Beautiful Music – Never Out of Style

Men and women are equally valuable, and come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of personalities, gifts and interests, but God made a man to be very different from a woman.  God composed a beautiful symphony when He created masculine man and then feminine woman.  No matter what our cultural influencers are saying, whether platonic or romantic, men are attracted to a soft feminine woman and women are attracted to a strong masculine man.  What are some of the characteristics of this strong masculine male?

 

Physically –  his body is hard and angular and he is naturally muscular and strong.  He can be a little crude and rough around the edges.  He craves physical touch and reads it as love – this doesn’t define him as a maniac.  He is a visual creature, noticing and appreciating feminine beauty.

Emotionally –  he craves peace, and will hide his feelings when he feels judged or when he believes she’ll react badly.  He will always have a little boy within himself.  He needs the women in his life, to be light-hearted and fun to be with.  He’s not your best girlfriend – keep the girl talk and shopping between girls and don’t ask him for an opinion on your outfit – he is afraid to say the wrong thing and if he likes it, you will know.  He desires to please the women in his life.

Mentally –  he feels the need to provide, protect and conquer.  He naturally problem solves.  He’s competitive, never allowing another driver to win the race to the traffic light.  He thinks in terms of compartments or boxes – only open one at a time please.  He needs you to need him – stop being so darn competent at everything.

Spiritually – sometimes, he has difficulty understanding spiritual things.  Don’t use your knowledge or spirituality to intimidate him.  Instead, be an uplifting inspiration to him by living your faith in front of him.

 

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you’re aware of the slippery slope that we’re on – the blurring of the lines of distinction between men and women.  Sometimes, I’m tempted to go crawl under that rock, but then I remember – God has given me a platform to speak truth.  Men are men and women are women – truth.  They are created to be very different from the other, but when united as two perfectly tuned and masterfully played instruments, together they make a harmonious sound.  One is not more important than the other, but one is to lead and the other to help.  The leader instrument provides the direction and cadence and the helper fills in with soothing and soft sounds, helping the strong to be incredibly beautiful.  Imagine for a moment, the helper instrument attempting to take over.  No, the symphony was planned and it is beautiful when played according to the plan.  No competition – just a perfect blend of each instrument completing the other, by playing their very special part and most importantly, the conductor guiding the process.

 

Being a strong leader is a high responsibility and many men don’t understand what it looks like.  They will either buckle under a domineering wife and allow her to lead, or they will take the tyrant approach and rule with a heavy hand.   A biblical leader doesn’t do either of these.  He models his leadership after the example of Christ.  He is a humble, self-sacrificing servant.  He leads with truth but always seasoned with grace.  He never runs over others.  He is courageous and stands up for what is right even when it costs him peace.  He never treats a woman harshly or as though she is lower than him.  He respects women and values their input, because he recognizes that they are uniquely gifted by their Creator.

 

We may not be able to control the cultural trends, but we can certainly take a look at ourselves and ask the hard questions.  Am I playing my instrument according to the Conductor’s direction?  Am I the masculine man or feminine woman that God intended me to be?  Am I helping the men in my life to be the masculine men that God created them to be?  What are the areas that I can improve?

For Exactly This Moment

I hear other people talking about God’s call on their life.  Starting a ministry, going to Bible college, training and going into a remote mission field.  I’m excited for them and happy that they are following God’s leading, but I’ll admit that sometimes I feel like I’m inadequate.  Every ministry that I’m involved in, is a behind-the-scenes venture.  There isn’t acknowledgement or “stage-time”.  I’m fine with this – even comfortable and at peace with it, but sometimes I feel like I don’t get to handle the big guns – kind of inadequate.

 

I was just crawling into bed, getting ready to settle down for some much overdue writing and then some television watching.  It was going to be a nice quiet evening with my husband in bed next to me, doing his evening scroll through Facebook.  Then the call came.  It was a distress call.  I was to throw a few items into a bag, get out the door to someone who needed me.  I handed the telephone to my husband, who began to sooth the distraught soul on the other end of the line.  I stood there completely frozen – stunned at this thing that was happening.  So much was at stake here.  I’m so inadequate.  How would I be able to be wise enough and strong enough?

