart of a precious member of your family. So covenant together to refuse to hear any grievance against a fellow family member; hold others accountable for taking it to the source. Family members are held accountable to talk with any offender and share their FEELINGS (avoid discussions of hate or anger as this shuts down communication and puts others on the defensive.) When doing so, your comments should be limited to:

– A simple, straight-forward statement of what happened that was not good for you. What is your boundary that was crossed? What is your value?

– A description of how that made you FEEL (the only thing you can own is your feelings–you cannot judge other’s motives–that’s God’s work), and

– A possible description of how you’d like for things to be handled in the future.

Using a recent conversation with my neighbor as an example, he called and asked if we could meet him for a minute outside (called a neighbor meeting). This set the stage that there was something we needed to resolve between us. He simply said, “Last night when you were mowing your grass around 8:00, it woke my baby. Since my wife is a nurse working the midnight shift, the baby then woke her which created a lot of tension in the household. Would you mind not mowing your grass after 5:00 or 6:00? I know this is asking a lot and would be an inconvenience, but it would help things in our household.” He set a time to talk that was mutually acceptable–he didn’t just show up and start banging on our front door. He didn’t call us insensitive and we didn’t call him crazy. He did not take his frustration out on us. His plea was a clear, direct and respectful statement of his needs/his value–rest for his wife and baby during evening hours. He articulated exactly how he’d like to see things go moving forward. While we would prefer to mow our grass some evenings, we’ve changed our schedule to do so on Saturday afternoons. His ability to articulate his needs and feelings allowed us to change our actions to respect his value. Had he decided to harbor ill feelings or talk to all of our neighbors instead of us, his problem would have continued and tensions in the cul de sac would have become intolerable. No one wants to get involved in your drama. So don’t create any. Be mature. Take issues to the source in a respectful way. State your issues; the boundary you need respected and let the other person adjust their plans and ways to your needs. If they don’t get it the first time, take someone with you for the next conversation. It’s the Biblical way.

Has your family articulated shared values? Recognized individual differences? Set an expectation for respect? Please share your ideas , experiences or family values you hold dear for the benefit of others.

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BOUNDARIES (Part Two)

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Let’s continue our discussion of our relationship boundaries by looking at some definitions, stages and types of boundaries we each encounter. This is good knowledge for building healthy relationships and emotional health for ourselves.

BARRIER:  This is a solid wall between you and another person. It is certainly warranted in abuse cases, etc. and these solid, high walls are not the topic of our conversation on right relationships. If you have experienced abuse, a solid barrier is important for your safety and must be maintained. However, sometimes we have created unnecessary relationship barriers that rob us of love. It is important to understand why and how these boundaries came into being. Many times there are misunderstandings and one or both parties are unwilling to travel the emotional path to identify and heal the problem. Instead, they choose to erect a barrier. If it is a key relationship (family member, coworker, neighbor, etc.), any interaction can be very painful.  I hope you do not experience barriers between you and a loved one because they can be a source of intense emotional distress. If it has gone on long enough to merit the descriptor of a barrier, no doubt a counselor would be essential to unraveling the misunderstandings and helping each party understand and respect the other’s boundaries.

BOUNDARY:  Boundaries are important for good relationships to exist. Healthy people create healthy boundaries.  When a boundary (think of these as property lines with a posted no trespassing sign) is crossed, we start to erect fences that can turn into walls (and may ultimately become a barrier to a healthy relationship). This process occurs if misunderstandings and minor day-to-day offenses are not dealt with God’s way. So while we take a little time to understand healthy boundaries, what we do not want to do is begin to build a wall because we let a lot of little things, or an unresolved misunderstanding or dispute, become a stumbling block to the relationship.

Physical Boundaries–These protect your physical personal space. Do you hug, shake hands, touch, lock doors, listen to loud/soft music, drive fast, etc.

Mental Boundaries–the ability to own your own opinions without becoming argumentative or defensive while still open to hearing the opinions of others without becoming suggestible or closing down. 

Emotional Boundaries–requires you know who you are and can distinguish your responsibilities and feelings from those of others. Healthy boundaries protect you from accepting or giving blame, feeling guilty or internalizing other’s negative comments.

Material Boundaries–what will you give, lend or share–money, things, car, books, clothes, etc.

