Deadly Comparisons

If only she looked like that.  If he would just treat me that way.  If she were my wife, I would make her feel like a queen.  She doesn’t deserve him – if he were mine, I’d…  You get the point – coveting, and it’s deadly.  It will rob you of living your life and it will murder your marriage.

 

When are you most vulnerable to comparing your spouse to another person?  Is it after a fight with your wife or when your husband speaks or acts in a way that is insensitive?  Has your spouse let their physical appearance go?  Are they run-of-the-mill?  What makes you compare your spouse to that old flame or an acquaintance, friend or coworker?  It’s important to uncover these patterns in our lives.  When we recognize and understand our weaknesses, we are better equipped to prevent ourselves from walking to the edge of a dangerous precipice.  We then know to not approach or if necessary, back-up before everything crumbles beneath our feet, causing us to fall and be destroyed.

 

It may very well be reality, that your spouse isn’t attractive, doesn’t excite you or that they don’t always treat you very well but comparing our spouses to others begins with a problem deep down within our own heart and mind.  It begins with a lack of thankfulness and contentment.   Discontentment most likely stems from a belief that we are somehow entitled to something better.  What is the solution to this very human problem?  In my own life, I must continually work at cultivating a thankful heart.  A thankful heart becomes a contented heart.  Learn to count your blessings.  Look for the many things in your spouse that are good and be honest with yourself about your own faults.  In short, I must accept that today, I have exactly what God in His ultimate wisdom, wants me to have.

 

That other person may look pretty good to you but they are not yours.  God will never bless something that He has defined as sin – in this case, coveting or adultery.  However, He will bless your efforts to find contentment in your own marriage, with the person that you chose.  You chose them – for better or for worse.  In my own marriage, I have experienced real change when I choose to do the right thing.  Look for the good in your spouse and thank God for it.  This is the anti-venom of discontentment.

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Shaken, Not Stirred

Are you a thinker?  Is your mind usually on full speed?  Do you wake up during the night, ready to do more thinking?  If so, you probably have a tendency to rehash and overthink.  Is this a strength or a weakness?  I am a thinker and I definitely recognize and experience the good and the bad of this trait.  It all depends on how we use our thinking skills.  Let’s talk about the proper use of your Maserati mind.

 

Currently, I have a large plate and it’s jammed full and over-flowing with challenges and tasks to complete.  My daughter will be getting married soon, my teenage son just got his driver’s license and will be taking an airline trip on his own soon, we are selling our home and acreage of thirteen years, buying a lot, finding temporary housing, planning a new house, selling our rather large accumulation of stuff, packing, moving, homeschooling a highschooler, involvement in four different ministries, peri-menopause and a husband with a demanding schedule at work and at church.  Oh, and I’m still attempting to write and post quality content.  I’m writing this at 3:30 in the morning.  My mind woke my body and I just couldn’t sleep anymore.  What’s a girl to do?  At this very moment, she is going to get another cup of strong coffee.  I’m back – now let’s continue. What is the solution to managing an overactive mind?

 

Shake up your little snow globe but don’t stir the pot.  What on earth do I mean by this statement?  I’ll start with “don’t stir the pot”.  Stirring the pot suspends the sediment and things become cloudy and you are unable to see clearly.  Your mind gets caught up in the whirling.  Rehashing or obsessing over past hurts, current circumstances or tasks is a form of stirring the pot and it is counter-productive.  If I shake up my little snow globe, it’s an entirely different effect and result.  First, I can shake it up and get a very lovely result by fondly remembering the people that have been a blessing to me.  Second, shaking up my little snow globe applies to my daily tasks.  Shake it up in your mind and let it fall onto a written list.  Now, prioritize and go after those tasks and whatever doesn’t get done, move it to the next day’s list.  If it doesn’t fall into the fond memory or daily task column and it is outside of your control, then let it go – give it to God and just let it go.  Stirring the pot creates an agitated mind but shaking your little snow globe allows your mind to do its work and then slowly settle down.  By settling your mind, you can then focus on communing with God and begin to rest.

