Going Along To Get Along Kills

Relationships continue to weigh on my heart.  The longing of God for each of us to connect to Him (and one another) with depth and honesty beats loudly in my mind.  The tendency of humanity is to settle for much less than God desires in our relationship with Him and with others.  Truly connected relationships are what our own hearts long for as well.  Contrary to the secular refrain, no one wants to be ‘tolerated.’  We want to be understood, valued and enjoyed.  So does God.

“Tolerance” is the cry of the world; “Treasured” is the cry written by God. 

Connected relationships are better described as partnerships chosen by those involved.  If there is no choice, their is no real relationship.  It is the explanation of that oft-asked question, “Why did God give free will if He knew sin would be the result?”  Without choice, we could not be in a real, connected relationship with God.   If our human relationships aren’t sweetened by choice–if we are dictators to others–we isolate ourselves.  If we simply go along to get what we want (or avoid conflict), everyone loses.  Choosing connected relationships brings richness to life!

Yet, all around us we see chaos and disconnection.  Homes are destroyed by divorce, churches split and our political system spews nastiness continually.  No one wants the reality we see, so how have we deteriorated to such a mess? I can answer with my own confession, and I think it speaks for the majority:

I often trade CONNECTION for whatever is easier.  You, see I like comfort; the easy road is typically my go-to choice.

Sometimes the easy road actually is a good choice, but  “Good is the enemy of best.” We fall to the temptation to ‘go along to get along.’ We sacrifice what we know is right because that is the expedient thing to do.  That is how Jesus was consigned to the Cross in 30 A.D.  We do the same when we trade God’s desires for the easy road.

Going through the motions may get the job done…but settling is always a travesty.

The work of relationships takes us out of our comfort zones and easy chairs.  Understanding the cast of characters that compel us to choose the easy route sheds light that helps us embrace the challenge.

  • Sometimes we are not clear on what is actually being asked by a relationship partner.  We must be willing to do the hard work to figure out what is needed.  Relationships are not about what we get out of them–or what we do for others.  However, when we love, we value others and are valued which means we do things for each other!
  • Other times we simply cannot do what is being asked and don’t clearly communicate our reluctance–or our needs.  Here we have two parallel paths to walk.  We need to work on our communication AND build up our strength.  If the ‘ask’ is reasonable and beneficial for both but we haven’t developed the skills–it is time to work on those skills!
  • Sometimes we simply are not willing to do what is needed.  This is particularly common as we age and grow weary.  A modicum of maturity restrains our reactions so our relationships appear okay–and sometimes we believe the lie ourselves. Dis-connected hearts, though, are a sham that will eventually implode!   Simply going through the motions (or doing what we’ve always done) does not satisfy our hearts or God’s.  Settling is the beginning of a dying relationship. Recognizing the danger and valuing what God values will blast this darkness away.

Healthy relationships matter!  Make a commitment to do the work of building unity.  Ephesians 4:1-3 offers great wisdom:

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

We have an incredible calling.  We have an amazing God who shows us how to relate to others.  Christ who left the glories and comforts of heaven to redeem those who would reject Him is our Savior–and our example.  Living surrendered to Him will sweeten every relationship.  In fact, until we are solid in our connection with God, we will try to make other relationships do what only He can do.  He is our source.  Plug in and invite others to join!

For more practical tips, visit:  ABCs of Relationships.

 

 

Celebrate the Journey

In a recent piece, Building Relationships, I shared with you some of the lessons I am 0923161019learning from my equine instructor, Gretchen.  Like our English Bulldog, Barnabas, she inherited a life goal just by joining our family: be a tool for teaching Scriptural Truth.

In our mind, that goal meant the pets would become therapy animals for others.  It was–and is a good goal…but goals are a direction setter and the journey has some awesome scenery.  It seems that perhaps God’s purpose for them is that they simply teach us.  But maybe the things we learn will bless someone else as well.  So, our goal will be reached even if we never get there :).

With that, I share with you my lesson for the past few weeks:

ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

A friend recently shared a video that would inspire anyone.  A man and his horse in perfect sync…playing, dancing, flying across the country-side.  Partnership and freedom–two powerful longings woven into the DNA of everyone.  Why not stop and enjoy these two before we skid back to my world!

That sort of partnership is an awesome goal…not realistic for me but direction setting, for sure!  The truth is I do not have the horsemanship skills–or the physical ability–to come anywhere near that sort of performance…and time is not on my side.  But it’s okay.  You see, the destination is not the greatest delight for the two in the video.  Each other–and the connection to each other–is the real joy.

A ‘performance’ is just the fruit of a goal that provided direction.  The delight is in enjoying every step taken together toward the goal.  The foundation of the performance is relationship.  That partnership connection developed one moment at a time.

Each of us has what it takes for  building relationship because that is the very purpose for which we were created!  You might say we inherited that purpose like our family pets inherited theirs.  The good news is relationships are God’s purpose…and His purposes find completion.

Relationships are the foundation of life: 

Love requires a relationship to engage it. 

Relationships require love to develop. 

Its a perfect set-up–the expression of God Himself.

Every relationship is unique…and each offers to reveal more of how God relates with us.  Each partner brings unique strengths and weaknesses.  When the mix is rooted in agape love and given the time to develop, incredible results bloom.

Back to the Gretchen Connection:  0924161104dWhat I bring to the table with my horse is inexperience, uncertainty–even insecurity–and a body that doesn’t always like to bend or move fluidly. What she brings to the table is largely unknown to me but broken trust and very different expectations than I have are definite. We are still getting to know each other, building trust, learning how to communicate.  I am realizing I don’t always know what I want and other times I don’t know what I am asking.