Sexual Boundaries–they protect your comfort with touch and sexual activity. You have to power to say who, what, when, where and how.

Spiritual Boundaries–your relationship with God and your beliefs.

Many times boundaries help us create and/or maintain respect. They can establish a basis for understanding. You may not realize you have them until someone crosses one. Let’s look at some examples of good boundaries.

* My mother-in-law used to call us every Saturday morning at 6:00AM–EVERY SATURDAY MORNING. No doubt she was up and moving around and her day was in full swing–and she wanted to talk with us. But this was not prime time in our household. We tried teasing her about it, but she just didn’t take the hint. Finally we had to sit down with her and suggest that she could call us after 10:00, but that any time before that felt like an intrusion to us. She took it well and the boundary helped ease tension and provide us with much needed rest. We all laugh about it now.

* Business relationships often include non-compete clauses and confidentiality agreements.

* My secretary was not a morning person (I am), so she didn’t want to discuss anything until after she had settled in, gotten her coffee, checked her email and had an hour to just get her day moving. THEN we could get together and work out our plan for the day.

* My vanity, my closet, my desk–these are my spaces for my things. While my husband and I share almost everything, there is an unsaid expectation that I can open my vanity drawer and pull out my brush right where I left it. I won’t find his toothbrush in its place.

* Certainly moms and dads create boundaries of expected respect for their daughter’s safe return when a young man comes to pick her up for a date.

* There will be no smoking in our home.

* You get the idea. . . .begin to think about the healthy boundaries you have set for yourself.

Do you see areas of conflict that might be avoided by establishing a healthy boundary in your relationships? Can you understand why it is important for you to set your boundaries and feel comfortable sharing them with others so they can know they exist and respect them. Too many times we ASSUME others have the same boundaries we have. So when they cross one of ours, we take that next assumption leap to feeling that they intentionally violated us. This is why it is so important that we communicate how we feel to one another without blaming or judging. We are all different and have different boundaries or levels of comfort. And unfortunately, most of the time we ASSUME everyone else knows and understands how we feel.  They don’t.

God gives us instruction in how to establish and negotiate boundaries between us and our fellow man:

1.  Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:30-31).

2. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31).

This doesn’t mean you let someone violate one of your boundaries. But you take the initiative to let others know about your boundaries so they can accommodate your needs; e.g., when guests arrive for a party, smokers today will typically move outside. If someone does not, we quietly ask if they would mind smoking outside because of my allergies. We articulate our boundary and expect compliance. When boundaries are expressed in a respectful manner, it enhances the ability to coexist in harmony and peace.

FILTERS:  These happen automatically for most of us. When someone is either talking or doing something that involves us, we take into account (or filter) things like their age and maturity, attitude, personality, communication style, etc. We get to choose what we hold against someone. Think of your mind listening to a conversation like passing their words through a sifter. You are taking it all in and it is being filed in your brain as information to be stored away. When something crosses a boundary you hold dear, that triggers your emotions. One of your filters holds it at bay much like a strainer would hold out something that just doesn’t easily go through. This let’s you take a second look at it. Do you go ahead and absorb it and file it away–overlook what they said because they are young, of a different culture, etc.? Or do you set it in your brick making pile for building a fence?

VALUES: The foundation of a mutually harmonious relationship is shared values and mutual respect. People with common values are able to provide mutual respect because they understand and indeed share the value. Conflict, fear and frustration in our relationships arises when there is a threat to one’s values. The more clearly you understand your own values and are able to articulate them to others, the easier it is for them to understand you and respect your, values even if they are different from their own. This requires healthy individuals with a sense of their own worth and a clear set of healthy boundaries. When we allow others to violate a boundary and we do not back them up, it is like opening the door to a perpetrator to our homes and sitting back while they ransack it. My observation is that most of us do not want to violate the values of those we hold dear, but their inability to tell us of their boundaries in a respectful way inhibits the healthy relationship. Find your self-worth, your values, and confidently set, articulate and maintain your boundaries.

In looking at this progression (which starts with our values and moves to using our filters, setting boundaries or ultimately building a barrier), we can see that it is very important that we identify our own personal values (those things we hold dear–would fight for) while at the same time allowing others to hold different values. Many times our values were developed early in life, but they continue to be molded and shaped throughout our lives based upon experiences and influencers.