 

I do well with shaking up my snow globe at night, just before I go to sleep.  I construct my plans for the next day but when the lights go out and before I drift off, I count my blessings and thank God for the ways that I saw Him working that day and then I fondly remember the people who have been in my life – past and present.  Thank you for keeping me company in the wee hours of the morning.

He Chose These Moments

I’m a speck – just one person.  He’s too busy to care about my problems, hurts or loneliness.  We all have these thoughts.  We don’t immediately go to Him in prayer or we feel that we’ve gone too much, maybe with the same request, over and over.  We secretly think that God could never understand or relate to our pain or that He becomes impatient with us.  When we feel this way, it is rooted in our misunderstanding of the character of God.

 

Pour over God’s word and you’ll see endless evidence that He cares for each of us with an everlasting love.  Why then do we seem to perceive God as limited?  It’s because we have a tendency to measure God by human capabilities.  Read about Him and let the wonder of His greatness amaze you.  Recently, God opened my eyes about something and I want to share it with you.  It is one of the clearest examples of His ability to be outside of human limitations – the words spoken by Jesus during His crucifixion, the most horrific form of punishment ever invented.

 

Jesus was fully man and fully God and since He endured as a man, He demonstrated that He is acquainted with human pain and suffering.  He suffered physical, mental and emotional pain but He also suffered the great loneliness of separation from God the Father.  Here is the wonder of all of this.  Jesus didn’t retreat within himself during His time of suffering.  He reached out.    He spoke the following from the cross:

 

>He extended great mercy to those that were killing Him.  Luke 23:34 “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”  When we’ve been hurt badly, it is hard to forgive but refusing to forgive steals our peace.  Christ shows us that it is possible to immediately forgive, even the most heinous offense.

>He forgave the criminal in his lowliest condition.  Luke 23:43 “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise!”  Christ does not require that we clean ourselves up in order to come to Him.

>He displayed His tender care for our needs.  John 19:26-27 “Woman, behold your son.  Son, behold your mother!”  He cared and gave them to each other.  Jesus knows that we need to take care of each other.

>He demonstrated his anguish and abandonment.  Mark 15:34 “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me!”  This statement, during what is possibly His worst moments on the cross, evidences that Christ really understands our great loneliness and despair.

>He suffered from the basic need of water.  John 19:28 “I thirst!”  He proves that He understands our human needs.

>He exclaimed victory over sin.  John 19:30 “It is finished!”  He declares victory so that we know that through Him, we will have victory.

>Finally, He declared His contentment and reunion with His Father.  Luke 23:46 “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit!”  Jesus understands relationship and He knows the hurt of separation as well as the joy of reunion with those that we love.

 

His brain was exploding with physical and emotional pain.  Loneliness.  Nerves on fire from the ripped and fatigued muscles, open wounds and the penetration of thorns and nails.  The crushing of his heart and lungs as fluid pushed in and the misery of extreme thirst.  For Him to speak, must have been nearly impossible in human terms but He chose these moments to tell us that He knows and relates to our sorrows.  He also chose a moment to tell us that He completed the payment for our sins.  Nothing but our faith and trust is necessary.  Salvation is Christ plus absolutely nothing.

 

When you are tempted to think that you’re too small or that He’s too busy or that He doesn’t understand or relate to your despair, remember that He chose these moments during His great suffering, to show us the magnitude of His ability to always care for us.  Yes, Jesus died for our salvation but He also died for every little thing too.

The Road to Reconciliation and Peace

What does reconciliation look like?  Has it occurred between two parties, simply because they are able to be courteous to each other?  Is it possible to forgive without reconciliation occurring?

 

Forgiveness is the responsibility of the offended and it is required by God.  It is not contingent on the offender apologizing or asking for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is possible, even if the offender never realizes what they’ve done, or even if they refuse to take responsibility for their actions or words.  Forgiveness does not release the offender from their guilt but it releases the offended from the burden.   When we’ve been hurt by another person, it is a challenge to forgive but it is a choice that must be made and refusing to forgive, puts a wedge between us and God.  You see, for the most part, forgiving is vertical – it is between you and God.  He requires you to forgive, enables you to forgive and He restores peace between you and Him, when you forgive.  Forgiveness is usually not a one-time occurrence but instead, many singular moments of obedience.