 

I flew down the highway.  Praying constantly.  I prayed for His protection over the hurting one.  I prayed for wisdom.  I prayed for God to keep my car on the curvy road and to keep the animals off of the road.  I prayed that He would empower me to keep my mouth shut when I needed to, and to give me the words to say that were right for the moment.  I felt inadequate.

 

What should have been a forty-five minute drive, became thirty minutes and when I drove up, my fears abound.  My mind played tricks on me, replaying a time of a hurting loved one from my past – the one that I couldn’t help, because I was inadequate.  I knocked.  We embraced.  We prayed.  I prepared a meal.  I did the dishes and I listened.  I realized that my entire life was preparation for exactly this moment, and this was His call.  It was the appointment that He had made for me.  I then knew, merely listening with only a pinch of input, being in the room while they slept, and praying for them as I kept watch, was completely adequate.

 

His strength is made known in my inadequacy. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Get Messy

It’s free but it is expensive and it can be messy.  I’m referring to putting your time, effort and heart into the lives of other people.   Whether a big investment or a small gesture, never disbelieve the power of your sincere care, encouragement and kindness toward another human being.

 

We live in a rushed society where most of us are striving to build a life.  Providing for the needs of our family is godly but we can easily get caught in the trap of wanting more stuff or being involved in every activity under the sun.  Are we too pressured trying to get to the next activity to even smile at the stranger that comes across our path? How about the elderly person that might need our time, ear and patience?  Have we taken notice of that person sitting alone that might be in desperate need of some companionship or encouragement?  Are we so over-committed that we can’t invest in a young person’s life?  How about that friend who has been through a difficult period and would benefit from some empathy and support?

 

To demonstrate the impact of one life investing in another, I would like to tell you a short but true story.  There was a woman who for various reasons, endured many years of persecution.  She was treated hatefully, wrongly judged, falsely accused and alienated.  Due to circumstances that were outside of her control, she could not leave this environment.  The many years of this treatment shattered her self-image.  She began to believe that she was worthless.  By the time that she was removed from this environment, she was a wounded, broken shell of who she had been.  She kept to herself, rarely letting anyone get close, because deep down inside, she believed that no one wanted to be her friend.  One human being, who was gifted and sensitive in the area of noticing hurting people, began to talk to her.  This person began pointing out her strengths and gifts and they became faithful and supportive friends.  She began to believe the good things that she was hearing about herself.  This one person took a step toward another person and made the investment of their time and friendship and a hurting soul received healing.  Without the investment made by this person, this woman might have continued on in her hurt and probably retreated further into the protective cocoon that she had knitted for herself.  Instead, she is now encouraging others.  So many people are benefiting because one person reached out to bind her wounds and now the cycle of blessing continues.

 

If you lighten up your load and look around, you will see hurting humans – unfortunately, they are in abundant supply.  They might even be in your own household.  Be available for these God appointments.  What appointment does He have for you today?  God says that pure and undefiled religion is visiting orphans and widows in their affliction.  Ministering to the lonely, broken and needy is pure and undefiled too.  Let Him send you into someone’s life, so that you can get a little messy.

Playing All Your Hearts

Rare and generous, they are created with a unique capacity to love.  They give of themselves liberally and expect very little in return.  This is the bright side, but what about the dark side?  Too often, these large-hearted souls attract a person that is unable to return love due to their own circumstances, personality, emotional problems, mental illness or addictions.  Worse yet, sometimes their love is met with critical, rude or malicious behavior.

 

It would feel better to be like most others – able to let it roll off and move on but usually the person who loves deeply does not do this with ease.  They put great effort into relationships and when there is failure, their emotional wound can be deep.  If they are the type that is willing to examine themselves, they will probably blame themselves for the failure.  If this is you, you may long to be like others but God created you with this capacity to love and yes, there will be times that you will get hurt.  The question isn’t “how can I avoid getting hurt” or “how do I make the hurt go away quickly?”.  The real question is “what will I learn from the experience?”.  The greater the investment, the greater the gain and in every failure, there is always a gain.  Learn to look for this and be thankful for it.  What you gain isn’t always from good.  Sometimes, it is a lesson learned from a negative experience.