Next blog, with this solid foundation of values, filters, boundaries and barriers, let’s look at how and why misunderstandings arise in the home and some strategies for making things better.

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BOUNDARIES (Part One)

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Last summer, my neighbor directly behind our home, decided she wanted to install an in-ground pool for her teenagers to enjoy. She was new to the city and we enjoyed chatting over the fence about our dogs, weeds, job opportunities she was exploring, and just life in general. The installation began in late fall and culminated just before Christmas–a little cold to enjoy the pool, but summer is coming and together we dreamed of picnics and parties around her pool or on my expansive patio. Codes required that she install a privacy fence which made sense for safety. But over the past couple of weeks they have erected a 6′ solid wall between us. If we want to talk to each other we have to try to figure out where the other one is standing and talk through the new wall. That fence has come between me and my friend.

Now while there is a physical fence or wall between me and my neighbor, it made me realize there are many times we build emotional fences between us and a loved one, coworker or friend. And those walls make communication strained if not virtually impossible. Let’s explore the topic of boundaries in the next few blogs and see if we can improve our understanding of them. Hopefully we can identify whether they are actually helping our relationships or if they simply need to be torn down.

Why do we have these emotional fences? Typically we erect them for the same reason my neighbor put hers up around her pool–protection–self preservation. Now the interesting thing is that my neighbor and I have never had a boundary issue between us. That fence was installed because there are cases on record of people intruding on private property, falling into a pool, experiencing an injury and suing the owner of the pool. So our county’s code office now requires owners install an extra high fence around a pool. Now while my neighbor isn’t worried about me falling into her pool, the fence still comes between us and our relationship. Many times we erect fences in our lives because others have hurt us–and we don’t want to take a chance on getting hurt again. So our walls go up. Unfortunately, these walls end up hurting us and robbing us of the joy of sweet fellowship with people who might truly love us.

We can easily see how boundary issues have hurt people we’ve known:

* The boy who couldn’t commit to the girl he has been dating for 5 years because his parents got divorced and he is afraid of getting hurt.

* The girl who was raped who cannot let any man come close to her.

* The orphan whose mother or father gave him/her up and now they have huge abandonment issues.

* A wife whose husband has cheated on her and she can never trust him (or any man) again.

* A friend hurt in the past, so he/she isolates and keeps relationships at a safe emotional distance.

* . . .and the list goes on and on and on.

The root cause for the these walls is a lack of trust and fear. I was hurt before; I might be hurt again. We imprint the wrongs done to us in the past onto others in our present–others who offer us love and security. Unfortunately, these new individuals are being punished for the inappropriate action(s) of others. Our communications become as strained as my neighbors and mine through that tall fence. We can’t hear each other well, it seems impossible and awkward, and ultimately communications become limited and strained.

Other times the wall stands because of a lack of forgiveness for a wrong in the past. We have grown but we don’t give room for the other person to have grown as well. We are holding the relationship captive to the past. (See my blog series on forgiveness).

Is there someone in your life who has a wall up? How does it make you feel when you are around them? For me, it makes me feel unwelcome or unwanted. It makes me feel like an intruder on their time and space. Ultimately, it makes me stay away and wait for an invitation. When we are together, I work too hard at trying to make the relationship work–and it seems I just always make things worse. I wish they would take down the wall or at least put in a gate. I feel helpless. The wall is insurmountable. I love; I want to be loved. I meet them each time with an expectation that maybe this time things will be different–they will see my love and love me back. And when I’m kept on the outside once again, or pushed away. . .it hurts. And I, in turn, begin to build a wall of my own–a wall of protection based on hurt, fear and a lack of trust. And so together we erect a HUGE BRICK WALL, brick by brick.

In the next blog, we’ll take a look at some of the various types of boundaries–both good and bad. But for today, go before your Heavenly Father and take an inventory of any fences you may have erected. Honestly determine why and when you put them up. And, come back as we think about how we can let our walls down and open the door to love.