 

Biblical reconciliation, which brings lasting peace in a relationship, goes deep.  In order for it to begin, both parties need to be ready.  The offender will need to be ready to hear the entire truth of how they have hurt, without resorting to excuses or anger and ready to take responsibility.  The offended must be free of bitterness and if they haven’t already done so, they must be ready to forgive.  Reconciling is a process of deconstructing the relationship and then building it back up.  It goes something like this:  realization of wrongdoing, grief and remorse, confession or admittance, forgiveness desired and restitution, if necessary.  Restoration of the relationship can now begin and trust can be rebuilt.  In true reconciliation, there is no room for defensiveness or excuse making and if the offender is in this mode, it is not yet possible.  If the hurt party is bitter, unforgiving and punishing, then it is not yet possible.  Notice that in both cases, I have said “not yet”.  Give it time and let God deal with the hearts of those that are involved.  Pray for yourself and the other party.  In time, there may be softened hearts and then the process can begin.

 

God’s word is our source of truth – so I would like to share my favorite story of offense, remorse, forgiveness and reconciliation.  It’s the story of Joseph, which starts in Genesis 37.  Joseph was a golden boy.  He was gifted and favored by God and preferred by his earthly father.  He attracted blessing but he was also the subject of jealousy and evil plotting.  His own brothers concocted a plan to get rid of Joseph and he was sold into slavery.  Once in a new land, Joseph was again favored but through a twisting of events, he was lied about and went to prison because of it.  In prison, Joseph aided others and the person that he helped to get out of prison, forgot about him for years.  Finally, through amazing circumstances Joseph was released from prison and became very powerful.  If anyone had reason to be embittered, it was Joseph and he could have used his power to punish those who had hurt him but Joseph had a soft and forgiving heart, and most of all, he knew that his sovereign God would bring good out of all his hardships.  Looking for help from the wealthy land of Egypt, his brothers came to this land where Joseph was now a powerful man.   They never imagined that they would run into Joseph again.  Joseph recognized them but they didn’t realize that the man in charge was their brother.  In Genesis 42, we over-hear the brothers expressing remorse over what they had done to their brother and we see that Joseph was secretly listening to their discussion.  In Genesis 44, the brothers lament that their current hardships must be a punishment for their previous sins.  These are key moments in the story and I believe crucial to the reconciliation that is about to happen.  Joseph reveals himself to them and there is a tender reunion and healing words.  Without the brothers becoming remorseful and taking responsibility for their motives and actions, do you think that this family reunion would have played out this way?  In order for reconciliation to occur, the offending party must be able to see how they have hurt the other party and then take the next courageous steps.

 

If you’ve hurt someone, the greatest gift that you can give to them, is to confess and apologize, naming the specific wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness.  The magnificence of healing then begins to occur for both parties.  If you have been accused of offending and are having trouble getting to the acceptance and confession stage, try remembering a time when someone hurt you.  How did you feel?  What would have helped you?  Did they take responsibility or did they merely give you the “I’m sorry if” – the un-apology?  The un-apology adds insult to injury.  Remembering a time when we were the casualty, softens our heart and prepares us to take responsibility for our own actions and words.

 

Unfortunately, reconciliation doesn’t always occur.  Sometimes the offender cannot be trusted.  Sometimes the parties would rather avoid the unpleasantness of confrontation by playing nicey-nice or simply just avoiding the other party.  Sometimes the involved hearts are hardened.

 

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to be continually forgiving each other and also praying for and being open to the possibility of reconciliation but it must be genuine biblical reconciliation.  If you have hurt someone, check your heart for readiness and then it’s up to you to make the next move.  If you’ve been hurt, prepare your heart for future reconciliation, by doing the work of forgiving, ridding yourself of bitterness and punishing attitudes.  I hope that you’ll begin to travel the road of reconciliation and that you’ll be blessed with the final result of peace within your own heart and mind as well as peace between you and others.