 

If you are that person who is putting all of your cards on the table, and they are all hearts, it is crucial that you are learning from the good and bad that comes out of your relationships.  People with a great capacity to love, will often take two or three steps forward, while the other person involved takes fewer steps, or even none at all.  Every healthy relationship is like a waltz.  Even though the gait and physicality of each person is different, there is a rhythm and mutual movement to make the dance beautiful and mutually satisfying.  A waltz wouldn’t work if only one person wants to dance or performs all of the movements?  What should we learn from this?

 

First, remember that trust in a relationship must be earned and trusting too soon, will eventually lead to difficulties.  Second, in order for a relationship to withstand the test of time, each person should, in their own way, be giving to it.  Reciprocation doesn’t have to be exactly in the same fashion or equal amounts but there should be energy poured into the relationship from each side.  Third, invest appropriately – don’t take three steps forward when the other person isn’t also taking steps forward.  Finally, in a situation where only one person gives, you have a ministry – consider whether or not this is acceptable to you.

 

Whatever the reasons, when a relationship is unfulfilling, it can cause heartbreak to the person who has loved and poured into it.  Your investment isn’t wasted.  Even if the other person didn’t appreciate you, they probably benefited from knowing you and with the insight that you have gained, go out and love again but this time, know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.

He’s Not a Fan of That Game

What does every male have that he loves very much?  Two things come to mind immediately, but we’re not going to discuss the one that just made you chuckle.  Today, we’re talking about the females in man’s life – a mother, sister, grandmother, friend, girlfriend, daughter or wife.

 

Just tell me what you want.  What did I do wrong?  I’m so eager to please you.  These are the pleas of a son, brother, grandson, male friend, boyfriend, father and husband.  The men in your life, would like you to know, a woman can relieve a load of pressure from her relationships with men, if she would communicate her hurts, complaints and desires.  When a woman becomes silent, responds with a curt answer or withholds kindness or intimacy, he interprets this as a manipulative game play and he’s not a fan of that game.

 

How can a woman avoid this behavior?

 

>If he has hurt, upset or disappointed you, tell him.  Calmly.  Don’t make him wonder, beg or plead.  The tension is a relationship killer.  If you are too hurt or angry to behave respectfully or warmly, let him know that you will talk about it when you’re calm and then make sure that you do.  Don’t let it build and don’t withhold kindness in the meantime.

 

>Don’t ignore a man and then suddenly use sweetness or flirtation to get what you want.  If it is appropriate for you to flirt with this man, flirt but not because you want something from him.

 

>If you ask a man for input on decisions, then listen to his point of view.  Don’t bother asking if you’re not going to consider his ideas, feelings, tastes or dislikes.

 

>If he asks you where you would like to go out to eat or what you would like to do, don’t respond with “I don’t care – you decide”.  Usually, men don’t want to make this decision on their own.  If you have nothing in mind, ask him to offer a few choices and then pick one.  He wants you to enjoy yourself.

 

>Do you want or need something from him?  Make your request be known.  Don’t make him guess and then get upset when he doesn’t “read your mind” correctly.  Does it need to be done immediately?  Let him know why.

 

>Don’t use social media to display passive aggressive or other negative behaviors.  Your snarky remark isn’t gaining you points.  In fact, it hurts him and he loses respect for you.

 

>If this man is your husband, do not withhold sex as a punishment.  Clearly, intimacy is emotional for a woman, so work out your differences as quickly as possible and then return to a great relationship.

 

Respectful communication is crucial.  Learn how to communicate your hurt, requests and expectations calmly.  The golden rule can be applied here, so speak in the same manner that you would like to be spoken to.  You’ll likely get what you want and need and he won’t be walking on thin ice out in the freezing cold.  Everyone is a winner.

Do You Love a Stuffer?