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BE SURE TO WEAR CLEAN UNDERWEAR

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My husband is a 100% disabled veteran who suffers from the effects of agent orange from his years in Vietnam. Recently the doctors provided him with one of those breathing masks. Surprisingly it was virtually silent and it did help him sleep. No problem. But then a man showed up at our door with an oxygen unit. Now this fancy thing filters air through it, removes the hydrogen, providing him with a higher concentration of oxygen while he sleeps–which he apparently needs. The technician came into our room and hooked the fancy machine up and then turned it on. Let me tell you, I thought an airplane was warming up for take off right there in our room. All I could think of was that there was absolutely no way I could sleep in this house if that thing was on, much less actually sleep in this room. After the technician left, Hank sheepishly asked me what I thought, “It’s kind of loud; do you think you’ll be able to sleep?” I had to be honest, “I cannot imagine sleeping with that thing on. It’s really loud. Maybe I could move into the guest room.” I could see his downcast eyes and hurt that I’d move away from him. He took this very hard and very personally. All day long I wrestled with what to do. I didn’t want to hurt him but there was just no way I could sleep with that noise. I took this dilemma to the Lord.

I read, Philippians 4:8 (KJV): “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” Can my thoughts block out that noise? I’d heard of people living by a train track who say they never hear it after a few weeks. So I prayed about it and asked God to help me focus my thoughts as I went to bed. I lay there and thought of all the wonderful things about my husband. Then I began to think of each of my children and grandchildren and focused on all the wonderful memories I have of them, the amazing things I see in their lives, thanking God for each and every one. The next thing you know, I was asleep–sound asleep. It’s been a week and this strategy works perfectly. I haven’t even noticed the airplane in our room at all.

This demonstration of the power of my thoughts made me look at this verse and its context. Paul was closing his letter to the Philippians with some last minute instructions. When I’m departing from a loved one, I find we utter important things to one another: “Remember, I love you.” “Be safe.” “Don’t forget to write or call.” And a mom’s favorite, “Be sure you wear clean underwear.” Paul is sharing his heart’s love instructions to these brothers and sisters in Philippi just before he waves goodbye. Let’s see what else he might say. . .I was a little surprised.

As chapter 4 begins, he calls out two women by name and tells them to stop fighting. (NLV): “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.” Once I got past the idea of anyone actually naming their girls Syntyche and Euodia, I realized Paul was trying to help two women get along with each other–they were airing their dirty laundry and he thought it was time for some clean underwear. He even provided them with a counselor to help them and left them some poignant instructions.

1. “Always be full of the joy of the Lord.

2. Rejoice!

3. Always let others see you are considerate in all you do.

4. Remember that the Lord is near (coming soon).

5. Tell God what you need.

6. Thank Him for everything He has done

THEN. . .you will experience His peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Here we have two women who are obviously not seeing eye to eye. The noise about their disagreement had reached Paul (and probably everyone else around them). As Paul prepares to leave the church, his exhortation is focused on helping these two women get past their grievances and actually love one another. The instructions are clear and include a  promise of great peace. I wonder if they listened and if they worked things out.

Have you got some dirty laundry? Try Paul’s formula–maybe include a counselor. You can’t make another person try the formula, but you can do all the right things on your half of the table before the Lord (who is near). Be happy, not sour. Rejoice over them. Is there something praiseworthy about them? Maybe you could make a list and think on those things rather than the list of petty grievances or irritations you’ve collected. Is there something you were hoping to get from the relationship that is missing–could you tell God about it and ask Him to fill your needs and let them off the hook? Have you thanked God for them and even their idiosyncrasies? He put them in  your life for a reason–have you thanked Him for them?

I think it’s like my approach to the oxygen machine. Had I focused on the noise in my head, I’d have either spent many sleepless and frustrating nights or moved away from the one I love. Too many times we focus on irritating habits or personality traits rather than just simply being grateful for all they are and have been in our lives. Start your road to restoration by following Paul’s formula. Give God thanks for them. Remember the good, focus only on the true/honorable/right/pure/lovely and admirable–make peace–the Lord is near and coming soon. In essence, he said, “Forget about the noise swirling in your heads and think about only the good things. Be grateful. Focus your mind. Do it God’s way and you’ll find that indeed He will fill your heart with unimaginable peace.”

Get Ready for a good night’s sleep. Shhh.

