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.

Leftovers Again?

Leftovers – great for those occasions when you’re short on time but leftovers can’t compare to my best effort in putting a fresh hot meal on the table.  What kind of a marital diet is your spouse on?  Are you serving leftovers or your best effort?

 

Most of us have fairly good manners and we try very hard to put our best face forward with acquaintances, clients, co-workers and friends. Our spouse deserves the same courtesy but when we’re tired or grumpy, sometimes they are the recipient of our impolite, impatient, demanding, uncharitable, distracted and at the very least, low energy behavior.  It’s true that we should be comfortable and at ease with our spouse but we should never make them feel less valuable than the other people in our life.

 

Here are some ways that we can give our spouse what they deserve – the best that we have to offer.

 

>Greet your spouse with as much enthusiasm as you would greet others.

>Say goodbye with as much feeling as you would with others.

>Ask them about their life and how things are going for them.

>Put their needs before the children.

>Look at them in their eyes when they are speaking to you.  Put your device down.

>Try to look your best for them.

>Compliment them on their appearance or their efforts.

>Smile at them.

>Date them and from time to time, put some effort into the planning and preparation.

>Have compassion for them when they make a mistake.  Don’t lecture them about it.

>Don’t demand that they serve you but say thank you when they do.

>Be charming with them.

>Don’t correct them when they make an unimportant mistake when speaking.

>Offer to be their helper.

>Ask them, don’t tell them and don’t forget to say please and thank you.

 

Our spouse is the most important human in our life and they should definitely feel as though they are.  Would you take a challenge for me?  If this is an area of weakness for you, try implementing one or two each month until they are habits and your spouse is feeling as though they alone, are your most significant other.

Backwards, In-Place or Straight Ahead?

It’s a period of change, or the process of changing from one circumstance or condition to another.  We’ve all gone through it and most of us are going through some form of it right now.  It is transition.

Transition comes in many forms and for many reasons.  It is one of the most common aspects of living the human experience.   A wedding, childbirth, returning to school, a job change, retirement, death of a loved one, relocation, divorce, empty nesting, down-sizing, health crisis, losing a friendship, geographical separation from a spouse and countless other changes.

Traveling through transition can be forbidding.  The emotional pain of letting go and the fear of the unknown, can grip us and sometimes we get stuck or even begin to take steps backwards.  Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life”.  Since we know this to be true, why not stop fighting it and instead, embrace it?  Yes, the key to success during transition is to accept the realities of it – but how?

It starts with our perspective and I’m not going to sugar coat this – it won’t always be easy. If we find ourselves mentally curled up in the fetal position or perpetually with a heavy-heart, we must change the way that we are perceiving the process of change. View the transition as an experience that you are marching forward into.  Look straight ahead and focus on the good things to come.  If you are unable to imagine the good things in your future, go to someone who knows you well and ask for help with seeing the possibilities.  Reach outward to others who are trustworthy and have the ability to help you analyze your circumstances and separate each problem.  Once each problem stands alone, you can more easily deal with it and it will be merely one stepping stone on your journey.  Share your struggles and allow others to shoulder some of your burdens.  Accept practical helps along the way.  Check your outlook and attitude regularly – is your heart heavy or light?  All of this minimizes the internalization of your struggles and will help you to prevent overwhelm within your mind.

Experiencing difficulties is usually not something that we seek out or enjoy but I do encourage you to remember.  As you experience your next transition, you’ll remember and know that you’ll survive.  Think back.  Did you grow stronger and wiser?  Are you more kind, compassionate and giving?  Don’t forget to share this with others as they are experiencing overwhelming stress during periods of transition.

If you have been attempting to march forward through life by the power of your own strength, separated from the One that created you, knows everything about you and yet still loves you with an everlasting love, I would like to tell you just a little of my story.  When I was seventeen, I faced a huge transition – my father’s first suicide attempt.  At that time, I placed my trust in Christ’s payment for my sins and He became Lord of my life.  I cannot imagine experiencing life’s difficulties without my Lord at the helm.  He doesn’t remove the challenges but He supports me while I walk through them and He uses them to mature me.  He is the Living Water that sustains me during the droughts of my life.  If you don’t know Him, I encourage you meet Him.  He never expects you to get cleaned up enough to meet Him.  He says come as you are.  Meet the One that made you, gives you breath, died for you, resurrected Himself and intercedes for you – Jesus Christ.  Meet Him, trust Him and watch Him bring a beautiful metamorphosis out of the challenge of change.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

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.

What a Husband Really Needs

Last week we looked at what a wife really needs.  Now, what does a husband really need?  It isn’t a deluxe meat smoker, dream boat, tricked-out truck or even the perfectly cooked steak or freshly homemade sweet rolls.

 

He needs you to pursue him sexually.

He needs you to make his sexual needs a priority.

He needs you to enjoy sex and let him know that you are.

He needs you to tell him or show him what feels good.

He needs you to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and most importantly, spiritually.

He needs you to need him and his help.

He needs you to appreciate him.

He needs you to respect him.

He needs you to make yourself available and spend time with him.

He needs you to not discuss your marriage with others.

He needs you to put him before the children.

He needs you to choose him over others regularly.

He needs you to communicate what your needs and desires are.

He needs you to not have a critical spirit toward him.

He needs you to not nag or gripe at him.

He needs you to serve him in little ways such as bringing him a cup of coffee.

He needs you to be his representative in the home.

He needs you to appreciate the sacrifices that he makes for you and your family.

He needs you to not punish or cold shoulder him.

He needs you to tell him what he did wrong instead of making him guess.

He needs you to trust him and his judgement.

 

I hope that you have enjoyed this two-part series and that it has been a helpful encouragement to you.  Thank you for reading and I absolutely love to see your feedback too.

What a Wife Really Needs

She doesn’t need a gigantic stuffed teddy bear or a new pajama set.  She has prepared a honey-do list for you.  I have organized it strategically by your priorities.  This list starts with sex but be sure to persist to the end of the post, because I will have an important explanation for you.

 

She needs you to communicate verbally and non-verbally, that you find her sexy, beautiful and desirable.

She needs you to make love to her entire body and explore how to satisfy her sexually.

She needs you to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and most importantly, spiritually.

She needs you to make her feel like a queen.

She needs you to serve her in thoughtful little ways.

She needs you to listen to her and look her in the eyes.

She needs you to protect her.

She needs you to defend her when she’s right.

She needs you to confront her when she’s wrong.

She needs you to sacrifice some of your own desires for her.

She needs you to choose her over your activities or other people regularly.

She needs you to communicate what your needs and desires are.

She needs you to not have a critical spirit with her or the children.

She needs you to shield her from taking on too much.

She needs you to partner with her in the struggles of life including parenting.

She needs you to ask her hard questions and hold her accountable as a woman, wife and mother.

 

There are a few points that require further explanation.  First, a husband doesn’t need to become financially burdened in order to make his wife happy.  Making her feel like a queen, isn’t as much about money as it is about your effort.  A good woman will feel like a queen when you make her your priority.  She needs to know that she is second only to your relationship with God.  Look her in the eye when she speaks, study what makes her tick and find small thoughtful ways to serve her.  On the other point, it is difficult for a husband to confront his wife when she has done something wrong or needs accountability but according to God, you are the leader of your home.  Unfortunately, you may lose some of your peace and quiet for a time but in the long run, your wife and children and others that are affected will benefit.

 

Be watching for next week’s post.  We’ll take a look at what a husband really needs.

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.