I live with and love three of them.  By stuffer, I mean a person that tends to suppress their emotions.  My stuffers sometimes frustrate me and make me feel helpless.  I’m a reasonably good listener and definitely make myself available but sometimes, they just don’t want to talk about it.  If you have a stuffer in your life, it is no accident.  They need you – really they do.  How do you minister to a stuffer?

 

>First, be prepared to spend time waiting.  A stuffer must know that you will wait as long as it takes.  They will release little puffs of information as they are ready.

>Second, you must be in full listening mode.  Don’t worry – you will have plenty of time between puffs to formulate your response.

>Third, you must not interrupt them once they are ready to talk.  They must be able to complete their thought all of the way through.

>Fourth, you must never respond with unhealthy criticism or judgment.  A stuffer will clam up if they sense this.  Before you speak, ask yourself whether or not it is helpful or even necessary.  Often, we verbalize what is our opinion and it should really be kept to ourselves.

>Fifth, once they have completely finished – ask open ended questions to encourage more dialogue which will also round out your understanding.  Don’t require them to answer.  It might be helping them to roll your question around in their mind.

>Sixth, you must be trustworthy.  Your stuffer must be confident that you will not tell others.

>Finally, you have to accept that they may never open up.  Sometimes, they can’t or won’t.  Just pray for them.

 

Stuffing down emotions and feelings can be an inherited trait but it can also be a learned behavior.  Some stuffers have learned to keep it inside because they have felt emotionally unsafe.  Other stuffers feel that it is a waste of time and energy to hash things out verbally.   They prefer to work things out in their head and then be done with it.  Either way, you can be a key to getting a stuffer to open up and realize the benefits of sharing their burdens and lightening up their load.  A problem can seem huge in our head and much smaller once we have shared it with a trusted person.

 

I’m a work in progress and I’m much better at this now but I definitely can improve.  Would you join me in putting these techniques into action and be the trusted person who is willing to wait as long as it takes?

The Soothing Balm of Listening

There is an art to listening.  Most of us believe that we are reasonably good listeners but the truth is, we could all improve our skills to effectively listen and show empathy to other human beings.

 

I believe that listening well makes you a far better communicator than speaking well.  Simply put, listening well demonstrates that you put others first.  It is a selfless action to listen rather than being heard.  When a person needs someone to listen to them, essentially they need someone to relieve them of their burdens.  When we listen well, we unlock their mind and allow the burdens to release.  Have you ever been overwhelmed and confused by the challenges in your life?  If you were given the opportunity to unload, you felt better, right?  Since this is so important, let’s look at a few of the most important ways that we can develop good listening technique.

 

>Concentrate.  Focus on what is being said instead of how you will respond.  Most of us tend to hear while we are actively thinking about how we will respond or how we can relate to what is being said.  You must completely focus on what they need to say.

 

>Let the other person speak without interruption.  When you interrupt with your questions or your thoughts, the person doesn’t feel a sense of getting to complete their story.  You have interrupted their train of thought and even though you may understand the situation, they may perceive that they were not listened to.  If you are concerned that you will forget your questions or the points that you would like to make, try taking notes.

 

>When they are done speaking, then you may ask questions.  If the person is looking for advice, here is where you may offer it.  If they are not looking for advice but are instead trying to problem solve, try drawing them out with open-ended questions.  Asking questions is also a great non-confrontational way to help someone see truth or error in their thinking.  They are more likely to come to conclusions without feeling judged.

 

>Exhibit pleasant facial expressions while listening.   Natural eye contact with a relaxed smile will make the other person feel cherished.  If appropriate, nod your head but be careful here – you can give the impression that you are agreeing and that may not be the impression that you want to communicate.

 

>Summarize what you have heard in conversational style.  This is your opportunity to make clarifications and prove that you have been actively listening and that they have been heard.

 

>Finally, make sure to follow up with the person at a later time.  Following up demonstrates your sincerity and it shows that you care about and value this person.

 

Let’s look at another type of listening.  Listening to someone who is upset with us.  Too often, we feel the need to defend ourselves.  God’s word gives us much help in this area.  James 1:19 says “so then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”.  Proverbs 15:1 says “a gentle answer turns away wrath, a harsh word stirs up anger”.  As difficult as it is, a confrontational situation can be defused by following these very simple words.