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REJECTED

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REJECTED—even the word itself jumps off the page and drives a stake in our hearts. It conjures up deep and painful feelings that threaten to wrap their tentacles around our hearts until they strangle our very existence. We’ve experienced rejection all our lives whether from playground groups, applications for schools or work, a love, invitations, terminations, etc.—and oh, how they hurt.

As we approach the Easter season, I could not help but think of the rejection Christ must have felt as He hung on the cross. Rejected, even despised. While the physical pain He suffered was great, the emotional pain must have been excruciating. The definition of reject is “to dismiss as inadequate, inappropriate or not to one’s taste.”[1]

Can you imagine our Savior was found inadequate, inappropriate and not to the desires of mankind? He taught them, He healed them, He raised them from the dead, He loved them, He prayed for them. He wept over them. He suffered and died for them. He was PERFECT. Yet He was rejected. Why?

The root cause of the rejection of Christ was a blindness of the heart. This fact makes me wonder how their hearts became so blind. Simply put–they began to look only at themselves and their desires, their ways, their perceived needs.

  • They wanted a king, not a Savior. He did not meet their expectations.
  • His message contradicted their beliefs and practices.
  • His movement threatened their source of income.
  • His teachings tore down their firmly held beliefs.
  • They were afraid they would lose control of the people.
  • They were afraid of losing their position.

The problem with blindness is that you cannot see what is right in front of your face. There on that cross hung LOVE—their eternal salvation. But since they couldn’t see, they could not receive Him or the love He offered. Was it God’s fault they couldn’t see it? NO. It was the blindness of their heart–hearts filled with entitlement, anger and vengeance–SELF. If they didn’t get what they wanted, they wanted to hurt Him—rejected Him. They became accusers. They mocked and scorned Him; spat upon and bruised Him. I have pity for those that crucified Him for they missed out on love. My heart, however, aches, indeed grieves, with His heart—REJECTION. PAIN. Undeserved suffering: rejection.

Christ’s reaction in the face of a vivid display of rejection: He prayed. He asked for mercy and forgiveness for them. This scene reminds me to approach rejection very cautiously. Am I blind to love? Does my definition of the love I want, blind me to the love I need/have? When faced with rejection, do I fall before the Father and ask for mercy and forgiveness for the one who has hurt me?

“Dear God, give me your heart. Even if it means I must feel the pain of rejection so I might fellowship in your suffering, create in me a merciful and forgiving heart.”

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[1] Wikipedia, March, 2015

SHE SAID; SHE SAYS!

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Ever find yourself listening to two sides of a story? Solomon found himself in just such a situation. Two mothers—one baby. Who was telling the truth? This story and Solomon’s wisdom has fascinated man through the centuries. What lessons can we learn from this story to help us discern wisdom when we are in similar circumstances?

Solomon created a scenario that would let him see the heart of the two mothers. If you are going to be able to see truth and rightly judge between others, you will need to see their hearts.

  1. Who has a hard heart?
  2. Who has a broken heart?
  3. Who has a selfish heart?
  4. Who has a tender heart?
  5. Who is experiencing pain?

As a boss, parent, friend, etc. there are many times when we are either hearing one side of a story or faced with conflicting perspectives. I can assure you I’ve probably been duped on more than one occasion and made a wrong judgment. But the older I get, the better I have become at discerning truth. In my youth, I made quick judgments rather than taking the time to get to the truth. Today I’m more likely to be quiet, to listen carefully to both sides without prejudice. I ask questions and look for reactions.

  1. Is there an argumentative spirit?
  2. Does one or both exhibit anger? Anger comes from fear? If anger exists, where is their fear coming from?
  3. Who feels entitled?
  4. Who is unreasonable?
  5. Is either party missing important facts/information?
  6. Has either party crossed personal boundaries?
  7. Do you see a presence of vindictiveness?
  8. Is there a critical spirit present? (e.g., they have a long list of petty grievances)
  9. Are personality differences at play?
  10. What filters might be blinding perspectives.
  11. Are there physical issues that may be contributing to emotional instability?
  12. Has there been cause for emotional instability in either party (e.g., a divorce, loss, etc.)?
  13. Is there jealousy?
  14. Is here-say involved?
  15. Is there a striving for position or favor?