Therein is the power and potential in my equine instructor:  those same issues that bubble up with her are truths in other areas of my life.  Recognizing weaknesses is the first step in inviting the Spirit of God to transform me at a deeper level.  At that point, it isn’t about my goal with Gretchen–but God’s goal for me.  All of our life, in every aspect of our life, God is about producing His plans for us.  His plans are always good.

My goals for my horse are a direction that does more than build our relationship or prepare us for something more.  Right goals are a pathway for God to do so much more than we can0908161033a ever ask or think.  Maybe one day she and I will do a dance…but tomorrow and maybe even into next month, we’ll just breathe and listen to each other.  I’ll learn something about me–and something about horses and Gretchen in particular.

We’ll partner with the moment and thank the Creator who lives in that moment with us.  Like a parent watching their child immersed in the joy of play, God will enjoy our joy…because we are His!

We have a tendency to continually think “If this or that, then I will be happy.”  It’s a lie, a distraction to steal the present.  The moment is now!  The God we serve is the Great I AM.

He has given us everything; we choose to enjoy it–or postpone that enjoyment till some future day.

Choose this day to enjoy this moment!

 

 

How we live matters.

The chaos and horrors of the world pile up to make us feel helpless and hopeless.  It isn’t true.  Every life has impact; every life matters.  We must accept responsibility both for how we live and what we look at.  The children’s song I used to sing with the children is on my heart this morning:

Proverbs says that in the path of the righteous there is no death.  That doesn’t mean that any of us can always do righteously or that no one will die. It means that lives seeking God with passion and perseverance…lives seeking righteousness IN Christ emanate life.

Last evening we looked at these verses from Romans.

Romans 8:24-25New American Standard Bible (NASB)

24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Many believe in Jesus…accept ‘fire insurance’ so to speak.  We are willing to believe in the face of what they cannot control…but then set out to control everything else.  We have a ‘confident assurance’ for eternity but doubt God’s ability to handle a car repair or a disability or …. you name whatever robs your peace.

We only believe what we live.  Peace is possible in the midst of ALL things.  I was compelled to write this this morning after reading of a recent martyrdom in the Middle East.  The article is painful to read.  It reminded me both of the reality of my faith for life…and the impact of lives focused on Jesus.  I want to be found faithful.  I want to live–and die–to the glory of God.  It takes time, focus and intentional living.  Let’s do it!

When the eight victims were forced to kneel for their beheadings, all eight prayed loudly.

“Villagers said some were praying in the name of Jesus, others said some were praying the Lord’s Prayer, and others said some of them lifted their heads to commend their spirits to Jesus,” the ministry director explained. “One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, ‘Jesus!'”

 

Seeing God’s Glory in Parkinson’s Disease

Reprint of a column from the Baptist Voice in honor of the birthday of this saint who shows us the way of Christ!  It was our joy to see Dave & Terri on our NY trip this year.  They both press on in the face of Parkinsons–bringing great glory to God.  Love to you both, my friends!  Thank you for helping me grow in grace & knowledge simply by being yourselves!

Parkinson’s disease is relentless and destructive. It attacks the body in a myriad of ways: hand tremors, walking impairments, speech, and even involuntary movements such as blinking. Seldom is Parkinson’s linked to the concept of a blessing. Our victory report today, though, is somehow who sees eternal victories in this earthly curse.   God’s glory is present even in Parkinson’s…

Perhaps you have unknowingly enjoyed some of the victory yourself through attendance at one of the Southern Gospel concerts at First Baptist Church of Port Crane. Dave Samson, the concert organizer, is God’s victorious soldier of today’s column. His victory report is not without the reality of damage inflicted through Parkinson’s. The loss of his job and its income; increased difficulties with basic and necessary daily tasks: speaking, writing, typing, buttoning a shirt, driving, walking; impairment of his carpentry hobby; and greater burdens on his wife and family are all part of Dave’s battlefield losses. Nevertheless, Dave also sees a field of sowing and harvesting created by the Parkinson’s because it narrowed his options and increased his focus!

Dave had long enjoyed listening to Southern Gospel Concerts. He and his wife, Terri traveled to area performances as their schedules permitted, but never dreamed of organizing local events. As Dave’s disease progressed, his sales career in Christian resources became difficult to the point of danger. His driving ability impacted by the disease, Dave accepted the need to apply for disability. The debilitation to Dave’s overall motor function sped the disability process along and financial worries were somewhat eased. However, Dave officially became ‘disabled’ rather rapidly, and he felt at loose ends. Though all of his movements had slowed, he still wanted to live fully!

Much to his frustration, the diagnosis generated such sympathy from those who cared that others often restrained him from doing even what he could. In fact, the kind intentions began to make him feel not like an invalid but as if he were simply in-valid—of no apparent use anymore. Fortunately, Dave believed (and believes) that when God allows one door to close, it is so He can clear the path to a better doorway. Such was the case in this situation.

It began when Dave agreed to the simple task of making a phone call to find out about the availability of a gospel group. It has grown to a Southern Gospel concert ministry with hundreds who attend at a tiny country church in rural New York. Every concert touches hearts for Jesus; many times, there are professions of salvation or rededication.

Dave willingly pays the physical costs for this labor of love. He says his illness has given him time; the ministry provides him purpose. He sees victories that are eternal because he accepts the disease as filtered through by the loving hand of the Sovereign Father. Is there something in your life that needs a new perspective? Ask God to show you how He can transform your roadblock into a doorway to blessing!

Jeremiah 29:11