 

Listening is so much more than using our hearing sense.  When we really listen, we are fully engaging many of our senses.  We not only hear but we see the other person’s emotional state and we feel compassion and empathy.  One of the most powerful ways to minister to another human being, is listening to them.  Most people don’t need someone to solve their problems – they need someone to listen.  When we give our time, and make the effort to really listen, we lighten the burdens of another human being.  Most of us won’t get this completely right every time but try putting a few of these tips into practice every time that you have the opportunity.

Lovely Woman

What does she look like?  I mean to say, what are the traits that characterize a lovely woman?  A lovely woman can have many different physical characteristics.  She might be physically beautiful and or dress well or she might be a bit of a wallflower, feeling more comfortable in simple attire and appearance.  She might have the personality that lights up a room or she might prefer to be “backstage” in life.   To discover the truly lovely woman, we must look deeper than her appearance and visible traits.

 

You will recognize a lovely woman by the lives that she has impacted.  The impact will start within her closest circle – the people that she lives with.  Acting like the energy of an earthquake, her lovely influence will begin in the epicenter of her home and radiate outward.  It will be spread not only by her, but also by the people that through her example, learn about grace.  She is not defined by how many reactions that she receives on Facebook or even how many women seek to be in her company.  Her definition is determined by the deep love and admiration of the people that really know her inside and out and those that she has touched.  These people are living a life that is forever imprinted by her time in their life.

 

This woman is not self-consumed.  This woman cares for her household and then goes beyond to reach out to others outside of her own household.  This woman cares about others and she is aware that they have struggles, difficulties and challenges.  This woman is thoughtful and blesses others in big and little ways.  This woman is sincerely joyful.  This woman really listens.  This woman speaks words of encouragement.  This woman is genuine and lovingly honest.  This woman treats everyone with respect. This woman does not easily dismiss others from her life.  This woman makes others feel better after they have been with her.  This woman knows how to forgive.  This woman has compassion for the difficult and challenging personalities that come across her path.  This woman brings light into a dark burdensome world.  This woman is relational, responsive and nurturing, all very feminine and womanly traits.

 

If you are a lovely woman or striving to be a lovely woman, thank you.  If you know or have known a lovely woman, comfort her heart and tell her thank you for being a lovely woman in your life.

My Significance

How many ministries do I have?  How significant are they?  Do they get as much recognition as that other person’s ministry?  If we struggle with these questions, we must also ask, does God measure the value of our work for Him, by the size or notoriety of a ministry?

 

If God gives me something to do, that is, if He places me in a certain era, locale, circumstance or relationship, then it is significant, no matter how it is measured by humans.  The woman that puts her career on hold to stay at home and nurture her children, the husband that goes to an unpleasant job to provide for his family, the church helper that cleans the toilets and runs the vacuum, the friend that carries a burden and faithfully prays, the daughter-in-law that cares for her husband’s aging Mother.  Most of the time, these are not recognized as ministry, at least not by other human beings, but God sees.  He knows every difficulty.  He sees the sleepless nights, the exhaustion and the self-sacrifice.  He appointed you to this ministry, and He will see you through it, all of the way to the very end.

 

If this is really true, why then do we feel so burdened in this God appointed ministry?  Simply put, we might believe that we are somehow responsible for the result.  In reality, we are only responsible for faithfully doing the work each day and God will take care of the rest. There is freedom and peace when we finally strip down to the simplicity of doing our best with each moment and trusting God to bring beauty out of our efforts.  You are His hands here on Earth, but just remember that He is God.  He is the same God that spoke creation into existence.  He is still seated on His throne.  He is God and we are not.  Phew, what a relief!

 

No matter how small or hidden the ministry – if God calls us to it – it has great significance in God’s economy.  Focus your passions on things with eternal significance and don’t squander the opportunities that God places before you.  Work with excellence and intentionality.  Do the work each day and then rest and watch Him bring great, great beauty.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Jesus Christ