Be careful of listening to one side of a story when two friends/children/coworkers, etc. are involved. While we want to be a good friend and provide a listening and supportive ear, it is better to be a friend who encourages reconciliation. Take the time to get both sides of the story before you allow impressions to imprint your heart. God tells us our role is to be a restorer (Galatians 6:1) not a judge. In these circumstances our greatest tool is prayer. I’ve often found it important to ask for time to think about the issue. This is precious time to pray and reflect on the heart of those involved.

Can the relationship be restored? Restoration requires love. If they once loved, then restoration is a possibility. It is God’s love for us that restores us to Himself. Even though He was hanging on a cross and in great personal pain and distress, His concern was for His offenders. Selfless love. If self rules either heart, then restoration will not come until they lay down their personal agendas and expectations. Restoration can only begin as one or both parties begin to care about the needs of the other one more than they do for their own issues. Reconciliation is as simple as obeying the two great commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. When love comes in—grievances melt like snow on a sunny day. Walls come tumbling down and love rules the day.

Warm up your heart with love. Have a forgiving heart. Serve others as a restorer. Pray one for the other. Reflect the love of God in all your interpersonal relationships.

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IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!

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Our relationship to ourself is probably one of the most complex relationships we have to manage. Certainly we feel the results of any mismanagement immediately, and the consequences are physically, mentally and/or emotionally damaging. Let’s look at the three parts of our being and see what direction Scripture and common sense might provide.

BODY:

“If you have your health, you have everything.” This saying becomes poignantly apparent the minute you lose your health or experience something as inconsequential as a toothache or ingrown toenail. Our bodies are very complex machines composed of cells (primarily water). Our various systems work harmoniously to allow us to breathe, talk, walk, work . . . to enjoy our lives and this big beautiful world. At the very least we should be careful what we put into our bodies—diet, substances, etc. We really are what we eat. And we need to be careful where we take our bodies and what we do to and with our bodies. Note that sexual sins are the only sin that is against our own body.

Romans 12:1: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

What is the Holy Spirit suggesting is the reasonable sacrifice He wants from you relative to caring for your body? Consider your body a gift you can give Him. He wants a clean vessel He can use for His glory. You’ll find pleasing Him much more satisfying than any meal or substance.

 

SOUL:

This is the spiritual side of our self. It is that whole in your heart that is God shaped. It is a place that only He can fill. Too many times we try to fill our longing souls with activity, material things, etc. rather than turn our hearts and lives over to Him. There is no substitute for a relationship with the Almighty that will satisfy your longing soul. The day is coming for each of us when we will meet our Maker and stand before His throne. Will He say, “Depart from me, I never knew you” or will He welcome you home?

Mark 8:36: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

 

SPIRIT:

In simplest terms, this is your mind. Satan is sure to bring thoughts of condemnation to you regarding yourself and critical thoughts about others. If you allow these thoughts to fester, they will tear you down emotionally and destroy your relationships. But believe it or not, we can have control over our thoughts. Set a guard over what you allow in; be conscious of what you dwell on.

Romans 12:2: But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

If you are struggling with just about any area of your life, it comes down to what you are thinking about. I know how hard this can be when the hurts of this world bombard you. Having lost my first child, my mind was so overwhelmed that it impacted every crevice of my being—body, soul and spirit. Life lost meaning for me. I had to take control of my mind. I created a homemade way to control my thoughts. I took 3×5 cards and filled them with sayings, reminders of good in my life, verses, songs, poems—whatever uplifting thing I could find and squeeze onto a card. When my mind would hurt, I’d pull out my cards and tell myself I could cry later, but for now I was going to stay my mind on Him. God’s Word promises perfect peace to those whose mind is fixed on Him (Isaiah 26:3). It was worth a shot. Those cards went everywhere with me. I sat in the mall parking lot, singing and quoting Scripture with tears staining my cheeks. I found many a bathroom where I could hide out for a few moments, pull out my three ring binder of cards from my purse, and regain control over my mind. I was diligent; I was fighting for my life, for my sanity. It worked.

 

What’s hurting you? Take control of your mind and gain control over your life.

Proverbs 23:7: For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Ephesians 5:19: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Colossians 3:16: Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.

Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

 

To find true happiness, change your perspective: Make it ALL ABOUT HIM! 

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